weekend free-for-all – December 14-15, 2019

a sleeping catThis 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: Us, by David Nicholls. Hoping to save his marriage, the somewhat uptight and rigid Douglas Petersen embarks on a month-long tour of Europe with his much more laid-back wife and skeptical teenage son.

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

{ 914 comments… read them below }

  1. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going?
    Not much for me, but I did find an interesting article about fanfiction (link in reply).

    1. Fuzzfrogs*

      Currently thinking about how to get more fiction writing into my writing schedule. In the past few years I’ve found that I actually enjoy writing in a blog/online article style, and this year I started a relationship with a website that will pay me a good rate for my articles, and I’ve been working on building my relationship with them. Recently though the fiction bug has been biting again, so I want to add that back into my creative flow. And dedicate myself to actually finishing fiction pieces, cause, uh….I’m bad at that.

      The holidays are always a big ego boost, though–I wrote a fanfiction centered around Hanukkah a few years back and there’s a surge in reads and kudos each December, which always helps me end the year on a high note. :)

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      My writing just hasn’t. I had a really productive week last week (I think, time’s become a bit hazy recently) but then I hit a point where I don’t know what to do. I’ve got the first draft of it sorted, so there are words on a page, yet I’ve just stopped. I don’t know why. It’s very frustrating, and I’m hoping to focus on it again this week now that my family have left and things can get back to normal.

      1. OTGW*

        I feel you. I had a few days where I got some fanfic words out, but then the semester got too busy and… yeah. Hoping I can try to finish a fic and post it before class starts up again.

    3. NeonDreams*

      I love fan fiction. I’ve written it off and on for 18 years. It helps me channel my emotions in a constructive way and be creative. I haven’t gotten to do much lately because I’ve been working all the time.

    4. Alexandra Lynch*

      That was a great article! Thanks for linking it.

      I’ve got too much going on to put pressure on myself to write. I’ve been talking through character motivations with my girlfriend some, just to make sure that my people are, well, accessible. And that my protagonist (he is not a hero figure. He’s a little too pragmatic and ambitious for that) isn’t too difficult to understand.

    5. C Average*

      Still processing the drubbing of my novel at a workshop a month ago. I know I need to rewrite it, and I’m doing a lot of that work in my head and in the form of notes and outlines. It feels cohesive enough that I think I can start the actual writing next week. It’s been a bit of an emotional journey!

    6. minnesotan*

      Hi writers — can I hijack your thread for a minute? My husband loves to read literary short fiction, and he also writes (sort of in secret, either memoir or literary forms). I was thinking about getting him a short-story writing class or a weekend writing retreat or something as a gift, and he expressed interest in that, so I think he’d find it interesting. All I can find, though, are six-week-long evening classes, and I think for a gift a one-and-done afternoon, or weekend, or something else short would be better. An online class is also an option, if it was good.

      I’m in Minnesota. Any ideas about where to look for in-person or online short-story classes?

  2. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gaming thread! What’s everyone been playing this week?
    Yet more Stardew Valley for me. I’m having way too much fun with the sewing machine and I just put a dinosaur hat on my horse because…Well, mostly because I could.

    1. QCI*

      I really should go play Stardew valley again, just don’t have time with day job and side gig during the week

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        I can heartily recommend it if you find the time. The 1.4 update added so much good late-game stuff (took me over an hour to read the changelog). Including new 14-heart events for spouses and the aforementioned sewing machine, but also a new bundle once you’ve finished the Community Center.

    2. Myrin*

      We (my sister and I) got a Switch recently and with it, we bought Mario Odyssey and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and since neither of us have much time lately, we started out playing the latter for a couple of hours.

      It’s actually my first time playing Mario Kart! We never had much money for games growing up so my only console for years has been the N64 and even there, I never knew how to get a hold of that particular game (this was in the mid-90s with neither of my parents being into or having any knowledge of gaming at all; my father had to drive an hour to get a hand-me-down of my beloved BanjoKazooie for me). I played it at an acquaintance’s house once, I believe, but I have basically no memory of it whatsoever, so it’s something really new and exciting to me!

      However! I personally haven’t even gotten to play it yet! We only had the joycons, so only one person could play, and I let my sister have at it. I’m definitely the more avid and experienced gamer of the two of us – growing up, I would play and she would watch and commentate and jot down notes, and we got into that again over the last two or three years (we always joke that we’re “potential internet sensations” – we’re basically Let’sPlayers, we just don’t record ourselves). But as a result, she has a much harder time playing console games in general and she’s also easily stressed out but she really wanted to play so we decided to “switch roles” for this, which was a success but means I still haven’t gotten my hands on it.

      I bought the ProController the day before yesterday, which I feel much more comfortable with already, and we’ll see if we can finally get a match going this evening!

    3. Fuzzfrogs*

      Bought Trials of the Blood Dragon on sale on Xbox store–it’s a spinoff of the needlessly difficult motorcycle game Trials, but with a ludicrous 80s theme. I’m a sucker for a ludicrous 80s theme and I’m enjoying it so far.

      Still playing Outer Worlds. Running into an interesting thing because the choices aren’t really binary or black and white–most RPGs I end up playing as a pure good character because I get invested in keeping all the fun characters alive and I’m not really a do-evil-for-the-fun-of-it kind of player. With Outer Worlds it’s not really about good versus bad choices…not super far into it but the majority of choices simply have different consequences. I would probably be having more of a crisis about how to do the right thing, except it’s…so goofy and fun? The game is really breaking me out of my tendencies to play a pure goody two-shoes and getting me to have fun and play a character, which I’m really, really into. I picked a particular person to give a Macguffin to because I decided that my player character would 1000% crush on the hot lady outlaw pirate.

      1. Lyudie*

        I’m playing Outer Worlds too and loving it as well! I’m trying to be anti-corporation but they do make it tough sometimes to stay firmly one side or the other. I’m also usually a goody-two shoes in games like this lol

        1. Fuzzfrogs*

          Yes!!! I strutted into Edgewater feeling like I did the right thing…and five minutes later had to book it for the city gates under a hail of gunfire. And then I killed the gravedigger because he kept hitting me :( I’m enjoying the way it makes me break my habits and makes it more fun to do it (I love Mass Effect but making a storyline actually serious and important basically guarantees that I will never explore the evil option).

          1. Lyudie*

            I finished it this afternoon and enjoyed the heck out of it…it’s shorter than a lot of the games I tend to play (Mass Effect, Skyrim, etc) and I may very well start up another playthrough this weekend to try out some different things.

    4. Henriette*

      The Witcher for me! I love the stories… My boyfriend is hooked on Bloodborne, which is well…too bloody for me. But the city scenario (victorian streets and alleys?) is quite cool.
      We also tried Horizon and the graphics are quite something, specially the nature.

    5. Ace in the hole*

      In a quest for more multiplayer games to play with the family, we’ve found “Moon Hunters…” it’s really short (~2 hours for a full game), simple to play but the world/story keeps getting more complex the more times we play it through. I think it might be based in mesopotamian mythology?

      Oh, and it’s actively LGBTQ-inclusive which was an awesome bonus!

    6. Nicki Name*

      Making progress again on my hard-mode playthrough of Fire Emblem Awakening. I’d started it because I wasn’t ready to get a Switch yet, and now I’ve been delaying the Switch until I managed to finish it. Now I have reason to suspect that I may have a Switch by the end of the month, if you get my drift.

      I’m nearly there– four more kids to pick up and then 5 more main chapters!

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        That reminds me I still need to finish that game too.
        So many games, so little time.
        Also probably getting a Switch for myself this summer. Kinda hesitating between the redesign and the Lite. On the one hand I’ll mostly be playing handheld, but the redesign has better battery life. Not sure if the extra battery life is worth the extra 100-ish euros though.

    7. Junimo the Hutt*

      I’m doing another run at Stardew since I got the update. So far I’ve caught a new fish (flounder?), grown rice, and a slime gave me squid ink. What’s it used for? No idea! But I’m excited to find out. I’m also loving the iridium fish.

    8. Sorgatani*

      I played through Rakuen this week! I love the soundtrack.
      It made me ugly cry in a few places, and smile in a lot more.

    9. Bigglesworth*

      I’m trying to get back into Skyrim. I’ve logged hundreds of hours on different play through.

      Problem: We recently upgraded the computer and switched to Linux. Trying to find a way to play Skyrim has been an adventure to say the least. Not sure if my spouse figured it out, but I sure haven’t.

  3. QCI*

    I’m bored and like talking about it, so why not here? At old job I was a certified water restoration technician. Mostly residential disaster cleanup but have done plenty of commercial buildings too. Does anyone have questions about that type of work they’d like to know more about? I’ll do my best to answer any how, why, or what’s of fire, water, or biohazard cleanups you may have.

    1. Crop Tiger*

      I read “water restoration technician” and my sleep addled brain wondered how you restored water to a pure state. Then I realized what you really meant! I’m a librarian so we have similar interests but mine are on a much smaller scale.

    2. Asenath*

      How appropriate! What about a sewer backup? Not my sewer, but that of someone I know who is wondering if a lavish use of disinfectant in the water bucket is quite enough now that the sewer is working again? It’s it an basement with a concrete floor, and the only items stored there have already been disposed of.

      1. QCI*

        Yes, we don’t do anything that a homeowner couldn’t do themselves, we just have “commercial” equipment and experience to do it. Remove any standing water, then disinfect everything non-porous. For sewage we would remove an wet material done to the structure of the building, spray and wipe whats left with disinfectant, then set drying equipment. For the friends basement I would recommend a dehumidifier (even if they weren’t flooded it’s a good idea).

    3. Ace in the hole*

      Oooh thanks for offering! I’m interested in emergency response and hazmat remediation, so this is right up my alley. Question blast incoming:

      1. How’d you get into that line of work? What kind of training/certification is required, and where do you get it?
      2. Is the field mostly public agencies or private business in your area? We have government-only emergency response but once there’s no imminent danger it kicks over to all-private for cleanup and remediation.
      3. What’s your gnarliest cleanup story?
      4. What’s your favorite cleanup story, gnarly or otherwise?
      5. What’s the work environment like? I mean… obviously smelly and dirty, that’s a given. But things like hours, culture, travel requirements, how big a team you work with, that kind of stuff
      6. Is there a particular type of cleanup (i.e. biohazard vs sewer vs etc) that is unusually difficult, whether for operational or regulatory reasons?

      I have loads more but I don’t want to overload you so I’ll stick with that for now!

      1. QCI*

        1: I needed a job and responded to an ad. Didn’t even know what it was all about until I started. Common sense and basic hand tool use are the only “entry level” experience you would need. Most training is on the job, certification is done in off site classes that your company would have to send you to.
        2: Private. Other than cleaning an actual government building we don’t work with them.
        3: A biohazard. Elderly woman was shot then beaten with a baseball bat in her bed. There was “stuff” still hanging from the ceiling.
        4: Can’t think of a favorite. The memorable ones tend to be that way for negative reasons
        5: The environment ranges from indoor offices/homes to very small, cramped, dirty crawlspaces under or inside houses. The rest of your question depends entirely on the business itself.Typical hours are 8-5ish, but you might spend 7 hours crawling under a house for any number of reason, only to find out at 5 that someones house flooded, so now you got to go take care of that.
        6: Mold and bio remediation take more work because you have to be extremely thorough with containment and cleanup

        1. Crop Tiger*

          Re:3 I used to work in a photolab where we developed those pictures. I can’t imagine having to deal with it in person.

    4. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Do you have any “stuff you wish homeowners wouldn’t do” comments/stories? Either things that make it harder to clean up or other DIY cleaning methods that make your job harder once they fail and you’re called in?

      1. QCI*

        General clutter in the area we need to work. We also did carpet cleaning and HVAC cleaning, so the less stuff I have to move the faster I can finish the job.
        If you have a fire damage and need a cleaning company to come in avoid cleaning or touching walls. The type of paint and and what the smoke is from determines if the wall can be cleaned or needs repainted, but cleaning it improperly can mess up a cleanable wall bad enough to need paint.

    5. Fellow Traveler*

      Oh! Yes! talk to me about mold! We almost bought a house that had extensive water damage, including a basement crawlspace that was positively hairy with mold. (The previous owner had installed a cement drainage system around the house that had developed major cracks over the years, with grass and such growing up through it). We passed on the house because we didn’t feel up to the cost of fixing everything. The house was in a perfect location for us, and now we are wondering if we were being overly cautious. How serious is mold and how difficult is it to remedy? Like is it a long term problem or the kind of problem you can throw money at one time and be done?

      1. QCI*

        Before I start, I am not a certified environmentalist, my advice is purely based on real world experience and some classroom knowledge during water certification.

        So the seriousness of mold is twofold. Mold spores and the physical damage to structures. Mold spores, when breathed in (sometimes on contact with the body) release a chemical called Micotoxins. The body doesn’t like these chemicals. Certain molds release more and more potent toxins, such as black mold. Keep in mind that the air is filled with these mold spores all the time, so they’re usually harmless. However, inside a home they can build up to harmful levels, usually headachs and coughs and even asthma given enough time. (It’s thought that this is the cause of “sick building” syndrome). Removing mold isn’t terribly difficult but is labor intensive. Physically wiping every nook and cranny with antifungal solution takes effort, and time because it’s best to treat the affected area multiple times. The good news is, if it’s done properly and the cause of the mold is fixed, it is a one and done kind of problem. Remove the source of moisture and physically remove the mold and you’re good to go.

        BTW, we don’t call it mold, we call it microbial growth. People hear mold and freak out, and insurance hates paying to treat mold, and would hate us if the customer came to them saying we told them there was mold in their house.

        1. Fellow Traveler*

          Thanks! This is fascinating and concrete- and I can see how there can be a lot of paranoia and misinformation around it.

      2. Soft kitty*

        I don’t have an answer, but I had a similar experience. I went a few steps down into a basement, saw that the walls were all black from mold, and just walked back up where I looked at the real-estate agent and said “Next!”

        I think that it could be resolved by fixing up the foundation, ensuring it stayed dry, and bringing in a company to address the mold, but that foundation work would be really expensive.

    6. Square Root Of Minus One*

      Very interesting!
      I didn’t think of it at the time but I have one question, though I’m not sure if it’s on topic. I just moved (got the keys Wednesday) in a brand new building that no one has used. We also suffered two days of heavy rain that has, I guess, backed up the sewers in the city.
      I don’t know if it’s consequence or coincidence, but my brand new place has a hint of this lovely sewer smell now, very noticeable when you get in. Anything useful I can do, besides waiting it out?

      1. Soft kitty*

        Check to see that your sinks and other drainage pipes have water in them (or you can even use oil if they are rarely used like the drain in the basement, where water is likely to evaporate). Drain pipes have the ‘S’ shape in order to keep a bit of water in them, so that sewage gases can’t come back into the house.

        Also definitely check for actual sewage, because if you find some then you will want to clean it up, but if you can’t find anything then it’s likely just gases coming up through empty, unused drain pipes.

  4. Lalla*

    Sorry for the off topic, but I would like to start a petition for a collection of photos of your cats. As we get “all of my book recommendations”, I would also looove to get “all of my cats’ photos in 2019”!

    1. CAA*

      Go to images.google.com and put this in the search box — site:askamanager.org cat
      Then click on Tools and select the Time dropdown and choose Past year

      Voila! Cat photos from 2019.

        1. Lalla*

          Great idea!!! If you also add the all-time favorite stories/quotes from AAM below, I am buying a copy for all my friends!

      1. Lalla*

        Oh my, thanks Alison! These are so precious! I’ll save the link and go back to it again when I need some sweetness in my life :)

  5. Princess Deviant*

    For those of you who have a difficult time over the holidays with family, do you mind sharing coping strategies, and things you do for self-care?

    I’m aware of that thing Lizzo said, about setting boundaries, which is just as much a part of self care is as, say, nice baths and hot drinks… but how??

    From family members who voted for you-know-who, to fat-shaming comments over the dinner table, to “why are you single?” etc. It’s a nightmare.
    Thanks.

    1. PB*

      I’m sorry your family is making the holidays a nightmare and I hope we can help you find some coping strategies.

      My #1, above everything else recommendation: don’t go. I don’t know how close you live to your family, but if you have to endure a long drive or a plane trip, this might be a great time to get the “flu,” or maybe you’re just too exhausted from work to travel, or you’re horribly worried about that possible ice storm you heard on the news. I’ve only visited my family for Christmas maybe once from 2009 to the present. It’s the best gift I can give myself.

      If it’s too late to make alternative plans for this year, start thinking about it for next year, even though nothing will be booked for months. Thinking about your awesome trip to Hawaii next December (or, heck, your awesome time sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee) will make this December 1,000 times easier to get through.

      For awful comments, try to get family members to agree in advance that politics, all politics, are off the table and then hold the line. If someone “slips” and starts a rant, remind them that you all agreed, and if they persist, leave the room.

      The personal comments, such as fat shaming and demands to know why you’re single, are harder. The deflections such as “Wow” or “What a weird thing to say” don’t always work with family. A better approach can be a mild response and deflect to something they do care about, like, “No real reason. Hey, excited for the Rose Bowl? I’m betting on Wisconsin!”

      Again, I’m so sorry you even have to worry about this. The holidays should be a happy and restful time.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Great advice, seconded. I’d like to add that if you try to go, have an emergency backup plan so you can leave if you need to enforce your boundaries. That makes it easier to hold fast and not give in. IMO, the fact that we often give in when people push our boundaries is why they keep doing it, and often after a few times actually enforcing them consistently, they catch on.

        Some possible backup plans: find hotels in the area, or places you could sit for the whole day, like a library or a coffee shop. Have an open-ended return plan, whether it’s knowing exactly how late you want to drive, or a bus ticket, or a hotel near the airport, or even sleeping in the airport. (I’ve done it, due to delays. It’s not exactly pleasant, but it’s a LOT more tolerable than most family gatherings!)

        If you feel like you are willing to tolerate some passive-aggressive or mildly critical chatter, return awkward to sender. Shrug, “I’m just doing what makes me happy”, “Why do you seem to care so much?”, “That’s an overly personal question, please stop”, “Why are you obsessed with [subject]?”, etc. Captain Awkward has some great advice on this.

        Good luck, you can do this!

        1. Mimblewimble*

          +1 to what PB and the Cosmic Avenger said.

          Setting boundaries is key to your own mental health and wellness. You have to do what’s best for you, to protect yourself. It is hard to do that, especially when you’re dealing with family. But if you don’t like the way you feel/who you are when around them, it’s ok to recognize that you can step back from family and focus on you.

          Hold firm when they cajole or try to guilt you by saying “it’s family” or “no one should be alone for the holidays”. It took me a long time to realize this, but I personally don’t believe that being around people who don’t make me feel good about myself just because they’re family, or it’s the holidays is not a reason to expose myself to that kind of negativity.

          It’s ok to put yourself first. If you can’t totally avoid family this year, try to find a safe space where you can take a breather/have a moment to yourself/get away from the petson(s) causing you bad feelings.

          Good luck and hugs!

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I suggest ‘a stomach bug’ instead of flu, or else you risk triggering the great flu shot debate. (You ask how I know… happily it was a cow-irker not a family member.)

      3. Princess Deviant*

        Thanks, this is great advice! I can do the politics moratorium (they’re already forbidden from talking about politics in my home if they visit, which is not often), and the sportsball thing is easy enough :) I’ll plan some changes of topic in advance.

    2. Invisible Fish*

      I have fun with it!!
      – Stupid remark about weight leads to flippant response about “I’m prepping for climate change! When the food supply is destroyed, I’ll survive.”
      – Stupid remark about being single leads to “Oh, I’ve thought about getting married, but it’s frowned upon for priests in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.”
      – Politics …. well, I’d probably use snippets of quotes from leaders in my jokes, and they are often not fit for polite company, so I’ll let you use your imagination.

      1. CoffeeLover*

        I have a lot of ear piercings (took out the body ones a while ago but I had those too). I would recommend wearing surgical steel earrings all the time for a while – like 6 months at least. But I would also actually recommend wearing surgical steel earrings as your “default” earring forever (meaning you leave those in and then change them out when you want to accessories). I have surgical steel earrings in all my piercings today so I don’t need to worry about them. I don’t need to clean them now, but when I first got the piercing I would clean them with a cotton swab and some solution with the earring still in.

      2. Princess Deviant*

        Oh my god, I love this comment so much, thank you!!

        “I’m prepping for climate change! When the food supply is destroyed, I’ll survive.”

        I am now desperately hoping they menti0n food so I get a chance to say it XD

    3. Erykah Badu*

      I’ve been working a lot with my therapist on setting boundaries with my family. Here are some of the things that are working for me.
      – Make a list of the things that are absolute dealbreaker discussion topics. For me, it’s money. Any and all requests for money are shutdown, no exceptions (due to some major family issues around it that are too long to describe at the moment.)
      – Have a list of canned phrases to shut down or redirect these conversations with the tone you think will work best for your situation. “You know, politics can be so stressful. Let’s talk about something happier, like Little Kate’s first dance recital!” “Oh, my life is boring. Let’s see photos from your last vacation.”
      – Make a plan for when everything becomes Too Much. Leave the house to go do something by yourself, go visit an old friend, etc. Sometimes we need a break from all the family time.
      – Boundaries are more about protecting you than “punishing” your family for bad behavior. So think about how you want to keep your peace and joy during this season, even if that means doing new and uncomfortable things for your family.

      Hope this helps.

      1. Princess Deviant*

        Yes this helps a lot, thank you, and these things are easy t0 plan ahead for, although harder to do. I think I will stick to banning politics, making a joke about the food, and changing the topic for everything else. That’s probably as much as I can manage right now. I don’t live to far away, so I can leave if the worst comes to the worst, and say that I am coming down with something…

    4. StellaBella*

      Can you not go – make other plans like go for a walk or to a beach or something just for yourself? You do not deserve to be picked on by these people, even if they are your blood family. Do you have friends who also may want to do something else, maybe go to a movie together? Spend the day at a spa, or reading books and having a hot bath and a dinner on your own. Treat yourself as if it is your birthday. If you have a car and some money for gas, go for a drive somewhere you’ve never been, if it is safe (snow issues etc).

      You can also feign illness – you’ve come down with an allergic reaction or stomach bug or cold? You’re entitled to avoid people, too – especially if they are mean to you. Mail a card to the family members if you wish, but no need for more engagement.

      Set your phone to silent, enjoy a day out (or in) on your own. Good luck, and I hope you manage ok. There comes a time when your own mental well being is your priority so setting these boundaries will help now and in the future.

      1. Princess Deviant*

        A few people have mentioned not going; it’s not really an option for me, although I know in an ideal world I wouldn’t go. It’s easier for me to go and suck it up for a day than it is to avoid it and get the hassle for a year. This is a conscious choice I’ve made, but I do appreciate that it might make more sense for other people looking in to think that I should avoid anything that makes me feel this bad :)

        I love the idea of the beach walk though, and I am near enough to the coast to do this before I go around to see them, so thanks for the idea, it is on my list to do!

    5. GoryDetails*

      No personal suggestions here – my preferred method of coping with difficult groups is to simply go away {wry grin} – but I do recommend the Captain Awkward blog; there are loads of helpful (and often funny) posts on scripts and techniques for setting boundaries, changing subjects, and generally coping with the kind of situation you describe.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        I can’t change them, only my reactions to them.

        This year, after 15 years of ninja level passive aggressive foolery from relatives, I decided I had to change.

        My aunt is a 1st order controlling loon. Usually the whole month of December is her changing her mind about what to do for the 24/25th. December is miserable and the 24/25th is extra miserable. My cousins play into all of this.

        I’m going to visit the 28th to the 30th. Got a cheapy-ish hotel room. I’ll visit relatives, and chill in my own little cave if it gets too much.

        My aunt is furious and wants to pay for the room for the 24/25th. Hell to the no. I’ll eat ramen in an alley before doing that.

        For ignorant people runing their mouths…

        “See you are working on your upcoming stent operation with that cheesecake.”

        Me: Oh, aren’t you as cute as a button!

        “Pelosi is nothing but a demon in human skin.”

        Me: You are my little prince of baloney! *sips drink*

        “Trump needs to be strung up and shot.”

        Me: You’ve always been my favorite charmer.

        Insane statement that is totally inappropriate in polite conversation.

        I smile, say “lovely” and walk away.

        I treat them like a person with senile dementia. They have no clue what they are saying, and it’s not worth the effort to figure it out.

        Baiting me to get a response has almost totally dropped o zero since using this tactic.

      2. Princess Deviant*

        Thank you – I’ve read some of the stuff on the blog before. Some of it is good, and there is a lot – I find her style quite hard to access though. Maybe it is because she sounds like she is talking and I should read it aloud to myself and that would make it easier to understand?

    6. Asenath*

      I used to find Christmas really difficult, and I can’t blame it on rude family members. It was more like a kind of end-of-year blues. Years ago, I started by simply eliminating activities that I found difficult – when I was feeling down anyway, travel or decorating or a lots of “required” socializing simply made things worse, as did watching or listening to endless reports on all the tragedies of the past year. I kept what I enjoyed – Christmas music, religious services. Over the years, I added some things back in. I adjust year by year, depending on how things are going. This year seems pretty good, so far. Last year, I even cut out some of the music and services. Deciding what I can handle and what I can’t is key. So is learning my own personal patterns – I can always remind myself that things will be better on Boxing Day. Oddly enough, although a lot of it is focused on the end-of-year things about just how much has been lost, New Year’s isn’t quite such a big trigger. Then again, I never did anything special for New Year’s, so it’s easy to keep it low-key and calm.

      1. ampersand*

        I really like this! It’s a good reminder that just because All The Things exist, we don’t have to do all of them.

