weekend open thread – August 15-16, 2020

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand.

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: Luster, by Raven Leilani. A woman struggling with her 20s falls into an affair with a married man in an open marriage but ends up connecting with his wife and daughter instead. This will make you so glad to be done with your 20s, if you are. (And if you’re not, my sincere condolences to you.)

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

{ 1,012 comments… read them below }

  1. Hello Bad Kitty*

    I need advice on what to do when your hair stylist does one thing great but another not so great. I’ve been going to my stylist for about a year and a half, and I finally took the plunge and got some rainbow streaks dyed into my hair. And they’re not what I wanted at all. I showed her pictures that had streaks here and there all over the head, noticeably on the very top layer of hair, as well as underneath layers. She only bleached and put streaks on layers underneath. When she separated out the top layer around the crown of my head to keep my natural color, I asked if the rainbow color was going to show through with that much hair left undyed at all, and she assured me that it would. It didn’t show through, and my hair, upon first glance, basically looks exactly the same as it did before. I’ve got an appointment for a consultation somewhere else on Monday, just to talk to someone and see if they can do what I want. Maybe I can ask better questions than I asked my stylist, and specifically ask to see examples of people’s hair they’ve dyed similarly.

    I did talk to my stylist quite a few times about doing this, and it sounded like she could do it, but it looks nothing like the pictures I showed her (no streaks on top, and wide streaks of color instead of narrow ones). And here comes my spiral of anxiety: do I go back and make another appointment for her to try to get what I want next time, or do I just go to someone else? And if I go to someone else, can I ever go back to her to get my hair cut without it being super awkward, or do I just ghost her and never make an appointment again? As you can probably tell, I’m terrible with confrontation. I don’t want to complain and angle for a discount, because the money isn’t really the issue, as now I’m not sure she has the skills to do what I want. So what would you do, or what have you done when something like this happened?

    Any stylists here? Would you be offended if a client came back to you after they’d clearly had their hair done somewhere else, or would you rather they just leave? Would you expect an explanation from them? I’m curious about the other side of things, as obviously I have one stylist, but I’m only one of her scores of clients, etc.

    1. UseYourWords*

      Just go back and tell her it’s not what you wanted and give her a chance to fix it. They dont always get things right.

      If she says she cant fix it, just tell her you will find someone else to correct it. You can still go back for haircuts or whatever else.

    2. Carina*

      Talk to her, explain that it’s not what you wanted and why, and give her the chance to put things right. If she can’t, ask to speak to another colourist at the salon who can. If no one can, ask for a refund and go elsewhere. But give her the chance – sometimes things don’t turn out exactly as intended, but generally people want to do good work and will try to fix any problems. But they can’t do that unless you talk to them.

      I’ve had my colour turn out differently than I wanted before, and the salon and stylist have always been happy to fix it. I’m sure your stylist would want to know you aren’t satisfied and have the opportunity to make things right. It’s not about having a confrontation, it’s just a conversation.

      If she can’t sort it out, and you do go elsewhere for the colour, there’s no reason you can’t get her to cut your hair in future- just book in for the cut and don’t mention colour.

    3. Katherine*

      I have a similar style of colour – mine is blonde on top and teal underneath. My experience is that colourists tend towards doing less to start with, in case you freak out! Once they know you really definitely do want less subtle and more colour, then they are comfortable to go with it. (also with this style, putting waves/curls in it shows the colour more)

    4. Not A Manager*

      I’d give her a chance to fix it, as people said. But I’ve also separated different services to different stylists for years. The guy who cuts my hair does an amazing job, and he’s been my stylist for literally all of my adult life. But he’s not great at color. So years ago I started getting my color done elsewhere. He’s never complained, and he still does a great job cutting my hair. (I did actually try having the colorist trim my hair, but that was a disaster.)

    5. WellRed*

      I disagree with the comments to give her a chance to fix it. It sounds like it’s not something she’s good at. Some stylists are colorists, some excel at cutting.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        I don’t necessarily disagree, but I also don’t think it’s something you have to do if you’re not comfortable. It’s hard to give critical feedback and we don’t necessarily owe it.

      2. Squeakrcon*

        This would be my point as well. Stylists a morning more concentrating on either color or cut and perhaps your stylist is more of an expert on the cut.

      3. Carina*

        It’s possible, but I don’t think it’s fair or reasonable to make that determination on one experience. I’m sure you’ve done things badly once or twice that you are usually great at! If not, congrats on being a superior human being ;)

        I’ve been getting my hair dyed professionally for over 20 years. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out right. It’s not automatically an indictment of the colorist’s skill. Hair colouring is an art not a science, sometimes it takes a bit of time and effort to find what works for a particular look.

    6. The Other Dawn*

      Why didn’t you ask her in the moment when it was apparent she wasn’t doing the top? That would have been the best time to say something. It seems like maybe she misunderstood and when you didn’t say anything, she assumed you were fine with it. I’d just go back and tell her, “No, this is really what I wanted” and give her a chance to finish it up for you.

      1. Hello Bad Kitty*

        I did say something. I asked her if the color was going to show and she said it was. I don’t know about dyeing techniques, so I believed her. It’s really hard to tell someone they’re doing their job wrong when you don’t actually know how to do their job.

        1. Not a cat*

          It’s perfectly fine to ask about the placement hair color. I have brown hair that has heavy blonde highlights. I asked my stylist to add a white/platinum streak in the front. I liked it so much I asked for a few more (which when washed w/ purple shampoo look gray blue.) I can’t imagine not being involved in the placement of any color on my hair. And if the stylist didn’t like that approach, then they are not the stylist for me.

        2. The Other Dawn*

          Maybe I’m misunderstanding then. I’m going by this: “I showed her pictures that had streaks here and there all over the head, noticeably on the very top layer of hair, as well as underneath layers. She only bleached and put streaks on layers underneath.” I took it to mean it was obvious she wasn’t putting color on the top layers, which is why I asked why you didn’t say anything.

          1. Marni*

            This is in the letter: “When she separated out the top layer around the crown of my head to keep my natural color, I asked if the rainbow color was going to show through with that much hair left undyed at all, and she assured me that it would.”

            She DID say something. She was assured her concerns were unwarranted. But the final product didn’t come out the way it was promised, *even after she specifically asked if it would.*

            Maybe the stylist overestimated her skills. Layered multicolored looks are a specialized skill. I honestly doubt she can fix it.

            Bad Kitty, if it were me, I think I’d find someone who specializes in the look you want to complete the color job. Next time you book a haircut with your original stylist, you can mention that you wanted a more complicated color job so you went to a specialist, but you still want her to do your cutting. If she isn’t cool with that or makes you feel awkward, I guess you’re in the market for a new stylist.

      2. RagingADHD*

        I’m pretty good about speaking up in most situations, but for some reason I freeze up in the stylist’s chair, so I understand this!

        I think maybe it’s all the chitchat and the intimacy of the experience – it feels so personal to criticize their work, when they spent so much time on it.

        It’s difficult to maintain that mental line that this is a business relationship, and the product isn’t what you ordered. But I agree with the majority that the best move is to go back and ask for more color.

        Maybe it would help you to come up with wording, like instead of saying “this is wrong,” you could say, “I really wanted more streaks of color showing on top, but it’s very subtle. Can you make it bolder?”

    7. juneybug*

      Here is what I have learned over the years –
      First of all, you can do what you want and go where you want. I tell you that because I hate conflict as well. I have to learn to give myself permission to take risks, even if it might upset someone. I went to a few different hair stylists (for a while, no one seem to get my hair right!) and when I returned to one I had tried previously, I just didn’t say anything about my hair. If the hair stylist asks where did I go last time, I just calmly said I wanted to try something different, or I went with a friend, or someone gave me a gift certificate. I say it so calmly that no one has argued or seem upset with me. This gets easier over time.
      Second, you have to speak up. Hair stylist are not mind readers. Spend the extra time upfront (before the haircut or color starts) to ensure you get what you want. Most hair stylist (the good ones) will want to ensure that everyone is on the same page. As the hair color or cut is progressing, ask what they are doing. Most hair stylist (again, the good ones) will love telling you – what steps they are taking, what process they are using, etc. And if you return to that stylist, tell them what you liked or didn’t like about your last hair color or cut. Over time, this person might turn out to be your go-to stylist.
      Third, trust your instincts. This hair stylist might not have the skill set to do the color you want (which sounds amazing BTW!).
      Fourth – what worked best for me was going to a higher end (more expensive) hair stylist. I went from $35 – 50 for single color and haircut to $135 – 155 for base color with highlights and cut. My stylist is fabulous/amazing! I wake up most days and not have to style my hair (I wash it at night). My blond color is beautiful, the cut works with my hair texture, and I get compliments all the time.
      I hope this helps! It’s no fun having a hair stylist who can do great color but bad haircut or do bad color and provide a great haircut. It’s frustrating! And it’s very sweet that you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

    8. Courageous cat*

      Well, don’t think of it as ghosting. There’s no understood relationship that in any way bonds you. Just start going to someone else. Anytime I’m unhappy with a hairdresser I usually just cut my losses and try another, no hard feelings. I guess it helps that I’m in a reasonably large city though.

    9. Former Retail Manager*

      Some unanswered questions I have:
      1. How long have you been going to this stylist?
      2. Was your hair previously what would be considered “conservative?” (all one color / a natural color, etc.)
      3. Do you work in a conservative field and does she know this? (She may have gone easy for fear that what you said you wanted really wasn’t what you wanted. I’ve seen that many times. Someone wants a super short pixie cut, from waist length hair, and freaks smooth out.
      4. How long has this stylist been doing hair? Is she fresh out of beauty school or experienced? Even if she is experienced, is this something that she does routinely? For example, my mother’s stylist has 40 years experience and wouldn’t touch rainbow anything….it’s just not what she does.
      5. Did you show her a pic of hair that was curled or wavy and you wear your hair straight? That will impact how the colors on the underlayer of your hair show or whether they show at all.

      In my opinion, as someone who’s had quite a few stylists over the years and goes regularly and has had an array of colors and styles, I think #4 is the most important question. As many others have said some stylists are cutters and some are colorists. A rare few are great at both. I go to 2 different people (one for cut and one for color).

      If your stylist has an Instagram page or Facebook page, peruse it and see if you can find another client that she’s done this for. If you can’t, then I’d venture to guess that it’s not a technique she does regularly and you can decide if you want to roll the dice and give her a chance to fix it or not. If she isn’t well versed in this technique, I’d personally start looking for a stylist or salon that does “edgier” or more modern styles and colors regularly, and has proof of that, and then contact them to finish the job.

      I’ve personally shown stylists pics of what I wanted, they tried and failed, I gave them a chance to fix it, and more failure resulted, at the cost of damage to my hair since bleach was involved. Whether you give her a chance to fix it or not is really up to you, but I’d say go with your gut. Also, it sounds like communication wasn’t great on either of your parts. Please speak up about what you want, don’t want, and when you aren’t satisfied. Most stylists will not be offended and a good stylist wants you to be happy with the end result. And speak up during the process as others have mentioned. In this instance, you could have said “I know you’re saying it will show through, but I typically wear my hair straight and flat ironed, so I’m not sure how the underlayers will show through if we don’t do something with the top layer. Can you explain?”

      Good luck! I know the disappointment of spending a lot of money on your hair and not being happy with the result.

  2. Jaid*

    Not trying to shill, but I have to wonder where the indie nail brand Holo Taco sourced their glass nail files. I have the set of three and each one works like my nails were made of butter. Buttah.

    BTW, good morning, y’all!

    1. Jaid*

      Oh, BTW, do you still get the commission if I use that link and then decide to buy something else after meandering thru the marketplace?

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        If you click the link she gets commissioned on anything you buy from amazon in the next 24 hours, is how I believe it’s been explained in the past! (But it’s been a minute.)

        1. JKP*

          Yes, as someone else who uses amazon associate links, she gets commission on anything bought in the next 24 hours through that link (as long as the cookie is active). But if you click on someone else’s amazon link, then that replaces hers and that person gets commission. Basically the most recent amazon cookie gets commission.

          Also, if you add something to your cart from that link, and then come back and buy it after the 24 hours has expired, she still gets commission. It’s one way I try to support this site even if I don’t buy the specific recommended book but buy something else instead.

    2. ALM2019*

      Oh my goodness. Their glass file is the first I’ve ever owned and I was shocked the first time I used it. Amazing!!

    3. CTT*

      I just looked that up and I used to love Simply Nailogical’s nail art videos back in the day (the day being like, 2016).

    4. Jen*

      Cristine and Ben have done a podcast on the business side of Holo Taco, but they haven’t said where exactly they buy their products. It did seem like they did a whole ton of research to purchase super high quality stuff, though!

      1. DiscoUkraine!*

        Those two are adorably nerdy about how much research they obviously loved doing for the nail line. Their latest podcast included a little segment about how she wanted custom molded glass containers for the polish because of the volume they hold and the weight felt like a more expensive product. She loves the little details.

    5. noahwynn*

      How I ever got sucked into that channel on YouTube I’ll never know, but Cristine (and Ben) are just so likeable to me. I’ve really been enjoying the podcasts too. I’m a guy who never really paints my nails and would never do nail art, but for some reason I watch every video. It is totally apparent that she really cares about the brand and spends a lot of time testing the products herself before release.

