weekend free-for-all – December 7-8, 2019

Christmas tree, fireplace, and 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: Be Frank With Me, by Julia Claiborne Johnson.  Assigned to be the assistant to a legendary and reclusive author, the protagonist instead ends up serving as companion to her precocious nine-year-old son. Slate summarized it as three “three … eccentrics in an estate made of glass trying not to kill each other.”

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

{ 1,051 comments… read them below }

  1. Not Australian*

    I’m looking for some help to understand Chinese personal names; delving into my family tree I’ve discovered an ancestor who married into the Chinese community in Victoria, Australia, and had a lot of descendants with Chinese-style names. The trouble is, the Anglicisation of these names is pretty random – and a person could be recorded very differently at birth, marriage and death and at all points in between. In some cases it’s possible to puzzle these out, but others involve leaps of faith which may or may not be justified. I’ve found some resources online, but they’re bewilderingly comprehensive and will take a lot of digging through. Can anyone suggest a book, website, or person that might help to simplify the process – especially if you’ve been involved in family history research involving Chinese individuals? I’d really appreciate it!

    1. Abc*

      If you haven’t already, I would start with familiarizing yourself with some “standard” romanization systems. Pinyin is what is now standard for mainland Chinese, but in past waves of immigration Wade-Giles would have been more common. There are other systems too, and immigrants were often subject to immigration officers writing down whatever they heard, which might not be close to what was said, but if you can learn equivalences between those two (eg pinyin “xiu” is the same as WG “hsiu”) and how to properly pronounce different spellings that could be a start.

      1. Not Australian*

        Yes, I think in a nutshell that’s where the problem lies; not a small task but it does help to know where to start. Thank you!

        1. Boba tea*

          second this suggestion and i think it ll help you a lot. Wade Giles romanization isnt common in China anymore. if you look at the way the word is romanized, you can have a good idea of where they’re from cause Taiwanese and Hongkong names cane look different. not to mention overseas Chinese, i have friends with the last name Lee as a Chinese-Viet person, and some last names look the same in two languages.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      Family names can be relatively straightforward, as there are a relatively small number that cover a huge number of people. You do need to establish if they were Mandarin speakers (the official language of the PROC), or Cantonese (coming from Hong Kong, the source of a lot of early immigrants), or something else. The characters are the same, but the pronunciations can be quite different.

      Given names, though, will be a huge mess if you don’t have any record of the characters or tones. There’s the multiple romanization schemes, as Abc mentioned, but there are also a *lot* of sound alikes in Mandarins, and given names are very free form, with a lot of variety. You can have multiple names that are romanized the same way (or ways), but come from totally different characters, and may have different tones in English.

      To give an example – 是, 市, 使, 十, can all be written as shi. In Mandarin, the pinyin is, shì, shì shǐ and shí (the first two are the same, the others have different tones), and mean, respectively “city”, “to be”, “to make” and “ten”. So if you see the word “shi” or even “shì” without context, you have no idea what the word actually is. And there are dozens more with the same pronunciations.

      1. Not Australian*

        Alas, I have no idea where in China the various individuals originated and I only have one name written in Chinese characters by the man himself – everything else is someone else’s (i.e. presumably some British or Aussie bureaucrat’s) interpretation of what they were told. For example, I have one person – who from other evidence I’m sure *is* one person! – recorded as Jun, Jeune, Joong, Chun and Chin. I don’t mind searching a number of variants, but at the moment I can’t even work out whether any given two names might conceivably sounds the same! But I’m going to follow WS’s valuable suggestion, I think – it might save me from having to re-invent the wheel!

    3. WS*

      Have you checked in with the Golden Dragon Museum in Bendigo? They have terrific resources for people tracing family members.

      The Anglicisation is indeed very random – there wasn’t really a set system for Cantonese names being used and white settlers recording names didn’t understand Chinese name order!

  2. Gramsas*

    Wallace is either admiring the tree or planning his ascent.
    Either way, they’re both stunning.

    1. Forrest Rhodes*

      Wallace (thinking): Okay, figuring angle of approach, speed and thrust at launch, trajectory, allowance for crosswind … yeah, it’s doable …

    2. Aphrodite*

      Oh yes.. That tree is stunning! How tall is it? How did you get it in, get it up, and decorate it? How do you know the cats are not planning a takedown?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s 13 feet! My husband did all the work — it took over a week to get it lit, etc. For the record, it’s his tree (I’m Jewish), but I enjoy sitting by it very much.

        The cats have been surprisingly good. I’ve caught Olive removing ornaments, but no one has tried to climb it. (Unlike the year when Eve was a kitten and we bought something called a “tree defender” that you attach to the trunk a few feet up and it’s supposed to be guaranteed to stop a cat from getting higher than that. The day after we installed it, I found her sleeping in the tree on top of the tree defender, using it like a convenient shelf.)

          1. IT Squirrel*

            I love ‘alternative’ tree toppers – I have an owl sitting on the very top of mine :)

            Tell your husband that is a spectacularly evenly lit tree, I am amazed but not surprised to hear it took a week!

  3. Autistic Farm Girl*

    (Sorry, long comment incoming)
    I have an in-laws problem and not sure how to deal with it. I grew up in Splitting my time between france (mum’s and family’s country) and belgium (dad’s and family’s country), then moved to the UK as a young adult (all alone) and met my bf. So for christmas we’ve decided to have a 3 year rotation so we see every family set. But each year we invite every parent to join us.

    Last year we were in the UK. bc we had a small flat we just rented a big house for my parents and the two of us, and his parents joined us for the 24th, then didn’t invite us the 25th but we saw them the 27th. This year we’re going to belgium and his parents have refused to come (we offered to play for their tickets and even fly them back on the 25th morning).

    He told them yesterday that next year we’d be in france, cue to my MIL in flood of tears. Asking when he’s gonna spend xmas in their house again (apparently last year xmas in the UK didn’t count for her bc it wasn’t in their dining room?!?! And they had to drive 40mins to come see us so that made it a travelling xmas), that we’re playing favourites with my family and never seeing his, how this is all so unfair etc etc.

    We’ve done it so new year is somewhere else, so this year xmas is in belgium and new year in france, next year will be xmas in france and new year in the UK. But she said that it doesn’t count bc new year isn’t special and xmas is a family time and this isn’t fair.

    She also said that we’ll spend every xmas in the UK when we have kids anyway (yeah… no)

    How do i/we deal with that? Short of telling her to get a grip i don’t know what to do. Any help please?

    1. Detective Rosa Diaz*

      Honestly, I feel like reasoning is for reasonable people only.
      She will have the feels. I would just stress you will love to see them and be totally noncommital otherwise.
      Your rotation is fair. Stay the course. Good luck!

      1. Lena Clare*

        This^
        Families are hard! Does Captain Awkward have some articles on managing family during the holidays?

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Yeah, this sounds like a CA problem. But I agree with 1.) let her have her crying if that’s what she wants to do, and 2.) make sure your husband knows that it’s his job to deal with, and that “deal with” does NOT mean she gets to boggart the rotation schedule.

    2. The Parent Trap*

      You do not need to say anything. Let your partner deal with his Mum. She will feel how she feels, that’s not your problem. You don’t have to try to change her feelings about any of this. She’s allowed to be upset and aggrieved and hurt. She’s not allowed to make you feel bad about that. So let him deal with her, as much as is possible. Take a step back and let him be the one to talk to her.

      If she approaches you directly to air her feelings, I’d say be firm but kind (“I’m sorry you feel that way. We’re trying to be fair to everyone and this is what works for us. You’re always welcome to join us.” Repeat as needed). Don’t feel you need to justify or defend your decisions to her.

      If you want to, you can state the boundary clearly (“This is what is happening, and it’s not up for debate. Please stop bringing it up.”) and then if she continues the guilt-tripping, you can detach and leave the situation (hang up the phone, stop replying to the texts, leave the room/house). That might be a level beyond where you want to go at present, but it’s an option.

    3. Orange You Glad*

      His parents = his problem to solve

      Make sure you & your partner are on the same page about your holiday plans. Then when his mom wants to discuss/cry/complain about it, redirect her to him.

      “That’s something you’ll need to discuss with [name]. Let’s talk about where you got that lovely blue sweater! I’ve been wanting one that same color…”

      Redirect, subject change, repeat. Over and over and over.

      His parents = his problem to solve

    4. only acting normal*

      When you go to France and Belgium do you stay with your parents?
      Because in MIL’s defence, *from her pov*, she didn’t have her son “home for Xmas”, she visited him and all your visiting family at a holiday let.
      It might explain why she’s being so emotional about not “getting Xmas” for another 3 years.
      Every family goes through these adjustments when children become adults who get married, it takes some wrangling to find the new normal. But, again from MIL’s perspective, so far even when he’s stayed in the UK she’s had to share him with your family (so *she* feels like they’re getting you 3/3 and she’s only getting him 0.5/3, even if you see the maths differently).
      She obviously values being the host/being at home – would travelling to join you abroad mean she’s away from other family (his siblings/ grandparents/ etc)? Does she even *know* your family, or is it like spending Xmas with virtual strangers for her?
      The dynamic may change when you have kids (though definitely not in the way she imagines!!), in that you may become the obvious hosts, but that doesn’t sound the case yet.
      Ultimately, it sounds like the plan you’ve put forward doesn’t work for her, so maybe give her a bit more control over “her” years. And maybe renegotiate the 1/3 rotation (maybe 1/2 Xmases with her, but rarely New Years since they don’t count in her estimation).
      However it pans out, good luck! I hate the Xmas visit wrangling (I also have geographically widespread in-laws, parents, and siblings).

      1. Annonno Today*

        “Does she even *know* your family, or is it like spending Xmas with virtual strangers for her?”

        They are in-laws. The parents should be using the combined celebrations to get to know each other more. They have a familial responsibility to do exactly that.

          1. Annonno Today*

            Don’t have a responsibility? Okay, maybe that’s too strong a word. But it seems really unkind not to want to get to know and get along with you’re child’s inlaws.

            1. Ethyl*

              Meh, my family don’t know any of my spouse’s family — they were never very close and now that his mom and grandparents are gone we don’t really see them much. The only time they have even met was at our wedding. And we’ve been together since 1998! It’s not because our families are jerks, it’s just not how it worked out.

              1. valentine*

                she’s only getting him 0.5/3
                MIL is being weirdly possessive and selfish, here. She could have invited just her son and Autistic Farm Girl for the 25th, which would’ve been rude, instead of crying. She wants (1) her son in her dining room and (2) to complain about Autistic Farm Girl. It’s really none of her business how or why they choose to celebrate. She can take it or she can leave it. Yes, sometimes family is you, your son, and your dining room on 25 December every single year until you die, but that’s a bizarrely narrow box to try to force said son, much less his spouse, assumed future children, and in-laws, into. I always wonder how people like this secured their throne and how it’s passed on.

                And maybe renegotiate the 1/3 rotation (maybe 1/2 Xmases with her
                No. MIL’s behavior isn’t to be rewarded. The arrangement is beautiful, Autistic Farm Girl’s parents are leading by example by joining in, and it’s gloriously generous for the couple to offer to pay for parental travel. This is a success story MIL wants to warp and insists on viewing negatively, and the rotation should be great fun for kids.

            2. Agnodike*

              Maybe this is a cultural norm thing? My parents are certainly polite and cordial to my in-laws when they’re together, but they’re definitely not trying to get to know each other particularly well. I have three siblings – four sets of virtual strangers seems like a lot to be trying to bring to the level of people close enough that you’d really want to spend a holiday with them. I have to have a relationship with my in-laws, because I’m part of their family. I don’t feel like that obligation exists for my parents.

              1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                This, aye. My two sets of grandparents (mom’s folks and dad’s mom) all got along fine if they were in the same place… but that happened about once every other year or so, when I was growing up, usually at one of our (that is, me and my sibs) big school events or some such. We never did joint family holidays.

                (That said, I also don’t have hardly anything to do with my in-laws, but that’s in part because my husband doesn’t either.)

                1. Ethyl*

                  You know, now that you mention it, my grandparents on either side mostly didn’t interact* at all except at the occasional Big Event (first communion, graduation). So maybe there is a cultural/regional component to the expected level of contact.

                  * When my grandmas did get together they could get rowdy though! I remember one time, my grandma and my cousin’s “other” (non-shared) grandma were talking, and my cousin came up to them and asked what they were talking about, and his grandma looked at him and deadpanned “SEX” and then he ran away :)

              2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                My two grandmas hung out even after my parents got divorced, but that may be partially because my mom’s mom was one of those people who was incredibly easy to get along with and my dad’s mom was one of those people who knew exactly how everything should go, so they had clear “ecological niches” for lack of a better term. They both moved to the same retirement community in their 50s or 60s from different parts of town, so the appeal of already knowing someone may have over-weighed the awkwardness of the rest of the situation as well.

                I have no baseline for what is “normal”, given the general level of family “keep in touch with everyone” weirdness we have, though. (My mother also keeps up a close friendship with her deceased cousin’s widow, who stays with her at least once a year when she’s in town. This is one of several examples of the lengths that side of the family goes to to stay in touch with relatives. My dad, on the other hand, could not remember the married name of one of his three half sisters. (My mom looked it up from her records when I asked.))

            3. pentamom*

              It’s unkind if it’s hostile or standoffish, but when they live in separate countries, or fairly far apart in the same country, there’s nothing unkind about simply having separate lives that don’t cross paths very much. “Get to know” and “get along with” are separate things. Ideally they get along fine when they interact, but it’s not a universal expectation that they will make a great deal of effort to interact, unless they are all sort of people who would naturally make friends with one another anyway.

            4. Clisby*

              Eh, my family has never met any of my husband’s family (I mean my family other than my children – of course they’ve met their father’s family.) I would think that was odd if our families lived anywhere close to each other, but they don’t. If our families had to fly somewhere to visit? Not happening.

          2. LilySparrow*

            Well, she certainly has an obligation to pull her socks up and *take* responsibility for her end of the relationship with her son, LW, and the in-laws.

            You don’t get a closer relationship with anyone by throwing crying fits and complaining that it “isn’t fair.”

            If she wants her grown child + spouse to be around more, she can facilitate that by being the kind of person they look forward to spending time with.

            Or, you know, inviting the other parents to her house, too.

        1. pentamom*

          Really they don’t. My parents and my in-laws, and my brothers’ in-laws, are/were all perfectly nice people. And they almost never interacted with each through the 30+ years of my and my siblings’ adulthood until they passed away, though on the occasions where they did it was always cordial. It is nice if in-laws have that kind of relationship, but unless they live in the same fairly small town and get along well, it’s not a necessary expectation.

          1. Daisy-dog*

            Same. Life is extremely complicated and busy, so my mom and in-laws have just barely spent any time together in the 7 years of our marriage. There’s nothing wrong between them, they just have lives.

        2. Asenath*

          I don ‘t think so. They have a responsibility to be polite to their new inlaws when they meet them, but if they meet each other more than’s required for family events or become personal friends, that’s a bit of an optional extra. I don’t think any of the in-laws in my family, including my more extended family, ever became more than virtual strangers, although they were always polite when they met and a lot of them participated in, for example, Christmas gift exchanges. Maybe this varies by family.

      2. Anono-me*

        Holiday schedule planning is hard. We’ve been there with multiple siblings, kids, and health issues. It also sounds like your relationship with your partner’s mother might not be is easy as it could be. (Long term, you and your partner might want to consider if there is anything either of you have the power to change to improve this for everyone.)

        I agree that the Xmas problem is that your partner’s mother is looking at this in a very different way from how you are looking at it.

        It sounds like you are looking at it as we have three sets of parents, so each set gets 1 Xmas. We will do it:
        1st Xmas with the parent group in Belgium.
        2nd Xmas with the parent group in France.
        3rd Xmas with the parent group in the UK. (We will host because we can’t ask my partner’s Family to include so many people from my side of the family.)
        Rinse and repeat.

        It also sounds like your mother-in-law is looking at it very differently. She is probably looking at it this way. There are two of you with a three year Xmas rotation that is:
        1st Xmas overseas with AFG’s family.
        2nd Xmas overseas with AFG’s family.
        3rd Xmas in the UK at Sonny Boy and AFG’s with AFG’s Family and with Sonny’s parents.

        One thing you don’t mention is if your partner’s parents have any other children or other loved ones that normally spend the holidays together. The current plan means that they can never have everyone together again for Christmas. I can see where that would be hard to never have Christmas with all of your children together.

        You’ve mentioned that you’ve invited your partner’s parents to France and Belgium. Would they be staying at your parents’ house? Have your parents invited them? Have the three sets of parents socialized outside of the holidays? Have your partner’s parents visited the areas where your family lives outside of the holidays? I know I would be very reluctant to go to someone’s house for Xmas, that I had never met on a second hand invitation. I also would be a little concerned about spending the holidays in a hotel far from home with people I didn’t know well. Especially if I don’t speak the same language.

        I have some ideas:

        Don’t make plans for and fight over them about what will happen theoretically when you and your partner have children sometime down the road. That seems like it’s just borrowing trouble.

        Maybe your partner could point out to his parents that you both have chosen to live in the UK near them and spend much more time together overall during the year with his parents, so that is part of the reason why there is the three year rotation plan.

        Work on having your family and your partner’s family socialize outside of the holidays and other big events. It looks like nobody is much more than half a day’s drive away from each other, so a nice long weekend all together in the summer might be a good idea. (I know your partner’s Mother wasn’t happy about the 40-minute drive at Xmas but for a long regular weekend she might feel differently.)

        Could you consider a 4-year plan?
        1st Xmas in Belgium *
        2nd Xmas in France *
        3rd Xmas in UK at Sonny and AFG’s
        4th Xmas at Sonny’s Parents*
        *With the request that the Hosts invite the other families.
        If you do this, of course it would be best to discuss which year each family would prefer to be the Christmas host for. (The Grandparents in-law of the in-laws, of the in-laws of one of my siblings host a a big family do every odd year. The trickle-down effect means my sibling prefers we do big get togethers for our side on even years.)

        If you do continue the 3-year rotation as you currently have it, I would at least consider changing it to ask your partner’s mother to host one of the days of Christmas.

        Good luck and Happy Holidays with whatever you and your partner decide.

        1. Agnodike*

          Wait, why can’t they have everyone together for Christmas ever on the current schedule? Can’t siblings, extended family, etc all be together on the in-laws’ year?

            1. Agnodike*

              It sounds like the OP and partner hosted some events, and then weren’t invited (?) to the Christmas celebration at the in-laws’. I’m sure there’s a way to massage the guest list a little while keeping the rotation system going.

        2. Lynn Whitehat*

          This might be time to break out the Captain Awkward question, “in a perfect world, where you get everything you want, what does that look like?” I suspect what she really wants is you guys in her home on Christmas Day every year forever (and therefore your family never). I also suspect she will realize that is unreasonable if she has to say it out loud.

    5. Marzipan*

      One observation I would make is that, if she’s someone who finds a 40 minute drive to be too much travelling at Christmas, she is almost certainly a person who would find the idea of flying back from Belgium *on Christmas morning* to be a stressful and difficult one. In your position, I would absolutely continue to invite them to spend Christmas with you on the non-UK years, because it’s polite to do so and because you’d like to see them if they’d like to come. But I suspect that things like offering to pay for flights for them and organise their travel are, essentially, attempts to solve the wrong problem – I suspect the issue is not primarily one of not being able to do that stuff herself of she waved to, the issue is that she *doesn’t* want to, or otherwise can’t cope with the idea of the travel involved at that time of year. So, I would probably extend the invitation and then not get into the whole business of flights etc unless she specifically asks.

      I also agree with other commenters that, if she values being at home-home on Christmas Day as much as she seems to, it might help to try to spend actual Christmas Day at her house next time it’s a UK year, if at all possible.

      But yeah, ultimately it’s perfectly reasonable for you to spend Christmas wherever you like and she is ultimately going to have to handle whatever feelings she has about that.

      1. Shocked Pikachu*

        Yeah to all of this. Honestly, I am trying to be understanding and not to put down others feelings. But I live 5000+ miles away from family. The last time I was able to spend Christmas with my parents and brother was in 2003. So I have very hard time gathering sympathy for someone claiming 40 minutes drive is too much of traveling. Feels more like a manipulation then a real issue. F@ck, I miss my other home ;’(

        1. Annonno Today*

          Yeah, the 40-minute drive? Unbelievable. We live and hour and 15 minutes from one of my BILs. Not a hardship, especially for a chance to all be together.

      2. Metwotoo*

        I think you’ve hit the important thing here. For her, it sounds like Christmas is at home. She wants to see him home for Christmas, not just see him at Christmas. Christmas in a hotel or strange house is the same no matter what country you’re in. She wants Christmas with her son in her house with her traditions and recipes and things. She feels she hasn’t had that. It’s unfortunate and it may be years before the family can accommodate that if at all. Just try to be understanding of her feelings while knowing you can’t fix it reasonably. It’s actually a kind of grieving process. She’s processing the loss of what came before and she’ll adjust to the new blended family. It’s not always easy and it takes time.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, I think some people have a really specific holiday experience that’s very important for them. I think she may be panicking that she will never get that again, since even in “her year” you didn’t see each other Christmas day and didn’t stay with her.

          Not saying that she’s handling it well! But if you guys keep responding with things like ‘but you can come to Belgium with us’ my guess is she will just get more upset because you’re talking at cross purposes. I think a lot of this is going to be on your BF reassuring her about how much Christmas with her means to him, how it’s important to him to make that happen regularly, even if it’s not every year. (If that’s true – if he doesn’t want to do the home Christmas thing with her at all, that’s a very different conversation.)

        2. Daisy-dog*

          I agree. It’s certainly frustrating when you feel you’re being accommodating, but she’s just not happy. Do what works best.

          I will say, do not treat your MIL like a petulant child. While it may seem unreasonable to you, she may actually have real, logical reasoning behind her suggestion even if it is ignoring your real, logical reasoning. Don’t think about “rewarding” or “punishing” her behavior. If it works out to do what she wants, then do it.

    6. LGC*

      …does “OK, Boomer” also work in Europe?

      Externally, you’re doing the right thing. You and your SO have worked out a good rotation for you – you see different parts of your family each holiday, you’re happy with it, and your boyfriend is apparently happy with it. You’ve invited her to be miserable in France and Belgium with you this year. She’s welcome to come if she wants.

      Internally, “ok, Boomer” the HELL out of her. (Easier said than done – I’m still bothered by some low grade Thanksgiving drama in my family because I broke my phone and didn’t have one for a week.) Her opinions are irrelevant, including what you do with your hypothetical children.

      1. I heart Paul Buchman*

        Hang on. Why are her opinions irrelevant? Because she is old?? Surely not. Relationships by definition involve more than one party and surely the opinions/wants/feelings of all of the parties are relevant. The MIL is a person. With feelings. Considering her feelings and point of view is important. So is being kind (yes, even to old people!/s). That doesn’t mean that she will get her way but her feelings matter because she is a human being.

        I agree with everyone who said this is on MIL’s son to sort out but an objectively fairer split would be to allow each set of parents to host at least occasionally.

    7. Hannah Banana*

      I totally get it…. mother in laws are difficult. lol. Unfortunately you cannot do anything but just ignore it and vent to your partner, friends, and family. My husband’s family lives in NY and we’re in CA. One time over xmas, we went to visit them and had one evening planned with an old friend of his that he hadn’t seen in over 5 years. Apparently this hurt his mom’s feelings so much and she cried herself to sleep. The next day, my husband got a 2 hour long “talking to” about how she thought we were going to stay at their house the whole time and how hurt she was that we made other plans and how she thought “they were on the same page”. We were there for 4 days and spent one evening for a few hours away.

      To this day, it’s still hard to get away and god forbid we spend 2 hours at the gym!

      I let my husband deal with all that BS and just stay quiet. Not worth getting into it!

    8. Koala dreams*

      If it’s phone conversations, you say good bye and hang up. Maybe with an explanation like “You seem very upset, let’s continue this conversation another time” if you think it would be useful. If it’s in person conversations, the best way is to find another topic to talk about. If that doesn’t work, you might need to cut the visit short.

      I think, as “only acting normal” already said, that the change from having her son come “home” as a default to having to plan Christmas together and compromise, is something she needs to get used to. Also, Christmas is often stressful for many reasons that have very little to do with family. Don’t take her complaints too hard, and give her time to getting used to the new normal.

    9. Washi*

      So last year was the UK Christmas, but you didn’t actually see her on Christmas Day? Do you know why she didn’t invited you? Did you invite her over? She is definitely not handling this well, but from her POV, she didn’t see her son on Christmas day during what was supposedly “her year.” (I have trouble understanding why people are attached to celebrating on a specific day, but some people do feel very strongly about that.)

      It sounds like you have mapped out what feels rationally the most fair – rotating locations each year, other family members are welcome to come to the other country to celebrate together if it’s not their country’s year. Sometimes it feels like finding the Most Logical arrangement will spare you all the angst, but people are messy and it doesn’t always work like that. Your parents are all different people – your MIL seems to dislike travel and feels really strongly about Christmas. It seems like your parents don’t mind travel and don’t feel quite as strongly. And how do you feel? Where do you want to spend Christmas?

      Basically, I don’t think there will be a point of trying to impress upon your MIL that this is fair and therefore she should not be upset. I personally tend to lean towards a more case-by-case approach. Maybe there’s one parent you see more frequently, and who is happy to trade that for not getting Christmas day, maybe everyone comes to your MIL’s house, etc. I wouldn’t want to commit to a 3 year rotation because so much changes over the course of the year, and I wouldn’t want to promise to be one place when maybe there would be a parent I haven’t seen for ages and want to go there, even if it’s not “their year.”

    10. WellRed*

      I agree with Marzipan and Only Acting Normal. I don’t agree with the wayMIL is handling it. Also, traveling gets tiring for a lot of people, especially as they get older. And flying on Christmas morning sounds dreadful if you like to wake up in your own space with your own traditions.

    11. 867-5309*

      How frustrating!

      My mom has a request that she “just sees us sometime during the holiday season.” When I lived abroad, we celebrated Christmas in early December because flights were far less expensive for me. It is also a gift for my siblings who have in-laws (4 sets of parents because everyone is divorced) and their own families. I hope your mum-in-law can eventually come around.

    12. JustKnope*

      I agree with other commenters that MIL is probably grieving the past and is sad that things are changing in the future! But she has no right to make you feel badly about that. Understanding where she’s coming from (that her traditions are changing, she doesn’t get to be comfortable in her own home on Christmas if she’s going to see her son) might help you frame it differently. She’s just got to process her own feelings and NOT guilt trip you or make you feel unreasonable for doing what works for your family. Try to see her POV and then gently and firmly let your husband deal with the emotions that come from her. Holidays and families are so hard – I hope your three-year rotation plans work for you and make you feel fulfilled. Try to spend 1:1 time alone with your husband too amid the busy travel :)

    13. Anon time*

      Like others have said, I would have your husband handle this.

      It sounds like she’s not going to be happy unless you spend every holiday at their house. That doesn’t mean you have to do this- on the contrary, I think your plan of always inviting everyone, and doing every 3rd Christmas seems super reasonable.

      Your husband should just continue to be clear about your family’s plans. He can say something along the lines of “I know you’re disappointed, but this is what works for our family. If you want to join us in France, we’d love to have you. If not, we understand.”

      I wouldn’t get into a huge debate. I’d basically keep repeating that, and change the subject as soon as possible. Your MIL will not be happy. But it’s ok.

      It would be a kindness if when you’re in the UK for Christmas if you try to spend it at their house, and if your husband arranges that. But if she doesn’t invite you, even when asked..then that’s on her.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        “Your MIL will not be happy. But it’s ok.”

        Technically speaking we are not responsible for anyone’s happiness but our own. We try. We try to help other people enjoy life and we try to enjoy time with them. Please keep in mind this is not carved in stone, you do not have to MAKE her be happy.
        And most certainly you don’t have to carry her upset for her. “I am so sorry to hear that you are unable to make a 40 minute ride to see us, MIL. We will miss you most certainly. If something comes up last minute and you can get here, you know you are most welcome.”
        Ideally, this should come from your spouse.

    14. Thankful for AAM*

      As the others suggested, I think she did not get the UK xmas (“her” xmas) on her terms.

      If you are willing, can she be the hostess and be in charge of say the 25th and 26th and maybe the evening of the 24th on the UK years?

      That would mean asking if any of your family who come to the UK can come to her house so that they know if they really want to travel all that way to not be invited to xmas day events.

      I think people so miss the point, it is about the relationships you build, not who comes to whose house on a set day.

      1. Keener*

        While you might have more info than what is in the post, it seems like you don’t really have enough info to come to a resolution or at least understand if there are any changes you could make that would both satisfy her desires and your needs.
        You spent Christmas in the UK but in her mind that doesn’t constitute. Christmas together. What does together look like to her? Where does it happen? Who is involved? What dates are important? Christmas day? Christmas eve? What traditions are important? Depending ion how the conversation is going this might also be an opportunity to explore with her the idea of fairness and that if you spend every Christmas inn the UK it means your parents never get a Christmas with you. (I would probably keep it high level and not get into the details of the rotation but just the idea of balance).
        I wonder if by exploring those questions you can arrive at some adjustments to your UK years to better balance her desires. Or at least you will have satisfied yourself that she has completely unrealistic expectations.

      2. Filosofickle*

        I’m a bit sympathetic to MIL here! And I come from a family that’s not even into holidays and I’m not at all tolerant of pushy moms. Two of three years are spent with LW’s families and one is spent with husband’s family. Even with invitations to join, that does feel imbalanced. Especially if on the UK year LW was staying with her parents, not in their own home or MIL’s home. There’s a certain message there about which family they are “with” for the holiday.

        If the rotation is not going to change, I’d at least figure out how to make the UK Christmases as MIL-centric as possible. Or find some alternate times to visit so there’s time even if it’s not Christmas. (I’m totally in favor of pushing back on exactly-on-the-holidays visits. Time together matters, the day does not.)

        1. Rainy*

          I mean, if what MIL wants is to spend the UK xmas with her son, maybe she should actually invite her son over on xmas day.

          She seems like a giant dick to me, and I myself neither pander to dicks nor advise others to do so. She’s making a pretty strong case all by herself to be left out of all future xmas plans.

        2. Anon from the Bronx*

          I kind of agree with MIL somewhat. I’m not sure but it sounds like LW’s parents are still together? So LW & BF visit her parents in Belgium one year, her parents in France one year, then parents come to UK on MIL’s year? So MIL is correct that LW’s family gets more holiday time. However, they only live 40 minutes apart so she presumably gets lots more time during the year. I think LW & BF should make UK Christmas as MIL-centric as possible. But MIL also needs to realize that times are changing & she will need to live with that. BF needs to deal with her though.

    15. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Note for future: be prepared if you have children for this kind of thing to get 10000% times worse. Getting everyone used to This Is How We Do Christmas now will help if you have have kids, because you’ll be used to setting and enforcing the boundary, and they’ll be used to not getting what they want.

      1. Filosofickle*

        This is a good point. It does get more complicated. When I was little we shuttled back and forth for Christmases. But once we moved thousands of miles away, 100% of the Christmases were at “our” house and all grandparents had to come to us. No discussion. (We were the only grandkids, which simplified things.)