      2. Princess Deviant*

        I can do this, and I love a list :) I will make a list tonight of stuff I want to do that will uplift me!

    7. Dan*

      Well, first coping strategy is one holiday per year and that’s it — my mother is the difficult one for which I’d rather limit the time I spend around her. I travel to see family for Thanksgiving, but stay put for Xmas and do nothing. Because I am single with no kids, “because I don’t wanna” is all the excuse I need for many of the choices I make. It’s worked out pretty well so far.

      If I’m feeling snarky when asked about kids, I say “oh I have them.” When people ask how many, I say, “I donno because the sperm bank promises anonymity.” That usually shuts the conversation down in a new york minute and we can move on to other things.

    8. Ace in the hole*

      My family is much nicer to be around now that we’re not in contact with the worst 1-2 members of the family. To be honest, I still don’t like the holidays much but I think it’s mostly baggage from growing up instead of anything they’re actually doing now. That said, my strategies:

      1. Limit the number of holidays. I do one per year. Ostensibly this is because of the expense and difficulty getting time off over the holidays. In practice, it’s because two holidays a month a part is Way Too Much.

      2. Limit the amount of time I’m there. When I’m in town, I don’t sleep at the house where the celebrations will be happening. A lot of times I’ll stay with a childhood friend or my partner’s family. I also make sure to have a few strategically placed schedule commitments… for example I will go to Partner’s family celebration (super chill) the day before christmas and go hiking with a friend the day after. That way if I need a reason why I can’t come over early or stay late, I won’t hurt any feelings by saying “sorry, I need to turn in early because I’m meeting Cathy for the hike tomorrow morning!”

      3. Bring a neutral activity. This is especially important in my family because both my sister and my cousin are autistic, and get really anxious/stressed/grumpy if all there is to do is socialize with a bunch of people. Plus it gives you something easy to enjoy together that’s not loaded – way easier to avoid unpleasant topics if you can all talk about mario kart/jigsaw puzzles/nerf football/whatever.

      4. When it starts to suck…. leave! By now everyone knows that Ace is the holiday guest who’s great fun but won’t stay for more than a few hours. It takes a while to get people used to that, but once they do it won’t be remarkable anymore.

    9. NewReadingGlasses*

      I, without acknowledging the actual content of their question/comment AT ALL, reply with talk about my work in extreme detail, with acronyms that I do not explain.
      Relative: Inappropriate comment or rude question!
      Me: Ooh, let me tell you about our new TPS llama protocol…bla bla….and all the pages had 7/8 inch margins, isn’t that unbelievable? Ha ha!

      This has been effective with my relatives, but took me years to get to. In this case the part that makes it work is the total and complete ignoring of the actual content of what they said, so they don’t have even the tiniest hint of the reaction they want to feed on.

      These days I find it easier and relaxing to simply not go.

    10. Jack Russell Terrier*

      I use yoga – on and off the mat. I actually have a free Stress Free Holiday Kit to help.

      1.Plan in advance so you can take charge of The Holidays, using the journaling prompts.
      2.Regain your equanimity in just a few minutes -when you can step away and tap into an audio guided mediation 
      3.Re-center, right in the moment – when you have to respond in the moment to something that sends you off kilter, this video breathwork technique will help you regain your equanimity.

    11. Alexandra Lynch*

      I worked out that I do best handling my mother and sister in small doses. So I control my transportation, I give what I consider to be good presents (and if they don’t like them, it’s on them!) and I don’t stay too long because my sister can push my buttons like no one on earth, and my mom backs her up with gaslighting. But it matters to my heart to stay in contact, so I do, I just make sure that I’m okay to handle it.

    12. Rainy*

      Never be at their mercy for transportation, ever. Or lodging if you know they’re going to make you unsafe or even just uncomfortable. Don’t be ashamed to take food along if your family are the sort who will intentionally or thoughtlessly make meals that you can’t eat. There’s nothing that makes a rough family holiday worse than also being hungry or sick.

      Never respond to intended subtext, ever. If they want to say it so bad, make them say it. “That’s a nice haircut” said in a way that’s intended to convey that it’s the worst haircut ever? “Oh, thanks!” Same with the things that are more overtly nasty, like “That’s a new haircut”. “Oh, thanks!”

      But also…just think about not going. Have other plans. Do literally anything else.

      I’m in my 40s, and my parents have finally realized, after over 20 years of alternating NC and VLC, what their lane is and to stay within it. Now to train the in-laws, since clearly nobody else is going to do it.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I did this at lap swim to a 20-is yo Mean Girl who got there too late to get a lane… as I got out she snarkily said “Oh that back stroke, you nailed it.” With a stupid little swing of her fist. Well, I knew I sucked so I saw the snark a mile away. I grinned broadly and bubbled at her: “Thanks, I’m finally getting over a frozen shoulder so they can fix a torn rotator cuff. I’m just so glad to get any motion back!”
        Her. Face. Froze.
        It was a thing of beauty.

        1. Rainy*

          A former coworker (a hale and hearty 60ish) once chided me for being slow to climb the stairs when staff meeting got moved up a floor. I said, nonspecifically, not wanting to get into it, “Oh, yeah, stairs are rough for me some days”. She said “You need to do more then!”

          Later that day, another coworker gave me an opening of some sort while I knew Hale Chider
          was eavesdropping, and I said “oh, yeah, I was in a couple of pretty bad accidents as a kid and it messed up my knees and hips, so stairs are extremely painful when my arthritis is acting up”.

    13. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I have some family members that I get along well with, and others that are, shall we say, “small doses” people. If I am visiting people out of town, I get a hotel room. Being allergic to cats (which is true) is often the reason I cite, but needing to have time off from family, get enough sleep, and eat some meals that I chose myself is also key.

      My family does well with jigsaw puzzles. You can talk about other things while working on one, but there are built in subject change opportunities where you pick up a piece and say something like “It seems like I should be able to figure out where this one goes, but I can’t and it’s bugging me. Hey [Mansplaining Relative Who Keeps Telling Me Things About My Own Profession], do you have any ideas about where this piece might belong?” to re-direct the conversation.

    14. Not So NewReader*

      Set your time limit and stick to it. If you must travel, your time limit is in two parts, the length of your overall stay and the amount of interaction you will have each day. I found if things were going well, I would stay longer. Big mistake. Leave according to the schedule you set up for yourself regardless of how it’s going. Don’t break a promise you made to yourself.

      The day of travel means rest once you get there. Likewise with leaving, you must rest for your trip home.
      Even if you don’t need to rest, do use this to your advantage.
      If you don’t travel, then you have “at home things” you must attend to. The at home things can be your reason for being late or leaving early or both. We had at home things. Yeah, we watched tv and snacked on leftovers. No guilt about that. None.

      Busy yourself up while you are there. If you are into kids or pets, get busy with them. I used to get busy with the dirty dishes, there was always plenty of dirty dishes. I could count on this. Bring an activity if that makes sense for your setting.

      If you get disgusted enough you can say things like, “I don’t think now is the time to discuss that, let’s talk about cheerful stuff.” Or, “This is Christmas, let’s keep the conversation light and enjoy each other.” The trick to saying this stuff is to be overheard by a few other people, hopefully a few of the saner ones who will pick up on what you are saying. You are aiming to see people nodding in agreement.

      If you do have a couple people you enjoy then make a point to have plans with them. “Let’s go for a walk after dinner, ” etc.
      I remember one gathering, some of us would go outside for a smoke. This is funny, because not everyone who went outside actually smoked. It was just a way to get 10 minutes of relief. The smaller group outside was much more pleasant.

      One thing I have seen done, is people do not stay long enough for all the presents to be opened. If you are sitting through all the presents then consider that you may not actually have to do that.

      Depending on your setting you may even want to consider not going at all. Some situations are really toxic and we can’t fully see that from a short description. You know your setting the best. What would you advise a friend who came to you with a problem remarkably similar to what yours is here? And judge from there what to do.

    15. C Average*

      I bring a jigsaw puzzle and put it out in a seldom-used table at my parents’ house. When I need some me time, I go work on it.

      Whenever possible (the vibe has to be right) I get my parents telling stories about their childhood experiences, how they met, stuff like that.

      My sister and I also text each other low-key parental gripes and cat memes.

      Oh, and if we need something from the store, I always offer to get it.

      I’m visiting my parents right now and the Ken Burns country music documentary has been a godsend. Maybe binge-watch that together? I genuinely think Johnny Cash might be the one thing that unites nearly all demographics!

    16. Quandong*

      My coping strategy for Christmas gatherings with my family is this:

      I don’t attend any Christmas gatherings at all.

      This started for me quite a few years ago, as the result of more than 15 years of intensely difficult Christmas lunches, brunches & dinners.

      At first, I was pressured with a lot of questions, but I kept to a script (I think it was ‘I’m taking a break from Christmas this year, I hope you have a good time! * topic change*’) and they got used to the fact I wasn’t participating.

      I made the decision to prioritize my wellbeing over the wishes of my family, and I don’t regret it at all.

      In my everyday life, I don’t spend leisure time with people who make anti-fat comments, or who are racist, classist, ableist, or judgemental about LGBTIAQ+ people or single people. So I no longer subject myself to family members who do this, especially when we don’t have much contact during the non-holiday times of the year.

      It’s a tremendous relief and extremely liberating, and I highly recommend it if you can muster the determination to break with tradition.

      You might like to read Captain Awkward’s advice about family and Christmas, I found it very validating and useful.

      You aren’t obliged to suffer because your family wants you to participate in their traditions. Your wellbeing is more important than their feelings.

    17. Stephanie*

      I just came back from a four day long out-of-state trip with my parents and sister (it was for a family funeral). It was difficult, to say the least. I coped by limiting what I pushed back on, and ignored as much of the garbage as I could. When my mom started talking politics at the breakfast buffet with a stranger, I just walked away without a word. Rude, maybe, but definitely better than getting into an argument about it.
      When it got really bad, I would send my husband a quick text to vent: “OMG. Mom is talking to a stranger, at breakfast, about politics.” It didn’t matter what his response was, just the act of sending it made me feel a little better, and more able to just not engage. Maybe you have a friend you could do the same with?
      I also made sure to get some time to myself, and made no apologies for it. (I went down to the lobby of the hotel with a book for an hour, adjust for your situation.)
      Much of the time, I managed by telling myself that I was there to support my extended family, and not for my parents and sister.
      It’s okay to just walk away from the conversation when people (even family) cross a line. Let them stew in their discomfort for a bit–they sure don’t seem to have a problem making you uncomfortable.

    18. Princess Deviant*

      Thanks all for your lovely comments.

      BTW, the donkey sanctuary was really great, and the donkeys are so cute but unfortunately it was WAY too much physical work for me so I won’t be able to go again, at least not for a while. I will look into something else in the new year. Also, I am going to the choir after the christmas concert when they start their new repertoire – I had planned to go a couple of weeks ago but got a sore throat (of course!) so it made more sense to wait.
      I attended an autistic adult get-together but had to leave early as it was a bit too much. The organiser was very understanding though, and I am going to try the next one in January and go with a friend this time (also autistic). Maybe it’ll be better now I know what to expect.

      Happy holidays everyone :-)

    19. Pony tailed wonder*

      I like my parents but they sleep in until 2 in the afternoon and there are days when small doses of them was better for all of us. I started using my holiday visits for self inflicted fitness sprees. I would rev up my push ups and sit up goals ( my regular daily goal was 20 of each a day) and my vacation goal was to do that at three different times a day. My hour long walks became 4 or 5 hour leisurely strolls. And their dog was walked by a carefully curated route through the neighborhood to avoid the inflatable animals who he felt were out to get him and the deer statues who were greatly feared.

  6. Erykah Badu*

    How do you lose weight over time without falling into diet culture traps?

    I decided to commit to a more plant-based diet and exercise as a lifestyle this year after I gained some weight while working a stressful job. I’ve lost about 10 lbs so far but have struggled with not obsessing over calories, how much I eat, not comparing my body to others, staying committed to slow and steady progress, etc. I understand diet culture is deeply ingrained in our society but I want to continue to lose weight and/or body fat until I’m back to a healthier place (for me; I know the scale isn’t everything).

    What has helped others in this same journey? Daily affirmations, talking to people with the same goals, reminding myself diet culture sucks? I don’t want to focus so much on my goals that I don’t enjoy life. Thanks :)

    1. UbiCaritas*

      I’m working on losing weight/getting healthier after a medical event. I’m focussing on baby steps (almost literally) – I have bad arthritis in my knees and have been walking (painful in the cold weather). I try to increase my time by a minute or two every day, if I can. If I can’t, I remind myself that just walking I helping. The first time I ate a carrot instead of a cookie, I cheered myself. There’s no question, changing behavior is hard (try to build in some rewards along the way! And go ahead, cheer yourself!) I try to think I’m not on a diet, just making healthier choices.

    2. Former HR Disney Princess*

      So over the past 2 years I lost about 60 pounds. I will say, while I don’t like diet culture, I didn’t hate counting calories. For some people it can be too much and cause obsessive behavior, I started it but once I became comfortable with the amount of food I ate, I moved to intuitive eating. It’s much easier and you can let yourself enjoy without the guilt.

      Around the holidays I would bring a healthier side dish that was still delicious but maybe had more nutritional value. I also didn’t focus too much on my weight every day, I would only weigh myself once a week or so. At the end of the day, the holidays go for about a month, and really the feasting is only a few days. Allow yourself to enjoy! I always did a work out on holiday mornings to get me in a positive headspace, and didn’t think too much about the food.

      Best of luck! I know each persons journey is different so try new things and see what works for you.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Great advice. I had about the same weight loss over about the same time span, although I’ve maintained my new range for about 8 years now, and I have to count calories to do so, or I start to overeat, sometimes to the point of discomfort.

        I looked at it as data gathering; two slices of bread = one beer, so if I have a ham and cheese rollup with a pickle spear instead of a sandwich, I can have a beer later. Plus, I actually like the rollup better, with some mustard! Learning the numbers and exchanges, and the difference between what I perceived when “winging it” and what I actually measured, was a huge help in analyzing my behavior and correcting my misconceptions.

        The data also helped me realize that one small bag of chips is about 150 calories, whereas I would have to exercise intensely for almost half an hour to burn that much. IMO, much easier to count calories and forego that small bag of chips than to add enough exercise to compensate. I mean, I understood the numbers from the beginning, but it was only after measuring and experimenting and seeing the results that I could really appreciate the impact.

        1. Lilo*

          It’s actually really, really hard to “exercise off” calories. Don’t get me wrong, exercise is great for health, particularly your heart and lungs. But without watching what you eat, exercise will likely not result in weight loss.

          1. ampersand*

            +100. I don’t know where we (as humans) got the idea that exercise can cancel out calories consumed—unless you’re training for a marathon, it won’t. And even then you’ll need to increase your food intake to offset the calories burned while running.

            For me counting calories works—it’s the only method that’s worked, really. I add in exercise because it makes me feel good, but I don’t rely on it to lose weight.

            1. Former HR Disney Princess*

              I remember being told “you can’t outwork a bad diet” it’s stuck with me since then.

    3. Carlie*

      For me, trying to focus on the good parts of eating and exercise, and engineering them to be things I like. I don’t think “exercise is good for me”, I think “I love being outside and exploring, so I’m going for a walk.” I don’t think “I need to eat healthy vegetables”, I think “that sweet potato/carrot salad I had at that lunch meeting was great, can I recreate that?” It shifts from “things I have to do” to “things I actively want”. “Healthy” food that I don’t like, I don’t eat. Exercise I hate, I don’t do. I do the ones I can happily choose even in the face of a tempting alternative. And if it’s halfway nutritious, that’s fine! Especially if you’re trying to become friends with vegetables.

      I always think of something Kate Harding of Shapely Prose wrote: “A spinach salad with egg, bacon, croutons, and dressing ON the salad, instead of ferried over to it in tiny droplets on the end of my fork, feels nearly as “indulgent” as a piece of chocolate cake — but you know what it’s got that chocolate cake doesn’t? A BIG FUCKING PILE OF SPINACH.”
      https://www.kateharding.net/2007/07/23/if-it-tastes-good-eat-it/

      Easier said than done, I know. But happier in the long run.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      As much as possible, focus on things other than the reading on the scale. If you feel healthier, can walk longer, your back/knee doesn’t hurt so much: those are all good things regardless of the number on the scale.

    5. Lilo*

      So any weight loss has to be sustainable. Big crash diets don’t work. A good trick is to start off by writing down everything you eat for a couple days and looking for the calorie bombs you can eliminate or substitute.

      Cutting out obvious ones like high calorie drinks and alcohol. Those usually don’t make you feel full, so sub those out. Some weird foods are surprising calorie bombs, like granola and salad dressings. You may be eating something you don’t even like that much that’s a calorie bomb. For instance, nuts are a healthy snack, sure, but are very calorie dense. If a snack of a couple nuts sounds dull, look for a more satisfying equivalent.

      Water is your friend. Your body make confuse thirst with hunger. Get a reusable water bottle and stay hydrated.

      Make room in your diet for treats, too. Rigid diets where you eliminate all of one food typically aren’t sustainable.

    6. tab*

      I do a couple of things. First, I tell myself that I can eat whatever I want. I don’t want to feel deprived, so if I really want something, I eat it. But first, I think seriously about whether or not I want it. (I often don’t.) I also allow myself treats on a regular basis. I can resist free cookies or candy because I know I’ll share a dessert with my husband on Saturday night. I also use a fitbit and myfitnesspal to track my exercise and calories. It helps me stay mindful of what I eat and the benefits of exercise.

      1. Ace in the hole*

        Agree with all of this. I CAN eat whatever I want. But sometimes I don’t want it as much as I thought. Or getting the immediate gratification will interfere with a long-term goal.

        Basically I manage my food about the same way as I manage my money. I don’t want to be so penny-pinching that I make my life harder, never get anything nice, or can’t see my friends/family. But I do want to buy a house someday, have a good credit score, and be in generally good financial shape to support myself in case of emergency or when I retire. When it comes time to buy things, I try to think about how it will impact my happiness in the long term as well as right now.

        Same for food. I don’t want to be so restrictive I can’t have a full life… but you have to get very rigid and restrictive before it really does. I also have long term goals for things like physical health, activities/sports I enjoy, preventing certain conditions my family is prone to. I focus on moderation and thinking about long-term happiness and how my eating choices support that. Having a nice holiday meal with some friends? Definitely supports my long-term happiness! Having a free donut from the break room? Not so much!

        This may not work for everyone, but I also find that having active hobbies helps. I want to eat well and be physically fit because it helps me perform better in things like hiking, roller derby, cycling, dancing, etc. I notice an immediate difference in how good I feel skating on days where I ate balanced meals compared to a day where I ate lots of sugary snacks instead. Plus it means I’m focusing on what my body can DO instead of how my body looks.

    7. cold tea*

      this might be just for me, but due to dental health issues, I have to brush & floss my teeth after eating. Every single time. No waiting. So, I decided to brush my teeth 3 times a day. This has absolutely cut out all the snacking. I get hungry at about 10:30-11 am, and 4 pm or 5pm and used to snack at those times. So, cutting out all the snacking really helped cut out extra calories. I now get hungry – sometimes quite hungry, but I always have to ask myself : is it worth brushing my teeth for? can I wait 30 or 60 minutes? Can I have water now, until then?

    8. New Job So Much Better*

      I’ve lost 25 pounds since May, just doing it slowly and avoiding most processed foods, flour, sugar. I do belong to several facebook groups for support. I look at it as a lifestyle change, not just a diet.

    9. Dan*

      What *I* do is eliminate “diet” from my vocabulary. Instead, I think about “lifestyle.” Because whatever I do has to be sustainable. Eating less? I need to do that. More vegetables in the diet? Yup. Reducing carbs? Yup.

      What I’ve been doing lately is exploring cookbooks/recipes/websites that are focused on avoiding the things I need to eat less of, and emphasize things I need to eat more of. To that end, while I have no desire to be a full-fledged practicing vegan, I’ve become quite interested in plant based recipes and what not that avoid meat and dairy.

      And I don’t worry about the scale because on any given day it really doesn’t matter.

      1. Miki*

        This! Diet is not sustainable, most people get bored and stop with diet. Lifestyle all the way. It’ll be boring (food wise I learned) but with both diet and exercise (and not cardio, cardio maybe 3 minutes tops, jogging) but weights : free weights (dumb bells) and barbells you gain muscle and with more muscle you burn more calories.

        1. Dan*

          I’ve taken a liking to incline training on the treadmill, which does help quite a bit with fat burn. I’m not a runner (my body just doesn’t like it), but I can crank up the treadmill to a 14 degree incline and fast-walk between 4.0-4.4 mph for 8-10 minutes. I do a progressive warm-up to get there over 10 minutes and cool down for 5. It took a long time to get there, and when I get bored with that, I’ll find higher settings.

          I alternate cardio days with weight days.

      2. Tau*

        +1000. I made the rule for myself that any modifications to my diet and lifestyle should be planned for forever. No crash diets, no “detox”, nothing with an end date. This naturally leads to me going fairly gentle with the changes – like, I know that “don’t eat any processed sugar” will not work in the long run, so instead I do things like trying to only eat sweet things X times a week/for special occasions/whatnot. Way more sustainable.

        1. Dan*

          Yeah…I like craft beer, but cold turkey doesn’t sound like my idea of fun. I can live with once twice a month.

    10. Jack Russell Terrier*

      Frozen veggies are your friend! They take next to no prep time, something that can really help when you’re tired and also they’re often very good quality nutrition because they’re frozen at source. You can toss in a bit of oil or acid with your seasoning of choice – I vary between some herbs or something like harissa / sumac.

      On that note, roast a vat of different veggies – dry ones like brussels sprouts are better for storage than wetter ones like bell peppers because they stay crisper. Use favorite seasonings again. That way you have something delicious to grab. I find that if I put leftover roasted veggies in my cast iron pan, cover and reheat in a 350/375 oven they are nearly as good as new!

    11. Kathenus*

      Earlier this year I finally got to the place where I wanted to take some actions to lose weight after I had to buy new belts in a bigger size, for some reason that was a big trigger for me. I know from past experience that doing a big exercise program is not going to be sustained, so while I would try to be more active and exercise I didn’t put my eggs in that basket because it wasn’t likely to yield to success.

      I didn’t ‘diet’ per se, for me what worked was focusing on two main things – one was reducing alcohol consumption due to the calories, and second was portion control. So I ate what I wanted (luckily I really love salad/veggies and eat a lot of them anyway) versus trying to change what I ate, I focused on how much I ate instead. One thing that really helped there was that I wouldn’t get seconds or additional food until at least 30 minutes after eating. If I was still hungry then I’d eat a little more, but most of the time once the food settled I was fine – whereas in the past I’d eat more right away if I was still hungry after finishing the meal.

      And similar to something tab mentions, I had a phrase that worked well for me when I wanted to eat or drink something that might not be the best for my goal – I’d tell myself ‘it’s all about choices’. And make a conscious choice to eat that or drink that versus a habit or mindless choice. Sometimes I still wanted it and had it, but sometimes that step of thinking that it was a choice helped me to decide I really didn’t want/need it at that time.

      I didn’t count calories, track exercise, or use a specific diet. But those two focuses – alcohol and portion size – helped in my personal case, along with keeping track of my weight regularly to track progress. I was pleasantly surprised that it actually worked, and over about four months I lost 20 pounds and have so far (fingers crossed) kept it off. Everyone’s different, but this worked for me. Good luck!

    12. Trixie*

      I’ve been listening to a great podcast, Get to the Point With Leslie Ann Quillen. It’s somewhat new but packed with information from a personal trainer. A recent bit talked about the importance of getting a handle on the food/daily diet first, than adding in some movement, then training. Made total sense because if I eat better I feel better and have more energy. If my diet is tanking, I will have no energy for anything and will feel worse after jumping into exercise my body isn’t fueled for.

      I also like her podcast because she really drives home the fact there is only so much prep work and research you can do before you actually have to start doing Something. For me, it started with finally finding decent workout shoes and adding a few more healthy, and tasty, foods each week. Last night, tilapia with pesto and man, for a frozen food, so good! Next, it’s more veggies each day and then adding some each meal. Baby steps!

    13. ThatGirl*

      I am struggling with this too. I lose interest in counting calories, and I think it can be dangerous. I know that what I need to do is focus on balance and portion size but even that can be hard. And I detest diet culture.

      Good luck to you :)

    14. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      One of the things I’ve found helpful in working on weight loss and overall lifestyle improvement is to focus more on what I should be eating/doing, rather than what I shouldn’t be. So, rather than approach diet modifications in terms of “I can’t have more than X calories or Y grams of fat” I think in terms of “Okay, I want to eat X amount of vegetables, so let’s work those in. And I need to make sure I have Y servings of protein, so let’s make sure this meal has a solid protein component to it.”

      Thinking in those terms has helped me steer away from past disordered eating, and I’ve managed to lose nearly 50lbs in the past year and a half.

    15. Not So NewReader*

      To me so much of dieting has nothing to do with food. It’s been a journey.

      I think some of my important take-a-ways are:

      1) If I feel hungry and it’s not meal time, try a glass of water before eating. Thirst often masquerades as hunger. I failed to correctly identify my body’s call outs for water.

      2) Throw away the scale, well okay, put it at the back of the closet and forget it. I started going by clothing size. This worked into being VERY important. I decided to go with eating whole foods, meats, veggies and fruits. I lost 3 sizes and a whopping FOUR pounds. If I had been tied to my scale I would have been so hosed here. Muscle weighs more than fat/water.

      3) Nutrition is really important. Crappy thinking can happen in a body that is lacking nutrients. Take that energy used for beating yourself up and use that energy to learn about nutrition – which foods help the body in what ways. Once the brain and body have the nutrients they need, it’s easier to sort the BS that flies at us.
      This brings me to number 4, work with someone.