  3. Greta*

    I could use some advice on how best to move forward with a family member’s request.

    My husband, young children, and I are pretty locked down due to the pandemic. I am pregnant and have a chronic disease that puts me at high risk for COVID complications, and my mother-in-law, who lives with us, is elderly and also at risk. We have all been home 100% since March. 

    My brother-in-law lives across the country. He works from home, lives alone, and has had a hard year emotionally. Understandably, he is lonely and misses his family. We are his only immediate family and we haven’t seen him in at least a year. He has proposed that he will drive across the country (which would take at least a week) and stay with us for an extended period of time.

    I really don’t want this to happen. I like my BIL, but to be frank, we are barely holding it together right now as it is. Two working parents with intense, stressful jobs and no childcare, stuck in the house for months – you get the idea. Adding another person to our “bubble” is especially stressful because we are taking very strict precautions that I can’t be sure he will adhere to while here. He says he will get tested and quarantine in his van after he arrives, but I don’t know how that would work since he would need access to a bathroom and kitchen. Once he’s in the house with us it would not be easy to fold him into our routine for a lot of reasons I won’t get into here. He would not be helping with childcare or meals. 

    The thought of having a houseguest for weeks or months on end makes me want to cry. I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy, exhausted, and already stretched too thin trying to keep our household running and children cared for while also trying to do a demanding job over Zoom. (My husband works ~80 hours a week so he’s not free much.)

    I basically told my husband I wouldn’t forbid him from coming because it’s not my place to tell him he can’t see his family, but I really, really don’t want him to come right now. I genuinely feel bad for him, though. Maybe I’m being unreasonable… what would you do?

    1. Jaid*

      I would not let him come. You have too much at stake and you’re already at a breaking point. And because you’re carrying more of the burden than your husband you really have more of a say in it.

      You can’t entertain him, he’s not going to be helping, and you don’t trust him to adhere to guidelines.

      Whatever happens, I wish you and yours well.

    2. UseYourWords*

      Say no. Make sure your husband is backing you up.

      You just need to talk to your husband about what you want, and then together tell brother-in-law it will not work out and he cant stay there.

      I wont go into reasons why it might be good to have him there, since you are so dead set against it.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      I’d have been a lot less accommodating than you.

      The fact that he thinks he can quarantine for two weeks in his van after he arrives says pretty much everything you need to know about how seriously he’s going to take your precautions. He’s not considering how he’s going to eat, go to the bathroom, bathe or do laundry, all of which are going to mean that he’s coming into your home, or interacting with other people, neither of which is actually quarantining. Also – suppose he does get sick. He’s going to weather out the virus in his van? Drive for a week while potentially seriously ill to get back home? Or is he going to expect you guys to take care of him?

      I’d be really honest with your husband – you’re in an advanced state of pregnancy, working from home while caring for the kids and the family, and will soon be caring for a baby, and you’re hanging on with your fingernails trying to keep it together as it is. Adding a long term houseguest, who isn’t considering the practicalities of the visit, is going to increase your burden, and who isn’t going to actually help with anything is really, really not reasonable right now.

      Other things to discuss before saying yes. If he does come, what is the plan if he does fall ill? Where will he stay, who will look after him? How will the practicalities of his van quarantine work? Can he be trusted to follow your rules, or will he wiggle around it and try to justify it as “just… ” Will your BIL work to help out – watch the kids, cook, clean, do housework, without you having to poke him? If not, is your husband willing to take time off work to handle the extra load?

      Personally, I’d give a flat no, with the possibility of revisiting things in six months, to see if the situation has improved.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Depending where you are, he’s not considering weather emergency either. We’re only up to tropical storm “K”–what does he expect to do if there’s a full-on hurricane? Or a 100-degree heat wave?

    4. Treebeardette*

      “I’m due soon. I’m sorry but there’s too much going on to have you to stay. Let’s relook at this in near Christmas time/next year (or whatever holiday).”

      If he pushes, “I’m sorry but we have too many high risk people here and that includes your nieces and nephews. Thanks for understanding.”

      I get it, being lonely is hard. You can acknowledge that and still say no. If he is pushing a lot, it’s ok to suggest that he looks at moving closer to family.

    5. Roseberriesmaybe*

      He is not going to help with childcare or meals! There are no benefits, and added work/stress to having him stay for God knows how long. Please refuse him and protect your sanity

    6. KiwiApple*

      Say no but also it must be REALLY difficult for your BIL to see none of his family for months and months with no end in sight.
      No wonder he wants to see you all, even of his plans aren’t best thought out.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. It’s perfectly fine to tell him no if OP isn’t up to it and doesn’t want to risk it. But a lot of empathy and kindness is called for here when telling him no.

        That said, I totally get his desire to visit. I was supposed to see my favorite cousin back in March after my surgeries–she was coming to help me out–and I hadn’t seen her in about a year, as she lives out of state. But the pandemic struck and her trains were cancelled. I had a trip planned to see her this week, which has been planned since late last year. I contemplated whether I should go or not, but ultimately decided to go because I really needed this for my mental health and so did she. It’s really hard not being able to see people you love and not knowing when or if this whole thing will ever end. The deciding factors were: neither of us are in a hot spot state; I work from home; she doesn’t work; our husbands work, but their companies require a lot of precautions and neither of them has a lot of face-to-face contact with people in their building; we’re all careful (masking, washing hands, hand sanitizer, etc.); the governors of our respective states are handling the pandemic similarly; and none of us are considered high risk. Most importantly, we all talked and agreed it was OK. Had someone not agreed, I would have stayed home.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        I agree – tell him no, but I would err on the side of empathy here. Unless there’s something else going on he just sounds like he misses his family and hasn’t thought it through.

    7. Christie*

      Oh HELL NO. you are not being ubreadonzble. I would “ban” this from happening without compunction. You do not need this. You deserve to not have to handle this.

      Your husband should be shutting this the eff down right now!

        1. valentine*

          Your comment is perfect, including the typo. Even the keyboard knows BIL is all kinds of wrong!

    8. Batgirl*

      “it’s not my place to tell him he can’t see his family”
      This is your home! This is your workload, your pregnancy, your daily routine. Your stress levels. If you dont have the right to say “Haha nope” then who does? You can’t host a guest right now (obviously) and your husband had enough context to have laughed off the request without even asking you, frankly. You are his priority, after all and he should be considering the inevitable impact on you. Then when he saw how upset you were he should have become dead against the idea even if he could get reluctant agreement to stress out his pregnant wife. I appreciate your BiL wants to immerse himself in some family love, but right now he would just be immersing in a lot of problems. He can’t know this but it won’t end well. Wait for the right reunion. Embrace the power of no. Learn how to say “What a considerate request. Are you fucking kidding me?” with your eyes. Not your place!?

      1. Green great dragon*

        I agree very much with all this. For BiL, if you feel able I would tell him when you might be able to cope with a visit (once baby is here *and* you have a settled routine *and* cases are much lower, say), to emphasise it’s not about him, it’s just the situation. Even if maybe it is partly about him.

    9. Myrin*

      Just an affirmation of sorts: You can feel genuinely bad for your BIL and still not want him to come. His idea to come stay with you guys can be both understandable and unreasonable. You get to decide something like this even if he isn’t your blood relative. You are allowed to place the wellbeing of yourself and your immediate family over that of a person outside of that houshold/family.

      1. Yetanotherjennifer*

        To add on to this… your BIL has a problem and is requesting you fix it for him. You can have all the sympathy in the world for him and still say his solution won’t work for you. Maybe if he were a helpful sort of person and you had a place in the house he could quarantine in separate from everyone else and you weren’t very pregnant and didn’t have immunocompromised family members. Maaaaybe. Also, is it legal for him to live in his van in your driveway? Is there room for him or would he have to be in the street and is that legal? That’s something the neighbors are bound to notice. Are they the type to complain? Do you have a HOA? It sucks, but some people will accept a no from an outside authority more than they’d accept your perfectly reasonable no.

        BTW, I have friends who needed to visit elderly and immunocompromized family across the country. They bought a camper van with a bathroom and kitchen, isolated as much as possible the entire journey, stayed in the camper the entire trip, and saw their family through a window. They didn’t stay with family, but near them. So there is a way to do this “safely” and his plan doesn’t look anything like that.

    10. Victoria*

      Big nope. I would forbid him to come. It’s a pandemic. You are allowed to set rules and stick to them.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      Thinking of it from BILs view point, he will get there and then… nothing. Neither one of you are available for even 5 minutes of conversation.
      I assume with 80 hour work weeks if your hubby is home then he is sleeping. This means you pick up all the slack and you are probably a moving blur running through the house all day long. It’s tough to visit with a moving blur of a person or a snoring person.

      I don’t think you guys are in a position to offer proper hospitality to anyone, not just BIL. Framed that way, BIL should be able to understand that it’s no personal, it’s just where life is at for you now.

      1. Reba*

        I would predict that if BIL is making no contributions towards domestic labor (which there could be reasons for falling under OP’s “don’t want to get into”) … Husband will also end up doing even less because he will be spending at least some time with BIL.

        Greta and her spouse need to get on the same page here, and Greta you do not need to leave it up to your husband to make the call. “Not my place” — it’s your household, it is literally your place!!!!

        With your husband, tell BIL (kindly) he can get a rental or Airbnb or whatever, and see you in the yard.

    12. SIL Too*

      I have the same brother-in-law. I am not pregnant but super high risk. The answer is no. You are not keeping him from his family. A pandemic is.
      He is who he is. He is not going to change. His life and circumstances brought him to this place and there is nothing you can do to fix this right now.
      You cannot have him in your home right now.
      Also you are not the bad guy.
      Do not stress about saying no and taking care of yourself and your baby.
      Sanity check, his plan is not a workable one. It is not reasonable.
      I said no.
      No. Just no.

    13. Not A Manager*

      “Forbid” is a strong word. “It’s not my place to tell him he can’t see his family, but I really, really don’t want him to come right now,” is… somewhat shifting of responsibility.

      Can you find a way to say what you want, without making it your husband’s job to decide in a way that pleases you? You don’t want the brother to come, for very good reasons. So, “it’s not my place to tell him he can’t see his family, but I really, really don’t want him to come right now,” is sort of code for, “you can do this if you love your brother more than you love me and you don’t mind me being miserable with a newborn, a full-time job, a chronic condition, and our existing family.” What if your husband did, in fact, decide that he wanted his brother to come visit? You’ve put the ball in his court.

      It actually ISN’T okay for your BIL to visit now, and it’s okay to say that. I think you should say to your husband, “I’m really sorry your brother is having trouble. Under other circumstances I would love to have him come for an extended stay, but I can’t manage that right now. I’m sorry if that’s hard for you or disappoints you. Let’s think of other ways that we can be supportive to your brother now, and let’s plan to see him as soon as that’s safe for everyone.”

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yep. If you don’t want your BIL coming to visit, use your words and say that, don’t tell your husband it’s up to him if you’re just going to end up mad and resentful if he doesn’t make the decision you want him to make. (And don’t get me wrong, mad and resentful wouldn’t be an irrational response in general, but one you would have set yourself up for by not actually saying what you wanted to happen.)

        Really though, this isn’t “i want your brother to be miserable,” this is “Here are all the logistical issues with this plan. If you can come up with viable resolutions to these issues that don’t put extra work on me, then we can talk about it further, but until the issues are dealt with this just isn’t a feasible option.” And if his answer is “but those issues can’t be resolved,” then I guess he’s just out of luck.

        1. Courageous cat*

          Agreed agreed agreed. Own up to the fact that it 100% is your place to decide who gets to stay in your own home for an extended period of time. This is a situation that should be either “two yeses or one no”.

    14. Name of Requirement*

      I think it’s your call, not your husband’s, as he is home a lot less than you. You do get the override. Why isn’t he staying in a hotel for two weeks? A campground? Is he using your bathroom? Not working for two+ weeks?
      Could he rent a home for a few months and have your MIL stay with him after quarantine for company?

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        Good suggestions re camper, campground, or house rental. There’s no reason BIL seeing his family has to be in OP’s house. He can rent nearby and have MIL live with him for awhile and socially distanced visits with his brother +/- OP.

        His plan of having pregnant, overstretched OP cook, clean and entertain him is not workable. He may not be thinking of it in that way but that would be the net effect.

        1. Parenthetically*

          “There’s no reason BIL seeing his family has to be in OP’s house.”

          Quoting for emphasis. And a giant +1 to all of this comment.

    15. Christy*

      Honestly, COVID and pregnancy and high risk aside, it’s totally unacceptable to have an indefinite houseguest of any kind who won’t help with the kids or meals. You’re absolutely not being unreasonable.

      1. Overeducated*

        Yeah, I was going to say this. A long term house guest who doesn’t help when you’re pregnant, working, and caring for small kids was a no pre-pandemic. I get that he’s lonely but that doesn’t make it ok to suddenly show up and be an extra burden. I might have answered this differently if he were offering, say, afternoon babysitting or to do your shopping and cooking on weeknights.

      2. alligator aviator autopilot antimatter*

        This is what stuck out to me. If he were offering an extra set of capable helping hands at a time like this, the calculation might be different but… no. Ugh.

