weekend free-for-all – August 10-11, 2019

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school.)

Book recommendation of the week: Reading Behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian, by Jill Grunenwald. A while back I did an interview with commenter Oryx about her time working as a prison librarian, and this is her book — with far more details about the experience. It’s fascinating.

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

{ 1,171 comments… read them below }

  1. Desperately seeking cute kitty*

    What are the names of the two cats in the foreground again? The one at the back is Eve, right?

      1. Desperately seeking cute kitty*

        Thanks! I think I remember you getting those two at the same time, where did they come from?

            1. Aurora Leigh*

              But I think Eve is pulling the “if I can’t see them they’re not really there” thing. My cat did that when my now fiance came over to my apt the first time. She loves him now though!

            2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

              Between this one and last week’s it looks like he is living his BEST life. Just too cute!

          1. Windchime*

            I love that Wallace gets to live forever with his mom. That doesn’t happen very often in the pet world. Wallace is growing up to be a very handsome boy!

              1. Cat Meowmy Admin*

                Not gonna lie, Alison – The photos of your furkids are the highlight of the weekend free for all!

                1. Katefish*

                  +1 – I show the pic to my husband every Saturday morning and say, “Want to see the cat of the weekend?” It’s our little weekend kickoff ritual.

                2. PhylllisB*

                  I agree!! Even when I don’t have time to read the thread, I always have to look at the cat photos!! I’m a dog person myself, but I love these cat photos. Alison, I think you should consider doing a coffee table book of all your cat photos!!

      2. Formerly Known As*

        Thank you! I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know their names. All are adorable, but I’m especially smitten with Sophie because she looks like my cat.

  2. Whistleblower*

    I am feeling nervous after speaking to a journalist on something that could get me into a lot of trouble, both professionally and personally. The journalist has my details and promised he would only use my info to conduct his own research without revealing anything about me. I’m still anxious he might break his word.

    Has anyone done something like this before? How reliable is a journalist’s word to keep me anonymous?

    1. tamarack and fireweed*

      1. If the journalist agreed to hear your material off the record it would be unethical to put you on the record.
      2. Be aware that the journalist isn’t in the service of *your* story, but ultimately of *their* story. The first time I interacted more closely with journalists this really bit me. (This was about political campaigning in favor of same-sex domestic partnerships in a European country many years ago. We’d repeatedly meet with really nice, sympathetic journalists, who listened, and took down our sound bites… and they’d write these stories, correctly using our sound bites, but with a slant that was really really cringeworthy. “Look at those *poor*gays* who suffer *so*much*. But maybe they shouldn’t be rocking the boat so much and be less demanding. Clearly they deserve *some* sort of relief of their pain, but is society ready to call their relationships ‘marriage’?”)

      I imagine when you’re dealing with (what I infer to be) misconduct, you’ll lose control quickly, and can never be sure you’re safe. Is there a whistleblower rights organization with a helpline you could talk to confidentially?

      1. Asta*

        Or sometimes it’s that someone else writes the headline and puts the spin on it without that being the original intention.

        If you’re a whistleblower they should protect you – there are strong protections to allow them to keep you anonymous.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’d suggest looking up the whistle-blower laws in your country*… I have a vague memory that some places only protect those who follow a formal complaint with the government. But in some places that could be even more risky. (I’m thinking HongKong.)
      Good luck!

      *And in the US, check state law as well because some of our 50 have additional layers of protections.

      1. Asta*

        What matters here is protection / anonymity for journalistic sources, which tends to be much stronger.

    3. Batgirl*

      I’m a former journalist who has worked with both ethical and unethical people in the past. I’ve never heard of anyone outing their source. It’s just not done. The journalist would never get anyone to speak to them ever again.

      It might be a good idea to have a discussion about how they are going to protect your identity. Are they going to tell a story that could only have been witnessed by you? Use your exact quotations down to the idioms you use? I always used to read out any copy over the phone to my sources to make sure it was adequately vague.

      Tamarack is right about you not being able to control the slant of the story. Often not even the journalist can do that but a good journalist will know what their bosses want and will forewarn you about the likely angle of the story before going to print. They will usually feature an opposing argument or allow the other party to defend themselves in the interest of fairness so be aware of that.

      The other thing that might happen is nothing. Be prepared for all your courage to not really effect any change. Whistleblowers are great sources of information and can tell a journalist where to dig; they are essential to the job. But. The usual response you get when you pose the accusation is bland denial. Without evidence, or confession, you can’t really go to print on the word of an anonymous person.

        1. Gaia*

          It’s not only unethical, it is a career death sentence. The journalist would never get another confidential source.

    4. Anon Librarian*

      Just get everything in writing. The comments here are encouraging, but the truth is that there are a lot of unknowns here. Ask them to email you info on how your annonymity will be protected. That will probably make them more likely to keep their word, and you’ll at least have evidence if something goes wrong.

      1. ThatGirl*

        If the whistleblower is only on background, they will likely not need to have their identity revealed to anyone, maaaaybe the reporter’s editor. There would be no need to do anything else, the reporter is just doing research. If you were going to be quoted anonymously that might be a different story, but the fact remains that journos are not likely to burn sources, it would ruin their career. Reporters have even gone to jail rather than reveal sources.

  3. Kate R. Pillar*

    Small PSA for anyone for whom the recommended book link says that “title is not currently available for purchase” for the Kindle edition:
    You might not be in the US. Simply change the “.com” in the link to your local Amazon (“.de” for me), it will take you to your version of the page.

  4. Feliz*

    Major life changes and spouses/partners – what do you do? How do you resolve different priorities/dreams?

    My husband is seriously considering my dream of buying a little farm – but it’s not his dream. We’ve been together 18yrs (no kids) and we took the plunge 2yrs ago to move out of a big city to a small city 1.5yrs away – this was due to me getting a really good job in small city. It’s been a great move – took a while to make friends here, but now we have a lovely group, plus we see our big city friends sometimes. He has a good job that he enjoys. It’s a great lifestyle – hardly any traffic, everything is close, we can bike on a cycle path into the city centre/to nice cafes etc.

    However, I have a horse. Options for keeping my horse have, surprisingly, been much worse here than in big city. I have always wanted to have a little farm and here we can have one within 20min drive of work, 10min to town/supermarkets etc, 10-15-20min drive to our friends.

    We’ve looked at a few places and there’s one place that’s pretty close to perfect – lovely modern home, enough land for my horse, set up so that it’s as easy care as it can be. We both know that it’s going to be a steep learning curve, lots of work and will have unexpected expenses (which will be ok, we are financially secure).

    I’m excited but also scared – it’s a huge change. But if we don’t do it now, we might never do it.

    My husband is willing to go along but it’s not what he’d choose. I don’t want to put masses of pressure on him . . . but I also know that he gets quite comfortable and doesn’t love change. Once we make changes then he’s always been happy and said it was the right decision – so far. I’d just hate to push him into this and for him to not like it and end up resenting it. (We’re talking about it lots and this is all stuff we’ve discussed)

    So any and all thoughts welcome!

    1. Kate R. Pillar*

      Your husband knows the disadvantages (for him) compared to the current lifestyle you lead, and is still willing to take the plunge. From my perspective, this sounds already huge.
      So can you pinpoint further (not for us, for yourself) what is the niggling doubt in the back of your head?
      Are you afraid he’s not voicing all his concerns and will resent the change even while outwardly going along?
      Are you afraid you yourself will not like your “dream life” as much as you envisioned and will feel guilty for (somewhat) uprooting him again?
      Is it just that it feels unbalanced to you that you will have been the driver behind both major changes in your life in recent years?

    2. Lizabeth*

      Keep in mind that having your horse on your property ties you down as far as vacations etc because you have to find someone to care for the animal while you’re gone. If you and your husband like to take frequent trips, this might not work. And don’t forget the physical upkeep of the place, particularly mowing, fencing etc…is he onboard with that?

    3. WS*

      I guess the question is what would he choose? What parts of it are going to be different? Does choosing the small farm rule out something that he would want?

      1. Emma*

        This. Is there any way to this and make sure he gets other things he wants in life? Or does he want to go back to the big city?

    4. Lora*

      Well, you already have a horse so presumably you know the shoveling part… people are often surprised that about 40% of farming is shoveling. 40% is construction and repairs, usually fences and temporary buildings like hoop houses or summer grazing shelters or chicken coops. The other 20% is what they think of as farming – tending crops.

      How much acreage are we talking about? Tractors cost a LOT. Much more than a luxury car. They are not trivial to upkeep. What would you do with the acreage, manage it as pasture? Grow vegetables? Get some friends for the horse?

      Seconding also the comment about it’s hard to get help. I have a lady who has her own horses, who takes care of my animals when I have to travel. It’s super expensive. There’s definitely many weekends where I don’t go anywhere because I have to muck out the barn, do a repair, build a new fence section.

      I mostly struggle with getting people to understand that while each week is not a ton of work (perhaps two hours per day – people spend more time watching TV), it has to be done exactly on time. It can’t be put off because work is busy. I can’t just not do it because I’m sick. It must be done then, and while it’s not necessarily hard it’s still a skill that not anyone can do, especially without training. If there’s an event that happens to fall on a day when the weather is right for planting every year, then I will never go to the event. I power through a LOT of illnesses and injuries. I burn a lot of vacation time on this.

      The other thing you will find is that a working farm is not a petting zoo, and your friends will struggle with this notion too. I mentioned repairs and construction? Yeah, there’s about a zillion random nails and loose fence wires from both me and previous owners. And big chunks of pressure treated wood that shouldn’t be licked by toddlers, and manure, and animals that if annoyed will stomp you into next Tuesday. It’s not safe to let your kid run around unsupervised. Would you let a kid run around a construction site unsupervised? Then you gotta watch them like a hawk at my house. Some friends I just cannot have over as guests anymore because they refused to listen to me warning them and their kids got hurt bad enough to need stitches and they STILL do not really watch their kids and keep them from running around like it’s a playground. That’s aside from ruining a year’s worth of crops, which was personally annoying but otherwise just money…and how would they feel if I trashed half their groceries every week? Probably they’d figure I was the worst a-hole ever, but it won’t dawn on them that this is exactly what they did to me. It just doesn’t register in their brains somehow.

      I do not have horses; I have cashmere, mohair and dairy goats, chickens (laying and meat), a lot of vegetables and an orchard with apples, pears, peaches, blackberries, raspberries and pawpaws, and bees for the orchard. Other than luxury yarn I sell at little fairs and farmers markets, I make cheese and give my friends and family a lot of zucchini and fruit. It’s a small hobby farm of only a few acres that is manageable with a small tractor. It’s still a lot – this weekend I need to do fence and barn repairs… AGAIN, because goats are wily creatures that figure out how gate latches work and like to climb and stomp on the whole universe. I don’t get to go to my friend’s birthday party, I get to muck out the chicken coop and put down fresh shavings. I like it, it’s very peaceful, but wow is it a lot of shoveling and baling twine collections.

      1. The curator*

        Thank you for sharing. I’m that ignorant city girl friend who thinks you live on a petting farm. I did have to be warned that kissing a goat on their nose is a bad idea. On the other had, as a former public librarian unsupervised aka “ free range” children are my living nightmare.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          My friend lives on what we’d call a farmette. 3 horses, pasture, creek, outbuildings and a 150 year old stone house they renovated. Beautiful.
          But it’s a lot of work!
          The have jobs where they work at home, but when they travel they have to hire people to care for the property. There us also the consideration of continuing this work as you grow older and may not be able to physically do yourself. If you’re financially secure hiring a groundskeeper may not be an issue, but I’d still factor that expense in.

      2. Lora*

        Also: look up Attractive Nuisance laws in your area. The other big problem I have is trespassing. Because people WILL just want to pet/feed the cute horsie. The problem is, they want to feed the cute horsie buttercups…and entire bags of apples…and hemlock and Jimson weed. And they will NOT get it that they are hurting the cute horsie and giving you a $10,000 vet bill. They just stare at you blankly. “But he likes it! See, he’s fine!” Yes, it takes a while for symptoms to set in…

        I get a lot of trespassers who want to pet and feed the goats all kinds of stuff that’s bad for them, and then the idiots who are very confident in their animal wrangling skills, open the gate so Junior can get a cute Instagram picture with the baby goats…and the entire herd promptly stampedes, both to protect the babies from strangers and because hey, the neighbor’s landscaping looks delicious. Of course the trespassers can’t get the goats back in the pen, they run back to their car and drive away, and the police and animal control have to be called to round up the goats and I get a fine from animal control for their service. I installed security cameras and even that was an ordeal because many security camera companies keep the data in their cloud and won’t let you download it to submit as court evidence. I also have a form letter from my lawyer to send to the trespassers explaining that they will be charged with trespassing and can be taken to court for damages, which are invariably only a fraction of the actual damages because “how was I supposed to know? It was an honest mistake!” I have 6 foot stockade fencing and two dogs, which help somewhat but not completely. But I am fortunate in this regard because my area has strict Right To Farm laws and none of this “trespassers getting stomped is your fault despite secure fencing” crap that other states have, where YOU can be held liable for their own injuries and stuff from their trespassing foolishness.

        In other states I also had annual problems with hunters trespassing, many of them drunk and shooting at anything, including humans wearing orange. I have not-fond memories of bullets whizzing terrifyingly close to me even while I was screaming “what the fk there’s people here!” only to find a drunk dimwit in plaid flannel in the back field mumbling about “just dialing in my sights…” IN MY DAMN FIELD. No kindly requesting permission to cut through, just show up wherever with a case of beer and start firing at anything that moves. Snowmobiling and ATVs cutting through fields and actually cutting apart fences I built so they could go wherever they please, then the animals getting out and coyotes getting in. It got to the point of not just stockade fencing but low rock walls with short pieces of rebar stuck in and held in place with quik-crete, because the local police didn’t enforce trespassing laws, and a flat-tired ATV or snowmobile with busted treads was the only thing that convinced the yahoos to stay off my property and quit cutting down my fences.

        1. Pippa K*

          CUTTING a FENCE?? With no-trespassing signs? To hunt someone else’s LAND? Or snowmobile on it?

          No joke, that is the kind of thing that can get you shot in the rural US west (my part, anyway). Leaving a closed gate open is a mortal sin. Cutting a fence is … I’m going to need to take some deep breaths.

          1. Lora*

            Oh boy, the gates closing…and barn door closing… that’s another maddening one, where some people just aren’t allowed to visit anymore.

        2. Notthemomma*

          Lora, I have never bonded with someone from afar as I did when reading this post. YES TO EVERYTHING YOU SAID!!!!
          Plus people cutting down the evergreens in the shelter belt because they want a Christmas tree….I took to spraying Fox urine on all of ours …. or dumping the unwanted pets to ‘be free’ only for them to die a slow death from starvation, injury, or predators. The time spent cleaning up after fireworks set off on the country roads and fixing fence/tracking livestock scared by fireworks.

          1. Lora--fiber goats*

            OMG the unwanted pets. I did get a fantastic bunch of barn cats out of a pregnant female, but otherwise yeah, it’s just Unwanted Pet Central. One of my friends works at a rescue and helps find them homes (usually cats) but it’s still a lot.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              I grew up on a family farm. I personally think there should be a special circle of Hell for people who dump animals…the poor things were so confused and scared. We did what we could for them…mostly, the cats just joined the barn cat colony. Dogs – usually we found a home for them.

              My parents raised pigs. Pigs are also incredibly smart and good at figuring out the weak points in fences…and they can move a lot faster on those four little trotters than most people think.

              One thing my father taught me that has stood me in good stead in life: Respect for machinery. NEVER FORGET that a tractor, or a mower, or any other tool or machine used on a farm can hurt you…badly…or worse, if you are careless with it. Every year, growing up, there would be stories on the local radio station about someone badly injured or killed in an accident involving farm machinery.

              Farming is dangerous, more so than most people realize. And do yourself a favor and make sure your tetanus jabs are up to date, especially when there’s a horse around. My DH and I are conscientious about that because we volunteer at the local Renaissance Festival, which has horses, along with fences in not-great states of repair, which means nails sticking up, and so on.

              1. Dusty Bunny*

                Yes! Farming is dangerous, and respect the machinery. Lessons this farm girl also had drilled into her head growing up. And so many “city kid” friends could not understand why we couldn’t play wherever we wanted in the barn.

        3. Adlib*

          Wow, this is basically what happens to my parents. They have a small hobby farm that takes up like 5 acres of their entire 34.5 acre area, but the hunters and trespassers are insane even in the country. Part of the fencing for the donkeys backs up to the next door country church/cemetery. I sympathize with you, Lora. I don’t live there, but I often farm-sit for them when they travel, and it’s a lot of work! And again, people are nuts. It can’t be said enough.

      3. Aurora Leigh*

        I want to be you! I raised goats with my parents until I moved out and would love to get back to a more rural life. For now, we have chickens!

        Really fascinated about fiber goats and how you sell the fiber, but I don’t want to derail this thread.

      4. Texan In Exile*

        My mom grew up on a dairy farm in northern Wisconsin. My grandparents took two away vacations their entire working lives.

        BTW – none of the seven kids wanted to buy the farm when my grandparents retired. They knew how much work it was.

        1. Sleepless*

          Isn’t that the truth! I grew up on a dairy farm. We were able to take a yearly 4 day vacation only because my dad had a business partner. We sold the last of our family’s land last year. We miss the land, but nobody wanted to farm it. I read all this stuff that laments “the death of the family farm” and I think, nobody’s stopping you, go buy a farm. Some of us have been there and done that.

        2. lifesempossible*

          My two uncles took over the family dairy farm. One manages the fields and the other manages the milking. They get to take a couple vacations per year because one lives on the property, the other adjacent to it. They are both familiar with each other’s roles and have their own ‘staff,’ so to speak.

          The grandparents were just like your parents — only took a couple vacations during all their working years. It is definitely easier to have a business partner to manage so you can get away!

      5. Elizabeth West*

        After living on a small farm with a partner and numerous animals for four years, it surprised me to realize how much work I’d been doing once I was no longer doing it. I was like, “No wonder I was so tired all the time!”

      6. CastIrony*

        That tractor upkeep part hit me.
        My dad works on a ranch, and the owner never wants to replace the very old farm machines (swathers, tractors, etc.). So, they break down quite a bit as my Dad wants a John Deere tractor.

    5. Bibliovore*

      There is no right or wrong here. I am an urban person. Been one my whole life. Never learned to drive. I got my energy from being surrounded by people, big city energy, yadyada. I had a great prestigious job. We had what would have been considered a great apt. In a cool neighborhood. I thought that was our life forever. The husband not so much.
      In service to my marriage we moved from big city to medium sized Midwest town. He took to it like a duck to water. Me. Not so much right away. 6 years later, I find it hard to believe we lived anywhere else. I learned to drive, live in a house, and bloom where I am planted. We are adaptable.
      I am thinking if the horse is part of your life, you will make choices together and if the farm doesn’t work out, you will only know by trying. The key is that neither of you are secretly filling resentment baskets. Talk about your anxieties and fears together.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Is your husband handy and willing to learn new things? Are YOU also handy and willing to learn new things? My uncle was fond of saying, “It takes both people putting in 100%.”

      We don’t have a farm and our lot is tiny. So I will just use the tractor story as a guide for envisioning other circumstances. We bought a modest used tractor. Here’s the scary part, he let ME pick it out as he had NO experience with tractors and I once worked for a place that sold tractors. (Try not to think about the logic going on here. It takes whatever resources a couple can muster up, even HUMBLE resources.) He did listen to the engine and check the fluids before we paid for it. My husband was a geek and he loved to drive ANYTHING. I knew he would adapt to the tractor quickly and he did. We use the tractor for grass, leaves and snow, so we are pretty dependent on this machine and it was critical that my husband get to like it/be interested in it.
      Time pasted and he picked out the second tractor. We talked about features and he made a little grocery list of features. Then he found one. The second one he got right into, he redid the hydraulics and the electrical on it.
      Both machines we picked up used but we got them from an excellent small dealership who had no problem letting my husband copy the tech manuals. You see how the stars are getting into alignment here, my techie guy had tech manuals for this much needed machine.
      The story has many different threads, not the least of which was costs. We bought old, used equipment. Our second tractor was originally $12K. To get that tractor and attachments we wanted we spent $5400. I thought we did well considering. Then my husband handled the maintenance work which meant we saved more money on this beast.

      What is key here is the spouse’s willingness to jump right in using their natural skills and gifts to benefit the two of you and your new home. My contribution to the tractor story was watching costs and figuring out how we would get the most use out of the machine. If the spouse is a non-participating spouse (saying that as gently as possible) then the dream falls apart. I’d am a fan of “Know Your Partner”. Like you are saying I knew my guy would get into the swing of home ownership after a bit. I knew in the long run he would be glad we bought this house with the tractor and he would eventually learn about dogs. It took a bit for us to reach this happy place in our minds. I knew my husband had skills that dovetailed well with my skills and as a couple we could cover a lot of things that would come up.
      In short, do you think you stand a reasonable chance as a couple of making this new place work out well for you? For me, I could see the vision in my head. At least one partner has to have a clear idea of where the two of you are going . I could see us living here with our new dog.
      And it really helps if partners have different skills they bring to the table. I remember my techie husband trying to put in a new lawn with me. He wanted to dig a hole 3 inches deep and put the grass seed in the hole. NOOOOOO. Fortunately, I had put in new lawns before and we did not kill that one hundred dollars worth of grass seed. It took both of us putting our best effort into everything.

    7. fposte*

      To be more specific about what others are saying, is the land and animal care going to be yours alone? Do you have the ability to hire/arrange non-husband services or backup for all the work to make sure it stays that way, if so? What will the labor hours mean for your time together–if you’re spending six hours mowing on a weekend when formerly you’d have hung out with him, will that be okay? If you’ve had a long day of post-hole digging and you come in to find he’s been sitting doing sudoku all day, will that be okay with you?

      I don’t think this is necessarily a mistake, and I think it’s fine for people to have a life that’s okay with one person and the dream of another. If you have finances that allow you to take off some of the direct labor, that will help a lot (though of course that adds a layer of admin). I’m just tossing out some things that you should both be thoughtful about when making this decision.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, I thought of another category to be explicit about: what are your expectations of your husband in the times when he’s home alone? What do you expect him to notice/take action on when it comes to a loose horse, an injured horse, or a farrier who turns up a day early if you’re not there?

        1. voyager1*

          This is really good. I don’t know anything about horses. I would be so hosed in this situation without specific instructions of what to do if something happened to the horse.

          But it sounds like the husband is pretty open to all of this.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I think all kinds of answers on this could be okay–what you want to avoid is having conflicting unstated assumptions.

    8. foolofgrace*

      Consider resale value. If you want/need to get rid of it, how difficult will that be, and is all of your money tied up in it?

    9. Mimosa Jones*

      I can’t offer anything helpful about getting a farm, but feelings-wise, your husband can hate the farm and be miserable without those feelings turning into resentment. It seems like that’s a common fear, that negative feelings will turn into resentment that will destroy the relationship. And it’s valid, but it’s not a foregone conclusion.

    10. Lizabeth*

      Also a thought about buying farm equipment, auctions are a good way to get equipment BUT you need to know what you’re looking at. A friend of mine bought a zero turn mowing machine and thought he got a deal. He didn’t for one BIG reason, he bought it in the fall when the landscapers are dumping their equipment that they ran into the ground from spring to fall. Needless to say the engine blew the following spring and was only good for parts after that. And no, he didn’t recoup his costs.

      1. Squeakr321*

        Why a farm and not just a house with a barn? If the issue is course caring boarding, why not just start with the house with some land and a barn and see if you enjoy it enough to consider farming in the future.

        1. I don’t post often*

          I wondered the same thing. What some refer to as a “small farm” is a few acres with barn, fence, and house.

          We lived on 2.5 acres that was zoned for horses but no other live stock. Neighbors had horses. They had a small barn and a fence. I can’t speak to what work they did for maintaince, but they did need a truck to haul hay, a mowers for the yard. (By mower I mean a stout riding lawn mower. Not nessecarily a zero turn. That doesn’t work well on hills.). But there were no vegetables or other animals so it was just the upkeep of 2+ acres, barn and fence.

          My point here is others in this thread have talked a lot about different types of animals, fencing, fields, and gardens. And possibly you do want that? Or possibly you want a larger than normal yard with a barn and a fence.

          I will say, to mow 2.5 acres you are looking at 2-4 hours depending on you and your mower + weed eating (weed whacking). Just think about what you enjoy doing. I love to mow.

    11. Koala dreams*

      Look into the local regulations for keeping animals. Where I live (outside the US), you need to have at least two cows or horses, you can’t have just one horse or one cow, or even one of each. They need to live with a cohabitant of the same species. So check if there are any special rules for where you want to live.

    12. Ethyl*

      When my spouse and I (together going on 20 years) were trying to figure out a Big Life Change (grad school for him), we talked to a couples counselor for a few sessions. It helped immensely, especially since our conversations and feelings had kind of gotten stuck in a loop, y’know? Could be worth a try?

  5. Tartini’s Thrilling Trills*

    I am having a midlife crisis. (Unsure if this is work-related or not. It’s life-related, for sure.)

    I can only find fulfillment in my hobbies and I don’t know how to be okay with this. I know it is because my brain is biologically wired that way (I am neurodivergent) and I don’t know why I feel…guilty?

    1. Alex*

      You find fulfillment in your hobbies? That is great success! You found something that fulfills you!

      I guess I’m not sure what you think you should be finding fulfillment in. But regardless, if you found something…that’s great! It doesn’t matter what it is (as long as it’s not, like, murdering people).

      I have yet to find fulfillment in anything, so, you’re a step ahead.

      1. Tartini’s Thrilling Trills*

        It’s because we were told that we’re supposed to find not just fulfilling relationships, but also fulfilling careers, fulfilling hobbies— and so far, that’s not what reality is shaping up to be, but I think it’s okay. I think we’d live better lives if we’re grateful about something everyday.

    2. Courageous cat*

      Well, I have exactly zero fulfilling hobbies myself, so I think I’d much rather be in your position! I guess it depends on whether you mean you can’t find fulfillment in other people, relationships, etc?

      1. Tartini’s Thrilling Trills*


        I cannot find fulfillment in all aspects of my life except my hobbies.

        My relationships failed because I felt controlled in all of them. It doesn’t matter if it’s male or female. It’s more pronounced if it’s male.

        1. TechWorker*

          Do consider the possibility that this isn’t a failure to feel fulfilled in your part but dating people who were controlling. Every relationship varies (and sometimes you can end up feeling controlled even if the other person isn’t really doing anything ‘wrong’) – but it’s definitely possible to have a relationship where you have time to focus on yourself (eg folk who have been married years but don’t live together and see each other a couple of times a week and holidays.. it happens!). Also I’m not in the community so I don’t know if this is terrible advice, but you could consider dating someone poly, if that’s your bag. I imagine (your partner) having multiple relationships would mean they’re used to the concept of not owning all of your time and energy. (Not that monogamous relationships are always like that, but if they get towards that it might contribute towards the feeling of being controlled?).

          1. Tartini’s Thrilling Trills*

            This is a good insight.

            I haven’t thought of it before.

            Now, I wonder.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I hope you smile, my friend and I have a running joke, do not take Hobby and start earning a living doing Hobby. All enjoyment of the Hobby will die.

      As long as your job is not hurting you, physically, emotionally or financially, this means you are in a fairly safe spot, generally speaking.

      Just my guess but I think many people get nothing out of their jobs. Each day is not more than a hamster wheel. Gotta eat, therefore gotta go to work.

      A few suggestions:
      1) Reframe the role of a job in your life. It’s not the sum total of life and it’s one aspect of who you are and what you do but it’s not the whole you. Jobs are not everything that we think they should be. This is a good thing to tell yourself.
      2) Line up a couple goals. Keep the goals doable but enough challenge to keep you interested and involved. Put the steps to completing those goals on a calendar for yourself if need be. When you complete one goal, create a new one to replace it. You know how there’s always goals and deadlines at work? This has potential applications in life , also. A person who does not have goals can seriously flounder sometimes.
      3)Keep a gratitude journal. Try to write down things that you are grateful for. Sometimes emptiness sets in when we forget how far we have come and what we do have. I keep a journal by my bed because some times I have to remind myself.
      4) Use the dullness of the present to plan your future. How are you set for the years and decades to come? One thing I looked at was the question, “Can I age in place?” How hard is it going to be for Elderly Me to handle my home?

      Not everything fulfills us. Ask someone taking care of a seriously ill, elderly parent. It’s easier just to go bang our heads on a brick wall, the wall is less painful. OTH, some folks view their jobs as a necessity in order to do Hobby or in order to have the life style they want.
      It’s fine to feel unfulfilled as that is a legit emotion that comes for a reason or several. What to do about it is to figure out what more you would like to add to your life. Instead of squelching the feeling, start looking around and see what makes you forget about that feeling because you have found something that fills your mind and your life.

      1. Ewpp*

        Good and helpful. Dating, every guy does seem to ask in reference to your no. 1, but ‘do you love your job or career’? With an expected yes. It is exhausting.

        1. NoLongerYoung*

          Read up on it – I believe there are some recent good posts (WSJ, maybe ?) that “loving” your job is not always necessary. I think the capacity to have joy from “some”part of your life, is what is important. Frankly, more important (having been depressed in the past) to be able to find any joy or some significant joy in some part of my life, than a specific expectation for what facet of my life that joy had to be in.

          That being said, I love parts of my job very much because I have decided to, if that makes sense. Like any relationship, it is effort and attitude. So I choose to see what part of my relationship with my mom give me joy (caretaking, no… but there is some joy in spending these last precious years with her). Similarly, the work I do can bring me joy in various ways… using my brain to problem solve. Having (and focusing on ) the stability I need financially and emotionally. Finding some joy in making the world a better place, through what I do. And joy in achieving my goals and becoming more resilient.

          It may well be a stretch to ever say I ‘Love” my job. But it is not a stretch to say that I am trying to learn peace and contentment, regardless of the world around me. So I love the opportunities I have.

          Took me a long time to get here, though.

          1. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

            Realize what I was trying to say is – I don’t think it’s necessary to even have to answer “do you love your job.” That’s an implicit assumption that you should, maybe? And I’d question that assumption… that’s what the rest of my response was trying to say.

        1. Gaia*

          I mean, that’s amazing in itself! Plenty of people don’t even have hobbies that they are fulfilled by.

          There’s this ridiculous idea that everyone else has amazing, fulfilling social lives AND careers they love AND hobbies that are fascinating. But in reality? Most of us are missing at least one of those through no “fault” of our own.

  6. Frumpasaurous*


    I need clothing advice. I have been concentrating on me this year a lot. And have now lost 3 stone or 19kg or 42lbs. Which is awesome. But a lot of my clothes don’t fit right or are just so big. I’m annoyigly between sizes so one size just looks unflattering and big but the next size down is just a bit too small. Like I button the jeans but it pulls and is tight they are not comfortable at all.

    Also I really like some of my clothes that just aren’t flattering now. I also plan on losing more weight as I continue getting healthier.

    Has anyone else lost a lot of weight and had clothes issue? What did you do? I don’t know if its worth having my clothes taken in when I am still losing weight but I also don’t like my clothes being super super baggy. Do I have to except I am going to look like a frumpasaurous for a while or anybody have any suggestions? Preferably not super expensive.

    I am in the UK in case that affects suggestions.

    1. Kuododi*

      At times like what you’re describing…I have found a relationship with a good tailor to be worth it’s weight in gold. I’ve used both professional tailors as well as talented friends and family. Depending on how much I needed to have resized, the $$$ was typically quite reasonable. ($20-50 ish dollars). My friends and family were even more reasonable. With them I could barter for what I needed. (Tailoring in exchange for typing a paper, babysitting or homemade baked goods as example.). Best wishes for the future.

    2. hazy days*

      There will be stores that fit and flatter your body as it is now, but they won’t necessarily be the same ones that you’re used to going to.
      I’d suggest going to a major department store with a friend and trying on a whole range of clothes from different brands till you find what works now, which may be unexpected.
      You could try going to John Lewis and getting their personal shopper to do the selecting and running round for you. Better to have a couple of good items that you ring the changes with, than plenty of things that don’t really fit.

      I think that in the U.K., you’ll find it cheaper and easier to buy new than to have tailored, depending on your tastes.

    3. Jane*

      I second tailoring, but for items I’ve absolutely *loved* I’ve also stalked eBay to re-buy them in new sizes. I’m really picky with clothes and it’s been so helpful to do that, though you need to be careful about condition. It’s also easier with smaller brands – I have a lot of success with Hobbs, for instance, but imagine searching for black M&S dress would have an overwhelming number of results.

    4. CoffeeforLife*

      Try shopping resale sites to pick up new to you pieces that will fit you now. Wearing ill fitting items can be a bit discouraging. Best wishes on your goals!

      1. SigneL*

        Yes, resale stores. Or you could get one or two pairs of pants tailored and just accept that your shirts will be baggy for a while. Do you have a friend you could trade a few pieces with?