        My SO’s parents have gotten used to everyone being able to come to every holiday at his parents. No one has had a partner with a family that demands equal time, or they aren’t partnered at all. But now the grandkids are getting married and having babies, and I hope Grandma is emotionally prepared to share.

    16. Aphrodite*

      Here is the simple, but most effective strategy: Begin as you mean to go on. In other words, think seriously about what you want in the years ahead, especially if you marry and have children. Make those clear-headed decisions for yourself when you are not pressed for time (say, March?). Make yourselves happy first. Your other families will adjust (or not) as they desire.

      When the tradition becomes a burden, it’s time to change the tradition.

    17. Blue Eagle*

      Ugh! The 40 minute travel! {snark} When we were kids we traveled 45 minutes to my Dad’s family for Christmas Eve celebration, then home that same night, then 90 minutes the next morning to my Mom’s family for Christmas Day celebration and back. So I don’t have much sympathy for an adult whining about having to travel for 40 minutes.

      But never mind that rant. Here is a thought about your MIL. First ask your husband about Christmas celebrations when he was a kid. Was it at his house, at MIL’s parents house or FIL’s parents house? Then adopt a curious attitude as you ask your MIL – “when did you tell your MIL that you were having Christmas at your house and not at your husband’s mother’s house and how did you convince her it was OK to have it at your house?” (or some similar verbiage). Because at some point in time your MIL took Christmas away from her husband’s mother and made her husband’s mother sad that she was no longer able to have her son (the MIL’s husband) at her house on Christmas.

    18. EllaX*

      Honestly it does sounds like you are favoring your family over hers/bf. You had a Christmas in England but invited your family and stayed away from her house. Then you spend the next two years at the houses of your family.

      In laws can suck and if you really don’t want to go to her house for Christmas you don’t have to, but it would be a nice gesture to add that into your rotation and when your in the UK make sure it is christmas at hers for bf’s family.

    19. Morning Reader*

      My daughter has a similar every other year arrangement with her in-laws. I am invited for dinner on Xmas day on “their year” and I go and it’s nice, but I would not be comfortable staying overnight in their home or for a more extended period. They are nice enough but they are not my family and I would feel obligated to be on my best social behavior at all times. Maybe I’m overly anxious but I would worry that I’d wear the wrong pajamas or bump into someone on my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, or do or say something awkward that would embarrass my daughter. It would not be relaxing or vacationy or anything but a chore for me to spend extended time with his parents.
      Anyway… the solution for his family, specifically his mother, who feels she doesn’t see him enough, is that he separately visits or takes a trip with his mother or both parents some other time in the year. I highly recommend it.
      You identify your partner as “boyfriend” not husband, so that makes your non-in-laws even less your family. Why do you think your boyfriend’s mother is interested in spending any time at all with your parents, much less the holidays? Seems to me a big leap. (I am also unclear about why your parents would want to holiday with each other; they live in different countries and presumably are divorced or never married… sounds like they both want to see you but why force them to see each other?)

      1. only acting normal*

        I read them as separated too, but now I’m wondering if it’s dad-side-extended-family in one country and mum-side-extended-family in the other, and they do the my-family-your-family alternative years thing?

    20. Autistic Farm Girl*

      Hi,

      Thanks for every answer! I thought it might be easier to do a general answer instead of repeating the same stuff.

      – hosting a christmas in our house isn’t possible, neither is having people stay over. Because we’re in the country side we couldn’t really put my parents in an hotel so we agreed (with the in-laws) to rent a house and everyone could join together there. My MIL never said anything about having an issue with a “travelling xmas” or not being at home at any point until yesterday (nearly 1 year later).

      – in her point of view, hosting xmas in our house and having people join us wouldn’t count as spending xmas with her son. Even if it was only them and the two of us. If xmas isn’t in their living room it doesn’t count as xmas being spent together.

      – they came to see us on the 24th evening, then we weren’t invited at hers for the 25th, and only my bf was invited to lunch at his grand parents on the 26th (and i mean just him, not me and him. And i have met those people multiple times and stuff)

      – when we go to belgium/france we usually stay with my parents, but we had said to them that we’d find them an air bnb or something so they could have their own space

      – she knows my parents and has met them outside of xmas time, she’s never met my extended family, but we wouldn’t do xmas with them, just my parents, his and the two of us. Maybe go round for a coffee or something but that’d be about it

      – they don’t really host xmas on the 25th, just have 1 of his grandma and 1 of his aunt come over and that’s it, the rest of the family (3 more uncles/aunts+partners, 5 cousins and the other grandma) all meet on the 26th

      – my in-laws don’t have any issues travelling (other than on xmas apparently?!) they regularly go on weekends away 2h+ drive and spent 3 weeks in Canada this year for holidays. And they aren’t old people at all, my MIL is 55 and my FIL is 58. My mum is older than both of them (and never travelled much before i moved to the UK, now she’s taken english lessons so she can survive on her own when she visits. Anyway)

      – we do visit my in-laws regularly at other times of the year, to be very precise: we live about 300m away from them, on the same farm. So we see each other A LOT. So the issue definitely isn’t that she doesn’t see her son (we’re organizing moving further away because she’s so often wanting him to go round, but that’s another subject altogether)

      – my parents don’t usually spend xmas together, in fact before last year i never spent xmas with both my parents at the same time. We (my bf and i) just thought it’d be great to have every parent together and everyone agreed with us so we organised things like that never thinking it could cause an issue.

      1. Washi*

        Whoa, if you all live ON THE SAME PROPERTY it’s totally nuts to me to throw a fit about Christmas when she can see her son whenever she wants 51 of 52 weeks per year. My husband and I live about 15 minutes from his parents but pretty far from mine, and we definitely spend more Christmases with my family because that’s when I get the most time off, so it’s the easiest to visit them then. No tears have been shed thus far.

        I think your plan to move to your own place is a good one, and I would just direct any complaints to your BF.

      2. BelleMorte*

        Your boyfriend’s mother is being ridiculous. Her son is moving on with his life, becoming an adult, and that means compromising with his partner on things like holidays. The fact that you are not invited to his family’s celebration is a huge insult. I also think since you see each other regularly that travelling for holidays to your family makes sense as your MIL likely gets every other holiday year-round, are you included in those? Your boyfriend really shouldn’t be tolerating them excluding you from family events like that.

        If you decide to have children, this WILL get worse. Set your standards now, this may even mean that some years you spend on your own with your own traditions.
        Often the people who are used to being the “hostess” have a really hard time with the transition once their kids get older and want to start hosting on their own.

        1. Autistic Farm Girl*

          I’m usually invited to every celebration (birthdays and stuff) which i guess made the xmas situation even more hurtful for me.

          I understand that it’s hard for her because she’s always spent xmas with my bf at home, but even if my parents were like 1h away we’d still not do every xmas with my in-laws so there’s not really anything i can do here (and yes, my parents being abroad makes this worse)

      3. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

        Wait… you weren’t invited for the lunch at your BF’s grandparents place on the 26th even though you and your BF actually *live together* ?! That’s bonkers!

        The equivalent for me would be inviting my sister but not my brother-in-law.

      4. WellRed*

        So now I’m wondering where your BF is in all of this. What does he want to do? I still think the rotation is slightly uneven though. Lots of couples do every other year. You get two thirds of every three year cycle.

        1. Autistic Farm Girl*

          He’s perfectly happy with the every 3 year rotation, we decided on it together.

          My problem with doing every other year is that i’d only see each side of my family every 4 years. And it’s not their fault either and i do want to see them too.
          Since we do new year rotating too it does work out that we’re in each country 2 years out of the three, and i guess i see it as “let’s just do xmas on the 26/27/28 when we come back and that’s it”, but clearly my MIL doesn’t see it like that and short of doing every year with them i don’t think she’ll be satisfied with anything :(

          1. WellRed*

            Having seen your updates, I agree it’s unlikely MIL will be happy with anything. Good luck this year and all the years to come! And Merry Christmas!

        2. Washi*

          I disagree! They should do whatever they want, and in fact, if time off at other times of year is an issue, I think it would be perfectly fair if they saw OP’s family every year, given that MIL gets every other holiday!!!

          Good grief, this situation is nuts. I hope you get to move soon, OP.

        3. Ethyl*

          I don’t think it’s uneven at all, considering that Autistic Farm Girl and their partner LIVE ON THE SAME PROPERTY.

          AFM, get thee over to Captain Awkward and do some reading. Your MiL sounds unreasonable, manipulative, and rude. And you and bf should really consider moving out and leading a life independent of her. Is that something your bf would even consider? Does he think your MiL would go bonkers if he tried that? If he’s unwilling to separate himself from her, and is happy to allow her to call the shots in his life, that’s not usually a situation that gets better over time.

          In other words, I think you should watch how he handles this holiday rotation issue and the fallout VERY carefully.

            1. Autistic Farm Girl*

              I’ve heard of CA before but never really looked at it so i’m definitely going to look at it now! Thank you.

              And yes, we’re both in full agreement that we need to move, so we’ve updated our budgets for 2020 and will save hard with the objective of being out by the end of 2020/start of 2021. Fingers crossed! In the meantime he’s gonna set some hard boundaries with his mum (he’s growing a brand new spine that he never had before, it’s good). I guess i have the advantage that setting boundaries with my parents is a lot easier since they’re so far away.

      5. Morning Reader*

        Wow, I really misinterpreted the situation. Your MIL is complaining about not getting to spend Christmas with her son but she didn’t even invite him to come over on the 25th last year? When he (and you) were right there? I can’t even… go back to the original advice, do whatever you prefer and she will have to live with it. And you aren’t invited to the big family gatherings even though you live a stones throw away? Just… wow. That’s for the clarification.

        1. Autistic Farm Girl*

          When we organised everything and my parents stay we asked the in-laws if they wanted to get together for the 24th, 25th or both, and they said that they’d come on the 24th but couldn’t do the 25th bc they host 1 grandma and 1 aunt. And that was it, and we never thought about it anymore until the tears happened.

      6. Anono-me*

        I think that this is called burying the lede.

        I take back everything I said, except the part about you and your partner taking a look at what you can change to improve things. (Cough, MOVE, cough, cough.)

      7. Koala dreams*

        After reading your update, I agree with the other commenters that your boy-friend should do the negotiations with his mother and you should keep out of it as best as you can. There seems to be a lot of tangled family feeling caught up in the Christmas debate. Try not to take your mother in law’s comments to heart, they have probably nothing to do with you.

  4. Detective Rosa Diaz*

    A few months ago I asked for foster care experiences as a single person. Just wanted to update the kind commenters that I haven’t fully figured it out yet but did decide to start the screening process since I think the agency will likely be able to help me sort out the potentiaal pittfalls and whether they are prohibitive, or something to be worked out.

    I also ran into a friend from college who works there! She was pretty optimistic about my relative eligibility, so that is heartening.

    FIRST HOME VISIT ON TUESDAY. I am so, so nervous.

    1. MissGirl*

      Please keep us updated. I just started volunteering as a CASA with an eye toward maybe one day fostering.

      1. Detective Rosa Diaz*

        Oh, I had to Google that (not the same term here) but it is so interesting. How do you like it so far?

      2. Schmana*

        I’ve been a CASA for about 2 years now! It’s a great organization for anyone looking for a long-term volunteer opportunity.

      1. Detective Rosa Diaz*

        Aaaah good point, thanks! I actually bought some but haven’t installed the first floor one yet :0 on the list it goes!

        I have one full Sunday left for the house to scream “what a cozy and well-maintained home with room for 1 (one) more!”

        1. Not a cat*

          I think you are doing a wonderful thing and the child will be lucky to have to in his/her/their life!

  5. Orange You Glad*

    Do you ever worry about ridiculous or unusual stuff?

    Mine: I use noise canceling headphones all the time. I read this article online about a man who got brain cancer in the shape of his Bluetooth headset because he wore it so much. Now I worry that my headphones will give me brain cancer…even though I logically know better! Ugh.

    1. Hannah Banana*

      Totally. I’ve thought I might have had rabies twice. For some reason, I’ve always had a serious fear of rabies! I have dreams about getting it, it’s so weird. Probably because it’s such a gnarly disease? Anyway…

      3 years ago I was having wine with galfriends out in one of their backyards and pet her cat. He bit me, I didn’t think anything of it, then the next day when I had the most devilish hangover I thought about whether or not he was updated on his rabies vaccine because he’s an outdoor cat. Well, he wasn’t, and I freaked out for 4 weeks thinking I was going to get rabies! (so you know, rabies symptoms don’t show up for 30ish days and once they do, you die. and the post exposure rabies vaccine is thousands of dollars uncovered by insurance). Obvs, I was fine lol

      THEN… this past year we had a bunny nest in the yard. We’ve had quite a few and I put up my bunny cam which catches motion so I can make sure the mama bunny is coming at night to nurse them. If she doesn’t, I presume something happened to her and I take them to the wildlife rescue. She didn’t come back for 2 nights so I picked them up and took them to the rescue place. Well.. I picked one up without a glove and had a cut on my hand. Then my rabies anxiety was ignited and I thought “what if mama bunny had rabies, licked her baby bunnies, then died in the forest and this baby bunny I touched with my cut on my hand has infected saliva on it!!!??!” lol. but clearly that didn’t happen :P :P :P :P

      Note to self – no touching wild animals without gloves or any cats that I don’t know!

      1. AMD*

        So, it’s stupidly expensive, but if it would put your mind at ease there is a prophylactic rabies vaccine. The idea is it would prevent you from contracting it – though obviously if you knew you were exposed you’d still get the regular shots after anyway just in case. But it might give you some protection against unknowing exposure and some piece of mind.

        1. fposte*

          Right, it’s pretty common for vets and other people working with animals (some vet schools require it). However, you have to keep it up, as the prophylactic effects fade over time.

          But I’m also curious, Hannah, since you say that the post-exposure shots aren’t covered by insurance–they absolutely can be, and mine were. (They also weren’t hugely traumatic beyond the fact that they were a bunch of shots.) So I don’t know if you checked at the time and yours weren’t covered or if you were just assuming. Additionally, there are programs to help cover the cost for uninsured and underinsured patients–I’ll put a link in followup.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            They are, under certain circumstances. The cat bite might’ve counted. The bunny encounter certainly wouldn’t have been :)

            1. Hannah Banana*

              Haha definitely not the bunny one! Now I look back and laugh, I live in a city and has been zero instance of rabies in cats and dogs.

              1. Logan*

                Bats are prevalent here, and have a high incidence of rabies. I know people who have had shots for free from public health because they were walking at night and hit by a bat.

      2. Washi*

        I had a collision with a bat (the animal) and my post-exposure rabies vaccine was covered by insurance! It’s worth checking, if you’re ever in that situation again, which hopefully you will not be.

      3. Fikly*

        1. I had someone come into the ER I worked in once, say a deer had licked their palm (?) and now they wanted the rabies shot.

        2. Hello, welcome to my anxiety disorder, and every time someone is five minutes late meeting me and I start panicking that they have gotten into a car accident and are dead. It was particularly fun when I was a child and a parent was a tiny bit late.

        1. Sometimes Always Never*

          Haha! Anytime someone is late to meet me, I start questioning whether I have the right date/time/place. Or maybe they forgot? Or the accident scenario?
          It’s an endless rotation of anxiety thoughts until they arrive. And me being me, of course I was early, so their lateness can seem more significant than it is. Ugh! But I am so glad for cellphones to both help pass the waiting time and make it possible to get in contact to check in.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Anytime someone is late to meet me, I start questioning whether I have the right date/time/place.

            This is totally me. Every time.

        2. Lazy Cat*

          Oh man, I feel #2. I almost always call my parents when I hear about a motorcycle accident in their area, just so I don’t worry for hours. Once I panicked almost all night because they hadn’t answered their phone or a text message. I felt very silly once I heard from them the next day!

        3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          When I was a petsitter, I used to be so anxious that the people I was sitting for would die on their way back from wherever they were in a car crash, I wouldn’t know, and then their pets would die because I didn’t keep feeding them. I had to come up with some way to not say *that* but confirm that my clients were, in fact, back home to care for their pets again so I could stop worrying about it. (I eventually started saying something like “please text me when you’re back home so I know that you didn’t get delayed, and if you do end up delayed and need me to come back for another walk/feeding/etc., that’s fine and please text me and let me know”, which worked without sounding unreasonably morbid.)

      4. Anon Here*

        I’m also afraid of rabies. It’s from seeing rabid raccoons in the backyard when I was a kid. It didn’t happen every day, but it wasn’t uncommon either. You’d see a raccoon out during the day, staggering and acting disoriented, and think, “Yup. There’s another rabid raccoon. I’ll warn everyone not to go outside and ask Dad to call Animal Control.” That doesn’t seem to happen as much these days, so that’s good.

        But I was nervous about taking in an abandoned dog. I thought of rabies. Fortunately, we’re both fine. He only had fleas and worms.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      When I am tired I am more apt to worry about leaving the coffee pot plugged in when I leave the house for work. It’s to the point where I will turn the vehicle around to go back and check. One day a friend commented, “Since you really worry about that, then it is most likely that you did unplug it and you just forgot that you actually unplugged it.”
      Images in my head of my house going up in flames because I forgot the damn coffee pot just haunt me. And it’s worse when I am tired.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        In the vein of “throw some money at it” — would a smart plug for the coffeepot that cuts power to it, that you can check from your phone, help? (I used to do the same thing with my garage door, get halfway to the grocery store and turn back because I wasn’t sure it was closed, so when I replaced the opener, I got one that’s wifi enabled so I can check whether it’s closed on my phone.)

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Not sure if you meant the coffee pot, but if someone had said this to me when the problem was at its worst I probably would have done this!

            I will always think of this comment when the worries strike, even if you didn’t mean the coffee pot. Thank you.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Alas, cells don’t work here.
          And my father, a designer for Big Appliance Company, drilled it into my head not to trust appliances that heat. I’d worry about the smart plug failing- worry isn’t logical that is for sure.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            This is good advice. I never used to unplug the toaster oven, but when my last one failed, an ominous sign of impending doom was it TURNING ITSELF ON. I started unplugging it after that.

            I do leave the kettle plugged in; I guess I shouldn’t.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Toaster ovens were the initial problem my father saw. Yeah, they turned themselves on- I guess a safety failed or something? My husband, the geek, pooh-poohed the idea until one day he had to repair the toaster oven. Upon seeing what was inside, he said, “Your father was right. Don’t leave it plugged in.” He totally changed his mind after seeing the insides. Years after my father told us this, it hit the newspapers.
              Over a period of time this conversation expanded to any small appliance that heated. I just saw the headlines for an article where a dog turned on the microwave while no one was home…. omg. I could see my dog, in his younger years, doing that. wow.
              Yes, please unplug the kettle. It’s not worth dying for. My friend offered me one that couldn’t be shut off anymore. I took a pass on that.

      2. Randomity*

        I’ve seen a suggestion before to take a photo of it so you have evidence. I may use this in the future myself.

  6. Marzipan*

    I am currently looking at booking an antenatal class, and I am FILLED WITH RAGE.

    In the UK, the ones that people all go on about are run by the NCT (National Childbirth Trust). A couple of years ago, they got a new chief executive who came in saying that they were too middle class and needed to broaden their focus. Here’s how that’s going: if I booked, the class I’d be attending is a weekend one in like an organic cheese farm in the middle of nowhere, a location served by one bus a day on Saturdays and none on Sundays. That, to me, is an epic bit of middle class gatekeeping and it makes me SO CROSS. I know I’m super middle class myself, but is it just me that thinks that’s a bit off?

    I don’t have a car but I could get there, if I put my mind to it. But I’m currently hoping the thing is already fully booked, so I can avoid making an actual decision about going!

    The thing people always say is good about them is that you get to meet other people due at around the same time, and can make friends with them. Only, I’m terrible at connecting with people quickly (I have lots of friends, but those friendships formed in a much more slow-burn way) so I do also suspect that I wouldn’t get much from it in that respect.

    Anyway, that’s my rant!

    1. Jane*

      That’s so frustrating, and you’re right, total gatekeeping.

      For what it’s worth, one of my friends was told the exact same thing about NCT (from being higher quality, to making sure you have a group of ‘mum friends’ for support). She decided to go to the NHS classes, despite some sniffing from her MIL that NCT was more for “people like us”.

      She doesn’t have any regrets, and still has a WhatsApp group of mums from the classes she meets regularly.

    2. Amey*

      We went to one of the weekend NCT classes – all of the other ones in our area were an evening a week for about 6 weeks which we couldn’t do. We really enjoyed the class and we happened to have a really lovely group of people who met up on a monthly basis for the year that most of us were on maternity leave.

      HOWEVER, because it was a weekend one, we were happy to drive a bit further and the class we went to was about 40 minutes away. That was fine for the class – but most of the people in the class were from about 15 minutes in the opposite direction. This meant that once the babies were born and we were meeting up, I was often driving up to an hour with a young baby. I really don’t recommend this! So do consider whether this might be the case with yours.

      I kind of wish I’d gone to the local NHS ones as I don’t really know anyone else with young children local to me – most of my friends are in the city where I work which again involves driving, and the kids have been at nursery at my workplace. It’s only now that my eldest is starting school that I’m starting to make those local friendships.

      Good luck with the next few months and the new baby!

    3. Shiny Infernape*

      Totally reasonable to be angry about this IMO. I went to birth prep classes through my hospital and met nice people through that… then lost touch with them. The friends I made through the breastfeeding group at my local surestart were lovely though (pause to grieve the loss of surestart, it was amazing).

      Good luck. I think about you a lot and hope things continue to be boring.

    4. Thankful for AAM*

      My son is now 28 so 27 years ago the NCT mums teas saved my life when my family moved to England (I’m from the US) for my spouse’s job. I was a SAHM and lonely and had a 6 month old with no family support and no idea what I was doing. I was able to join 3 local NCT mums teas all within walking distance of me.

      They were the best way to meet other mothers close by and I loved it.

    5. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      My experience with the NCT was that local groups are excellent (eg “bumps and babies” or “mums to be” and the nearly new sales) but the HQ was wildly different. Their business model for antenatal classes is indeed completely baffling (theoretically they subsidise classes for lower income families, but if it’s held just outside Posh Town and doesn’t finish until the buses stop running … Oh and the model for paying the teachers was laughable.

      You usually don’t have to be a member to go to the local events – and they’re how to meet other people. Highly recommend those. Meanwhile, ask your midwife about a/n classes as there may be some NHS or otherwise organised in the community. Ask early as they fill up.

    6. Mo Howard*

      Please do not attribute to malice what could be caused by simple lack of resources and volunteers. The remote location may be low-cost and have plentiful parking. If you want to change the situation for subsequent parents, become a volunteer and check out venues in your area that you consider more widely accessible.

      We found NCT to be excellent, but remember they used to be the Natural Childbirth Trust, and this still skews the thinking of some people. In our group we had 2 consultant anesthetists and a GP, which was a helpful reality check. I still remember the medical intervention assessment mnemonic: BRAN: What are the
      Benefits
      Risks
      Alternatives
      do Nothing outcome?

  7. Tired*

    I can’t believe I missed the work free-for-all post! I shall post the long version in ffaf next week. The short version is: I finally turned in my resignation! Even though I don’t have anything lined up and it’s giving me real bad anxieties haha.

    I hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend!

    2020 is almost over, and I am still looking for a way to move overseas because of Important Reasons (I live in SEAsia). My mediocrity really gives me such limited options, even though I’m willing to work my ass off in any industry that I can enter. I’m still looking, and my friend mentioned about Estonia e-residence thing? I haven’t looked into it because I’ve got some things queued up to do (art commission, updating resume, side project). I also impulsively subscribed to Flexjobs despite not residing in the US, ha. I hope things work out!!! Also, I started long-distance dating with a girl from the US! She’s poly and I gotta admit that I still have a lot to learn about it, but so far it’s been great.

  8. Redface*

    Does anyone have product recommendations/tips for facial redness ( not rosacea according to dermatologist)?

    1. Sophie1*

      Have you ruled out allergies? My partner’s redness was allergy related in the end. Before that moisturisers for sensitive skin helped.

      1. Redface*

        I don’t have any food allergies as such but other that I am not sure. I try to stay away from products with fragrance as much as I can. What was your partner allergic to, if you don’t mind sharing?

        1. Rainy*

          Could also be seasonal/environmental allergies–I get rashes from high pollen exposure and that sort of thing.

    2. StellaBella*

      What are you using now to wash your face, and what kind of make-up and remover do you use, if any? Maybe that product or set of products makes your skin irritated? I would look at any of the products you are using and if those might be the culprit. If it is only your cheeks, is it possible that your skin is very dry and you live in cold weather with a lot of dry heating on all the time? I have a lot of dry skin and I live where it is very dry and always indoors in the heat in winter. I have to use extra lotion and drink more water in winter. Otherwise, check for food allergies, yes.

      1. Redface*

        Thank you, I haven’t gotten tested for food allergies and never thought about any possible connection until this thread. For context, I had really bad acne all through my teenage years and early 20s and only got clear this year after Accutane. I am 25 now. The redness started around 2 years ago and have remained even after my skin cleared up. I rarely wear makeup other than eyeliner and lipstick and use a face wash from Sebamed and moisturizers from either Simple or Eucerin. And, my skin is dry but it gets red even when i barely touch my face to apply moisturizers. It is mostly my cheeks. Maybe, i should look into other moisturizers?
        My dermatologist is no help except telling me to use sunscreen which I already do. The redness bothers me a lot; I have had someone at work comment on me ‘blushing’ in a meeting when i wasn’t blushing :(

        1. StellaBella*

          I think Accutane may cause your skin to still be sensitive after the treatments and easy to irritate with just lotions even. Good luck and find a new dermatologist maybe?

        2. DayMan Fighter of the Nightman*

          Did you change anything about your diet/routine 2 years ago right before it started? Other than that, I have skin that becomes very red if I touch it, like when applying moisturizer. For me, it usually goes away after like 20 minutes. I think some people’s skin is just like that, I’m quite fair skinned so I suppose maybe my skin tone contributes to it as well. It may start to improve as more time passes since you were on accutane, I know some people who took accutane and they did have residual redness either in general or as a result of hyperpigmentation after the acne went away. I’ve seen rose hip oil (the ordinary makes a good quality, inexpensive version if you can get that where you live) recommended to help reduce redness/scarring so perhaps try that? I’ve also seen the Cosrx snail mucin recommended and have found that it helped me some.

          1. StellaBella*

            OK this is weird. Snail Mucin has come up 3x this week for me – and oddly, when I typed ‘scar’ into my phone for emoji for sracf, I saw a snail – so looked that up and it is because the mucin makes scars go away, haha.

          2. Redface*

            I had really bad cystic acne at the time and I think redness started then and stayed even after acne went away. I was clueless about skincare at the time and the products I tried out of desperation must not have helped. Accutane increased the redness even though I am so thankful for how much it helped me with my acne with minimal side effects.
            I will look into rosehip oil and someone else mentioned the Cosrx snail mucin ( I still feel weird about that though haha) Thank you xx

            1. DayMan Fighter of the Nightman*

              The snail mucin is super weird but it does work and you get used to the feeling of putting it on. There’s an order to put things on so I’d look into that but I hope it helps!

        3. Partridge sans Pear Tree*

          Cerave has a hydrating facial wash and several gentler products that are great for keeping skin moisturized post accutane. That may be where a lot of you issue is coming from. Also, under no circumstances use retinol. It can take a long time for skin to find a new normal after accutane, and retinol will irritate the hell out of it.

          1. Redface*

            Accutane definitely made my skin more seensitive even though it helped my acne 100%. Moisturising is the most frustrating part. My skin gets dry but when I moisturise it gets red and irritated. I have tried Cetaphil but not CeraVe. It is difficult to obtain here ( I live outside the US). Will try if I can get it online.

        4. only acting normal*

          What about hair products? I get a mild reaction from the products my hairdresser uses on me, or if trying a new product myself.
          Does your hairstyle touch your face? And when you wash your hair do you let the rinsing water go over your face?

          1. Redface*

            I dont think hair products is the issue. I only wash my hair once a week and the redness is most of the day everyday even when I pull my hair back.

        5. Arts Akimbo*

          My son’s face gets so chapped in cold weather that he turns hot pink! We used to use Vaseline on the worst spots. That’s not great for the acne-prone, but it heals chapped skin practically overnight.

          Maybe look for a different non-comedogenic moisturizer than the ones you have now. They are not all created equal!

    3. BudgieTBailey*

      I have super sensitive skin and redness/frequent breakouts (even at almost 40 still, boo). I have tried everything but what has really seemed to tame my skin is a gentle wash, a splash of witch hazel (just straight witch hazel, not anything fancy), and a liberal coat of liquid vitamin e. I do this all at night since the vitamin e can be greasy but it has made a world of difference for my skin.

      1. Redface*

        Thank you. Which face was do you use? I have tried witch hazel; it helps in the moment but the effect doesnt last.

    4. grandzor*

      Niacinamide is a good ingredient to look for. I like Stratia Liquid Gold and Holy Snails Shark Sauce. Don’t bother with The Ordinary’s Niacinamide + Zinc, the formula isn’t very nice.

        1. Ethyl*

          CeraVe has niacinimide as well as hyaluronic acid and ceramides, plus it’s great for sensitive skin. My spouse started using it a couple years ago and his redness has really improved.

          As a short term solution, there are things like primers (for under foundation) and other creams with a green base that help counteract redness. Idk if something like that would help you but just throwing it out there :)

          1. Redface*

            Yes, I have this fear about makeup because of my acne history but after constantly hearing comments on my face being red even at work, I am willing to give it a try. Thank you : ) I have heatd great things about CeraVe but is not available here.

            1. Ethyl*

              I’m so sorry people are commenting on your body that way. They are hideously rude!

              I think makeup has come a really long way in terms of not making skin break out generally, so maybe you can find something light and good for sensitive skin that works for you. Maybe go to a Sephora or similar place and talk to folks who really know what products are available where you live. Good luck, so much of skincare is trial and error because of how ridiculous bodies can be :)

              1. Helpmenotblush*

                Thank you; we do have Sephora here. I will check it out :) This thread has been so helpful with so many suggestions I hadn’t even considered.

          2. Arts Akimbo*

            That green base stuff REALLY works! My MIL has full-blown rosacea and it completely evens out her skin tone to where you would never even notice the redness!

      1. LookingAgain*

        To cover up red spots, I really like CC creams (cc stands for ‘color correct’). My favorite is Supergoop, which is fairly expensive, about $24 for a small’ish tube, but it lasts more than 6 months, and the coverage is natural smooth, and superb. Definitely the best I’ve found.

        I have had a red nose for as long as I can remember. I think it’s due to a bad sunburn I got as a teen … though it’s made worse by my nasal allergies which are almost year-round. So, yay me.

    5. Hannah Banana*

      Anything with Retinol helps me. I have a script from my esthetician. I’ve never been formally diagnosed but I get what looks like Perioral Dermatitis and NOTHING helped. Tried all kinds of face creams washes you name it. The only thing that helped was when I started using Retinol. And when I stop using it.. it comes back.

    6. Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

      If I don’t have rosacea I have its first cousin. For years I’ve used Paula’s Choice, found online. They have facial wash and moisturizers for very sensitive skin that will not turn your face red. All others I tried would. Price is reasonable.