    16. Batgirl*

      “It’s not my place to tell him he can’t see his family,”
      This is your home and your life! Your life, your energy levels, your stress levels, your pregnancy, your household’s safety. YOU are your husband’s family and his priority. Not your place?! This will run up a resentment debt in your marriage that your husband cannot pay and you can’t avoid either. It’s truly sad that your BiL is struggling with creating his own local support system but his households issue will not be solved by doubling the problems of yours. Embrace the power of no. Embrace the power of “Are you kidding?” Do not allow yourself to be thrown under the bus because no one bothered to consider logistics, expecting the nice lady to make everyone feel nice and homey. Hell to the no. Hold out for the right reunion at the right time.

    17. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      Pity he wouldn’t help with the kids and household. Or even one of them. If he would (and could be trusted to take precautions) this could have been such a blessing. Without that, it’d be an extra burden when you just cannot take another one.

      1. Aria*

        Yeah exactly! My extended family is very close and something like this would be a great solution – where the person moving in would help a lot with childcare and cooking, you know, like a member of the family.

      2. Double A*

        As I was reading this I was thinking it could actually be a help…until I got to the part where he planned not to help at all, wtf?

    18. WellRed*

      Omg! What kind of person proposes something like this and to a pregnant woman to boot! Who does that? You have every right to protect your family by not having a boundary stomping houseguest. I’m also side eyeing your husband for not shutting this down immediately.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Also seriously side-eyeing the husband for letting this dumbass idea get as far as the OP to begin with, instead of shooting it down himself.

      2. Middle School Teacher*

        That’s a little harsh. When you don’t see people like that all the time and you live in completely different circumstances, it’s not unusual that you wouldn’t remember that perspective. He’s not being smart here, but boundary-stomping is a little extreme.

        1. Barb*

          No boundaries have been set, so agreed that he’s not boundary stomping. Say what you need so that people can know, it’s really that simple. Otherwise the problem is the person not setting simple boundaries but getting upset.

    19. Workerbee*

      You certainly can feel bad for BIL if you want to. In the meantime, is anyone feeling badly for you?

      From this outsider’s perspective, you handle the majority of childcare, eldercare, and housework, all while dealing with your own chronic disease, all while the stress and fear of a pandemic is a constant presence. All the while holding down a “professional” job of your own (I put that in quotes because such things are still, sadly, held as more important and worth a paycheck than keeping human beings alive and a household running). ANY of these would stretch a person thin.

      Now BIL, whom I assume at some point chose to live where he did and work as he does, thinks it’s not that big of a deal to add himself to your household as brother-in-law-care for what also sounds like an unspecified period of time. Because he’s lonely.

      What about your emotions? What about your peace? What about you having to cater to another grown-ass adult who sounds content to sit and watch you work all day and night?

      I’m seriously side-eyeing your husband as well for not instantly shutting down this ridiculous request.

      Bah. I am full of probably useless ire for your situation. It is not magically okay for BIL to put your household at risk because he thinks his emotions are more important than everyone’s else’s safety and mental health. Please do consider saying no.

      1. Jaw Drop*

        Spot on comment. Don’t forget this line, ever. You’ll likely need it with regards to your family for a LONG time: “You certainly can feel bad for BIL if you want to. In the meantime, is anyone feeling badly for you?”

      2. Batgirl*

        “I’m seriously side-eyeing your husband as well for not instantly shutting down this”
        Yes, he failed that test spectacularly. Let’s see if he passes the one where he belatedly puts a stop to it without sulking or throwing OP under a bus. So, “Greta won’t let me” is a fail. “Sorry for getting your hopes up by entertaining this crazy idea. It just isn’t logistically possible. This is a pandemic. What were we thinking?” is a pass.

      3. Armchair Expert*

        Right? I want to literally cry just reading about this poor OP’s life. This is a completely unacceptable amount of work to be asking you to do, even without the BIL, and I hope you and your husband are, like, constantly telling one another how amazing you both are to even be coping day-to-day, and doing everything you can to make life a little easier.

        Literally every shortcut available to you, you should be taking. If that’s takeout every night, if that’s zoom tutors for your kids, if that’s expensive bath products delivered to your door. There is absolutely zero space in your life for more work. This is ridiculous as it is.

    20. Choggy*

      If he really needs to visit, then he needs to find somewhere ELSE to stay (and not in his van!). Does he have the finances to get an efficiency or AirBNB accommodation nearby and why has that not been suggested as an alternative to staying in your home? Please, for your own sake and sanity, and that of the rest of your immediate family, you have to put your foot down now. This is the absolute worst time to have any house guest, never mind one who will be in contact with the general public for a week before arriving.

    21. Parenthetically*

      “He would not be helping with childcare or meals.”

      This alone is reason to say a very firm, forceful NO, on repeat until your husband and BIL understand. Your husband should not be essentially volunteering his very pregnant wife for the job of taking care of his adult BIL.

      “it’s not my place to tell him he can’t see his family”

      By saying no to this request, you are not telling him he can’t see his family. You’re telling him he can’t assuage his loneliness by presenting himself at your door to be waited on hand and foot for an indefinite number of weeks or months by his already-stretched-thin pregnant, full-time-working sister-in-law while rarely seeing his overworked brother. He can choose to address his (legitimate) difficulties without imposing on you.

      1. fposte*

        I like this framing. But also I’d say that if he has to stay with you to see his family, of *course* it’s your place to say that can’t happen.

      2. Nita*

        Yes. If he’s planning to drive across the country, I assume he has his arms, legs and mind more or less in one piece. So there’s no excuse for him to come into a family that’s already struggling and say “here, entertain and support me, but don’t even think of making me cook or watch a kid. Me time!” This idea is iffy on so many levels, but this is really the cherry on top. I’d say something like “I’m really sorry he’s struggling, but we are not the answer to his problems right now. If he gets us sick, we’re all in trouble and he’ll have to go back to sitting at home alone. If I have a breakdown from the added stress, he won’t take my place watching the kids. If he gets his mom sick, she may die. We can mail him care packages, we can have Skype calls every week, but he should not come here.”

    22. Adele*

      Tell BIL that he cannot stay with you but perhaps he can rent a 2 bedroom apartment and your MIL can move in with him. If he is very careful your two families can form a pod and see each other. If even MIL doesn’t trust him to be careful, then just no to the whole thing.

      1. Batgirl*

        Why not treat his mother to a holiday rental place? Maybe take the kids along too to give his in laws a break. Or is his plan to be waited on and petted?

    23. Anono-me*

      Your brother in law’s plan to come be a permanent/long term houseguest/burden is a very bad plan. I think you should say no to it. I think you get to say no to things that are unreasonsbly dangerous to you and/on your children, are an undue burden, involve additional people living in your home at any time. I think an adult someone else asking to move into your home is something that you get to say no to under any circumstances. (Obv. some life or death type exceptions apply.)

      But here is the good news. You saying no to a bad plan is not you saying no to your bil being in your husband and mil’s lives. Maybe bil stays where he is and sypes more often. Maybe bil stays where he is and mil goes to stay with him for the duration (Hard roadtrip, but maybe worth considering. ) Maybe bil moves nearby into his own place. Maybe bil moves nearby and mil moves in with him for a while. There are lots of plans that have your bil and husband and mil spending more time together . You get to say “No. Find a better plan.” to the ones that place unreasonable burdens on you.

      Also, if bil moved in as an hotel guest; would he ever leave?

    24. Shell*

      I am single and more than a little lonely. I live thousands of miles from my family and have literally not been within ten feet of another person since March. And your brother-in-law is so out of line that I am screeching “Say no! You have to say no!” You all can Zoom, or call, or write letters. He can seek out therapy if he needs it, or look for a job, or take up a hobby. But he absolutely cannot expect to come and have you take care of him. If your husband wants to help his brother, he’s got to find a way to do it that doesn’t involve putting this ridiculous burden on you!

    25. Christmas Carol*

      Forget your chronic disease, forget your elderly mother-in-law, forget the fact that your husband, who is presumably also the father of these young children is “not free much” , forget your intense stressful job, forget COVID 19 — you are in your third trimester! This means you could produce a helpless new human infant out of your body ANY MINUTE NOW. You do not have the available time, energy, or emotional bandwidth to have any other additions to your household, with the possible exception of a full time baby nurse. (Properly vetted, screened, quarantined, and tested, of course) This alone is reason enough to veto the presence of a long term house guest. I feel for your BIL, and your husband, and your MIL who probably wants to see her other son, but come on.

    26. Millennial Lizard Person*

      You’re in your third trimester of pregnancy?! You’re allowed to veto him. You’re allowed to forbid him. I’m sorry he’s lonely, but he doesn’t at all sound reasonable.

    27. Dan*

      I think some people are being a bit hard on your BIL with those “who does that” comments. When you live alone, you simply have no frame of reference as to what it’s like to be pregnant, live with someone who is pregnant, or have a bunch of little kids running around.

      That said, you are freely within your right to say no to that sort of visit from your BIL. That would drive me nuts. I read your post and my first thought to adding a “+1” to that mix is an oh-hell-no. And… I live by myself and haven’t seen my family for close to a year and who knows when the next time is going to be. I thought lockdown was going to drive me crazy, but it hasn’t been nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be.

      Your BIL came up with an out-of-the-box solution that isn’t going to work, and you can compassionately tell him no. As an adult, he should be able to accept that. I’d go with something along the lines of, “I really feel for you bro, but we’re barely holding on as it is. Let’s revisit when things settle down.” (Don’t propose this Xmas either, that seems a little quick given the current state of things, and he’d be wanting to make travel plans for that ASAP.) Also, don’t give him the “who does that” line, that’s not appropriate here… just a simple “this sucks for everybody” is fine.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Even without being pregnant, having been pregnant or knowing anything about kids, inviting yourself to come on an extended (with no duration specified) stay at someone’s house and specifying that you will not be helping with any sort of groceries or housework or whatever while they’re hosting you is still pretty appalling.

      2. Courageous cat*

        Why be so charitable? He’s a man in his 40s, surely he’s capable of critical thinking and empathy, enough to know that staying somewhere without helping out during a pandemic while someone’s very pregnant is… asking a lot. It’s not like he’s literally never seen a pregnant person or doesn’t know what it means.

        Men who are living alone can and should be smarter (and many are). I’m curious why your gut reaction is to defend him. Let’s hold them to higher standards than this.

      3. Taniwha Girl*

        If his judgment otherwise has been trustworthy, this suggestion might be a sign of how truly desperate and lonely he is.

        But absent evidence of such, I have little sympathy for him. What family member proposes to visit family with young children and another on the way and refuses to help with childcare? What is extended family for?

    28. Black Horse*

      Nooo. Oh no. Unreasonable? You, now (*waves hands at the world*), with multiple young children AND a demanding job AND you’re pregnant AND your mother-in-law living with you… Oh honey. I feel bad for your brother-in-law, but nothing, NOTHING like how horrible I feel for you. Of course you’re barely hanging on! And it’s being suggested that your non-helpful, unlikely to be careful, clearly not good at planning brother-in-law move in as well? Say no. Say no with compassion and love and yeah this all sucks!, but be very, very clear that this cannot happen. Your brother-in-law is having a hard time, but you are too, and you’re currently the pillar of your family–you’re already near the breaking point (because of course you are!), and if you crack, bad things will happen. It’s a shame he can’t be near his family, and I know you’re sorry for his troubles, but it’s not up to you to fix them. Especially not at your expense, and at the expense of your family! Please don’t feel guilty about this for one second–hard decisions are part of being an adult, and that’s all you’re doing…being an adult and protecting yourself and your family.

    29. Not This One*

      Just another voice coming here to say that no, you are not being unreasonable, and you absolutely can and should communicate that your discomfort with this plan to other members of your family. A family member of mine had planned to travel to visit my household, as well as to visit another family member (separate trips to separate locations), and both of the visitee households spoke up to say that no, it wasn’t going to work for the same reasons you laid out here – the infeasibility of quarantining a visitor in a single-family home, the existing challenges of working from home/being at home full time, and the added challenge of trying to fold in another person into this weird life. My opinion is that you should absolutely put your foot down and say it’s not going to happen in 2020, but that depending on how things change you might be able to revisit a visit in 2021.

    30. Koala dreams*

      You can’t forbid him to come to your city, but you definitely can forbid him to come into your home. If he want to meet with family, he can live somewhere else (rent an apartment, find flatmates, a hotel room, go to a camping place, whatever is possible in your city) and meet with your husband or mother in law outside, with physical distance. If your husband and mother in law are too busy to meet with him, that’s their choice, not yours.

      You seem like a very kind person, but there’s nothing unkind with setting boundaries. On the contrary, it’s kind to explain up front that you can’t have house guests and that you are too tired to socialize yourself.

      1. Koala dreams*

        I want to add that what’s unreasonable isn’t you, but the situation. It’s unreasonable to work 80 hours a week (two full time jobs!), while being responsible for young children, an elderly mother and a pregnant wife, in a pandemic. It’s unreasonable to work full time, doing full time child-care, take care of the household, while having health problems of your own and dealing with a pandemic. It’s unreasonable to be so busy just keeping your family alive that you have no time to socialize with friends and family (safely, with proper physical distance). And it would be quite reasonable if you decided you can’t continue like this. You are NOT the unreasonable person here.