    5. Middle School Teacher*

      I also vote tailor. As well, a lot of larger department stores have personal shoppers who know the clothes and the brands and can help you pick out new things!

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I lost six sizes.

      Financially it was not practical to buy clothes for every size. I bought clothes that were a looser type fit. I actually prefer a tailored fit type of look so this was a little challenging for me. I ended up buying every other size.

      A certain few items that I was very fond of, I actually paid someone to take them in for me. The way I found someone to do this cost effectively was to ask friends. One friend’s mother said she would be happy to do it. She got pocket money out of the deal and I got to wear my clothes a bit longer.

      I also stretched a few pennies by using old tee shirts for pajama tops and old sweat pants for pajama bottoms. Some items became house clothes or yard-work clothes.

      If I had to do it now, I would totally get on-board with consignment shops. And I would boldly bring back the stuff that was no longer fitting me but in sale-able condition.

      Going in a different direction, I had a family member who used to be part of a circle of friends who worked with a 30 gal garbage bag filled with clothes. When your turn came to get the bag, you took what you could use, put in some of your own that you could not use and you passed the bag to the next person in the circle. The bag came back around every 8-10 months or so and by the time you got it again, the items were totally different.

    7. Traffic_Spiral*

      Oxfam, baby – youtube.com/watch?v=maJIdcHBdyo

      also if you’re a woman, look into dresses that can be paired with belts (cinch round the waist or right under the boobs, depending on what looks better on you).

    8. NoLongerYoung*

      May not help the suggestions. But I lost 9 dress sizes. Consignment and thrift stores. And I didn’t wear jeans for a long time, because they just didn’t flex enough to stretch up, or hang well when too big. I also had to switch brands to ones that had about 4% spandex. I wore a lot of dresses (cinch belts), loose cardigans instead of blazers, leggings with long tunics. And baggy sweaters were/ are a look.

      And my mom does tailoring … I can do simple darts. I even use (shudder) safety pins in a pinch, because a heavy cell phone in a pocket can drag those pants down so fast… I needed to nip them in at the waist “that morning.”

      We also have a group that got together and swapped clothes.

    9. Kim, No Longer Esq.*

      My weight fluctuates a lot, and I’ve mostly found success with fast fashion; stuff like ASOS, Rue 21, Forever 21, etc. There’s enough variety out there that you can find one or two pieces (maybe dresses or jumpsuits) that fit your body pretty well, even being between sizes. And having just one or two things you can wear and feel great in is such a great feeling when you’re trying to stay motivated to lose weight.

      1. Kimmybear*

        I was going to say this. I’ve lost a similar amount of weight this year and I try the “trendy” but not too young for me shops like Old Navy, H&M to find things that fit now but will be cheap enough that I can replace. Also consignment and thrift stores and outlets. Right now I can pull my jeans down over my hips but with a belt and long enough top, they work until I can go down two jeans sizes.

    10. Sopranistin*

      That is a significant amount of weight, probably several sizes. I don’t think a tailor would be your best option, as they’d need to restructure the whole garment. I would only take a few favorite items to a tailor, once your weight has stabilized.
      I lost 20 pounds, down about 3 dress sizes. About 10 pounds down, I had to buy smaller clothes. Mainly pants. I bought a few basics at thrift stores and discount stores that I could wear for a short period until I needed another size. Like black pants, jeans, structured tops.
      Many of my other clothes fit me through the weight loss – cardigans, blouses just fit more blousy, dresses can be belted.
      Just because you’re in between sizes in one brand, doesn’t mean you can’t find clothes that fit well. Every brand of clothing fits differently. I have clothes that range from a size 2-8 in my closet. You’ll just need to spend some time trying on various styles and sizes to find what works.

      1. Frumpasaurous*

        Yeah It seems to be about 3.5-4 sizes at the moment that I am down

        Cinching dresses works but the problem as well is that I previously really loved long tops and tunics and flowy clothes. I still do. But those clothes now even with a belt make me look bigger than I am or just hang like tents on me. Luckily I dont have to wear suits for work since I work in a relaxed field. My nice interview suits look like I was playing dress up in someone elses closet when I tried them on. I found something else to wear (and got the job!) but yeah. Having already big tops before the weightloss means they are even bigger.

        I hadn’t considered the brand aspect though. I did wear different sizes at different stores before but havent really tried more than a few stores now.

        I think a big issue is figuring out what I should be buying now. The only things I have bought clothes wise since I started losing weight so far is 2 pairs of workout capris. And some socks but that was because I needed more socks.. It feels weird to buy when I know I might not fit it in a few months but at the same time I am getting tired of drowning in my clothes. Plus I want to feel pretty in my clothes. But spending a lot to feel pretty now when it will be big later doesnt seem worth it.

        1. NoLongerYoung*

          Yeah, what I found was that even 4 sizes down, I was only half way. So I didn’t “invest” in a lot, but I bought inexpensive and thrift items. 2 or 3 $4 clearance t-shirts at Target, under the baggy cardigan, stretches the wardrobe a lot. Pull out your scarves, cardigans, belts – the things that you can make work still. Do your shoes still fit? (Mine did not). If you can, buy inexpensive pants with the spandex that do fit. I think I hit the JC Penny’s and Macy’s deep clearance racks and didn’t pay over $15 a pair for pants… and got 3 new pairs of pants and work-appropriate leggings that fit. (Go for a little snug if you are going to keep losing weight, and I found pants with spandex “stretched” a bit once I wore them). I got 5 t-shirts/ tanks in various colors (about $5-10 each) for under button fronts or cardigans. And one smaller size cardigan (in black, but then… black is my color. ).
          I then combined in all my existing scarves, jewelry, belts, and wore the baggy cardigans over. This got me through to the next 2 sizes + down.
          I threw in a couple dresses ($15 at Marshalls).

          I needed to feel “better” about all the progress I’ve made. 3.5-4 sizes is enough that you should celebrate some. I found that a few thrift or sale pieces opened up the world to me. I could be proud of what I was doing… your user name is not true. You are not frumpy. You are doing an amazing thing…if there is any way to swing even a pair of pants and a couple t-shirts each pay day, to bring some color and fit into your life… it would help you recognize and acknowledge this success.

          Go for it.

    11. Old Biddy*

      My weight has fluctuated during my adult life, and I carry a lot of it in my midsection. I usually have a few pairs of smaller pants lying around. On the way down, I’ll make do with those and just wear the same tops. The last cycle I didn’t buy many new clothes because I’ve gotten to the age where I really don’t care and still had lots of older stuff.
      You could pick up one or two pairs of basic pants until your weight settles. Skirts with elastic waists are also good if you wear them, as are cardigans with basic sleeveless tops.
      When your weight has settled and it becomes a lot harder to lose, buy some new clothes or get your favorites tailored. This will probably be your setpoint for a while, so don’t get anything that’s tight with the assumption that you’ll lose more weight.

    12. thatoneoverthere*

      There are a lot of youtube videos out there on how to take in pants and shirts. If you or a friend has a sewing machine. Most shirts are actually pretty easy to take in (depending on the style and fabric of course). Watch a ton of videos and read tutorials. I did this when, I lost 30lbs and it saved me a ton of money.

  7. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going?
    Sorry for not being here last week, I had a busy weekend. Also, I wish the plot bunnies would stop multiplying like…Well, bunnies.

    1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

      I love the “plot bunnies” image and I’d love to hear how do you deal with them! I’m having the same problem right now: the story I’m working is way over the limit of what can fit in one book, and I realized I could probably turn it into a saga of some sort. So, on the one hand, the plot bunnies are very welcome to multiply, since they help me give more flesh to the story. On the other hand, I’m afraid of getting myself into something too big for me: I’m a beginner, I “studied” writing but I write for myself, thinking that I will publish one day when the stars align… What should I do? How can one understand if some side events are adding to the plot or they are just rambling?

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        I usually write down the gist of them (have a notebook on me at all times) and even if I don’t end up using them in the context they originally came to me, they can help when I’m stuck on another project.
        As for the side events…Try to figure out what they add to the story. Do they tell you something about the characters or the world? Do they impact the main plot in some way?
        For example: say you’re writing a detective novel. Obviously, the main plot has Detective McInvestigate trying to figure out who committed the crime. As a side event, you can have McInvestigate try speeddating on their day off because they’re single and looking for a partner. Now you have a perfect chance to teach the reader more about McInvestigate other than “bites into a case like a bloodhound”. Maybe they’re very charming…Or maybe they’re socially awkward. Alternatively, maybe one of the speeddates ends up being a suspect or a witness – cue at least some awkwardness in the main plot. Maybe one of the speeddates happens to be the crook and maybe McInvestigate actually really liked them – how would that affect the main plot?
        I’ll link a Jenna Moreci video on the topic below, she has a great way of explaining things (at least to me).

          1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

            ooooh my, a million thanks for this rabbit hole!!!

            *plunges in the videos like Scrooge McDuck*

            1. A.N. O'Nyme*

              Another good rabbit hole to go into is Ellen Brock – she’s an editor who also does youtube videos :)

        1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

          Thanks for the thorough answer! My problem is that I found out along the way that many characters needed more space, so many subplots involve secondary characters that are related to the main story, but are still secondary.
          To keep with your example: McInvestigate discovers that Cruella O’ Suspect is also related to a murder committed 30 yrs before, and is also a Mason, and both crimes are supporting some agenda of the Masonry. So many subplots will shed light on said agenda, even showing things that McInvestigate will never discover, and I do feel that the story would be much more superficial and cliche-y without them, but at the same time I’m afraid a reader would not care about those secondary character. I’m afraid I’m just “diluting the soup”, as we say in Italy ;)

          1. A.N. O'Nyme*

            If they help flesh out the story, I’d say keep them, however you still might need to, as my English teacher used to say, “Kill Your Darlings”. How many you cut/keep will probably depend on whether or not you turn it into a duology/trilogy/whatever-logy. That might sound daunting as a beginning writer, but…Well, lots of successful writers had their first books be part of a series so I wouldn’t let that deter you (although it may be a tough sell if you want to go into traditional publishing and if you do go that route it’d probably be best to have at least the sequel thought out).

    2. The Curator*

      The book came off of the press badly. The digital looked so beautiful. I don’t know the mechanics but they say they can fix it. Meeting with the editor next week. On deadline for an article. So disappointed. Writing this weekend. Trying to keep on my writers hat and lose the editor hat for now as I am feeling paralyzed by perfectionism. Trying to remember that today is the get it down on paper day. Write, don’t revise. Will put book link in the next comment

        1. IT Squirrel*

          Much as I love the phrasing “an intentionally recognized archive of rare books” in your book blurb – did you mean “internationally” there?

      1. fposte*

        Oh, no. Paper really is so different from digital; it’s a whole nother world. However, the printing people are often pretty wizardly, so give them a chance to do their magic.

      2. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Oof, that sucks. Still, paper and digital can be very different, so I’d say let them work their magic.
        I’ve mentioned this before but for me writing by hand helps me keep on my writer hat instead of the editor hat – i get rid of that need to immediately erase and rewrite a dumb sentence.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I feel the need to barf out another book (other than Book 3 of my trilogy). Have several ideas kicking around but haven’t settled on one yet. I’m having a great deal of trouble concentrating right now.

    4. Claire*

      On Thursday, I had a long productive talk with my editor, which led to me tossing half the existing chapters and all of the existing plot notes. That was so freeing! I’m now unstuck and the new plot is unfolding almost as fast as I can write it.

      And another huge moment of squee: I will be a guest at Comicon this October. One panel, and one book signing.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        I’m learning a similar lesson right now. Just write it down and trust that my subconscious has got the plot and characterization wired.

      2. Troutwaxer*

        BTW, I completely dropped the book you read part of and am letting that sit for as long as necessary. The current one is a fantasy about what happens when the Orcs move upmarket. I’ve got a great first line, not quite as amazing as “I had a farm in Africa” or “The sky over the port…”* but in the same league, I think.

        *Do any of the kids these days see that image like I do?

    1. SigneL*

      BABY! Woo! Our son and his family live in CT (we are in Texas), so we don’t get to see them often. In September we are going to see the new grandbaby (born in May), so I share your excitement!

  8. LGC*

    Running thread – and I can’t believe that marathon training season has already started (quite a while ago)! Funny enough, I was talking with a guy who’s been training with us – or…err…”with” us, because he’s really fast – last week and he mentioned that Chicago was 10 weeks away then.

    I’m doing New York again this year, myself. Still hoping to smash some goals – and still trying to figure out logistics. I think I’m going to go for the poncho this year.

    And in the interim…I just signed up for two mile races! It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while – I’m doing a local mile race, and then 5th Avenue a few weeks later. It’ll be cool, hopefully. And I’m hoping I can get a little closer to my PR – I’m in decent shape, a bit less worn out, and I…you know, won’t be running a 10k beforehand (do not do this).

    1. londonedit*

      Good luck! Running a mile race is SO hard, I always get halfway round and slow down because it’s so awful!

      I’m feeling incredibly chuffed with myself after an unexpectedly fast parkrun! I’ve been doing a lot more running than I’d usually do in August (mainly because it’s not as horrendously hot as it was last year) and after a great 10-miler last Sunday my friends kept telling me I should have a go at a faster parkrun. I’d been running somewhere around 27-28 minutes over the last few weeks, and today I thought I might try to dip under 27 minutes. Well, thanks to a couple of amazing friends who wouldn’t let me slow down, I dipped under 26 minutes instead! 25:57! I can’t quite believe it. It’s my fastest time since December 2016. Annoyingly it is also only three seconds slower than my PB, but I had absolutely no idea it was that close until I’d finished (I was way too busy trying to remember to breathe to look at my watch on the way round!)

      Tomorrow I’m running 10k with my running club as part of a local event, but after this morning I’m giving myself permission to take it easy!

      1. LGC*

        Good luck! Running a mile race is SO hard, I always get halfway round and slow down because it’s so awful!

        I know the feeling. My first one I went out way too fast – like, I came through the first quarter mile in just over 60 seconds. (And by that I mean, 61 seconds.)

        I am fast, but I am not Roger Bannister. (I ran like…a 4:37, which will give you an idea of how much I slowed down.)

        Congrats on an awesome 5k, though – and nearly getting a PR in the process! Honestly, I almost think it’s better that you didn’t look at your watch (and I say this as a compulsive watch checker myself – although I am surprisingly zen about my splits most of the time). Sometimes it’s nice to be surprised!

    2. NYWeasel*

      Trying to get back into half marathon shape after losing a full year due to an injury. In the meantime work has changed (I’m way busier) and I’m now post-menopausal which has definitely affected how fast I lose endurance etc. My goal race is next April for my 50th birthday!

      1. LGC*

        Good luck! And hopefully, your road back is pretty smooth!

        I’m just wondering about something – are you running the same pace as you were before your hiatus?

        1. NYWeasel*

          I’ve always been pretty slow, so there wasn’t much room to get slower. I do have to be way more careful bc the issue was an aggravation, and can flare up again if I’m not doing all the PT exercises

          1. LGC*

            SUPER late response, but…I was actually thinking you might be going too fast! Which is probably going to sound surprising to you, but then again, speed is relative. If you’re a 30-minute 5k runner (for example), 10 minute miles are going to be fairly intense.

            To be honest, on first read, I would actually think that you lost endurance less because of your age but more because of the injury. And the good news is that should come back in a few months. The other thing I just thought of is that it just takes longer to recover as you get older. So that might also be a factor.

    3. Lady Jay*

      Wow, marathon season always sneaks up on me (my own marathon, I ran in late June, so I’m out of sync with the massive autumn marathons).

      I’m . . . taking things slow in the summer, lots of shorter (4-5 mile) runs to cope with the terrible humidity in this part of the world. But I’ve got my eye on a couple longer runs (a 10K and a 25K [that second one is a trail run]) this fall, so pretty soon I’ll need to start ramping things up.

      1. LGC*

        That sounds awesome – good luck, especially with the trail 25k!

        I’ll be honest, I’ve been coping with the summer the same way to an extent. (My area is also extremely unpleasant in the summertime.) I’m trying to get back into the swing of things now, just because August is usually less terrible and also it’s about 3 months away from NYC.

    4. TechWorker*

      I started running ~2 years ago then broke 3 toes 1.5 years ago and have had foot ligament problems ever since… I’m now back to running 5k, but still a good 2 minutes slower than I was right before I hurt my foot!

      I actually did more like 6k today due to failing to measure the route properly, and it nearly killed me :D so I’m in total awe of you marathon runners!

      1. LGC*

        Funny enough, I was actually talking about this on the long run I did this morning! I actually said something to the effect that I find 5ks difficult because it’s a tremendous effort. Which is true – to put it in perspective, I’ll average…roughly 4:10/km for a marathon (2:54 and change), and 3:50/km for a half marathon (1:19 and change). My 5k PR is 16:47, so…3:21/km.

        So, yeah, there’s a huge difference – for me, there’s almost a minute per kilometer split, although part of that is that I’m actually better at 5ks to begin with.

        1. TechWorker*

          I think my problem is I’m not very fast (I work in minutes/mile, but doing some translation I think my 5k pace hovers around 6:00/km). I’ve not yet really found a pace inbetween that and walking :D so I’ve not managed to increase the distance yet!

          1. LGC*

            (I normally work in miles myself – I just misread your post so I translated my average paces to kilometers, since I thought that’s what you were using!)

            But yeah, honestly…like, it’s surprisingly something a lot of people don’t think about, but no one is expecting you to run your 5k pace for a marathon. I mentioned my paces, and if I ran 5:24/mi (my 5k PR pace) for a marathon…I would be ramping up for the US Olympic trials instead of New York! (Okay, maybe not quite. It’d be roughly 2:21, and since I’m a guy, the qualification for trials is 2:19 for me.) And I would certainly be able to run faster than 17 minutes over 5k (I’d probably be around 14, at least).

            This also means that the pros – so, like, Eliud Kipchoge, for example – aren’t really running all-out for 26.2 miles. (So, yeah, 4:37/mi – which was his average at Berlin last year – is…not an easy jog, but it’s not an all-out sprint for him.)

    5. baconeggandcheeseplz*

      Doing my city’s hot chocolate 15k in November. I got the 12 week plan (already!?) last weekend, anddddd I have not really started the training. I tried to go for a quick jog yesterday and didn’t even run a full mile straight. Hopefully I was just having an off day!

      How do you train for a mile race?

      1. LGC*

        Well, the good news is…for a November race you’ve still got time. It’s about 12 weeks out now, in fact.

        Honestly, I’ve kind of been winging it – but I’ve been trying to do shorter and faster intervals. (So I’ll try to do 200m intervals at goal mile pace, for example.)

  9. Loopy*

    Its been quite a while since I’ve had time to post! I’ve tried and failed (the site sits open on my laptop all weekend while I run around). Anyway, I am stumped and baffled AAM friends. I decided to treat myself to a rare wardrobe refresh. I hate shopping and do it minimally but feet the need to spruce up.

    However, I went to the list of stores at the biggest shopping center in my city and….I couldn’t figure out where to start. I looked at a few websites but for professional 30-something women’s wear they all blended together to me. I don’t have the time to do lengthly sleuthing as this afternoon is my only time-slot for this in a long while. I’m looking for mostly sheath and A-line dresses that are decent quality (but good lord not dry clean only, why is this a thing I can’t avoid?!) but still not more than 50 dollars each or so. Can anyone help me figure out which of these options might be a good starting point? I dont have any unique sizing needs but am particular on it being professional style dresses and in that price range.

    Ann Taylor Factory Store
    Lane Bryant Outlet
    New York and Company Outlet
    Express Factory Outlet
    J crew/ crewcuts factory
    Loft Outlet
    Saks 5th Avenue OFF fifth
    Talbots Outlet

    This is not a mall, it’s a huge outlet area where things are not as close so I’d love to get a few to start with. Anything on the list people love/might be a good fit?

    1. Alex*

      Ann Taylor Factory and Loft Outlet usually come through for me. All my “nice” pants are from there, plus several dresses. New York and Company is probably also a good place to try, and definitely within your price range. Talbots will be a bit more expensive and tends to be extremely preppy and/or a little “older”. Lane Bryant is plus size only so that may not be what you are looking for. I find Saks too overwhelming.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I’ve never found anything on the professional side that I like at Lane Bryant. They were my go-to for casual clothing. though. I also second Loft. I don’t have any experience with the other stores.

      2. peanut*

        I would start with Loft and Ann Taylor – these are where I started when I upgraded my professional wardrobe a few years ago. I ended up getting mostly dresses that looked great (though more in the $80-$100 range) and are still stylish.

      3. Loopy*

        Thank you! I started with Loft and I think they just were so heavy on summer styles still, we are in the south so its SO hot and the selection just didn’t match but probably due to timing! Never made it to Ann Taylor because Talbots was having a massive 20 dollar dress sale AND clearance event but I should have popped in just to see! I ended up finding so much at Talbots because of the sale I had everything I needed well under budget before even exploring further!

    2. Anona*

      It’s not on your list, but I love banana republic for this sort of thing. I just buy online and return. I bought a lot of dresses for around that price point, but it was around black Friday, and I think from their outlet online .

      1. CoffeeforLife*

        2nd Banana. About this time they start rolling out the workwear pretty hard and usually have suit dresses with matching jackets. The outlet is my first choice for price and the regular store with a sale/clearance.

      2. Loopy*

        I feel like I had one disappointing experience there years ago (selection wise) and never went back. I need to remember your comment so I can revisit. I forget how much stores can change in well over five years!

    3. Madge*

      Decent quality a-line sheaths are probably lined. The lining and the dress fabric can have different care instructions because one might be more prone to shrinking or dye loss than the other, so dry cleaning is the most reliable way to keep the dress looking good. Look for ones in a good quality ponte knit like from Lands End. Those won’t be lined and should be washable. You can also take your chances with labels that just say “dry clean” but you’re definitely taking a risk if you wash something labeled “dry clean only.”

      1. Courageous cat*

        Alternatively, I find hand washing to be much less of a pain in the ass than dry cleaning. I would do that for dry-clean-only stuff, unless it’s a particularly unusual fabric.

      2. Loopy*

        Thats good to know. The ones I got weren’t lined and thus were machine washable- they might not be as good but at the massive sale price point (19.99 each) I was actually okay with that.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      Talbots and Ann Taylor and Loft will probably be your best bets for targeted professional clothing.
      Saks will have everything, but may become overwhelming if you hate shopping.

      Be patient. This kind of shopping takes stamina. You will need to try on!

        1. Loopy*

          I wandered into saks to just look at their shoes and ran right back out seeing their price tags!

      1. Loopy*

        Thank you this was great advice! Talbots was my second stop and was having a huge 19.99 dollar dress sale and clearance event. They had exactly my style. The sizing was way weird but I forgot how helpful store sales people are at places like that (not like, JC Penny). Two were happy to help especially when they realized I wasn’t just popping in for a one off item. I ended up buying out of their petites section, which I never would have tried in a million years without their suggestion. It worked out with just giving an inch or two up in the hem line to have the dress fit well elsewhere. I’m 5’6 so I’m hoping this isn’t a sizing trend because I prefer my dresses at knee length (I’m really not a petite build and sizing now baffles me totally).

        Got three dresses and three comfy long sleeve shirts for 79.50! Do you have any knowledge of generally how well their stuff holds up?

        1. NoLongerYoung*

          I have quite a bit of Talbots (they used to have an outlet store 3 exits up the freeway from me). I machine wash gentle the machine washable items, and rack dry after tumbling for a minute to get the wrinkles out. I’ve gotten several years out of all of it… unless their quality has changed, I found them to be much better for long-wear than Penny’s, for example. Zip up the zippers, turn inside out, minimize rubbing with non-like items (ie, I don’t wash my talbot’s turtlenecks with blue jeans, for example).

    5. Scout Mom*

      I used to wear Ann Taylor all the time….. until my breasts grew. If you are a big busted woman, I find Ann Taylor to fit in the waist and be too tight in the chest. So although I can still buy separates, I cannot buy form fitting dresses anymore.

      1. Loopy*

        I wish I had made it over there, this might have worked out well for me. I just ran into a huge sale event at Talbots since it was the closer store and I hit it first. I will try and lodge Ann Taylor in my brain for next time.

    6. Llellayena*

      I know it’s not where you are, but the Calvin Klein line at Macy’s has some fantastic professional looking dresses. I always wish I wore dresses to work just so I could buy some…

      1. Loopy*

        This is good to know. I went to a big outlet place for multiple options but stores like Macys are closer if I dont have it in me to drive 30 minutes!

        1. Sunny*

          Check online for department store purchases. There is a vast amount of goods that never show up in the store because your size is gone, you can’t wade through ALL THE RACKS or, in the case of Nordstrom, only a fraction of their merch is in the stores.

    7. Kuododi*

      I’ve had decent luck with Lane Bryant in the past. Periodically they will carry jeans and slacks that will accommodate my size. (Petite length and plus size.). I haven’t gone there recently bc the selection had moved to more of a cutie pie/party clothes. I tend to look for more of the business casual than any other styles of clothing. I’m afraid I’m not going to be much help with any of the other choices. Best of luck. I’m sympathetic as I too loathe shopping with the heat of a thousand sun’s

      1. Loopy*

        I cannot do any casual clothes, I am so picky about my style being fairly conservative. This shopping experience wasn’t bad because I got exactly what i was looking for, below budget. So that helped.

    8. rmw1982*

      OP, IRT shopping, what has worked for me is finding a few brands that fit me well then going online. You’ll find plenty of items in your price range on ebay, ThredUp, Poshmark, etc. And you don’t have to deal with physically going to the store. (I loathe shopping and online used retail has been a godsend for me.) Good luck!

      1. Loopy*

        So, I totally tried this! I bought dresses at Lands End years ago and LOVED THEM. Fast forward 4-5 years I bought the same style, and none of the sizes I tried fit me due to the surge in vanity sizing. Because I shop sooo infrequently I’ve found sizing tends to sometimes be unpredictable if I wait 4-5 years before updating. I was SO sad and I was even in touch with the customer service reps. We worked out about half of the styles but some just didn’t come in a size that fit me period! And I’ve never had this problem before, I’m a generally common size.

      1. Loopy*

        I’m generally a fan of that but once, somehow (cringe) bought clothes form Goodwill that accidentally got put on top of some clean laundry, days passed, I forgot they hadn’t *actually* been washed as per usual routine and….there were consequences. So I’m kind of scarred from that still :(

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Goodwill has too much variety anyways. You need a smaller shop with less selection – that way there’s less to look through, and you just can drop by every month or so and see what’s new.

    9. Fishsticks*

      I love the Calvin Klein dresses. They can go for like 50 or 60 at Saks off fifth but! If you go to Marshall’s tj maxx and those places you can find them for 30-40 or even less. They are my fav kind of sheath dress. That doesn’t directly answer your question but I hope it helps!

      1. Loopy*

        I think I have some from a Nordstrom Rack that were 50 dollars each and I LOVE THEM THEY ARE THE BEST. They are also professional dry clean only and I’m just too lazy and cheap to make them regular rotation wear because of that :(

        1. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

          I did get dress shields (put them in… extends the wear). Then put the dry cleaners on your rotation for the errand rotation – part of them one week, drop off the other half (if needed) the next week. But in general, I can get a bunch of wearings (if I do not eat chocolate covered things or spaghetti while wearing them – the choc and tomato splatters are deadly).

          If no spots, in-between, I do use Dryel and the wrinkle remover to freshen and keep nice.

          Macy’s sale rack / Macy’s online clearance has been easier for me to deal with than TJ Maxx/ marshalls… I just don’t have time for the lines. Once I find a style and cut that fits, I will try to find another similar one (different pattern or color) online, eBAY, something easy – just so I don’t have to go to the store again. Macy’s will also search their inventory – so if a 14 doesn’t quite fit, you can ask them to search (nationwide) for a 16 and they will ship it to your house. So worth it to not have to go back to the mall.

        2. Fishsticks*

          Whoops did not know the dry clean only aspect. I just throw them into the wash and hang dry. You could try the woolite sheets that replace dry clean. I’ve used them and love them!

    10. Patty Mayonnaise*

      Loft and the aforementioned Banana Republic are both great for this, and for non-dry-clean only I would try New York and Co.

    11. merp*

      Belated response but if you want to do the online thing, eshakti is great. Some wacky options but many very normal options, with great return policy and free minor alterations!

  10. The Other Dawn*

    We welcomed a new kitty, Roscoe, to the family last weekend, and then my oldest kitty, Lou, hasn’t come home in three days. I’m sad, but I realize he was 14 (our best guess) and he was starting to lose a lot of weight, so maybe it was his time. Normally I wouldn’t assume he’s gone so soon, but he is very good about coming in every night and basically sticks to the patio area with a few rounds around the yard. He often sits in the front or side yard watching the cars go by. He also never misses a meal (what cat does?). So yeah, he’s gone.

    On to Roscoe. He’s what the head of the cat rescue calls “special.” Whenever I’m thinking about a new cat, I usually let her pick one for me (I volunteer there) and I get her so-called special ones. “Special” in my experience of her picking cats for me so far: one high-strung and afraid of his own shadow (but very affectionate); one high strung and food-driven (again, sweet girl); two divas; and one who was completely oblivious to the point where I don’t think he realized we moved houses when we moved five years ago. In this case, “special” means: neurological issue (she thinks he suffered head trauma as a kitten); a slight harelip; and a mild eye issue. He’s also very innocent and oblivious. She made the right choice, though. He is adorable and sweet and loves to play. He’s got a lot of energy and a gnat has a bigger attention span that he does. After spending most of the week first in one bedroom, then bedroom/bathroom, then a connecting bedroom, he’s out exploring the whole house today. No issues. Some hissing on both ends, but no attacks or growling. One cat, Oscar, doesn’t even seem to notice. Walked right by Roscoe and just glanced at him. Oscar has been here a long time so he’s used to being invaded upon. Also, I think all my cats tend to see him as Grandpa, as they always want to lay with him and snuggle.

    (Please, no comments that I shouldn’t have let Lou outside; it gets really tiresome. He was the one remaining indoor/outdoor cat of the 11 I have. It’s what he knew when I adopted him as an adult, so I kept it that way. Plus, he was a total asshole if we didn’t let him out. And I have a decent amount of yard space for him to roam.)

    1. Tennie*

      So sorry about Lou. It might not have had anything to do with the new kitty, of course. Cats are cats. But congrats on Roscoe! He sounds great. I once had a cat like Lou; could NOT be re-trained as an indoor-only cat. Still feel a little guilty because after we gave him to someone for a barn cat he immediately disappeared. But there are a few cats that just won’t adapt; mine was one and Lou sounds like he was one too.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Oh I know Lou disappearing has nothing to do with the new cat. He hadn’t even met him yet. I just meant it’s one of things that evens itself out. Kind of one door closes and another opens. (Maybe that’s not the right phrase) To inject some humor, it’s probably the universe allowing me to not have to tell people I have 12 cats!

    2. Goose Lavel*

      Sorry thst Lou is missing. Curious as to what your vet said about Lou losing weight.
      My 11 year old male cat Scooby is losing weight and our vet believes it could be hepatitis or hyperthyroidism. Blood test to find out the next step is happening next week.

      1. Blarg*

        My cat had hyperthyroidism. We did the iodine treatment and it was like having my kitten back. So amazing! Because I lived in a remote place at the time, we actually had to travel by plane to a place that could do it but it was still cheaper than meds 2x/day, every day, forever. Plus my cat hated the meds, even though it was a topical gel that went in the ear. It would have involved tackling her twice a day in perpetuity, which I wasn’t willing to do. Anyway, if it is thyroid, and you can swing the initial outlay, it’s so awesome to just cure the problem (and cheaper in the long run, especially when you factor in the blood loss from the wrestling).

        I hope for positive outcomes for everyone’s kitties — that Lou returns home or has found peace, that you get an answer and a solution for Scooby, and that Roscoe integrates successfully.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          Is the iodine treatment the same thing as radiating the thyroid? My cat has hyperthyroidism, and he’s not responding as well to topical medication as our vet expected. She thinks that radiation would be curative, but it’s $1,300, and he’d have to stay at the vet hospital for a week. When I asked if the hospital stay is included in the $1,300, they didn’t give me a straight answer. The admin person said “Well, some doctors charge and some don’t.” My cat is also around 11 years old (he was a stray, but we’ve had him for 9 years and he was around 1.5 when we took him in), so I hesitate to spend $1,300+ when he might only be around for a couple more years. Did your cat do well with the procedure?

          1. Blarg*

            Yea, same thing. I took her to a Seattle facility that only does hyperthyroid. How long they spend there depends on how quickly they clear the radiation — typically a few days. My cat was a rockstar and only spent one night, which was a pleasant surprise. Since our travel involved planes and stuff, it was stressful for all of us, but she did great. She was 13 at the time, now 16, and no recurrent thyroid issues. In fact, she weighs more now than ever before! (She’s always been on the borderline underweight size and is now normal). I’d say add up the cost of the meds over the next 5 years; it’ll be more than the procedure. And barring other health stuff, there’s no reason an indoor cat can’t live into their late teens. I recognize that I am fortunate to have been able to pay for the treatment up front, and am so glad that I did!