      1. Redface*

        I guess I have its cousin too then haha. Does your redness gets worse under sun? I will check out Paula’s choice, thanks xx

    7. Ann Onny Muss*

      Can you afford to get facials regularly? I had redness and irritation from rosacea, and bi-weekly facials* made it 99.99999etc% better. Like, it’s not cured and I still get the occasional flare up when I’m stressed but the redness and bumps are basically gone. I understand rosacea is not your issue but regular facials may still be something to consider.

      If you can’t afford facials on the regular, maybe look into a good quality gel mask that you can use a few times a week. That would help with keeping your face moisturized. I would be sad and lost without my gel mask.

      *Full disclosure: my esthetician is pretty damned inexpensive as far as her prices go. Estheticians in your area may vary.

      1. Redface*

        Good estheticians are expensive here unfortunately and I can afford maximum one facial a month maybe if I go that route. I don’t think I have ever used gel masks. Do you have any recommendations?

        1. Ann Onny Muss*

          I like Image Skincare’s Ormedic balancing gel mask. I use it 2-3 times/week and it does help keep the redness down plus helps moisturize. I’ve also used Eucerin Redness Relief face wash and moisturizer in the past, and my super-sensitive skin tolerated it well. Good luck finding something that works for. Facial skin issues suck.

    8. Linkelle*

      I have redness as well – I use Neutrogena gentle creamy face wash and cerave lotion which someone mentioned above. My dermatologist said to avoid facials and anything abrasive – that my skin is sensitive and basically just let it chill. I’m same as you with enough redness to be looked at for rosacea post-accutane.

      I know you don’t wear makeup but I’ve found that a touch of Estée Lauder double wear really helps cover everything.

      Also please look into if you’re drinking enough water; that was a big factor with my redness.

      1. Redface*

        I recently started a desk job and my water intake is definitely down.
        I have this fear about makeup because of my acne history but after constantly hearing comments on my face being red even at work, I am willing to give it a try. Thank you : )

    9. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Appropriate moisturizer for me seems to help. Just helps my skin be less prone to getting angry.

    10. Indigo64*

      Do you wear sunscreen? I started using an SPF 15 moisturizer and discovered my redness wasn’t rosacea- it was sunburn! I use an SPF mositurizer for sensitive skin and it’s made a huge difference. I always wear sunscreen for outdoor activities, but I realized I was getting sunburned waiting for the bus, running errands, etc.

    11. Parenthetically*

      I’m a recent CeraVe convert. My skincare routine is a VERY simple fragrance free charcoal soap, Trader Joe’s hyaluronic acid serum, and jojoba oil, + CeraVe cream at night. I have a lot of redness as well and keeping my skin calm with bland, simple products helps. I know I’m always going to have a ruddy complexion and that’s fine, but holding the irritation at bay is crucial for me. The biggest difference I find is when I’m dehydrated, though — my skin is far less red when I’m drinking enough water (has to be at least 2 litres a day for me).

    12. Nadine*

      Check out Dr Dray on YouTube. She is a board certified dermatologist and has no nonsense good advice. Just do a search for facial redness to get the videos of interest. I have changed my skincare based on her recommendations.

    13. veggiewolf*

      I alternate between the Ren Evercalm line, and Eucerin Redness Relief. Both sets of products are super-soothing to put in and have helped keep my redness at bay.

    14. Clever Name*

      I have a friend whose face turns red when she eats any dairy, so it could be diet related. Just a thought.

    15. Impska*

      Since you mentioned using suncreen, you might try a different brand. I am extremely sensitive to sunscreen and had to try several for sensitive skin before hitting on one that I could wear without side effects, which was made by Vanicream.

  9. Prediabetes diagnosis = low carb/keto diet?*

    Hi
    I just got my test results from fasting blood sugar test and its 102. It was 98 last year, and 90 the year before.
    I emailed my doctor and asked if that meant prediabetes and if so I’m assuming I should lose weight and cut carbs/sugar. Her response was “sounds good”. I need to lose about 40 pounds. Does anyone have any recommendations dietwise – I’m assuming I should go either keto or low carb for the next couple of months and then get retested. Am also going to look at diabetes uk website.
    Thanks

    1. Lauren*

      I personally would focus on eating healthily (lots of veg and fruit, lean protein, wholegrains, cooking from scratch etc) rather than trying something really restrictive like keto. I really like the exercise and food plan by Emily Skye. You can try for a week free, I’ve been doing the exercise plan for 5 months fairly steadily and have lost 21cm (I personally dont like weight as a measurement) and find it a good long term option over short term diets etc.

      Good luck!

      1. Nicki Name*

        Seconding this. I have a sibling who was diabetic from a very young age, and the diet advice was always to just stick with a healthy, balanced diet. (Which, incidentally, does allow for some sweets. If you try to cut them out completely you’ll just wind up obsessed with them.)

        Weight is a poor measure of health. The modern understanding of fat is that it’s part of the body’s defense system. Extra weight doesn’t cause problems, it’s your body trying to fight problems. If you get focused directly on the weight, it won’t help you. Focus instead on your overall health. How do you feel? Are you able to keep up with life? What kind of physical activity do you enjoy?

    2. NYC trotter*

      weighing and tracking your food helps a ton! I bought a scale and starting adding everything in my fitness pal. you can see the carbs and sugars you eat (which is alarming if you’ve never tracked it before) and find ways to cut it out over time. It’s so effective with weight loss! It’s the number one thing I’ve told friends who’ve asked me how I lost my weight and keep it off. Unless you weigh and track your food, you never know how much you’re truly eating.

      1. CoffeeforLife*

        Second the food scale! I make all my meals at home, nothing prepackaged, blah blah and thought I should be set. The scale showed my where my extra calories were coming from. Making a few livable changes/swaps might be easier than a huge lifestyle change all at once… or maybe you need that shake up. You know you!

      2. Prediabetes diagnosis = low carb/keto diet?*

        Thanks – will pick up a digital scale – currently guesstimating my portions. Diet has always been the thing I’ve struggled with. I find time for exercise but not for planning /tracking what I’m eating.

    3. DayMan Fighter of the Nightman*

      I would not recommend doing legit keto, it can be very challenging to maintain and many people have a hard time keeping the weight off after they stop doing keto. I have used myfitnesspal to track calories and used online calculators to determine my TDEE (total daily energy expenditure, how much I’m burning in a day). For sustainable results, I recommend trying to figure out your TDEE and subtract 200-300 calories from that to be your target for the day and eating a higher protein diet because it will keep you fuller longer. When tracking calories it’s important to keep in mind calories from drinks, sauces, any oils you cook food in, etc. I used a cheap food scale from amazon, I know some people will use those for a few weeks so they can get a good feel for portion sizes and then go by eyeballing it after that. Adding exercise is a great idea, but keep in mind that people usually greatly over estimate how many calories they burn working out and underestimate how much they eat. Adding a weight lifting routine is great because building more muscle will increase your TDEE. But really any workout routine you can stick to is great, even adding more walking to your day can really up your TDEE.
      The key is sustainable weight loss, which means a slower loss rate and adjusting to this being a new lifestyle for the rest of your life. Cutting back on alcohol, if you drink, is a great way to cut some calories as well. There are many exercise/weightloss/etc subreddits on reddit (my favorite is r / xxfitness). But remember to always take things with a grain of salt online because many people give bad, unhealthy advice and/or are trying to sell you something. I wish you the best of luck, slow and steady wins the race. And as other commenters have stated, weight is not the only measure of success so also take starting measurements and photos to see how you’ve changed other than in weight.

    4. Squidhead*

      I’m a US registered nurse…a fasting sugar of 102 would not automatically make you prediabetic in the hospital system I work in! At minimum, I’d want to know what your A1C is as well (used to calculate an average blood sugar reflecting the last 3 months or so). To be clear, as an RN I cannot diagnose or prescribe, but I’m trying to tread the line between informed health professional and skeptical consumer! Your doctor owes you more than a 2 word email if they believe your condition needs you to change something.

      That said, if you believe you need to lose weight anyway, does the NHS have dieticians or nutritionists? Someone who can point you towards the things you *should* be eating as part of a long-term habit change (like high dietary fiber, low glycemic index, etc…) rather than focusing of the restrictions of a short-term diet? If not, check out similar recommendations from the American Diabetes Association (sorry, I don’t know what the UK analog is).

      *apologies for the double post, I think it’s nested correctly now*

      1. Prediabetes diagnosis = low carb/keto diet?*

        Thanks – I’m a Brit but living in the Middle East so NHS and google is my reference source at the moment.

        Yup – now that I’ve calmed down a tad I’m viewing it as being borderline for prediabetic and need further tests. Will use it as the kick I need to start losing weight and then get retested in 2-3 months time and see where I’m at.

      2. WellRed*

        I agree. There’s a lot of focus here on numbers (pretty normal numbers at that). I’ve seen PWD ( in my groups) get obsessed with their numbers to the point where they miss the Picture.

      3. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. I wouldn’t take “sounds good” as her confirmation of being prediabetic. I’d take that as her agreeing that your plan to lose some weight sounds good, which most doctors are going to agree to.

      4. Ariaflame*

        First thing I would ask is ‘what units’ and do they match the USA ones? Because there’s a whole heap of things the USA measures differently to everyone else and 102 tells me nothing. 102 *what*?

        1. Lost in the Woods*

          In the US and most of Europe, the units for blood sugar level (BSL) are mg/dL, while in the UK and much of the rest of the world, mmol/L is the unit. Fortunately, they’re hard to mix up because the scales are wildly different – if you have a BSL of 100 mg/dL, you’ve got blood sugar levels at the high end of normal. If you’ve got a BSL of 100 mmol/L (equivalent to about 1800 mg/dL, which is three times the level where people generally go into a diabetic coma), you’re absolutely dead.

    5. V*

      From experience, if you do any drastic changes, it won’t last. Short term diets are mainly good for losing a few pounds (especially if you’ve just recently gained weight).
      It’s better to keep eating as you do and progressively make some adjustments (portion control, food types etc.). You want to change your habits in a way that’s sustainable in the long term, and you don’t want to end up hating food (or getting discouraged because the weight loss is slow).

      Some guidelines :
      – Eat/snack at regular times and sleep at regular times. This has proven to be surprisingly helpful (anecdotically, and in terms of actual research).
      – Drink a glass of water first whenever you feel hungry/like snacking.
      – Eat slowly (it takes 20min for your brain to realize you’re not hungry anymore). Be focused on the actual food when you’re eating (as opposed to eating a pack of chips while working/watching a movie for example).
      – Reduce the number of snacks and don’t keep them within easy reach (if you snack at home/work by habit rather than hunger, you will snack less if there just aren’t any snacks available)/replace snacks by a healthy option (bananas/apples/carrots/celeri or no-sugars-added yogurt with fruit).
      -If you’re eating out and can’t control the portion amount, don’t hesitate to throw leftovers out instead of making yourself finish.
      – If you cook (ideally, you’d want to cooks as much of your meals as possible – you could cook in batches and freeze them), plan your meals to only buy what you need. Put in your plate 25% less than what looks good to you. Go for seconds only if you’re actually hungry (as opposed to just ‘not full’).

      In terms of what to eat/not eat:
      – Drink alcohol or sodas only on special occasions
      – Reduce the amount of bread, especially white bread
      – No salad dressings except olive oil + vinegar or lemon. Industrial dressings are usually alarmingly rich.
      – Limit sauces/toppings (especially the industrial kind) or industrial cheese. Spices (even plain black pepper) will help dishes taste less bland without needing to heap on the cheddar.
      -Prefer actual cake to processed sugary snacks (bars, biscuits and such). It’s more filling and there’s usually actually less sugar in it.

    6. Professor Plum*

      I’ll encourage you to look into keto. I changed to a low carb way of eating almost two years ago and am so much healthier now. I lost a significant amount of weight and have kept it off. I’m off my cholesterol and blood pressure meds—under medical supervision. When I started it was to try it out and see if I could lose weight—the weight disappeared and I felt so much better. Finally I could actually wear the clothes in my closet—then they didn’t fit because they were too big. Now I have an all new wardrobe, mostly from thrift stores, but I’m wearing mediums instead of XL and XXL!

      I quickly realized that this wasn’t a short-term fix for me, it was a new of eating. I don’t find it restrictive or difficult to follow. I eat eggs, meat, veggies, some dairy. In the beginning i did feel like I was learning a new language. There is a lot of great information at reddit with 1.5 million people in the /keto subreddit. Read the FAQ there, find inspiration from many who post their successes (including from those with diabetes and pre-diabetes) and answers to your questions. You can take control of what you eat!

      1. TimeTravlR*

        I’m with you, Prof. I don’t do strict keto but started off leaning heavily in that direction. I eat a lot of meat dairy, eggs, and minimal carbs. But my main focus is no sugar and no grains. I easily lost 25 pounds and have since lost a few more. I am not having any trouble maintaining as long as I avoid sugar and grains. I do occasionally have some, but it’s pretty rare and I find that I just don’t crave it.

    7. Fikly*

      So keto is incredibly hard to stick with and not actually proven to have benefits aside from very niche areas like seizure prevention.

      And for what it’s worth, if you actually do develop diabetes, there is some evidence that it might actually be bad for diabetics, as opposed to low carb, which is good for us.

      Did they run an A1C, by chance? That’s a much better indication than just a one time random fasting blood sugar, because that’s an average of your blood sugar over the last three months.

    8. Lilo*

      The big thing with a diet is that it needs to be sustainable. Small calorie deficits add up over time (as do small calorie excesses). So write down what you eat all day for a couple days and figure out where you can make cuts without feeling deprived. Eliminating empty calories like in drinks helps a lot.

      The other thing is, drink a lot of water. Sometimes your brain confuses thirst for hunger so being well hydrated is an important step.

    9. Thankful for AAM*

      Id stick to a whole foods, plant-based diet. There is so much evidence that it helps.
      Kaiser Permanente insurance has a good guide on it (they recommend their physicians recommend it as it saves them money if patients get healthy).

      I also like nutritionfacts.org
      He has a funny voice that cracks me up but not everyone loves it.

    10. MistOrMister*

      I am working on tracking my food intake and trying to eat healthily as well, although my focus right now is more preventative. (Plus I am tired,of my,clothes being so tight dangit!!) I find planning my food by week and making my own food really helps. I’ve been doing homemade vegetable soup or some roasted vegetables with rice for a couple of meals, something vegetable heavy for dinner and a few snacks of fruits, vegetables and nuts (not all at the same time). I get to eat a good 5 or 6 times a day which is nice.

      You don’t necessarily need to go low carb unless prescribed or you really want to. Personally I don’t like low carb diets just for weightloss because the body NEEDS carbs. And mostly it seems like people who do liw carb gain the weight back easily when they stop. If you can cut back on processed foods and make sure you’re following serving size guides, you should see results.

      Also, as far as exercise is concerned, if you don’t have a routine already, try to get one started. I got tired of the gym and bought a stepper for use at home. Plus I have various weights and some yoga books. Good luck with your weightloss endeavors!!

    11. MissGirl*

      I’ve been following the clean food crush plan and lost 20 pounds. It focuses on protein and veggies with simple carbs. It helped me reduce my sugar cravings and lowered my anxiety level.

    12. Boomerang Girl*

      I would suggest adjusting portion sizes and exercising more. It’s working for me and I am not hungry. Jenny Craig is good if you want structured plans and prepared food. Weight Watchers is similar in approach but not prepared meals.

    13. AcademiaNut*

      I’ve been adjusting my diet for similar reasons (fasting blood sugar a bit high, my weight creeping up with middle age). I’m not big on diets, because as soon as you stop all the weight comes back and brings friends, so I was looking at dietary changes I could keep up permanently.

      So what I’ve done is reduce carbs, and reduce snacking. For the former, it’s mostly skipping the rice/break/potato/pasta part of the meal, or having a small portion, and making it whole grain rather than refined carbs more often, and loading up on the vegetables and protein. When cooking, I’ll sometimes have a lentil or tofu based dish as the ‘starch’ portion of the meal. I don’t pay too much attention to fat when cooking at home.

      For the snacking it mostly means forgoing free snacks at work, and making sweet buns, potato chips, chocolate and candy an occasional treat. I almost never drink sweetened beverages, but I still have beer or wine a few times a week. The hardest part is when I’m feeling snacky but not actually hungry – fortunately I quite like celery and cucumber dipped in hot sauce.

      I haven’t measured anything, but I did go down a size and a half in pants.

    14. Old and Don’t Care*

      Without commenting on your specific situation I will note that due to family history I have done some reading about t2 diabetes. There are lots of different opinions about what diet is best but much consensus on exercise being very beneficial for blood sugar control.

    15. Anon for this one*

      I’m not a doctor, dietician, etc. but I also wouldn’t recommend going full keto. Maybe look up some keto recipes for inspiration but the actual keto diet can be hard to stick to and cause “keto flu” as your body tries to adjust to the changes. Yes it’s low-carb but it’s also very high in fat, which could cause its own issues in some people if eaten long-term.

      Like others have said, focus on eating whole, minimally processed foods and up your fruit and veggie intake. Try to exercise regularly and make sure you drink enough water. Focus on small, doable changes rather than a complete diet overhaul. For times when you really gotta have carbs, try whole grains, brown rice, farro, sweet potatoes, etc. Chickpea pasta or shirataki noodles are also good alternatives.

      I’m also trying to eat better and reduce my carb and sugar intake and it’s not always easy. Good luck with your health journey!

    16. MOAS*

      I’ve had T2 diabetes for many many years and take insulin injections for it. In theory a low carb diet (not necessarily keto) is optimal.

      I’ve found over hte years that most diets will work but there are just so many. I learned about fasting (there’s intermittent, extended, alternate day) through a few FB groups and while I haven’t been a strict follower, I feel like it has helped me a lot in overcoming my food addiction. I have more self control over food for the most part. Fasting works IF you’re the type who can easily skip a meal. If you need to eat every few hours, that’s fine too – small portions of healthy food will also help with the weight loss.

      As an aside…I’m concerned that the response to “do I havediabetes” is “sounds good!” sorry but…wtf.

    17. Earthwalker*

      I find Mark Sisson’s website “Mark’s Daily Apple” to be encouraging and informative. He has a huge amount of well researched and searchable information on paleo, primal, and keto diets as well as other aspects of good health. He encourages aiming for health habits that are achievable rather than perfect, which makes his approach way easier to stick with than most diet advice.

  10. Sophie1*

    I want to let you all know: I read AMA on my lunch break and have an avocado bagel everyday for lunch.

    I’ve done this for so long that now if I open up AMA at a time other than lunch I immediately really want an avocado bagel.

    1. Mrs. Fenris*

      I read AAM while I’m eating breakfast on work days, so a lot of times if I start reading it at another time I start thinking about Greek yogurt and trail mix.

  11. I'm Going to London*

    Checking in to say “wow” for the tree and and the kitty. Thank you everyone for all your tips and advice.
    The trip is shaping up great. Good plans AND planned downtime.
    Only three worries left.
    Will the expected snow storm cancel my flight?
    Jet lag. I dread it.
    Sudden medical situation. (I have chronic pain and a genetic condition so it seemed to be a good idea to see what was going on with this “new thing that never happened before”)
    Checked in with the Dr. this week. Have 3 medical tests scheduled for when I return.
    I got the go ahead to travel. She made me promise if I have a worsening of symptoms or any debilitating pain that I go to an Emergency room.
    Should I scout one out before I go?
    Londoners- is there one I should avoid?

    1. StellaBella*

      Hi. I hope you have a good time! For weather I do not know where you are flying from, but London weather per BCC next week for next ten plus days looks fine so I hope your city of departure cooperates.

      On the medical issues, in the UK ER is called A&E. (accident and emergency). If you go onto google maps, and in the search field type in ‘London A&E hospital’ you will see by default at least ten A&E hospitals. So you can map one closest to where you will stay. I don’t know of one to avoid, but I found online that… “Figures published by NHS England show that the best performing A&E in west London when it comes to the four hour target (seeing emergent cases in under four hours) is Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust….and The worst performing west London Trust when it comes to the A&E four hour time limit is Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHNFT), which runs Hillingdon Hospital.” but this may not be the metric you are looking for in terms of best and worst – there are quite a few online resources for looking up experiences at various A&Es.

      Does your travel insurance and your health insurance cover you abroad? The NHS site has a page called “How to access NHS services in England if you’re visiting from abroad.” that may be of interest to verify before you travel. Also be sure to have printed out copies of your prescriptions in hand with you at all times.

      Enjoy the trip!

      1. StellaBella*

        Just realised for weather delays to your flight, check the. airline and airport website 3-4 hrs before you leave the house to see what delays they are having, if any.

    2. DrTheLiz*

      As an ex-Londoner I’d say it’s probably fine? The biggest difference is going to be waiting times (think 3+hours even at low-traffic times unless the issue is acutely life-threatening) rather than quality of care. Hillingdon hospital have good equipment but overworked staff, I think. I had a good experience with Charing Cross A&E ~6 years ago – highly competent Dr, sorted the problem right out (turns out it was a weird immune reaction and not blood poisoning, hurray). Hope you don’t need the info in the end!

    3. I’m going to London!*

      thanks for the ER advice.
      Yes I have plenty of insurance coverage.
      With my many chronic conditions, if I worried about them, I would never leave the house let alone travel.
      The weather is coming to my Midwest city Sunday through Monday. I leave Monday afternoon. Direct flight.

      1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        The emergency services number is 999 if you have an issue and need an ambulance. There are private urgent care and doctor services around that you can use for a small fee (I paid £45 to see a doctor one morning last spring to quickly sort out a sinus infection rather than hope I could get in to my GP in the next few days) – just google to find one in your immediate area. Most hospitals in the central part of the city will be fine with the busiest times usually on the weekends after the pubs close. Bring a book and be aware you could be in for a long wait.

        If you have a sub-critical issue, it may be worth speaking to a pharmacist at the Boots chain as they can offer some medical advice as well.

        As for the flight – most airlines will try their utmost to prioritize the international schedule because those aircraft will be needed for follow on flights beyond London while flights in the US can be repositioned more easily. Short of absolute snowmagedon and closure of the airfield, the flight will likely go or at the very most be delayed. Just check the airline website before you leave for the airport to check on the schedule (e.g. could have been delayed inbound aircraft).

        Please try not to worry – Londoners can seem focused and disinterested but trust me, if there is an emergency or they see someone who needs help they will absolutely spring into action. I once watched an older gentleman faint upright on the commute and five passengers worked together right away to get him onto the floor and three more offered water bottles. If you have a problem, don’t be afraid to ask someone for help.

    4. Fikly*

      I forget if you’re coming from the US. If so, are you doing one of the common overnight flights?

      If you are able to sleep on planes, and essentially wake up in “morning,” I highly recommend making yourself stay awake until as late as possible the day you arrive. I was able to make it until around 8:00 p.m. London time, go to sleep, wake up about 12 hours later the next morning, and no jet lag at all.

      I had much more jet lag coming back to the east coast of the US.

      1. I'm Going to London!*

        Fikly thank you.I have been trying to go to bed later to adjust a bit but because my usual day central time is 5:30 or 6:00 am to about 10:00. I went to bed last night at almost 12:00! and was up at 5 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. It may be the excitement. It is an over night trip so I am going to try again tonight and then hopefully sleep in tomorrow.
        I will use your advice.
        AND I just booked tickets to Dick Whittington and his Cat. People have been asking are you going to see a show? And I just didn’t find anything that spoke to me. I have always wanted to go to a pantomime since my childhood days of Ballet Shoes, Dancing Shoes, and Theatre Shoes.
        AND there is a children’s illustration exhibit at the British Museum!
        Thank you everyone for all of your advice.
        I CAN do this!

        1. Jenny*

          Dick Whittington looks great! Read a little bit about the Windrush generation before you go and you’ll get some more of the references in this production

  12. Lena Clare*

    Best and worst this week?
    BEST: I got my trees up and feel s but better about christmas approaching, AND the cats have left them alone.
    WORST: I meant to go shopping and do some work yesterday evening, but I’m so exhausted I haven’t done it. I’m still in bed and it’s nearly midday:(

    1. Redface*

      BEST: I got to go swimming in an indoor heated pool :D
      WORST: TMI…I have a butt pimple and I am struggling to find a comfortable position to sit while typing this lol.

      1. Jaid*

        LOL, would one of those pimple patches I’ve seen advertised help out? They really do work, drawing out the bad stuff and they cover up the skin.

    2. Anon woman with breast cancer*

      Best – a few things:
      -dinner out with friends in a restaurant and a coffee with a friend, out, too
      -walked a bit each day and the rain held off this week
      -made pancakes today
      -still coping mostly ok with chemo and can feel tumour shrinking.

      Worst:
      -painful scalp ouch wth, man – like eleventy hundred needles pokin’ my noggin. It means the chemo is working, tho.

      1. Queer Earthling*

        My spouse found that lotion helped with the scalp ouches, a little. And no hats/scarves/etc if you can help it. Hang in there!

      2. Jaid*

        Would Scalp Hypothermia during treatment help? Or is that to just keep the hair?

        I’m sure you’ve done a ton of research and there isn’t much I can contribute, except a hope that you recover quickly!

    3. Lcsa99*

      Best: we’re making our Christmas cookies this weekend and our kitchen smells great!

      Worst: we’re making our Christmas cookies this weekend and for some reason we decided to do three types of cookies that are rolled out this year. My arms are sooo tired!

    4. CoffeeforLife*

      Best: we had a family member move in to start school. It’s a great move and I hope it’ll allow their wings to grow!
      Worst: my kitchenaid stand mixer motor seized up yesterday :( :( :(

    5. PhyllisB*

      WORST: I got rear-ended the other day while dropping my son off at work
      BEST: I wasn’t at fault (our insurance would have a stroke. My grand-daughter has already totaled two cars this year.) Also, no one was hurt, and damage to my car wasn’t bad. Needs to be fixed, but it’s driveable.

    6. Colette*

      Worst: my car started making a weird noise, I lost my work and bus passes, and I had a very irritating conflict with respect to the volunteer work I do.

      Best: the car is fixed, the passes are found, and the conflict was resolved-ish. So the week ended much better than it middled. And this weekend is much freer than the las couple of months, so I get to relax a bit.

    7. Jen RO*

      Best: Got chocolate at work from someone on another team I helped out.

      Worst: Found out I have to get knee surgery asap. What I thought was tendinitis is actually a badly busted meniscus.

    8. Mimmy*

      BEST: Finally completed my application for a Masters degree (my second one…yes, I’m a little nuts lol)

      WORST: Hubby needs throat surgery again. He had a polyp removed in October and it was healing nicely at the first follow-up. He had his second follow-up yesterday expecting to get the all-clear. But nope, there is regrowth, so back in he goes on the 20th :(

    9. Queer Earthling*

      Best: My metamour is working overnight tonight, so our shared spouse and I are ordering a pizza and pretending we’re having a slumber party. We’re all over 30.

      Worst: Been in bed with some painful tummy problems. You will note I will not let this interfere with pizza night.

    10. Parenthetically*

      Best: it was my birthday this week and my amazing family conspired to get me a new computer to replace the one that croaked. I’m also really in the home stretch with this pregnancy — just a few weeks to go!

      Worst: Little Brackets was sick half the week. Worst part of parenting is having a sick kid.

    11. Merci Dee*

      Worst: my dad had knee replacement surgery on Monday, and the lead-up to that was very stressful….

      Best: ….. but he came through the surgery beautifully, and the doctor was very pleased with his results. Dad went to his first therapy session on Friday, but did a couple of rounds of the necessary exercises each day before his appointment. Everyone seems to be pleased with his progress. As you might expect, he’s dealing with some pain right now, but is able to keep it to a tolerable level with a few arthritis strength aspirin; he’s made the decision to stay away from the prescription pain meds for a number of reasons (risk of dependence, messing up his … umm … digestive habits, etc.). All in all, he’s pulling through like a champ. Says it’s not so hard to keep moving forward because he knows that =this= is the worst the pain will ever be, and it won’t be long before it’s behind him.

    12. Jaid*

      BEST: Got my award bonus, which went straight to savings.

      WORST: My BFF’s boyfriend is in the hospital with an infection in his leg from a spider bite (he has other medical issues, which doesn’t help). She told me that he doesn’t want other people to know, so I can’t just go and visit.

    13. Raia*

      Best: Had an amazing fun day today with my closest friend in a neighboring city. We ended up just shopping, walking around the mall, and playing a quick board game while having burgers for lunch. I’m loving the awesome friendship we share!

      Worst: Getting up for work this week was not great, due to vacationing the week prior in a different timezone.

    14. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      BEST: I got to go to a folk music thing today that I wanted to go to and didn’t have to help organize (I usually end up running such things related to my specific musical interests in my town, but someone else took the initiative and put this together). It’s so nice to get to attend a fun thing without being in charge of it!

      WORST: I don’t think I get a “just stay at home, no actual reason to leave the house” day between now and Christmas, which is difficult because I also didn’t have one last month. I arranged my work schedule so I theoretically get a WFH Friday, as well as trying to lead a life that lets me stay home on weekends at least some of the time, but I think the last time I actually got a day when I didn’t need to go anywhere or otherwise get dressed properly and deal with humanity was back in October and it’s starting to wear on me.

    15. Lena Clare*

      Hope you’ve all had/are having a lovely weekend and that the week ahead is a peaceful one.
      Another best: I got my assignment finished and handed in. The deadline is next Friday so I have a few days to sort some stuff for christmas instead :)

    16. Laura H.*

      Worst: one of my walker wheels snapped off at the movies, courtesy of a man in an electric scooter who kept going when he encountered resistance instead of stopping. (Although I should have moved the walker to the side of me as soon as I saw the scooter. But uh hindsight.)

      Not as worse: A Good Samaritan in the theatre had the tools to rig up a temporary fix, and the man’s wife helped!

      Best: a friend had spare walker legs with wheels that fit mine that he can’t use at the moment, and let me borrow em till mine come in on Thursday, AND that Good Samaritan and the mans wife were able to enjoy the movie. I also enjoyed the movie aside from that terrible snafu.

    1. StellaBella*

      1. The Field Museum – to see Sue the T Rex, she is amazing.
      2. The Shedd Aquarium
      3. Art Institute
      4. Millenium Park and the Bean for pics
      5. The Navy Pier

      I loved Chicago the few times I have been there.

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

      Each of the two times I was in Chicago, I did an architectural boat tour. I don’t remember what company did/does it, but it was terrific when I went 15 and 17 years ago. If you’re going on the early side of October and you get lucky, it may still be warm enough.

      Your mileage may vary with the Field Museum. Everyone recommends it, but I found it really boring.

      Are you going to be there for the Chicago Marathon, which falls in October? If not, the running is great there, along the lake. (My father ran the Chicago Marathon about twenty years ago and although it wasn’t his favorite marathon, he’s always said it was the flattest and fastest of the marathons he’s done.)

      1. Chicagoan*

        I live in Chicago and always take visitors on the architectural boat tour. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it myself!

      2. LGC*

        You know me well!

        So, yeah, I’m planning to be there Friday night to Monday. I’m expecting Sunday to be mostly a wash but I do want to see some of the city while I’m there.