      4) Find a nutritionist or doc/practitioner or other experienced professional who will help you along. If a friend was struggling with something, you wouldn’t leave them to struggle on their own, right? You’d probably check in with them every so often, help them find reliable resources and so on. Do this for you, don’t make yourself walk alone. Find some type of professional that you will check in with periodically. I found an alternative practitioner that I trusted. I checked in with him every few weeks. Yeah, it was a bit spendy but the help I got was priceless.

      So I still watch my weight. This is because I am still ME, I am still that person who knows how to eat an entire box of cookies in one sitting. BUT, I have learned how to reduce the cravings, cut the behaviors and get some solid nutritional food into me. Once fortified with some basic vitamins and minerals it’s easier to stop indulging and indulging so often. And it’s also easier to look at some of the stuff being sold to the public and chuckle.

      1. Desperately seeking cute kitty*

        I second the part about the professional nutritionist. Mine is excellent, he’s worked with Olympic athletes and knows which advice out there actually works and which is BS that will set you up to fail. The first session was super pricey ($300-ish, I think) but all follow-up sessions are about $100.

    16. OperaArt*

      I’ve been losing about 2 pounds a month for the past couple of years. I don’t count calories or measure my food. What helped me was to get everything out of the house that might trigger my sweet tooth. I will eat desserts at parties, so I really don’t feel deprived.

    17. Rose's angel*

      A friend of mine started focusing on exercise. She’d make sure to exercise a certain number of times per week for at least 30 to 60 minutes. Once exercise became ingrained and a habit she couldnt ignore. Shed focus on making sure to limit her snacks per day and to try to keep her meal well rounnded.

    18. blackcat*

      Unless I fear my weight is dropping too low (which is my issue), I don’t weigh myself at all. I judge my success based on how I’m feeling. I have a scale that lives in the basement and is a pain to get out.

    19. JKP*

      I highly recommend the book “Games Slim & Fit People Play” by L.Michael Hall. The term “Games” is referring to the mental games people play in their head around food and activity. The book is about getting rid of the old toxic diet mentality and modeling the thought patterns that slim people have. It’s really focused on the mental side of things in order to develop lifelong healthy habits.

    20. Tau*

      I try really hard to focus on the idea that it’s not about losing weight, it’s about living a healthier life. I expect these lifestyle changes to naturally lead to weight loss, but this is a symptom rather than the main goal. Going to the gym helps with this; tbh I really don’t like the gym, but it’s easy to attach numbers to things there. That meant I could focus on goals like “be able to lift X+10 pounds instead of the X I can right now” and the like, and see slow but steady improvement.

      And this is specific to my own problematic eating history, but may help others too: I refuse to do any sort of lifestyle modification that involves forcing myself to stay hungry. I never had an eating disorder, but I had a lot of problems in my late teens/early twenties involving executive dysfunction problems running so badly out of control that I couldn’t manage to eat for what was occasionally days on end. I could really feel how my brain switched over into panic mode after a while, and the whole thing messed up my sense of appetite, desired foods, portion control, etc. for years after I got a handle on the problems. Basically, I am firmly convinced that if you are hungry for too long or too often, your brain activates the “oh my god! famine! starvation! danger of death!” emergency protocols. At that point, processes that have been honed by millions of years of evolution are running head first against the rational conscious part that decided losing weight would be a good idea. This is a battle you are going to have a very hard time winning. It’s best not to have to fight it at all.

      1. Desperately seeking cute kitty*

        “I refuse to do any sort of lifestyle modification that involves forcing myself to stay hungry.”

        My dietitian seconds this!!! In addition to the brain’s safeguards, the body eventually goes into starvation mode and hangs onto weight. And then you’re both hungry AND not losing weight, so people understandably tend to get discouraged and start eating normally again, and the weight comes back on. My dietitian has lost clients for not prescribing hunger diets because people are so used to hearing about the fast short-term weight loss that comes with those diets, but they’re the reason why weight loss has such a high failure rate.

    21. Kt*

      I like more fun goals! Examples: I want a 195-lb squat (I’m a small woman — did do it). I want to learn about herbs in cooking and grow rosemary, basil, thyme, and parsley. I want to learn about Greek food or Indian food. I want to challenge myself to eat food from my backyard every day (learned a lot about edible weeds that month!). I want to invite my vegetarian friends for dinner three times this month and build community.

      Good luck!

    22. Kuododi*

      Personally, I refuse to find out my weight. (Sets me off on an anxious tangent about whether or not I was being “good” with my eating choices. (BLECH!!!). I focus on my A1C, cholesterol etc and whether or not they are improving. Otherwise, I work out at the Y and continue to plan other food so I don’t consider getting takeout or any other choices which are less than the best

  7. JediSquirrel*

    Has anyone tried the Ninja Foodie cooker? My parents want one for Xmas, and they’re on sale at Costco. I had a Ninja blender years ago and was not impressed. But they really want this, and I’m happy to buy it for them. I just don’t want them to be disappointed.

    Also, Ninja has a stand up toaster oven. It’s pricey, but tempting, as I’m moving to a smaller apartment.

    1. PossiblyEnoughDetailToBeIdentified*

      We just got one! Ours is the version which does pressure cooking, air crisp/grill, and slow cook.
      And it is really good!
      So far we’ve only done steak and potatoes (pressure cooked for 2 mins followed by 8 mins grill), and sausages (8 mins air-crisp) – coz we’ve had it about four days and last night was pizza at our friends, but we’re really impressed. We’ve got plans to try risotto next…

      It does take up quite a bit of counter space, and you can’t put it where there will be cupboards over it (which really limited where we could put it), but so far that’s been our only real complaint. Hubby had never used a pressure cooker before, so it was a scary learning curve (hot steam!) and learning how the timer worked was fun (it auto sets to 20 mins for example for certain settings).
      If you think your parents are going to enjoy pressure cooking (there are myriad cookbooks for the Foodie online as well), and they want it, *and* it’s on sale… I can’t see the harm

      1. JediSquirrel*

        Oh, that is encouraging! That’s all the kinds of foods they like. They have a large wide counter area with no cabinets over it, so that’s a perfect location for it! Going to buy it tomorrow.

        Thanks so much!

  8. CC*

    Over the top gifters

    One of my friends is an over the top gifter. She doesn’t have a lot of money (she qualifies for food stamps). Last year, she spent well well over $100 on Christmas gifts for me. And probably another $200 on gifts over the course of the past year.

    I have suggested stopping gifting but that was not something she was willing to do.

    My income is probably 6x higher than hers so I have no issue with buying her gifts. But I also don’t want to match what she spends on me because then I feel like it is just going to encourage her to spend more money to equal it out. And I just don’t spend hundreds of dollars on friends gifts every year (without a major occasion like a wedding or baby).

    I have been trying to buy her extremely thoughtful but also inexpensive/reasonably priced/on sale gifts throughout the year when I see them & saving them for gift giving occasions. So, for example, I spent maybe $15 or $20 on her Christmas gift but I got something that she will actually use & love.

    I just don’t know if anyone has any other suggestions.

    1. Lena Clare*

      Rather than suggesting no gifting, can you go down the $15 limit route? You can say that you’re saving up for something yourself and on a budget, so ‘please can we agree a limit for each other?’

      Other than that, if she insists on spending a lot then there’s not much you can do!

      1. Lehigh*

        I agree with this, particularly the last paragraph. It’s nice to be concerned about your friend, but ultimately people are going to give as they see fit. I used to try to secure “no-gift” agreements from all my friends, but since getting closer to some people who are big gift-givers I realized that it’s not up to me to manage them. If it brings them joy, that’s their prerogative. I’m open about the fact that I am not much of a gift-giver. Where anyone else wants to go from there is their own business.

    2. JobHunter*

      Don’t feel obligated to match cost for cost when giving gifts. Have you told your friend directly that extravagant gifts make you uncomfortable? Maybe she is trying to match some set of your “expectations” that she has decided you must have based on your income? It seems like she might spend a lot of time thinking about your tastes and preferences. Do you think you could redirect her energy into planning inexpensive experiences instead? Then you could share costs equally between you.

    3. BRR*

      I would just establish no gifts, period. And you’ll have to decline any she might do anyways. It’s probabaly too late this year though. Or get her gift cards to places you know she goes to like the grocery store or target etc.

    4. Scandinavian in Scandinavia*

      I would focus on why she goes to such lengths with gift-giving; would you be able to talk to her about that in depth?

      Whether the reason is found in self-worth or not, I’d go the route of: the best gift you could give me would be your self-care, also financially.

    5. Anon Here*

      Separate this from her financial situation. I get where you’re coming from. But she can spend her money any way she wants, and I can think of worse uses for a few hundred dollars. This is not a bad habit to be concerned about. And to pass judgment is to step into a parental role, which is disrespectful. I know that’s not where you’re coming from and you really care. But set that aside and save the empathy for other things.

      How would you feel about this if your incomes were equal? Or if she had a higher income from yours? Because I suspect that this is partly about your own feelings about gifts. It’s perfectly fine to feel uncomfortable receiving large gifts. It’s fine to say that family members and SO’s can give you large gifts, but not friends. Or whatever your thoughts on this are. It’s up to you. Gifts are a part of life that people have different ideas and feelings about.

      I think you should open up to her about your feelings about gifts. Just tell her what you’re comfortable with. Include your feelings on non-monetary gifts. How would you feel if she did something over the top as a gift without spending much money? Is it the price tag or the size of the gift? Do you feel the same way about all gifts or are you ok with larger gifts from family members? And emphasize that these are your general feelings and are not directed at her as an individual. Because some people would question it all and feel hurt. Make it about how people just have different feelings about the whole gift thing.

      1. Anon Here*

        Also! I’m an expressive gifter and I like to go all out. But there’s a reason for it. I’m kind of reserved and I’m not as affectionate as some people. I’m not a gusher. I’m not always the best friend. Sometimes I have trouble focusing when people talk at length. Sometimes I’m competitive. I brag. I could go on. We all have flaws. Gifts are a way for me to express, “I really care about you, I think about you, and I appreciate everything that makes you unique even though I can seem distant, self-centered and distractable when we’re hanging out.”

        So. I get how that’s basically over-compensating for my short-comings, and some people would appreciate the gesture while some would not.

        Your friend might have something similar going on and you could talk about that.

        1. Nita*

          Oh, that’s interesting. I have extended family who are also big gifters despite constant income uncertainty. We’ve been trying and trying to get through to them that they do NOT need to bring a gift every time they visit. I’m talking at least four gifts, for different members of the family, every time. And they will avoid dropping in if they’re in the neighborhood, even though they know we’d be happy to see them – we suspect it’s because they don’t think they can stop by without a gift. I wonder if their thinking is similar to yours… in which case I don’t know that there is a way to cut down on the gifting without making them feel bad.

          1. Anon Here*

            I think talking to them about it would be fine. Giving gifts is really fun, at least for me. But not everyone enjoys giving, and not everyone enjoys receiving. It would be fine just to say that you’re not a gift-inclined person and talk about where that comes from for you, then ask how they became more of a gifter and what it means to them. I think it’s often a combo of personality, culture, and other random factors.

    6. My Brain Is Exploding*

      Can you just tell her you don’t need/want more stuff and suggest that instead of gifts the two of you spend time together (out to lunch or an afternoon of baking or a morning of volunteering)? Or decide to exchange like things, such as books?

    7. Anonyme*

      Perhaps have some ides you can switch to as well. For example a family member and I go out for lunch during the holidays. We pick up each other’s bill. The point being to see each other.

    8. matcha123*

      I come from a low income background, I love giving gifts, and I can totally see myself giving expensive things to friends. In my case, it comes from the desire to not be known as the poor person, from genuinely wanting to give them something nice, and I guess to prove to myself that I can do it.

      I have a friend who makes at least four times as me and always talks about spending less and not wanting gifts. I feel irritated by her because she can afford so much more and she’s never lived with the stigma of being poor. Plus, it honestly seems like a way for her to be cheap. I really don’t know what advice to give. Perhaps repeat to her that you don’t want gifts or only want things that will ‘disappear’ like food or coffee. That may force her to spend less. And maybe be honest with her about how you feel uncomfortable with the amount she spends on gifts.

    9. Asenath*

      I think, eventually, with some people, you just have to accept that’s the way they are. I do have people in my life who range from the mutually-agreed no-gift arrangement to the exchanging-small-gift arrangement, but one person in my extended circle, who was almost certainly the one with the least financial resources, followed the pattern you describe. It made the recipients a bit uncomfortable, and there was no way to agree on smaller or no gifts. I could speculate on this person’s reasons, but I won’t here, partly for privacy and partly because it’s irrelevant to any response. And the only response I ever could thing of was to accept the gift as graciously as possible, saying “you really shouldn’t have” (and meaning it!!), and and responding with a smaller, more “suitable” to my mind, gift of my own.

  9. Anon woman with breast cancer*

    Good weekend, good morning, good news: I want to share my progress. I have finished the third and last of the FEC chemo I had to do. I am fighting with insurance about a lot of bills, which is a bummer, but somehow it will work out. I have bigger worries next year in addition to insurance stuff – work stuff, but for now, I can say that I am 1/4 thru my treatments. Yay! I will have taxol next starting in January and then surgery I hope in March not April but we will see. Still managing nausea ok (very mild), and just sleeping lots. Thanks again to everyone here for support.

    Wishing everyone a restful and calm weekend.

    And thanks Alison for the book list of 2019, I shared it with 6 friends who love to read!

    1. tab*

      Congrats on finishing the FEC! I hope you’ll find taxol to be much easier. Wishing you a happy holiday and a healthy and happy 2020!

    2. fposte*

      Congratulations on your completion and what sounds like some pretty decent well-being. Good luck on the paperwork side and the next phase.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Back at ya, wishing you a calm and restful weekend.
      And I hope something extra special happens for you over this holiday time.

  10. HannahS*

    What’s the oddest reaction/behaviour that you encountered in response to your (or someone else’s) engagement? I ask because my fiancee and I are still reeling from some significant boundary violations committed by close-but-not-the-closest friends. In brief, it involved Google-ing our parents and calling them at work and contacting vendors on our behalf.

    Also, one of my partner’s coworkers got into an argument with him over whether or not I wanted an engagement ring. I didn’t, but she was pretty convinced that I needed one, because how would other people know I was “spoken for”?

    1. Lilo*

      I have honestly never heard of such extreme boundary stomps from friends. Parents, yes, but people you really weren’t that close to called vendors? That’s completely insane.

      1. Myrin*

        And as a reaction to an engagement, no less?! I honestly can’t even imagine what the thought process might be here – “Watch out, these people plan to get married!!1!”?

    2. Erykah Badu*

      Whoa. I don’t have a similar experience to offer advice but man, that is wild. I’m sorry that these super odd reactions are taking away from a special moment in your life.

      What I have witnessed in friends who have gotten engaged is that someone deems themselves to have a more important role in your wedding/life than you would have given them (maid of honor/best man, wedding planner, bridesmaid/groomsman, etc.). Something about weddings makes people want to affirm their importance in your life. It sounds like that maybe what also happened to you but I guess just something to continue to look out for.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      How would other people know I was “spoken for”?
      You could get a T-shirt with that sentiment.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Don’t be silly, what if it’s cold out and they’re wearing a jacket over the tee shirt? They obviously need a tattoo on their forehead stating “PROPERTY OF [SPOUSE]”! [roll eyes]

      2. SAHM*

        As a funny side note, neither my husband nor I wear wedding rings. We’ve been married 10 years and the majority of our marriage we just don’t bother to wear them. The first year I was still in love with my rings I tried to keep them on, but it’s just too irritating to have something on my hand all the time. My hubs was in IT and had to keep taking his off so he wouldnt fry a motherboard or something, and after year 3 or so he stopped wearing his, I stopped wearing mine like 5 years ago. I just keep it in a safe now. It doesn’t make me any less married to not have a ring.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          We gave up with our rings for similar reasons. People in my husband’s line of work lost ring fingers because of the ring getting caught on something. Our words and actions filled in people’s missing ring gaps. They figured out we were married.

            1. SAHM*

              I have actually, but my mom lost her mind when I voiced the whole “I might get a ring tattoo” idea, apparently tattoos are still SIN *eyeroll* plus I’m not keen on needles. It’s mostly the needle thing, really, but if I go through the pain of getting a tat and then have to deal with her derision everytime I see her, I’d rather just continue on not wearing my ring.

        2. The Messy Headed Momma*

          Ha! My IT hubby gave his up for the same reason! Now we wear them, only when we go out in public, IF we remember ;)

      3. HannahS*

        Totally. I should also get a purse that has his face on it, because now that I’m engaged, I’m rendered mute and unable to express that I’m not single, if anyone asks.

    4. Lena Clare*

      Whaaaaaatt? Oh my word, that’s completely out of order! I hope you’re no longer ‘friends’ with them.

    5. Fikly*

      The same way before you got an engagement ring? Like when you told them, if you wanted them to know? WOW.

    6. tab*

      I didn’t want an engagement ring either. This was over 30 years ago, and people were horrified! Lots weren’t happy that I didn’t change my name too. I think some people believe that if you don’t do things exactly the way they did, that it’s an insult to them. Very weird! We celebrate our 35th anniversary next year, so I think they’ve had time to get over it…

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        One of my friends got married in 2017, but she didn’t change her name. Her husband has a job that requires security clearances, and he has to get them renewed every few years. Well, he filled out the paperwork a few months ago, and the paperwork came back; the government apparently wants to know why he’s living with someone who is supposedly his spouse but doesn’t have the same last name he does. I was surprised by that!

    7. fposte*

      I do sometimes think that women feel strongly about other women getting engagement rings because 1) it justifies their own choices and 2) it’s perceived, consciously or unconsciously, as a redress of common financial inequity.

      Neither of which are reasons to *share* those feelings.

      1. Washi*

        I’ve definitely fallen into the trap of judging other women’s choices :( Not something I’m proud of, but when my female friends got engaged/married, I found myself hoping they would make the same choices I did – not having an engagement ring, not changing their names, etc.

        For me, it was hard to see these things as value neutral personal choices and not a binary of For The Patriarchy or Against The Patriarchy. When I made Against the Patriarchy choices, I felt kind of self-righteous, but also kind of alone and wanted company in my non-traditional choices. And when I made For The Patriarchy choices, I felt self-conscious of that too and always wanted to justify it. One of the things that terrifies me about having kids is I feel like it will mean even more feminist anxiety!

        1. Washi*

          (I should clarify that I never said anything to my friends, but it was a huge internal dialogue that I was constantly conscious of.)

        2. Myrin*

          Oh yeah, I find myself being super judgy about the For The Patriarchy things! Like you, though, I manage to keep them inside my head and generally brush them off entirely unless I’m actively forced to think about them (which happens rarely, thankfully).

        3. Rainy*

          I wanted to design my own engagement ring and both my and my spouse’s wedding bands. (I asked spouse if he wanted an engagement ring but he said no.) And not the “I picked the stone and a premade setting and had them put together” thing, which is not design imo. I sourced and bought the stones, designed the settings, found a jeweler, worked with her to firm up the design, etc.

          I LOVE my rings (and spouse loves his! so go me!) but I’ve gotten some really weird reactions from people, like “You knew the proposal was coming?!” Uh, yes, we are adults, we discussed whether or not we wanted to enter into a formal legal contract situation! “Is it really even an engagement ring if you got to have an opinion about it?” Wut.

        4. LilySparrow*

          Yes, you are right that having kids exposes you to a constant barrage of people, articles, and self-doubt that you are Doing It Wrong. From feminism, from traditionalists, from self-appointed experts on every aspect of health and parenting, from friends and relatives, and from complete random strangers in public.

          You can’t win. No matter what you do, someone will take issue with it.

          The upside is that you are too busy and too tired, so after the first 3-4 years you just run completely out of fucks to give. And then you kindof know what sort of mom you are, and run with it.

          It winds up being very liberating in other aspects of your life. Happy is she who is blessed to dwell forever in the place of Zero Fucks.

      1. Not A Manager*

        Yes, please tell us more about this. Was the friend trying to plan your wedding? Trying to stop your wedding?

      2. HannahS*

        For the vendors, it was reaching out to ask about availability, without the friend knowing the exact date or location of the wedding, like three days after we announced our engagement. The parents, well, it was part of a very ill-advised surprise party, where they google-d and contacted our parents, but also random people we were friends with on Facebook. We still don’t know how many, but it was anywhere from 60 to 200. Which, for my partner who works in government, includes people with whom he has professional relationships. So last weekend, on the day between two 26-hour call shifts (I’m a medical student), having had three hours of sleep, I had to write and apologize to people, and my partner did the same. It sucked.

    8. Katefish*

      My close relative insisted that I use her friend as a photographer, last minute, for $1,700 more than we’d budgeted for photos. She even offered to pay. We didn’t, but it was weird and stressful. Post-wedding, we still have a good relationship and have never brought it up again.

    9. Lyudie*

      WOWWWW that’s super not okay :(

      The worst we had was with work people, at least two or three people asked me if they’d let me into the Virgin Islands for our honeymoon (!!!) and someone (a woman!) gave my husband a Halloween costume ball and chain. I was not thrilled with either situation but Googling someone’s parents and calling them is a whole nuther level of NOPE.

      1. Arjay*

        Like, asking if you’ll be a virgin or not? I hope I’m misunderstanding, but I can’t think of any other interpretation.

    10. Wishing You Well*

      Wow. These close-but-not-the-closest friends need to be confronted and put on a very strict information diet. If they won’t acknowledge their severe boundary stomping, do you want them at the wedding? They’re trying to take over your event. Sorry.

      1. HannahS*

        Yeah, we’re thinking about it. Frankly, we’re both so exhausted that we’re still processing it. So far, one person was tearful and unapologetic and the other was furious and unapologetic and both have tried to plaster over the event by sending unrelated texts and one showed up with a big smile and tried to crack inside jokes at synagogue yesterday…I can’t deal. I haven’t had any time off since last December, and I’m currently on a rotation in medical school where I work ten hour days with no breaks and have 26 hour shifts once or twice (or three times! why not!) a week. I’m SO TIRED. I can’t do the labour on this right now. So yeah, we’ll see if we want to salvage these friendships later.

        1. Not A Manager*

          That’s shocking. Here’s some advice that’s more for you to manage your feelings than it is for dealing with them. But I would send them one text or email that says something like, “Partner and I value your friendship, but right now we are very angry and upset about your behavior. We’re also too busy and too stressed with other things to really think about our feelings or address them. So we need some time. Please respect our need for space and privacy right now. Maybe in a few months we’ll be able to discuss this with you and sort it out.”

          I don’t have a lot of hope that this will ACTUALLY press “pause” on your relationship, but I think it might be helpful to you to have given yourself explicit permission, and put them on explicit notice, that you aren’t going to rehash this now, but also that you’re undecided about the future. Otherwise I think it might be hard to put all of this aside and not let it take up too much mental energy. I think it will also make it easier to enforce boundaries now without feeling that you’re being mean or that you’re taking a stand on the entire friendship.

          1. HannahS*

            Thanks! Yeah, I wound up responding to the text with something similar. It took a fair amount of conversation with my partner for me to be able to even identify that what I want to do is press pause. And you’re right, I don’t at all want this to be taking up my mental energy right now.

    11. Aurora Leigh*

      Wow! Nothing tops your story!

      But when I came into work the day after the proposal (wearing my engagement ring) and announced, my coworkers launched into a tirade of very personal questions.

      Had we picked a date? Big wedding? Small wedding? Would they be invited? Who was paying? What did my mom say? Did we want kids? How many? When? Had we talked about kids yet? Was it a surprise? Etc.

      My mom’s reaction: “Oh.” Long silence. “How nice.” She is not his biggest fan, as getting married makes it even less likely I will move closer to her (wasn’t happening even if I stayed single for life.)

      His parents love me and were thrilled for us, but his dad can be a little awkward. He told me “We’re so relieved.” (That I said yes?)

      Oh, and a cousin thought us stopping by unannounced was to with a new pet (we did this once). She was a little disappointed there was no new puppy, but very happy for us anyway.

    12. LilySparrow*

      People who project their own marital problems onto you.

      Multiple strangers that I only knew by sight as “regulars” in a public space- in the laundromat, in the subway, you name it – were so triggered by the appearance of a ring or a passing comment that they berated me about what a terrible mistake marriage is, and how awful the opposite sex is, and all the reasons why.

      But the funniest was an older guy who worked in my office, who I would chat with sometimes. He walked in while my coworkers were congratulating me, reacted with shock and dismay, and told me I was far too young to ruin my life by making such a big committment that I would only regret when I was old enough to know better.

      I blinked at him and said, “I’m thirty-two.”

      He actually made the harrumph-a-mumble noise you hear in the background of broadcasts from Parliament, and said, “Well! Then it’s about time!”

      I went from undercooked to stale in a millisecond, apparently.

      1. Observer*

        I have to say that this is very funny.

        But I also hope you didn’t have to work with him, because he sounds like a total idiot.

        1. LilySparrow*

          Not directly, no. He was normally polite enough for your average weather and holiday plans type chitchat.

          I think he realized at least that he’d put his foot in it, because he gave me a wide berth for some time afterwards.

      2. MsChanandlerBong*

        People who project their own marital problems onto you.

        Yep, like the friend who came to my hen night and spent the whole time telling me how terrible marriage is. I love her dearly, but I could have killed her. Her mom is very mean to her dad (nothing he does is ever good enough, he’s never made enough money to satisfy her, etc.), and I hate to say it, but she has picked up some of those habits. No one is perfect, and I realize that I don’t live there and don’t know everything that goes on, but she is a little too rough on him sometimes.

