weekend open thread – May 30-31, 2020

In the 11 weeks since we adopted him, Shadow (left) has never responded to the name he came to us with. So we have renamed him Theodore Laurence, and he will go by Laurie, like his namesake in Little Women.

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

Book recommendation of the week: We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas. A long family saga (the best kind) about love, loss, and the American dream. Every character in here frustrated me at some point, but that made them more real.

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

{ 2,114 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    This week, in response to feedback about some changes in the tenor of these threads, I’m experimenting with a change in our format:

    On this post, comments should ask questions and/or seek to discuss ideas. Recommendations or updates on things you received advice about in the past are also fine.

    So, what does that leave out? Mostly: venting without a desire for advice, and “here’s an update on my life” personal-blog-style posts. I know some people appreciate the latter; others have felt them detracting from the conversational feel of the weekend threads as they increase.

    This is not necessarily a permanent change. For now, it’s an experiment (and I might experiment with other format changes in the future). It might prove to squelch conversation more than it encourages it or it might end up feeling heavy-handed. Let’s see how it goes.

  2. Gaia*

    Gardeners of the commentariat: I need advice!

    I’ve never had plants but I finally have a balcony where I get a mix of sun and shade and I really want plants. Ideally some flowery things and some veggies. They should probably not be very sensitive because I’m new. What should I try? Any advice? I live in Oregon so our climate is pretty moderate.

    1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      Growing lettuce from seed is extremely easy. Just plant it and water it and it will be a food! If you’re impatient, get microgreen seeds; they grow fast and you eat them when they’re still very young and tender, and then you plant more. Check the package info to see whether to start the seeds indoors or outdoors. We’ve been growing lettuce indoors on a sunny windowsill and it’s working great.

      You can also go to a plant nursery and get some nice healthy plants rather than starting from seed. The nursery staff can tell you exactly which plants will do well on a deck like yours.

    2. Fancy Owl*

      Congrats! I’ve always wanted balcony plants too but I’m terrible at keeping them alive… my mom is pretty good at it though and she swears by using deeper, bucket shaped planters over the shallower, longer ones that sit on the railings. They hold moisture better apparently. But that may not be as much of a concern for you in Oregon as it is for my mom in California. You also might want to look into berries? My grandma who lived in northwestern Oregon grew tons of them, I think they do well in that climate.

    3. StellaBella*

      I have a balcony that is 4x6feet (ish) and it gets 6 hrs of morning sun. I have tomatoes, zucchini, sunflowers, lavender, basil, poppies, gladiolus, aloe, beans, and 2 tiny melon plants growing. I have a pallet to hold the tiny containers (which drain and the plants will be transplanted once bigger to larger pots) and on the bottom part of the pallet I have used a plastic trash bag for soil and put the beans and melons in there with sticks to trellis them up the pallet – they get water from the draining plants above them. Starter plants like a foot tall tomato plant or two in large pots will do well – just stake them well in case of winds. Also, flowers like sunflowers and lavender are easy to grow and good for bees. You can buy starters of most flowers, and have a lovely space to bees and for you. :)

      1. NewReadingGlasses*

        Wow! That’s a lot of plants. I was impressed with my neighbor who grew sweet corn on his deck, but you have more of an actual farm.

      2. pancakes*

        Sunflowers are great, easy and quick to grow, and birds will eat the seeds when the blossoms die.

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      I used to teach gardening to children, and we’d always start with string beans, radishes, and tomatoes. All 3 are easy to grow and tolerant of human error. You can grow just about anything in containers on your balcony, so my recommendation is to grow something you like to eat and have fun playing with dirt!

      1. Tau*

        I would like to add to this that homegrown cherry tomatoes taste *absolutely fantastic*, much better than any I’ve ever bought in the shop.

    5. migrating coconuts*

      I plant a lot of flowers in my containers. I have found that impatiens and petunias are the easiest and most flowery plants. They both can handle sunny and shady. Impatiens are a little more of a shade plant, but they will do very well in sun. You just have to keep an eye on them when you have a string of hot sunny days, they will need a little more water. I like to put something tall and spiky in the middle of the pot, and something trailing for the edges, such as Creeping Jenny. Then fill the rest with flowers. A good plant that doesn’t flower but comes in many different colors/patterns is coleus. All of these things are commonly found at home improvement stores.

      1. Natalie*

        If you’re feeling really lazy or uncreative, you can often find pre-made baskets with petunias, pansies, etc., too.

    6. Traffic_Spiral*

      I for herbs, I suggest parsley and basil – they’re easy to care for and delicious when fresh. For flowers, petunias deal well in that climate and are hardy AF.

      1. Alston*

        For basil when you see flower buds forming cut them off. Encourages it to keep growing.

        1. Clisby*

          Cut it off, put it in a jar with water, and when it starts growing new roots, plant that one. I almost never cook with basil, but I love the smell, so I grow it more like a cutting flower.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Agree on herbs. I often can get live basil plants at my grocery store.

        Exactly the sort of thing where a recipe often calls for a tablespoon and the store sells things by the cup.

      3. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!*

        And oregano! And it comes back year after year – it doesn’t completely die out, just back. Mine (before it was destroyed :-( was over 10 years old!).

      4. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        Parsley is almost un-killable. I like making pesto; chop the whole plant down to about 2 inches from the soil. Within a day it’s sprouting back up. It’s so prolific, you might regret planting it…

        Mint is very hardy too if you think you’ll cook with it often…or make mojitos.

        Rosemary is another that grows quickly. I love just bundling in sprigs and hanging it around like an air freshener. That one i haven’t haven’t had great success growing from seed so I’d recommend getting a potted plant from a garden center.

    7. i heart salt*

      A coleus will do nicely & it will let you know when it’s thirsty or getting too much sun. Also, it will grow quickly & they come in a variety of color combos!

    8. Venus*

      Sunlight is critical to growing veggies. Spend a day at home checking on your balcony every hour or two. Map out where you get sunlight, and when it goes away. Veggies need at least 6 hours of sunlight, within the span of about 8am-5pm. If you don’t have that much sunlight then look for veggies that do well in shade. The flowering plants are less picky. I think that I failed with my gardening in years past because I didn’t realize how little sunlight I truly had.

      The other elements are water and fertilizer. As mentioned, bigger containers are better for water retention, and that is a big issue with anything in pots and containers as the smaller ones can dry out and kill the plants within a day. I almost lost my tomato seedlings this year because I watered them in the morning but didn’t go out mid-afternoon on a very sunny day. You can also reduce evaporation by putting a cover (wood chips, plastic, etc) on the soil. I put wood chips over the dirt in my garden, so the suggestion isn’t limited to pots.

      I haven’t done this myself, but I have heard good things about growing potatoes in bags of soil. So you don’t even need a big pot! You would have to look it up online, to see about draining extra water out of the bag and watering it, and what type of soil to buy, but it seems pretty easy. You also need to buy potatoes which haven’t been treated not to sprout (unfortunately I don’t know much about this, so you would have to look it up).

      Tomatoes also do well in larger pots, if they have enough sun. You might want to get smaller varieties, like cherry tomatoes. If you are up high (or even if you aren’t) then you should probably give any flowers a little shake, like a bee, as they will likely need extra help with pollination. I know of friends who have an electric toothbrush for their tomatoes, as apparently it is optimal for pollination, although I find that if I tap my fingers against the tomato flowers they do quite well (but I also see quite a few bees in the area).

      I don’t want to push you toward larger plants, but did want to mention them in case you might prefer potatoes and tomatoes to lettuce and herbs. I think all of them are great suggestions, but it depends on what you like most. Grow something that you will enjoy!

    9. MistOrMister*

      With the caveat that mostly I have only grown tomatoes and this year am experimenting with seeds in my backyard….I have a tomato plant I’m trying in a pot after seeing my neighbors had one last year. I think radishes would do well on a balcony. They sprout very quickly from seeds, and the package I got said they work as a potted plant. You might be able to grow green beans, although I am still watching to see how much space mine need. Catgrass grows incredibly quickly even in a pot. Chives grow fairly quickly as well. I’ve read also that you can put the root area of cabbage or lettuc in water to get it to sprout and then plant that. I’ve got a thing of cabbage going now…only I’m not really quite sure what happens if you plant it. I think you would get new leaves but no whole cabbage head. It could be wortg a shot if you have an extra pot to experiment with. And if it doesnt work, you’re not really out anything but the time it took to find out!

    10. Generic Name*

      I adore petunias. They come in a ton of colors, and there’s a variety called “wave” that has smaller blossoms and is kind of like a ground cover.

      1. Artemesia*

        Some of the purple ones also smell really good — most petunias don’t, but some of the purple ones do and that plus aromatic herbs like rosemary and lavender can really make the balcony smell heavenly in the sun.

    11. Parenthetically*

      Our swiss chard is going like GANGBUSTERS right now so I have to recommend that! It’s such a delicious green, and it just keeps producing from the same plant again as you cut it! Great value for money. You can buy the plants or start from seed.

    12. Calanthea*

      On my balcony I have a couple of jasmine (in big pots), some geraniums (in small pots) and some medium size “troughs” with marigolds, spring bulbs, night stocks and perrenial pinks (carnations?).
      I went for flowers that smell nice, rather than provide colour particularly.
      being on a balcony, you don’t get slugs! So things like lettuces or hostas which are slug magnets are pretty safe!

    13. The pest, Ramona*

      Shade loving flowers that have worked for me are astilbe and cyclamen. Both have a range of colors. Astilbe is much taller if you want a plant with height.
      The British show Gardner’s World is great for gardening how-to’s (BritBox or Youtube).

    14. Nita*

      All of the above is great advice! I also want to add peppers to the list of easy veggies. Mine grow even indoors near a southern window. They don’t give much of a crop with so little light, but still look happy and healthy.

      One caveat – this late in the season, you might want to get your plants/seeds from a local store, or from produce (store-bought peppers and tomatoes usually have ripe seeds that sprout just fine). This year there’s more demand for seeds than usual, and the nurseries I’ve bought from online in the past either sell out fast, or take forever to ship anything. By the time you get an online order, it might be July or August!

      1. HoundMom*

        I do a lot of pot vegetables as my yard is overrun with wildlife. Cucumbers and squash grow really easily but need room to stretch out. Miniature eggplants grow really easily in sun and shade and give off lots of veggies which can be diced up into rice, sauces or served alone.

    15. Paulina*

      If you like tomatoes, try those (in a sunny spot). Fresh and ripe tomatoes can be much tastier than what is in stores, or even from markets, since you can grow them to a ripeness that wouldn’t survive much handling. Keep them watered and fertilized, but they’re pretty tolerant IME. Herbs are also very tolerant (and go well with tomatoes).

    16. 40 Years in the Hole*

      Seconding all the comments here, and I would add: because you’re on a balcony, buy or make a light-weight or soilless mix for potting your veg & flowers (found at big-box garden centres and nurseries). Better than hauling the regular soil bags from point A to B. Reduces the load on the balcony/railings, as many containers add up to substantial weight. I found a lighter mix is good for hanging planters, just in terms of lifting the baskets. Mulch all your containers to retain moisture, as the wind and sun will dry out the soil faster in containers than a regular garden.
      If you have the space set your seeds every couple of weeks, for continuous harvest.
      Have fun!

    17. NewReadingGlasses*

      I concur with the tomato recommendation, also cherry tomatoes are easier to grow than beefsteaks. For edible herbs, basil, thyme sand rosemary in the sun.other plants: coleus, fuchsias, or begonias in the shade. In the sun: petunias, calibrachoa (look like mini petunias) and geraniums. Bigger pots are better. Don’t overdo it the first year!

    18. Not Australian*

      Nasturtiums are really easy, come in all sorts of colours, and the flowers are edible in salads if you’re feeling adventurous. They thrive in pretty much all climates as long as you make sure they’re watered occasionally, and the only thing that really upsets them is frost. You *will* need to haul them out at the end of the season and start again next year, though.

    19. Cedrus Libani*

      I have had a balcony garden for years. I live in Silicon Valley, so my weather is milder than yours, but not by that much. Some random thoughts:

      My philosophy is, I want edible plants that supply things that I regularly want. If I’m cooking, in my pajamas, and suddenly realize that I need some green onions…no big deal, I’ve got some outside. Either that, or there’s something I can’t quite get at the store. A super-fresh pea, or a blueberry right off the bush. I just put in my first actual flower (a dwarf gardenia) a few days ago, in a fit of quarantine-induced madness.

      It’s true that mail-order garden centers are overwhelmed right now, but you can get good stuff right from your grocery store. Those “living herbs” are perfectly plantable – though you want to put them in shade for a couple of weeks while they get used to not being in a greenhouse anymore. I got my rosemary, mint, and basil that way. (Fair warning on the mint; it will take over any container you put it in. I have mine planted inside a “fence”, made by removing the bottom of a plastic take-out soup container.) You can also replant the root end of a green onion. Just leave about 1.5″ of stem, and pop the root into the ground. Eventually the leaves will get too large and too tough, but you’ll get a good 2-3 regrows.

      Consider the size of your future plant, and also whether it’s suitable for being up in your personal space. Fresh berries are great, but do you really want a big thorny bush taking over your balcony?

      I like grow bags. They keep plants from becoming pot-bound, as the roots naturally stop growing when they hit the fabric. You can’t over-water them, as excess water just comes out. They’re light, and they’re cheap. They do need watering a bit more often, though. I have my herbs in 5-gallon bags, and a small lime tree in a 10-gallon.

      I do have some other containers. My tomato / pea planter is a large plastic bucket (~15 gal). These plants are short-lived, so I’m not so worried about the long-term health of their roots, and they’re water hogs. I did poke a hole in the side so truly excess amounts of water can drain. I also have my blueberry bush in a faux-stone planter (~5 gal), as they like a bit more moisture.

      Don’t put containers directly on the balcony if you value your security deposit. For my 5-gal bags, I put them in saucers (I found the perfect ones on Amazon; like a cafeteria tray, but round). Then I put them on either a wire shelf or a stack of milk crates. (The wire shelf is more practical; the milk crates are blocking the ground-level view of an AC unit I’m not supposed to have.) The extra height also helps the plants get more sun, as they can poke over the railing instead of being shaded by it. Everything larger than that is on a dolly of some kind. I move them with the seasons, as the sunniest spots on my east-facing balcony are different in summer than in winter.

      If you can, get technology to do the work for you. At my previous apartment, the outside area had a water tap, so I could have an automatic watering system. Can’t do that here, sadly. But I do have a soil moisture probe that gives a remote readout, like a digital thermometer, so I know when watering is needed.

      Also, a note on cherry tomatoes: they’re good for containers, in that they tolerate erratic watering a little better (large tomatoes tend to split under these conditions). But they are NOT small plants, unless specifically stated. I’ve got three varieties of heirloom cherry tomatoes this year; I’m expecting eight-foot-plus, gangly monsters. (One is in a 15-gal bucket; two are sharing a 35-gal bed with a baby avocado tree.) Yes, I’ve been amusing myself by building a trellis infrastructure that can handle it, but I am a bored engineer stuck in my house. If you don’t want that, look for “determinate” varieties of tomato, which stop growing once fruit has been set. The downside is that these tend to produce a whole bunch of fruit at once – good for making a giant batch of tomato sauce, but less useful for eating fresh.

      1. Nita*

        Oh, that reminds me… peas! Here in NYC fresh green peas are very rare in stores, and cost something ridiculous. Definitely planning to plant some this year. If my seed order ever arrives, that is :(

    20. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I can’t contribute as i know nothing except that I love flowers lol but this sounds so exciting. Good luck!

    21. Container gardening*

      Last year I successfully did container gardening for the first time on our deck after a long history of being a plant killer and two things that I think were largely helpful to my success was first using an Earthbox (or similar concept pot) which has a reservoir for water at the bottom. This pretty much ensured the plant was always getting the water it needed and it was very easy for me to determine when I needed to add more water. And secondly I used the book “The Bountiful Container” by McGee & Stuckey that has lots of specific advice for different kinds of growing veggies, herbs, and flowers in containers. I was successful in growing tomatoes, cucumbers, and rosemary from seedlings. I had a little bit of success from a pepper seedling (just a couple of small peppers). And have been able to grow lettuce and radishes from seeds. It has been a lot of fun!

    22. All monkeys are French*

      I highly recommend getting yourself a copy of the Sunset Western Garden book. It breaks down the whole west coast of the US into very specific climate zones, and has a comprehensive list of plants and their requirements, plus lots of other useful info. It totally changed the game for me when I moved to California from the east coast and all my previous gardening knowledge seemed useless.

    23. Job Hunter*

      Mandevilla grow really well on trellises, and can be trained to cover a balcony railing. I cut mine down to 4-5 ft long before bringing it inside for the winter. They prefer partial shade and well drained potting mix or sandy soil. Some even have fragrance.

    24. LemonLyman*

      Just started gardening right before lockdown. I was given a little kale plant and that kick started my interest. kale grows well in cool and hot weather. Romaine is wonderful if you don’t have a lot of light. I grow some in shallow containers under a tree that only gets morning light. CaliKim on YouTube just started a small space container garden series. Check out her channel! A couple of others to check out are California Garden TV and Epic Gardening. All west coasters, too! (Oh, and if you need to start your plants from transplants and not seeds, do it! It’s ok! I’ve had terrible luck trying to grow from seed. but transplants I bought are all doing fantastic!)

    25. allathian*

      We’ve grown carrots and peas in boxes for years. The rabbits would get the carrots if we grew them at ground level, and besides, I hate stooping. Home grown stuff is better than anything you can get in the shops. We started when our son was about 5 years old to get him to understand that food doesn’t just magically appear in the shops, it has to be grown.

    26. Gamymede*

      Nobody has said this and I’m far too late to the party but


      plants, soil and water weigh a lot, and plants get bigger and heavier as they grow. I’m completely and utterly in favour of balcony gardens, but remember to think about the structural integrity of the balcony.

      Main tip: don’t use heavy duty pots such as terracotta!

      (This tip is passed on from the UK’s beloved Friday night gardening programme, Gardener’s World.)

    27. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Some edibles double as pretty ornamentsls. Chives is one obvious one.
      Less obvious? Potatoes! It takes a deep pot or planter bag…or so I read. I’m doing them for the first time this year because they sprouted in my worm compost bin and I need to cover garden space I’m trying to reclaim from years of landscaping fabric. I lost most of my seedlings to a late freeze, so potatoes it is. I’m sure I won’t get a lot of tubers, but they’re pretty plants.

    28. Em*

      As a fellow Oregonian, I definitely recommend herbs! They grow great here and even ones like oregano will overwinter. Cherry tomatoes can do well in a big pot, kale can produce year round if you just harvest some leaves and comes in pretty purple/red varieties that look nice too. Nasturtiums are super easy and pretty and are edible. You could try other edible flowers like borage too.

  3. Kiitemso*

    Book thread! What did you finish this week, what are you reading right now, what are you recommending, what is on your To-Be-Read Pile?

    I finished Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada, a Japanese closed room mystery that was more a logistics-based mystery than psychological. I liked it but didn’t love it. Also read My Sister The Serial Killer during my breaks during wfh and it was such a quick read I finished it in two days. Loved it.

    Next I am reading The Wife Between Us.

    1. Best Cat in the World*

      I’ve just finished bingeing the entire Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman (so far anyway, next one’s already pre-ordered). I read the first one a while back, discovered there was a second, sat down to read it and discovered four more after that! Fantastic series!!

    2. Jean (just Jean)*

      I finished A Gentleman in Moscow, a novel in which a former member of the Russian aristocracy (abolished in the 1917 revolution) is sentenced to “house arrest” in a hotel. It sounds grim, but it’s beautifully written and life-affirming.
      I’m working through a collection of short stories by Nadine Gordimer (20th-century/21st-century author in South Africa). Incisive; articulate; deeply observant; frequently heartbreaking.
      Thanks for the recommendation for Murder in the Crooked House.

      1. allathian*

        If you like Nadine Gordimer’s writing style, I can recommend My Son’s Story. It’s been years since I last read it, but it stays with you.

    3. Aphrodite*

      I am rereading THE RIVER OF DOUBT by Candace Millard. It’s the story of Teddy Roosevelt’s trip down a tributary of the Amazon river. It is one of my favorite books in the category I have come to term “Misery Books,” and it is about my 12th reading of it.

      I love misery books. One of the first that set the tone and even the idea of this category was INTO THIN AIR. I love sitting comfortably at home, a glass or wine, iced tea or hot milk near me and getting into adventures I have no intention of ever wanting to try. This is especially true of anything that involves hot and/or humid weather, horrifying bugs, trips that mean wearing the same clothes for weeks or even months on end, illness and death (especially if it is exceptionally miserable or even gruesome), and any other type of misery that adds to the “adventure.” I enjoy hearing mosquitoes whining outside my screens while the forced air conditioning and nearby refrigerator and bathroom provide the perfect contrast to what I am reading.

      I dislike summer the way many others dislike winter, and picking up one of these books to enjoy the vivid contrast between its miseries and my comfort makes for the perfect reading experience.

      1. GoryDetails*

        Re “misery books” – I read a lot of those too; am especially fond of frozen-heights narratives during hot, muggy summer days. I liked INTO THIN AIR, and recently re-read THE WHITE SPIDER ( Heinrich Harrer’s book about the first attempts to climb the north face of the Eiger, with many, many horrific losses along the way – most taking place within view of the telescopes at the local hotels). And Joe Simpson’s memoir TOUCHING THE VOID is a spectacular example of mountaineering disaster and simply mind-blowing perseverance: he fell into a crevasse, was assumed dead by his companion, and had to crawl out alone with a badly broken leg while not knowing if he’d reach camp before the others left… [He writes really well too, which doesn’t hurt!]

      2. Patricia*

        Aphrodite- the River of Doubt is amazing! (Also loved Into Thin Air) I always call them adventurer books but I love your term too. And I hate summer too!

    4. Lena Clare*

      Well, I kind of got stuck reading the T. S. Joyce werewolf series (I’m in the middle of book 2), because I had sooner other non fiction stuff I needed to get through.

      And I’ve just got an ARC for a new Zoe Chant book which I’m reading, so I’ve got the werewolf ones to get back to afterwards.

      I normally hate reading different books at the same time, but uni work atm means I’m so busy with that, and as I like to unwind by reading and since relaxing with psychology books isn’t my idea of fun, it happens that I have several on the go at once!

    5. Jaid*

      Windsor McCay’s “Adventures of Little Nemo in Slumberland” had been scanned and can be read online. But it was originally posted on a full newspaper page, so reading it on the monitor sucks.

      My parents gave me some gift cards to Barnes and Nobel for my birthday and I finally made use of them. It was about 80$ but I got the 1910-1927 complete series book at the size it was meant to be read in.


    6. StellaBella*

      I read CJ Sansom’s Dark Fire about Tudor England, and weapons of the Greeks, and justice…a great, fast paced historical fiction novel.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Ooh! I’ve read the whole Matthew Shardlake series and loved it. I’m really hoping there’s another book coming.

      2. GoryDetails*

        I love the Shardlake series! DARK FIRE was good, though not my favorite of the series – HEARTSTONE hit me harder – but I’ve enjoyed them all. Indeed, I got so immersed in Shardlake’s Tudor England that when I recently read the new Hilary Mantel, THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT, I kept expecting Matthew to turn up (though he had parted from Cromwell’s service by that point in his own books).

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          Tombland is the most recent book in the series, and it takes place during a period in Tudor history I knew nothing about (and had never even heard of).

      3. Fikly*

        I was just coming to this thread to shout out the first Shardlake book, which I have just discovered via the audiobook, which I am utterly delighted by!

        I am particularly enjoying how the author is handling disability, and also the smelly reality of Tudor England.

    7. migrating coconuts*

      Last fiction I read that I enjoyed was Akin by Emma Donoghue. For non-fiction I read Inheritance by Dani Shapiro. That one was really good if you have any interest in genealogy and dna stuff. Dani finds out she is not her father’s daughter and goes on a search.

    8. Lemonwhirl*

      In my ongoing obsession with pandemic narratives, I finished “Wanderers” by Chuck Wendig. It was excellent and maybe a bit terrifying but also comforting because at least things aren’t as bad as that book. My next book to read is “Recursion” by Blake Crouch.

    9. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Finished: The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard by David A. Goodman (excellent, if you’re a TNG fan) and The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum, a nonfiction history of the early days of forensic science in NYC. (Also excellent, this was a reread.)

      Recently started: The Time Traveler’s Handbook, by Wylie, Acton and Goldblatt — this is a discussion of 19 historical events from Vesuvius to Woodstock, written as a travel brochure selling time travel experiences to tourists. It’s cracking me up. Also The Big Burn by Timothy someone, about the history of the US Forestry Service and terrible forest fires in the PNW.

      Recommending: Seanan McGuire’s Middlegame. It’s weird and lovely and Hugo-nominated. (Also, I know we have a lot of Murderbot fans here, the first full novel in the series has just been released.)

      Next up: Christie Golden’s “Lord of the Clans” (it’s a Warcraft tie-in) and Martha Wells’ “Razor’s Edge” (a Star Wars Han and Leia adventure by the author of the Murderbot books).

      1. SpellingBee*

        Just finished the new Murderbot novel, it was excellent! I haven’t read any of her other books, was going to try them next.

    10. anonymouse*

      Finished Shirley Jackson’s WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE and agree with the consensus that it’s her masterpiece. The plot is too delicious to spoil, but it’s a book about finding safety inside the home (which makes sense because Jackson battled terrible agoraphobia at the end of her life), and it’s fitting to read it during lockdown.

      Now I’m reading one of Christie’s minor Poirot novels, THE THIRD GIRL.

      1. Chaordic One*

        I thought it was good, but for me, “The Haunting of Hill House,” will always be her best. The way Hill House was written purposely makes it impossible to decide whether the house was really haunted or if the characters were merely paranoid and allowed their imaginations get the better of them. It crosses genres and is more of a “psychological thriller” than just a horror novel. Suspenseful and then the shocking sad ending that reinforced that uncertainty.

        You mention her suffering from agoraphobia and I can see how an intelligent person who suffered from psychological problems could still be aware of them and observe them, yet still experience those problems. In Shirley’s case she utilized them by incorporating them into her writing and to great effect.

        There is an upcoming movie titled, “Shirley,” based on Shirley Jackson’s life. It stars Elizabeth Moss (from the Handmaid’s Tale and Mad Men) in the lead role and has gotten excellent reviews. Moss has always struck me as being petite and in real life Shirley suffered from obesity, but according to the reviews Moss seems to have pulled off the role and fully inhabits it. Although she had 4 children, it seems that Jackson had an unhappy marriage and from what I’ve read it almost sounds like she and her husband could have been the basis for George and Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?” In any case, I want to see “Shirley,” the movie.

        I also see where there’s a fairly recent movie based on “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” that you can see on HULU and that’s something I might do fairly soon.

    11. Annie Moose*

      I have officially given up on Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series. I normally don’t mind YA, but… the writing just was not great, I found the main character annoying, and the “winning” love interest was my least-favorite character. I’m a fast reader so I rarely DNF series and even more rarely DNF in the middle of a book, but I just couldn’t care about it anymore…

      1. I can only speak Japanese*

        I didn’t even make it past the Kindle sample with that one. I like YA fantasy, but lately I’ve had nothing but disappoinments. Back to re-reading Tamora Pierce, I guess…

    12. GoryDetails*

      I’m reading several things at once, as usual, switching as the mood takes me. Among them:

      LILY’S HOUSE by Cassandra Parkin, about a young woman who’s settling the estate of her estranged grandmother – and begins to find that her memories of her childhood with grandma Lily are nudging her towards some realizations about the state of her marriage and current life. (I’ve enjoyed several books by Parkin now, and want to read more.)

      ROYAL TUTOR, a manga series set in a Germanic-style kingdom in what looks like a mid-19th-century time period, with the diminutive tutor (who has a mysterious past and is scarily competent, even though his size leads to lots of “is this your baby brother?” jokes at his expense) taking charge of the four younger sons of the king, in hopes of making them worthy candidates to inherit – if the oldest prince fails to qualify for some reason. Nice mix of wacky hijinx and fun friends-and-family subplots.

      KITTY’S GREATEST HITS by Carrie Vaughn, a short story collection set in her “Kitty Norville” universe, kind of a paranormal adventure/romance/mystery series. The short stories range far and wide, including Tudor England and early-colonial Mexico as well as some origin-story bits about Kitty and other main characters in the series.

      On audiobook:

      THE MAN ON THE MOUNTAINTOP by Susan Trott, with a really marvelous voice-cast; it’s about a humble man who’s become the goal of a stream of pilgrims, most of whom fail to recognize him when they see him. Lots of Zen-style lessons here, and quite a lot of humor.

      Currently listening to THE OCTOBER MAN by Ben Aaronovitch; it’s a side-story in his marvelous “Rivers of London” series, this one focusing on the German magic-police from the viewpoint of Tobias Winter. He has a lot in common with Peter Grant, and the story has him teaching another cop about basic magic in what looks like a “draft a new apprentice” situation. And the story has a strong “don’t mess with the affections of a river goddess” message {wry grin}.

      1. Kate*

        I love the Rivers of London series!

        Just the kind of light, engaging reading I keep wanting to binge since my love of dystopian novels went out the window with the pandemic.

    13. Purt’s Peas*

      I just finished Six of Crows and Crooked City by Leigh Bardugo, a YA duology about a heist in fantasy Amsterdam. The YA part was interesting—all the main characters were teenagers, but it was strangely jarring to be reminded they were teenagers and not adults. Really good books, but had a good number of little jarring things like that.

      1. Smol Book Wizard*

        I hear that a lot about those books – it being hard to believe they are teens. It’s not a problem I personally had, but I can understand where it comes from.
        I find the duology a little overwrought/overdone at points, but in total well worth the ride. Also, as someone with then-undiagnosed mental illness (and autism but Didn’t Know That Then Either), I found it obscurely comforting to read a book about sad, complicated, brain-weirded heroes who were still doing what they could and trying to be good to each other. I know that’s commonly attempted as a story hook, but somehow this one worked better than most for me.

        1. Purt’s Peas*

          I totally loved that. The teen thing is because most of the other characters treat the main ones like adults—excepting a few “you all are so young!!” bits of dialog. So it just felt like they were adults until the book reminds you overtly that they’re not. Other than that I do love YA so I’m certainly not bothered by competent teen heroes :)

          But yeah, I really, really liked all of them. I loved that they legitimately had addictions, and traumas that weren’t healed at the end, but still tried to do right by their friends and city. And pulled off some cool heists :)

    14. Akcipitrokulo*

      Reading “Sorcerer to the crown” by Zen Cho – awsome, rich book about Victorian England AU where magic is known, and what happens when a black man takes the highest position – and then is converted to idea women should be allowed to practice – and meanwhile needs to save magic community from dwindling supplies, cut-off relations to the fae realm and the pressures of non-magic politicians who expect the normal favours that are not necessarily possible – or desirable – without letting the magic scarcity issue become known. With real-history bits as well (like concerns about Napoleon in Asia).

      About 1/3 of way through and loving it!

    15. Just a Guy in a Cube*

      Echo the recommendation of Gentlment in Moscow above.
      Recently finished Mieville’s October about the Russian Revolution (highly recommend), and Karen Tidbeck’s SF Novella Amatka (excellent, but didn’t stick the landing).
      Now re-reading Wizard of Earthsea with kiddo (who has noticed how calm Ogion is, and how that is a challenge for his pupil), and CLR James’ Beyond A Boundary, which is part memoir part cricket book, and mostly just incredibly frank and incisive.

      1. Buni*

        Oh gods, I love the Wizard of Earthsea books SO MUCH. Not sure if I can take the genuine heart-rending-ness atm tho..

    16. Anon5775*

      I am in the middle of Tell the Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams. It’s really good! A little futuristic- a mouth swab fed into a machine will spit out 3 individualized things that will make you happier. Such a cool idea!

    17. OtterB*

      Also recommend A Gentleman in Moscow. I read it a few weeks ago, and it was one of the few new things (not a reread, not a new book by a favorite author) that I have stuck to in months.

      I decided to reread my way through the Dresden Files books from the beginning in anticipation of the next of the series, which is to be published in September now, I think. I’m into book 4, and am probably not going to finish before the books 1-6 ebook omnibus has to be returned to the library, but I do have them in paperback somewhere in the house. I am reminded that Dresden’s character was annoying in some of the early books, but also that some highly series-important characters are introduced early on.

      I have just started Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi, which I’d picked a month or so ago for a broadening of my suburban whitebread worldview. I’m seeing it on lists of suggested reading in the current attention to racial injustice.

      I have too big a TBR stack to describe but that’s not keeping me from buying new things. The Angel of the Crows by
      Katherine Addison is due out toward the end of June. She wrote The Goblin Emperor, one of my all-time favorite books, and others I enjoyed as Sarah Monette.

      1. TL -*

        There’s a new Dresden Files in July and then another in September – apparently this book got completely out of hand during the writing and he ended up splitting it into two? (I think?)

        Anyways really excited! Just finished a re-listen of Skin Game

      2. How I Rose From The Dead And You Can, Too*

        If you’re re-reading the Dresden books, you might like the “Sandman Slim” books by Richard Kadrey. Although I’m going to guess you’ve already read them :) I read some of N. P. Martin’s Ethan Drake books – they just didn’t do it for me.

        This past week I’ve been reading a lot of quirky old SF by A. E. van Vogt and Barrington J. Bailey – these guys are like the John Waters of science fiction: the writing is not especially good, but just before you decide to say “this is crap” and set it aside, they’ll toss in something genuinely weird and interesting. Van Vogt in particular often writes like he’s a 16yo member of the Civil Air Patrol on an Ovaltine jag – but “The Weapons Shops of Isher” is a fun, inventive book that still manages to be relevant today.

    18. Koala dreams*

      I’m reading Murder on the Mauretania by Conrad Allen. I’ve yet to get to the murder, but there are plenty of thefts. It’s nice to read about the glamerous travel on an Atlantic Ocean liner and dream away the problems of today.

    19. WellRed*

      I finally finished Brotopia, about the misogynstic culture of Silicon Valley. I got it from the library in March as things were closing down. It’s actually really good, I just happen to prefer fiction.

      1. HamlindigoBlue*

        I listened to the audiobook on my commute about six months back. I’m in tech, and I enjoyed the book. Even though the ideas and stories aren’t anything new, I liked the way it was organized. It also reminded me that I had two of Sheryl Sandberg’s books on my to-read list as well as one of Kim Scott’s books.

    20. New Bee*

      Has anyone read The Body Double? I got to the end and was like…that’s it? If it was supposed to be a twist, it wasn’t executed well imo.

    21. HamlindigoBlue*

      I finished The Andromeda Strain, and I just started The Gift of Forgiveness by Katherine Schwarzenegger.

    22. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      I read Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman this past week. It was a very interesting look into the life of Hasidic Jews. Her story is also quite different in some parts from the story portrayed in the Netflix version.

    23. Falling Diphthong*

      I’ve been rereading Lois McMaster Bujold’s mid-Barrayer books.
      Just received New Suns, a sci fi short story collection I hope will put me onto some new authors.

      Past recommendations here for which I am grateful:
      • Donna Andrews cozy mysteries, both Meg Langslow (classic fall-in-love-with-extended-family series) and Turing Hopper (a truly original detective, an AI)
      • Vivian Shaw Strange Practice, about Greta Helsing a doctor to London’s supernatural community. Fun, light, perfect while recovering from surgery.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        And The Ten Thousand Doors of January, about magical doors between worlds and the people who find them.

        1. Just a Guy in A Cube*

          Ten Thousand Doors was amazing! I have New Suns sitting on my shelf after not engaging with the first couple stories … would love to hear if it gets better!

    24. Ali G*

      I just finished “Nothing to See Here.” and it was absolutely adorable. It’s about a woman who’s childhood friend calls her out of the blue to take care of her two step kids that have come to live with her and husband after their mother died. The kids burst into flames when they get anxious and Dad is trying to become the Secretary of State so they hide them in a guesthouse. It’s hilarious and sweet. I read it in 2 sittings. I’m on the hunt for another so thanks in advance for your recommendations!