            (This is the same thyroid ablation procedure humans get, for reference. Do we lock humans up for a week after? No. Do they get higher doses because it is weight based? Yes. Is it a little bit overly cautious that regulations require the extended hospitalization for felines? Probably.)

            1. Radiation Safety, it’s what I do*

              Actually we do lock humans up for a week after receiving Iodine for thyroid. It just doesn’t look like locking up. Because if the human is reasonably competent and not incontinent they go home and are isolated there.
              The issue is that once the person takes the iodine it is excreted from every pore in every fluid the body produces and in feces. Because of this it contaminates every surface the person touches, and because it’s easily and highly absorbed any person or pet who comes into contact. Keeping your pet overnight or a week is more about protecting your thyroid than anything else.

          2. Venus*

            My vet charged $1300 for everything. It was 3.5 years ago, when kitty was 12, and she’s still doing well. Other problems have come up, unrelated to the thyroid, so we treat them and hope for the best.

            The vet said that some cats need more time at the vet than others, but they charge a flat fee so that the unlucky owners get the same quality of service without added expense. I did the same calculation (cost of meds and blood tests) and decided that I would rather do the iodine radiation. I’m lucky I could afford it, and that he’s stayed alive, so I don’t regret the choice.

            1. MsChanandlerBong*

              If we did it now, we’d break even if he lived another three years (if you take the monthly cost of the medication x 36 months). I’d also be happy not to have to give him the medicine twice a day and have to remember to order it every month.

              1. Venus*

                The tipping point for me was the blood tests. Those need to be done reasonably regularly in order to ensure the dose of meds is correct. I didn’t ask for details, but I was guessing that blood tests would have to be done at least once a year more often (I already get the regular blood test once a year), at $100, so that would add to the expense. I think it would have been more likely to require 3+ blood tests the first year, although I never asked for the costs and numbers so maybe I was wrong. Either way, blood tests aren’t free and I would have needed at least a few of those over the years.

                1. MsChanandlerBong*

                  Yeah, our vet charges $100 for the thyroid test, too. That’s something I forgot to consider.

      2. cat socks*

        My tabby boy had hyperthyroidism that caused weight loss. Unfortunately he also had heart disease so we treated the thyroid issue with daily pills. It took a few tweaks to get the dosage correct, but his weight did get back to normal. He had a pretty severe case of heart disease so we opted not to do the iodine treatment because we knew he wouldn’t be with us long term due to the heart issue.

      3. The Other Dawn*

        To be honest, I had planned on taking him in the next week or so. I know it wasn’t a thyroid problem because I’ve had a cat with that issue previously and I didn’t see any symptoms other than weight loss. I’m thinking kidney failure, which is pretty common in a cat his age. Being that he spent so much time outside, though, I don’t know if he was drinking and peeing a lot (he always drank from the pond rather than a clean dish of water in the house). I’ve had other cats with kidney failure, and one on her way to that now, so I know the symptoms.

    3. Queer Earthling*

      I’m sorry about Lou! But congrats on your new kitty. Special needs cats are wonderful–mine snots everywhere due to allergies, but I’ve never met a more affectionate cat. He’s so eager to shove his snot-covered face into the face of whoever’s nearby.

    4. cat socks*

      I’m so sorry to hear about Lou. Glad you were able to give Roscoe a home. It’s always heartwarming to hear about special kitties being adopted.

      We just took in a stray last week which puts us at five cats. Got him neutered and found out he is FIV+. He’s been fine interacting with the resident kitties, but the plan is to foster him and see if we can find him a home.

    5. Pam*

      A friend of mine was an adopter of last resort. After her death, I inherited several ‘specials,’ including an epileptic cat, a former cat mill breeding cat who hated humans, and a few who were scared of everything. (Luckily, money to pay expenses came with them)

      They were all lovely kitties, and I did my best to give them a good life. The ‘hates humans’ female never did lighten up, and lived out her life as a feral house cat

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Aw, thank you for taking on the special kitties. It can be really rewarding, and challenging, knowing that you’re providing care and love to a cat that may be overlooked for adoption due to needing special care. Roscoe doesn’t need any special care other than daily cleaning of his eye, and that’s simple. His neurological issue means he sometimes has trouble tracking a toy and when he sits still, his head sometimes moves from side to side a little.

    6. anonnynon*

      Sympathy with Lou – if he comes home, check his thyroid levels. My indoor/outdoor 14ish yo boy developed hyperthyroidism last year – he’s back to his happy self as long as we keep him properly treated.

  11. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Parents of teens & almost-teens — are there kid-appropriate fan fiction websites? Can you suggest pop-music & Marvel fan sites that are popular & rated PG? I did find that Tiger Beat still exists, so that’s one thing.

    1. An adult who reads too much fanfiction*

      I’m not a parent, just a fanfiction lover, so I can’t give you as precise as answer as you’d like. I don’t know any fanfiction website for teens but I know some (relatively time consuming) alternatives to letting your kid alone in the wilds.
      If your teen likes analyzing pop culture they love, TV tropes can be great discussion fodder, and has some fanfiction recommendations.
      I’d suggest to use an app to download fanfictions from, say, fanfiction.net whose summary and rating appeal to you (and who have a sufficient number of reviews to suggest they’re at minimum decent reading).
      That way, you give them a “reading list” that guarantees they’re not reading glorified toxic relationships or erotica (I honestly think that the former is more insidious and harmful, because I remember not seeing the problem at 13, of say, a teenager falling in love with her rapist who just needed to be loved into changing, whereas erotica was…well, unmistakable).
      People usually create lists of fanfiction they like, so I think you will be able to find communities (there are communities for every fandom on fanfiction.net) that list vetted fics for young teens.

    2. Laura H.*

      I don’t think there’s exclusively fic sites like that, and even if there are, there’s always the risk of Author’s rating choice being way more lenient than you would think appropriate.

      Archive of our Own has a host of everything under the sun, but you might have luck using the filters and stuff.

      Fanfiction dot net has much less stringent search filters, but still useful to a degree.

      Both again will be subject to the writer’s diligence or not of content rating.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Archive of our own is the problem actually, because the age check is one box too easily ignored…

    3. Courageous cat*

      I suspect if they’re teens or preteens, they’re gonna find the non-kid-appropriate fanfic websites regardless. I know I sure did at that age.

      1. Grace*

        Yep, I found the M and E ratings on AO3 at twelve or thirteen. It wasn’t a bad thing for me personally, mind. I was in fandoms that tended to be pretty healthy rather than glorifying toxic relationships, and I had a good nose for filtering out the toxic stuff, so it mostly just served as really good sex-ed. For different fandoms, or for people that are less savvy about those things, it could possibly turn out very differently.

        (Things I learnt about from fanfiction erotica – sex toy safety, what explicit consent can look like without being awkward or contrived, safe sex for women having sex with other women, safe sex for/with trans folk, the importance of Safe Sane Consensual and related aphorisms. Oh, and healthy body image and masturbation for women. And no, it 100% did not lead to me being sexually active or experimenting. But again, experiences may vary for other teens.)

  12. evilintraining*

    I’m reading a wonderful novel by a great lesbian writer: “The Ada Decades” by Paula Martinac. It’s about a woman growing up and discovering herself in NC during turbulent, racist times. Martinac has written some other novels and nonfiction as well, mainly on lesbian and gay culture. Has anyone read her other stuff?

  13. The Other Dawn*

    I got my weight equipment for the home gym this week! I’ve used it already. It wasn’t the most efficient workout since I had to figure out the smith bar and how it works with the weight stacks (no owner’s manual!), but it was so nice to do something other than my usual two workouts. The guys who delivered and installed it did it in about two hours. It was quite impressive given how many boxes and bags were coming out of the truck. I looked at the assembly manual afterwards and I am SO GLAD we didn’t opt to do it ourselves.

    My mini split AC/heat unit arrived and my husband will install that hopefully this coming week. Then I just need to hang the rest of the mirrors and touch up the paint.

    Almost done!

    1. Aurora Leigh*

      Yay you!

      I would be curous to hear how the minisplit works out and how hard it is to install.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I have a treadmill and an elliptical, which we’ll put it later. My kettle bells and things like that are out on the patio.

  14. Clever Pun Name*

    Very low stakes question, but here goes: Can anyone recommend a comfortable, decent looking futon/sleeper sofa which isn’t extremely expensive? Does this unicorn even exist? I’ve reached my limit for reading online reviews. Thanks to all!

    1. londonedit*

      Not sure how you define ‘extremely expensive’, and it’s a massive ballache to put together, but the Hemnes day bed from IKEA is amazing. I live in a studio flat and it’s my actual bed, plus it packs away into a huge sofa. And it has storage drawers!

      1. Blarg*

        Second Ikea. They have a range of “meh, will work in a pinch” to “dang that’s above my budget.” I’ve recently transitioned to mid-range Ikea for my couch. Not a sofa bed but it is so much more comfy than my prior, cheapest of the bunch option. Good luck! If you go to ikea, I recommend looking at the website first to have a ballpark, bringing your own tape measure and photos of the space with the tape measure laid out, and wearing headphones. It’s so overwhelming that controlling at least one sensory input helps me. :) They also have a consumer credit card deal for purchases > $1500 with excellent terms if you pay it off during the grace period.

      1. No Name Yet*

        So you can use a regular mattress on a sofa bed? I had always assumed the mattress had to be designed specifically to fold up.

    2. No Name Yet*

      I’ve been having the same conundrum! They can be crazy expensive, but I’d like something my in-laws won’t hate to sleep on when they visit. :/

    3. Lizabeth*

      Take a look at the Apartment Therapy blog, they have a wide range of recommendations on it.

    4. Grandma Mazur*

      Another vote for Ikea (particularly as, with the Hemnes day bed recommended above, you can choose mattresses at a price point that works for you).

      That said, we actually got our living room sofa from the Futon Company in a sale (about £500, in 2012) and it turned out to be a very comfortable bed according to 100% of guests (and was an ok sofa – not cosy, but not uncomfortable – and, because the arms of the sofa were the head and for of the bed, one person could sleep on it without unfolding if you needed). We used it as our main sofa for 6 years and now it’s the bed in our guest bedroom.

  15. The Cosmic Avenger*

    OK, I debated about posting this to the work thread, but it’s volunteer, for a non-profit foundation that doesn’t pay anyone a salary, so I don’t think it’s work.

    I was invited to volunteer for this community organization, but they are kind of just getting started. They are using a book, and the book had some good suggestions, but one thing is that they adopted a pledge for the board members, and it says that board members will contribute monetarily however they are able.

    I mean, in a way it makes sense, but it also seems kind of elitist to me. I feel like people who could really help out but couldn’t afford to give any money might be shamed into giving $20 or $30 a year, which could be difficult for some people, but also could be embarrassing for them to admit. Someone suggested they change it to contributing however a person is able without referring to monetarily, but if someone’s a volunteer, they’re already doing that.

    I really think they should just drop it, and for some reason the pledge to give money feels offensive to me. Is this normal?

    1. Anona*

      I don’t have much experience with boards, but the ones in academia I’ve seen have this, but with them it’s more like dues. I wanna say it was several thousand dollars per year. Maybe the idea is you have established people (from whatever businesses/spheres), and they’re supporting the mission and vision of the organization, both I’m guidance and in money?

      1. Anona*

        And my understanding is that a board member is different than a regular volunteer. A board member is typically sought for their connections, like they own or work at a good company/they’re a fancy well off person connected with potential donors, so there’s less worry that they’d be able to contribute than a regular volunteer. But that’s just my impression. Hopefully someone with closer experience can weigh in!

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Well, dues are usually required for membership in an organization, so it makes sense that board members would have to be regular members with an extra contribution of time and responsibility. Maybe that’s what is bothering me, this organization doesn’t have membership or dues. It does take donations, but it gets most of them from area businesses who sponsor events, or from making a surplus running these events, so it’s not what I would consider dues.

        But thanks, Anona, maybe I can suggest that there be a member status for individuals, even if it’s just a magnet or sticker and a formality. Maybe with larger donations there can be freebies at an event. Being “members in good standing” is a requirement that seems not just OK, but obvious. Much better than saying you must give MONEY in addition to all your time!

      3. Madge*

        Different organizations have different types of people on their boards. A small art museum would probably have an appointed board full of people with lots of experience in either art or business. Maybe the owner of a gallery or a local art supply store, or a retired professor. A co-op grocery store would have an executive board similar to the art museum plus a general board full of community members who are elected by the store members.

        My husband is on a museum board. Professionally, he works in a related field at an executive level and was asked to serve by his employer. Board members are expected to be a member of the museum and also to make an additional donation, but all are able to determine their own amount. They have a retired school teacher who contributes the least and a business owner in a related field who is the museum’s primary donor.

        We’ve been members of our local science museum for years and that membership doesn’t come with any additional obligations to donate more. But one year we did donate a little more for a special project and then we were on a list with other donors and got invited to special donor only events. It was pretty cool.

    2. Ali G*

      It’s very normal if the organization is going to try to raise fund from foundations. For some reason it’s a thing they look at – that all the Board members are “invested.” At my org, Board members donate from $5 – $50k.

    3. Deloris Van Cartier*

      I think it depends on what type of board it is as they can really vary. For our BOD, they are required to commit to a “give or get” amount each year which I believe is around $1700 but I may be off as it recently changed. But we are also a well known non-profit so there is a “prestige” of being on a board of an org that people know (I hated writing that sentence as it’s all BS but unfortunately, it is true, especially where I live). I’ve been on boards before where I’ve been excused because I’m a non-profit employee who can’t fundraise against my own organization and didn’t have the funds but they wanted someone with my knowledge on the board.

      I would say the first step is really deciding what the purpose of the board is. Is it to make community connections, bring in members, bring awareness, help fundraise, help with governance or anything else? Then deciding on what if a pledge is necessary and if so, are there other ways to give (like time/connections/hosting events). One thing to keep in mind is if you don’t do a pledge and then a few years down the line, they decide to do one, it can be hard to get those longer standing board members on board.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Thanks everyone, I guess I overreacted because I’ve mostly volunteered for community organizations that didn’t deal with money at all, and those that did I’ve never been involved in fundraising, more strategy, organization, and just showing up and pitching in. It makes more sense to me now.

    5. kt*

      I have some peripheral experience with a board that’s not very well managed and doesn’t require dues, but is trying to change. They have all sorts of problems: people who’ve been on 30 years and aren’t really doing anything anymore (monetarily or practically) but want to have a lot of say, no compliance with standard accounting rules, problems with diminishing fundraising. There’s an effort to modernize the accounting, start using an email list rather than exclusively a phone list for fundraising, bring in new people, etc. The desire to ask people to pay dues is to ask people who are well off to get skin in the game, so to speak. They’re looking at exemptions for a few groups they might want representation from who they know aren’t highly compensated, like students, teachers, or employees of other nonprofits for example. But for the guy who owns a car dealership, or the gal who is a neurosurgeon? A monetary commitment makes sense — and it *is* something granting agencies look at.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I actually agree with you. To me, it looks like the board member is basically buying a seat on the board. I do realize that was not the intent but it seems to play out that way sometimes.

      Having said that, it’s pretty normal for board members to open their wallets. I am in a rural area so the goal here is just to get people to show up and forget about asking board members for money.

      There are costs to running an NPO , lawyers and accountants can be necessary. If your organization is not-so-lucky they may have to pay someone to keep the books and pay the bills. There are intangibles such as advertising costs, domain costs, etc, too.

      The one totally volunteer organization I worked on, we found that in the end we needed to pay people. We needed the online version of someone “tending the shop”. Volunteers just could not cover everything that was going on. We never hired that paid person, because no money and so eventually the group folded.

    7. Glomarization, Esq.*

      This is very common. One way I’ve seen it phrased is for board members to donate an amount of money every year that is “meaningful” to them. Source: I do a lot of work for nonprofit organizations.

      For a lot of boards, members are expected to participate in fundraising, bring in donors, and donate cash. It’s not unusual at all. In fact, it’s one reason why I’ve pulled back from sitting on boards for the past few years. I have more flexibility with my schedule than I have cash, so I’ve been donating time and work rather than participating as a board member.

    8. Lilysparrow*

      Every nonprofit (except for houses of worship) I’ve ever worked with that had a significant budget, had the expectation that board members would give large donations and would also recruit big-money donors.

      Yes, it’s elitist – because that’s where the money is. If you are relying on donations and grants to keep the doors open, you need people with money to give it. You can’t pay the electric bill or buy supplies with volunteer hours.

      1. Mels*

        Thank you. This is exactly correct. It costs money to run an organization. Members have of the board are the most engaged with that organization, know the most about it, and have direction/authority over its actions. It is an absolutely reasonable strategy and expectation that they’re truly invested and contributing to that budget.

    9. Krickets*

      I have some nonprofit background/education and have to say I encountered a lot of these policies during my time and also think + agree that it’s elitist. It hinders professionals who are part or from or have been adjacent to the population the nonprofit is serving to be on that board. It restricts diversity of members and also diversity of thought. Those who accept any amount, even $5, at least that’s sorta good..

    10. Jayne*

      I recently went through this with a nonprofit where they are trying to transition from a long-time group of people to a more usual board situation. In that case, we did revise the pledge to just contribute, without specifying working or monetarily. However, we do have a fundraiser each year where if every board member contributes, we get a monetary award. Because of the old guard, we have not gotten that for two years, which breeds resentment.

      Another factor is that I have experience three basic types of boards. A working board where people actually do stuff. A non-working board where people lend their prestige to enhance the fundraising. And a combo board, where you are expected to work and fund raise, sometimes from yourself.

      I am funding my own retirement, so I only serve on boards where it is mainly working, since that is also where I get my satisfaction. However, I did contribute monetarily when it makes a difference in the competition. I also founded my own non-profit, so I have the experience of people supporting a cause, but only in words, not actual work or monetarily. So, the vast majority of my non-profit monetary contributions go to my own nonprofit for the cause I believe the most in supporting.

    11. Anon For This*

      I was on the board of a professional org for a few years. The board members were basically volunteers with long-term roles in the organization. I was never asked to donate or asked to help with fundraising. We met regularly to discuss event planning, PR, recruiting new members, etc. So, basically, you were offered a volunteer job with an official title and job description just like a paying job, and you got to work with other board members and gain some insights into how the organization functioned. It was informative, and I’m glad I did it.

      If requiring board members to donate is common in the non-profit world, I think it does raise questions that are worth discussing. I imagine this is an on-going discussion somewhere. But I agree with you. And I think the question shouldn’t really be about how common it is. It should be about what the effect is and what makes sense, given what the org intends to accomplish. I mean, obviously, know your audience, but I think it’s worth bringing up with other board members.

    12. Not the real me*

      Worked at a nonprofit for years. Almost every grant required 100% board participation in donations to apply. We had a member based board so definitely not a “money” board. We asked for any amount, could even be $1. So not elitist but without that 100% participation would have been screwed for fundraising.

    13. Elizabeth K*

      If people are only on a board because they donate money, your organization has some serious governance issues! The Board is legally responsible for the operation of the agency- financially and in every other way. If you want window dressing donors- that is one thing. If you want proper organizational leadership, select your board members for their skill- and independence from management.

  16. I need a new mattress*

    AAM Friends ,
    Thanks for coming through for me last week. We ended up at a Room and Board outlet and got a sweet deal on a hybrid, coil and foam. So far so good.
    Let’s talk mattress covers. Bought one from COSTCO. Hate it. Sleeps hot. That one was 40 dollars. beauty rest .
    Do I need one? Do I need to spend serious money on an all cotton one? Had a wool one years ago, husband hated it.

    1. Fishsticks*

      If you have pets you definitely need one. Otherwise you might not! Check out on Amazon for some. I have a waterproof one right now that’s not too hot or wrinkly sounding

    2. NoLongerYoung*

      Have a bamboo woven waterproof one on both mattresses. They were crazy expensive mattresses. (won’t be doing that again). It’s a good thing. Female visitor had an overflow accident. Mom stumbled and threw her cranberry herbal tea on the other one. (Comforter got most but not all of it…).

      The covers saved both of them. Yes, you can sponge out most of the stain…. but previous bed, ahem was not able to completely remove the “feathered” edges of the spot treatment.

      So up to you. But I recommend it. Guests, babies, pets, accidents. Things happen. The mattress itself sleeps hot, but I’m just having to cope with that until it wears out. The cover has made not that much difference for me for the sleeping temp.

      1. NoLongerYoung*

        I should say the bamboo waterproof one does not have the crinkly plastic in it. I do keep the older one of those for putting on the bed as a backup if there is a huge accident and I need to strip and wash the bed in the middle of the night. Hubby was very sick at the end, so… having backup mattress protector and extra sheets is always a good plan. Even a baby with diarrhea in your bed can mean that you have to strip and remake it in the middle of the night -and the sanitize cycle on the washer takes over 2 hours… and what happens once can happen again if there’s a gastrointestinal illness.

        Just saying. If you have any kind of room in your linen closet, keeping a backup is a good plan.

    3. Llellayena*

      Ooo. I’m following this thread. I’ve been trying to find a replacement mattress cover for years, but the packages are fully sealed in the store so I can’t check to see if they have the crinkly plastic layers. The last one I bought said ‘fabric’ on the bag but when I opened it it was fabric over plastic! Arg!

    4. Beaded Librarian*

      Mattress covers are good to protect against stains which will void mommy’s warranties and also if you live in an area with a bed bug outbreak or travel a lot an could pick them up there they can keep you from loosening the mattress that way.

    5. epi*

      My partner and I both sleep hot, so we have a five sided one that is supposed to be cooling and also makes sure no sweat ever gets directly on the mattress. All of our protectors are from Malouf, the Prime Smooth on the bed and terry pillow covers. I recommend them, they definitely do not make the bed hotter and may even cool it down a bit. They are not noisy at all. They are also cheaper on Amazon than on their website right now. We liked them enough that, when we set up our guest room recently, we got the exact same covers again for that bed.

      I would not bother with a cover that encases the mattress unless you are concerned about bedbugs. We don’t travel a lot and don’t bring secondhand furniture or linens into our bedroom, so we decided to just get a regular five sided cover.

  17. Venus*

    How does your garden grow?

    Mine finally has rain, so I hope the tomatoes start to ripen soon. The milkweed is being mobbed by bees and monarchs which is nice to see.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      My vegetables don’t seem to be doing all that well this year. Seems like everything has been slow to grow for some reason. I have one cucumber on my plant; nothing on the pickling cucumber plant (though I got four already that I picked); some tiny tomatoes and some larger ones, which haven’t ripened; and the green beans are slow, too. Even the jalapenos haven’t fully grown yet. I have plenty, but they’re small. Habaneros are plentiful, but I’m not sure when I’m supposed to pick them since this is the first year growing them.

    2. CoffeeforLife*

      I planted flowers and my gladioli (is that the plural?) came in and I had to stake them. My dahlias as so sad and small with only 2 blossoms out of 20 planted. A whole row of bulbs didn’t come up at all. Someone suggested a squirrel but none of my mulch was dug up. This was my first year and foray into planting.

      My blueberry bushes hate me. I cant tell if they are over or under watered because they show signs of both. Ugh.

    3. GoryDetails*

      My peppers and eggplant had an early flurry of fruits, but haven’t done much since – I think it’s been too hot for them to set fruit (I’ve read that that’s a possibility), but if that isn’t it, it means I loaded up the planter-boxes incorrectly. However, the tomato plants – in the same types of planter-boxes – are doing very well, loaded with fruit, which will probably all ripen at once {wry grin}.

      The cucumbers, NOT in planter-boxes but in the regular garden plot, are climbing their trellises happily and are producing lots of fruit. (So if the problem with the peppers is too-hot-to-set-fruit, why are the cukes working? They’re in a space where the ground’s shaded for more of the day, but I don’t know if that’s enough of a difference. Hmmm.)

      The bee balm and catmint are in full flower, indeed almost rampant. Alas, so are the weeds, invasive vines, and general stuff-I-haven’t-been-pruning…

      1. Venus*

        My tomatoes are doing well yet the peppers next to them are doing nothing (flowers but only one tiny pepper) so you aren’t alone

    4. Lora*

      Winter squash. Sooooo much winter squash. I’m going to be All Set with pumpkin spice things. They are: Rainbow Banana, Lady Godiva, Tokyo Blue Pumpkin, Connecticut Field Pumpkin, Blue Ballet, Boston Marrow. I have a few dozen winter squash that have set little green (in some cases large green) fruit, and the stupid summer squash barely did a few pattypan and zucchini. Go figure.

      Tomatoes also doing well: Black Krim, Brandywine, Lillian’s Yellow, Pale Perfect Purple, Heidi paste, a zillion cherry tomatoes.

      Last week planted the winter garden: Brussels sprouts, broccoli, winter radishes, lettuces, bok choy. Everything sprouting nicely already.

    5. JobHunter*

      No salsa for me this year :( My Romas and cherry toms are loaded. They are just turning red. My jalapeños had are producing nicely, while the bell peppers are lagging. My cilantro self-seeded last year and is nearly done. The onions didn’t get much bigger than golf balls.

      My experiment with celery is turning out nicely. I had never grown it. I picked up a pack of seedlings at a local farm store. All of them made it!

      1. Tris Prior*

        It always annoys me that, here, the cilantro always dies in the heat before the tomatoes and peppers have a chance to ripen! So I never can grow all the ingredients for salsa!

        I probably won’t do salsa this year anyway because I’m not getting enough ripe tomatoes at once. I’m getting a steady stream of them – one of my cherry tomato plants is popping out lots of tiny ripe ones – but not a large quantity at once, and they’ll get yucky if I try and hold onto the ones I have until I get more. Yucky tomatoes are no good for home canning!

    6. MinotJ*

      The zucchinis, as always, have taken over and reminded me that I never need more than two plants. Carrots started to rot in the ground so I had to pull them all. Beans are over-producing and we can’t keep up so I need to start freezing them. I made salsa last night with tomatoes, tomatillos, and a jalapeño from the garden and it tasted like summer. The winter squash have reached the set-it-and-forget-it stage; they’re climbing the fence and I don’t need to think about them for a few months.

      Here’s a mystery! Somebody is eating my corn! The stalks are still upright, the plant is not damaged at all. But the ears (still on the stalk) have been peeled and the kernels all munched completely off. It’s not too many and the mystery is entertaining me at this point, so I’m not upset.

        1. MinotJ*

          I haven’t seen any deer in town since I moved here a few years ago, but they’re definitely in the hills outside of town. They’d have to walk up my driveway and hop two fences and walk right by my bedroom window to get to the garden (I’m on a panhandled lot surrounded by 8-foot fences). That would be pretty fun to watch if it was deer!

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Deer can easily jump an 8 footer. My friends who had a Serious Garden (feed the whole community garden) put a 16 foot fence up for this reason. Eight footers are no problem for deer.
            You need a camera on a motion detector. lol.

    7. Penguin*

      Nothing much here (the grapes haven’t ripened yet… but soon!) but I got to remotely identify a ground cherry plant for a relative the other day, and now I keep thinking about having those around when I was growing up. Maybe I should see if my landlord would like to plant some for next year…

    8. Elizabeth West*

      The weather has been erratic here–alternating between beastly hot and cool/a little rainy, so the tomatoes have been sort of meh. My Golden Jubilee plant fruited and then got stuck in the green phase. :P Oh well, I guess I’ll have some fried green tomatoes!

      I am also dissatisfied with the Black Prince variety. They’re nowhere near as good as the Cherokee Purple.

    9. Wishing You Well*

      I have a massive amount of Stargazer lilies right now – outside. They do emit a lot of fragrance. :)

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The cucumbers folllowed the zukes into powdery mildew, but at least we got some nice cucumbers off it first. Nothing from the zukes. I’m not sure if it’s this year”s weather or if I’m doing something wrong container gardening.
      The cherry tomatoes are an ongoing joy, each of us has been able to eat some off the bush every day. The basil bolted. It’s all bitter now, and because of weather & w…weekday obligations I hadn’t made pesto yet. The day lilies continue to bloom, and I have a glorious bank of Queen Anne”s Lace in the back yard. I’m trying to transplant some into the garden bed with my red bee balm.
      In other news, I am told I have hazel nuts growing along the street. I need to call the town and find out how to make sure they do not brush cut like they did last year– I’m maintaining that, not them.

    11. Lizabeth*

      Rabbits 50 Me 0

      I have been gone for a week and the rabbits have been busy devouring the grass like plants. Like munching them down to the ground. I give up at this point. May try to transplant what’s left somewhere else (the backyard) and rethink what to plant in the front. The bee balm hasn’t been touched which is great, nor the dusty miller but want to get less annuals and more rabbit proof stuff. I need some outdoor cats, owls or foxes to discover the vast numbers of rabbits and thin them out. Sigh…

    12. KaladinSB*

      I don’t actually have a garden, I just popped in to say that “How does your garden grow” sounds a lot like the first half of a code phrase that your contact in Belgrade has to complete with the appropriate response.

      Oh, but my girlfriend’s tomato plant got pillaged by the neighbor kids, who left the visible remnants on the porch. So I guess I did have an answer, though probably not the one the KGB agent would give.

  18. CoffeeforLife*

    Weird/Odd/Interesting food combinations!

    What do you put together that tastes great but other people may not have considered combining?

    Watermelon with smoked paprika and feta cheese is my current obsession (I *may* have eaten half a watermelon yesterday).

    1. Lena Clare*

      Strawberries and balsamic vinegar, chips and mayo, vanilla ice cream and hot sweet chilli sauce.

      1. CoffeeforLife*

        Oh, I love strawberries and basalmic but I make it look super gross with the addition of whipped cream! Tastes great but I would not want to serve it to anyone :)

          1. Grace*

            Fruit cake and cheese is a classic! I can’t remember where you’re from based on other comments, but I know that in my part of the world (Yorkshire, England) Wensleydale cheese with butter and fruitcake is something you see on teashop menus. Other strong salty cheeses like Manchego go well with fruitcake/tea loaf as well, as does extra-mature Cheddar with all the gorgeous little crunchy calcium lactate crystals.

            1. Lena Clare*

              I got the recommendation from a woman I worked with in Lancashire who was married to a Yorkshireman!

      2. Jedi Librarian*

        I have NEVER heard of anyone else eating fries with mayo besides my mom. Hello, fellow weird eater! :P

        1. fposte*

          Oh, God, we’re getting into fig anxiety season :-). I love fresh figs, and grabbing them in grocery stores in my area is like trying to catch a ghost. Then when you’ve got a batch it’s a race to eat them before they all mold.

          Worth it, but still stressful.

          1. IT Squirrel*

            I’m looking at my fig tree with alternating desire and horror at the number of baby figs currently on it!

      1. Courageous cat*

        This is truly unusual! I’m having a hard time envisioning this. Maybe you have to really love blue cheese.

      2. Wendles*

        I came here (late to the party) to say this! Creamy blue cheese paired with dark bitter chocolate sauce is the best pancake topping ever.

    2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Apple sauce with a bit of black pepper. I came up with this right after dental work, when I had to eat things that didn’t need chewing and thus had limited options.

      1. Square Root Of Minus One*

        I think the conception of “odd” might be cultural here, because that’s exactly how my family and I ate radishes when I was a kid.
        I don’t do weird things a lot (except liking ice as a snack admittedly) but I remember fondly a clam/fennel/saffron soup I ate in a restaurant and never could reproduce in my kitchen.

    3. GoryDetails*

      I *love* watermelon with feta! Haven’t tried adding paprika, but will give that a shot. (I’ve added blueberries and a little lime juice on occasion.)

      Recently I made a balsamic-peach ice cream from a Budget Bytes recipe; quite tasty!

      1. Kuododi*

        Ooooh!!! My extended family is from Deep South US. I grew up with banana and mayonnaise sandwiches on white bread as a special treat. Wonderful childhood nostalgia. ;)

      2. CoffeeforLife*

        Just talk to my partner (who’s from Alabama), he recalls the mayo banana sandwich. Says it’s just enough mayo to keep the bread from being dry and you only taste the banana…

    4. Blarg*

      Watermelon and cheese is a food group for me; I cut off a chunk of cheddar and go to town.

      I think the true weirdest thing is corn from a hot bar (like in a cafeteria) with shredded cheese on top. I cannot replicate this at home. Something about the corn sitting in the juice. And the cheese being pre-shredded which makes it not melt all the way. This was an accidental combo at a salad bar years ago when I was little and the food touched. And it’s still this weird treat. It’s also oddly embarrassing (I *want* what is generally considered gross) but every so often, I will visit a site with an old school hot bar and have my secret pleasure. :)

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      With my morning coffee, I often like to have a banana with it; the sweetness and creamy mouth feel go well with good, strong coffee. And sometimes if there’s a bowl of bacon grease set aside to harden before being thrown out, I’ll dip my coffee spoon in it (upright, just to coat it) and then stir my coffee.