        1. HannahS*

          Aw, that’s rough. I’ve been lucky with the opposite with a colleague of mine, who has been married for a few years. We both just went through some very stressful career-related stuff, and when we were talking about it privately, I made a comment about how grateful I was to my partner for all of his support. My colleague’s whole face lit up and he gushed (a bit) about how awesome it is to have someone else to go through this with. It was really sweet, because he doesn’t talk about his wife a ton, but he’s so excited for me and we’re high five-ing a lot!

      3. WS*

        Yeah, I’m an out lesbian in a small town, and my country had a same-sex marriage vote in late 2017. Everyone suddenly needed to tell me how awful it was to be married, and why would gay people even want to do that, etc. etc. etc. It was pretty thoughtless.

        1. HannahS*

          I’m sorry, that’s so sh_tty and insensitive. And patronizing, and ignorant. The ability to get married and have those legal protections, in addition to the acknowledgement from the state, is incredibly important.

      4. HannahS*

        That’s so awful! The old guy, I have to say, is kind of funny. Isn’t that how it goes for women? You’re either too young or too old. I guess there’s a brief second when you’re, I don’t know, 25, maybe, where it’s acceptable to get engaged, provided you’re both finished your educations and paid down all of your debt.

        …missed the boat. I won’t be done my education until I’m roughly 35. And I’m still accumulating debt. Whoops.

    13. Jackalope*

      I guess this isn’t too far out of the pale but when I told someone I wasn’t changing my name they asked me if I was even going to have a real marriage. Yes, yes I am. I have a fancy official certificate from my state verifying that I am in fact legally connected to this person that I say I am married to.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Welp, better tell the 90%+ of married men who didn’t change their names that they aren’t really married!

        1. LilySparrow*

          Ah, but they don’t need to change their names. Everyone can tell they are properly married because Wifey makes sure they don’t have Ring Around the Collar. It’s a sure sign.

          /s

  11. Lilo*

    I am going to start an “Oh god, what do I get X for the holidays” thread. Post below with some details about your friend/family who is stumping you and we can come up with ideas.

    I will say those Buzzfeed lists have been helping me this year. I got the idea to give my mom a book of New York times crossword puzzles from one of those lists.

    1. WellRed*

      Some years it’s such a breeze, others it’s stumpsville! I don’t usually get my brother anything (we’re not super close) but he had a bad year last year (divorced, broke, living in the office at his garage etc). I found a funny card and dropped it off along with a “stocking” (tea, lighters, lip balm). I’d like to get him something this year, but don’t want an exact repeat. He’s a mechanic and, let’s just say, we don’t talk politics are anything like that. (and he’s doing much better this year).

      1. CAA*

        Since he’s living in an office, how about food that doesn’t require cooking? Maybe there’s a gift basket that would work if he’s partial to cheese or chocolate or fruit, but you could also just go to Trader Joe’s and make up your own.

      2. Koala dreams*

        Something foody, maybe? Chocolate, bread, jam, cheese, or something else you know he likes to eat. If you want to give something more lasting, maybe a hot sandwich maker, a kettle or a toaster. (Of course, it can be difficult if you don’t know what he already has.)

    2. Laura H.*

      I’ll also admit that a gift I bought was prompted by a listicle-I hope the brother likes the make your own hot sauce kit I got him!

    3. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

      We don’t ‘do’ Christmas, but my husband’s birthday falls at the end of December and he is sooooo hard to buy/ make for! I’ve stopped making him (what I think are) romantic but thoughtful gifts, it’s just too frustrating when he never picks them up again. This is especially true when I’ve been so sure they’d be a hit. He likes practical stuff, but he’s very particular about what he likes, plus how many hoodies or socks does one man need? He loves football and programming but is consistently adamant that he doesn’t want ANY gifts associated with those things. Honestly, this year I’m thinking he’s just going to get a short and a gift receipt. So please help!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        “A sign of adulthood is being excited to receive high-quality socks.”
        -my daughter, early 20s

        1. Alexandra Lynch*

          Socks are always a good bet for me because I have very large feet for a woman, and they are arthritic to boot so tight is not good. I know quite well “One size fits all” will not fit me. I usually buy men’s athletic shoes because of the wider last and toe box, and my feet are large enough to do that. I will bet that I will get socks from my sons, and I will be grateful, cause they will be Bombas or Smartwool, which I adore.

        2. Erykah Badu*

          Heck yeah. I love getting good socks as gifts! It’s something you don’t think/remember to buy yourself but so appreciate it when you have them.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            But also, when you put them on you think, “Aww, Erykah got me these.” Gifts which are an everyday upgrade are very good for maintaining relationships.

        3. Ranon*

          I now own enough nice wool socks after several Christmases to wear nothing but nice wool socks all winter and it is great, now I’m trying to get family to fill in my summer weight wool collection

          Nice gloves are pretty great too if you’re in a cold weather climate, or a really good ice scraper

          If he’s super practical a really good first aid kit, car emergency gear, or emergency water storage are all great things to have

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            For me it was a sale at Marshall’s on Columbia wool socks. Picked up a few packs and… oh. HEY! Wearing only good quality socks all winter is such a game changer.

            As von Klinkerhoffen says, there’s nothing like an everyday upgrade.

      2. CAA*

        Have you tried an experience gift? My DH’s birthday is a few days before Christmas and I’m taking him to the magic show at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel this year. He loves magic, old Hollywood, fancy cocktails, and having a night out with me, so I’m pretty confident that this one will be a hit.

        How about tickets to a concert or comedian that might be coming to town in the next few months? Or dinner at a restaurant you’ve both been wanting to try? Or a weekend getaway? Maybe a movie date — Rise of Skywalker comes out on 12/20?

        1. Cruciatus*

          This is what I’m doing, giving experiences. I’m gifting one friend and her family an axe throwing gift certificate, and I’m giving my sister and her husband a “rage room” gift certificate that’s near where they live (you get a bat and you get to smash everything in there! Bottles, printers, TVs, etc.). They aren’t rage-y, but my sister can buy whatever she wants when she wants and I don’t think she’s ever done this so hopefully they will both find it fun.

        2. Kuododi*

          Oh trust me, my household is waiting with baited breath for Dec 20. DH is one of the “OG Star Wars Nerds.” ;). We’re also going to see the movie version of Cats for Christmas. Jan for our anniversary he snagged tickets to the theater. I’ve gotten to the point that I actually prefer experiences to random stuff which gathers dust. Have fun!!!

      3. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

        Thank you guys. I’m bookmarking this not only for ideas, but also for any time I start thinking socks and other practical gifts aren’t enough!
        And I might add ‘rage room time’ to MY birthday list, that sounds awesome.

    4. Chylleh*

      The BuzzFeed lists have been helpful! I got my partners best friend’s wife a gift using it, and feel pretty confident about it. It’s a bound family cookbook where you can also pay photos of the recipes you create.

      I just cannot figure out a “big” gift for my partner for anything. I suggested we just take a trip together but that ended up not being realistic with our work schedules for the holiday season. I’m going to make him a photo book with our previous trips together, but am stumped beyond that.

    5. Morning Reader*

      My widowed brother-in-law. He likes Budweiser beer, flies drones and remote control planes, gardens, has cats. Cat toys or gift certificates for gardening or hardware is all I can think of.
      My adult daughter, who has particular tastes and has most everything she needs already. She farms and gardens and cooks and has dogs. A new game for her family maybe? She mentioned wanting a Roomba but the good ones are out of my price range and what if I got her the wrong model?

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I’ve got the gardener in the family an insect hotel. It’s a little wooden house with little sections that all have different “furniture” like tightly packed bamboo, wood shavings, etc. The hotel attracts pollinators and pest-eaters to the garden which improves all your plants (and supports the environment more generally).

        Helpfully, it was listed on a website which donates a portion of profits to a charity she likes.

        There are lots of versions of insect hotels of different sizes, attracting different insects, different styles, etc.

      2. Lcsa99*

        For the gardener in our family I got a kneeler – a pad with a cute design on it that you can kneel on when working in the garden to give your knees a break. A good one you can easily wipe off the dirt too. I found the one I got on Etsy.

        For your brother-in-law maybe what I got my nephew. It’s a neat little thing that you hook up to a paper airplane to make it fly further. You connect it to your smart phone to charge it.

    6. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I never know what to get my stepfather. My mom thinks we have “so much in common” but I’ve never felt comfortable around him because he said some really homophobic things while drunk when I was first getting to know him quite a while back (decades ago now, but at the time I was queer, closeted, and counting on financial help from my mother to finish college, so it was not a great start to the relationship).

      He knows a lot about electronic stuff/cars/fixing thing around the house, and likes science fiction movies/tv shows. (I’ve never seen him read much.) Our politics are wildly dissimilar.

      I usually get him alcohol (we like similar kinds of beer), but he has gout and should limit his drinking (sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t) so I’m not sure that I should keep doing that.

      My father, who I get along with better but is also impossible to buy for because if he wants something that’s under about $200 he will buy it for himself as soon as he’s sure it’s something he genuinely wants, is getting a supporting membership to Worldcon. I’m getting myself one too, and we’re going to read/watch our way through the various Hugo nominees and argue over who should win in each category once the ballot comes out. Dad has never been a Hugo voter before, but every year that I’ve been one I end up borrowing things from him that he’d bought and are on the ballot but not in the packet. One year we realized that he’d bought all but one of the nominated movies already, for example, and it’s not uncommon for him to have read one or more of the nominated novels each year as part of his regular reading habits. It’ll basically give us a common read/watch list to work through and discuss for several months once it comes out, which he’s up for (gifts are not usually a surprise between us) and I’m hoping will work out well as a shared activity. (I wish I could actually go to Worldcon next year, but New Zealand is expensive. Maybe 2021…)

    7. Wishing You Well*

      Try giving to their favorite charity. If the idea bombs, don’t do it next year.
      Gift cards for an experience are okay if you don’t mind the possibility of them never being used. My unused examples include a helicopter ride, massage and a tiny restaurant 50 miles away. It seems rude to hand the card back. It is rude to say you don’t like the gift. Giving it away within your social circle might expose your regifting. It’s a conundrum.
      I don’t really need more stuff. The ultimate holiday gift I’d like is a newsletter of someone’s year and a photo (a real one you can put in a frame). These I keep forever. I’m sure others have different preferences.
      Best of luck to all you conscientious gift-givers!

    8. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I got a tip to lurk on the mumsnet dot com message boards, specifically mumsnet dot com slash talk slash Christmas

      The commenters there have odd ideas about many things, sure, but they have LOTS of ideas, and you’ll find a thread called “present for active 12yo” or “what are we all getting our dads this year?”

      From that stalking I have a book of reportage for my dad, an insect hotel for grandma, and some complicated thermals for spouse (many hours standing around outdoors watching children play sports).

    9. Arjay*

      It’s possible I bought my brother-in-law a Rubik’s cube that flips around on the table or floor and solves itself. I saw it in a Facebook ad.

  12. Digley Doowap*

    Suggestions on what can I do to get in the holiday spirit when I’m a home bound recluse due to extreme tinnitus.

    I’m progressively getting worse and can no longer socialize with friends or family. I feel so alone and forgotten. My wife goes out to family events and birthdays (as she should) and I’m left here isolated in a world of 78dB brain noise!

    It sucks and I’m tired of it!

    1. StellaBella*

      First, let me tell you that I am very sorry that you have tinnitus and it is keeping you homebound. I dated a man for 3 years with extreme tinnitus. He coped in part by being able to go out in nature and using Bose noise canceling ear phones as well as stronger ear protection sometimes to walk and hike and even ski once or twice. Also, he tried things like mindfulness meditation with soft music, counselling and therapy, and was also on some anti-depressant (do not remember which one). I wish there was a cure for this, the effects are pretty profound, and for that, I hope that you can find some relief.

      1. valentine*

        You could organize a silent party where you break bread and group text.

        (Your friends should be finding ways to include you.)

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m sorry; that sounds very frustrating.

      What says Christmas to you? Evergreens, ornaments, plates of cookies, certain stories? Can you get more of that, rather than scaling back as often happens when we become more homebound? I often reread Connie Willis’s collection Miracle and Other Stories, and Jostein Gaarder’s A Christmas Mystery/i>. The cozy mystery genre likes holiday tales; I particularly like Donna Andrews’s Meg Langslow series.

    3. WellRed*

      I”m sorry this has happened to you. What gets me in spirit is the tree and lights. Maybe the occasional Christmas movie, but that may not be possible for you. Can you socialize at all? Like, one visitor to your house for a bit?

      1. WellRed*

        ALso, it’s too late for this year, but I wonder if there is some sort of holiday charity work you could do from home (answering letters to Santa. Christmas cards to seniors. Wrapping toys for children). I don’t now if anything like that even exists in your area, but might be a way to feel more connected.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          My dad volunteered for The Gutenberg Project, checking transcriptions of out of copyright print books into digital format. It’s a good volunteer opportunity if you are home bound and like reading.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I’m getting myself set up to try recording for LibriVox… my family reads out loud to each other a lot, so I know I can do long stretches. But I have to get over how different I sound on recording than I do in my head.

          2. Meepmeep*

            I did that too! It’s great fun if you like proofreading. There are some really weird and obscure books. I remember proofreading a textbook of Classical Mayan language – fascinating stuff.

    4. Anonymatic Yo-Yo*

      I’m also homebound this year due to some issues with my pelvis that are preventing me from walking very far or doing much around the house, and drugs that really drive fatigue. Hell, a shower is a major achievement these days. It sucks to not be able to go out and be with people, see the lights on in the city, feel that holiday hustle and excitement, go to the holiday parties. It gets so frustrating when there is nothing you can do about it and it feels like life is passing you by.

      It is usually just the two of us for the holidays so we hole up for a few days and enjoy cooking new recipes for part of the fancy dinners. Planning for that has kept me occupied and interested in the season. I’ve also had to have a lot of things delivered (booze, gifts, groceries, etc) to help take the strain off my partner and its like UPS Santa showing up to break the monotony of the day.

      When doing chores around the house I like to listen to a bit of Christmas tunes, and when I take my (short) walks around the neighborhood I try to appreciate the different decorations people have put up. We are getting our tree tomorrow, and I think decorating that will help a lot to get that spirit going, and some special spice scented candles to burn as well. In some ways it helps just to do what you can do, and not what you feel obligated to do because ‘its the holidays’.

    5. Creapy Arms*

      I have this too. What kind of Drs. have you gone to? What helps me at home is streaming the tv to my hearing aids. It covers the noise up. You can buy a blue tooth and do the same thing. This is the worst thing in the world to try and cope with. Best of luck to you.

      1. Digley Doowap*

        I’ve had this evil condition for 15 years and I’ve been to the normal gauntlet of doctors that people would tend to see (ENT, Audiologists, Psychologist) all to no avail. I even took part in a clinical study to see it deep brain stimulation could help (2 probes in the brain with stimulator implanted in my chest); it unfortunately made me 10X worse.

        I also had hearing aids with bluetooth. But as my tinnitus and hyperacusis worsened, the hearing aids spiked the tinnitus. The tinnitus can’t be masked as it now extremly loud. My concentration is kaput as well. I watch TV, but frequently on mute with the closed caption enabled.

        Best of luck to you as well. Protect your hearing too.

    6. Koala dreams*

      Choose and write Christmas cards to friends and family (or New Year cards), bake and eat cookies, put up lots of lights if it’s dark outside. If you have a garden, you can put up a bird feeding station and watch the birds.

  13. Kumquat*

    How do you deal with personality types that are slightly paranoid, untrusting, and every little thing sets them off so you’re basically walking on eggshells?

    It’s confusing because they can sometimes be funny, social, and nice to talk with at times. Sort of a Jekyl/Hyde type…

    1. Myrin*

      I think it depends on what your relationship is with them – I’d give different advice about your sibling-you’re-close-to-overall than about your friend-of-an-acquaintance-you-see-three-times-a-year. Can you specify more where you’re at regarding this?

    2. QCI*

      Short answer: You’re not responsible for managing other peoples feelings.
      Long Answer: Depends who the person is to you.

    3. Jessi*

      You don’t! You decide that its not on you to walk on eggshells and the next time they set themselves off you say “Its unacceptable to talk to me that way. I am going to take a break from this relationship until you can treat me with respect”. Then you avoid that person and enjoy living your best life NOT twisting yourself into knots.

      1. Wishing You Well*

        Yes, eggshell walking is not good.
        If you can’t quit the relationship soon, you can cut short your exposure to bad behavior by leaving immediately when the bad behavior starts or as soon as you become uncomfortable. (I assume the person is not your boss.) It doesn’t matter what the source of the problem is, you need to put yourself first. Maybe change how you interact with this person – remotely instead of in-person, etc.
        Ask advice from a professional or a hotline. They should be well-versed in workable solutions.
        Hope things get better for you.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed. There are too many things going on here and you as one person cannot fix this. Additionally, you could end up hurt (emotionally or physically) if you try too hard.

        I’d go with shorter interactions at preset intervals. We can’t help people who don’t want help. We can’t console those who do not want to be consoled. We cannot make people happy who are very unhappy. Sometimes the hard answer is we can’t make them be the person we think they should be. We just accept them as they are.

        We can, however, protect ourselves. I went to see a friend one day. Somehow everything I said was the wrong thing. Then we moved on to outlandish conclusions from what I had just said. I got up, put my coat on and I said, “It seems like today is a bad day for a visit. I will come back on a different day.” And I kept my word, I went back on a different day. It was never that bad again. But I did see a tamer version some of those behaviors again.

        My bestest advice is to watch how they talk about other friends. And realize this is how you will be treated in the long run also.

    4. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

      This is probably not helpful advice, but I don’t if I can help it. We had a family friend like this and basically stopped socializing with her because it was emotionally exhausting. She wasn’t a bad person, but ain’t nobody got time for that nonsense. If it’s someone you can’t really avoid (like a parent), I would just make it a point to keep the topic of conversation as trivial as possible, and if they still get offended, be prepared to not care/ignore them.

    5. LilySparrow*

      I quit calling and reduced contact to occasional letters about weather and birdwatching, and reduced visits to emergency hospitalization only.

      1. Not disordered*

        Check out the website outofthefog.net
        Important support and info for dealing with people with personality disorders.

    6. Mimblewimble*

      Set boundaries that work for you. You’re not responsible for managing others’ feelings. You can limit your interactions with this person to a level you’re comfortable with.

      My dad is like the person you describe: he can be really nice and charismatic but then his mood can rapidly flip for seemingly no reason, and suddenly he’s angry, spiteful and cruel. It took me a very long time to realize that I have no control over his emotions, and that I should not blame myself for or feed into his emotions. I’ve had to set very firm boundaries with him and stick to them. It’s not always easy, but I’m in a much better place now because of it.

      I hope this helps give you the freedom to recognize that this is fully that other person’s issue, and you get to decide if and how you want to frame your interactions with them. But know that you do not have to have a relationship with them at all, if that is what you feel is best for you. You have full control, regardless of their relationship to you.

      Sending warm thoughts and encouragement your way!

  14. Christmas*

    I’m removing this because (a) it’s been discussed extensively earlier in this week, and (b) I’m on vacation and not able to moderate it. Please see the original post for very detailed discussions on this. – Alison

  15. Ali*

    Does anyone have any experience with foam rolling? Do you recommend it? Any videos you like?

    (I have plantar fasciitis, in part connected to very tight and knotty calf muscles. I do stretches every morning, but that just keeps things under control, I’d like to make some progress and go on day-long hikes again! But I’d like to hear from people who do foam-rolling for any reason.)

    1. fposte*

      I love foam rolling. I mostly do it on my back these days (hard black foam roller), and it’s amazing. For plantar fasciitis, I had huge success with the Foot Log from Amazon, which made more of a difference to me than all the stretches and rolling.

        1. fposte*

          Yup–I roll from neck to waist about 10 times. I was incredibly tight around my spine until this year’s PT and it helps keep things loose.

    2. cold tea*

      I’ve done a lot of foam rolling and have also had PF. I’m not sure you need a video, but I guess it can’t hurt. The idea is to roll out muscles. So you would put the roller under your calf, and move your body back and forth. Try to get as much body weight on there. So, if it’s your right foot that has PF, try to cross your left leg on your right, and support yourself only with your hands and the weight of your right leg on the roller. Go back and forth slowly (for my PF, I found focusing more on the achilles was more helpful). It should hurt. if you find areas that hurt more, roll out those areas more slowly and longer. Also, I found that my PF took many many months to get better enough to go for a decent walk, so don’t rush that part. You might also try rolling out your hamstrings (back of thigh).

      1. Alexandra Lynch*

        I second working on your hamstrings for PF. Every single time my PF flares, it’s because I’ve been skimping on hamstring stretches.

      2. Ali*

        I’ve had PF for years, but am thinking of adding foam rolling into my daily/weekly care around it. Do you think it made a big difference for you?

    3. KR*

      My husband swears by it, that’s about all I know. He says it relieves a lot of pain/soreness post work out.

    4. Middle School Teacher*

      I do it on my hips and butt a lot (I get sciatica). It hurts at the time but it feels so great once everything is released!

    5. Ol' Sorefoot*

      I have had plantar fasciitis for years. I recently got a very firm spiky ball for my feet and for me it is much more satisfying than any rolling or leg exercise I’ve tried before.

    6. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

      I was just introduced to it in a workout class I got to and I really like it! That being said, I haven’t been using it for that long. I’ve recently developed a lot of tension in my upper back and it helped a lot.

    7. Rolling enthusiast*

      I second Ol’ Sorefoot’s suggestion of the spiky ball. Another item I like is a handheld roller, I’ll post a link to one as a response to this comment. I find the foam roller tricky to do well, but with the handheld roller I can focus on the correct area much easier – and get a lot more pressure.
      (Switching usernames for this comment as I recommend this item a LOT, so it’s semi identifying, lol!)

    8. CoffeeforLife*

      Lacrosse balls are great for rolling the foot, aso try picking up clothes with your toes. I have a hard trigger point hollow roller. There are some great YouTube videos on rolling routines and how to position the roller. My IT bands are super tight and I don’t roll enough.

  16. Fikly*

    Cooking help needed!

    I’m experimenting with overnight buckwheat. Context: moving into week four of anaphylactic reaction, tongue is now raw and irritated, I need cold soothing things to eat.

    I googled and found the ratio seems to be 2:1 liquid to buckwheat groats. I mixed almond milk and whole buckwheat groats (bob’s red mill if it matters), stirred, added some spices/flavoring, and left it in the fridge, stirring occasionally. It’s been 36+ hours and I have liquid and crunchy buckwheat.

    Help

    (No I can’t do oats.)

    1. Anon woman with breast cancer*

      As I have progressed in my cancer treatment, I make smoothies with frozen berry mixes, bit of honey, and yogurt and water. They are cool and if you can have them, they help with sore mouth/throat. 4 weeks of anaphylaxis reaction recovery sounds horrible, I am so sorry. Also to sooth your mouth, could you rise 4-5 times a day with a glass of water with a 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate in it? Good luck.

      1. Fikly*

        Thanks for the suggestion! I can’t do smoothies at home, because I can’t deal with the blender, but I am occasionally treating myself to them.

        I’ve been living off of things mixed into yogurt, but I’m trying to get a second base that has more carbs/protein in it.

        I’ll have to try the bicarbonate rinse! I think I have some running around, otherwise I can pick some up.

        And yeah, 0/5 stars for this reaction. The trigger is known, but impossible to remove for now. It’s just going to take time.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Blenders are a PITA, but I love the stick someone gave us. (Google tells ne the real name is immersion blender.) Pour your stuff into a wide mouth mason jar, put the stick in and push a button. Disconnect the stick from the machine part and put it in the top rack of the dishwasher.
          Ours came with a mini chopper that attaches to the same motor-handle.

    2. mreasy*

      Hi! Buckwheat groats really require cooking as they’re very tough. I used to make them in a pressure cooker. Buckwheat kasha is what you want if you’re going the overnight route. (Though not exactly, the difference is similar to oat groats vs rolled oats – the kasha has the very tough exterior removed so it cooks or soaks more easily.)

      1. Fikly*

        Aha! Would something like Wolff’s fine grain kasha be better to try?

        I’m used to cooking buckwheat/kasha on the stove, so I wasn’t sure what grind to buy, and the recipes I found were confusing.

    3. SarahKay*

      Can you do rice? If so, my go-to comfort food is home-made cold rice pudding, which is just rice, sugar, and milk.
      Four generous (heaped) tablespoons of pudding rice (aka short-grain rice), two mean tablespoons of sugar, two (uk) pints of milk (uk pint = 20 fl oz, so use 40 floz = 2.5 US pints, I think). I use cow’s milk, but I would think you can sub in almond milk; you might need to change the sugar amounts, though.
      Bring it all to a boil, stirring fairly regularly at this stage so that the sugar/ rice doesn’t stick to the pan. Once boiled, simmer for 25 minutes. Simmering stage needs much less attention, I just stir it every ten minutes or so. Watch out when you’re bringing it to the boil – it goes from ‘just thinking about boiling’ to ‘masses of milk foam all over your stove-top’ in what feels like two seconds if you turn your back on it.

      1. Fikly*

        I love rice pudding, but I can’t do the carbs – I have type 1 diabetes. The buckwheat/kasha plays better with my sugar.

        And yes, it is super tasty with almond milk! Thanks for the suggestion.

    4. Alexandra Lynch*

      Can you cook the buckwheat in the almond milk low and slow and then refrigerate it? That’s what I would do. You can always add cold almond milk to the resultant gruel to adjust texture.

      (I say low and slow/double boiler because almond milk and dairy milk will both burn on the bottom if you give them half a chance.)

      Almond milk also makes good custards if you’re after protein and can do eggs.

