New Year’s free-for-all – January 1, 2020

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

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

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

{ 1,019 comments… read them below }

    1. NeonFireworks*

      Thank you, Alison, for all that you do.

      Also, my username has never been more apt. Happy New Year, all!

          1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

            Thank you Alison, and the whole AAM community!
            Here’s to a productive and healthy 2020 for all

        1. NoLongerYoung*

          Thank you Allison. This community and blog have helped me personally and professionally, through a difficult time. Perspective, insight, critical thinking skills, and compassion. An amazing blend and due to you. Thank you.

  1. Gaia*

    So I have a kinda wierd New Year Eve tradition: instead of going out, I stay home and clean. It feels so nice to wake up January 1 to a tray clean and tidy home and it feels like a productive way to send off the old year.

    I suppose I could clean earlier and still go out but then that risks dirtying it up. What weird traditions do y’all have?

    1. Detective Rosa Diaz*

      That sounds wonderful!

      I don’t really go out anymore for New Year’s, I just stay in with a movie. Not sure I would call it a tradition. But maybe your topic can inspire me to do something else next year! Excited to see what others may do.

    2. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      Not sure this is “weird” but last year and this year, a friend who also has a small child came over and we did the countdown at 7 p.m. while drinking sparkling apple juice and watching fireworks from a country five time zones ahead. That way the kids get the excitement without having to stay up until midnight (and without the adults having to stay up until midnight either, if they don’t want to!).

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        I may push for us to do that next year. My teen was weirdly excited for New Year and didn’t get to sleep until close to 2a.m.!

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Our local library used to do a New Year’s Eve Noon Countdown for younger kids (I have no idea if they still do this or not). I know my mom found a bar that was doing an “East Coast New Years Party” so it’s be at 9pm her time – she’s a morning person so that works well for her.

        I get stressed out by fireworks (I’m always worried something will catch fire – 4th of July is worse because it’s usually dry around here then whereas NYE is pretty damp), so I’ll be up until everyone else quits setting off fireworks and I’m sure nothing is on fire.

        1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

          “I know my mom found a bar that was doing an “East Coast New Years Party” so it’s be at 9pm her time”

          I live in NYC so after midnight I’d post “greetings from the future” for all of my Facebook friends who were on the West Coast.

          But the “East Coast New Year’s Party” is a great idea for those out there. Do any California TV stations show the ball drop from Times Square live at 9.00pm your time? (I guess it really doesn’t matter, because you can livestream it (right?) on the internet and watch it that way.)

      3. Edinbugger*

        Here there’s a specific event in the early evening for kids/families, with music and fireworks over the Castle, before the main Street Party begins. So tge kids get the same type of event as adults, just earlier. It works really well.

        1. Free Now (and forever)*

          Here in Connecticut, First Night is celebrated in Hartford, with activities all over the city for adults and for children, starting, I believe, in late afternoon. There are fireworks at 6pm and fireworks again at midnight. I, however, came to the conclusion years ago, that it was virtually impossible to be killed by a drunk driver, if safely ensconced on the second floor of your home and that’s where I spend New Year’s Eve. We celebrate by going out to lunch with friends on New Year’s Day. No crowds, no overpriced meals, not need to dress up and no drunk drivers.

      4. TimeTravelR*

        My friends sort of do that… they celebrate NYE based on a different country’s time zone each year. We are in the US on the east coast, but they might celebrate by going to a Russian restaurant at 4 pm our time. Their kids get to learn about other cultures (she home schools so makes this a mini lesson), have a celebration, and everyone is home in bed by 9!

      5. Parenthetically*

        We always did this as kids — even when we got older we still watched the Times Square one, two time zones ahead, so we could go to bed at 10:30 rather than 12:30 if we wanted.

      6. Seeking Second Childhood*

        We’ve done that–our state capital does a First Night with early fireworks AND midnight fireworks for exactly this reason.
        6pm? Happy Paris New Year!

      7. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        Not weird at all. My town schedules a “midnight” countdown at 8pm for families with kids and then has a real one at midnight. Kids are just happy for the countdown, most don’t care what the time is because there are fireworks.

    3. Arts Akimbo*

      That’s an awesome tradition! There is nothing like the feeling of a clean house!

      Ours goes like this. One year I was trying to make a point to my child about the arbitrariness of good luck/bad luck traditions, IIRC because he was worried about not having eaten hog jowls and black eyed peas the year before. I told him “It doesn’t really mean anything. People can just declare anything good luck and have it become a tradition. Like if I said eating cucumbers and caviar on New Year’s is good luck.”

      Only he decided that was simultaneously the funniest thing he had ever heard and BEST IDEA EVER, so now we eat cucumbers and caviar at New Year’s! I slice the cukes into medallions, spread cream cheese on them, and give each a little dollop of fish eggs– turns out they’re quite delicious that way!

      I’m uncertain which one of us, exactly, made their point, but at least we got a yummy snack out of it!

      1. So Not The Boss Of Me*

        My father’s family ate pickled herring at midnight. Yeah, I know, and I have no idea! Luckily we all liked it. My parents used to wake us up for the ritual. I have B&W photos of the bunch of us, in our pajamas, with snarled, bed head, long hair. We’re eating the herring and drinking chocolate milkshakes!! (My mother said the milkshakes were our request.)
        I kept the herring tradition, but didn’t mix it with dairy products.
        On NY’s day we always had pork roast and sauerkraut, from my mother’s German mother’s tradition. I still do that when I can.
        My older sister invited people for open house on NY’s day. She said if you get together on the First, you’ll stay together all year. I live thousands of miles away from everyone I know this winter–can’t do that, but I’ll send internet greetings.
        That’s for the memories, Gaia.

      2. nutella fitzgerald*

        Cucumber + cream cheese + smoked salmon has always been my jam, this sounds like such a fun way to make it glam for New Years!!!

    4. nep*

      I call that a great tradition.

      Me–not really a tradition, but the habit for the past many, many years: I’m in bed by 10 or so. Generally the fireworks wake me for a second, letting me know we’ve moved into the new year.

    5. Jessie*

      Cleaning the whole house inside and out on Hogmanay is actually an old Scottish tradition! Albeit, followed by lots of drinking and partying at midnight.

      I remember my grandmother fretting she hadn’t cleaned enough when she was older and not able to, she said it was the first time she’d ever seen in the new year without clean windows (I was too far away to help, I’d been offering to pay and organise a cleaning service for her for years, but she was Not Impressed and took the suggestion she couldn’t clean her own house as an insult. Never did convince her otherwise).

      Not many people follow it these days, but I still like to do a big clean on Hogmanay to start the new year off right. A few years ago I also stopped going out or waiting up for the bells at midnight. Waking up fresh and rested on the 1st January with a clean house is the best feeling ever, and a great way to start the new year!

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I didn’t either, and this is something my mother (not Scottish) has done since I was a little girl.

    6. Bilateralrope*

      A friend of mine has been setting up a ball pit as part of the New Years party he hosts. Including modifying his fence to allow a larger ball pit.

    7. Lena Clare*

      I take my tree and deccies down and do a big clean too! Although, having said that, this is the first year I haven’t done it – I’ve been unf*cking my habitat this year and my house is pretty much how I’d like it at the moment, so I’m enjoying the decorations and lights a little bit longer! Also, as I don’t work weekends and the 5th falls on a Sunday this year, I feel like I have time to take it down then.
      Happy New Year!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Mum is taking down the decorations today. If I were in my own space with my own decorations (I didn’t always bother, if I was going elsewhere for Christmas), I would generally leave them up for another week. Growing up, we didn’t take them down until Epiphany (Jan. 6). It’s a habit now even though I’m no longer Catholic.

        1. Lena Clare*

          My dad is Spanish, and although we didn’t grow up religious it is definitely a cultural thing for me that Christmas starts on the day itself and then goes on till the 6th Jan. It is SO WEIRD to me that people tend to not do that here (the UK) and that I have to use up my annual leave to take time off work, lol.

          1. Clisby*

            Same for me. When I was growing up, we put up and decorated the tree on Christmas Eve and took it down Jan. 6. This year we put our tree up Dec. 21 and decorated Dec. 22, so not too different on that end. However, I keep our tree up way past Epiphany – I just like the lights. I notice that Feb. 2 is Candlemas Day, so MAYBE I’ll take it down then.

        1. Lena Clare*

          Thank you! I just had a clean up everywhere (which I know UfYH says not to do, but I don’t make a habit of it), but because the house wasn’t to bad to begin with it only took me a couple of hours. Then I changed the bedding and had a bath, so now I am sitting here clean, in a clean house, with clean clothes on, ready for the new year :D

    8. Lena Clare*

      Oh, and very occasionally I’ll walk up Moel Famau (a large hill in Wales) (along with a good hundred other people!) timing it so we get to the top for midnight, light bonfires, and – if it’s foggy – also light some flares so the atmosphere gets all pink and it’s like being at the top of the magical faraway tree. Then drink sparkling juice and sing auld lang’s syne.
      I didn’t do it this year because I’m walking up on Friday during the day.

      1. StellaBella*

        I lived in Menai Bridge for 18months doing an MSc at Bangor and climbed Snowdon, Moel Siabod, Llyn Idwal, and the Glyderau. Wanted to do Tryffen but did not. Happy New Year, bore da, late. My Welsh is limited!

        1. fposte*

          Hey, I did a year abroad in Bangor! A prior poster on AAM, who’d also done a degree there, believed that there was some kind of inevitable Bangor connection operating in the world, and that any long online conversation would eventually reveal people who had studied there.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Well now that’s WAY cooler than what I usually do, which is nothing!

        I loved the little bit of Wales I visited — Cardiff, Penarth, and the area around Tintern Abbey. I can’t wait to see it again. <3

    9. Everdene*

      My mum always made sure the house was spotless for new year, as did Oak’s mum. So we spent a good part of yesterday cleaning/tidying/ironing/changing bedding and towels and so on. After dinner Oak emptied all the bins and we got showered and put on clean clothes for ‘the bells’. It is nice to be lying in a freshly made bed and know the house is in good shape.

      Just before midnight Oak was sent out the backdoor of his parents house so he could ‘first foot’ them after it turned midnight. His family traditions say the first footer must bring alcohol, mine say he (always he) must be dark haired. Last night Oak walked through the door with a bottle of cava.

      When we (finally) got back to our house Oak had to enter the house first and carry alcohol still – which is why there are a handful of minitures in my handbag. He will keep taking alcohol to places for the next few days. (My family don’t drink so on the occassions we visit my family this time of year Oak has a lot of stress around what to give to my parents that is respectful to their beliefs and his tradition).

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        May I suggest real vanilla extract? In the US at least, it’s 35% alcohol…but it bakes off and just leaves the flavor.

      2. HQB*

        Some ideas, if he is okay with expanding beyond ethanol to other alcohols:
        -Rubbing alcohol (perhaps as part of a first aid kit)
        -Hand sanitizer
        -Witch hazel (usually diluted with rubbing alcohol)
        -Alcohol-based art markers or pens
        -Sugar-free candy or gum made with sugar alcohols* (xylitol, sorbitol, erythritol, or mannitol)
        -Something made with menthol
        -Spirit lamp and fuel one year, and refills in subsequent years
        -Sterno
        -Perfume, depending on what’s in it
        -Glycerin soap (glycerol is a sugar alcohol)
        *some sugar alcohols are dangerous to pets

    10. Approval is optional*

      My usual tradition is to play scrabble until 11 pm, then watch a musical with my (adult, don’t panic :-) ) step-daughter, and make up raunchy lyrics for the songs. This year it was going to be Phantom of the Opera!
      However, I spent the night calling the police on my idiot neighbours who were setting off fireworks, (which is illegal here anyway, but as we live next to a nature reserve, and half of the fricking country is on fire, well……), watching them get arrested, and then taking turns keeping watch in case a fire started.

      1. Femme d'Afrique*

        Please don’t tell me you live in Australia. Because the thought of someone setting off FIREWORKS there right now is mind blowing!

        1. Approval is optional*

          I do – and yes, mind blowing is right. Goes to show one should never underestimate the stupidity of very drunk people I suppose.

            1. Approval is optional*

              According to my neighbour – who is a lawyer – the maximum sentence for it is 20 years (though few people get the maximum of course). If they had started a fire that caused property damage, the maximum would be life.

          1. Life is good*

            Idiot heads. In my neighborhood, the fireworks start around 9 PM and go well after midnight. Sometimes, if we have enough snow on the ground, the jerky drunks will start up their snowmobiles and race them up and down the street. Police have been called often. Even though the tickets are several hundred dollars, the same ones seem to forget that once New Years rolls around and there are a few beers in their gut.

      2. Gaia*

        What frigging idiots. I cannot believe (I mean, I can because people are stupid…) someone would be so dumb as to set off fireworks next to a nature preserve EVER but especially in Australia right now.

    11. Akcipitrokulo*

      That is a thing that was very common here (West Sc.f. otland). Have your house ready for the new year.

    12. Sleepless*

      This isn’t specific to New Year’s Eve night itself, but in the few days around New Year’s, I declutter the entire house. It makes me feel all “out with the old” as I reflect on the past year and start setting goals for the new one. New Year’s is one of my favorite holidays, and I rarely really “do” anything to celebrate. It’s just the psychological aspect.

      1. WellRed*

        Me too. Out with the Christmas tree here (and the resulting pine needle cleanup) sends me into the New Year.

    13. The Other Dawn*

      That reminds me–I need to clean my pantry cabinet. I’ve been meaning to do it for a couple weeks, so now is a good time. It’s at the point where things are stacked up and I can’t get anything else in there. I shudder to think how many expired items I have in there.

      My tradition isn’t weird, just something I started a few years ago: I burn a real bayberry candle completely down to the nub on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. It’s supposed to bring good luck and fortune in the new year. (Hopefully it works–I really could use it in 2020!) We started doing this when we moved to the middle of the state and became members of Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. They sell real bayberry candles and we grab a set every year when we go for their Christmas by Candlelight nighttime program. They’re not cheap, but we like this new tradition and it’s only once a year.

      1. A Frayed Knot*

        A bayberry candle
        burned to the socket
        brings health to your family
        and wealth to your pocket.

      2. Arts Akimbo*

        Oooh, I love bayberry candles! We used to get them at Christmas when I was a child and that smell brings back happy memories every time!

    14. chi chan*

      I light a candle before going to sleep and just meditate for a bit. I don’t wait till midnight but the fireworks usually wake me up and I listen to them in bed.

    15. Radio Girl*

      A fresh start every New Year’s. I try to do several important things every day, self care, professional development, cleaning, organizing…

    16. Pam*

      I spend New Year’s Day napping and watching/rewatching the Rose Parade. I will eventually see my campus’ float.

    17. Dancing Otter*

      I pay off all my bills, even if they aren’t due yet. (It’s not as if I would earn any interest if the money sat in the bank between 12/31 and 1/23, for example.) Then I look at my year-end balances from last year compared to this year and realize it wasn’t such a bad year after all.

      If I’m feeling really industrious, I start organizing everything for my income taxes, to judge whether it will be steak or ramen noodles next April.

    1. Radio Girl*

      Tell us why!

      I am pumped because I have some new home and work projects to start this year.

      1. Remy LeBeau*

        I am hella pumped because I’m able to properly start over in a different city, and leave the past where it belongs— the past.

  2. Chylleh*

    My cat usually hides under the bed when the New Year’s fireworks go off around the neighborhood. Tonight she came downstairs when the fireworks started and lay up against us on the couch and wanted to be petted through it. She used to be a stray cat who startled at the smallest noises, so we’re very proud of her!

    Happy New Year’s, everyone!

      1. Chylleh*

        Thank you! She apparently had a bit of a rough time before being brought to a cat rescue group, so I’m glad we could give her a new fresh start.

        1. Ann Onny Muss*

          As a crazy cat lady (I’m the servant for a horde of seven), thank you for taking in your kitty and giving her a good home. You’re doing something right if your skittish kitty came out to be with her humans during a noisy and scary time.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      The scariest situation with pets and fireworks is when the pet isn’t afraid of them.

      Or worse still, when my parents cat decided to sniff a lit firework. The cat was unharmed, just startled, but that was the last time my parents had fireworks at home.

      1. Chylleh*

        I’m sorry to hear your parents’ cat went through that! Our cat is indoors only and we don’t light fireworks (neighbors a quarter of a mile or so away do), so I’m happy if they are causing her less anxiety.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      There were very loud fireworks here last night and I thought of all the doggos and kitties who were hiding.
      I tried to see them but I only caught a glimpse. The alarm was on so I didn’t want to go outside.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        Here, too! It was crazy! The amount of firework noise off in the distance was comparable to our metro firework display at the 4th of July, and our city’s is one of the top 10 in the country! And the close fireworks– we had people setting off firecrackers, a party at a nearby restaurant popping an enormous bunch of balloons (!??), and more gunfire into the air than I have ever heard in previous years. I know the odds of getting hit by a falling bullet are incredibly tiny, but it’s a singular paranoia of mine, so I did not leave the house during that time.

        None of this is legal in my area, btw, except for the balloon thing. (But also why!?? What did the balloons ever do to them? Are there treats in the balloons? Secret spy notes? From very loud, bad spies? Also, give your neighbors a treat and a spy message! :D)

  3. nep*

    What are your favorite (most effective for you) ways to boost your immune system?
    Wishing everyone a healthy 2020.

      1. Clisby*

        Or be a teacher! One of my cousins said she spent her first year as a teacher constantly sick from something, and after that she seemed to have acquired near-100% immunity.

        1. Grace*

          Having a parent working in childcare is also effective – my mum worked at a pre-school so always brought home every germ going, and from childhood onwards I’ve had pretty damn good immunity. I’ve always attributed the latter to the former.

      2. Lilo*

        I am hoping to get to this stage soon. My son has been in daycare for six months and he seems to bring home all sorts of stuff that he gets better from in a couple days, but knocks me out for a week or two.

        1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

          The first couple of years are rough. Last year there were five cases of pink-eye among the four of us, plus a nasty stomach bug, colds that turned into bronchitis/sinus infections, and what we’re pretty sure was actual influenza. We did a lot of wiping down doorknobs with alcohol swabs and laundering things on extra-hot.

          But so far this year: one (1) cold, and a couple of days of going “Hm, I think I might be fighting something off?” Let’s hope that trend continues.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      Getting all the vaccines.

      Beyond that, with all the autoimmune conditions out there, I’m not sure I’d want my immune system boosted any further.

    2. Envy*

      Looking at the difference between me, who is rarely ill, and my husband who getting sick a few times a year, I’d say multi-vitamins and not smoking.

    3. Ann Onny Muss*

      Mitigating stress as best as I can (easier said than done sometimes). Also getting decent sleep (which is directly affected by the aforementioned stress). Not coming into work when sick (helps me get over whatever I have faster, and doesn’t pass it along to unsuspecting coworkers). Regular exercise. Nothing extreme; I try to walk about 45 mins 3-5 times per week.

        1. Ann Onny Muss*

          Don’t I know it. Lots stress associated with work right now, and I’ve been sick off and on since Halloween. I’m going to try to find more effective ways to deal with the stress this year. One thing I need to do is start exercising on the regular again. I slacked once the weather got cold.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            The older I get, too, the worse it gets for me when I slack off the exercise! Ugh. I get sick faster, and my recovery time from the exercise gets worse, once I eventually ooze back into the gym.

      1. nep*

        All spot on. The stress one is a biggie. Even if I can’t eliminate the external sources, I can eliminate my internal ‘sources’–reaction, failure to manage…

      2. triplehiccup*

        My top 2 too. The big life hack I learned in 2019 was the power of the sauna. Cortisol (the big stress/panic hormone) gets excreted through sweat – and it doesn’t matter if the sweat comes from exercise or sitting in a very hot room in the YMCA locker room :)

      3. Anonymouse*

        It’s so hard but getting enough sleep (7+ hours a night) does wonders for your immune system and level of overall stress and body inflammation.

    4. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

      Following this – I want a healthy year for once!

      Right now, I’m prioritizing sleeping properly and eating healthy. I swear by ginger and put in my food or teas.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I watch junk food/sugars and that seems to give me the most results, however I do other things also such as working in foods like onions, garlic etc into my meals.

      Likewise to you, nep and everyone, I wish you all a healthy year and contentment throughout the year.

    6. nutella fitzgerald*

      I’ve noticed that when I drink more, I’m also more susceptible to colds – not sure if it’s because the alcohol messes with my sleep, and I know that I get sick more frequently when I’m not getting enough sleep.

    7. MissGirl*

      I’ve been eating really clean and cutting down sugar a lot. I also include a lot of veggies and cutting out processed foods. I think that’s boosted my immune system.

    8. Ranon*

      Sleep! Then a balanced variety of foods that feels good for my body and consistent exercise. Gotta start with a solid foundation.

    9. Anon Here*

      Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, adding ingredients like fresh garlic and hot peppers, regular exercise done in a healthy way, spending time outdoors, acupuncture, avoiding breathing in toxic things (second hand smoke, car exhaust, etc).

      I can’t stress the value of garlic, ginger, and hot spices enough (in that order). If you’re around sick people or there’s something else threatening your immunity, eat extra garlic. It can be an acquired taste, but it’s very much worth it. I like to boil whole cloves with pasta, bake a whole bulb in the oven, and of course add big chunks of fresh garlic to everything I cook.

    10. Jenny F. Scientist*

      Vaccines and frequent hand-washing work wonders! Also training yourself to not touch your face during the day.

      1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

        Also, if you bite your nails, do whatever you can to break the habit. Hands in mouth: virus vector. Torn nails and cuticles: bacteria vector.

    11. Chaordic One*

      Making sure to get enough sleep, at least 8 hours a night. If I get too run down I inevitably catch a bug. Also, staying hydrated and eating right (not too many sweets or too much junk food and lots of veggies). And getting a flu shot.

    12. Princesa Zelda*

      Interestingly, working with children instead of food helped me a lot this year! Usually I get several bad colds every year, one a quarter or so, but this year I only got a very brief cold after a Christmas trip with two plane rides, being rained on multiple times, and spending lots of time with my getting-over-a-cold sister. I also was able to take a sick day to cover it, which I wasn’t able to do in my food service jobs (yes, I know), which I suspect helped nip it in the bud rather than drag on for a week+.

    13. Free Meercats*

      The half-billion gallons of partially treated sewage outside my office door. That and working in sewer manholes regularly.

      Well, that and All The Vaccines.

    14. alligator aviator autopilot antimatter*

      I try to wash my hands frequently in general, but a specific rule I follow is that I wash my hands every time I arrive home – especially if I’ve been on public transit (like after a day at work) or if I’ve been in a grocery store. Right after I take off my coat and shoes and before I collapse on the couch or put the groceries away or whatever.

  4. nep*

    Love love love the graphic.
    Thanks for all you do, Alison, and best to you and yours in the new year.

  5. Flow*

    Happy new year! Hope you had a wonderful night and here’s for a good 2020!

    Saying that, I had anxiety attacks since Sunday and been very anxious probably due to piling past stress and future pressure of job-seeking and all that. I just found out that I probably have what’s called monophobia/irrational fear of being alone, as in working in a place where I don’t know anyone, and the thoughts of not being able to work and grow in my career plagued me. I intend to not do anything this entire day and hope it goes away soon.

    1. nep*

      Sorry you’re struggling.
      I hope you’ll find ways to mitigate your stress. Wishing you peace. And best of luck in the job search, of course.

    1. Lady Lilly Longbotham*

      Awww I love hedgehogs.. they were frequent in our Auckland NZ garden where I lived as a child. They are sweet little personalities.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        Ever seen one trying to climb down stairs that are as tall as the hedgehog is long ?

        Lots of running back and forth along the step until it decides that it’s going to go down at a particular spot. Repeat for every single step.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I have a niece and a team member at work who both have hedgehogs and threat them like queens. My niece posts the cutest pictures of Penelope. I think my team member’s hedgehog is Nora.

  6. All-Volunteer Org - How To Prevent Fiefdoms?*

    So, I’m on the Board of Directors for a local non-profit that’s completely volunteer-run. We have a recurring problem that I don’t see a good way to avoid in an all-volunteer org: things basically get done by the people who want to do them, and this leads to personal fiefdoms and people who don’t take direction well about the thing they’re in charge of and what the org at large needs from it rather than how they personally feel like running it.

    We’re currently having a problem with a volunteer I’ll call “Fifi” (because she is totally building a fiefdom). She’s in charge of a specific large, annoying, on-going task that no one else wants to do (let’s say teapot maintenance). We chewed up about a half an hour at the last BoD meeting dealing with how she definitely felt it was time to wax some of the teapots, she wasn’t willing to provide detailed explanations of which teapots she was going to wax, and she became increasingly confrontational and unwilling to accept any kind of compromise on the subject of whether or not the teapots needed waxing right now. Eventually, everyone else on the BoD voted to let her just do whatever she wanted with any teapots costing less than $x to end the argument and move on with the rest of the agenda. (I wanted to fire Fifi from the position since she was not open to direction from the Board of Directors, but I knew I’d never get anyone else to agree with me so I didn’t bring it up. She’s been an angry loose cannon lately in general, but no one else wants to maintain teapots.) The whole thing struck me as a terrible way to manage anything or make decisions.

    I’m less concerned with the damn teapots and how much unnecessary waxy buildup they may end up with and more concerned about how this has played itself out in many parts of the org over multiple volunteers over the decade or so I’ve been around: someone comes in, takes something over, decides it’s “theirs”, does exactly what they want with it, doesn’t take input from others who rely on that particular function for something they’re trying to accomplish, and then eventually either burns out because “no one appreciates what I do for this org” or annoys the BoD by not taking direction until they’re removed from the position.

    Is there some way to fix this given that we’re not going to hire actual employees and will continue to use volunteers? (There’s no way I could convince this BoD to hire anyone, and I don’t think we could afford to anyway.) I’m going to stick out the remaining year on my BoD term, but I’m beginning to wonder if I want to be involved with the org anymore after that, since I’m getting pretty fed up with the level of dysfunction in general.