      3. fposte*

        At last look, there are two different companies that do an architectural river tour. I think both are supposed to be pretty good; the one I took is via the Chicago Architecture Foundation, which seems to have a bit more cred. I highly recommend it as well; definitely plan for cooler temps than on land.

        1. Filosofickle*

          Yes, definitely pick the one run by CAF. The other looks extremely similar (on purpose). Go to architecture dot org. It’s such an amazing vantage point on the city. If I had just one day in town, I’d happily give half of it to this.

          My tastes: Love the Bean, the Institute, and the Chicago History museum. Navy Pier is boring and so is the Field. If you love architecture, just wandering around is a great way to spend time. So much art deco! There’s also a fun, hidden gem called the Chapel in the Sky downtown. If you’re a neighborhood type, Wicker Park is a great bar/restaurant district.

      4. Parenthetically*

        +a million to the architecture boat tour, our favorite thing to do in Chicago that isn’t eating. We’ve done two Wendella tours but the Architecture Foundation ones are supposed to be the cream of the crop.

    3. Kimmybear*

      Lived there for a while years ago so I’ll add in the Museum of Science and Industry, Modern Art Museum, Second City, Steppenwolf if you like theater, and eating in as many different neighborhoods as you can (Chinatown, Devon Street, Greektown, etc). The architectural boat tour is great but dress for the weather.

      1. LGC*

        I am DEFINITELY going to schedule the boat tour (probably Monday) at this point, since it’s been suggested a few times now! (Also I like architecture myself.)

    4. Llellayena*

      Architectural boat tour
      Tastebud Tours food tour
      Oak Park and Frank Lloyd Wright’s house and studio tour

      Can you tell I’m a little biased toward the architecture?

    5. PhyllisB*

      I will be following this thread with interest. My daughter lives about an hour from Chicago. She told me her kids would rather have experiences than gifts this year. I’m all for that, but don’t know what to look for. If anyone has suggestions for things for an 8 year old girl and 12 year old boy I’m all ears.

      1. ThatGirl*

        What direction? I live in the western suburbs and can help.

        In general: Lincoln Park or Brookfield Zoo. Shedd Aquarium. Museum of Science and Industry. Navy Pier (it’s very touristy but there are rides and a massive Ferris wheel). mini golf. Bowling. Arcade?

    6. Lilo*

      I went to college in Chicago.
      Lincoln Park Zoo and neighborhood. I would go get ramen and wander the zoo, which is free.
      The Art Institute is a classic for good reason. You can then walk the park.
      The Shedd is great but boy have they upped the prices lately. Go early or on a weekday because it gets busy.
      I feel like a lot of the Field Museum was really dated and it depends on the temporary exhibit. If you want to get a glance at Sue you used to be able to see her from the ticket line so you could just poke your head in. Maybe they have updated it since I went.
      Museum of Science and Industry is great but it’s kind of off the path a bit.
      I haven’t tried the glass boxes at the Sears tower but I have heard they can be good.
      If you’re going to the top of the Hancock, see if you can go up and get a drink at the bar instead. It’s overpriced but you would pay to go up anyway.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Maximo the Titanosaur! And if you go up to the second floor to see his face over the balcony, he looks amazingly cheerful. :)

      1. Silly Janet*

        I second the Art Institute and Robie House. An underrated gem is the Chicago Cultural Center right by Millennium Park. It is an incredibly beautiful building, and is free to visit. Join a guided tour to learn about the two amazing glass domes.

    7. ThatGirl*

      Garrett Popcorn. If you like beer, tons of breweries. Green Mill. That time of year there may still be festivals. I think Navy Pier is very touristy but the Ferris Wheel is cool.

      1. Filosofickle*

        That cheese popcorn will stain your hands and leave grease on things you’re sure you didn’t even touch, but it is absolutely delicious.

    8. IAmOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      I like the art museum a lot. Shedd Aquarium is fun for kids.

      The best pizza I’ve ever had is at a restaurant called Spacca Napoli. It’s neopolitan not deep dish.

      Second City is great fun (She The People was hilarious.) The Architectural boat tours are very nice. I don’t think you need to buy them too far in advance in case the weather is bad.

      1. IAmOnlyHereForThePoetry*

        Also, check when the Chicago Marathon is. Hotel prices go through the roof that weekend. (Although if your hotel is on the route, it is pretty interesting to wake up to all the cheering)

      2. Lilo*

        Controversial opinion: I hate Chicago deep dish. It’s so heavy. One piece and you feel like you need to take a nap.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I won’t argue with that, but we also have thin crust which is what most people eat more regularly, deep dish is more on an event.

        2. LGC*

          Your opinion is VALID

          (I’m from New Jersey, so I have EXTREMELY STRONG PIZZA OPINIONS. I’m still going to house a slice of deep dish pizza after the marathon, because I mean it’s Chicago and how can I not.)

        3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          We got a Giordano’s in the last couple years.

          Husband: “CHICAGO PIZZA!”
          Housemate and me: “You mean pizza casserole.”
          Husband: >:-|

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      if you play chess, bring a set of pieces and find a pickup game at one of the tables in the park along the sides of Lake Michigan.
      If you like sf/fantasy, (re)read Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” and give yourself a tour for “the other wizard named Harry.”
      (For anyone who saw the short-lived TV series — the books are much much better.)

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I came back to suggest you look up the schedule for Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me. NPR’s news quiz has Chicago as a home base.

    11. Irving Park Pal*

      We have the most out of any US city! (Note: not the most per capita) Goose Island, Half Acre and Revolution are local and offer brewery tours. If you’re looking off the beaten path Begyle and Dovetail in the Ravenswood neighborhood are good as well. Assuming you’re into beer! If not the rest of the thread covers lots of the must sees.

      As a local architect can confirm that CAF is very legit and does great boat tours and walking tours.

    12. Not A Manager*

      Skimmed the replies. I didn’t notice any theater recs. If you like theater, check out Steppenwolf. They frequently have new shows or new takes on old ones. I’ve seen some clunkers, but they were interesting, risk-taking clunkers, and usually I’ve been really impressed and enjoyed the production a lot. Steppenwolf sells same-day tickets at $20. You can reserve two as soon as the box office opens in the morning.

      If you have big bucks to spend, Lyric Opera is world-class.

      I second the Art Institute, Lincoln Park Zoo (check out the lily pond on the north side), and the architectural boat tour. The Museum of Contemporary Art sometimes has some really good exhibits as well. If the weather is nice, Millennium Park (next to Art Institute) is a lot of fun.

      If you’re going to do a “top of tall building” experience, I recommend Hancock Center over Sears (Willis) Tower. Buy your ticket online to skip some of the wait. Also try to go early in the day.

    13. Goldendoodle*

      If the weather is nice, one of my favorite things to do in October is tour the Graceland Cemetery. It’s unbelievably beautiful, many famous Chicagoans are buried there are walking tours, self-guided tours, or you can ride bikes through it. Also if it’s nice, renting swan paddle boats at Humboldt Park is really fun. If it’s not nice out, check out the Garfield Park Conservatory.

    14. Born On The Bayou*

      My daughter graduated in May from SAIC, so of course I’m going to plug the SAIC museum. We have stayed at the Renaissance (Marriott), Chicago Hilton, and Palmer House. They’re all in the Loop, and the Hilton and Palmer House are grand old beauties. We always have brunch at John’s Place in Roscoe Village, and always find ourselves at Lou Malnati’s the first night for pizza! Revolution Brewery is a great place with good food and atmosphere, there’s a place called Ram Bar in Rosemont that we love, the restaurants at the Renaissance is pretty good. The Palmer House had a good burger spot, and the Chi Hilton had a great restaurant, although the chef wouldn’t cook my steak well done. That pissed me off. Lol.

      Boat tours are fun, and the mobster tour was a big hit for family. Navy Pier has a beautiful walking area that has great views of the skyline.

      You’ve gotta go to the new Starbucks Roastery on the Magnificent Mile, it is EPIC!

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

    I’ve been going to the local swimming pool since October, and today I decided to find out if I lost we— no, stil fat. In fact, I’m worse. *Insert sad noises*

    1. LGC*

      Stupid as hell question: but how do you feel? If you’re getting better at swimming, that counts for a lot. (And I’d say it counts for more than what you weigh.)

      I probably shouldn’t humor this, but I will anyway: have you felt hungrier since you started swimming? It’s actually a bit of a paradox – you can increase your physical activity and still gain weight because you’re taking in more calories.

    2. UbiCaritas*

      Maybe you’ve added muscle. I’d bet anything that you’ve improved your fitness, which is a very good thing. I play the flute, and when I started swimming I noticed immediately that my lung capacity improved a LOT.

    3. coffee cup*

      I put on weight after I started running regularly. And I didn’t fit into old jeans as I thought I might. My legs got more muscle! You may have increased your muscles.

      1. Lilo*

        Exercise also makes you hungry. The important thing though is exercise is great for your cardiovascular health. Unless you are training like an Olympian, exercise can only do so much for a calorie deficit, though. Work out for your health, watch what you eat to lose weight.

    4. Parenthetically*

      Just as a different take:

      Healthy behaviors are still healthy regardless of what happens on the scale. Your cardiovascular fitness has almost certainly improved — healthy! You’ve stuck with your goals — healthy AND awesome! Your muscle and joint strength have almost certainly improved — healthy! You’re literally supporting your own longevity by participating in a physical activity you enjoy and sticking with it.

      NONE of that says “worse” to me!

    5. StudentaA*

      This is not the question you asked, but I think it’s awesome that you A. Know how to swim and B. Swim.

      In fact, I looked up a statistic just for you to make you see you should be proud. https://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/press-release/red-cross-launches-campaign-to-cut-drowning-in-half-in-50-cities.html

      Swimming is hard work. And October to December is unfortunately not long at all in weight loss time. Sigh. Sooooo been there done that. Keep it up, whether swimming or whatever activity you’re doing,

    6. Earthwalker*

      I seem to recall that if you reduce fat and add muscle you can get thinner without necessarily losing pounds because muscle is heavier and more compact than fat. Anyone else remember more about that?

    7. Owler*

      I’m in the same boat. My middle-aged waistline might be here to stay, and I’m not prepared for that. On the up side, swimming is easier because I float better! Anyway, here’s to better health for both of us.

  14. KitCroupier*

    I’m about to drive from Chicago to Phoenix (Mesa, actually). It’s going to be a 24 hour drive, just me and two cats and a car load of stuff.
    Any road trip advice for the cats? They are going to be super unhappy through this.

    1. CallofDewey*

      I have a calming spray I use with mine and it helps me a bit. Makes me the crazy lady who has aromatherapy for her cats, but gets the job done!

      1. Sled dog mama*

        Cats being cats (I am mostly a dog person, had one cat who thought he was a dog) I would never consider someone doing what they needed to get an animal through a stressful situation. This from a woman who once slept on the floor of a hotel to keep the 90 lbs baby from howling all night in a new location. You do what you gotta do for you.

        1. Sled dog mama*

          I was trying to say I would not consider you a crazy person if it helps the cat but I totally failed

    2. BikeLover*

      I drove cross country last year with a cat and a dog. It was miserable for the cat. I put him in a large dog kennel (the dog didn’t need a kennel for the drive) and he spent the whole time underneath the kennel blanket. At hotel I would let him out, let him use a litter box and make food/water available. He never ate or drank or pooped (it took four days). At least he didn’t cry- my sister drove from Seattle to Houston with her cat and he howled the entire way. If you don’t already own one, a large dog kennel is kind of expensive just for one trip, but maybe keep an eye out at goodwill- using one is the best advice I got and I think he might have escaped at a rest stop or something if I hadn’t.

      I used calming spray but don’t think it made any difference. I sprayed cbd oil on his paws but he hated it and it just stressed him out more so I only did that the first day.

      When we finally arrived he seemed like he’d lost a pound or two, his coat hadn’t been groomed (he has a short coat but is usually fastidious about it) and he hid in a closet for two days. After a a week or so, he has recovered and now he’s obviously fine.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      Check with your vet about calming medication that will make them sleep. I haven’t had a need to use it on my own cats yet, but people I know have done so and said it really helped.

      1. cat socks*

        Yep, ask about gabapentin. My own vet used it with her own cats when moving cross country. I’ve used it for a cat who had heart issues and one who had kidney disease. If a cat does have kidney disease the vet may reccomend a lower dosage, but it will still be effective.

    4. GoryDetails*

      Re a 24-hour drive with two cats: much sympathy, to you and to them! It sounds as if you know they don’t like car-travel, but if they haven’t been on a long drive before it’s possible they’ll adjust. (I had a cat who LOVED car-trips, and would lounge happily on the rear deck of the car or the back of my seat. In retrospect it wasn’t wise to let him roam loose in the car, even knowing he was cool about it, but it worked at the time.) If your cats aren’t already microchipped I’d advise getting that done first, and put collars with contact information on them just in case they make a dash for it at some point. A big crate with room for water dish and litter box is good – but if it could fit smaller hidey-hole cat-beds, nervous cats might appreciate the chance to den up. I haven’t had to give medications to any of my cats while traveling, but in one case I had to get post-trip meds for a traumatized kitty – a week or so on a tranquilizer got her back to her usual self. Good luck!

    5. Book Lover*

      Are you moving here? Sorry for the drive – I have no helpful recommendations but will say that will both of mine I ended up letting them out and it was fine (just make sure litter box is handy and that they are secure before opening doors).
      The weather here is lovely – I think you will enjoy yourself when you arrive :)

      1. KitCroupier*

        Yes, I’m moving to Mesa! My boyfriend has been there for two months, I’ve been waiting on him signing a lease and some random work related stuff to join him.
        And to say I’m looking forward to the weather is an understatement. Chicago is getting down to single digits this upcoming week!

    6. Peasblossom*

      I drove cross-country (twice!) this past year with two cats and my things. I was DREADING it, but it was fine. Essentially, while the cats weren’t happy, they eventually settled down and accepted their fate. A couple of things to aid this:

      1.) Let them roam outside of the kennel. They can get comfortable on their own, and moving about freely seemed to help my cats settle more quickly.

      2.) Buy one of those large plastic containers with a lid and use it as a transportable litter box. I left the lid off and placed the box in the floorboard of the backseat so that cats could use it as needed. They (thankfully) didn’t use it frequently, but I think it helped both to prevent UTIs and to make them more comfortable. When we got to our final stop of the day, I could then just pop the lid on and take it into the airbnb/hotel.

      3.) Bring blankets for them to sprawl on that have their scents.

      4.) My vet gave me tranquilizers, but I only used them the first day because they made the cats lethargic and mopey. They’re a good option, though, if you’re worried about the cats going ballistic.

      Good luck!!

    7. Seal*

      I drove cross country with three cats a year and a half ago and it wasn’t nearly as awful as I thought it was going to be. At the time, I was also recovering from rotator cuff surgery and had to have a family member drive with me, which made a huge difference. We didn’t drive straight through, but instead broke the trip up, which helped everyone.

      Overall, the cats did great. Each one had their own carrier with a folded up towel or old bath at as a pad; I brought extra towels in case of accidents. The carriers were on top of boxes in the back seat, so they could see and smell us and look out the windows. One of my cats absolutely hates riding in his carrier, so the vet gave me a tranquilizer for him. By the second day, he realized it was in his food and ate around it, but as it turned out he was fine without it. There was a bit of complaining from all three at first and occasionally throughout the drive, but for the most part everyone hunkered down and eventually slept. I wound up putting my female’s carrier in the middle because she was protesting the most and that calmed her down.

      Because we were traveling during the summer, when we stopped at rest stops we left the car and air conditioner running and took turns staying with the cats. At lunch, we went through drive-throughs and either ate in the car or outside in sight of the running car. At the hotels, I had my own room with the cats, so even though it was a new environment there wasn’t a stranger in the room as well. We put out a litter box and some food and water and everyone was fine; they all ate and drank a bit and used the litter box. Once we finally got to my new house everyone hid for a few days and only came out at night to eat and explore. But within a week, all three cats were out and about, none the worse for wear after their big adventure.

      So traveling with cats definitely can be done! It just takes some planning.

    8. NewReadingGlasses*

      If you have them in a hotel room, lock them up in their carriers or the bathroom before you leave the room so they don’t escape into the hallway when you come back in. Even normally calm cats become attempted escape artists on the road.

    9. TL -*

      Oh, i just did a super long road trip (33 hours) with my cat.
      1) she has a HUGE (medium sized dog and she’s 9 lbs) kennel that I put in the very back of my hatchback – car was packed full and this made it easy to access and her meowing was muffled.
      2) kennel had a small litter box that she used twice while in the car but mostly slept in, and food and water in containers strapped to the wire door.
      3) I used a calming spray and she had a blanket that she and I had slept with, but what really helped was putting on her wide-strapped, padded harness – the days I had that on, she fell asleep pretty deeply after an hour or two of driving. Plus it made it easy to clean out the litter box, since I could just pop her leash on and let her out of the kennel. I let her out at a few rest stops, too, just to explore by the car, but she’s comfortable on a harness/leash, so YMMV.
      4) She is more comfortable loose in the car, but I decided this was too dangerous if I was the only person in the car – she’s very curious and wants to get down by my feet, up on the dashboard, and into anything in the car. Plus she has to be secured anytime the door is opened.
      5) the heat may be an issue as you go south. Because my cat was in the back of my (very packed) car, I was blasting the A/C and wearing a hoodie so the car would stay cool in the southern part of my drive. I also kept my stops very quick or stopped at rest stops where I could roll my car windows down and watch it as I ate.
      6) I tried not to drive more than 8-9 hours a day. Kitty explored everywhere we stopped and ate/drank/used the bathroom, so not too long days meant she got time to hide, run around, and to do her business outside of a car. I also have very conveniently placed friends and family, so I didn’t need to get hotels at all, which was a huge help.

  15. Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

    It’s been a rotten year. Last night I was told the man I rent a room from was moving back to Wisconsin. He will leave end of December but will pay January so I can stay til then.

    I have no money to move but I have to find it. I’ll miss his pets, since I lost mine last January. Worst of all, I don’t think I’ll ever find stability again.

    Merry Christmas.

    1. StellaBella*

      I am so sorry. I hope you can find some support, and stability, and that soon things turn around for you and that 2020 is better in all ways.

    2. UbiCaritas*

      Oh, man, I fell in FEBRUARY, broke and dislocated 2 bones in my foot and they still aren’t completely healed. (But they’re bolted together, so at least I can walk now.) It’s been an AWFUL year. I think this means 2020 will be better – it HAS to be better, right? Wishing you better things, soon.

      1. Fikly*

        I have lost count of the number of new medical problems I’ve had this year. It’s over 10, and a number of them are life long diagnoses. I just finished having three -3! – MRIs in seven days.

        And then to top it off, a doctor I had trusted to be competent lied to my face about what fingers carpal tunnel could cause symptoms in just to hide the fact that she had forgotten which finger I was having symptoms with. (I could not care less that she forgot! Everyone is human! I said, just to clarify, you said you thought it was carpal tunnel, but I was a little confused because my understanding was that carpal tunnel can’t affect that finger? And she said, no it’s a different nerve, but it’s carpal tunnel. And then when I said the website of the hospital she works at states that it’s physically impossible for carpal tunnel to affect that finger, she mumbled something about possibly misremembering which finger it was.)

        If she’s going to lie about that, what’s she going to do when something more important is at stake? Oh, and also, she told me I couldn’t possible have a condition because it was rare, and for no other reason. Ha!

        1. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

          That’s just laziness on her part. I’m sorry about your medical problems.

      1. Wishing You Well*

        Yes, you will find stability.
        It’s so tough to know this when you’re in the middle of turmoil and your brain is telling you things that are absolutely not true. Focus on the immediate present and shut down any negative long-term forecasts that your brain is giving you. Those forecasts aren’t accurate at all.
        You are stronger than you know. Sending good thoughts.

    3. Thankful for AAM*

      My son found a great room to rent from roomates.com. He had to pay something like $8 for a membership but he said it was one of the best $8 he has spent.

      I wish you all the best!

  16. Christmas Traditions*

    Do you have any favorite Christmas traditions? I’ve put up my tree and will bake some ginger cookies soon, but want to feel a bit more festive this year!

    1. StellaBella*

      I used to have more which included making cookies and pies, making mulled wine, roast chicken and potatoes for dinner, and having people over … with a tree decorated with heart ornaments from all over the world. Nowadays, not really, tree is my IKEA olive tree with lights and a few ornaments, just having food and maybe seeing friends as I live far from my family and am single.

    2. UbiCaritas*

      I pull out all my recipes and go through them….in the end, I make homemade bread – one loaf for us and one loaf for a friend. But I really enjoy looking at all the recipes!

    3. T. Boone Pickens*

      I play the Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack. A. Lot. I hope my neighbors don’t think I’m insane.

      1. fposte*

        That is a big favorite to me too. I bet you’re the other one who, when out and about, can identify Vince Guaraldi within about three notes.

        1. T. Boone Pickens*

          Most definitely! The piano is a dead giveaway. Well, at least to me (and you it sounds like!)

        2. Kuododi*

          Oh I love that tune!!! I have lots of warm childhood memories with my Dad and sister attached to Charlie Brown. I always set Dad’s ringtone to the Vince Guaraldi Charlie Brown song. Blessings.

        3. hey anony*

          I can’t listen to anything by Vince Guaraldi without imagining a Peanuts theme. His song “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” that came up once on a Pandora station I was listening to, and all I could think was, this sound like Charlie Brown going to EST?

      2. Fikly*

        I was thinking I don’t have any, but the Roaches Christmas album is mine. I can’t hear Walking in a Winter Wonderland without a thick accent!

    4. Fellow Traveler*

      Watching It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, and Love Actually.
      Going to TubaChristmas.
      Seeing the train display at the train station.

      1. Heartlover1717*

        Thanks for reminding me about TubaChristmas – if the weather cooperates, I’m going to make it to one this year!

    5. Heartlover1717*

      Even though I’m Protestant, I enjoy visiting a couple of local shrines when they turn on their holiday lights. It’s all about the Nativity and really sets the mood. Our local botanical garden also has lights, but their tickets sold out EARLY this year!

      Off and on I will go downtown when they light the big Christmas tree – there’s a huge skating rink, performers and activities, food, etc. In the past I’ve visited a local Gingerbread Castle competition (great photographs) but that’s no more.

      I try to add to my collection of Christmas music each year (there’s some unique holiday stuff out there). Closer to Christmas, I’ll watch all my holiday videos & DVDs (having avoided watching the TV broadcasts) and usually have a “Scroogeathon” (every version of “A Christmas Carol” I own or can find online).

    6. cat socks*

      I participate in a Secret Santa Claws gift exchange on Instagram with other people who have cats. I don’t exchange gifts with many of the humans in my life, but I always have fun doing this. There is a hashtag to follow so you can see everyone’s pictures. It’s really cute!

    7. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      We open gifts in the evening (as we did when I was growing up and we were far from family – it was a way for my parents to stretch out the day) and then watch Die Hard with dessert (chocolates and cookies)

      I have a drinks/pub crawl get together with my best guys on the last Friday before Christmas break.

      We go to the wholesale flower market to get our tree, along with some really lovely smelling potpourri bags and small table decorations.

      Mimosas with Christmas morning brunch (I like to make homemade sweet rolls too), and then Other Half gets his crockpot of glogg going so he can maintain a buzz for most of the day. Eventually we start cooking some elaborate meal we planned together, and have cocktails while listening to a pile of albums bought over the year. At some point we Skype with the family.

    8. VlookupsAreMyLife*

      Living in the suburbs with small kids & little money, we needed cheap/free holiday activities. So, we’d bake up some sugar cookies, fill up our travel mugs with hot cocoa, and drive around the different subdivisions looking at outdoor lights & listening to holiday music on the radio. We’d do this every weekend from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, noting our favorites and seeing how displays change from year to year.

      They’re teens now & we still do it. It’s my favorite!

    9. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I do Trismas, which is my own made-up holiday. It involves giant bags full of candy, snacks, little knick-knacks, basically stocking stuffers because I am ridiculous when it comes to buying small goofy presents and a stocking won’t hold them all, so I just use paper grocery sacks. Basically, for Trismas, you get together with your chosen family group at a time that’s convenient for you and doesn’t interfere with anybody’s bio-family holiday plans, open your Trismas bags, exchange any presents that people bring, eat Chinese takeout and watch Die Hard. Whiskey cocktails are optional. My boys and I usually do Christmas Eve, but it’s flexible, as the housemate has plenty of bio-family stuff and a lady friend to work around :)

    10. Jaid*

      Jewish here, but I spend Christmas Eve at my BFF’s Mom’s house (ham,ham, ham, ham!) and then a movie on Christmas Day with my folks.

    11. Natalie*

      I started playing piano again a couple of years ago and work on a new Christmas song or two each season. Repertoire so far is O Holy Night, Christmas Song (Chestnuts) and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. I’m not sure what I’ll do when I run out of all the songs with lots of minor chords, those are more fun to play.

    12. Jackalope*

      I really like having an Advent wreath and lighting candles each day (I’ll also read a few Bible verses and sing a song); it helps me feel more grounded and not like I’m going crazy. I tried out for what I considered a crazy good regular Christmas play/musical a few years ago (different parts of the world each year and there’s a big performance at one of our fancy theaters), and GOT IN (my singing voice wasn’t professional level so I didn’t know how that would work but so stoked!). It was so much work but so much fun. This is now my third year doing it and my husband is in it too. This does eat up a good deal of our December time (everyone has gotten gift cards for presents and almost nothing else since I started!), but so much fun!

      (For those who have heard of it, I refer to the Christmas Revels. They have performances in cities around the country and I happen to live close enough to participate in one….)

  17. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going?
    I made some progress with my paper, but still less than I’d like tbh. I know most people say they write the entire thing over Easter break but the mere thought of that stresses me out.

    1. JediSquirrel*

      I managed to publish two issues of my zine this year, but since the Place-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named kind of blew up in September, I’ve been finding writing difficult. I’m moving this month and I hope that will break something loose.

    2. MistOrMister*

      I’ve been working on a story FOREVER!!! I’ve hit a wall…not with ideas but jusy not wanting yo go through the process of getting my writing things out and actually writing. Its kind of infuriating. The ideas are there, I am just being incredibly lazy. The time change doesn’t help…with so few daylight hours I find myself falling asleep right after dinner.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I just got my assignment for a fanfiction Secret Santa, and I’m both excited and nervous. The assignment is absolutely ideal for me — in fact, a story idea I’ve been kicking around for months fits pretty much exactly into what my person requested, so I don’t even have to do that much in the way of pre-planning! But also, it’s a story I’m so excited to write, and with less than a month to write it in, I’m freaking out that I won’t be able to do it justice.

    4. Junimo the Hutt*

      Slowed down considerably after Nanowrimo (which I didn’t win, but I at least wrote after a year of creative block), but I’m still going. About to put on not-pajamas and go to a coffee shop to write, actually. A year plus of writer’s block and not having anything new to offer my readers, fic or professional, has turned writing into a minefield of hangups and self-doubt. But nothing’s blown up yet, so onward we go.

      Waving tiny pennants of moral support for you and your paper!

    5. Jenny*

      My Poets’ group came to the end of the semester this week – I created a printed anthology of the best work shared by everyone, which was such a pleasure to do.

      It’s been a great, challenging and encouraging group, with people ready to speak about what isn’t working in a poem, which is crucial.

  18. Washi*

    What’s something nice you’ve gotten for yourself or someone else that felt like it made your apartment more grown-up?

    My brother just moved to a new, nicer place, and I’d love to get him something for his apartment for Christmas. He’s been living alone for a couple years so he has the absolute essentials, but now he’s trying to move away from the dorm room style to something more adulty. Normally I’m good at presents but I’m drawing a blank on this for some reason so help is very much appreciated!

    1. Purt’s Peas*

      Frames for wall art (or wall art in the first place) is a huge one—bare posters on the wall feels mega dorm-room-y.

      A tablecloth or placemats can be really nice.

      Also possibly a matching set of something—if he has unmatched thrift store plates, maybe a set of matching plates from Ikea.

    2. Llellayena*

      Framed, good art. Or something that is obviously art that is not intended to be in a frame. Basically trying to move away from the unframed movie posters! This does mean you need to know his taste though so it can be difficult. Everything else I can think of for “grown-up apartment” is furniture: good side tables, actual bed frame and headboard, enough decent storage that all his stuff can be stored off the floor. Maybe you can give a gift certificate and a shared trip to Ikea or another furniture store? Careful with the cheap furniture though, pay attention to the style and not just the price. Some of Ilea’s stuff is beautiful and adult-ish and some is more obvious college-budget.

    3. BRR*

      A floor or table lamp. Even in a room with lighting, I think it just makes a room feel more livable.

      1. LQ*

        Good lighting is a big one. It’s made everything better. Lights can be expensive and you can get cheap ones, but the good ones that fit a design you like make your home so much more of a home. And lights in layers so you can go from ready to go to bed, to it’s dark and dreary and 3 pm in December but I still want to DO stuff bright, task lighting, mood lighting, and all the rest. So I’d strong second lighting.

    4. Fellow Traveler*

      Coasters. Because it means that you have furniture you want to be nice to.
      I gave my former college roommate a nice set of coasters when she moved into her own place and she said, “I guess we’re adults now.”

      1. Zephy*

        I have four different sets of coasters, three of which were, ah, “liberated” from former workplaces because they were being written off anyway…so maybe that balances out? The fourth set were a gift, idk how that affects the Adultness equation.

    5. epi*

      Honestly my best stuff is furniture. A couple years ago my husband and I got a solid bamboo bed from Greenington. It’s pretty and sturdy, the smooth texture is amazing, and I hope to die in it.

      My way more affordable good furniture is a folding Azumaya coffee table. They’re very pretty, useful because they fold away, but do not look like folding furniture at all.

      Best present for my home I ever got was a good electric kettle. I use it every day for my French press and it’s useful for cooking as well. A French press is great for a small apartment because it doesn’t need to stay permanently on the counter.

      There’s also nothing wrong with a small art object or vase if you know what he likes– he’ll be able to move it around and make things look more complete as he decorates. Or a very easy plant like a succulent. A good decorative tray can be set right on the couch to improve a spot that doesn’t have great table access. Also, Society6 will custom print a stunning array of stuff from framed art to throw pillows to folding stools. I highly recommend it for unique gifts.

    6. heckofabecca*

      – art—but it has to be something he actually WANTS on his wall!!! I’ve got some stuff from childhood/my mom that I’m not as crazy about, I’m so much happier to have a piece I’d be eyeing for years :3
      – A proper set of dishes/silverware, if he’s using piecemeal
      – Replace IKEA-style furniture with something more sturdy (which can obviously get expensive, but you can always check consignment stores! Again, important to check with what kind of style(s) he’s into.)
      – A water pitcher that’s not a Brita :) I love having my carafe on the table!
      – glass containers/jars for dry goods
      – high-quality towels (body, hand, dish etc) that match the bathroom/kitchen. Also if his shower curtain doesn’t already match his bathroom… ;) (Can you tell I like things to match?!?!)
      – If he has any of those five-bulb Ikea lamps… find something else XD
      – nice serving dishes, trivets…

      Hope that helps!! I know I’m echoing others, sorry XD

    7. fposte*

      Other people have mentioned examples of quality upgrades–those can be really effective because they’re stuff he uses and he has no idea how much better things can be. If he does any cooking, there’s tons you can do–a good Forschner knife isn’t very expensive, or the Accu-sharp sharpener for same (and of course you can do All-Clad if you want to put real money in for pans). Good kitchen towels rather than dollar store stuff. Bath towels have been mentioned; sheets can be another. thewirecutter dot com is a good place to get ideas and get some specific recommendations.