    31. Greta*

      OP here. Thank you all so much for your understanding. I genuinely wasn’t sure if I was being cruel by telling him to stay away, so I appreciate your perspective.

      To address a few things that have come up:

      I fully trust my husband to tell him no without throwing me under the bus. I was honestly surprised he even brought this to me, but he definitely heard me when I said I didn’t want it to happen for all the reasons that have been brought up. His brother asked during a two-hour heart-to-heart phone conversation and I think he caught my husband in a soft-hearted moment. He and his mom (my MIL) do want to see BIL, but my husband sees my side of it and will shut it down if I insist. And I do plan to insist now.

      Re: my BIL not helping. Part of BIL’s rationale for coming is that he could help out his mom, who helps watch the kids. He definitely didn’t tell us “I won’t be helping when I come.” But trust me when I say that based on all past visits there will not be helping. He has a good heart and enjoys goofing around with the kids on occasion but he is a bachelor in his 40’s who has no experience caring for children. Our kids are little and not always easy to deal with, especially cooped up like they are right now. He would largely be here to socialize and do his own thing, which is totally fine ordinarily – I don’t expect guests to come here to work – but during COVID things are different.

      1. Batgirl*

        I was hoping that was the case; that you were off guard only because your husband usually wouldn’t ask something like that of you. It can happen even to usually considerate people when another concern distracts them. This is why you need to be willing to speak up in your relationships. We are all going to ask things which are unreasonable of our partner or family sometimes and a false yes doesnt help us with that mistake.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah. I hear you and thanks for the clarification.

        If he could stay in a nearby hotel/Airbnb and could be trusted to take the appropriate precautions, that would be wonderful. Even better, if he could be trusted to safely get your groceries for you and occasionally take the kids off your hands, even if it’s just for a trip to the playground if they’re open in your area. But since that’s not on the cards, it’s better that he stays at home.

        But I do feel sorry for you, I can’t imagine how horrible it must be to be cooped up all day for months on end, especially for the little kids. In my area it would be considered cruelty to deny kids access to the outdoors, unless it’s a case where the kid is immunocompromised to the point that it’s impossible. If it’s one parent who’s immunocompromised, there have been cases where the kid lives with the other parent to ensure they aren’t isolated any more than absolutely necessary and sees the other only on Skype etc.

      3. Observer*

        Here is another reason to insist.

        Your kids will see what their parents do and how they run their shared household. Yes, they are young, but in some ways the impression is even more indelible. And here is the thing – you do NOT want your children to ever develop the idea that a person does not have the standing to draw some firm boundaries on who moves into their house and when. Or that one partner gets to impose a new / additional burden on the other and it’s not “the place” of the other to accept that burden.

    32. Cubicle_queen*

      Based on the chatter in my mom groups on Facebook, you’re close enough for an OB/GYN to mandate quarantining for yourself & highly suggesting the whole family quarantine. Definitely not a good time to add someone new into this mix.

      And just being a new mom again, that’s not an ideal time for someone to come stay “for an extended time.” Who’s not going to help with the other kids! Or help with meals!

      It’s okay to be selfish. Your physical health, your emotional and mental wellbeing, your MIL’s health, and the safety of a brand new baby are all allowed to take precedence over a grown man feeling lonely.

    33. Ribbit*

      This “I basically told my husband I wouldn’t forbid him from coming because it’s not my place to tell him he can’t see his family, but I really, really don’t want him to come right now.”

      You’re doing your husband a great disservice by telling him something other than what you mean. Please tell him you can’t bear the idea and why. BIL comes but doesn’t live with you. Other options left undiscovered because you’ve led your husband to believe you’re open to something you won’t be able to manage or sustain. What good will feeling bad do then? You deserve care too.

    34. Observer*

      It’s not your place to tell your husband to not see his family. It IS your place to put your foot down about who moves in to your house, and it IS your place to insist on whatever it is you need to get your basic needs met.

      It’s always difficult when two genuine sets of needs conflict. But at this point you need to prioritize your basic health.

      The risk to your MIL is not really your problem – that’s her risk to take. On the other hand, it might not be a bad idea to point out the problem to your husband. Do it ONCE and then leave it. Tell him that you’re not going to take on the management of that risk, which ALSO means that you are not going to take on anything extra to mitigate the risk MIL would be taking if BIL shows up.

      I think that you and your husband need to have a chat with your medical team about what you need to maintain your health. Then a conversation between the two of you that covers if it’s possible for you to do whatever the doctor thinks is necessary and how he is going to handle the extra work that his BIL’s presence is going to cause. Be clear that you simply are at your limit and that YOU cannot take on anything extra.

      If / when your husband points out that he is also tapped out and simply doesn’t have the bandwidth to take on anything extra just let that hang there. It’s ok for him to be tapped out. But it’s not ok for that to be a reason for you to take on something not strictly necessary when you are totally tapped out.

      The only other thought I have is, can he come in an RV rather than a truck? That would let him be near by without having to have another person in your household, and would make actual proper quarantine possible.

    35. bananab*

      Honestly you would be ok vetoing this even if there weren’t a pandemic going on, even if you weren’t pregnant, or even if all the other factors you mentioned didn’t exist. Long term guests are a pita and it’s not a decision one partner should be able to make on their own.

  4. Rhymetime*

    I could use advice about taking care of myself as I observe a friend’s health deteriorate based on his not caring for himself.

    This is my dear friend of decades. Although we haven’t lived near each other beyond the first few years of meeting as adults, we remain close. We regularly talk on the phone, email, share photos, etc. Over the years, we have helped each other with applications for grad school, jobs, and cool enrichment programs. We’ve shared our emotional challenges as well as celebrated our successes, and we make each other laugh regularly.

    Where I’m struggling is watching him go from someone who was mentally and physically healthy into a downward spiral in recent years. For example, he has ignored warnings from his physician about changes he needed to make because he was pre-diabetic and sure enough, he now has diabetes. He is stressed a lot of the time and sees a therapist, and had a wellness coach for a while but hasn’t followed up on the coach’s guidance. He has learned tools to address issues that affect his health, but lost his motivation to do them. As he’s getting older, it wouldn’t surprise me to hear he’d had a heart attack.

    I had a couple of direct and compassionate conversations with him in the last couple years about my concern for him, including potentially being depressed, and he genuinely appreciated that. I asked if he’d be interested in tools I’ve personally used or read about, and he said yes but didn’t follow up. I promised him I wouldn’t be a nag and bug him about his choices once I’d said my piece, and I haven’t. To be clear, I have good boundaries, and he does as well–not trying to “fix” him. We continue to get along great.

    All of that is background for my question. What I’m looking to learn from others is about how you stay centered yourself when you see someone you care about going down a rabbit hole with their health. I know it’s not my business. It just makes me sad.

    1. Treebeardette*

      Your relationship with them is much more important than their relationship with food. You can’t nag someone into admission, but you can be a good example. It’s great that you care so much about them! But sadly you can’t fix all their issues.

      If this is truly a difficult thing for you, it might be worth getting a therapist. My brother’s love to talk to about what they learned because of what I know about therapy.

    2. matcha123*

      I have been in the same place with my mom. She is pretty defeatist and when it comes to making healthy food or life choices, she seems unable to make a move without someone there cheering her on. Which I can’t do since I live overseas.
      I don’t know if I have much advice. People have to WANT to make that change. For my own sanity, I may choose one or two things to speak about, briefly, and then move to something else. Hopefully one day he decides to stick with the changes he needs. If he frequently complains about ailments, I would tell him, “I have offered you assistance with XYZ and you have refused. I want you to be healthy and happy, but it is just not productive to continue having this conversation.”
      I tell myself that I have tried…multiple times. I don’t feel good, but I also know that I can’t force someone to do anything.

    3. midnightcat*

      People differ in terms of what’s important for them, what matters most, and what’s easy or hard.

      You aren’t watching your friend deteriorate based on him not caring for his health. You are watching him do the best he can.

      Your friend either cannot care for himself, or does not want to. He has the right to be who he is, and it is not for you to tell him what that should be. He has the right to ignore his doctor’s advice, or find it too hard, or be unable to follow it because depression really can have a huge effect on how people are able to manage their physical health.

      I know you asked about how to stay centred yourself, but there’s a problem in the premise of your question – you’re assuming that he’s ‘going down a rabbit hole’. Is he? Or might that be how you see it, because it’s your idea of a rabbit hole? What if he is in fact just surviving as best he can, doing as much as he can do?

      Obviously it’s upsetting to see a friend’s health deteriorate and to be worried about them, but you have to let your friend be who and how he is. So your challenge isn’t to stay centred, so much as to stay separate, have those good boundaries you mentioned and try not to give this so much space in your head.

      1. Rhymetime*

        Yes, my friend is doing the best he can and I wrestled with depression myself in my past, so that’s a good reminder. As you point out, it’s important to respect who and how he is and that’s how I can best continue to be a supportive friend. Staying separate is a good way to put it.

    4. anonosaurus*

      This is tough. I have spent nearly 50 years learning (and re-learning, because it doesn’t always take) that you can’t change other people. But you really can’t. You can decide not to enable or facilitate the things they do that you think are not in their best interests, but it doesn’t sound like you are doing that anyway, which is good. But that’s about it, unfortunately.

      There is actually liberation in accepting that you are powerless over other people’s choices. It frees you of responsibility for the outcomes of those choices. And remember they are powerless over yours. If we ourselves want the freedom to make our own choices, even bad ones, we have to allow that to the people we love, too.

      It’s also important to accept our own feelings. Yes, you feel sad about this. Sit with it. You can’t necessarily make that go away. It’s a consequence of the fact you care for your friend.

      1. Alexandra Lynch*

        You really can’t change other people.

        I still love my ex-husband, but I can’t keep enabling him and watching him as he treats his mental health issues with food. He is diabetic and has congestive heart failure and COPD, and I don’t think he’ll live to see grandchildren. But I can’t save him. The only one I could save was myself. And I’ve cried about this a lot.

      2. Rhymetime*

        This is useful. Your last paragraph especially really resonates. It’s about accepting that this is how I feel without layering judgment over it. Thank you.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      For me this type of thing works into a big lesson on acceptance.

      If I love my friend, then I need to accept them as they are. And this is so. very. hard.

      Sometimes we can see a person is on a slippery slope and we can see that they could become very ill and possibly lose their ability to remain in contact with us. And probably with a knot in our stomachs, we can see that they will not live forever using the plan they are using.

      I love what my aunt said about this type of thing. She said that if we get the insight that there will be a serious problem in the future, that means we have been granted time to prepare for that occurrence. Sadly, in a lot of cases this boils down to saying, “I love you enough, my friend, to let you have your own choices and live as you see best.”

      Out of my own life, I have watched people make one disastrous decision after another. I kind of scold myself from time to time because some day it will be MY turn. I don’t want people telling me what to do every inch of the way, but WORSE, I don’t want people clinging to me when it is my time to move on. I make myself think about how I would want to be treated if I were in the other person’s shoes.

      Stay in current time. This means to have extra appreciation for your friend’s presence and interaction in your life RIGHT NOW. Don’t lose today because you spent it all thinking about tomorrow.

      Last. One of the most powerful questions I know is to ask the person, “Well what would you LIKE to do here? What do you think you could start doing today for yourself?” Then I stop talking. Sometimes they will pick some modest thing and do it for a short while. Other times they will just shake their heads in hopelessness or helplessness. Once in a blue moon, they will actually change course, but this seldom happens. Their response to this question telegraphs where life is at for them. Often times they just do not have the energy or will power to fight on so many fronts. And who am I to tell them they have to?
      And attitude of service has helped me at random times, “I am just here to serve. I am not here to decide anything.”

      This is tough stuff. I find that I need to go in and out of using several tools to help myself along the path.

    6. Not A Manager*

      It might be worth thinking about why this makes you sad. One possibility is that you empathically feel that your friend is not living his best life and thriving as he should be, and you are sad on his behalf. You might also anticipate unnecessary suffering for him in the future, and you also feel sad on his behalf.

      I think that some of the advice that you got from other people would be helpful for those feelings. Reminding yourself that this is his life and his decision, and that part of being an autonomous person is making one’s own choices and living with the consequences.

      But it’s possible that you are also sad on your own behalf. You might be worried about losing your friend, maybe to premature death, or maybe losing the connection that you have now if he becomes so physically or mentally impaired that your relationship suffers.

      I actually think you have a right to feel sad for yourself, and to mourn the less-complicated ongoing relationship that you wish you would have. I think it’s okay to say, “I love my friend. I love him the way he was in the past and the good interactions that we have now. I’m scared to lose those things. It makes me sad to think of losing them, and it makes me a little bit angry that my friend’s actions might be depriving me of those things in the future.”

      I think if you can acknowledge those feelings and sit with them for a while, it might become easier to enjoy the good parts of your current relationship. And it might be easier to let go of the wish that if you would just say or do the right thing, that you could avert whatever is coming.

      Disclosure: What I’m describing is the process I went through during my spouse’s final illness. Maybe I’m mischaracterizing what you’re experiencing, or maybe I sound morbid. But this is the thought process that was helpful to me.