    1. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      I was on the BoD of a food co-op back when they were “new” (the 70’s). Exactly the same. I believe it is the nature of all-volunteer orgs. Because there is always someone out there who needs a cause/activity/whatever who will take over and run. It’s like the parents aren’t home and the kids just do what they want.
      You need a parent (ED/CEO) who can tell people what to do/not do. A BoD never, IME, does this, or at least not well/consistently. And done inconsistently it’s even worse.
      If you could find someone who is good at being an ED or CEO (maybe someone retired?) with the personality of a wild west sheriff (Blazing Saddles anyone?) and if the Board would support this person, you’d have a chance to rein it in.
      Otherwise, you need to pay someone to be in charge or the org is always going to be like this. Our co-op “couldn’t afford” a storefront, until the Health Dept. said we had to have one and then we got one. We “couldn’t afford” to pay staff until we started doing it. Funny how that works.
      Since then I have worked as ED/CEO for non-profit boards. After the last one in the 90’s I said never again. Because BoDs will do just as you described. Path of least resistance.
      Like you plan to do, I left. Path of least resistance for me, I guess. Tired of getting nowhere.

      1. All-Volunteer Org - How To Prevent Fiefdoms?*

        We don’t have any kind of ED/CEO position. We have a President, who is elected yearly by the BoD (and is, at least in practice, someone who is already on the BoD), but that’s not really the same thing. (We vote the new officers in at the end of the General Meeting where we vote in new Board members, so half of the people on the Board didn’t necessarily even know they’d be eligible for those officer positions since they were just elected, and there’s never much in the way of campaigning involved. In practice, it’s more a case of “none of us can go home until someone is elected Board Secretary. We are required to have a Board Secretary. I refuse to do it again, Fergus is willing to be Treasurer and no one else is, so that leaves the rest of you. Who will volunteer?” rather than something where the Board is carefully weighing options and thinking about who would be the best fit.)

        I think someone with ongoing time to devote to being an ED/CEO would be incredibly helpful (since then fewer things would end up being done by whichever board member(s) have time and feel up to doing them), but I also can’t imagine how we’d get someone who wouldn’t just use it to build their own fiefdom and create even more problems than Fifi does unless we paid them. I don’t know of a single org in our niche with a paid ED or any other paid staff, so I don’t think that it’s something we could reasonably get away with doing, unfortunately. (Almost every city has some kind of org that does more or less what we do, but we’re not all chapters of the same national org or anything that would have oversight. We have assorted regional/national/international conventions we all go to so I have a pretty good idea of the organizational structure of other similar orgs since I’ve talked with lots of other people from other cities involved with similar orgs. I’ve even volunteered with other orgs in the same niche but different cities, but not in a role where I’d interact much with their BoD since I only take on short-term single-project roles if they’re not in my home state.)

        A group of people are currently trying to start a food co-op in my neighborhood. They look so hopeful and well-intentioned, and I wish them well, but I am NOT joining until they have hired a manager and found a location, because I do not need any more non-profit drama in my life right now. (I will join the co-op if they actually get a storefront together and it’s someplace located close enough for me to reasonably shop at, but I am not going to run a grocery store as a hobby. I am already running something else as a hobby and it’s bad enough as-is.)

    2. OhBehave*

      It’s hard to differentiate volunteer and employed staff. The reality is that a non-profit relies so much on their volunteers that it’s hard to manage them. When I first joined a vol org., jobs that were done were handled by anyone who wanted to do them. Years later we became more organized in that we put vols in place who actually had talents in that area. Tempering your approach is needed but it still must be addressed as if these people were being paid. The org depends on all areas working together. You cannot have a loose cannon.

      First, you need to draw up a chain-of-command tree/Organizational Structure. The Executive Director should be the liaison between the BoD & Organization (Board Governance). You can start by looking at all areas of the org and identify the main departments. Operational= Finance dept, Admins, facilities, HR, etc. Resources=Marketing, Retail, etc.
      Organize vols by department under these divisions. This will bring some professionalism to the org.
      Ideally the department heads will manage their own people. However, it sounds like the BoD is crossing boundaries by getting involved in the day-to-day stuff which is not their responsibility.

      I suggest an all-org meeting where you show the big picture and how everyone contributes to the success or failure of the organization. i.e. Marketing is planning a media blitz, exciting. However, have they clued in those who will be answering phones, emails, social media on how they should respond? Give them answers to anticipated questions? What does Fifi do or not do that impacts other areas?

      As far as Fifi, She has to be spoken with about this. It cannot continue as is. She feels threatened when asked about her decision. She’s counting on you backing down and letting her do what she wants. Let her know you appreciate how she’s taken ownership of her area. However! “Fifi, I’ve noticed that when we asked about waxing teapots, you were unwilling to explain. Can you tell me why you refused to do so?” I would not do this with the whole board but with one or two of you. Fifi knows no one wants to do her job. She has security in that! If your org is popular, there is someone who can do her job. The way she is being managed is…not managing.

      Take a frank look at your org. Are there huge tasks that can be shared between two people? This may lessen the overload volunteers feel. Make sure you celebrate your volunteers! It’s important they know that YOU know how vital they are to the org.

      All of this sounds like more than you can accomplish in your remaining term. It’s also a TON of work. To accomplish this, everyone needs to be on board. If you do take these steps know that you may lose a few people along the way if communication is not clear.

      1. All-Volunteer Org - How To Prevent Fiefdoms?*

        I think a large part of the problem is that we don’t really have any kind of org-wide organizational structure, and we don’t really have a good template for how to have one.

        Imagine that we started out, quite a few decades ago, as an org that puts on a yearly Llama Film Festival. Most of the volunteers pretty much are just involved with that, and since it’s a single yearly event, most of the management is really event-level and handled by the person running that year’s event. The BoD is mostly just there to keep track of on-going things like insurance, bank accounts, etc., so doesn’t really need much of a staff of its own.

        However, some people who like films about llamas also tend to do a lot of knitting. It started out that they’d be knitting during the films, and then they started meeting in the lobby before and after the films to discuss their knitting, and eventually a dedicated room at the film festival was set aside just for the knitters (and the spinners, and the crocheters, and sometimes also people doing needlepoint, since they heard this was a fabric arts event). Before we knew it, our Llama Film Festival org was also running enough fabric arts crafting that it really made sense for them to run their own event on a different weekend instead (and also some smaller crafting days throughout the year).

        We also have some smaller charitable funds for things like hurt llamas or sending people to film school. These grew out of individual fundraising efforts for specific crises decades back, and are now on-going things that anyone with a hurt llama that needs to go to film school can apply for.

        So, the need for Board-level oversight of a lot of stuff has been masked by having a lot of the work done by each individual event (which has a specific person running it each year who reports to the Board, and a large volunteer staff who may only be vaguely aware that they’re volunteering for the Promotion of Llamas in Film organization rather than for their specific event). Most other similar orgs don’t seem to be running such equally-sized yet dissimilar events (most film festivals aren’t also running fabric crafts weekends and vice versa, although some orgs do run multiple film festivals or craft events), so our need to have more board-level staff and decision-making is probably unusual. (And, of course, the people who started the org before I was born because they wanted to watch llama films with their friends, sometimes while knitting, have no idea why we want to make everything so complicated when it didn’t used to be. Meetings used to just be at Fergus’s house, and then everyone would go to the bar afterward and swap llama jokes!)

        I am currently trying to get the rest of the Board to realize that we need some kind of structure for our org-level (rather than event-level) volunteers at all. We currently have three org-level volunteers who aren’t also on the Board, which I think is a new record for us. (We also have several other org-level volunteer positions that are filled by Board members, probably because they were at the meeting when it was discovered that Someone Should Be In Charge of That.) Aside from Fifi (who will probably do quite a bit of damage before ragequitting, which my personal guess is that she’ll do within a year, but I honestly don’t see any way to prevent it since the rest of the Board doesn’t see it the way I do), we have one Shiny New Person who seems to actually want to work within a structure and have defined reporting lines, and one old-time volunteer who was one of the founders, stepped back, and came back because we’d badly dropped the ball on something and it was frustrating him to the point that he was willing to do it himself. Surprisingly given that, he has been very easy to work with and willing to take direction, so I think two of the three org-level volunteers not on the Board would take increased structure well. I just don’t know that I can get the other Board members to actually do anything about it.

        1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

          This is a science fiction convention, right? :)

          Reach out to other, larger, more established organizations who do similar things, even if what they do is a little different. Also reach out to your local government’s small business support office or similar—they can be hugely helpful.

    3. Dancing Otter*

      Are you talking about committee chairs or the equivalent? My organization used to rotate those every year or two. Definitely, nobody could stay on one thing more than three years.

      It cut down a lot on the “I know this area, and nobody else does” attitude, and even if someone did get territorial, there was a time limit. Worked wonders.

      Horrid warning / counter-example: the “coffee lady” at my parents’ church ruled her fiefdom from the early 1960s until she went into a care facility 40 years later. Whereupon the church replaced all the 10+ gallon industrial coffee urns with modern pots and set up a week-by-week signup system so *no one* would ever be in charge like that again.

      1. All-Volunteer Org - How To Prevent Fiefdoms?*

        We don’t seem to have any structure at all for org-level volunteers. I think we’re still, on some level, “surprised” that we have them? (Surprised is not the right word, but I can’t think of the word I mean right now.)

        We have structures for how long BoD terms are, and for how long someone is in charge of each big event that we do (our org mostly does a few annual events rather than lots of smaller on-going things), but all of the org-level non-director positions seem to be indefinite. I’d like to see defined length terms added, but the truth is that we don’t have other people who are necessarily able to step into some of those roles, so it’s difficult to propose that right now with any kind of teeth (since we’d just end up reappointing the same people). Some of the roles are things pretty much anyone could figure out and are just annoying timesucks, so if we could put on a less dysfunctional face long enough to get more people in we could rotate people through those, but others require pretty specialized knowledge and so we’d need to recruit more people into the org who had those skills and were willing to put up with us.

        Many of our previous crash-and-burn fiefdoms are because the person in question is the only one who understands some particular specialized computer thing, which is often some piece of custom software that’s been partially written/upgraded/maintained by them after getting some code from a previous similar person either in our org or another one, going back a long time and with little documentation. (I don’t want to get into specifics because it would make the niche obvious, but it’s something where there isn’t a good off-the-shelf commercial option for some of the things we need.) The current Fifi is unusual in that she’s not doing anything that esoteric, just something widely acknowledged to be a pain in the butt, so I’m particularly irritated that we’re putting up with it this time.

    4. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      Ahhh you have my sympathy. My hobby organization that does very complex bimonthly events deals with the same thing…we’re finally turning to committees of volunteers for each corner that needs managing (pulled from active participants), but there are a few old volunteer holdovers who are used to having total control over certain aspects, that they are sometimes running Badly.

  7. Yeah, lets do the anon thing*

    Question!

    I have discovered that a major NYC hospital is engaging in what I feel is fradulent billing practices. Essentially, they are billing patients for copays they do not owe, and then once that person pays the copay, they claim they will then refund the copay once it is determined that the copay is not owed, or if the person calls billing customer service and tells them the copay is not owed, they will look into it and dismiss the bill.

    I found this out in the context of having met my in-network out of pocket maximum for the year back in October. I have seen many doctors and been to many hospitals since then, and at every appointment, I have told staff while checking in that I have met my maximum, and thus do not owe a copay. The only place I have received a bill from is this hospital.

    The first time, I called and told them and they took the copay off. The second time, I called and told them and they took the copay off. The third time, I got outraged, and called and told them their billing practices were fradulent.

    That’s when they told me this was “just how their billing system worked” and that it automatically bills copays without first submitting a claim to the insurance to see if a copay is owed. I said that this was fraud, and what if people who didn’t know they had met their maximum for the year (my insurance didn’t tell me this, I know because I went on the website and looked) just saw the bill and paid it? The said, well, eventually we’ll refund the money. Which…yeah, maybe. So I told them I was reporting them to the BBB, and hung up.

    So I’ve written in a complaint to the BBB (this was last week) and today I get a call from a supervisor from patient services at this hospital who is apologizing that the experience upset me. I calmly explain that the issue isn’t whether or not I was upset, the issue is that their billing is unethical, likely fradulent, and possibly illegal, and by the way are they returning the money they shouldn’t have been collecting in the first place with interest?

    She made soothing noises about looking into it, but I highly doubt they will, because right now, they’re making money off this practice. The only way it will stop is if it costs them more to continue doing it.

    So…other than letting this thing wind its way through the BBB, what would you do? Is this actually illegal? Is it fraud? I feel like billing people for copays they do not owe is fraud, but it may not meet the letter of the legal definition. It’s definitely unethical. There are surely people who cannot afford to be out the copay for however long it takes this place to decide to give the money back.

    Oh, and I found out from the first person I talked to at billing that there is actually a way to override the system on an individual basis, but of course they didn’t do that the first time I wrote in and explained I wasn’t going to owe any copays for the rest of the year. So yeah, clearly they want to do the right thing.

    For additional context, I am willing to burn the bridge of being able to see providers/get care at this hospital.

    1. Lena Clare*

      I’m a Brit so maybe my advice is not worth anything, but I think if you’ve made a formal complaint, talked to the hospital, and are willing to go elsewhere for your care, there might not be more that you can do; except for letting other patients and your insurance company know that the hospital’s practices are potentially fraudulent perhaps?
      I can see how this would be really infuriating though.

      1. Yeah, lets do the anon thing*

        Thanks!

        Yeah, my concern is mainly for the people who are unaware they are being taken advantage of. I am able to protect myself.

        My insurance company won’t care – they are not the ones being charged money, it’s me.

    2. RecoveringSWO*

      Check you state and city government websites to see if there’s a reporting mechanism. Some states have a special healthcare complaint process through their AGs office, some through their dept of health. I can’t speak to the fraud question definitively, but your local government/representatives will hopefully act.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Echoing, the NYS AG’s office is VERY good with advocacy. I suggest filing a complaint with them.

        1. Yeah, lets do the anon thing*

          Thank you, this is very helpful to know! I figured there must be someone official, but I wasn’t sure who.

    3. Rubyrose*

      Complain to whomever supplies your health insurance coverage. If you have it through your employer, complain to the health insurance company. If Medicare, to CMS. If Medicaid, to the State. They are going to have more power than the BBB, since they actually pay the bills and probably have contracts with the provider.

      Unethical, without question. Illegal? More likely if the payor is the government, but less likely if private insurance.

      1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

        Agree with this… I work at a hospital and government is our biggest payor.

        Also, not that it would really change anything, but you could report to hospital’s compliance officer, or depending on how the hospital is governed, lodge a complaint with board of directors. Our board has monthly meetings that are open to the press so that would be a big whammy to hear in open session.

      2. Yeah, lets do the anon thing*

        Do you really think they’d care? It’s not them being charged, it’s me.

        1. WellRed*

          It’s not about whether they care. It’s about whether the hospital is being unethical or fraudulent. That’s a big deal even to the insurer. It’s also something to report to the AG or insurance commissioner or whoever makes sense in your state, not the BBB.

        2. Gaia*

          Likely, yes. I’ve actually had my insurance fight back against a charge I was billed for incorrectly when I didn’t even know it was incorrect. My insurance informed me. Fraudulent billing is taken fairly seriously and a major hospital doing something illegal would likely raise some serious eyebrows. If not insurance, try the NY AG – they will care.

        3. Beatrice*

          Yes, they should look into it. If it’s fraudulent, the culture that makes systematic patient fraud possible will breed other kinds of fraud.

    4. Zip Silver*

      “A major… hospital if engaged in fraudulent billing practices”

      Story of every American’s life. The BBB is not worth anything, businesses pay money to maintain their BBB rating (and nobody under 50 knows what the BBB is… It’s literally just Yelp/TripAdvisor with a different business model not a government agency).

      Use your insurance company to fight it, and in the future use nonprofit religious hospitals. They tend to be less scummy overall than for profit hospitals.

      1. The pest, Ramona*

        I have to disagree with the non – profit religious hospitals being less scummy, at least in my area. Here they’ve been buying up one by one all the practices in the county and closing them down shortly thereafter. Health care is becoming really grim in my location unless you want the more limited services of the religious group.

    5. Professor Plum*

      What about talking with an investigative reporter at a local television station? If they pick it up, that could lead to public pressure.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’d SO be taking this to NPR! National Public Radio has done some really good work following up on problems with financial irregularities.

        1. Yeah, lets do the anon thing*

          Oh, I hadn’t thought about NPR, but I would trust them more than most media!

          1. Lore*

            NPR and Gothamist are doing a long project on medical billing right now (Gothamist is now owned by WNYC I think.) If you google Gothamist medical bills, the info on the series comes up or you can contact them at healthcosts at gothamist.com.

    6. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      The BBB is a membership org. I submitted a complaint once, the company called and blew me off. When I called the BBB after, they told me they had closed the file once the business told me they had called me. At that point it had been “taken care of”.
      Medicare, CIS, others will be told the hospital refunds the copay and that will be the end of it. I’m sorry they are doing this, but I do not believe anyone is going to fix it. Please give yourself peace that you tried to help. I agree with you, but you can’t save everyone else from this. You seem really upset. You have health issues and you need your energy for that. Please use the best hospital for your problems and read all invoices thoroughly. Many hospitals do this and you may find it happening at the next place also. Or something worse. Concentrate on your health, Y,LDTAT. I hope 2020 is a better healthy year for you.

    7. fposte*

      New York state has some really strict billing laws. I don’t know that this is illegal there (it wouldn’t be in a lot of states), but it does mean there are agencies to raise the question to (I agree with others that the BBB isn’t worth the time). It looks like filing a complaint through the Department of Financial Services might be the way to go.

    8. BRR*

      I don’t love this but also in my experience it’s basically a universal thing to collect a copay at the time of your appointment. It’s also been my experience that doctors offices are not great at knowing out of pocket maximums. The only thing I’m seeing that they need to improve is if they’re told you’ve reached it, to not bill for a copay (and to me that means not having to make a phone call).

      1. Yeah, lets do the anon thing*

        I would agree, if this was my experience anywhere other than this one hospital. I have been to probably 10 other doctors and 5 other hospitals during this time, and not a single one has done this.

        Therefore this hospital is an outlier, at least in my unofficial randomly selected group of payments.

        The problem is that they are billing patients before verifying what is owed by submitted a claim to insurance. And they don’t make this clear on the bill, either. And on two of the bills, the copay amount itself was incorrect, even if I had owed the copay.

        And as an aside, something being commonly done badly doesn’t mean that the response is not to fix it, or that it doesn’t need to be improved. It means lots of places need to improve it.

        1. Anono-me*

          Your last paragraph is true about so many things. (And very well said.)

          I don’t have any suggestions on how to get the hospital to change although I hope you can. That would be wonderful.

          There are a lot of people for whom $10 or $20 is huge. And those are often the people whose voices go unheard or people who feel that they are not in a safe space to speak up at all.

          Even if you can’t get the hospital to change its practices, please consider reaching out to local nonprofits that serve people who are ‘labeled’ the “Working Poor.” This could be helpful for their clients to know. Especially the part about the ability of the hospital to override the co-pay if it is unnecessary, along with the name, department, and extension number of the person who can authorize the override. (Many of the people living on the edge of poverty are not eligible to have bank accounts and so must pay a fee to cash any checks. A $10.00 check – $3.95 fee & 2% = $5.85 real money)*

          * FYI – If you are making a payment to someone you suspect might the experiencing extreme financial hardship, please consider paying them cash or if necessary a Postal Money Order.

          1. Yeah, lets do the anon thing*

            The people for whom a copay is a lot of money are exactly the people I want to advocate for here.

            One, because they are being hurt the most, even if the money is eventually being returned to them. And two, because they are, I suspect, most likely not to know that they do not owe the copay.

            Hospitals have to deal with insurance being the way it is, and I understand that. But when hospitals are making the problem worse, it just makes me so mad. Do no harm!

    9. Jenny F. Scientist*

      The BBB is not effective; I would look into state agencies, such as the Department of Consumer Protection of the Department of Financial Services. You may have to call around a little to find the right one. (I have done this: I was being harassed by a bill collector for someone *else’s* medical bill! In CT it was the Dept of Banking Services or something quite odd.)

    10. Anon Here*

      I have nothing to add, but I’m having a similar experience with the big hospital chains in NYC. They’re not so great, for-profit and non-profit. However, the media seems to be on to it. I keep seeing news stories about how sketchy they are.

    11. OhBehave*

      The BBB won’t do much if anything. That’s my experience in my state. Your Attorney General office is the place to go.

    12. wwf*

      In NYC, you can try filing with the NY AG and contacting the New York Post or New York Daily News – some media exposure might further pique the interest of the NY AG. If you get no interest, the Post has a column called Dear John which deals with consumer issues.

    13. Dan*

      I… just don’t see the outrage here, and IMHO think you’re making a big deal out of not much. If you want to burn that bridge, that’s your choice.

      I finally hit the point in life where I actually know something about my medical insurance beyond “I have it.” After basically never even going to the doctor for decades, I’ve now hit my out of pocket max two years in a row.

      I wouldn’t expect a doc’s office to know the ins and outs of someone’s specific coverage at the time of service, and would have no issue paying a copay and having it refunded later. Heck, I’ve had issues where wires got crossed, and I’ve ended up overpaying Provider A and getting a bill from Provider B (stuff to do with deductibles, nothing shady.) Provider A (*big* local hospital network) cut me a check without even a phone call from me. You say “yeah maybe” in your post, but what happens is it shows up on your account as a credit owed.

      If you *weren’t* getting your money back, that would be a different issue. But from what I gather, there’s just some extra paperwork getting generated, and at the end of the day, it all gets settled. I wouldn’t worry too much about that, but that’s just me.

      1. Yeah, lets do the anon thing*

        I’m guessing you can afford to be out the copay for however long it takes. What about the people who can’t?

        As someone who has worked in a doctors office and a hospital, doing insurance verification, it’s actually standard practice to know the “ins and outs” of someone’s specific coverage before you are seen. There are computer programs that you submit a person’s information to, and it will come back with if their coverage is active, what their copay is for what type of service, etc. That way you can warn someone if their insurance won’t cover the visit, and bill them for the correct copay.

        The problem I’m describing happens after the office visit, when providers are billing for everything that happened at the appointment. The proper way to do this is to submit a claim to the insurance, with coding, and then the insurance goes over the claim, decides what they will pay and what my responsibility is, and then sends that back to the provider. The insurance sends an explanation of benefits to me, and the provider sends a bill for my responsibility to me. The hospital is completely skipping this step and just billing me for what they expect me to owe, despite me telling them at the time of the appointment that I will not owe a copay, and the staff telling me they will make a note of this.

        Given that every other provider I’ve been to has had no problem submitting a claim to my insurance to find out what I actually owe before sending me a bill, clearly this isn’t an unreasonable burden of paperwork. Also, it’s not extra paperwork, because the paperwork has to be done regardless. The question is simply, do they bill me before they do the paperwork, or do they do the paperwork first, and then bill me.

        So, respectfully, while you are using your insurance, I don’t think you actually know that much about how it works from a provider’s point of view.

      2. Lore*

        In my experience with such issues (usually with my old dentist, who did the math on the deductible wrong every year without fail), they don’t automatically correct the overpayment unless you call after you receive the EOB. Usually two or three times. So in addition to floating my dentist a loan, then I have to find multiple occasions in an open office to call and request that the overpayment be corrected. Sometimes when it’s $20 or less I’ve let it go. Even though I can’t use FSA money for amounts over what insurance says I owe, the effort is more than the money. And I am a very informed consumer who reads all my mail. I’m 100% certain the health economy counts on most people silently overpaying.

    14. Reliquary*

      Google “An Arm and a Leg” podcast, and email the host. It’s an amazing show that is all about the outrageous cost of healthcare in the US.

    15. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      State AG definitely, and it might be worth calling the city Department of Health and see what they think.

      And, when you talk to the attorney general’s office, mention that the hospital told you that they are doing this on purpose, and to a lot of patients. Also, “that’s just how we do things” doesn’t make behavior legal or ethical: systems are created by people, and chosen by people.

      Another thing to emphasize is that since the hospital is doing this systematically, they have no excuse for not at printing something like “we bill copays automatically. You may not owe us any money. Check your coverage to find out whether you need to pay this. If you want to dispute this charge, call $phone_number” on every bill. They might argue that they can’t replace a million-dollar billing system quickly; they absolutely can replace their stock of printed billing forms.

  8. Resolutions don't work?*

    New Year, New You?? I don’t like this concept for lots of reasons, but mainly because I don’t think I’m pretty cool the way I am!

    I would however like to get fit and lose weight, but I don’t make resolutions because I tend to break them.
    I was thinking that I might trick myself by not making any resolutions but just cutting portion sizes down and going swimming a couple of times a week for fun…

    Anyway, I was just wondering if there was anyone who had made losing weight/ doing more exercise a resolution one year and then stuck to it and had it work – any tips?

    Anyone else made any other (non) resolutions?

    1. Resolutions don't work?*

      I mean I do think I’m ok the way I am, lol.

      Can’t type on my phone though!

    2. Approval is optional*

      I read an interesting article in one of my late partner’s psych journals about NY resolutions. The gist of it was that resolutions (though they preferred the word goals) had to align with your values to be successfully maintained. So, for example, a value that *might* underpin reducing portion sizes, is having the lowest possible impact on the environment: food production uses resources, so only consuming what you need would align with this value. (oversimplification of course)
      The process is to first do a values exercise and drill down to your core values, then work out what changes you would like to make to align your life more closely to your values. then one thinks of the goals in terms of meeting the value – so not ‘lose weight’ but rather ‘reduce my carbon footprint’ or ‘use less of the health budget’ (that one is perhaps more relevant for those of us in countries with universal health care of course!).
      As I recall there was some credible evidence that it was one of the more successful ways of getting resolutions to stick.