    25. NewReadingGlasses*

      I just finished “The Shining Girls” ( pretty good, serial killer with supernatural time-traveling element). I’m currently reading The Luminous Dead, which I really like, but it is making me tense. It might fit in the Misery Book category – the whole story is spelunking in an alien planet cave system and there were just SPORES on the last page I read. Never in any fiction book I have ever read has the presence of spores been a good thing. I’m also reading “The Raven Tower” by Ann Leckie ( to get away from the spores). The first two chapters are good.
      Next up is “The Huntress” by Kate Quinn. It’s a historical fiction spy story set during/after ww2.

    26. Bluebell*

      Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok. Nice story about a young Chinese woman who gets a job in a dance studio. Also reading a bio of Mr. Rogers.

    27. mlk*

      As a mood uplifter and to ‘clear my palate’, I read a bunch of stories from the new ebook version of Ingathering, a complete collection of Zenna Henderson’s stories of the People. The People are refugees who land on Earth after their home world destroys itself. They meet good and bad people with the stories starting in the late 1800s through the early 1900s and set in the American southwest. Sense of place is good. These are hopeful stories, although some sad things happen too.

      I’ve torn through some K.J. Charles stories after she released a few for free. (4 books post-the-free-one…) I liked them but there are some repeating tropes and her other stories aren’t tempting me yet. Note: most are M/M historical romances.

      Lois McMaster Bujold has a new Penric and Desdemona story, The Physicians of Vilnoc. Note: about a pandemic

      Also reread the Murderbot novellas after reading Network Effect, the novel that was just released. Murderbot is a SecUnit (Security Unit), a slave/construct for a corporation in the future. It disabled its governor module after a massacre occurred on a contract but has continued to do its job because it’s not sure what else to do. It would rather not have to deal with any messy, squishy humans when even the ones it feels some connection to sometimes want eye contact, or even worse, a hug.

      1. GoryDetails*

        Glad to see a mention of Zenna Henderson, mlk! I loved her books about “The People”, but my favorite works of hers are her short-story collections, THE ANYTHING BOX and HOLDING WONDER. (Some of those stories are set in the same world as “The People” but most are stand-alone.) Some stories are sweet, some magical, some downright terrifying – and I adore them all!

        1. mlk*

          The rest of her work have finally been released in new hardcover and ebook editions this year. The book is called Believing and released by NESFA.

    28. I can only speak Japanese*

      I finished Eon – Rise of the Dragoneye by Alison Goodman, and started the sequel, Eona. It started out interesting, but has turned into nothing but a love triangle (with one of the guys being an attempted rapist no less!) and I’m ranting to my husband about it more than actually proceeding.

      Well, at least I know what not to do if I ever actually start writing my own novel…

  4. WFH2020*

    I have run out of interesting series or movies to watch. I don’t have cable and haven’t turn my television on since December 2019. I watch TV and movies on Hulu, Netflix, and Prime Video.

    Any suggestions of interesting series or movies ? I hope there are new episodes and movies coming out this summer.

    1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      HBO made a lot of its content free starting in April. That might be worth checking out if you haven’t already. Search “HBO is making some of its iconic shows free to watch for everyone stuck at home” to find an article with more info.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          Yeah, it’s over. I was re-watching the Sopranos, and now I can’t finish it! I did manage to binge two seasons of Barry and two seasons of Succession, though.

    2. Lena Clare*

      Argh lost a really long comment:(
      National Theatre Live are staging free streams of one of their shows every week on YouTube.
      There’s been some good ones.

      I’m currently watching Bosch which is great and the music is wonderful.

      Some other series I’ve enjoyed on Netflix:
      – Crazy Ex Girlfriend
      – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
      – The Good Place
      – Kim’s Convenience
      – Bordertown (police, foreign language)
      – Line Of Duty (UK police internal affairs)
      – Derry Girls

      On Amazon:
      – Upload (wonderfully funny and sweet)
      – Unforgotten (UK police cold cases)
      – Little Fires Everywhere

      I don’t know where you’ll find this but it was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time, from the BBC:
      – Giri/Haji.

      If you can find Smack The Pony too (originally on channel 4 UK and repeated last night) that’s an all female comedy sketch show, hilarious.
      Ooooo it’s just made me think of Black Books, Greenwing, and Episodes (Tamsin Greig)
      Oldies but goodies.

      Have fun!

      1. WFH2020*

        Thank you! I have watched several on your lists and I’ll check out those I haven’t watched.

        Does Bosch become more interesting? I’ve tried watching it but so far lose interest easily.

        1. Lena Clare*

          I think Bosch is the same as it was – if you didn’t like it at first, it probably wouldn’t grow on you!

          1. CC*

            If you were a “The Office” fan, watch “Space Force” on Netflix – it just came out this week & is basically The Office about space.

            1. Fikly*

              Netflix should hire you – your comment makes me way more interested in it than their description.

      2. ThatGirl*

        We just finished Crazy Ex Girlfriend and loooooved it. Derry Girls is brilliant and the Good Place is an all time favorite.

      3. Bibliovore*

        I have been watching upload and enjoying it. I have stayed at the resort featured as the virtual afterlife! Mohunk Mountain House!

      4. How I Rose From The Dead And You Can, Too*

        I really enjoyed “Upload”. It’s not deep, but it was fun.

        (And if you like “Upload”, you may want to check out the Netflix movie “Code 8”)

    3. Jaid*

      Do you have a Roku? There’s different channels on there, like Pluto TV, which has its own channels. They have RiffTrax, Mystery Science Theater 3000 and old Dr Who episodes.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      I’m not sure what kinds of shows you like, but I recently started watching Ozark on Netflix. I call it “research,” because my job at the bank is looking for people like the Byrdes (money launderers) and the people they associate with. :)

    5. migrating coconuts*

      We have netflix. I love The Crown, Call the Midwife, Schitt’s Creek and just binged my way through 3 seasons of Atypical.

    6. Morning reader*

      Not new, but I’ve been watching some old movies. We have the entire 20th century to chose from. I feel like I’m rounding out my film education. There are many lists so you can tailor to your own interests or gaps. I recommend Hitchcock in general but you might like old westerns or goofball comedies. Trigger warning: the racism and sexism in old films is often astonishing mostly in its air of normalcy, e.g. calling the porter “boy” when he’s getting bags off the train.

    7. Jules the 3rd*

      Just started “Space Force” on Netflix last night. The first episode was hilarious, the next three have been more low key. Steve Carrell is the new general in charge of getting Space Force off the ground.

      The whole first episode, I was sure this was done by the Best In Show team, there’s a lot of the actors from those movies in it and it’s the same kind of ‘ludicrous statements done with a straight face’ humor.

      Also on Netflix, if you’ve never seen Avatar: The Last Airbender, it’s great for people of all ages. I think it’s one of the top 3 TV series ever – my other two are M*A*S*H and The Wire, if that gives you a reference. Korra’s also good, and the Avatar team also did “The Dragon Prince”, which is a step above most fantasy series.

      1. GoryDetails*

        I’ll second AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER – I adored that series! The follow-on LEGEND OF KORRA was also good, though for me it didn’t have quite the same charm; still, they’re both far above most series (animated or not) in quality.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        I put Space Force on my watch list, but haven’t watched yet. I’m not sure if I’ll like it since I usually don’t watch that kind of comedy, but I’m willing to give it a try. I like Steve Carrell.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I’m so glad TLA is back; I never got to finish it before. Now I can, although it’s been so long I’m going to have to start over.

    8. Anonymouse*

      If you haven’t watched BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, I highly recommend it. It’s one of my favorite things ever.

      It starts slow, so if you find yourself bored starting from the pilot, I recommend skipping to the last episode of the first season, “Prophecy Girl” and going from there.

    9. TechWorker*

      It’s been out a while so you might have already seen it but I love ‘Elementary’ and there’s about a million episodes on prime.

    10. GoryDetails*

      My latest Netflix choices have included lots of reality shows, including:

      Sugar Rush: a timed competition with three stages, where people who complete the first tasks quickest get more time for the final, elaborate-cake challenge – but at the risk of falling short and being eliminated. Since people can start on the next phase before other teams have finished the first ones, sometimes a team will be well into their next task before the judges get around to rating the previous one, and some have been sent home even though they were almost finished with the final task. [I was intrigued to see an ad for a new Food Network show, Big Time Bake, which sounds like it has the same format as Sugar Rush; will probably tune in to that, though host Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro isn’t my favorite of the cooking-show folk.]

      Blown Away: a Canadian series about competitive glass-blowing – great fun to watch, though with lots of jarring moments as somebody’s carefully-worked item shatters or droops. Some really amazing results here, including a very stylish set of Venetian glass taco holders!

      The Big Flower Fight: perhaps my favorite of the non-food-based reality series, this one pits teams of florists, landscape artists, and not-really-plant-people artists against each other to craft huge structures/sculptures/installations covered with plants (living, cut, or dried). Marvelous creations here, and I liked the teams and their interactions – whether battling over the most desirable plants or lending moral support after a setback.

    11. CTT*

      How do you feel about time travel and subtitles? Netflix has a German show called “Dark” that could be simplified as “Stranger Things but time travel” – the 80s and a missing child feature, but it’s a lot twistier. There are two seasons and the third and final season comes out at the end of the month.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        If you watch Dark, please watch it in German. The English dub is HORRIBLE. You’ll get a much better experience with the actors in the original language. This series is so good it’s worth learning to deal with subtitles if you’re not used to them

        Netflix defaults to the dub, so you’ll have to change it in settings.

        1. CTT*

          Yes! Also it’s just complicated enough that you really want to pay attention, and reading subtitles forces you to do that.

          1. rear mech*

            oh, interesting! we watched crummy English dub because it felt easier to look for visual clues and discuss what was going on without having to read at the same time. Processing differences I guess. But I will definitely re-watch with German audio.

    12. PX*

      There’s an online film festival streaming for the next week! Its on Youtube called WeAreOne and its basically all the major and some minor film festivals coming together to stream things that would otherwise have been shown in person. Might be fun to check out:

      Excerpt from BBC article:
      “It will feature contributions from pretty much every major film festival, including Cannes, Tribeca and Berlin, as well as some of the smaller festivals which don’t attract as much publicity.

      – There will be one single YouTube channel, broadcasting continuously from Friday 29 May until Sunday 7 June
      – The programme will consist of more than 100 films, including 13 world premieres and 31 online premieres
      – All films will be free to watch
      – There will only be one chance to see certain films, as they won’t remain online after their screening
      – It will be signposted where each film is from, and many will feature introductions from the respective festival directors

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

      Check out the international shows on Netflix! Money Heist (La Casa de Papel) was a massive hit in Spanish speaking countries. Also they have a nice selection of Korean romcoms (Boys Over Flowers! Goblin! Reply!) and dramas (Kingdom!) and some anime classics (Saint Seiya! Neon Genesis Evangelion! Robotech!) and and a coupler if new ones (Beastars! Dorohedoro!)

    14. Alston*

      We just binge watched The Great. It’s a “sometimes true” show about young Catherine the Great. Raunchy, beautiful sets, funny.

      If you like that then try Harlots, which i actually like even better. Set in the 1700s in London and is about women running brothels there. It is super dramatic and the outfits are gorgeous and I love it.

      Both are on Hulu.

    15. fposte*

      A general recommendation for those who like reality shows where people do things: SkyTV is doing on online Portrait Artist of the Week, based on their Portrait Artist of the Year series; in this case it’s a series of one-off paint-along episodes where a former winner/competitor paints a celebrity sitter over a videocall, while audience members who wish can paint the sitter at home; each week includes an overview of the previous week’s submissions and identifies the top three. There are art tips along the way, but as a non-painter myself, those are still very interesting and never go too far into the weeds for somebody just watching. It’s up on YouTube.

    16. Junior Dev*

      I’m enjoying a lot of things in the “kids’ show good enough for adults” genre. Netflix has Avatar: the Last Airbender (newly on the service), She-Ra (so good! So sparkly! LGBT characters!), The Dragon Prince (charming fantasy by one of the creators of A:tLA), and Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts (really pretty animation and excellent soundtrack).

    17. cat socks*

      Recently finished Dead to Me on Netflix. I’ve been watching Christina Applegate since Married With Children and she does a great job on this show.

    18. Elizabeth West*

      I’m working my way through Dark Shadows. Last time Netflix had it, they yanked it just as I got to the Barnabas 1795 storyline. This time, I’m watching on Hulu and I got much further. But they’re rotating episodes and I’ll lose this batch on Monday before I finish it. Fortunately, Tubi has all of them, I think. Amazon does too, but I don’t want to pay for Prime.

      Tee hee, I’ve been having some fun on Twitter and Facebook making silly memes with screenshots. This show is hilariously over-the-top.

      1. pancakes*

        A good friend of mine got me into Dark Shadows but he’s way ahead of me! Many of the episodes were directed by a woman named Lela Swift, who had a really interesting career — she started out in the secretarial pool at CBS.

      2. NightOwl*

        Ooh, another Dark Shadows fan!! I loved this show when I first came across it years ago. I do have Amazon Prime and found they have the first 6 seasons (way before the Barnabas storyline) and it’s cool to watch from the beginning. I don’t know how I’ll piece it all together but I’m going to try :)

        1. Liz*

          This is the actual beginning, beginning? I’ve caught bits and pieces of it here and there but it always seems like wherever it was on, it started in the middle of the series.

    19. Melody Pond*

      If you’ve never seen The Expanse on Prime Video, I highly recommend it. It’s a sci-fi show that is based much more in real science than most sci-fi shows – it’s got a lot of political intrigue, and the first season revolves around the disappearance of an heiress and is a little bit noir. Mr. Pond was in the navy, and he tells me that the space battles are extremely realistic – the weapons that are used are either already existing in the navy or are currently being developed. If you’re going to give it a try, and if it seems a little slow paced at first, I suggest at least getting through episode 4 in the first season before throwing in the towel on it.

      Fun fact – it was actually cancelled on the SyFy channel after three seasons, and Amazon Prime picked it up and produced its fourth season. The fourth season had a noticeably larger production budget – they really amped things up.

      Also, echoing all the recommendations for Avatar: The Last Airbender. I recently watched it all the way through, for the very first time – what a great animated show.

    20. Lady Alys*

      My spouse discovered “Kingdom” (a British show on AcornTV, not the show on Netflix right now), starring Stephen Fry as a small-town solicitor in coastal Norfolk. The scenery is stunning and the crimes are low-key, so it’s very soothing. Did I mention Stephen Fry?

    21. NaoNao*

      I strongly recommend ZeroZeroZero on Prime. TW for gory, violent content at times but the violence is telegraphed (it’s not sudden, usually) and you can fast forward or turn away.

      The show is AMAZING. The soundtrack, locations/shooting, cinematography, scripting, acting, plot, etc. All incredible. They pitch it as if Gabriel Byrne has a larger role than he does, but he’s in it, along with some major European and Latin American stars, all doing a great job.

      I binged it in two days and would have watched all 8 episodes in one night if I could have. 10/10.

    22. juliebulie*

      Parasite is available on Hulu. I recommend it. The more I think about it, the more I appreciate it.

    23. CastIrony*

      I know Monk is free on Prime, and I watched Downfall last week, when Amazon sent me a letter to complain that I wasn’t watching any of their videos.

      But nonetheless, I liked both.

    24. Kate Lathrop*

      The Good Fight on CBS – I believe the back episodes (seasons 1-3 may be on Netflix now?), Lucifer on Netflix, a second nod to Bosch (will admit I skipped last season so I need to pick it up with this new one), Jack Ryan on Amazon Prime Video, another nod to Ozark (very dark but very interesting), Space Force (only watched the first 2 episodes so far), Goliath on Amazon Prime Video.

    25. Pomona Sprout*

      I didn’t have anything to contribute when I first read this post, but earlier tonight I binge watched all 4 episodes of “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” on Netflix and found it riveting. The subject matter is (of course) disturbing and not everyone’s cup of tea, and I’m sure it would be triggering for some. Personally, I’m a true crime buff and can happily devour stuff that I know a lot of people would find extremely unappetizing, so ymmv.

      I knew the basic facts about Epstein but hearing so many of the survivors of his abuse tell their stories brought it all to life in a whole new way. The documentary was very well done, and I highly recommend it to those who are interested in the subject and are not totally put off by such fare.

      1. WFH2020*

        Thank you for posting your review. I saw it was in the “new” section and I’ve been wondering. I think I’ll check it out. It’s incredibly important that victims have a chance to tell their stories. Sounds like this series does that.

  5. Director of Alpaca Exams*

    Are there any good technologies for virtually singing together? Zoom assumes only one person should be audible at a time, and the lag can also be pretty bad. On Shavuot I attended a Zoom singing circle where one person was unmuted and everyone else sang along at home on mute, and it was still pretty wonderful but I miss singing in harmony so much.

    (Chag sameach to everyone who celebrated the holiday, and Shabbat shalom as well!)

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      Chag sameach and Shabbat shalom to you also!
      I thought Zoom permitted multiple people to be un-muted at the same time, which would allow people to sing together…? But I could be wrong. My Zoom skills are still pretty basic.

      1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

        Even if multiple people are unmuted, Zoom will decide that one is “the speaker” and not transmit sound from anyone else. This is great for meetings where you want to avoid cross-talk! It’s not great for singing or praying in unison or harmony.

        1. Jean (just Jean)*

          Ah, okay. I attended one online service and thought that I heard harmonizing, but it may have been only my own voice (not muted in my own home, ha ha) plus that of the leader.
          Interesting that Zoom is so single-speaker-focused. You’re right, it focuses a meeting but does not help choral/prayerful unity.

        2. Parenthetically*

          Also not great for Zoom dinner parties! Chatting always involves interrupting and verbal feedback and I HATED not being able to hear everything when we did a Zoom dinner party. There has to be a way!

        3. charlatan*

          That’s not been my experience – we can crosstalk if people are unmuted. There may be a setting change you could look at, although it wouldn’t do anything about the lag so it might be a moot point for you.

          1. Cat*

            Yeah I think the lag is the issue. I have a friend who’s a choir director and music teacher and she has not found a workaround.

    2. Polyhymnia O'Keefe*

      Short answer, not really.

      I work for a choral organization, and we’ve moved all of our rehearsals and programs online for the foreseeable future. What you’ve described is pretty much the way it has to work right now, and we’ve worked with as many of the options out there as we can.

      If you’re using Zoom, there are a few settings that can make the person singing sound better (i.e. not clip out their accompaniment or held notes, thinking they’re background noise), but that doesn’t change the fact that multiple people can’t really sing together. We got our groups to sing Happy Birthday on their first online rehearsal, just so they could see how it worked.

      The Zoom settings to change are:

      Audio settings -> Advanced -> Enable original sound
      And on the same screen: DISABLE “Suppress persistent background noise” and DISABLE “suppress intermittent background noise”

      Those settings make a huge difference for the person who’s actually making music.

      There are a few different programs working on solutions (Jam Kazaam is one), but they tend to require everyone to be on a hard-wired internet connection and are better suited for things like a band jam session than a choir with 50 people singing together. But if you’ve got a small group with the technical capability, they might be worth testing.

      Side note: all those virtual choirs you see are people recording their own part alone and then the audio and video files being edited together to create a choral performance. They’re wonderful, but definitely not as easy as “let’s just record our Zoom meeting.”

      1. Tau*

        Yeah, this is how my choir’s been doing it too. We did one virtual choir performance and that was a lot of work for the person who edited it together, too – definitely not something you can do quickly and listen together afterwards, as you say.

      2. WS*

        Yes, my nephew is in several musical groups at his high school, and they’ve had to “rehearse” by everyone recording their part to a metronome and sending it to the conductor/teacher who puts it all together. Fortunately we’re in Australia and he’s back at school now.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      In my experience, no. I am a choral singer and it’s been really, really hard. Our large symphonic chorus has opted for sing alongs and experiments, but Zoom has too many latency issues to make real singing together work.

      For me, being in the room together is something like 80% of the joy. It’s been pretty tough.

    4. Llellayena*

      Nothing available yet, though I understand there are systems in the works. Both of my choirs are running into the same issue. We did record a zoom happy birthday in one choir and the major difficulty is that everyone has a different speed connection so the sound doesn’t line up.

    5. How I Rose From The Dead And You Can, Too*

      If you really want to dig down into this, you may want to investigate the misc game/voip technologies that are out there. Long story, but back around 2008 I was testing a Vivox system and had 10+ people singing Kumbaya together with no obvious lag.

    6. Observer*

      I think that Google meet allows more than one person to sing at a time. (Not everyone thinks that it’s a feature – they consider it a bug.)

  6. Jean (just Jean)*

    Interesting experiment. Here’s my question, inspired by Alison’s comment that Laurie (formally, Theodore Laurence; formerly Shadow) has been part of her household for 11 weeks:

    AAM readers, what have you learned during the past 11 weeks? Or, what areas have you identified as ones in which to do more learning/build your skills/increase your knowledge? I’m interested in all areas of life: psychological, spiritual, care for self or others, practical life skills, social policy/civic engagement. In keeping with Alison’s preferences, let’s avoid partisan politics.

    My own quick answers: I am learning (again!) to strengthen my willpower and ability to implement personal and professional routines (ahem–typing well after midnight!). I am learning to rely more on my inner resources when I feel lonely or unable or unwilling to solve a problem. The pandemic and quarantine have focused these challenges, but they predate the coronavirus of 2020.

    Alison, if this is too personal feel free to delete and I’ll post again after getting some sleep.

    1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      I’ve learned which of my friends are in homes where they feel safe and comfortable, and which are not, and just how lucky I am to be stuck with people I’m genuinely happy to see every day.

      I’ve learned a great deal about helping a child deal with trauma. We’re very fortunate that no one in our immediate circle has been direly ill or died, but everyone in my house got sick (no sympathies, please, I’m just so glad it’s over and we’re all better!), and that was very scary for our preschooler. Plus there’s the weirdness and awfulness of no school no playgrounds no playdates no Gramma no sitters etc. We have been talking and talking and talking some more, and validating all the feelings even when we have to say “I know you’re really mad and scared but it’s still not okay to hit me/throw that/pull the cat’s tail, what’s a safe way to express that feeling instead?”, and talking about strength and resilience and how we can take care of our neighbors and take care of our bodies, and it’s really very hard but I think it’s working. All the honest talking about feelings helps the grown-ups too. I’d still prefer, you know, not having the trauma, but every life has trauma in it sooner or later, and I feel really good about starting our kid out with a strong foundation of skills for getting through it.

      I learned that I’m happiest and most motivated as part of a team that’s collaborating on something. (Which may eventually lead to me job-hunting if I don’t start feeling like that at work soon.)

      I learned that when I’ve just gotten over being sick, I tend to try to make up for lost time and do everything I couldn’t do when I was sick, and that’s really not good for my RSI.

    2. Vic tower*

      I’ve learned a lot about leadership and that I have more potential to lead than I had previously considered. I’ve also learned to delegate better.
      On the negative side, I’ve learned how biting “mum guilt” can be (still only 27weeks but it’s kicked in) and that I need to guard against it very carefully to avoid getting jealous of others!

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I’ve learned that I need human interaction more than I thought I did. I’m an introvert, but it doesn’t mean I hate people. It just means I want to go home and recharge after work or being out with friends and family by reading a book or watching TV or just hanging out with my husband or the cats.

      Between having two surgeries, the pandemic, and working from home, I’ve been home-bound since March 3 and it SUCKS. I was fine until probably mid-April since I was concentrating on recovery and pain management, but then I started to really miss being able to just go to the store and browse around, go out to dinner with a friend or drop by their house, and be in the office and chat with coworkers. Sure, I’ve been out here and there–pharmacy, grocery store, food pickup, doctor’s appointments, and physical therapy–but it’s not nearly enough. Last week a friend came over and we hung out on the patio for a few hours and it was so nice. I also went to another friend’s house and we sat on the deck with her puppies for a couple hours. I felt human again.

      1. i heart salt*

        I have learned that I am TERRIBLE in quarantine! I am an extrovert & at my job, I went from seeing 600+ people a day to just my husband. Let’s just say that it is not helping our marriage. I also learned that I can walk 2+ miles a day, so I have that!

        1. The Other Dawn*

          I’m terrible at quarantine, too, and I’m not an extrovert. I’ve seen people posting how they’re loving being forced to stay home alone or with just one other person, but I absolutely hate it.

      2. LeahS*

        Yes, I have learned this about myself too. I had joked that I was training for quarantine all my life. I’ve always been outgoing and made friends easily but needed a lot of time to myself. Since I’ve been laid off, and even when I was working from home before that, I have released that I need outside interaction a lot more than I thought!!

    4. Alexandra Lynch*

      We bought a house, so one phase of things has ended and a new one is beginning. It was really hard on Boyfriend because he worked all morning, ran out and looked at houses over his lunch hour, came back and worked again til six and then saw another couple houses after work, came home and fell into bed. I never thought I would get tired of looking at houses. (laugh)

      I’ve gotten more comfortable with my skills and on being able to say, “Yes, I am that organized, yes, I am patient, yes, I am compassionate and caring.” and I’m way more comfortable talking to my partners and asking for support and help.

      And now I’m going to go research what to plant in a shaded bird garden. Cause the new house has a big sunroom on the back, and the cats will be THRILLED. I may never get them in any other room of the new house!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Interesting question. I think I was surprised by how I was more put together than I thought I would be in a crisis. Short version: I identified some strengths that I was able to use to help myself and others near me. It was pretty cool because I saw the help coming back to me when I needed it. (Something life has shown me NOT to take for granted. So this was a huge gift for me.)

      @Jean. I have often thought you were just a sleeper cell of strength. I am glad you are better able to see that on your own. Of course, I am sorry you had to go through this to see it.

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        >a sleeper cell of strength

        I am struck by your vocabulary and appreciate the comment. Thank you. (The inner comedian says: Better than a sleeper cell of …. unsolicited and loud advice? sanctimonious pronouncements? more heat than light?) As for hard times, they find most of us sooner or later. There’s also a huge difference between difficulties created by chance and those constructed by deliberate (or inattentive) human injustice. My challenges result from the former.

    6. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’ve learnt I can survive and even claw my way back from losing my mind. Now, I don’t say this for sympathy, I say it with pride. When you’ve faced the worst of yourself and survived I think it’s a strong moment.

      On a far lighter note, I’ve learnt my cat is incredibly happy at having his humans here 24/7, although he’s taken to thinking it means more food (no. He’s a chunky boy, was when we got him as a rescue) and developed a new habit of jumping on certain bits of husband unit to get his attention in the early hours.

      Also, everything is covered in cat hair now. Everything.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        (William is a tuxedo cat who doesn’t respond to the name the shelter gave us either. We tried William Catner (that’s now his name on his chip) but no. Now we call him ‘Kirk’. That works)

    7. Trixie*

      I’ve always appreciated living alone and having my own space but it’s taken on a whole new meaning in 2020. I’m living in a rental which is by no means perfect but it’s spacious for one person. Spending so much at time at home at least allows me to use different spots of the house more often. While not huge (at all), there is a designated WFH/online study space and a dining room space used for storage/triage. If I can decide on a sofa/couch, I’ll be able to use the living room more often for relaxing/reading which I often do in the bedroom. (Instead of just sleeping which is my goal.) Also, a couch of some kind would allow for family/friends to stay over when conditions allow. No tv in the living room either but I’m thinking maybe just a monitor connected to a laptop?

      I’ve also learned good habits need regular reinforcement. For me, that means food prep (keep health items handy), daily movement, and organizing/purging. While local donations may still be on pause, I see a couple neighbors leave items curbside with a “Free” sign. I may try this and see how it goes.

      1. Trixie*

        This is all to say I’ve learned to become grateful for what I have and not stress on what I don’t.

    8. Nicki Name*

      I restarted a personal project connected to one of my hobbies, discovered that the reference material I really need is all in French, and so I’ve been learning French through Rosetta Stone.

      (I know there are other apps out there that are more gamified/better for picking up conversational skills– but I’m not looking to have fun conversations with people so much, I need to be able to read college-level texts.)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’ve decided to start learning Russian, so I can hopefully read lots more of nuclear history. Your comment has inspired me.

      2. LifeBeforeCorona*

        My neighbours spend a lot of time in their backyard and I’m picking up Cantonese by osmosis. After a few months I’ve picked up the rhythm of the language.

    9. Disco Janet*

      That I need to stop letting outside forces have such an impact on my mentality. This is easier said than done, of course, but I naturally tend to ruminate on things that upset me, whereas something good, I appreciate it for a moment and then it kinda just fades. I’m working to make a conscious decision to flip those two!

    10. Jackie*

      I have learned how stress moves through and affects the brain. I have learned how the amygdala hijacks the brain to flight, fight, or freeze when under stress and that I can lessen this by meditation.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I learned that exercise helps the immune system short term. Like having cleaners swoop through for a short period each day. So I can’t rely on the exercise I got last month to help me on that front this month.

    11. Elizabeth West*

      Just this morning, we were talking about uncertainty in my meditation group (I’ve been able to join them online) and this weeks’ facilitator brought up something I’d been kind of drifting away from: thinking about uncertainty not as a negative thing, but as possibility. She brought up this story (copied from katinka hesselink dot net):

      There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

      “Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

      “Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

      Another participant pinpointed this as equanimity in the face of all the maybes—that is, all the possibilities—and keeping the focus on the present. I found this really helpful. I’ve been slipping toward thinking that the present situation will last forever (it won’t) and I have no possibilities (I do).

      So that’s what I learned today.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I like this. I find that a lot of the things I can stress about are long-term, and feeling extreme angst about them right now does not actually address them in any useful way.

      2. Jean (just Jean)*

        >thinking about uncertainty not as a negative thing, but as possibility
        Yes, this is a very helpful way to re-frame a frustrating situation. Thanks for sharing it.

      3. Floof*

        Elizabeth, my dad told me this story during our father-daughter dance at my wedding, preceded by the statement that marriage is full of ups and downs. He was fond of saying, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?!”

      4. Keymaster of Gozer*

        My dad has just leant me a book on Taoism, saying it’s helped him during this (I leant him my dragon age manuals in return).

    12. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Somewhere between learned and confirmed: getting outdoors is important, even when I can’t go anywhere. Walking up and down the driveway with a bandanna tied over my nose and mouth does me more good than getting the same exercise in our apartment, without the bandanna.

      And I am practicing being as kind to myself as I am to other people, and also giving other people as much slack as I need. A friend of mine phrased this as “treat your body like an old dog you love, with gentleness and understanding that it can’t do everything you want.”

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I love that old dog analogy. As someone who thought I would be dealing with an ongoing disabling health condition this winter, but then I got cancer.

    13. Falling Diphthong*

      That if I won’t make time for it when my life is quasi-normal, I won’t suddenly tackle it when my life turns quieter and I have time to fill. (Had already learnt this, but re-confirmed.)

      That most sit-still meditations don’t work for me, but if I do something–yoga, art–I get into the flow and don’t detour off to The Present Situation. Exception for the warm blanket meditation, in which you picture a warm blanket (or soothing lake, when it’s already hot) slowly being pulled up your body. For some reason this works for me where trying to relax the muscles doesn’t.

      I don’t even know if this is true, but I read an internet comment that quietly resting your body and mind, even if you can’t fall asleep, has a lot of the benefits of sleep. So the next time I couldn’t sleep, rather than spiral in frustration at how desperately tired I was, at which my mind comes up with other things I find frustrating, I just: zone absently and try not to look at the clock. So much better for my blood pressure.

    14. RagingADHD*

      I have learned how to use the yogurt setting on my instant pot. Yes, for awesome yogurt, but also for fermenting sourdough, rising bread, bringing ingredients to room temp, etc.

      I learned that the layout of my 1950s kitchen was actually designed accordng to ergonomic research by the USDA in the forties, and rationalized my cabinets to take advantage of it.

      I learned how to use the diagnostic codes on my washer and clean out the pump filter

      I learned that I enjoy interactive fiction way too much for my own good.

      1. Floof*

        RagingADHD, do you have any recommendations for another 1950s kitchen owner to learn about the 1950s USDA ergonomic research? I would LOVE to optimize mine.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Yes! My daughter was watching retro stuff on Youtube – look up “A Step Saving Kitchen 1949” from the US National Archives. That will lead you to various other documentation.

          We don’t have all the nifty built-ins, but the overall approach to setting up stations was really helpful.

    15. Wishing You Well*

      I learned I can cut hubby’s hair without drawing blood! (It wasn’t ouch-free, though!)

    16. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

      I really hate to say it — all the other comments here are so thought-provoking and eloquent – but I honestly think I’ve learned nothing from this!

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        Perhaps you have already attained a significant level of calm, enlightenment, or happiness? No problem with any or all three. :-)

        1. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

          I know you mean well, but no. That is kind an obnoxious response. This is an awful situation for a lot of people.

          1. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

            …after thinking about it a little more, my response to yours was the obnoxious one. But this is definitely not an 11 weeks I’m keen to repeat anytime soon and it’s hard to see any silver linings here.

            1. Natalie*

              For whatever it’s worth I think one can have learned something and still rather not do it again. I’m in that boat – I have a 6 week old that doesn’t breastfeed well, so I have learned an enormous amount about pumping. Which I still kind of hate, and is sucking op my life in a way I am not keen to repeat. I’ll probably be grateful for this knowledge whenever I’m physically back in the office, but if I could trade it for my daughter being able to latch normally I absolutely would.

      2. Pommette!*

        I feel the same way. I was already pretty isolated before the CoVID-19, so that hasn’t changed… and I have been lucky in that my job and family responsibilities weren’t changed by the pandemic.
        I just feel like a confused, useless, spectator.

    17. knead me seymour*

      I think the main thing I’ve learned is how important activism is to me, and I’m really motivated to re-dedicate myself to it. Helplessness about the state of the world has been an increasing source of stress, and I think actively resisting, and spending more time with other people who are committed to the same values, can only help.

    18. Kiwi with laser beams*

      So for those who have heard of the Les Mills exercise classes, those are from New Zealand. During the strictest part of New Zealand’s lockdown, they put a few of their workouts on free-to-air TV, and the TV channel put them on its on-demand app. After using those, I found that they have a whole app with all their classes, and that solved a big problem for me. I had been having trouble finding time to go to the gym when I was busy with work, which was causing problems with my health, so being able to do the exercises at home has been a major game changer for me.

    19. Dancing Otter*

      I learned to use a bias tape maker to make ties for masks. I also learned it is still possible to burn oneself using a bias tape maker, though not as much as when folding the fabric myself.

      I learned that cats can tell time, and do not have snooze buttons. Being able to see the tiniest bit of the bottom of the food bowl (At daybreak!) is clearly a portent of imminent death by starvation, and must be remedied instantly.

    20. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I learned that because my family has no will power when it comes to chocolate…and I have no will power when it comes to frosting… devil’s food cake disappears immediately. I haven’t had a chocolate migraine in years, but I did this week!

  7. Thanks to Caroline Bowman...*

    … for the recommendation of the rebounder mini trampoline! I got one this week and it’s fantastic. My joints don’t hurt as much at all.

    And thanks to Falling Diphthong also for the rec of Pilates.

    Lena Clare.

    1. Alston*

      My husband used to have a mini trampoline at his standing desk. He got to gently bounce while the code compiled and apparently it was much ore pleasant than just standing all day.

    2. LemonLyman*

      Thanks for the tip! I have terrible joints, too. Any tips or suggestions for use.

  8. Reduce debt or save cash?*

    I have very limited funds right now and I am unsure what to do with the money I have budgeted. I know the general advice is to pay off debt first but I am also loath to part with any cash. 

    Is there an online calculator that shows if you do x task your score goes up by y amount in z time? I did a quick google search and found some advice on raising credit by 100 points in 30 days. Some of them did seem to be paid services so I’m hesitant on using that. I’ve also seen ads on my social media for services that help reduce your credit card debt.

    As of last month my credit score was 650+. Fortunately i have help with major living expenses as I live with my family. I have a little bit of income from project work and birthday cash. I want to move out this year and I know I will need good credit and cash to rent a desirable place. 