      1. Rhymetime*

        My friend is sad for himself, and that is hard to watch. I think you’re spot on about looking at my own feelings about the situation and sorting that out. You mentioned to “let go of the wish that if you would just say or do the right thing, that you could avert whatever is coming.” To clarify, I don’t have that inclination.

        Thanks for your perspective. I’m sorry about the loss of your spouse.

    7. fposte*

      I’ve been through this a few times. I think you do your grieving for your loss–the loss of the life you thought they would have–and then accept the life that is. And keep in mind somebody’s probably seeing your life the same way.

      That’s not to say some decisions aren’t inarguably tragic. But part of maturation, I think, is to understand that the people who make tragic decisions are people who are known and loved by others, not just some fringe group beyond the pale of human existence.

  5. Oh Brother*

    I would love some advice on how to be a good sibling. I’m a woman in my early-30s.

    My half-brother is in his mid-20s and lives on a different continent. We only connected a couple of years ago, and have only met in person once. The parent we share isn’t present in, but looms large in his life, while I (thankfully) have no memory of this parent. We are of different generations (I am Extremely Millennial), grew up in different countries, have different traumas, and I am struggling to connect.

    I would like to be a good sibling, which at this stage in our lives and (gestures vaguely at everything) I would define as: ‘exchanging friendly messages every month or so and visiting every other year.’ But Brother leaves my messages on read for ages, and I get the feeling it’s not because he doesn’t want to be Pals, but because my messages aren’t landing.

    If you had a new older sister, what would you want from her? Has anyone navigated this successfully?

    1. fluffycushion*

      Maybe send a message indicating you are there for them when they want to be in touch, then back off.

      I have half siblings and I have no interest in them. Not everyone wants a relationship with their half’s, you’re not obligated to stay in touch. It can seem pushy when distant random relatives think there’s going to be a relationship. Leave it in your siblings court if they want to respond.

      1. Mami21*

        I have a younger bro in his 20’s who lives a couple suburbs away, we love each other, and he’s generally not great at responding. Don’t beat yourself up; maybe this is just the relationship you have?

        1. TPS reporter*

          One would think a man in their 20s is likely going to be not very communicative. It’s possible it will improve over time and he matures and has life experiences he wants to share with his sister

    2. Marny*

      Unless he has expressed to you otherwise, it sounds like you’re trying to create a type of relationship that he doesn’t want. And forcing closeness isn’t going to create a genuine sibling dynamic. It may be different if you’d grown up together and already had a foundation for your relationship, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. As “new” siblings, it’s probably worth an open conversation about how much contact works for both of you and what your goals are as far as what type of relationship you have. But unfortunately, just because you want to be a “good older sister” doesn’t mean he wants a good older sister. I hope this didn’t sound harsh— it isn’t meant harshly.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      While I have not had your exact setting, I have build relationships with relatives over time. I think continue on as you have been doing right here. See where it takes you. Be prepared to spend a bit of time in the stage you are in now. Keep your expectations low– this helps you to feel less disappointed and it also takes pressure off the relationship if everyone just stays mellow. Use an approach with him of “answer when you feel like it or when you have time”.

    4. Lady Heather*

      I think it might be helpful to have a conversation about the conversations you are having with him, maybe over the phone/skype (as text messages aren’t going smoothly). What does he want?

      And also to ask: is ‘leaving messages on read’ a habit he has with all people, or just with you?
      I struggle to communicate socially with text messages and emails (I do fine with business emails etc) – so I have a long turnaround time with responding, particulary if it’s someone I don’t know well, or a sensitive subject, or emails that don’t have a standard response. (“Do you want to watch x movie together?” has a standard response – you either accept or you decline. “I went to watch x movie last week. It was fun.” does not have a standard response, and thus is difficult for me.)
      It might not be anything personal. It might be, but it isn’t necessarily.

      Jedi Mind Hugs if you want them.

    5. Name of Requirement*

      I think a casual message once in a while keeps the door open. If he doesn’t want to talk, he can not talk, explain he doesn’t want to, or block/not read your stuff.
      He may decide later he wants more of a relationship, and it will be less of a hurtle. But if it’s emotionally hard for you to write and wait, don’t do it.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes to this. Keep it casual and friendly. Suggestions about having a relationship conversation are making me cringe. He’s a guy in his early 20s you barely know.

        1. Hufflepuff hobbit*

          I agree with WellRed— not sure forcing a heavy relationship talk on him is the right move

    6. Yetanotherjennifer*

      You might want more out of the relationship at this point than he does. And he just might not be a great communicator. I can write a friendly email with a short paragraph and 2 questions to my brother and get “good” as a reply. It runs in the family and I’ve spent a lifetime watching my mom do all the lifting in her relationship with her brother. For me, I’ve thought about the type of big sister I want to be that allows my brother to be who he is. I send a friendly text every few weeks or so and let him reply or not.

      Another thought…are your messages short enough to be read in the little notification window or that he gets the gist of the message from it? Just because the messages aren’t marked as read doesn’t mean he’s not seeing them or getting your message. Sometimes it’s a bit of a chore to open a conversation you’ve already read just to mark it as read.

    7. What the What*

      I have a similar situation. My father had a second family after he divorced my mother. They lived in another country, so I visited each Summer growing up. I got along well with my half siblings. The eldest is only two years younger than me and then youngest is ten years my junior. I also felt like I had a warm relationship with my step mother.

      My father died when I was 27. The youngest was still finishing high school. At the time, we all came together and it was great. I went a year later to visit and it was great again.

      And then it died. Any time I tried to book a trip, I couldn’t get any of them to commit to dates so I was never able to schedule anything. One time, I was visiting that country for other reasons and my stepmom said she’d come see me, but then didn’t. As we got closer to the date, she stopped responding to my messages.

      It was sad, but I lost the common factor that tied us together as a family when I lost my father. And trying to maintain a long distance cross country relationship requires effort on both people’s parts. You can’t do it alone. Not to mention, being the only one to put effort in is it’s own kind of rejection.

      This past summer, my youngest brother got married. I did not receive a invitation. I would have gone if I had. I don’t think they hate me or anything, but I don’t think they consider me part of their family.

      You have even less in common with your brother. There’s a big hurdle here. Having genetics in common doesn’t make you family. And that’s ok. You both have families already.

      1. Oh Brother*

        I’m so sorry about your dad. And what a painful end to the story.

        One thing I should have included in the original message – neither of us are right with our family of origin. I believe he is estranged completely from his – I talk to my sister and one cousin. So that makes this relationship a lot more high-stakes than if he was one of many.

    8. Shell*

      Early-30s big sister here with a mid-20s little brother and that’s just what they do. We have a 1:8 ratio when texting, for every one text he sends, I’ll send eight. I opt to just bug the ever-living crap out of my brother until he responds but we grew up together so I that may not work well for you. I would recommend: 1) I would ask what he wants, does he need a big sister, a friend he can talk to about his problems, someone he can just send memes to for a laugh? My role as big sister and what my brother needs of me has changed over the last 25 years. 2) Make the offer that you are there if he needs you. The thing to remember here though is, if you don’t mean it, don’t say it. If he were to call you at 3am because he needed someone to talk to you have to be ready to pick up the phone? 3) Find a common interest, and this can take years. (Seriously, it’s only been in the past 6 months that my brother and I figured out we had a shared interest in gardening/permaculture and that is now what most of our conversations revolve around.) 4) You don’t mention if you have other siblings or not, but I want to say every sibling relationship is different. You’ll have to figure out what works for you and your brother.

      1. Shell*

        I wanted to add, that my brother and I both deal with anxiety and depression so there have been times where communication ended for quite some time. It’s only been over the past 4 years that we’ve started to work on our relationship as adults.

    9. cleo*

      A few thoughts (as an older sister / oldest cousin / aunt)

      It’s sounds like you’re doing pretty well so far.

      Connecting with family as an adult can be so awkward. Even if you grew up knowing someone, the transition from childhood to adulthood type relationships can be tricky. And your situation is even trickier. It takes awhile to figure out what you like to do together and to create your own shared rituals etc.

      The thing that’s worked the best for me is to identify something I enjoy doing with the target relative and do it with them regularly – doesn’t matter if it’s weekly, monthly or yearly.

      My grandmother taught me this – she and I became friends when I was in my 20 and she was in her 80s because she suggested we eat out once a month at a different ethnic restaurant.

      I think it’s important for you to think about what you might like to get out of this relationship and what you enjoy, as well as what your brother wants. And experiment with different things. If there are things that the two of you both enjoy, is there a way to enjoy them together?

      My younger brother and I talk on the phone every other week – we talk about our lives but we mostly talk about pop culture and SFF books that we’ve read. My closest younger cousin and I have art hangouts – in person or by zoom. I have a regular zoom board game with other relatives.

    10. fposte*

      I feel like there are a few things here–you’re framing this as wanting to be a good sibling but also wanting to connect and describing a relationship that you want with him. And getting the relationship you want isn’t necessarily the same as being a good sibling, and I wonder if there’s something driving their conflation for you. Have you openly asked him what kind of relationship he’d be interested in having? What if you were a bad sibling in your eyes but it was exactly what he wanted? What if you tossed aside sibling performance as a metric and thought about this situation as wanting more communication than the other person seems to want right now?

      So the tl;dr is I’d ask him whether something else would work better for him but otherwise carry on with the occasional text and let it go unanswered, assuming that he’s cueing you on what good siblinghood looks like to him right now.

    11. Dino*

      Have you tried just sending a picture with one sentence about it? Something you saw recently, a pic of a pet? I really like to get messages from my friends but sometimes there just so much text and it’s daunting to reply to it all, especially with relationships that are new or have backstory. I appreciate friends who share their life with my in images, too. I find it much easier to chit-chat about things I can see vs. just words on a screen.

    12. RussianInTexas*

      I have 4 half siblings (I am the oldest, and only child between mom and dad), grew up with two of them until I moved to the US. I now live in the same city as the other two.
      I love them all, but we communicate rarely. Not for any issues between us, just don’t have the need I suppose. We see each other’s IG and FB posts, see each other on birthdays and Christmas, and once in a while talk on the family WhatsApp group.
      I know that my Texas set of siblings are close, and my Russian set of siblings is close (there is no contact between the sets whatsoever), and I am the outlier. But that’s me? I don’t need much communication. It’s possible that your half brother is like that as well.
      (I am over 40 and my youngest sibling is 22).

    13. Koala dreams*

      Postcards are great for keeping in touch with distant relatives. They don’t require answers, and you don’t need to write a lot, just a few sentences. They also give the chance to communicate with cute animals, if you like that. You can write birthday cards, or holiday cards (it’s easy to look up holidays in different countries online, or you could introduce your own holidays to them), or vacation cards when you have vacation (including cards from your home city if you do staycation).

      For the people who don’t read or don’t want postcards, it’s nice to make short phone calls a couple of times a year.

      Every month is perhaps too much too early. It’s nice that you want to connect that often, but some people just don’t. Weird, but true. If we were siblings I would appreciate your monthly message or postcard or phone call, but we aren’t, and your sibling might appreciate lesss messages more.

      Congratulations to you for gaining a new sibling, and good luck!

    14. RagingADHD*

      It sounds like your question is really less “how can I be a better sibling” and actually more “how can I get my sibling to be better to me?”

      You can ask – “hey, I’d like for us to connect more.” That’s about it.

      Since he has (apparently bad, or at least complicated) memories of your parent and you do not, it makes perfect sense that he would be more ambivalent about connecting with you than you are with him.

      It’s entirely possible that he holds you at arms length because you are — through no fault of your own — a source of pain.

      Just keep sending good news, good wishes, and warmth. Don’t demand or push.

      The cat may come out from under the bed eventually. Or you may have an arm’s length relationship forever. It’s not really up to you.

    15. allathian*

      It’s possible that your brother when he met you was just OK with knowing that he has a sibling, but has no interest in actually building a relationship with you. He may be fine with being just casual acquaintances with barely any contact. You say you’re thankful because you don’t have any memories of the parent you have in common with your brother. It’s possible that your brother sees you as just another reminder of the parent who looms large in his life although they aren’t present in it.

      Family means different things to different people and for your own peace of mind, I hope you’ll be able to accept that your brother may be happy with little or no contact with you and may not be interested in having a big sister in his life. Of course, a part of your problem is that he seems unwilling to communicate with you, but it would be nice if you could talk to him honestly, if only to learn what kind of sibling relationship he’s willing to have with you.

  6. Lena Clare*

    A comment by Bibliovore in a thread last week listed all the things they’d learned from the weekend thread which they hadn’t known before. I thought that was pretty cool, and so wanted to ask what things have you learned from reading the weekend thread that you didn’t know before?

    Some of things I’ve learned reading the weekend thread include: recommendations for books, specifically Vegan For Her by Virginia Messina recommended by Emma, and Dynamic Aging by Katy Bowman recommended by My Brain Is Exploding, which have been life changing for me.

    Also I have learned:
    – that being too hot gives you weird dreams
    – some tips for looking after arthritic joints
    – how to care for multiple cats together
    – some vegan lunch ideas
    – and I found a vegan metallic green lipstick all thanks to various people here!