      1. Resolutions don't work?*

        This is so interesting, thank you. It reminds me of Desire Mapping by Danielle La Porte which works along a similar vein – linking it to feelings rather than values though.
        The values resonates more for me. I went vegan because of the environment, and the whole ‘fatberg’ thing (if you haven’t heard of it don’t look it up bc gross!) completely grims me out, so I can use that to my advantage.

    3. Arts Akimbo*

      This might not help you, but I accidentally started losing weight when I made a habit of not eating after 9pm. My spouse said it was because it met the number of hours required to trigger the body’s intermittent fasting response. I think it helps that I don’t eat breakfast until late, too. For exercise I try to get out and walk for at least 30 minutes most days.

      But, again, it was just a decision, not a resolution (I agree with you, I think they don’t work. Only lifestyle changes work, not weird external pressures, IMO)

    4. Zip Silver*

      Resolutions almost always fail. If you’re looking to lose weight, the best way to go is to up your water intake (2L+ a day), stop drinking liquid calories (esp booze and soda, unless you’ve got a crazy juice habit) and stop buying snacks and don’t keep food in the house that doesn’t require cooking. I used these fairly simple changes and list 100lbs over the course of a year and a half. I didn’t really increase my exercise level until after I lost the weight.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        “Don’t drink calories” can be an absolutely gigantic change, for people who drink milky/creamy coffees, alcohol, smoothies, etc (all perfectly common in the modern Western diet).

        1. The Other Dawn*

          A friend of mine has been complaining for years that she can’t lose weight even though she “doesn’t eat much.” Having observed her habits for many years, it’s very obvious that she’s getting many of her extra calories from booze. Also, she barely eats all day until dinnertime: she eats a roll with butter for breakfast along with multiple coffees (which usually has lots of cream and a ton of sugar); doesn’t really eat lunch and if she does it’s just a small side salad (how she manages to go all day at work–and actually be able to work–without eating puzzles me); but then eats dinner with at least two to three helpings of a starchy side, like rice, pasta, or potatoes. She starves herself most of the day and then piles on the calories at dinnertime. Because she’s so hungry by that point, she ends up eating two to three times what she should. And then there’s the booze, which adds lots of calories.

          1. WellRed*

            I need to cut down on the wine. I’ve already started and think it will be a huge factor in dropping pounds. Added bonus: save money.

            1. Filosofickle*

              OTOH, I always assumed if I cut down on wine I’d easily drop some weight. Not so! I nearly stopped drinking two years ago — going from about 10 drinks a week to 1 — and I’ve actually gained. I don’t drink sodas not drinking also took away the urge for evening snacks, so it’s been super frustrating.

        2. Lilo*

          You also generally don’t fill up on calories you drink so eliminating these won’t leave you feeling hungry.

          Have a reusable water bottle and fill it up.

      2. Different username for this*

        I second focusing more on eating habits than exercise. You want to put your body in a healthy state with a steady diet of nutrients before you start pounding the treadmill. The exercise will help accelerate your weight loss goals once you’re on the right diet. (And don’t let your exercise routine lure you into a false sense of security that you can eat All The Treats, because that will just set back any progress.)

        1. Resolutions don't work?*

          Oh gosh yes I definitely do the “eating what I like because I’ve done exercise!” thing! Thank you for the reminder.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Agreed, I favor getting proper nutrition into the body before adding more stress (exercise) to our routines. For example a body lacking certain minerals could sustain more injuries during exercise, and/ or raised levels of discomfort.
          I thought about how we never pour Kool Aid into our gas tanks and expect our cars to run properly. That would just never cross our minds. But we have no problem with running out and exercising endless after years of not having proper meals.
          Getting ourselves positioned well for success is an important step.

          1. Zip Silver*

            A great real life example of this is going on a ski vacation with a bunch of other sea-level folks. The last time I went to Breckenridge with friends, almost all of us were dying after day 1, but we had committed to a 6 day trip!

            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

              If you do this again, try gingko! High altitude climbers actually use it to help cope with the relative lack of oxygen at higher altitudes. I use it now when I go back home.

        3. The Other Dawn*

          Yes to nutrition over exercise! My trainer always tells me the weight loss/maintaining is 80% diet and 20% exercise. Exercise is more about getting yourself moving to improve flexibility, keep in shape, and just feel better overall.

          1. nep*

            I teach an exercise class at a local place, and for fun one woman in the class had super cute t-shirts made, ‘Body by [my name].’ But when a woman in the class slimmed down significantly by doing Whole 30, I told her her shirt should say ‘Body by Whole 30.’ Or whatever healthy eating regime one adopts. It’s. All. About. The. Eating.
            Sure, exercise is hugely beneficial in countless ways. And strengthening can do wonders and even change our appearance. But nutrition first. And not just for weight loss–for the proper functioning of all our organs: good, healthy food and adequate water. (And adequate sleep, while we’re at it.)

        4. Lilo*

          Exercise can make you hungry as well.

          I had a baby this year so I went up 30 pounds and then back.

          Breastfeeding helped, but I lost the baby weight through cutting out drinks (I drank milk regularly while pregnant) and eliminating snacks. Exercise is huge for health though. I think part of the reason I bounced back quickly was because I exercised my whole pregnancy. I swam laps for an hour the day before I went in to the hospital.

      3. nep*

        Great tips, all. And good on you, Zip Silver. 100-lb weight loss is amazing.
        About ‘don’t keep food in the house that doesn’t require cooking’–I get the gist. No packaged crap. But fresh fruit and fresh greens should be part of the mix unless someone has restrictions about eating them.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I just had an expensive lesson on that one. I got busy, I wasn’t paying attention to my raw food intakes. I don’t know how long I had not been paying real attention. oh boy. This hurt, that hurt, I couldn’t bend this or I couldn’t do that other thing. wth. This was a case of no real monetary expense but rather it was a substantial quality of life expense.

        2. Zip Silver*

          Yes indeed, generally having fruits and veggies is great, but the point is to only eat when you’re having a meal, whether that’s salad as a course before dinner or mixed fruit and yogurt for breakfast. But you’re right, the gist is not eating outside of mealtime. I can’t account for diabetics, (I *thankfully* never made it that far), but only eating 3 squares a day is a great start (and I eventually got to the point where I only had breakfast and dinner, with no lunch… and then after that I got to the point of only having coffee in the morning and only eating a hearty dinner, but meal timing is a different beast than making simple changes at the beginning).

          1. nep*

            Got it. I just know that I’m much healthier and better off when eating fresh greens regularly. They pack such a nutritious punch (again, for those w/o restrictions around greens).

      4. Natalie*

        I don’t know that I would start intensive training or anything, but some form of exercise is beneficial (whether or not your goal is weight loss). If you’re starting from no or quite low exercise, I wouldn’t further put it off waiting for your diet to be idealized.

        1. Different username for this*

          I agree that exercise is important, but if someone is completely starting a weight loss goal from the ground up, I would definitely advise them to start off slowly, leading with nutrition first as the simplest of baby steps. Of course, depending on how comfortable people are with the changes, they can progress faster, but some people need time to adjust to the new routines. Weight loss involves quite a few lifestyle adjustments.

          If you don’t exercise at all, I recommend starting with going on walks.

    5. Different username for this*

      I like resolutions and goals, but I think they are important to have throughout the year, not just January – though I enjoy taking advantage of this ritual to either set a new goal or reset my old one if I haven’t achieved it. I think it’s more effective to focus on one goal at a time and break the goal into small, baby steps. I think the reason so many resolutions fail is because people burn themselves out in the beginning trying to go from 0 to 100 right away. I have been able to achieve my goals when I really focused on one over a period of time, and bounced back from any setbacks (which will happen and that’s okay!)

      1. Resolutions don't work?*

        I completely agree! My friend always days “how do you eat an elephant? In bitesize chunks!” which is kind of disgusting but I get her point, and little changes over a long period of time, not just at the new year do make more of a difference.

    6. Fikly*

      My sister and her husband made a joint “no vomitting” resolution one year after a joint bout of stomach flu ended in an ambulance ride and an in-patient hospital stay while on vacation.

      For me? Keep healing and surviving.

    7. nep*

      I’m with you. I can’t stand the ‘new year, new you’ stuff.
      I say, new year, same strong, capable, marvelous you.
      But to each his own. Whatever helps people be motivated then committed to treat their bodies well and feel good in their own skin.
      Others have given great tips here. Just to second the suggestion to stop eating at a certain point in the evening. And it generally doesn’t take huge, drastic actions. Seemingly small steps–followed consistently–will go a long way. Wishing you all the best in your health and fitness goals.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I skip the resolutions part.

      I like to tell myself, I am going to have a good year this year. So what am I going to work on or start doing differently so I can have that good year.

      Motivation is a huge piece for me. If I know x will help me with y problem, or doing abc will allow me to move toward Goal D, I am more willing to jump on it. And, honestly, sometimes I get excited/happy about some of the choices.

      1. Resolutions don't work?*

        Yes! I am excited about the choices I am making. All the best for a good year for you.

    9. The Other Dawn*

      I stopped doing resolutions probably seven or so years ago. They were always about weight loss and I always disappointment myself, so I stopped making them. I then had weight loss surgery so now I don’t have to make one about weight loss anymore. Instead I just tell myself that I’ll improve X or try to curb Y. Otherwise, I just can’t stick to it. And really, it should be any time of year, not just when the calendar hits January 1. If you’re not going to do it any time of year, you’re not that much more likely to do it just because the calendar changed.

      This year, though, it’s about weight loss and improving strength. I’m headed for major back surgery in March and I want to shed about 20 pounds, which I’ve regained over the last couple years. Not because I feel terrible or hate how I look (I am disappointed in myself, though), but because it will make recovery easier and the general surgeon will have an easier time doing what he has to do to get the spine surgeon to where he needs to go.

    10. WellRed*

      I am dedicated to getting fit this year. I got a good look at myself in a dressing room mirror and was honestly startled. I downloaded My FitnessPal Monday. Not a big app user but I need to stop kidding myself about what I consume. Also, bought an old school diary calendar with motivational tips and room for goals.

      1. WellRed*

        I had actually bought the calendar before the dressing room revelation so was already determined to make changes. That moment just gave me the final kick in my tight pants.

    11. Policy wonk*

      Make the resolution with someone else, then hold each other accountable. I lost twenty pounds this way last year. When you have to report to your buddy that you ate that chocolate frosted donut at work it makes it less appealing. Ditto on the exercise – the 45 min. walk is more likely to happen if you are walking with someone else.

      1. Resolutions don't work?*

        I think that is a great idea for the food so I am going to rope in a coworker who will want to help.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      I’d made one a couple of years ago to eat better, and mostly I’ve stuck to it. Moving upended all of that. I’m trying, but since I don’t have my own space, it’s a lot harder. I did discover I can cook a lot of things in the microwave and in the toaster oven that I’d previously only cooked on the stove, like salmon, lentils, and quinoa. But it’s such a PITA that I don’t really want to.

      As soon as I have my own place again, it’s back on. Plus I hope to avoid any rentals where there are no sidewalks or anyplace to walk outside. I don’t want to pay for a gym membership and I hate the rec center down here. The track is free, but it’s annoying. It’s full of older people and they play the radio so loud I can’t hear my podcast. Not to mention all the old dudes playing pool in the lounge who stare at me when I come around that end of the track. :P I need to just go regardless, but again, I don’t want to. If the weather stays dry, I can at least go up and down the hill. Likely I’ll get a better workout doing that even if I can only manage half the time.

      1. Resolutions don't work?*

        Oh I can relate to the change in routine so much! I just started an MA on my non-working day, and it has completely thrown my routine out. I find I am so exhausted at the end of the day that I don’t want to cook, and it is easier to shove a pizza in the oven than it is to make something :(

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Oh i can give you another idea–fine bulgur wheat plus boiling water plus time=ready to be made into tabouleh.
        And because I listened to the Brits on this list I can now do that without stove top or microwave: electric kettle for the win. (It makes ramen faster too, just a minute in the microwave instead of 5.)

    13. NoLongerYoung*

      long, but…. I’ve kept off the weight I lost completely off, over the last 16 years.
      It took a couple years to take it off- I lost 175# total.

      Side note: I don’t do New Year’s “resolutions” but I do “assess” my life at my birthday (less stress, the semantics matter for me).

      A few of the things that helped (besides therapy/counseling, accountability/support groups, American diabetic exchange diet, and major exercise at various points):
      1) I kept reminding myself of other success in situations where I had persevered and made small, incremental improvements. Apply that sense of “you can do it” across your life. (Like when I paid off my debt or got through grad school even when I was older than my peers).
      2) I use the budget comparison and method for the weight loss, all the time (then and now). To lose, there’s an equation. Intake of calories burned (income) is higher than expenditures (amount allocated to eat). I can tweak the equation by more exercise, or cut back on the calories. Or both. But it is all math. I’m a geek. The calorie / food budget works for me. I’ve heavily edited this, but you can work out the analogy.
      3) What you say to yourself matters. I can do this, every day is a fresh start, etc. Don’t say negative things. Even better, journal that mantra and repeat it.
      4) I made a small set of guiding principles. I added them one at a time. (So make your own list , and don’t do an overwhelming list to start with but having principles you can repeat to yourself works for me). Not rules, (never say never), but on an average day, they go like this:
      a) Be gentle and kind to yourself. You pick up and try again. I didn’t get here overnight…I pick up and try again. It’s not failure or success, it’s just a continuum.
      b) Have I had better? I give myself permission to be picky. I come from a family of amazing cooks and bakers, but… I don’t have to eat it. I don’t have to clean my plate,or even, if I want, to take more than one bite (if that).
      c) Mindful – the 3 bite rule. Unless I actually need it for nutrition or AM truly hungry, after the 3rd bite or so, I’m not mindfully eating (your number can vary). I gently wander away and dispose of it. This is especially true when someone is trying to force me to socially take a “big old piece” of something, and I am trying to be polite. If you’ve seen some children, they have a few bites and throw it away. They’ve satisfied their curiosity. They are done. I am too. The minute I take a bite by rote, I’ve not added anything good to my life. I love really good truffles. Let it melt and soften and enjoy. So… I mindfully have a piece. For that, I give up other choices (see food budget math), that are just not mindful.
      d) Write it down. I actually did food journal (there are some good apps) and learn my portions by weighing and measuring initially. In the beginning, it was a way of being honest with myself, increasing the mindfulness, and figuring out my food budget. Once I calculated how long it took me on the elliptical trainer to burn off a snickers bar, the attractiveness faded for some of my former go-to behaviors. And I figured out that the 3 pm wasn’t chocolate-addiction, it was anxiety. There are other coping skills.
      e) Overall, I chose to “eat no white” – no white flour, sugar, rice, etc. Whole grains. Doesn’t mean I don’t have that truffle, etc, on the time I want it (never say never is a good rule that keeps you from being so restrictive that you create an eating plan you can’t live with for the rest of your life).
      f) and, I can do almost anything for 10-15 minutes. So… don’t eat it, and see if I really am hungry after I stop, check in with my feelings, and assess what is really going on. I can always have it later.

      I was just after healthier (I had a very bad lab test and had just lost my father; I channeled the feelings and grief into becoming a happier and healthier person, by one tiny change at a time.).

      And, I tried to work to volunteer and help others. I took training in the diabetic exchange diet so I could encourage and help others, I volunteered with children (which sort of taught me the 3 bite rule…and how freely they walk away if they are not really hungry ). I reached out to others who were trying to lose. And I let go (for the most part) of those who were sabotaging me. And, lots and lots of reading,self-help, introspection, journaling, and counseling every time I qualified or could afford it.

      You are okay just as you are, because you are a wonderful, valuable person. Taking care of your health – and how you do it – is a personal decision that has no reflection on your value in any way. Decoupling my self-worth from my size was actually part of the journaling and counseling work that I did. I pretty much ignore marketing, media, pop culture, and celebrity diet fads. I am enough.

      Sending you all kinds of encouragement.

      1. Resolutions don't work?*

        Wow that’s incredible. Congratulations! & thank you so much for your words of encouragement. I’ve bookmarked this discussion and know I’ll come back to it again and again. The food budget is a very interesting idea – I’ll look into this further.

        I wish you all the best.

    14. LilySparrow*

      I like to make a list of the things I want more of – more time with friends, more books, more vegetables, more miles on the running shoes, more sleep.

    15. MissDisplaced*

      I think it’s easier if you don’t make it a resolution!
      Instead just commit to say, one small thing a week. A walk, more veggies, healthier breakfast, skipping the sweets, more water, etc.

    16. nonegiven*

      I’ve just been making an effort to notice I was cleaning my plate when I was no longer hungry and in fact getting a little too full so I could quit eating before getting overfull and miserable. Last time I weighed at the doctor, they said I lost 12 pounds in a year.

  9. Lady Lilly Longbotham*

    Thank you Alison and fellow AAM followers. I am a frequent reader since approx 8 months ago, just now submitted my first post and am yet to send in a question. I have found AAM so reassuring as well as educational and I feel completely sure that when I do need answers I will find them here with you all. I love that AAM is more than informed, well rounded advice based on experience and expertise. It would be good enough if it were only expert work advice yet it goes much further by creating an etiquette, inviting all of us to be our professional very best and assuming that we are indeed capable of doing exactly that. Alison you head a team of similarly minded professionals – the AAM followers – with a healthy shared work ethic and i feel cheered whenever i read that someone’s dilemma has received appropriate kind, direct professional support that leads to satisfactory resolution or the op being able to move on from an untenable situation.
    Happy new year everyone!
    Ps. I love the cat fireworks
    Although my cats don’t like fireworks at all.

    1. Gaia*

      I am forever grateful for finding this site. I cannot even explain how much it has changed my world (and not just my work world). I’m so thankful for everyone here and for Alison starting and keeping this site going.

  10. IrishEm*

    Happy New Year, everyone!

    I’ve been giving my little dog so many extra cuddles and treats today, she got a terrible fright when the fireworks went off while we were asleep, poor thing. Hope nobody else’s beloved pets got frights at fireworks.

    1. Grace*

      My cat had the best fireworks reaction of her life; she actually stayed downstairs with us instead of hiding under the bed. It’s a big deal. Still hated every moment of it, but it’s an improvement.

      Given that she’s ten years old, has been living in the same house her whole life and still freaks out at noises like sneezes, dishwashers, boiling kettles, people putting cups down too loudly, etc, I think this is the best we’re going to get. She has exceptionally sensitive hearing, even for a cat, and seems to have some sort of sensory processing issues alongside it; a decade of living in the same house, and she still refuses to step foot in the kitchen when the dishwasher is going, even when she wants to get to her food and litter tray. I’ve never known any non-stray cat be that sensitive.

      1. Cat-safe cleaning*

        At about 19years, our cat finally decided the vacuum cleaner had not yet eaten her and was no longer worth running away from. So there’s hope. :)

    2. NoLongerYoung*

      I don’t know if it was fireworks or gunshots (I won’t go into the nature of my neighborhood, but the latter is a popular way in this demographic area to celebrate – shooting into the sky. )

      Dog had to be carried outside, shaking, and I had to pet and huddle with her, stroking her head, so that she felt safe enough to even squat before bedtime; burrowed under my armpit and shook until at least an hour after they stopped. I don’t convey anxiety, bundle her up tight, turn up the tv (one of my rare occasions, and streamed a documentary LOUDLY), and cup my hand over her forehead and just press and rub gently and calmly.

      Was better than July 4th (our first together) – it took almost 24 hours before she would go outside, so this is a big step forward.

    3. CastIrony*

      My manager’s horse got upset by them. I feel so sad for animals that are scared, especially since my dog was let out by irresponsible neighbors and ran away because of them on the fourth of July.

      …this is the newest reason I hate fireworks now.

  11. Fantasma*

    My org will be implementing stay interviews due to high turnover. I’m looking externally and am open to internal transfer to another org because my perception is my career goals can’t be met where I am. Does anyone have a good script? Should I just say that? The interview would be with one of the direct reports of the C-suite executive in charge of my function but not someone I report up through. I have never had a stay interview and don’t know how direct to be about the issues leading to turnover and how they’re also pushing me to want to leave.

    1. Fikly*

      What I would say would depend on two main factors. One, if I thought any indication that I was looking to leave would end up with me getting fired, and two, if I thought the reasons I wanted to leave were anything that the employer could or would actually address.

      The first is because of course I wouldn’t want to leave before I was ready, and the second is because, well, if the reasons I want to leave can’t or won’t change, what’s the point?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I would tread softly at first.
        Do I trust this person interviewing me? If no, then end of question. I am probably on my way out the door anyway. “Gee, I have no idea how I can help you.” Or “Sorry, I really don’t think I have anything of substance to offer this discussion.”

        But let’s say I think the interviewer might be okay. It would also be a favorable point, if I could see that sometime in the future the company might get on a better course. So in this case I would wade into the waters by getting one toe wet. I might bring up a topic that is not too heavy or challenging and talk about that topic. I would watch to see how the interviewer handles this topic.

        Let’s say that goes well and I decide I might like to continue on to a more difficult topic. Here’s my idea, I need to pick three or less things that I think are the biggest problems facing the company. I can’t go on with my list of 133 Problems. They won’t listen and I will probably discredit myself. Additionally, it is reasonable to assume that if the top few problems were attended to, some of the 133 Problems on my list would fall into proper place as a result. No company is perfect, so I’d think in terms of what would keep me from running out the door in fear/upset/anger.

        On a personal note: I could realize that even if they fixed those top several problems that I am still done with this company. The problems have gone on too long, I am burned out, or I could have other objections.

        But my best advice here given I don’t know the particulars of your setting is to talk like the whole world hears everything you are saying. Don’t say anything here that you would not freely state elsewhere. Preserve yourself and your career first and foremost.

        1. Fantasma*

          Thank you—this is very helpful framing. The CXO of my function is trying to improve things, but structural change takes a long time and as you mentioned even if he and the company did fix some major issues right away I’m also somewhat burned out and it would not guarantee that I’d stay.

    2. BethDH*

      I’m guessing they’ll also be more receptive if you can figure out a way to connect your specific issues/requests to things already on their radar. They’re more likely to pay attention (and not think of it as “Fantasma’s issue”) if it essentially confirms a structure they had in mind. But you can introduce some additional information while you confirm that structure.
      Say they know that communication is a problem, you could mention needing clearer feedback between reviews as part of that (as opposed to, say, presenting it as “my boss is lousy at management”). But that same request could also be presented as part of making room for internal promotions if that seems to be more on their radar.
      This of course depends on how fixable you see the problems being in addition to the things others have mentioned about the receptivity and fairness of the interviewers.

      1. Fantasma*

        The communication example you shared is great—that actually is a problem (quality of feedback). I like my manager a lot but she appears overwhelmed a lot of the time which doesn’t leave much room for her to be an advocate. I think several major issues are fixable and there are plans in progress, but as I’m reflecting on people’s responses I don’t know if I’m personally willing to wait which is what is making me hesitate to say much or anything in the stay interview.

    3. Texan In Exile*

      Say nothing.

      Seriously.

      I just lost my job. I don’t know if what I said in what was supposed to be a confidential session about the VP had anything to do with it, but I feel as if there has been a target on my back since that session. HR had a meeting with the team about our new VP. They told us it would be confidential. I was brutally honest (stupid me – I should know better) and – my position was eliminated three weeks ago. I truly don’t know if there is a connection between the two events, but if I could go back and keep my mouth shut, I would.

      1. Fantasma*

        Fellow Texan here. I’m so sorry about your job and hope you find a better one really soon. After reading everyone’s replies and thinking some more, I’m leaning toward not saying anything negative because I’m worried about what might be done with the information and what position it would put me in. I’d like my job search to be on my terms and need to keep a paycheck coming in.

  12. Different username for this*

    Warning: This is kind of a downer post and first world problem kind of thing, but it’s what is on the top of my mind as I wait for my flight, and I want to vent about it.

    I’m one of those people who grew up my entire life in one home. You could say I officially moved out when I went away for college, but I came home frequently for holidays until I started my first job in another town. I finally was able to spend the holidays for the first time in 3 years at home. It felt so nice and rejuvenating, as well as nostalgic. I took for granted when I was younger how much my visits home helped reset and relax me. When I’m home, I feel like I’m in my natural environment and my body immediately feels better. (It does help that my hometown has a warm climate.)

    Now I’m sad to leave. Part of what’s fueling my sadness is that since my parents are empty nesters and I’m settled on my own, they might eventually sell this home, and I won’t be able to visit anymore. I mean, I might still be able to visit the city if they stay there, but I don’t think it will feel the same. As much as I like my current city and the life I have here, it won’t feel like “home” the way my original home does. But moving back now is not an option since I have my current job. Also, all my friends have moved so it’s not like I have a social circle there.

    Anyway, I know I’m being silly but I just felt like ranting about it.

    1. Lena Clare*

      Ah I don’t think that’s silly at all! Be kind to yourself. It will take time to make someplace feel like a home – which I think is because of the people anyway.

    2. Sleepless*

      No, you’re not the only one! There are a lot of us who are strongly tied to a place. I grew up in one place too, on the farm my family had owned for about 75 years (not very long in farm time, but long enough that my dad had grown up there too). We sold the property two years ago. My mother still lives in the same town, but the land, my anchor to the physical world, is gone. It’s been an adjustment, but I’ve found that her new house feels like home in its own way. I guess it’s because she’s there, and her stuff is too.

    3. Fikly*

      This is not silly nor is it a first world problem!

      Home is home. Lots of people all over the world end up far from home or away from family.

      Your feelings are valid.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Oh boy, do I relate to this.
      My father had to sell our home to pay off my mother’s medical bills.

      I couldn’t believe this constant in my life was now GONE, even though I understood the actual process that caused it to happen, there was still this emotional stuff.

      I’d like to encourage you to think about anchors in life. Our homes anchor us, as do our parents, our friends and neighbors. Our pets and furniture also provide a sense of continuity or consistency. Our jobs can give us a sense of consistency, hence we see people wrestling with leaving a toxic job because at least the toxic place is familiar.