      Also, after dinner, if I’m having bourbon or scotch, I often have either a soft cheese or an apple. The cream or sweetness are a really good contrast to the whisky. My favorites are cambozola and honeycrisp, respectively.

      1. Courageous cat*

        This thread is really delivering. That bacon grease one is insane to me personally but I love that someone does it.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          It’s hard to describe, but if you like black coffee at all, I highly recommend it. I had heard some people put a pinch of salt in their coffee, and you get a bit of that, but you get this lovely unctuousness without cutting or muting the flavor the way creamers do. (And I love light and sweet sometimes, too! But this isn’t for people who can ONLY drink it that way. I sometimes drink really good coffee as-is.)

      2. Parenthetically*

        “bacon grease set aside to harden before being thrown out”

        Before being what? Throw out bacon grease? NEVER

    6. SigneL*

      I love corn pancakes (not corn fritters, just regular pancakes with corn added to the batter) – with maple syrup and bacon. It’s really good in the fall, for some reason. My BFF thinks this is disgusting, by the way – more for ME.

    7. Grace*

      The YT food channel Sorted has recently done a couple of videos on viewer-submitted weird food combos. Some of the standouts were banana dipped in pesto or parmesan with ground coffee.

    8. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Oh! Oh! Oh! I can’t believe I forgot one of the best things I’ve ever eaten: tomato, cream cheese, and bacon on a buttered and griddle-toasted bagel! OMG, the acid, cream, salt, sweet…. dammit, now I REALLY want one! :D

      1. The Messy Headed Momma*

        Yasssss…..and get everything on the toast while it’s still warm so the pb melts a little……

    9. Deanna Troi*

      My husband just bought me corn fudge from a local fudge place. It is amazingly delicious and has whole kernels in it!

    10. London Calling*

      Crab and mango – sweet and salty together

      Cheese and mango chutney – same combination

      1. NeverNicky*

        Nut butter and marmite on toast (used to be PB before I became allergic but cashew nut butter works)
        Nut butter and mayo sandwich
        Eggy bread (french toast) and sweet chili sauce

    11. wingmaster*

      I recently tried this recipe that sauteed kiwi, kale, ginger and garlic together. Surprisingly good!

    12. Elizabeth West*

      This is hardly unusual, but I recently discovered how good that Tajin chili pepper, lime, and salt seasoning is on apples. It’s also fantastic on fried plantains.

    13. Apt Nickname*

      I know these combos are probably common to some people, but I love peanut butter cheeseburgers, and ginger thins topped with blue cheese.

    14. Marion Ravenwood*

      Nutella and crunchy peanut butter. In a toastie. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.

      Also Brie and Thai sweet chilli Sensations crisps (chips), eaten the way you’d eat cheese and crackers.

    15. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Monte Cristo sandwich needs to be served with oth pickles and maple syrup. Sweet & sour extravaganza.

    16. The Other Dawn*

      I’ve made cheese doodle, cheese and mayo sandwiches. To be honest, it was out of necessity at the time, but I really liked it. I like chips on my sandwiches anyway, so it wasn’t all that different. Any kind of chip works for me, but I especially like Doritos or Fritos.

    17. Pieismyreligion*

      Cantaloupe, heirloom tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella all sliced and stacked with balsamic vinegar drizzled over. Eat with a knife and fork.

    18. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

      Clementines/ mandarins with peanut butter! They’re aawesome but no one else will give them a go.
      Also, my old driving instructor from the Philippines told me about a popular combination there of watermelon liberally sprinkled with full-fat milk powder. It’s delicious…

    19. Accidental Itenerate Teacher*

      We always had a chunk of sharp cheddar with Reeces peanut butter as a treat growing up.
      I’m also a big fan of goat cheese with honey.

    20. HannahS*

      Sandwich: Toasted pita with goat cheese, granny smith apple, and craisins or dates. So good. Also grilled cheese with red onion and sweet apple. Mmmmm. I realize it looks like I just like adding apples to things…but it’s really good! White rice with butter and salt is also pretty great.

    21. Damien*

      I dip my chicken nuggets and salted fries in chocolate milkshakes on the very rare occasion that i go to maccy d’s. It’s amazing.

      When i was a kid in primary school, it was Wotsit and jam sandwiches that I loved, or various flavours of crisps and tuna in a sandwich together.

    22. JobHunter*

      Sauerkraut and barbeque sauce.

      I use a dry rub of ground mustard, black pepper, ceyenne, Aleppo pepper, salt, tumeric, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and sumac on pork ribs that I then grill on a bed of sauerkraut (over foil, of course). When the ribs are nearly done, I brush them with a whiskey-barbeque sauce and let them finish over low heat.

      I also eat pizza with Frank’s hot wing sauce.

    23. D.W.*

      Roasted beets with flaky salt and rosemary eaten with japanese sweet potatoes. Right now I just eat them together but I plan to make a mashed potato out of it.

    24. Lena Clare*

      Honey on digestive biscuits, or honey and cheddar cheese on digestive biscuits (Graham crackers I think in the US?).

      1. Jedi Librarian*

        lolol that’s such a funny name for Graham crackers. The honey and cheese combo sounds really good!

        1. CoffeeforLife*

          They are thicker, round, and not as sweet as Graham crackers. They were marketed to aid in digestion, thus the name.

    25. Isabekka*

      My favourites so far are coconut and lime (my local supermarket has this amazing coconut and lime yoghurt that is so good). And one from my youth, banana and bacon. It works well in a sandwich but we made banana and bacon rolls. You just cut the banana into segments, wrap the bacon rasher around it and then grill it or barbeque it.

    26. Alexandra Lynch*

      Did a medieval recipe that combined chopped lobster with dates and figs in a tiny fried pastry.

      Embarassingly, addictively good.

    27. SaraV*

      Already seen some similar combos, but…

      Bacon & cream cheese on cinnamon raisin toast. Yum yum yum. It’s been a few years for me.

  19. Anonymous4This*

    Going anonymous bc the person it’s about would know my user name. Also, trigger warnings for depression and self harm.

    I’ve got a friend—I considered her maybe even my best friend at one time but then I found out she was lying to me or holding off on telling me important information. I still enjoy seeing her, so I didn’t completely cut her out of my life, but I let the friendship settle down into a reduced status so that I wasn’t investing as much energy into it.

    This friend has some legitimate challenges with anxiety and depression (which I also recognize feed into her behavior towards me), so I try to remain supportive and ready to listen. I honestly fear that in her low points, she could harm herself, and I am trying quite hard to be there for her when needed. The thing is that she continually sabotages her life and causes issues. If her job is running smoothly, she decides they all hate her and she quits, and the next gig ends up being awful so then she has that to complain about.

    I can totally see how all her issues feed into this behavior, so I’m not questioning why it happens, but I’m starting to struggle with how to respond supportively without indulging the sabotage. I’ve tried saying really direct things like “I know your brain is telling you this but I see it differently”, and I’ve tried gently nudging towards healthier decisions like “have you looked into X at all?” In her clearer moments, these approaches work fine, but when she’s spiraling downwards, she snaps back very negatively.

    I have a pretty good understanding of mental illnesses in the sense that I know that she can only solve these issues herself working with her therapist. I’m just feeling like a really crappy friend on my end bc I either say something totally useless like “that sounds awful”, or I say something I totally don’t mean like “Yeah, if you feel that way you definitely should quit!” She’s not close enough for me to check in on her when she’s spiraling, so I feel that extra burden on my texts to not push her deeper into her darkness.

    Am I missing a healthier/more supportive approach to responding to her? Most of the time lately I feel continuously at a loss at what to say. I also feel guilty for cutting back so much, but I still have my own hurt to deal with from realizing that she’d been lying to me. I just can’t bring myself to walk completely away bc I think the things that caused her to hurt me may also be what’s causing her to hurt herself. I’m hoping that some of you wise people may offer me some suggestions or examples to help me deal with this.

    1. Agent J*

      It may feel useless but acknowledging her feelings (e.g., “That sounds awful!”) might be the best thing you can do to validate her pain while keeping a safe emotional distance.

      You may feel like you should do more but until you work out a bit more clearly how you want to proceed with the relationship, a safe but supportive distance is still being a good friend. You’re just taking care of yourself at the same time.

    2. Purt's Peas*

      I think you should probably stop offering advice, but keep offering sympathy with her feelings. “That sounds tough,” or “I can see how that’s really hard.” At the same time, I think you can stand up for yourself. “Hey, I’m sorry for offering advice when it wasn’t welcome–I shouldn’t have done that–but please don’t speak to me that way.”

      The difficult thing is, when she’s in those dark places, you have to also concentrate on your own health, and that means that you *can’t* get too invested in how she’s doing or the mistakes she’s making, and you *can’t* just make your feelings immune from being hurt. So that means, limiting the advice you give, maybe even limiting the sympathy you offer in favor of conversation you actually might enjoy, not allowing her to just keep hurting your feelings.

      Remember, you’re not responsible for her self-sabotage or self-harm. You haven’t failed if she goes through with a bad choice. But the hard thing to acknowledge is, you haven’t necessarily succeeded if she makes a good choice; it’s not, and can’t be, all on your shoulders to heal her life.

      (Additionally, I totally agree with Agent J: acknowledgment of her feelings isn’t useless, and you’re still being a good friend particularly for the pre-existing level of intimacy you have with her)

    3. Not So NewReader*

      There is a tendency for some folks to try to push us away. And they can do that for various reasons. I know of some extreme examples where friends/family who did not leave actually caused the person’s moods to get even darker and their pain got deeper somehow.

      My wise friend used to say sometimes we have to get out of the way so the person who will actually help can get into the situation. When my friend first said this I had to go think about it. One of the things I thought of is that so many people are willing to help others.

      My suggestion is to slowly step back. As you ease back, see where that puts the relationship. You may find a point of less interaction that is actually healthier interaction. Or you may not find that point. Some times the best we can do is hold the door open ajar rather than shutting it and locking it.

      1. Anonymous4This*

        That phrase: “Get out of the way so the person who can help can step in” resonates so well with me right now. I know I’m not the person who can help her solve her issues, but I’ve been afraid that I’m also abandoning her to them. Thank you.

    4. Shiny Swampert*

      There’s a lot of stuff at Captain Awkward about this kind of situation that has helped me.

      Discount this if it doesn’t feel right, but: I have a friend who has terrible mental health, and I know she needs support and love, but I can’t be that person for her any more. I haven’t seen her in almost a year and I miss her dreadfully but it causes me too much pain to keep reaching out only to have her ignore me again and again, and then when I finally do get to speak to her she *promises* she’ll arrange to meet up, but it doesn’t happen. I know she truly means it but I can’t do it any more. I’ve deleted her number from my phone – I’ll reply when she messages, but until then? I have to stop myself reaching out because it hurts.

      I tell you all this because from what you say, it sounds like you might need to prioritise your own needs. She may need help and love and support, but when she’s caused you pain, it’s ok to decide that (at least right now) you can’t be that person for her.

      1. Shiny Swampert*

        Oh: you can also say that you can’t deal with talking about the hard stuff right now, or set a hard limit of ten minutes, and after that it has to be something fun and light.

    5. Wishing You Well*

      Reducing the time you spend with this person might actually improve your relationship. Spend some time but not as much as you have spent in the past.
      Since she’s lying and omitting important facts, you can’t be an effective therapist for her even if you’re a professional mental health expert. You can offer emotional support, but that might be all you can do.
      Remind yourself that your needs must come first. You can’t help a drowning person if you’re drowning, too.
      I hope both of you get to a better place soon.

    6. Anonymous4This*

      I appreciate the suggestions and the confirmation that sometime I do need to step away. It is a good perspective to carry forward!

    7. Tired*

      As someone who suffers from pretty crippling anxiety, being told “that sounds awful!” and “your brain is telling you that, but it’s not what I’m seeing” are two very helpful and supportive statements. Having someone acknowledge that my feelings are valid is important, while also giving me an honest perspective.

      But you need to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. If being supportive for her is too draining for you, it’s okay to step back from that role.

      Also, as much as you’re worried, self-harm may not even be on her mind. At my deepest point, I’ve only briefly thought of hurting myself. I don’t want to dismiss your fears, but let you know that people can be in that black out without hurting themselves.

          1. NewNameTemporarily*

            New to looking for these things. I see a book called Jazz hands published in 2014 on Amazon. And I see no book by that title on booklist. Do I have the title right?

            1. NewNameTemporarily*

              GOT IT… you mean the book Alison talks about at the top – I was reading from the bottom of the page up, and completely didn’t get to the book of the week. SWEET!

      1. a librarian*

        I bought a copy too!
        My library provides remote reference to a prison-based community college program. We’ve also been asked if one of us would be willing to do a one-shot instruction session at the prison.

    1. MMB*

      Just finished the sample and downloaded the full book. It’s raining here today and this looks like the perfect afternoon read. Thanks! And great work Oryx!

    2. The Other Dawn*

      My brother was in prison for most of my life, so I think this will be a very interesting read for me. It’s on my list!

    3. Wandering*

      Very cool! And it’s your second memoir. Love the title for “Running with a Police Escort”. Also now enjoying your blog.

  20. A teacher*

    I have a really hard time asking people who aren’t extremely close friends or family for favors. Like, small favors that if someone asked it of me I’d be fine with. For example, I’m looking to move and there’s an apartment building in my town that’s a little exclusive but I know several different friends-of-friends who live there and could at the very least give some inside advice. And I’m having so much trouble composing the text messages to the people I know asking if they can pass on my details and get their friends who live in the building to contact me. And the worst part is, they (in one case my friend, in the other the friend-of-a-friend) offered to help! It’s not out of the blue! I just need to follow up!

    Anyone else have these kinds of problems or tips for getting over myself?

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Write text messages! Stop looking at this, do it right now!

        Hey I said stop looking, go right now and report back here when you’re done.

      2. Purt's Peas*

        Write the damn messages!! :) Greeting – context – request – offer an out – sign off with a thanks and you’re d o n e!!

      3. Batgirl*

        Just do it!
        The reason you’re struggling is that asking for an acquaintance’s help is not something we often do. Hence networking hate. Those muscles we don’t use often are rusty. So get in some practice.
        Picture yourself living there and compose a message to yourself starting ‘Dear A teacher’. Try to picture yourself receiving it and being delighted to help and then just change how it’s addressed.

      4. fposte*

        Think about how nice it will be to be a person who has just finished writing the damn text messages.

        1. A teacher*

          I love this and honestly it helped a lot. What a good way to reframe an unpleasant task. And now I am such a person and can finally pour a glass of wine for myself.

        1. A teacher*

          Yes, I did the thing!!! Thank you so much to everyone, especially A Simple Narwhal for badgering me a second time! This really is harder for me than it should be and you all really helped.

            1. A teacher*

              Thanks! Today one of the people in question got in touch with all the info I need and was very gracious and I was able to take the next step in the process. I owe some IRL folks a drink next time I see them, and wish I could do the same for those of you here on AAM who gave me such great advice and words!

      5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        *flutter flutter flutter*
        Write the damn text messages, if you haven’t already done!
        *flutter flutter flutter*

    1. ScoobyDoobyDoo*

      I definitely feel similarly to that kind of thing so I totally understand that it’s not an easy thing to do but – just do it! I promise you they’ll be receptive and it will go fine. They offered after all!

      One thing that helps me with this type of thing is to do a little role-play in my head and imagine I’m on the receiving end of the conversation. I find it much easier to offer people favours than to ask for them so I just imagine (and maybe write out on a scrap paper) a text conversation with someone in reverse and then use that as a guideline to compose the actual text message. You might find this tactic to gimicky for you but I thought I’d mention it in case it could help!

      1. A teacher*

        That is exactly the kind of thing that works for me! I didn’t see your message until after I did the thing, but it’s brilliant and I’ll be stealing it for future use.

    2. Asta*

      Try to remember that lots of people like being asked for little favours. I feel so good when I can do something nice for a friend.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        Exactly. I like being able to help people! And if it’s something easy for me to do, it’s even better! Low investment with a high payoff. :)

      2. Anono-me*

        In addition to people liking to be able to do small easy favors for others. People like to be the wise giver of knowledge and advice. The favor you are requesting is both.

    3. Dr. Anonymous*

      Think about how good you feel when you get to do a little favor for someone. Let others enjoy that little glow. For kindness to exist in the world, we must both give and receive. Be sure to do both.

    4. Courageous cat*

      My advice: don’t start in with “Hey how are you what’s new” etc etc, it feels really disingenuous when people do that. Just be like, “Hey! Super random question, I know you live in ___ and it’s hard to get into, do you have any advice on how you were able to find your place?”

      I have never once received a bad response to something like this.

      1. A teacher*

        Luckily I saw both of them last night! But I agree, no disingenuous nonsense. We are all pretty sarcastic so I just made some jokes instead.

    5. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      A lot of apartment complexes have a resident referral fee, where if you refer a new resident you get a cash credit on your rent. I’ve seen it be anywhere from $200 to $1000. So chances are, whoever helps you stands to gain a chunk of money from it.

      Given that, I’d contact people in order of how well you know them.

      1. A teacher*

        Oh, interesting! I am in a country that doesn’t really have a culture of apartment living and is currently experiencing a severe housing shortage, so I’m not sure if that kind of thing exists over here for one or both of those reasons, but if it does I hope anyone who helps me gets a nice reward!

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Is it the medium? I mean is texting the most comfy way for you to have this conversation?

      Someone told me that in order to be good givers we have to learn how to be gracious receivers. Every time I have asked someone to help me they have showed me how better to help others. My suggestion is: take notes.

      1. A teacher*

        No, it’s not the medium, but good point to consider! Texting is by far the most comfortable way to approach these folks. And they’d think it was super weird if I rang them up or emailed them or sent a carrier pigeon or something.

        But I did the thing and got positive replies from both folks already!

  21. Purt's Peas*

    What’s everyone reading?

    I read Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee, which I loved. I pretty much already want to read it again; I had a great time letting it all wash over me, but I really want to reread now that I understand the world better. It’s a weird, weird space opera, where a military captain is suddenly “”promoted””” to wrangle an immortal/dead, insane, ancient general. It’s so good. I have high hopes for the second.

    Ripped through The Wounds of the Dead by Vikram Paralkar. I think I saw it recommended (or at least described) on here. It was fascinating, though I can’t decide whether it’s a book I’d fully recommend or not. I felt very strong shades of No Exit in the novel, though it’s been a while since I’d read No Exit; and the surgery stuff was fantastic. I’m still thinking about the book and that does say a lot :)

    Also read the first Whyborne & Griffin book by Jordan L Hawk. I enjoyed it, but all I want is to be able to read K.J. Charles’ entire body of work again for the first time, since now I have done that. (Does anyone have recommendations for, like, top-tier very modern romance that has some diversity in the protagonists and isn’t too wildly heteronormative?)

    1. Dragonista*

      I would recommend American /French author, of Vietnamese descent Aliette de Bodard -In the Vanishers Palace.

      I haven’t got around to reading Ninefox Gambit yet, but it’s waiting on my kindle.

      I’m currently reading Velocity Weapon by Megan E O’Keefe. Enjoying it so far, but it seems to be bouncing between an increasing number of POV, started with 2 and now up to 4. I’m only 20% of my way through the book.

      I am recommending The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley to everyone who shows an interest in sci-fi. Queer rep, as always in her books. One of her other novels, The Stars are Legion, is affectionately known by fans as Lesbians in Space.

      1. Purt’s Peas*

        I am VERY there for “lesbians in space.” That’s going on my list right now :)

        I loved Ninefox Gambit but be warned, the first chunk of it will not make much sense—you really just have to let it wash over you.

    2. GoryDetails*

      I recently read Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi; it’s a lively SF novel with diverse characters and relationships – and I found that the relationships served the plot well for the most part, and weren’t just tacked on.

    3. Stitch*

      I am reading the Expanse books, but I will say it suffers from some of the “men writing women” issues.

      1. Purt’s Peas*

        A little bit. How far in are you? There are definitely shades of men-writing-women-itis but I found it pretty nuanced overall.

        1. Stitch*

          On book 3. There was just some aside where Holden sort of objectified Bobbie and it bothered me. I like Bobbie and Avasarala but Naomi who seems way more fascinating seems to be primarily Holden’s love interest, which I find irritating.

          1. Purt's Peas*

            That’s so weird, cause I feel kind of the opposite–like I find Naomi to be as well-drawn and nuanced as anyone else, even though she doesn’t really get POV time, but I got annoyed by all the bits in Bobbie’s POV that were just herself talking about her body.

            It felt like a conscious reverse-that’s-not-really-a-reverse of “I look at myself in the mirror, I like my breasts but not my stomach” kind of thing–like, “oh, since she’s talking about how big and muscly she is, it’s not like that!” But it really is like that. I love how big and muscly she is, but the (I think) unconscious use of that trope struck me. While I really like Naomi even though Holden regards her romantically from his POV.

      2. The Redshirt*

        Interesting! I’ve read all of the Expanse books, and didn’t get the “men writing women” issues at all.

        It’s an utterly fantastic sci fi series.

    4. Miss Fisher*

      I just finished several which is a huge deal for me as I stopped reading for quite some time. Mine are all fluff mostly.

      I finished the latest Janet Evanovich and a couple of other cozy mysteries.

      1. Purt’s Peas*

        Ooh, which cozy mysteries? I’ve never been a huge cozy mystery person—I read mostly sci-fi, fantasy, and romance—but I always love recommendations.

        And I’m in a similar boat to you—I had a weird pause in my reading habits for the past ten years (!) or so; I used to read voraciously when I was younger, and college + dating + starting work wiped that out. But I’m back now babey!!!! It feels great :)

        1. SigneL*

          Well, Dorothy L. Sayers and Ngaio Marsh are two authors to begin with. Margery Allingham and Patricia Wentworth (especially the Miss Silver books) are also well worth reading. Of course Agatha Christie is the Grande Dame of Golden Age mystery writers.

        2. Miss Fisher*

          You might like Darynda Jones, her Charley Davidson series is mystery and a little syfy mixed in. She is a PI who is also a grim reaper so she can talk to some ghosts to help solve their crimes. The series just ended on book 13. There is also some weird other worldly romance mixed in.

          As far as Cozy Mysteries, I have a few series I like, mostly Janet Evanovich, and another new writer Chelsea Field.

    5. Nicki Name*

      Hope this isn’t a spoiler but… I thought Raven Stratagem was even better!

      I’m currently checking out the Dragaera series by Steven Brust. I started with publication order, but I’m thinking now I should have gone with chronological order.

      1. Purt’s Peas*

        That’s good to know! I read the plot blurb and it really didn’t grab me, which was a mistake—I am very definitely reading it :) I really appreciate the vote of confidence in it. All I want is to talk about the book but it’s like, really easy to spoil. I’m forcing a friend to read it currently :)

      2. detaill--orieted*

        Publication order. I think he does deliberate things with what kinds of books they are, and what kind of person Vlad is, that unfold properly in publication order.

        Of course, that can lead to some confusion when after a while one notices that it is no longer all wisecracks and assassination!

    6. Lady Jay*

      Re-reading Howl’s Moving Castle, because I needed something light and fun for the evenings. I read the book for the first time at the end of my first semester of my master’s program, more than 10 years ago. Since then, it’s been a go-to during stressful periods of work/life, when I need a book that’s funny and exciting and hopeful.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Leaping Lemur, I loved the Pushcart War! Thanks for giving me something fun to think about.

      1. MMB*

        I just reread that a few months ago along with The Merlin Conspiracy and the Derkholm series! Love DWJ.

    7. Courageous cat*

      I’m reading “I know this much is true” from Wally Lamb, but I’m not too far in and I’m already struggling. The main character has embodied everything I hate about straight men so far, and I’m not particularly interested in just a re-hashing of one’s childhood.

      Can someone tell me there’s a real story here and that it gets better?

    8. Marion Ravenwood*

      I just finished The Essex Serpent, and I loved it. So many beautiful, brilliantly written passages, especially about things like female desire and dealing with the conflict of wanting to do your own thing and conform to what society expects of you. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting from the blurb on the back but I ended up really enjoying it.

      Next I’m finally going to finish The Stranger from the Sea, which means I can finally watch the new series of Poldark!

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m halfway through Dracula, and it goes slowly. 200 pages before we meet Van Helsing, and another 50 before the word ‘vampire’ is used without the word ‘bat’ after it.
      The casual sexism is painful. When Mina offers to tell Van Helsing all that happened to her & Lucy, Van Helsing asks if she has a memory for detail, because it is not often like that for women.
      The ultra-capable Mina is praised for being bold and clever, but then all the men decide she needs to be kept out of it because it would be too distressing for a woman.
      And the accents are distracting me. Van Helsing is brilliant but speaks broken English in a way I find more irritating than the old sailor who talks in dialect.
      I’ll make it though…

    10. VlookupsAreMyLife*

      Just finished up “What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About” edited by Michele Filgate. Highly recommend it but, be forewarned, it is chock full of triggers & feels!

      Next up is either another Bosch novel by Connelly or “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones …depends which one the local library can snag for me first.

    11. Llellayena*

      I’m reading Kushiel’s Dart by Jaqueline Carey. I wouldn’t call it ‘modern’ as it’s set essentially in renaissance France, but definitely diverse and not heteronormative. I’m usually cautious about recommending it (though it is absolutely exceptional writing and story) because of the tenor of the romantic parts. My rule generally is that I will recommend it if someone says they read or saw 50 Shades of Grey and wasn’t put off by the subject. Kushiel’s Dart has very strong BDSM themes.

  22. Alors*

    Is it worth getting an ADHD diagnosis and how do you get one (in the UK)?
    I’ve always known I was problematically daydreamy, unpunctual, prone to procrastination, disorganised, forgetful and that time just will not stay in my grasp. I used to get a lot of “We know you’re a bright girl so you’re just not trying hard enough!”
    I just gave myself the label of ‘weird’ and played to my strengths: meeting tight deadlines, creativity, original thinking etc. Of course I had to figure out the other stuff too and at this point my coping methods more or less work. Post-It note to-do lists, fast paced work environments, strict routines, checking and double checking calendar stuff. Few people who have only just met me would believe how much I struggle because I give off this vibe of having it all together. I do know that my relative lack of professional success puzzles some people though, given my qualifications. I think people assume I’m not ambitious, which I’m not – the very idea exhausts me.
    I met some ADHD kids recently and underwent training on spotting and supporting their needs and it was a lightbulb moment. I might be just projecting though. Also, given that my coping mechanisms work, what would I get out of a diagnosis? The idea of taking medication does not thrill me but maybe I should keep an open mind?

    1. Princess Deviant*

      Go to your GP with this list of problems you’re having and how it’s impacting your day to day activities, then they’ll do a quick screening test (about 20 questions) and depending on the services you have available in your county, you’ll get referred on to another professional for a formal diagnosis.

      I don’t know if they also test for autism with ADHD, but they test for ADHD with autism. I’m still waiting for my ASD assessment.

      1. Princess Deviant*

        Oh and with regards to treatment (for ASD) my GP basically said there was nothing for autistic adults available, I’d only have a diagnosis. But just having the diagnosis would make a difference to me. YMMV.

        1. Anonymous healthcare person*

          My older teen son has autism and I also work in related healthcare. There is treatment for adults with autism. In fact sometimes ADHD meds/strategies can help, depending on symptoms. Find a psychologist who works with adults with autism, check local autism organizations for options. There is a manual by Elizabeth Laugeson for adults with social skills issues, as another option – Google PEERS social skills training for this and videos/apps. And there is CBT for various autism difficulties too. Sometimes medications can be helpful too – psychiatrists specializing in autism would know, and psychologists who work with autism, although they don’t prescribe, often have reasonable knowledge on this and can make suggestions to GPs.

        2. Kuododi*

          I don’t have any experience with life in the UK however here in the US, having a formal dx can make or break qualifying for certain support resources. Additionally, if applying for disability benefits one needs the diagnosis to help document particular needs of the client.

    2. Oldster*

      Re: lightbulb moment. It is very common for a parent to realize the are ADHD when their child gets the diagnoses. So I doubt it’s projecting on your part.

    3. Dr. KMnO4*

      As an adult who was diagnosed with ADHD later in life, the diagnosis has helped tremendously. One thing I realized was that, yes, I was coping just fine without medication, but that it was possible that things could get better with it. So I tried meds and learned that, for me at least, they’ve made a huge difference and I’m glad I went that route. I’m on Adderall and it just makes all the little things I historically struggled with much, much easier. Not everyone with ADHD has to take meds, but I would keep an open mind and listen to what your doctor recommends.

    4. Lilysparrow*

      I found that getting diagnosed was helpful in several ways.

      1) I was able to completely give up all the time-wasting projects I spent years on, trying to “fix” my various “character flaws,” and instead redirect that energy into using tools that helped me get the external outcomes I wanted & needed.

      2) I found out about connections between other health issues I have, and some treatments that were helpful for the whole cluster. ADHD was a “missing link” that opened up different information about & modes of treatment for them.

      3) I chose to take medication, and it’s been very helpful. Not just in getting things done, but in my overall stress level. It took me so much effort to focus on things, and I had so much (justified, rational) anxiety about missing important stuff, that I was keyed up far more than I realized. The meds also reduce my tendency to sensory overload, so I can enjoy more activities that were too overwhelming or exhausting before.

      My process here in the States was pretty easy. I just talked to my GP, who sent me to a psychologist for assessment. That was basically a 50-minute talk session. The psychologist sent a report back to my GP, who recommended starting a low dose of slow-release Adderall, because it’s one of the best tolerated meds for adults, apparently. She said we could try others if that one didn’t work out, but I’ve been happy with it. I usually take at least 1 day off from meds every week, sometimes 2.

      I have heard that the process is more complex in the UK, and that there’s a higher standard of “impairment.” But that’s just what I’ve gleaned from discussion boards.

      This year, my GP stopped prescribing ADHD meds because the regulatory requirements were taking over her practice, so I had to find a specialist. He insisted on neuropsych testing to confirm my diagnosis. That was really interesting.

      I mean, the test was the opposite of interesting – it’s the world’s most boring & tedious video game, basically.

      But the results were interesting. Not only was I most definitely ADHD, but it broke down the different traits by comparison to my demographic group. For example, my attention span is borderline almost normal, but my impulsivity & hyperactivity are extremely high for a woman my age. Explains a lot.

    5. Alors*

      So interesting how a diagnosis was just the start for you all. Thanks everyone that’s really helped!

    6. Alexandra Lynch*

      A diagnosis gave me access to medication, which, while it is not a solution on its own, enables me to actually take all the coping mechanisms and things and make them work smoothly and easily to make my life better. It is the keystone to the arch.

  23. Researching my Family tree - Ancestry.com / Genealogy*

    So I recently started research my family tree with Ancestry.com and also FamlySearch.org! It’s been very interesting! Some mysteries to figure out too! I’ve been trying to untangle which person is actually related to me on my father’s side back a few generations – someone came over from Germany in the mid 1800s – had a two sons and on down the line to me! Anyone else researched their family trees on Ancestry? Does it feel like at some point you’re mostly guessing once you get back a few generations? You could be related to anyone! … I’ve managed to get a few death certificates from city archives but there is still so much I don’t know about them.

    My next step is figuring out how to get more information if that’s possible… like if I go to a library that has microfilms with reports and newspapers from that time period I wonder if I can find anything in those? Is it worth looking? Ancestry.com also has access to various newspapers but I’m not sure if there’s more that isn’t online…

    1. Mimblewimble*

      I recommend going to a state or local archive. They will have records that can help you in your search, such as court documents, land records, birth registries, military service records, and more. Search online first to see what archives may be useful, and then search the individual archives’ site for relevant collections. Ancestry gets a lot of its records from state archives, so there may be a citation on Ancestrt to indicate where they got the record. You can use that as a place to start, and then locate the archive online to see what else they may have.

      Ancestry usually sends a handful of volunteers once a year to copy records at archives, and the volunteers focus on one record type at a time, so there are many records still at these archives that aren’t available on Ancestry. It’s worth digging into.

      1. Researching my Family tree - Ancestry.com / Genealogy*

        I had emailed a local library that has microfilm records that might contain city records I’m looking for. I just need time to actually go there and do research. I didn’t realize Ancestry had “volunteers” copying the records – that explains a few things.

        1. Beaded Librarian*

          Some libraries will do limited genealogy research for a fee. Basically if you know you need x obituary or y article and it should be around z date they will try and find it and then send you back the information after payment.

    2. GoryDetails*

      Depending on how much work you want to put into your search, you could seek out a professional genealogist – perhaps via a local library or historical society? A friend of mine got into professional genealogy over the last few years, and has told me about the different databases available; some can be accessed by the general public but others are restricted. (I’ve also heard some fun – and occasionally frustrating – stories about mistaken identities, family trees full of people with the same names, ancestors whose actual marriage data wasn’t quite what had come down through the family anecdotes…)

      I did some of my own amateur research years ago, and enjoyed the process of trying to fill in the blanks, but I quickly realized that there were limits to how hard I wanted to work at it. But between libraries, historical societies, a few family-genealogy books that relatives owned, and some online searching, I came up with quite a few entertaining connections.