      1. DrTheLiz*

        Seconding the “good kitchen knife and sharpener” – I love my AnySharp. (Tip on finding a good knife: metal bit goes right down into the handle, it’s more expensive to make that way so they don’t usually bother for the cheap sh*t).

        1. Washi*

          OOH. There are a lot of awesome ideas on this thread, but I think we might have a winner! If anyone else wants to chime in with a favorite knife and/or sharpener, go for it :)

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            DMT Diamond stone sharpening kit. Yes you have to learn your angle, but it can be varied for different knoves. My husband has shaved with his 8″ chef’s knife in a pinch thanks to this.
            My preference is for a German knife, since I like more curve than in the French style. My good one is a Messermeister….I admit I got it on a deep sale or might not have it.
            Add in a good heavy plastic cutting board, sized to go in his dishwasher.

          2. Lissajous*

            To me, once you hit a certain quality/price point, it’s basically down to personal preference. I got a block set of Mundial knives when I first moved out of home (on massive special, huzzah post-Christmas sales). Over ten years later they’re still going strong, and I love them because the heft is right for me. Global are far too light in the hand for *my* preference, but my mother swears by them.

            For sharpening I use one of the ones with graded whetsone wheels in a casing where you add a little water at the bottom. Works very well, and several brands do them – Global, Victorinox etc.

            Knife blade protectors might also be worth considering – I’m eyeing off a couple myself, helps if you need to travel with knives for any reason (picnic, staying in a holiday house, Christmas day at someone else’s place with a million people in the kitchen and you always need more knives, etc.)

          3. IT Squirrel*

            I would suggest at least one Big Knife!

            One of my favourites is a bamboo handled one I actually got from Lidl, but the handle has good heft and the blade is about 8″ long with a pointed end – I use it all the time for almost everything. I also have a pair that are ‘santoku’ knives I think – they have blunt noses and flat cutting edges, and dimples on the blade face. One is about 7″ and the other 5″ and are my second most used knives.
            I do have a couple of others which are 3″ blades and useful for cutting apples into edible-sized chunks, but these get much less use than my Big Knife :)

          4. Jackalope*

            My favorite knives are Cutco knives; they can be expensive but in my experience are worth it. My mom bought a set back in her post-college days about 50 years ago and those knives are still going strong. I have about five and mine are all still sharp and working well. My favorite for an all-around knife is their cheese cutter; it is a knife with a sort of triangular shape and holes in the blade which help it cut through anything with liquid more easily (think apples, potatoes, etc. rather than dry stuff like bread). I use it almost every day.

    8. Ethyl*

      Proper curtains and curtain rods were an upgrade we made in our new house and I was surprised at how much nicer things look! All our curtains in the living room and dining room now look nice and match and have nice rods and everything feels so much more put together.

    9. Seal*

      If he has hardwood floors, a nice area rug will pull everything together. Otherwise, matching throw pillows for the couch. I prefer the ones what allow you to swap out the pillow shams when you change your decor because you can use them practically forever.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Not sure if someone else would get the same feeling, but when I got books/containers/folders for my financial records, I felt like I had “arrived”. To me a huge part of being adult and therefore, feeling like one was having this stuff organized to some degree.

    11. T. Boone Pickens*

      Seconding the cooking suggestions, really good knives are super underrated. I also don’t think you can go wrong with really nice sheets (Macy’s always seems to run great sales) or bath towels (Frontgate has these Turkish cotton ones…they are amazing.)

    12. Agnodike*

      There are lots of really useful things you can get someone who’s ready to upgrade their living situation, like high-quality knives or a set of nice chopping boards or a plant stand or good-looking storage baskets, but the thing that really made my house feel like *an adult house* to me was a kitchen clock. Like a real, honest-to-goodness analog clock. It just felt like such a grown-up thing to have a real clock on the wall, like it was something only a legit adult would get. Was there anything in your house growing up that was really special? Like, did your parents have a special candy dish on the mantel, or a coat rack that moved from house to house with you? If so, maybe get your brother the updated version of that – having the modern equivalent of something your parents had as a kid can be a real signifier that you’ve arrived in adulthood!

    13. Nynaeve*

      Depends on your budget, but here are some things that have made me feel more grown-up in my place over the years:
      *Framed wall art (as many have mentioned)
      *Good kitchen knives (my friend told me I needed these and I mentally dismissed it at the time, but she was right)
      *A real TV stand
      *Shower curtains that match the bath towels
      *A dining room table
      *A set of actual glasses so I’m not just drinking out of mugs
      *A couple of wine glasses (actually got mine at the dollar store)
      *Having furniture that’s roughly all “matching” in level of wood darkness
      *Coasters
      *A sorted laundry hamper (not that it’s grown up in itself, but it makes a regular chore 10,000x easier, which makes me less likely to resist it, which makes me feel more adult)
      *Any gadgets that make cooking at home easier (baking dish, slow cooker, immersion blender)
      *A vase for flowers (it’s such a small thing, but putting it on my dining room table makes me want to keep the table clean and makes me feel like I’m living on a Pinterest board)

      Hope that helps! Let us know what you decide.

    14. Nita*

      For me, good dishes = I’m a grown up and this is my home. I think it comes from admiring my grandparents’ china cabinet as a kid. When I moved to the place where I meant to live long-term, one of the first things I did was buy a set of matching dishes and a set of silverware. I had about six pieces of furniture (including the bed and table) for a long time, but it still felt grown-up to me.

      And seconding the idea about either framed art, or just picture frames. I also put my favorite sketches in frames there, and was amazed how framing changed them from “teenager room decor” into beautiful art that looks fine in an adult’s home.

    15. CastIrony*

      Does he have a space heater? I recommend Duraflame because I have had mine for three years now, and it’s still working really well!

  19. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gaming thread! What’s everyone been playing this week?
    More Stardew Valley for me, still getting to stuff from this massive update. Also wanted to play some Persona 4 Golden yesterday but my Vita isn’t turning on (not in Safe Mode either), which is weird because it worked perfectly last week. So guess who’s gonna be opening up her Vita later tonight to unplug and replug the battery. More than a bit nervous tbh.

    1. LQ*

      I know I was late to it, (like started this summer) but I’m still picking up and finding new stuff in Breath of the Wild. I’m trying very hard to avoid finishing it at this point so I’m going fully on completionist (in the most casual playing like a couple hours a week way). I want something else like this to have after I finish it. (This is still the first Zelda game I’ve played but the thing I enjoy is the open world and the casualness of the play.)

      1. OccassionallyEngineer*

        I literally just started playing BOTW and I have plowed probably close to 15hrs into it since I started it last week. It is keeping me sane while I am on working on rotation in a remote mining camp.

    2. Liane*

      Bought a copy of Jedi: Fallen Order for my son’s Christmas present. been watching videos about it and reading/listening to my friends talk about it in chat.

    3. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Update because ’tis the season: got it working again. It now has a little scratch because we didn’t have a plastic spudger and slipped with the metal one, but at least it’s working again. Phew.

    4. QCI*

      Played a bit of Breath Edge earlier this week. Just not finding the motivation for anything even though I want to play something :/

    5. Nynaeve*

      I just started playing Tacoma, which is by the same people who made Gone Home, which I liked a lot. You dock on an abandoned space station and have to explore the environment and computer logs to solve the mystery of what happened to the crew. So far, I’m really enjoying it, although there seems to be a glitch where the game crashes when I try to leave the personnel station. I posted on the Steam forums, so hopefully I get a solution soon.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Guild Wars 2. My character is almost level 40, and I have a mount thanks to a high-level friend letting me tag along on a level 80 quest. I survived a Riftstalker event without anyone I know, just the other players online that day. Got killed by a minion after rewards were issued for killing the boss, which was a little embarassing.
      Now if I could only gamify my home finances. ;)

    7. Arts Akimbo*

      Trying to figure out a lineup that will beat Cliff in Pokemon Go! A lineup of pokemon that I actually have, that is. Lots of stuff online about it, and it is all like “Just field all these Legendaries that you will never have because you can never get enough of your friends together to actually DO a Legendary raid.” Um, thanks? Is there any way for a comparative casual to beat the Team Rocket midlevel managers?

  20. The Other Dawn*

    I need to start decorating for Christmas and I just don’t feel like it. I’m finding that now that both my parents are gone, I just done feel like putting in the effort these last couple years. They lived in another state so it’s not as if I was decorating for them. I guess it just feels different, like I can just do whatever and no one will care either way since it’s just me and my husband at home so why put in the extra effort for just a few weeks of looking at the tree.

    1. CoffeeforLife*

      Why do you “need to?” Is it for you? Him? The outside world? If you truly don’t care then skip the decorating. No one will judge you and you won’t have to rewrap everything in 3 weeks.

      If it feels like too much to do on your own but you want some holiday things up, enlist help. Have a friend(s) over, drink some wine and have a little fun with it. Sometimes it’s about making new memories that helps keep traditions alive.

    2. Mimosa Jones*

      I’ve had years like that. I think it’s best to just flow with it and accept it. If you don’t have to decorate right now, don’t. Wait until a special date in December like after the solstice or pick a date according to your ethnic heritage. My ancestors are Scandinavian, so we don’t decorate until after December 1st, and only winter themed things. The tree doesn’t go up until after Santa Lucia day (the 13th). You could also watch some decorating videos on YouTube to get inspired. There’s lots about minimalism and on hand made ornaments.

    3. Annonno Today*

      It’s totally okay not do do decorations! It’s quite freeing not to. You can decide what’s meaningful to you, and make a new tradition (baking, ice skating, making gifts, or watching certain movies while eating/drinking fave foods).

      We only decorate if we’re hosting the holiday (which is NEVER on the 25th, because in-laws), and then it’s just the mantel and inherited table decor.

      1. Wishing You Well*

        I like this!
        You can have wildly different Christmases if you need to. People’s lives change. Sometimes Christmas doesn’t feel right and that’s okay. I’ve done full Christmases and barely-acknowledged Christmases due to energy level and life events in December.
        Feel free to change things year to year! Feel free to not change!
        (PS I’d like to advocate for New Year’s cards instead of Christmas cards and for all office parties to be in January. It would help with the December workload!)

    4. The Messy Headed Momma*

      I felt the exact same way for a couple of years after my dad passed. It was a tradition for us to decorate the tree together & once he was gone, I just didn’t have the heart to do it. A few years later, I pulled out the boxes & only put up things that felt right, like one particular Santa Claus that he loved. I did a little more every year, but only what suited me. This year, my Sweet Hubby (who has no use for decorations of any kind!) put up the lights on our balcony, but that is as far as we have gotten. Don’t stress about it. You can skip it if it doesn’t feel good. And maybe in a few years, you’ll feel like it again because it will be just for you two & nobody else.

    5. Koala dreams*

      If neither of you enjoy Christmas decorations, just skip it. If your partner likes Christmas decorations, they can decorate this year and you can tell them how nice it looks. ;)

    6. Professor Plum*

      I leave for another state next Friday where I’ll be with family til after the New Year. Initially I thought I’d pull out a few of my decorations here at my house–it didn’t happen when I thought of it and now it won’t happen before I leave. Oh well–I’ll enjoy my sister’s decorations when I get there and not have to put mine away when I return!

    7. fposte*

      In addition to what people say about bailing entirely, you can also rethink “decorating for Christmas.” Want to hang an ornament off the front doorknob and call it a day? You can do that. I have a variety of possibilities from Xmas lite to full Christmas, and I went more toward the latter this year, so it was about a 10 minute prep, not counting the trip to the basement. No law says you have to have a tree (especially since with your cats that’s probably a pretty extensive project!).

      1. Natalie*

        Yes, this is how we do it too. I have some “standard” stuff that I literally just sent out in 5 minutes, and if we don’t have a full tree that year (sob) the garden centers around here always have tiny table top trees or a swag or something for the pine smell. My parents never have a tree but when I was younger we put ornaments on the houseplants.

    8. The Other Dawn*

      It’s not a matter of feel like I “need” to do it, nor is it a matter of neither of us enjoying Christmas and all that. It’s just a matter of going through the effort and knowing it only lasts a few weeks. Nothing more than that. Just feeling lazy, really. Once I get going and do it, I like how it looks afterwards.

    9. The Other Dawn*

      I’m feeling better now. We went out a little while ago to cut down our tree at a local tree farm. It helped that there is still snow on the ground, so it made it feel like Christmas (though I definitely should have worn the sherpa-lined boots–my feet froze!). We’re headed to a Christmas party tonight, and then tomorrow we’ll put up the tree.

  21. Anony Mouse*

    Hubs and I are picking up our Siberian kitten (hypoallergenic bc allergies) in 2 weeks, at 11 am.

    It is also my dad’s birthday dinner party at 5 pm that day (with all of dad’s friends and folks). Hubs plans to drop me off there for a couple hours—I attend my dad’s birthday thing while hubs watches over kitten on its first day here.

    What would you do in this scenario? My parents didn’t exactly consult us before scheduling this, and I want to make sure no one gets the short end of the stick, feline or human.

    1. Anony Mouse*

      To add: we have a spare bedroom acting as kitten’s sanctuary room where food, water, kitty litter is. Kitty has a lovely large cat tree (with 2 hammocks, 2 mini houses, 8 scratching surfaces at least), scenic window, scratching board ball toy, dental chew toy, and a castle made of boxes to explore.

    2. GoryDetails*

      Heh! I can see the temptation to just stay home and play with the new kitten – but it would probably be fine for a few hours by itself, giving it a chance to explore its new digs. If your husband’s happy to stay home with it that’s fine too; whether you want him to send new-kitten pics or videos to you while you’re at the birthday party is up to you, but in my family I know they’d have loved to see kitten-pix!

    3. epi*

      A lot of times cats need some time alone to explore their new room. Whenever I have had to move my cats, they always did better if we got them settled in the room that was to be their home base and then left them for a couple of hours. They also take to new people better if you let them alone at first– I know it’s hard with their teeny furry faces though.

      I think the hardest part of this will be for you, sitting through dinner when you know you have a brand new kitten at home! Maybe try to think of it as making it easier for you to give the kitten some space. :) Enjoy your new kitten!

    4. Zephy*

      Honestly, the kitten might just hide for the first couple of days. Maybe you’ll get a Fierce Fearless Fuzzball (it happens, I have one) and she’ll be ready to explore ALL the things as soon as you let her out of her carrier, but more likely than not she’ll just want to find a safe hidey-hole and observe for a while. When I did adoptions for an animal shelter, I usually advised people to keep new kittens confined to the bathroom for the first few days, to make sure they’re eating and drinking and using the litterbox appropriately, before letting them loose in the house.

      If you want to help Kitten get used to your scent, plan to leave some of your worn-but-not-yet-washed clothes with her in her containment zone (again, a bathroom is what I usually recommend – it’s easy to kitten-proof and easy to clean). The smellier, the better. I’d go with your durable casual clothes, like jeans and a tee shirt you wouldn’t be too heartbroken to see damaged just in case, or your rattiest gym/yardwork clothes. As long as you didn’t get something on those clothes that you wouldn’t want the kitten ingesting (drywall, sawdust, fiberglass, paint).

      I assume there’s a reason that your husband plans to drop you off, but if Dad’s place isn’t so far away that it’d be unreasonable for Hubs to come pick you up after, oh, two hours or so, you can absolutely use the kitten as an excuse to cut the evening short. Break bread with your father, wish him a happy birthday, go back home to kitten.

    5. Anony Mouse*

      Thanks all!

      Quick update: I texted my dad that we’re getting a kitten the same day and he proposed Sunday night dinner.

      Will give kitten space and time to suitably safely explore surroundings :)

    6. The Other Dawn*

      Go to the dinner party and enjoy it for however long you want. Your husband will be home with the kitten. She’ll either be hiding, or busy exploring.

  22. Dame Judi Brunch*

    Anyone with IBS? Mine has been running (ruining) my life. I see a GI doc this week. Any tips on questions to ask?
    I just don’t understand it. I watch what I eat and my stress levels are low. Yet it’s out of control. So frustrating!

    1. fposte*

      I have Crohn’s and IBS secondary to Crohn’s. For me what I can eat varies a lot, so watching it doesn’t help if I’m watching the wrong things, and many of the wrong things aren’t what you’d expect. I also find it can take a while for a dietary change to have an effect (in either direction), so consider asking “How long before I should be able to tell if it’s working?” if that’s not information provided.

      For me, once it was stabilized I could go back to eating a lot more–it wasn’t that I could never, ever eat X, it was that once things got unbalanced X was pushing down on the wrong side of the scale.

    2. Chaordic One*

      I’ve talked about this before and I’m sorry if I sound like a broken record. I was told that I had problems dealing with stress, when the real problem was that when I was stressed I would eat a lot of fast food that contained things that I was allergic to. It wasn’t until years later when I underwent allergy testing to deal with hay fever that the tests showed I was allergic to several different foods that I made the connection. I would highly recommend allergy testing just be sure you aren’t allergic to any common foods.

    3. Wishing You Well*

      Try the food allergy diet. Really do it. It could save you years of frustration.
      You could have food intolerances and/or true allergies. Both can make you miserable. Remember that anything that goes in your mouth could be a problem: toothpaste, OTC meds, drinks, tap water (filter it), etc. Google reliable medical advice for IBS. Keep a log of eating and symptoms. The log could tell you a lot.
      IBS can get better. I’m hoping you’re on the mend soon.

      1. Dame Judi Brunch*

        Tap water can cause problems? I had no idea!
        Thank you all for the info! I’m willing to do whatever, elimination diet, give up foods, testing, whatever it takes. The pain and being in a bathroom almost constantly are unbearable. (Note, IKEA has a great bathroom, I know from a memorable shopping trip there, lol)
        I’m making a list of questions to ask the doctor. I appreciate you all taking the time to comment!

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Also ask about sulfites, a friend has problems with it. And because it’s a common preservative that can get added to salad bars and wine,it can mess up your attempts at narrowing down triggers.

    4. Quandong*

      If you aren’t already sticking to low FODMAP, you might like to look it up and see if any of the ‘do not eat’ foods or ingredients may be triggering your IBS. It would be useful information to take to the GI appt (apart from maybe providing relief from symptoms if you start avoiding those foods).

      My body sometimes reacts more to different triggers when everything seems stable so you have all my sympathy. I really hope your IBS settles down soon!

      1. Dame Judi Brunch*

        Thank you! I’m going to ask if FODMAP is right for me, I looked it up and started avoiding some of the foods. My flare ups are just so often I don’t know if it made any difference, but I do know I wasn’t strict about avoiding those foods, out of frustration.
        I definitely need a doctor’s advice to know what to do. There’s so much misinformation out there.
        My appointment is this week so I figured I’ll just wait to see what they say.

        1. Ann O.*

          FODMAP was key for me. The standard IBS stuff didn’t seem to help much, but doing a strict FODMAP elimination diet helped a lot. I do struggle with maintenance, and I completely botched the reintroduction phase. But even with that, it improved my symptoms dramatically.

    5. Alexandra Lynch*

      I got control of mine by doing an obsessive long-term health diary (not just food, also overall stress, weather, and what comes out the other end) and found out what my triggers are.

      Unsurprisingly right now I’m having a recurrence, but I know to take stool softeners and drink lots of water and just be patient and loving with myself instead of getting upset, and it will, in a literal sense, pass.

    6. The New Wanderer*

      Mine comes and goes (I was diagnosed back when it was still called something like spastic colon; my friend with similar symptoms wasn’t so lucky, she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis). When I have a recurrence there are a few foods I avoid, especially anything tomato based, and I take Immodium to manage the symptoms.

    7. Lyudie*

      Please ask about fructose malabsorption! It’s an easy test and I think that it’s something they don’t always think to do (my pcp at the time didn’t know anything about it when I told her the results of the tests the GI ran).

      1. Ethyl*

        Yes to this as well. My niece has this and it took sooooo long to get a diagnosis — she was quite young and her pediatrician kept assuming she was constipated so kept recommending……..more fruit ::facepalm::

  23. Rebecca*

    I am really unhappy with my mother.

    Background: last Saturday, the septic tank was pumped, and I filled in the hole right after. Keep in mind, a brick walkway had been built right over the spot where the access lid is located, so my son in law and I pulled up 40 or so bricks. Thankfully they weren’t concreted in. It’s PA. It’s wet outside. There is mud. Not a lot, but there is some mud. My mother goes out this way when the senior van comes to take her to appointments. I told her where to walk around, in the grass, and even shoveled the grass off during the snow we had last weekend. The rest of the walkway is perfectly clear, no ice, snow, nothing, plus I put down ice melt to keep it that way. I also put up saw horses with caution tape to make sure no one accidentally walks into the dirt or trips because the ground is uneven. I can’t put the bricks back until Spring and the ground settles.

    Fast forward to Thursday evening when I got home from work. She was fussing about “all the mud” on her boots, and how she had to spend all sorts of time in the bathroom at the PT center trying to get the mud off the boots, how she made a huge mess in the van, they were going to kick her out of therapy for getting everything dirty, and I was like, what are you talking about? What mud? She insisted that “everything is a mess” in the yard, she got mud “all over her boots” when she tried to go around the part of the walkway that’s dug up (keep in mind, this might be 6 feet of packed down grass at most). It was dark and cold, and knowing I was taking a half day off work the next day, I said I’d look at it and fix it tomorrow.

    Aside – yes, I looked at her boots. They’re dressy velvety things that aren’t practical, and the soles had remnants of dried mud, they weren’t covered, and it wasn’t awful.

    Friday around noon I came home and went upstairs, I heard mom talking so I figured she was on the phone, and then I heard “there was so much mud, it is awful, I had mud everywhere and there were huge clumps all over my boots, it’s terrible” and “I’m sure I won’t be allowed to ride the van any longer, and the doctor’s office will make me leave if I’m so dirty”. I walked into the room and stood there. She looked so surprised and smiled “oh hi, I didn’t…” I said loud enough for the other person to hear “Mom, I told you I was going to look at the yard and fix the problem today, and here you are, carrying on to someone like I’m forcing my mother to walk through a pig wallow to get to the van. Nice. Thanks so much.” And I walked away and left her to deal with whomever it was.

    I went outside, and I have no idea what she’s talking about. I made sure to wear real shoes, same type of soul, LL Bean comfort mocs, when I did the work. I smoothed out the dirt where the bricks were, tamped it down with my feet, and cut an old piece of thick carpet to fit so no mud can possibly touch HRH’s shoes. I didn’t have a cloak to throw down, so that will have to do. I moved the saw horses to the side, because the ground is still a bit uneven, and where she claimed to pick up the tons of mud she’s whining about? No clue. The only thing I can think of is she was literally shuffling and dragging her feet for fear of falling, even with the walker, and some mud/grass accumulated between the sole and heel of the boots.

    She tried to cover all this over, and I reminded her that it’s a good thing this was done, as the septic tank was nearly full, and while I could go outside and pee behind the garage in a snowstorm, she wasn’t able to do that, and she is the one who constantly needs a working toilet. Plus, boots are for outside wear, to keep our feet clean, warm, and dry. No one expects pristine boots. And I dropped it.

    Now I wonder what else she is telling people? I have a feeling she’s not telling them that she’s not able to live alone any longer, and without me here, she’d be paying through the nose to have people come to the house. The cheapest I found, because she’s not eligible for assistance, is $22/hour and 3 hour minimum. I have a relative who is paying $276/day for someone to stay with her 24/7 because she doesn’t want to go to a nursing home.

    I’m not going to harp on this, and I’m going to take the high road, but I have to say I’m very hurt by this. I’m doing the best I can!

    1. LuckySophia*

      Oh, Rebecca, I feel for you! To me it sounds like this is the Alzheimer’s talking…where any “difference” in her physical environment looms large in her mind, because she can’t retain/process the logical context behind it. So, absent the logical context (temporarily missing bricks = necessary septic maintenance) she’s focused on the one small, observable, visual difference (mud!!!) and obsessing/catastrophising the potential outcomes. (No van! No MD!) Doesn’t mean ANY of this nonsense is acceptable to foist on you…and I’m sorry you feel hurt by it. But if it really is the Alzheimer’s talking, it’s probably more about her own fears than a conscious attempt to hurt you. At least, that is my hope!

      1. Lizabeth*

        This 100%. It does hurt to hear stuff like this coming from your mother. Is there a dementia caregivers group nearby that you can go to? That helped Dad a bit while he was caring for Mom before she went into a Memory care unit. Even now when she’s highly stressed I am the Devil Child and what she says about me to whomever is around (usually one of the nurses or a medical person) is way out there. But it’s the disease talking…virtual hug!

        1. Rebecca*

          I know the rehab hospital gave her a cognitive test in July, and they said she does not have dementia, but there is something going on. There are so many notes. Her life is disorganized, like the dining room table was cleaned off for Thanksgiving (I literally put everything in a big box), and now it’s as bad as it was before in just a week. The lack of decision making has been going on for decades, but she is becoming more and more abnormally nasty about the most mundane things. Every single thing that’s even a bit wrong is a personal affront. Today I noticed that there was a partially used bottle of body wash in the shower area in the basement where I shower, and realized it is probably mom’s. I brought it upstairs, said, Oh hey, thought you might want to use this, sat it on the bathroom counter, and she grabbed it, and snapped “I JUST BOUGHT THIS A FEW WEEKS AGO! WHY IS IT ALMOST EMPTY???” I was like, OK – no mom, this was in the shower downstairs, I realized it must be yours, I didn’t use any of it. The next thing I knew, she was opening cupboards and looking for the body wash, found it, pulled it out, held the two side by side (same brand, same thing!!) and said “oh, they’re the same”. Yep. I said geez, mom, I didn’t use a drop of your body wash, I buy my own, and walked away. She didn’t even say she was sorry, or apologize, nothing, she’s probably hidden both of them away now to save for later. When I told her I was taking recycling to the feed mill, she said “well, it would be nice if you’d bring in the newspaper” in a snarky tone. Not “oh, on the way back, could you grab the paper, thanks!” Just orders and dripping sarcasm.

          1. Dr. Anonymous*

            Who knows how sensitive the cognitive test was that they gave her? She’s deteriorating, and she’s mean, and deep down you know it’s nothing to do with anything you do. Her brain is just filled with poison. I’m so sorry. When I was in high school, my mother’s family all lived with us (all various shades of illness) and my grandmother took all her bitterness out on my father. They lived with us two years, and after they left, my father was never the same. Get out as soon as you can, and call her PCP’s office and suggest that maybe they should call her insurance company and get her a caseworker. Then go save yourself.

            1. Logan*

              It’s also possible that she was having a good day when they did the test. People with dementia are sometimes able to ‘pull themselves together’ for a short period of time if they want to impress anyone (testers, family or friends they rarely see). Anger is one of the first signs of dementia (anger that they can’t remember things, as well as anger at others for ‘doing things to them’ – they did it themselves but can’t remember, so they think others are out to secretly mess them up), so it’s possibly an option.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I so agree with you, LuckySophia.
        I saw my mother do the same thing to my father. She backstabbed him left and right. She’d tell him one thing to his face and tell family the exact opposite. I saw a lot of this especially in my teen years and I worried that this was how life actually worked. Eventually, I figured out everything was a lie. She had my father convinced she loved the dog (no, not at all), she enjoyed the second home (absolutely hated it and tried to sabotage everything she could) and the list goes on and on. My poor father. Yet, maybe not, because keeping one’s head in the sand shifts from accidental to deliberate if done repeatedly for a long period of time.

        I dunno if the meanness ate her brain or the Alzheimer’s drove the meanness. After a bit it became a chicken or the egg question. She was mean, period. Personally, I think she had a lot more going on that just AD.

        My mother was not the person I kept hoping for. Making it worse she was not able to become the person I wanted or needed. And the latter part was the most mind-bending.

        My mother was loyal to herself and that was it. Unfortunately for her, her loyalty to herself came in the oddest forms and she pretty much unraveled herself with all her odd things she did and said. Not much different than what you show here, Rebecca. For quite a while I was the only one who really saw it, but once others started seeing all. the. problems. things started changing for me.

        In the end, you are the one who sees and you will decide for yourself. But, yes, my opinion is to assume she is badmouthing you to other people. Assume she has been doing it for a while now. Yeah, it hurts. Until one day things change.

        I had to quit hoping for the storyline to change. She just became needier and needier. It wasn’t lost on me that I was the mother to her that she should have been to ME. I went through a lot of years sorting what a healthy relationship looks like because of this. For years after she died I had nightmares about her.

        Keep taking steps to protect yourself, on the emotional level and on the physical level as the needs can get overwhelming. Keep bringing more and more people in to this picture. This will help dilute some of her impact, give you some confirmation that what you are seeing is a real problem and it will help to slow down some of her shenanigans as she will be more apt to be on good behavior around strangers or outsiders.

        Know for a fact that one person on their own (such as yourself) is NOT going to be able to help her with all of her issues. She has some pretty serious issues.

      3. MatKnifeNinja*

        My mom used to drag me to anyone who’d listen. Much like Rebecca’s mom.

        Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

        Mom didn’t have dementia. She just liked the sympathy she got from random strangers, when she talked about her “shit” kids.

        Hang in there, Rebecca.

    2. Anon time*

      She’s probably going to keep complaining. It’s not rational. My grandma was the same- it was very easy for her to criticize family who cared for her. She blamed me for family taking her keys away because I told my mom that she almost sideswiped a car when I was driving with her (nevermind the fact that she had 2 single car accidents). She blamed me about it for years, and would randomly bring it up- at one point, years later, she told me I was the reason she was in a nursing home. Not rational. Still hurtful. I cried some when she died, and was sad that she had a miserable last few years, but honestly haven’t felt much grief because she wasn’t a nice person.

      It’s not rational. It’s probably rooted in a lack of control and fear of what’s to come. Any control you can give her us helpful (my mom would let her wander around and choose vegetables to buy at the grocery store, even though they never could use all of them). But she will likely continue to complain and be bad about it. I’m sorry.

    3. Nervous Nellie*

      Oh, dear! Rebecca, you have my sympathy as always. Your mother is a very unhappy person, and it sounds like she has been at it for so long that she has lost any self-reflection that would put a mirror to her bitterness. Of course you are hurt by her reactions. You carefully think through how to do the best for her you can, and she whines & complains to anyone who will listen about your efforts. I too have been the dutiful daughter too, but we don’t get bonus points for suffering. :) I would say you should get bonus points for sticking around (I am awarding them to you right now!), but also that you wouldn’t forfeit them if you changed your mind later on. Be kind to yourself!

      As I have mentioned before, my Mum behaves much the same as yours. But…I don’t wonder or worry what else she is telling people. Why? Because I know that her bitterness shines brightly for all to see. Her polite & distant neighbors, who can barely stand her, know that her comments about me are insight into her, not into me. They also see that she is training my sister in her image. I moved away to skip the trifecta.