    I have about 4 months of living expenses saved up including potential rent. I have 3 credit cards with a combined balance of around $4000. The total limit is $6000. Minimum payments are $35-50, but I was always paying $150+ so at least 3x the minimum. I guess the only thing I’m stuck at is that I am just a little unsure as to how quickly my score would improve. I could tap in to my savings and clear all my CC debt but I am very reluctant to part with any cash while I am not working.

    1. Natalie*

      I wouldn’t focus on your credit score at all if I were you. Mainly because your financial decisions should be driven by your needs and values. Your score is in the fair to good range, so probably not an impediment to renting an apartment. But also, there’s little action that you could be sure will have this or that effect, since credit scores are proprietary calculations, and they usually work on longer timelines. (Definitely don’t pay anyone making these kind of promises.)

      When you say you could tap into your savings, is that the 4 months of living expenses? Or are those separate piles?

    2. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      You are doing this right and it will pay off!
      The paid services will tell you the same thing you can read in any good article. And many others are scams. Please don’t part with any cash in their direction, RDOSC.
      Search for “how is credit score calculated” and you’ll learn all you need to know. 100 points in 30 days is unrealistic. You can also contact any– or all– of the big 3 (Equifax, Experian & Transunion) to ask how they calculate scores and general improvement strategies. Don’t ask about your situation specifically, they will not answer that. They may also have this info on their websites.
      One thing I do know is that your debt to credit limit ratio is way too high at 67%. Just getting that down will make a huge diff.
      Do any of your credit cards show you your credit score? Not a paid extra, but available to all customers when you log in online. If so, click on that. It will tell you the good and bad about your score. Keep in mind there are multiple diff scores that vary a bit.
      Once a year, go to annualcreditreport.com and get your free report. Then check the option to pay the 10 bucks to get a detailed report from one of the big 3 and learn to read it. If there are mistakes, apply to have them fixed. If you have made mistakes, learn not to. The more you learn the better your score will be. Again, don’t pay to learn, it’s all on reputable (reputable!) sites. You can improve your score yourself and learn so much in the process. BTW, I just read that anything from 700 up is now considered very good. Which means you are closing in on it.
      One last thing. Don’t let minor fluctuations bother you. My credit score is hella good, I don’t owe anybody anything, and my ratio is 2 to 4%. And every month they find a “reason” to change the score by 2 to 10 points. Lol. Go with the general flow, live long and well!

      1. Wehaf*

        The credit reporting agencies have all moved temporarily to one free report per week, instead of one per year.

    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      Ignore the credit score – what’s your interest rate? How much are you paying in interest per month?

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Also, what’s the rate and outstanding amount per card? Could you pay one card off? Does one card have a higher rate?

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Yes this. Look at how much $$ you are handing over to your credit card company each month, and try to reduce *that*. Doing so will help your credit score too, but your best metric is how much $$ you are giving away in interest.

          btw, 650’s a fine score for renting an apartment, especially if you’re young. Anyone who denies you an apartment based on that credit score is looking for an excuse not to rent to you and would probably be a crappy landlord.

    4. Bob*

      This comes down to your monthly income, whether your job is secure, your expenses, your living situation, your interest rates, and not adding to your debt. Do not add to your debt as it is easier to avoid debt then it is to pay it off.
      Cut your expenses to the bone, discretionary should trend towards zero (not that i dismiss frugality fatigue).
      If you delay moving out each month represents a relatively high proportion of your debt. Just the rent savings would multiply your payment schedule. A couple months delay could take out 1/4 or more of your debt.
      Is your living situation secure? I don’t mean financially but if there are personality conflicts or worse going on that affects the calculus as well.
      Without having numbers i can’t give you the exact recommendations you want, i would need to know your income, your total expenses, your expected rent and more, which you probably don’t want to post online.
      Finally covid throws a monkey wrench, you may not be able to easily find a place right now, you may have some stimulus money coming in, your job may not be as secure as you think, you might be able to apply for interest forgiveness or deferral?

      1. Bob*

        I also forgot to mention reducing your interest rate, a line of credit may have a lower rate than your credit cards (or a balance transfer promotion). But can you get these since you did not mention having them now (plus Covid likely makes new instruments harder to get).
        Finally getting out of debt is one thing but its common to reaccumulate the debt in the future, once you have it paid off make sure your budget is sustainable so that you not only avoid more debt, your savings (and retirement investing) is underway starting immediately.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Until you get back to work, continue on as you have been. Don’t spend your nest egg on cleaning up credit cards until you know you have more coming in. Your reluctance to spend cash is spot on.

    6. I don’t post often*

      Hi. I don’t know your situation. Here is my advice. 1) don’t concentrate on the credit score. When you say you want to move out, assume you mean renting instead of buying. If you are thinking of buying, yes you will have a significantly better interest rate if your credit score were 750 instead of 650, but raising that score in 30 days probably isn’t doable. 2)pay down the credit card debt. 3) Find a good credit card payment calculator. (This can be found online. Here is one. I just googled “credit card payment calculator. https://www.bankrate.com/calculators/managing-debt/minimum-payment-calculator.aspx ) No idea what your interest rate is, but let’s say 18%. Paying the minimum payment, you will pay an additional $5,000 in interest (put another way, you will pay $5,000 in addition to the $4,000 you owe) and it will take you over 200 (16 years) months to pay off. Making more than the minimum payment saves you significant cash BUT and this is KEY
      3) DONT CHARGE MORE ON THE CARD. If you are constantly charging money, but paying less than the amount you charge, you are essentially allowing the bank to loan you money at 18% every month.

      Now here is the kicker: perhaps you do actually need something. Let’s say your hot water heater breaks. That’s $1,000 and you only have $900 in savings. In that situation, it might make sense to float the $100 on the credit card to the next month knowing full well the interest you will pay.
      But what is actually “needed”. Many people I talk to in this situation are buying lunch every day and putting on their card. Lunch out 5 days a week, for the whole month is more than $150 per month.

      4) take a look at your expenses. What are you charging to the card? Do you need that? If so, what can you do to pay it off every month? If there isn’t anything you can do to move your expenses and you still need to put money on the card that you can’t pay off every month, you may need to rethink moving out.
      I realize this was long. I’m super passionate about this because many people don’t think this through, and simply don’t realize the money in interest every month.

    7. BRR*

      Im echoing others in don’t focus on your credit score. A credit score is a poor indicator of financial health and really only comes into play for a few events like buying a home or car. If you’re not working and have a four month emergency fund I would hold onto that money. Maybe throw a little extra at the highest interest debt but there’s no telling how long a job search will take.

    8. Koala dreams*

      It’s great that you are saving money to move out. Moving costs, a deposit, the first few utility bills… You will need to have cash on hand. If you do feel the credit card payments are too high, look at the interest rates and fees. Often it’s better to pay down/off the credit card with the highest interest. After that is paid off, you can save the money you would have spent on the regular payments. Of course, without a regular income it’s hard to save anything.

    9. MissDisplaced*

      Normally, I would say to take 1 month of the living expense and pay towards your debt.
      However, given the shaky nature of jobs right now, I say to keep that 4 months, as you might need it.

      But, a lot of this depends on your job situation. As we move back to reopening, if you feel more secure, then pay down the debt more with some of your savings.

    10. Bex*

      I would keep 2 months rent in the bank and use the rest to pay off or pay down the credit card debt. If you can’t pay it all, see if you can balance transfer everything to a card with a 0% promotional rate.

      IMO, there isn’t a huge difference in available cash/credit between the current scenario ($6K credit limit – $4K balance =$2K available credit and $X in the bank) and paying off the card with savings ($6K credit limit – $0 balance = $6K credit plus $X-$4K in the bank.) The very big difference is that you stop spending hundreds of dollars a month on interest.

    11. Dan*

      Ok, so having “BTDT” a little bit in the past…

      1. There are no silver bullets. Anybody promising quick and easy is a scam. Under no circumstances should you pay anybody any money. Many debt consolidation “services” will solicit payment from you and instruct you not to pay your original creditor, causing you to go into default (this is bad). At that point, they will step in and negotiate. This is a shady tactic. I lost a few hundred to one of these places before I wised up. They promised “we can get your rates lowered.” I said great! Then they said nobody would lower my rates, and that was after I paid a month’s worth of payments. They wanted auto-debit privileges from my bank. I cut that sh!t out ASAP.

      2. If you want to raise your credit score, pay your bills on time. You will need to get your utilization down, yours is super high. Try to get it under 30%. That’s the one thing you can do to get your score up ASAP. If you have stuff in collection, don’t pay it. That might be controversial advice from an ethical standpoint, but the thing is, paying stuff in collection doesn’t help your score. The record still exists (even with a $0 balance) and the record itself is the killer. By law, the bad record will fall off 7 years after “last activity”, and payment actually counts as activity. After a certain period (depending on your state) the statute of limitations prohibits collection on the debt anyway. Also, to keep your score up, keep new account applications to a minimum.

      3. Whether or not you should pay down your balances with savings is all about your interest rate. If it’s low, I’d let it be. If it’s high, then I’d think about paying it off more aggressively. Even then, I would pay less attention to the rate, and more attention to the total interest payments. As a starting point, just look and see how much interest you paid last month. At an 18% APR on your balances (not unusual) you’d be paying $60/mo in interest, or $720 for the year. In that case, see if you can find a 0% APR balance transfer, which will generally come with a 4% fee. So you’d be paying $160 to transfer the balance.

      Here’s what I’d say about paying down an 18% card or letting it ride. The longer you let it ride, the longer you pay interest. That $720 a year is real and will eat through your savings anyway. So really, you’re holding on to the cash in the bank for a true emergency, in which case your plan is to… not pay the credit cards and let them go into default, or pay the minimum and let your balances pile up.

      When I re-read you post, my overall advice is to pay off the balances before moving out. You don’t seem like you’re in a position to pay rent *and* pay don’t your credit cards. If “project work and birthday cash” isn’t enough to pay down CC balances without negatively affecting your savings balance, then adding rent to that is a financial disaster waiting to happen.

    12. RagingADHD*

      The only way for any kind of service to reduce your cc debt is to make you a consolidation loan. It is highly unlikely that this will improve your situation. Your credit score is not in a range that should be a problem for renting. Your income history / proof of steady income is more likely to be relevant.

      You are not in a position to contemplate buying now, regardless of credit score. Buying a home involves many, many additional costs in the short term, and a mortgage would be far harder to meet than your cc payments.

      What’s going to happen with your living expenses when you move out, besides rent? Is your family going to help with food, utilities, phone, transportation, etc etc?

      How steady is your income, and would it cover your full expenses on a monthly basis if you were living on your own? If it’s project work, I’d recommend looking at your track record over the past year to see if annual income would cover a year’s worth of expenses.

      When you move out, if you have no further family support and spotty income, that 4 months if savings is going to disappear in a lot less than 4 months, because there are always unanticipated expenses.

      If you are safe and your living situation is stable, I’d recommend throwing all but $1k onto that debt, and then paying it off ASAP.

      You will be able to replenish your savings so much faster without paying on that debt. And you will be in a far more sustainable situation long-term.

    13. Ronda*

      I just rented an apartment and they wanted to see proof of income…. so the not having a job is probably the biggest issue with getting approved for an apartment.

      For credit card paying down vs savings it is about how much interest you are paying. It is generally better to pay it down, (interest received on savings is much less than interest paid on debt). But if you have upcoming expenses, you might want to keep the savings for that. And with the no job = no income you will want to decide how much you need to keep in cash for future needs.

      and even tho I pay my credit cards off monthly, my credit score took a hit a few months after I lost my job, cause no more income. They find that stuff out.

    14. T. Boone Pickens*

      I would instantly transfer your credit card balances to ones with 0% interest rates for the first 12-18 months. You are getting absolutely killed with credit card interest.

      1. valentine*

        transfer your credit card balances to ones with 0% interest rates for the first 12-18 months
        Yes. Then you can increase the payment by whatever the fees were, which should be worth the transfer fee. I don’t know if having them all on one card would work, and you might look into using a different zero-interest offer every year, as well as doing the math on whether it’s best to pay off your highest-interest or highest-balance card first. I would plot it all out on a spreadsheet.

    15. Imtheone*

      Besides the other good suggestions, some charities will take donations of property.

      But I second the suggestions of asking real estate agents to give you their best estimates of sales possibilities. If those choices don’t seem good, make sure to consult a real estate attorney. Walking away doesn’t end your responsibility for the property, so never do that. Better to consult the bank about a foreclosure or other end to the mortgage.

      As people have mentioned, almost all properties can be sold, at the right price.

    16. Jemima Bond*

      Unless the interest you are earning ($4000 of) your savings is significantly higher than what you are paying out to the CC company in interest, then get those cards paid off. I know you don’t want to part with cash but you are parting with more cash each month to the CC companies with all the interest you are paying out. Not clearing your CC balance can mean it takes cards a long time to be paid off and you’ll end up paying loads more in the long run. No need to be in persistent debt when you have the money.

    17. Moocow Cat*

      Make sure you’re paying the minimum balance on your credit cards. Try to pay a bit more on the highest interest rate card. Power paying debts will put more money in your pocket sooner.

    18. Anon for this*

      As someone who wracked up an appalling amount of credit card debt and spent years paying it off, I do have advice. I think I was you actually, because I had about $3k of credit card debt when I moved out that first time and if I had it to do over, I would do it very very differently because it went very very badly.

      Like everyone else here, I wouldn’t focus on the score. That’s really not crucial at the moment. At the worst point, I had an insane amount of debt and a really good score. I still have a really good score. Your score is probably more relevant if you’re buying a car or a mortgage and it doesn’t sound like that’s a concern at the moment.

      1. Going forward, try really hard not to put additional expenditures on your credit cards until they’re paid off. Use a debit card or buy the prepaid ones (with your debit card). Once you have paid off your cards, you can look into one that will give you cash back and as long as you can pay off the balance in full each month, you’re in a better place.
      2. Depending on what your balances are, I would either:
      a) Pick the one with the highest interest rate and pay off more on that one while doing minimums on the other two
      b) If one of these has a smaller balance that you could pay off in 1-3 months, do that and pay the minimums on the other two. Once the one is paid off, start working on the other.

      I can’t tell if this would be your first time moving out or not, but if it is, you’re going to have far more expenses than you anticipate. If you can delay moving out till you get this paid off, I would.

      3. Lastly, always pay into your savings. This amount might be really low now, but get into the habit of doing that. I get a bonus or a raise, I up the amount that goes into that account. Always pay yourself first.

    19. How I Rose From The Dead And You Can, Too*

      It seems like you’re asking about how to predict / up your credit score. I agree with others that a) there’s no good way to do this, and b) 650+ is probably okay.

      It would be nice to have more information, like: how much have you saved? What kind of income / expenses do you have now? How much do you expect to pay to move out to a new place? What kind of income / expenses will you have then?

      I don’t think you should pay off your CC debt from savings unless you’ve got at least 2x in savings. (Ie $8000 or more).

      I understand that people who want to move out often want to move out ASAP. But I think that if you can manage it, your best bet is to live at home (at minimal expense) and try to save and aggressively pay down your debt, for as long as you can.

      Otherwise: let me guess you’ve got $5000 in savings. It costs you $4000 to move out (high, but not unheard of). So you’re in your new place, with $1000 savings, $4000 in debt, and unknown income. Is this a situation you can live with?

    20. Alex*

      Unless you are in an abusive or otherwise intolerable situation living with your family, I *would not* move out until you have your debt paid off, plus 3 months of living expenses saved up *after* accounting for your moving expenses.

      I would sit down with your current income and figure out a budget for yourself as you are living now, and how much you can put towards debt/savings in the moment. How much you put towards debt vs. savings depends on your situation–if your family would be able to totally float you if you lost your income completely, I’d put more towards debt, since you are paying interest on that. Not knowing your circumstances, I can’t tell you exactly what to do, but I’d generally lean towards getting rid of debt if you have a guaranteed roof over your head, food to eat, and medical care. If you don’t have support from your family with those things, then yes, hold tighter to your cash (but still try to pay off as much as you can).

      The biggest obstacle towards getting a rental is going to be your job/income, not your credit score. Not all landlords even do a credit check, and it certainly won’t affect your rate or anything, like it does with a car and mortgage. If they do a credit check, they are looking for egregious stuff, like collections or really bad history. 650 is fine for a rental. And once you get rid of your debt, it will be much higher (keep making those payments on time!), since your used credit ratio is pretty high at the moment, and is probably what is keeping that score down. But nevertheless, the most important thing is having a steady paycheck to show a prospective landlord.

      1. Bob*

        Well put.
        If the OP posts their numbers i would trend towards what your saying, ideally one should have no debt and in this case they have a roof over their heads hence can likely pay off the debt first.
        As many have said credit rating is the small fish in this scenario, income vs expenses is what its all about, their job, their prospects in that job, their projected cost of rent (can they manage the 30% rule), their ability to stay out of debt, other expenses (car cell phone etc), student loans if any, medical expenses and so on.
        Its all about the numbers, and we are lacking many of them.

    21. Observer*

      As others have said, your credit score is not your biggest issue. Even in terms of moving, job history is going to be more important. But, in any case, getting your CC debt under control is probably the single biggest thing you can do to get you score up.

      Do not touch your savings – if something goes wrong that will be your lifeline.

      Also, skip the services that purport to improve your credit score. At best, they are a waste of money in your situation, at worst, they are a scam.

      Unless things are really bad, consider waiting to move till your CC debt is at least down to $1,000. See if you can transfer at least one of your cards to a card that has 0% interest for 12 months, because that will save you significant money that you can use to pay down your hing interest debt.

      I’m not going to suggest that you get rid of your credit cards. But, it’s worth rethink what card(s) you have and how you use them. When you have debt, low interest is you best bet. When you’ve got the card(s) paid down or to a low level, fees should be the thing you try to avoid. Also, all other things being equal, points are good.

      Lastly, if you do have any sort of rewards program on your card, keep using your card – with one caveat. Make sure you pay off your card before the interest kicks in. Either pay off your card as soon as the charge is authorized, or at the end of each month. This way you can get the points, but don’t rack up interest.

  9. Teatime is Goodtime*

    Hello Lovely Community,
    I have been jogging! I managed to crack the 3km boundary yesterday, and I am very pleased. I know many of you runners are much farther along, and I’m always encouraged by that–that means that maybe I could do that too someday!

    What are you proud of this week?
    I hope you are all having a great day! The weather here is beautiful.

    1. LGC*

      Congrats, and keep going! I’m just wondering – how many days a week are you running?

      1. Teatime is Goodtime*

        Thank you so much for your words of encouragement! :) As for your question: that’s a really hard one to answer. It depends quite a bit on the weather, how much time I have available and some health stuff–like how much sleep I’ve gotten and what my energy level has been like all week. This last week was a great one for me: I went out four times. Often I only manage two, but my goal is to be at three on average. I’m still experimenting with what works. Most of the time I’m not even looking at distance–just celebrating going at all. That frame of mind has helped me actually establish jogging as a habit.

        1. TechWorker*

          3 times a week is great! I think it’s worth remembering to give your body rest days so you don’t injure yourself – but that also depends how hard you’re pushing yourself when you’re out. I did not get out this week as I had headaches for quite a bit of it but hope to get out this weekend! The weather is lovely at the moment :)

          1. Teatime is Goodtime*

            I’m sorry to hear about your headaches! I hope they get better soon. Stuff like that happens to me, too, and I’ve even had weeks this spring where I can’t go at all. But here’s to getting back on the bandwagon when things get better!

            And yes, I totally agree about rest! My husband does one day on and one day off during the work week, but he is very good at pushing himself. I think I am more cautious, so I’m experimenting with a different schedule: Monday and Tuesday go running, Wednesday rest, Thursday and Friday go running and then I get the weekend off. So far that worked last week extremely well–I felt like I kept up my get-out-and-do-it momentum but with enough rest to not be stiff…but the real test will be this coming week. And maybe this will all change if I really start to be able to go longer distances and thus longer runs.

        2. LGC*

          You actually have…a healthier approach than I do to jogging or running (two names for the same thing). You’re doing things exactly right – three times a week is probably the sweet spot to start out with, and time is more important than distance.

    2. Pharmgirl*

      That’s awesome! I’m doing a guided run through Runkeeper – “My first 5K”! I’m half way through the six week program, and yesterday was the longest so far: 1 min walk, 1 min run x 20. I was worried I wouldn’t manage it, and I went slower than I was hoping, but it ended up going by faster than expected. Now I’m looking forward to longer running intervals. It’s a 3x weekly program, but I’m giving myself 3 days off between runs to prevent shin splints and get my other workouts in. So far it seems to be working, just have to get up early enough before the heat kicks in!

      1. Teatime is Goodtime*

        Oh that sounds really interesting! I’ve never done a guided run before–do you mind telling me more about what that is and how it helps you?

        And congrats on going for it! Keep up the good work! :)

        1. Pharmgirl*

          I’m actually really enjoying it – and I used to hate running! Before quarantine I used to go to orange theory, and the coaches there would tell you when to walk, when to run, when to add incline on the treadmill, etc. And I really liked having that guide – I tried running on my own when lockdown started and felt lost on what to and how to pace myself properly.

          So I googled and found the runkeeper app – it has a free version you can try too. They have different running programs (or I believe you can customize your own). They create the workout for you, and all you do is press play. There’s a coach that tells you when to walk and when to run. I think there’s also different features you can have the coach highlight, like pace, mileage, time, etc. The one I’m doing is I think their shortest program – but they have guides from the 5K all the way up to a marathon, and the option to customize workouts as well on their paid version. I highly recommend it for anyone whose new to running – I actually enjoy running now!

    3. Trixie*

      For those new or regular runners/walkers, have you also found insoles to make a difference? My shoes are decent but feel the insoles that came with are not that supportive or as cushioned as I like. I’m happy to invest in them but never decided on a brand or style.

    4. Angstrom*

      One thing you might want to try is alternating short intervals of jogging and walking, or what used to be known as “scout’s pace”. You go a fairly small number of steps at each pace — usually 30-60 — and then switch. You DON’T jog until you get tired and then walk. The point is to cover distance at a faster average speed than walking. The distance you can cover this way can be a real morale booster, and it helps you get used to jogging longer distances.

  10. House issues*

    Has anyone ever just abandoned a home? I live in a home that has about $100k worth of repairs needed and my spouse and I are not in a position to afford the repairs nor maintain the property any longer. I would love to leave and start fresh somewhere while I fear spouse is getting into depression as owning a home was very important to them. Over 5 years we’ve spent $150k on mortgage payments, repairs and construction and it feels heartbreaking to leave that all behind with nothing to show for it. 

    The house was built in 1950. Medium-heavy rainfall causes our basement to flood every single time. Occasionally the kitchen sink will clog the first floor shower. The 2nd floor floors are tilted now even though there is less furniture on them. Our house is sinking in the middle so whenever neighbors on both sides wash their driveways or water their garden, all the water comes on to our property. We have no real driveway and rely on street parking on which our vehicles have been vandalized and destroyed multiple times. 

    Recently, we called a plumber and contractor to help with the plumbing issues and they quoted us $30k+ for mold removal and plumbing. We called our insurance but they never responded to us and we read in the policy that outside rainfall isn’t covered, nor is negligence so we are likely to be denied. To have someone do a “fix” outside of insurance is $5k which we cannot afford.

    This home was “given” to us by my in-laws who lived here for 40 years prior. They are no longer here but they always gave us a hard time for not maintaining the property well but we did the best we could within our health limitations. While home ownership was never as important to me as it was to my spouse, I would love to move to a nice neighborhood and buy a nice, albeit small, property where spouse and I can begin our lives. I fear we will never be able to have a good life here.

    Hoping that this is OK to post as there are elements of venting in here but truly seeking a little guidance and definitely open to suggestions. 

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Have you looked into selling it? You probably will not make any kind of profit but you might at least get some money for it. I would investigate and make sure you wouldn’t be legally liable for anything if you just abandoned it.

    2. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      I knew someone who went to the bank and signed over their house. They lost the investment but once the papers were signed they had no more obligation. They were very happy to get out. That was the first I ever heard about it. If the bank doesn’t cooperate, call your state and federal reps because they know what you can do.
      If you just leave you will still owe taxes and could be liable for injuries or local rules. If the authorities knock the place down they bill the present owner.
      With the health issues I’d consider renting for a while to get on your feet better. It’s very freeing not to own. You might find it allows you to concentrate on things that are helpful to you.
      I hope whatever you do works out well for you. I’m sorry this has happened to you.

      1. Katefish*

        This is 100% right – call your bank and ask for a deed in lieu (i.e. returning the house). Ask for the loss mitigation department and then ask for a deed in lieu. If legal title doesn’t transfer, you’ll still be on the hook for fines/taxes after you move out. Good luck!

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Haven’t used them personally but there are businesses like the We Buy Ugly Houses guys who buy places as-is to flip. I think you generally get bottom dollar but it might not be otherwise sellable with the required disclosures (unless you sell as-is, can talk to a local realtor). Better to do either of those than abandon it which might leave you with legal or financial liability.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        We Buy Ugly Houses is the only legit one that I’m aware of; I looked into this for my property. You will not get near what you want for it by going through them.

        Bottom line, if you dump it, you’re likely to come out with a ding no matter what. You probably won’t make much on a sale unless the property itself is really desirable in some way. But the feeling of being out from under it is worth it.

        I second the recommendation to talk to a realtor. I sold my crappy house as is; other people do it; it can be done.

    4. Lcsa99*

      I also think you should be concerned about liability, and try to sell it As-Is. Dep

      1. Lcsa99*

        Sorry, wasn’t done typing that. Dumb phone

        Depending on where you live, I think you can at least get back the $150k you’ve lost, and maybe get enough so you can get a deposit for a new home that isn’t a money pit.

        Whatever you decide, good luck!

        1. Wehaf*

          Given serious foundation and mold problems, the chances of them getting anything over lot value are extremely slim. Saying “I think you can at least get back the 150k you’ve lost” seems unwarranted.

          1. Lcsa99*

            I did add the caveat that it depends on where the house is. I live in NYC where $150k is generally just a deposit, so I don’t think it’s unwarranted and your response is needlessly rude.

            1. Aurora Leigh*

              And here in rural IL 150k can buy you a VERY nice house in town or a normal house with a few acres in the country. I’m always amazed by how the housing market differs across the country.

        2. Grapey*

          “But the feeling is worth it”

          True, sometimes the cheapest way to pay for something is with money. (Vs time or emotions)

    5. Some ideas...*

      I would do two things:

      First, call three local realtors and have them review the property and tell you if it’s at all sellable. You would be surprised what people will buy for all sorts of reasons. And it won’t cost you anything for the evaluations.

      Second, call your insurance company back and keep calling if you have to until they send an adjuster out. Also let them assess the situation without volunteering that you think the damage isn’t covered. You’re paying for insurance and you have every right to expect them to do their job. Again, it won’t cost you anything to have them come out and evaluate.

      Also, on the signing over to the bank. I think that’s a voluntary foreclosure. I had cousins that did that. They’ll still appraise the home and if it’s value is less than what you owe, you’ll be on the hook for that. I think. I’m not an expert so others may have more info there

      I wish you the best of luck with all of this. I think you’re right to try and move on.

      1. Natalie*

        They’ll still appraise the home and if it’s value is less than what you owe, you’ll be on the hook for that.

        IIRC this depends on where you live and what type of mortgage you have. If it’s a “non-recourse” loan, the home satisfies the mortgage regardless of the value of the home, and the bank can’t pursue you for additional funds. Some states only allow non-recourse loans.

    6. Morning reader*

      Not a house, no, but family members abandoned a trailer they were moving from. They didn’t own the land it was on, tho, and it was damaged enough to not be salable. If you own it, sell it. Or, you might be able to do some less expensive things to make it tolerable, a sump pump or basement sealant. Sounds like you don’t like the location so why stay?

    7. Traffic_Spiral*

      Gonna chime in on the “see if you can sell it” team. Also, google realtors that specialize in distressed properties.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I am on Team Sell It. Don’t just abandon it. You’d still have to pay taxes on the property, those unpaid taxes will follow you around if you don’t. The county will eventually take the house but with it all kinds of stuff happens. It’s not good.

      I hope I can encourage you to wrap this up in a legit manner rather than just walking away.

      I think I am more concerned about your spouse not wanting to leave and not getting on board with you. One thing I have done when I have sold things of huge sentimental value is to be very deliberate and very careful what I did with the money from the proceeds of the sale. I made slow and deliberate choices about how that money was used. To this day I can tell you where that money went because I tried to pick things that would improve my life/quality of life, things that mattered in the long run.
      It’s one last show of respect for people’s lives and for their efforts here on earth. Yeah, I got an example. My Nana left me savings bonds. (I know, not the best idea but that is what she did.) I bought a car so I could get to work. Of course the car got old and I could not keep it. I sold the car (which was her money) and rolled the money from the sale of the car into completing my associate’s degree. (My husband and I shared a car for a while.) So her legacy to me also went into my education also. I made that money work for me. That was decades ago, to this day I remember exactly what I did with my grandmother’s money. And of course the degree was something I can keep forever. I’d like to think she would be proud of the way I leveraged her gift to me.
      I went on and have done that with each inheritance I received. I put it into something that would be a long term investment in my own life. Yeah, it helped me to feel better about letting go of a house or car or whatever.

      1. House issues*

        Agree, that is a really wonderful way to look at it. I tend to do this too but on a smaller scale.

    9. Asenath*

      Try to sell it before you walk away – I suspect you would end up with fewer lingering obligations. I once had an old house, and came to a point where I realized I could (a) borrow a lot of money to do repairs or (b) sell the place and move on, but continuing without major repairs or a move would simply end up with the house falling apart, and facing (a) or (b) down the road. So I sold, and bought a much more comfortable place. I didn’t get much for the old place – less than the initial estimates, due to its bad condition – but I grabbed the first offer I got, which took a few months, and it was SUCH a relief not to have the payments, and the worries every time it rained (in case the roof leaked; it had been repaired more than once, but if the wind came from the wrong direction, it still leaked). Or worries about the pipes freezing when it got old. I had enough equity that I could put some money towards my new place, too. The old place was bad enough that some of the agents who looked at it thought it might have to be sold as a teardown, but someone bought it, put in the money and time to reno it (I think he and his family did some of the work themselves, having had experience and skills I didn’t have), and it went on the market again looking very nice. I didn’t regret having chosen not to do the work myself. I found all the expense and effort and stress of finding workers and money to keep the roof more or less intact and the plumbing operational bad enough; renos on that scale I didn’t want to handle. I’d rather watch them on TV in my nice comfortable new place.

    10. Mimosa Jones*

      A lot is going to depend on how much money you want to get out of this. Walking away sounds like a wash, but as someone said earlier, you still might have some liability. And there could be tax implications as well from the part of the mortgage being forgiven. The forgiven amount would be considered taxable income. So your first attempt should be to sell. Or at least to talk to a real estate lawyer to see what your options are. My mom sold a dilapidated old house on a funny lot “as is” to a builder specializing in tear downs in a neighborhood where that sort of thing was common. She researched builders and even worked her way through the phone book and ended up settling on a couple to work with and sold the house to the one with the best deal.

    11. Black Horse Dancing*

      One thing for you–never feel bad if yu do walk away. Businesses do it constantly. Look at it cold, cynically and figure out what suits you. Sell if you can. Good luck!

    12. Impska*

      You don’t want to just let it foreclose since that will hurt your credit and make it harder to get a mortgage in the future. What you need to talk to the bank about is deed in lieu of foreclosure or a short sale. Principal residence debt forgiveness is excluded from tax through 2020 (it is frequently extended, but right now there’s no guarantee it would be excluded in 2021), so it’s something you may want to move in before the year ends.

    13. Babs*

      I’m on team sell it too. I was in a very similar situation. I had a lot of guilt at first about selling. I had thoughts about the tasks I hadn’t gotten to or fixed yet, letting go of the dream, what would a realtor think, was there shame, it was awful.

      However, the thoughts that got me above all of that and spurred me into action was this: There are people out there that can solve problems in amazing ways. I can solve problems in amazing ways but this situation is not one that I can solve so I’m going to let it go. I will not assume that someone else cannot solve this home’s problems and that I am responsible for that. I will believe that there is someone out there that has the capability and let them give this a try.

      I did not call insurance (well I did.when.the basement first flooded and learned insurance was absolutely not going to help.) I would advise against calling insurance again because of the home’s record can and will be pulled by the prospective buyers agent.

      I did find a real estate attorney before a real estate agent and got a free consultation. I wanted to be as honest as I could about the state of the home but I was so wrapped up in the future problems I had a hard time separating that by myself. The attorney helped me fill out the disclosure agreements that are given after a seller’s offer is received.

      Then I called in the top 3 real estate agents in my area, yes these guys sell multi million dollar homes but I wanted an experienced agent who had seen it all. 1 was too inexperienced, 1 wanted us to “paint” over a problem area and I refused because that felt dishonest. 1 agent was a bulldog who I would have hired to do absolutely any job. I did exactly what she said, cleaned the house, staged it with pretty furniture and it had 9 cash offers before the weekend.

      Now a single man lives there and is fixing it little by little. He even built a monster garage where my husband had begged the county to permit us to send denied over and over. I’ll say that is hard, seeing someone else succeed where I couldn’t. I couldn’t give that dream of a giant garage for my husband but this guy swoops in and is able to in less than 6 mos.

      We bought a different house and still carry a bit of the PTSD of that other house. But I can finally sleep, I can finally plan further than the next rainy season. (Reddit real estate has some good advice for similar situations in past posts).

      Best of luck, you can do this step by step and free yourself without burdening someone else, it will be ok, go find real experts in.the real world to help you.

      1. House issues*

        Thank you so much for this detailed post. You are absolutely right about the shame and guilt in it. We’re still a little bit emotional about it. This was a knee jerk reaction but hopefully that will lift and we can think and act clearly.

    14. Piano Girl*

      My sister-in-law was a hoarder. When she passed away last year, we were faced with a real dilemma. We considered cleaning it out and remodeling it, but we were able to sell it as is. I would definitely look into trying to sell it rather than walk away.

    15. KoiFeeder*

      You’re not walking away with nothing. You’ve at least learned what’s important to you when buying a house.

    16. I'm A Little Teapot*

      From my view point, you don’t have a choice. Sell the house. If you can buy a small house that is in good condition, great. If not, renting truly isn’t the end of the world.

      Also, as soon as possible, get your spouse into therapy. Your spouse has hung a LOT of importance on the idea of owning a house, which isn’t necessarily a problem, except that it’s impacting his mental health. So it is a problem. This calls for therapy to untangle all those emotions.

    17. bunniferous*

      You can definitely sell as is if you are willing to price it low enough. Talk to an agent who is familiar with selling foreclosure properties-I sell va foreclosures and I have sold houses in worse shape than yours as is. But again, you will need to price accordingly. But anything is better than nothing!

      1. House issues*

        The projected value when we last checked was at least $400k when checked online and our mortgage is $250k. Although I am not sure how accurate online records are. From what I understand, under normal circumstances, a house would be sold for $500k or so, to get a 100k profit, but in our case, we just want to cover the mortgage and anything extra would be helpful.

    18. MissDisplaced*

      Oh dear, I’m sorry, but it sounds like you have a scraper.

      First step is Insurance. See if they just total the home and give you a payout for the value of the lot or a write off. I would keep beating down and bugging them if your home is insured to get an adjuster out.
      Second. Bank/mortgage company. See if you can turn it over for a sheriff sale auction or buyout.
      Third. Sell with full disclosure. Perhaps the land/lot is worth something? There are those who buy distressed home, but I wouldn’t expect much. Still, you never know until your try and get some quotes.
      Forth: Can you scrape it, fill in the hole, and place another home (like a mobile or modular home) on the lot? If you have some money, this may be a viable option.

      Only abandon the property as a very last-ditch, dire result. Because you will usually still be responsible for the taxes on that nuisance property! Even if you run far away, you are responsible for property taxes and those will continue to mount and this could affect your other assets. As a very last resort, call your city or county and see if they have any programs for distressed properties where you could donate it.

    19. Chaordic One*

      It sounds like it would cost more to make the house habitable than the house would be worth. I wonder if it might be better to just tear it down and then sell the lot. If you end up selling, I hope you’ll be honest about the many problems with the buyer. The drainage problems sound insurmountable.