      1. Fikly*

        Thanks. I’m trying to avoid having to actually cook something/make dishes that need to be washed because I don’t have the energy to deal with that plus I’m on crutches. Hence my attempt at a no cook solution.

        I shall have to think on this further. And yes, almond milk custards are super tasty.

          1. Fikly*

            Are there rice cookers that don’t splatter the entire counter with liquid from what comes out of the little vent? Mine always has, and then there’s a lot of clean up involved.

  17. Lady Jay*

    Starting to get pretty anxious about a *big* important project due early next year at work. So I chilled last night with The Good Place, S1. Somehow that show always makes me feel better.

    What shows / books / movies do you go to, when you’re feeling anxious or discouraged?

    1. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

      Regardless of the time of year, I’ll want to watch A Muppet Christmas Carol. My husband will even set it up for me when I’m sick! I’ve fallen asleep watching more times than I can count, but it always comforts me.

    2. Lilo*

      Harry Potter. I totally listened to the audiobooks while I was in labor to try to relax (and drown out the freaking heart monitor which was a constant source of stress).

    3. Foreign Octopus*

      I go to Star Trek: The Next Generation for comfort TV, and the Amelia Peabody mysteries for comfort reading.

    4. annakarina1*

      Bob’s Burgers makes me feel happy and comfortable, right from the jump with the ukulele opening music. It’s positive and celebrates a family where everyone but Bob is a little eccentric and they’re all lovingly accepted for it. It puts me in a good mood.

    5. Fikly*

      Well, I just watched it this morning, but there’s a Terry Crews special on Hulu where he sits in front of a fire place for 45 minutes and paints soothingly ala Bob Ross.

    6. Valancy Snaith*

      Bake Off. It’s basically all I’ve watched in the past month or so since my mom died. It’s soothing, calming, nothing really bad ever happens, there’s nice music, everyone is nice, and then there’s nice baked goods at the end. It’s about all I can handle.

    7. alex b.*

      I Love Lucy.

      I love good horror movies (not the stupid slasher ones…the really thoughtful ones), but I always have to watch an episode of I Love Lucy afterward to calm anxiety.

    8. Seal*

      When the current political climate gets to be too much, I watch the West Wing. It gives me hope.

      In my area, ME TV runs the various Star Trek series in the evenings. I’m partial to DS9, although the later seasons of TNG are good, too. I find it very grounding.

      The Harry Potter books also get reread every few years. And if I stumble upon one of the movies while channel surfing, I’ll always watch at least a few minutes. Literary comfort food, in a way.

    9. OTGW*

      I only finished the series like…. a week ago, but The Black Magician Trilogies (she has two sets) by Trudi Canavan. It was soooo relaxing to read, especially with my really stressful semester. The emotional parts didn’t quite have an impact, but it was still really good.

      Also, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015). I’m love it.

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Mirabile by Janet Kagan. (Sf short stories, see if you can find the original Tor paperback for fewer typos than what went into kindle, and some sweet connection text.)
      84 Charing Cross Road, by Helen Hanff.
      Circle of Magic, by Tamora Pierce, or Protector of the Small.

  18. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

    I am so excited, a certain newly launched mouse-themed streaming service has the film The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes! That was one of my very favorite stupid movies growing up (along with the original The Love Bug). Anyone else looking forward to watching a particular stupid old movie?

    1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Is there a good way to find out what shows that service has? I’m really missing the Fluppy Dogs 80s tv special, and my taped-off-the-air copy is on betamax so I haven’t watched it in quite a while.

      1. Fikly*

        Wondering this too! I’m finding it impossible to browse. It’s like they want you unable to find things.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I searched and got no results on “Fluppy”, sorry!

        There are articles that came out with complete listings of what was on it at release, but I have no idea how to track updates since then other than just searching on the site.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Thank you! I don’t really “do” streaming services (or cable) because if I’m paying a monthly “all you can eat” fee like that I’ll feel like I”m wasting money if I don’t spend enough time watching television, so I didn’t want to sign up for a month just to search for an obscure Disney TV special. The search continues.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I already watched a childhood favorite, That Darn Cat! Except for a cringe-y cross-dressing joke, it’s held up pretty well. The Love Bug is on my watch list, along with The Black Hole and a couple of other things. I’ve also been enjoying Pixar shorts I missed.

      I’m not really a huge Disney fan; the main reason I got D+ was to stream all the Marvel films (I have them on Blu-ray, but they’re all packed) and Star Wars, and to watch the new series in both franchises. Right now I’m all about The Mandalorian. :)

  19. carrie heffernan*

    Currently reading The Fact of a Body and only putting it down long enough to post here that my GOD it’s amazing and profoundly sad and if you like memoirs and true crime, get this book immediately.

    1. Fran*

      I just finished my thesis and my last two papers for my Master’s this week, will graduate early next year and I am on Allison’s books of the year list. Read 1.5 in two days. It is nice to read for pleasure without the guilt. Finishing the Bad Blood. I can’t put it down.

  20. PhyllisB*

    Thought all of you would like an update on my grand-son. He is now out on bail (with an ankle bracelet) has taken his GED tests (passed them all with flying colors) and is starting a full-time job next week. Got to see him over Thanksgiving week. I also believe he’s doing intensive counseling. Don’t know about meds, but I will ask.
    Of course, he’s going to have to go to trial eventually, but at least he can show the judge that he’s really trying to get his act together perhaps they won’t give him prison time. He was only 15 when he did those things, so I don’t know. I will keep you posted.
    To those who say he’s mighty young to be taking GED (just turned 17) I agree, but no high school would accept him I’m sure except an alternative school (maybe) and this way at least he can start college if he’s so inclined.
    I appreciate all the kind comments and concerns all of you have shown, and I will update as I have things to report.

    1. Lives in a Shoe*

      Many people have taken the GED at 16/17 and then gone on to college and led very normal, successful lives. Myself included. Please keep ignoring those who believe otherwise.

      1. QCI*

        I wish my stepkids would get their GEDs and do something with their lives, but since they have little to no contact with me or their mom except for “Where’s my birthday/Christmas presents” I don’t see it happening.

      2. blackcat*

        One of my friends did it at barely 16 entirely b/c she was homeschooled and wanted to move on to college. She did community college for 2 years, then transferred to an elite 4 year school, and went to a top 10 law school.

        GEDs can carry stigma, but they shouldn’t! They are a logical educational path for many.

        1. PhyllisB*

          Yes, I know GED has (or can have a stigma) but it’s a valid option. I took my GED years ago and went on to college. In those days they would let you take the test but would not send your GED certificate until you were 20 years old. I was 19 when I passed it and forgot to follow up until about two years later. I was able to go to work and start college without it. (I guess since I had ACT scores they didn’t realize it.)This was in the early seventies and it may have just been my state, but I know that’s not true anymore.
          I just know some people are going to think that he should have gone back to high school. (Not people in this group, just folks in general.) My daughter said when she went to sign him up for the tests the lady in the office acted like she didn’t want to process it and even asked her why she didn’t send him back to high school. She was thinking, “Lady, I’m not giving you all our history right here!!” She just said, “it’s a long story” and that was all that was said. I am hoping he will go on to college soon, but right now he’s just getting used to being free again.

      3. JediSquirrel*

        Yep, exactly. High school is not always a good environment for everyone. It can be extremely toxic, and taking the GED and getting the hell out has been a good route for a lot of people.

    2. Not A Manager*

      That’s such hopeful news! If there’s a good community college in the area, you might encourage him to take one class there every quarter. It will probably look good to a judge, it will keep him on track for higher education or vocational/career training in the future, AND it sounds like he’s a smart guy who might benefit from some continued educational challenges.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Glad he’s getting his life together! I agree, a good community college could be very helpful.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I am getting more optimistic for him (and in turn for you).
      You might remember me saying, I have watched friends go through “stuff” so my sense of things here is right in alignment with what you are saying. He’s hitting all the right buttons and the judge definitely will take that into consideration. I think if they wanted to put him in prison they would have just done it, they would not waste time on all this stuff because they would see it was not worth their effort. But we won’t say that to him or anyone in a similar setting. Some folks need to have a good scare. Well it really isn’t a scare in the sense of an idyll threat, the threat of jail time is real.

      My good friend describes himself as a recovering a$$hole. I listen to his stories and yep, if you looked up AH in the dictionary his picture would be there. This is not the person he is now, at all. So he tells a story about the time he stole a car….. looking back on the story he says as an adult he realizes SO MANY people tried to pull him away from that stuff. Even the judge tried to help. Why. Because all these people saw a flicker of hope in my friend and they were right. He did do some more stupid stuff then he decided he was going to get smart. He was probably 30 or so when he said, “I am an adult and I need to start acting like one.” All that nonsense is gone. This is a good friend who now has a key to my house and takes care of my precious dog. (I did not know him back in his heyday.Yes, he speaks clearly and truthfully about his past.) Total turn around IS possible. It takes time. It takes the inputs of many people. Stepping back and letting others in is extremely wise.

      Now he says that he still hears the call of the wild life but he pays no attention. Because above all else he does not want to lose the friends he now has. Am smiling, never underestimate the power of positive relationships. And for your grandson never underestimate the power of accomplishments. People who are doing something positive feel better about themselves.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Thank you Not So New Reader!! I’ve appreciated the kind and encouraging things you have said. I am being optimistic that he will get to the same place your friend has.

    4. Observer*

      GED was a smart move. Regular school obviously was not working for him, so why send him back there? Alternative schools might be ok, but why any better than a GED, if he’s able to do it? Better that he get a job where he can do something, be (and feel) productive and make some money.

      I hope he manages to get his life turned around.

  21. Anxious Annie*

    Does anyone want to share their experience of what it’s like to take anti-anxiety medication? I’ve been resistant to turn to medication to manage my anxiety because I’m afraid of (1) turning into an emotional zombie, (2) gaining a substantial amount of weight and (3) taking a sharp financial hit from the cost of doctor visits and prescriptions — all three of which have happened to people I know who went on meds — but all the non-pharmaceutical things I’ve tried so far haven’t been effective, so I think it’s going to be unavoidable at some point. Thanks in advance.

    1. mreasy*

      Hi! I have generalized anxiety and panic disorder, among other things. I take an SSRI for the everyday issues, which by no means cause zombification (trust: I have been on a lot of mood stabilizers that are truly life-flattening and SSRIs don’t do that). They’re usually thought of for depression, but are also on-label for anxiety for the most part. SSRIs can cause a bit of weight gain, but it’s usually not hugely significant (some are better than others and you can tell your doc it’s a concern for you). For panic attacks, I take the occasional Klonopin (a benzo like Xanax or Ativan), which can cause mild sleepiness, but is only meant for occasional use. This is totally something that is treatable with meds, especially if you’re also able to incorporate therapy like CBT. But even if therapy isn’t doable, meds really can help a lot, and the meds that help anxiety are all pretty tried and true, so every doc will have experience with them.

    2. Anon woman with breast cancer*

      I have in the past, and currently too, used a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy with xanax (but there are better drugs out there now that are easier per my doctor) to manage anxiety. I use the xanax maybe one every two weeks when meditation and counselling does not work. I wish you luck, anxiety can be tough to wrangle. Maybe others here have a better handle on some options.

    3. Fikly*

      I started with buspirone, which is a very unique medication in its own class, nothing functions like it. It works very quickly (unlike SSRIs that take weeks to kick in), and I love that I can adjust my dose if needed and have it take effect within 24 hours.

      I basically have no side effects from it, and I don’t feel like it numbs me. It just made things a bit easier. For what it’s worth, it’s super old, there are many generics, so it’s cheap.

      I have also added Lexapro, for both anxiety and depression. This took longer to work, but I just sort of noticed one day that my head was a little quieter.

      I will most likely be on meds the rest of my life, but besides making the day to day easier, they have allowed me to do the work in therapy to deal with long term issues to keep big flares in symptoms from happening.

      And while everyone’s experience will vary, the only weight I gained was “I’m actually eating now that I’m less anxious and depressed” weight, so I went from underweight to healthy.

    4. StrikingFalcon*

      Starting anxiety meds felt like I had found the game menu setting to turn life from “difficult” to “normal.” It has had such a profound effect on my ability to interact with people I didn’t know and to stop obsessing about interactions I had years and years ago. I also don’t regularly get panic attacks anymore!

      It is a trial and error process to find the right ones. I was actually put on them to deal with chronic migraine and fibromyalgia, and the effect on my anxiety was just a wonderful bonus, but I wouldn’t come off them now for that effect alone.

      Not all medications have weight gain as a side effect, and not all are expensive – some of the ones I tried cost me $3-5 a month, so talk to your doctor about what you are concerned about.

      You’ll need to be an advocate for yourself. When a doctor gives you a new medication, ask how long you should try it to see if it’s working. You want to feel in control of the process, not like you are waiting for the doctor to decide if your response is adequate or the side effects are tolerable – that is your call, and if the doc thinks otherwise, find a new doc.

      I’ve also heard that some psychiatrists can administer blood tests to help determine what anti-depressants are suitable for a person, but I haven’t personally worked with a doctor who does.

      I hope you can find the relief you need!

      1. mreasy*

        Good point – my meds are very inexpensive as well because they’re all generics at this point. You won’t necessarily need to spend a lot.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          I’m not on depression meds, but whenever I get prescribed anything new I always ask if multiple meds are reasonable treatment options for the condition, and if so is there any particular reason why we shouldn’t try a cheap and widely-available generic option first. Sometimes there is and sometimes there isn’t but it’s a good question to ask.

      2. KoiFeeder*

        I had a similar experience! I’ve had severe anxiety with debilitating thanatophobia for years, and I was put on antidepressants that helped exactly none at all when I started being able to communicate that there was an issue. I couldn’t manage to communicate just how awful my anxiety was, so I never got a proper anti-anxiety until I was put on anxiety meds for chronic pain. I’m really happy that I can function without my day becoming an endless panic attack because I saw roadkill.

    5. Courageous cat*

      Look, each drug hits everyone differently. IMO I think #1 is a bit of a stereotype, though it is certainly true for some, I think it’s exaggerated (especially by books/movies/etc). If you get bad side effects from one, you just try another. Most SSRIs are also dirt cheap because they’re older and have generics, I think I paid maybe $5ish a month for Prozac for a long time.

      I’ve tried nearly every SSRI there is and have never had 1 and 2 happen.

      It is worth it to have your anxiety managed.

    6. Depressed and anon*

      Seconding the other responses here. I’ve been on at least one anti-anxiety/antidepressant for ~15 years now. I haven’t had much problems with side effects, though I’ve just switched because the generic lexapro I’ve been on hasn’t been working as well and some of the side effects seem to be getting worse but that’s the one I’ve been on for years and years, and sometimes that happens. As others have said lots are very cheap because there are generics available. I think my generic lexapro was a couple of dollars for three months, my new generic zoloft seems to be about the same. Buspropion (Wellbutrin) is also pretty cheap.

      The worst side effects I’ve had are short-term memory problems (generic lexapro, only with the generic and mostly when I first switched and the last year or so, for some reason) and hands shaking (Wellbutrin). I haven’t had much problem with weight gain and didn’t have any problem losing 35 lbs last year while on two meds.

      It’s definitely worth a shot to try something out, and as others have said it might take a couple tries to find something that works so don’t get discouraged. Also be aware that they can take time to work, like a couple of weeks or so. It needs to build up in your body, is how I understand it.

      Good luck <3

    7. Square Root Of Minus One*

      Doctors have put me on anti-anxiety meds twice, last time being earlier this year.
      I didn’t become a zombie. It’s more like medication turned down the emotional noise of panic and allowed me to stop and settle down and, only later and after some rest, tackle the issues I was dealing with. So I felt less, but since I was overfeeling things, it was a relief. I’m off meds for now.
      And I absolutely haven’t put on weight : if anything, I’ve lost some, but then, in those times I usually don’t eat much.
      (I skip the cost issue: other country so it’s irrelevant)

    8. Buzzbattlecat*

      I was wrongly diagnosed with depression, rather than anxiety, for years- the ‘fight or flight ‘ brain chemistry outwardly looked like depression. When I was finally treated with actual anxiety meds and LOTS of CBT and EBT my life changed completely.
      I have now been on mirtazepine for ten years and I will happily be on it for life. I take it at night and sleep brilliantly, don’t have panic attacks and when my triggers come up, I fight through them and move forward.
      I hold a full time, responsible job and single-parent my teen daughter, with whom I have a loving, mostly calm (b/c teen!) relationship . I feel plenty of emotion but don’t spiral in black holes. I’m also able to be supportive to my mother as my stepfather’s dementia ramps up, in ways I couldn’t pre-medication .
      My colleagues have said I’m easy-going, but my job is fairly autonomous and requires self motivation, focus, public speaking, peer teaching and client empathy (I’m a clinical nurse consultant in a specific field ) and I wouldn’t be able to rock this without meds.
      As for weight gain- I’m premenopausal, but so long as I stay away from sugar and move my body, it’s no problem.
      The one massive difference I have noticed between me on antidepressants and me on antianxiety meds is that now I store memories. There are big gaps in my life memories when my brain was so fraught that I just couldn’t. Maybe the solid, deep sleep I now get is the reason- and that’s thanks to the mirtazepine.
      Hope that helps you as you sort through what works for you!

    9. Penguin*

      Another depression & anxiety haver chiming in…

      #1: Emotional zombiedom seems to be mostly pop culture myth nowadays. We have a LOT more options and they’re a lot more nuanced than was the case in, say, the ’70s. And even if that weren’t true, a decent doctor takes care with their prescriptions, up to and including adjusting dosage or changing medication if you the patient need that to happen (so if something does remove feeling- which is actually more likely to be caused by untreated mental health stuff than the medications used to fix- it’s temporary at worst).
      Also, in many cases the meds are very precisely targeted to particular biochemical functions of the body/brain (like the vast majority of medications, frankly) not some kind of broad chemical “blanket” that somehow “turns everything down” in intensity. My own experience has been very much about no longer spiraling into panic attacks over normal, everyday events that are actually within my control to adjust; in other words, it’s only the anxiety that changed- the rest of my emotions have gotten clearer because I have more emotional “bandwidth” instead of having so much of it taken up with anxiety.

      #2 Weight gain is going to vary by person and circumstances. Certainly it’s a potential side effect, but it’s one that your doctor can and should take into account when prescribing. Remember, it is ABSOLUTELY ok to call your doctor and say “I’ve gained x pounds since we started me on this medication and I’m concerned about continuing to gain more weight, what else can we try instead?” You ALWAYS have the option to say “this treatment isn’t working for me, what alternatives are there?” (That said, do be patient and try to be reasonably sure that any change is more than just day-to-day variation (which can be surprisingly high) or due to a completely different cause (like weeks of skipping your daily walk b/c it’s cold out, Penguin!) before concluding that a medication is the issue.)

      #3 Finances can definitely be tough. However, much like minimizing side effects, it is utterly OK to ask your doctor how much a given prescription is likely to cost you (and your local pharmacist will be able to tell you reliably if your doctor can’t) and to say to your doctor “I can’t afford that right now. Is there a cheaper option?”

    10. AzaleaBertrand*

      I have generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) that was misdiagnosed as depression for over a decade. SSRIs did nothing for me but I’ve now been on an SNRI for nearly five years – including through pregnancy and breastfeeding – and I cannot describe how much my life has changed in that time.

      I went from having weekly/monthly panic attacks that only popping a valium could solve to literally three in the last five years. I totally skipped the so called “three day blues” post partum. I have coped with some legitimately terrible situations over the past 12 months (somehow the current US President has managed to screw my family based on my husband’s country of birth, even though we live in Australia of all places). All of this to say, don’t dismiss medication out of hand!

      1) the closest I’ve come to this is that I used to bawl multiple times in every movie or book, now I only cry in the really good ones. Bonus, I used to cry at work all the time, and while I can’t say I never have since, it’s only been in extraordinary circumstances which is great for my professional image!
      2) totally depends on the medication – I was warned that the one I’m on might cause minor weight gain but my Dr judged I was healthy enough to withstand it. Due to feeling better and therefore eating better, long term I’m now lighter than I was when I started. Talk to your Dr if it’s a concern.
      3) not an issue for me given where I live, but as the others have said there are soooo many generics out there, ask for one.

      Finally, don’t expect the first one to work. Expect that you may need multiple dr visits in the beginning to find something that works with your brain chemistry. I personally struggle talking to Drs – they’re one of my anxiety triggers – so I would take notes with me and/or bring a support person into the appointment so I could be sure I was actively advocating for myself. I also hate CBT and went through so many therapists in my 20s I thought therapy want for me. I found one I liked about 12 months ago. We do mostly talk therapy with a little bit of ACT and she has been wonderful. But even if you can’t afford therapy, the drugs on their own made a massive difference for me for years.

  22. The Other Dawn*

    The doctor recommended me for an MMJ card. I applied to the state and now I just wait to see if I’m approved.

    Went for the MRI and follow-up appointment this week. I know why I’m feeling worse… arthritis in the vertebrae above and below the bulging disc. Bright white on the MRI. It was there in 2017, but has progressed. Lost more disc space, too, and most of the fluid is gone. Not enough disc to remove only part, so fusion it is. (I’m just glad I have an explanation as to why I’m feeling worse and it’s not all in my head. I was seriously doubting myself.)

    It’s two surgeries. First one is from the front to remove the disc, place the spacer and put the cage in. Second one is a couple weeks later from the back to place the screws. The plan is to do it no later than April so I’m recovered in time for a planned road trip/concert.

    He gave me the choice of continuing pain management, but I just want this fixed. I’m nervous, but I’ll get through it.

  23. Gilmore67*

    Hi all..
    Question about pierced ears. I just got my ears pierced after over 25 years of being closed. I had a lot of issues with infections and not being able to wear certain metals, just the usual issues with pierced ears.

    I decide to chance it again. I got them done by a good place and so far I am not having many issues.. I am cleaning them daily and cleaning the posts all the time. I have had them for 2 months now. I am not wearing cheap earring. Not like 14K gold all the time but not $5 ones.

    Some earrings are better than others, so I am be careful and figuring out which ones I can use. I am also putting on some jewelry guard ( brush on stuff specifically for that) on the posts for possible metal issues. I have no infections at all and they are not red or swollen. The brush on stuff works well.

    The problem is sometimes I have problems getting them in. Like they feel like they have closed which they have not. It’s just weird. One hole is better than the other. There is no discharge or anything in the holes. When I get them in it is OK. But it is just hard to get them in.

    Are some of the posts just a little bigger than my hole? Is there a little scar tissue there? Can I make my hole a smidge bigger?

    Any suggestions would be helpful….. Thanks all…

    1. !*

      You may not want to keep removing them to clean them (clean them in place) since they should be consistently in your ears in order for the holes to adapt and stay open.

      1. Lilo*

        Agreed. It was a long time ago, I was told not to change them at all for 6 weeks and keep earrings in consistently for 6 months.

    2. Valancy Snaith*

      I have two sets of holes in each lobe, and my second set are similar to how you describe. Not closed, but difficult to get earrings into for some reason. My piercer told me that sometimes a tiny bit of scar tissue can form in just the wrong place where it ends up intersecting with the earring post you’re trying to put in, almost every time. It’s a pain, but the only solution I’ve found is to keep earrings in literally 24/7. I only take them out to clean them weekly and replace them immediately, total time out is probably 2 minutes per side.

    3. WellRed*

      Stikc the posts back in and leave them in. The holes need to heal. Put peroxide in the bottle cap and dip your lobe in it to clean.

      1. Gilmore67*

        OK thanks all…… I kinda was thinking that but wasn’t sure. I have a small pair of CZ that don’t bother me that I had started wearing to bed. It was of course easy to get my day time earrings in when I changed them out. But I guess I wasn’t sure if I needed to keep earring in all the time.

        That all makes sense and like I said I am new to this and don’t want to mess it up as it actually is going OK overall.

    4. Purt’s Peas*

      What advice did your piercer give you? Did you get pierced by a career piercer at a dedicated piercing/tattoo shop?

      If so, call your piercer back and tell them what’s going on—they’ll have advice. They probably told you (if good) to call if you have problems. If not, go to a physician or go to one of those good piercers.

      The advice I have from my piercings is to go back to basics:

      -get a good quality surgical steel (<—important) stud

      -keep the earring in, do not twist it, do not mess around with it. You have a little healing wound (still) and you’re re-wounding it when you mess with it. That said be alert to the piercing swelling to cover the earring.

      -soak those ears in warm water w some salt dissolved in it about twice a day, and gently (!) clean out loose gunk

    5. Not A Manager*

      I’ve had similar issues. What helps me is lubing up the post a bit before inserting it. For me, it doesn’t matter what I use so long as it’s clean and slippery. I know a lot of people dislike petroleum products – I’m not one of them and I’m happy with clean Vaseline, polysporin, or cortisone ointment. But I know people use a variety of other products on piercings and I think any of them would be fine so long as they are clean and you don’t have a reaction to them.

    6. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!*

      I’d like to suggest titanium. My daughter has a sever metal allergy and that is the only metal that she can wear. It’s expensive/hard to find in the stores, but I found blank posts and hooks on etsy for a seriously reasonable price.

      1. Lyudie*

        Niobium is another one she might want to try…there are some sellers on Etsy who make very reasonably priced niobium jewelry, and it can be lots of different colors (they use electricity to change the color of the metal, it’s very cool).

    7. Recreational Moderation*

      I’m wondering where one goes to have ears re-pierced. Like you, I haven’t worn earrings in many years and would really like to start again (has to do with wanting to feel like my old self again, but that’s another story).
      My neighborhood is home to a couple of very highly regarded tattoo artists—would that be a place to start?
      Thanks for any suggestions.