      My Mum is also similar to yours as well, in that she has very few events or interactions with people over the course of days/weeks etc. That means that she has very little material to refer to when talking, and since she feels best about herself when she is recounting stories where she feels She Has Been Wronged, she will find a way to turn the most neutral event or anecdote into damning evidence of someone else’s neglect or unkindness. The only thing I can do is to try to feel compassion for her, wondering how exhausting it must be to be her, always watching for evidence of wrongdoing, and always being angry, negative, and demanding. In my Mum’s case, it all stems from extreme anxiety that has never been medically addressed. But regardless of cause, it is truly a tragedy that someone can warp so hard into bitterness. Hang in there! You have kindred spirits everywhere.

      1. LuckySophia*

        For Nervous Nellie: “…her bitterness shines brightly for all to see.”
        This is pure gold!!!

        1. Rebecca*

          I love that statement, and it’s so true. She is so totally ungrateful for everything in life, right down to bananas. Do you know that here in Central PA, we get “seconds” Bananas in our stores? That’s why they have spots or little damaged places on the peels. Never mind this is a mostly manual process, they are cut down, sent to market, eventually onto a container ship, get here, are handled a zillion times and finally get to our stores (a miracle of modern logistics) where she pays $.39 or $.49 cents a pound for them. Yet when I take her to the store, she fusses and carries on about how “terrible” the bananas look. Me, I’m impressed we have them at all, and marvel at the wonder of it all.

          1. Wishing You Well*

            Sincerest sympathies. Your mom sounds exhausting.
            (Off topic: bananas. A long-ago friend refused to eat bananas that had even one tiny brown spot on them. I’m left to wonder for eternity if she always ate green bananas or threw them away without ever eating any! Oy.)
            I hope next year will be better for you.

    4. Fikly*

      I have been to PT many times in the winter. It is standard polite behavior to bring an extra pair of shoes to change into, because the shoes you are wearing outside will inevitably be dirty and you will track muck in. Just from weather!

      She’s creating her own problem and then complaining about the consequences, real or imagined.

      1. Rebecca*

        You are so right. She creates her own drama and problems.

        I totally get the other shoe thing, and I’m going to suggest it, but every. single. thing. with her is “a problem”. It takes her forever to get shoes on and off, because she wears 2 pairs of heavy socks in the winter, she won’t buy sturdy serviceable boots or even just plain pull on heavy boots, they have laces and are dressy. Yes, I could take her boot shopping, but she literally can’t make a decision, if she does, she decides to return them a week later, then can’t decide what she wants, and honestly, I don’t want to waste my time off from work dealing with it. Me, I’d just pull on my duck boots (no laces with fleece lining) and go on with my life and toss in a pair of pull on shoes in a bag to take with me. And due to her wobbliness and needing the walker, it’s not like us – she can’t just kick her boots off in the entry way, lean up against the wall, put the other shoes on, and be on her way. She needs a chair and time. I suspect if she asked someone to bring a chair, they would.

        1. Observer*

          What would happen if you just shopped FOR her? Like, just get her a pair of pull on boots that are the right size for the extra socks? Would she wear them (after the requisite dramatics)?

          1. Rebecca*

            I tried that with slippers of all things, brought home a pair from WalMart (they were exactly what she wanted) but they don’t fit, she doesn’t like them, etc. so I have to return for store credit. Sighs.

    5. Blue Eagle*

      Your mother is so very lucky to have you help her. Your mother originally hosted you in her home for your benefit (to save money) but now the tables have turned and it is to her extreme benefit that you live there.

      Sending you an internet hug. Wish I could truthfully tell you that it gets easier, but it probably won’t. But just know that you are a rock star and that the AAM commentariat is pulling for you!

    6. NoLongerYoung*

      I am sending you a virtual hug. It is hurtful (my husband was continuously mean and controlling for such a long time, slowly rising levels, that I just didn’t realize how badly it hurt “me” until it was over.). Still recovering.

      You made a tough choice, revamped your entire life, got single. Now you have the albatross mom. Don’t let yourself get so pummeled repeatedly with her pain and drama, that you lose sight of that wonderful truth of how strong and resilient you are. You are amazing. You got out of that marriage, you are on the right path, and …. you owe her nothing more. You – and those that truly know you – know that you have done more for her than certainly she deserves. You do not have to ruin your life or your mental health, letting any of what she says make a difference in your choices or how you see yourself.

      She will never give you the good daughter award (although you deserve it), and she will never be the mother you should have. You do have to save yourself, whether it is just mentally at the moment (while you continue your exit plan), or physically. (checking her into the assisted living against her wishes and walking away, visiting for very limited times). One of my friends got a cousin to be also on the list for the “challenged one” (Let’s call her “C”), so the caseworker talks to both of them, and there is always a “witness” to the key decisions about “C.” Doesn’t change the lies she hears “C” spew, but it does give my friend a touchpoint of sanity, someone to check with (we told “C” why she has to do “X”, right? You were there, right? So… yeah, “C” is not tracking to the facts here).

      Please know, there sounds like there will never be any logic ever again.

      It is hurtful. Acknowledge she is unfair. You are better than this. Keep moving forward…. she won’t be following with you into a happier place you have made for yourself, the great person you are now and the growth you continue to show. You don’t have to stay in her sad, miserable mental world with her, and I know you aren’t. She will mentally throw that muck… just keep moving.

      I am sending you a hug.

    7. WS*

      I work with elderly people, and I promise you, nobody is taking her word as gospel truth. This kind of constant fussing and upset and blame is really common in early stage dementia (and also for people with long-term untreated depression) and highly recognisable. It’s really hard on you, but don’t spend extra energy on worry about what other people think!

      1. Rebecca*

        I think the key here is long term untreated depression, along with anxiety. I’ve had people tell me she’s wound tighter than an 8 day clock. I feel sorry for her, to a point, because she has plenty of time and choices over the years to seek treatment, and didn’t do anything but stew in her own misery. I think Dad kept this in check somewhat, as she’s gone downhill a lot since he passed.

      2. Jenny*

        Yes, that’s just what I was thinking – surely at least half the people are nodding and smiling at your mum while quietly thinking “Poor Rebecca, I don’t know how she does it.”

    8. NoLongerYoung*

      I wrote a long reply (probably too long). It vanished. Know that I am thinking of you. Many good folks supporting you here.

    9. LilySparrow*

      Some of this is probably due to the role reversal. She is no longer on control of her life, and she’s dependent on you. You’re the mom now. You’re in charge.

      And the price of being in charge of everything is that everything is your fault. It’s not rational. It’s childish. It’s very common.

      It sucks, and I’m sorry you’re dealing with it.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        I watched GH when I was in high school, back in the late ’70s. Even back then, as a teenager, I was horrified that they had Laura marry Luke after he raped her. Who wrote that story? Was there nobody involved who said, “Perhaps this is not the proper message to send?”

        Also – wasn’t she underage?

        Oh man things were different back then. Not better, for sure.

    1. Woman of a Certain Age*

      Not anymore. I gave up when OLTL went off the air. I did used to like GH, but I just can’t seem to get into them anymore.

  24. Zephy*

    I’m currently at that place we don’t talk about, but it’s worked out well because it’s given me an opportunity to wrap my boyfriend’s Christmas presents without having to hide from him and the cats, lol! He specifically asked for a particular carrying case…pouch…thingy? to store the pieces of this mini emergency/survival kit he’s curated over the years. Right now, the components of those fit into two Altoids tins, and for a while he carried them along with a small flashlight in a custom duct-tape holster. A zippered ripstop nylon pouch is a much better look, I think.

    He also asked me for “a memento, so I’ll think of you when I see it,” which is equal parts Adorable and Nebulous. I wanted to make the memento something useful, not just…I don’t know, a painting or something that would find a final resting place somewhere in our shared house. He drinks a lot of coffee, and is currently a student, so I not-so-subtly asked him if he’d use a travel mug. He said he would, so guess who’s getting a Yeti Rambler? To make it a memento and not just, you know, a nice travel mug, I’m writing “I can’t ESPRESSO how much you BEAN to me” on it with Sharpie paint markers. I don’t know if it’s necessary to bake it on like you have to do with ceramic mugs, I hope not because I don’t think this mug is oven-safe.

    For the sake of discussion and not just dumping thoughts here: what are you getting your loved ones for whatever gift-giving holiday(s) you have coming up?

    1. StellaBella*

      A survival kit that fits into two Altoid tins? What is in it, may I ask? Because for me … water for 3-4 weeks, flashlights, batteries, candles, leatherman, tins of food, first aid essentials, epi pen, matches, cotton buds with vaseline for fires … camping kit and EQ kit …. I guess I am not a minimalist survivor?

      1. Zephy*

        “Survival” may be overstating it a bit. One tin contains mostly first-aid stuff – bandaids, a dram of rubbing alcohol, q-tips, needle and thread, a dram of antibiotic cream, a cotton ball, two Tylenol, and a few feet of gauze. The other one has stuff like water purification tablets, a few matches and a strike strip, some duct tape, the inside of the lid is polished to a mirror shine to function as a signal mirror, more bandaids and q-tips, and I think he has some cash in there as well. More like an emergency first-aid kit, I guess.

    2. StellaBella*

      In terms of gifts, I am sending my family all cards, and my brother and his girlfriend get a box with kitchen and food items – Italian style cookies, dishtowels, box of chocolates, hot cocoa mix, two mugs, and some little things for the kitchen to use.

    3. Koala dreams*

      The travel mug sounds lovely. I’ve also seen places that sell travel mugs with your own photo on it, that’s also nice.

      1. Zephy*

        I hope he likes it! I keep worrying that he won’t want to be seen in public with such a terrible pun. But, then again, what are people going to think? That somebody loves him? TRAGIC. /s

    4. very grateful person*

      Last night I just spent a silly amount on shipping so I could get my teenager a holiday gift basket of Rap Snacks by Master P. I can’t wait for the Rap Noodles to go on the market!

      1. Jaid*

        Oooooo, I love Rap Snacks. My favorite is a toss up between Lil Boosie’s Louisiana Heat and Fabolous New York Deli Cheddar…which I’m not seeing online. Boo.

    5. Anon for this one*

      Ok staying anonymous because idk ifbmy spouse ever checks these threads and I am SO EXCITED about what I got him for Christmas!!!!!

      So we watch a lot of GBBO and one of his favorite bakes ever was Paul’s bread lion. I mean, who doesn’t love the bread lion? Anyway, a couple months ago, I stumbled on an interview with the guy who does those sketches of the bakes, and it turns out he has an online store where you can buy high-quality prints! So he is getting his own bread lion sketch! It was pretty reasonable but I’m glad I ordered early because shipping from the UK can be so slow (it only got to my parents’ house right before Thanksgiving and I ordered it in early October!).

    6. Maine*

      My boyfriend loves mind puzzles, so I grabbed a nice wooden set from Uncommon Goods, which I’ll pair with a few other things (like replacing the sweats I always “borrow”), and I also grabbed one of those date night idea tins, because he’s always so sweet when it comes to taking the lead on planning dates! I also went ahead and ordered “How Old Are You Really?” from the same place for his birthday because we have a recurring debate about him having an old soul, and I want concrete answers ;-)

    7. Merci Dee*

      Last year, my daughter and I made one of those no-sew knotted fleece blankets for my dad, and found a nice kit for it (I think “kit” is too nice a word, really. It was just two pieces of coordinating fleece cut to size and packaged together. We still had to cut the corners out, cut the strips along all four sides, and knot the strips to keep the fleeces together). Dad loved the blanket because we took the time to make it for him, so he feels it’s extra special.

      We decided to make one for mom this year. We looked at the kits again but couldn’t find anything we liked. Fortunately, we were shopping at Joann, and they had an amazing sale on their bolts of fleece fabric. So we picked out our own patterns and knocked mom’s blanket out in a few hours.

      ….. And then had to go back to Joann the next weekend and get more fleece to make a new blanket for my daughter. :) Someone made her one when she was 4, using fleece with Pooh, Tigger, and Piglet. An adorable blanket still, but not what a 15 year old young lady wants on her bed in cold weather. So the Hundred Acre Wood gang are getting a laundering, and then they’ll get stored away for use when we have overnight guests.

    8. Aurora Leigh*

      Ah, that’s so sweet! My fiance is getting of the Evil Genius project books (electronic gadgets and ardruino), and a gaming headset. For his stocking, one of those kits to make a bouncy ball, Sea Monkeys, and a scalp massager (yes, the goofy looking $1 kind, but his best friend got one last year and my guy thought it was awesome lol)

  25. purple otter*

    Recommendations for personal laptops? Budget is about ~$800USD to $1000USD. Not looking for MacBook or Microsoft Surface Pro level, but maybe something slightly below.

    I need it mostly for word processing and photo-editing. Ideally it’d be light enough to travel with, but with plenty of USB ports and a SD card reader. Right now I have 6 year old ASUS ultrabook, which I do like a lot, but the age is showing.

    TIA!

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      With that budget, I’d go for a used MacBook Air (2013-2017 models)—still an amazing laptop after all these years. Should be within your price range and fit your requirements. Bonus points if you can find an 11″ instead of a 13″. Unless your objection to a MacBook was something other than budget-related.

      1. purple otter*

        I forgot to mention that I don’t want a MacBook, since I’ve never liked the MacOS and would prefer Microsoft OS or even Linux.

        1. JediSquirrel*

          If you’re happy with Linux, you could buy something used with a decent processor from Craigslist, swap out the HDD for an SSD, bump up the memory to the max, and install your favorite flavor of Linux. (I like Ubuntu.)

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          If you want Linux, I think ThinkPads generally have the best hardware compatibility, but it looks as if Dell is still sell XPS 13’s with Ubuntu preinstalled… seems to be just slightly outside your price range, though.

    2. Lizabeth*

      What type of program do you use for photo editing and how large are the files you are working on? If your current laptop seems sluggish, I’d recommend getting something with a lot of RAM. Also take a look at refurbished ones from manufacturers, that’s how I usually buy mine from Apple.

    3. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Ive got a Lenovo Yoga 2 that is on its 6th year and going strong. Ive never really done the whole moving the screen around to make it into a tent or a tablet, but its possible. Its pretty light weight and thin, and NOT a Mac. I believe most styles come in around your budget, I think i spent $100 on mine.

    4. misspiggy*

      Asus Zenbooks are a fantastic Windows-based MacBook alternative – cheaper, light, sleek and fast. A little delicate because lightweight, but mine have lasted through years of heavy travel.

      If possible try before you buy, because some models have better mousepads and keyboards than others.

  26. BRR*

    Gift ideas. I’m struggling with what to get my mother in law. She’s wonderful and loves Christmas and of course “doesn’t want anything” and we aren’t expected to get her anything but we want to. She likes to be warm but is pretty set on things like blankets. She also doesn’t get rid of anything so it’s hard to get her something that’s an upgrade because stuff just piles up. I’m very grateful for any help!

    1. epi*

      I buy Uniqlo heat tech socks for my whole family every year. They really go over well and I have even had family members call me later to ask what they were so they can buy more. Anything from that brand (they have a lot of other extra warm stuff as well) would be a good gift for someone who loves warmth. It’s hard to have too many warm socks in the winter, they really do lose their mates or wear out eventually.

      You could also try to upgrade something she carries every day, so it will really improve her life. Like a nice wallet or mini bag to organize her purse, or a really good and attractive thermos (the Zojirushi ones are amazing).

      If she truly has too much stuff, what about an experience? Many people in my family give each other theater tickets. Or you could give her something like a City Pass so she can have a tourist weekend on you.

    2. Zephy*

      I know you said she’s got plenty of blankets, buuut…I’ve been seeing Instagram ads for a very cozy-looking blanket embroidered with “This is my Hallmark movie watching blanket” on the corner. If she’s also very into Hallmark movies, that could be a cute thing for her.

      If she’s got too much Stuff, maybe something consumable that’s nicer than what she usually buys for herself, like some fancy local coffee, some high-quality tea, or a nice hot chocolate mix with artisanal marshmallows, packaged together with a nice mug?

      How is she on pictures of you and your family? Maybe get a nice family portrait taken and put it in a pretty frame for her? Or, does she have a pet? There are artists that will turn a photo of your pet into a lovely painting – I’ve seen several on Instagram.

    3. Zathras*

      Does she enjoy having her nails done, or massage, or something like that? A lot of those places do gift certificates.

      1. Zephy*

        Ooh, also a good suggestion! If MIL is the type of person who will never use a gift certificate on herself, by herself, and you’re comfortable with the idea/like spending time with her, maybe get a pair of certificates and offer to go together. Or, if she has a friend that would be into it as well, suggest she and her bestie go for a spa day, or similar framing.

        1. Llellayena*

          I once got my mom a gift certificate to a restaurant, but not a local one. I picked a restaurant that was near her best friend about 2 hours away. They hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years and this was the excuse to go up there. She was smiling for days! So something like an experience gift card that includes a friend would be great!

    4. Koala dreams*

      Something edible, like a nice drink (wine, coffee, tea, cocoa) and something to eat (hard cheese, the best jam, nice biscuits). Together with a nice card, maybe.

    5. Anon time*

      Ll bean wicked good slippers are amazing! They’re around $80 and very cozy.
      Or what about something lovely but consumable? Special cocoa or tea or cheesecake or something. Or an iberico ham if you’re feeling wild. Or a big cheese wheel.

    6. Anono-me*

      I have this Plush Blanket style wrap. It was a gift. It is wonderful for hanging out at home and being all snuggly cozy. I love it to bits. ( If you check this week’s Tuesday Morning ad, you will see something similar in the lower right-hand side of the second page.)

      You might want to go to a serious hunting and fishing or farm outdoor store (Cabellas or Fleet Farm etc., not something at the mall) and look at some of the gloves, long underwear, and other outdoor winter gear.

      If you don’t want to buy her more ‘things’. Can you make a charitable donation in her honor to some sort of ‘warmth’ related charity? Maybe a coat or winter electric bill charity.

    7. Fikly*

      She likes to be warm – what about fancy hot cocoa mix/supplies? Curling up under a blanket and drinking a mug of hot cocoa sounds wonderful to me!

    8. Julia*

      I have LOVED storyworth. It emails a question each week to the person and they provide their response. You can write your own questions or select from the bank of questions. Then at the end of a year the company puts all of the responses in a bound book! You can have uploaded photos as well. You can also print out multiple copies if needed!

      1. C Average*

        I have never heard of this, but it’s the perfect gift for my history-buff parents who don’t want or need more material stuff. I just ordered one for each of them.

    9. Parenthetically*

      I find gifts easier if I think in terms of an experience. A relaxing day curled up with a good book: Pretty pair of socks, a book you think she’d love, a CD to listen to while she’s reading, a pretty mug, a Starbucks gift card or some great tea or coffee. A cozy night on the couch with a great movie: Socks, a RedBox voucher, some movie snacks, a bottle of wine. A tourist-in-your-own-city day: tickets/vouchers for local museums or galleries, wine tour, walking tours, coffee shop, whatever in a cute city-themed tote bag, maybe with a pretty scarf and gloves. Last year we gave my parents a bottle of wine, two tickets to our local orchestra, and a gift card to a favorite restaurant. You can spend just about any amount — the Movie Night one is pretty inexpensive and the Tourist one could be a splurge.

    10. NoLongerYoung*

      For my folks one year, I snuck their cable bill, and added the Hallmark Channel and paid the upgrade for it for a year (my dad had heart issues and couldn’t leave the house much at the time). I sent it as a one-time bulk credit – which may or may not be okay with other company’s policies. This was the friendly midwest, and since I had the account number, all the identifying info, AND was sending money, they were nothing but accommodating. Hallmark even has Christmas in July… so it’s like the gift that keeps on giving.

      Similarly, my sister and her husband discovered that Mom struggled with getting pots, pans, and things out of the lower cabinets. They got roll-out drawers installed, inside all those cabinets, so that she can roll out the drawer with the pans, casserole dishes, etc, and not have to kneel down and dig to the back.

      If you are not handy, hiring someone to do it. But everyone loves organizers… and doing it with/ for her, made it a gift she praised for a year.

    11. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I don’t know your budget so two extremes. My brother once gave mom an extra fuel oil delivery so she would be willing to push the heat up to party levels even on a normal day.
      And this year I got myself a hot water bottle with a knitted removable cover.

  27. Penny*

    What gifts are you giving this holiday season that you’re excited about? Especially experience gifts. I’m getting tickets to a local dinner theatre for my mother and I to see Spamalot, a show we haven’t seen in years.

    1. Zephy*

      Lol, I just posted about mine further up, but I’m pretty excited about it. My boyfriend asked for “a memento.” He’s getting a Yeti Rambler travel mug with “i can’t ESPRESSO how much you BEAN to me” written on it, by yours truly. I’m working on it right now, since I’m stuck alone at the office today; it’s almost done and I’m very pleased with how it’s turning out. I’m not sure what the best way to wrap this is going to be; I have a roll of wrapping paper handy, but I might just admit defeat and go buy a gift bag on my lunch break.

      His parents and sister are getting some lovely 100-year-old Japanese wood-block prints that we’re going to frame ourselves. Most of my family are getting cards because we have to mail them their gifts, lol.

      1. Anono-me*

        Since it is a coffee related Christmas gift, and you seem like the type of people who like puns; what about putting the coffee mug in an actual coffee can or a Keurig box, then wrapping that.

        1. Zephy*

          Ooh, if I had a Keurig box, that would be brilliant! I think the Rambler is a little too tall to fit in a coffee can, although that is a very cute idea.

    2. fposte*

      I’m really excited about a gift for one friend. She misses the meat pies of her British homeland, so I’ve gotten gift certificates from three different mail-order meat pie places so she can test them cost-free. I’m going to label the box with two small sheets of paper on top of each other; the top one will say “22” and you lift that to see that the one underneath says “7.” Pi, geddit? (That’s definitely her kind of joke.)

    3. Colette*

      My nephew is pretty active in a run around outside and do daring stuff way. I finally figured out his gift – I’m making stilts.

    4. Fikly*

      It’s not an experience gift, but I’ve been saving this idea ever since I heard about it in the summer.

      My dad is notorious for 45 minute showers (it’s a family joke, because he’s mostly bald, so…) and for getting lost in thought (and having sudden programming ideas) while taking them. I stumbled across a waterproof pad and pen that sticks to the shower wall. Now he can write down his thoughts and stop complaining about forgetting them!

    5. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Ive always wanted to do this and, for various reasons, this was the year. I sent my parents in the US a Fortnum and Mason Food Hamper with all sorts of Christmas cookies and chocolates and chutneys and sauces. Given the size and weight, I thought the pricing was reasonable for shipping to the US, and they can reuse the wicker hamper for other things. It was not cheap, but I am so excited for them to receive it, especially as I got an email from dad today and he seemed kinda down that it was just them for Christmas this year.

    6. Queer Earthling*

      My nieces love reading, and they’re old enough to start getting some of the books I *really* loved as a kid. I got the 9-year-old Emily of New Moon and the 7-year-old is getting Wait Til Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn. (I did run all books by their mom first!) My nephews are littler but they’re also getting books (Matilda because 4-yo likes having chapter books read to him, and a board book for 1-year-old because he thinks books are delicious).

      I’m a bit notorious for this–when Eldest Niece was four, my sister handed her a present, said it was from Auntie and, without unwrapping it, Niece announced, “IT’S BOOKS!” She was not wrong.

      1. Fikly*

        I, too, am so excited for my youngest relatives getting old enough to start gifting them my favorite childhood books!

    7. Bluebell*

      I’m getting my mom a membership to the fancy art museum near her. She loves it, and it will get her out of the house, and then I can ask her about the exhibits during our weekly phone calls.

    8. Traffic_Spiral*

      Getting those roll-up ballet flats for all my female friends that complain about their feet hurting when they go out clubbing.

    9. CAA*

      We have two new babies in the extended family this year, the second one was just born yesterday! Since I am the aunt (now great-aunt) who gives books, they are getting things from Out of Print. There was no possible way I could resist a “Where the Wild Things Are” onesie with matching socks that say “We’ll eat you up” on one foot and “We love you so” on the other.

        1. CAA*

          We got one of their catalogs in the mail last month and that was the first I’d ever heard of them, but I really like their stuff. I do love that in addition to the normal merchandise categories like “Women’s Tees” or “Mugs” you can also search by author, title or genre.

    10. IT Squirrel*

      A friends girlfriend bough a Toothless bag which she was really excited about, but it turned out to be really badly made and fell apart after she used it. She knows I sew things so she gave me the cover flap that had the toothless picture on it in case I wanted to use it for anything (I’m also a Toothless fan) – and this week I’ve made it back into a new messenger bag which I’m giving her for Christmas :D Hopefully my sewing skills are better than the original and this one holds together!

    11. C Average*

      I ordered a thousand-piece puzzle for my partner with a picture of his cat. (We love puzzles and we love our cats.)

      I’m getting him a couple other things, too, but I’m most excited about this.

  28. Door Guy*

    Sitting here at the office doing inventory, waiting for the next batch of count sheets to input.

    Anyone who does miniatures painting, what are some of the tips/tricks/techniques you use to make your figure really pop! I’m very new (only painted 6 so far, and all were last weekend) and while I’m very happy they turned out fairly well, my wash turned out really blotchy. It did great outlining the definition in the muscles/hands/armor but it also pooled/streaked in a few spots where I thought it would run off (like the high points in the chest armor). Also, how to make a color that almost glows without just going neon/phosphorescent?

    I’m trying to work my skill up a bit before I get to painting the high quality resin sculpt my friend got me for my birthday (The new Delphyne and Ekhis Questing Knight)

    1. Lizabeth*

      Google painting miniature war game figures…there’s a bunch of videos plus listing of books on Amazon. Plus lots of practice, my ex was into playing war games with miniatures big time and painted several armies with what seemed like one hair brushes. He also had miniature figure magazines that had painting tips in them but I don’t remember the titles.

    2. GoryDetails*

      I used to do a lot of miniature painting, and got fairly good at it if I do say so myself. For drippy washes, I’d use Q-tips (or even a wedge of wadded-up tissue) to absorb excess. Dry-brushing can also work to highlight areas without leaving pools of color. As for “glowing” color – not quite sure what you’re going for there, but you can experiment with the highlighting and/or layers; for example, if you paint a breastplate bright yellow and then highlight it in gold, you might get more of a pop than if you went with all-gold.

      Trying to remember other tricks I used… oh, try a black ultra-fine-point Sharpie for adding pupils to eyes (and/or for emphasizing details on a shield, armor, or flag).

      1. Door Guy*

        Thanks for the advice.

        The glowing, in this case specifically, is the figure itself is a golem/automaton with control crystals embedded in the armor, wanted to try and make them bright, especially compared to the duller copper of his armor. I just didn’t have any bright colors in my paints, they were all flatter shades.

        Got everything input, time to go home!

        1. DrTheLiz*

          For glory crystals, get a little bit of super-bright colour and brush a veeeeery little bit on the corners and around the edge. Good luck!

    3. DrTheLiz*

      Spouse is hugely into this and his tips are:
      1: Thin your paints. Use paint with a little bit of water in (mixed on a palette rather than in the pot), and always go for more coats of thin paint. Tedious but worth it.
      2: For washes, again mix with water on a palette. If and when you’ve added too much wash (there’s some pooling) absorb it off with tissue/a dry paintbrush.
      3: Metal models don’t hold paint well and are painting in Hard Mode. Resin is (usually) better and plastic better still.

    4. Model Netizen*

      Tips:
      1) Thin the paints, at least if you’re using typical miniatures paints. I used anywhere from 4:1 to 10:1 gunk:paint. (Gunk being a technical term for your home-brew thinning mix. Mine was, if memory serves, 1:1:8 drying retarder:isopropyl alcohol:water for water-based paints, but you really need to figure out what feels right to you.)

      2) Clean and prime the miniatures. Dish soap works for cleaning; any model primer works. (I preferred brush-on primer because it got me familiar with the shape of the mini, plus no need for spray control. Spray primer is very much faster, however.)

      3) Line the mini. This requires really thin paint, some product lines have ‘inks’ or ‘liners’ that are pretty close to ready to go. Once the primer’s dry, you take a brush with a good point and outline everywhere there’s going to be a colour transition. (I’m used to fantasy minis, so that’d be everywhere skin transitions to clothing/armour, and between cloth and armour — but also at the base of a dragon’s claws.) Colour’s up to you; I prefered a dark brown for transitions to skin and dark blue for transitions between metals.

      4) Breathing out on the application stroke will steady your hand.

      5) If everything goes wrong, Easy-Off oven cleaner from the manual spray bottles will clean a mini down to bare plastic/metal. Put the mini in a freezer bag (in Canada a cleaned milk bag is perfect, but I gather not every country bags its milk), spray to just cover the mini when it’s in a corner of the bag, leave bag closed overnight. Application of an old toothbrush the next day should render it good as new. Gloves and goggles work, natch, because you don’t want to get that stuff on you. (And, disclaimer, it’s a good idea to test what the cleaner will do to the material on scrap or a sacrificial mini; I don’t know what it’ll do to resin.)
      This works for both oil- and water-based paints.

      On “glowing” colour.
      a) Pure white primer, plus maybe going as far as a bright silver or metallic [colour] basecoat
      b) Many thin paint layers.
      c) Push the highlights all the way to white, but keep them tight. Shadows as dark as you can get without hitting black, also tight.
      (You’re really trying to fool the eye here, which is one of those “practice and experimentation” things.)

  29. This is so identifying I might as well post my full name and date of birth*

    My son is at cubs camp and I really, really miss him.

    For context, every other Saturday he goes to his dad’s house at 4pm anyway and it’s 3.25 now so it’s nearly just a normal weekend anyway. But I dropped him off at 10am and honestly I miss him so much it hurts.

    On the bright side, I’m currently having purple and blue put into my hair.

    Wish me luck getting through.

    1. Anon time*

      Good luck! I hope you’re able to get some rest, and that it turn out he’s having a great time.

    2. This is so identifying I might as well post my full name and date of birth*

      He was fine <3
      And my hair turned out well!

  30. Anono-me*

    I lost my electric manicure set to a College boyfriend who did metal miniatures. He said it was the best thing he’d ever found for sanding/grinding off the extra little bits left over from the casting process. ( I enjoyed the RPGs with friends, but never got into the artsy-craftsy side of it.)

  31. Be the Change*

    TMI warning, and question for female AAM friends — my doc advised that I go off birth control pills because of my age, probably getting near enough to menopause that it’s time to see what is up without the hormones. I’m feeling quite anxious because after maaany years of absolutely predictable, light, mostly pain-free periods due to the pills, I have no idea what’s going to happen. Any words of wisdom?

    Also, what’s a good pad these days? I use a diva cup but I want a little backup.

    (My handle here is ironic as heck at the moment.)

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Did she suggest something else? Mine suggested the Kyleena IUD, which I got earlier this year. I, too, was mostly pain-free with light, predictable periods. The last year, though, they became heavier and longer. I got the IUD in the springtime, I believe, and my period has completely stopped as of this past month. It’s very strange, but I’m happy about it! I will say the first two months were tough–I bled for six weeks, which really sucked. Then I had maybe two regular periods and then it stopped completely. Doctor says this IUD will get me through until menopause most likely, as I’m 45 now.