      1. Researching my Family tree - Ancestry.com / Genealogy*

        Mistaken identities are interesting – someone else made a tree of their own a while ago with a link to a person they thought was the son of someone in my tree with the same name — turns out they were mistaken and I can prove it. Oops.

        But yeah —my dad’s father’s family is pretty straightforward – one or two children down the line. On the other hand my dad’s mom’s family is a huge and sprawling lot … Several children in each generation before my grandmother. and then there’s my mom’s family – again many children on both sides for generations back. And other people have done their own trees in each — hopefully well researched but there’s only so much you can figure out after a certain point.

        1. Gaia*

          Bad information is wildly common on Ancestry and not just on the trees. My rule of thumb is if I can’t see the scan of the document – at minimum – I don’t accept it as fact. Transcribed indexes have been really really wrong in some cases. And “family history” stories are problematic for a lot of reasons (ask me about my great grandfather who our entire family swears was 14 when his dad left for South America and then ggfather was a stow away and snuck into America but in reality he came here at 18 on paid passage and was a orphan who never knew his parents).

    3. Blarg*

      A lot of newspapers are archived and searchable online, or at least indexed. I found out the single most amazing thing about my family from a 1925 newspaper article. I have a great grandma who was a true bad ass, but she apparently never told anyone.

      Watch old episodes of genealogy shows for tips and tricks (long lost family is practically an ad for ancestry, but the show does offer clues to using its database; who do you think you are? and finding your roots both demonstrate search techniques for various countries — unlikely you’ll get to just fly off to some other part of the world, but it helps to know what’s out there).

      Some databases such as ancestry can be used for free on site at national archives, or pieces may be free based on residency.

      For me, I’m most interested in the most recent couple generations cause there’s been a lot of dysfunction and inconsistent stories, so even just getting my own grandfather’s death certificate (which arrived yesterday) was illuminating for what it did and didn’t say.

      Good luck. And remember that DNA is a whole other can of worms to open, before you go down that road. :)

      1. Researching my Family tree - Ancestry.com / Genealogy*

        Yep been looking – on my father’s side I’ve been looking the specific “thing” they were known for making in newspapers – we thought they had a shop or something at some point but maybe not – or it was very briefly and I’m just not hitting the right time period. At some point that thing fell away to another thing that we do know about and have plenty of sorceress for locating – it’s the shift I haven’t pointed down yet (okay I might have made that too vague).

        1. fposte*

          Depending on where and when, have you looked in old phone books/city directories? They used to list everybody they could find alongside their professions. Listing was sufficiently casual that one relative is in there under three different names.

    4. Asenath*

      Oh, this is a total obsession of mine and one of my sisters! I tend to take the big and sprawling approach, largely because when I get frustrated with the lack of documentation in my direct line, I can go over to some distant cousins and dabble happily in expanding that branch of my tree. So much depends on where and when your ancestors lived. My paternal family is pretty well documents – a couple of my relatives on that side were really good researchers, and the family lived in an area of New England with good records. My maternal family mostly landed in Newfoundland, and the records there, when you get back to the late 1700s to the early 1800s have, um, gaps. Lots of gaps. And all the surnames and first names are similar and repeat over the generations, which can get frustrating, although probably not as frustrating as the gaps. Or they move to the US – usually New England, but sometimes New York City. There are a LOT of Millers (the branch I’m chasing now) in New York City, and with a name and a date that they might have emigrated – or might have just visited Auntie Jane – it’s hard to sort out the right ones.
      Newspapers can be useful, and some of our local ones haven’t been entirely scanned for online access or even indexed – which tends to be done by amateurs who don’t have the time to get everything. There are sites that do have a lot of scanned and indexed newspapers. At certain periods, if your family could manage it, it was common to publish detailed obituaries and engagement, marriage and birth announcements, complete with names of relations, and often their hometowns. I love those. If one of your relatives was so unfortunate as to die in an accident that was famous at the time, you can often get newspaper reports on the accident including lists of the victims and the names of those who contributed to help the widows and orphans. There are lots and lots of options, and once you know where your relatives lived, you can check local government sources, genealogy societies, and even cemeteries for information that Ancestry doesn’t have yet.

      1. Researching my Family tree - Ancestry.com / Genealogy*

        Yeah – My dad’s father’s side is basically a simple line of decedents top to bottom – only one male child that survived long enough to have kids all the way down from the mid-1800s …. NYC is in fact where most of them were born, lived and died once my relative came over from Germany – I need to see if I can figure out more information about his life prior to coming to the US — I THINK I figured out his parents names but I’m not 100% sure of anything for him… I can’t even pin down his wife’s last name and her actual age – there are two options depending on where I look – a grave that might be hers and a census report that gives an entirely different age – but I know people can say anything when they do those reports….

        My father’s mother’s family and my mom’s family on both sides on the other hand has multiple kids all the way back to the American Revolutionary War…. There’s so so many….a vast and sprawling lot from all over… I might keep poking backwards and see where they came from before that too.

        1. Asenath*

          There are times when I wondered if they hired illiterates to take the census information! Still, it’s mostly good info, and sometimes a missing person shows up as an adopted child or a grandchild or a niece in some relative’s listing. I discovered only today that I had the wrong parents for someone from a census report. My original mistake was probably due to there being too many men born about the same time with the same name. Then I came across the census report. George, head of household, fine. Maria – got her right, second wife of George; I’d confirmed first wife’s death and the second marriage. No resident children; not surprising at their age. And Esther, mother of George. Only MY mother of George wasn’t named Esther! I had George attached to completely the wrong parents. And it’s not the first time I’ve done something like that.

    5. MMB*

      The Morman church has a massive collection of genealogical and historical information that is available to the public. I did a bunch of research years ago and they were a great resource. Neither you nor you ancestors have to have any connection to the LDS church.

      1. Researching my Family tree - Ancestry.com / Genealogy*

        Yes that appears to be who runs the FamilySearch.org website that I’ve been working on. That site is trickier to work with but I have found more information that I couldn’t find on Ancestry for a couple people so far. It looks like some of their collection was transferred over to one of my local libraries so I’ll be checking the out at some point too.

        1. Wishing You Well*

          Anyone can alter your information on FamilySearch. One woman wiped out many hours of my work, then emailed me with “Oops! Could you just re-enter your information?” Uh, no. Lesson learned. Other people on FamilySearch have altered my work with wrong dates and crazy info. I can’t keep guarding my research from bad entries.
          Verify other people’s info before adding it to your own and quote your sources. If you put your genealogy online, make sure others can’t alter it. It’s still a great hobby, though!

          1. Researching my Family tree - Ancestry.com / Genealogy*

            Yikes… Yeah, I’m not using that one as my primary tree creation – I’ll keep that on Ancestry.com – which seems to be easier to control as long as you don’t add all of someone eles’s tree … I’m just using FamilySearch to see what records might exist that don’t already exist on ancestry.com …

          2. Asenath*

            I used Family Tree mainly for sources that Ancestry didn’t have – most of my information isn’t there. I found it a bit disconcerting that everyone was basically editing a big common tree – especially when I spotted errors. Ancestry has more controls over who can edit a tree. And now they have a lot of the records I needed Family Tree for.

    6. Wicked Witch of the West*

      Be wary of info posted on the trees of random people on Ancestry. I have found blatant bad info on two of my Dad’s lines, and I have paper to prove it.
      Many of the LDS stake centers have a “family history” room. Computers with subscriptions to various online sources, and people to help you. You don’t need to be a member of the church, but they are staffed by volunteers and have irregular hours. Check first to find out their schedule.

      1. Researching my Family tree - Ancestry.com / Genealogy*

        Yep – I mentioned in another comment that’s exactly what’s already happened. Someone else’s tree has someone THEY are related to but is not actually someone in my tree – the person with the same name in my tried died without any children, their relative is someone else entirely.

      2. Asenath*

        Oh, yes, I’ve come across some really blatant mistakes in the public trees – although I’ve “met” some good researchers online too. Women giving birth long before puberty (doing so after menopause often means that the youngest child was actually born to one of the older daughters and informally adopted by the grandparents. Letting the autofill put in the name of a place that is not only in another province, but in an area with, as far as I can make out, absolutely no connection to the person or family that supposedly lived there. And so on. I only use the public trees (unless they’re from someone I trust) to get information that I then verify myself.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      No. I won’t give my DNA to those companies.

      There are huge privacy concerns, as well as the fact that they’re not all that accurate, especially in terms of potential health conditions, for which you’re better off going through your doctor’s office. This article details some of that: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/16/5-biggest-risks-of-sharing-dna-with-consumer-genetic-testing-companies.html

      I mean, seriously, they’re for-profit companies. The more people who do it, the more money they make, and there’s no real incentive to be responsible about it.

      1. Researching my Family tree - Ancestry.com / Genealogy*

        But relevant! LOL! I am actually debating whether or not to do the whole DNA thing …

        1. Wicked Witch of the West*

          My brother did it several years ago, and I did earlier this year. There were really no surprises, other than me having a small percentage of Swedish and Norwegian. Vikings I guess, we have lots of English, Scots, and Irish. Haven’t attempted to get in touch with any of my matches. There’s really only one strand I’m interested in and can’t tell if any of them are on it.

    8. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      Oh I love genealogy. I am descended from Frost Giants! Though my Viking ancestors were maybe more interested in an awesome story than citing their sources. :)

      It’s fun learning about the heroes and villains we come from. Also fun finding out that random historical characters are 50th cousins or something.

    9. Ancestry Anon*

      Going anon for reasons that will become apparent…

      So, my parents got themselves and my sibling and me DNA kits last year. Eventually we all did them. A number of second and third cousins came up as matches (last names when used check out). So did a first degree relationship with a person using an anonymized username. That person reached out to all of us to figure out why. Turns out, he’s my mother’s half brother. Mom and her siblings had no idea and apparently neither did this guy, who is between my mom and the next sibling in age. It’s a legit connection, his mother (now deceased) had photos of my mom’s parents standing with her at her house (grandpa is holding the baby – him) and a holiday card signed by them (including my mom’s name, she would also have been a baby).

      My best guess is that this guy’s parents were neighbors of my grandparents, grandpa and guy’s mom had a fling around the time that the other couple moved away to a neighboring state, baby was born, the families lost touch, and no one was the wiser on his actual parentage. Until now.

    10. Dancing Otter*

      One of my cousins’ wife got into genealogy a few years back. She made a lot of entries on Ancestry(dot)com.

      Based on the information I know directly for close relatives, anything she got right was probably accidental.

      My father’s birth and death dates are pretty easy to verify. Even if we hadn’t celebrated his birthday every year, I have his birth certificate. Nor is it likely that I will misremember when he died my senior year. She got both wrong, After I gave her the information. In writing.

      Okay, he wasn’t on her side of the family. But she put my maternal grandfather (her husband’s great-uncle) about ten years younger than he really was. Another cousin pointed out some more errors, but I couldn’t confirm. If valid, those were real howlers, too.

      So, I might look at Ancestry for a starting place, but I would take all the information with a whole shaker of salt. Sounds like your family should be traceable through census records, if they’ve been here for 150 years or so.

    11. JS*

      What will really benefit your research is finding documented information such as marriage licenses, birth and death certificates, land deeds, military records etc., that are all official records. Other people’s research is a good starting point, but official, legal documentation is factual. The easiest way to start is with yourself and then go back from there. State departments of vital statics and census records are excellent sources for information, as are state archives. Genealogy research is a consuming hobby!

  24. iamtheallspoon*

    Pokemon go – I’ve recently got back into it after several years away, and things have changed from what I remember. How do raid battles work? Are they pointless if I don’t know anyone to play with? And gyms, are they pointless if I’m still relatively low powered? My top Pokemon is only 1500 cp, and I used up all my revives, so should I just skip that until I’m a higher level? It seems like all the ones near me have at least one Pokemon around 3000, which I never have a hope of beating.

    A while back I remember people here were exchanging friend codes, does anyone still want to do that? Mine 8967 7149 6083, and I’m in salt lake city, if that matters.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      You may need to be selective about raids. Sometimes I do little ones with a friend from work but haven’t bothered with the big ones. However, I am currently just jumping in to some and then exiting to get credit for having done it for the special goals.
      Getting friends and sharing gifts will get you lots of revives and whatnot.
      I’ve just sent a request to you. :)

      1. Honey Bee*

        I am relatively new to Pokémon Go but I love it. I’ve been playing it for approximately two months. I have a highly stressful and demanding job working with children and their families (I’m a therapist), that I love. It’s fun for me to have something enjoyable to do as I commute back and forth to work. I stop at gyms and poke-stops along the way, as time allows.

        I have not done any raids yet as I am waiting for a relative to return from being out-of-town to help me. I did participate in a Community Day last week and it was tons of fun. I plan to send you a friend request. I also plan to look back a few weeks ago on a Saturday thread and send friend requests to those AAM members as well.

        I’ve been faithfully reading AAM for at least two years. I love it. I’ve learned so much. I am very grateful to Alison and the community.

        I feel that Pokémon Go, AAM, and Gwynnie Bee are my hobbies. It’s exciting to me to be finally posting on AAM, first of all, but to be talking about one of my favorite pastimes is especially exciting.

      2. Shiny Swampert*

        Hard disagree about being selective about raids! I do a lot of 1-2 star raids in my own. There are a lot of Pokémon you can’t get except from raids, and the xp boost from completing the raid+registering new Pokémon is useful. I find that when I’m in town if I turn up to the beginning of any 5* raid (or 3-4 for that matter) there will 99% of the time be enough people to do it. Sometimes I greet people who are also clearly playing, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes they talk back, sometimes they don’t :) at the very least I usually say thank you after finishing.

        Also you may not know but if you encounter a shiny after a raid, it’s a guaranteed catch, as long as you get it into the ball!

    2. Book Lover*

      You can easily do level 1-2 raids alone and if you have decent counters you can do some level 3 also (not now with what you have though). They are worth it – fun and decent rewards and you can get some Pokémon that are not available otherwise (alolan raichou, Mawile, and so on).

      If you see an opening in a gym, throw something in there. If you have low level Pokémon then only attack gyms where the little hearts by each Pokémon are mostly black until you have some stronger Pokémon.

      Check Facebook for local groups to raid with, and discord. If you see a legendary raid and see people are fighting, then jump in and also ask whether you can join whatever group they are in.

      For now, focus on hatching eggs – you will want to get larvitar and gible to evolve and power up. If you see cranidos out and about then grab those for evolving.

      Check out reddit silph road for more info.

    3. Book Lover*

      I wrote another message that is in moderation but just wanted to add – do the jump start quest. You should have a dragonite at the end, which is helpful.

    4. TL -*

      Generally there’s Pokemon Go communities on Facebook and Discord where people coordinate raids if you want to do higher level ones – you don’t have to know people, just show up, say hi, raid (usually 5 minutes) and then leave. It’s actually a really great mini-break for me.
      Throw any Pokemon you want into a gym – worse that happens is it gets kicked out after a few minutes. Revives are usually easy to come by in a city but you can also let your Pokemon stay fainted.

      Save any July/August 2016 Pokemon. Older Pokemon have some benefits if you decide to start trading at some point.

    5. Shiny Swampert*

      How do raid battles work? Are they pointless if I don’t know anyone to play with?
      Basically, just go into the raid and tappy-tap-tap until your little fingers fall off :) the 1 and 2 star raids you will probably be fine doing them on your own, or maybe with one other person. Totally go into raids with other people. Next weekend will be suicune raid day – I highly suggest you find out where your local people will be starting and stick a lucky egg on, I was out for the last one and did 8 raids I think, that’s quite an XP boost and there will be so many people that you’ll have no problem winning (presuming you can get somewhere popular – last time I saw a crowd of around 80 people on my way to meet a friend, and there were around 100 people where we were -so plenty of people for everyone to win.

      And gyms, are they pointless if I’m still relatively low powered? My top Pokemon is only 1500 cp, and I used up all my revives, so should I just skip that until I’m a higher level?
      Pro tip: stick in anything at all. I usually just put in one of my most recently caught Pokémon and if it’s naff, when it comes back I just transfer it, I don’t revive it at all. To knock a Pokémon out of a gym it will usually take 3 battles anyway, and when you’re trying to knock out a 14CP pichu and it takes 3 goes it’s frustrating anyway :)

      It seems like all the ones near me have at least one Pokemon around 3000, which I never have a hope of beating.
      If the gym is full, I usually battle the first, then exit, then battle the first two again, then exit, then knock them out and then battle the rest. Sometimes people will restore the Pokémon who are there and doing it this way makes it harder for them. It’s DEFINITELY worth putting Pokémon in gyms as it’s your only way of getting free in game coins.

      You didn’t ask about this, but are you appraising your Pokémon? Don’t just go off CP – they can have a really high CP but really terrible stats. A 10CP 4* Pokémon can be powered up to something amazing. A 3500 0* Pokémon can’t be improved. (And a 4* Pokémon has three stars when you appraise it but goes pink instead of orange. You can search for 0* through to 4*. You can also search shiny and other things I can’t think of right now.)

      1. Cruciatus*

        In addition to the CP stuff Shiny Swampert mentioned, I have an Android and use PokeGenie (which is free) to check the IV level. It takes a screenshot of the Pokemon’s stats and will say “90% Excellent! or 4% Terrible. But now that Team Rocket is part of the game, PokeGenie can’t read those Pokemon’s stats because they are different than the regular Pokemon. However, the game recently revamped their appraisal system. So before you transfer your Pokemon, appraise them in the individual Pokemon’s screen. If you have only 1 star items, unless the CP is high you can toss, if you have 2 or 3 star items you probably want to keep those for now as you build up your Pokemon. And if you have good Pokemon, over time you use the stardust and candies to power them up so eventually you might have a 3000+ CP Pokemon–this will improve anyway as you move up in the game. If you’re trying to beat level 3000 when they have full life in the gym, yeah, that might be hard, but over time their stats go down, making it easier to kick them out.

        Gyms aren’t pointless. You want to start collecting coins. If you manage to stay in a gym for 8 hours and 20 minutes you get the max of 50 coins for the day (which you can use to buy incubators, lucky eggs, increase how many Pokemon your bag has, or how many items you can carry, etc.) So throw what you have in there. Otherwise, you get 1 coin for every 10 minutes. And you can defend yourself in a gym (feed yourself berries, Golden Razz giving you completely full life again) even if you’re no longer at that gym. Or even nearby.

        You should probably be able to do at least 1 star raids on your own. I’m level 40 (thank you, thank you, just happened recently), but even I can’t beat a lot of the 3 star gyms, and definitely nothing above that so far. Just start playing the game and you’ll get used to all these new features. I think they’ve improved the game. I’ve learned a lot playing in a local campus where lots of people come to play, especially on community days. They have taught me some things so I’m still improving in the game, even at level 40.

      2. Shiny Swampert*

        Been playing and thought of a load of other stuff.
        If you’re embarrassed about putting low CP Pokémon into gyms (and seriously, don’t be!) make sure you get out on community days and catch shinies. Most of my shiny Pokémon are low CP and generally not very good but people are always impressed by shinies gyms, and by people, I mean me ;)

        Make real-life friends and use lucky eggs for going ultra and best friends. The CP boost can level you up pretty quickly. And even when you’re best friends, oh my god, keep sending gifts, because when you get lucky friends with someone you can find a Pokémon you both have really bad versions of and trade them. I’ve made a good few of my terrible shinies into good ones like that.

        And also, battle your friends! It’s a good way to get sinnoh stones which you’ll need for some of the evolutions.

    6. curly sue*

      A lot of folks have already posted the answers I was going to, but I’ll chime in anyway! The raids can definitely be worthwhile even at low levels.

      The raids are categorized as 1- through 5-head raids, and those are difficulty levels. If you see the eggs before the raid starts, then it’s easier – pink eggs (levels 1 and 2) are ones you can probably do on your own. Yellow eggs (levels 3 and 4) can be done alone or with two people once you’re at higher levels with string pokemon of the right type, but right now don’t try them without a couple of friends. Purple eggs are 5-head and the most difficult, but the pokemon you can catch at the end are the most powerful out there, and really worth it. Those you’ll need to do with a group. Some people make teams very carefully at very high levels and can knock out a level-5 with two people, but the rest of us usually need four or more.

      It sounds like you’re asking about battling gyms rather than putting in pokemon, and I’d say yes, they’re absolutely worth it. The store has lots of useful things like extra bag space to carry more revives, as well as incubators to help you hatch good eggs. The best pokemon from eggs are coming from 10k eggs and the 7k eggs you get from gifts (right now there’s a special event happening and the gift eggs are 2k eggs, but hatch the pokemon usually found in 7k ones). Look for a gym which has a black heart floating by it on the world map – that means the pokemon inside it are really weak right now and you can probably take them out. The longer a pokemon sits in a gym, the weaker it gets.

      Catch everything you can, even the junk. You can use stardust to power up your pokemon and make them stronger. CP is the general overall measure of worth, but things like stats (from appraisals) and level make a huge difference. The usual suggestion is don’t spend stardust on anything until you’re at level 30 — that’s when you’ll see the strongest wild pokemon and have a better chance of getting ones that won’t cost as much stardust to level up.

      If you have any pokemon in your account from the summer of 2016, keep them! They’re valuable for trades, and can give you guaranteed lucky pokemon if you trade them (more powerful, on average, and cost less stardust and candy to power up).

      I’ll send you a friend request in a second!

    7. Hrovitnir*

      Oo, welcome back! I have sent you a friend request. As mentioned, friendship level ups are worth SO MUCH XP, and it’s definitely worth using a lucky egg when you get to ultra and best friends if you can.

      Do drop your Pokemon in gyms; a fun fact I didn’t see on skimming the replies is that if you’re out of revives but have candy/stardust you can power up your Pokemon and it will be revived (though still need a potion).

      Re: raids, assuming it’s the same elsewhere, for high tier raids you can get in a group usually by turning up in high traffic areas JUST when the raid starts. That’s how I do 5th tier raids most of the time – turn up exactly when it hatches, in town, and you’ll generally get enough people. Below level 32 or so in high level raids your Pokemon will get wrecked, but with a handful of higher level Pokemon you’ll still catch the raid boss! Do Google raid boss weaknesses, because appropriate type attacks get rapidly more important in raids.

      Friends really help with this too if you can get anyone in your area – you get a boost to your attacks in raids, plus best friends get an additional *6* balls to catch the raid boss at the end, which you can definitely need for 5th tier! I have only done it once, but getting on a raid train via your local discord/facebook group is amazing for XP. When they have special raid days and every gym is a 5th tier raid you can do 10+ raids in a row for 10,000 XP a shot (20,000 with a lucky egg), and if there are new shinies you have a really good chance of getting at least one!

      I’ve recently reached level 40, and while I have a long way to go to get perfect teams (high IV maxed out Pokemon with good attacks), it’s amazing how much XP becoming worthless does lower your motivation. But I’m sticking with it!

      1. Hrovitnir*

        *I meant to say with a handful of higher level PLAYERS you’ll still catch the raid boss. You just need your group to win, and most 5th tier raids only need 5-8 high level players, not the 17 or whatever they say. And when there’s a new release you usually get full lobbies every time anyway.

    8. LGC*


      First of all – you actually have a really good shot at soloing a 1-star raid right now. That’s because of a couple of things:
      – You have type advantages. PoGo ‘mons use the same typing as the main games, and although the advantages are weaker (1.25x modifiers as opposed to 2x in the main games, immunities don’t exist and are just converted to resistances), they still exist and stack. Yes, that includes STAB as well.
      – You also have a team of six Pokemon to work with. So you can load up on Charizards against a Mawile, for example.

      A 2-star might be more difficult, and a 3-star or higher might require friends. So, with a bit of forethought (basically, with a well-typed team with decent attacks), you should be pretty successful!

      To put it in context – most of the ‘mons I do battle with are in the low-mid 2000s CP range. (I’m lazy about upgrading my teams.) I can usually defeat a 1-star raid with 1 Pokemon, and I might need two to take down a 2-star. I’ve struggled a bit with 3-star raids, but I think part of that is that I haven’t really practiced raids.

      For gyms – basically, it’s more worth it to hop in a gym, I think. It’s easier to take down a gym overall, but it’s harder to knock individual Pokemon out now. More importantly, you get much faster rewards for holding a gym – up to 50 coins for being in a gym 24 hours (although you don’t get any bonus for being in a gym longer than that, I don’t think). Around me, it seems like people put varying Pokemon in gyms, which is nice. Part of that is forced, but different gyms have different Pokemon in them.

      1. Blue Horizon*

        Eventually you figure out that what you put in gyms matters very little, and people start having fun with it. Players where I live like to look for themes in gym deployments and run with it, so you’ll see gyms of all flying Pokemon, all the same color, all ‘baby’ Pokemon, all different evolutions of Eevee, and so on. The best ones get screenshotted and saved for posterity.

    9. iamtheallspoon*

      Thank you all do much for the advice! It was/is very helpful especially with giving me perspective on raids.

  25. Website recommendations*

    Hi. Anyone have any website recommendations? Would like to expand from news (cnn, Washington post, etc) and read some more lifestyle stuff. I like The Cut. Slate is okay but looking for less politics. Something like a better written Refinery29 would be nice. Thanks.

    1. Even Steven*

      You might like Medium dot com – lots of terrific authors post regular articles on a broad range of subjects. And regardless of your age, there is a neat articles page on the AARP site called The Girlfriend that has interesting lifestyle articles. I’m a guy and I like it. :) Also, Lifehacker dot com is a heat mishmash of lifestyle, finance, tech, etc.

      1. Flavia de Luce*

        +1000, so many interesting, well-written articles and you can search by keyword/topic!

    2. Kate R. Pillar*

      Cup of Jo seems to cover many of the same topics that Refinery29 does, and I like many of their posts.

  26. peanut*

    Underpants – does anyone have recommendations for everyday underpants? For 20 years, I wore Hanes (the modern brief cut) but the package I just bought is terrible because the quality has dropped noticeably, and they also ride up because there isn’t enough elastic anymore around the legs.

    At this point, I’d be willing to pay huge amounts of money just for something that fits and will stay put, but no one seems to really make the style I want (not high cut on the legs, full coverage on the butt, and going to an inch or two below the belly bottom). I don’t do thongs or bikinis, hipsters are usually too low on my belly, and I’ve never tried boyshorts but they look too low on the belly even if I wasn’t worried about my legs getting too hot. “Full coverage” briefs go up too high and cover my belly button.

    Any suggestions? I’ve googled “best underwear women” and “women’s briefs”, looked at countless lists and even bought some underwear that I hated. I’ve run out of ideas except to maybe learn to sew and make my own!!!

    1. Fran*

      I like to shop from Oysho. They are cotton but still cute. I get them online since they have no shop where I live now.

      1. MinotJ*

        Seconded! I took advantage of one of their sales to try out several styles. I found my favorite and stocked up.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        And their stuff tends to last a good while, in my experience. Which is lovely, because after I ordered a ten-set of my favorite style of underwear from them two years ago, they discontinued it. Just like everyone else has. (If anyone has a hookup for reasonably priced plain black cotton string bikini briefs that are not also thongs, please do tell. I would like to have underwear that is less than two years old, and most of it is three or four times that.)

    2. fposte*

      Oh, I hate it when a long-term fave stops working. I constantly fear for my bra model.

      I don’t think there’s an easy answer when you’re talking something with a bunch of different characteristics that could all go wrong. However, what you’re talking about is less a fashion brief than a function brief, if you will, so I looked at Target online and saw several different Jockey and Fruit of the Loom items that seemed to fit what you’re talking about (though obviously I can’t tell the caliber of the elastic from browsing). Maybe have a look and if you see anything you like make a Target run to check elastic?

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I have two styles of Jockey briefs and I think the quality is really good. The only downside to me is that the leg and waist seams on both styles are relatively thick, so you do have the risk of VPL (visible panty line).

        My current favorites for fit, softness, and smooth lines are Splendid (at Costco) but they are pretty high rise.

    3. Dr. Anonymous*

      I’m so peeved about the Hanes. I do sew and I’m going to make a pair of Floozy-doozies underpants (downloadable pattern) as soon as my stash of underpants dies. I hate the loose booty elastic. I’m a little tempted to try just zigzagging a little fold-over elastic over the under-elasticized part of the new Hanes and see if that works.

    4. KoiFeeder*

      I just bit the bullet and bought men’s briefs. Interestprint had some nice ones that I’m super happy with, but I’m not sure you’re looking for rubber duck underwear…

    5. Adara*

      MeUndies! So soft and comfy and they stay put! They have tons of styles and they come in fun colors and patterns. meundies.com

      1. Courageous cat*

        That price is fucking tragic for 1 pair of underwear though :( A shame because I’ve heard they’re good

    6. NicoleK*

      I’ve been happy with Fruit of the Loom Low Rise Briefs. The low-rise briefs feature a moderate rise and full seat coverage. The only downside is that they don’t come in white.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Unfortunately the quality is inconsistent — my last pack, the elastic has been unravelling.

    7. Nerdgal*

      I love my Soma panties. I think they are called invisible edge. Comfortable, no panty line. I won’t buy anything else.

      1. Can’t Sit Still*

        Seconding TomboyX. They’re expensive, but the multipacks are cheaper than buying individually. I really like the 4.5” trunks. They have just enough coverage, over the butt and under the belly button. And no elastic on the legs.

        The long johns and pajamas are great, too. Pajama shorts with pockets! I admit that I bought everything with the dinosaur print.

    8. Not My Money*

      Duluth Trading Company – got some for my husband from them and he liked them so much I got some for myself.

    9. IAmOnlyInItForThePoetry*


      Their underwear is perfect – doesn’t ride up, full coverage (hipster style)
      And it is a good price when on sale – 7 for 37 or 6 for 36

    10. The Other Dawn*

      I like the Jockey Elance French-cut underwear. Full coverage in the back, a higher cut on the leg and about an inch or two below the belly button. Very comfortable.

    11. The night begins to shine*

      Meundies.com; first time I ever bought something advertised on a podcast (thanks Savage Love!) I got two pairs of women’s bikini cut and they are super comfy and stay in place.

    12. Sara(h)*

      I like the ones from Target, the ones you buy by the each from the bins; they are about $5 or five for $20. A lot of them are synthetic, but I look for the ones that are cotton and with lace edging which is great for pantylines-prevention — it doesn’t cut into the skin like elastic and is more comfortable. I also like their mesh undies with cotton liners. Personally, I like their hipster style, but maybe they have another cut that will work for you. And returnable! I have tried them on over other underwear at home, so that I am comfortable returning them knowing they are still clean and unworn.

    13. Steve*

      What you describe seems very familiar, except that I wear Jockey brand (another popular one so hopefully it’s easy for you to find in your part of the world). I haven’t bought any in a year or two so hopefully their quality hasn’t changed.

    14. AnonForUnderwear*

      They *are* pricey, but I’ve been buying Hanro. I try to get them on sale. Because I’ve moved cities since I bought them, I can date some of them as 5-6 years old, and by line-drying them as instructed (which I thought was unbearably fussy at first), they seem almost new.

    15. peanut*

      Many thanks to everyone for their suggestions! You’ve given me a good list to start researching. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a new brand before my old Hanes finally give out.

  27. DNA surprise*

    Has anyone taken a DNA test and been surprised by the result? My in laws took them as a family and it turns out there is a previously unknown half sibling out there. (A weekend of fun 40 years ago and the mother didn’t contact the father when she found out she was pregnant). The sibling has reached out and it has been so many emotions.

    1. Blarg*

      There was a surprise first cousin marriage on the dear prudence podcast last week…

      It can certainly be fun, or valuable, but also open doors no one expected. Or wanted. And you aren’t just opening your own doors, but your whole family’s, known or unknown.

    2. Augusta has gone East*

      I took a DNA test a while ago and found no immediate relatives so no surprises there. Based on the cousins who pop up, I suspect there’s a connection to another country 3-5 generations back that we are unaware of but I’ll need to research that.

      Have you seen 40: A Documentary About My Family Secret by Gaby Dunn? It’s on YouTube (link in reply). She’s a YouTuber, but this film’s quite different from her YT show and podcasts. The first part focuses on her dad meeting his dad as an adult because his mom had moved away with him. In the second part, we see the aftermath of a DNA test and a new relative.

    3. Come On Eileen*

      I was listening to this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast, and a woman wrote in because she and her husband took one of those tests as a fun gift for his birthday. They found out that they’re cousins. It’s a super interesting listen! In the end, they weren’t so much concerned about being related as they were about the fact that there was likely infidelity in their families of origin.