      1. Valancy Snaith*

        Usually a decent tattoo artist will be able to refer you to a reputable piercer, yeah. Always best to go to a dedicated piercer who will use a needle, especially if you’re re-piercing and there may be scar tissue involved.

      2. Gilmore67*

        I did mine at higher end jewelry store that just started offering it. They had to learn how to do it ( I am sure not all employees are allowed to pierce ). I saw every step of the way when she was doing it.
        Gloves on, sterilized my ear. The piercing gun, the post all out of a pouch so I confident it was all sterile.

        Worked well that way.

    8. Sh’Dynasty*

      Mine used to close quickly, even a year after the piercing. If you need to change the earrings, and find you’re having a hard time- give you holes 5-10 min to calm the inflammation slightly (especially if you keep trying over and over again). A couple tips: one to spread your lobe with two fingers to open the hole a bit, then try inserting. If you’re still finding resistance, I used to insert thru the backside of my ear (somehow was easier?) and then remove the earring and go thru the front.

    9. KR*

      Definitely recommend keeping them in longer. This is just something that will get better over time. I’ve had my bottom holes for over 10 years at this point (after getting them re-pierced) and as soon as 4yrs after I got them pierced I remember taking them out for a day or two and the hole partially closed on me. My stepmom took an old stud and poked it through again since it was just closed partially. My second row up is still finicky (got it done 7 yrs ago) and will give me grief if I don’t have an earring in there for a week. I’m inclined to say you’re taking your new earrings out too much & cleaning them too much. You need to keep them in and leave them in. Clean them in your ears to clean them and when you take them out to clean put them right back in. They will probably be a bit of a pain in the butt a couple more years until they stop closing partially and you forget it was ever an issue. Also agree to talk to whoever pierced you or a professional piercer (should have their license on the wall and use clean sanitized instruments with gloves) for the best advice.

    10. CoffeeLover*

      I have a lot of ear piercings (took out the body ones a while ago but I had those too). I would recommend wearing surgical steel earrings all the time for a while – like 6 months at least. But I would also actually recommend wearing surgical steel earrings as your “default” earring forever (meaning you leave those in and then change them out when you want to accessories). I have surgical steel earrings in all my piercings today so I don’t need to worry about them. I don’t need to clean them now, but when I first got the piercing I would clean them with a cotton swab and some solution with the earring still in.

    11. LilySparrow*

      I got mine pierced for the first time 12 years ago. I wear earrings most days, but not at night.

      Some days I have trouble getting them in, because it feels like they are catching or getting stuck. I have no idea what causes it, but they are not closing up overnight after twelve years.

      The only reason I can imagine is that I have the thicker type of detached lobes, and I have inflammation issues from chronic illness. So I guess maybe there’s swelling sometimes that makes the holes smaller?

    12. Seeking Second Childhood*

      About the metal. Many people in my family have severe reaction to nickel. (My niece & I even reacted to the battery cover on watches, said to be stainless steel.) Even “hypoallergenic” may not be nickel-free in my experience. Anything that’s plated, I avoid.
      Jewelry made for the European Union market is supposed to be nickel-free, but even there the government is finding merchandise that breaks the rule. Since it’s being enforced strictly, that’ll probably be less of a problem over time.
      I bought 14k wire findings (loops, and posts with a connector) from a reputable jewelry supply store and I take my cheap earrings apart to dangle from those.
      And yes some earrings are thicker than others. I’d suggest picking the thickest pure-metal studs you have and wear nothing else until you’ve healed. Lots of good notes here about care already!

      1. Gilmore67*

        Thank you all for your replies. I will basically leave them in for a much longer time including over night.

        I will also look for other metals as well.

        I am happy for the most part though. Just a matter of figuring out what is best to work with. I was able to wear earrings to my Hubby’s company xmas party and was happy enough with that !!

        My top was really cute with little sewn in pearls, my pants had a little bling at the cuff and my ears had earring !!

    13. Jdc*

      Your hole is not likely straight. They rarely are. Figure out which angle it goes to by putting them in and it’ll come easier. Mine on one ear points down a bit I just know that after 35 years so accommodate it.

      1. All Hail Queen Sally*

        Mine are like this too. One is angled one way and the other angled slightly differently. Sometimes it takes a while to get them in. (Of course this might be from my friend who did the piercing (with a syringe) having too many drinks. This was done about 40 years ago while we were on vacation.)

  24. Pregnant Hamster*

    Warning for Pregnancy/loss talk below

    How do I stop these feelings of anxiety?

    Just found out I’m pregnant and that explains pretty much all the symptoms I’ve had over the last month or so. This is my 4th pregnancy, 3 prior miscarriages and I’ve had a tough time conceiving that I’d given up on it. I had transV ultrasound and they found a heartbeat (I never got to that point so this is a good sign).

    The hb was 106 and google says at 6 weeks it should be 150 or so, but both the tech and my OB didn’t seem worried or concerned. Prior to finding out I was taking insulin and metformin and Zyrtec/Advil/etc otc meds. I occasionally took muscle relaxant and Xanax (not together) for pain/anxiety. I occasionally indulged in sweets/high carb foods and drank diet soda and coffee everyday. Ever since I found out via blood test I’ve stopped coffee and soda and cleaned up my diet and vigilant about my meds And taking my prenatals as awful as they taste. My Ob said 1 small cup coffee is ok but I’m not taking any risks. But for 6 weeks + I was doing all that.

    Still, given my history, I am scared that it’ll happen again. Every small cramp I get I stress out and I rush to the bathroom to look for blood. I’m not sleeping well anymore. I see a high risk OB this week but I know panicking and stressing is counterproductive. Normally when I feel like this (panicky and stressed) I’d take a Xanax.

    Any tips on CTFD? Are there any support groups? I joined a few support groups on FB but they’re not really anonymous

    1. Fikly*

      You probably can’t stop the anxiety.

      I haven’t been through what you’ve been through, but I’ve been very anxious when going through experiences that relate to traumas I’ve been through. I’ve never been successful in fighting the anxiety, it only makes me angry and more anxious.

      What’s worked for me is accepting that I am anxious, that it is a valid way to feel, and then move on to figuring out how to cope with the anxiety.

      If you’re not already aware, there are definitely mental health providers who specialize in fertility/pregnancy/people who’ve been through multiple miscarriages.

    2. Marzipan*

      I know it’s really scary. You are doing everything you can be doing, which is both empowering and frustrating – you ultimately can’t know what’s going on inside your uterus, or really impact it all that much, and it’s really difficult to sit with that. Do tell the high risk OB about how you’ve been feeling, and try to work out a plan for what will help you to manage your fears most effectively and give you some relief.

      I personally have found it somewhat helpful to have information along the way – HCG doubling time, a couple of additional scans, even occasionally doing a pregnancy test to calm myself down when I was worrying. Some people also find the ‘Miscarriage Odds Reassurer’ website helpful. But, do be alert to the possibility of just moving from one worry to the next – if each bit of information only helps you feel better for a very brief time, then it may not be helping all that much.

      (For what it’s worth, I think for 6 weeks a fetal heart rate of 106 is well within normal from the sources I’ve looked at.)

      I wish you all the very, very best; I have everything crossed for you. And – shamelessly stolen from others on here, since I really appreciated the sentiment – I hope you get to have the world’s most boring pregnancy.

    3. Fellow Traveler*

      Hugs! This is so tough! I had three miscarriages between my first two kids and what helped me every time I thought I might be pregnant was not to think about it- I wouldn’t even take a pregnancy test until week 10. I reminded myself that there is actually very little I can do to help or harm the baby and the baby will grow if it wants to grow and it will stop growing if there is a problem. It is not about me. With my first miscarriage it took me a long time to stop feeling like it was my fault, but with my subsequent pregnancies I tried to be more analytical about it- so much has to happen to make cells grow into a baby, it’s no wonder that so many pregnancies are unviable- it’s kind of a wonder of probability and science. (I used to describe my miscarriages to friends as “Well, this baby moved into my uterus, but then decided it really wasn’t for them so they moved out.”) It’s still sad, but it’s not my fault. I know some people like having more information, but for me, especially that first trimester, I wanted less.

    4. ForOneDollar*

      That heart rate is totally normal for 6 weeks. My rainbow baby didn’t even get to 150 at 8 weeks, his was still somewhere around 140.

      I’m with Fellow Traveller, less information is better for me. Dr. Google was off limits after my second miscarriage. I know it’s hard, but ease up on yourself. Holding yourself to an impossible standard is going to make your anxiety worse. Remind yourself that just getting pregnant is great news, and soon you’ll see a highly trained doctor that will help you stay pregnant. I kept telling myself that until proven otherwise, the miscarriages were just plain bad luck. If I lost another one, it was a new data point to help the doctor diagnose the problem. I know that sounds cold, but it really helped.

    5. blackcat*

      There are lots of folks who take insulin and/or metformin throughout pregnancy. Risk of NSAIDs (advil and the like) is minimal until like 10 weeks, I think. I forget why, but while it’s mildly associated with miscarriage very early on (and that may not be causal–whatever condition is making someone take the NSAID may be the culprit), it’s not associated with birth defects of taken early.

      Also Zyrtec is Class B and considered the front-line non-drowsy allergy med for pregnancy. I took it the entire time during mine–my midwife switched me from Allegra. Weirdly, if you breastfeed, Allegra is what they tell you to take, not Zyrtec. My guess is actually that they are equally safe since they are so similar. Just there’s more pregnancy data for Zyrtec and breastfeeding data for Allegra. But also, to give you some hope, I haven’t needed daily allergy meds since I delivered my son after more than a decade of really, really needing them. Pregnancy does weird things to allergies. Many women get permanent allergy relief post-partum.

      A good thing to keep in mind is that basically anything is fine in moderation in pregnancy. I know plenty of folks who took Zoloft throughout pregnancy to help with anxiety. Drugs may carry some risk, but so does stress and inflammation, so the benefits of treatment may outweigh any risks.

      If you’re looking for a totally anonymous support group, I know the website babycenter has a TON of groups for different purposes. You can probably find something there.

    6. LilySparrow*

      I don’t have any advice, but congratulations. You are doing everything you should be doing.

      I wish you all the best and hope everything continues going really well for you.

    7. Natalie*

      There are definitely in person support groups. Individual counseling would probably also be helpful. It sounds like you are suffering a lot and you deserve to feel better as you progress through this, for your own sake, not just for the sake of a better pregnancy outcome. And know you are not alone in experiencing this, not at all.

      Some places to check for in-person groups: the hospital or clinic system where your OB is, organizations that do childbirth/parenting ed classes, free standing or hospital associated birth centers, doulas or doula collectives. Your OB or a fertility clinic may be able to refer you to someone – both will have definitely had patients who are pregnant after miscarriage(s).

      Best of luck.

    8. Observer*

      Get off Google. Seriously. It can be GREAT, in a case like this, it’s going to make you nuts.

      For one thing there is TONS of inaccurate “information” out there. And a lot of stuff that is nuanced in real life, but presented as THE ONE RIGHT WAY, which leads to catastrophizing.

      Lots of luck. This stuff is scary and tough.

    9. Anona*

      The ladies at the Reddit infertilitybabies group are great.

      What you’re feeling is normal. I hope you have a very normal, boring pregnancy.

    10. Fran*

      I am 20 weeks today. The first weeks were pure panic plus we had a few scares with unclear results. Your uterus is stretching and you should be feeling all kinds of things down there. I was drinking two strong cups of coffee before the positive test and reduced to one lighter in the morning now.
      Your doctor doesnt seem to be worried so, I would focus on that. Check Reddit/bumps thread. The chat rooms and comments are anonymous.

      1. Fran*

        Also any mom you trust on your environment? My friend has an 11-month-old and she has been a great support.

        1. Pregnant Hamster*

          I have a friend Who gave birth a few months ago and had a high risk pregnancy. I’ve been texting with her and she’s been tremendously helpful but I don’t want to be a bother.

    11. Pregnant Hamster*

      Thank you so much everyone for the kind words. I’m taking a home pregnancy test every few days just to be sure and as long as I see a positive I can relax. This is my rainbow and I am determined to do everything I can to keep it Healthy and safe.

      I asked in a FB group and a lot of the responses said they were hard partying (binge drinking, drugs etc) before finding out, stopped, and went on to have healthy babies. As well as the ones taking medicine, diabetic, overweight etc.

  25. fposte*

    Okay, where did I read this cool comment? I thought it was earlier this week on AAM, but Google doesn’t think so. Could it be an older AAM? A Slate comment?

    Somebody was saying that they make it a point to try one new thing every month, and the specifics included learning to drive a boat (which scared them but they eventually loved) and snowboarding as well as a few others. And I loved that comment and the person had some cool specifics, so I was going to go back and copy it. But now I can’t figure out where I saw it. Anybody remember it?

    1. Dee Em*

      Yesterday’s Carolyn Hax Hootenanny of Holiday Horrors! One of the first comments before the actual Hootenanny. It really resonated with me too!

  26. A Nonny Mouse*

    I accepted a great position out of state beginning in 3 weeks – eek! I am moving there while my husband and teen daughter are staying here to finish out her sophomore year in high school. Not ideal, and something I always said I would never do, but never say never, right? Any suggestions on making this situation work or on moving a teen in general? She is less angry than when the decision was made in October, and we will see each other every 3 weeks or so, but I am still concerned. Thanks, everyone!

    1. DrTheLiz*

      I had this happen with my dad when I was ~8 years old – he got a new job several hours’ drive away from where we then lived. He came back most weekends (possibly all of them? I don’t remember) and we had long phone calls on Wednesdays. I was pretty annoyed at the time, but I got over it pretty quickly once it was over. I would suggest explaining what’s going on, why this is too good an opportunity to pass up etc. I’d also recommend letting her be sad about the move – one thing that I think messed me up a bit was that when I said I missed our old house/neighborhood, I was met with “well I don’t like it either so shut up”. Let the kid grieve.

    2. cold tea*

      I’m not sure what a sophomore is, but can you get her invested in moving to a new place? Clubs, sports etc? I was in the running for moving to a new place with my 14/15-yr-old (didn’t get the job). In the end she was mostly worried she wouldn’t be able to do niche sport, but I showed her she could, and we discussed things related to niche sport she could do that she’s be ok with. Or things that new city offered that we can’t have here. She ended up on board, but for naught.

    3. LilySparrow*

      I was a teen when my dad did this, and as a mom my husband was in a long-distance “commuter” situation like this for about three months.

      My main takeaway from both experiences would be that they will have to form a new daily routine and relational dynamic to keep functioning when you’re gone. When you are home, you need to be careful not to blow it up.

      It will feel wierd and probably pretty bad to see them carrying on as if they don’t “need” you or have time for you. But try not to put that onto them or make them feel guilty.

      They aren’t rejecting you. They are coping. That’s good. You are going to leave again, and they have to keep living their ordinary lives. So don’t tear up their routine and leave a mess behind you.

      I think in a lot of ways it’s harder on you, because you’ll be on your own in a new place. But it will all sort itself out. Be sure to let your daughter know how proud you are when you see her becoming more independent and resilient.

      Take care.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Think about reading advice that is published for the families of military personnel sent on active duty. This reminds me what a friend went through when his reserve unit was sent on repeated deployments.

  27. Valancy Snaith*

    Book recommendations: I’m in need. For myself: anything in the historical fiction-and-romance vein. For my husband: anything on personal finance, investing, stocks, or the economy. For my dad: gripping nonfiction or fiction that’s reasonable light (my mom just passed away in October so escapism is what we’re looking for here).

    Please help!

    1. Lilo*

      Has your dad read Bad Blood? Gripping but a bit aggravating when you keep reading how people blew the whistle over and over again and got ignored).

      For you: what about with a sci fi twist? I might try To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.

    2. SarahKay*

      Historical fiction-and-romance: Georgette Heyer, if you haven’t already discovered her. I particularly adore “Frederica” and “The Convenient Marriage”, both of which have sections that make me cry with laughter.
      I’m sorry for your loss.

      1. SarahKay*

        You and your dad might also like the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters. They’re set in 12th century England, and are about a monk who often finds himself investigating murders.
        I’d actually recommend starting with the second book, “One Corpse Too Many”, as it’s a far more interesting read and you don’t miss anything from having skipped the first. I love the whole series, but “One Corpse…” is my favourite, and a regular re-read when I’m feeling tired or a bit under the weather.
        It has a number of very likeable characters, a sub-thread of romance, and an ending that’s both gripping and immensely satisfying.

    3. CAA*

      Try Deanna Raybourn’s two series. They’re both historical mysteries with a slow burn romance arcing over several books. Start with Silent in the Grave.

      Also, have you read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon? It’s historical, but not lightweight. If you like timeslip historicals, then Susanna Kearsley is also great.

    4. Fellow Traveler*

      For your non fiction – Between the Desert and the Sea by michael Scott Moore. it’s a journalist’s account of being kidnapped by Somali pirates for three years. It sounds as if it would be bleak, but it’s actually quite sardonic and funny.
      I also liked The Long Haul by Finn Murphy- a memoir about a long haul truck driver- fascinating and full of great anecdotes.

    5. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

      I’m so sorry for your loss. I don’t have any ideas for your husband, but you might enjoy Jonathan Strange and Nr Norrell (so good). I’d recommend it for your dad too, except it has some wife themes that might be difficult for him right now. The Earthsea series might be nice for him. Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman might be a nice one to help him process as well, since it’s funny and interesting, but also deal’s with the loss of Feynman’s first wife, Arlene.

      1. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

        Oh, and The Butterfly Mosque by G Willow Wilson (non-fiction). It’s beautiful without being too serious.

    6. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Since the others were addressed, I’ll suggest for your husband: The Big Short by Michael Lewis, Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko, any of The Bogleheads’ Guides by Taylor Larimore, and more tangential but still applicable (and probably of interest based on those topics), The Drunkard’s Walk by Leonard Mlodinow and The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

      1. Wishing You Well*

        I’ll add some classics: “The Richest Man in Babylon”, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and “A Random Walk Down Wall Street”.

    7. Reader in ND*

      For your dad, perhaps Mary Roach or Homer Hickam books (he wrote Rocket Boys that was tuned into the October Sky movie). Or Bill Bryson writes travel stuff and other kinds of very interesting nonfiction stuff. Books by erik Larson might appeal to him too.

    8. Best Cat in the World*

      For you, the After Cilmeri series by Sarah Woodbury might interest you.
      Main characters accidentally discover they can time travel to the 13th century and at least the first few books are set in 13th century Wales. First book, Daughter of Time, follows Meg, who gets rescued by Llewellyn, the last Prince of Wales. The rest of the series looks at what might have happened if he’d survived Cilmeri (the battle where he died). Completely inadequate explanation there but don’t want to give anything away! I’m rereading the series for the umpteenth time (there are about 14 books in the series so far I think) and it’s just as good as the first time. Definitely recommend starting at the beginning though, you need to read this series in order!!

    9. The Doctor is In*

      The Body by Bill Bryson. Fascinating book about how the body works sprinkled with interesting history of medicine. Anyone would enjoy it.

    10. Aphrodite*

      For your dad: anything by Simon Winchester and Mary Roach. He may also like Bill Bryson, especially his A Short History of Nearly Everything and In a Sunburned Country.

    11. Maya Elena*

      A personal finance/economics book I like: The Black Swan or Antifragile (or other books) by Nassim Taleb. Those two are my favorite ones of his our of five books.

  28. LGC*

    Running thread, guys? Why yes.

    I figure now is a good time to ask…what (if any) goals do you have for next year? Pretty much anything goes here – whether you’re aiming for a goal time, a PR, a goal race, or even just to get started!

    So, as some people guessed last week…I’m running Chicago next fall! I’m hoping to hit a massive PR for me (about 10+ minutes), and a few of my friends are going as well. (The draw happened Thursday and most of my teammates didn’t get in, which is disappointing.) That’s my big goal for the year, although I have other goals along with that (like running better at Boston this year, and running a faster half marathon).

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

      My goal next year is to be able to run at all, and to stay healthy once I do. 2019 has been a trying year bookended by injuries. It started with a left knee injury, then I got plantar fasciitis in the middle, and as of about a week and a half ago, my right kneecap started barking enough that I had to shut myself down again.

      Now that I’m wearing the right running shoes for my feet, I’m confident the plantar fasciitis won’t return, but the knee issues are worrying me.

    2. Purt’s Peas*

      My goal is to run a 10k with 12 minute miles! It’s quite ambitious for me since I’m very slow (14 minute miles usually) and I’m not sure how likely it is that I’ll achieve it this year, but I’m excited to try.

    3. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!*

      My goal is to actually start again. I had never, ever been a runner, then about 6-7 years ago a friend turned me on to the C25K app. Brilliant! I even did a few 5ks (well, run/walked them). Sadly, I was only able to do it for about 3 years before my health got too bad. Fortunately, thanks to science I no longer have the issues that I had!
      My biggest problem now is breaking the habit of inactivity!

    4. A bit of a saga*

      My goal is to run a marathon! I didn’t get into Berlin, so now I’m looking for another nice race in the second half of 2020 somewhere in Europe. I’ll take recommendations!

      1. LGC*

        Aw man, Berlin is actually one of my goals! (I want to get my six stars, sue me.)

        Good luck on finding a marathon! Most of the European ones I know of off the top of my head are spring races (Paris, London, Rotterdam…I think Valencia is fall/winter but also I’m an American and Valencia is in freaking Spain).

        1. A bit of a saga*

          Funnily enough someone just recommended Dublin to me so I’ll check it out. Valencia is in Dec I think – at least it was this year. And Spain is always nice, and actually quite affordable to get to for me so I’ll look into it. I’m also looking into Frankfurt and Cologne (Amsterdam is also late October but I did the half there a couple of years ago and was not impressed so I’d rather do something else).

    5. MamaSarah*

      I have two goals….I want to shave another minute or two off my half-Marathon PR and I’d like to try a long trail race (think 20+) miles. I’m excited for some winter running!

    6. Pam*

      Not running, but walking. I’m building my step count week by week, and if my feet can take it, I want to get to 10K per day. Also, get back to the gym.

  29. KitCroupier*

    Just an update about my move!
    I did manage to get to Arizona. It took almost exactly 36 hours in the end. I let my cats roam the backseat, which they were pretty good about until the last couple of hours when I had to keep one from trying to climb to the front and sit on my dashboard.
    But now we are home and they seem to be acclimating nicely.
    Thanks so much for the tips and reassurances!

    1. Book Lover*

      That’s great :). Don’t forget to join the library. It is an excellent system and you get access to the Phoenix online digital library, which is brilliant.

  30. Parenthetically*

    Little Brackets #2 decided to join us a couple weeks early, so we are now a family of four! Woohoo!

  31. thebakeisafry*

    I’d love any suggestions for a family gift. My good friend has three kids, ages 7, 6, and 3. I’d like to send one gift that they can all enjoy, but I’m not quite sure what to get them. Any recommendations? They do have a backyard. And it would have to be something can be shipped.

    1. Recreational Moderation*

      Don’t know if it still exists, but my family used to play Facts in Five: draw a Topic card, then five individual letter cards, then everyone has to come up with a word that begins with each letter and is connected to that topic. Easily tailored to younger kids—play verbally instead of writing answers down; really broad topics, etc.—and it always led to in-game, cross-generational, fun conversations about whatever topics and answers we were using.

    2. Fellow Traveler*

      I saw one of those build your own fort kits the other day and thought it would be fun- it was like a giant set of Tinker Toys that you assemble and throw a sheet over.
      Also- a stomp rocket is always fun.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        We used to have a homemade fabric “fort” that went over a card table as a floor-length tablecloth. (It had doors and windows and such cut into it, and various house features painted on.) Kind of a similar idea.

        That’s a hard set of ages since 3 is so much littler than 7.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Movie night kit? A good family movie on DVD (Princess Bride is a favorite of mine, but YMMV), box of microwave popcorn, some boxes of candy, and maybe fuzzy socks for everyone, or a nice big cozy throw blanket.

    4. Nita*

      We have three toys that all of my kids love, from the seven-year-old to the one-year-old. Magformers, a Lego dollhouse, and a mini bowling set. The Magformers double as geometry practice, lantern frames, toy castles, and fridge magnets. The dollhouse is made of the big kind of blocks, so it’s baby/toddler safe and can be broken into pieces and reassembled in all kinds of ways. The bowling set has these super cute animal bowling pins, and is OK to use either indoors or outdoors.

    5. thebakeisafry*

      Thank you all! These are all really good ideas. I may be set for a few Christmases and birthdays now!

    6. Mindovermoneychick*

      A big box of art supplies worked for my nieces and nephews when they were in that age bracket.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      In what context? I’ve seen police vans around London with a similar name and they do what they say on the tin: respond to some sort of disturbance, whether it’s a fight at a train station or something more serious.

      1. AW*

        If you hear a call for inspector sands at a train station it’s a code for a fire alarm being set off, but it’s a chance for staff to check it out.

    2. DrTheLiz*

      “Incident” is usually code for “low-grade emergency”. It can mean somebody’s being threatening with a knife but it can just as easily mean that somebody’s had a heart attack on a train so they’re rushing some personnel to meet it at a relevant station, or that a signal box has caught fire. Very low odds of affecting your day but budge over in the corridor, please.

    3. Anonymous in the UK*

      If it’s on the side of an ambulance, it’s possibly the Hazardous Response team. Which sounds scary but they respond to a wide range of things, as well as the ‘big’ scary stuff , they are also sometimes used for car crashes, patients at heights or in water, gas leaks, house fires, getting patients out of tricky environments (which can include the woods, or a bedroom in a house that just isn’t designed well!). Different areas use them in different ways.

    4. I’m in London!*

      Yes, we were in the back of a cab and it did feel scarier than just an ambulance. About five blocks ahead was a 4 alarm fire complete with hook and ladder and 4 engines.