      So with the loss of my parents (over a decade) I started reading about grief. And this is where I learned we can grief the loss of THINGS just as hard as if we were at a funeral. Grieving a loss of a piece of real estate is not far-fetched , AT ALL! A lot of people go through this.

      Here’s a few things I looked at and worked with, YMMV , of course.

      1) I redefined my definition of home. Home is where *I* live, not where my parent (s) lives. This led me to a whole train of thought that involved “What do I value in a place I call home?” Here I found my number one consideration is safety. I absolutely must feel reasonably safe.

      2) I started to examine my attachment to real estate. I thought of all my elders who lost their homes. It’s very reasonable to think that at some point I too can lose my house that I own. If I can hold on to the concept of “seasons of our lives” that will only benefit me in the long run. Even to this day, I am watching my friends age and watching them let go of their homes. Part of me grieves for them and part of me admires their courage in moving on. If I live to a ripe old age, I probably will have to move on also.

      3) At the heart of this whole grief issue is my childhood home anchored me. Hey, the world is a Big Place. And it can be daunting even on a good day. I do have some say here. I can provide myself with continuity and consistency through many different actions/habits. I can anchor me.

      4) Cry. It’s sad to lose an old friend, it’s sad to lose an old friend that happens to be a house. Understand that there are other griefs buried inside this one grief. Parents are aging. We are not kids anymore. The world is changing without our permission. Cry.

      Last. And this is true with many types of losses. Not everything that happens next is awful. Nice things will still happen in your life.

      1. NoLongerYoung*

        Thank you for this. REALLY wise. You always add value to my life with everything you ever write. No pressure, but somehow – I feel like you are a little ahead of me in processing and figuring out so much of these important things, and you touch me with insights that I didn’t even realize I needed to hear about today. (and most weeks). Sending an internet hug.

      1. Fikly*

        No, that’s not ok to say someone’s pain is not valid because they were “lucky” to have a better experience than some.

          1. Fikly*

            Someone saying that they are sad because of x, and someone responding, actually, you were really lucky, is incredibly invalidating and dismissive, and not ok.

    5. BethDH*

      My parents sold our family home this year so we were in the same boat. One thing that helped me that we accidentally did was that I didn’t visit for the first time during a holiday. I visited after they were settled and had found some favorite places in the new neighborhood. It helped me focus on what they gained and how happy I was for them rather than what we all had lost. By the end of the visit I had a favorite local coffee shop, knew the best walking routes, etc.
      I still felt melancholy about losing the family place, but it really did help me temper the sorrow. And I had been picturing their stuff in their new place for months before I had to think about the holiday stuff being so different.

    6. MissGirl*

      I read a story from a woman whose husband was in the military and thus moved a lot. They were gifted a handmade afghan blanket, which became a go-to when for sick children or anyone needing a big of comfort.

      Each time they moved, she would wrap up the family photos in the old blanket and place it in a box labeled “From house to home.” At the next house it would be the first thing unpacked.

      I lived a bit of a transitional life but I always tried to put out a few touches to make my little apartments feel a little homey.

      1. The pest, Ramona*

        I grew up near a military area, and learned early that other people moved often. I unconsciously knew the idea of a thing (or things) making a ‘home’, which helped when I moved away from my parent’s home at 18, and again after leaving my own family home after living there 30 years. When I had my things arranged just so I knew I was home in each new place!

    7. PB*

      This isn’t silly at all! My parents divorced when I was in my 20s and my mother sold our childhood home a few years later. I’m now 38. I still have dreams about that house. Selling was 100% the right decision. It was a huge house and was a maintenance nightmare as it was built in the 1840s. But still, that house was “home.” Neither of the places my parents live now will ever feel like home to me.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      No, it’s not silly at all. I grew up in a house I really loved, and my parents sold it and moved while I was living elsewhere. When I decided to come back due to hating where I lived, it was to a completely different place. Not unfamiliar, since it was my mother’s childhood home and I’d been in it many times, but not the same one. It wasn’t MY house, with MY favorite spots.

      I still only dream about the house I grew up in. In those dreams, it looks the same. I tried to look for it online–the barn appears to be gone, and I don’t care to know what they’ve done to the inside. :(

    9. OperaArt*

      I understand. My mother will be moving into a lovely senior living place in the next few months. So my “home” of the last 52 years will be gone when I visit her from then on. It will feel so incredibly weird to stay in a hotel when I visit her, to no longer roll out of bed in the morning and drink tea together while sitting in our bathrobes. We’ll establish a new routine. I wonder what it will be.

    10. Different username for this*

      Thank you all for your kind responses. They are very helpful. I will save this comment thread to reread when I need.

    11. Bagpuss*

      Its not silly – it’s a valid thing to feel.

      What I would suggest is
      – try not to borrow trouble. Yes, they may chose to downsize, but they may not, or may not for years. Continue to enjoy visiting while you can, they may not want to move at all.
      – consider talking to them to ask if they have thought about their plans at all. It’s possible that thye might be weighing up options, and discussions about any changes which could be made to their current home if it is feeling to big or has other downsides might allow you to come up with alternatives!

      From my own experience, you may find that if they do move, it is less of a wrench than you expect. I wasn’t a one-home child but when my parents retired and moved they had been in the same house for nearly 30 years, and it had been my home from when i was 8, so it was a huge wrench. However, over time, their new house came to feel like home even though I have never lived there. They have been there for 10 years now and it does feel like home – I find myself saying that I am gong home for christmas, for instance, whereas in the first year or two after they moved I’d always say I was going to my parents house, because that was how it felt.

      It may be worth thinking about whether there are any specific things that are really important to you about that house r location as you may be able to save them if they do move – e.g. furniture or drapes that your parents can either make sure they take, so you still have that part of ‘home’, or that they can give to you if they don’t wish to keep them.
      friends in the locality who you can visit.

      If your parents were to move, would they be likely to stay in the same general area?

  13. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

    Hi all!

    My husband and I are hoping to buy our first home this year, actually like now basically.

    I’ve asked a bunch of questions about repairs to the home, pest issues, age of various things.

    I’ve viewed the house once already but I’m planning to go again before we start negotiations. Here’s what I’m planning to do:
    -flush all toilets and run all sinks
    -open all cabinets and look for leaks, pests, etc
    -inspect gutters
    -inspect eaves for rotting wood
    -let preschooler run around in yard and jump all around (looking for drainage, standing water issues)
    -inspect windows for rotting frames

    Anything else y’all would advise? I know inspection will cover all this but I feel like it would be irresponsible of me to not do it myself.

    MLS #42418 if you care to take a look. :-)

    Thanks!

    1. TimeTravelR*

      Definitely get a home inspector to take a look too. Just have your agent write it into the contract that the sale is contingent upon a clear inspection. It costs a few bucks (not tons, in the grand scheme of things), but might find things you don’t know or think to look for. He should climb up on the roof and look at the condition of the shingles too (not on your list, but should be!) Still not a cure all.
      The other thing might be to ask for the seller to pay for a home warranty as part of the contract. I think they cost a few hundred dollars and might be worth it to them… plus gives you peace of mind if the furnace dies unexpectedly.
      Good luck! I have bought and sold so many homes I could probably start my own HGTV show! LOL

      1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

        Thanks!!

        Sale will definitely be contingent on passing inspection and appraisal and I was planning to ask for a home warranty in addition to closing costs. :-)

      2. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

        Not a big fan of home warranty companies. Sounds good but they contract with the cheapest service providers, who generally provide the lowest quality** in everything. No reason NOT to have it, just be aware you are better off paying your own contractors and repair people. **been there, suffered that

        1. ThatGirl*

          I was going to say this, and they can be really finicky about things, ours wouldn’t replace our AC because it had been “improperly repaired” before we even bought the place.

          1. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

            This house was in NC, and one winter was bitter cold. The ancient heater went out. It took two weeks to get it repaired – we are talking temps in the low 20s outside. Never been more depressed in my life. Finally “fixed” the day before Christmas Eve that year. And… the gas powered heater was so poorly repaired that now I had a gas leak. Which the Piedmont Natural Gas tech spent two hours Eve night fixing. In the dark, in that awful cold. I held the flashlight for him. Bless him in every possible way. This should have cost me a per hour fortune to have Piedmont fix, but he said as long as he didn’t get any other calls, he would not charge me. And he did fix it, and he did not charge me.

    2. Lissajous*

      – Test every power point (take your phone charger) and switch, check stove, oven, and dishwasher all work.
      – Check the drains in the bathroom/laundry etc are actually at the lowest point in the floor.
      – Fill sinks/bathtubs a bit and then drain, to make sure the drains flow properly.
      – Check if the eaves/fences are asbestos (this will depend on time of build and location – a lot of brick houses from the 70s and 80s here [Western Australia] have asbestos eaves – it’s fine as long as it’s not broken, but you need to be aware of it if you think you will do future work).
      – Check the irrigation system works

      A friend of mine got caught on the dishwasher – during inspection they started the cycle, all good, then once they took possession of the house turns out it would only do the first ten minutes of a cycle and had to be replaced. So be aware of that sort of thing.

      1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

        Thank you!
        Definitely will be doing all of these!!

        I knew fellow AAM-ers would have good advice!

        1. StellaBella*

          Owned a few homes so… First good luck!!! A list…
          -Heating and or cooling systems, ducts need to be clean amd free from dust and mold, dampness, bacteria.
          -Foundation, settling, cracks indoors or out, check for these
          – Property plans, flood plain surveys, coubty records, history docs are useful
          -Roof needs full outside and inside inspection esp if you have only seen it when there is no rain
          -Fuses and electrical panel and all wiring should be checked and code inspected by electrician. How old are wires?
          -Water system, septic etc, good idea to flush, drain etc
          -Check insulation
          -Tap walls and wood framing for dry rot with small hammer, you can hear rotted wood
          -Pests? Termites or other? Squirrels?
          -Move the fridge if possible, see what is there
          -Go back to neighborhood at 2 am and drive around. Anyone out and about? Does the house have good physical security?

      2. Auntie Social*

        And turn on the oven first thing, while the DW’s going. Bake a frozen pie to see if the oven cooks evenly. You’ll see if the crust has pale spots or dark spots. That gives you an hour to do other things.

        1. M*

          You only get credits or replacements if things don’t work. Get a home inspector they are insured and will do all of these checks. And if they recommend other inspections level 2 chimney or whatever get it.

          And like another person said if there is an issue I think it’s better to have credits (cash or credit toward closing) over a fix because usually it will be done cheapest or not at all. Also GL getting closing costs where I live people are lucky to get any credits, it is a sellers market for sure! We had a plumbing issue and we still had to fork over $5k if our own money to fix an issue they knew about and didn’t disclose!

          Also you say there are outbuildings make sure they obtained permits for those! You can check that with the town! If they didn’t obtain permits it could be an issue for you now or down the road when you sell the house. I don’t know where you live but by us you also need permits for water heater, HVAC etc. a friend of mine didn’t get a permit for a water heater and had major issues trying to sell her house. Also if you have someone doing it and they say they will do the permits for you Check with the town it is pretty simple (This is what happened to her- her installer said they would do the paperwork and never did. She didn’t know someone needed to come in and inspect it either).

    3. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      If appliances are included, check all the burners on the stove. Our inspector found one of the burners didn’t work. Seller said he’d fix it. Inspector returned and tried only that one burner. When we moved in, we learned the seller had just switched burners. Instead of a front burner not working, one of the back burners didn’t work. I hope your seller is honest and you love your new home. :)

      1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

        Good point! I’ll have to screenshot these so I don’t forget anything!

        And that’s just lazy! The element couldn’t have been more than like 20 bucks!

        1. nonegiven*

          Oh now that makes a difference. It looks like a pretty nice house!

          The first one I saw was a building from the 1800s that had been turned into 3 apartments. I looked at the pictures before reading the description and I thought whoa was that 3 crappy half assed kitchens I saw? 6 bedrooms at ~$10k each. Claimed to have them rented for $1800+/month.

      1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

        So sorry! Link to follow pending moderation.

        Address is 209 Amaker st St Matthews SC 29135 (US, obviously)

        1. So Not The Boss Of Me*

          Wow! A video. Sweet. I hope you get all those great tools in the workshop. Good luck with this, the preschooler and life in general, Mrs.

    4. Anono-me*

      It it looks lovely.

      When house hunting, I took a level and a 3 prong wire Outlet tester, the kind that lights up.($5ish at a home improvement store. )

      At the house, I looked hard at the crawl space/basement for foundation issues, water or bugs. (Foundation issues were a no go for me.) I checked the roof, windows, furnace, and AC. I checked any brickwork.

      I checked online for:
      -crime statistics in the area.
      -Hazmat sites in the area.
      -flight plans/airport noise in the area
      -any current or planned future special assessment projects .

      Please be aware that urine may also damage the subfloor through carpet.

      1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

        I already asked about the subfloor.. my dad bought a foreclosure and had that problem. Good thing about that room is, it was originally part of the porch and has a concrete floor, so I’m thinking get the nasty carpet out, give a good scrub down, somehow bleach without making mustard gas, and I’ve already picked out the new carpet.. :D

        1. June First*

          We recently replaced carpet with vinyl. I highly recommend painting the subfloor/concrete with Kilz. It’s somewhat expensive but worth it.

          Congrats on the new home!

          1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

            Thanks for the tip!
            I need to double check entrances/exits but we are thinking of having that room be a playroom for our boys, so we’d want to keep carpet over the concrete. Again, that depends on where the doors are and how secure it is since it’s in the front of the house.

          1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

            There’s a cleaner called PX550 that will get any scent out of anything. Amazing stuff.

        2. KoiFeeder*

          You’re gonna make mustard gas. You want a big fan that sucks the air from the room to the outside, and you want all the windows in the house open wide.

    5. Fikly*

      If you haven’t lived in that specific town, ask about what the utilities run!

      My parents always talk about how they were shocked when they moved to their current home, because it turned out the town had just built a fancy new water treatment plant a year earlier. Now, this was 25 years ago, and they have long since started selling that water to neighboring towns, and thus the price has dropped, but when they first moved in, the water bill was super high, and they were nto expecting that.

      1. Fikly*

        Oh, and ha, one other thing they got caught on. The home inspecter checked that the dishwasher ran. Sure, the water came on, but it did not dispense soap, and it ended up being such a complicated issue to fix that they had to replace it.

      2. Clisby*

        Also, does St. Matthews/Calhoun County have sewer service? If the house uses a septic tank, you might want a separate inspection of that.

        1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

          Yes it will be on sewer system. And I’ll be thankful, we have a well and septic system where we rent now and I’m not interested in dealing with septic. Or a well, frankly.

          1. Poopy Doopy*

            Depending on the age of the home, it might behoove you to scope the sewer line. But if you do, don’t use one of the big plumbing companies (conflict of interest, in my experience). Try to find a company in your area that does ONLY inspections. I still have the video and report from my initial sewer scope and it saved me from having to do a needless sewer line replacement when Big Rooter said, Omg, we’re pulling mud out of your line!!!1! (It was actually a problem with the main.)

    6. Grandma Mazur*

      Open and close all doors (the doors were all open when we saw our house and it didn’t occur to us that they might not close.

      Check for heating in every room (may be more of a UK than a US thing).

    7. Vistaloopy*

      Make sure it has insulation and the heating works well. (Although in SC probably less of a big deal.) Be careful buying an older house. Our previous house was an absolute nightmare (though it was older – 1820).

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I googled and looked that the video.
      I kind of got lost but it looks like there is one or more outbuildings.

      The thing I saw that concerned me was the covered over fireplace. I checked the outside view and there seems to be only one chimney on the house?
      Now. I live in a different state, so laws vary. Also regions have different ways of handling stuff. Here, there has to be a separate flue for fireplaces and furnaces. I don’t know what you have for a furnace, maybe you have electric heat or no heat plant. I don’t know if that single chimney has two flues or one flue in it. I do see a deflector type cap on that chimney so I suspect is it used for something.

      It could be that I am totally off base here. I do think that removing that cover on the fireplace and shinning a light up there would be a mighty fine idea. I also think it would be a good idea to find out if anything else is linked into that same flue.

      I’d recommend walking around the house just to look at the foundation for cracks. I’d also recommend bringing binoculars to look at the roof while remaining on the ground.
      No house is perfect. Ever. Pretty much what you are buying is something that you can start living in immediately and stand a good chance of keeping up on maintenance costs. So, for example, in my area a person would not want to move into a house and immediately have to buy a new furnace and a new roof. Try to avoid being hit with big bills right after moving in. When we moved in here, we estimated that we had a few years before we had to take on any big repairs. And we definitely needed that space cushion.

      1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

        There are 2 outbuildings, a 2 car garage with canning kitchen attached, and a separate larger storage building with an additional working half bath and sink.

        Re: fireplace… Good idea. I think there’s a vent on the top but not a chimney? I’ll definitely find out and perhaps have a look-see up there.

        Foundation is crawlspace and I really want Mr. Wonderstone to get in there and crawl around. But I definitely want to check for areas that are sagging or places that look like the pilings might be sinking.

        You’re absolutely right about repairs. I’m really struggling on what I want my opening offer to be because the wood floors look great in the living and dining room but 2 of the bedrooms definitely look lived in and the 3rd room with the closed fireplace really needs the floors to be stripped and refinished. Plus the roof is older, HVACs are older, so I’m having trouble justifying $60 a square feet just because we’re in a seller’s market and that’s the market average for the past 2 years worth of sales in that area.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Chimney inspector is separate–and well worth it because cracked flues can let CO into the home. They’re usually easy to fix by adding a steel liner, but not cheap — and not always possible. My house has 3 flues in the chimney, and 2 of them take a bend around the first-floor fireplace. The mason I talked to says he THINKS he can get a liner in for the downstairs fireplace, but he won’t guarantee it without coming back with a partner in warm weather.
          I’ll also add if there are drop ceilings, go around with the inspector and lift them so what’s hidden is visible.
          Check that water valves all wok–and then check them again, because if they’re rubber, they can harden and you only get that once. Check that there’s space around the valves to change them out.
          Not all home inspectors are created equal–get one who’s in their professional organization and who does not work with the listing agent.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I just put a liner in my chimney and it was around $1500. I have a one floor house but the roof is so high that it probably measures as if it were a two story house. (This goes to the length of liner they had to use and in turn the cost.) In my case I had to put the liner in or the fuel company could not install my new furnace under current regs.
            Honestly, if I had realized the details of my setting, I would have put that liner in a long time ago, without waiting for a new furnace. It’s a good investment, period.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Of course the flu that needs replacing is the one that has the bend. Did I mention that I hired a chimney inspector recommended by the real estate agent? He somehow didn’t notice that the flue was *FILTHY*. The pro who just cleaned my chimney got so much creosote out of it he said the thing couldn’t have been cleaned in a decade.
              Which makes me think of another suggestion for Mrs. BurtW: consider getting records of how long it’s been since the chimney was *cleaned.* And if it’s long enough, make the sellers clean it.
              Oh geez and something I just learned from the same pro — annual furnace cleaning used to include cleaning the pipes to the chimney. It often does not any more. And some chimney cleaners don’t do the pipes from the furnace. So check that stretch of pipe too – it can improve efficiency to get all the sulfur dust out.

      1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

        Will do!

        One thing I really liked about the neighborhood was that the realtor actually lives right next door and could name literally every family/person on both sides of that street and the next street over, and she could tell me which ones had kids and how old the kids were and I really liked that.

    9. Kimmybear*

      Since you mentioned a preschooler, check the school system website for what schools you are zoned to. It may not necessarily be the ones you think/are nearby. I’ve seen lots of examples of houses two/three blocks from one elementary school that is zoned to a different school.

    10. Ann Onny Muss*

      Is that price right, or am I looking at the wrong house? Because that is super cheap for any house, let alone a nice house like that. I paid over twice that for my town home that is one-third the square footage.

      Also, to answer your question, I think you’re doing everything right. Do checks yourself but also hire an inspector. They can check the roof, plumbing, heating, etc.

      1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

        If you googled that MLS number I think it might be state specific and my link to the house is still in moderation.

        Its 209 amaker st St Matthew’s SC 29135. Its 3k square ft on a double lot, not quite 2 acres, with 2 outbuildings, for $180k.

      2. Clisby*

        That’s not really super-cheap for a small town in a rural county in SC. If it were that price here in Charleston, prospective buyers would be fighting duels in the front yard to see who got to put in a bid first.

    11. MissGirl*

      Wow. This is so much more than I did. In my area and price range, if you didn’t make an offer within a few days of it being on the market, you didn’t get a house. I looked at houses that already had offers and it was the day after being posted.

      All this is to say you’re doing fine and are being thorough.

      1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

        Thanks!

        I’m terrified because it’s a huge investment and it will be our trouble if the AC goes out or something, not like renting.

        But I also reallly want it. I’m already mentally decorating and envisioning all our family coming for Christmas next year. :D

        1. Natalie*

          Just assume that those expensive things will happen and plan for it, so you’re not totally floored when they do. Inspections can’t tell you everything (even with a good inspection we ended up replacing our furnace and water heater within 5 years of buying our house), and after you’ve looked at a few houses you realize you’re just picking between what set of problems you’d prefer to deal with. Save what you can, and check with your utilities/municipality/contractors for financing options (we were able to get no-interest loans for both unexpected repairs).

    12. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

      Check for tree roots that might tear into your sewer line and or mess up the foundation. they can be very destructive.

      1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

        Your comment just gave me another thought – do you know if am I liable if the tree roots in the front crack the sidewalk, or would the city have to eat that cost?

        1. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

          No clue. I would think the city would be responsible, but I really don’t know the legality.

          1. Clisby*

            I’m not sure about “usually.” I live in SC, and was shocked when I moved to Ohio and found out homeowners were responsible for sidewalk maintenance in front of their homes. I had never heard of that practice.

            1. fposte*

              Yes, this is literally all over the map. Same with trees in the verge. As with expenses, the U.S. is shockingly variable on home ownership requirements and responsibilities.

    13. Lives in a Shoe*

      The house looks lovely. Congratulations! Have the sewer pipe scoped all the way to the street. Most houses built before 1975 have cast iron or clay (yes clay) sewer pipes. Cast iron begins to disintegrate after about 25 years. If the inspection company doesn’t offer this service hire a plumber. Be sure to look at the video/pictures and check for roots in the lines. Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t need to do this. Septic/sewer problems can cost THOUSANDS to repair.

      FYI sometimes a house will have PVC inside and still have cast iron or clay outside due to repairs or renovations, so don’t let the pipes in the crawlspace fool ya :)

      Best of luck!

      1. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

        That’s what got me, many years ago when I bought my first and only house: 1948, clay pipes, tree roots tore into it. Had to be replaced. Thank Ceiling Cat the plumber was one that my workplace used and was willing to allow me to make payments on a completely new sewer line.

        1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

          I’ll definitely see about this!

          I know internal has been retrofitted with PVC or something but I’m sure the main lines underground are original.

    14. Invisible Fish*

      Make sure that everything that looks like wood on the exterior really is wood. (Or siding, or whatever.). A year or two or three after buying my house, I needed to do something to an eave – well, lo and behold, the sellers had smoothed putty or something similar into a board shape and painted it, so trying to do something to that “board” will destroy it. Inspection didn’t catch that, because why would anyone check to see if someone put up a fake board?!? (I don’t mean wear yourself out pushing every board, of course- just, uh, try to make sure no one has pulled anything like that. :). )

      You’re in the south – make sure there isn’t any sort of issue with drain flies or anything else having gotten comfy in the pipes.

      It seems woodsy- what do you know about the local wildlife at night?

    15. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Get a quote for how much home owner’s insurance will cost you, so you include that in your calculations of what you’re able to afford. And if the inspection turns up an issue (e.g. roof is old), the insurance will go up, and you might be able to renegotiate the final price.

    1. Approval is optional*

      Wow indeed. To get a house that cheap in Australia you’d have to buy hundreds of kms from a major city, and it would either be little shack or need masses of work (or both).

      1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

        The bad part is I think its actually overpriced, even with all the storage space/sheds.

        The price per sq foot is accurate to current market analysis but the house is older, the floors need some TLC, kitchen and baths are outdated, and the playroom with the beige carpet – that carpet is soaked in animal urine and has to be replaced.

        I’m thinking of offering $168k as a starting bid and seeing if the seller will negotiate. I do know he is motivated to sell. He literally just lives there, like a bed, clothes, and toilet paper. No other furniture, etc.

          1. TimeTravelR*

            Oh I finally found it! That is a lovely home. Real estate values are so much better in the south. I live in a townhouse near DC and it cost twice that for half the square footage! (But I love it!)

            1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

              Thanks! There’s a link pending moderation, I bet I got a bad MLS # from dear Google.

              It does need a little work but overall, I’ve already started decorating mentally. :D

        1. Lena Clare*

          Ah ok I see it now, the other listing was something like $68,000 – still cheap but not the house you’re buying!

        2. The Other Dawn*

          I think that’s a really fair bid. It’s pretty close to the asking price, so the seller will likely take it since it’s been on the market awhile. He’s also likely to not feel insulted by it.

          We’re selling our old house and it’s only been on the market for a couple weeks. We’ve had some showings, but only one person with interest so far. We have it priced at $149,900, which is below market (we’re very motivated to sell and the neighborhood isn’t great, plus the house needs some cosmetics). The person with interest is an investor and he offered $100,000. We were pretty insulted by that, especially with having a brand new roof in the last year. We countered and he only came up $10,000 so we passed. I get that he’s looking to either flip it or rent it out, and that it’s not the most desirable house (it’s also not a money pit), but if he’d started at maybe $120,000, we might have countered with a different number or even taken that amount, especially if it had been on the market for months. My previous realtor told me when I bought my current house: don’t insult the seller with a low-ball offer, because they’re very unlikely to counter with their best number, if at all.

          1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

            That’s what I’m trying to avoid.
            I know the house had been shown at least 3 times since I saw it before Thanksgiving but no offers as yet, so I don’t want to lowball. But I also don’t want to artificially inflate the value of my house just because right now it’s a seller’s market and there’s not a lot of inventory in our area that’s right for us (plenty of 3 bed 1 baths for some reason).