    4. Asenath*

      Not a big surprise. There’s definitely a previously-unknown relative out there, probably a maternal first cousin, and we thought we knew all the cousins on that side, including another unofficial one. We (my sister and I) have decided to be patient and wait to see if he wants to contact us, which he hasn’t done yet. All potential parents except one are now dead, and I don’t want to bring this up out of the blue with that one, particularly with no more information than I have. Anyway, given how much that relative has talked about the past, I can’t believe there’s a never-mentioned child out there (another one, we know of one from that relative). So he’s got to be the child of someone else from the same family…I’m really curious, but respecting his privacy.

    5. Raena*

      We just found out that my grandfather (my dad’s father) was illegitimate. He has passed away so we have no way of knowing if he knew this or not but we’re fascinated because his biological father was 100% Ashkenazi Jewish. When our results started coming back we were baffled. My dad is still struggling a bit to come to terms that his last name and his paternal ancestry basically aren’t his. We have found relatives who also share this great-grandfather so we’re still trying to get to the bottom of the situation!

    6. OperaArt*

      I posted a few months ago about a surprise first cousin. At 62 years old, she learned that her dad was not her biological father. Rather her bio father was one of my uncles. We had all Used Ancestry DNA.

    7. Clever Name*

      A friend of mine did the dna test and found out that his father wasn’t his biological father. and his bio dad wants nothing to do with him. :(

      1. Asenath*

        That happens. Long before DNA, I knew someone who lived in the same small town as his biological father, and they knew who each other were, but had no contact. He always said that his dad (the man who married his mother when he was very young and raised him as his own) was his real father, and didn’t seem to worry to much about the man who didn’t acknowledge him.

    8. Mr. Deluxe*

      So my family was on the other end of the surprise. My dad was adopted and we found his birth mother and half-siblings on both sides through Ancestry DNA (through second cousins). It has been a journey because originally his birth mother denied knowing anything and we assumed her sister must have been the birth mother, but she eventually wrote to my dad on his 70th birthday and they were able to meet. Not all of his half-siblings are interested in being in contact, but I think my dad is happy with having the connections he had.

    9. LCL*

      Not yet. I’m waiting until my mom passes. I’m fairly certain my dad has other grown children, and that news would wreck my mom.

      1. Ali G*

        My siblings and I won’t do it as long as my dad’s brother is alive. We are pretty sure their father is not my dad’s bio dad. I am too afraid if that was found out my uncle would challenge my dad’s part of the inheritance they received when their stepmom passed a few years ago.
        I would never want to bring that to my family so my curiosity will have to go unfulfilled for a while.

    10. Researching my Family tree - Ancestry.com / Genealogy*

      Posted above about researching my family tree and I am sort of debating doing it…. we know somewhere back in my father’s family there was someone who had an affair before/during/after his marriage … multiple rumors about that whole state of affairs (including he took his mistress off to another country to live but based on what I’ve found far I think that part might not have happened at least not completely) and it would be interesting to see if anything pops up from THAT whole thing…

      BUT there are also risks about doing DNA tests so it might not be worth it anyway.

    11. Sleepless*

      My brother solved a 100 year old family mystery when several cousins popped up in a region of the country where we have absolutely no connection. My great-grandmother had never told a soul who her son’s father was. It turned out he impregnated my great-grandmother and shortly afterward, hopped on a train to the opposite corner of the country and changed his name. The relatives in question were vaguely interested to learn of our existence but that was it. It gave our family lots to talk about, though.

    12. Fishsticks*

      Less so surprised since my mom took one and she had been adopted so she was trying to find her birth family. (Which she did!) But it’s been hard for the birth family since even though some of them knew about my mom, it’s still difficult to wrap your head around it.

    13. Ancestry Anon*

      Shoot, this would have been the more relevant place to reply! I posted above that our family did DNA testing and my mom found out she and her siblings have a surprise half-brother, who did not know this either. All of the parents have since passed on and it’s entirely possible that none of them knew for certain (though obvs my grandfather and this guy’s mom must have known there was a risk).

      Mom and siblings haven’t really figure out how to feel or what to do, if anything. Half-brother hasn’t asked for anything either, like meeting up or other family details, I think he was just trying to figure out if it was a mistaken connection (very unlikely given other details).

    14. Anon For This One*

      Not really, but it has caused some unexpected drama within the family. People are now divided about – get this – whether the French side came from northern France or southern Belgium. They definitely came from that small region – right around the France/Belgium border. Oral history says they came from France. So do church records. But the DNA test said we’re Belgian so now some family members are saying, “We’re not actually French. We’re Belgian.” Uh HUH . . .

      And we got the “part Jewish” result, which has caused more of a reaction than I had expected (a positive one, but I don’t think it’s a solid reason to suddenly identify with a whole religion and culture, given the science behind the tests – who knows if we really have any Jewish ancestors or not).

      I have to keep explaining to everyone how the tests actually work, and how it shouldn’t be taken too literally. Probability and statistics and all that good stuff.

    15. Joie De Vivre*

      The closest “surprise” DNA results for me have been 2nd cousins. One of them was adopted, I was able to tell him who his biological grandparents were – I don’t know which of their sons is my match’s bio father. I let my match know about a particular health issue that runs in that branch of the family.

    16. big X*

      Friend of mine was contacted by a previously unknown half-sister. Half-sister was very keen to connect, my friend…not so much. It’s been agonizing for her because she doesn’t want to be rude since it was very emotional for the half-sister & feels like there should be something but at the same time, she doesn’t care to invest the time to meet this, in her words, “absolute stranger.”

      These tests are very odd to me as people switch up their life-long identity because a piece of paper says your 25% XYZ. However, lots of closure has come out from them so with oddness comes the good.

  28. Flying Ghoti*

    I’m looking for recommendations for work pants. (Hope this is not too work-related, but I figured it’s more shopping/fashion.) I would like to find straight or skinny leg slacks with functional pockets. (Possibly a unicorn, lol.) My biggest hangup is that they must have belt loops and front pockets that are situated underneath the front belt loops, the way jeans typically do. I have my work ID and keys on a clip, and I like to be able to clip it to my belt loop and then tuck the keys into my pocket to keep them from jangling. If they have back pockets large enough to slip a phone into, that would be a big plus. Basically, I’m looking for something with the pocket setup of jeans in a dressier fabric. I used to get Drew fit pants from the Limited, which met most of these requirements, but sadly they are gone.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I am so darned frustrated about the pocket thing that I am plotting to make a phone sized pocket with maybe a clip like the functional part of a money clip so I can just tuck it into the inside of my pants. Might cover the clip with black fabric for discretion.

      But would love to hear ideas for a 16W pants-needing human who HATES shopping for pants! Especially non-black ones that aren’t capris or weird.

      1. WellRed*

        Following. So sick of capris and the dreaded pixie pants. I’d love some good quality comfy pants. Also, need some length to them! 32 inch inseam is not long enough and I’m an average height 5’5″.

    2. Dr. Anonymous*

      Well, if you find pants with a good pocket, you could sew a small D-ring above the pocket on a loop of matching ribbon and not worry about the belt loop. Does that broaden your options?

    3. Llellayena*

      Lee All Day Pant. I get the at Boscov’s but that’s a northeast coast chain so you might not have one near you. Very comfy, large pockets oriented like jeans. The only thing ‘missing’ is the ‘5th pocket’ as compared to jeans. I also put my life in pockets and I clip my phone to the pocket edge, so the jeans cut pockets are critical for me.

    4. Usually Lurks*

      Strong second to looking at Lee. I have several pairs of their Tailored Chinos* that are my work staple. HUGE front pockets, my Pixel XL fits in there (altho that’s not a comfortable way to carry it really), belt loops, welt pockets on the back. They come in Petite as well which is key for me. Now that I know my size I can just order them directly from Lee online.

      I’ve also got a couple other pairs that are slightly dressier fabric that are cut very similarly, not sure what the style name is but they have the Flex Motion waistband which I love (they do that on jeans too which is great).

      *I remember coming late to the discussion a few months back when the question was “who uses the word ‘chino’ and I my though was ‘most of my work pants call themselves chinos!'”

    5. Eva and Me*

      Since you know exactly what you like, you can look at ThredUp to see if they have the Drew pants you like. I’ve found some of my favorites that way once J. Crew stopped making them.

      1. Flying Ghoti*

        I haven’t had much luck with Thredup in the past. Even “new with tags” items seem to fall apart after a couple of washings.

    6. university minion*

      Cintas (the uniform company) Cathy fit. Their sizing runs a little on the small side, but they’re comfortable, have pockets that go on forever and wear really well. You can buy them online now (rather than just through an employer that uses Cintas).

        1. university minion*

          Yep! I left my manufacturing job 3 years ago and still wear those pants at my office job from time to time. They haven’t faded at all and with the right top, they don’t read “work pants” even though I could totally do heavy work in them.

    7. Kathenus*

      I’ve mentioned these before, but over the past two years I have been completely in love with Eddie Bauer pants – there are a variety to try – for me it’s the First Ascent Guide Pro pants. I also need belt loops and pockets for similar reasons but also need a belt for other gear. When I first discovered them I didn’t like that there were no back pockets (there are side zipper pockets instead), but I found that the side pockets worked great for cell phone and other stuff, so it hasn’t been an issue.

      I work in an industry that’s active, but I also spend a lot of time in an office, so these are both comfortable for when I need to be outdoors working actively, and look good for meetings and such. And if you get on their email list, there are always sales going on.

      1. Flying Ghoti*

        Thanks! These would be perfect if not for the logo right on the middle of the thigh. They look like great pants though! I might get a pair for weekend wear.

    8. HannahS*

      Ooh, gap’s girlfriend chinos are pretty great. Real pockets large enough for a phone, belt-loops, straight cut. Only downside is that they aren’t stretch, so you sometimes need a belt (or at least, I do) because the waist tends to stretch out over the course of a day. I have five or six pairs in different colours.

  29. Concerned Cat Lover*

    Had both my cats in for teeth cleaning 3 days ago (16 & 11 year old males) and both are eating much less than normal.

    Anyone else experience this with your cats post cleaning? My initial thoughts are either anesthesia or sore gums. If they don’t start eating more, it’s back to the vet.

    Most worried about Ziggy since he is getting up there in years.

    1. Stitch*

      My cat had a really rough time recovering from anesthesia after having more teeth out (I am not 100% sure how old he is but about 14ish). He’d had teeth out a couple years ago and didn’t have this reaction so the change can come on fast. He was fine within a week, though. I wouldn’t stress it yet.

    2. Texan In Exile*

      We had to soak the dry kibble in water so they could eat.

      Also, the anesthesia can be brutal. Laverne has a heart murmur and we probably shouldn’t have even had hers done, but the cat cardiologist (yes, that is actually a thing) said it was OK. But then after the procedure, the vet kept Laverne for extra monitoring and then told us that Laverne should never have elective anesthesia again.

    3. cat socks*

      Are they on any antibiotics or other meds? That could be affecting their appetite. After my older girl had a dental last year they had her on gabapentin as part of her recovery. She had kidney disease and the dosage was a bit too high and caused her to be more sedate than normal.

      Three days is still pretty early so I would give it a little more time. My cats like when I sprinkle FortiFlora on their wet food. Something like that might encourage them to eat. Mirtazapine is used as an appetite stimulant so that could be an option as well.

      Hope things get back to normal soon!

      1. Adlib*

        Oh gosh, my eye vet just gave our cat gabapentin to calm him for visits, and it was too much and I was enraged on them not being more careful with dosage. He stresses so badly with visits that we now do a home vet visit or will give him very, very small amounts. I just hated seeing him like that.

    4. Dancing Otter*

      Were any teeth pulled? That can be sore for several days to a week. My vet gave us some pain killers for Winston last time. At 14, he has very few teeth left, but still chows down on dry kibble enthusiastically.

      If it was just the cleaning, the anesthesia seems more likely. Like people, some cats have nausea from anesthetics, which could leave them less eager to eat. (Think about the last time you barfed – did you want a big meal afterward?) Are they as alert and active as usual?

      As long as they’re eating some, and drinking as usual, I would give it a few more days. In hot weather, I give my senior cat “cat broth” to encourage more water consumption.

  30. Mimosa Jones*

    Anyone have any advice on trying to fade hair dye? I got my hair colored on Thursday and it is way, way too dark. Previously, I had a combination of highlights and lowlights in a mid-range that were only about 5 weeks old, but I didn’t like the amount of grey showing and they felt too light (and I was anxious about traveling for a big vacation) and so I asked for something darker, close to my original hair color of medium-dark brown. Because I have a lot of grey in some areas, we had to go very dark (level 6). The roots have permanent color and the rest has demi permanent to blend. It’s not bad, but it is so very dark! It seems more like a level 7 and my stylist said it would look more like a 5. I’d like to just tone it down and fade it a bit. I leave for vacation on Monday, my stylist has no more openings, this fix was already slightly off-budget and I don’t want to make things worse. I’ve already washed it 3 times with my normal shampoo and I was considering either using a clarifying shampoo a few times and/or using a hot oil treatment. But I’m nervous since I have two different types of dye on my head and I don’t want to remove one more than the other. And I wouldn’t want it to work too well and strip off the old highlights as well. Any advice?

    On the plus side, this has made me realize that I take out my pre-travel stress on my hair. This is an annual trip home to see family and friends and trying to schedule time for everyone always raises my anxiety level. But I do this even for small trips and big tourist vacations. As though everyone will be silently judging if my hair isn’t what I expect it to be… or I’m trying to control what I can. I’m a strong people pleaser so it’s tough not to worry about what people think. Maybe making this trip with this hair will help? And I feel like I look old and am apparently trying to fix it by going back to the hair of my youth. I’m waffling about letting my hair go grey, but I’m not quite ready. But I have so much in some areas that the upkeep is getting pretty expensive. What really keeps me from doing it is that the transition stage of highlights and low lights makes my hair too light for my complexion and my mental image of myself. But this may be the event that pushes me over. Meanwhile, I think I’ll make a personal rule that I can’t schedule hair appointments less than a month before any travel.

    1. Talk talk*

      When I had a similar snafu, my hairdresser recommended washing with Dawn dish soap. (I don’t know why Dawn is so magical- it’s also the preferred detergent when deskunking a dog.) She said to be sure to condition it heavily afterwards.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        I’m pretty sure the only thing that is magical about Dawn is that it’s a known product that is *nothing but* a basic, good quality dish soap. A large number of other brands work just as well, but if you want to give a recommendation and say “any good dish soap”, you don’t want the other person to end up with a product that for some reason has extra ingredients in it (“for softer hands”, “contains Jojoba oil”, “with coconut essence”…) that reduce the effectiveness. Also, some super-cheap brands have a watered-down feel. If this was Germany, you’d get a recommendation for Pril – same thing.

    2. londonedit*

      Apparently Head & Shoulders is meant to strip out hair dye. You can also buy specific dye removers, but those can end up giving you a very odd hair colour – they’re designed more for stripping out colour so you can dye again.

    3. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

      Prell, or baby shampoo. Google “the shampoo train.”

      Lather up, and let it sit a bit. Rinse out. Repeat every 1/2 hour or so until it lightens a bit. the demi should come off pretty fast. The permanent will take a bit more.

      You have to condition it significantly, though, because you are really roughing up the cuticle and drying it out.

      1. Accidental Itenerate Teacher*

        I second this.
        Every time I dye my hair my hairdresser reminds me to only wash it in cool/cold water because hot will fade it faster.

    4. Anon Librarian*

      There are products that remove dye from hair. Salons use them. The term for it is slipping my mind. But just like there is dye, there is a dye-removing product. So you can get it done professionally, or just google how it’s done and find the product online.

    5. TechWorker*

      When I dyed my hair a bright colour (that was supposed to last 6 weeks and lasted more like a year as it clung to previously blonde highlights..) I tried washing with baking soda on the advice of The Internet. I think it had no effect whatsoever unfortunately… I would recommend washing it normally and trying to get used to it..

      I also found ages ago that when my hair dye came out darker than expected the main thing that made it look ‘better’ was buying a new eyebrow pencil that matched, it somehow made it all look a bit more natural! Idk if that would be useful but something to consider in the short term.

    6. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I’ve heard that making a masque with vitamin c and leaving it on for a while (consult the interwebz for better instructions) can lighten hair, but I don’t know how that would work with the two different types of dye.

  31. Agent J*

    Looking for some positivity…

    What’s something great or a win you had this week? Doesn’t matter if it’s small or big.

    1. Dr. KMnO4*

      Cuddling with bunnies has been fantastic. Our female bun, Sugar, loves being groomed with this rubber grooming tool we got.

    2. Come On Eileen*

      My 45-year-old sister had her first baby! Made our parents (74 year old mom and 80 year old dad) grandparents for the first time :-)

    3. WellRed*

      This is really dumb but, I’ve been wanting to go back to a lighter, reddish blond haircolor ( it was getting too auburn brown). Stylist would have done this muy expensive, multi process thing, because ” that’s how it has to be done.” Clairol Nice n Easy took 30.minutes, cost $8. Win!

    4. CoffeeforLife*

      I finally started painting the rest of my kitchen cabinets this week. I’m a perfectionist and I procrastinate tasks that I fear I’ll fail with. This was a huge win for me. It 1000% looks better -not professional, but I’m going to learn to be ok with that.

      1. Lady Jay*

        Ooo, share the recipe? I love tacos & I love lentils, but I haven’t found a way to make them play nicely together.

        1. JediSquirrel*

          I just boil one cup of green or brown lentils until tender, then drain them well. I sauté some bell pepper and onions, add some Spice Islands taco seasoning (about 3 tbs), some additional cumin and garlic powder, and stir for a minute or two for the seasonings to bloom. I pour in the lentils, 1 8-oz can of tomato sauce, one can of water, and bring it all to a boil. I then turn it down to a simmer, run a potato masher through it five or six times, and let it simmer until the sauce is thickened.

          You can mash them more or less to get the texture you like. Also, the lentils really soak up flavor, so you can use whatever seasonings you like.

          I hope this works for you. You may have to adjust how long you cook the lentils initially. I usually leave them just this side of fully tender. Also, instead of taco seasonings, you just throw in a can of sloppy Joe sauce and serve it on a bun. Very yummy! I really don’t miss the meat in these.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            This sounds good. I tried a tofu taco crumble recipe not too long ago and that was extremely yummy. I love lentils, so I’ll give this one a go also.

            1. JediSquirrel*

              I kind of based it off Isa Chandra’s ancho lentil taco recipes. She has lots of great vegan recipes!

    5. Super (Awkward) Kitten*

      I got the most amazing night’s sleep last night. I mean, the best. I had to skip an event yesterday to make it happen and I fretted about that but I can confidently say it was 100% worth it.

    6. Laura H.*

      A literal “oh, there’s a door” moment in my video game the realization of which allowed me to beat the mission.

    7. MsChanandlerBong*

      I found out yesterday that I am getting a $6,200 raise!! (It was totally unexpected, and I actually just started applying to other jobs b/c I haven’t had ANY raise in three years–not even a couple of cents as a cost-of-living adjustment–so it was a wonderful surprise). To avoid making this work-related, I will say that I am thrilled because I should be able to pay off two ambulance bills and make a dent in one of my big hospital bills, plus pay off four or five small debts, by 12/31 now that I will have extra money. I think I am going to do my budget with my old paycheck amount and then any extra will go right to debt/savings. Our car is eight years old, so if I’m smart, I’ll also start putting away money for its eventual replacement (although the car only has 83K miles on it, so I am hoping to get another five or six years out of it at least). If I can just keep myself out of the hospital and put a stop to the flow of medical bills, I’ll be sitting pretty one of these days.

      1. caffe latte and chocolate*

        Good luck with the car. I kept my last one until it was 17, and the only reason I got rid of it right then was because of a knee problem that I could no longer drive standard.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          Thank you! Seems to be okay now–turns out it had a bad PCV valve. It cost about $150 to fix (valve + oil change), so not too bad in the grand scheme of things.

    8. The Messy Headed Momma*

      I signed up for a fly fishing clinic! I am really bad at doing stuff just for me so this was a big step!!

    9. Not putting my usual name on this*

      I dyed my hair bright pink. It is super awesome. Not getting as many stranger-compliments as I did with turquoise and purple so far, but getting way more friend-compliments. I feel very punk :)

      Also I got a nice compliment/reassurance in work from my line manager.

      1. IT Squirrel*

        Oooo can I ask what hair dye you use and how well it lasts? I’ve started getting more adventurous with my hair but so far it’s been a black/brown-base purple and a black/brown-base red and I really fancy going brighter!

        1. Shiny Swampert*

          I go to the hairdressers to get it done. She thoroughly bleaches it first. I can ask next time I’m there and report back but it won’t be for a few weeks :)

          I love having bright hair so much. It brightens my day every time I look in the mirror and I get random compliments from strangers :) definitely recommend!

          1. IT Squirrel*

            I thought bleach might well be involved…that’s what stopped me going super bright so far, I just can’t bring myself to do that to my hair or wallet. I might have to stick to bright wigs for special occasions and my regular dye for every day (which I can eke out to 3 months with careful washing and colour refreshing treatment!)

            1. Shiny Swampert*

              My hair is really short so I can get away with the bleach, I don’t have to live with the damage too long. Bright wigs sounds like an excellent idea.

    10. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!*

      I won a prize in our local libraries adult reading contest! I don’t know what it is yet, but Whoot!

    11. Pam*

      I’m back to work after 4 months off. One of my former students/now alumni stopped by to tell me how much he appreciated my advising.

    12. A teacher*

      I had a big win at the place we don’t talk about, and also went to two very fulfilling cultural events after not doing that kind of thing for a while. It reminded me that I should do it more often :)

    13. Not So NewReader*

      A friend had eye surgery. There was risk involved. After one week she could see more out of that eye than she has in years. I was so happy for her *I* almost cried.

    14. Sleepless*

      I’ve had a huge amount of mental clarity the last couple of weeks! It’s pretty great and I hope it lasts for a bit.

      At work, I suddenly got the hang of a technical process I’ve always had some trouble with-say getting a knot out of the llama’s coat just right.

      Outside of work, I finally bought a kayak after wanting one for years. I’ve taken it out on the major waterway near my house twice and I love it.

    15. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I said to hell with the physical therapist and went to the chiropractor for my pelvis problem that just kept getting worse. 80 minutes later and I was walking again using my actual big leg muscles for the first time in literally weeks.

    16. MatKnifeNinja*

      I went on a four day vaycay with my niece and we played Pokemon Go. That may sound not like much, but many 15 tear olds wouldn’t be caught dead roaming around with a 55 year old aunt.

      We did other fun stuff like swimming. It was nice to have 4 days of no stress.

    17. Trixie*

      My mom is nearby but still a drive. We meet halfway when we can for lunch, and today’s lunch was the first in a while. Looking forward to living closer to her for weekly dinners or movies.

    18. Koala dreams*

      I saw two small foxes playing by the river tonight. It’s the first time I’ve seen foxes in the wild.

    19. very grateful person*

      When we find a house we both approve of, we’ll be able to pay cash for it, thanks to a big inheritance.

    20. Marion Ravenwood*

      My review is going to be on a poster!

      So as I’ve mentioned before I have a side gig writing for an entertainment website – mostly music reviews and interviews for blues/folk/country artists. Last week I reviewed the new Teskey Brothers (Australian blues band) album, and on Friday I found out from the PR that my quote is going to be on billboards all over London promoting the record! I’ve been away this weekend so haven’t seen one ‘in the wild’ yet but this is the first time this has happened for me and I am super-stoked about it.

    21. Raia*

      Super ridiculously small – not a routine person but this week I did my dishes regularly before they took over my whole counter and made me stressed out. In general I was pleased with how my new plan of doing chores during the week gives me the ability to be even more lazy on the weekend!
      Next on the docket – go to bed at midnight or earlier and keep up with above routines

  32. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    I am so darned frustrated about the pocket thing that I am plotting to make a phone sized pocket with maybe a clip like the functional part of a money clip so I can just tuck it into the inside of my pants. Might cover the clip with black fabric for discretion.

    But would love to hear ideas for a 16W pants-needing human who HATES shopping for pants! Especially non-black ones that aren’t capris or weird.

    1. Kathenus*

      I mentioned Eddie Bauer pants above, and just did a quick check and they have a bunch in your size. If you find a style that fits, then you can do online ordering when there are sales. That’s what I did. I found a style I really liked, and since then have gotten more if needed online because I know they fit. I only re-discovered Eddie Bauer a couple of years ago and now they are an indispensable part of my wardrobe.

    2. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      We need to make external pockets a thing again! Women back in the 18th century used to wear a separate pocket or two that tied around the waist and were accessed through a slit in the pleats of their skirt. Obviously modern skirts aren’t full enough hide them any more, but we could totally wear them on the outside. Couldn’t something like this be cute? http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1350100

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I don’t want another overpriced accessory. I want actual pockets! Like men have!

        That is really cute, though.

    3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Bra pocket might be an option as well? I hate the lack of pockets in women’s pants.

  33. bassclefchick*

    I need some help from the hive mind, please!! My doctor said my A1C (blood sugar) is just at the point of being too high. He said with diet and exercise, I can bring it back down. I’ve got the exercise part. I’m paying more attention to how many steps I get in the day and changing other small things. But, I REALLY struggle with changing what to eat. I’m trying to cut back the empty calories, but where can I find good information for nutrition for someone that doesn’t have full blown diabetes and still wants to bring their blood sugar down? Thanks!!

    1. Blarg*

      Maybe try the other direction: focus less on cutting out and more on adding. Add in high fiber carbs (beans!), veggies, and unsweetened beverages. Frame it not as “I cut out x processed food,” but rather “I added this awesome summer salad to my rotation.” A1C is an indicator of patterns, not a moment in time, so give yourself the opportunity to develop new patterns. Best wishes!

      1. StarHunter*

        Check out nutrition facts dot org. Has some great info about eating more of a plant based diet and how that can help your health. And Blarg’s idea to add rather than cut I think is helpful. I slowly started adding more healthful choices to my diet and then I found it much easier then to cut the unhealthier ones. I also enjoyed learning how to cook more whole plant based foods. Lots of fun experimenting with different spices and flavors. Good luck!

    2. Dr. Anonymous*

      Honestly, look at the American Diabetes Association Web site and use their dietary guidelines just as if you DID have diabetes. Depending on what your diet is like now, you might also make a lot of progress with Weight Watchers. And if your doctor is part of a bigger medical group they may be able to refer you to a prediabetes class or shared medical appointment.

    3. Anon in IL*

      In addition to changing my diet, I have found time-restricted eating helpful. I stop eating at 7pm and don’t eat breakfast until 9am.

    4. Best cat in the world*

      I started Slimming World a few weeks ago, and it’s given me the boot I needed to reduce the rubbish I’m eating and replace it with healthy stuff. My fruit and veg intake has increased massively and I’m reaching for better snacks. My bread intake has gone down as well.

      Maybe that’s something you can use to help you? Not the weight loss program bit but the little switches. Introduce them gradually if that helps.
      For instance I found melon great instead of ice lollies when it was really hot as it was cold and rehydrating (not cut the ice cream out completely, but just reduced it). I’ve reduced the sugar in my tea and switched to a healthier breakfast cereal. And I’ve tailored the salads I make to what I like, not what a salad ‘should’ contain.
      By adding the fruit and veg in, I’ve found myself reaching for those instead of sweet stuff a lot more. Obviously, fruit still contains a lot of sugar so take that into account depending on what you actually need to alter with your diet.
      Good luck!

    5. Gift of GABA*

      I highly recommend the website Skinnytaste! Gina has a lot of recipes that are healthier takes on many comfort foods and her recipes have also helped me try new flavors and foods that I previously thought I wouldn’t like. My favorite part of her website is that you can filter by dietary preference or recipe type (keto, gluten-free, vegetarian, kid-friendly, recipes under 30 min, slow cooker recipes, air fryer recipes, etc.) and you can also search by ingredients to help find new recipes to use up things you may already have. I second that you should look at the American Diabetes Association website to look at their dietary guidelines (they may even have separate ones for the pre-diabetic stage but if not it’s perfectly fine to follow the guidelines as if you were in the diabetic stage). Skinnytaste has all of the nutritional information available so it’s easy to find recipes that will fit into those guidelines but honestly I have family members that use her recipes all the time without trying to follow any specific guidelines and have seen great success in simply making the switch to a healthier lifestyle and maintaining it.

    6. ArtK*

      I’ve been, and still am, in your shoes. Pre-diabetic for quite some time. I did cross over but now am back to the pre-diabetic stage. You can certainly follow diet advice given to diabetics. Increasing my physical activity was the biggest thing for me. I have a love/hate relationship with my FitBit, but it really has helped keep my weight down and my A1c as well.

      Drastic diet changes rarely work. Do things incrementally, as suggested by Blarg and others. Sometimes a simple substitution will work very well. I switched from full-sugar sodas to water, unsweetened iced tea and the occasional diet soda. I will have a regular soda, perhaps once per month. I wasn’t a regular water drinker, but getting a SodaStream allows me to make something sparkling which is more appealing. A small amount of flavoring (tonic syrups) can help, too. That takes care of my craving in that area.

      1. bassclefchick*

        I totally understand the love/hate relationship with the FitBit! We FINALLY got a bottle filler on our floor at work, so it’s going to be much easier to get water. I’m starting there.

    7. Mimosa Jones*

      Here’s an easy thing you can do today: eat your simple carbs last. So if dinner is steak, salad and rice, eat the rice last. And if you take seconds, take seconds of the protein and veg first and then starch if you’re still hungry. You’ll end up eating less without feeling deprived. Another thing to try is to eat more slowly and stop when you’re satisfied instead of full.

      Make sure each meal and snack includes sugars, protein, fat, and starch. So add some peanut butter and crackers to your snack of an apple. Balanced meals and snacks will provide more sustained energy with a smoother transition between parts. The sugar energy comes first and as it starts to decline, the starch’s energy is ramping up, followed by protein and then fat.

    8. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Cut out liquid calories completely – juice, soda, sweetened coffee/tea is a great way to reduce your blood sugar spikes. I drink unsweetened coffee and tea, flavored seltzer, iced tea, spa water, only occasional red wine no cocktails.

    9. AcademiaNut*

      I’ve been trying to improve my eating as I hit middle age, for similar reasons, and what I’ve found is working well is reducing random snacking, and cutting back on refined carbohydrates (which also cuts down on total calories) So things like

      – swap complex carbs for refined (brown rice or whole grains vs white rice and pasta, or have lentils or beans as the ‘starchy’ component of a meal)
      – cut the total amount of carbs (take half the amount of pasta/rice/bread I would normally do, eat more vegetables instead, avoid dishes that are mostly starch)
      – cut out sweet drinks (including juices) in favour of fizzy water, unsweetened iced tea, etc.
      – train myself to snack less. The first couple of weeks were hard, but it got much easier with practice.

      Also not going overboard. I still enjoy treats, just not as often, or in smaller quantities, and am more likely to get the good stuff.

      If you want to google stuff, try searching about glycemic index. That can give you an idea of the type of foods that tend to spike blood sugar, and can help you plan meals that your body digests more slowly.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Oh, and I don’t count calories and don’t own a scale, but in four months after starting the above routine, I went down a full pant size, which was a nice perk.

    10. bassclefchick*

      Thanks for the help! I had been very close to a major weight goal and then life got in the way and I’ve gained too much weight in the last three years. So, I know I can do this. I just need a nudge!

    11. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I would definitely start with controlling the empty calories suggestions here – the liquid calories, the night time snacking. Try not to change too many things at once, but add something (small) and new every week or two weeks or when you think you have got the hang of it as a routine. For example, a few weeks ago I added “drink a glass of water before morning coffee” and now I don’t even think about it in the morning.

      I would also suggest looking at the Whole 30 diet but NOT do it for the whole time. I’ve found that when I stick with it for 3 or 4 days as a reset that all of a sudden everything with sugar looks blah, Im not actually really as hungry as I thought, and I start craving veggies and fruit. But I would do that after getting the low hanging fruit (ha!) taken care of above. Little cuts here and there add up!

    12. Christy*

      What I did for a similar reason (insulin resistance messing up my hormones) was cut out starches and sugar entirely. No grains, no potatoes (), no fruit other than berries, no corn, no beans, etc. And I don’t restrict my eating in any other way. Like, do I want chicken wings four times in a week? Then I eat them. I’ve adapted to sugar free chocolate and ice cream.

      Advantages of this? I can eat whatever I want, within these limits. I am no longer having the, ahem, digestive issues I’ve apparently had for a year at least. I’ve lost the 20 lbs of depression weight I gained last summer. And when I’ve made the choice to indulge in sugar, I’ve felt terrible, so it’s pretty self-sustaining. Oh, and my hormone levels are where they need to be again.

      To be clear it’s a huge change and it’s a pain in the butt to not be able to eat bread. But the wholesale change has been easier, I think, than when I’ve tried piecemeal small changes.

    13. Ron McDon*

      My cousin was warned he is pre-diabetic recently, his blood sugar levels were right on the limit.