      Been here a week. Thank you for all the suggestions.
      Packed just right. Kings Crossing House of Illustrators/granary fair was fabulous.
      The food has been fabulous.
      Dishoom, one of the best meals I have ever had.
      Taken the tube but pacing myself. Hence the cab at 4 yesterday.

      1. londonedit*

        They always send out the big fire engines for any fire alarm in the city of London. When I was at university every time someone set the fire alarms off burning toast in our halls of residence we’d have the full-on three fire engines and tons of firefighters simply because we were in central London.

        Please don’t be alarmed or scared if you see police vans or fire engines or whatever. It’s a big city and the emergency services do a good job of protecting it!

    5. AW*

      If you hear a call for inspector sands at a train station it’s a code for a fire alarm being set off, but it’s a chance for staff to check it out.

  32. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

    Ugh. The state of the world is really getting me down. So much going wrong, from my point of view, is making it hard for me to have anything but a bad mood and a negative outlook all the time. Has anyone tried any good strategies, therapies, helpful books, etc. to help them accept and deal with what seems to be very bleak circumstances? I’ve been looking into Acceptance and Commitment Therapy but I haven’t really made much headway yet.

    1. Recreational Moderation*

      I’m in exactly the same mental place, Miss P, and so far my only defenses are to (a) turn off the media, and (b) go for another walk. Am happy to know I’m not the only one, and I’ll be eager to hear others’ suggestions.

      1. JediSquirrel*

        Seconding this. I found a few podcasts I like (I especially love the Magnus Archives by Rusty Quill—if you’re into horror, I quite recommend it) and I like to walk for an hour each evening while listening to.

        Bonus for December: a lot of people around me have put up tons of Christmas decorations. So there’s that to see while walking and listening.

    2. Book Lover*

      I stopped checking the news. I check Facebook about once a day and I think that will need to stop also. I am on Facebook groups and I can access those without the newsfeed, and I have some people on Instagram so I won’t miss much.

    3. Aphrodite*

      I am very sensitive to bad happenings so I stay far away from news in the papers, online or on television/radio. I got rid of my television almost 30 years ago; if I watch stuff I can find most of it online but what I do watch is overwhelmingly old stuff like Mary Tyler Moore, Rockford Files, etc. And I am not on social media at all.

      1. Aphrodite*

        To add: If I were to allow myself to see all that it would get to me. I’d be very down and depressed, sufficiently so that it’s what I’d focus on. But it’s not what I want to focus on. I prefer to make a difference in real life, and I do that by making my own corner of the work–the only part I have any ability to impact–better. I make a difference in the lives of cats, co-workers, friends, and strangers (when I can). I have returned, completely intact, two forgotten wallets I found in parking lots full of money and credit cards. I have brought a terrified and hungry mother cat and her kittens to my local no-kill shelter. I have helped the registration office at my work when they had some crazy registration days by getting students their ID numbers prior to them entering the offices. I have shared small chocolates with cashiers and other retail personnel during November and December and told them how good I think they are doing, wishing them a good day. And more. No one will sing my praises, no one except those who benefitted will know. But you know what? I am not moaning about politics or killings or all those damn other things that the news throws at you all day, every day, constantly. I am making some real lives better. And I stay happy.

    4. Dan*

      I do two things. First, I stay off Face Book, Twitter, and all of that. Second, I stay out of ideological echo chambers. I’m a-ok with having a civilized discussion with people who see the world different than me.

      Well, there’s a third thing. We survived Vietnam and Nixon. We’ll get through this as well.

    5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      I don’t look at news before breakfast, or right before bedtime.

      I try to find things I can do that would help, even a little–which might mean one call to my Congresswoman’s office, or giving passersby directions to the subway station. No, showing someone the elevator into the T station won’t save the world, but it tilts the scales a tiny bit toward goodwill and community.

    6. Meepmeep*

      I shamelessly isolate myself. I don’t watch the news, I don’t know what’s going on in the world, I have only a very vague idea of what’s going on politically, and I don’t care. I’m raising a small child and I need to keep my outlook positive to be a good mommy. The world can do without my panic. Every so often, I feel guilty about my isolationism and go plant a tree with our local tree planting organization, but that’s as involved as I get.

      I read books, advice columns (like this one), and various Internet fluff. I very seldom read newspapers. And despite that, the world continues to turn.

    7. Jackalope*

      I’m reading the newspaper for my news but not anything else. Our local paper has a good mix of positive and not so that helps; st times I can just read the good stuff happening in my region. I’ve also practiced spending time with my cats and a light book (and not reading depressing stuff since why be sad about fictional people). Also making sure to take care of sleep, water, all the exercise, etc.

    8. Massage Wear??*

      Mindfulness has been helpful for me – basically the idea is that you focus on what is going on in your immediate environment in the moment, and not on other things. So when I want to think about the larger world I can; but when I don’t want to think about it it isn’t a dark cloud hanging over me. Mindfulness is a skill that you practice through meditation. There are a few apps that can help you learn; I use Headspace.

    9. lasslisa*

      I saw a post going around recently with this LOTR quote. It reminds me that bad things have always happened and always been happening:

      “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

      Terrible things have always been part of life. The Buddha had a whole thing about the inevitability of suffering. All that’s changed is the breadth of our sources (now I get to hear about terrible, shameful, atrocious things happening everywhere in detail all hours of the day, whereas before I’d only hear about ones happening to people I actually knew or just a few stories in the paper) and our expectations.

      1. lasslisa*

        Since I realized I didn’t explain – I find the quote reminds me this stuff is always happening because it would have been relatable to people at so many times. Vietnam mentioned above. The world wars. Living in a country under colonial occupation. Civil wars. Religious wars. Plagues, rebellions, usurpers and traitors and famines…

  33. The Babiest Babyface*

    Can we start a thread of weird, out of context gossip? I’m really struggling with finals and could use something to cheer me up.
    I’ll start. I’m not allowed to tell people yet that I’m in one of the service clubs on campus and I keep running into a lot of hilarious scheduling conflicts that I can’t explain to people because of it. One of my friends had assumed I was secretly dating someone because of it.

    1. C Average*

      I should connect you with my mom. I’m visiting my parents, and all week she’s been telling me stuff about people I’ve never met.

      The biggest item on her mind is that the property down the road from their house (they’re in the country) appears to have been sold–the “for sale” signs have come down. She keeps trying to finesse a few minutes alone with her realtor friend so she can ask who bought it–she actually invented an errand that would ensure she “ran into” her realtor friend, but then another friend ran into both of them.

      Every time we walk or drive past the property, we have to discuss not just the identity of the purchaser, but the previous owner, his ex-girlfriend, his estate plan, his kids, their kids . . . it’s a rich tapestry, my mother’s store of local gossip and rampant speculation.

    2. Selmarie*

      When I first got married, I was so tired because of my new husband’s snoring. So. Tired. And people noticed at work, and I explained. Turned out *everyone* somehow thought the snoring explanation was a cover story for staying up late “getting busy.”

    3. KoiFeeder*

      Oooh, I’ve got one from high school! I am the weird snake girl, one of the biology teachers had a room full of snakes, so when I found a wild albino hognose, well, into the shoebox he went and I took him directly to the bio teacher to show him off. Albino hognoses don’t live very long in the wild, so we were both very impressed that this one was an adult, and I rather suspect that the biology teacher kept him- I certainly went home sans shoebox!

      The principal called me into his office at lunchtime because, through some baffling lack of eyesight, the students in this teacher’s homeroom class decided that a hognose snake was a copperhead and told the rest of the student body such. And the administration didn’t ask the teacher first before deciding to yell at me.

      I had run out of patience with school administration nonsense by then so I told them to go ask the teacher if I’d brought in a copperhead, and then come back to me. I may be a moron about social things, but even I know better than to bring a copperhead somewhere where the majority of people are going to try to kill the poor thing!

    4. They Don’t Make Sunday*

      Two of my close friends got pregnant practically the same week (almost identical due dates). One of them miscarried. I was the only one who knew about both pregnancies. I convinced the still-pregnant friend to hold off telling the rest of our group for a while. Another friend in the group was going through an unrelated tough time, so that was the implied cover. It worked!

  34. esra*

    The home vet is coming by tomorrow to euthanize my (very much beloved) cat of nearly 17 years. I’ve been with this cat for my whole adult life and am taking it pretty badly, to say the least. I know a lot of people here are pet people, how have you guys dealt with this?

    I’m an ugly crier and I have to go to work on Monday and the thought of not waking up to my little grump, or coming home to him just makes my heart ache. I work in office now, but most of my career has been wfh with a cuddly, fussy feline roommate. Most of the advice I’ve seen says to really change your routine, but honestly I just kind of feel like crawling into bed and not coming out for a while.

    1. Lilo*

      I think keep focusing on how you gave him a good old life. 17 is really old for a cat! You must have taken very very good care of him. He was so lucky to have you.

      1. Digley Doowap*

        ^This 100%.

        My elderly cat Honsom (yep this is his name) is getting to the point where he will need the same vet visit soon. My wife and I have been through this for 5 previous cats and there’s no easy way through it.

        My wife was so distraught when we had to do this with her most favorite cat Silly that the only thing that would console her was a new kitten; he was a way to occupy her thoughts a bit while grieving for Silly. Skouby is now 10 years old and still my wife get teary eyed when chatting about Silly.

        I try to think about all the love that my fur buddies have given me over the years to realize that the sorrow and grief I have in their passing is no match for the years of love given so freely.

        I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow and pray for an easy passage to the bridge.

      2. tangerineRose*

        Yeah, 17 is very old for a kitty. Let yourself grieve, give yourself a lot of grace, because it will be tough. Try to find people who understand this to talk to when you need to talk. If someone says “It’s just a cat”, they don’t know what they’re talking about, and you know this is someone you don’t want to talk to about this. Remember the good times. You might want to take a few pictures of him now. Getting another kitty or 2 at some time might help, but don’t push yourself if you’re not ready.

    2. Lena Clare*

      Ah I’m so sorry! Grief from the death of a pet is just as valid as grief from the death of any other family member. If you need to take time off to be devastated for a while, are you able to do this?

    3. CoffeeLover*

      You said you have to go to work, which is too bad because I think the best thing you can do is give yourself some time to process. Any chance you could call in sick and take a mental health day? I think this is exactly the kind of situation that deserves a mental health day. And I think your employer would prefer you take a day to heal rather than not doing that and (understandably) performing poorly for a few days.

      Other than that, I don’t really have any other advice except for allowing yourself to feel what you feel. Let the grief processes happen and don’t force yourself to feel better when you aren’t ready. I think when it comes to pets there’s sometimes an extra challenge in feeling guilty for being distraught over the passing of an animal (vs. a human being) and a lot of people don’t really get it (aren’t as supportive) for that very reason. Ignore all that and just focus on yourself and what you need to feel.

      1. cat socks*

        +1 This definitely deserves a mental health day if at all possible. Grief is different for every person. If you want to come home from work and just crawl under the covers go ahead and do that. Be gentle with yourself and don’t feel like you need to “get over it” after a certain point in time. It will be a process and it takes time to get used to a new normal.

        I’m so sorry you have to go through with this. Keeping you in my thoughts.

        1. Lilo*

          Inworknworking in retail when my childhood dog died. I came to work anyway but my manager, when she heard what happened, let me go home.

    4. Soft kitty*

      I went through this myself recently. I was a mess with the vet, and slept on the couch that night so I could go to work without really thinking about it, and I did my best to distract myself. It wasn’t a great coping mechanism, but it worked for me.

    5. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Oh, I’m so sorry. I said goodbye to my 22 year old baby last October 1. It was a blessing to be able to do it at home. It was very peaceful and I was able to hold her the whole time. It was absolutely the right decision, which made it easier but by no means easy. I spent the rest of the day ugly crying, and the rest of the week coming home from work and crawling under the covers. There’s no shame in that, if that’s what you need to do. Be kind to yourself and let yourself grieve however you want.

    6. Book Lover*

      I cried for a week, got rid of her litter box and so on. Then I brought another cat home. That was the only thing that helped, I think. I still think of my sweet kitty but now I have another to give me some comfort.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, the only thing that really helped me move through the loss of #1 dog of my life was to get another dog. It’s not the same, but the only thing worse than not having my old dog was not having any dog at all. So I went out the next week and got my next pup.

        Take some cry time. If we tell ourselves not to cry that only makes us cry harder. Just let it out.

      2. AussieLizzie*

        If you can, record your cat’s purring on your phone. I often listen to my Millie’s rumbly purr and remember what a lovely and companionable girl she was; she used to sleep (and snore) lying on the pillow next to mine.

    7. jjjjjjjjjjjjjj*

      I’m so sorry. What helped me was volunteering/visiting cats at my local shelter. I wasn’t ready to bring home a new cat, but giving shelter cats some much needed love made me feel better.

    8. Not A Manager*

      Thinking of you today. I hope everything went as smoothly as possible. Please check in next week and let us know how you’re doing.

  35. Bilateralrope*

    Are there any southern hemisphere Christmas movies that you find memorable ?

    Because I realised this week that I cant think of any and I’m curious if anyone here can think of any.

    1. Dancing Otter*

      I believe the Miss Fisher Murder Mystery series had a holiday episode. It’s set in flapper era Australia. There’s definitely a New Year’s Eve episode, titled “The Last Best Party” or something similar.

  36. Not My Money*

    Has anyone tried one of the baking subscription boxes? My brother is a pretty good baker but only makes the same few things. I thought a subscription box would open up some new possibilities. Suggestions?

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Metro had one for UK people after Thursday. metro.co.uk/201912/13/cope-mental-health-suffering-election-result-11896602

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I’m a dual US/UK citizen so I have both countries to worry about! Things are not happy in my head.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Me too; not a dual citizen, but I have family and friends in the UK and my auntie has not been well (she’s doing much better) so the prospect of no NHS has me in knots.

    3. Ranon*

      Best coping mechanism I’ve got is to take action with other people, it’s very helpful for reminding yourself that you’re not alone and not the only one working to change things. Plus gets you out interacting with other people which is generally good for we social animals

  37. CoffeeLover*

    I’ve been living in a city/country that I dislike for a couple years now. I have really tried to make the best of it, but I realized the most I can manage is to accept the situation – I don’t think I can ever be truly happy here. Part of the problem is cultural/language barrier, part is being so far from friends and family and part is the awful darkness (I haven’t seen the sun in weeks). I’ve gotten to an okay place, just kind of tolerating the situation and trying to find little things to make me happen.

    Now my partner and I have made concrete plans to move! Yay!! Only problem is this move can’t happen for another couple of years. Honestly, I’m already planning the move in way more detail than I should at this point, but I’m just so happy to finally get out. But the little motivation I had left to make living here better is gone. I just kind of want to ride through it with what I have (the one good friend I’ve made, my cats, my partner, etc.) and look forward to greener pastures. Two years feels like a long time, but I also think it could go by quickly. Part of me says, f-it I’ve tried enough, but I can’t fully get over the nagging feeling that I should still put in an effort to make my immediate life better.

    Has anyone else been in a situation like this? Trapped in a place and counting down the days until you could leave. How did you handle it? Any advice for me?

    1. Erykah Badu*

      Can you set milestones in your moving planning to look forward to? That way you’re still actively putting your energy into a better future but it also feels like it’s moving forward. Maybe like pick a new place, figure out how to move your stuff, organize your current place, by X date, etc.

      When I felt stuck and counting down, I had to remind myself every day (and sometimes hour) that this is now a temporary situation. It’s no longer if but when.

      1. CoffeeLover*

        Oo I love this milestones idea! It brings the date closer somehow and is also really productive since I’ll need to figure this stuff out eventually. And I think I’ll be so much better prepared (Financially and emotionally) than I was when I moved here.

    2. Alexandra Lynch*

      I’m sort of doing that with the house I’m in now. We’ve got other stuff that is much more of a priority, but part of what I’m doing is thinking about what I like and what I don’t like. Dislike: Bedrooms upstairs. Like: Separate laundry room. Dislike: Size of laundry room…I’d like it large enough to hang up things that need to dry on hangers, or lay out sweater dryers. Stuff like that. So that when we do talk to an architect I know what I want.
      But right now, this is the house I’m in and the place I’m at, and I need to have it work for me right now. So I get curtains that are actually lightblocking for the bedroom, and have the carpet cleaned, and generally really try to love the space I’m in while I’m in it.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Soooort of. We moved to a new city for my partner’s PhD, and after about three years I was looking forward to moving somewhere else. The city was fine, it just wasn’t for me. I had a lot of acquaintances but few friends. I found the general culture to be really provincial. I just wanted out.

      In my case, it was kind of freeing. I knew I would be leaving, so no problem with loose connections. But once the pressure was off, I did make friends and I did carve out a small niche. I also tried to take advantage of some of the good stuff in that city because I knew it was all temporary.

      Then partner’s job search started and I was really close to having to stay in that city. By that point I was frustrated but ok with staying vs. uncertainty. We did move, to a city I like, and I went back to visit our former home last week and enjoyed being able to see the few people I missed.

      Basically, I stepped back from the whole thing and treated moving as an inevitability, and the pressure came off.

      1. CoffeeLover*

        You’re right – it is freeing! I think I’ll embrace that more and forget about this guilty feeling that I couldn’t make it work. And you’re right that there’s still some things to enjoy here. Maybe I’ll make a list of all the things to do before leaving forever – all those tourist things I still haven’t done will be done!

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          And hey, if you’re in Europe and you’re moving to the US, take as many cheap flights as you can!

    4. Wishing You Well*

      You won’t get these next 2 years back, so…I’d make the time as productive as possible for yourself. PLEASE don’t waste the time. Give some thought to when the 2 years are over, looking back, what would you like to have accomplished? You might have goals that have nothing to do with the move; personal, professional, physical, etc. Please get started on whatever it is. Tap that power!
      Happy Travels!

    5. Washi*

      I’m kind of in this boat! I’m in my city until I finish grad school (another 1-1.5 years) and then my husband and I plan to move to a more rural area. I’m trying to get my fill of urban stuff – I’ve made a bucket list of museums to visit, I’m taking a class at our excellent local community college in addition to my normal courseload, and we’re trying to go on daytrips to stuff that will be too far away once we move.

      The hardest thing for me is that I’m someone who likes forming friendships, and I feel less motivated to do that with less than two years left to live here. But I am trying to really enjoy and deepen the close friendships I already have.

    6. Tau*

      This was less place and more situation, but I distinctly remember that towards the end of my PhD I decided to just hunker down because I was going to move afterwards anyway. I don’t think it was a good idea. Two years is a long time, and definitely a long time to be unhappy or to put your life on hold. Especially because I’ve found I always had another reason to go “ok, I can’t go out and do things/try to build a social circle now because XYZ, but after..”

      Will it help to keep thinking that this is no longer about making yourself happy here in the long run, and to focus on quick-win things (like, idk, checking out touristy places that are more convenient from where you are than from your home country) instead of really building up roots?

      Also, I too suffer in the dark months (and this is my home country /o\). If you can afford it, I’ve found a week’s holiday somewhere sunny in January or February does wonders for my mood.

    7. Paris-Berlin-Seoul Express*

      I can absolutely relate. My husband and I are currently in the same situation. We’ve been in our current location two years now and are not loving it. We just never clicked with the culture and the fact that it’s so far away from all of our friends and family which is exacerbated by the time zone we’re in. I finally got a job offer in home country, so barring any unforeseen events we’ll be leaving within the next couple of months. Our coping mechanism was traveling. We visited as many countries as we could while we are in this part of the world. We also did and do a lot of sightseeing day trips in current country. We look for the positives in what is otherwise not an ideal situation and also try to look at it from the rearview, as in what an incredible opportunity this has been for us to experience another culture. Obviously traveling is dependent on whether you have the means and the interest. But hang in there, look for what a neat experience this will have been and two years will pass quickly.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m going to address one part — “haven’t seen the sun in weeks”. Obviously I dont know how FAR north you are, but heres what we have learned from friends in Iceland and northern Denmark. In the winter they plan their day so they can take a long lunch break outdoors when it’s not horrible weather. And the definition of good weather is pretty broad– even babies get to nap outside in prams in light snow. (Well snuggled in with warm wraps of course!)
      Basically, a day with cloud layer is still day, so they go outside. Weekends, the same– the daylight hours are planned to get out & be active in sun. Indoors activities happen around that. And of course vacations to sunny places–go straight to Greece for example, because England is for summer. :)

  38. OyHiOh*

    Neptune had his book release two nights ago. There was a funny moment near the beginning where there were 4 or 5 people in the room, and then the next time we turned around, the place was completely full and the gallery owners were slightly panicking about needing more chairs.

    Posting link in comments – the standing photo of me shows some of the photos I did for the book and the seated photo *does not* show a photo of mine (a mistakes a number of people made) – the red head was Neptune’s girlfriend before I was born . . . .

    It’s been a good week overall, no major things to think about or work through. Anticipating January is going to to be a tough one who knows, maybe it’ll be better than I imagine.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Very cool.

      If you think January might be tough, you have enough time where you can make little plans here and there to try fend off the worst of it.

      But mostly, if you still want to cry sometimes then that is what you should do. The tears are part of reweaving our lives. And you, my friend have done a lot of reweaving. Overall you are doing great. And if you forget that from time to time that is okay, too. It’s okay to just feel the sadness. This is life, it’s not all happy and it’s not all sad. It’s a mixed bag. I bet Neptune understands this is your process and you have to do your process, so no worries about him. He’ll just wait it out, he’s one of the good ones.

    2. OyHiOh*

      Update after grocery shopping: Made some really conscious “different ” choices for my eating this next week. For a few months there, I was managing some significant anxiety with up to 5 miles of walking 5 or more days a week. Lost a pants size shockingly fast, even with eating somewhere in the neighborhood of 3000 calories a day. Brain settled down, stopped walking as much, adjusted my food habits some . . . . . but also started eating a lot of breakfasts and lunches at coffee shops.
      I like the shape and weight I’m at now – even though it happened unintentially – so changing things up. Fewer chips and crackers, more veggies, beans, lentils, etc Most of the snack-y stuff is explicitly kid food – the kind of trail mix I don’t like, the lemon cookies they adore but don’t make me want to return to the cookie jar, etc. And a committment to EAT AT HOME this week.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        A side effect of all this is that it will probably help your brain be sharper*. Grief fog is a real thing. My pastor said, “Widows who walk make out better than widows that don’t walk.”

        *I hope that was clear, I don’t mean you aren’t sharp. You are actually a really sharp person. Grief dulls the brightest of minds. Walking helps with circulation and other good stuff, but it also helps us to acclimate to present time and our current surroundings. Grief can be like a time warp, we are in the present and then whoops we are in the past. That flipping is so annoying/jarring. So there is a psychological component also and walking will help with the time warping and other mind bending stuff that comes up.

  39. Anony Mouse*

    1. Watched most recent episode of The Mandelorian on large screen tv last night and all the red/white light flashing and the hyper speed light travel made me physically unwell. How do I get over this vertigo?

    2. We get kitten next week! What should we do the day before/day of to prep? And how long should a 4 month old kitten stay in its safe cozy safe room?

    1. Aphrodite*

      Let the kitten determine how fast you move. It may be very curious and want to be out and about with you in the entire apartment within minutes. Be sure you have the litter box ready to go and show the kitten; personally I insist on the fragrance free ones because the perfume in the scented ones is so terrible and not, I suspect, particularly good for the cats. (I like to just draw their paw across the sand once or twice I know they “get” it.) Have several different cans of food so if the kitten doesn’t like one you have another. Be aware that kitten size means she can get into things you wouldn’t imagine: behind the refrigerator, claws into electrical outlets, and so on. Cords can be chewed–and thus become dangerous. If the kitten wants to sleep with you, great. Give her some dirty shirts to let her inhale your scent. Maybe sit near her and read out loud. If you have a washer/dryer, make absolutely sure she does not get in there! Kittens are fast. Keep her indoors only unless she’s on a cat leash; even then there are dangers. Indoors is always best–and make sure she doesn’t get out when you go out. Again, cats are fast.

      Good luck. You might want to consider two as they can keep each other company.

      1. tangerineRose*

        All of this. Also, many cats don’t like perfumed litter.

        Be careful around drawers. Some kittens get into drawers, go to the back of the drawer, then jump to the next drawer. Pulling the drawer out has been my workaround, but it’s a little nerve-wracking.

        Also agree that 2 can be great. You might want to consider getting a young adult cat or 2 instead of kitten(s). Adult cats can be a lot easier to take care of. I love kittens, but they’re kinda crazy.

    2. WS*

      1. I have chronic vertigo which is easily set-off by wobbly TV camera action and the best thing for me it to watch in a well-lit room on a smaller screen. To recover, make sure you’re well-hydrated, don’t look at any screen you can’t 100% control (this is why I have all animation turned off in my browser and a good solid ad-blocker), don’t be a passenger in a vehicle, and take a travel sickness medication if you need to.

      1. very grateful person*

        I sometimes get car sick just because I am the passenger- but I’ve never heard of anyone else having this symptom! Are you better off driving too?

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I get seasick from imax movies, a recent concert-tour movie nearly did me in, and the movie at a planetarium….just not happening again. For me i noticed that smaller screens are easier on me than big ones, and flat ones are a must. I decided never progressive lenses again, after the one where I was reading subtitles.
      Worth a try?