            Out of curiosity, what’s been your experience on tax appraised value vs home price? The tax assessed is based on appraised value of $134,500 combined for land and building and listing price of basically 180k. I know the 2 are not related and have nothing to do with one another but all the prices of recently sold comps I’ve looked at in the area are generally within 20-30k of the tax appraised value.

            1. The Other Dawn*

              The tax assessment gap seems to be my experience, too. I haven’t really paid any attention to it, but I just looked at my listing and the assessed value is about 118k, while the asking price is 149k, which is about a 20% gap. I think that’s pretty standard.

              1. charlatan*

                Don’t forget that not all US states assess real estate at 100% of fair market value. Am I remembering correctly that you live in Connecticut? CT uses 70% of FMV – which, depending on how long ago the municipality’s revaluation was done, may be valid or may be wildly out of touch with the current market.

            2. Clisby*

              I live in SC (Charleston), so I can tell you something about how it works here. The more recently a county has done a full tax reassessment of property, the closer the appraised values will be to market value. I think the state requires reassessment every 5 years, plus at any time of sale the appraised value is updated. So, hypothetically, if the house you’re looking at last sold a year ago, there could be a significant difference between the appraised value on that house and an identical house next door that hasn’t been reassessed in 5 years. I don’t know how much difference this is likely to make in St. Matthews; in Charleston, it can make a big difference because of the demand for housing and the astronomically higher prices.

              In SC, a real estate agent should tell you this, but be very sure that if you buy a home that will be your primary home (i.e., not a second/vacation home) that the county applies the correct (4%) assessment ratio. I know this is going to sound completely crazy to some of the commentariat here, but zero property taxes for public school operations are charged on owner-occupied (primary) homes.

        3. The pest, Ramona*

          Check UNDER the urine soaked carpet. If it’s a wood floor there might be damage to the wood.

        4. Invisible Fish*

          Pet urine!!! Scrubbing with bleach will NOT handle that. You’ve got to use a specific type of enzyme cleaner.

    2. Fikly*

      Um, no, housing in that one particular spot in the US is cheap. In many places it is incredibly expensive.

      The US is hundreds of thousands of different housing markets.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yup. When I was house-hunting, I went to Zillow in Seattle (which is where I lived before moving back to the Midwest) and did two experiments. First, I put in my basic requirements (4 bedrooms/2 bathrooms, yard, etc) and no price range. The cheapest option I could find, within two hours of the city, that wasn’t a total gut-and-rebuild, was almost a half-million dollars. Then I took out all requirements and JUST put in my price max ($175k). The only options within 2 hours of the city were either 1-2 bedroom total g&r that were literally falling apart or, on the very outside edge of that 2-hour mark, I could find a couple of 1-2 bedroom third-floor walk-up condos. (The rent on my last apartment in the Seattle metro area had also literally doubled in the three years since I’d moved, with no indication of upgrades to the apartments or to the complex.)

      2. Terry*

        Well, yes, there is quite a bit of variation in US housing prices, but that’s true in every country. On average, housing prices in the US are quite a bit lower than other developed countries.

        1. Fikly*

          According to the OECD, average housing prices (to buy) in the US are the 10th highest in the world, so I’m going to have to disagree there. They are not the most expensive, but that is not quite a bit lower by any definition.

      3. The Other Dawn*

        Agreed. A house in my state (CT) in my former town with that much square footage and land would easily be two to three times that price, with really high RE taxes to boot.

      4. Lena Clare*

        True, but compared to other Westernised countries your housing market is cheaper than ours.

        1. NoLongerYoung*

          https://www.zillow.com/san-mateo-ca/
          a reasonable distance; this is one of the lower rent areas on the peninsula.
          https://www.redfin.com/city/14325/CA/Palo-Alto/housing-market
          this is just the next bit down the road

          I, obviously don’t live in either one, because I can’t afford to rent on that side of the bay, even.
          So the house you are looking at is not indicative of US housing prices, for some of us. LOL. I’m sure there’s similar variation across most continents.

      5. Gatomon*

        Yes, this home is asking what I recently paid for a 1400 sqft condo in my town. A house like this in my area would be closer to $400k, and I’m not in any notoriously HCOL area. The US is much larger and more variable than I think most of us realize.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Oh wow housing in the US is so cheap!

      It can be if you don’t live in a major coastal city (e.g., San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston, New York City, DC).

      What country do you live in? Is everything expensive, even if you’re in a rural or remote area?

      1. Lena Clare*

        I’m in the UK. yes, it’s pretty much expensive wherever, although like in the US much more expensive in the cities.

        1. Fikly*

          According to the OECD chart I found, housing is actually more expensive on average in the US than the UK (when compared to wages).

        2. Cat*

          I don’t know, my friend is house hunting in Birmingham and the places she’s looking at seem super cheap to me. I think there’s a lot of variation in both places.

    4. Cat*

      Depends on where you are. My condo is average priced for my not super expensive city and cost twice that ($350k).

  14. CanadianBaby*

    Any tips for someone moving from Canada to the USA? I’m moving to a Southern state, if that makes a difference

    1. Wrench Turner*

      Culturally speaking Americans are weird so just sit back and enjoy the show. Try not to take it too personal. We’re much closer to the Hunger Games here than we care to admit in lots of ways. Also good luck with anything health care related. Maybe set up a savings account just for that to deal with whatever sticker shock you run in to. Good luck. There’s no place like home.

      1. Terry*

        This comment is a little dramatic and not very helpful to someone moving to the US. There are some importance legal/political differences between the US and Canada, which I’m sure CanadianBaby is aware of, but culturally, the US and Canada are not that different. And while I agree that the US has its problems, it is certainly not the Hunger Games. CanadianBaby should look into crime statistics in the city where they will be living, but standard safety precautions should be sufficient.

        1. WellRed*

          I took the hunger games comment to be about how people are kind of Everyman for himself, even if it’s bad for others. Not a comment on crime.

        2. Fikly*

          No, there is a massive cultural difference between the South in the US and Canada. Cultural, religion, social norms, unless in a few major cities, are massively different.

          And not being aware of them can lead to a variety of problems, beyond just being unhappy.

    2. Just a PM*

      Winter-related: When it snows, your city/town will shut down. Add extra time to your commute because most people can’t drive in the snow. Also, depending on which state, the type of snow you’ll get may be different from what you’re used to in Canada because of the weather patterns. Here, when we get snow, the real concern is ice because even after it snows, it usually warms up quickly during the day so the snow melts, which refreezes overnight. The ice is what everyone panics about.

      General: Pay attention to any healthcare costs and really do your research into all the plans and options if you get insurance through your employer.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        In their defense, they can’t drive in the snow because they don’t have snow tires and the roads aren’t plowed. :) No city is going to buy snow-removal equipment for snow that happens once every year or so.

        1. WellRed*

          If you’re used to living in a city where 18 inches of snow isn’t a problem, though, it’s shocking to be somewhere that 2 inches is even if intellectually you don’t expert expect driving ; ) Good to be prepared and stay home even if you were an expert snow driver in the north country.

        2. LilySparrow*

          Also the roads are just built differently. If there’s a mountain/big hill, the road just goes straight up. No switchbacks, no concern for the grade.

          I don’t care how good your driving skills are, nobody can drive up a 45 degree angle on a sheet of ice. And down = giant uncontrolled steel luge.

    3. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      We moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, so YMMV. I don’t know what it would be like to move from Canada to the States, but in regard to uniquenesses of the South here are my culture shocks.
      1. Bless Yer Heart is not meant to be comforting. Easiest to illustrate with short conversations.
      “My brother was arrested on drug charges.”
      “Bless his heart.” Sounds like sympathy, so it’s easy to get confused.
      It’s much clearer when you hear
      “I had to spend the weekend with my homophobic in-laws!”
      “Bless their hearts.” And the more drawn out the words, the more biting the meaning.
      2. Anywhere south of D.C. a server may approach your table and say “swe-uhswe”. Don’t be alarmed. They say “sweet or unsweet” so many times a day/week/year, they just don’t realize they have shortened it that much. They don’t ask what you want to drink, because you are going to have iced tea. Of course you are. With LOTS of ice. But they are perfectly nice about serving something else when you ask. I don’t take ice in my drinks, which people constantly forgot, but they had no problem fixing it when asked. (In some other states it may be Co-Cola, etc.)
      3. I carried a jacket in my car at all times during the summer. The hotter it is outside, the colder the restaurants and movie theaters are.
      4. I found racism easier to spot in the South, and a brighter line between “proud to be” and “trying to be woke”. (In the north it was more covert.)
      5. There is an old rule that you can’t accept a favor unless the person asks three times. IME this was more common with older people, but not exclusive to them. It took me a long time to recognize this.
      “Would you like a ride to the meeting?” “Oh, no, I’ll find a way to get there.” “It would be no trouble to pick you up.” “That’s okay, I’ll just walk” (uphill both ways). “That’s silly, I’m driving right by.” “Well, if you’re sure, okay.”
      Being a wise-ass and impatient with ceremony, with people I knew well I sometimes said “Would you like a ride to the meeting? Would you like a ride to the meeting? Would you like a ride to the meeting? There, I asked three times, I’ll be here at 6:45.”
      6. Like anywhere else, it can be tough to meet people outside work and school. I don’t know about other states/cities, but if you are in one of NC’s good-sized cities, hang out at the library and get to know the librarians (I knew some lovely clerks, but I’m referring to the degreed librarians). They’re really cool people, run some fun programs, and are forward looking.
      7. People have the most amazing ability to make up sayings–on the spot. They drop these into sentences and just keep going. Meanwhile I’m choking on laughter at the turn of phrase. It’s a skill I envy but they don’t even see it as unusual.
      Good luck, CanadianBaby. I hope you love the weather, the people and the land.

        1. So Not The Boss Of Me*

          Thank you, Elizabeth West.
          CanadianBaby, here’s one I forgot. Always makes me smile.
          When we were first in NC, people kept telling us how unfriendly northerners are. Huh? One evening we went downtown to check out our new city. There were a lot of people walking around. We stopped and chatted with a few people. We also saw a couple people from school, who we saw every day and had just left a couple hours ago. We said hi and moved on.
          It turns out, when meeting people on the street, one is expected to stop and chat for about 5 minutes. Even if you just left them and have nothing new to say. So the people we chatted with said “You aren’t like most northerners, you’re friendly.” And the people we said hi to said “I told you northerners are unfriendly. You didn’t even say hi.”
          Hi was exactly what we had said. But hi in their minds is to have a chat, about 5 minutes.
          There is also a form to the chat. Many people start with “How’s yer mum an’ ’em?” (How’s your mom and them?) None of these people ever met our families but they sincerely wanted to hear a little about them, nonetheless. And they would remember things. Then something about daily life, and something about what you have in common with that person. And now you have completed saying hi.
          I tried explaining that we aren’t less friendly, we just have different customs, but that never landed. We moved to their state, so we did it their way, of course.
          I

    4. Kimmybear*

      Like there are huge cultural differences between Toronto and Edmonton, there are huge differences between different US cities/states. For example, when you say “Southern state” that could mean anything from DC (though many argue) to New Orleans to Miami to rural Alabama. But…the South can’t handle cold or snow. You will show up to work because there is only an inch of snow and everyone else is home. Your plumbing pipes won’t be wrapped so you’ll hear all about how to prevent pipes bursting. People will constantly tell you to put on a coat when it’s 15C (59F).

    5. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

      Southerner born and bred. We are friendly but there will be culture shock. Very big things in the South: sweet iced tea, grits, fried chicken. And if anyone says “bless your heart” well… could be insulting or could be pity or could be true sympathy. Also, be prepared to see and hear guns, on a more serious note. Hunting is a thing here. But maybe the biggest thing: never, ever assume that those who speak in a slow drawl are stupid. Some of the sharpest brains you could ever meet will sit beneath a feed cap. Manners are very important here.

      And welcome!

      1. Clisby*

        Welcome, and make sure that AC is working!

        If you by chance are moving to the coast, remember that a full half of the year is hurricane season, so be prepared to check in with NOAA daily when that’s going on.

        You might encounter people talking about silver patterns.

    6. Aly_b*

      Fellow Canadian transplant here (though only as far as the pacific north west). Get a tax professional familiar with cross border taxes to handle your taxes, the tfsa was brought in post nafta and has to be reported funny, unlike most other investments. I’m sure there are other finicky details… so I pay someone (in my case a Canadian accountant) to handle that.

      Get one of those cross border bank accounts (I think both rbc and td have them). They will be willing to look at your Canadian credit scores and give you a credit card, unlike American banks for whom you don’t exist yet since you (probably) don’t have an American credit score.

      Work culture is more different here than I was expecting. Even in the relatively chill PNW, the hours and just culture of working a lot was definitely there, more so than any of the Canadian cities I’ve lived (non-toronto, not sure how it would compare to there.) Not sure how this will compare in the south.

    7. happy day, today*

      If you have stocks/investments you don’t have to sell them once you cease to be a resident in canada, but you’ll need to know their value on the day you leave. (look up “deemed disposition” if this applies). I found the cultural differences to be huuuge between Canada & the US (greater than Canada – Europe, for example). make sure you have your visa issues sorted (I know people on TN “nafta” visas that have been refused entry to the US because they didn’t have their uni diploma in-hand while trying to enter for the first time on that visa). You won’t have credit history (necessarily), so your eligibility for a credit card or even decent phone service may be compromised. Doing your taxes, you’ll have to do federal *and* state, and sometimes city as separate forms. And finally ….. when leaving, and doing your final taxes, you’ll have to put what state you’re moving to. Not all southern states recognize “leaving the US” as an option, so set aside a couple of thousand dollars to pay a lawyer to fight this once you’ve gone. (check with your particular state if “leaving the US” is an option on the tax forms). Sadly, this one is from personal experience.

      1. happy day, today*

        Also, especially in the south religion – especially performative religion – is huge. People don’t go to picnics, they go to church picnics. etc. You’ll hear religion mentioned *a lot*, it’s not a neutral topic.

    8. LilySparrow*

      I think Canada to the South might be easier to navigate on a day to day interpersonal / surface level than coming from a place like the Northeast US, based on my fairly limited knowledge of the famous Canadian “politeness”.

      Southern manners are much slower-paced, in that it’s customary in a work setting to start phone calls or other conversations with a round of “how are you’s” before stating your purpose- even if it’s something perfunctory like making an appointment. It’s common to exchange chitchat in public places, like standing in line or with a cashier. These are things that would have seemed really excessive when I lived up North.

      It’s also common for people to discuss church or Bible studies, or invite you along – most folks are not pushy, but “have you found a church yet?” is a normal question to new neighbors.

      Children in many areas are trained to call adults Sir and Maam, though this is less common in the bigger metro areas now.

      Good food and a good sense of humor are appreciated everywhere.

      It’s a nice place to live in many ways, especially if you like outdoor pursuits. It’s also increasingly culturally diverse – suburbia is always going to have its share of Karens no matter where you are in America. But there is always music, art, literature, and any kind of counterculture you like – it just may be harder to find in some places.

  15. The Other Dawn*

    I’m starting the new year off right: I got my temporary MMJ certificate yesterday! I’ll be going to the dispensary either Friday or early next week for the initial consultation and intake.

    This came on the tail end of some really bad sciatic and lower back pain this week, which was made much worse due to running out of my pain meds unexpectedly (increased pain and spasms this week), because the refill wasn’t sent to the pharmacy. (Doctor’s office has to send directly.) I sent the refill request in last Thursday so they would fill it Monday (they don’t fill on Fridays). All day Monday I waited for the pharmacy text, but it hadn’t come by noon, which is unusual. I tried to contact the office via phone and email, but no one returned my calls or emails. I tried to work at home while in pain, and was loading up on Tylenol and ibuprofen (which I’m not supposed to take) and Tylenol with codeine, all of which only took the slightest edge off the pain.

    I’d like to say I handled the whole thing well, but I…didn’t. I had a total meltdown Monday evening while laying in bed. My poor husband. He didn’t know what to do with me other than rub my leg. The cats seemed to know something was wrong and Arlo snuggled up to me. Next thing I knew, there were four of them on the bed with me. I eventually calmed down and watched a movie, The Infiltrator. Needless to say, sleeping Monday night was pretty bad. I felt like I barely slept and I tossed and turned from about midnight, on.

    In the moment of having the meltdown I kept thinking, “I’m hooked! I’m an addict, just like my niece, brother, and sister were. How am I ever going to wean off after surgery??” But thinking about it now, it was really because I was absolutely terrified of having withdrawal symptoms (I’ve only read about them) since my last dose, which was really a half dose, was 6 am that morning, and being very, very worried about being able to sleep that night (sitting, standing still, and sleeping are the things that make the pain worse, and sleeping is a problem even with the pain meds).

    Yesterday I felt better emotionally since I hadn’t had the withdrawal symptoms I was expecting–my dose is pretty low compared to most people, so maybe that’s why? Or maybe the Tylenol with codeine helped? The pain, however, was worse and I just couldn’t get comfortable. I tried working from home and really couldn’t sit at my desk for longer than 10 minutes at a clip. Four Tylenol, two ibuprofen, and two Tylenol with codeine did absolutely nothing. I got a hold of the office around 9 am and they got the refill in. Luckily their “on hold” message I heard Monday stated that they’d be closing at 11:30 am yesterday, so I got the call in early and actually got an actual person. I got down to the pharmacy, took my dose, and felt much better pain-wise within the hour.

    Having gone through that, I feel better about when it comes time to wean off the pain meds. I realize it was only a day and a half, but at least now I have a little confidence that I’ll be able to do it. I’m sure it will still suck, but maybe not much as I’ve been expecting. Hopefully.

    Although I really like my orthopedic practice and any issues have been very few and far between in the five years I’ve been going there, I can help but be annoyed that I had to go through this. There was a severe lack of staffing due to the holidays and no one was looking at the web portal, nor returning phone calls or emails. (When I got the actual person yesterday I found out the entire pain management team is out until tomorrow.) I know that people want time off around the holidays and they should absolutely have it, but they need to have a plan in place for prescriptions at the very least, especially with the entire pain management team out on leave. It’s a big practice with multiple doctors. They have many patients that are just coming off major surgery, or are on long-term pain meds and are in much worse shape than me. They also have many elderly patients. Did this happen to any of those patients? How did they get their pain meds? I was mostly OK, but what about people who have been on these pills for years?

    (For anyone who like true crime movies, The Infiltrator is a true story about Robert Mazur and starts Bryan Cranston. Mazur went undercover in 1986 to bring down Colombian drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar. I saw Mazur speak at a conference in October and it was fascinating. The content of the movie relates to what I do at the bank for which I work, so it was also a learning experience for me. If you have Amazon Prime, you can get it on Prime Video for free.)

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      What a nightmare! I’ve had issues getting ADD meds refilled and that was bad enough.
      I also saw what my father in law went through when moved back to this state and had to find a new doctor. He’s a cancer survivor with rheumatoid arthritis and I was horrified how hard it was for him to get someone to agree to continue his existing working pain relief regimen. Nothing is going to fix the underlying problems, and he’s already cut back to a bare minimum–which for some reason made them think he didn’t need any, and that was disturbing. Like if he’d stabilized at a higher dose it would be valid? Also it was weird how hard they kept pushing him to try medical mj even though he’d tried it and didn’t like it. Our healthcare system is so mucked up.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        A much older friend of mine, a former coworker, has rheumatoid arthritis and has been on Vicodin for decades. (As a result, she has a very high tolerance for pain meds. That made her recovery from fusion, which is the same thing I’m having, pretty rough, as the pain meds didn’t work very well for her.) She went through a battle with the insurance company when our former employer changed providers. She had a prior authorization on file for a 30-day supply and it gets refilled automatically by the doctor’s office every 30 days. She had to get a new one for the new insurance company, which she did, but for some reason they decided to not honor it all of a sudden. She was PISSED! And I don’t blame her. She has a lot of pain and she’s been on these pills for decades, so not only would she be in constant pain, should would have had some severe withdrawals. She got it straightened out, but she kept having to call her doctor for a refill every few days until they fixed it since the insurance allows a refill only every X number of days for X amount.

    2. Kidney Stones are a Bitch*

      Sorry about your pharmacy experience. The Raleys we have been using for over 10 years to fill our prescriptions closed their pharmacy without warning and transferred all our meds to Walgreens, which is very expensive compared to the cash price we paid at Rayles.

      Had to deal with passing a kidney stone at home this past weekend and the ER doc emailed my prescription to Walgreens for 40 each opioids (1 to 2 pills every 6 hours for 5 days) and Walgreens would only fill 10 each. It seems all pharmacies now limit the number of pills they will dispense regardless of the prescription. I was lucky that I passed the stone the next day or I would have been SOL.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        If you have insurance, it might be your insurance that is limiting the pain meds. In my case, Aetna won’t allow opioids to be refilled until seven days, not including the initial fill date, have passed. So if my prescription is filled on Monday, they don’t allow a refill until the following Tuesday. The doctor has to call in a prior authorization if a shorter time frame is needed. I’m not sure about the number of pills, though. I asked about their guidelines and they mentioned only the refill time frame. My doctor has said, too, that it’s the insurance establishing limits.

        I’m glad your stone passed and you had enough medication to get you through! I’ve never had a stone, but I know people who have and I’m assured that it’s quite painful.

    3. Mimmy*

      Oh Dawn that stinks! I’m glad you got through it but I agree about having a plan in place during the holidays and other times where staffing is limited. That’s always bothered me. I’d be tempted to write a letter to the doctor or even the office manager saying exactly what you just said in your last paragraph.

      Totally agree with Seeking Second Childhood about our healthcare system :(

    4. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      Good luck, The Other Dawn, with your MMJ. I’m so glad you were able to get your certificate.
      My son worked at a dispensary shortly after Colorado legalized. He had regular customers with cancer, bone diseases, intestinal problems (including Crohn’s), seizure disorders and so many other problems. He went into it because of the recreational side, but came out a serious advocate for the medical side. People who had been unable to function because of pain or seizures (sometimes hundreds/day) could get jobs and have a life.
      While it is true that pain meds >of any kind< can cause pain when doses are skipped, it sounds like you are doing alright and the MMJ may alleviate anyway. May it help a lot and be smooth sailing.

    5. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      You are not alone TOD, this is a tough time of year for many.
      Last year I had to go to the ER on the 3rd of January. The symptoms I had felt like heart and I was advised by medical people to go. I have previously had a heart attack>>all the symptoms were in my right arm. Not a typo, right arm. I tell everyone this because women often don’t have the classic symptoms and it’s vital not to disregard symptoms no matter where they are.
      Anyway, the ER waiting room (about 80? chairs) was full to overflowing. Looong story shorter, I, a heart patient, waited until midnight (8 hours) to be taken back. Saw a doc an hour later. NO ONE was able to do their jobs efficiently because they were so overwhelmed for so long.
      Later I was told they waited so long to take me back because they didn’t want to put me in the hallway and attach electrodes to my (breast bedecked) chest with people passing by. But so many of the people they took first had to be admitted that I was put…in the hallway. They couldn’t treat me there, and I wasn’t moved or admitted until the next afternoon.
      I’m leaving lots of stuff out in order to get to the conclusion. I learned that the dialysis centers, infusion centers, etc. close at least for Dec. 25 and Jan 1, and their patients miss at least one treatment. This means they can predict that a high percentage of their patients, will get sick and end up in the emergency room on Jan 3,4 or 5. Add to this the people who are a little sick, but push through the holidays and end up sicker. Add folks who just have bad timing and EVERY YEAR the ER looks like this on these dates. The next day the wait was 17 hours. Upon hearing this my husband said “That is no longer an emergency room”.
      For those who are not in the US, we have those 40 or so million people who have no insurance. Plus the ones who only have insurance for huge bills, and those whose insurance won’t pay for a lesser option. And doctor’s offices that don’t have same day visits. Our ER’s are massively overused for the wrong things. This is well known.
      Despite this sad story, I had a lovely result. The problem was not my heart and four days later I was given a clean bill of heart health and I am no longer a cardiology patient.
      But I will continue to advocate for changes in the system. Many others have not been so lucky and they are suffering in this system.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I saw The Infiltrator at an event with Robert Mazur and he was really interesting to listen to. The film is worth watching.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        I’m so glad everything is OK. Wow, what an awful story! But unfortunately it’s not all the surprising.

        “Our ER’s are massively overused for the wrong things.”
        This. My sister-in-law and her kids seem to use the ER as a walk-in clinic and regular doctor. It drives me absolutely nuts, because they don’t have to do this. The have options. But for some reason, this is what they choose to do. I feel like every other week one of them is posting on Facebook that they’re “feeling concerned” and have checked in at the local hospital’s ER.

        1. So Not The Boss Of Me*

          Oh yeah, there’s that too, TOD. Many insurances no longer pay for ER if there’s a better solution and/or the diagnosis doesn’t warrant it. The docs probably have some work around for it tho.

    6. OyHiOh*

      If your doctors are at all sensible about your pain meds, you won’t go cold turkey.

      Someone I know who’d been on oxy for several years was able to come off without any withdrawl effects. The person taking the meds told their doctor they wanted to get off the med (had just had surgery that was supposed to and did successfully removed the cause of pain). Doctor gave their partner the tapering instructions, which took about six or eight weeks, if I remember correctly. Because the person with the prescription was not the person dosing meds, it took about three additional weeks before they even realized they’d been off oxy for several weeks.

      So it’s very do-able to come off your opiate meds without significant symptoms, assuming you have a decent, sensible care team.

  16. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

    Good point! I’ll have to screenshot these so I don’t forget anything!

    And that’s just lazy! The element couldn’t have been more than like 20 bucks!