      One of my friends (a single mother) bought a house that she ultimately had to surrender back to the bank because it had plumbing problems where sewer gas would back up into the house. She was already overextended with making mortgage payments, utilities, insurance and normal maintenance and couldn’t come up with the thousands of dollars it would have cost to replace the pipes that connected the house to the main sewer lines.

      She wouldn’t have bought the house if she’d known about the problem and how much it would have cost to fix it. The price of the house would have certainly been lower if the problems had been disclosed to her. She ended up losing her down payment and her credit took a big hit that took many years to recover from before she could again afford to buy a house.

      Don’t dupe and victimize someone else into buying your problem.

      1. House issues*

        I am so sorry about what happened to your friend. That is a horrible situation to be in.

        I’m not sure how it came across in my post but I have no intention to dupe or victimize anyone. The house issues are visible to the naked eye and there’s no way for us to lie about them. Anybody who sees the house can see what’s wrong with it. Also, if we sell I assume it will be through a realtor or another third party so that there’s no chance of us lying to anyone.

        Just as we feel we were “duped” into taking over this home, we would never do this to anyone else and put them through the emotional and financial toll we are going through.

    20. House issues*

      Thank you everyone for the thoughtful and compassionate responses. I will try to address some points.

      I did a bit of research and was connected to a few real estate investors and two of them will be visiting this week to view the home.

      The neighborhood is pretty decent, it’s a tree-lined quiet residential street but it seems we are the only ones who have had the issues (destroyed vehicles, no parking etc).

      Ideally, we’d like to leave this house with at least a little money in our pocket so that we can put it towards a future down payment. We are OK with renting for a few years and saving up.

      1. Lynn*

        If you end up in a position for a short sale, rent before it closes. A short sale will ding your credit. I ended up in a really crappy position after a divorce where my ex did nothing he was supposed to under the divorce decree and walked away from a house without getting my name off the mortgage. I didn’t have to pay out of pocket, but I did have to pay taxes on the amount that was forgiven by the bank. I probably could have come out even or with a little profit if I had the ability to fix it up. The stress of the whole thing was too much and, for me, it made much more sense to just do the short sale and take the credit ding. I’d already bought a house and a new-to-me car before that time, so I didn’t need to worry about credit for those. The rest of my financial life is such that my credit score will recover. It will just take a little time.

    21. Jemima Bond*

      I would avoid abandoning by which I think you mean handing the keys over to the mortgage holder (bank) as this would have a terrible effect on your credit rating as it’s basically defaulting on a massive loan; you’d be hard pressed ever to get a mortgage again and who knows what the future might hold,
      I agree with others who say sell it and get what you can for it; someone will buy it as a doer-upper who can afford to invest money you haven’t got on renovations, while you spend your more modest amounts of cash on renting a small snug place.

  11. Vic tower*

    What do you think of baby showers? What aspects of them do you enjoy vs not enjoy? I’m fortunate to live in Australia where social distancing restrictions are easing and my family want to plan one for me. I was quite ambivalent initially, but I think if people want to do something like that for me and the baby, I should embrace it!
    I’m aware that lots of traditional baby shower things are not to everyone’s taste, particularly games, so I’m not sure what to include. Honestly, I feel kind of drawn to something a bit hippyish- like a painting or sewing project that multiple people contribute to, or something that emphasizes the community/family that baby is being born into (my actual family is fairly small and my husband’s family are living overseas, so friends are part of our network).
    Also, did you invite men? I’m open to this idea but will need to limit numbers of partners and kids so that the party is still within social guidelines…
    All advice/comments appreciated!

    1. Rexish*

      European here. Babyshowers for us is a relatively new thing and they have been adjusted to fit our culture. Last one I went to was for my cousin and it was a lot of fun. We were in her apartment and brought in cake and some snacks and drinks. Only game we had was that everyone brought a baby picture and the mama to be had to guess who was who. There were some additional baby pics to throw her off. We had as a group pitched in for one bigger gift and diaper cake. So we all just hang out and had some cake and chatted.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I’m British. Baby showers are very uncommon here as we tend to be more squeamish about being seen to seek gifts (for another or for oneself). The result of that squeamishness is that the focus tends to be on Having A Lovely Time With Friends rather than on the gifts, which would be fairly token.

      So for example a British shower might be a big posh cream tea (so much cake, the only time Poms take a doggy bag) with some light baby themed activities like guessing what the baby’s weight/name/ amount of hair will be. No tasting baby food out of diapers.

      The best theme for gifts I’ve heard is to bring a children’s book you personally loved, so baby starts with a ready made library. Alternatively, everyone bringing a reusable diaper* to start a collection – that would be a very eco friendly option but more expensive.

      * my favourites were Bumgenius which seem to be around $30 each in Australia.

        1. Wishing You Well*

          I actually recoiled from reading that “tasting baby food…”
          I don’t think I’ll ever attend a baby shower again!

          1. Natalie*

            For whatever it’s worth, in 20 years I’ve never been to a shower with a gross game. It’s always benign stuff like fill in the name of the kid’s book from the cover or match the name to the name meaning, using names from the guest list.

    3. Rexish*

      A friend of mine went to a baby shower and I think there was a sweet ‘task’. Everyone brought one pearl that reminded them of the mother or a memory they had. Then they put all the pearls into a string for the baby. I’m not a sappy person but this sounded adorable.

      1. Washi*

        Do you mean a bead? I don’t know a lot of people with loose pearls hanging around!

        1. Rexish*

          Ah yes, here we use pearl as a general term and then add the name ofnthe materia in front ie. Wooden pearl etc. But yeah beads (or pearls if someone wants).

          1. Rexish*

            They are beads, used the wrong term. And you buy one from a store. So basically could be soccer ball shaped if you have a memory of your mutual hobby. Or Blue because you have a good memory regarding the sea etc.

    4. migrating coconuts*

      I don’t like showers mostly because of the very silly games. My daughter had my first grandchild a few years ago and I threw the shower. It was mostly everyone just eating and chatting with each other, enjoying the company, and my daughter opening the gifts. We had a tea party theme. Lots of finger foods. I scoured thrift stores for interesting tea cups, and everyone got to take one home. (which they all loved) I also bought tea pots, which I filled with flowers for centerpieces. One guest from each table got to take them home, based on the score from one game we played. We did three things. (1) I made a poster of childhood pictures of my daughter and her husband, and everyone (at their own pace) could jot down what age they thought they were in each picture. (2) I bought a bunch of small baby related things and put each in a brown paper lunch bag. They could feel the bag, and jot down what they thought each item was. (3) This one was kind of crafty. I bought a scrapbook with the clear pages you slide things into. I took the paper out of each one, put a letter or number in the corner of each one, and each guest took one and drew/colored based on whatever number/letter they had. They also could write a note and sign it. You put all the pages back in and it makes a fun book for the little one.

        1. migrating coconuts*

          Thanks! It was both fun to shop for them, and to watch the guests pick out a favorite and be excited to find out they got to take them home. They also got a little bag with fancy tea bags and little jars of honey.

    5. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      Traditional games are pretty divisive, but I like the thing where there are a bunch of plain white onesies and blankets that everyone gets to paint. Just be sure to get several sizes so you aren’t stuck with a million newborn onesies that she/he immediately outgrows.

      I would definitely invite men, but wouldn’t really expect all that many to come.

      1. The pest, Ramona*

        I’ve been to several baby showers where there was a selection of onesies in different sizes for the guests to decorate using permanent fabric markers or fabric paint. I loved the creativity and uniqueness of decor that guests came up with, and continued to enjoy seeing the results for the next year! Highly recommend this (you can never have to many baby shirts).

    6. The Other Dawn*

      I’m in the US. I have four sisters, one of which has five kids, so I’ve been to my fair share of baby showers in my younger years (there’s a 12+ years age gap between me–the youngest–and my sisters). It’s always been just a social gathering of women at someone’s home where we talk, eat things like cake and other snacks (there was always ambrosia), drink homemade punch (homemade punch was the best part for me–I loved seeing the sherbet floating on top until it melted), and open gifts. It wasn’t until the last five years or so, when I attended a few baby showers for friends or adult kids of friends, that I saw structured games being played, some sort of theme (other than the baby) and typically having the shower at a restaurant with a full meal. I’ve never seen any men attend, though.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think this is an interesting theme emerging here, so will chime in that I have never played games at a baby shower. I think TV only represents that version of what’s actually a much wider range of customs–like most TV parties are much bigger and fancier and more complicated than what people do in real life, because it needs to have visual impact.

    7. Ranon*

      I didn’t go do the baby shower thing, but from friends, crafts that I’ve heard of going well are:
      Decorating onesies with fabric pens/ paints (better if your crowd is very crafty)
      Asking people to decorate/ write messages of affirmation on diapers (good for middle of the night diaper change pick me ups)
      Decorating a letter of the alphabet to assemble into an alphabet book

      Given that your numbers are limited, I’d focus on inviting the people you want there, regardless of gender. If the party is meant for you and your spouse, a balance of each of “your” people is what I would recommend- the non-gestating partner also needs a network of support once the baby arrives and this can be a good moment to reinforce that.

    8. PX*

      Your idea of crafty and community type thing is lovely and is what I’ve seen a lot as well (not in the US). Like General van Klinkerhoffen, I’ve seen and love the idea of everyone contributing a favourite kids book. I think something like collaborating on a baby blanket could also be lovely and something that can last for a long time.

      But really, I would say make it what you want. I’m from a culture where baby showers are unusual, but what we traditionally had was a gathering after a baby was born, with the idea being to introduce and welcome the baby to their friends/family/community – and people could also bring gifts to that if desired to help the mother through it.

    9. Catherine Tilney*

      I’m in the US, and I’ve never been to a shower where they play games. It’s usually just gabbing and admiring the nursery. I’ve been to several where the shower organizer has requested we bring a children’s book as part of the gift to stock the little one’s library.

    10. Potatoes gonna potate*

      Im in the US. At the last few baby showers I went to, we did the design your own onesie. At my friend’s first shower, she had the typical games of guess the baby food flavor and guess the candy in the diaper. Can’t think of any more off the top of my head, but imo, they were fun. and they were gender mixed. Mine was going to be all women but it can vary.

    11. B*

      I had a blessingway and really liked it. It’s more focused on passing on support and guidance. There was a ceremony where they made a necklace. Everyone added a bead with a sentiment or positive intention. You can have it during the birth and later in the babies room.
      They still did gifts (because you can’t stop people from buying baby stuff). But it felt more spiritual.
      I also threw a shower once and left out all the weird games. I just converted normal games to baby theme. Baby scattagories. Baby cranium. We all liked games so it was fun. And there were no candy bar poo diapers

    12. Cate*

      The best baby shower ‘game’ I played (in Europe) was: each guest was given a piece of colourful origami paper on the back of which they wrote a wish for the baby/family. Then we all folded our papers into cranes (with the help of someone who knew how). The mum to be then strung them together to make a sweet mobile.

    13. Parenthetically*

      (I’m American but my husband is Aussie, FWIW with all this!)

      I think baby showers, at their best, are just what you say — a way to emphasize and draw together the community the baby is being born into. LOVE the idea of a painting or sewing project.

      I had two showers, one that was just ladies (hosted by my parents’ church in small midwest town USA where I grew up, so a more “old fashioned” style, though thankfully the organizer asked me beforehand about games and kindly did not include any!), and one that was mainly friends — we invited families including men! It was a more casual hangout/barbecue situation and we really loved it.

    14. Fellow Traveler*

      Yes, definitely embrace it! Embrace an environment of support from the beginning. I always insisted on my husband and his friends being included in my showers. (I had two showers; I know you aren’t supposed to for the second kid, but my first child was born early, two weeks before the shower, so we never actually had one for her. Third child did not get a shower.). Here is my soapbox about this: there are so many “mom” specific things in parenting that men are often excluded. And then women turn around and complain that they have to carry the mental load of parenting… And while I don’t argue that women do carry a lot of the mental load of parenting, I think sharing the load starts from the beginning– starts with creating an environment where both parents are expected to show up and be celebrated and supported. Women only events and groups perpetuate the idea that parenthood is a female-centered thing. (Steps off soap box)
      Some ideas if you want to create a more community based experience: we asked for donations to our local diaper bank at our shower in lieu of / in addition to presents – things like a pack of diapers or wipes. a lot of people brought presents too.
      – my friend had people write messages on diapers and gave us the box of diapers. Nothing makes you smile at 2am when you are changing a poopy diaper than pulling out a diaper with some funny/ happy/ supportive words on them.
      – (I might have written this here before)- one idea I wanted to do but didn’t get to was having my friends make an alphabet book where they each picked a letter and made a page of that letter and we put all the pages together to make a book. Maybe if you are limiting the number of guests, you could do a number book instead?

    15. i heart salt*

      The best baby shower I ever attended was hippyish! All the women came mid morning & we painted the nursery, the furniture, and some sewed curtains & crib railings, etc…Then, mid afternoon, the dad & his buddies showed up & they built a raised garden & started the cookout. It was great fun!!

    16. Disco Janet*

      I LOVE the idea of a “hippyish” project everyone contributes to. Long term, you’re going to get a lot more out of that than typical shower games.

      My family and friends know me well enough that at my shower they definitely weren’t asking anyone to guess how big my belly is, or what chocolate bar was smeared inside of a diaper. We did just a couple simple games that involved fun little facts about my husband and I – our moms came up with some cute anecdotes from when we were little and people had to guess which one of us it was about, and had some baby pictures and you had to figure out which of us it was, for example. But I think the idea of creating something for baby is even better!

      I’ve been to showers where guys were invited and had fun at them – barbecues are more my style than girly parties. But since you’re probably going to need to keep the guest list small, it might make sense to limit that. Depends on how your husband feels about it though. Mine very much wanted to be there, but didn’t really care if we invited other guys or not.

    17. Washi*

      Hmm I kind of disagree with the no games consensus here! I’ve been to a few showers where people didn’t know each other well and games saved what would have otherwise been a super boring afternoon of small talk and finger food in a stranger’s living room.

      When I hosted for a friend, I made my own baby animal themed trivia game, which people seemed to like. And another activity was each guest making and illustrating an alphabet book page, which I then made into a book.

      One thing I really hate at showers is watching the person open their presents (I find it very boring plus it there was a registry it’s not like there are any surprises!)

      1. ECHM*

        @Washi – Plus it’s hard to express appreciation in unique ways by the third or fourth gift of a box of diapers :)

        I love the idea of decorating onesies. I have never seen that done at a baby shower before but I’ll have to keep it in mind in case I’m ever involved in planning one! Also loved the idea of the women painting/decorating the nursery and the guys building a garden and having a cookout. So helpful and useful!

      2. Disco Janet*

        I feel the opposite about gifts – I like seeing all the cute little baby things and seeing the parents’ reaction, even if it isn’t a big surprise. I know it’s one of those things you’ll never have everyone agree on though.

    18. Alex*

      I really prefer showers (either baby or wedding) that are just “Show up, have some snacks, bring a gift, chat with friends” type things, which is thankfully more the norm in my friend groups. I don’t enjoy gimmicks or rules or things that are asked of me. I’m happy to bring a gift, and I’m happy to chat and celebrate a life event of someone I care about, but that’s where my cheeriness ends!

      1. Filosofickle*

        This is the only kind of shower (wedding or baby) I enjoy. For baby showers, if I see men are invited that’s a good sign since they don’t typically have the games or gimmicks. And second Washi on not wanting to watch people open gifts!

    19. Falling Diphthong*

      I had two baby showers, one at my work and one from my husband’s fellow graduate students. There was cake and the opening of tiny gifts. I have hosted a couple of showers and the same–it’s like having a midday co-ed gathering at your home where you provide snacks and drinks and open little clothes. Not all that different from a housewarming.

      Some things about baby shower gifts:
      • Many people find them cute. Cuter than place settings.
      • If you don’t have a baby, you have no reason to buy a tiny hat with giraffe ears. Some people welcome the excuse. It’s like if you enjoy plants but live in an apartment, but your friend just bought a house with a yard, so yay you now have an excuse to ponder the rock garden plants at the nursery at extreme length.
      • Price point of an outfit or board book or the nicer baby towels is low.
      • Tiny clothes will be outgrown soon. It’s nice to have some outfits that no one has ever barfed on! If it’s not to your taste, it will be outgrown soon so no worries. (Or, you discover that your tastes change when you are putting the sixth outfit of the day on the urp-y baby.)
      • Ideal realm for people, especially other parents, to hit on things that never would have occurred to you. Like audio Winnie the Pooh read by Charles Kurault. Or music that your kid loves that you are also happy to have on repeat, unlike the handwashing song. Books that were not on your radar.

      1. Old and Don’t Care*

        You’ve described me! I love buying baby presents and rarely otherwise have occasion to buy little watermelon dresses…

    20. RagingADHD*

      I have always enjoyed ones where I was legitimately close with the mom and some of the other guests, or (for me) where the guest list was my close friends and family.

      When it’s a wider circle of colleagues, distant family, or marginal friends, they feel forced and cheesy.

      I’ve only been to a couple that included guys, and TBH the guys just congregated off in the kitchen, while the women talked about pregnancy/birth stuff. So it might as well have been 2 parties.

      IME, the activities never really mattered as much as the guest list.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Oh – and of course, when a lot of the guests have babies/small kids themselves, the dads are often home with them so mom can attend the shower in nice clothes and have grownup social time.

        A lot of the things that make for a lovely shower – the paint, the mimosas, or special china – are not conducive to a party with toddlers and preschoolers.

    21. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!*

      But the men & women! Fathers are important.
      Also, PLEASE don’t do that melted candy in the diaper ‘game’. Ugh!

    22. Chaordic One*

      Like so many cultural things, they seem to have evolved into what was originally intended to be a way of celebrating a new life and helpfully providing the new parents with gifts intended to help take care of the new one, into a kind of ugly “need-for-greed” occasion to grab gifts. A reasonable baby shower should probably have a limit (or at least a suggested limited) on how much guests are expected to spend on gifts or contribute to a group-purchased gift. Parties where guests are encouraged to buy or contribute to designer baby items (strollers, clothes, you name it) seem extravagant and over-the-top, at least in my social circle.

      It especially annoying when you are invited to multiple showers for the same pregnancy (on top of the “gender reveal party” where they also expects gifts). This might offend some readers here, but I really don’t like gender reveal parties. They just seem unnecessary and kind of like, “duh”.

      1. Jackalope*

        I disagree to a point. The thing with having a baby is that it’s expensive to get all of the things you need and can be hard to afford ?and you might not NEED everything but some of the little things can really help). It provides family members and close friends a legit sanctioned chance to help out with expenses that might otherwise be too much while not making the parents to be feel bad about accepting it. It’s kind of like at weddings where everyone who’s already established in life gets to help the new couple get things they might otherwise not be able to afford (since starting a new household can be super expensive when you look at dishes, new bed, blankets, tools, and what have you). Pressure to buy expensive stuff isn’t cool, but what I’ve seen is that usually family and super close friends will get the more expensive stuff like the car seat, stroller, or high chair, people who like buying baby stuff will get tons of clothes, and those who don’t know the new parents as well will get a few packs of wipes or a couple of onesies.

        If you want to make it less about stuff accumulation you could always have everyone contribute to one large gift or something like that. But part of the point is to help new parents get set up with what would otherwise be hundreds of dollars in expenses that they might not already have set aside.

        1. allathian*

          I’m in Finland, and we invented the baby box. All new parents get a box of very useful stuff for the baby and mom, including a fairly hard mattress for the box itself, so that it can be used as the baby’s first crib. For an average sized baby, it has everything from newborn onesies to some clothes up to about a year old. Obviously they won’t have enough clothes, given how often some babies need to be changed, but it’s a start. The boxes also contain things like textile diapers. For some parents, the lack of either pink or blue clothes is an issue, too. I didn’t like the wraparound shirts either, I much preferred the “bodies” that can be opened at the bottom to change diapers easily.
          Baby showers aren’t necessary for baby things, because the government provides. :) Gen X-ers like myself didn’t have them, but they’re not entirely unknown for older millennials.
          When I was pregnant and for a few years before that, I was a mod at a fandom site. The other mods got together and sent me a quilt they’d made for our baby. He’s 11 now and he still uses it on his bed. The site has long since shut down and because I’m not on social media I’ve lost touch with those wonderful women, but just thinking about it gives me a warm feeling.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Gender reveal parties seem like “prom-posals” to me – trying to make a media event out of what is really just a conversation.

        And frankly, a conversation that nobody else is all that interested in.

      3. allathian*

        Gender reveal parties seem so tacky, a gift grab, nothing more. But then, I wanted to keep the gender a surprise even to myself, so I didn’t get an extra, expensive sonogram just to find out. On the NHS here, where all prenatal examinations are free of charge, they will tell you the baby’s gender or at least confirm your suspicions if it’s obvious, but they won’t spend time on trying to get the baby to turn if the baby’s not facing the right way, and mine wasn’t.

    23. Imtheone*

      We had people right suggestions for parenting on note cards at the party, for the mom and dad to be to read later on.

      The present suggestion was favorite children’s books.

    24. Jackalope*

      I’ve been to a few that had decent games. Two that I came across and then used for a couple of showers I threw were a baby animal matching game (a list of the adult name and baby names that they had to match up with each other, ie cat and kitten, etc.) and a Mad Libs game with a passage from two books enjoyed by the person the shower was for. (Anyone who doesn’t know what Mad Libs are, it’s a game where you take some of the words out of a sentence and then have people fill in the same kind of word (say, a noun replacing a noun), and then read it out loud. Note that it wasn’t a cutesy baby passage which made it better. May or may not work for youall but I enjoyed it.

      I also love the library idea; I went to a shower where everyone brought a children’s book that they enjoy and then the kiddo was well prepared to begin a life of reading. You could have those who want to write something up for the baby or put a picture of them with the parents on a scrapbooking sheet of paper with something else too.

      As far as having men at a baby shower, I’ve seen that a few times and have even been to one where the man was there and the woman was not (it was for one of my co-workers so it made sense to have just him, and since the baby decided to come a few weeks early the mom was unexpectedly recovering at home). You could certainly do both men and women. Given the current restrictions on people getting together, you could also have a his and hers separate pair of showers. I’m not saying that because men and women shouldn’t celebrate babies together, but solely because that gives you the option to have twice as many people there if you’re struggling with who to invite (you could space them two weeks apart to make getting ALL the people sick less likely).

    25. ...*

      My advice would be no silly or gross games and try not to put people on the spot. The last shower I went to we had to fill out three separate forms with “advice” and “memories” and it was just cheesy and not fun and felt like homework and then they read them aloud. It was so cringeworthy and was probably the best shower I’ve been to because at others ive had to eat baby food or smooshed up candy bars in diapers. Just serve people food and drinks and talk.

      1. Washi*

        Ew, after reading these comments I can see why people are saying no games! All the shower games I’ve experienced have just been regular party games with a slight reference to babies. Nothing gross like mushed candy in a diaper!

    26. Amy*

      I love baby showers! I had one for my first pregnancy and my friends want to throw another small one now that I’m pregnant again (we’ve moved so it’s a totally new group of people who weren’t around for the birth of baby #1). Personally, I’m all about inviting partners and kids, though I realize circumstances with COVID may make this too risky. I think of it as a party to celebrate the arrival of a new member of the community, so I didn’t want to exclude men or children who are part of my circle. Plus, many of the friends likely to attend a baby shower probably have small kids, and arranging childcare can be tricky.

      In terms of games: contrary to most people on this thread, I think they’re fun. It can also be a good way to get everyone together when the people in the group come from different parts of your life (friends, coworkers, extended family) and may not know each other well enough to strike up a conversation. But I like your idea of doing something low-key and sentimental. At my shower we had a baby animal trivia game, which was cute, and had all the guests write well wishes to the baby in a picture book that we saved to read to her.

      I could go either way on the gift opening. I think if you can commit to writing a nice thank you note to each gift giver, it’s fine not to open presents in front of everyone. Even better, follow the note by texting a picture of the baby wearing/using the gift – people love that! I love giving gifts so it’s a bummer to never see them acknowledged or enjoyed. I do think it can drag on to watch someone open gifts, especially if there are many to go through, but many people do enjoy getting to ooh and ahh over the teeny little clothes and toys.

      A few things that left a sour taste in my mouth from my own shower, that you should do your best to avoid if possible:
      – A family member committed to coordinating food & beverages, then just… never did it. I found this out the day before the shower and it was a big scramble at the last minute to figure out a way to feed everyone the next day. We ended up ordering pizzas, which was not ideal, but no one went hungry.
      – I was fairly new to the city where I lived at the time, so I didn’t know many people and a good number of my guests were family who came in from out of town. I had about ten local coworkers and new-ish friends who told me how excited they were to attend, and then they just completely flaked day-of. Some without even bothering to text. It really hurt, and it still makes me upset to think about it. I don’t know how avoidable this is, but I guess… try to stick with people you can rely on?

      Congratulations on your pregnancy, and I wish you all the best with the shower and the arrival of your little one!

    27. Apt Nickname*

      I threw a co-ed baby shower for my brother and his wife. It was the first baby shower some of the older men had ever attended! I called it “Nacho Average Baby Shower” and the thank-you cards said “Taco ’bout being grateful!” As you probably guessed, it was a taco bar because that was one of the mom-to-be’s favorite foods. Since it was really a party where we happened to have baby presents, there was beer and a grapefruit punch that could have tequila added but otherwise was virgin. The only game we had was having everyone who wanted to fill out a poster with guesses as to the baby’s stats. It was super casual and a lot of fun.

      If you wanted to be mindful of social distancing you could try a kind of rolling open house where groups of people have an assigned window of time to stop by. Like maybe this group gets the first hour, another group the second hour, etc. If it’s outside it’ll be easier to keep your distance and it’ll be less crowded.

      1. Katniss Evergreen*

        THIS IDEA IS AWESOME. I hope your friends had the best time. Also props about the social distancing baby shower idea with rolling times!

    28. Petticoatsandpincushions*

      We invited men, and we asked that instead of cards, people contributed Books to start his library. We got a great selection with lovely notes inside :)

    29. Vic tower*

      Thank you to everyone for their advice and suggestions. So many good ideas! I’m excited now to start planning

  12. WoodswomanWrites*

    Here’s a question for outdoor photographers. I just upgraded to a better camera, a Nikon P950 with a huge zoom capability. It’s specifically designed for nature photographers like me and I’m psyched. Because I’ve used a pocket point and shoot for years, without the kind of zoom I have now, it wasn’t a big deal if my hands moved a little.

    Now that I’ll be taking zoomed-in photos of birds and other wildlife, I’m realizing I need to get something to stabilize my camera so it’s not vibrating and creating blurry images. I’m familiar with tripods, and recently researched monopods but haven’t used one myself. I’m small and a senior, and I don’t want to be shlepping a lot of bulk and weight outdoors if I can help it. Does anyone have experience with camera monopods they can share?

    1. Venus*

      I know this isn’t about tripods, and it maybe won’t be useful to your situation, but I found a way to reduce blurriness that works well for me. I would get a bit of blurriness from pressing down on the button to take the photo, so I started to put it on a short timer. This has the added difficulty of not being able to decide exactly when to take the photo, which is an added complication when it involves animals, but it reduced my blurriness. I ended up taking more photos of the animals as a result of the timer, but the results overall were better.

    2. Inefficient Cat Herder*

      My husband (professional photographer) uses a monopod that is also a hiking pole for backpacking, but for zoom lens I think you are unlikely to find it stable enough.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        I appreciate the perspective from a pro. I’ve heard of those kinds of monopods that are hiking poles but haven’t seen one myself.

    3. Paradiddler*

      Hi, I used to do pro people and pet photography, here’s some things that worked for me: posture and the way you hold your camera can make a big difference. I’m small too, and bracing your forearms against your chest while cradling the cam with your hands can help. Also try inhaling, then when completely exhaled press the shutter. Or you might have better luck with the opposite, completely hold your breath. Soft beanbags that you rest your cam on are a good alternative to actual pods too. Good luck!

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        This is good to know. As an amateur who’s mostly self-taught, I appreciate the tip on posture and breathing. I’ll give that a try.

    4. 40 Years in the Hole*

      I’ve used a neat little piece of kit called “GorillaPod.” Mini, light-weight tripod that folds, bends & twists around branches, fences etc. Tucks easily into your pack; it steadies my Canon EOS with 75-150 mm lens, so should be able to accommodate the weight of your camera.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        I’ve heard of the GorillaPod and wasn’t sure it would be workable, but your suggestion is prompting me to consider it. A lot of my photography is of wintering birds at California wildlife refuges. In many places, you’re actually prohibited from getting out of your car so you don’t frighten them into flight, and I could potentially attach a GorillaPod to my side mirror. I’ll look into this for the car for sure.

    5. KR*

      I got a $30 tripod off Amazon for work (not camera work, holding up a base for a drone). I’m happy with the cheap tripods and the best thing is that they’re LIGHT and if they break, well oh well you only spent $30.

      I do not recommend cheap tripods for any sort of video work because what you want in a good tripod for video work is ability to slow pan and adjust your angle without ruining the shot, and cheap tripods tend to show their cheapness in the spinny-adjusty bits & how well they move.

      Source, used to run a local TV station and have used the super heavy and the super light, the great and the not-so-great of the tripods.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        I didn’t know the cheapo ones are so light. Have you had an experience where they break with the camera on them? I wouldn’t want them to fall over and damage my camera, even with the extended warranty I bought for it.

        1. KR*

          I have not had that specific experience, but a lot of times the cheap ones are so light they tip easy if you bump into them. What can also happen as tripods get older is if you have the legs extended out to make the tripod taller (if that makes sense) one of the legs might collapse a little which may or may not cause the camera to fall over or be at a wonky angle.

    6. Wishing You Well*

      Look into the monopods with 3 flip-down feet.
      Hope you’re happier with your photos soon.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        Looks like a kind of a hybrid with a tripod. I’ll check that out. Thanks for the encouragement for my photos. I’m taking my second outing with my new camera today, heading out at twilight to photograph burrowing owls. I hope to get some good images to post on my blog soon.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Oh wow… I only got my 2nd hand Nikon D40 a couple of years ago and now I wish I’d looked up the new ones. That zoom looks amazing.

  13. Revis*

    I have a relationship question. Couples that have different social expectations/needs. How have you compromised on attending social events together?

    1. Batgirl*

      I’m really against compromise. What’s worked for us is to make sure both of us is happy and content. This is particularly important with social things were the entire point is to have a good time together. You can’t take turns being happy! If one of us isn’t terribly keen, we pass on going together. If you’re going to go alone or with someone else, ask how the other person how they feel about that and check in that they’re happy with the amount of time you do spend together.

      1. Revis*

        Do you and your partner have a mutual understanding on what events you automatically attend as a couple or will you skip any social gathering that you are not keen on? I’m also curious about asking the partner that is not keen if it is ok to go alone or with someone else. Is the purpose just open communication, give them the option to still attend or can they express that they would rather not have partner attend either?

        1. Batgirl*

          I mean the word ‘automatically’ is kind of unnecessary isn’t it? If this is your partner then you’d be talking with them very regularly about every decision even if it’s one you have made before. You also don’t want them to feel like they are an accessory to your social commitments- so why on earth would they feel they need to sign up to future events automatically? They may change their mind.
          To your last point, yes the goal is always constant and open communication. If your partner feels less important than the decision being made then they won’t give you the honesty you need to make what could be a very simple adjustment to them. Of course, you’re showing trust when you do this. Not everyone is reasonable enough to be prioritised in this way and they may make unreasonable demands of you. But then at least you would know that about them.

          1. Batgirl*

            Sorry didn’t answer your question: If it’s a date with my partner I’ll skip anything he wouldn’t enjoy and move to the next option so we both have a good time. If it’s a social event he’s not keen on I will either skip it (if id rather spend time with him) or go alone. A good chunk of my social time is spent with him and so neither of us minds being apart occasionally.

        2. Alexandra Lynch*

          All three of us are not very social, and we’re all good saying “I’m not up to being social now”. BUT. We all know that if we make the effort and it’s a good social thing, we’ll have fun. So we’re learning to distinguish between the background “I’d rather be in a good book” general social setting, and the “I have had people talking to me and been solving their problems and I. Just. Can’t. right now.” But any of us will go without the others, so we work out who’s up to going and who isn’t.

          But we all three have major physical and mental health issues, so we have to take care of ourselves first.

    2. Washi*

      Oh many my husband and I are normally good communicators but we really were not good about this when we moved in together. He thought that if I was available, I would go to all events with him, and when I opted not to come, he would always come home and be like “everyone was asking where you were!!” And I was always like “so? They were just being polite, that doesn’t mean they were desperately upset that I was not at brunch.”

      The thing is, my husband is pretty literal and hates/is bad at any kind of “lying” so it took both of us a while to realize that what was most stressful to him was people saying “oh where’s Washi?” And him not having prepared a socially acceptable excuse and not knowing what to say if I just didn’t feel like coming. We settled on “she already had other plans” because as I pointed out, I did have plans with myself :)

      I realize it’s unlikely you’re having this exact issue but my point is that it’s easy to think you are talking about the issue and end up going around and around with no one satisfied. It turned out for us that we needed to have more of a meta-conversation about the “how” amd “why” we would deal with our social life and the “what/when” followed naturally. In addition to the conversation above, over several months, we also talked about how we would make it clear if an event was super important to us vs just an invitation, our respective feelings about attending events together, and so on.

      Basically what worked for us was to focus on clarifying feelings rather than staking out positions or trying to come to a mathematical compromise on number of events per month.

      1. Parenthetically*

        “clarifying feelings rather than staking out positions”

        This is extremely wise and so insightful!

      2. Reba*

        Great advice!

        Hm, I try to ask after friends’ and acquaintances’ people, because I care about them… but I hope I’m not making people nervous as a result!

        1. Washi*

          I’m pretty sure it’s just my husband and his tendency to be literal :) Certainly if I go to an event alone and someone says “oh where’s Mr. Washi today?” I take it as pure politeness and not a demand for their GPS coordinates!

    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      Step 1: prioritize. Which ones does the person not really want to go to, feel happy going alone to, or which ones can they find someone else to go with? Which ones really are things that they want S/O there for? For the other person, which ones are they just meh about, vs. which ones do they Really Not Want.

      Step 2: Advance planning. Social person hashes things out far in advance so Quiet Person knows what to plan for. Quiet person plans in advance not to waste spoons, and also to get ready on time first, and then pull out the book/game/tv show once they’re ready and waiting.

      I find step 2 is very important. When you make plans and then reneg on the last minute, it can lead to a lot of resentment. On the other side, dragging people out last minute can cause resentment because “I would have been fine if you’d just given me some advance notice.”

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      My husband and I started out with no expectations that we’d do anything as a couple. We happened to like each others’ social groups, and even had some overlap, so we often did go together, but it was, ‘Hey, Event X with Y people’ and then a fast conversation about who’s going. 20 years later, we go out less and the social groups are merged, but there’s some events that we split up so that we don’t have to get a babysitter or dogsitter.

      It boils down to you and your partner’s understanding of ‘what couples do’. Focus on getting on the same page there, let the rest of society’s expectations go.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      My husband was super outgoing. Me, not so much. It boiled down to if we had a share interest in the event or gathering. So he went to events for his hobby by himself usually. However we’d go to the county fair together because we both enjoyed that and we both found things of interest.
      We did settle on activities that were “coupledom” activities, such as taking walks. Later when we got a dog we both enjoyed walking on trails and taking the dog to splash around in the brooks. We found Christmas shopping in July worked for us. He liked driving all over the place (2-3 hours in one direction) and I liked finding bargains. That was a surprise fun thing we discovered for us as a couple.
      If he “had” to go to a company event and I went with him, the next day was a down day where we did more mellow type activities. By pairing up activities like this we were able to do stuff together.
      I think it’s good to realize life together is a long series of trade offs, we trade this for that. And we just keep doing these trade-offs. Nobody gets what they want 100% of the time, but nobody goes entirely without either.

    6. NicoleK*

      I don’t have issues with attending social events solo. If it’s important for my DH to be there, I’ll tell him, “It’s important for me, for you to be there at x event”. This has been our compromise and it seems to work for us.