  40. Sparkly Librarian*

    Friday the 13th has historically been a lucky day in my family. A day to meet your future spouse. A day to stop smoking/drinking. A day to jump out of an airplane. When we got our court date and it was Friday the 13th, I was elated. So…….. I will just say that despite a long list of things going wrong yesterday — flat tire, inoperable credit card machines, leaving phones at home, court losing paperwork, an hour’s delay at the courthouse (and no changing table in the restroom), miscommunication about which restaurant the family was meeting at, and a series of terrible photos — after seven and a half months, OUR ADOPTION IS FINALIZED and that is the important thing.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Fantastic news – congratulations on your child (-ren?) officially coming home at last!

    2. Bluebell*

      Congratulations! It feels so great to have things all official, doesn’t it? Hope your judge was nice. Twenty years later I still remember ours. She was very well thought of in our area, and there was a wonderful obit a few years ago when she passed away.

  41. Pennalynn Lott*

    I’M IN SAN DIEGO!!

    I wrote last weekend with a list of worries / gripes about traveling. The plane flight was even more uncomfortable than I’d imagined (oof, my lower back!) and there are some things that could be better (by being different) about the hotel, but — woot! — I’m so happy I’m here!

    Thank you, AAMers for encouraging me to go when I wrote last weekend.

  42. Rebecca*

    Hey everyone, I have a little bit of news. I’ve been telling my mother that she has a large round black raised thing on her back, another equally black but smaller thing nearby, and she already knows she has an entire back covered with seborrheic keratoses, and since I’ve had to help her bathe after she broker her wrist in July, I’ve pointed this out. She had a doctor’s appointment on Thursday, and again, I said, you need to show the doctor these things! So she did. Tuesday afternoon she has an appointment to have them removed in a surgeon’s office. I am not looking forward to this. I had a cyst lanced and packed on my back once, and after the local wore off, boy did it hurt for days, and then there was wound care, etc. I’m going to ask if it’s possible for a visiting nurse to do any wound care needed. I hope for her sake it’s not melanoma. Will let everyone know what’s going on as soon as I can. She’s also complaining about all the doctor’s appointments she has to go to, etc. and I just said, well, that’s what happens when you get older I guess. Staying out of it!!

    Other than that, all is well, I’m having fun looking for Christmas decorations in storage, looking at the deer on the game cam, still amused by how the raccoon has no fear of them, and a bit sad that the big buck hasn’t made an appearance since hunting season started. I think he’s in someone’s freezer. My neighbors gave me venison Lebanon bologna and wow was it good! Makes me want to get my hunting license again (I did bag a deer in the past, in the woods, with an old Winchester rifle).

    Oh, and Podcasts – I found “Cold” about the disappearance of Susan Powell in 2009, and “Something Was Wrong”. Fascinated by both. I remember now when Susan disappeared, and the story came out about the night it happened, and her husband said he took their 2 young boys camping in the middle of the night in the snow. I thought, yeah, right, you did it. What a sad story.

    Going to walk to the post office, but man, the weather is just disrespectful today. It’s cold, 35F, raining, foggy, miserable, battleship grey, and cranky. I’m going to walk down anyway since I have a water proof coat and I need to stretch my legs. But I’m sort of dragging my feet :)

    1. Wishing You Well*

      I’m glad to see a post from you today. Sure hope things go well for your mom’s surgery.
      Stay well!

    2. Nervous Nellie*

      Ah, Rebecca! Yikes, that is tough news about your Mum. Cheering for you, and hoping that her medical team can intervene as much as possible so that you don’t need to be so directly involved after the surgery.

      I laughed out loud about your perfect comment, “the weather is just disrespectful today!’ Beautifully put. I hope you get a lovely East Coast winter back and soon. Your description sounds like a normal winter day here in the Pacific NW. It’s why I am home & drinking cocoa instead of venturing out.

    3. Observer*

      I really hope the visiting nurse can handle the wound care. You may have to fight the insurance on this, but I’d say WELL worth it.

    4. Paris-Berlin-Seoul Express*

      Hope your mom will be okay. I always read your posts and am so amazed how well you deal with a difficult situation.
      I remember when Susan Powell disappeared. We were living in Utah at the time, close to the area where her husband went ‘camping’. Everyone knew he did it. But the even more terrible thing was when they finally closed in on him and he killed his children and himself. It just made me cry. What a monster.

      1. Rebecca*

        What a sad story. Dave Crawley did a good job with investigative reporting on the “Cold” Podcast (IMO), and some bonus podcasts were published this month. I listened to the first one, looking forward to the other 3. I am so stunned the children weren’t taken from him earlier and kept away from that bees nest of a family.

    5. Rebecca*

      I have an addendum of sorts. I went down to the kitchen to start coffee before getting a shower, and noticed a pile (as in, about a foot) of newspapers stacked up on one of the chairs in the kitchen. I’m guessing HRH wants them to go to recycling, but the last time I took newspapers to recycling she complained that “I took too many” and she might want to “read back through them” for some reason. I’m going to let them sit there until she uses words to say what she wants.

      The second thing I wanted to toss out is this: we don’t have a dishwasher, so dishes are done by hand and put in a rack in the other half of the double sink to dry. I noticed that she will put dry dishes away, but only those that she used. Things I use are left in the drainer, right down to my plate, a small cutting board, coffee cup – at first I thought she didn’t want to handle it, like my chef’s knife, as she’s terrified of sharp knives, but she actually uses the cutting boards. If she uses it, washes it, etc, SHE puts it away, but if I use it, wash it, etc. she lets it sit there. This morning she left the salad spinner, chef’s knife, and cutting board in the dish drainer. I put them away, but man, what passive aggressive crap. This makes me want to wash the few things I use as I use them and just let her deal with the rest.

  43. C Average*

    I want to get and keep a journal/planner this next year. I’ve been an abject failure at using such items in the past, despite having an affinity for them and buying at least one a year.

    Does anyone have tips for forming consistent habits around journaling and using a paper planner? How about planners and pens you love?

    (This isn’t me trying to get organized. I’m pretty organized already and mostly manage my time with Google calendar. I just like the idea of a paper planner and a nice pen, with the added advantage of me spending less time on my phone. I don’t have a shared calendar with my partner or anyone else, so there’s no technological advantage to an online calendar.)

    1. QCI*

      They say it takes around 30 days to make something a habit, so I guess consistency would be my only tip.

    2. fposte*

      What small things reward you? I like anything where I can visibly check things off in an exciting way, so even though I’m not generally a paper-blingy person I might lead with a daily chart where I could put in a cool artsy sticker for every day I completed. Then I could look back in satisfaction at rows of stickers as well as my completed entries. Is there anything external like that that might work for you?

      1. C Average*

        I love this! I’m definitely the sort of nerd who will want a sticker on every square of the calendar. Thanks!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Journal before you do Thing That You Really Want to Do?

      I like Pilot G2s. I use #7 tip but my boss likes #5 tip.

      1. C Average*

        Maybe before looking at my phone, i.e., reading AAM. Yeah, that would definitely be a better morning routine than what I currently have.

    4. Rainy*

      I use a Passion Planner for my paper calendar. I’ve kept a paper calendar on and off over the years, but in general for me, the need drives it. When I was in grad school and my time was pretty much scheduled in 3 minute blocks, I used a planner, and then once I was just writing, I stopped. Now I work in a field that involves a lot of appointments, and I’m back to calendaring in a planner. I have 3 calendars: gcal, Outlook, paper calendar. (I don’t LIKE it, but it’s necessary.)

      I have a (complicated) system of ink colours that works pretty well for me. I like the Pilot G-2 pens, there’s a standard multi-pack of colours (black, blue, red, green, purple, aqua, oxblood, pink) that I use, and then I had to add 2 new colours recently (from a different pack; orange and pale green).

      My best advice is to not get so excited about a new plan for how to put stuff down in the planner that you fill it out for months and months ahead of time, because things always morph as you’re trying to use them. :)

      1. C Average*

        That’s two Pilot G2 votes–I’ll have to check them out. I’ll also take a look at the Passion Planner. Thanks!

    5. Fellow Traveler*

      I have a Five Year Journal- each page is one date divided into five sections so you can write a bit each year- I love going back and reading what I was doing on this date last year and the year before and the year before. Knowing that I like to look back motivates me to write a little bit each day so that I’ll have something to look back on. What also helps me is having a dedicated time to write- I write in the morning when I’m not working or right before bed when I am working. Either way, I write with a favorite pen and a cup of tea- it just makes it a nice ritual. Sometimes all I get is two scribbled sentences before I’m interrupted, but it is something. And I also literally put it in my to do list- so I can check it off when I do it.

      1. C Average*

        Thanks! I love the idea of a five-year journal. I think I will start out with one year and work my way up! Maybe a really nice five-year journal can be my reward for sticking with something for a year.

        1. Washi*

          I mean you should definitely do you…but I would vote to do the fun thing now if it appeals! Life is short, why put off a simple pleasure? And this may be what keeps you motivated in the first place, knowing you’re going to come back to these entries in a year.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        My mom and I did one of these together when I was in elementary school – she bought a big notebook with enough pages for 366 days to each have their own page, and then we’d write 3 lines about my day each year on the page for that day and look back on that day in subsequent years. I think it kept going until sometime in middle school.

    6. matcha123*

      I can’t speak to journalling, which is something I do sometimes and not. But for planners, I carry mine with me and write so much in it. Words that I’ve forgotten the meanings of or that I didn’t know the meaning of, when I’m meeting friends, work events, etc.
      I’d say having a planner you’re excited about using is essential. If I’m excited about the planner, I want to feel like I’m getting my money’s worth by using it, decorating it, drawing in it, etc.

    7. Lalla*

      I agree with fposte above, I have a bullet journal/planner mostly because I can tick off things from my lists and it gives me great satisfaction. I also like having all my to do list, goals, things to remember, etc. in the same place.
      If you go the bujo way, I think it should be the good balance between fun/artistic and useful. If it’s going to take too much time, it’s not worth it! Also, I found some “spreads” didn’t work for me, so I dropped them. After a while I learned to test things out for a shorter time (eg keeping a tab of habits weekly rather than monthly or yearly).

  44. Anon Dino*

    I’m regularly getting laid after 4 years of no sex and many many years of bad sex and omg, this is better than an antidepressant. Being divorced kicks ass.

    1. StandMixers4All*

      High five!!! Doesn’t it make SUCH a difference?? When I started having satisfying sex, it was like a tightly clenched fist inside me was finally able to let go and exist peacefully. :)

      Great job taking care of your needs!

    2. Zona the Great*

      Oh man I’m there with you. 5 years of terrible sex with my ex fiancé. I will never ever sacrifice good sex again. Way too important.

  45. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    Daily moisturizer recommendations?

    Looking for my husband as a gift.

    Needs to be:
    1. SPF 15+ mineral sunscreen (chemical gets into his eyes and bothers him)
    2. Good moisturizer for dry New England winter
    3. Unscented or minimal scent
    4. Not branded in an excessively feminine manner (I know skin is skin but he won’t wear it if it seems like a product for women)
    5. Less than $50

    Would be most grateful for any help!

    1. Anon Here*

      Aveeno has some products like that. I have used their moisturizers during New England winters with good results. Super easy to find too.

      Plug this into a search engine and see what scentedness options come up:

      Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 15 Sunscreen

    2. WellRed*

      I think there are now several brands that have men’s skin care lines. Clinique, for one. Or maybe something from neutrogena

    3. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

      I use Banana Boat For Sensitive Skin. I also recommend CeraVe and Cetaphil (fragrance-free, sensitive skin). I also like Aveeno and The Honest Company, but these might seem more feminine. The other 3 have very basic branding.

    4. Wishing You Well*

      I use “oil-free moisture with sunscreen SPF 35” by Neutrogena for my face every day. It’s in a white plastic bottle with black lettering (very gender-neutral) – but I don’t know what “mineral sunscreen” is, so this might not meet that requirement.

    5. Banana naan*

      Trader Joe’s has a moisturizer with sunscreen for $3.99! I love it because it does add moisture and it doesn’t sting my eyes!

    6. moql*

      I have sensitive skin and I’m a huge fan of supergoop sunscreen/moistrizer all in one. Expensive, but it only takes a tiny bit too cover my face and neck.

    7. misspiggy*

      Clarinet and Clinique both do great moisturisers for men, Clarins slightly better I think but more expensive.

  46. Loopy*

    This might be a stretch but looking for a subscription meal box where the meal is pretty much already made. I’m looking to make life easier for someone and have good prepared meals delivered but all I know of is the Blue Apron/Hello fresh type things. I’m hoping to avoid just frozen meals too. Is such a thing out there?

      1. Fikly*

        My sister uses Freshly and likes it a lot.

        I don’t know if it’s a concern, but their gluten free options are Celiac safe.

    1. CAA*

      These are pricy, but Williams Sonoma sells meal packages from Elephants Deli. I can vouch for the food when purchased at the Deli, so hopefully the W-S versions are just as good. They have things like “5 days of entrees”, “3 soups”, “5 vegetarian entrees”, with one option for a 3-month entree subscription. They are frozen and you do have to reheat them when you want to eat, but these meals are about 47 steps up from the Swanson TV dinner.

      Not a subscription, but Omaha Steaks has their “dorm room dinners” that you can reheat in a microwave.

      fposte mentioned Freshly.

      The other ones I’ve heard of are more geared to vegan, weight loss, or other special diets: Bistro MD, Sakara, Veestro, Fresh Direct.

      1. Loopy*

        Thanks! This is my favorite of the bunch. I just realized this person is very very picky about eating organic though and there doesn’t seem to be any info about the food sources. Otherwise this is ideal!

  47. Ugh.*

    I’m mulling something over, y’all.

    Last weekend, while cleaning my subterranean shelter, I was listening to a podcast I like that analyzes movies from a screenwriting angle. They were talking about the filmmaker, who started with very little and had made short films, as most do. This led to a discussion of how the only real way a screenwriter knows a script is truly filmable is to film it. “You gotta make it and put it out there, and just keep doing it.”

    This got me to thinking about my book, which got close but didn’t quite make the hurdle to traditional publishing. I’ve been told many times by people who know nothing about publishing that I should just self it. I tend to discount them, because they don’t know anything.I’ve looked for small presses, but the decent ones that take unagented submissions are closed to them currently (perpetually, it seems; I keep checking in vain for open calls).

    While listening to the podcast, I felt like, Why not? Why not just say ‘f*ck it,’ and put it out there?

    The odds of getting noticed this way, for novelists, anyway, are practically zero. But if that’s not the goal, if just doing it so it can be read is, maybe I should. I worked damn hard on restructuring it and it’s finally as close to the book I hoped it would be as I can get. I wrote a sequel. A trilogy presented itself.

    While experimenting with skills in GIMP, I made a pretty decent cover. I could do it myself on my blog, but I don’t have a huge platform. I don’t have any money, so the only alternative is Amazon (ugh, but large platform).

    Obviously I’ll have to come up with some ways to promote it other than just sharing a link. It will either sink or swim. If I don’t do something, nobody will ever read any of it. I feel drawn toward my new book, but stuck on moving on. Maybe just doing it will get it off my mind.

    1. Wishing You Well*

      I love your idea of moving forward with your manuscript, but I have NO idea on how to publish things. Forgive me for asking if you’ve researched “how to get published”. There’s gotta be a boatload of advice from knowledgeable sources. Good luck and I hope you get your book out there!

    2. KristinaL*

      I’ve been thinking about going this route too. I’ve been wondering if it would be a good idea to donate a copy of the book to a nearby library, with information on how to order the book.

      1. Anono-me*

        The local libraries here actually do a lot of programming around local authors. This may be something to follow up on.

    3. LilySparrow*

      I indiepub, and I think it’s great. I also know some trad-pub authors who are going indie on their new titles. It’s all about making a direct connection with readers, finding your niche.

      I don’t have enough titles out yet to replace a full-time income, but people are reading it, liking it, giving me good reviews and some extra money every month.

      While traditional publishing works well for certain types of books that need a big marketing machine or distribution infrastructure, it’s not necessarily worth all the gatekeeping for other types of books.

      My trad-pub friends who write midlist commercial or genre fiction have to do all the same self-marketing that I do. They just keep a lower percentage of their sales. No matter how you get to market, books don’t sell themselves. You have to flog them.

      My favorite things are when people on my email newsletter list send personal replies, and when reviews mention that they got it as a present or were recommended by a friend. It just warms my heart and is so encouraging.

      I’d recommend reading Joanna Penn’s blog The Creative Penn for some good foundational advice. Derek Murphy at Creativindy is good. There’s also a free, very comprehensive course on Teachable called Self Publishing Mastery.

      I paid about $800 for a different course when I first started. It was good, I wasn’t ripped off, but from what Ive seen the Mastery course covers all the same info in a pretty solid way.

      Indie pubbing is a lot of work, but so is writing novels, ya know? It’s about the same amount of work as querying and rewriting. But you get to eat what you kill instead of taking scraps from a big corporation.

      I would certainly advise going through some kind of course on covers and blurb copy (at least) before sticking anything up for sale. Those are your prime marketing materials, and you want them to be really, really on-point. Bryan Cohen is good on blurb writing. And you can get very polished covers for between $50 – $200, depending on what you want.

      Some marketing strategies are all about manipulating the Amazon algorithm with timing, or paid ads. I’ve found that in the long term, the most reliable strategy is building an email list. I can see a sales spike every time I send a newsletter. My challenge now is building my backlist so happy readers can keep buying.

      So, best of luck to you! The indie community is vibrant and welcoming, and there are just as many if not more profitable authors in it as in trad pub. There’s just less media attention, and less snobs. (Not a bad thing, to my mind.)

        1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

          You can absolutely 100% do it yourself, you just need to brush up on a few things – study other similar novels in your genre and see how they write the blurb and what all the covers look like. Do they have manchest? (romance usually). Do they have a spaceship (like for sci fi)? Just copy that. Look at the different blurbs and write a similar one for your book (they are kinda like writing movie blurbs).

          There are a ton of free podcasts on self publishing that can teach you these tricks too. Some on YouTube as well. All a course will do is pull all this together in one place. I pay $100 a year for membership to a specific writing group forum and its worth its weight in gold for both information and guidance.

          Is there any way you could pull together a short story and toss it up on Amazon as a learning tool? That’s what I finally did and it actually sold! Even with a homemade cover, a crappy blurb, and questionable keywords. But it was a way to learn and break the barrier.

          1. Ugh.*

            I laughed so much at “do they have manchest.”

            Hmm I could do that, maybe. But my best stories are in the story collection. I haven’t written another short for a while.

        2. KristinaL*

          You can check out books from the library about self-publishing. I’ve been reading “Guide to self-publishing” and “Self-Publishing: You can do this!” By Karen Hidges Miller. Here’s a few things I’ve read so far:

          CoverCreator – free tool to design a book cover.
          http://www.bookcoverpro.com is a tool to create e-book and print book covers. BookCoverPro.
          To register Copyright – go to http://copyright.gov
          Secure ISBN. an ISBN code helps booksellers track and sell your book. http://www.isbn.org
          http://www.jakonrath.blogspot.com has newbie’s guide to publishing

          Partner with businesses that target your readers. Books are sold in drugstores, botiques, museums, gift shops, craft shows, sporting goods stores. Books are sold on websites and at seminars, workshops, conferences, and trade shows.
          Twitter, Facebook, Instagram – social media marketing is one of the best ways to let you spread the news about your book.
          There are very few new ideas in the world. You don’t need a totally new and unique idea. You need your own unique take on the subject.

          1. LilySparrow*

            You own your copyright whether you register it or not. The certificate is just proof. I didn’t bother until my second book.

            You don’t need an ISBN if you go thru Amazon, they provide one. If you want to distribute print direct to bookstores later, you can get an ISBN and create a new edition.

        3. LilySparrow*

          The only thing in that list that cost money was possibly paying for a cover. If you can do a good design, go for it. There are lots of Facebook groups that will help you workshop a cover.

          And you can always change it later.

          Pro cover is ideal. Good selfmade cover is better than nothing. Crap cover is crap.

          But the worst that can happen is that you upload it and get crickets, so why not go for it?

          Done is always better than perfect, because perfect never happens.

    4. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Mmm – for the cover, you may want to drop a bit of coin to make it look professional and stand out to readers as potentially something they want to read. You can find some cover folks on Fiverr, or do a general google search I would imagine. You could also look for writer groups in your genre as often there are cover artists (who may also write) who offer services through those groups, and the members vouch for their work.

      If its all about just self pubbing and putting it out there – no prob, but if you want to really put it out there for feedback, you may need to do a bit of promotion through an on-genre cover with a pro-designed cover. Self-publishing has changed immensely in the last five years and now a lot of the more successful indies are trending to look almost identical to traditional, and vice versa.

      Check the k-boards for other info on picking keywords and the like, and genre research. It can get a bit heated in there but there is also a lot of good info. Also, dont get too wound up in promotional approaches and marketing, , facebook ads, newsletter swaps, etc. If you had a site where readers could sign up for a newsletter and you can interact with them, that is all you would need to start and then perhaps some light promotion through book lists. The thing is to get traction you really need to publish, write, repeat.

      I write/self publish for fun in a throw-away genre and I have to say, I get more satisfaction making a few bucks off a book sale/borrow than my monthly salary. I do know some writers making some very good money who have their genres nailed, along with a strong process, readership, and pipeline of publications. It can take time to get there, but its still possible, if you are willing to put up with Amazon”s algorithm games.

    5. Ugh.*

      Thanks for your responses, all. Of all the books I’ve written, I was just incensed at the thought of wasting this one. Of course, if I do all this perfectly and methodically (or just pants it!) and nothing happens, it’s wasted anyway. I really don’t have the money to hire people, except for maybe the Fiverr suggestion. I can’t spend money I need to move. I need to hang onto that and no other money is coming in.

      It’s very hard to make decisions right now when literally every single one seems to turn out wrong. Moving didn’t help me find a job (yet, and it’s been a month and a half). I feel like I traded one prison for what seems to be a worse one and if I don’t break out of here, well I don’t know what. At least it would give me something to work on.

      It’s not like I have anything to lose by trying, since I have nothing! :P

      1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        So throw some caution to the wind, at least about your writing. Get out of analysis paralysis and write something quick and dirty (in term of pantsing, not like erotica unless you want to!) in the 10-20K word range, give it a one pass edit, and throw it up on Amazon with a homemade cover. Believe me, SOMEONE will either borrow or buy it. It costs nothing but your time to think up and write a story and you will:
        a) learn something new
        b) write at speed
        c) have some fun and create without traditional boundaries
        d) get some confidence about people reading your work and paying for it
        e) A few $$ but the tools to now make more $$$

        Don’t expect anything but the above. Don’t strive for Great Art or Self Publishing Perfection. Just strive to learn and get into the game, to make forward progress. Stories sitting on desktops won’t make any money, and you can always unpublish something at any time. Quiet the voice in your head that says no one wants to read what you’ve written and just go for it. You’ve got nothing to lose! Write in a new genre you’ve always wanted to try, write a novella, write something goofy, it doesn’t really matter. Don’t think of it as a life changing decision, take it for what it is, which is essentially free, and make something happen for yourself with that first step.

        (oh, and pick a nom de plume, for sure. And BookReport, for sales tracking, is free up until you make I think $1K. It makes a cool cash register noise when your book makes money)

    6. C Average*

      I know nothing about publishing, so I won’t opine on the merits of the various options, but if you publish in any format, I will read your book. And if I like it, I’ll encourage others to do so. I know this has been a slog for you, and if putting your book out into the world in some way enables you to move on to the next project, I hope you’ll do it!

      1. C Average*

        Quick add: the writing-and-publishing podcast 88 Cups of Tea, which I love and which you might like, deals with some of this stuff (marketing, self-publishing, finances) in this week’s episode. I haven’t listened to it yet–I’m about to–but it looks promising and might be worth checking out.

    7. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      The chances of success from self-publishing are low, but even 1/100,000 is higher than the chances of success from not putting the book where anyone else can see it.

      1. Ugh.*

        True on both counts. And if I managed some not-too-terrible sales, that’s a point in my favor with another project. Plus, even Baby Yoda-sized money would be helpful right now.

    8. Ann O.*

      I self-published a non-fiction research thing from my grad school days on Amazon, and it was very freeing to do it. It’s not an encouraging success story in that I don’t think anyone’s ever read it, and I don’t believe anyone ever will. But I’m okay with that. The possibility is there now and before it wasn’t.

      Amazon has great tools, so it was very quick and easy to format it for publication and get it out there. Obviously, you’ll need to put a lot more time in marketing to have any success with it. But if the main thing is just to get it available and see what happens, it is totally viable.

      This may not be true, but I would also think that this isn’t something you have to do perfectly right away. I would assume that you could do the initial publishing to get that weight off and let your immediate circle have access and then you could continue to refine things as you learn more about the marketing aspect.

    9. Ron McDon*

      Hi,

      I started reading the Shadow Demons series by Sarra Cannon 6+ years ago. She is indie published and has a whole ‘how to’ section on her website.

      I remember reading one of her blog posts about how she was finally making over $100,000 a year, which was enough for her to bite the bullet and give up her ‘real’ job and write full time.

      I’d recommend her website/blog, she’s very open about the struggles she’s faced and how she’s got to the place she’s in now. She’s usually very responsive if you m weave her too.

      Good luck – better to try than not, I feel.

        1. Jean (just Jean)*

          Heh – I figured that m weave was one more newfangled, web-based means of communication about which I have no plans to learn!

      1. Ugh.*

        Thanks for the resource, but making $100K in self-publishing seems as rare to me as suddenly becoming an A-lister. It is the last thing in the world I’m counting on. But trying is better than not trying, that’s true.

        M weave, lol. I have an online friend who makes such incredible typos I actually stole some of them for my conlang. :’D

    10. Morning Reader*

      I recall Publishers Weekly had regular features on self publishing so that might be a source for ideas and strategies. One I remember is the importance of building up an online following, interacting with readers and so on. To some extent, you have that here! I don’t know if Aliso