    1. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      Haha. He was a big muckity-muck at our local hospital, moving to take a job as a bigger muckity-muck at a bigger hospital. We bought the replacement burner less than 10 minutes away. He just couldn’t be bothered. And who thinks to look for nonsense like that?!
      I’m glad we didn’t have him fix the electrical issues. My husband was an electrician and as soon as he saw those he said no thanks, I’ll do that myself.
      Your new house looks like a home. Enjoy.

      1. Clisby*

        When we bought our current house (and previous house) we bought as is. That’s likely not feasible for everyone, but we liked being in charge of fixing whatever needed to be done. For example, in each case the house needed a new roof. There’s no way I’d let the seller just put a new roof on – her only incentive would be to get it done as cheaply as possible. Our incentive would be to get it done right.

  17. UbiCaritas*

    My husband and I had a disastrous year in 2019, health wise – I fell in Feb, broke/dislocated 2 bones in my foot (still not quite healed!) and while I was in rehab, he learned that he has metastatic cancer. Several of our good friends also have stage 4 cancer. Sometimes I wish I had gone to medical school – it seems like every family I know has battled cancer one way or another. My wish for everyone in 2020 is to be healthy.

    1. nep*

      So sorry to hear, UbiCaritas. Wishing you and your husband all the best. May you find peace in all those challenges and what must seem like chaos sometimes.

    2. Yumnum*

      Sympathy sent. Both my parents died of colon cancer. Brother cured of hodgkins, but sufferd nerve damage in his feet and lost his job.
      One in three will get it during their lifetime.

    3. fposte*

      Whoa, good luck to you, Ubi Caritas, for a better 2020!

      Cancer feels common because it is; in their lifetimes, approximately half of all men get it and one third of all women. That doesn’t mean it kills them and that includes all kinds of cancers, but that’s just a way our cells tend to go wrong when they go.

    4. NoLongerYoung*

      sending a hug. I am so very sorry. that was our 2017 -2018. I am here sending warm vibes for support and comfort as you need it this year.

  18. Anono-me*

    Good morning and happy New Year! May 2020 be a better year for everyone.

    I’m trying to improve my sleeping habits. I’m thinking about getting the Dodow doodad. Does anyone have any experiences with it that they would be willing to share?

    Thank you.

    Also Cat Fireworks probably explains why my dog was barking so much then usual at the fireworks last night.

    1. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      Hi Anono-me,
      Can you explain what it is? It looks like a bowl of water and the site keeps reverting to French. Porquoi? Je ne sais pas. Je ne parle pas (or read) francais. <Seventh grade French strikes again.

      1. Anono-me*

        A Dodow is a small white disc shaped device that shines a blue circle of light on the ceiling. The person trying to go to sleep is supposed to time their breathing to the waxing and waning of the light.

        1. So Not The Boss Of Me*

          How interesting. That would make me less relaxed, but then many relaxation techniques do. Sounds like you think it will work for you. Good luck.

    2. Meepmeep*

      It shines a big bright blue light on you – I doubt it would help anyone sleep better. I’d recommend blue blocking glasses before bed instead.

    3. Arts Akimbo*

      I cannot help but hear the DDEW song from Galavant now– “Do Dodow doodad, do Dodow doodad, do Dodow doodad Dodow doodad!”

      I have no opinion on the device, but I have strong opinions about filking. :)

    4. nonegiven*

      I get agitated by dark and quiet. It makes my heart pound and I feel nervous.

      Even if I’ve been fighting sleep all day, I wake up about 10-11pm.

      If I fall asleep at 10pm, I’ll wake up, wide awake, in an hour or so and stay awake for hours.

      I’d like to know if this thing works.

  19. Seeking Second Childhood*

    For me, I’ve settled into ‘-er’ resolutions that have little built-in immediate rewards.
    HealthiER behavior–a few years ago I worked my way down from once a week takeout Chinese to once a month, then less. My immediate reward is getting to end my day that much earlier because I’m on the clock with flex-time.
    Being tidiER at home ( I’m fully 5S at work so why is this hard?!)–and my reward is to start inviting people over to visit or do something when it’s good enough not perfect, and sometimes when I need incentive to put in 45 minutes of tidying up.
    This year’s tough, I am trying to find an immediate incentive to get moving on a job search. Long-term incentives are obvious but immediate? Not so good a link. I’m welcome for ideas on how to frame it.

    1. JediSquirrel*

      I’m with you on this. Especially the 5S part. I’ve downsized to a smaller apartment and I ended up just throwing a lot of stuff out or donating it. The new rule is of I haven’t used it in a year, out it goes.

      2019 was difficult, and my health suffered. I’m hoping a new home and a new job (with better benefits) will help with that.

      One thing I’m adding to this list is just be happiER. I spent so little time working on hobbies last year. With less stuff to handle and hopefully fewer health issues to manage (both mine and family’s) I can make that happen.

      Best of luck to you.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        A big yes on the hobbies — one reason we moved was to have room for woodworking and a dog, and access to a year-round school pool for lap swim. But my job ended telecommute so I have no TIME. I gave them 2 years to change their mind, and I shouldn’t have waited that long. HappieER. Maybe I’ll take a vacation day where I work on resume in the morning and pamper myself in the afternoon.

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          Maybe I’ll take a vacation day where I work on resume in the morning and pamper myself in the afternoon.

          I really like this idea!

  20. PhyllisB*

    Happy New Year one and all!! Just wanted y’all to know my son is going back to rehab again tomorrow. He told me he doesn’t want to live like this anymore and is going to really do it this time. He and Girlfriend are no longer together, so he won’t have someone guilt tripping him and interfering with his focus.
    Those of you who believe in prayer, please say one for him.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I almost gasped out loud here, Phyllis. This is a great change in this story. Most definitely, I will pray.

    2. PhyllisB*

      Thanks for all the good wishes. I just looked at what I posted this morning, and it sounds like I was blaming his girlfriend for him not being able to retain sobriety. I did not intend for this to come across like that.
      I realize he is an adult and can make his own choices about his life, but she kept whining to him about missing him and why couldn’t he do his recovery locally, and why wasn’t she consulted about any of this….and on and on. I kept telling her if she wanted to have a good life with him she should let him get through his treatment and time without making him feel conflicted, but you know how well that went over.
      I am just hoping and praying that now that he doesn’t have this hindrance that he will put his all into it.
      Y’all know I will keep you updated.

      1. blaise zamboni*

        It didn’t sound like you were blaming his girlfriend, at least not to me. She isn’t responsible for his behavior–he is absolutely able to make his own choices–but it is a lot more difficult to make healthy choices when the people close to you don’t support those choices or the path you’re taking to get there. I thought you sounded relieved about your son having a brighter path, and that seems pretty appropriate to me.

        Sending my most positive vibes to your son, your family, and most of all to you! This is a difficult issue to deal with on both sides, and I hope you and your son find the resolution you’re both hoping for. Definitely keep us updated. Happy 2020! :)

    3. Anono-me*

      Prayers for both of you.

      I find it very hopeful that he is the one saying “It is time for this to change. I need it to change.”. The people I love who have faced similar challenges have found that point to be a critical moment. It is not always smooth sailing afterwards, there were setbacks. But that is the point when their trajectory changed.

  21. Parenthetically*

    Happy new year from the hospital, where I am with my newborn who has RSV.

    I’ll take all your thoughts, prayers, well-wishes, crossed fingers, good vibes, and whatever else, that this year is better than its inauspicious beginning.

    1. UbiCaritas*

      Sending good thoughts, prayers, well-wishes, crossed fingers, and good vibes to you and your baby. I hope baby improves rapidly.

    2. Patty Mayonnaise*

      Oh noooo I’m so sorry! You’ve had a tough time with your little one. Sending you strength!

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      oh no! Good thoughts – a friend of ours had their munchkin (a little older than Little Brackets, but still very little) in the hospital overnight with RSV a couple days before Christmas, and she’s apparently right as rain again through the power of prednisone, so hopefully it passes quickly!

      1. Parenthetically*

        LB2 has only needed a whiff of oxygen and some regular nose suctioning, thankfully. We’ve been here since Monday. Grateful for modern medicine.

        1. Fikly*

          Not the nose suctioning!

          In all seriousness, I hope LB2 and all of you are able to cope as well as possible and have some time to recover once the immediate crisis is over.

  22. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Did anyone else get disappointed by the streaming version of Dick Clark’s New Years Eve show? I’m in an area that can’t pick up ABC without cable or a rooftop antenna, and I would have driven my 13yo kpop fan to grandpa’s to watch BTS there if the streaming show had admitted it was only showing the small stage!
    I’m just so glad a friend of MINE recorded the show so she could see what all the fuss us about even if she fell asleep early. She’s invited us to come watch later today.
    Just geezer guys why the bait & switch.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        We planned to stay up for the 10:38 performance and we’re so annoyed we went and played video games until midnight. Today she was still annoyed and would not watch the YouTube clips even.

  23. Yumnum*

    Here is my New Years wish to all.

    “May your best of 2019 be yout worst of 2020!”

    Good luck as well

  24. Anony Shark*

    I have a close group of friends I’ve known for two decades. I consider them more like my family than my friends. One of them, “Bree”, dropped off suddenly when she started dating a man who is now her husband. They lived far apart so initially we understood when she spent all her free time to seeing him. But she also abruptly stopped responding to any of our messages.

    We asked about her going AWOL on us but she would brush it off as “I’m busy” or “I’m not good at replying to messages.” At one point she even said *we* dropped *her*. (Well of course we’re going to stop inviting you if you ignore our messages). The final straw came when one of our friends had a major medical event in her family. Bree heard about it but didn’t reach out to this friend at all.

    Immediately after getting married Bree suddenly started contacting us one by one. It turns out her husband is spending all of his free time hanging out with his buddies and leaving the missus at home.

    I’m angry she thinks she can turn up in our lives when it’s convenient for her after ignoring us for two years. I’m also sad I lost someone who was once a good friend.

    1. Wrench Turner*

      Life happens, things intervene and she made building her new family her priority. While understandable to feel slighted, if she really was once a good friend, it’s silly to push them away if they’re trying to be a part of your life again when things have settled down. It may ‘not be the same’ with them but you can’t say you’re mad they’re gone when they’re at the door. I say this as a Bree myself, and the friends that really matter to me are the ones I try to visit in the precious little time I have. As friends of mine, they understand and welcome me when I can. Some I haven’t seen in years, but we know they or I could show up any time and be welcomed like it was yesterday.

      1. Anony Shark*

        The difference is that you say you made the effort of maintaining your friendships wherever possible. Bree ignored us for years. I don’t have much respect for someone who drops their friends totally after getting a boyfriend. That’s very different to taking some time to focus on a new family.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      It’s okay to be angry and sad.
      It’s okay to reevaluate the friendship and perhaps give it a “lesser ranking” than before.

      I’d suggest that you hold the door open for a better future. This could look like you get together once a month for a while and see how that goes. There’s probably other options to consider.
      I think it’s a good idea to give people a pass on the first mess-up. Because most of us have at least one mess-up.

      There maybe other factors here that you have not mentioned or that I am not seeing that would change my suggestion.

      1. Anony Shark*

        I did consider this but…no. Ignoring your close friends for years isn’t a one time mistake. She wasn’t there throughout major episodes in our lives including miscarriage, new baby, family crises, new jobs, etc. We would reach out and she never responded. When one person asked her to help with something in the weekend she made it clear it was interrupting her time with her man. After everything I no longer respect her as a person.

        1. fposte*

          That’s a reasonable decision to make; I’d just separate it from being angry and wanting to punish her.

          I will say that as I grow older I’m more comfortable with friendships ebbing and flowing. Over the decades, people go underwater for a while and then resurface; it’s pretty common. And there can be different kinds of friendships–some of them are more peas in a pod, some of them are more meeting up every so often.

          1. Washi*

            I agree. It’s totally ok to be hurt and angry by how the past couple years have gone! I certainly would be. I went through a really tough time last year, and I felt like one of my closest friends wasn’t really there for me the way I thought she would be. Even after we had a talk about it and kind of cleared the air, it was hard not to keep replaying all the hurt and self-righteous anger in my head – all the reasons she was wrong, all the ways she should have done better, how I never would have done what she did.

            I’ve realized since then that part of the reason I kept holding on to that hurt was that I’m scared of how much I love her, how important she is to me. By continuing to be mad at her, I don’t have to think about how sad it would be to lose our friendship and how much I did miss her, and would miss her if she weren’t there anymore, no matter what had gone down in the past. My anger also absolved me of really trying to empathize with her – I realize now how scary and hard it was for her to have a friend struggle the way I was struggling, how guilty she felt for not being able to help, and how my struggles reminded her of some family issues and her own worst times. I can see now more clearly how confused and conflicted she was, and how despite everything, she did keep trying, even if it wasn’t exactly what I wanted from her at the time.

            It’s really scary to give someone another chance, and leave yourself open to hurt again. But I eventually came to terms with the fact that if I pulled away from this friendship, the person I would hurt most is myself. That doesn’t mean that things got instantly better between us- we’re still rebuilding trust with each other, and giving each other a little space. There’s no magic wand to make things like they were before, which is also sad and scary. But it’s very beautiful in a way to have hurt and been hurt so badly, and find a way forward together.

            It’s ok if you just don’t like this person anymore, and you don’t even have to decide now. Moving forward would probably require a completely honest conversation – my friend and I would not have been able to make up without her willingness to completely own up to what happened, and my willingness to see my own part in it and be brutally honest about it. Maybe start there, and see what you feel.

          2. Fikly*

            There is a key difference between forgiving someone and allowing them the power to hurt you again.

            1. Cat*

              Nobody said you should do that. But you can be casual friends with someone while emotionally keeping your distance. You’re under no obligation to but many of us find it makes sense to keep some of those people in our lives.

            2. fposte*

              Sure, and you can also decide not to forgive people, too; IMHO, forgiveness is not that big a deal. What I think would be a mistake is cutting Bree off because Anony wants her to feel rejected or excluded, rather than because Anony’s decided that friendship just isn’t working for her now.

              And as far as hurt goes, ultimately the power to hurt one another lies in all intimate relationships, and the question is whether the balance is worth it. There’s the interesting conversation downthread about friends who’ve hurt each other, and you talk there about ways the friendship was mended afterwards. I don’t think Anony’s obliged to do that, but I think it can also be a viable choice if she wishes.

    3. Iron Chef Boyardee*

      “We asked about her going AWOL on us but she would brush it off as ‘I’m busy’ or ‘I’m not good at replying to messages.’ . . . . . Immediately after getting married Bree suddenly started contacting us one by one . . . . . I’m angry she thinks she can turn up in our lives when it’s convenient for her after ignoring us for two years.”

      The next time she contacts you, tell her “I’m busy” or “I’m not good at replying to messages.”

      1. Owler*

        Or be honest? “I don’t know if I want to resume our friendship after you ignored our friend group for two years.”

    4. Pommette!*

      For what it’s worth: a few years ago, I started dating and quickly moved in with my now-spouse. Shortly thereafter, I fell into a prolonged and severe depression. I wasn’t able to simultaneously stay functional at work, in my relationship with my spouse, in my relationship with my family, and in my friendships. I was trying to survive, and staying in touch with people really felt impossible. When friends called me out on my flakiness/evasiveness, I’d respond like Bree did (that I was busy – which wasn’t technically true, but felt true, since it took me so long to get even small and simple things done; that I was bad at writing back – which was true, but also more complicated than I let on…). In the end, I dropped out of people’s lives and lost friendships with people I really cared about. Most of the friends that I neglected during this time probably think that I went AWOL to be with a guy. Obviously, I’m not saying that that’s what happened with Bree, but people often have complicated reasons for acting how they do.

      Bree hurt you. You get to decide whether, and on what terms, you want to let her back into your life. But if you think that the friendship could be (cautiously) rekindled, it’s worth talking seriously about what really happened between you, why, and how each of you feels about it.

  25. Wrench Turner*

    Want to wish all of the AAM community a most happy and prosperous New Year. You’ve been a delight to read, as educational as entertaining. In there I hope to contribute now and then from my perspective as a blue-collar worker out in the field in the trades. Beyond the 9-5, you’ve also lent great insight on how to navigate the world of eldercare (which I’m suddenly thrust in to) and relationships and gardens and… all that. Keep up the good work, all of you. We’re all in this together.

    1. fposte*

      Thanks, Wrench. I always enjoy your contributions, and I hope you’re still getting a chance to enjoy your creative explorations.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      “We’re all in this together.”

      I can’t explain, but I have seen this sentence recently in a different context. I found it hugely reassuring.
      And here you use the sentence. Coincidence probably. I am going to keep watching and see where it comes up again. Thanks for this post and thanks for reminding us.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        “We’re all in this together.”

        Wait, is Wrench Turner a rogue heating engineer?

        I’ll show myself out.

    3. NoLongerYoung*

      Happy new year to you, too.
      Entering into the world of eldercare too.
      Glad to hang out here together. Appreciate wrench turners. I’ll tell more some day.

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

    Who else is totally thrown off by New Years and Christmas falling on a Wednesday this year? Nobody knows what day it is. My brain has kind of shut off for this entire two week period, and I find myself alternately bored and then annoyed at people who expect me to actually do work. The only people who seem to be coming into the library since Dec 23 are the cranks, and everyone (patrons and coworkers alike) is in a bad mood. I find myself feeling anxious and on edge for no good reason. Just totally thrown off.

    I wish everyone a happy New Year… and am strangely looking forward to Jan 6 when life more or less returns to normal.

    1. Wrench Turner*

      It’s been a struggle. I was on standby duty for Christmas so I still had to get up early and get in uniform and then wait around for a dispatch call (which never came).

    2. WellRed*

      Same here but I also kinda like all the chaos. Got tons of time off work and not looking forward to going back to normal. However, this is partly due to needing a change at of work.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’m doing mostly okay with it – my day-confusion is because I’ve actually been working every day (including weekends and holidays) since 12/21, so they’re all kind of running together.

      Disclaimer: This has been my decision, I’m deliberately shifting my holiday PTO from Christmas/NY into my regular PTO bucket because I don’t have any particular holiday plans, I work from home, and I have better things to do with PTO, like an upcoming vacation in three weeks. I always work a second job on Sundays, and the Saturday I worked was a one-off, shifted hours from the Sunday job. All is well and I’ll be back to my normal schedule with no work on Saturdays as of this weekend. :)

    4. Mimmy*

      Oh good lord yes!! I’ve been off since December 20 and don’t go back until Monday, January 6 due to the way our students’ holiday break was scheduled and that my allowed hours per State Fiscal Year are limited. It is going to be a HUGE shock to the system on Monday and I am most definitely not looking forward to it. Ugh.

    5. MissGirl*

      I’m on day 6 of an 8-day work week so days of weeks are kind of meaningless. Last night I was in bed by 8:30 and up my 4:30. I forgot it was a holiday yesterday and was surprised places were closed.

    6. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I am completely discombobulated. I’ve been off since the 13th and while I was productive the first week, I’ve been a lump on the couch for the remaining time. Where did it go? I still have 2 big items on my to do list to complete before Monday.

    7. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

      I think routine is highly undervalued. I too am thrown off by the holidays.

    8. Fikly*

      I work overnights, and worked the 31st to the 1st, and was completely convinced the entire time that today (Jan 1) was Thursday. Thankfully I realized it just before I left the apartment for the doctors appointment I have that is on actual Thursday.

    9. Gatomon*

      Definitely me! I’ve alternated between being bored out of my skull and enraged at anyone who suggests there might be work to do. And now I’ve got a cold lumped on top, which has probably been the source of my nasty mood to this point, but there’s so much to do post New Years that I’m not sure it will be worth taking the time off. Plus I was sick around Thanksgiving, and am rarely sick anyway, so I feel I need to be making extra effort to not appear like I’m slacking off. :(

      I’m not looking forward to Monday though. There’s always a panic that ensues after a big holiday when everyone gets back in the office and realizes things didn’t magically get done over the holidays. I wish we were like some other companies/industries and just went into support-only mode for the space between Christmas and New Years. I’d rather have the days completely off to prepare for the impending circus.

    10. Dan*

      For me, it’s a double whammy. I have a flex schedule at work, so for anything but a Wednesday holiday, I can make a four day weekend out of it without burning any leave. The double whammy is that not only are the holidays on Wednesday this year, they’re both int he same pay period. So I can’t two long weekends in a row. To compromise, I made a 5 day weekend out of Xmas, but this week is a normal work week with the exception of today.

    11. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      I can’t WAIT for our normal schedule to resume. It’s very disorienting. On New Year’s Eve our friend’s son eagerly said “It’s Shabbat!” and we had to explain that it just felt like Shabbat but wasn’t really. And now Shabbat is two nights away and will feel like it came way too fast!

  27. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Caffeine thoughts. When did you start drinking coffee or Coke, or really strong tea? Your kids?

    1. Wrench Turner*

      My grandmother used to when I was very young 7-9ish, staying at her house for the weekends. We would sit in her tiny Baltimore kitchen before dawn (because she always got up that early) and would read me the obituaries over plates of scrambled eggs, scrapple and black coffee.

      1. The pest, Ramona*

        I didn’t start drinking caffeine (hot tea in my case) til I was 40 and traveling abroad. I never really liked sodas, never felt the need for any caffeine boost as I was naturally a morning person and also a high achiever.
        Now I wish I hadn’t started, it’s hard to cut out sweet tea once it’s become s habit (and I don’t need the calories)!

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        It felt like my mom and me with tea until I registered “obits” not advice columns!

    2. Tennie*

      I only remember drinking coffee with milk at breakfast, never milk or anything else. So I must have been around 6 or 7? Can’t STAND drinking milk, so coffee with lots of milk may have been the only way to get me to consume it. Ironic part – we owned a dairy farm at the time.

    3. Annonno Today*

      I didn’t start until age 25. My friend was a Melitta rep and set me up with the whole show.

    4. Alex*

      I drank both of these things starting as practically a baby. There’s a picture of me with a cup of coke at 2.

      I guess parents didn’t know better in the early 80s.

      I didn’t drink coffee until age 14 because I didn’t develop a taste for it until then.

    5. Parenthetically*

      Oh, this is interesting! I wouldn’t say caffeine was ever really off-limits once we were in grade 3 or 4 — not that it was unrestricted, just that we’d be allowed to have a Coke with a happy meal now and then. I always liked coffee but we mostly were given decaf as a treat in the evenings on a cold day. (Although my brother had ADHD so caffeine didn’t affect him the way it did me — he could have downed a cup of high-octane caffeinated coffee and gone straight to bed, no problem). Once we hit middle school and there were vending machines accessible to us, we probably drank more caffeine, like a Dr. Pepper at a basketball game or an after-school event, but it wasn’t a regular occurrence.

      I didn’t drink coffee regularly until college, and actually gave up caffeine altogether for a couple years because I drank so much coffee in grad school that it made my heart skip beats. I switched to strong black tea in my late 20s.

      My son, who is a toddler, is allowed a sip or two of my tea, and loves coffee and tea, but if he gets his own cup to drink with his breakfast or whatever, it’s decaf.

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

      I started drinking in my early teens with lots of milk, and reducing it until it was 50/50. Strong tea was reserved for when I was ill.

    7. nep*

      My second ‘official/paying’ job (first was a co-op job at city hall) was at a 24-hour donut shop. I would go in at 4 or 4:30 in the morning. Well, making that coffee and smelling it as it brewed–that got me tasting it. Then I was drinking coffee through those morning shifts. That was decades ago. (The donut shop’s still there.)
      I’ll generally have it just in the morning. I’ve stopped coffee for months a couple of times through the years. (I don’t drink Coke or really strong tea.)

    8. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My parents and grandparents only kept uncaffeinated soda around in their homes when I was wee, but I don’t ever remember being told I couldn’t order a Coke when we went out to a restaurant. My gran would have let me drink tea as a kid, but I never have been able to drink coffee or tea (or beer or wines nowadays), I’m super sensitive to bitters. I probably started drinking it more regularly when I was old enough to take my pocket money and buy it myself.

    9. PB*

      My parents would let us have Coke as a treat for pretty much our whole lives; I have a vague memory of having a Coke at Thanksgiving when I was three or four. However, I’ve always had soda more for the flavor than for caffeine, but would sometimes drink it for a caffeine boost in high school (rarely) and college (more frequently).

      Caffeine as a whole became more of a thing when I was in college. I had a demanding course load while also working as a freelance musician, so I generally only slept four hours a night. At that point, I tended to have strong tea while studying, soda with lunch or at night. I started drinking coffee then, too, but it was rare, saved for when I was really exhausted. Coffee shifted to my beverage of choice in grad school (around age 23), which started a 1-3 cups a day habit I’ve maintained ever since.

    10. Got Cats?*

      We were always given tea when we were sick, didn’t really have sodas till maybe 9 or 10, and my dad would give us sips of his black coffee, but only a sip as he told us it would stunt our growth! haha Genes did that!

    11. Clisby*

      Can’t remember how early I first had caffeinated soft drinks or iced tea. I was allowed coffee (with a lot of milk) as a treat by the time I was in 2nd or 3rd grade.

      My own kids started drinking Coke/Pepsi when they were maybe 4 or 5. Neither (now 23 and almost 18) has ever liked coffee. My daughter has been a hot tea-drinker since college; neither likes iced tea.

    12. Different username for this*

      Right after college when I started working. I didn’t drink it at all in college! I also did grad school in a European country with big coffee culture, and that influenced me, too. I learned to appreciate drinking alcohol there too. (I’m American and literally didn’t taste alcohol until I was 21.)

      1. Different username for this*

        Sorry – I was only referring to coffee and tea here. But I did occasionally drink Coke as a young kid. I’ve never relied on Coke for caffeine boosts though, and I don’t drink soda at all as an adult.

    13. Bluebell*

      My mother only drank tea, so I didn’t start drinking coffee until college. We had coke around the house, but infrequently.

    14. KoiFeeder*

      My school cafeteria had a penchant for serving straight-up expired and moldy food, but the lipton and coffee machines were kept spick and span because the teachers used them, so I’d fill one of the water glasses 50% with sugar and 50% with lipton in 3rd grade so I wasn’t passing out all the time.