    1. Blue wall*

      I feel like there is SO MUCH but what sticks out to me now is:

      Not feeling yourself? Check your hydration and vitamins (ala NSNR)

    2. Loopy*

      I love this question! I wouldn’t say I’ve learned as much as taken recs that have become fixtures in my life. For example, years ago somehow suggested Shea moisture hair products for curly hair and I won’t use anything else now! Same for Deva cuts for curly hair. Things like that have really been more than a one off and I’m so grateful for asking here!!!

      I have also found a favorite book series here, thanks to whoever suggested the Raksura series by Martha Wells. Definitely something that I enjoyed immensely over a few months!

    3. Reba*

      This is more vague, but I feel like I’ve learned a lot from the perspectives of people who are older than I am about healthy relationships, pain, acceptance, living a good life after or with hardship. I’m grateful to have access to their wisdom, especially these days.

      1. Lena Clare*

        Good point. Yes, I’ve had my eyes opened to relationships and healthy/unhealthy behaviours through reading this blog, especially in as far as it relates to the workplace. I think, though, that those types of behaviours in the workplace are indicative of people’s personal relating style so are relevant in all areas of life.

    4. My Brain Is Exploding*

      Oh my goodness!! So glad the book rec helped you! For me, all kinds of info – books, Netflix (“Cheer!”), clothes (I have a running list for this and Netflix), how things differ in other countries, lots of interesting stories that are great conversation starters!

      1. Ron McDon*

        I bought that book for my parents after looking it up last week (they’re 82 and 80).

        They were so pleased with it! They are both very fit and active, and want to stay that way. Dad flicked to the back of the book and tried an exercise or two and was surprised at how easy they were but that they really worked the muscles. I think they’ll get a lot out of it, so thank you so much for the recommendation!

    5. too hot today*

      Since I missed it, I’ve love to hear what you learned about caring for arthritic joints. I can use all the help!

      1. Lena Clare*

        Well, I’ve only taken on board what works for me so there may be other tips that work for others that will also work for you which I haven’t noted, but:
        – exercise, and losing weight if overweight and if possible. A trampoline is good for weight-bearing exercise as is swimming for all-over exercise, but I haven’t been swimming for ages because (waves hands at everything going on)
        – strengthening muscles so that the joints don’t take the effort. Balancing exercises particularly good
        – cod liver oil or DHA/EPA (vegan version), plus vitamin D.
        – daylight and sunshine in the day and regular sleep at night
        – mindfulness meditation for pain management
        – water! Or basically just keeping hydrated through the day.
        I hope some of these help.

  7. CastIrony*

    I like the cats. The black one reminds me of me when I ask the commentariat for help or asking a question. :)

    1. Lena Clare*

      Hank is so fluffy, and so like my own cat, Albert! I love that Alison’s cats get on together.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I loved this photo precisely because it looked like they were annoyed with each other… like family who love each other but have had too little time apart due to the pandemic.

          1. Recreational Moderation*

            Right. My first impression was also “mild difference of opinion here.” Without a sound, cats are highly efficient communicators!

    2. Koala dreams*

      I’m glad we have black cats as commenters in addition to the humans. /joke

      It’s a very nice picture of the two cats. They look pensive and a little serious.

  8. Coffeelover*

    My father was forced into an early retirement and is not doing so well. He was laid off a few years ago and tried to go the contractor/consultant route. He managed to get a few projects here and there, but his industry has been in a depression for the last 5 years. He’s now about ready to throw in the towel and officially retire.

    The problem: he’s been sitting at home slowly going crazy. He’s not the type of person that can sit still, but for some reason he refuses to find productive ways to occupy his time. His retirement plan is to sit around and do nothing, but that’s a recipe for disaster. He’s become argumentative and is going done bizarre internet holes and conspiracy theories. Honestly, he’s kind of hard to be around and I’m worried that he’ll alienate the people in his life and end up alone.

    I live in a different city but I’d like to help him before he turns into a cranky, lonely old man. Unfortunately, he gets extremely defensive whenever I try to have a real conversation with him (he’s always been like that). Any suggestions for me? Similar experience with an aging relative?

    1. Lena Clare*

      The advice in a couple of comments above might also be helpful to you, about looking after oneself when a friend won’t care for themself, and how to be a good sibling; substitute ‘father’ for friend or sibling.
      Families are so hard! I think this is hard because you want to help your parents but if they don’t want help then at some point we have to accept that they’re capable adults with the mental capacity to make their own decisions, even if those decisions seem bonkers to us. And if they don’t have capacity then I guess that’s a different conversation you’re having with their health care providers.
      But ultimately you could just let your dad know you’re there for him and you love him, and then try to let what he does or doesn’t do go. You can also let him know that if he needs help then you can provide that to, but he does need to take responsibility for his life too.
      And then after that you have to find a way to be ok with whatever he decides.

    2. Loopy*

      Is there anything you can do together when visiting that he may keep up on his own? I don’t really want to suggest tricking him into hobbies but I guess it’s kind of like that.

      I was surprised my dad occasionally does things with a volunteer group we had worked with a few times when I was younger and I guess we signed up for an email list to be polite. I forgot about it because I moved away but he kept getting the emails and their events stayed on his radar.

      My best suggestion is doing something that has on-going events or get-togethers without any pressure, just as a thing to do for fun together with no pressure or mention of doing it again and see if anything sticks (joining email lists for the things helps!)

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Can he get a job outside his industry? Something he’d enjoy more than for the money? I always think meter maid sounds like a good gig for an early retired person – outside (good for pandemic), walking, some social interactions. It can be a seasonal gig in some areas.

      Other things retirees sometimes like – grocery stores or home improvement stores.

      1. ...*

        Hmm, meter maid sounds like a hellish job to me. You have quotas and have to move fairly quickly, plus out in the elements and people yell at your and throw shit at you. Perhaps grocery store, although with Covid going on, may not be great for older people.

    4. gsa*

      Hmmm…

      By the way, boiling water to make some Sumatra in an old hand-blown Chemex.

      My father has been retired since ‘99. After mom died, he definitely had a hard time. I called him nearly everyday after she passed. Call him and talk to him. I don’t know what y’all’s relationship is like… work on that and get it to a point where you can have an honest discussion that you both will listen to each other.

      Gotta run, water’s ready!

      Good luck,

      gsa

    5. Turquoisecow*

      Unfortunately it seems like a lot of people define themselves around their jobs and then when they don’t have them (due to retirement or whatever) they don’t know what to do with themselves. My mother-in-law and her husband retired but both found jobs almost immediately afterward and are almost as busy as they were before. The only times she thinks about actually not working are when she’s around the grandkids, since they occupy her time. Every so often (pre-pandemic) they’d good to their condo in Florida where she has neither work nor grandkids and she spends most of her time in political arguments with strangers on Facebook. My dad isn’t retired yet but when he’s not working all he does is stare at the television.

      Hobbies, people. Develop hobbies!

      Is there anything he’s been interested in in the past that he didn’t have time for? Any way you can get him interested in a hobby or interest of yours, not just to keep him occupied but also to bond with him? A television show you both can enjoy, a sports team, some sort of competition, to keep his mind alert? Maybe books you enjoy? It’s obviously harder to do this stuff when you aren’t nearby, and I don’t recommend really tying yourself up in knots of guilt if it doesn’t, but maybe you can sort of push him a little.

    6. My Brain Is Exploding*

      Maybe suggest something he can do to “help” you? Like take a genealogy class and work on your family tree.

      1. RagingADHD*

        This. A similar thing happened to my father-in-law, who had been consumed with his work for so many years that he had no substantive hobbies or interests outside it. When he retired, he completely lost his sense of purpose.

        He got it back gradually by finding ways to volunteer and help, like through his church. But for a while there, he would only perk up when one of his kids needed something. My husband used to manufacture questions and projects just so his dad could help him with it. And it took a bit of creativity, because his dad is a very smart man, so it had to be plausible that the project was 1) something my husband would naturally do on his own, and 2) something his dad had knowledge or expertise in.

        Keeping dad busy was an on-again, off-again undertaking for several years before he’d built up his own outlets to a sufficient level.

    7. A313*

      Some of the same. My dad got a dog. Drove by the other day and saw the dog out in the yard (she’s a cutie) and apologized to her as I drove by that she’s stuck with him. ;) He IS less lonely, and pre-COVID she was quite popular in the neighborhood, which gave him a way to be a bit more sociable.

    8. Dancing Otter*

      Five years?

      There are so many good causes that desperately need volunteers! Isn’t there even one that he agrees is worthwhile?

      My father set off in a travel trailer when he retired. They were going to visit places they might want to settle down, but he didn’t live that long. Not saying that would be a good choice for everyone, or in the middle of COVID, but road trips aren’t just for 20-somethings.

      My stepfather, when he retired, volunteered . When I say he volunteered, he VOLUNTEERED. My mother complained she saw less of him than when he was working. There was Kiwanis; there was the Food Pantry; there were several different boards and committees at church. Then there was his garden, and the weekly farmers’ market, and special events in addition to regular church services, and talking to neighbors or anyone walking a dog past his house while he was outside. When all else failed, there was backyard birdwatching and poring over bird and gardening magazines/catalogs.

      Has your father ever expressed an interest in anything, or had any hobbies he gave up for lack of time when he was working? You could send him a book or magazine subscription to tempt him (back) into it. Maybe a gift certificate to a driving range or golf lessons if there are golf clubs gathering dust. A season subscription to the community theatre or choral society, if there’s one nearby?

      Does he still drive (safely)? Local senior centers always need volunteers to give rides to those who can’t drive themselves. And once the local widows learn about him, he won’t have any lack of attention.

  9. Rug Gate 2020*

    Last spring I ordered a new area rug for my living room. I received notification that it delivered, but it never arrived. The notes on the delivery site indicated it was “left behind garage.” I have a front facing garage, with no walk to the back of the house so these notes really don’t make sense – I assumed it was mis-delivered. They were never able to track it down (not sure if they even tried) and the company replaced it at no additional charge.

    That same week I noticed my neighbor’s basement door standing open. I walked over to let them know, and despite cars in the driveway, hearing them in the house, and seeing a curtain twitch, no one answered. I was telling my mom about it and she commented “they probably have your rug and didn’t want you to see it.” We laughed while speculating over this but I soon forgot about it.

    Until this week. (I imagine you can see where this is going). The neighbors put their house up for sale. Always loving to look at real estate, I checked it out online. And wouldn’t you know it – they have my rug in their basement. I can’t believe my mom was right and I am just floored they kept it having to know it was ours. I suppose one could argue it could all just be coincidence, but we’re not talking about a rug I found in the store two miles away. I picked this out, online, out of thousands of options.

    My family and I had great fun coming up with passive aggressive ways of letting them know that we know what they did but I imagine I won’t do anything – they are moving, after all.

    But, just for fun, what would AAM do? Or any other stories of thieving neighbors anyone wants to share?

    1. Lena Clare*

      Oh my word! That’s so outrageous!
      I’d be tempted to book a viewing with them and then be really effusive and super nice when you get to basement to say “I have the exact same rug and it’s so weird because I ordered it and it went missing even though it was delivered, so I had to get a replacement which means there are now THREE in this area. What are the chances of that??” And then watch them squirm, although if they were hardfaced enough to steal it they might not feel any shame about you knowing!
      Honestly, some people.

      One of my neighbours (don’t know who) put flea treatment on my cat without my knowledge and he had an allergic reaction to it so I had to take him to the vets, which as you know if you have pets costs a lot! He is also regularly treated by me, so it was NOT ON that they did that, as it could have made him very ill.
      I told all my neighbours about it, and it hasn’t seemed to happen again.

    2. Jemima Bond*

      I’d want to be casually passing by on moving day, see the rug being loaded onto the van then look them in the eye and say, “nice rug.” Nothing else, no smile and don’t avert your gaze….

    3. fluffycushion*

      I don’t understand why you wouldn’t directly address the matter? Are you afraid of your neighbours?

      I would put a note in their letterbox politely saying you saw rug online and it was meant to be delivered to you, is there a reason they have it? Give them the benefit of the doubt and a chance to explain.

      I don’t understand why you’d be passive aggressive about it and not confront them directly.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, your goal isn’t to get your rug but rather to let them know you’re onto them in which case it’s perfectly fine to play with some plausible deniability – and who knows, maybe it really is a huge coincidence! (Like, I don’t think it is but certainly stranger things have happened and you’re more likely to be successful if you approach it that way.)
        I undestand that this would be a hella awkward conversation – of their own making! Like, who does that?! – but I honestly think it would be worth it and much more satisfying than passive-aggressive whatever-ness, especially since they’re moving and you presumably won’t have to deal with them again afterwards; let them wallow in their pit of shame! (Or not shame, because it occurs to me like people who brazenly do something like that wouldn’t really be ashamed to be caught. But they would almost certainly feel not pleasant, in whichever way, and that’s all that counts.)

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yeah, why not? They’re leaving, after all. In fact, if you can, I’d go straight up to them and say it in person. “Hey, this is gonna sound really weird, but I ordered a rug just like that X days ago, but it never got delivered. Do you think they dropped it off at your house by mistake?”

      3. RagingADHD*

        What’s the purpose of addressing it at all?
        Surely nobody wants a used rug, when they already got a replacement. And a used rug out of someone’s basement?