    2. Zephy*

      I appreciate the pun created by your handle. :)

      I don’t have any direct experience (under 30, been on BC for 15 years), just well-wishes. If you’re a smartphone app kind of person, Clue is the best period tracker I’ve found – it’s not programmed with the assumption that you’re trying to get pregnant, and it lets you track a BUNCH of different variables as well as set your own. It’d probably be a good idea to have that kind of data, I imagine.

    3. WellRed*

      Same as you and other dawn. Around five years ago started with getting irregular. Got the Mirena. No periods, no issues. Don’t have to buy Tampons or worry about birth control.

      1. WellRed*

        Sorry, I read this as you were having problems. Still, the rest of my comment stands if you still need to continue with alternative BC.

    4. Jdc*

      My periods were no different on or off BC but I will say stopping it was the best thing ever. It’s awful IMO and just messes with my hormones too much.

    5. Selmarie*

      My doctor and I had discussed her recommendation for staying on BC all thru the likely years of menopause. However, the fates had other plans for me, and due to medical reasons, I had to go off BC forever at about age 45 and deal with that. Then 7 years later came menopause, and it kind of really kicked my ass! I knew BC was off the table, so I am on an antidepressant that controls my hot flashes and night sweats (thank goodness!). All of this is to say, did she give a reason for going off of it and needing to see where your hormones are? Going off might be more trouble than it’s worth. But you can go back on it if you’d like to, I’m assuming, so a few months off might not be too bad. (I don’t know how long it would take for your hormone levels to regulate for testing.). I guess I’d ask more questions about what she’s looking for, your ability to go back on them if you’d like, any side effects or negative consequences of either choice, etc.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I take the pill continuously and have done for close to two decades, outside of having two babies, and asked my doctor about that vs impending menopause. She said I’d have to go off the pills to see whether I’m at the meno stage yet, but it was up to me whether I wanted to do so (I do not). I could stay on the continuous pill forever, or at least well past the menopause timeframe. In my case I have always tolerated hormones well and have very low risk factors, so I’m totally fine with never having another period in my lifetime if I can avoid it.

        But I will also second Always with wings, those were/are the best especially the extra long for overnights.

    6. Parenthetically*

      Fellow cup-user here — I need a little backup too but I cannot abide pads (SO SWEATY), so I found a flannel sheet at a thrift store, washed it on sanitize, and made myself a dozen little 4-layer light pads with snapping wings. They work so well and are so comfy — and bonus, straight out of the dryer they feel like heaven on period-sore ladyparts. I’ve had them for probably 10 years and they’re still going strong.

      1. Ethyl*

        Yes to Always! I get the infinity line and order them from Amazon — 3 pack of the biggest size and I’m set for…….two months ::eye-roll::

        I’ve been wanting to try Thinx but they are soooooo spendy. Anyone have any experience with them? Wasn’t there something where their CEO was sketchy or something?

    7. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      Seconding the recommendation for Clue!

      I also use a diva cup, and use period panties with it for extra protection (and because my cycles are ridiculously heavy). I have Thinx, but I’m sure other brands are great too.

    8. Filosofickle*

      I’d been on BC for a million years and when I stopped I was braced for all sorts of nonsense, because before I went on BC — and largely WHY I went on — I had very heavy, insanely irregular, and generally stupid periods. I went off and, much to my surprise, everything was fine. Periods were totally normal and regular as clockwork. My body even felt better without it, even though I’d never felt bad with it. After a few years off of anything I got an IUD, which should last me until menopause. And now I have zero periods and zero side effects, which beyond amazing.

    9. Fikly*

      No personal experience with it, but I might ask your doc about the copper IUD – birth control without the hormones.

  32. Nicki Name*

    Low-stakes home improvement question!

    I have some nice sturdy shelves on which I’d like to store some file folders full of papers. The shelves are open on all four sides, though, so to do that I need something solid to put at the sides of the shelves to hold things in place. Is there some kind of insert of specialized bookend that I can look for?

    1. Lilysparrow*

      Maybe magazine files? Keeps them together and you can get them plain or in colors and patterns.

  33. Mimmy*

    Alison, your home is just magnificent!!

    So how do you handle a family member who gives unsolicited medical advice? My dad, who is a medical professional, does this. My husband has had several surgeries over the last few months, one with what could’ve been a serious complication (thankfully it wasn’t!). Now my husband is facing yet another procedure in a couple of weeks. He’s afraid to tell my dad because he knows my dad will be all “you need a second opinion!” and ask all sorts of questions. It gets really overbearing.

    I am otherwise close with my dad and the rest of my family (although they do have some quirks as my parents get older). How do we tell him that his advice and questions aren’t necessary and even a bit overkill?

    1. fposte*

      Well, you don’t have to tell him; just deciding not to is a possibility. This is a long-ingrained habit, so I’m not sure he’ll be able to stop it even if he wants to.

      But you can also undo the efficacy of the buttons being pushed by not responding when they’re pushed. “Actually, Mr. Mim will be in the hospital that day for antler surgery.” “Oh, which procedure? Do you know the latest studies about horn poisoning?” “We’re leaving that between Mr. Mim and his doctor, Dad; we think that’s important for the patient-doctor relationship. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to interfere with that. BTW, how’s the garden/snow/sports team?” Further pushes are met with “Not going there, Dad. Sports team?”

      Note also that this is largely your job, since it’s your father. Your husband gets to say “Talk to Mimmy” if your dad gets him on his own, and if he starts questioning your hubs while you’re there, you do the pushback and diversion before your husband has to. He can wingman you as you lead toward a discussion of your dad’s pet topic. “Yeah, I heard sports team might be leaving for Mars. Is that true, FIL?”

      1. Wishing You Well*

        Yup!
        It might be time to put your dad on an “information diet”. Diversion to another topic is also a good suggestion.
        Best of luck!

        1. valentine*

          Put him on a DIP. “Dad, going forward, we need you to stay in dad mode and leave the white coat at the office.”

    2. Not A Manager*

      “I’m so grateful that you’re my father-in-law. I would never want to interfere with that by treating you as my doctor. Luckily, my doctor is excellent – as is my father-in-law!”

  34. Indigo64*

    What’s the etiquette on re-gifting something you bought for yourself?

    My sister-in-law and I are both into baking. A few years ago, I bought myself a specialty pan… and never used it. I have small children now, and little time to bake. I think SIL would use and enjoy it. It is still in its original packaging, and I think she’s seen it sitting in my pantry. Is it okay to give it as a gift? Or would it be better to just offer it to her “Hey, could you use this?”

    1. VlookupsAreMyLife*

      Depending on your relationship, I think you can regift if you maybe add something complementary to it. Maybe a set of nice measuring spoons or a cute tea towel.

      The key to regifting (IMO) is to make sure it’s actually something the recipient would want and not try to pass it off as something you bought.

      1. Blue Eagle*

        I agree with Vlookups (and I’ve regifted to in-laws when it is something they would enjoy). The main thing is no regifting as a wrapped present if the item has been previously used.

    2. misspiggy*

      I’d avoid regifting to an in-law unless they are very comfortable with reusing and regifting things already.

      You could get her the same pan new and make that clear.

    3. Parenthetically*

      This is a “know your audience” thing I reckon! I wouldn’t hesitate if it were my brother’s wife J — I wouldn’t do it if it were my husband’s brother’s wife S, purely based on their personalities. S is a lot more touchy than J, and might be offended, but J would appreciate the practicality of not wasting something. In any case, I would certainly add to it — a couple of pretty tea towels, some nice baking chocolate, a pot holder or two.

      1. LQ*

        I think know your audience is a good way to put this. My initial gut was of course you can gift it! That sounds great! But I do have a cousin who would be very put out by a regift even of something she really wanted. That said I think all the rest of my cousins and their spouses (and certainly my inlaws) would be thrilled with a gift that was what they wanted and didn’t make more trash. Hand-me-downs/overs are pretty common in my family though.

    4. Merci Dee*

      I don’t think there’s a problem with giving the pan to her, but if she’s seen it sitting in your pantry, then I don’t think that making it the gift or part of the gift is the way to go. I would give her a nice gift of whatever, and have the pan sitting out unwrapped if you’re at your home, or sitting in the car if you’re doing gift exchange somewhere else. Give her the gift, and then some time later ask her if she’d like to have the pan as well, since you find yourself thinking about how many delicious things she could make with it, instead of it going to waste on your shelf. Treat it more like lagniappe, a little something extra, than the main gift.

    5. NoLongerYoung*

      IMHO, do not regift it as new… certainly not as a “gift” to replace any other gift. Let her have it as a thoughtful thing separately from any gift occasion.

      Then you can honestly say – I bought this for me, but I feel you would be the better person to have it, as I know you will use and appreciate it. If you do not need it, just find it a better home.

      Perhaps I have stronger antenna than some. But I have known when things were obviously regifted, and as others have noted, it varies a lot by how it is delivered and meant.

      It actually means a lot more to me that my one friend shares by giving me some wonderful items given to her, that she simply will not use. (her mom and mother in law, give her lovely, but wrong things like pink floral pajamas as a gift. She is not ever going to wear pink floral pjs… so she gives them to me. Tells me where they are from, leaves the gift tags on, and lets me know I can keep,use, or regift, but that she knows they are my style – they are – and I do wear them. A few of the items, I have shared with my niece by marriage – also our size – and noted where they came from.

      She has a bevy of friends she could “contribute” these things to – or just donate them on, but she does curate and after the holidays, there’s always a goodie box. (I am sure others get some goodies too… she’s got a lot of relatives who don’t “get” her taste at all).

      On the flip side, my mom has given each of us, one of her family treasures (carefully labeled with why it is important in the family) as part of our Christmas gifts, each year in the last 5. She is slowly downsizing, and this let’s her carefully gift and explain the significance of each gift, so that we can treasure it too. That’s altogether different….

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreeing. I never regift because something WILL go wrong, just my luck. I do save stuff for others that I know they would enjoy and give it to them, unwrapped, with explanation as a no-occasion gift. I have never had a problem doing this and people are usually very happy with their no-occasion gift.
        Generally, if I know I won’t use something I put it directly into a donation bag. No point to having it float around the house for a few years then donating it. This bothered me, until I realized that I was being asked if I wanted X, I said no, thanks and I got X anyway. This can happen when people feel obliged to give a gift but the rest of the year the relationship flounders.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      In my family that would have been a perfect gift for a steal&swap game. Is there any tradition of that?

    7. Lilysparrow*

      If she’s seen it, I’d do the “Hey, can you use this?”

      To regift something as an “official” gift, it needs to have plausibility around saying “I picked this out for you.”

  35. Fraying*

    Just need to vent into the void. Kind words are welcome & very appreciated.

    I’m so very tired of the constant job stress my partner is under and how it effects our family. I deal with my own MH issues and cannot be the support they need. They say they are too busy & overwhelmed to seek professional help or look for a new job. They feel trapped and hopeless and I fear they are heading for a complete breakdown (which has happened twice before under similar circumstances). We are living paycheck to paycheck and even a slight downgrade in pay will create a hardship.

    We also have a special needs child and, while our love for them is limitless, the energy, resources, and money required to manage their condition are not. I am not nurturing by nature, and had no intention of becoming a parent. I struggle to accept & make peace with what our lives are & will be, and I am consumed by guilt for feeling this way.

    We recently moved from the West Coast to the South (US) & I absolutely hate it here. It’s everything I feared it would be: hyper-religious, trans/homophobic, racist, classist, sexistic, ableist, pretty much all the bad-ists. We have a few casual friends, none close & no support.

    1. un-pleased*

      So, like, moving is hard. You say you’ve recently moved to the South. I would urge you to check out The Bitter Southerner online. I mean this gently: you’ve not lived there long enough to think you understand it, and if you can expose yourself to the ways Southerners are actively engaged in change, you can maybe get some peace around that. Remember that Southerners are Black, white, Latinx, Native American, Asian, Middle Eastern, etc. They are as diverse as anyone else. “South” is a huge, diverse, complicated thing. If you try to get to know that complexity, you can perhaps start to make more of a community.

      1. CoffeeforLife*

        Eh. Intellectually I know what you say to be true, however the prevailing feel of the South is all of those negative adjectives. I’ve lived in GA, TN, VA, NC etc and never have I not felt it. I’ve tried to make friends since moving to VA but there is usually a glaring red flag for me- one told me she donated to the Build the Wall GoFundMe and another said about Hillary, But the emails!!!! So….

        Fraying, if you were near I’d suggest we meet up and offer support :) You will find your new circle and fall into the rhythm of this new life. It takes time -even if you moved from one part or CA to another you’d have to start over.

        Start with volunteering/hobbies/enjoyable activities. You’ll find like minded people who might become friends. Since this is an election year maybe working with a political office will introduce you to groups that hold the same values.

        I’ve tried telling myself that a lot of people have never left their small town/region and don’t know of what exists outside of their immediate world. I visited my partner’s people in a veryyy small southern town and just had to keep repeating that to myself.

        1. valentine*

          (Are you the same person whose partner wanted to move with a baby away from family/support?) Can you move again? Any family that might help bring you nearby? If no and/or the move was to a lower COLA, can you draw up plans ((1) future with partner (2) future without partner) for how long to stay to build up a moving fund?

          Talk with partner about why he’s comfortable with you holding up the entire family. You have a house of cards. You deserve care and support, just as you’re giving him, and community, too.

          Do you have a doctor you can talk to about how you can intervene with your partner? Is therapy possible? You should have someone to talk to, especially about your guilt and financial fears.

          1. Fraying*

            Hi Valentine, nope not me. But that sounds hella hard!

            Moving again isn’t an option for at least 4 years for us, though I’m not locked into staying here once the youngest graduates high school. Ironically, we now live in the same city as my inlaws, but they are less helpful than the casual friends I’ve made here. Go figure.

            I’ve tried therapy in the past for my own MH issues, but I’m not sure that I’m up for that work right now. Perhaps, once the holidays are over, I might try talking with someone. Although, honestly, a few hours away from home is a luxury I’d much rather spend at the bookstore or grabbing coffee with a friend. But, it might be that professional help is required to dig out of the shame spiral, so I’ll keep it in mind.

            As far as the relationship with my partner, they are doing all they can in a truly shitty situation. They are aware of the toll it’s taking on the family and are doing everything they can just to survive. I’m not upset with them as I completely understand the paralysis that can come with depression and anxiety like this. Sometimes I can help them push through and strategize next steps. But I simply cannot be that for them right now and they don’t have anyone else. My heart breaks for them, for us.

        2. Fraying*

          Oh, I’d be sorely tempted to drive to VA to commiserate & drink copious amounts of coffee (I’m slightly obsessed as well)!

          I’ve moved around a lot, so I’m used to the settling in process and getting acclimated to local culture. However, I think this is the first time I’ve ever lived somewhere that just felt wrong. Not uncomfortable or different, but wrong. Unfortunately, we moved here in the summer of 2018, so the midterms were all the rage and there was just no escaping the rhetoric. I’m dreading the 2020 election.

          I’d love to volunteer or join some community groups, but the level of care our child requires puts all free time at a premium. Still, I’m hoping to get more active as we get more settled. I’ve made some online connections and that helps.

          Thank you for taking the time to comment. It means a lot to me.

      2. VlookupsAreMyLife*

        Very well put, un-pleased. And, on my better days, I know not ALL Southerners are this way. But, just because there’s diversity in a population doesn’t mean those systemic issues go away. I mean, I drive by TWO Confederate monuments on my way to work each day, so that’s fun.

        I’ve lived in a lot of different parts of the US, but this is my first time in the Bible Belt. It’s definitely a square peg, round hole situation.

        That said, I’ve joined some local, online communities centered on progressive issues I care about. I’d love to make more in-person connections, but our child’s care needs make that tough.

    2. Jean (just Jean)*

      I hear your loneliness and fatigue. Can you find kindred souls, or at least fellow travelers/friends for a reason from support groups locally or semi-locally focused on parenting kids with special needs? or on how to live as well as possible with whatever is troubling your spouse?
      Any book discussion groups at your local library? Branches of the Sierra club? Local political party or advocacy group? Sewing, knitting, cooking, or gardening enthusiasts? Sometimes people whose politics are totally opposite of ours are good companions, even wonderful friends, as long as we focus on other topics.
      If belonging to a congregational community would help you, you can use your radar to suss out a place & people who don’t ping your danger signals. (I think it’s an unacknowledged secret that many of us religiously affiliated folks are motivated to connect with other humans as well as with the Divine, however we define Divinity.)
      Sorry if I sound preachy! It’s not my intention but my style seems to be a tad stiffer than the norm here.

      1. Fraying*

        Thank you, Jean, your wise words have not fallen on deaf ears. I do have some long-distance support with another special needs mom and that does help quite a bit.

        I’ve recently deconverted from my religion and the loss of identity, dogma, and community has been hell. I think this would all be easier to handle if I had community. Your reminder that friends don’t have to be fully like-minded to offer care & support is a good one. Thank you!

    3. Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

      I don’t have any wisdom to offer, only sympathy. You’re handling a lot right now.

      1. Fraying*

        Thanks so much, Admiral. I just needed to be heard today and I’m grateful for your kind wishes.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I think this is serious enough to consider long distance support. Is there someone who would be an email or phone buddy with you? I mean a rock solid person who will just hang in there and throw ideas around with you. I had an aunt who took the attitude of “this is what life is” and whatever people were talking about she was not afraid to talk with them at length. These people are real, they exist. If you start looking with fresh eyes you may notice someone who says, “So, Fraying, how are you REALLY doing?” Wade in with one toe, “Well, things could be better….” and give one example. See how that person handles that one example.

      Another suggestion I have is not to entirely toss the casual friends to one side. Sometimes casual friends are more helpful than close friends/family. A good trick is to ask for specific things and think small not big. Okay, so suppose you are having a very long day and on top of it all you are out of paper towels. You find out that your neighbor is running to the store. Ask the neighbor if you gave them money would they pick up towels for you. You can repay later by calling the neighbor to say it’s your turn to go to the store and do they need anything.

      I know this sounds like a tiny suggestion and too small to do anything major. But I also know that when the chips are down, these little gestures can be very powerful and very uplifting. When I was first widowed, some days were worse than others. At one point my back locked up on me. I was navigating through the house hand-over-hand. I knew the problem would work out in a bit. What got me was the dog. He was sitting at the window STARING as if he could WILL someone to appear on our porch. He knew something was very wrong and HE decided we needed help. The dog looking for someone to come pushed me over the line and I was in tears. A friend called. “I am at the store, do you need anything?” I decided to say yes. I asked for a couple small things that I knew I was out of.
      The dog saw my friend arrive with the groceries and an amazing thing happened. He walked away from the window. I then realized he was satisfied that someone checked on us, even though she was only here a very short time. I was able to stop crying.
      Because of a few groceries we both calmed down. The next day I felt at least 50% better and we did not revisit the window sitting episode. Little things can take on a bigger meaning or value.

      1. Fraying*

        Oh, Newsreader, that is such a moving story! Our furbabies know when things are not right.

        And, you are so right about the casual friends. I do have a few of those – mostly other parents of my kiddos’ friends, but definitely some emergency paper towel run types in that crowd. Thank you for the reminder that there is value in the little things.

    5. Meepmeep*

      I feel for you. I’d suggest Internet escapism – if there ever was a situation that warranted searching for community online instead of IRL, it’s this one. When I was isolated in the South, the Internet saved my life. The online forums I was on were the only sane people I talked to. And it’s a lot easier to fit online socializing around caretaking demands. Are there any online support groups for parents of children with the same conditions as your child? Or just friendly groups to come to when you need a bit of friendly nattering?

      1. Fraying*

        You’ve nailed it, Meepmeep! Online community is pretty much all I’ve got for the “serious” stuff. I have some casual friends here in New City & that helps some. I also have a long distance friend with a special needs adult child – they are a godsend and I’m so grateful for their friendship & wisdom.

        Life with a special needs kiddo is stressful in general. But, the job stress for partner is pushing us all over the edge. It’s been this way for over a year, with no end in sight. Partner is absolutely worn down, just a shell of themselves and absolutely miserable. But, unless they can find a comparable position elsewhere, they’re stuck. Sometimes I have been able to help partner through this kind of thing, but I’m so worn down myself that I can’t.

    6. sequined histories*

      I grew up in Middle Georgia. Please keep in mind that there is a local minority of more liberal people, they’re just invisible to you right now because it’s not the dominant culture and you haven’t had the chance to find “your” people. I’m wondering if there aren’t some websites that might help you connect with locals who are more simpatico? Local progressive political organizations might have an online presence, for example. FWIW I’ve lived all over the country and even Utah has its counter-culture. In such a situation, the mere fact that you don’t share the dominant mindset is something that could serve to help you make connections with the very people you’d feel most comfortable with.
      Your overall situation sounds incredibly difficult. I’m so sorry. It sounds like even the slightest respite would be welcome. I hardly know how to say this because I do FULLY understand how horrifying the white supremacy, religious rigidity, and general narrow-mindedness you’re experiencing can be. Nevertheless, I’ve found people in my home town who display incredible kindness and generosity in a practical way even though I disagree deeply with their political views. There may well be people nearby who would be glad to give a helping hand even though they’re not the truest friends of your soul. There are church-based services, for example, that are not at all evangelical in nature, as unlikely as that might seem. I was raised as a Methodist, and I have attended some churches where people did seek to be helpful without pushing religion on others.

      1. StellaBella*

        He died from suicide on 20 April, 2018. :( Wikipedia has more info. Watch the concert. I have been crying for 2+ hrs. He touched the lives of so many people.

  36. Myrin*

    Totally Random Thing of the week:

    A few days ago, I found a whole onion in my garden. Like. It just sat there.

    The best thing is that I didn’t even think anything about it at first since I’ve been planting onions for years. But then I did a double take, suddenly remembering that we moved earlier this year and I sat this year’s gardening season out because I had a ton of other things to do. So, this couldn’t have been my onion. (Nevermind that the garden isn’t even prepared for planting vegetables anything yet. I’ll be doing that next season. Spring is going to be a lot of work!)

    Now I’m wondering how in the hell this whole, fist-sized onion got into my garden. It wasn’t even next to the entryway or something, just smack dab in the middle. There’s a big spruce hedge separating our garden from the street and a car park on the other side of the street, so my working hypothesis is that someone parked there and suddenly got so sick of this big ol’ onion that they just threw it over (through?) our hedge in a rage.

      1. Myrin*

        I hadn’t thought of that! :O

        We have two regulars, a big one and a small one (although I haven’t seen either of them in some time, now that I think about it), although they’re usually on the opposite side of the house (we live surrounded by forest now, which is great) – our landlord calls one of them “José” for some reason (I gotta admit I think he calls both of them that and just hasn’t realised yet that they’re two different animals; he also didn’t realise that these are indeed the squirrels native to here and not the invasive American ones which I don’t think have made their way here yet at all. He also didn’t know that you need a rooster to get little chicks, though. I love this man.).

        But all of that aside, it’s actually possible, although that only brings up more questions for me, like most importantly how the squirrel got a hold of this gigantic onion?!

        1. fposte*

          It’s a squirrel. I believe anything of squirrels. It had a bagful from the supermarket and dropped one. It mugged an old lady. It fell out of its car.

          I looked out this morning and saw one so big I thought at first it was a groundhog. I hope it’s not the start of the uprising, because I’ll lose.

          1. Gaia*

            My uncle has a squirrel that follows him when he walks over to his neighbors’ houses. He thinks it is hilarious, I think he (the squirrel) is tracking him to report back on the movings of the humans. I’m expecting an uprising any moment lol.

          2. Anon Here*

            A squirrel recently stole my (dying) pepper plant. They had been getting into the pot and digging for a while. One day, there were fresh squirrel-dug holes and the whole plant was gone.

          3. Not So NewReader*

            A friend is dealing with a squirrel that is closer to the size of a small cat. He put out a Have-a-Heart trap. The thing ate the food inside, took the trap and tossed it ten feet from where the friend left it. This is a decent size trap- 18 inches long maybe a little longer. If it sees my friend, it does not run or hide. It just sits and stares, until Friend starts moving toward it then it will finally move.

        2. Ethyl*

          “He also didn’t know that you need a rooster to get little chicks, though.”

          Ha! People get SO WEIRD about egg-laying animals and how their reproduction works, isn’t that the weirdest thing?! I used to have a snake and she would lay eggs every year, and the number of people who thought they would somehow grow into snakes even though she had never met a boy snake was astonishing. I’ve heard friends who have ducks and chickens say the same thing!

            1. Ethyl*

              Oh you just scoop them out of the tank just like you do with poops and throw them away (I used disposable plastic spoons I got in takeout orders for this often). If I didn’t do it fast enough, she would eat them. Nbd!

              1. Jaid*

                Cleaning my kitchen. Also making daikon kimchi. I’m wore out now and I still have to do the floors and the stove top.

          1. Cat*

            Snakes can actually do parthenogenesis, so it is possible that the eggs would have hatched! There are even a few species of lizards (+1 snake species) that are all female and only reproduce asexually. In other species of snake/lizard it is something that is uncommon but happens sometimes. I can’t say if your snake was laying viable eggs or not, but it’s certainly a thing that could be possible.

            1. Ethyl*

              Well, with the way they rotted if they weren’t taken out and she didn’t eat them, I’m guessing not.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      Maybe it was Squirrel Aliens from Outer Space? Or Bigfoot? Or Nessie, who got bored and wandered away from Loch Ness to explore another setting?
      There’s always the little green people in flying saucers. (Maybe they tried onions and didn’t like them.) Or gremlins. Or poltergeists.
      Seriously, I am glad that neither beings nor property were harmed by the onion’s landing.

    2. Pam*

      A friend of mine found a turtle in her yard: a water turtle, not a tortoise. She lives nowhere near any kind of pond where this turtle would have come from. Aliens was our best theory, since it seemed to big for a hawk to carry .

      1. StellaBella*

        I once had a water turtle dropped right in front of me by an eagle, which thankfully survived as this is how they kill them to eat them – I took it to the lake. I am not kidding. In the PNW. He swam away fast.

      2. KoiFeeder*

        The people who previously owned our house had a bass randomly show up in the koi pond. No injuries or marks of any sort like you’d expect from a bird of prey showing up, and there’s tree cover over the pond to discourage them (that trick does not work very well on herons, though). Now, there is a stocked reservoir nearby… because this house is literally a quarter mile deep into the woods away from other houses. It was always assumed that a lost fisherperson threw it into the pond, but it’s difficult to imagine a night fisher 1) getting that lost, 2) offloading a fish into a random koi pond instead of the reservoir itself or the tributaries into it 3) showing up, dumping a fish, and then straight-up leaving.

        The bass did not live very long due to becoming eggbound, as happens when you’ve got a single female bass with no males.

    3. Wishing You Well*

      So…the choice is between Squirrel Conspiracy Onion or Random Rage Onion?
      I don’t know which is scarier!

    4. Rosie M. Banks*

      I once found two or three dozen mothballs in my yard, mostly partly buried/dissolved. I have never bought mothballs in my life. I’d lived in that house for ten years at that point, and had never seen or smelled them before that day. I never did figure out if they were brand-new or really old or where on earth they came from.

  37. Cute Li'l UFO*

    Vent time:

    I’ve been sharing my room with an unwanted, non-paying roommate. A mouse, to be exact. The cleanup from the stress has been a killer for me (but hey, it’s even cleaner than I’ve ever wanted) and still kind of in progress. I caught one, I hope there’s only one, but I am prepared. And impressed with how quickly and ruthlessly I sprung into action. My knees and knuckles hurt from crawling on the floor but I’ve lost nothing important or irreplaceable which is the important thing. I’ve even found a couple things that I thought I lost, so, hooray!

    Just one of those things that jumped on after replacing the flush valve in my toilet, bought a new Xmas tree after 17 years with the old one, and I’m leaving for a business trip in Vegas in a few days. The plan is to pack today/tomorrow, freshen up my dye tomorrow, and go out to dinner and see Knives Out with a special someone tonight.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        It was FANTASTIC! Great fun to see one particular asshole portrayed perfectly by someone who doesn’t usually play assholes, lol.

        I can’t wait to see it again and it’s definitely going in my hard-copy collection. I only buy movies I know I’ll watch more than once.

    1. Ethyl*

      If you can spot where Mouse Buddy is coming in, use extra fine steel wool to stuff the hole and squirt in some expanding insulation (“boat foam,” “great stuff”) on top. That’ll help keep em out :)

      1. Cute Li'l UFO*

        Thanks! I don’t know if there’s a spot gnawed in the wall (moving things out of the closet) but cursory peeks with a flashlight and a little shifting don’t show much. Of course, that may all change. I had a sock and some papers that had been definitely shredded for nesting material be unearthed, but after catching the first (and hopefully only) I feel less freaked out. Like I was right! I’ll finish my little perimeter check before I go out.

        Looks like I got a good start on my pre NYE cleaning!

    2. Ick*

      Ugh, we have a mouse too. We have traps but I haven’t gotten around to putting them out yet, kind of hoping the cat will just take care of it. I think it’s getting in from behind the stove.

      1. Cute Li'l UFO*

        Yuck. One of mine would have taken care of it, but given her style with critters as a little stray and with the frog that got into the house a few years ago I would have had to clean 100x more mouse parts up. Good luck!

    3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I was just coming on here to complain to the universe about my rodent problems! We’ve had a mouse or two get in here and there over the years but a few weeks ago they started really chewing on things in the walls, or so we thought. We had an exterminator come around to evaluate and we actually have rats getting into the bathroom from the sewer, and mice getting into the kitchen via the gas line to the stove! The worst bit is that the rats have damaged the plumbing from the toilet so the whole flat stinks, and we are going to have to get someone to take the toilet out, dig out the soil pipe, and possibly put a one way valve in the sewer line outside. Big ££££ and the landlord is not going to be happy about it. So far we haven’t had any rats get inside the flat itself but it’s rather unnerving.

  38. Myrin*

    Medical stuff ahead!

    As an update from last week: Except for the missing folic acid, all other results from my bloodwork and stool sample came back perfectly normal. I’ve been taking folic acid pills since Monday and I think the burning tongue is becoming better? It’s kinda weird in that sometimes it basically isn’t there at all anymore and then it suddenly comes back with a vengeance for a couple of hours, but I really do get the feeling that it’s improving overall.

    Let’s see what the gastroscopy on Wednesday brings!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Having worked with nutrition for years (personal use), I can tell you from my own experience that this is how it goes. The pain goes out and then it comes back in, then it goes out again. Yes, confusing but the thing to know is that you are winning here. Then one day the pain goes out and does not come back. If the folic acid was not going to help you with the discomfort in your tongue would not be seeing the pain going in and out like this. Just my opinion, but I think you’ve got this one. Hang in there.

  39. Woman of a Certain Age*

    This is a story that I’ve been saving for the Saturday thread. I remembered it when Alison called for holiday stories earlier this week, but since it didn’t have to do with any of the December holidays (it has to do with Halloween) and since it really wasn’t work-related I thought I’d save it for today.

    I don’t know why I didn’t think of it during the Halloween holiday, but maybe it was because I was busy moving and unpacking then. I also remembered it because of the Friday thread in which MissGirl asked about coming to terms with not pursuing your passion as your profession.

    This is a true story in which the names are changed to protect the guilty. It is one of those stories where, when you think about it now, you think, “What the hell were these people thinking?” There’s a chance that Alison might delete it for being a bit too risqué for her site, and if that happens, then O.K. Also, I apologize for high-jacking the thread and being a bit off-topic with this.