      He has since lost nearly 4 stones from following slimming world strictly for four days a week, then eating what he wants (within reason!) on the other 3 days.

      I lost 3.5 stone myself about 2 years ago, and have kept it off (all but the half stone which comes and goes over each month!) in a similar way. I eat low calorie, low sugar, low carb, as unprocessed as possible Monday-Friday, then eat what I want on the weekend, but sensibly (so if we’re eating out for dinner I’ll eat ‘free’ foods all day then eat/drink what I like at dinner).

      It’s all about finding a way of eating healthily *forever* that you can stick to. I am a binge eater, so I don’t allow myself any ‘treats’ Monday-Friday, because I know it is likely to trigger a binge. Then at the weekend I eat a small portion of crisps/chocolate/whatever, and remind myself that I don’t want to eat a load of junk because I’ve worked so hard all week to make good choices.

      It works for me, you have to find what works for you. Good luck.

    14. Anono-me*

      Read labels. Sometimes similar items have very different nutritional levels. (For example, I switched bread and saved 35 calories a slice. )

    15. epi*

      Get your doctor to refer you to a nutritionist.

      They will work with you on this exact stuff– figuring out what about your diet can be improved given your actual life including your taste, your health, your priorities. Honestly, it should have been a no brainier for your doctor to just do this if diet and exercise is the strategy for right now (which it should be!). My husband has a similar situation to yours and has made real improvements without torturing himself, all thanks to the nutritionist. She even gives him advice about frozen food, snacks, eating out, strategies to find new favorite treats that are healthier.

      You can also still look at diabetic cooking resources– there are lots– and relax some of the requirements that don’t seem right to you. I also highly, highly recommend Cooking Light. Their summer issues are always amazing and we have multiple favorite meals from them that do not feel like diet food– we even serve some to guests. They have great, usually not faddish, tips and their website has a pretty helpful weekly meal and shopping planner.

      Good luck! Remember you are just starting to learn and experiment with what you want your lifestyle to be now, so give yourself time to make it all work. (And let yourself get bored and change things sometimes too.) The best change you can make is one you will stick with!

    16. Tara R.*

      I’ve struggled SO MUCH with sugar addiction. I know that cold turkey is generally not the suggestion when it comes to dietary choices, but I decided enough was enough and went a few weeks without any added sugar except one square of 70% chocolate a day. I ate as much fruit as I wanted to help with the cravings. I’ve since relaxed, but I try to just not keep anything sugary in the house– if I want a treat, I have to go out and get it. That keeps things mostly under control, although I do start to slip again from time to time.

  34. Mrs. Carmen Sandiego JD*

    Slightly health TMI…

    On the week I start my period, I notice my immune system in weaker (past instances involve conjunctivitis, or a cold, pink eye). How do I boost my immune system? Is this a thing?

    Currently, my right eye is pink, swollen like eye strain, and hurts when I blink. It started 1 week ago when period started and got worse (pain when I wake up). I’m thinking it’s hormonal? PMDD?

    Similar experiences anyone?

    1. fposte*

      I think it sounds like the dry eye problem you’ve had before, and you may have a little corneal abrasion. Maybe secretions vary a little throughout the cycle.

    2. Book Lover*

      It sounds like you should see an eye doctor. Eye pain isn’t good. Agree that it could be dry eye/abrasion but honestly you never know. Definitely don’t wear contacts until it is resolved.

    3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      My mom and sister have similar eye symptoms, they have two separate conditions that require prescription eye drops to keep their eyes properly lubricated. I second visiting an eye doctor, benign eye irritation can actually be a disorder.

    4. Mrs. Carmen Sandiego JD*

      Went to urgent care, now on an antibiotic eye ointment and told to keep glasses on.

      Guess this means darkness & podcasts instead of sunny Vegan Fest ;(((((

      …Need ideas of fun things to do while stuck at the apt :/

    5. AlaskaBlue*

      The entire time I was in high school, each time I got my period, I got sick. Every month like clockwork. Cold, flu, strep throat, whatever was going around. My mom was also a 1st grade teacher, so that could’ve been a source of germs, but she rarely got sick.

      So yes, I have experienced a weekend immune system timed to my cycle. I don’t recall anything terrible at colloge, and I didn’t go on the BC pill until 25 when I started working as a field scientist.

      In life overall personally, I find I get sick less often when everything is going well: job stress is minimal/I’m happy at work, I’m maintaining a moderate activity level, I’m eating all the food groups but especially lots of veggies & fruit, my personal life is happy and I see friends often, my home is to my liking. When all those stars alighn, I feel great. There was a year I didn’t get sick at all, arounf my 38th year. I keep trying to replicate that year. :)

    6. Shiny Swampert*

      This is unlikely, but one of my friends has an auto immune syndrome called Sjogren’s syndrome, which affects eyes. It’s unlikely that it’s that, but I think she’s mentioned her cycle affecting it, so it might be worth getting your doctor to check for it, if you think the symptoms look like what you’re having.

  35. WellRed*

    My 3 year old Samsung galaxy’s battery life seems to be dwindling, like witjin 5 to 6 hours. I don’t have tons of apps/photos/files that would drain it. Is this just typical? Anything I can do? Second, if I get a new phone, are some of the lower end phones decent? I really can’t stomache paying several hundred dollars for another phone. TIA.

    1. fposte*

      It might also work just to get a new battery. With iPhones you can check what percentage of battery is getting used–can you do that on the Samsung? While apparently batteries aren’t that hard to DIY, I paid a local computer shop to replace mine and I think it was like $70 for service and battery.

      1. Short & Sweet*

        My older Samsung (maybe 5 years ago) allowed you to swap out the battery really easily, no “installation” required. I just shut it down, popped off the cover, and swapped the battery. I don’t know if they’re still like that, but it was very convenient. I bought and external battery charger (that came with a battery) and simply swapped out the uncharged battery for the charged one.

    2. Aurora Leigh*

      I’m not sure what’s typical for that phone, but I’ve been very happy with my LG X Charge — it was around $100 but the battery life is amazing and it does what I need. The cameras are never as good on the cheaper phones, though.

      I’m eyeing a Nokia 3.1 Plus for my next phone (I’ve cracked the screen on this one).

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      How much do you rely on getting notifications from apps? If you don’t care about immediately responding to email or social media, you can probably put it on a high battery saver mode, but what that means is that the operating system shuts down apps while you’re not actively using it. You can always check it, and at that point it’ll fetch new notifications. Assuming yours is on the same version as mine, go to Settings>Device Maintenance>Battery and you can change it to a more restrictive mode. You can also customize that, if you want to spend the time allowing or restricting only certain apps.

      BatteryBot is a good free battery monitor. It will show you the top battery-draining apps in order, which looks like a setting screen but I can’t find it in Settings, so I think it’s provided by BatteryBot.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Oh, but decreasing battery capacity is pretty normal, unfortunately. It may be too late, but the “fast charging” feature that they added actually is bad for the long-term battery life, as it stresses and heats up the battery. I went to Settings>Advanced Features>Accessories and turned off Fast Wireless Charging when I first got the phone, because when I put it on its wireless cradle at night I don’t NEED it to charge quickly. When my battery is running low I plug it in, so I left fast charging on for wired charging (in Battery above, tap the three dots and choose Advanced Settings to access the Fast cable charging setting, and Fast wireless charging is there, too).

      2. WellRed*

        Battery saver mode looks like it wants to dim brightness, which I don’t want. I did delete a couple apps. It says battery is 69%, but I don’t know what that means. Hmm, will keep playing around.

      3. jDC*

        Agree. An Apple employee taught me long ago to turn off WiFi when i leave home and Bluetooth when I get out of the car. It’s just automatic for me now although I sometimes leave WiFi on as my car has WiFi. With a 16 year old we use tons of data.

    4. Asenath*

      It could just be that that the battery is worn out. I had that happen with a different brand. Since I liked the phone a lot, and wasn’t inclined to try to replace a battery not designed to be replaced by the consumer, I had it replaced by a company working out of a kiosk in a local mall. It wasn’t that expensive, and the phone worked fine with a new battery. The place I went to would either put in a battery you supplied (but then guarantee only the installation and not the new battery) or order in a new battery, in which case their guarantee covered battery and installation.

    5. Cruciatus*

      I just replaced my Galaxy S7 that I had just over 3 years–I think this is normal. There is some sort of battery saver feature that will help but I just got used to charging mine in the middle of the day to make sure I had enough to get home. I just bit the bullet to buy the S10e and it’s SO WONDERFUL to remember I can get through an entire day on 1 charge. I paid $350, which is a lot, but I’m very happy with my Samsungs so I’m willing to pay (though I waited until the price was as low as possible). And this probably doesn’t help, but most places now have monthly plans so you don’t have to pay it all at once. You could also look into buying an S9 (or older model of any brand) now that the S10s are out. My S7 sat in a snow bank for 3 days after being accidentally plowed–I did sit in in rice for a day but it came back working just as well as ever so I’m pretty much a Samsung loyalist now.

      1. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

        We did this with both of our Samsungs. It’s pretty easy, and way cheaper than a new phone.

    6. LGC*

      Yeah, that’s actually expected (unfortunately)! Basically, phone batteries degrade over time, and although you can control it somewhat, it’s inevitable. Famously, iPhone batteries would degrade and then the phone would get throttled in software updates to make the battery last longer, so people joked that Apple was degrading phones to get you to upgrade. (And it turns out this was kind of the truth!)

      In your case: Your phone’s battery has 69% of the maximum capacity it had in the factory, so if it was a 3000 mAh battery out of the box, it’s around 2070 now. That’s…not great. My iPhone (about the same age) has 75% of its battery life, and it got flagged for service after it went below 80%. L

      You can have the battery replaced, which might cost a little bit of money. (Probably in the $50-$100 range. I’m not familiar with Samsung pricing, and what Galaxy you have – an S-series will probably be more expensive than an A-series, but cheaper than a Note-series.) If you want a new phone – a $400 or so Android phone might do everything you need. From what I’ve heard, it starts getting sketchier when you get below $200 or so.

      Asenath actually made a really good suggestion – at three years, you’re probably out of warranty anyway. Back up the phone, take it to a phone repair shop, and they should have the battery replaced in 15 minutes. I’ve done it with screens, and I’m debating doing it for my current phone.

    7. Weegie*

      It’s typical of a Samsung battery! I used to find that they did really well for a year and then started behaving weirdly – including draining quickly.

      With my second Samsung I replaced the battery after about 18 months and that helped a bit, but basically the phone was dying and I had to get a new one just after the 2-year mark. I changed brands too, and this phone has much better battery life.

    8. fhqwhgads*

      Probably, depending on how much you use the device. I recently replaced a much older Samsung Galaxy, after experiencing similar symptoms and googling and learning the OEM battery mine contained had an expected life of about 900 discharges. You can look up the specs for yours. Since it’s not super old, you might have better luck than I did finding a replacement battery, and doing that might get you some more time. But they’re basically designed at this point with the expectation you’ll replace it in 2-3 years since most people do since they generally improve significantly over that span.

  36. Dr. KMnO4*

    The buns are adjusting nicely to their new home. We are fostering-to-adopt Khorne, but both my husband and I are pretty sure that we will just adopt him. Both buns are very different from each other, but both have captured our hearts.

    Khorne loves running around our living room. Between bouts of running, he also likes lounging on the “Bun Throne”, which is an old Ikea couch that my husband and I don’t care about. Khorne does try to nibble everything, so we keep a close eye on him when he’s out of his pen.

    Sugar will run for a bit, but tends to zone out. Her favorite treat is basil, but when she’s zoned out you can wave a leaf of basil under her nose and she won’t react at all. Then she snaps out of it and is back to normal.

    Khorne and Sugar are still trying to work out who is going to be dominant in the relationship. We think they will bond eventually, but it seems like it will just take time.

    Many adorable bun pictures can be found on my Instagram, “khorne_and_sugar”

    1. Augusta has gone East*

      They are so cute! Khorne looks so royal while Sugar seems to be the artsy one.

      How do you keep them from nibbling cables or anything valuable?

      1. Dr. KMnO4*

        I keep them away from the cables. We deliberately set up their pens in an area with no cables, and have blocked off the area with the TV/PS4 so they can’t get at those cables. Anything else of value we either moved or covered with cardboard. Khorne has a way of knowing where he shouldn’t be and trying to go there.

        My husband is a Type 1 diabetic with a pump, and that tube got chewed on almost immediately by Khorne. He has to be extra careful now to make sure they don’t get at it.

  37. Aurora Leigh*

    What kind of flowers would like nice with lilacs?

    I’ve posted a few times here about wedding planning and you all are such a kind and informative bunch, I thought I’d throw this out to the group.

    We’re planning a mid-May wedding and I realized that means my favirite flowers -lilacs! – should be in bloom. We have a bush and so do several family members, so I should have a selecton of purple and white to choose from. For me, I’d do a boquet of just lilacs, but what about the bridesmaids flowers and boutinieres for the groom/groomsmen?

    Pinterest is failing me! Lol

    Additional details: lowkey outdoor wedding and reception, guys will be wearing navy

    1. Asta*

      Don’t forget to ask your florist about this stuff if you’re using one. They will have ideas – you don’t have to figure it all out!

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        We’re trying to DIY as much as possible, so I kind of hate to ask professionals for advice when I probably won’t use their services.

        1. fposte*

          Then I’d say the answer will vary depending on where you *are* trying to source the flowers. If it’s local gardens, I’d say the key is to be flexible and maybe embrace a mix. Around here in May some possibilities would be tulips, late daffodils (there are white ones if you want to keep to purple and white), maybe pansies if you can work with the short stems, perennial snowdrops, catmint. (It’s also peony season but those get awfully big for boutonnieres.) It might also be worth thinking outside of the floral box–shrubs and trees with nifty leaves could make for a nice boutonniere and could be more reliably available. Ginkgos are always cool, or if somebody’s willing to let you take some Japanese maple, whether green or red, those could be nice; then of course there are ferns.

          Let us know what you decide!

          1. Aurora Leigh*

            Thanks, fposte! I think we’re in a similar part of the US (central IL here) and those are all good ideas — especially gingkos, I mever would have thought of that!

            Yes, we’re thinking family gardens, maybe planting some things ourselves, or maybe someplace like Sam’s Club.

    2. Green Kangaroo*

      I personally like lilacs with a lot of greenery and not much else. You could add some white roses to bolster up the arrangement, but lilacs are so pretty you want them to be the star.

        1. Parenthetically*

          They look soooo nice with different greens — magnolia leaves, fronds of juniper or cypress.

    3. Lena Clare*

      I think lots of different white flowers would go, so lilacs with white irises, white freesias, white roses, and gypsum for example, with some green foliage, would be nice.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yeah, I’d go with peonies. But also, just google images, “lilac bouquet” and see what you like.

        1. Nita*

          Neither do lilacs, for me. I think lilac bouquets are a little difficult to DIY – they’re gorgeous of course, but you can’t prepare them too far in advance or they’ll look a bit wilted. I think there are tricks to make them last longer, but not sure how well they work – I’ve never tried them.

    4. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      One thing I discovered in getting flowers for my wedding (I had just bouquets and boutioneers) was that the limiting factor on flowers is how sturdy their stems are, and how well they last out of water/refrigeration. I originally wanted tulips but the florist was adamant that I had to do roses. I was annoyed because I thought roses were too fussy…and then bought some tulips at the grocery store, and he was right, they start to droop pretty quickly.

      Also, there’s apparently a whole thing about taped vs. wired bouquets, which I didn’t quite understand but apparently it’s important.

      So if you are DIYing your flowers, I’d recommend doing some research on flower arranging so there are no day-of surprises.

    5. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Delphiniums maybe? A mid-May wedding might be too early for those though. Irises maybe? Or the Empire Blue Butterfly Bush? Stiff Blue-eyed Grass might also work.

    6. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      If you want to do warehouse club, you could do roses, hydrangea, tulips or cala lilies. We did Costco for our wedding. Of those choices, hydrangeas give you the most volume/impact for your money. Roses are also nice but come with thorns so a little more labor. Cala lilies are so small I didn’t think it was worth the price.

      1. Anono-me*

        We ordered a wedding package of flowers (roses) from Costco and were very pleased. (But order early.)

        Also you may want to check with vendors at your local farmers’ market.

        A while back, I attended a wedding with lilacs as the flowers. It was 100% lilacs and beautiful. (Entire wedding party, ceremony and table decorations.)

  38. Utoh!*

    Has anyone had treatment for or dark spots on your hands? I’m 54 and would really like to reduce/eliminate the dark spots on my hands and some on my arms. I know they are age/sun-related as they have not always been there. Does any OTC cream actually make a difference? Thanks!

    1. fposte*

      OTC cream really doesn’t make much difference to solar lentigo. Even the prescription cream is questionable. Laser/cryotherapy are likelier but come with some risks of their own.

      1. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

        I had laser/cryo done ( a freebie from the dermatologist’s nurse – I think trying to get me to come in regularly for the rest of them… LOL) on one of the spots on my hand.

        Effective. I haven’t been back though because $.

    2. MMB*

      For some people mild chemical peels are helpful. You could check with your local medi-spa or by an at home version. Make-up artists choice sells them.

      1. Auntie Social*

        Go see your dermatologist for a glycolic acid peel for your face, and have him do a peel on your hands or give you a prescription bleaching cream.

    3. WS*

      Salicylic acid cream (at least 5%) can make a difference for some people, but you should get them checked by a doctor/dermatologist before proceeding – you don’t want to be irritating anything sinister.

  39. stitchinthyme*

    I posted in the open thread yesterday, but for obvious reasons tried to keep it work-related. So this is the same subject but more generally about how it’s impacting my life.

    A week ago, I suffered a severe hearing loss episode. I’d had two before, one of which was partially reversed by treatment, but this is the first time I’ve crossed a line between “hearing impairment that’s occasionally annoying but otherwise not a huge deal” and “serious hearing problem that is seriously affecting all areas of my life”. I have trouble understanding what anyone is saying unless they’re right next to me ear or they’re speaking into a microphone that streams directly into my hearing aid (and sometimes even then it’s a struggle, although I am REALLY glad that this technology exists).

    Over the course of the week since this happened, I’ve avoided people as much as possible as I tried to deal with it. But last night I decided to try hosting our normal biweekly board game night, and I thought my head would explode. Without my hearing aid and the microphone, I can’t understand much that’s going on, but with it and a lot of background noise, everything was both too loud and still incomprehensible. When someone laughed or exclaimed too loudly, I thought my head would explode. It sounded like everyone was talking through a loud, badly-tuned CB radio.

    If this is my new normal, I don’t know how I will ever deal with social situations again.

    I keep trying to hold on to hope: treatment did help me once before, and I started it even more promptly this time (time is critical in this sort of thing). Plus, I recently had a cochlear implant in what used to be my worse ear, though it has not been activated yet — that’s next Friday. That’s not an instant “boom, you can hear!” solution — it can take months to learn to identify sounds with it — but with time and patience I’m hoping it will make a big difference.

    I am trying to get through this one day at a time and not worry about the future, but this has been so incredibly hard to deal with. I had expected that I’d spend the 4 weeks between my cochlear implant surgery and its activation basically living as usual. Instead I’m consumed with worry and wondering how the heck I’m going to adjust if this doesn’t get better.

    1. Goose Lavel*

      I completely understand your concerns with regards to diminished hearing and potential hearing loss that will be a dramatic change to your life and how to cope with it.

      I have catastrophic tinnitus due to acoustic trauma, along with hyperacusis, to the point where I had to quit my job. I could no longer mentally focus due to the extreme noise of five different high frequency tones, screeches, squeals and oscillations in my head due to the tinnitus.

      I am now a Hermit in my home, trying to stay away from noise and sounds; this is extremely challenging since I live near three busy airports in the San Francisco Bay Area and there’s always a siren going as I live next to two local fire departments as well.

      This is been going on for the past 3 years and now finding that I’m really struggling to understand speech to the point where I think I’m almost functionally deaf with regards to speech.

      I’ve come to terms with this condition and my new limitations. I’ve had many obstacles in my life, both mental and physical, that I’ve overcome through sheer perseverance and will to live.

      I believe if it wasn’t for my family, I would have already committed suicide, but I don’t want to pass that hurt and suffering on to my family for them to deal with for the rest of their lives.

      I hope and pray that your condition will settle and improve; the brains ability to habituate to new situations always amazes me. I try to squeeze as much joy out of each day as possible and not feel sorry for myself, as there’s always someone else dealing with much worse than me.

    2. Greymalk*

      I’m so sorry that you are dealing with this. Jedi hugs if you would like them. With my invisible condition which flares every few years, and affects a sensory system, I find it important to remember that part of the getting better is when my brain learns to compensate for the differing input information. So while I wait for the treatment to slowly help, I try to give my brain experiences that are limited in duration but can help it learn to compensate. It’s possible that your experiment with game night was exactly the right thing to do, but was too long just yet— maybe start out in environments where you can limit the duration, and give yourself time (weeks, etc) to build up to longer exposures? Practice in places where you have very understanding friends, and/or no stake in how long your exposure lasts… (bookstores, coffee shops, etc). You wouldn’t throw a child into deep water and expect it to swim; be kind to yourself and your central nervous system, and take care!

    3. Owler*

      I mentioned this group in your other thread … ALDA: Association of Late Deafened Adults. Look for it on Facebook or online. I’m friends with one of the directors and she has built an amazing community within her region.

    4. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      BTW, I think hearing loss is one of the easiest disabilities to empathize with. At least for me. So many of us have a grandparent or elderly friend who doesn’t hear very well any more. I used to write my grandma notes about my life when we went to visit her. So writing notes for a friend would be no big deal, and also vaguely sentimental.

      For temporary measures for social situations while the doc is sorting things out, could you just wear earplugs? Or the big over the ear muffs? That way you can’t hear the loud noises either. Communication would still be a chore, of course.

      1. stitchinthyme*

        “So many of us have a grandparent or elderly friend who doesn’t hear very well any more.”

        This is true, but there’s also a stereotype of hearing loss being a problem of the elderly. My first episode occurred at age 30, and I’m 48 now. A few months ago I went to a presentation on cochlear implants given by a local hearing loss support organization, and aside from the presenters, my husband and I were the youngest people in the room by far. Not that I have anything against older people, but I feel a little out of place in hearing loss groups among people who longer have to worry about things like how to navigate the workplace while unable to hear.

    1. tamarack and fireweed*

      Ohhh. My biggest is just over 5 lbs. We had a week of deluges during which I failed to check :-) .

      1. jDC*

        Exactly what happened to me. Actually I can’t check as the leaves make me break out in a head to toe rash even if I’m covered. Husband has been busy so forgot then he saw the giant.

    2. Pieismyreligion*

      I found one that big one October so I carved it like a Jack o’ lantern. I also had a tiny watermelon that wasn’t going to get any better so I carved that one as well. Got a lot of comments from parents bringing trick or treaters around.
      Zichinni fritters are easy and delicious.

      1. jDC*

        I told husband I wish it was closer to Halloween so i could. I’m using it to make my zucchini lasagna. Mmmm

          1. jDC*

            I’ll link it when I’m on my laptop but I just use zucchini instead of noodles. We all love it and my son avoids veggies at all cost. More flavor and obviously healthier!!

    3. jDC*

      I’m so sad. We had three brand new baby bunnies in our yard and i just found one dead with no head. I’m so sad. It’s been an awful year for our wildlife around our house. About 7 robins eggs broken on the ground and one baby body and now the bunny. So bummed out today. :( it was such a joy to see them in my garden every day.

    4. vanillacookies*

      Very jealous! I moved into my new place a bit late to plant a vegetable garden this year but my herbs are doing okay.

      1. jDC*

        All my herbs died but we have a ton of broccoli (I loveee it), zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes and about 12 types of peppers. I have a black thumb. I only do EXACTLY what my husband tells me to I’ll kill a cactus. I did buy some new succulents from Aldi this weekend only $2.99 each!

  40. StarHunter*

    Book recommendations for historical/adventure fiction with a touch of supernatural thrown in? I really enjoyed To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivy and was looking for something similar. Thanks!

    1. tamarack and fireweed*

      You have read her previous novel The Snow Child? (I loved it, and haven’t read To the Bright Edge of the World yet.) For something semi-historical (somewhat steampunk alternate history) with magic, and a connection to the Arctic, I’d say Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, especially the first volume (The Golden Compass in the US, Northern Lights in the original). For a different time and place, I just bought but haven’t read yet, Rachel Kadish’s The Weight of Ink. And for something completely different – the magic is a seer from Greek mythology – Christa Wolf’s Cassandra is not much read in English, but available and a pretty great book.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      Most of Guy Gavriel Kay’s work is described as historical fiction with a turn to the fantastic. He writes novels inspired by real historical venues, but in a fictionalized, mildly fantasy version of the real world. The books are well written, generally with a focus on the lives of people as they cross each other’s paths, and participate in larger events. The Fionavar Tapestry is more classic fantasy.

      Dan Simmons’ “The Terror”, for a fictional version of the lost Franklin expedition in the Arctic – adventure with some supernatural stuff thrown in.

    3. Princess of Pure Reason*

      Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – historical supernatural with some adventure thrown in. The BBC mini-series of it was well done too.

        1. Princess of Pure Reason*

          It’s worth a watch. Very thoughtfully done, and thoroughly. Great cast and costumes and atmosphere. I had hesitated to watch because I had such a clear picture in my head of the whole thing – but after the first episode I was sorry I had waited so long. It’s available on Netflix at the moment.

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            I took it to read on holiday earlier this year. I liked it, but it did seem to drag towards the end.

            Still, if you have several hours to wait at the airport before your check-in desk opens, it comes in handy!

    4. Kate R. Pillar*

      I found Jasper Fforde’s “Thursday Next” series super enjoyable – though it’s more “supernatural fiction with a touch of the historical thrown in”.

    5. Christy*

      The Historian? Also the Fionavar Tapestry is more high fantasy but it’s my comfort trilogy so I recommend it anyway.

    6. Sleep Deprived*

      100 years of solitude by Gabriel García Márquez is wonderful (though light on the supernatural),
      I also really loved Circe by Madeline Miller (it’s mythological rather than historical).
      For a take on the arthurian legends, I recommend the Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (it’s also a pretty good movie).

    7. Marion Ravenwood*

      If you haven’t already read it, The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. It’s set in Victorian England and is about a woman who goes off in pursuit of the titular creature, which is apparently causing strange goings-on, and the conflict she has with the local vicar. Really beautifully written too.

    8. Llellayena*

      The Alvin Maker series by Orson Scott Card. The first book is Seventh Son. Colonial America but with a supernatural twist. Through the series you “meet” some names from history (like Abraham Lincoln) but often they’re not doing anything like what they actually did in history!

    9. KaladinSB*

      Not sure if it fits the bill you’ve laid out, but William Forstchen’s The Lost Regiment follows a Union Army regiment in 1863 who gets somehow transported to a different world, where they help the descendants of former human transportees fight off aliens attempting to eat them.

      Similarly, Taylor Anderson’s Destroyermen series is basically identical, only it’s a Navy destroyer in 1941, and they help monkey-cats fight dinosaur-bird-things.

    10. Ruby314*

      The Name of the Wind (first of the Kingkiller trilogy, third book coming out soon) by Patrick Rothfuss. Lin-Manuel Miranda is attached for an adaptation.

    11. Tara R.*

      The Poppy War was along these lines: the setting/atmosphere seems to be based around the Song dynasty (~1000 AD China), with the plot being a fantasy reinterpretation of 20th century Chinese history. As a warning, there’s a few chapters based off of the Nanjing Massacre that are very harrowing to read. I’m still not sure how I feel about the book overall, but it definitely gave us a lot to talk about during book club.

  41. Julia*

    I need a break. Work has been rough lately, and on top of the regular, general hard work I do, I’ve had to deal with retaliation for reporting inappropriate behavior (have an appointment with HR this week) and still trying to act normal and do my job on not enough sleep because this is giving me sleep issues. To top it off, my husband apparently thinks that sexual harassment isn’t a systematic issue (although he says he believes me when I say I get harassed), my parents demand more attention from me than I can give – my father has some leg pain and demands empathy, when I rarely ever got any empathy from him growing up, even for pain he inflicted or for my chronic illness that is flaring up again – and pressure me into moving back home while claiming they are doing no such thing, and even my hobby isn’t a good refuge anymore.
    I take voice lessons just to improve my singing for personal fun reasons and to preserve my voice, so while I do give it my best (I pay for the lessons with my own money!) I cannot always do the homework she gives me. I am supposed to write lyrics for a practice piece and I just cannot do it. If my brain even works a little bit creatively at all, instead of just going *static noise*, all I feel like writing is “mysogyny sucks, chronic illness sucks, my marriage might fall apart” and I DO NOT want to write that and sing about it, because class is supposed to be MY time to forget all that crap. Singing is my hobby and was supposed to make me happier, not more stressed out.
    I have told my teacher I can’t do the assignment right now and every week it’s like “well, are you that busy with work? Are you doing anything else that makes you busy? What do you say you have a stomachache again?” I’m starting to want to cancel my lessons, but I generally – apart from this – like my teacher and she’s been good at explaining things in a way I can understand them. I tried to be a bit more forceful this week when I said I’m busy instead of doing the nervous laughter I usually do or any softening, but it seems like she was kind of annoyed by that, plus having to explain that I have stuff going on but don’t want to bring that stuff into my hobby every week is just another stressor I don’t need…

    It’s just too much to handle for me right now and talking to my therapist didn’t bring enough relief. I need a break, but it’s hot and there are people everywhere and I barely have the energy to sit here and type this.

    1. Goose Lavel*

      I’m sending as much empathy, love and hugs to you as possible. I know how a lack of empathy can cause emotional scars as I was raised by a psychopathic narcissist father who never once said he loved me.
      I hope and pray that next week brings you relief from your stress and over busy life.

      1. Julia*

        Thank you so much! I think my parents love me in their own way and in some ways were really good, but you’re right, the emotional scars stay.

    2. tamarack and fireweed*

      Best wishes. This sounds extremely rough.

      Ideally, you’d be able to tell the voice teacher exactly what you’re telling us: You’re taking the voice lessons because singing, and caring for your instrument, are very precious to you. But it’s not your current career, and on the contrary, your actual work life is very very difficult right now. So you need to keep this upset and stress out of the time reserved for your art. Tell her that when you think of the assignment your brain just thinks about those stressful events, and writing lyrics is not the right assignment right now. Can you ask for an alternative assignment?

      But if at all possible don’t give up on the voice lessons. If you have the energy you might just tentatively look into other teachers… (I’m sure there are good reasons not to actually switch, just to explore the options.)

      1. Julia*

        Thank you very much! I did tell her that the lessons are my time to not think about stuff, and she is an excellent teacher in other ways, so let’s see what happens next week.

    3. Courageous cat*

      You should have a quick discussion with your teacher when everyone’s calm, you’re not in the middle of a lesson, and you have some emotional distance from this. You’re the one paying, you need her cooperation and understanding that if you don’t want to do something, you’re not going to do it, and you need to move on to other types of lessons.

      1. Julia*

        Thank you! I have been considering sending her an email to explain, but wasn’t sure about it.
        My husband says in Japan (where we live) teachers get to demand anything from the student and can ask them to quit if the student doesn’t comply, but a) that’s not my experience here as a teacher in recent years and b) this school was recommended to me by a friend who goes just to work on her favorite pop songs, so it doesn’t seem to apply.

    4. Mimosa Jones*

      I’m sorry for your struggles and hope that things get better soon. If it helps, you have a bunch of internet strangers rooting for you.

      What if instead of saying you’re too busy for the voice homework, which may be inspiring your teacher’s knee-jerk ‘my homework is important too’ reaction, say what you want your lessons to be. Get creative by trying to switch an already written song’s style or experiment with different styles of singing. Or just spend your lesson singing songs you already know. Have an ear worm battle with her. Sing songs from Phineas and Ferb or Glee or crazy Ex Girlfriend. Have whatever song battles acapella groups do. Whatever will make it fun and not be a source of obligation and guilt. Then ask her if that’s something she feels she can do or can she recommend someone. She’s a professional and you’re hiring her for a job. And she might be stuck in a teaching children mindset but would be glad to do something different with you. You could also email your request so it feels more business-like and less emotional or confrontational to you.

      But also, find a song to write life sucks right now lyrics and sing it where you can at the top of your lungs. Or listen to grumpy, stompy songs. And find a song that’s about life getting better. The right songs tend to find you when life knows you’re looking. These would be just for you and not for lessons. And there’s always The Hairbrush Song from Veggie Tales. You can sing just about anything to that melody. Bonus points if your arpeggio is Slightly off key and your voice cracks. The nice thing about it is it’s silly and you’re not likely to accidentally hear it and have it trigger inconvenient emotions.