        No thank you.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I have had packages delivered to the wrong house (always the same one, I recognize the green door in the picture now, but I don’t know who’s or where it is) three or four times and since Amazon always replaces them, I post the delivery picture on the Nextdoor site along the lines of “if this is your door, enjoy the (whatever), Amazon has already sent me a replacement so no need to bring it by, have a good weekend!” There is a guy with the same house number as mine but on the next road over, and I get his stuff a lot but I always drop it off on his porch (and his door isn’t green).

    5. Not So NewReader*

      “Wow. You have a rug JUST like mine! That’s so funny! I guess we both have good taste, eh?”

      By even mentioning the rug the discomfort level will shoot right up. You will have made your point.

    6. WellRed*

      I don’t understand why you didn’t ask around the neighborhood in the first place. I’d also book a viewing and say, “nice rug!”

        1. The Other Dawn*

          That was my thought, too. I’ve never seen owners present at a viewing. When we sold the old house, the renters had to leave when there was a showing. When we were buying, we had to work around the homeowner’s schedule so we could see the house when they’re not there.

    7. Generic Name*

      After I bought my last house, my new neighbors told me a bit about the woman I purchased the house from. Apparently she sold the house so she could live in a camper off the grid. Ok, cool. So years later, her mother sent her flowers (I guess she didn’t give her mom her forwarding address), except it was delivered to my next door neighbors because I wasn’t at home. There was a note on the door from the delivery company, so I went next door to pick up what I thought was a package or something. My neighbor was like, “oh yeah, those flowers are for Your Former Homeowner” and then closed the door. I suppose neither of us had a claim to someone else’s flowers, but I was a bit miffed since they were addressed to my house, and I did feel like she stole them. It didn’t help that I knew she didn’t like me (but I never knew why).

    8. fposte*

      Heh. While in reality I’d probably do nothing, I’d enjoy contemplating actions; like planning an in-person viewing with a friend and they distract the realtor while you write “I wondered where this got to!” all over it in permanent marker. Both sides, if it’s reversible. (I’m guessing it’s too big just to stealthily snatch. Though technically now you don’t own it either, since you got your money back.)

    9. RussianInTexas*

      Oh! A friend of mine once received a box from Amazon, and since she gets stuff from them on the regular basis, she did not check the name on the box. Opened it, and it was a shipment of sex toys. It was supposed to go to a neighbor house.
      She resealed it, left a note on it, and left it on the neighbor’s porch.

      1. Mother of Cats*

        I did this once when i was expecting a lot of packages over a couple days and didn’t pay attention to the labels before tearing into whatever was on my porch when I got home from work. Fortunately it was just a pair of utterly non-offensive walking shoes for my next-door neighbor.

    10. T. Boone Pickens*

      While it’s true the owners wouldn’t be present at the showing I’d still be tempted to book a showing with an agent/attend an open house and upon seeing the rug ask the agent to ask the owners to pass along a message being super effusive about the rug and claiming they probably got a ‘steal’ of a deal on it. If the owners were there I’d be absolutely fawning over the rug and asking So. Many. Questions.

    11. juneybug*

      Not a thieving neighbors story but still think you all might enjoy –
      Our house sits on 5 acres in a rural area. When we first moved in, our next door neighbor made a deal with us to use 4 acres for his horses and cows to gaze (we get a little cash each month). His corral is right next to one of our fences (not a big deal as it’s on the far side of our acreage and not next to our house or yard). We started noticing increased number of rocks on our side of the fence next to his corral. Hey, it’s western Washington and we have a lot of rocks in our ground BUT it was only happening in that area. So my hubby (who takes no crap as he was a military police officer at that time) sees the neighbor in this corral and wanders over to talk to him. They talk about rodeo stuff, weather, etc. Then my husband says he needs to close the gate between our properties so we he can take the time to pick up rocks. This means the neighbor will need to have his horses and cows in his field, which also means he will have to feed them as his field grass was gone from overgrazing. And oh, by the way, hubby mentions he might be deployed so he is not sure when he will be able to get to the rocks and open the gate again. Neighbors says the cows and horses will be fine with the rocks which hubby replies back, I am not okay with the rocks.
      Hubby closes the gate few days later after moving the horses and cows to the neighbor’s field. We take over a week to pick up the rocks (we had the time but didn’t see the need to move fast on this project). And hubby wasn’t really getting deployed at that time but it’s the military so there was some truth to that statement that he could go away for a while. Once we picked up the rocks, we take a few days before we open the gate. Funny thing, we never had rocks show up in that area again. And this happen over 20 years ago.

    12. Batgirl*

      I would bring it up really subtly and drag it out. You already know they were twitchy about your seeing the basement, so I would activate that twitchiness your mother spotted. (She’s like my mother; always right!). Skirt the line of making an accusation for the fun of it.
      “I saw the pics online. Beautiful basement!”
      “That’s quite the rug (cough) rugged fireplace, I love it”
      “Don’t you love it when you see someone with similar tastes to yourself!”
      You’ve got the rug, you don’t want their used one and they’re moving away so you can say whatever is most satisfying to yourself. Or say nothing.
      You could even scratch the itch of your curiosity and say “Hey is that the rug that was delivered last spring from website? It is, isn’t it? What was the thought process there?”

    13. Courageous cat*

      I’d probably just leave a note saying “hope you enjoyed my rug – next time give misdelivered packages back to your neighbors” or whatever. There’s no reason to be direct about it because there’s no end result here, you got a replacement. so I think you’re fine to go after a little petty acknowledgement here.

    14. ...*

      I would just walk directly up to them and ask why they took my rug. Or file a police report LOL. thats seriously shameless behavior. I suspect someone in my building stole a package from me, put I kinda put it out of my head, like oh no one who rents a 2k apartment would steal a cheap package? but maybe they would??

    15. Anonymouse*

      A friend lived in a high rise style apartment building with interior hallways like a hotel. His newspaper started disappearing before he could get it in from the hall. He knew a neighbor had to be stealing it on a regular basis because the paper folks kept telling him it had been delivered. So one day he got up at like 4 am and got to the paper first, tied a strong but thin thread through it, and then put the paper back out. He ran the thread under the door into his apartment and attached it to a bell. Of course when neighbor picked up the paper to steal it, my friend flung open the door and caught him in the act. Surprise, surprise, his paper never disappeared again.

      1. Pennyworth*

        I had a friend whose dog used to steal newspapers that were delivered in her street and bring them home. The dog was given a stern talking to and no more papers came home, but they were still disappearing before the neighbors went out to collect them in the morning. Turned out the dog had taken to dropping them down the drain, to avoid getting into trouble at home.

    16. Former Retail Manager*

      I’d leave a note in their mailbox telling them good luck with the sale of their home. You viewed it online. It was lovely, especially the gray (or whatever color) rug in the basement and that you couldn’t have chosen a better one yourself. I might also add that I wish I could say I’ll miss having them for neighbors, but I won’t (but that might be a tinge too aggressive for most).

      If you hadn’t been made whole, I’d personally ask for some form of compensation, but you have been made whole and I’m more confrontational than most.

      P.S. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I have a special rage for people that steal other people’s packages and the fact that it’s your neighbor just adds insult to injury. The people that are supposed to be looking out for you/your property are opportunistic thieves. I hope karma gets them.

    17. Whiskey on the rocks*

      My friends cat started stealing the neighbors’ laundry a few months ago. It ended up national news, which has had us all dying. She started a pet supply donation group off it, though; look up Admiral Galacticat’s Laundry Basket.

  10. Coffee Cup*

    Alison did a Vice interview talking about Selling Sunset! It was so awesome. There should totally be an article per episode here, she’d have so much fun doing it!

    1. Blarg*

      I watched the third season today (while packing for a move, as I feel I need to defend this choice). I was thinking, man what amazing letters to Ask A Manager could come out of this. And also complaints to the EEOC.

      “My boss who owns the business used to date one of our coworkers. Now he gives her all the best accounts. He says it’s cause she’s the best, but that’s cause he steers her all the best work!”

      “My boss is super passive aggressive about my family obligations — even when it is for events outside of the office. Like he was upset I didn’t go to the Thanksgiving meal he holds at our office. I was with my kids!”

      “My coworker held an event for outside clients. In an effort to increase attendance, she scheduled someone to come and give people Botox injections at the event. In public. In front of everyone. Like face painting for kids at a birthday party. Everyone was doing it like it was totally normal but I didn’t want to. How should I handle this kind of thing?”

      Anyway — gonna go to Vice now and see what she had to say!

  11. Loopy*

    I have a bad back and my chiropractor suggested investing in a good mattress. The only advice he offered beyond that was getting a medium one. I have waded in to mattress research and it’s terribly overwhelming.

    I don’t know if some people find research like this fun, but I absolutely hate it! I feel the same way about car shopping. Such a big purchase is nerve-wracking especially with two people to account for. Commiseration and mattress recs welcome! I am a combo back and very occasional side sleeper, my husband is 100 side.

    1. midnightcat*

      Was there a reason for suggesting medium? Everyone is different – personally I can’t stand anything that isn’t firm or very firm.

      Ideally you want to try them in-store (perhaps not possible right now, but we bought a mattress recently and the shop had good hygiene measures).

      Ideally look for something with a comfort guarantee or trial so you can swap it.

      1. Loopy*

        I think he based it on knowing my specific back issues, I’ve been going to see him on and off for a while now. But I think I’d want medium on the firmer side whereas my husband would want medium on the softer side D:

        1. allathian*

          My recommendation is to get two mattresses so you both get the firmness you prefer. Use a big mattress topper to avoid the split in the middle. That’s what my husband and I did when my back problems made me insist on a firm mattress. The mattress topper is a fairly thick memory foam one.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      I have the Mint mattress from Tuft & Needle, and I absolutely love it. I was hesitant to buy a mattress online but their return policy is extremely generous and their customer service department is fantastic. My parents were even convinced to get one!

      I’ve also heard good things about the Purple mattress – a good friend of mine has one and she had horrific back problems (she was fortunately able to get surgery to correct it and is now doing well) and speaks highly of it, both before and after the surgery.

      1. Loopy*

        Two separate people I know in real life raved to me about the Mint and I was pretty keen but some reviewers on YouTube said it was really for side sleepers and back sleepers might find it to soft. So I’ve been a bit worried about the Mint now.

        1. My Brain Is Exploding*

          Tuft and Needle has the best return policy!!! If, after x days, you don’t want it, they will send someone to pick it up and donate it. And fully refund it. (We like ours, though initially I found it a bit too firm!)

        2. Kathy*

          I’m crazy about my new Tuft and Needle. My friend raves about the Avocado but that was a tad spendy for me.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I rotisserie like a chicken on a spit all night and prefer a very firm mattress. My husband tries to sleep on his side (but regularly flops over on his back until I poke him and tell him to roll over and quit snoring) and prefers a soft mattress. Up until last week we actually had twin mattresses on our king bed frame. But he really wanted to try a much thicker nicer mattress, and the cost difference between two twins vs one king was prohibitive, so we had to compromise.

      We ended up with a Sealy Cocoon, medium firmness. (Reviews said that the medium firm was actually very firm and the firm firm was like cement.) So far it seems to be working for both of us, but like most of the mail order mattress options they have a 100 day trial period, so we figure we’ll give it a month and see how we’re doing. (They specify that returned mattresses are professionally cleaned and donated, not resold or trashed, which I appreciated. Dunno what the other companies do with theirs.)

    4. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I bought a new mattress last year and it was really bizarre how much information and how many review sites there are out there.

      Based on my size (fat) and the way I sleep (mostly on my side) I expected to prefer a firm mattress. But I tried several in person and ended up with a medium IKEA HÖVÅG. I had a pretty small budget so it’s not exactly luxury but I’m quite happy with it. And the back and hip pain I was having both went away after a week or so.

      1. Loopy*

        There is waaaaaay too much out there! I’m definitely torn between medium and medium on the firm side myself.

      2. Dancing Otter*

        Seconding Ikea mattresses. I’m also well padded, shall we say, and hotel mattresses – even Hilton’s super luxury ones – are a misery on my spine and hips. The IKEA ones are far less expensive, I’m sure, but much more comfortable.
        I think it’s partly because of the slatted Ikea bed base, not strictly the mattress itself.

    5. Selmarie*

      Mattresses are very confusing to buy, purposely. The same exact mattress can be made for different retailers, and only the model name of it will be changed, and maybe the fabric so that it looks different on the outside. And the prices vary, as well, from retailer to retailer. I guess I don’t have any real suggestions, just some commiseration.

    6. Reba*

      If you *really* want to learn too much and agonize over the purchase, visit the Mattress Underground forums :)

      Consider latex and various high-tech foam situations. And stay away from the mattress showrooms if you can. There may be reasons to be a bit skeptical of the online mattress companies, but having something delivered to your door in a box these days is a plus!

      I have posted about this before, I have an all latex that is $$$ and weighs one zillion pounds and I love it deeply. We are a petite female side sleeper and a medium-large male back sleeper and medium latex is the dream.

    7. Chaordic One*

      The consumer magazine, “Consumer Reports,” regularly rates mattresses and they say the same thing that Selmarie does, that the manufacturers make it confusing on purpose. You have to take their ratings with a grain of salt, but I’ve generally found them to be on target.