    15. Beatrice*

      Coke from an early age, but sparingly as a child. Coffee in my 30’s – I went through a stressful bout where sleep was not happening, and the amount of sugar in the soft drinks I was drinking to function was problematic. A very kind person I worked with brought me a coffee, not knowing I didn’t drink it, and I tried it, and got the caffeine boost I needed without the icky feeling and crash the soda was giving me. I quickly turned into a regular coffee drinker and reduced my soda intake. I drink cold sweet tea rarely, and hot tea only when I have a sore throat or cough.

      My 14 year old refuses to drink soft drinks – doesn’t like the fizz. He tried coffee around 12, decided he hated it, and isn’t interested in trying again. Won’t touch tea.

    16. Lost in the Woods*

      I started with coffee when I was a senior in high school. I had a horrible respiratory illness which knocked me out for about a week and left me weak and exhausted for another three weeks, and I needed to get through all those AP tests. Black tea wasn’t cutting it.

      It got really bad when I was in my last semester of college, I was at like 4 cups a day. I’ve cut back to just one now.

    17. LizB*

      I started with occasional coffee in high school (mostly frappuccinos and similarly milkshake-like concoctions), moved to one-cup-most-mornings coffee around college, and am still on one-cup-most-mornings coffee now, a decade after graduating. I’ve never been that into coke (or any other soda — gives me the hiccups about 50% of the time), but was allowed to have it from middle school onward if I wanted it. Maybe my parents would have restricted my intake more if I had shown signs of developing a habit.

    18. Dancing Otter*

      I had coffee with cream as a small child (before I learned to read). My parents thought the cream made it OK to give to a child with car-sickness. It wasn’t.
      To this day, the thought of putting cream in my coffee makes me vaguely nauseous. I’ll drink it black, or I’ll have milk in strong tea, but never, ever, coffee with cream.

      For your actual question, I learned to drink cola in high school, when the bubbles stopped going up my nose, and coffee freshman year of college, when I really needed the caffeine. Tea was always around, hot or iced; I don’t remember when I learned actually to like it.

    19. OyHiOh*

      Cokes and black tea, early teens. Coffee, early 20’s when I had a bit of disposable income and friends to hang out with at the popular college coffee shop.

      My oldest gets Coke/Pepsi ocassionally (is 12 now) but only lunch time (child has enough trouble sleeping and caffeine later in the day is asking for even more problems).

    20. LilySparrow*

      Soda was a very occasional treat, but I don’t recall any before/after age, maybe 5?

      Iced tea, not very strong – maybe 12 or 13? I don’t know that it was a rule, I just didn’t like it much at that age.

      Coffee – sometime in my junior year of hs, so about 16.

      My kids get the occasional soda, and I discourage caffeine because they are both dicey sleepers at the best of times. They probably started caffeinated sodas whenever they were old enough to go to “dropoff” parties- 7 or 8?

      They will have decaf hot tea or an occasional sip of my (full-caf) iced tea, probably started that around age 10.

    21. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Thanks all–I was asking because my 13yo is developing a love for strong tea and an interest in tasting dad’s coffee. Good points here that tea & coffee are probably less an issue than all the sugars in the Coke & Pepsi I got hooked on by high school!

  28. Hopeful Future Accountant*

    I’m looking into a new laptop because mine is on its way out. I don’t have a huge budget (I’m hoping for a $600-$700 maximum), it needs to be portable (I’m still in school and need to be able to fit it in my laptop), have a number pad, and be powerful enough to run quickbooks. I would also prefer one that runs window, but would possible tolerate chrome. I don’t do Apple computers (I don’t like the massive learning curve since I’m accustomed to Windows).

    I’m currently leaning towards the Asus Vivobook S15, but would love people’s opinions on good laptops.

    1. Wrench Turner*

      Not had the best experience with Chromebooks for more than internet surfing and presentation type things. I’ve had great success with factory refurbished laptops with warranty and all that. Consider shopping “almost new” to get some good discounts.

      1. Alex*

        Seconding refurbished products. I’ve purchased from Groupon with good results (not a laptop, but tablets and phones).

          1. Beatrice*

            I’ve bought two Lenovo laptops from their outlet store. You can search based on features to find the best price with the features you need. I’m very happy with both machines, both from a price and quality standpoint.

            1. So Not The Boss Of Me*

              But not the Lenovo Yoga. I’ve had three now. The track pads and keyboard drive many people nuts.
              Why have three then, you say? The first one got bad enough that they replaced it two years in (I had a three year warranty). I thought after two years they would have fixed the issues, but the replacement had the same problems, that appeared in the same order. I use my laptop several hours every day and I finally gave up.
              I must have a very light machine because I travel and I need lots of resolution because I work with photos and have eye problems. When I looked at laptops, the Yogas were still, after four years, the only machines I could find that fit both.
              I figured whatever the problem they were having had probably been solved. This machine went bad in exactly the same way, in exactly the same order. It’s maddening, but I can’t afford to replace it.

              1. So Not The Boss Of Me*

                Oh yeah, and this time the cord failed before the first year was out. I was out of the country, so 50 euros for a new one.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      If you’re really only looking for something that can do quickbooks and basic office type software (and internet/streaming video?), but not any serious gaming or anything — I have a refurb Lenovo Thinkpad 430 that I got for school stuff, Amazon currently has them in the sub-$250 range. The computer itself doesn’t have a number pad, but when I was in finance and spreadsheets-based courses, I got an add-on USB one for under $20 and used that. Still decidedly under your budget, even after I got a new battery (didn’t need one, I just felt better knowing it was new) and a spare charger. :)

      1. Hopeful Future Accountant*

        Yes to Quickbooks, internet, and a bit of streaming (I like listening to YouTube while I do homework and sometimes audiobooks while I make jewelry and craft). I don’t do gaming so that wouldn’t be an issue (I find I don’t have the patience for video games). I’ll definitely look into refurbished laptops then.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I don’t have any advice about laptop brands, but I am another happy user of a USB 10 key add-on since the laptop work bought for me didn’t have one. I’ve had it for years, not treated it particularly carefully (it hangs out in my backpack without a special case or anything), and it still works just fine. It’s an “Insignia” brand and was probably bought at an office supply store.

        When it eventually breaks, I’m going to probably buy one with a few more extra buttons on it than the standard ones (I find that I need () and = fairly often, and tab would also be useful, and some of the slightly-fancier numpads have those), so if you go that route you might want to look at a few different options to see if there’s one that looks particularly helpful. My current one just has the buttons that would be on a numpad on a regular keyboard plus, for some reason that has never applied to my life, a 000 key in case you need to include three zeros at once.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Right! At one point many years ago, I was working in a role that was basically 8 hours a day of ten-key data entry, and I ten-key at something like 16,000 kph, so I requested a super heavy-duty number pad, basically built almost like the big clunky desktop adding machines with printer tape rolls, because I kept blowing through cheap keyboards. The IT guy showed up with a basic one like you’re describing. I was like “This is not gonna hack it.” He goes “BUT IT HAS A DOUBLE ZERO KEY!!!”

          Reader, I never used the double-zero key. A month later, when I requested my heavy-duty number pad to replace the now-busted double-zero number pad, my boss insisted that he get me the one I had requested. :P

          (The regular one was fine under any other regular circumstances, it just wasn’t enough to handle the use case I was working under at the time. :) )

    3. Fikly*

      So, I’ve recently had a really bad experience with a total lemon from Samsung, but that can be an outlier.

      I replaced it with a chromebook from Lenovo that is excellent. Although the power cord stopped sending power in a week, they gave me no issues about it and a new one arrived free in 3 days, so I have no complaints, and I had other cords running around that were compatible.

      In general, Lenovo laptops (chrome or windows) have been very good the last few years. They are a bit more expensive than some of their competitors, but once they got past the issues they had when they were sold off by IBM, they’ve been solid machines.

      1. Hopeful Future Accountant*

        I actually have a Lenovo now. I’m avoiding them this time because I’ve had it for about 2 years now and it’s had to be sent away to be fixed twice already when the hinges broke and I’ve had to get new charging chords three times. I’m not pleased with my experience with this laptop for the price I paid for it.

    4. KoiFeeder*

      No advice for what to get, but Dell does some really weird stuff with their warranties so I’d recommend avoiding them even as a refurb.

    5. Anonymous Educator*

      I’m very curious to see if anyone is able to recommend you a portable laptop that also has a number pad. I can’t remember seeing too many laptops with a number pad included, and I’m guessing any that do must be enormous (17″+ screens).

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        They’re available, the ASUS VivoBook FHA originally mentioned is a 15.6″ slim laptop with one. But you’re right, they’re not super common in the sub-17″ size or in the sub-$800 price range.

      2. Lady Alys*

        I have a Dell 15″ laptop with a numberpad. It’s just over 2 years old and has held up reasonably well, but it doesn’t travel much beyond the dining room table so I can’t speak to its ruggedness.

        Do you know any Costco members? They sometimes have good deals on laptops.

      3. Anonymous Educator*

        Glad to hear you don’t have to go up to 17″ for screen size to get a numpad, but even 15″+ is a bit big to be considered “portable.” I think the best way to go would be, as others have recommended above, a separate USB numkey pad. Or even, frankly, just using the numlock key and the regular built-in keyboard.

      4. fhqwhgads*

        I’ve always had 15″ laptops with full keyboard. A lot of sites have that feature as searchable so whenever I laptop-shop I filter to that.

  29. coffee cup*

    I wish everyone a happy new year! My 2019 ended a bit less well than I’d hoped, as I’d been seeing a guy and it had been going well, I thought, but it’s now ended. Last day of the year, hey. I was quite upset yesterday because I’m 36 and I’m tired, super tired, of dating, and I’m not saying I’m perfect at all but really there’s nothing wrong with me as a general human, and I just felt exhausted. The thought of going through it all again and trying to find someone decent… awful. At the same time, I don’t want to be on my own forever, although I don’t mind doing my own thing at all. I feel a little defeated.

    But I’m trying to see the positives. So what if I’m resigned to another year of solo holidays and being my own support system and pushing myself on through? I guess it makes me stronger, or something.

    By the way there is *nothing* wrong with being single – I have been for ages! For me, I just wanted not to be.

      1. coffee cup*

        Yep! Over WhatsApp, no less! Indicative of the age gap between us, perhaps, but still annoying (I know age doesn’t dictate behaviour, but it was something I had thought might become an issue). Not that what he said was necessarily wrong, but just exacerbates my quite severe distrust of people I date, now.

        1. StellaBella*

          Wow dumpee by text here, once too but not on NYE. I am so sorry.

          My wish for you in 2020 is you meet someone nice, who treats you well, and respects you. You deserve this.

    1. Parenthetically*

      ARGH, how incredibly frustrating and difficult! What a tough end to the year for you!

      1. coffee cup*

        Thanks; it does suck a bit. I’m good at picking myself up, thankfully, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, y’know?

  30. Hiding from my Boss*

    Happy New Year! Time for those resolutions, including Find A Better Job. The place has, among other things, had a LOT of turnover ever since I’ve been there. I’m cooncerned because I’m closing in on what used to be normal retirement age, but I don’t plan to retire for years.

    So question for managers: What’s the real reason managers don’t want to hire an “older worker?” Is it only because you think the person will want too much money, or that you worry they won’t be around for 10 or 20 years? (And how many people can really count on their job lasting that long in this day and age anyway?) An inquiring mind wants to know the genuine mindset!

    Other question: I got a new manager several a few months ago when a sales rep was promoted. She’s good buds with one of my peers; in fast, she told me recently that she’s “very close” to Sansa, but assured me that she can be fair. They’re the same diverse ethnicity, and I’m not. What I’m seeing is that the friendship reigns. At the last staff meeting they got into a cutesy side conversation until I felt like asking them if they’d like to be alone.
    Your take on this?

    Thanks!

    1. November*

      I am a 60 year old manager. I have hired older workers (55-65) , and money and longevity were not considerations at all. The last two hires didn’t work out because of their inability to learn our computer programs and/or because the pace of our workload was too overwhelming. What is interesting is that both said on their resumes that they had experience in both areas and that they felt they could learn the program. Looking at their job history, they should have been able to. Because of the pace of the workload, learning the program, dealing with customers, and answering phones all at the same time was just too much. We have a good training program and a reasonable time frame to learn, but it just seems to be too much. We extended our training period for one of the workers, hoping that a few more weeks would help, but she was unable to produce results.
      I know as an ‘older worker’ that I am also not as able to work at the same pace as a younger worker, but I also know that I have been in this job long enough that most of what I do now is simply by rote. I was 53 when I first started at this company and had to learn the same information and work at the same pace.
      Also, please don’t go into an interview with the ‘older worker’ frame of mind. Just go in positive, confident, and honest in your ability and experience.

    2. AamAdmi*

      I wouldn’t automatically rule out an older worker but would try to gage their attitude if the person was used to doing higher level of work than the position they are applying for.
      I am a Manager and recently acquired a temp worker who used to be a Manager in a sister organization and was doing work similar to my current role. Although this person was fully aware that the temp position was not management level, as soon as he arrived here, he started bossing around the other employees. Instead of following my instructions, he is doing his own thing. It appears as if he is trying to take over my role. I tried for a couple of months to performance manage him and finally told him his temp position would end in two months since he does not seem to be a good fit for my team. As soon as I gave him the ultimatum, he seems to have mended his ways. But I do not trust him anymore and won’t be extending the temp.
      I am sure not all older workers have this type attitute but next time I am hiring someone I will do due diligence. I am an older worker who had to work my way up after a career change at the age of 45. So I want to give everyone a fair chance.

      1. Hiding from my Boss*

        Thank you! Your temp sounds like how my new mgr started out. When she joined us as a sales rep after taking time off to have kids, she pointedly told me a number of times that she’d been a manager at her previous job. Once she jumped on me, actually verbally attacked me because she thought I had spoken to a temp “inappropriately.” I wasn’t a supervisor but I’d been assigned to direct the temp’s work and temp had brushed off my instructions multiple times until finally I said impatiently that the instructions were from the boss. But the rep wanted temp to do something for her instead. Afterward, the rep complained to my boss that I hadn’t said anything and had just walked away from her. Well, yeah. What did she expect me to do, cower at her feet? BTW, my temp and the sales rep were also of same diverse ethnicity. Of course, now that rep is my manager, so I guess at my firm chewing people out when you have absolutely no standing to do so is a sign of management ability. No wonder I’m looking for something better!

        But that scenario is a issue. We also have a sales rep who used to own a business, and he does things differently from our standard procedures and tends to lecture the staff about what their jobs are. Again, he’s not a manager in any way and has no standing to do this.

  31. Rebecca*

    Just wanted to type all of this out, today seems like a perfect day to do it.

    Today is the last day of my vacation from work, and honestly I’m dreading going back tomorrow and Friday. I’ve been off since early afternoon on Dec 20. My email will have thousands of unread messages, thanks to almost everyone using group email addresses instead of individual. I still don’t have a fully trained backup person. And then we have management. Do you know why I would love to work from home a few days a week? So one of the managers can’t march up to me and ask “did you see that email? Jane responded with the information you needed to proceed on X project”. Yes, I did see it. It popped up 2 minutes ago. This is not hyperbole. Literally 2 minutes, long enough for her see the message pop up, read the email, and walk the entire length of the building to my office. It’s not limited to email, either, as I’m likely to be pounced upon 5 minutes into my day about one particular message/project issue when I haven’t even gotten that far yet. Sighs.

    Every morning, it takes between a half hour and an hour to get through the email from overnight/off shore, determine what needs to be done, in what order, as some things are more time sensitive than others, plus review any inbound electronic orders, etc. I am organized, detail oriented, I do my job in a timely manner, other people like to work with me, one of my vendors called me out by name to the management and sales team that visited them recently, saying they were happy I was assigned to their account. So this manager’s behavior is puzzling. Coworkers have said “wow, I heard Sally earlier, I’m sorry she talks to you like that”. I have been trying to deal with it by remembering I need a paycheck and I need health insurance, but it’s wearing on me. And she is the only one out of the many people I report to that does this.

    3 years ago I left for another company. Interviews went well, better pay, closer to home – except – the culture was terrible, training was dismal, the group I was assigned to, well, Alison could write an entire week’s column about them. It was a total bees nest, in fact, you could call it a group of hives. Couldn’t talk to my manager, she was too busy. 1 Coworker literally would not talk to me. Other coworker was just – don’t even know how to put it – incompetent and nasty. The third person in the group was actually nice and spoke to me, but it wasn’t enough. After less than 3 months, an opening came up at my old job, previous problem manager was gone, so I went back, and now, almost 3 years later, I’m not happy about how any of it has turned out. In 3 years, I received one small pay increase, a bit less than 1%, even though my workload and responsibilities increased quite a bit. Evaluations were promised, still haven’t had them. We’re nickeled and dimed over little things. I got a kick out of the post about tissues being supplied, heck, we have to buy our own sticky notes.

    In a perfect world, I could sit down with Sally and talk to her like an adult, ask if she perceives I’m not following up correctly, or if she feels I’m missing something (the reason for the swooping and micromanagement). Sadly, I can’t – I know from past experience how this will go. I tried it several times, ended up getting yelled at, and trying to point out issues with new hires or processes ends up with more of the same. Like when I got scolded for getting behind on my work in our busiest time, with no backup or help, no overtime allowed, etc….I asked for help, and was told “I don’t know what takes you so long to do your work” and “I’m too busy to even try to find help for you, just do what you can”. It’s starting to be the AAM column in real life, and I’m so over it. This is me, throwing up my hands, and saying fine. I can be the middle of the road clock puncher if that’s what you really want.

    So for 2020, my goal is to find a new job, in my state, in another state, at this point, I don’t really care. I know my age is going to work against me, as I’m past 55, but the stress I feel every day when the alarm goes off is not fun. I don’t know what’s out there, but I need to find out, because honestly, I can’t deal with another 10 years of this. The next time I leave, it will be permanent, and yes, I’m going to leave a Glass Door review so others can be warned.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Oh this is terrible.
      Well here is all the best vibes/wishes for that new job this year. And very soon.

      I turned 59 this year. One thing that I noticed is that people who hire me now are different from when I was younger. They have more of a tendency to look at me and in a worried voice, “Can you fix this?”. Yes, I can fix this. And the pure relief on their faces…. I never seen that so much before. Punchline, different quality employers hire us folks. It’s there, keep going.

      1. Rebecca*

        I like this – yes, I can fix it! Experience and institutional knowledge for the win! Thank you for this, it’s a much needed comment!!

        1. university minion*

          Yes! The entire jist of my cover letter is “I am competent at being competent”. I’m not quite your age, but have been around for a while and conveying a sense of, “I got this” (provided you do, in fact, got this) will get you far.

      2. nep*

        This gives me hope, Not So NewReader. Thanks. I’ll keep that perspective in mind as I (53) search.

    2. Mimmy*

      Ugh I have a different sort of dread each day I go into work. I too am hoping 2020 will bring change. I’m 46 and am looking to make a slight career change, so the age thing worries me a bit too.

      1. nep*

        Wishing you all the best. I’m 53 and wanting to re-enter the field I worked in years ago. It can feel overwhelming, especially when mixed with a host of other personal challenges that make it tough to sell myself.
        Hope it works out for you. Keep us posted.

        1. Mimmy*

          Thank you nep! I remember you being so encouraging when I was attending my first major out-of-state conference. Good to see you posting again :)

          1. nep*

            Ah, I recall that now. How wonderful. Great to ‘see’ you again too. All the best. I look forward to hearing how everything goes.

    3. Nervous Nellie*

      Happy New Year, Rebecca! Goodness, we really do live in parallel universes! Except that I was laid off over the holidays (on the day of the office holiday party – classy move). I’m delighted – more time to job hunt properly, and no more dread when the alarm goes off in the morning. I wouldn’t wish this on you, though – spending more time at home is likely not on your 2020 goals list. :)

      The office I left sounds like yours – nonexistent training, endlessly difficult coworkers, stingy pay, and dramatic and incompetent micromanagers. Good riddance! And the layoffs went as you’d expect- only us 50+ folks were heaved out. The coven of young managers who grew up in the company stayed put – in fact, they orchestrated the whole thing. Ageism is alive and well and very hard to prove. Moving on.

      You are right that the chat with Sally would be pointless, and might inflame the issue. I just had that exact thing happen around Thanksgiving. So I clammed up and ramped up the job hunting. That they beat me to my exit doesn’t really matter.

      I was diplomatic in the exit interview, because saying anything more was pointless. They wouldn’t do anything with my suggestions, and it could only hurt me in the end. But now that I am out, my carefully timed Glassdoor interview was an earful. I have a sympathetic former colleague who was eager to be my reference, so I could review the company honestly after the fact without jeopardizing my resume.

      I am worried about my age working against me, but what can I do? I interview well, choose job roles carefully and know my stuff. And all I need is one job – it’s gotta be out there. And you will find one too! Keep building your escape plan, and let us all know here how it’s coming! You are overdue for good things – go gettem!

    4. NoLongerYoung*

      Oh, my Rebecca… I’m sending an even bigger hug than usual via the internet.
      You are smart to keep your mouth shut, and I am rooting for a new job for you.
      I am so proud that you got out of the marriage and resolved all of that, that you are setting boundaries with Mom… and now at work. I know 2020 will be better. You are strong, and resilient. New decade, and you have come so far. You keep making good changes and positive strides. Hug.

    5. WoodswomanWrites*

      That sounds dreadful. And hooray for going for a new future with everything else you have going on.

      Here’s a story for inspiration. At age 60, my mother moved to a new state with not much money and no job. She did temp office work. A job that was supposed to be a few days ended up lasting more than a decade until she eventually retired.

  32. BethDH*

    How do I stop thinking about the work I could be doing enough to relax OR work productively?
    I’m in an academic-adjacent position after a while as a full-time academic where breaks were a time to get focused writing done. My current position has some of that personal-career research and writing too (it will help my career longer term but isn’t part of my current metrics and isn’t a priority when I’m working normal hours).
    I was really looking forward to taking a real break and working for an hour or so here and there since I actually am excited about these side publications. Instead, I constantly felt like I should be working, but that didn’t actually lead to working, just to wasting my relaxation time and time with my family by having all this in the back of my mind, so then I felt guilty about that too. I’m having my second baby in a few weeks so I was really looking forward to focusing on my spouse and toddler before the newborn craziness hits us all again.
    I feel like I’m going back to work more stressed than I left it, and it’s all coming from my own head so I feel extra bad because it’s so unnecessary. I feel like I wasted all this potential quality time. Anyone have any tricks/ideas? Ideally I’d like to be better about both the guilty thought pattern overall and finding ways to focus and be “in the moment” for family time and work time.

    1. Dr. Doll*

      Tricks and tips will help a little, but you need some support. Check out the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity. Pay for a membership if you can, but they do have free stuff too. Follow Cathy Mazak’s Facebook page “I Should Be Writing” (although I grimace at the shame inducing name she does have great stuff).

      Tip to start: decide how much you want to work on a day off. Make it reasonable, like an hour. Then hit it hard for that hour. Then you are DONE. You met your goal.

      1. BethDH*

        It looks like my institution will pay for a membership there — thanks for the info. We have a lot of good benefits but I’ve never heard of them so it wouldn’t have occurred to me to look!

    2. LibbyG*

      I’m an academic, and becoming a parent is what helped me separate work and personal time (carving out writing time is still a struggle, though).

      I’ve started a low-level bullet journaling, though, which helps. I have a big to-do list in one document, and I make daily to-do lists and other notes in a nice notebook. I write down meetings and teaching as “to-dos” as well, because part of what I like is getting a quick answer to “where did all my work time go?” I’m prone to forgetting what I’ve done and focusing on what I haven’t done yet, and having this little record helps me put work pressures aside.

      1. BethDH*

        That will probably help during my regular time. This break, I’m afraid, has been a total loss but perhaps if I’m better at tracking accomplishments the rest of the time I won’t put so much emphasis on using breaks to catch up.

  33. Grits McGee*

    Has anyone taken ice skating lessons as an adult? The National Gallery of Art ice rink (DC) has adult skating lessons that seem to be geared towards absolute beginners, and I’m thinking of signing up.

    1. nep*

      Do it.
      I’ve not taken lessons as an adult, so I can’t share experiences in that sense. But I say absolutely go for it. It sounds great.

    2. The Kerosene Kid*

      Do it! My short, stout dad took figure skating lessons in his 50s and became quite good. He quit only because my mom made him after he sustained a concussion while trying to land an axel.

    3. Got Cats?*

      I did! I was inspired by Kristi Yamaguchi in the Olympics whatever year that was. It was so much fun and I learned how to spin and do small jumps. I only stopped because we moved to a southern state without a nearby rink. Do it and have a blast!

    4. AnonoDoc*

      Started as a rank beginner as an adult. Got up to basic spins and single jumps in figure skating (then tried ice dance and holy cow that was too hard!!!) then switched to hockey. Adult beginner hockey is a HOOT! And you have so much padding on when you fall you just kind of bounce!

    5. Enough*

      Took lessons in my mid 20s (almost 40 years ago) with a friend. I enjoyed it. Didn’t do anything very serious, just wanted to be able to skate around the rink and be able to reverse if necessary. Came in handy when I had kids and a drink opened up near us.

    6. happy day, today*

      took lessons in my 40’s – only stopped due to a foot issue. Got to learn some spins and easy jumps. It was fabulous.

    7. Teapot Translator*

      I did! It’s difficult, but fun. I’m cautious, so I’m slow, but the ones who are more daredevil advance faster.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      YES.
      I started as an adult, in my thirties. Obviously, people who have done it as children have an advantage, but there is no reason you can’t learn it when you’re grown. To get good at it takes a lot of practice and it’s not a cheap sport. But USFSA has an entire program for adult skaters, with tests, competition categories, even a Nationals competition.