    More than 40 years ago I was a young, innocent and naïve freshman art student at a state university fairly close to my hometown in a western state. I promptly joined the campus art club and their first big event was a Halloween party. The party was held in an art gallery owned by a former graduate of the school and was located on the second floor of a shop on the small town’s main street. The room that was used as a gallery was quite large and made an excellent dance floor.

    This was back when the legal drinking age was 18. There was a keg and there was punch made from Kool-Aid dumped into Everclear. There were people smoking pot. There were hors d’oeuvres and bobbing for apples. I don’t recall seeing any professors, but there were a whole bunch of grad students. I think that it was the year that I dressed as the grim reaper and wore a black robe with white face makeup. I recall a fellow student who dressed as one of the professors (who had a certain easily-imitated “style” that consisted of henna-dyed hair and questionable fashion choices that were a bit ridiculous and outrageous). There was a D.J. and I remember dancing to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious.”

    This story has to do with two of the grad students and their meeting and exchange. There was a grad student who we shall call “Peter” as in “Peter Cottontail.” Peter was dressed in a giant rabbit costume with a rabbit facemask that covered his face. I remember “Peter” as being really old (like in his mid-20s), a bit overweight and kind of dumpy, and having a receding hairline that made him look older than his actual age.

    There was also a small petite female grad student whom we’ll call “Rudi.” Rudi had long dark hair and came dressed as a cowgirl, although I’m not sure that was really a costume because so many people wore western style clothing at that school as normal dress. The school had a big ag department and a fairly large number of students came from farm and ranch families. I remember she wore a cowboy hat pushed down over her face and the strings hanging down on either side of her face and joining together under her chin. Rudi was new to the college and in her late 20s, although she looked younger than her real age. This was one of her first social outings and she had never before met Peter.

    Peter’s costume had a zip fly in the front of it and he was apparently not wearing any pants or underpants under his costume and his genitals were not just exposed, but hanging out of his costume. He could have been Jewish. Since the costume had a mask you couldn’t really tell that it was Peter. Peter was exposing himself on purpose and it was just obnoxious, offensive and inappropriate. What can you say? He was dancing by himself and people were laughing at him.

    Rudi was sitting a low bench drinking and visiting with several other students when one of them asked her if she’d met Peter. She said, “no,” and they hollered, “Hey, Peter, come one over and meet Rudi.” Peter came up and he was standing in front of Rudi with his crotch only inches away from her face.
    Rudi reached up and grabbed the head of Peter’s penis firmly with her right hand and shook his penis while saying, “How do you do?”

    Peter was apparently not expecting this and stepped back quickly, turned around, zipped himself up and walked away. Everyone laughed heartily about the event. Peter remained zipped-up for the rest of the time he remained at party, but I don’t think he stayed very long because I don’t recall seeing him around after the incident. If this were to happen now Peter would have probably been arrested and charged as a sex offender and certainly would have been kicked out of grad school, even though it did not happen on campus.

    I never again saw Peter’s penis. (No big loss.) I did see Peter occasionally in the art building. I also saw Rudi around, but less frequently. I don’t recall ever seeing the two of them together after the incident. It was just one of those weird random things that happened.

    Thinking about this event caused me to google these people and see if they were still around. They both are. They both received MFAs from the university and I received my BFA.

    After getting his MFA Peter went on to become a professor, but I’m not sure it was at the school where he graduated or at a different state university in the same state. He continued to be an artist and has had his work displayed in a number of galleries around the world. He doesn’t seem to have any particularly consistent style or theme in his work, but it is good. I’ve also seen several testimonials from his former students thanking him for his support and encouragement. He would be in his mid-60s now. I wasn’t able to find any recent pictures of Peter, but there was one from shortly after this incident and I was struck by Peter being thinner, better-looking and less bald than I had remembered him.

    After getting her MFA Rudi moved to a large city in a neighboring state. She also worked as an art professor at several different colleges, but it seems that she never got tenure and was always a “visiting professor”. In spite of this, she has been the more commercially successful artist, although there was never any rivalry between the two that I know of. Rudi has her own page on Wikipedia and many examples of her artwork are in the permanent collections of galleries around the world. She has a reputation as a feminist and is particularly known for her artwork featuring nudes of both sexes, most of them of older people. I sort of wonder if the incident traumatized her. Unfortunately, several images of her artwork have been stolen and used for advertising questionable click-bait websites. Rudi is now in her late 60s or early 70s. In the photos of her on the internet, she looks taller than I remember her. In a picture from about 20 years ago her dark hair is straighter than I remember it, and in more recent ones it is gray and cut short.

    My art career never took off and I moved on.

    1. Myrin*

      Thanks so much for sharing this story!

      I gotta say that the first part is both hilarious and disturbing. Like. What the heck, Peter?! What were you thinking, Peter?! Who or what gave you that idea, Peter?! On the other hand, Rudi’s reaction was as unexpected as it was priceless (although I seriously hope she wasn’t traumatised by it but actually did it in cold blood without any second thoughts at all).

      And the second part was just so interesting in how you described your memories of these people compared to what they really did/do look like and also just how they did in general. You’re a great writer, especially with that very last sentence!

    2. Morning Reader*

      I’m about that age and yes, the seventies were weird. This story goes to show that not everyone is traumatized by sexually harassing incidents. (Perhaps you were more affected watching this scene… wonder how many just dropped out of art school entirely after observing this.) Sounds like he was more freaked out than her at the time. Also, most American men of a certain age are circumcised, usually nothing to do with religion.

    3. Anon Here*

      I have to wonder if the whole thing was an accident on Peter’s part. Maybe he was so drunk/stoned, he forgot to carry out the usual steps after peeing. Maybe he didn’t realize he was exposed. That would fit with his reaction and his subsequent normal life.

      Also, Everclear! I was in college about 20 years ago and I swear we all thought we were the FIRST generation to drink Everclear. It was so edgy, and so affordable. We had no idea people our parents’ age had ALSO smoked pot and drank only lightly diluted Everclear at college parties. Because people older than you are so innocent!

    4. Woman of a Certain Age*

      I really don’t think that Rudi’s action was cold-blooded, as much as it was calculated. I think she thought about it for a moment and decided to go ahead and she just did it. She wasn’t going to be intimidated by, or allow Peter to embarrass her. After the incident I discussed it with a friend who felt that Rudi turned “the joke” back on Peter by taking the action that she did. I do feel that Rudi embarrassed and shamed Peter, as well as freaking him out, but I’m not sure that that was a bad thing in this situation. I’m not really aware of anyone who might have dropped out because of this situation because Rudi seemed to have de-escalated it so effectively.

    5. Pam*

      Now I’m remembering the joke where the punch line is “If it were somewhat larger, it would resemble a human penis.

  40. Working and Wedding*

    I’m getting married in May, and am working on getting my registry together. My fiance and I are “older” (29 and 31) and have most of the traditional wedding registry items or we’re able to buy them ourselves. For those who got married “older”, what did you put on your registry that you really enjoyed?

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Some unexpected things we got that I liked:

      * holiday decorations (we do Christmas and received personalized stockings, a tree skirt, ornaments)
      * unusual kitchen gifts you may want – Instapot, air fryer, molcajete, this reversible punch bowl from Williams Sonoma that turns into a cake stand, nice french press, cherry pitter

    2. Washi*

      We registered for camping gear! It was awesome to get high quality stuff, and it also gave people who prefer not to use registries a category of thing we would like, so we got some great off-registry gifts too.

    3. NoLongerYoung*

      My husband and I were quite a bit older than that, so by the time we married (his second), we did want the registry so that we didn’t have duplication of some things. (People do want an idea… no one wants 6 picnic hampers).
      In our case, I wanted to upgrade from my post-student level items, to lifetime-level items in small ways. So I did pick out an 18/80 stainless pattern (that was so classic, I’m still using it, every day, and they still sell it. I have never used Grandma’s silver plate).
      I got Fiesta dishes – colorful, and a variety of price points. I kept adding to it, and buying fun service pieces, and recently split the set and shared half with a newly-married niece to get them started.
      Money towards a truly lifetime set of pans.
      I make jams and bake, etc. Wonderful cookie sheets, cake pans, etc.
      My family got together and got a wonderful kitchen aid.
      I registered for knives, at the individual or block level (never used the block, did get an amazing german magnet thing that firmly holds them horizontally).
      Cast iron skillets and dutch oven. Chain metal scrubbie for it. (Oh, those of you who make chain, can probably appreciate how expensive they are – but the best investment ever).
      And some great kitchen linens – towels and dishtowels.

      I didn’t get it all in my registry but I did use our anniversary money every year to add (like the stainless, dishes, and knives) until I had the sets I treasured. I’m still so grateful.

      Also, for the baking and cooking – I asked all of the more senior family members (especially the ones on limited incomes) to write me out a recipe they treasured and a recommendation on something they most used in their kitchen.

      I tried really hard not to go with the trendy or consumables, because it did mark – for me – a transition from the grad school/ nomadic years, to when I was really setting up a house – which is sort of the cool thing about it. I still remember the things people gave me, and a lot of them I’m still using. (The crockpot finally gave up the ghost, the kitchen aid is still running, though.)

    4. Rainy*

      We put “upgrades” of household items we already owned on ours, along with some items that we desperately wanted but would never have bought for ourselves, like my beloved little steamer pot, which is the right size for a whole bunch of asparagus or two artichoke heads (stacked) at once! Things we asked for and got: a nice new knife set plus block. An upgrade on my old Kitchenaid (I had a smaller tilt-head, asked for and got a big bowl-lift which I use constantly). A new slow-cooker, as my old one was falling apart. New measuring cups/spoons. A new immersion blender (our old one had just broken). A sous vide machine (WE LOVE IT). New towels, as neither of us had bought towels in a few years. Sheet sets (who can’t use sheet sets, really). That sort of thing.

      We also got a lot of gift cards for kitchen-type stuff which we need to finish spending lol.

    5. Not A Manager*

      Do you have to have a registry?

      Depending on how large your wedding is, you could tell a few friends/family members about some experiences you would like. Maybe tickets to a show that will be in town, or a movie theater subscription membership, or a museum membership, or a restaurant gift certificate? I would pick things at different price points.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A router & a shop vac.
      Seriously, we registered at Home Depot. My then-fiance took flack from family who couldn’t understand that this really was the bride’s. I had to explain so many times about my This Old House goals!

      1. NoLongerYoung*

        Oh, I love this. The midwest town that we got married in (pop 700) had only a Farm and Fleet type store. The crock pot was from there, but so were a few great gardening tools and a very nice hose reel, (real loppers, pruning shears), canning supplies, etc. He was a contractor so I had access to the chain saw and radial arm already. LOL.

    7. LilySparrow*

      I had inherited my grandmother’s china and silver, so I registered for the missing pieces at Replacements.com.

    8. Earthwalker*

      We just told our friends that we had everything so don’t bother with gifts. You don’t have to ask for gifts if you don’t need them.

  41. stephistication1*

    Anyone have more than one Christmas tree up? I have four trees around the house and hubby thinks it’s overkill (but goes along with it). I love Christmas decorations. So far we have the main one in the living room, master bedroom, daughters room and rec room. They always go up on thanksgiving night. Anyone with me!?!?

    1. WellRed*

      I would if I could, last year for the first time I added a second, very small birthday tree. Loved it.

      1. stephistication1*

        My second one was small too. It’s taken years to work up to multiples; the faux tress are not cheap!

        1. Pam*

          Luckily, Target had cheap$25 trees last year. We ordered one for delivery, and then found one at a store.

    2. LizB*

      We have one very tiny end-table tree that we used for the past few years in our small apartment – and tomorrow FianceB is going to go pick up a BIG tree from a friend who no longer wants it, since we can now fit it in our new house, so then we’ll have two!

    3. Filosofickle*

      I barely have room for 1 tree! I may have to eventually have 2 trees because I collect ornaments to commemorate trips/events. The older I get, the more crowded the tree gets.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Two little ceramic ones inherited from relatives, and we will do the big tree after my daughter finishes her big class project.
      I’m going to have to rearrange the LR plant shelves too!

    5. With the Hobgoblins*

      One of my neighbors has a yearly contest with herself about how many trees she’s got. The year before last, we counted twelve. Last year, fifteen. We’ll see what it will be this year! None of them are big trees, but there are all kinds of small ones – the garden-variety artificial tree, ceramic and glass figurines, paper trees, tree-shaped ornaments, a giant glitter-covered tree candle, a tree made out of garlands…

      It’s starting to rub off on me. I haven’t had a real tree in my house in years because of small destructive children, but last year I put up three pictures of trees up on the walls where the kids couldn’t reach. The presents went under one of the pictures too :)

    6. Sparkly Librarian*

      My aunt has 3 full-size trees each year. (In a previous house there were as many as 5. All themed.) For the past 5 years or so, I’ve been decorating them all the weekend of Thanksgiving. Then sometimes my mom’s. Once, a neighboring family friend’s. And this year, mine. (“Rustic Woodland,” if you’re curious. White lights, red beads/cranberry strings, wooden ornaments, real pinecones edged in glitter, glass icicles, a little red ribbon here and there. Plus baby’s first ornaments.)

    7. Elizabeth West*

      If I had a house that was big enough, I’d probably have one in the living room and one in a den or rec room. I’ve never lived anywhere I could do it up with any real panache; my former house was so small and cluttered it just didn’t ever really look “nice.”

  42. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    I may be dealing with that thing we don’t discuss tomorrow afternoon, which means I am actively looking forward to taking Monday off, even though my plans for the day involve taking the T into Boston to return an overdue library book and renew my library card.

    It turns out the Boston Public Library makes you renew cards every two years, and bring proof that you still live in Massachusetts. Fine, I can do this, but it does make me wonder when my King County (WA) and Seattle cards will expire. KCLS has a much better ebook collection than either of the libraries I can use here.

    I also continue surprised and pleased that I not only have, but am using, four different library cards. Growing up I had two: New York Public and Queens. (Brooklyn also has its own library system, but I would have had to live in Brooklyn to get that card. NYPL requires that you live, work, or go to school in New York state.)

    Now if I could only get back to reading more than two books a month. I am reserving books at the library a lot faster than I can read them.

    1. Anono-me*

      I just recently read an article. Apparently with the proliferation of e-readers, and long waiting list for ebooks at libraries, people are setting up multiple accounts at different libraries to maximize their chances of getting the books soonest. Since most libraries have to compete very hard for every tax penney they get this is creating some problems and one of the ways that librarys are addressing it is to make sure that the library card holder is an actually eligible.

    2. Nervous Nellie*

      I have had a KCLS library card for 20 years and have never been asked to renew it or to update/verify my address. Ditto my Seattle library card, which I got just for asking. I was still in the outskirts.

      I have a similar over-holding issue. I collected my holds at the library yesterday, and put them on the bathroom scale when I got home. How can I read 45 pounds of books before they’re due back? LOL.

      1. Anon reader*

        I think KCLS cards are deactivated after 12 mos. of no activity.
        I agree that KCLS have a tremendous selection of materials. This is to due the taxes we readily agree to pay to support this instituition. Maybe a small yearly donation to Friends of KCLS or the other libraries you access is something you might consider.

  43. Maine*

    The last few pieces to gift giving is for my dad – he was recently diagnosed with osteoarthritis, and I’d love to get some small things that will help with the pain until meds get here and kick in. I’ve gotten things like compression socks, but I’d love to throw together a sort of gift basic of creature comforts – does anyone here have firsthand experience and could offer advice? His biggest issue is always getting up/sitting down, and not being able to be as active and tinkering away in the workshop as he used to.

    1. Anono-me*

      Nice firm cushions for his favorite upholstered chairs, that this will raise him up a few inches and make it easier for him to get up and down.

      One of those extension Grabbers. They’ll be helpful now and they’re useful in the workshop.

      A couple of those little C shaped side tables that fit over the arm of a sofa or chair that are tall and very very very sturdy might be nice. Then he can use them to brace on with his arms as he gets up.

      There is a cushion that is basically a lazy Susan for help in pivoting when getting in and out of the car. I think Bed Bath & Beyond still carries it.

      For getting in and out of the car there’s also an L-shaped device that fits in the place where the door latches. Gives a person getting out of the car something to brace on.

      Not as a gift, but something that may behelphul: As a temporary bathroom solution, please consider a toilet seat riser and getting an extra Walker off of Craigslist and placing it backwards over the toilet seat.

      1. Fikly*

        +1000 to the toilet seat riser. I’m 5’2”, so toilets are not high for me, and when recovering from countless foot surgeries, the higher toilet seat was so so helpful in standing up.

        Also, if I could, I would marry my electric heating pad.

    2. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      Microwavable buckwheat bags are great if his pain is usually centered in specific joints. Tiger balm and Thermocare products can be soothing too.

      If you really want to splurge (or have people go in on a group gift) they make recliners that partially lift and straighten up to sort of tip one into a standing position.

    3. Rainy*

      How are his hands? I have hand/wrist arthritis, and I have an amazing comfort grip all purpose bottle opener dealie that pops bottle caps but also flips over and then helps me open bottles more easily. The handle is really big so it’s easier to hold.

    4. Dr. Anonymous*

      If you want to go big, an electric chair that raises the seat can help him get up. You could also get his doc to set him up with an occupational therapist to help him figure out what he needs to make his workshop more comfortable—standing height stool, padded fatigue mat to stand on, etc.

  44. I'm A Little Teapot*

    Cat people please read :) I think I need to get a new kitty, so am trying to figure out timing and everyone I can talk to IRL is biased. I need to write this all out, and opinions are welcome. I have Arwen, 12yo female. Had Sibley, she died in April this year, then I had a foster from early July to Thanksgiving (hospice, he died). Arwen’s behavior is very uncharacteristically cuddly. I’m pretty sure it’s leaning towards “I’m unhappy/lonely, need cuddles”, vs “yay I’m an only cat, your lap is mine.” So I think I need another cat. Ideally, I’d get an older cat, 8+, female, friendly with other cats, fairly chill.

    Enter schedule complications. My mom is having surgery Monday 9th, so I’m going to be at parent’s house for a week. Arwen will be cared for, but mostly alone. She is NOT going to be happy about this. So, I’m home the 14th, back to work for a week, then on PTO 12/23 – 1/3. I expect Arwen is going to be upset/angry about all the changes. My family will also be coming for Christmas for a few days, so the house will be much more active than usual. Arwen isn’t necessarily a fan of the activity when everyone comes either.

    Whenever I get a new cat, said cat will need to be separated for a week probably, with slow exchanges of blankets, controlled introductions, etc. Being off work for this would help, but isn’t required. If I were to get a cat the weekend of the 14th, then we could do a slow intro through a closed door while I was at work, then the time I’m off could start more interaction. But given the overall change in routines, not sure if this is good for Arwen or if I should wait until Jan/Feb.

    Thoughts cat people?

    1. Rosie M. Banks*

      January and February aren’t really that far away. I’d say to wait, so that Arwen doesn’t have to deal with changes to her schedule and a new cat at the same time. (If there is a specific cat you want that needs a new home right now, I’d say to go for it, but if there isn’t, I’d vote for waiting.)

    2. Ann Onny Muss*

      With everything you have going on, wait til Jan/Feb before bringing home a new kitty. Chances are Arwen will not appreciate a new roomie (at least initially). Better to do so after your schedule has returned to normal.

  45. StudentaA*

    Say you’re totally on pins and needles waiting for a decision on something life-altering. You’ll be crestfallen if it doesn’t happen. How do you cope? Some people figure the answer will be no so they’re not disappointed if it really is no. Others distract themselves. Others go with the flow until it’s Time.

    Any stories you wanna share? What’s the smart thing to do?

    1. Wishing You Well*

      Get busy and use the time well. You won’t get this time back.
      I hope you get the answer you want.

    2. Alexandra Lynch*

      I’m trying to distract myself and recognize that a lot of this is not in my control. Emotionally it’s tough because I don’t have my partner with me to help with the emotional issues, or distract me from mine by focusing on his needs. I’m not thinking about what happens if it turns out other than what we want it to, that scares me terribly. But I keep telling myself that it’s not time to freak out about that possibility; we’re too early in the process, and why waste a good freakout if I can, in fact, get it through the heads of the people in power that I don’t want charges pressed and I want the protective order lifted and in short, I want it to all go away.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I try to harness that extra energy and do something of immediate practicality, such as clean that cupboard that I should have cleaned a year ago.

      Sometimes it plays out that if Big Thing pans out, I need to do X and Y and Z.
      I go a number of ways on this one.
      Option one, is that I check to see if I need to do X, Y or Z anyway. Sometimes this is the case and I can just do these things. It feels like I am prepping for Big Thing but I also have the satisfaction of getting these things done anyway.

      Option two is where I only need to do X, Y and Z IF the Big Thing comes through. In this case, I might pick one of the simpler To Do Items and do that. This gives me the unrealistic feeling that I am drawing Big Thing to me, by taking positive action. The happy part is that it helps me to feel upbeat about Big Thing becoming reality. Of course, if Big Thing does not come through, I have to undo that X or Y or Z. That’s not fun, but it’s not as awful as one might think sometimes.

      Option three is odd. This is where I prepped for Big Thing and it falls through. But I have done X and Y and Z, yet I no longer need these things. The suddenly, a new Not So Big Thing appears and LUCKY me, I have X,Y and Z done. My secondary choice ends up working out just fine.

    4. Nita*

      Dealing with this right now, and coping in several different ways. First, taking care of myself when I can (sitting down with a hot cup of tea before bed, trying to sleep enough, getting something nice to wear). Second, trying to look on the bright side. There is a bright side in my case. I’m more disappointed than pleased, but even I have to admit that the situation that’s not working out in my favor is also a blessing in disguise. Third, now that the disappointment had time to settle, I’m starting to make a Plan B, Plan C, and so on. I always cope with setbacks best by fighting back – sometimes it takes years to make that dream happen, but happen it does.

    5. OyHiOh*

      Keep busy. When I have scripts out for review, I put all my energy into writing new things, learning more about my craft, and socializing. Keep my brain busy so I can’t obsess about Decisions.

    6. LilySparrow*

      I remove arbitrary expectations of how I am “supposed to” cope, and just get through the time however I can, knowing it’s going to be messy.

      Sometimes I have my shit together. Sometimes I lose it. The time will pass regardless.

  46. Gaia*

    Anxiety Update

    I’ve been on Lexapro about 3 weeks now and I can definitely say I am feeling better and more in control. Earlier this week, I moved from 5mg (1/2 a pill) to 10mg (1 pill). I delayed this slightly as I was set to make that change while I was visiting my family for Thanksgiving and I was concerned that I may not tolerate it well in such a high stress environment. So far, I’ve managed it well.

    Since being on the medication I’ve been able to settle some life events that I have been struggling with and actually make decisions in a logical way without every possible path feeling like a doomed certainty. I was also able to manage through my mother’s hip replacement and early recovery this week without too much anxiety. Funnily enough, one situation that causes me the most stress/anxiety is still definitely in play but I think that is a bigger PTSD issue that will require more than a small white pill to handle. Thankfully it rears up rarely and is over quickly.

    One thing I am really unhappy about: I’m gaining weight. Some of you might remember I’ve been struggling to lose weight and I still have 100+ lbs to go. Since starting Lexapro I’ve gained 6lbs even though I’ve been able to return to exercise and diet (and no, it isn’t holiday weight gain – I tracked everything and stayed within my guidelines). I met with my doctor for the follow-up yesterday and raised this with her. She is reluctant to take me off the medication because it is working (as I’m reluctant to stop it) so we want to see if it settles down and we’ll check back in 3 months. I’m really concerned though. I’m eating healthy foods in the right amounts and exercising and it is disheartening to be losing ground. I hope that reverses course soon because I really don’t want to have to decide between my physical and mental health.

    1. Wishing You Well*

      I hope you’re also doing therapy and CBT.
      I gained a massive amount of weight on this type of med, so please stay on top of it.
      Best Wishes.

      1. Gaia*

        Therapy is being attempted but we have very little access to resources and a very high demand where I live so my first appointment isn’t until January (referred and scheduled in early November).

  47. Marguerite*

    How do you budget for holiday presents? I have to buy for 4 people in my sister’s family (among other friends and family), but I’m single so she only has to buy for 1 person. I always overspend because I love to spoil my nieces but money is tight for me. My sister never expects anything fancy or anything, and I don’t expect or want her spending a lot on me, but how do you decide how much to spend?

    1. Anono-me*

      When I was in a similar position, I’d either do a family gift as a bigger item, and then a couple little stocking stuffers for the littles. Or I’d do bigger gifts for the littles and then a couple stocking stuffers for the adults.

      1. Jdc*

        Same. I put more into the kids. I never come close to it being even what I get back, which actually would be fine, if my uncle wasn’t so rude about what he expects in gifts. Sigh. I must put up with it though. Frankly I’m only even doing it year to make a point. That’s a whole other story of me acting bitter and passive aggressive. They won’t see that anyway, too oblivious.

        1. Anono-me*

          My friend, the Queen of Sarcastic, gave someone this beautiful carving that was made out of shiny black material. Turns out it was some sort of lignite coal.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I did family gifts for my brother/wife/kids, aye – one year a board game and a gift card to their pizza place, another year a couple of DVDs and a bunch of popcorn and snacks for a home movie night. (I think I included a couple of fluffy blankets that year too, maybe, or fuzzy socks for everyone? I forget exactly.)

    2. Washi*

      This depends on the relationship, but for some parts of my family, I just do presents for the kids and not the adults.

    3. Turtlewings*

      I come from a big family (13 people to buy for this year, which is actually down one from last year because of a divorce) so I’ve never in my life been able to afford more than $20 per person. This year things are really bad financially and the budget is $12 tops. It’s interesting to me to see people say they spend more on the children, because I generally spend the least on them… My nephews are both toddlers and this is the first year even the older one has had any idea what was going on; they don’t care whether they’re unwrapping a hundred dollar toy or a $2.50 toy. That may change as they get older, I guess. I also don’t budget as much for my grandmother and uncle because they get genuinely get distressed when “the children” (I’m 35 but I’ll always be one of the children) spend money on them.

      One gift budgeting rule of mine is that if you’re not in my parents’ living room on Christmas morning, you’re not getting a gift from me, sorry. Friends, coworkers, I love you and I wish you a very merry holiday but I can’t afford to buy you anything. Wish I could, but… 13 people, y’all.

    4. VlookupsAreMyLife*

      Living in the suburbs with small kids & little money, we needed cheap/free holiday activities. So, we’d bake up some sugar cookies, fill up our travel mugs with hot cocoa, and drive around the different subdivisions looking at outdoor lights & listening to holiday music on the radio. We’d do this every weekend from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, noting our favorites and seeing how displays change from year to year.

      They’re teens now & we still do it. It’s my favorite!

    5. Alexandra Lynch*

      I’ve sort of fallen into giving my sons a t-shirt apiece, a book or other item each (Eldest is getting the Ask A Manager book this year!) and usually large candy bars. I tend to get partners/myself (I usually wind up shopping for myself) one big thing like good shoes or slippers or technology, two medium things in the $40 range, and a couple $15 things. But I like opening a lot of presents, so it’s okay.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I just googled for current advice. I used to allot 1-3% of our income but that included our gifts to each other. A quick google says 1.5% of gross income for gifts. I probably spent less than that.

    7. Dr. Anonymous*

      My family at one point called a halt o gifts, except for kids. Some families draw names so you only give one gift. I’ve made stuff when money was tight—there were a few years there where everybody got cookies. If your nieces are of a good age, a board game they can all play is good.

    8. Lives in a shoe*

      My family has always had a $25/gift limit for siblings, neices, nephews, in-laws and our own parents and a $5-20 limit for cousins if we’re doing an exchange with them. My husband and I have 19 people to buy for this year – 7 grandkids – so I think we agreed to keep it under $900 total and buy the grandkids things they need instead of toys.

  48. Lauren*

    Anyone binge watching anything fun on Netflix or Amazon Prime? I feel like I already watched everything….

    1. Nacho*

      I’ve been binging She-Ra for the past couple of days. I just started season 4, which is apparently about twice as long as the other 3.

      1. Lauren*

        I’ve never heard of Acorn, but love European shows! I will definitely check this out, along with the other recommendations. Thanks everyone!

    2. Pieforbreakfast*

      I’m re-binging Lovesick on Netflix. It centers around group of friends, one of whom is diagnosed with a STI and has to inform previous partners. Funny, short, easy to watch.

      1. Ethyl*

        I LOVE Leverage, but am not aware of where one can stream it currently in the US. Where do you watch?

        1. Sassafras*

          I‘ve been watching it on Amazon Prime, but I’m in Australia so maybe we have different options? YouTube has some episodes as well.

    3. Nicole76*

      Really enjoyed Living With Yourself starring Paul Rudd; watched all eight episodes in one evening! Sick Note was good as well.

    4. JKP*

      Just finished the 1st season of The Feed on Amazon. The technology is like having your cellphone wired directly into your brain. And like all sci fi stories, the technology has unintended consequences.

    5. Fikly*

      The Repair Shop was recommended here a while back, and I was sad because I couldn’t get it in the US, but it just came on Netflix (US)!

      It is utterly charming, following people in a shop repairing people’s heirlooms.

    6. Lives in a shoe*

      The Royals and Scandal. Hubby and I are desperately waiting for the final season of Lucifer.

    7. Gatomon*

      I’ve been going through a dull spot too and started a bunch of stuff that has been good, but just hasn’t grabbed me. I have been getting a kick out of Schitts Creek on Netflix though. It’s a comedy about a rich, vapid family who lose all their money and end up in a small town trying to rebuild their lives.

    8. LilySparrow*

      I just discovered The Repair Shop on Netflix.

      It is so soothing, and so incredibly wholesome. I binged it all day yesterday while decluttering and cleaning.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      I got all caught up on Peaky Blinders and binged all of Derry Girls, and now I’m working on V Wars (vampires!). I’m also watching The Mandalorian on Disney+ and Castle Rock on Hulu, but I can’t binge those, as they’re weekly.

    10. blaise zamboni*

      I really enjoyed Nobody’s Looking, which is a dark comedy about a bureaucratic office of ‘angeli’ who receive assignments to protect humans. The newest angelus breaks all the rules in the first two days and the situation gets more wild from there. It’s pretty short (8 episodes, 30 min apiece) but it’s super cute and the end of the season was a huge cliffhanger so I’m hoping there will be more!

  49. Ali G*

    Plant people help! I recently acquired an olive tree in a pot (olea Europa). I’m watering it when it gets dry (About once a week) and it is near an east facing window so gets lots of morning light. It’s shedding leaves like crazy. They are not dry at all. Just falling out. I’ve had it for about 4 weeks and this started around 2 weeks in.
    Any insights???

    1. Homo neanderthalensis*

      Those are really not houseplants. If you had a conservatory or a south facing window you might pull it off but an Olive really needs to be outside in full full sun.

    2. Natalie*

      If it needs more light you could try adding some artificial light. Fluorescent lights (including CFLs) are generally a good option, although you might need several depending on how much light the plant needs.

      Make sure you’re not overwatering, too. Plants commonly drop leaves as a response and people sometimes misunderstand and water more.