    7. matcha123*

      I would prefer to attend some events together, but if he doesn’t want to go, I can’t force him.
      Personally, I find it weird when people feel like they need to attend events as couples. Like weddings or things like that. If the other person doesn’t know the couple getting married, why would they want to attend?

      1. Catherine*

        No matter how much I love a friend, I hate going to their weddings alone because the stress of Large Event is compounded by having to try to introduce myself to all the little mini-groups that have broken out and circulate among them hoping that one of the cliques will adopt me. (Somehow, my friends who get married tend to be the ones I have few if any friends in common with?) Bringing a date removes some of the pressure to circulate so that I’m not sitting alone in a corner/flirting with the mother of the bride/eating the centerpiece (yes all of these things have happened).

        1. Reba*

          Yeah, a wedding-type event is one where I’d call in a “do this for me, please.”

          (Of course, if one or the other of us didn’t get invited or a +1, we wouldn’t insist! It’s not a requirement!)

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            One thing that grates my introverted gears is when a partner asks for one very important event–big wedding, big work thing–and the other partner tries “Oh but I have introversion.”

            One example I remember it wound up being a wake up call–the one partner was SO careful never to ask anything of the other, and then finally the Big Thing came and she asked, and he wouldn’t because it didn’t sound fun and he’d rather stay home. And OP realized how hard she had compromised, by herself, never asking even though there were so many things she would have liked to do with him along, and her partner never noticed all the not asking. It had not once registered as a nice thing she did for the two of them, or taking care of him, it was just acknowledging that he didn’t want to ever be asked to appear as her social partner at any event that was for her, rather than built around himself. They were now exes.

        2. matcha123*

          I haven’t been to many weddings. I think the largest one I went to had maybe 150? people and I sat at a table with strangers, but the bridge did try to make tables of friendly people.
          I am definitely with you on being terrible at mingling. I asked my SO to join me, and he was invited to join, but he said no. The wedding was overseas, so there was that, too. I guess it would have been nice if he’d come, but at the same time something about a bunch of couples sectioning themselves off and not really talking to other people kind of strikes me as iffy…(not saying you do that)

    8. Analyst Editor*

      This hits home to me, because in my family, my parents and their friends all do things together, as couples; for me and my spouse, him not wanting to socialize so much was very stressful and upsetting.
      Ultimately, the following things helped:
      -my family got used to him not participating in a lot of stuff so they laid off me asking why isn’t he at dinner with us, etc., And I felt less pressure to lay off him
      -I kind of got used to going places myself…
      -BUT I also got better at planning in advance and giving him lots of advance notice, asking his preferences multiple times, and giving him lots of outs for events except when I really want him to go. To me it’s almost as important that he was willing to go, for my sake, as that he actually went

    9. Not A Manager*

      In my relationships, we didn’t really “compromise” on attending events “together.” We mostly let go of the idea that we had to move in tandem through these things. (This is true not only of social events, but also hobbies and interests. I’m happy to fly home one day early from a vacation and give my husband an extra day to visit the local Amazingly Boring Museum Of Amazingly Boring Items. He’s happy because he gets to spend as much time as he likes without feeling that he’s burdening me.)

      In my current relationship, it seems that we’ve fallen into a pattern where one person takes ownership of a particular event or relationship, and the other one can opt in or out as much as they like. That’s not something we explicitly decided on; it developed organically but it works for us. I have friends and relatives that I mostly keep in touch with. My husband probably joins me on about 25% of those interactions. And he has some friends where I might make a quick appearance when they come over, and then I’ll excuse myself.

    10. Falling Diphthong*

      Anecdote that stuck with me: Someone more introverted dating someone more extroverted. Agreed on signal that she was ready to go. She signaled, they left! Next party, same thing. Realizing that he would meet her needs rather than always try to hit instant renegotiate made her feel more secure, and thus happy staying longer at gatherings since she didn’t feel trapped.

      I think respecting each other’s needs and limits is important–the introvert can socialize a bit more, the extrovert leave a bit earlier. If you feel the other person is accommodating you, it’s easier to accommodate them. And allow each other to do things on your own–but there needs to be balance, you can’t refuse to ever accompany your social partner to anything or what is the point of a social partner?

      1. Avasarala*

        I think this is an important thing to have in any partnership: the go signal.
        Committed partners should be able to communicate with just a look: “You wanna head out? Because I do.”

    11. Wishing You Well*

      Committed couples don’t have to be attached at the hip. They can do their own thing – or not. Every couple will hopefully find what works for them. I don’t attend certain functions anymore that hubby is free to attend.
      For parties or weddings, etc., it might be very useful to arrange separate transportation so each person can leave when they want to. A little respect and acceptance goes a long way here.

    12. RagingADHD*

      We just discuss individual events (or social groups) as they come up.

      “Honey, the so-and-sos are doing a thing on Thursday (or every other thursday). I think it sounds fun.”

      Then, depending on the situation, the follow up might be “do you want to come with,” or “any issues if I go” (meaning logistical/double-booking/childcare issues), or “it’s a couples thing, shall we go?”

      We’ve always done some things together and some things on our own. Plus kids, work, and health things over the years means we often have different availability.

      So there never was anything to compromise, just communication.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Ah, reread your question.

        I am more introverted, partner is more extroverted. But I don’t have social anxiety/avoidance, so it’s not any kind of hardship to attend mutual functions even if they aren’t super great. We both come from families where showing up/making an appearance is highly valued and a basic expectation for important events.

        Christening, graduation, wedding, funeral, holiday dinner = important functions. Preschool “graduation”, sports matches, birthday parties, performances our own kids aren’t in = not important, just optional.

        Generally, we both assume that family life events are for both of us and the kids, unless there are practical issues that preclude it. Friend life events, wed assume both of us should go. Colleague life events, probably an individual thing.

        Most stuff involving our individual friends/connections is separate, unless specifically intended as a couples or family-and-kids event.

    13. Jackalope*

      One of the things that has been less mentioned in the other comments was finding a system to indicate when it mattered and when it didn’t. I have a few events each year that I will let Mr. Jackalope know are essential, like unless he actively has a fever I need him coming and supporting me (funerals or weddings, family Christmas, things like that). Then I let him know if I’d like to have him there but it’s not required, and he comes to some of those but not all of them. Finally there are the events where I tell him he’s welcome but I’m fine either way with what he chooses, and those are 100% based on whether he wants to be at the Event or not (Event being a strong word here; it could just be dinner with friends). I’m the more social one, so it’s usually not an issue the other direction, but if he’s doing a thing with friends and I don’t want to make it he’s also fine with that. But being able to say “this is super important to me; I need you there” vs. “we’d love to have you if you can make it, if not we’ll be fine” has helped.

    14. Star Nursery*

      We send each other a calendar invite and that makes it easy to accept the ones we both want to attend. If we need to discuss something we may also have a text, phone call or in person discussion. Sometimes some events feel more important to one of us to have their presence so at times we decide to attend because it’s important to the other. But all activities or events interest both of us. Sometimes one of us needs extra down time or a break from having to go somewhere so sometimes we plead exhausted and skip.

    15. allathian*

      We’re both fairly introverted, but my husband and I have largely separate friend groups. We’ve also been a couple for 15 years, so we’re friendly with each other’s friends. Pre-covid, my two good friends and I would take turns hosting an evening at one of our homes, usually non-alcoholic drinks and finger foods, husbands and kids invited. Now the kids are old enough to spend time with each other without constant supervision from parents. They usually take turns playing on whatever games console is available. They’ve grown up together and seem to get along. At least so far, there haven’t been any fights or tears at our parties! Each of us hosted a party about twice a year, so it’d work out to us meeting once every two months on average. We’d also invite another mutual friend of ours, who’s single. She’s a very good friend, but she has some mental health issues that makes it very hard for her to host, so we don’t ask her to (she’s been on disability for most of her adult life). She attended when her mental health issues let her do so and she’s always welcome, but if she idn’t feel up to it, we naturally didn’t pressure her at all. My husband gets along well with my friends and their husbands. All of the guys are engineers and hi-fi buffs as well as long-distance runners, so they have plenty to talk about.
      About once or twice a year we’d go to a girly movie, dinner and a few drinks, home on public transit. My husband and I would go on date nights every couple of months as well, usually to a movie. We have a fairly similar taste in movies and usually go and see the big blockbusters together. He occasionally goes to see a horror movie by himself or with a friend, but I can’t deal with those. He isn’t really interested in period dramas or movies like Mamma Mia! so I watch those with my friends.
      My husband’s friends host adults-only parties, sometimes SO’s are invited, but mostly we aren’t. I get along with the wives and girlfriends when we spend time together, but they aren’t my friends in the sense that I’d seek their company if it wasn’t for my husband. Oddly enough, many of his friends live within walking distance, so drinking is always involved when we see each other. Sometimes I opt out of these even when spouses are invited, but that’s usually for childcare reasons. That said, pre-covid it was usually very easy to get a babysitter for our son, my parents or MIL were more than happy to volunteer!
      This is how it works for us.

    16. Revis*

      Thank you for your responses. They are very interesting and gave me a lot to think about. I’m the one that has more of a expectation to show up to things as a social unit. I didn’t use the words extroverted/introverted cause I feel like those terms are oversimplified.

      I have no desire to be attached from the hip, but I do have a strong family culture where the expectation (in a positive way) is to show up with your partner (and kids if you have them) to certain things. I can go to things on my own as I have gone before, but now that I have a serious boyfriend I’d like to go with him. I kind of have this expectation that it is just part of becoming part other ones life. I hold myself up to the same standard. He doesn’t share this expectation at all.

      I’m not sure I’m willing at the moment to accept that everything is optional and you can opt-out if you are not keen (for me these would be weddings, funerals, graduations, big birthdays etc.). I do have my own social life and I’m very happy to see my friends and family on my own and I’m not at all expecting my bf to attend everything. I’m willing to think deep about if I need to change my mindset.

      I do need to work on accepting that I need to let go some of the couply things that I had envisioned. I guess the problem part is knowing what I’m willing to let go and to which I need to use the ‘It is important to me’ card.

      This makes it sound like I’m very social and there are invites flying around. This is not the case at all. There just has been a few instances that triggered this now. This ‘problem’ has built up over the years and as I’ve gotten older the nature of gatherings and values has changed.

      Thank you for your comments and different view points.

      1. Jackalope*

        Keep in mind that you’re allowed to have this be a dealbreaker, too. I am hopeful that you can come to an understanding and an agreement that works with your partner, and find something that works for both of you, but if not, it’s okay to have this be something that you stick to your guns on, and maybe it means that the two of you aren’t compatible. And it’s okay to pick some events and say that you need your partner to come to those.

        (I will also add – and you may have already thought this through – that it’s a much bigger issue if he isn’t reciprocal. One of the things that made my compromises in this area okay with me is that it goes both ways; if I have a less essential [non-wedding/funeral/etc.] event that Mr. Jackalope doesn’t want to go to, then he can skip, and likewise if he has a less essential event that I don’t want to go to I can skip, and both of those are fine. If your partner feels that he can skip out of your important events and that’s fine but you have to be at all of his friend gatherings and it’s not okay for you to bow out, that’s more of an issue.)

        1. Revis*

          Thanks for this. I’m willing to accept that this might be a deal breaker but not without talking about it and thinking about options. The idea here was to prepare me for that discussion and to hear how others have handled it and kind of self reflect based on responses.

          Well, we do have a problem with the recprocality. As in, he has no social happenings where I could/should participate or ever even have the chance to not be keen. On the rare occasion there is something on his side, I’m more than happy to go.

      2. allathian*

        Sounds to me like you need to talk to your boyfriend about this, and be explicit about why him showing up for you socially is important to you.
        You’re not saying it, but I think that showing up to important events for the other person is a way to show love, and if they’re not willing to do that, it’s hard to feel like the other person is as committed as you are.
        There were other issues, but one reason why I broke up with my ex was that he never wanted to visit with my parents. My sister had been dating for several years by then, and her boyfriend always celebrated Christmas with us. A part of the reason was that his parents were divorced and the divorce was acrimonious, so although they were adults at the time, he hadn’t celebrated a proper family Christmas since he was about 10 years old (after that there were fights, too much alcohol and cops coming to get the dad to spend the night in jail). Anyway, he loved our family Christmas and I wanted to have my boyfriend there, too. He didn’t want to, and that wasn’t because he would otherwise have spent Christmas with his parents, either. He wanted to hang out with his friends instead. We dated for two years, he met them twice during that time. To be fair, I only met his parents once, but they lived a four-hour drive away.
        These days, we celebrate a family Christmas at our house, with my parents, sister and in-laws.

    17. Katniss Evergreen*

      I am a much more extroverted person than my now-husband, and therefore make many more plans than he does. I often make “me” plans and not “us” plans, but our biggest issue… he used to do a $hitty thing where he’d originally say he would like to attend a *thing* and when we got closer to the thing he would renege. This was frustrating to me on loads of counts, not the least of which was that people would expect him there and I’d have to lie in some way to make him seem like he wasn’t just feeling unsocial or being an ass that day. I completely understand having the need for personal space and significant amounts of alone time for introverts, but it was the last-minuteness of the reneging that really made me angry.

      This came to ahead when he wanted to flake on my cousin’s wedding, 2 weeks before we were supposed to go (RSVPs handed in, hotel room booked); I exploded and said the reneging had to stop unless there was a physical illness reason why he couldn’t be somewhere. That no longer happens, he keeps his word, and has developed a better barometer for when he’s been accepting too many commitments. I’ve also gotten better at making my own plans and saying to some people “it may just be me this time, Mr. Evergreen likes his 1:1 time with the dog” up-front. At some parties where he knows fewer people, I don’t push him to mingle – e.g. I handled that at our delayed wedding reception while he drank beer with our friends and we both very much enjoyed ourselves (that party in particular was also really heavy on my mom’s extended family, because they paid for the thing and husband’s family could only come to the wedding itself).

      1. allathian*

        Good for you! I’m glad you got it to work, even if it took an explosion.
        For my husband and myself, I’m happy that we are about equal in sociability. Three years ago, my husband’s cousin’s daughter got married. It was a big wedding, about 250 people. I didn’t know anyone except my in-laws. All of us went to the wedding, but my in-laws skipped the reception and babysat our son instead.

    18. KR*

      My husband has a good idea of how likely I am to go somewhere, whether I definitely would want to do something or potentially not. I am an extreme introvert and my husband is sociable and extroverted. We check with each other when making plans with other couples or good friends, where an absence would be notable. For drop-in parties I’ve been known to hang around for anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple hours and go home early, and my husband will get a ride home later or I will come pick him up when he’s done. We talk continually and I have tried in general to avoid forcing myself to see people I don’t want to see or go home if I’m not having a fun time somewhere where before I always felt like I had to stay for the whole thing and go to everything. My husband knows it’s nothing against him and sometimes feels bad leaving me home, but understands and respects my need for alone time.

    19. Lemonwhirl*

      My 34th birthday present to myself was to announce that I was no longer going to parties except for weddings. I did not enjoy them at all. I was happy for my husband to go to all the parties he wanted and stay as long as he liked, but I was done.

      I got some flack at work because the Christmas Party was a big deal there, but the quality of my work was good and I was otherwise a team player, so I just ignored the very small fallout from it. My husband was unhappy at first – until he went to a party without me and realised that he had so much more fun not having to worry that I was having a bad time.

      1. Revis*

        I’m really glad this worked put for the both of you. Does this only refer to bigger parties or any gatherings? Like , will you see the in-laws? Do you go for coffee and cake when it is your nephews birthday? Do you ever have people over or meet with another couple? Also, why weddings are different? I’m not relating this to my OP at all, I’m just curious :)

        If your husband would not have been ok in the end would this still have been the arrangement?

  14. Batgirl*

    Does anyone know of a good free budgeting app that doesn’t link to your bank account? I suppose I’m looking for something like MyFitnessPal but for money instead of calories.

    1. Natalie*

      The one I like isn’t free, but on the bank account linking – you can always opt not to do that if you don’t want to. You’ll just have to enter your transactions manually.

      1. Babs*

        I liked every dollar which is Dave Ramsey one, never linked bank account. Although, I have to say it was easier to set it up on a computer at the beginning of the month than on my phone, so keep that in mind.

    2. Trixie*

      I recently saw a Youtube review by Marble Jar channel, “Mint vs. YNAB vs. EveryDollar Pros and Cons” and it included a good review of what’s included and how they compare.

    3. fposte*

      There are free Excel templates you could download if you don’t mind Excel. However, I use a little app called Best Budget–it’s completely standalone, no linking. If you like the free version, you can upgrade to the pro version for a whopping 99 cents.

    4. Detective Rosa Diaz*

      I use Goodbudget and am quite happy! You can put your income into virtual envelopes, monthly but also yearly. The app is convenient and easy to use. If you have a very complicated financial situation, it might not be the ticket, but for me and my straight forward spending and savings habits, it works just fine.

  15. LGC*

    Okay, so, I need to talk about Boston getting canceled. (Well, technically, they’re running it as a virtual race, but…)
    More to the point, I need to talk about racing in the time of COVID-19 (since it intersects with my passions for both running and general nerdiness).

    Right now, although it looks like larger races like the World Marathon Majors (Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York) are almost certainly not going to be cleared to go this year…it looks somewhat more optimistic for small local races to be cleared, depending on how things go. Part of that is because of new research pointing towards outdoors activities being far less likely to spread COVID (although density overrides that). Even in New Jersey, non-contact outdoor sports look like they might be cleared next month. So, I could definitely see in-person races going off in the fall or even late summer. Which leads to a few questions:

    1) Would you consider doing in-person races? I’m still very much on the fence, myself. I don’t know if I would or if I could, even if there was a cure or a vaccine. And I’ve probably already had COVID at this point.

    2) If you do race, what would it take for you to consider coming back? I’ll be honest: right now, it just feels wrong to be in a crowd, and I’m not sure when it’ll feel okay again. (Like, I kind of instinctively recoil now when I see photos of crowds!) Clearly, this isn’t going to be forever – we went from “horrifying plague” to “drinking bathtub gin in illegal bars in fringed dresses” in like 2 1/2 years – but at least for now, it still feels like it’s…disrespectful, almost, to do things that look like they might spread COVID.

    3) And finally, what do you think about virtual racing? I’m asking because…like, I have feelings about virtual races. I think being on the sidelines has taught me that I’m just an extremely competitive person, and I like beating people. In person. So I just can’t get fired up that much to do virtual races.

    I’ll still sign up, especially if they have interesting swag. But it’s just a higher barrier to entry.

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

      I can’t wrap my mind around virtual races. I almost signed up for a cool-sounding one that my running org is putting on. But it’s $60 and just as I was about to pull the trigger, they posted on Facebook that, oh by the way, the awesome black lightweight hoodie we advertised as swag might actually be an ugly white or baby blue one. I know it’s for charity, guys, but that’s still bait-and-switch. Nope.

      The chances of me losing my job are small but it’s a number that’s not zero. I can’t justify spending money on virtual races. It has to be the real thing for me, and I’m totally understanding that that won’t be anytime soon. I’m on the same page as you at re: how I feel about that. Honestly I thought races were getting too expensive and overhyped for what they were and was doing much fewer of them anyway before this plague came. But I feel gutted for folks like you that are really passionate about racing.

      1. LGC*

        That is garbage! Although I’ve heard of a lot of races doing that, where they only guarantee the cool swag to the first x signups. (They might not say that x is a really high number that’s more than the number of expected signups.)

    2. Running*

      I have been pondering this. I am signed up for the NYC tri in mid-July and I just can’t see it being safe enough then – even for me, who is a back of the pack person, so I do end up alone a lot. It’s kind of heartbreaking. Before all this started I was on track with a training program but now, that also has blown out. The organizers have said they will let us know soon if they cancel and a part of me kind of wishes they do because then I don’t have to decide on my own safety – I guess I’ve already decided I won’t take part.

      1. LGC*

        I’m in the same boat, myself. I was relieved when Boston’s mayor canceled because it meant I didn’t have to make that decision.

        (Secretly, I’ve been kind of relieved because my training was horrible this winter due to injury, but I didn’t want things to end like this!)

    3. Morning reader*

      Not a runner, so this is an observer perspective. My family in Hawaii tells me that Iron Man has been moved to January overlapping with the timing of my next visit! So if that works out, I’ll get to see it. Hawaii currently has a mandatory 14 day quarantine for anyone arriving. I doubt that will still be in place next year, but if it were, I would feel comfortable there. (Would make it a very different contest if everyone was confined to a hotel room for 2 weeks beforehand!)
      Question back to you on 1: why would a vaccine and/or treatment be insufficient to bring you back?

      1. LGC*

        Basically…it’s more like I don’t know what would bring me back! It’d be “safe” if there was a treatment. (Less so if there was a vaccine – I’ve heard that only 50% of Americans would be willing to take one, and while the concerns aren’t entirely unwarranted and while I myself would be likely to get a vaccine…)

        In a way, I do want to get back to my old normal. But it also feels like my old normal was risky and irresponsible. I’m sure that’ll change eventually, but I’m not sure how long that will take.

    4. Roly Poly Little Bat-Faced Girl*

      I’m not comfortable doing any races this year and am not interested in virtual races. I have a race that I do every Labor Day and I’m disappointed to mess up my streak. My plan is to train for the distance and perhaps race it on my own sometime around Labor Day (although I’ll need to find a flat area to mimic the race course). Maybe that counts as a virtual race?

      Again, it’s disappointing, but I’m not going to take an unnecessary risk.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        That’s exactly what a virtual race is. You pick your own location and timeframe and do the mileage.

        1. Roly Poly Little Bat-Faced Girl*

          Except I’m not going to pay anyone for the privilege of doing it.

    5. CheeryO*

      Ugh, virtual races. I’m signed up for a couple summer-long challenges, mainly for the community and to keep my motivation up without a goal race on the calendar. I don’t plan on doing any time trials or anything like that. I need the competition to be able to race well.

      Personally, I’m not going to feel comfortable in a medium/large race until there’s a vaccine or herd immunity, and I’m kind of doubtful that we’re going to get there in time for next spring’s races. I’d consider a small trail race or something like a casual ultra on a loop course, but only if it was far enough under the radar to avoid attracting people from out of the area.

      Also, honestly, if someone tried to schedule a race right now, I think they’d get a ton of pushback from the community itself. At least in my area, most of the running community is very supportive of the isolation measures, almost to an extreme extent (calling out people for being outside without masks even when they’re able to maintain social distancing, avoiding any route where they might see people, etc.). I’m curious if this will start to change as people get more quarantine fatigue.

      1. LGC*

        That’s honestly been my plan. There were a couple of interesting challenges, which I feel like I can deal with better than a “virtual race” (which I end up just treating like a challenge anyway).

        I’m a road guy still, but most local races don’t really gear up registration until about a month out – so I wouldn’t know what the fall looks like until at least August. Even large locals (like the New Jersey Marathon) will open up six months in advance…but probably won’t make calls until September. For comparison, Brooklyn Half (NYRR’s version, not NYCRUNS’ version) didn’t cancel until about a month before – and Brooklyn is one of the largest half marathons in the world (and I think the largest in the country). But back then (I can’t believe I’m saying this), we didn’t know as much.

        Funny enough, we’re not quite as extreme here, it seems! Most people are out without masks in places where it’s possible to maintain distancing and stay outdoors (like the parks), although to be honest…many people are avoiding parks for the most part.

    6. Lost in the Woods*

      Right now, I really wouldn’t feel okay doing in-person races. Part of that is because I work in (outpatient) healthcare and even though I’m not dealing with COVID+ patients and personally have no symptoms, I’m acutely aware of the possibility of asymptomatic spread. I don’t want to be a vector of infection in either direction. I think if we had better testing infrastructure and more effective testing, I’d feel a lot better, but I don’t know when things will begin to be safer. I was hoping to run my first half marathon in the fall but I doubt that will happen.

      I don’t like virtual races. If I’m going to be doing a race at race pace, the race experience is really part of it for me. I also have a hard time getting excited or pumped up enough. I’ve been creating personal challenges instead – like we have some parks in our area with statues and I’ve been planning to try and run to all of them. Running a route with all of them on it is just above a marathon, so if this goes on a whole lot longer I might try and work up to that.

      1. LGC*

        That’s honestly been my approach as well! Although it feels like a distinction without a difference to some degree – like, they’re both personal goals. It’s just that…for a lot of virtual races, you’re paying money to do it.

        I’ll do it in certain cases – if it’s in support of something I really want to support, for example. (But it won’t be an all-out effort.) But in general, I think part of racing is the raceday experience, and I don’t think you can fully create that on your own…without hosting an actual race. At least for me, personally – I also think that if you run 26.2 miles faster than you ever have, it doesn’t matter whether it’s an actual race or if it’s a virtual marathon, it’s still a PR.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I second better testing infrastructure, for feeling okay about this and other gatherings.

    7. Old and Don’t Care*

      I would do a fall race. I’m signed up for a small half marathon (in a state with little Covid), and if they have it I’ll go.

      I would not feel comfortable doing larger races, U don’t think. In a smaller race I could wait in my car until close to start time; less feasible in a larger race.)

      I think there are things that small to medium races could do to spread out crowds. That might be more expensive, though. For larger races if they can’t hold an expo that would change the financial calculus too. And lots of things to think about regarding water stops and portolets.

      Bottom line I would do a smaller low key race but for a lot of reasons don’t see many races happening this year. No interest in virtual races.

    8. Angstrom*

      Not a runner, but I’ve done a lot of virtual bike riding and a bit of racing on Zwift(which also has running events). I was surprised to find that it does fire my competitive streak. Part of me knows I’m staring at a monitor in my basement, but there’s that guy ahead of me on the hill and I’m not going to let him beat me to the top….. I’ll set out for what I think will be an easy spin, get passed by a few people, and the wattage will start to creep up…..
      You can also run/ride with real friends in the virtual world. Might be worth a try.



    9. Falling Diphthong*

      A note about in-person marathons: As you note, density is a big thing. But it’s also the case that extreme exercise and the resulting inflammation makes one MORE susceptible to disease. Marathon runners had observed that they felt protected leading up to a race, less likely to get sick. But that they were far more likely to get sick in the two weeks after a race. Scientists tested this, and both observations were true. (I will provide a link to the podcast; was referred to it by my local cancer resource place as races were postponed in March.) So the scientists approved of cancelling the races–both in terms of density and in terms of disease susceptibility, it was not good as the pandemic spread.

      I type that as someone who really wants my teenager to be able to get back into the team sport that usually centers his social life. He’s doing a lot of internet chess.

        1. LGC*

          Yeah, I’ve heard that…and experienced that! (After my first half marathon three years ago, I had a cold that lasted for two weeks. It was awful.) It’s a fairly well-known phenomenon.

          That is an additional risk that I didn’t consider in my OP, although…I think it’s similar to other mass events. And it really depends on the person and how much strain they’re under.

    10. Bob*

      For me:

      1. and 2. I’m trying to make my decisions based on the more conservative of {What does the data say?} and {What is officially permitted?}. What’s actually happening is a third criteria creeping in {What do I feel comfortable with?} and that third one is the most conservative of all.

      Here in New Zealand we have one (one!) known active case of Covid-19. So yeah, once that’s resolved and once we have a good period of plenty of random testing with negative test results on the general population (statisticians are reckoning we need a month or so to be sure) and while our borders are still closed then … yes … I might get back into in person-racing.

      My current plan is to start back with smaller, less competitive events – parkrun, say, or a local race with <200 people – somewhere where we can all spread out and where there aren't crowded start pens.

      My brain quite grasp the idea of taking part in a huge event yet. Thinking back to when I ran Boston in 207 – the queues! the packed buses full of excited chatter taking us all out to Hopkinton! The queues! The herding into different start pens! The crowds of supporters! More queues for the medals, the water and the free banana! Not to mention the international travel to get there. It feels like life on another planet.

      3. As for virtual races: Hmm, I was going to say I'm not a fan. I find it far easier to run fast when I'm with other people and the practical support offered by physical events (portaloos, drink stations) is particularly useful for longer distances.

      And then I realised: I'm planning on running a half marathon distance later today to mark what would've been the Christchurch marathon. I'll be running alone, from home, but starting at the same time and covering the distance I might have done in the event itself. And a bit of me quite likes that, chances are, some other people will be doing the same. So maybe there is something there, something special about sharing an experience even if we're all doing it separately.

      1. Kiwi with laser beams*

        I’m in New Zealand too! I signed up for Queenstown (late November) before the pandemic hit us, so at the moment it’s looking like I’ll be able to do that as normal. I’m happy that I’ll be able to support their tourism industry too.

        1. Bob*

          I’ve seen your user name around here and did wonder whether you might be relatively local. Hello! [Waves from a socially appropriate distance]

          Ooh, I’ve been eyeing up the Queenstown marathon for a few years now. You’ve got me thinking: this might be the year I finally do it. Six months is about right for the training aspect and hopefully also for overcoming my yikes-big-crowds feelings. And your comment about supporting local tourism really chimes with me. Plus holidaying in Queenstown won’t exactly be a hardship …

          I’ll give his some more thought. Thanks for the inspiration.

    11. Star Nursery*

      I am strongly leaning towards not signing up for any that are virtual. I prefer to run with other people (I know lots of runners like to run alone but I’m not one). I like having another person to pass or to feel like I’m in a crowd / collective team of runners even if we are spaced out at our own paces. The virtual time race thing doesn’t do that for me.

    12. Ktelzbeth*

      I’m struggling too. I’m currently participating in the virtual Great Race across Tennessee, which is a 1000k route to be completed between May 1 and Aug 31. The only summer tri I was signed up for already has been cancelled, though they are claiming it’s only postponed. (It seems to me that if you “postpone” one full year, that’s cancelling.) I’m thinking hard about my usual July 11 race, which is a small local triathlon. They’ll halve the number of permitted entries to 75, but keep all the space allocated the same, then start the swim one by one from a socially distanced line rather than a mass start. Maybe?

      It’s a particularly hard decision for me because I’m moving out of state in August, so thinking about missing the last chance to race with/against the people I’ve been racing with for the last 5 years is hard. I know that it’s always possible to come back, but SD is not exactly a major racing destination. Then we’ll have to wait and see what happens to my Ironman in October.

      1. LGC*

        Ugh! I’m so sorry!

        The adjustment to the start sounds interesting – and it actually feels like it might work? It seems like it’d be easier to stagger starts in triathlon, since most of the race (after T1 and T2) is staggered anyway. Although the seeding might be a bit wonky.

        I don’t know what the summer will bring, so I can’t really provide any advice. If you’d asked me at the start of the month, it’d have been an unequivocal no, but now…it’s really that you have to feel safe and do things to keep yourself safe. Which I hate saying because we as individuals shouldn’t have to worry about this. But that’s the best I could say – I don’t think I could do it myself, but I’m not in your situation.

        1. Ktelzbeth*

          Thank you!

          Well, since I attended a protest today, my social distancing is shot for the moment. I’ll probably register to have a spot and then follow local infection numbers. I don’t like the thought of wasting money, but I can afford it and I’m buying the chance to have an experience.

          Some of the early season tris are pool swims and use a very similar start method, though to keep the lanes from getting clogged they ask for an estimation of time to complete a xxx yard swim, so it’s a tested method. Not quite as much fun, since it’s harder to know who your competition is, but you take what you can get.

    13. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Re:3 I’m not a runner, but I’d love to watch (read) the The AAM Teapot Drama Llama Ding Dong 5km. One thread for runners to post their mile marker times, and one thread for bicyclists to post theirs? (I would be the very very last of the biking stragglers LOL!) Heck add a swimming thread and make it a combo.
      Oh but the time Zone range probably means that wouldn’t work dot-dot-dot unless we do it in two or three shifts? I wonder what Alison would say.

    14. More Coffee Please*

      I really miss racing. I’ve run almost 400 miles since my state’s lockdown order in March. It’s the only thing keeping me sane. I also think I probably had COVID-19 in late February, so while I’m being careful for the sake of others (working from home, wearing a mask, etc) I’m not too worried for my own health.

      1) I would do an in-person race if it were allowed.
      2) My area has been really strict in shutting things down, so if races were allowed to happen, I would feel comfortable doing them because I know the standards for re-opening are high.
      3) I wouldn’t consider doing a virtual race. I’m the same way in that I’m competitive and like beating people! There’s no way I could push myself as hard by myself as I could in a race. I almost signed up for a $60 race that was donating $10 of every registration to a food bank but then thought… why don’t I just run by myself and donate $60 directly to the food bank?

    15. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

      I just did a free virtual half marathon and was only slightly slower than my typical half race time…knowing I’d be logging my “chip time” in a public place did make me push it faster than I would expect without crowds. This year, I’d been training to run the NYC half and was devastated when the pandemic hit, as this had been a dream. It’s been a struggle for me to not have races punctuate my solo runs and not to run with friends.

      But ultimately I have learned that it was running all along that I loved, more than the racing part. I’m signed up for a cheap local race in November and hope that kickstarts a return to “running normal” for me…but in the mèantime, I’ve become very engaged with Peleton outdoor runs, virtual races, texting my runs to friends I used to run with, and also having more time to think during these runs.

      1. LGC*

        I was actually going to run NYC as well! I was watching nervously in the week leading up to it to see if it’d go off, and if it did…I don’t know if I would have gone or not. (Thankfully, they did cancel. I didn’t go in to pick up my bib and shirt because I thought it’d be unsafe little did I know that I was more at risk of catching COVID-19 at home than I was in the city.)

        I’ve kind of had a bit of a revelation myself – but it’s slightly different. I think I needed to have a break forced on me at some point (this spring I’d…volunteered to pace two local half marathons, I was racing NYC and Brooklyn Halfs, running Boston, and that was just through mid-May – normally in May and June I switch over to 5k/10k), but I’ve found that…while I enjoy running for the sake of running, it’s not my “why.” It turns out that I enjoy the praise cycle, who knew. (So Strava is really where it’s been at for me.)

    16. londonedit*

      I really can’t see in-person races coming back anytime soon here (London/the UK in general) and I’m also worried about parkrun. As well as the issue of runners all coming together in a crowd and possibly being at risk themselves (especially if people are travelling from different parts of the country) you’ve got spectators as well (and as someone who’s firmly in the mid-pack of any run or race, spectators are really important to give me a boost on the way round!) and one of the major things I think any event will need to consider is the goodwill of the local community. Where I live, runners have been absolutely vilified since the beginning of lockdown, with social media being full of people complaining that ‘joggers’ are ‘huffing and panting’ near people, that they run too fast and are scary to other pedestrians, that they ‘take up the whole path and won’t move over’, etc etc. And that’s just runners on their own in a park. With that sort of sentiment flying around, I really can’t see how – even if restrictions on crowds are eased off enough for a few hundred people to gather – things like parkrun can start going ahead again. There were already people before all of this who complained about parkrun taking over parks for an hour or so on a Saturday morning – we had a determined mob of dog walkers who would deliberately walk in the opposite direction around the parkrun course at 9am on a Saturday morning just so they could yell at us to get out of their way – and I think plenty of people would be horrified by the idea of 100 or 200 or 600 runners showing up in the park again.

      Anyway, to answer your questions – no, I wouldn’t feel comfortable joining an event or a race anytime soon, mainly because of worries about being in a crowd but also because I don’t want to contribute to something that is going to anger the non-running community. My local half-marathon has spent years coaxing residents into supporting the event and viewing it as something that brings people together, rather than being an annoyance that means they can’t drive their car for one Sunday morning a year. I feel like if they bring the event back too soon, it’s going to undo all of that hard work because the community just won’t be ready for it.

      Personally, I’m not a fan of virtual events – I understand that some people like the motivation of getting a medal, but to me (even though I’m not competitive with anyone other than myself) it doesn’t feel like it ‘counts’ if it’s not a ‘real’ race. I’ve joined in with a few of the virtual events that my running club have organised, like a 5k time trial (run 5k anytime between X date and Y date and submit your time) and a team event where we each had to run a particular distance, but I’d have been running those sort of things anyway so it wasn’t much of a hassle to just put a bit more effort into the run and then submit my time. But I’m not hugely motivated by bling and I don’t think attempting to run 26.2 miles by myself on a random route would compensate if I was supposed to be running the London Marathon this year.