      The biggest challenge for adults is fear of falling – they are scared to get hurt and miss work (understandably). But the first thing they teach you is how to fall and how to get up again. Once you get your sea legs, so to speak, it gets a lot less scary. In fifteen years of skating, I only got hurt badly enough to see a doctor three times, and I didn’t break anything. And I wasn’t just gingerly skating around; I was full-on jumping, doing footwork, etc. If I didn’t fall at least once in a practice session, I wasn’t working hard enough. Edges are the most risky. If you catch one, boom, you’re down. But I got so used to falling on the ice that anytime I fell outside the rink (down my broken steps, stepping on a twig while walking, etc.), I would generally just bounce right up.

      I stopped skating in 2016 because of recurrent tendinitis and a hamstring pull that needed time to heal, but mostly it was burnout. Part of that was changes at my rink that favored competitive skaters over recreational ones — YMMV at your rink. But I knew when I would wake up on Saturdays and instead of going “I get to skate today!” I would go “I have to skate today,” that it was time to take a break. I can always go back to it someday, if I find the right place. I saved all my best outfits so I have something to wear, and of course I still have skates, although they’re packed away with my ZUCA bag.

      Skating is hard, but if you are in decent shape and it’s safe for you to do it, you can skate well into your golden years. Above all, it’s FUN. To stay active, you need to find something you enjoy.

    9. Nana*

      Late to the party, but YES. Hadn’t skated for 45 years and resumed at 50. Love it; teachers and other learners are kind and welcoming; neatness doesn’t count; wonderful all around.

      1. Pommette!*

        The other learners were one of the best thing about the class I took, for sure. We were a super diverse group, aged anywhere from 16-60something, each with a different reason for being there, and all with a sense of humour and camaraderie about the fact that we were learning something that most people (where I live) pick up as children.

    10. Pommette!*

      Yes! And it was worth it!
      I’m a canadian from an area where ice skating is a pretty popular pass-time, so I wasn’t an absolute beginner, but I had never taken lessons as a kid, and I was a really, really, bad skater.
      The people taking lessons with me had varying skill levels. Some had literally never put skates on their feet before; others were already good skaters but wanted to take up more advanced kinds of skating and needed to get up to speed first. We got split up into smaller groups based on our skill level, and were given appropriate drills. We learned how to fall (so useful) without hurting ourselves too much.
      I’m still not a good skater but I can control my speed and trajectory, move forward or back, do fancy little loop things, and best of all, stop when I want.

  34. Loopy*

    Happy New Year AAM folks! I personally am feeling meh about 2020, I don’t have any big events/goals, I’m a bit burnt out on hobbies, and just don’t feel rah rah motivated. I ended the year sick and am still a bit sick (but not sick enough to be in bed all day). Struggling with feeling like I should get some cleaning/resume tinkering done but also just have NO energy.

    Any tips for getting out of a meh rut, feeling a bit more motivated and energized?

    1. Bibliovore*

      Give yourself a break.
      Find something on TV or read a light mystery or catch up on all those old New Yorkers piling up or reread an old favorite like Ballet Shoes, Little Women or Harry Potter.
      Making a big pot of soup is productive and self care.
      Change the sheets on the bed. Done. Now that was productive.
      Have a hot bath and spend another day in bed.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yes to ALL of this. Making a blah lazy day into an intentional, productive rest day by washing sheets, having a bath, putting on clean pajamas, and watching the hell out of a favorite show (possibly while folding a bit of laundry, definitely with something nice simmering on the stove) was one of my favorite mental health strategies before I had kids.

    2. PB*

      This sounds a lot like where I was at the end of 2018, which was a deeply exhausting year. Some things that helped me:

      -Take vacation time (if you can). Just book a random afternoon off or give yourself a long weekend. Spend it doing whatever you find restorative. Sleeping, browsing AAM for hours, binge watching a favorite show, exercise, shopping, or just plain nothing. Everything is legitimate.
      -If you enjoy reading, read something light and digestible. Like Bibliovore said, returning to old favorites can be really nice when you’re burned out. It feels like visiting old friends. I tend to look for anything with an interesting story and likable characters. Heavier fare can wait.
      -Maybe think about something you’d like to do and start planning, even in a general way. For example, if you really want to take a vacation to Hawaii, start browsing hotels and looking for activities. Maybe book a trip so you have something to look forward to, even if it’s just a weekend at a hotel someplace in driving distance. This time of year is hard in the northern hemisphere. It’s dark, gray, and cold, and the next holiday feels really far off. Giving yourself something to look forward to can make a ton of difference.

    3. Loopy*

      This seems like great advice. I’m putting away the resume (which was not going great anyway) and going to give myself what I call a day of puttering. A load of laundry and making the bed is probably about what I can manage today.

    4. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      If you’re in the northern hemisphere, GET OUT IN THE SUN at every opportunity. Or take vitamin D, or use a light box. This time of year saps your energy because it’s dark all the time! Eat your oranges and take your multivitamin and do whatever you can to make up for the lack of natural light and seasonal fresh fruit and veg. Your body is trying to hibernate because it’s winter. If you don’t want to hibernate—and there is certainly an argument to be made for letting yourself feel meh and crawling into a cave for a bit, though not to excess—then you’re going to have to fool your body into thinking it’s spring.

      Also, don’t discount the depressant effects of being sick. I can tell I’m getting a cold because I get depressed. And viruses linger. So boost your immune system and get as much rest as you can to fully kick that bug.

      If the meh feeling persists no matter what you do, check in with a mental health professional; general lack of interest and motivation is a sneaky manifestation of depression.

      I hope you feel better soon!

  35. Bibliovore*

    New Years Resolutions. What do you have?
    Mine in no particular order.
    Stop worrying about what other people think.
    Work less.
    Exercise everyday even if it is only a half hour.
    Plan healthy meals.
    Take a day of rest.
    Use up my vacation days.
    Make the bed.

    1. WellRed*

      Pay down debt, ask for raise and look for a new job, as well as a part time job. All related to the debt.
      More exercise, less wine.
      Use up all my vacation days for once.

    2. Yup*

      I usually make the same resolutions each year and so far, I’ve been fairly successful at keeping up with them. Some weeks they can be a challenge, but by keeping them going, I get a real sense of accomplisment.

      So here they are, in no particular order: imbibe more hops infused libations and observe additional games where millionaires beat each other senseless for the financial benefit of their billionaire owners.

    3. Alex*

      get a new job
      give to someone in need
      deepen my friendships
      spend less time f**king around online
      watch more movies
      read more books
      exercise more
      wear my dental nightguard (OK that one is from my dentist’s wishlist)
      go on a date

      1. nep*

        I don’t do resolutions, but pretty much my daily aspirations would be a subset of this. Not looking for any dates, but I know how much better off I’ll be if (when!) I:
        get a job
        read more
        spend less time doing useless stuff online
        drink more water
        get more consistent with my exercising/strength training
        (as for the dental bit–I’m way overdue for a cleaning so that thought is with me all the time–getting my finances in better order will help me address a lot of pressing dental problems)

  36. thestik*

    While I really like my (very large, multinational) company, I’ve come to realize that my team has some issues with personal boundaries. This is not okay by me, so I’ve been working on two things: cutting back on what I say about my personal life at work and preparing to change roles. Due to a systems integration, I’ve been very busy in my current role over the last month so haven’t been super focused on moving elsewhere. Things are somewhat settling down at this point. This means I’ll have more time to plot my next move.

    My question is this. Is there a good question or questions to ask that can shed light on how teams socialize (such as only engaging in light water cooler chatter versus some people going on international trips together; yeah, that discovery floored me)? Along with changing subfields in IT (think moving from a help desk to verifying what programs people in the company should have secure access to), I am prioritizing a less social team. If I can even just get a reduction in the frequency people discuss former members of the company, I’ll take it!

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      How about something like, “Could you tell me a bit about the team’s dynamics? Like, how much time does the team spend on focused, heads down time versus casual chats and conversations? What’s the team like?”

      And ask variations of the question to a few people on the team if you can.

      1. thestik*

        That’s a good starting point. I’ll likely write out 2-3 different phrasings based on this for testing out in mock interviews.

  37. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    What New Year’s resolution have you made in the past that you kept and worked out for you? On the flip side, what New Year’s resolution did you make and epically failed at but in a funny way?
    Last year I gave up sugar, which was really hard but I managed and it was worth the pain, (almost no chocolate, almost). This year it’s going to be to write a page a day even if it’s garbage.

    1. thestik*

      I admit I wait until April to make any resolutions. That’s how I joined a gym back in 2010 and am still going 3-4 times a week. While I’m proud of that, I’m actually pretty proud of the resolution I made eight years ago to effectively kill my dreams of getting in the movie business (as I had rather elaborate dreams of being a screenwriter/director that were interfering with my daily life). It was rough to stop reading IMDB trivia sections for hours on end, and I went out of my way to avoid the entertainment sections of the news on Fridays. Now I barely notice what new movies and TV shows are out. It’s been pretty easy to tune it all out, although I’ve noticed the thoughts have been returning since my mom’s death. I am a little more hopeful, though, since a targeted job search should take up plenty of my spare time this year. Increasing the intensity of my running training should also help.

      1. Ranon*

        Spring is a great time to start new things! Why we all try to make resolutions in the depths of winter when you have to fight every urge to hibernate is beyond me.

        1. thestik*

          I actually don’t want to hibernate in the winter because growing up I didn’t really have a winter season. There are also fewer people out and about, so I feel less stressed. Summer is when I dread going out. I feel super tired at times, and travel/photography plans keep me from giving into the urge to hang blackout curtains in the bedroom and never leaving.

    2. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Last year my resolutions were to learn how to properly fold a fitted sheet, pay off my husband’s student loan, and do a no spend January. All three accomplished! I can’t believe I folded my sheets “wrong” for so long.

    3. Fikly*

      Well, 2019’s resolution was no surgery.

      I did not have surgery.

      Instead, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, adrenal insufficiency, had an 11 day migraine that included a 4 day hospital stay, 1 severe concussion, cervical arthritis, a massive thoracic issue, PTT tendonitis, subluxed a knee so badly I may have torn something (waiting on that MRI), the other knee is now hurting, had an elbow get infected so badly I nearly went septic, and I am sure I am forgetting something.

      I would have preferred surgery.

      I am terrified to make a 2020 resolution.

      1. EDS here*

        oy. I know the feeling. Facebook friends are doing a 10 year what happened – things like new jobs, publishing a book, moving. My mind was all things like 2 major surgeries , 1 minor, two rounds of shingles, tore all the ligaments in my left ankle. Learned to walk again. Esophageal spasms. Positional vertigo. Dislocated my shoulder and torn rotator cuff. tore ligaments in wrist and thumb, hip flexor tear, IBS stuff, new allergies with anaphalatic reaction PT,PT,PT. Asthma that included hospitalization and multiple rounds of oral steroids. Fun. Let’s not even talk about the early onset menopause and migraines every 10 days. There’s probably more.

        1. Fikly*

          Oh, hey, that’s what I forgot! The official EDS diagnosis, and what is now up to 7 weeks of continual anaphylaxis. Plus POTS and MCAS.

          2020 has got to be better for both of us, right? I haven’t injured myself today, knock on wood.

          1. EDS here*

            yikes. I have to say I am getting better at taking care of myself. I use walking aids when I need to. I pace myself. I give myself permission not to be upright. I took a 2.5 hour nap today.
            The good news is I have good health insurance and great doctors and a flexible work schedule.

            1. Fikly*

              That last sentence. I am so incredibly grateful I have that as well.

              I am working on the first part. It’s a work in progress.

  38. Goals not resolutions*

    My goal for this year is to become more aware of my own biases, specifically around LGBTQ+ people.
    As a straight het women what advice do you have for me in accomplishing this goal?

    1. Aneurin*

      I would recommend consuming media about *and by* queer folks as a starting point!

      In the past few years there’s been an explosion of YA novels being written by and about LGBTQ+ people if YA is your thing? For YA/kidlit, We Need Diverse Books (diversebooks.org) has a few places to start looking (in the Where to Find Diverse Books section of the website), or an internet search for “Rainbow Book List” will bring up annual lists by the ALA since 2008.

      The GLAAD Media Awards are a good starting point for TV/film/journalism.

      And then I would start paying attention to your gut responses to these media: do any of them make you uncomfortable? Can you pinpoint why? Do you respond differently to the same situation depending on whether the people involved are queer or straight? etc.

      All the best with your journey towards your goal!

      1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

        The Lambda Literary Awards are a decent starting point for book recs. (Better in some areas than others.) I recommend considering all the shortlisted books, not just the winners.

        You can also buy books from small queer presses, most of which will be written by queer authors.

    2. Fikly*

      In general, when trying to learn more about any group you are not part of, a great approach is to listen to them, consume things they produce (ie, writing, art, media, etc) and do not start speaking.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Pay special attention to when you might say things that are heteronormative—like assuming people with two parents have a mom and a dad, or telling a young boy that the girls will be all over him when he’s older (or vice versa for a girl with regard to boys). And maybe you aren’t even saying these things yourself, but pay special attention to when people around you say them (and call them out on it) or when you see such sentiments expressed in popular media (magazines, TV shows, etc.).

  39. SnowDown*

    I lent a coworker an expensive gadget (about $90). When they returned it, it was missing the instruction manual and several accessories. They were cleaning their house at the time and said they probably accidentally packed the parts up and put them in the attic, and they would return them to me ASAP. Two months later, they finally admitted the parts were lost and they gave me money to buy a new gadget.

    When a friend found out I had two of these gadgets recently, and the story as to why, they thought it was crappy of me to have taken that much money from my coworker, and they think I should have told them to just find the missing accessories somewhere and buy them for me since that would have been much cheaper. Admittedly I had thought of that when my coworker offered me the money, but at the time I was angry (especially after waiting 2 months), and I didn’t want to mention it because I thought it might become my job to scour the internet for the missing pieces.

    Is my friend right? I’m feeling kind of guilty now.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Nope. Your coworker borrowed your stuff and lost parts of it, and if they offered you money to make it whole, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have accepted. Frankly, if they wanted to replace the missing parts on the cheap, their chance to do that was when you said “Oh, where’s the widget fixer and the whatsis?” and they went “Oh, crap, I might’ve lost those.”

      Now, if you think it would make YOU feel better, you could offer to give your coworker the original used gadget, in case they find the parts and have a use for it again, now that you have a shiny new one? but that would be an extra nice thing for you to do and certainly not something you should feel obligated to do.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      No, I don’t think your friend is right. When you lend someone something and they don’t return it, lose parts, break it, whatever, it’s on them to make you whole. Sure, they can buy the parts, but that assumes those parts can be found. Sometimes they can, sometimes they can’t. If the right parts are available, they should buy them. If not, they should pay you for the whole item. You’re fine.

    3. Nothemomma*

      Nope. How it played out is what I would think is right. We loaned a shop vac to a neighbor -who used it at someone else’s house when that persons basement flooded, which was okay with us. When it came back it was fully cleaned (yay!) but missing a couple attachments and filter. They couldn’t find the parts so bought us a comparable one. Only difference is we gave them the incomplete in case parts showed up plus we didn’t need two.

      You’re fine.

    4. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      Please don’t feel guilty. The other person could have searched the internet for the parts and suggested this idea. The other person chose to go with replacing the item. Their choice.
      I say this as someone who has lost something and had to replace it. It really sucks, and I am very reluctant to borrow anything. When I do I am all about getting every single part back to the owner.
      What happened was appropriate and correct IMHO.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Often times it is cheaper just to get a new gadget than to pay for the missing parts. The shipping can slay a person.

      The problem with your friend’s advice that I see is two people made an agreement here and both people were satisfied with that agreement. Your friend was satisfied to buy you a new gadget. Why your other friend would insert themselves at this point is beyond me. It’s in the past. Both parties involved are content with the resolve. Why is this third party putting energy into the dead issue?

      It seems to me that your first friend could have said, “I will search for parts for it.” But that is not how they chose to handle the problem. They have the right to handle the problem any way they wish.

      I will say I had an instance where a friend borrowed a kitchen appliance. Now I am laughing, this is one TOUGH appliance. And he used it in a rough application. I knew how he would be using it and I felt the appliance would be FINE. My friend thought otherwise. When he returned (my perfectly fine) kitchen appliance, he ALSO gave me a new one, it was the exact same thing. I still use my original and perfectly fine appliance every day and it’s replacement sits in a box, on a high shelf in my cupboard.
      I have no guilt.
      See, we don’t get to pick what other people’s sense of obligation is. I argued with my friend not to buy me this new machine. And he still bought the machine. I have to conclude that it is his way of saying thank you. He had a task to do, I suggested this machine would reduce the time/effort for the task and it did. He appreciated the assistance so much he wanted to make sure I had the use of appliance for years to come.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        I am dying to know what the rough application was. Used your stand mixer to mix concrete? Used your industrial blender to lubricate steel ball bearings? Used your immersion blender to aerate the soil in his garden? I MUST KNOW! x-D

    6. LilySparrow*

      Your friend needs to mind their own business.

      You worked out the issue with your coworker a long time ago, it’s done. Why does your friend even care, and why is it their business? And why is it their job to go around making you feel bad about things that aren’t even a problem?

      If this is a pattern fron this person, maybe look into upgrading your friends in 2020.

    7. Pommette!*

      I’ve been in your coworker’s shoes (minus the two-month delay, I’m glad to say). A coworker loaned me an appliance, and I broke an attachment that couldn’t easily be replaced. I asked if she wanted me to replace it and she accepted the offer. I got what I wanted (avoiding hard feelings or awkwardness, and not leaving her out after she had done me a favor), and she got exactly what she had before (a working appliance with all attachments in order).
      Your coworker is probably just relieved that he doesn’t have to dig around his attic or feel embarrassed when you run into one another anymore.

  40. Book Recs Please!*

    Book recs needed! One of my goals this year is to read 24 books (2 books a month). Any New Adult, or Adult fantasy or sci-fi book recs would be awesome! I’m starting out with Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne, and I’m already planning to read The Witcher series and some Brandon Sanderson books.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’ve been recommending the Lioness of Tortall quartet by Tamora Pierce to everyone under the sun; they’re YA sword-and-sorcery that she wrote because when SHE was a girl, she couldn’t find good fantasy books with strong female characters (plural, even!). So they might be a little shorter than you’re after, but still worth a consider.

      In regular adult fantasy:
      Seanan McGuire’s October Daye books, first one is Rosemary and Rue, urban fantasy about a changeling and the shenanigans she gets caught up in with the modern courts of faerie. (There’s so much more to it than that, but.)

      Sci-fi adjacent:
      Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series, first one is Feed. (This is actually also Seanan McGuire, she uses a pseudonym for her sci-fi.) I don’t know that it’s quite exactly sci-fi – it’s sort of, public-health-political-drama-thriller that just happens to be set in the context of how society has changed about 20 years after the 2014 zombie-pocalypse?

      1. Grace*

        All of Tamora Pierce’s books are recommendations, as far as I’m concerned! The Emelan series(es) start off aimed at a younger age group but get increasingly more mature, and I think the Tortall books are more YA.

    2. Lilo*

      Recent books I have liked:
      Pachinko
      The Testaments (not as dark as most Margaret Atwood, surprisingly)
      The Seven and 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.
      The Night Circus.

      My to read list includes:
      The Ninth House
      The Starless Sea
      Ten thousand doors of January
      A Long way to a Small Angry Planet

    3. Dr. KMnO4*

      I would recommend Ancillary Justice and its sequels, by Ann Leckie. It’s a very interesting sci-fi series.

      I would also recommend the Alex Benedict books by Jack McDevitt, another sci-fi series. I’ve read some of Jack McDevitt’s other books but the Alex Benedict series is the best imo.

    4. Cats cats cats*

      I really liked the Court of Roses and Thorns series! It’s quite a few books, but I love how they are written and the series didn’t go on too long.

    5. Max Kitty*

      I just ran across the Wayfarers books by Becky Chambers. I liked the first one the best, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. It reminded me of the Firefly TV show.

    6. Aneurin*

      Seconding the Wayfarer and Ancillary Justice novels!

      My absolute favourite (New) Adult fantasy is The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (courtly intrigue! steampunkish worldbuilding! genuinely good and kind and thoughtful protagonist!).

      More Adult than New Adult: The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold (and sequels): a world inspired by medieval Iberia, where questions of religion, spirituality, and free will are absolutely central to the plot, and really well-thought-out.

    7. ValaMalDoran*

      The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. It’s set in the UK in the Victorian era, where vampires and werewolves are real.

    8. Loopy*

      I didn’t have my usual heavy reading year but I am so, so glad I read Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. It’s a bit on the odd side, and took me a bit to warm to as I was reading but by the end I was obsessed/in love and am eagerly awaiting the next book. Well worth the read.

      Also love all the Becky Chambers books others have recommended, anything by Naomi Novik (Uprooted, spinning Silver, and her Temeraire series).

      A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E Schwab is one of my favs as well.

    9. Just Another Manic Millie*

      Science fiction: Anything by Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Silverberg.

      1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

        Oh gosh, you are going to be in for a treat when you learn what’s been written in the past 50 years. There’s so much! And it’s all so good!

    10. Grace*

      Seconding the Tamora Pierce, Becky Chambers, and Naomi Novak recommendations above. The Wayfarers trilogy is wonderful, and very Firefly-esque-with-better-representation.

      In a similar vein to Pierce, Diana Wynne Jones fantasy is very fun. The Howl’s Moving Castle trilogy is good, although I think the second is weaker than the first and third, and the Chrestomanci series is full of my childhood and teenage favourites.

    11. Nicki Name*

      Provenance by Ann Leckie– same universe as the Ancillary books, but if you don’t feel like tackling a whole trilogy, it’s a standalone (and more fun).

      The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison– The mixed-race child of a political alliance suddenly becomes emperor after the rest of the royal family is killed. No Dark Lord, no Chosen One, no epic quests, still thrilling.

    12. Lost in the Woods*

      While the first book is aimed at a younger audience, the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner is an absolutely fabulous grounded sci-fi series.

    13. Pennalynn Lott*

      My top recommendation is The Steerswoman Series by Rosemary Kirstein. Truly an amazing read.

      The rest, in no particular order, are:

      * “The Priory of the Orange Tree” by Samantha Shannon
      * “The Dreamblood Duology” by N.K. Jemisin
      * All of the “Elemental Logic” novels (there are 4 of them) by Laurie J Marks
      * The “Legacy of Orisha” books by Tomi Adeyemi
      * “The Hundredth Queen” series by Emily R King
      * “The Broken Earth” series by N.K. Jemisin
      * “The Kingfountain Series” by Jeff Wheeler
      * “The Farseer Trilogy” by Robin Hobb (followed by “The Tawny Man Trilogy” and then “The Fitz and The Fool Trilogy” by the same author)
      * “The Kingkiller Chronicle” series by Patrick Rothfuss

      1. Lilo*

        Warning about the last one: Rothfuss seems to have a case of GRRM going. I think he wrote himself into a bit of a corner and can’t get out.

    14. Princesa Zelda*

      I had a long comment written out and then the page autorefreshed. So, here’s the ClifNotes version!

      *Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
      *Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey
      *Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse. Be advised, it is touted by book reviewers as “Navajo Percy Jackson” — it is nothing, at all, like Percy Jackson.
      *However, I do also recommend Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
      *The Mortal Instruments trilogy by Phillip Pullman, which is getting adapted by HBO right now I believe
      *Anything by Diana Wynn Jones, Douglas Adams, Tamora Pierce, Naomi Novak, and Neil Gaiman.

      1. June First*

        YES, Discworld! I give books to the kids in our family for Christmas. One nephew received “Guards! Guards!”, one nephew received “Wee Free Men” and I happily received the Tiffany Aching series. Think I may have to reread the witches series next.

    15. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      Locus does a recommended reading list every year. Also check out the shortlists for the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and Clarke Awards.

  41. merp*

    Guys, I have a very sick cat and my vet isn’t working today and she sounds terrible, so congested… I don’t know how this is going to go. Hugs/advice appreciated.

    1. merp*

      (To be clear, the congestion is the current problem but she has a complicated medical history from the last two weeks, she ate a bunch of hair ties and really injured her esophagus throwing them up. Has a feeding tube to eat while that tries to heal. And now these sneezing fits. The vet techs I was able to speak to are starting to use the phrase “quality of life.” I just can’t lose her like this just bc my vet isn’t working, I know she had a couple more things she wanted to try. :(

      1. anon24*

        If you can get ahold of the vet techs are they able to refer you to an animal hospital that is open? Or do you know of an animal hospital in your area that is open today?

        1. merp*

          Well, the vet she’s been seeing is an internal medicine specialist at an emergency vet, it’s just that the internal med staff aren’t working today. The vet tech said based on her records, there’s nothing they can do that I can’t do at home (give her certain meds, which aren’t working) and she’d at least be less stressed at home. But I think if they could talk to the internal med vet, she could tell them the back up plans she had for my cat. She just hasn’t seen my email yet and I feel really invasive asking them to talk to her about it on her day off. But also my cat is miserable. I don’t know what to do.

          1. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

            Emergency medical care means… emergencies come up. Don’t feel guilty for trying to get your cat proper care. Hugs to both of you.

        2. So Not The Boss Of Me*

          I would differ only slightly with Anono-me. When a house is shown, all the humans and pets should vacate the premises (aside from fishtanks :)). For one thing, people will have opinions about the dogs–from suddenly deciding that the house smells to “those poor dogs, why are they in cages”. Which leads to point two, pets are a distraction from the process. You want viewers focused, not dawdling. After all, you may be out driving around in the rain with a car full of children. And dogs.
          One other suggestion that many Realtors use. If you can bake some gingerbread before the showing, it is surprising how favorably viewers will find the house. It conveys warmth, home, nostalgia, comfort more than anything else we’ve found. A mix is fine, and it can be several hours before the showing, as long as you don’t cook something else fragrant afterward. You would think that a gingerbread candle would do as well, but it doesn’t convey the warmth and home, somehow. And, spray scents will make savvy buyers wonder what you are covering up (so if you feel the need to use Febreze, make it unscented). But the smell of gingerbread somehow doesn’t have this downside.