      1. Julia*

        Thank you! We don’t sing any songs in our lessons at all, it’s just vocal exercises in head voice because she is training me to sing opera. But maybe it’s time to break that up… There seems to be a very small overlap in songs she and I both know, and the ones we could find, I hated having my singing of them taken apart, so I’m not sure what to do. I’m okay continuing the lessons the way they are (it’s how I can learn to sing in opera style) but without the lyric writing.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      If you can’t do the assignment (which really has very little to do with voice lessons) and she cannot craft a different lesson for you, then you have reached a stalemate.

      To me, teaching is centered around the student’s abilities. She should be able to design course work that you CAN do rather than focusing on what you can’t do.

      So rather than ditching everything here, why not just tell her that writing your own lyrics is not going to happen. Then ask her what is the next thing for you to work on. If she presses you for a more specific explanation, tell her it’s personal and you will not be talking about it.

      I have seen trainers get stuck like this. In my opinion when they cannot move on to something else they are not very flexible people. I have trained a lot of people and I am very much aware of how important it is to be able to move around things and/or present things in a different way. You might try asking her why it is so darn important that you do this assignment, how will it help you in the long run?

      1. Julia*

        That is exactly what I did yesterday after writing this post. I said I can’t write the lyrics, I have stuff going on I didn’t want to specify, and I was hoping to do other exercises. So we just did the regular vocal exercises and I sang the piece on mimimi.

    6. Katefish*

      So much empathy and a flashback: last time I was getting sexually harassed, I was in grad school and all I could write about for one assignment was something tangential about objectification of women. I then got in trouble for my homework being too real and not positive. It really does drain your creativity. Hang in there!

      1. Julia*

        Thank you so much! I am so sorry that happened to you, not just the harassment, but the feedback on your homework. Sometimes there really is no winning for us…

    7. Koala dreams*

      Maybe you would want to have a serious chat with your teacher and tell her that you have s serious health crisis in the family (or similar vague language), you would love to continue the lessons but you won’t be able to do any homework or writing assignments for a while, and ask her if she’s fine with continuing the lessons under the circumstances. If you bring it up first, instead of waiting for her to nag you it might be more effective.

      I’m sorry to hear about your troubles, and I hope things get better soon!

      1. Julia*

        Thank you! My preference is to not talk about anything during the lessons at all because once I talk about it, it’s on my mind and then I get told my expression is too dark etc. Plus I’m an adult and if I say I’m busy and can’t do the lesson I pay for in a way the teacher wants me to, I want to be believed without giving a huge statement.
        But maybe things would be easier if I did have the serious chat once, ugh.

    8. Weegie*

      Can you take a short break away somewhere? Maybe by yourself? If not now, maybe planning it will give you something to look forward to.

      I see you say upthread that you live in Japan – I lived there ages ago, and whenever it got too much (sporadic culture shock strikes) I liked to take a trip either to another part of the country or elsewhere in Asia (home was too far away). Hokkaido is cooler at this time of year, and very beautiful. I found Hong Kong a breath of fresh air (maybe not right now, though), and Singapore is also ideal for a short break.

      If you can change your surroundings for a while, it might help. Good luck to you.

      1. Julia*

        Thank you! I would love to go somewhere, but it would have to be a day or two tops, and that means travel would make it more exhausting than relaxing.
        We do have a long weekend in a less populated prefecture planned for September, though, and I promised some friends to go to a day spa/onsen soon, hoping it won’t be full of excited vacationers. (I also work where the Disney Resort is, so commuting alone is a challenge during this month…)

    9. Nita*

      Oh, I’m sorry. What a mess. I hope at least one of these things gets better soon.
      I wonder if you’d want to put the singing lessons on hold – your teacher sounds like she’s unknowingly “rubbing salt in a wound” as they say. And I can’t even imagine singing when dealing with all that. Maybe find a different teacher that just gives you others’ pieces to sing, or pick up a new hobby that doesn’t involve other people (coloring, cooking, sewing?)
      And maybe don’t pick up the phone when your parents call, give yourself some space and call back in a day or two. Putting some space between me and my parents has done a boost for my mental health – even talking to them sucks up a lot of energy that I need to cope with other stuff.

      1. Julia*

        Thank you! I hope at least the work stuff will get resolved, and my husband has been trying to be better… I have a hobby I can do alone (reading and writing, though my brain doesn’t like either these days) and I have definitely considered putting my lessons on hold, but I’d hate to lose the progress I’ve made.
        I ignore my parents a lot these days, but on Friday I called my brother because they were celebrating my niece’s first week of school, and my mother was there and started with the “I’m only saying I hope you can move back here, or any other city close by, I’m not trying to pressure you, oh also I sent a job ad to your friend, totally ignoring that you worked there before and got harassed horribly”, so I hung up.

    10. Llellayena*

      Hmm. That seems like an odd assignment for a voice teacher if you’re just looking to improve your voice and not advance a career (or hoppy) in song writing. Can you modify the assignment and research poetry that could become lyrics? Then it’s not your words but the task of matching to the music is still there.

      1. Julia*

        Thank you for the suggestion! Honestly, even looking up poetry and matching it to the music is too much right now, plus as you say, I’m not looking to become a songwriter.

  42. Ask a Manager* Post author

    We’re considering training to become foster parents for teenagers. Probably older teens who are within a few years of aging out of the foster care system. I’ve been thinking about it for a few years, and lately have been reading about it obsessively and am getting close to taking official steps. If anyone here has fostered (especially teens, but any age), are there things you wish you knew before you started, beyond the basics that you get from reading?

    Also, if anyone here fosters/has fostered in northern Virginia, I’d be grateful for the chance to pick your brain about local agencies if you’re willing (either here or over email).

      1. JediSquirrel*

        Same here. That is wonderful news, Allison!

        By coincidence, it’s been a really rough week at work, so I’ve been binging The Fosters on Netflix every evening and feeling a lot of feels.

        I used to teach, so I only know it from that end, and to echo MinotJ below, there is a TON of red tape involved on all sides.

    1. MinotJ*

      My parents fostered three kids and then adopted one, now my brother. They were surprised at the endless nonsense from the state. Medical care was covered, but very few providers and endless hoops. There was a state law that kids could only be in foster care for X number of months before parental rights were terminated… four years later and they were still fighting.

      The two older kids that they had – it was a surprise to my parents to deal with somebody else’s bad parenting. It wasn’t as easy to redirect the kids to better behaviors because they’d had so many years of the wrong behaviors as normal. The older kids are adults now and have turned into great, functioning people.

      1. Asta*

        Try to remember that ‘wrong behaviours’ are often coping mechanisms or reactions to trauma.

        1. JediSquirrel*


          Lots of kids (and plenty of adults, too) just don’t have good coping strategies—all those internal and external scripts that help people navigate through life. One thing I love about this site is that it provides scripts that people can practice and use.

        2. MinotJ*

          Oh definitely! It was just such a change for them. They’d raised three kids who were just like them, and if any of us screwed up they knew how to fix it. But all of their tricks didn’t work when they were dealing with kids who had been raised by others. Absolutely basic in retrospect, but it was hard to go from being good at something to being incompetent.

          It’s kind of like when you see kids acting out at the store. It’s so easy to think the parents should just do x or y and fix the situation, but it’s never that easy when you’re inside of it.

          1. Asta*

            Oh sure. That was more just a general piece of advice to Alison.

            Alison, I would make sure your reading includes stuff about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and attachment theory. Also, try to remember that for these kids most or all adults in their lives:
            – are paid to spend time with them (they may not have ANY adults in their lives where this isn’t the case)
            – may well repeatedly let them down
            – may make decisions about them without them, judge them or otherwise not involve them

            And watch Short Term 12. It’s not an easy watch but it’s very, very good.

            1. JediSquirrel*

              And watch Short Term 12. It’s not an easy watch but it’s very, very good.

              It’s on Netflix. I have it cued up for next week. Thanks for the recommendation!

    2. Book Lover*

      Are there any support groups or interest groups in the area? That might be a way to get more local info.

    3. Parade Route*

      We fostered younger kids a few years ago and a few things that I wish I had known beforehand (and that may vary, of course, due to your agency/state/etc.): 1) the foster parent’s schedule might come last in the things considered when it comes to things like visits, court dates and meetings; 2) the expectations one would normally have for a kid of a certain age are not necessarily going to be applicable to one who is in foster care; 3) you might feel complicit in a system that, sometimes, feels like it is hurting more than it is helping.

    4. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Teens need foster parents so much! And especially those that are also willing to be homes, or at least homebase, in the years to come.
      Every young person needs a place of heart to come back to for advice and support and a plate of food (and probably laundry).

      What a great adventure! Good luck!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Just from watching friends: Make sure you know their history and make sure you have more than a passing familiarity with any medical or mental health issues. Routinely, the big surprises have been in the area of overall health.

      Some one (or more) is going to be very fortunate to be with you guys. Very fortunate.

    6. The Other Dawn*

      My sister has been fostering for close to 10 years, everything from young kids to teens. Be prepared to have to deal with many calls from the school for disciplinary problems; kids running away; kids doing strange and/or inappropriate things due to their past history of sexual abuse or other abuse; having to drop things at the last minute to shuttle them somewhere because the social worker didn’t arrange for transportation; and having to really stay on top of the agency and/or social worker (she’s very good a being assertive). Also be prepared for their horrible stories of abuse and neglect. It’s confidential outside the foster parents, but she’s said that it’s really unsettling what some of these kids have been through. Know that there may be kids that you won’t be able to help or handle because their particular issues are very complex and what they need is intensive in-patient therapy. My sister had one such girl. She had a lot of problems with her and the girl was very strange. In the end the girl had to be moved to a psychiatric hospital. A therapeutic foster home just wasn’t enough.

    7. Gwenn*

      I am interested in the same thing, particularly for LGBTQ youth. I’m not in a position to house anyone else, so for right now I participate in a Kansas program called Youthrive that tries to do a hybrid approach with foster teens aging out of care – they have their usual caseworkers, a program specific social worker, and then they have the layperson volunteers like me as “Support Families.” I’m kind of like an assigned Cool Aunt, but my youth choose me from a selection of several volunteers, so there was some agency involved. My youth is also queer and I think is happy to have a queer role model around. I’m a resource for general adulting stuff and hanging out a couple times a month, and sometimes just for venting because the system sucks and they just want somebody to hear them out about it. We’ve made a year commitment to each other to stay in the program but hopefully we will stay in touch much longer than that!

      1. smoke tree*

        Canada has a program called Big Brothers Big Sisters that sounds similar–you sign up to basically be a positive influence in a kid’s life. I don’t think it’s limited to certain age group.

      2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        This sounds like a great program! I have thought about fostering, too, but I don’t think our life is set up in a way that would work for it. But being an on-call “cool aunt” would be much more manageable. I’ll have to see if there is anything similar where I live.

    8. Lore*

      I worked for a while with someone who was a very active foster parent and also helped set up a nfp for kids aging out of foster care. It is shocking how few services there are to aid that transition and also how few fostering relationships survive it. Especially if you’re building relationships with older kids, make sure you think about how much and in what you ways you want to and are able/allowed to remain in their lives once the “system” isn’t governing that relationship. I don’t know if this varies agency to agency or state to state but there’s a lot of unmet need there.

    9. HannahS*

      What an amazing thing to do! It’s a real act of love, and I hope you have a lot of success with it.

    10. Dragonista*

      I used to foster older, hard to place teens, in the UK. I had short and long term placements. Some young people only stayed a few days while there was a crisis, or while their regular foster carer had a stay in hospital. The longest placement was three years.

      Feed them. This may sound obvious but many kids that come into care have had issues with food being scarce or withheld. I always made sure there was food available for snacking in addition to regular meals.

      Make sure they know the rules and why those rules are there. I would sit down and work out a contract, setting out my expectations for them and confirming what they could expect from me. I was careful to explain why they couldn’t just disappear to a friends house without telling me, I would be worried/they might have an accident/I wouldn’t know where to start looking. Some kids had experienced quite sporadic parenting with bio parents see-sawing between neglectful and micromanaging.

      Be consistent- you and your spouse need to present a united front. Disagree with each other privately, in front of the kids you need to support each other.

      Don’t be afraid to apologise to them if you get it wrong.

      Always be honest with them.

      When it comes to social services, be clear about what you will/won’t accept. I had my own young children so felt unable to accept active drug users (weed was ok) and/or people with a history of sex offences.

      Also get a full handover on the young person Social services are trying to place with you. I’ve been flat out lied to on occasion, about the needs of the young person. I had a young person, (described as having mild learning difficulties) who did not know how to wash herself, had no ability to make herself a sandwich or heat up soup.

      Think about how you will help the young person acquire the skills required for independent living. Budgeting, food shopping, cooking & cleaning all need to be learned.

      Good luck, I enjoyed my time fostering and really valued the experiences.

      1. JediSquirrel*

        This is all really great advice (thank you, thank you, thank you!), but this really struck me:

        Feed them. This may sound obvious but many kids that come into care have had issues with food being scarce or withheld. I always made sure there was food available for snacking in addition to regular meals.

        I’ve worked with a lot of these kids, and some of them hoard food when it’s available. It may seem weird to a lot of people to stash food when it appears to be (at least to us) plentifully available, but this is a survival strategy they’ve had to learn. It takes time and love to unlearn these things.

        1. Asta*

          It can help if you give them spaces to stash food. Give them a cupboard with their name on. Give them Tupperwares with their name on. Don’t throw their stashed stuff away when it goes off – note what it is, buy more, and get them to switch it.

      2. Foster aunt*

        My brother and his wife fostered two teen sisters. Of course it was hard at first but…we had a difficult growing up situation and I think this was his way of reconciling the past by making their future better. They are fabulous adults with children of their own. They are our family.

      3. The Other Dawn*

        Yes to all these things, with emphasis on laying down the rules (and explanations of the “why” behind them), being very consistent and being firm with the agency on what you will and won’t accept. Many times they’ve put heavy pressure on my sister to take in kids under the school age when she’s specifically said they must be school-aged. The reason being is she works full-time and is the only breadwinner in her household; her husband is retired from self-employment with only social security coming in and he’s much older than her, which means he really doesn’t have the energy to put into infants and toddlers.

    11. caffe latte and chocolate*

      My aunt & uncle were foster parents. they had some success stories, but some unsuccess stories. The unsuccessful stories: kids(teens) with absolutely no impulse control, where consequences were an abstract concept that didn’t work in the moment. Possibly due to pre-natal substance abuse by the mother or abuse of the baby changing brain development; one foster teen whose family kept calling and showing up at all hours at my aunt & uncles place.

    12. Loopy*

      I have not fostered, but I entered the foster care system at 14 for almost a year before going back home. If you’d ever like any perspective from the other side, do let me know!

        1. Loopy*

          Ah, I’m just now getting back to the open thread. I’d love to give this reply more time than I have right now, should I email or follow-up in next week’s open thread?

      1. NoLongerYoung*

        Informational interviewing, and see what kind of support network there is for ongoing support. I did work a couple decades ago, for 3 years as the house parent – ie live-in (monitor and trainer) for life skills for the “post 18” transition program of a local social service agency for high functioning developmentally disabled adults. The comparable part was how much variation there was in what coping, social, and life skills any of them had been taught where they had been before. The support network was critical to get me through the tough days. I believed in the mission and found the ones who had been the most passed around, the most challenging (as you would expect.). Our program did not – at the time – have a good process for helping to steer to better resources, those with mental health issues. It resulted in unfounded accusations (not against me), destruction, theft, and a lot of fall out. I was very very careful and still lost a beloved family heirloom piece of jewelry, had a can of varnish poured over my great-grandmother’s kitchen table because I had a vacation day and one of them was mad that I was not there, and more. It was very hard. I eventually left that program (they wanted me to stay), and went to work for another non-profit with a younger population but where I had my own private apartment. I needed more than just “my room.” And I had had more than 5 years of volunteer experience before going in, and thought I understood what I was getting into. But I was young and although a well-regarded program, mental health issues were not as understood as they are today. So you may not have the same lack of support in those areas I found.

    13. CoffeeforLife*

      This is something I’ve been thinking about too! I’m also in Northern VA so would be really interested in what advice you get, please update us on the journey.

    14. MMB*

      My cousin fostered 5 or 6 children and eventually adopted 3 (I think a 4th is still in the works). I know that she and her husband developed a strong support group and community of friends through facebook and other online groups. I know at the time, it really helped to have friends who understood everything they were going through. Here are a few things that I learned by observation and occasionally helping out as a sitter.

      1. It’s heartbreaking.
      2. There are a LOT of rules and hoops. There are rules about things you’ve never even thought of. Make sure you know what they are. Some you’ll only learn as you go others…..well, people forget to tell you sometimes so ask questions.
      3. It’s important to take care of yourself and your relationship. Date nights, a quiet hour, hobbies…. “you time”.
      4. Make sure you have all of the appropriate guardianship paperwork and insurance info for school enrollment and medical care – even if you think they’ll only be there a few days or weeks.
      5. It’s ok to say “we can’t do this/this child isn’t a good fit/this child scares me/ needs more help than I can provide.” It happens, and it’s better for everyone if you speak up (after genuinely trying) rather than letting yourself and the child start to drown.
      6. Night lights
      7. Some children have never slept in a room alone. Letting them leave a door open or sleep on the couch for a few nights until their comfortable can help so can a TV or a radio with the volume turned down.

      You’re doing a wonderful thing.

      1. Mighty Bullfrog*

        other good posts that reflect her style and her and her husband’s parenting approach (I’m just pasting the ends of the URLs so that this doesn’t go to moderation)

    15. Just a hypo*

      Oh, best of luck and I’m so excited to hear this! My aunt, who raised four kids of her own, decided age 63 (when her youngest kid was 28!) to foster 3 preteens/teens (all boys!). They were siblings (same mother, all different fathers) and the mother was someone my aunt met in passing through work. The boys lived with my aunt for nearly 4 years, until the oldest graduated HS and aged out of foster care. He got an apt near-ish to my aunt.

      What was (is) hard is that the mom is still in the picture.

    16. Agency Advice*

      My advice will only apply if adoption is your end game, so ignore it if it’s not! Adoptions Together is a good, reputable agency and has a program called FamilyWorks for adopting older kids who are in foster care but available for adoption because of their age. My friendship with adoptees and birth parents has led me to feel squirmy about the “foster to adopt” angle in general, since foster care is intended to be a temporary solution for kids who should be reunited with family. But if you’re looking to adopt a child 9 or older, Adoptions Together doesn’t offer you “foster to adopt” – they place older kids for adoption. They have regular info sessions and I recommend them – they’ve been great to work with.

      For just regular old fostering, though, that’s different, and I don’t have advice to offer there.

      As far as approval requirements, I advise you to get clear with your case worker at the agency about what’s necessary, send an email with things in writing and ask for written confirmation. Save yourself some headaches. And get the paperwork done QUICKLY once you get started – make the time for doctor’s visits, trips to the DMV, fingerprinting, etc, so you don’t end up with a 6 month home study process.

      And best of luck!

  43. Mother of Cats*

    Hi commentariat! Long time reader, sporadic commenter. I have a cat problem that I can’t seem to resolve. I adopted 2 bonded shelter kitties 5 years ago. When I adopted them I was single and lived alone so it was just the three of us. One, Sansa, was sweet and gentle and the other, Cersei, was a little peppery and it took some time for her to bond with me. I was patient and I watched her personality change to affectionate and loving. It was awesome! Over the next several years I met a man, got engaged, moved in with him, got married and started a family. Sansa adapted well to the changes but Cersei didn’t really bond with my husband. Instead she loved me and Sansa and tolerated him.
    Fast forward to June of this year. I took them both in for routine vet procedures. Sansa recovered fine. Cersei didn’t. She came home a different cat. She hisses and tries to attack Sansa whenever they are in contact. We’ve kept them separated and tried to slowly reintroduce them to no avail. We tried medication to calm her down and it didn’t work. I’ve been keeping Cersei in a separate room for everyone’s safety and earlier this week she jumped the baby gate and tried to attack Sansa again.

    I don’t know what else to do? Has anyone tried to establish bonds between 2 cats where one of the cats is being overly aggressive? If Cersei can’t overcome this I’ll have to return her to the shelter I adopted her from (it’s a no kill shelter).

    1. anonnynon*

      A friend of mine is having a similar problem with two brothers. She put Feliway throughout the house, kept them apart for a week, then allowed them to re-explore the house at their own pace. The brothers are not back to the happiness they were before, but they are now hanging in the same room without hissing.

      She thinks that maybe the hissing cat’s nose is / was tender, and maybe the brother cat hit it, so check whether Cersei seems to be having any pain.

      1. Mother of Cats*

        Thanks! That’s a good thing to look for. I’ll check to see if she’s tender/sensitive to pain anywhere. Just having the 2 coexist without having them physically separated would be huge step forward.

    2. Aurora Leigh*

      My friend had this with her boy cats after one had to spend several nights at that vet.

      What worked for her was water from canned tuna (tuna in water, not oil). She rubbed the tuna “juice” all over the cat who was getting attacked and the attacking cat liked the tuna smell and helped groom him, and they were back to being buddies.

      Similarly, when I was growing up, we could convince the barn cats to adopt abandoned kittens bu wrapping them in bolagna like a little burrito!

    3. Eva and Me*

      My recollection from the tv show My Cat From Hell was that Jackson separated 2 cats so they couldn’t see each other first, and then started feeding them at the same time, each on their own side (but aware the other one was on the other side). Eventually, the barrier that blocked them visually was removed, and a baby gate (or maybe stacked baby gates, especially since yours can apparently jump!), and continue with the eating on either side, gradually moving the food dishes closer to the barrier, and each other. Important: ideally, the food needs to be a food they really like! And then eventually remove the barrier and hope Cersei is more interested in the food than she is in her sister.
      It may be that she associates Sansa with the trauma of the vet visit, especially if Sansa smelled differently than usual.
      If you notice there are particular spots in the house that attacks happen, maybe move furniture to remove any “choke points,” and also, if you can create what Jackson calls a kitty superhighway by creating a path above the floor with shelves that would allow more space in a room for both cats as well as@ means of escape, that could help also.
      Sorry this is long, and I probably missed some (maybe important) information, but this is something I’ve seen on the show that seemed to have been resolved successfully, so maybe it could be a resource for you. Good luck!

    4. MissDisplaced*

      I seem to recall that someone mentioned cats can suddenly not tolerate each other after being at the Vet. Something about smelling other cats? Or, maybe trauma from the vet? Were you with them the entire time?

      I do think this will pass if you keep them separate for a time, and gradually give them time to resettle.

      1. cat socks*

        This happens with my cats. My little black cat hisses and growls when others have been at the vet. It takes a little time, but then things get back to normal. The cats smell different after they come home from the vet and it seems it’s a new cat. If there was anesthesia or anything involved it may take some time.

        Check out resources from Jackson Galaxy or Pam Johnson-Bennett for introducing new cats and follow those procedures as if they are new cats.

        What type of calming medication did Cersei get? Gabapentin is a mild sedative. One of my kitties is in a low dose of Paxil due to some urination and marking issues.

        Hopefully with some time and patience this can be resolved. I volunteer at a no kill shelter and it can be very confusing and scary for a cat who is returned. The cats hide at the back of the cages or become aggressive. It can take them time to trust humans again. If it is a completely untenable situation, possibly try to rehome her before putting her back at the shelter.

    5. Kathenus*

      In addition to the suggestions above, try swapping locations between the two, so Cersei isn’t always the one separated from the family and so that the main house doesn’t become Sansa’s sole territory which could make reintroduction even harder. Having Cersei be the only one ostracized from the family and main living space might make things worse, so the equal-time swapping can be important.

      I’ve heard of this happening in various situations, sometimes an animal associates pain or trauma (such as a vet visit) with something that was related (such as Sansa’s presence) and then links the two together in their mind. To help if this is an issue, figure out Cersei’s favorite foods/treats, and associate them solely with proximity to/visual access of Sansa (safely, separated for now). If Cersei starts realizing that the best food, cuddles, toys, playtimes, etc. happen when she is near or can see Cersei, it starts building a positive association with Cersei’s presence again which can help with an eventual reintroduction. You can read up on counter-conditioning, which is the goal of the above strategy, there are lots of examples online how it relates to pet training.

      And if you can find old issues of the aforementioned “My Cat from Hell” with Jackson Galaxy, he’s had a number of episodes that deal with similar issues that might give additional ideas. Good luck.

    6. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

      One of my friends had a cat with a sudden change in temperament who began attaching their other (2 years together) cat. Took a different vet (the first one just wanted to “sedate” her to zombiedom) to figure out there was a cracked tooth causing her pain, and she was beyond miserable.
      Not that they are or were best buddies, but peace is restored.
      So.. maybe be sure nothing happened or was damaged? Or no other physical issue?

    7. WS*

      My two cats are brothers and had always been happy together but when one had a minor vet procedure, it took six months for the other to tolerate him again. It was not great but they did recover and are currently asleep together on my leg. Things that helped us were grooming the cats (separately) with the same brush, swapping their beds and litter boxes daily so they got each other’s smells on them, swapping which one was in the gated-off area etc. It took time and patience but we got there.

      1. Mother of Cats*

        Thank you! This comment gives me hope that things have the potential to return to normal.

    8. Mother of Cats*

      Thank you to everyone who responded! Definitely a lot of food for thought and good suggestions. Hopefully using some of these will help resolve the situation. Thanks again!!!

      1. Moocowcat*

        Try putting a few Feliway diffusers in the house. Feliway contains scent that helps cats feel calm and safe.

  44. Shay*

    I’m physically disabled and in the middle of moving.
    I’m so stressed out, and so is my dad who has been helping me.
    But he’s been so disrespectful and incredibly mean to me that I honestly can’t wait for him to leave and fly back to his house.
    It will be harder without him but honestly we are at the point where things mostly need organizing and we just get in each other’s way.
    We had a heart to heart last night about my limitations. He was annoyed I left some patio furniture I was putting together incomplete on the deck and told me I hop from one thing to another too much.
    And today I just can not concentrate on anything but the God damn patio furniture.
    I dropped one God damn nut under the deck. There are two holes in the wire and lattice that I was able to crawl under and look for it. But it’s under a third section and I can’t crawl under the support beam.
    So I want to remove the crap around the deck which is on the Todo list anyway to get to the screw. But I got screamed at for my efforts.
    Oh, and he’s hit me in the past. His anger hasn’t been this unchecked for a long time and I’m scarred.

    So right now I can tear another hole in the lattice or I can trike a 6 minute distance that will take me half an hour or so to buy another nut from home Depot.

    1. valentine*

      Even not knowing how long in the past he hit you: Fire him. If he is staying with you (please, no) and you don’t feel safe, can a third party who’s Team You be there while you tell him and then you go to their place while they supervise his leaving? Is there no one willing to help who also treats you well? Can you crowdfund for movers? Think of the total cost, including long-term.

      I don’t see why you can’t work independently, splitting up rooms or tasks therein. If the porch is his, he crawls. If it’s yours, you can leave whatever you want there. Who cares if you do a little bit of various tasks? It’s all for you. Who appointed him moving expert? Not you. Sheesh. You deserve so much better than this. Hold on to that while he’s being gross and needlessly cruel.

      1. Shay*

        “Think of the total cost, including long-term.” That was really helpful.
        It helped me realize that even though his help doesn’t cost any money, it is damaging to my health and deeply unpleasant. And I need to be able to spend my spoons on things other than getting yelled at by my father.

    2. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!*

      Ask your father why he is there. And when he says that he is there to help you, ask him why he thinks that yelling at you and frightening you is helping.
      And keep asking that question. And when he yells hold up your hand in the stop position. And if he won’t stop, tell him that he needs to leave.
      I know that this is scary, but he’s a gd bully and in my experience bullies back down. And it seems that its scarier to be constantly waiting for him to explode than to confront him.
      Get someone to come over, to be your ‘Team Me’, because you said that you were afraid.
      Confrontation is scary, I know. But its not as scary as the other – it’s just new.

      1. Shay*

        The acknowledgement that its scary was so helpful. When I’d want to back down and think about how he changed his plans already and was planning to leave this Monday I’d say that to myself, “It’s scary, but I’m brave.”
        And reason about how right now the plan is for him to come back to keep helping me, and how he can’t keep acting like this then.
        It just so happened that my sister was already planning to come over to help move everything from the storage place into my garage. It was really great and relieving to have her around.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I think the first thing to do is secure your own safety. And that is whatever it means to you, ask Dad to leave, have a friend come over, whatever.

      Anything that is left to do can probably be figured out later, but get yourself safe first.

    4. Anon Librarian*

      Yeah. Since he’s hit you in the past, he needs to go. Don’t trust him. Safety first. Belongings and moving logistics second.

    5. Anono-me*

      I think others are better suited to give advice on the situation with your dad; but you deserve to feel safe in your home. Everyone does .

      But here a couple of thoughts that you may find useful on the other issues:

      Many small moving companies will do small two or three hour moves; Especially if you can pick off peak times. (Some counties have support for moving if you have a disability. If you haven’t checked, you may want to do so.)

      When you get settled in your new place, put together a “fastener can” to add to your tool kit . Take a small coffee can or Tupperware container and start adding any extra or found nuts, bolts, washers, and screws that you come across. Also look at adding a flexible wand with a small but powerful magnet on the end. You will be amazed at how handy both are.

    6. Shay*

      Thank you everyone for responding.
      I’m so exhausted.

      I’m moving from a bad part of the city to the suburbs. I lived at my old place for a little over 2 years and didn’t feel safe. I’ve been harassed, threatened, and once, assaulted, outside my home and I often had nightmares and paranoias that someone would break in to harm me or had broken in to harm me.
      I’m in the suburbs now, on a road that’s just a circle with two ways in and out. It’s quiet. I’ve met some of my neighbors and they are nice. The noise, the commotion, the closeness, the light, these things I didn’t realize made me uncomfortable in the city are all gone now.
      I feel safer, but it wasn’t until I read the responses to my saying, “I’m scared” that I realized I still didn’t feel safe.
      That was kind of devastating.

      My sister came right after the worst incident of this morning to help move boxes from the storage place into the garage. She was really sweet, told dad to lay off and made faces behind his back when he was being over the top. I told her about the morning and that when we went to dinner I wanted to have a talk with dad, what that talk would be and why I didn’t want to do it at home.

      I also called my mom and cried to her about the realization that I’d had a flashback when he was yelling at me. It wasn’t the kind of flashback you see in movies, I just felt the way I felt right after he hit me, the last time he did it, seven years ago and without any sort of warning. (Something I jokingly said set him off). And it keeps playing through my mind, all these stupid details. I ran off and walked to clear my head. Mom sent him off to apologize to me. He went after me but didn’t apologize. Great start to out family vacation.

      So the talk. I had my notebook with all my points written down in it. I struggled to get through it and I did use the “I’m not done” and then raised my hand in a stop motion to get through it. I’m going to write it out like it was a conversation because he did have a reputable for some of my points. It’s also paraphrased.

      First, I acknowledged and praised and thanked him for all his hard work around the house and in therapy.

      Me: Stress is bad for my health.
      Dad: Stress is bad for everyone’s health.
      Me: I am diagnosed with a disability that says stress is extra bad for my health. You have been with me in the ER, seen my ER bills, and helped with the longer term injury I have sustained due to a health crisis triggered by stress. Also, university starts in less than two weeks and my health always declines as the semester goes on. I would like to not need to medically withdraw from my last semester of college.

      Me: You’ve made me exhausted and miserable.
      Me: I am relieved to hear you are going home earlier than originally planned. You are my dad, and I love you, it’s tragic that I am so relieved to see the back of you.

      Me: You disrespect me.
      Dad: You want to talk about disrespect! You worked on cleaning out the garbage under the deck and just left if and my shovel on the ground. Don’t you think that’s disrespectful?
      Me: I didn’t get any warning that you wanted to do lawn work. I was still in the middle of pulling garbage out from under the deck. You know I need to take breaks when I work. So I didn’t get the chance to clean up after myself. And this is an on going problem, I’ll start a task which I thought you told me I should do because I am capable of it and then I’ll start it and you’ll tell me you already did it but you guess it wasn’t up to my standards. Like with cleaning my new desk.

      Me: We had a heart to heart about these issues last night but you wake up the next morning and act even worse than you did yesterday. You are getting meaner and meaner each day and it’s a problem. If you can’t control your outbursts then you should remove yourself from the situation.

      Me: Similarly, last time we visited, I had a conversation with you about how you are not a mean grumpy old man. How I look and see your best self and that’s not who you’re best self is. (I went on to talk about his leadership skills and time in the military and all that.) If you practice with not responding as a mean grumpy old man, when it’s important and stressful and hard, it will be easier for you to respond with (list traits related to his time as a leader). This is what I meant. You blew me off then. I hope you’ll chose to work on this while you are away from me.

      Me: I’m scared you’ll hit me.
      Dad: When was the last time I hit you?!
      Me: When I was in 9th grade (lists the details of that event.)
      Dad: Whatever. I don’t remember but I believe you. (This is an issue we’ve had in therapy in the past.)
      Dad: That was seven years ago, what, are you going to hold the fact that I spa