  16. Lena Clare*

    Can any of you recommend a good and reasonably inexpensive speech-to-text software for personal use on a private PC? I’d be using it everyday, quite a lot, for essay and book writing.

    The one I have heard of is Dragon – has anyone got any experience with this, and if so what is the difference between the home and business versions (apart from price!).


    1. Babs*

      Dragon has it’s drawbacks, it’s feels not as robust as google speech and has a learning curve to it.

      My teenage son is dysgraphic and uses speech to text instead of handwriting. He disliked dragon a lot, it was cumbersome, not transferable across devices easily. Google speech has really grown and gotten much better. It’s his go to know for all long essays.

      You might get other suggestions by using the search term dysgraphia and speech software.

    2. Amethyst*

      In another life I edited manuscripts for a few authors. One of them was a blind woman. I’m going to base my response on her experience with Dragon, & that was that she hated it. She much preferred JAWS. She said JAWS was easier to understand & use, & there was a huge learning curve with Dragon. She also had an accent & a speech impediment in which some words would come out somewhat differently than the word she intended to use–but still completely clear/intelligible, & Dragon never could “learn” to understand her. (JAWS had no such difficulty.) She gave it a year, using her state’s BRS to train her with the software for 6 months, & she never got the hang of it.

      So I’d really keep that in mind. She passed away 3 years ago so Dragon might have possibly improved in this aspect since then. I’d suggest more research.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I tried Dragon and it was too slow for me. I couldn’t speak naturally (despite the name, haha). All I got out of it was a headset I could use for conference calls online.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            No, I haven’t found anything else as of yet. I initially wanted it because I was having a hard time with my wrists and hands. But I didn’t have the money to buy anything new—I got Dragon for a steep discount through my university.

    3. Cruciatus*

      I don’t know if this is quite the type of program you’re looking for, and I can’t speak for the price because I was not the one who purchased it, but at work the librarian archivist bought a Trint (dot com) subscription. (It’s actually how I have job duties at home while we work at home! I look over and edit the transcriptions of old interviews she did). I also have nothing to compare it to. Sometimes it makes really dumb errors, but it’s supposed to “learn” as you go to improve on errors. It’s also transcribing the voices of many, many different people, some who mumble more than others so that might also be a factor–I do get a good laugh once in a while at what it thinks the person was saying but there are times I also have no idea what they are saying so I can’t blame the program.

      So, that probably was not too helpful, but it’s at least another option to look at.

      1. Lena Clare*

        Oh wow I just looked at Trint and it seems like it’d be amazing but it is so expensive! I think I’ll try the others first. Can’t seem to get the hang of the Google one. It looks complicated :(

    4. Choggy*

      Okay, so I just tried out Google Docs with the “Voice typing” option (under the Tools menu), and it seems to work fairly well. Just need to use Chrome to access Google Docs. All free!

      1. Lena Clare*

        Oh great! Thanks so much…I am looking for voice typing, so that it perfect.

      2. Lena Clare*

        Choggy I’ve just tried this and it totally suits my needs right now! Thank you so much, this is just what I wanted.

    5. The Doctor is In*

      I have used Dragon Medical for years, which works great withe Internet Explorer but not so well with Chrome or Edge. (Formatting issues). And the medical version is not cheap.

      1. Lena Clare*

        Ah ok maybe that’s why the mixed reviews.
        I will need to occasionally transcribe things from files also, sooo that’s why I was considering it.

        Can I ask, it does do live dictation doesn’t it, not just audio files?

  17. Lizzie*

    Re Theodore Laurence previously known as Shadow – Alison, could Laurie be deaf? I adopted a black cat when she was eight, three years ago, and it is only in the last six months that I have realised she is completely deaf! Her ears don’t move around at all, unlike any other cat’s constantly alert and moving ears. If she is miawing in another room, and I call out to her- no response. Until I realised, I thought she was rather aloof, a bit jumpy, a deep sleeper, and so on. Many ‘personality’ quirks are now explained… her tolerance of the noisy vacuum cleaner, lack of concern at thunder, obliviousness to me talking to her, being calm in the car, unbothered by dogs barking etc.

    As my cat can see, smell things (food being prepared), feel vibrations, notice changes in air pressure (eg when a door is opened), it took me a long time to understand that she could not hear me and was using her other senses instead. Now that I know, if she miaows in the night I will put the bedside light on to show I have heard her, and she will come in to the room rather than keep on yelling in the hallway. I use more hand signals, and I stroke her more, rather than verbally praising her. It has been a learning curve for me. At least my secrets are safe with her!

    IF Laurie is deaf, he has the tremendous support of Hank, as he can watch what Hank is doing in response to the environment and follow his lead. But if he looks around with interest and twitchy ears when you call him by his new name, then perhaps he was just waiting to be seen as himself, rather than someone’s shadow.

    1. Lena Clare*

      This is a really interesting point.
      And a beautiful story you shared about your own cat – thank you for that!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Their ability to compensate is amazing. I had a cat for four years before I finally understood she was blind in one eye. It does sound like your cat is deaf, but it seems like she’s adjusting well.

    3. TPS reporter*

      I also have a black cat I think is deaf. She was raised indoor feral by a hoarder and had no medical attention for anything let alone ear infections. She screams at certain times of day (especially when I’m on work calls) maybe trying to hear her own voice or being scared she can’t hear us.

    4. Worked in IT forever*

      I have a deaf black cat, but the deafness came with old age. It took a while for us to realize that she had become deaf (e.g., no reacting to the sound of the automated feeder opening up, no fear of the vacuum), maybe because we just assumed there was another reason for her behaviour. We have to be careful not to startle her, which happens if we touch her before she sees us first.

      I should say that we think she’s about 99% deaf, because we noticed that she can still occasionally react to a couple of specific high-pitched tones.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        When our old man cat got deaf, we identified it because I’d walk up the hall behind him, carrying a basket of laundry and talking to him, but when I reached down to pet him he startled bad enough to almost hit the ceiling. :) He got really vocal around the same time – we figured he yelled a lot because he couldn’t hear anything but himself.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Interesting! He does seem to respond to sound, but maybe not quite as much as the other cats. I’m going to keep an eye on that; maybe his hearing is a little impaired.

      My theory, though, is that maybe his name was never Shadow. He and Hank came from a situation where one person had 30-something cats (and then couldn’t care for them all so had to surrender them), and I could see the shelter easily mixing up the names of some of the cats who looked similar.

      1. Waffles*

        He’s a cat! If he decided his name isn’t Shadow, then his name isn’t Shadow.

      2. Black Horse Dancing*

        It may be for the best.A new name can help mean a newstart.We adopted a badly abused cat–lord,she was frightening in her attacks on people–and after months of work and a newname (Tiamat also known as Tia) she is greatly improved.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      One of our cats had a real personality change when she lost her hearing. Became much less jumpy and afraid.

  18. Condo question*

    I live in a condo where the upstairs neighbor put in hardwood floors. This is against the condo rules because of noise. And they are loud. I can hear and feel every step they take. When their young child runs back and forth across the living room, it is like a drum is beating overhead. I contacted the condo manager and asked if there was something that I could do to minimize the sound in case others had the same issue. They contacted the neighbors to remind them of the rules and the neighbors contacted lawyers. I have no idea what has happened since. It has been over a month.

    My question is, outside of selling and moving out which would be difficult financially and no potential buyer would want to buy if they heard the noise, is there anything I can do? I cannot think of a way to soundproof my unit’s ceiling. I don’t know how condo rules are enforced if the neighbors just refuse to put down rugs or switch to carpet and refuse to pay condo fines . Thanks.

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      I think that’s a question you’ll have to take up with the condo manager.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      How high are your ceilings and how much can you modify them? If you can stand an inch or two less, you might try for a layer of soundproofing, either another layer of drywall or acoustic panels. You can also do acoustic foam but it’s ugly.

      Google “ceiling soundproof snoring source” for a good overview of options.

      1. StrikingFalcon*

        I have heard (but have no personal experience) that Green Glue soundproofing glue works. You put it between two layers of drywall.

    3. CC*

      I use to live in a condo with the same rules. We could put a lien on the home so typically did not have an issue getting it fixed – though some people needed 6 months or so to pay for the new carpets.

      We also added a bolded sentence to the front page of the resale packet that only carpet was allowed in X areas & you cannot install hard floors. And that the interior of the unit was not inspected as part of the resale but the new owner would be required to fix any flooring issues (said more smoothly). (We also tried to check the real estate listing pictures to force a fix before closing but we put the clause unjust in case we missed it.)

      And in case anyone is wondering why it matters if the sound was not previously a problem, a single owner who wears socks all the time maybe didn’t have a sound issue but then they sell to a family who wears shoes in the house & the kids play with balls & they have pets walking around all night, it becomes an issue! It is easier to just say no.

    4. Ranon*

      Condo rules are typically enforced by the condo association leining and ultimately possibly foreclosing on the non-compliant property.

      The association should consider modifying their rules, if the goal is to limit noise transmission there are criteria called STC (Sound Transmission Class) and IIC (Impact Insulation Class) that establish criteria regardless of floor finish. It is possible to put a wood floor in that transmits as little sound as carpet, it is just expensive. (It is also possible to build buildings that don’t have this problem, but again, it costs money to do so and doesn’t do any of us any good)

      It is possible to reduce the sound coming from the upper unit on your side somewhat, depending on how much the impact noise from above is traveling down the studs rather than through the floor/ ceiling assembly. If you have a few inches you could remove the drywall from your ceiling, install a set of channels that run perpendicular to the ceiling framing, and reinstall the drywall over that (upping the insulation between your unit and theirs while you’re at it). With the right details this would almost certainly significantly improve the sound between your units, it is also (of course) expensive. By running the channels perpendicular on the framing rather than the existing ceiling you significantly reduce the amount of impact sound transmitted. You could also do two layers of channel on top of the existing ceiling but you lose the opportunity to insulate and significantly more height from your ceiling.

      1. Llellayena*

        Hi fellow architect! I don’t know that the channels will help all that much on impact sound. That usually needs to be caught closer to the source by putting an acoustic mat under the flooring. So that’s more a push from the condo board. If you have reasonably high ceilings and wouldn’t mind losing about 5-6 inches you could put in a dropped second ceiling with a layer of acoustic insulation behind, that might be cheaper than tearing the ceiling down to put the channels in (also tearing the ceiling down might be against condo rules if it directly affects the fire rating). Is the building structure wood or metal/concrete?

    5. RC Rascal*

      Condo Board President here. You need to review your Bylaws & Declaration and then talk to Board members. The Property manager is hired by the HOA/ Board. Your recourse depends on how your Bylaws & Declarations are written plus Boards willingness to enforce. At my building we have ways to give a non compliant owner plus we can suspend voting rights. Fines compound at a credit card type interest rate as our state allows it. They continue until the violation is rectified. If building owners agree we can also lien property & force the sale.

  19. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

    I have two novels that I read about 15 years ago that I’m trying to recall the names of. I’ve tried the usual places (Goodreads, reddit, library thing) with no luck. They are definitely published before 2004 because I bought them from a discount table to read after work on a job I had that summer. They are both archaeology themed, but my memory of the plots is very hazy.

    First one: has something to do with the Mississippian or Mound Builders culture of the southeastern US (also related to the Caddo, and associated with sites like Spiro and Cahokia). The story might be set in Arkansas or Oklahoma. I *think* that the main character is some kind of law enforcement officer or local official, possibly he is a Native American tribal officer who is in some way descended from the Mississippians. The plot involved the discovery of a new major archaeological site that comes to light when the main character’s friend, a professor, acquires an artifact called a carved shell gorget (a large piece of shell with carved figures on it, usually humans or animals). I think the artifact was illegally looted from somewhere, and they start to investigate where it came from. I vaguely recall that the main character somehow witnesses events taking place in the past but I don’t remember if there is actual time travel or some kind of supernatural thing going on.

    Second one: a group of archaeologists excavate a site in the Arctic somewhere, and they somehow accidentally release a disease (from some kind of puffball mushroom inside a grave, IIRC). This disease is hugely contagious and spreads around the world very rapidly with the usual collapse of civilization etc. you get in disaster movies. There was something about fighting off feral dogs.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I failed to actually ask the question: does anyone recognize either of these?

    2. Llellayena*

      The first one sounds like one of the Tony Hillerman novels. Though I think his novels are more Southwest than Midwest. I’ve only read one a couple decades ago so hopefully someone else can be a bit more specific for you.

    3. KoiFeeder*

      That second one- I had to ask my dad, because it’s definitely familiar to both of us. Might it be White Plague or Cold Earth?

      1. KoiFeeder*

        It also reminds me of a different book, but that one was 1) antarctic 2) had dinosaurs and I’m pretty sure you would not have forgotten the dinosaurs.

        1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          No, it was definitely archaeology and not paleontology. I remember picking them up because it was a bit unusual to see archaeology themed novels and it seemed like appropriate reading material for an archaeology job.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Actually, they were archaeologists, the dinosaurs were alive and trying to eat said archaeologists. Hence why I was pretty sure you wouldn’t have forgotten about them. ;p

    4. Wehaf*

      Your description of the second one matches about 80% with John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There” – any chance you conflated another book with that one?

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Who Goes There? is the novel The Thing was based on; there are no puffballs that I recall, just the alien spaceship in the ice. But it sounds really familiar.

        1. Wehaf*

          Well then, I got nuthin’, sorry! I’m intrigued, though; both books sound interesting.

    5. Reba*

      Wow, I think I want to read the moundbuilders one. I’m not into mysteries (if that’s what it is) generally, but this is one of my nerd areas!

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        This is why it’s driving me nuts that I can’t find it! Though I have found a few other books that are set in this area that might be interesting.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        Definitely not that. It was distinctive because it was about the South East.

    6. Texan In Exile*

      I was thinking it was a little bit like Smilla’s Sense of Snow, a book that ticked me off with its ending because I hate when the author resorts to “monsters! from outer space!”

      Hillerman is New Mexico and Navajo. When I watched “The Searchers,” I think the Native Americans were supposed to be Comanche, but the actors were Navajo, which I figured out because I heard them say “Ya at eeh,” which I knew was Navajo just because I am such a Hillerman fan.

      1. allathian*

        One of my pet peeves! I really dislike it when people lump all First Nation tribes together (and I’m a white European woman) and think that it’s acceptable to just substitute one for the other. The same thing happens with Asian actors as well and it irks me. Still, I suppose even that’s better than the travesty that was Dances With Wolves, where all the native people were played by Caucasian actors. That may have been acceptable in 1990 but I sure hope it wouldn’t fly now.

        1. Black Horse Dancing*

          Actually, there were many Natives on Dances WIth Wolves. I don’t understand why you would say there weren’t.

        2. allathian*

          I stand corrected on most of them, but Mary McDonnell? I’m not saying she did a bad job and it’s not as if I noticed it at 18.

          1. Beachlover*

            Mary McDonnell’s character was not native american, she was a white character raised by native Americans.

    7. Becky*

      The second one reminds me of The Girl With All the Gifts, though I have only seen the movie not read the book, and it’s more focused on the aftermath from memory…

      1. How I Rose From The Dead And You Can, Too*

        Can’t resist: the Soundtrack to The Girl With All The Gifts (by Cristobal Tapia de Veer) is an amazing piece of work. One of the few things I’ll listen to with headphones so I can catch all of the nuances.

    8. Finny*

      The only books I can think of that might fit are Sacred Ground by Mercedes Lackey, or one of the North America’s Forgotten Past books by Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear, though the later are more set in the past than present day.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        Yes, I thought maybe some of these but the book I’m trying to remember was published earlier and was not set in the past. I’m starting to think I I dreamed it!

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        Dang, not that either. I’m seriously wondering if I dreamt it.

    9. Jayess*

      Could this first one have been a book by Navada Barr? Sounds like some of her work.

  20. A.N. O'Nyme*

    So in keeping with the new rule I’m going to adapt the writing thread a bit: writers, what do you do when you have to get some writing (in case of a deadline, for example) done but the words just will not come?
    As usual, this is not limited to fiction writing, any writing goes

    1. London Calling*

      One writer (Somerset Maugham springs to mind but might not have been) said just sit and write something, anything to get the pump primed. Or you could follow the example of Robert Benchley, who had to write an article and started with ‘The’ and then got stuck. Eventually he typed ‘hell with it’ after ‘the’ and went and did something else.

    2. Ina*

      I write. It sounds trite, but it’s the only thing that works for me. I will literally sit and write “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write….” over and over for fifteen minutes. After that, if I haven’t thought of anything better to write, I can stop. But I have to sit at the desk and write for those fifteen minutes, no matter what.

      It’s very rare that it takes more than three or four minutes for me to start writing something for the actual book I’m working on.

    3. Teatime is Goodtime*

      I start writing about my cat. She’s a never-ending source of amusement and confusion, so there’s always something to write about. And usually by the end of that topic, I’ve either written something longer and polished about her that I actually like or I’ve gotten myself primed enough to go tinker around with other stuff. :)

    4. Shirley Keeldar*

      I write about how I’m stuck–that’s what a writer’s notebook is for. Stuff like, “I don’t know how to start this chapter, I can’t figure out the ending, what about this, no that’s bad, what about that?” It usually gets me to a place where I can get going.

      Also, I’ve generally noticed that writer’s block (for me) is not about not having ideas; it’s about being sure all my ideas are horrible. If I can make peace with writing out one of the horrible ideas, it often leads me to something better or turns out to be not so bad after all.

      1. Teatime is Goodtime*

        That is such a good point about being sure my ideas are horrible! Often for me it is also being sure that my writing itself is horrible–usually I just have to write it “badly” first, and then a rewrite will make everything better. This always reminds me of what Anne Lammott says about shitty first drafts. (Pardon the swearing, if I remember correctly those are her words)

      2. Foreign Octopus*

        Yes! This is me too.

        I am so certain that my ideas are horrible that I sort of close my eyes and hold my nose to write it, but now I’m beginning to realise that that’s fine because that’s what editing is for. The first draft is supposed to be rubbish because you’re telling the story to yourself, and I’ve surprised myself so many times with enjoying the final version of something that felt like I had to squeeze blood from a stone to get it onto paper.

        1. knead me seymour*

          On a similar note, one thing that works for me is thinking of a first draft as something categorically different from an edited draft. For me, it’s just a place to assemble the ingredients for the cake, and the cake itself emerges in subsequent drafts. You can’t just make a cake out of thin air (at least I can’t). I find that a bit easier to wrap my mind around than the idea of just writing terrible stuff that I’ll fix later.

    5. Foreign Octopus*

      I’ve always said to myself, 500 words. 500 words per day and at least I’m moving forwards. Sometimes that 500 words might take me all day, other times it might take me an hour, but by having that minimum limit, I find that it helps me to force the words out when I need too.

      Also, bullet points. These have saved me so many times. I bullet point the scene I’m struggling with and then write out each bullet point in more depth. Before I know it, I have the scene written.

    6. Hazy Days*

      My rule is that I can try for 10 minutes, or 25 minutes (depending on what I’m working on) and after that, if it’s not working, I’m done.

    7. NewReadingGlasses*

      This is a hard one. Some part of my brain knows pretty closely the actual amount of time needed, and will not switch on until deadline – time. At which time it (so far) it has always switched on and I just get it done. I really hate that part of my brain and I’d like to do the writing sooner. However, it’s been functioning this way for several decades.

      1. knead me seymour*

        I am also like this, but over the years, I’ve come to realize that at least for me, it’s more superstition than anything. I’m kind of the same way about falling asleep, weirdly–I get so anxious about not being able to do it that I’ve come up with all kinds of maladaptive strategies that are really just outlets for my anxiety. In reality, I’ve learned if I can write under pressure, I can also write (and write better) without the pressure, if I just learn to trust that I can do it. I’ve actually found the “Ologies” podcast episodes about sleep and procrastination both very helpful in this process.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      I do this too– just writing crap until the words start to come. I also notice that if I start making notes about what I want to do, I end up writing snippets I can chase into a full-blown set of pages.

      Right now, I’m working on a screenplay (my first), and I’m extremely frustrated that I can’t employ my usual way of working out dialogue (speaking/rehearsing it), because I’m not in my own private space. UGGGGGGHHHHH.

    9. ECHM*

      As a journalist – when I struggle starting a story, I usually start typing up my notes in order, and that provides a pretty good outline to work from. Once I get done with the body of the story, it’s usually pretty easy to come up with the lede. Sometimes, a perfect lede will pop into my head and set the stage for the rest of the story.
      A few other things:
      1. Being under deadline pressure helps a lot. (I can definitely relate to NewReadingGlasses’ comment.)
      2. Food as motivation did wonders for me, especially when I was at my full-time newspaper job.
      –When I finished a story or task I really didn’t want to do, I would go buy a 4-pack of Reese’s cups and a Dove dark chocolate bar from the store across the street.
      –When I had several stories to write, I set up my computer at a local restaurant, ordered the buffet and kept eating while I worked.
      (On the other hand, now I’m on the treadmill twice a day due to the side effects of this motivational technique …)

    10. RagingADHD*

      I make notes, review, expand, repeat. Sooner or later it turns into actual text.

    11. JKP*

      I skip ahead. If I’m stuck at some point, I just skip over it as if it’s already written and start writing at whatever point I can get the words flowing again. Then later, I go back and fill in the bits I skipped.

    12. Allison K*

      I write about what I’m supposed to be writing. “Need scene here with Jane and Mary, Mary confronts Jane about the documents and says something like…” and usually after about five minutes the scene starts being written for real. Then I go back and fix the beginning.

    13. Claire*

      I’m sad about the new rules, because I always found this weekly check-in to be helpful even if I didn’t always post. However! To answer the question: I find that I can trick my writer brain several ways:

      * I tell myself that I’m not writing, I’m just jotting down notes for the current scene or chapters
      * I try to shut down the internal editor (also called Radio KFUKD by Anne Lamott) and tell myself that it’s okay to write a shitty first draft
      * I give myself permission to take frequent small breaks

      All that said, I don’t have a current deadline, so I spent this past week finishing a short story in my Janet Watson series. Because I love this character so much that her words just POUR out.

  21. PX*

    BA Test Kitchen Discussion!

    You guys, three (3) new episodes of Gourmet Makes this week! And Gourmet Remakes is fantastic! Seeing Claire just disregard her own advice (lol, pop tart with meringue topping) is hilarious, and her seeing what fans had made was so sweet. Truly the kind of content the world needs right now.

    1. CoffeeforLife*

      I love BA test kitchen, thanks for the heads up! Some of my go to recipes are BA (last night’s dinner of chicken parm) if you haven’t made their buttermilk biscuits you are missing out!

      1. PX*

        You’re welcome! I’m still deep in binging the back catalogue, so I basically had really pleasant surprises when suddenly the recommended videos had new things in them :D

        Im an incredibly lazy cook, and now that its summer I’m even less inclined to get into the kitchen so I’ve not looked at their recipes much yet. But good to hear the recipes are solid.

        However I will say that I’m thinking about food a lot more in a good way (I got takeout yesterday and was analysing the flavour profiles in my head ala Chris Morocco). And I was inspired to buy miso paste at the supermarket so they are definitely influencing my buying habits. Now to actually do something with it :’D

      1. PX*

        Like Grace said, all on Youtube, and please, come join me in my madness! I must have watched like 50+ episodes in the last few weeks and if you couldnt tell, I am thoroughly enjoying this rabbit hole.

    2. BRR*

      Chaco tacos part two was an emotion roller coaster (a sentence I never thought I’d write). I was sad to see her have to start over but seeing Delaney and Rhoda “drop in” gave me a nice warm feeling. I didn’t know of the third one so Im glad to have something exciting for this weekend.

        1. PX*

          For sure!

          Oooh that definitely needs to be some kind of quiz: Which BA Test Kitchen personality are you? :D

      1. PX*

        Ahaha, yes. This has been a year of many sentences we never thought we’d have to write, but part two was so fascinating! How she was simultaneously more efficient but also cared so much less about certain things, and obviously had to be more resourceful given that actually doing all these things from home kind of changes the dynamic. I really hope she makes the original ice creams again someday because they looked/sounded amazing.

        And yes, so happy to see the others popping in!

    3. Granger Chase*

      Ahhhh thank you for letting us know! I love the BA Test Kitchen. Claire’s incredible knowledge of food, innovative ideas, and her disdain for about 85% of the projects they have her do on Gourmet Makes is what keeps me coming back. And her hair! Nobody talks about her hair but it is absolutely gorgeous and she just rocks it.

      1. PX*

        Oh you definitely need to watch these latest episodes as she talks about her hair when watching back on the Remakes episode! And yes, it is amazing. Also, her earrings are very often *chefs kiss*

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Thank you for this recommendation–this is wonderful. As someone who just finished rewatching a bunch of GBBO.

      So far I have just done post-quarantine videos, and I really love the spirit of it.

      1. PX*

        You’re welcome! So glad to have someone else along on my crazy new ride.

        The post-quarantine videos have been super great in terms of seeing them all work in a ‘normal’ environment. But I feel like their producers also need a massive shoutout – all the content so far has been so relevant and a nice reminder that you dont need much to make delicious food! Yesterdays episode on freezer food was a great example of that.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          The producers are great. Both the little snarky comments and the way the short bits are spliced together to tell a story, like multiple people explaining the same basic way to brew coffee.

          1. PX*

            Yes! Their brand identity (a phrase which sounds a bit dirty to say but is very accurate) is very clear and defined which is nice. If you watch Its Alive you will definitely have fun with how those are edited and put together :D

            Of all the videos Carla’s (Back to Back) are probably the purest/simplest/most wholesome, which feel like they match her temperament quite a bit. I actually think all the individuals’ shows have an editing style/tone which matches their personalities quite well now that I think about it!

    5. LemonLyman*

      Just discovered BA Test Kitchen YT content last week and have been binging like crazy! I’ve watched every episode that Chris Morocco is in and every quarantine episode. They’re really killing it with the home kitchen content! (The scavenger hunt! Priya’s parents! So fun!) I haven’t seen any Gourmet Makes eps until the pop tart Remake that came out a couple of days ago. It was precious. Definitely a Claire fan now! Also love me some Sohla. And Delaney. And… well, all of them!

      1. PX*

        Yes! It’s so bingeable as well! You end up feeling like these are your nice coworkers who you wouldn’t mind getting a drink with.

        If you want peak adorable, I recently watched the episode of It’s Alive (get to know Brad!) with Samin Nosrat (making foccacia) and it is honestly just adorable. Feel good TV at it’s finest.

  22. A.N. O'Nyme*

    So, gamers (including board games etc): if you could recommend one game, which would it be and why?
    For me at the moment (my answer to this question would probably change every time someone asked) it would be Bravely Default. Haven’t gotten far in it yet, but I’m loving the story and the battle system so far. Also, so many punny names!

    1. fort hiss*

      Ugh, Bravely Default lost me at the red mage part of the story. Implied sexual assault and abducting women treated as comedy… no thanks. The game has tone problems.

      1. fort hiss*

        As for recommendations, it would depend on what the person is into with games, but Baba Is You is a fantastic indie puzzle game that needs more hype.

      2. A.N. O'Nyme*

        I’m not that far yet, only just got the airship. Guess I’ll see for myself, but so far none of the bosses struck me as comedy… deconstruction/parody, sure, but not comedy.
        Also I’ve been looking at getting Baba Is You! The premise definitely sounds interesting.

        1. fort hiss*

          I don’t know anyone who played it who liked the red mage part, though some folks didn’t have as visceral a reaction to it, which I get. You will probably see some uh, cracks in the veneer, show as you go on. There’s a perverted sage character later too, which especially sucks when you learn that the English version of the game aged the girls up to make the constant hitting on them and battle bikinis less gross. They also felt the need to censor some of the female costumes because they were inappropriate. Sorry, I know I sound bitter, but I also liked the gameplay and general style of the game until the way the game treated women broke it for me. It’s nothing you don’t see in otherwise great JRPGs like Persona 5, but I’m tired, you know?

          Baba is You avoids all of that by being the world’s cutest puzzle game and not at all an RPG by a legacy company, LOL.

    2. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      Not trying to be funny, because I would’ve totally said this a year ago, but as far as board games go I really like Pandemic. It’s cooperative and still fun with just two players, but a little more complex than a lot of games (without being a major marathon like Risk).

      If gallows humor isn’t your thing right now, I also recommend Huggermugger. It’s a word mystery/trivia hybrid game. Sort of hard to describe, but super fun!

      1. DarthVelma*

        My partner and I really enjoyed Pandemic Legacy. The basic game is fun, but we really enjoyed the legacy aspect where we were cooperating to hold the world together and trying to figure out a cure while things just kept getting more difficult.

    3. CatCat*

      I would recommend Ticket to Ride. It’s just the right blend of luck and strategy and also doesn’t take forever to play.

      1. Overeducated*

        This is my top game for playing while socializing, but no one else seems to agree!

    4. Overeducated*

      I like Castles of Mad King Ludwig. It appeals to the kid in me who likes to decorate castles in her mind.

    5. Alaska_Blue*

      Carcassonne was my gateway game to the world of board games! I love it and buy it for friends! Also good for parents who want to game with their pre-teen and older kids.

      1. Smol Book Wizard*

        My nickname for it is “City Planning Disaster Time” and my brother and I love it too! Simple but with cool depths!

      2. allathian*

        My husband’s friends used to host Carcassonne game nights. I love it because you can increase the board size quite a lot with the add-on packs. Hmmm, might have to buy this so we can play with our pre-teen.

      3. Emily*

        Carcassonne is one of my favorites! I like that the rules are simple but the play requires some amount of thought. Plus, as a visual person, I enjoy putting down the tiles and watching the board come together.

    6. Buni*

      Bananagrams, hands down. It’s like….if Scrabble is two gentlemen fencing, then Bananagrams is a street brawl. My friends & I have huge, swear-y death-matches that one of these days is going to result in the neighbours calling the police.

    7. Granger Chase*

      I’ve been playing My Time at Portia for the last few weeks and am enjoying it so far! It reminds me of Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons a bit but there’s more of a crafting aspect to it. Some tasks can be a bit of a grind, but if you set up your workshop to have a steady output of certain materials you can avoid the slough. I think the storyline is interesting and the character designs/personalities are intriguing as well. I’ve been playing it on PS4 but it’s also available on PC/stream and I believe the Switch as well.
      Also, by far my favorite character is the bear who walks around in a bathrobe. We have quickly become friends! Lol

    8. The Other Nigel*

      I’d also recommend “Pandemic” but as my spouse will tell you, I’m a somewhat twisted individual.

      Also “Forbidden Island” is a great little game — it’s another cooperative game where you are trying to collect treasures from an island that is slowly sinking into the ocean. Quite short, and has a lot of replay value.
      Bonus: here’s an episode of Tabletop where they play it. https://youtu.be/DxG_ahmF1uM
      (Don’t worry about Wil Wheaton’s bad Twilight Zone intro, the show is back to normal after the titles)

      1. Jackalope*

        I personally consider that Pandemic and Forbidden Island are more or less the same game. I mean, they’re not, but the rules and purpose are pretty similar. And both of them are fun.

    9. RagingADHD*

      I recently discovered the Fabularium app that lets you play the old Infocom type text adventures.

      I lost days to Bronze, a solid weekend to Suveh Nux, and about a week and a half to Curses!

      My tween kids love Celestia, we all like Forbidden Island/Forbidden Desert/etc, and my husband & I enjoy the Unlock series of escape rooms.

    10. Raia*

      It sounds like you have a Switch, if you havent played Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild I hope you will consider it. Yes, I’m a Zelda fan, but exploration is so interesting and the puzzling and battles are rewarding in this specific game. Sneaking up on a skullcave and strategizing how the bokoblins will feel your wrath in particular this time, according to nearby resources/recently acquired armor/fun new weapon, is a great pasttime.

      For board games, my one vote would go to Dice Throne. It is a battle yahtzee kind of game where you play a hero like Monk, Paladin, Vampire Lord, etc. A player has 3 dice rolls to perform a fantastic attack, with a deck of cards to mitigate the luck there as well as provide attack upgrades. The game can be purchased in packs of two heroes, so its not to much money to try it out and see if you like it!

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        I don’t yet, actually! My plan was to get one this summer, but now it kinda depends on if I’ll even be able to get one given the current shortage. Breath of the Wild is definitely on my list, and in fact my local game store offers a package deal with a Switch, BOTW and some protective accessories like a screen protector and a carrying case. I briefly considered getting a Lite because I’ll probably end up using it handheld a lot anyway (and those are still in ample supply) but I figured I’ll shell out for a normal one.

    11. Carlottamousse*

      Terraforming Mars — while a bit long (can take 3ish hours), it’s a really interesting game and requires both strategy and luck. It’s well-designed and does not get boring, although it can be a bit slow to start the first few rounds as you start collecting resources. It can also be really hard to tell who’s winning until the end, which adds a bit to the fun.

      For cooperative games, I second Pandemic — fun, interesting, and challenging.

    12. Finny*

      Me, it’s a toss up between Okami-den for the Nintendo DS systems, Rhapsody for same, and any Shantae game (cannot wait til my Limited Run Games Shantae and the Seven Sirens Mega Bundle ships later this year–twas my birthday gift to myself, though I won’t get it til well after my birthday.)

      I love Okami-den for the art, story, and characters, plus it’s the second RPG I ever finished, and I’ve now played it so many times I’ve lost count.

      Rhapsody is the first RPG I ever finished, and it’s so very unique and amusing–a video game and a musical all in one.

      The Shantae games are just amazing platformers (my current favourite genre), with cool characters and abilities and stories. I started with Pirate’s Curse for the 3DS, then backtracked to the original Shantae and Risky’s Revenge (both available for download on the eshop). I will warn that the play controls for the original are weird–pretty much opposite all other Shantae games–and may confuse things if you’re playing multiple Shantae games in a row, as I tend to.

      I prefer games I can replay tons (just like I love rereading books and relistening to music and rewatching TV shows and movies–I like new stuff, too, but replaying/rereading/relistening/rewatching is very important as I don’t like the anxiety from the uncertainty of what might happen, if that makes sense), and for me the Shantae games, Okami-den, and Rhapsody all are very repayable.

      I’ve yet to play Shantae Half-Genie Hero for the Nintendo Switch as I don’t have a Switch Lite (thanks to income having gone down due to Covid but not down enough to make me eligible for any assistance programs), but am hoping to get one at some point before Seven Sirens reaches me.

      And I think I’ve blathered on enough at the moment.

    13. Gamer Girl*

      Tainted Grail, hands down! There’s a board game version, plus a video game version in the works.

      Gameplay: It’s a story-based campaign (long! 15 chapters. It’s real value for money!).

      The setup: You are part of a team of explorers, sent out from your village to find a refuge for them. The setting is somewhat Arthurian–knights of the round table, etc. There’s a strange force that is taking over the world, you may run into a plague, a civil war, endless marshes…and a kind of Upside Down. The writer is one of the biggest fantasy authors in Poland, and the English translation is quite good.

      We finished our first playthrough just before the pandemic, and we are looking forward to playing it again! There are a lot of narrative threads we got hints of but didn’t experience in our first playthough. There are also two more games in the works–a prequel and a sequel, both of which are impacted by your choices in the story in each game but have different mechanics and gameplay, and we are looking forward to both.

      Caveat: make sure to play with at least one person who doesn’t mind explaining combat with cards (really not my fave, but my partner is really good at it! After a few chapters, I got quite good at the combat system.)

  23. microphones*

    Is there any way to get better microphone sound from a laptop? I have a new laptop bought in December and the camera is so much better than it was, but there is one person I skype/zoom with regularly who has trouble hearing me, even when my volume is max. The microphone on this laptop is on the side of the laptop (who designs these things anyway). Other people don’t have issues hearing me. Is there anything I can do while I wait for my headset to get to me (which will be in a while, most of less expensive ones seem to be backordered). Would it help her if she used headphones?

    1. Purt’s Peas*

      Headphones could help! It could also be her internet connection.

      If she can usually hear you on the phone, you could call each other and skype muted with only video on—so the sound is through the phone only but you’re still getting video through the computer.

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      Double check to see if there’s another microphone on your laptop because I had this same issue. I’ve got a side mic, which I thought was the only one, but it turns out I have another next to my camera and I was able to switch over to that and the people I talk with via Skype noticed an immediate increase in quality. You should be able to do this in your audio settings.

      Also, get her to use headphones as well. I hear so much better when I’m wearing headphones because the sound is more focused.

    3. BRR*

      It’d probably help if she used headphones, assuming her volume is turned up. Does she have issues hearing other people? She might need to check the volume settings/volume levels in her program. Maybe it’s set too low so it doesn’t help even if the computer volume is turned up? I’m guessing when you say your volume is max you mean your mic volume but just in case check the mic audio setting in your software settings.

    4. Rick Tq*

      Check if your laptop supports Bluetooth devices, you may be able use a phone headset.

      Or, try calling in to the session from your cell phone and using that speakerphone setup.

      1. Bob*

        Thats plainly obvious, and the comic is predicated on this.
        That said i wonder if she would have more than a seven word opinion.

    1. Disco Janet*

      Ha! I loved reading my dad’s Dilbert comics as a kid (they now feel a bit too problematic in light of the author’s views. Sigh. At least I still have Calvin and Hobbes).

      I think she would sympathize with…Alice? Is that her name? Hopefully you know the character I’m talking about!

      1. Jim Bob*

        That raises a serious topic I’ve never seen a definitive answer to. Should we really be in the business of choosing art based on the personal beliefs of the artist rather than the quality of the art?

        I’d really be interested to see what the arts would look like if we only consumed art from artists with whose political beliefs we agree. For starters, anything before 1970 or so is out.

        1. Fikly*

          That’s because there isn’t a definitive answer to this question. It’s always going to be a personal choice.

          Although I don’t think everything that makes the creator of Dilbert massively problematic could be classified as a political belief.

          1. Jemima Bond*

            Milkshake duck?

            I just checked Adams out on Wikipedia and it mentions his support of a certain politician but that’s it – what are the things that are problematic but not political beliefs? I’m intrigued!

            1. Fikly*

              Well, he’s one of those people who thinks depression can be cured by deciding to be happy, for example. I wouldn’t call that a political belief.

              I would call it problematic, incredibly incorrect, and incredibly victim blaming, though.

            2. Disco Janet*

              He’s basically a misogynistic men’s rights advocate. Wrote an awful blog post about it (and this was before Trump running for president was a thing, so yeah, I’m talking separately from that), then deleted it saying us women are just so emotional we couldn’t understand his argument. According to him, women aren’t ever underpaid for being female, society dotes on us for the same reason they dote on children and the mentally handicapped (no seriously – that’s his choice of words there), and that men turning suicidal or violent is females’ fault for not giving them enough affection. He actually said once that he would be willing to be a suicide bomber.

              So yeah, there are some major parts of his comics that stop being funny when you realize he doesn’t actually mean for it to be a joke.

        2. StrikingFalcon*

          Well, it matters in so far as those beliefs influence the art in question. If you paint landscapes, your political beliefs aren’t necessarily super relevant, but if you believe women are less than men, your likelihood of writing a female character with actual agency goes way down. Not to zero – there is plenty of fiction out there with interesting, realistic female characters that isn’t modern in its sensibilities, but there’s also a lot of recent fiction with female leads who make literally zero decisions in the entire story, because every significant choice is made by the secondary male characters. There’s no need for some kind of universal ruling that politically incorrect stories are terrible, but my personal tolerance for this kind of story has hit zero. And there are a couple of other issues like that, where if the author’s beliefs bleed into the story, I have zero interest in reading or watching it. But that doesn’t mean I think others shouldn’t enjoy it if they like it.

        3. Blueberry*

          For starters, anything before 1970 or so is out.

          Why would you say that? I pretty much agree with Mary Shelley, James Baldwin, and Sappho on what I understand their politics to be, for three pre-1970 examples.

          ANyway, this whole question is terribly reductionist. How do we evaluate “the quality of the art” separately from the beliefs it espouses anyway? How does what we know about an author interact with what we see in a work? These are complex issues which people grapple with personally, not something we can find one answer for everyone for, and I’ve seen the accusation of “your criticism means no one can ever like this ever again” used far more as a weapon against criticisms of bigotry than against censorship of progressive ideas.

    2. Analyst Editor*

      I love Dilbert, hehe.
      I’d be more curious about Catbert, Evil Director of Human Resources, or Wally, the terrible employee.
      Or Alice, she of the fist of death.

      1. Bob*

        If you reply Alison it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on all the characters.
        Another that comes to mind (beyond Dogbert) is Loud Howard.

        1. Bob*

          Heck this could be an article in itself, an Ask A Manager analysis of all the main characters.

        2. Black Horse Dancing*

          Or the intern–I forgot his name. Wally ‘s staple remover broke,so he told them to pass him the intern.

            1. Bob*

              He is one of the characters i really like. But there are so many good ones its hard to choose a favorite. Wally is so good at only not working but not being fired for it, Dogbert is an evil genius, Catbert is just evil, Dilbert is naive, Alice is determined, Mordac is hilarious. The accounting trolls get honourable mention, Ratbert, Bob the dinosaur…

  24. CoffeeforLife*

    I remember weeks (months) there was a discussion of American foods for a foreign traveler and the subject of biscuits and gravy arose which splintered into the biscuit/scone debate. *I think* they are two different foods and the tastes/textures are wildly different but had a British person comment that they were the same.

    WELL. I made the Royal scone recipe and yeah…not at all like an American biscuit. I feel vindicated.

    Also, the BEST American style biscuit recipe, hands down is BAs Best Buttermilk Biscuits. Google it. Try it. Your mouth will thank you. I try to make a few batches and then freeze. They bake up perfectly from frozen.

    1. fort hiss*

      I live in the south and am married to a British person. We’ve discussed the scone/biscuit thing and after several taste tests have definitively ruled in this house that scones and biscuits are different!! Biscuits are fluffier and more buttery.

    2. Kate Daniels*

      I’ve been on a quest for the past two years to find the perfect buttermilk biscuit recipe. Thank you for this suggestion! I will try it soon.

      1. BRR*

        I’m going stir the pot and found BA‘s recipe to be in the range of ok to good, my favorite is Thomas Keller’s recipe from Ad Hoc. you can search thomas Keller biscuit recipe for it. the first result I get is from the Toronto Star and incorrectly calls for self rising cake flour, don’t use self rising. I think what makes it different is using half cake flour to make them light and fluffy.

        I made my best version of them this week using 2 cups bleached all purpose (when I’ve used unbleached in the past) and making a cake flour substitute with bleached ap and some potato starch. Most cake flour substitutes call to sub in a little corn starch but I read some people taste the corn starch flavor and don’t with potato starch.

        1. Kate Daniels*

          Thank you for this recommendation, too! I will add it to my “to bake” list! :-)

        2. CoffeeforLife*

          I’ll have to try those now, thanks for wading in!

          My BA biscuits come out light, flaky, full of butter flavor with wonderful layers. My partner is from the deep south and he says they are the best he’s ever had.

      1. Granger Chase*

        Right?? Our local grocery store has an in-house bakery and they make the best orange cranberry scones. Mm. Not really the season for it but I always get some in the fall! Their lemon blueberry ones are good too, but they tend to leave those in the oven just a bit too long for my taste. I have a couple scone recipes to try so I might just have to make some now!

      2. Jemima Bond*

        Well they are pretty quick to make! Link to follow for a recipe by Delia Smith, a queen of british cookery.
        For American readers – I don’t believe raising flour is very widespread there so use plain (all-purpose) and some baking powder. The caster sugar (not sure of American word for this if different – finer than normal granulated sugar but not powdered/icing sugar) doesn’t need to be golden; white is fine. And I’m going to disagree and say it’s easier to rub the butter in if it’s cold.

    3. lazy intellectual*

      For a second I was like “Um, it what world are they the same?” Then it occurred to me people were talking about rolled scones, which I only discovered existed last year. They are still different, but I can see the confusion.

    4. RagingADHD*

      Biscuits are very different than scones.

      The very best southern-style biscuits are from a recipe in Southern Living that consists of nothing but White Lily self-rising flour, buttermilk, and butter.

      It’s very much like a rough-puff pastry, but worked less so it’s still short-textured, but has lamination.

      And it has to be White Lily flour, because it’s the only US brand made from a certaun type of wheat (soft white, I think?) that has a lower gluten content than other brands.

      We make them rarely because they are so snarfable.

    5. knead me seymour*

      Forgive the slight digression, but on the subject of biscuits: I’ve been informed that I have to try to recreate Red Lobster’s biscuits, and as I’ve never been to Red Lobster, I’m not sure what exactly I’m meant to be going for. Apparently these are iconic in some way. Is there anyone in the know who can tell me what it is that makes them different from a regular cheddar biscuit?

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        They use white cheddar,I think and they are garlic as well, I believe.Very tasty!

        1. Natalie*

          Based on the mix they sell, it’s garlic powder, onion powder, and dried parsley.

  25. Loopy*

    I’m taking my birthday off for the first time ever this year (this coming Friday) and I realized don’t have a single birthday tradition!

    Usually we just go out for dinner and have cake but I’m curious what things others do for themselves on their birthdays? I’m usually alone on my birthday because of my husband’s work schedule (which is okay, we celebrate as soon as he’s free) and while this year I wont be, I wouldn’t mind starting some birthday traditions I can enjoy each year by myself. Would love to hear easy to implement ideas!

    1. Enough*

      The closest to a birthday tradition is we let the kids pick where to go for dinner. Had a couple of years where it meant going to Grandparents. My daughter wanted her chicken and mashed potatoes. Which is fine but was over 2 hrs away. The only other is that only 2 of the 3 kids will remember the exact day and either call or text on my or their Dad’s birthday. And it’s not always the same 2.

      1. Loopy*

        Ah, its funny, as an adult I’m so indecisive sometimes I don’t even know where I want to go for my birthday! I guess I can start thinking about next year on that one though…

    2. PX*

      Ahaha. The last few years I’ve celebrated with one of my best friends whose birthday is close to mine, but in general my tradition is to ideally take the day off work and do whatever I want to do! Sleep in late, binge watch whatever, eat whatever, and definitely have cake. Cake is essential.

    3. Kathenus*

      Sometime around my birthday I treat myself to a really good steak and make Bearnaise sauce (not homemade, Knorr packaged). Due to how much butter is in the sauce and how much I slather on the steak, baked potato, and veggies, I don’t let myself make it very often. But around my birthday it’s a treat I allow myself to enjoy without any guilt.

      1. Loopy*

        Hm, I’m starting to think of what my once (ish) a year birthday meal would be if I chose one!

    4. Emma*

      Happy birthday!
      I often like to go somewhere, not somewhere big, but maybe go for a walk somewhere in the city I haven’t spent much time before, or do a short day trip out of town (maybe not possible this year), or go to see an exhibition at a local gallery. At the moment, if I was celebrating with just myself, I might do something like go for a walk near my home and have a picnic in the park with a book (assuming sitting in the park allowed).

    5. Birthday Wishes*

      The birthday-haver always eats their cake/preferred dessert out of a big carnival glass pedestal bowl (This tradition is about 3 generation deeps in my family now). As we kids all grew up, my mom and I found one for each kid at antique stores so we could carry on the tradition in our own homes

    6. Jaid*

      My family will combine our birthdays and go to an expensive restaurant for one grand meal. This year is going to be the City Tavern (Dad’s choice). Eventually. Maybe in August.

      My birthday, I usually try to get sushi and cake if I’m by myself. I’ll take the day off and sleep in.

    7. NewReadingGlasses*

      My favorite birthday tradition is watch a cheesy movie with wine the night before and then sleep late the next morning. Later in the day, I’ll eat chocolate and eat a meal cooked by someone else. This may be a restaurant, but cooked by spouse is fine also.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve been alone on many birthdays. It varies according to where I am, if I have any money, or if I have to work, but usually I do a couple of things.

      1. Buy myself a present. This can happen either on the actual day or before/after. It could be a small thing or a big thing, but it has to be a thing I want and not one I need (e.g., it can’t be fancy shampoo if I actually need shampoo). This year, I bought the full version of a screenwriting software.

      2. Make myself something I love to eat. It could be a dessert or a favorite meal. If I find a good restaurant that has birthday perks, I go out.

      One time when I lived in Santa Cruz, my birthday fell on Memorial Day, as it sometimes does. I had zero money and no one was around to hang out with. I’d discovered the local Fosters Freeze gave you a free shake on your birthday (I loved Fosters Freeze and hope they never close, ever). So I walked down and got a peach shake, then went back to my room and watched a Gilligan’s Island marathon. It sounds pathetic, but I enjoyed the hell out of it, lol.

      3. DO WHATEVER I WANT ALL DAY. It’s all about me, baby. :)

      The last one does not apply if I’m working on my birthday. If so, I do that part on the weekend.

    9. Umm, yeah, no*

      My kids always choose the meal they wanted for their birthday, and somewhere early in grade school started choosing a local brewery (great big burgers and beer batter onion rings!).
      I like to eat a little more upscale, but rarely choose to go out (working mom, didn’t feel the need to make a big deal out of getting older, life was already busy enough), and I never took the day off from work.
      Now I’m in the same boat as Loopy, no real tradition for myself. I am not really a cake fan, so a warm fruit pie and ice cream are what I tend to go for. And I hope that my sweetie will be able to wash dishes so I don’t have to (I usually end up washing them the next day, just like mother’s day…sigh).

    10. Wishing You Well*

      I hope you get some great ideas from all the responses. Some people do nothing for their birthdays – which is REALLY easy to implement, but probably not what you had in mind!
      Happy Birthday!

    11. Nita*

      For a few years my birthday would fall on a Friday or on the weekend, and it was always the weekend of a big music festival. Best birthday party ever. I haven’t gone for a few years and really miss it! But there’s also a parade happening in the city on the same weekend, so I’ve switched to seeing that and then celebrating.

      When my birthday is in the middle of the week though, I used to just work through it. Until that time when the kids made me cry in the morning by begging me to stay home, and when I got into work I got yelled at by a contractor for something that was out of my control (and kind of unexpected). Not how I want to spend my birthday, so I’ve been trying since then to take the day off.

      1. Hi there*

        Something similar happened to me once. I didn’t take my birthday off so I could ensure a class presentation in my program went well. One of the faculty members involved yelled at me for not having enough food, and of course, the extra food I ordered at the last minute to mollify her was uneaten. Taking my birthday off would have been so much better.

    12. Jackalope*

      I take the day off and let myself do whatever I want. It could be a massage, it could be reading a book, it could be playing on a blog, it could be cleaning the bathroom if that’s really going to make me happy, it could be calling my family in another country, whatever. I also always have a birthday party, one of two big events I throw for friends each year. (This one might be harder for you to do this year, but maybe next year?)

    13. Ariadne Oliver*

      I visit a Botanical Garden. I love flowers and my birthday is in May which makes for nice weather and lots of flowers. Then a visit to nice Cafe with patisseries. In the evening my husband and I toast with champagne.

    14. Hi there*

      I try to line up as many of my favorite things as possible so there is fun spread throughout the day. Time for my hobbies, my favorite foods, and cake for sure. I used to like to go to a nice spa in a cute town near me and get a facial on my birthday. ( Not the best idea now, sorry.). This year I went running, tried a new cinnamon bread recipe, read a book outside in the sun, had a Zoom happy hour with friends, and had ice cream cake and Thai takeout. Happy birthday!

    15. Just me, Vee*

      I live in San Diego and go by myself to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido. I get there right when they open and go straight to the meerkats. Then I go thru the botanical exhibit up to the place that overlooks the Savannah. It is a stunning view and it calms me. Unfortunately, my birthday came during quarantine, and the Park was closed anyway. I will never take that tradition for granted again.

  26. Paralegal Part Deux*

    Looking for opinions. As y’all know, I put Sassy down due to a massive stroke that left her deaf, blind, and unable to walk. It was, without a doubt, one of the hardest decisions I’ve made, because I adored her so much. She was my constant companion when I was home. I was traumatized to the point of needing Xanax from it.

    It’s been almost two months, and I’m leaning towards getting a kitten from a rescue group. I’ve got half the people I know saying it’s too soon and that I’m trying to replace Sassy with a new cat and the the other half saying it’s not too soon.

    I just know I miss having a fur baby around to talk to and cuddle with when I’m at home.


    1. fort hiss*

      I don’t think it’s too soon to get another pet. They’re not like relationships! Caring about a pet is so rewarding, and it’s a chance to open your heart, not close it off.

      1. tangerineRose*

        I agree. Adopt a new kitty when you want to. You can honor Sassy by loving a new kitty.

        1. tangerineRose*

          If you get a kitten or young cat, you may want to get 2 so that they can play together. It’s adorable, and they get more playtime.

    2. sswj*

      It’s time when you feel it’s time, and your timeline is not the same as anyone else’s. There’s no right or wrong here.

      If you are missing having a furry friend around, go to the shelter or adoption place and see what’s there. I will just say that, for me, it’s best to just go visit with an open mind and no timeline. I try not to do the “today I will go get a kitten!” thing because I know I may end up disappointed, or come home with something that’s not quite the right fit.

      You know in your heart that there is no replacing your wonderful Sassy, (and oh how I wish I could reincarnate my best beloved cat E, I miss him so …) but there is room for another friend to love. Go and see who’s looking for a home.

      1. Jules the 3rd*


        We just had to let go of our cat last month. I am taking a year off from cat ownership because I need the break from the workload and costs – medication 2x/day, 2x/mo vet visits, first time without a cat in 20+ years. My kid and I both are sad about this and miss the cat snuggles, but it’s just not time yet.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      People who think it’s too soon for you to get another cat… are more than welcome to not be you getting another cat. Seriously, what business is it of theirs. If you think you’re ready, go to town. If you’re not sure, try fostering and see if that nudges you either pro or anti.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yes, fostering is a great idea. Not only so OP can figure out which direction to go, but because it’s kitten season and lots of rescues need foster homes.

        1. Four-legged Fosterer*

          I’m sure in some parts of the world there is still a strong need for foster homes, but where I live there are a lot of offers and we are turning a lot of people away. It’s not just our rescue, as most of them have comments that they aren’t looking for foster homes right now.

          There are still animals that need to be rescued, but our biggest limitation right now is funding. We can’t take in many more animals than we used to, because we don’t have enough funds for vetting. And vetting is limited due to vet clinics only doing emergency care (vaccinations, but not spay/neuter).

          If someone wants to foster then they are welcome to do so, and I definitely encourage them to contact their local rescues, but if someone prefers to adopt then please do so!

          Although at this time the demand for dogs and puppies is overwhelming (hundreds of applications within hours for a puppy), and typically at this time of year we would have 30-50 cats and kittens waiting for adoption but right now we have 4. We have a bunch that are currently in or coming into care, so it’s not like we are without cats, but the adoptable ones are very popular and thankfully are finding great homes.

          To be clear, because a lot of people express concern:
          People aren’t randomly deciding to adopt pets and planning to abandon them. Rescues aren’t popular because people are bored. In our case the local shelters are closed, and our foster-based cat rescues are doing everything online with virtual visits and dog rescues are having meetups at the ends of leashes, so anyone who had planned to adopt this spring and summer is suddenly competing for a much smaller number of dogs and cats. It’s not ideal, but we are doing the best that we can.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Yes, where I am we have a need for foster homes. I volunteer with a small cat rescue that is foster-based and without a shelter, so we always need foster homes. We get hit pretty hard during kitten season due to being one town over from a very low-income city. Many people have pets, but either can’t afford to or won’t spay or neuter them so we get lots of people dropping of boxes of kittens on the doorstep of the vet’s office, next to dumpsters, etc. It’s sad.

            1. Four-legged Fosterer*

              We have a similar situation (took in 20 kittens from a low-income home last weekend), but in our case the rescue has more of a funding problem than a foster home. We can only take in about 100-150 cats and kittens a year, depending upon the generosity of donations, so thankfully we have enough offers of help (we took in 4 new foster families to help with this group of kittens and give our typical foster families a bit of a break).

              I wish you the best of luck. It isn’t easy these days! I feel badly because there is more need for help, but our rescue has never been able to do much in comparison to the shelter that is now closed. And the vets aren’t doing spay/neuters, and the low-income spay/neuter clinic is closed, so there will likely be even more kittens. The shelter took in about 10,000 cats a year, so ours is one little drop in the bucket! But I keep reminding myself that we’re also helping 100+ cats and kittens, and how many people can say that?

              I hope that you get more offers to help foster.

      2. sswj*

        If you can do it, fostering is a great idea! It’s kitten season, and shelters are going to be overwhelmed soon. If you’re really up for it and have the space to do it, taking a momma with young babies is not only a ton of fun but is an enormous help to the shelter/adoption/foster agency. Handing the family back isn’t always so easy, I warn you, but maybe one or two could stay :)

      3. Thursday Next*

        Red Reader, I love your first sentence.

        You know if you’re ready, and you believe you are. That’s the only option that matters!

        We got a new kitten a month after our very young cat had died, because she was half of a sibling pair, and her newly lonely litter mate was inconsolable. I thought a month was too soon for me, but within a week of getting the new kitten, our other cat perked up. (I’m so glad he liked the new kitten—that was a big risk!) And that did my heart good as well.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      Aw, I’m so sorry about your kitty! But you absolutely did the right thing. You should do whatever feels right for YOU. Who cares what other people think? What do YOU think? You’re the one that has to see the kitty everyday and take care of it, not them. And you’re the one wanting another kitty to cuddle with and talk to. There’s nothing wrong with that.

      I, too, am thinking about another rescue, even though we have many cats already. About a month and a half ago, a stray cat showed up literally on my doorstep, crying as though he lived here. Me being me, I went outside and fed him. He was skin and bones, matted, but very friendly. He obviously had a home at some point. He scarfed the food like he hadn’t eaten in weeks! He showed up the next day and I fed him again (of course I named him–Tigger). Then he didn’t come back. A couple weeks ago he showed up again, skinnier than before and with obvious mouth pain. My husband and I decided to bring him in the house and keep him in the spare bedroom, and then I took him to our vet the next day. He was there a week. Turns out he was 12-15 years old; hyperthyroid, which explains why he was 5.5 pounds (should have been 10-12 pounds); double ear infections; kidney disease; severe dental disease; and had a few ticks (no fleas!). He was congested, but not sick. The congestion got worse and they suspected that the mouth pain may be a large abscess or a mass of some sort in the pharynx (cavity behind the nose and mouth, connecting them to the esophagus). They tried steroids to reduce any inflammation that might be in the lungs, since they couldn’t check the pharynx without putting him under anesthesia. Unfortunately that didn’t work so it was try and do a needle biopsy or put him down. If we did the needle biopsy, we would then have to decide what to do about it. Treating an abscess in that area would be difficult and if it was cancer, there was no sense in treating it due to his age and health condition. Either of these things would have been traumatic for him so we decided to put him down. We went there to be with him when it was done. When we walked into the back area to the exam room, he brightened up, starting meowing, and came right up to the glass–he obviously remembered us. We went in and spent some time with him and then stayed while they put him to sleep. I cried so hard and my husband did, too. Even though he wasn’t really our cat and we’d only seen him maybe three or four days, we cried as though we’d had him for years. It absolutely broke our hearts, because I thought we could save him. We decided to get his ashes back and he’ll be buried near the garden, along with other kitties we’ve lost. I like to think maybe he knew how bad off he was and he came to us because he knew we’d help him, whether that was to end his misery or nurse him back to health.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        This story is making me cry. How lucky that kitty was that his last memories were with you – that he had someone who cared enough about him to make the hard decisions and to be there with him when he died. You did the right thing. xox

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Aw, thanks. :) I’m glad he came to us so he wouldn’t die alone, out on the street. It seems like it would have been a slow, painful death considering the shape he was in. The people at the vet’s office were upset, too. They said they’d grown attached to him over the course of the week because he was so friendly, always purring and happy to see them.

      2. charlatan*

        That is a sad story, but how wonderful for that poor baby that you and your husband were there for him like that. You’re good people.

    5. mreasy*

      My opinion is that if it feels right to you, it’s not too soon. I also have adopted new kitties a month or so after losing my prior much-beloved cats that id had for 15+ years – it just felt right to open our home and our hearts, and there are always cats who need loving homes. This doesn’t mean you love Sassy any less, just that you love having a feline companion. Your new kitten won’t be a replacement, but will have their own personality and you’ll have a new and different relationship with them. And, in my experience, sometimes they’ll do something that reminds you of your beloved cat who passed away, which is a beautiful thing when you love a cat so much.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Two MONTHS???

      When I lost my last dog, I had a new pup within a week. (horrors!) Hey, if you want a pet, then go get a new one. These wait periods feel contrived if the person already knows they want another pet. I knew I wanted another dog so I went right out and found my current boy. He’s been with me 11 years and he’s still going strong. Just because we lost our beloved pet is not the same as saying we lost our ability to love our pets. You are still you, you still love pets. Go get one and start afresh.
      Let us know what you found.

    7. Green Mug*

      Absolutely. Get a kitten. You have love in your heart for a kitten. There is no reason to wait.

    8. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I said goodbye to my last kitty in January (and said goodbye to the other one 18 months earlier). I didn’t think I would get a new cat for at least 6 months, but I adopted 2 young cats on March 7 and am so happy that I did. I missed having a cat around. I never felt like I was trying to replace my other cats (one I raised from a tiny kitten to 22 years old, and the other from 6 months to 19). I consciously choose cats that don’t look like my previous cats, which I think helped me to not think about them as replacements. I did worry about whether they would be as special to me as my previous cats, particularly the 22 year old, who was my baby and the sweetest cat who wanted to be with me 24/7 (she would have loved me being at home as much as I am now). But, the new girls have their own funny and sweet personalities and I can’t imagine being without them now. If you feel like it’s time to bring in a new friend, by all means go for it. I also thought of it as honoring the memories of my two previous cats, by adopting two new girls who needed a good home.

    9. TPS reporter*

      It’s not a replacement if you aren’t looking for the same cat. At the rescue I volunteer with some people select a cat because it look like a previous cat and I think that’s a mistake.

      I’ve had several cats and I always to the new ones about the old and tell them stories about their long gone sibling. I’m sure it’s only me getting something out of it but it feels like a nice tribute. Sassy will not mind I promise.

      Also with kittens two is better than one. They need socialization and are less likely to drove you crazy with destroying things of they have a playmate.

    10. Babs*

      I look at it this way. You are good animal parent and you only have a finite number of pets that you can love and spoil and give the best life to. Morbid math if you live to be 75 and have a single dog for the longest duration of say 15 yrs then you can only love on, spoil and give the best life to 5 dogs. I say hurry up! That next pet is waiting for you to give it the best life. I look at as honoring my beloved pet that has passed on with giving the best to the next one before I run out of time.

    11. MistOrMister*

      Everyone is different and what would be too soon for one person is the perfect timing for another. I agree with another commenter that fostering is a good compromise. But only if YOU have any doubts about adopting right now. If you are sure you are ready to adopt, then I say go for it.

      I know of someone through the internet who poasted a lot about his dog who then apparently died suddenly. He seems to have gotten a new dog relatively quickly (within a month or two I believe), named her in honor of the other dog, and is on love with her already while still missing the other dog. And everyone is thrilled that he has a new companion. The time for a new pet is when you think it’s time. Anyone who thinks they have a right to dictate your timeline to you needs to live their life, not yours.

    12. Stephanie*

      Oh, I’m so sorry about Sassy.
      Those people saying that it’s too soon are kind of cruel. If you feel ready, then it’s not too soon. You are not trying to replace her. I always liked looking at it this way: you have love to give to an animal who needs it. Your love for Sassy will not be tarnished because you open your heart to a new kitty.
      If you want a new kitty, I say go for it.

    13. Disco Janet*

      You miss having a fur baby – so go get one! Other people don’t get to decide what is too soon for anyone besides themselves.

    14. Foreign Octopus*

      I had a wonderful friend who loved her dog fiercely and was heartbroken when he died. She thought it was too soon to get another one but she started experiencing depressive symptoms and kept not turning up to work as a consequence of the lethargy. The second she got her dog from a rescue, everything about her just brightened.

      It’s not too soon if you feel ready.

      Some people just need a furry friend in their home.

    15. Jane*

      Seconding everyone saying it’s not too soon if you feel ready, and I’m side-eyeing the people in your life telling you you’re trying to replace her, that’s a terrible thing to say. Of course you’re not trying to replace Sassy, she was deeply loved and will always have a place in your heart. But that doesn’t mean you can’t open up your heart to another animal.

      I lost my cat last month and I was (and am) heartbroken, as I’ve felt after every cat I’ve lost. It’s always just awful. But I’ve also always rehomed pretty quickly, because that’s what’s right for me and my home doesn’t feel right without a cat. The only reason I don’t have a new cat now is that no shelters in my area are rehoming while we’re under lockdown. It doesn’t mean I love the cats I’ve lost any less – I’ve grieved them all very deeply, and to be honest I couldn’t read your earlier threads because they were too close to home, I knew for a couple of months before I lost my boy he didn’t have long left.

      Do what you feel is right, and it sounds like for you that is giving another cat a home.

    16. What the What*

      I loved every cat I have ever lived with. I can safely say that it is never too soon to get a new companion. They each have their own personalities to get to know.

    17. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You sound ready for a new cat(s)!

      While I know this isn’t for everyone, the only thing that has ever helped me get over the loss of a cat is … getting a new cat(s). The new cat doesn’t replace the one you lost because of course they can’t, but for me it’s helped me shift my focus and takes the shaper edges off of the process. And I figure, “It makes no sense to sit here feeling awful and like my house is empty while there are tons of cats in cages at shelters who would love to have a home.”

    18. Four-legged Fosterer*

      I’m just adding to the pile of people who can’t believe that others are pushing you not to adopt because of ‘too soon’ excuses. Do what is best for you! If you had two cats then would they tell you to love the second one less after Sassy passed? Love is not finite! I know this is pushing the comparison a long way, but do parents of two children love them half as much? It’s a completely ridiculous way to think about things, that your love of Sassy will be altered based on how soon you get a second cat.

      This is kitten season, so the best time to adopt kitten(s)*. Some rescues have had a lot of requests to adopt and don’t have many kittens for adoption, so you might want to check now so that you aren’t disappointed in a few months. Southern US always has too many cats and dogs, yet in the north there is a huge demand for dogs and puppies, and adoptable cats are more scarce than they used to be (as mentioned above – with shelters closed there is more demand on foster-based rescues, and they have limited funds so can’t increase the number that they rescue too much). I would strongly push you to listen to your own heart and do what is best for you, but I also mention the reduced number of available rescued cats so you aren’t disappointed later.

      * I agree with TPS reporter: If you get kittens younger than 6 months, then I recommend you adopt a pair. They are so much better off that way. Our local rescues have a policy that we will only adopt kittens in pairs, or to a home where there is a cat or dog that will play with them. If you prefer only one kitten then shelters and rescues are full with kittens and cats that are 6 months – 2 years old.

    19. No Tribble At All*

      I’m going to shamelessly quote from Jen from Epbot over here: “If anything, it honors them, because it shows how much happier they made your life, how they taught you that life is always better with animals in it”. I think you sound ready for another cat. You’re not trying to replace Sassy, you’re looking for a new companion.

    20. Falling Diphthong*

      When our beloved first dog died, we really missed having a dog and just had a dog-shaped hole in our lives, and we got a new one. And: he never had a good shot. We compared him to the earlier dog. He died after a few months, so we never got to know what he might grow into with more time to be himself and not Not The Other Dog, but since then we’ve taken 6-12 months before getting a new pet.

      We got two dogs a year later, and neither got compared to the earlier dogs. When one of those died we waited a year to get a new dog, and haven’t compared. Death of old cat to new kittens was about 6 months, and we haven’t compared–they got to be their own cats, markedly distinct from previous cats.

    21. LGC*

      Go with the people that are saying it’s not too soon. Ultimately, you know yourself best, but…like, I wouldn’t have suggested getting a new kitten the day after Sassy crossed the rainbow bridge, but if you’re not still in a place where you need Xanax to deal, then…it’s not “too soon” to get a new kitten. It wouldn’t be replacing Sassy with a new cat because it’s impossible to replace Sassy with a new cat.

    22. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      You will know when you’re ready. Do you feel it’s “too soon”? Or rather that are ready have another “fur baby” in your life?!

    23. Deanna Troi*

      We had a very beloved dog (chocolate lab mix) who was my husband’s baby. We had to have her put to sleep when she was 13. My husband was devastated and took 3 days off of work. We went to the Humane Society the very next day and adopted the dog who had been there the longest (black lab mix). We got her home, she laid on my husband’s feet and wrapped her front feet around his ankles. For days, he just held her and she pressed her face into his neck. There is a bumper sticker that says “Who rescued whom?” This new dog helped my husband through his grief, and we like to believe that the one who died sent her to us for that reason. There are so many animals that need to be rescued. The best way to honor the life of a beloved pet is to save another pet.

    24. Double A*

      We adore our (11 and 15 year old) cats and hope they live another 10-15 years, but we already have our succession plan in place for when they do die. So “too soon” isn’t really a concept I abide by.

    25. Kiwi with laser beams*

      My parents have had cats the whole time they’ve been married (over 35 years) and they’ve always got new cats pretty soon after losing a cat they particularly loved, so it doesn’t sound at all out of the ordinary for me. It sounds like the people you know all have different ways of handling it when their pets pass away, and it also sounds like you know pretty clearly what’s best for you, so I’d say go ahead and get the kitten.

    26. The Time Being*

      It is not at all too soon. When you want another cat around is when you’re ready for another cat, and that timeline can be whatever it is. It’s your decision, not anyone else’s.

      When I had to let go of my cat last year, I wound up getting a new cat within a week; coming home to an empty apartment and no one to greet me was too lonely for me to endure for long.

    27. KR*

      I think if you feel like you’re ready, then you should get the kitten! I think having a cute baby around to focus on would make you feel better. The kitten will be a great distraction when you feel sad. And no matter what, you are in charge of how you grieve so if you feel like you’re ready then that’s the only opinion that matters.

  27. Anon for now*

    Kind of TMI, but has anyone else ever had severe GI issues where you got so inflamed around your rectal area that all efforts to poop are very painful? How long did it take you to heal?

    I have been going through it this week and thanks to a GI doc and nurse, I think I’m through the worst of the most critical issue, but I feel now like how can I heal if it’s not an area I can really rest? I have to keep using it and it is still very painful even if just, with medication, liquid. I need there to be a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m afraid to eat much (pretty much just Ensure, pedialyte, and I did dare to have some plain mashed potato yesterday).

    It’s been a very stressful and isolating experience. I have to have a colonoscopy next week to see what the butt (haha) is going on. I’m much younger than one normally is to have that procedure. I’m a little scared about that, but my most immediate issue is the pain and feeling like it’s not going to heal/go away.

    1. CC*

      I am sorry to say that the colonoscopy prep is likely going to make it worse.

      My recommendation is a water – either a bidet toilet seat if you can afford it or getting in the shower with a handheld shower massage to rinse off that area after “going”. Or even just filling a bottle with warm water and pouring it back there to get a better clean. You are basically making sure there is nothing left on you with less physical wiping.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        These are good; if you can’t do these, use the wet wipes / medicated pads and dab, not scrub. From what I’ve seen, it starts feeling better in about a week, but that may have been with a milder case.

        1. Chaordic One*

          There are different varieties of wet wipes. Try to find the ones that have “aloe” as an ingredient and avoid the ones with alcohol.

      2. Anon for now*

        It’s so gross and embrassing to admit, but I have been “going” in the shower. I can’t sit, even on the toilet. The pressure down there causes pain and standing somehow makes it less worse. I have incontinence undies for if I can’t make it to the shower because I have to be able to stand when it happens. Then I get in the shower to clean off.

        Not looking forward to the procedure prep. I had like a gallon of the stuff over three days this week (and it was key to resolving some of the internal issues), but taking it over a much shorter period of time… Ugh. I have a few days before I have to do the prep. It’s all really stressful to think about.

        1. also anon for this*

          That actually sounds like a smart and practical way to handle this, especially if it’s just liquid anyway. I’m not a big fan of suffering, so if the shower helps reduce your suffering, then do it.

          I remember when one of my kids in diapers had diarrhea and it had gotten to the point he was so red and raw that diaper changes were agony. I finally decided to just stand him in the shower to clean him off each time. I think that was one of best parenting moves ever.

          There are a couple people in my household who for whatever reason don’t wipe well who try to time it so that they shower after they poop so they don’t have to wipe much (or possibly at all). It’s not a topic that people talk about, but I bet it’s more common than you think.

      3. Breast Solidarity*

        A “hand-held bidet” is inexpensive and easily installed on any toilet and saved my behind during chemo.

        1. allathian*

          I’m so happy I live in an area where hand-held bidets are standard (essentially a shower attachment to the bathroom faucet). It was a lifesaver after my episiotomy.

    2. Anon for This*

      Do you have access to a sitz bath? If not, can you run a couple inches of water in a tub, enough to rest your butt in it? Doing that mornings, evenings, after bowel movements, and after any kind of strenuous activity can really, really help to reduce the inflammation and calm the skin and muscles in the area. Epsom salts if you have them can help as well. I had a cyst removed from the area earlier this year and it was intensely painful while it was healing, and I was really surprised at how much just sitting in a couple inches of water helped to reduce the pain and calm the area.

      And I second using water to clean and rinse afterwards. You can use a sports bottle with a squirt-style top, or if you can go to the drugstore, they sell squeeze bottles for postpartum women that’s the same idea. Rinse gently, and use a hair dryer on a gentle setting to help dry the area rather than rubbing with paper.

      1. Anon for now*

        I will try this! I do have Epsom salts and access to a bathtub. I can’t actually sit right now, but I could lay on my side in a warm bath.

      2. Call me St. Vincent*

        I had “cysts” in groin/buttock area for 20 years before a doctor figured out that I have HS. In that time, I had three “cysts” lanced and drained and no one thought of it. Just putting it out there in case you are in the same boat. I take meds for it now and have been in remission for a few months now (been on the meds for over a year).

    3. I hate the offseason*

      When I have done colonoscopy prep in the past, I found that it helps to put some Vaseline on the tp when you wipe. Keeps me from getting raw down there. Also, the sitz bath is a good recommendation. I had surgery that required one for recovery, plus I had a bag that I filled with warm water that would run over the area while using the sitz bath. Irrigated it, so to speak.

      1. ..Kat..*

        Coconut oil works better and won’t leave an oily residue on clothes like Vaseline.

    4. Deschain*

      Due to developing severe food allergies about 10 years ago, I understand exactly what you’re saying! It’s incredibly painful and something that is hard to discuss with others. As someone else mentioned, I highly recommend a bidet attachment. It has truly changed my life. I have the Tushy brand, which I’ve been using for about two years and it easily moved from my house to an apartment so it should work on any toilet. It’s inexpensive compared to actual bidets. I keep a stack of inexpensive bath rags to wipe with after spraying the water and then I store the rags in a lingerie bag under the sink until laundry day. I hope you’re feeling less pain very soon!

    5. fposte*

      I have Downstairs Problems that mean I get fissures all the damn time. So, yeah.

      A few things to consider:
      Using Vaseline pre-emptively, not afterwards, to protect the skin (that goes double if you start in with wipes or a bidet–those are fine things but the water is drying)
      Trying a squatty potty or just a footrest to change the position and weighting when you sit
      Requesting a prescription for topical Lidocaine

      It unfortunately sounds like your diet has to be very limited and free of fiber, but if you can tolerate a stool softener that would be worth considering as well.

      1. Call me St. Vincent*

        I had the surgery to correct a fissure that I had for YEARS and it worked really well. I just mention it because I put the surgery off for over 10 years because they told me all the risks (it could not work, it could come back, etc), but I had the surgery 10 years ago and I haven’t had anything since.

        1. fposte*

          Mine aren’t the classic deep ones–they’re superficial tears from surface tension because of a combination of Crohn’s and skin issues. So they’re not nearly so painful and they come and go.

          However, there is a wonderful old blog by a surgeon who has an entry on the misery of anal fissures and the life-changingness of surgery for it. Link in followup.

    6. Call me St. Vincent*

      The best thing I have found is taking frequent sitz baths and using Tucks wipes. I am so sorry. I’m 36 and have had 4 colonoscopies so I feel you :( Good luck and I hope you feel better soon!

    7. OhneNamen*

      You should‘t be embarrassed, you have a medical condition and you are in pain! I hope you will get an explanation and treatment soon! I‘ve actually had severe inflammation in the rectum, but cannot remember having pain like you describe. I had diarreah and blood, so I my toilet visits were always urgent and quickly done. I have Chron‘s disease.

      1. KeinName*

        Oh, and i‘m fine now, after getting the correct medication, and had the pleasure of seeing the nice pink intact inside of my rectum during a colonoscopy recently :-) and i‘m 36

    8. Nita*

      Baths with Epsom salf are pretty good for reducing inflammation. So are baths with herbs (chamomile + oak bark + nettle leaf + sage kept at a low boil for 15 minutes, strain, let cool, and use a quarter-cup of so in the bath). If it’s hemorrhoids, hemorrhoid cream helps too.

    9. Alexandra Lynch*

      I have a nasty combination of constipation-prone IBS combined with scarring in the perineal area from obstetric trauma. In short, if things are too solid they will rip the scar back open.

      I have accepted that I have to drink tons of water and take stool softeners every day, and that’s just all.

  28. Lcsa99*

    Hope this doesn’t break the new rules. I know a lot of us have been trying new recipies while stuck at home, so what have you been trying? Share your favorite new recipe!

    We’ve been trying a new bread recipe every week. Our new favorite is Paul Hollywood’s Ciabatta. Its not too complicated and it’s got a ton of flavor. I’ll post the recipe itself as a comment so this isn’t too long.

    1. Lcsa99*

      Paul Hollywood Ciabatta, slightly modified
      4 scant cups of bread flour
      Generous 1 1/2 cups water
      30 g yeast (note: this is the amount of fresh yeast, so adjust amount accordingly)
      1 tbs salt
      2 tbs olive oil

      Put two cups of flour into a bowl with generous 3/4 cup of water and the yeast. Mix for approximately 5 minutes, then let ferment for 4 hours.

      Add the remaining flour, water salt and olive oil. Mix well, knead until smooth then let rest in a bowl for 2 hours.

      Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and devide into two. Shape each into a loaf and let rest another 2 hours

      Preheat the oven to 400f, dust the loaves with flour and bake for 25-30 min the transfer to a wire rack to cool.

      Should note this was supposed to make four loaves, but we wanted two larger loaves. You can split it in four instead of two.

      1. Nervous Nellie*

        Ooh, this looks fun and delicious. Thank you for this! I was given a bag of flour in trade for 10 sewn masks, and have been casting around to find recipes to get going on it. Yum! Will be baking today.

      2. Blueberry*

        My roommate made this and we all devoured the results in less than ten minutes. I felt a bit bad after the time it took but she was complimented we loved it so much.

      3. Teapot Translator*

        Would you happen to know how much yeast that is in teaspoons or tablespoons?

        1. Lcsa99*

          Just googling the conversion, looks like its about 2 tablespoons. Sounds like a lot but considering how long it’s working, it makes sense.

        2. Free Meerkats*

          Well, all baking recipes should be weight based. Especially flour; the weight per cup varies hugely, depending on how you handled the flour, easily up to 20%.

    2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I had a roasted eggplant I had to use so I made the pita recipe from King Arthur Flour’s website to go with homemade baba ganoush. It didn’t have much of a pocket but was tasty as a flatbread for dipping/wrapping and easy.

    3. Coco*

      Cinnamon rolls.

      I was previously looking for non cinnamon roll sweet bread recipe advice here but it turns out spouse really likes cinnamon rolls. 10 years together, never knew that about him.

      Anyway have been trying different cinnamon roll recipes and my favorite (requires more work than others) is King Arthur flour’s soft cinnamon roll recipe. The one that uses the tangzhong method. Since we are only 2 people, I cut the recipe to 1/4 of the original so it yields 6 and they better the next day than other cinnamon roll recipes. Obviously not as good as fresh baked but more of a 20% degradation in quality opposed to like 50% (strictly my opinion , there have been no actual studies)

      1. Anom-a-long-a-ding-dong*

        If you’re experimenting with other cinnamon roll recipes, I highly recommend Alton Brown’s recipe for overnight cinnamon rolls. Labor intensive (it sounds like you’re up to the challenge, though), but flawless every time, in my experience.

          1. Anom-a-long-a-ding-dong*

            He is awesome. I’ve found that his recipes in general are really reliable, and I also just like him as a person, which is cool too.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I really like Paul Hollywood’s soda bread, made with buttermilk from homemade butter. (It’s not sour the way commercial buttermilk is, but at least in that recipe, it still works out, and my taste testers like it better than with the commercial buttermilk. :) ) Plus then you have homemade butter to put on your homemade bread and you feel MIGHTY.

      Homemade butter/buttermilk: Pour a quart of whipping cream into a stand mixer, turn the whip on high, and walk away. After about ten minutes, check back – basically, you want to make whipped cream, then just keep going. Somewhere around the 12-15 minute mark (I forget exactly, so I basically just stand there and watch it), the whipped cream will pretty much immediately break, it’ll start splashing liquid again, and you’ll have a mass of butter and a glug of buttermilk. Strain off the buttermilk and set it aside (don’t try to add any more rinsings or squeezings to it, this is one and done), then rinse and squeeze the butter (like play doh :P ) until you can’t squeeze any more liquid out of it. Then you can salt it or flavor it – I’ve done garlic herb, honey cinnamon, spiced rum flavors, all successfully. I put it in regular Tupperware, though if you want to get extra fancy you can put it in silicone molds too. :) I usually get about 12 ounces of butter and 14-16 ounces of buttermilk out of a quart of whipping cream. The butter will last a couple-three weeks in the fridge, or you can freeze it if you wrap it in parchment paper. (You can also do this with a hand mixer or even by hand, it just takes omg way longer.)

    5. WellRed*

      I’m not trying new recipes, but am trying to learn to make excellent homemade pizza, using various tips people tell me.

      1. pancakes*

        I finally tried the Jim Lahey dough / crust recipe and liked it a lot, so I recommend that one. I prefer it to the Peter Reinhart Neapolitan-style dough recipe that was my previous go-to.

      2. Lcsa99*

        If your favorite pizza dough recipe calls for all purpose flour, try switching it to bread flour, or a combination of the two. We did and it make an incredible difference in texture and flavor.

        We also have a great pizza sauce recipe if you’re interested.

          1. Lcsa99*

            Not sure you’ll see this at this point, but here you go!

            1 can tomate paste (the small one, think its 6 oz)
            2 heaping tbs brown sugar
            1 1/2 tbs crushed garlic
            2 tsp dried oregano
            2 tsp dried basil
            1/4 cup red wine
            1/4 cup water
            1/8 cup olive oil

            Mix it all together and adjust sugar, basil and oregano as needed. You don’t need to cook off the wine before you use it, and it’s enough sauce for 2 or 3 pizzas, depending on the size.

    6. Jaid*

      I broke out the Sprializer and made sweet potato strings. Unfortunately I was winging it with the temperature (toaster oven baking) so it was not a roaring success. BUT now I know.

    7. NewReadingGlasses*

      We’ve been making our own hummus in the food processor. I’ve learned the only required ingredients are: some kind of cooked beans, some kind of nut butter, and some kind of oil. The recipe I like the best is close to the original

      1 15 oz can garbanzo beans
      1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste) roasted if you can get it, regular also fine
      1/8 cup olive oil + extra to put on top later
      1/8 cup lemon juice
      1 cooked shallot (normally this would be garlic, but I prefer less garlic flavor).
      Dash salt
      1/4 to 1/2 cup water to get the texture you want

      Optional flavoring ingredients ( pick 1 or 2)
      Smoked or regular paprika
      Toasted sesame oil ( about 1 tsp)
      Roasted sweet peppers
      Basil or parsley
      Chili powder
      Pine nuts
      Carmelized onions

      The original recipe said to mix the olive oil and tahini until fluffy first, but I just put everything but the water in a food processor and start grinding. I then add water a bit at a time until I get a smooth mix. A blender works also, but my blender pitcher is harder to clean than my food processor container. The optional flavoring go in the mix but I like it better put on the top at the end.

      1. Angstrom*

        You might try reserving the bean liquid and using that instead of water to get the consistency you want. I think it helps the flavor.

        1. NewReadingGlasses*

          I was taught that the bean liquid from the can increases gas, but this might be a myth.

    8. Not A Manager*

      I asked for recommendations last week about what to do with elderly clementines. I took a commenter’s suggestion to make marmalade, and it’s delicious and addictive. The recipe made 5 little half-pint jars, so I thought I’d have a lot to give to friends, but we’ve finished half of one jar this week alone.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      Two Smitten Kitchen links:

      Thai steak salad: https://smittenkitchen.com/2018/06/garlic-lime-steak-and-noodle-salad/
      A great way to eat a pile of vegetables and some protein. I never bother with the noodles; usually use ribeye and whatever salad vegetables I have on hand, though the green beans make a nice addition.

      Carrot burgers: https://smittenkitchen.com/2020/03/carrot-and-white-bean-burgers/
      These are simple–carrots, canned white beans–and taste great without even trying to pretend to be a beef hamburger. Both my husband and teenage athlete son asked that these happen again.

      I was fortunate to buy Ottolenghi’s Simple just before everything shut down: great source of vegetable-forward recipes.

  29. rainbowsquare*

    Does anyone have any changing bad habits advice? I have a personality that leans towards over indulging on bad habits and borderline addictions.

    I have successfully tackled some of my habits in the past but others I am stuck on, such as eating too much and drinking too much soda. I’m a real pleasure seeker and these things are enjoyable.

    Any advice? Did anyone else get on top of these habits or other pleasure seeking problematic habits? Cold turkey has worked for me in the past with other things, but with food you still need to eat and can’t stop it all together!

    How do you stop doing things that are bad for you? I’ve Googled and spoken to a therapist but never seem to come up with very good advice.

    1. Ranon*

      Would reframing it as doing things that give you pleasure long term help at all? E.g. this thing tastes good in the moment but if I eat more than a certain amount I’ll have a crappy sugar hangover/ feel less good in my body next week/ etc. Or doing this thing isn’t fun right now but I will feel awesome in my body for a long time if I just do 15 minutes of it every day.

      You’re still seeking pleasure, you’re just measuring it on a scale where future you gets to weigh in too. (E.g. future me likes when we do our PT exercises and eat fiber, current me compromises with fiber that tastes good and asking the physical therapist for less boring PT). Generosity for your future self, if you will.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      I substituted in things that were not as bad – lower calorie but still high sensation, or lower cost though still ‘time wasters’.
      – I’ve been a heavy reader since childhood, and eventually figured out it was something I did to manage my OCD (diagnosed). And by ‘heavy’, I mean at breakfast or while doing dishes. If I could read while sweeping, a) I would and b) my house would be cleaner.
      – Singing is also good, but for me, it needs to be 10 – 30 minutes focused on singing, not just a few song bits while I work. The deep breathing you need for singing is very similar to meditation breathing, or primal scream breathing – I suspect there’s some vagus nerve stimulation going on.
      – Certain computer games, where I am counting – one of my C’s is definitely counting. Totally outing myself if any of my friends read this but: original Civilization (computer game by Sid Meier), moving things down roads / railroads, I count their movements and it is very soothing.

      Not the most constructive options, but cheap, no calories, and I do learn things with the reading.

      I hear stories about people using exercise this way, as in ‘I get the urge to eat so I take a walk or do some stretches.’ House cleaning and gardening can also be cathartic, but I find them hard to start – Unfuck Your Habitat’s 15 minute spurts can really help there. (no, I’m not reading AAM to put off cleaning the bathroom.. nope, nuh unh, not me!)

      With the soda: I’ve switched to ‘no-calorie flavored seltzer + flavoring’ and gotten my husband on board. The household favorite right now is lime seltzer + tart cherry concentrate, but we’ve also liked lime seltzer + fruit punch. Fruit juice is about the same as sodas, so adding the seltzer dilutes the sugar while still giving you a lot of carbonation sensation.

      Basically, I thought about things that were non-productive and decided whether I would avoid (eg, alcohol / drugs), reduce (sodas / chips), or embrace (computer games, singing). Reading’s too ingrained, I have no choice about that one.

      Good luck, I feel ya.

      1. Thursday Next*

        I second the suggestion of substituting something, either to approximate some part of the experience (I love Coke, but seltzer can be a satisfying swap when I realize what I’m really craving is the fizziness), or to “break the circuit” and reset with something different altogether, like listening to a favorite uptempo song instead of reaching for a piece of chocolate.

        I still drink soda and eat chocolate. But I like having more options on my “habit menu” from which I can choose.

        1. Natalie*

          Substitutions have worked well for me, but your mention of Coke also reminded me that getting small, pre-portioned items has also been helpful. We buy those tiny Cokes, 7.5 oz IIRC, for when we want a soda. Typically that’s all either my husband or I needs to feel treated, and we don’t have to use any willpower to dump out the rest or anything like that.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      It’s very difficult to stop anything if there is no plan for what you WILL do.

      So I quit soda and since you mentioned soda that would be a good example. I started by saying to myself that I could not have a soda until I had a whole glass of water. It took a bit. I realized that after a glass of water that a glass of soda was almost too much fluid. I drank smaller amounts of soda.
      The whole story turned when I started realizing how CRAPPY I felt when I drank soda. I mean I felt awful, FOR DAYS!, just on one soda. And that is when it clicked for me. I did not want to feel crappy, I had too much to do and no time to feel crappy.
      Then I lost a size. Yeah, I gave up soda and went down one clothing size just because of stopping soda. Well, I got excited about that of course and it helped me to move to the next correction I wanted to make.

      Take one thing at a time. Be patient with your own process. So for me, I got rid of the soda then I moved on to something else that I needed to get rid of. I found a plan for what I would do instead and I got rid of that next thing. I am a big fan of building a plan for what you WILL do instead of what you used to do. Yes, it’s slower when you do this and yes, it can be a pain in the butt to do this. But it is what clinched it for me.

      It’s fine to want pleasure, it’s fine to want to feel good. The tricky part is to think beyond the short term. Why was I drinking so much soda? It gave me a lift in the moment. Why did I need that instant lift? I had to look at what else was going on in my life. I had to back away from certain types of settings where I was not only ineffective but the situation was bringing ME down lower. It’s amazing how many things pull us down during the day and it never occurs to us just how much of a downer we are tolerating.
      Oddly, we automatically look for things that give us pleasure and lift us up but we are reluctant to seek out the downers and remove them from our lives. My wise friend said to watch the yo-yoing. Watch the ups and downs. If we go too low then we will tend to go too high. Work things around so the highs are not so high and the lows are not so low. There is a reason why we are seeking that instant pleasure.

      1. allathian*

        Drinking a glass of water before allowing yourself a glass of soda sounds like a great idea. I’m going to try that as well, because I’m trying to cut down on my soda consumption.
        I’m going to try to switch to flavored bottled fizzy water for when I’m craving the bubbles to see if that’ll help cut down on the soda.

    4. Kate*

      Have you read Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before? It’s all about habits and I found it fabulously full of tips that actually work.

      One example, I chew my nails all the time. Chew them, pick them, the whole shebang. Manicures don’t help, neither does that terrible tasting varnish — if anything, that made succeeding in chewing/picking them more satisfying.

      I realized that I do it largely when I am stressed or nervous— it’s especially bad when I am stuck in traffic for some reason. I started putting cheap nail files EVERYWHERE. Cup holder, purses x6, pocket, etc. and filing them down every time I had the urge. Worked really well.

      1. Nessun*

        I found some of Rubin’s suggestions helpful, but she does seem to approach her subjects from a position of privilege that I found hard to get past. Once I did, her books were interesting though. I would also suggest Atomic Habits by James Clear – the science is fascinating and the process he laid out resonated with me.

    5. Disco Janet*

      For overeating/unhealthy choices, I’ve had really great luck with the Noom app! It’s helped me go about changing my diet that doesn’t feel extreme and make me all crabby, and applies psychology concepts in a way that makes sense and I’ve found helpful. It’s gotten me to reframe my bad habits so I’m not shaming myself for them anymore, and that has made it a lot easer to work on them.

      That said, if you’ve looked for a therapist and not found a good one, for some people right now might be a great time to put in the work doing that! Not true for everyone – I’m going crazy with work and my children here. But if you’re not working during this time, don’t have kids, and can make it work with your finances, this seems like the ideal time to try out different therapists via phone or video chat and find someone you click with.

    6. Qwerty*

      I find it easier to focus on new things rather focusing on what I can’t have.

      So to reduce soda consumption, I tried to drink more water and tea. That way I’m drinking water for hydration but the soda is for the happy taste, which quickly reduced my soda consumption and cravings.

      Trying to eat healthier? Focus on getting in more veggies and experimenting with new recipes. The veggies fill you up and result in less of the unhealthy food being eaten, but without feeling like your are denying yourself what you love.

      Maybe reframing things in your mind too so you avoid “good” vs “bad” habits. I’ve seen a lot of people get caught up in a shame cycle where they judge their choices, which makes them feel guilty and then causes them to do more of the “bad” behavior to cope. Choose to change things because they make you happy. For example “I’m going for a run because it helps me sleep better / improves circulation /etc” vs “I need to exercise because I need to lose weight”. The former convinces me to go for a run while the latter will usually result in me eating junk food out of spite.

      1. PX*

        I can fall into some not so great food habits, so this one in particular I find good. If its just eating vs *eating specific things* then try to make sure what you are eating is better. Fruits, vegetables, less fat, better fat when you do eat it, less sugar, less processed stuff etc. Have good snacks around. That kind of thing.

        You can also go for the less is more approach ie eat less, but make sure what you do eat is really tasty and satisfying. This is basically how I approach meat consumption for example, I aim to eat mostly vegetarian, but if I buy meat, its from local farms, the cows were happy and cared for, and it generally tastes much better. Its also usually more expensive which means I dont splurge too often!

        I also find it useful to do a bit of tracking around eating habits. Are you eating because youre bored? Actually hungry? Tired? Emotional? Habit? Being able to identify when/why you are doing certain things can be helpful in terms of changing habits eg I’m eating because I’m bored (so then you can redirect that into doing something else)

    7. Teatime is Goodtime*

      This is such a good question. Here are some things that have worked for me in the past with various habits:

      -Good old fashioned reward systems. It’s like creating my own star charts from when I was a kid: every time I make a good choice on habit X I get a point toward Y reward. How many points I need to get to that reward and how big that reward is is of course totally flexible. I try to keep it very short and small, especially at the beginning. I have to keep it realistic in order for it to work. Also: the reward can’t be doing the thing I’m trying to stop doing, so in your case “drinking a soda” wouldn’t be a reward. This usually shifts my focus to successes rather than failures, in part by reducing the shame spirals–not making a good choice on habit X just means I don’t get a point that time and all those other points show that I’m making progress so I’m not a failure.

      -Celebrating progress, every little bit of it. You thought about drinking a soda and then you didn’t? You are AMAZING! Go you! Be your own cheerleader!

      -Tackling things slowly and one at a time. I tend towards wanting to do all the things perfectly all at the same time, which totally doesn’t work. So to combat this at first I would set myself up to pick things on an artificial schedule. So, for example, I would decide I am working on habit X this month. Next month it is habit Y.

    8. Mimosa Jones*

      For too much soda, I had to create strict rules about how I have it. I have a similar personality and I find myself thinking about how I can get my next can while I’m drinking the one I have. I can’t buy it for the house, ever. I can only drink specific brands when they’re in the form of a gift, like at a party. And these days the caffeine is not my friend, so that’s an extra incentive to limit when I have it. To help you switch you could giftwrap the last case/bottle/can and call it your Ceremonial Last. The giftwrap alone might help you slow down, but if not, the act of opening it will give you time to note this is the last one at home and make it a little bit special. Then you start with the rules that work for you.

      For food it helps to have both permissions and rules. I tend to get defiant if I put too many limits on foods and it backfires. You can do the same sort of soda limits on certain foods, but you still have to eat something. The permission part is you can eat anything you want and as much as you want. The limits are to eat slowly and mindfully and only eat at meals. Stop when you feel 80% full and ask yourself if you want to eat more. Yes is an acceptable answer, the important thing is to pause and ask the question. Dish up appropriate servings, including dessert, and take them to the table, away from the rest of the food. Always use tableware at the table. Always eat the thing as part of a balanced meal/snack that always includes protein, fat and carbs. And be mindful when you’re eating: no TV or other distractions, notice how it feels and tastes, think or say to yourself how much you like that food.

      I also find that some things are more about the physical or emotional aspects around the food or consumption than the actual food. That means it can be hard to substitute or limit without considering the whole behavior. So emotional eating or eating while bored. Hot cocoa for me is partly about holding a warm mug of something rich and sweet, and then once I instituted my rules, became part of a leisurely errand day escape with my reusable mug. If you feel munchy in the afternoon, substituting a walk might not help, but giving yourself something else to chew on might. My daughter’s OT used to say it’s all about the mouth. You could get some food grade tubing to chew on or some other sensory thing. You could adopt a “sensory diet” and incorporate things like pretzel rods, carrot sticks, eating pudding through a straw, etc. into your regular diet. You could give yourself “heavy work” breaks during the day. (google the things in quotes for more ideas).

    9. Elizabeth Bennet*

      I got a lot out of the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It gives the science behind habit formation and how to make new habits.

    10. knead me seymour*

      You might find intuitive eating helpful, if you haven’t looked into it before–I think the mentality around dieting and food shaming is quite destructive in itself, even apart from its ineffectiveness. If you like to take pleasure from eating and drinking (like most of us!) it’s not really pleasant or sustainable to try to commit to food being a bland wasteland of nutrition for the rest of your life. Even if all you get from intuitive eating is the ability to really enjoy eating things you like without guilt, I feel like that’s a pretty good result in itself! But I think switching from a mindset of restriction to one of exploration will often naturally result in choosing to eat snacks and treats less often, when you’ll really enjoy them, rather than habitually.

    11. Alexandra Lynch*

      I have a goal and I revisit the goal regularly. In my case, I want to lose a lot of weight this year. Yes, I want to stay healthy, get more active, and have less pain…. but the thing that keeps me out of the snacks is thinking of the look on my very disliked sister’s face when she sees me walk into Christmas festivities with a new engagement ring on my finger and weighing anywhere from 80 -100 pounds less than I did last year. It is not very noble. It’s intensely motivating. (wry grin)

      I’ve been using MyFitnessPal and getting a lot of support from their forums.

      And it works well enough that I’m thirty-five pounds down since January, even with the quarantine.

  30. Potatoes gonna potate*

    Is anybody donating or selling items during COVID?

    My state is still in lockdown and I’m trying to get rid of a lot of my stuff before we move away. I’m willing to donate or sell, but wondering if with either step, there is something different I should be doing? I’ve never actually sold anything but I did donate a few times in the past — usually it was just giving my cousin or friend bags full of clothes. I have limitations now though with meeting people and not being able to lift heavy.

    1. nep*

      I see some garage/estate sales turning into online-only and curbside pickup.
      You could put an ad on craigslist and see whether any resellers in your area are seeking items for resale, given that places where they normally source have been closed.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I see people putting stuff out by the curb with free signs. I got rid of some extra plants that way. They were gone before I came home from work.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        A lot of areas are also covered by the Freecycle website. We got rid of a broken washer / dryer that way.

        1. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

          I use Freecycle to get rid of unneeded items. Usually I just leave them in my driveway for people to pick up so it’s contactless.

    3. Natalie*

      The main thing I see in my area is using digital payment services like Venmo, so I would make sure you’re set up for one of those services if you’re going to sell anything.

    4. CheeryO*

      Another option is NextDoor. I’ve seen a few posts offering free bags of clothes, and people have pretty much immediately taken them up on the offer. You should be able to just leave stuff on your stoop/curb once you arrange for someone to pick it up.

    5. My Brain Is Exploding*

      Spouse just bought something off Facebook marketplace. Went to the house, seller had the item on a table in the garage, that both wore masks and stayed 6′ apart.

    6. MistOrMister*

      I have a bunch of stuff to get rid of. I don’t sell via craigslist or anything, because I don’t want someone coming into my house and casing it or whatnot. Since goodwill has been closed, my plan is to post the items for free on craigslist. When someone messages me, I put it outside and give the a general address in my neighborhood for reference and they can come pick it up curbside.

    7. Overeducated*

      My Buy Nothing group just restarted (as we entered Phase 1 reopening yesterday) with recommendations for no-contact pickups and sanitizing objects to the extent possible. When it was closed, I gave away a piece of furniture for free on Craigslist by arranging a specific pick up time and putting the furniture outside my building entrance shortly before.

      I think if you’re willing to give away stuff rather than sell, this should be easy, but things you can’t carry might need to wait until you have help or it feels safer to let someone inside your home. Alternatively, if you need movers to help you move, have them make a pile on the curb and post photos of each object with “free, first come first served.” Most of it will be gone that day, lockdown or no.

      1. Trixie*

        One of my neighbors did this for some household/random items and even on our quiet street, items were picked up by foot traffic. If the weather looked decent for a few days, I would try the same with larger pieces that can’t be carried home.

      2. Filosofickle*

        My BN group has been busy all the way through with contactless outside pickups. Everyone is clearing stuff out and none of our thrift/donation centers are open.

        I start with BN or Nextdoor to make it easier on me (fewer requests/flakes), but you can get rid of almost anything on Craigslist.

    8. Reba*

      I’ve done Free on craigslist and Curb alert. Definitely possible to do no-contact if you can put the items outside.

    9. Pumpa Rumpa*

      My boyfriend has sold some items for me using Facebook Marketplace. We take payment via Venmo and put the item outside for the buyer to pick up.

    10. RC Rascal*

      Cleaning out my mothers house right now & dealing with this. College Hunks Hauling Junk are open for large pieces. Smaller items can be taken to Goodwill but you have to place in containers & it is doesn’t fit they won’t accept.

    11. Falling Diphthong*

      My mom had to move during Covid. She was able to sell some things–TV, freezer, etc–on Craigslist. And after calls to a few Goodwills found one that is open.

      The Goodwill drop for small items near me is open. So, worth checking around.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        I can’t imagine having to move at this time, that must have been so stressful! Hope shes doing well.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          She was doing really poorly with the shutdown. Recent widow, extrovert who had a lot of outside volunteer activities that are now all canceled, terrible at technology, and had a bad fall just before lockdown started. Moved in with another relative. I just talked to her and she was SO much more with it and engaged.

    12. Ronda*

      If it is for big stuff, some donation places will come pick up.
      Call around and see if any are doing it and will for the level of stuff you have to donate.

    13. migrating coconuts*

      I have cleaned out more closest and drawers in the last 2 months than I have in the last 2 decades. I Freecycle everything. I just leave it on the porch for the person who wants it and they come pick it up. Haven’t had any problems doing it this way.

  31. NicoleK*

    I’m needing feedback/experiences with home security and monitoring systems. What do you have? What are the pros and cons? What would you do differently? A couple of years ago, our house was broken into during the workday. Thankfully, no one was home at the time. My husband will be returning to the office in early June. My employer has extended our work at home until Labor day. That means, I’ll be alone at home by myself and I would like to install some sort of monitoring system for a little peace of mind.

    1. university minion*

      What use would such a system be? You’re at home. Most break-ins are crimes of opportunity and it’s a lot harder to get in and grab stuff when someone’s home. Your car being in the driveway is deterrent enough. If you’re a dog person, get a dog.

      1. Disco Janet*

        Most, but not all. It would clearly give her some peace of mind. I don’t think it’s really helpful, when someone asks for advice on security systems, to tell them they don’t need a security system. We don’t know the area she lives in, what other circumstances could be going on making it feel necessary, etc. And it’s general advice that could help others too.

        1. university minion*

          To each their own. Installing an alarm/monitoring system for *when you are at home* gives a false sense of security, not peace of mind, which is worse than no improvement.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t think that follows. Whether your sense of security is reasonable or not depends on a bunch of different things, and it may be that hers is currently unreasonably low for the situation, so that installing a system would bring it up to reasonable. That would hardly be making things worse.

            I also think you may have specific ideas of what “home” looks like and what a security system does, but there’s a lot of variety there. In some houses you won’t hear a door knock from where you’re working, so having Ring on your app lets you know when somebody’s at your door. Some security systems alert the police faster than you can if somebody forces entry. What I particularly liked on mine was the loud alarm, which is an demonstrable deterrent, and I don’t understand how the distinction you’re making about being home vs. being out would change that.

          2. Thankful for AAM*

            I don’t understand that at all, can you explain? A centrally monitored system will call the police for you if the alarm is set off and the alarm can alert you if there is an entry at the other end of the house. I think that is what she is looking for.

            1. university minion*

              I guess y’all are living in houses the size of which I can’t comprehend, if you can’t hear the goings on in your own place. The idea of having a monitor on my own house, that’s active when I am in it is unbelievably creepy, to be honest.

              1. fposte*

                Or you could just have really good hearing. I don’t like cameras myself for the creepy factor, but something that would alarm when a door was opened seemed more reassuring than creepy to me.

              2. RagingADHD*

                My house is 1200 square feet, and if I’m in the back bedroom (home office) working with headphones on, I have no idea if someone has come in the back door on the other end of the house.

                Or if I’m in the shower with the vent fan on.

                Before covid, my kids have let friends in and had a whole playdate before I knew anyone else was here.

              3. CoffeeforLife*

                I am regularly startled when my partner comes home. I have a workroom with loud tools and never hear him call out. He doesn’t scare me on purpose…I just don’t hear.

              4. Melody Pond*

                Could you please make an effort to be more kind/compassionate to people with different situations or perspectives from yourself?

    2. fposte*

      I had one that I loved, called Korner. You just put little alert tags on your doors and windows and set access via an app. Unfortunately, the company eventually failed and while there was crowdsourced support for a while my tags call with no answer.

      For me the unobtrusiveness is key. I’m not comfortable with camera scrutiny and they don’t seem to make any difference to apprehension here, so I want something I don’t have to think about. I think they probably all run with apps now, but I also liked the ability to check when I was away from the house.

    3. Thankful for AAM*

      Hi Nicole K,
      I recently looked into alarm systems for my HOA. Imo, a major company, like ADT (but without cameras bc of privacy), with central monitoring is the gold standard. Smaller companies might go out of business.

      But systems like Ring or others, without central monitoring or cameras in the house (gain, for privacy) can give you some peace of mind for a much lower cost.

      We have ADT from our HOA with alarm sensors on windows and doors. We like the beep that they give when a door opens so we know someone is coming in or out. And I got a ring front doorbell with an app. It chimes in the app when there is movement at the front door and gives me a view of the front porch. We did not want to pay for the ADT camera and our local police had a deal on the Ring.

      In our neighborhood we recently had some petty thefts and only one was caught on our HOA cameras. Several others were caught on Ring front doorbell cameras so we found them helpful.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m a huge fan of Frontpoint. You install it yourself, no cutting into walls, and their tech seems more modern than companies like ADT. A deal breaker for me with ADT was that they told us they don’t monitor whether your equipment is still working. If something dies and isn’t working any more, you wouldn’t know unless you tested it. Frontpoint sends a signal to all your equipment every few minutes and alerts you if something isn’t working correctly.

      To the point above about why you’d need a system when you’re at home — when I used to live alone, I’d frequently wake up in the night convinced I’d heard a noise and then would have to walk around the house until I was sure no one was in it. That hasn’t happened to me once since I got an alarm system that’s kept on at night. And now, with two of us, I wouldn’t necessarily hear something happening two floors below me just because I’m home.

    5. CoffeeforLife*

      When we moved into our new house my partner left for a work trip. I called him crying in the middle of the night because I was so frightened (house settling, alone anxiety). He ordered Simply Safe. We installed it ourselves, have it monitored and the system tells you if a component isn’t working. I haven’t woken up scared since.