      I used to look at the magazine in my library before covid-19. You have to pay to view Consumer Reports online, but I think it is worth it. They also put out good buyer’s guides that you can buy in most bookstores and they’re often found in the magazine section of most supermarkets.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        Libraries often have online access to the full Consumer Reports site/magazine. You can access it with a library card.

    8. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

      If you have a local mattress store and are comfortable shopping there, that’s where you should start. I had a similar situation and I went to a locally owned store and told them about my spine issues. I’m glad I did this, because he only directed me to the ones that would work and made us lay on them in our sleeping positions and stay there for a few minutes. Eight years later I’m STILL happy with my mattress! Good luck!

      1. Loopy*

        Thanks! I would love to go into a store but gosh we are still in a bit too much covid times for me. I’m wondering if I should just wait until I can do that!

      2. WoodswomanWrites*

        My back was bothering me and getting a really firm mattress helped a lot. I definitely had to go to a mattress store to try them out and find the one that worked.

        I know this is really tough given how things are with COVID. I’m imagine the store manager knows the challenges related to the pandemic and has policies in place to address that. I suggest contacting them and asking for their advice for a low-risk visit, such as being the first customer of the day.

    9. CamJansen*

      After five years with an original tuft and needle that we loved (back when there was only one to choose from) my husband and I switched to a Saatva because the TN was just too soft for us. They too have a 100 day trial period. The first two nights I had a panic because it was SO firm, but by the third night I was sold, it is factory direct so needs a bit of relax time. We’ve had it a few weeks now and it keeps getting more comfortable. We wouldn’t have done another online mattress if it weren’t for the fabulous reviews and the trial period…and the white glove delivery because we live in a century home with the world’s tightest staircase going up to the bedrooms. Also back and side sleepers, and we got the medium firm version which has seemed to be a great balance for back and side sleeping. I also hate making these decisions, what if I make the wrong one and am responsible for our collective misery until we feel like we can buy another mattress??? I can commiserate, and I wish you good nights of sleep!

    10. Aerin*

      I can’t remember which brand we went with (Sealy? Serta?) but the big thing was getting the adjustable base. It’s been SUCH a huge relief. In the zero-G mode I actually find myself sleeping on my back, but it’s still entirely possible to sleep on your side (you just curl up your legs more). And I can give myself some extra incline if I’m having a bad acid reflux night. The one we got is basically two extra-long twins pushed together, so I’m pretty sure that if you wanted to get two different types of mattress to put on it, you could.

      Downside is that sheet selection is limited, since we have separate fitted sheets but one big flat sheet and comforter. I suppose if we really wanted to we could buy the pieces individually, but we just found a set on the ‘Zon that worked.

      (Also the furniture store, either on purpose or as a mix-up, said it was 6 months no interest, but it’s actually been 60 months no interest. So that’s been a nice bonus.)

      1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

        We have an adjustable base bed too (I don’t even remember at this point), and the sheet thing is a PAIN.

        They are *not* cheap, which is why we only own one pair of them, but the Wamsutta (we got ours from Bed bath and beyond, but I imagine they’re at most similar places?) king size are actually slightly large for it, which is…somewhat crazy. Before we were having to put the fitted sheet back over the mattress every night after it slipped off.

    11. Thankful for AAM*

      No one has mentioned the sleep number bed. Does anyone have that and what do you think?

      1. Anon-a-souras*

        We’ve got a medium range split king Sleep Number. Have had it for 6 years and absolutely love it. I’m a super firm and he’s a super soft – and we’re both happy. We don’t have the adjustable base or the sleep tracking stuff, just the 2 different adjustments.

    1. Lena Clare*

      Fab at the minute! Front bit looks pretty good, I just did some weeding in the entry round my neighbour’s property – there’s probably only about a 1/4 of the entry to go now before it is completely clear and we can start putting nice stuff in there, and have got a couple of people coming round this week to quote the work in my back yard! So stuff is moving along.

      Just 1 question – how do you know if you have pruned a rose bush too much and is there anything you can do about it?

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        Roses are forgiving and will grow back. I took a pruning class a few years ago at a local botanical garden, and they said to prune roses hard in the spring, always to an outward facing bud, leave space in the middle, and get rid of anything weak or diseased throughout the season.

        1. Lena Clare*

          Oh thanks so much.

          Just got 1 quote for my back yard (which is small) – it is VERY expensive. Gulps. May have to rethink what I do.

      2. Me*

        The deer regularly trim mine down to deer face height.

        I inherited a few bushes in this yard and don’t love them or their location. However, I’ve been unsuccessful at digging them out, and I dig out lots of things from the yard. I’ve pruned them down to nubs and they still come back. I just consider those ones deer food. Eh.

      3. fposte*

        FWIW, they did a study a few years ago where they compared using a hedge clipper on roses with old-school selective pruning, and they were equal. Now there are still sometimes situations where I want to be picky about which canes survive, but I found that wonderfully freeing.

    2. Coco*

      My 1 basil plant is getting dark spots and eaten by bugs. It was doing beautifully until a couple of weeks ago. Anyone have any advice? Thanks

    3. Hotdog not dog*

      My heirloom tomatoes are taking over the world! It’s fabulous! I also found out that one of our local food pantries will accept home garden overflow. I’m thrilled that my extra herbs and vegetables are being enjoyed by people who can use them. I freeze and can some, but this is better. Many years ago I found myself temporarily homeless and without many resources so I know all too well that food pantry staples, while VERY appreciated, tend to be a little bland. A handful of fresh basil and a pineapple tomato over pasta is an easy and delicious quick meal that looks and smells like heaven. Back in the day I’d have been so excited to have anything not from a can or box, so it makes me happy that I can pay it forward now.

    4. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      It’s getting better. We had nicer weather last week so things got a bit more sun. I finally got rid of a tree that was way too big for the space and blocking the neighbours’ light, and it’s amazing how much bigger the garden looks now. I have run out of steam on my hedge renovating project so I still need to drag myself out there to finish that but the whole thing is looking less jungle-like. Also for some reason I planted cucumbers (I hate them) and of course they are flowering like crazy. My plan is to make pickles if I get enough of them.

      The front yard is also looking better. I put some mixed “summer flowers” seeds out, not expecting them to sprout, but a few are coming up. Might not amount to much at this late date but we’ll see. Everything is so delayed here I’m hoping that we get a mild fall so that things carry on growing.

    5. StellaBella*

      my balcony garden (my balcony is 4×5 feet) is doing well – have harvested a total of of 30 tomatoes, still have 15 more ripening, basil all cut back, pesto is made (2 cups!), beans harvested (1/2 cup), sunflowers about to bloom, melons are blooming, aloe is growing a ton. Courgettes were a bust, so tore them out and planted new ones so am hopeful.

      advice needed: anyone grown garlic or onions before from an old onion/garlic piece that started a green shoot? anything to think about? or just stick it in the soil?

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        I put a bunch of garlic out a few years ago and I still have rogue bulbs growing here and there. I didn’t eat much of it because it tends to give me indigestion but it grew no problem.

      2. Me*

        I generally wouldn’t stick random garlic in the ground but that’s because they can carry disease that could wipe out my actual (organic) garlic crop.

        If it’s in a location where you aren’t going to plant seed garlic, then it’s probably fine. Or stick it in a pot.

      3. Venus*

        Look up garlic planting if you are in a place that freezes over the winter. It needs to be hard neck and planted in October. It is relatively easy but timing is important.

    6. Me*

      I’ve been able to cook with something from the garden all week.

      Zucchini fritters (twice, as the plants are kinda ridiculously productive), steamed green beans, lots of sautéed sweet potato leaves (excellent with scrambled egg), sautéed Swiss chard and of course plenty of sun gold tomatoes (ha).

      While out watering one morning, I found I’d knocked off a small ripe fireball pepper. Since I’d already made hot sauce this week, I figured I’d just pop it in my mouth then and there. Turns out there were not actually enough ripe sun gold tomatoes available to quench the heat. Omg. Never.again.

    7. Parenthetically*

      Oh gosh ridiculous story — the cucumber cage (very over-engineered contraption made of pig wire, sturdy stuff, not some mimsy little bought one) collapsed under the weight of the cucumbers. These are the same cucumbers we planted in a spot with too little sun, nearly gave up on, and then transplanted to another spot, assuming they wouldn’t survive. They are going like gangbusters and we are going to be inundated with cukes in a week or so! They’re gorgeous little things, too — thin skins, sweet, juicy, tiny seeds.

    8. Alexandra Lynch*

      We’ve considered everything and decided to hire a landscape architect in the spring, because we have a very weird yard with a lot of shade, a lot of unevenness, and an intermittent creek running through it. I don’t want to keep trying stuff and having it all piecemeal; I’d like to have an overall plan that we can then work on.
      If anyone else went this route I’d love to hear about it.

      1. Me*

        You probably don’t want to hear about the three different landscape architects I’ve hired and been unhappy with their plans?

        Hope springs eternal though and I’m sure the next one I’ll hire will be right on the money.

        1. Ellen*

          Actually, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to hear about your experience. I’m thinking about hiring a professional landscape architect to redesign some areas, so I’d appreciate hearing your story.

          1. Me*

            I think where we erred is not expressing our preferences enough. If I were to do it again for that part of the yard, I’d use something akin to an idea board (or heck even Pinterest) to show what I like in terms of overall style and philosophy. For example, the multiple columnar basalt columns suggested for a small front yard struck us as…creepy, not classy. I like native plants not imported fussy ones. I didn’t express any of this in advance, which was certainly my bad. I’m sure Dh was a bit frustrated with me by the third time around and we did use some of the last design’s hardscape suggestions but her plant choices were just so.far.off.

            And it’s also important to discuss level of upkeep- do you want something that’s super easy to maintain or do you want to have to do it yourself or have a yard service.

            I have an area of the back that needs a wall. We stopped the wall at a set of stone stairs, but now we are ready to keep going (the source material is real basalt cobbles from ship ballast that were used in streets or patios. It’s quite charming as a retaining wall and I have literal tons). I know I need low seats for the fire pit area, and they need to use the huge old cast iron smelter kettle out front for the fire pit. But where that stuff goes and what sort of plantings happen around it are very much up for design choices. So I know better now how to frame the choices I want them to make. Hope that helps.

      2. SpellingBee*

        I have! Our previous house faced north with a tiny elevated front yard. I tried for several years to move things and plant things to “fix” it, without success. We finally bit the bullet and hired someone to come in and design it for us. Since it was such a small space we were also able to afford to have their crew actually do all the work as well; with a larger area I would have had the hardscape and largest elements installed, and done the peripheral plantings myself from the plan. It was the best decision ever and looked amazing! I was able to easily maintain it afterwards, since it was so well designed with plants chosen specifically by a professional for the site.

      3. Ali G*

        We just did this in the spring! We had a guy from the local garden center come by and draw up a plan. We had ugly overgrown azaleas and now we have a really nice garden in front. They did the removal of the old stuff and the installation. It was expensive, but worth it to us because it’s basically a starting point. Also if you do it through them, you get a one-year 100% replacement for anything that doesn’t work out, and 50% replacement in the second year. This came in handy as they are coming this week to replace 3 laurels that decided to die. Hopefully the next back do better.

    9. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      I’ve been getting tomatoes from one cherry tomato plant for a while, and I harvested the first two from the other plant yesterday.

      And, two cucumber seedlings I mail-ordered arrived yesterday. These were an impulse purchase because the plants we already have seemed to be done flowering, and almost done producing cucumbers. It turns out there are four or five little cucumbers on those vines, and I even saw a flower or two yesterday.

      I will frankly be surprised to get cucumbers from the new plants, but if they produce flowers I’ll be happy–cucumber is underrated as an ornamental plant.

    10. Cimorene*

      Trying out my hand for the first time at growing herbs in pots on my back deck. The chives and rosemary are doing really well.Unfortunately, the basil and parsley was originally doing well and within the last week the basil started really drooping and the parsley is turning yellow and mottled colors. The deck gets lots of sun and I water once a day if soil seems dry. Any suggestions?

      1. Ali G*

        Probably too much sun. Herbs don’t need constant direct light. Is there a place that gets shade for some of the day? And they don’t need wet soil, one water when the top is dry.

    11. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      I tried planting zucchini in a pot (large) this year. It did well for a long time but then completely died. I only ended up with one zucchini for the whole season. Has anyone successfully grown zucchini in a pot?

      1. NeverNicky*

        Yes, we have a courgette (zucchini) in a pot about twice the size of a bucket. We have had a problem with a couple rotting but we’ve harvested two courgettes with half a dozen coming along.

        She is planted in good peat free compost and watered several times a week, and fed with tomato food weekly.

      2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        I usually grow them in pots because that way I can put them where they get more sun. Did they get too much water? Or maybe an insect got it? I lost one plant early on to squash vine borers.

      3. Nita*

        I have a big container. I’ve already gotten one squash, and there are a few flowers. They ripen insanely fast. But the squash I planted (Green Tiger) doesn’t look like the typical squash plant – it grows in a little clump instead of making a big trailing vine. I think I’ve accidentally picked the perfect kind for growing in pots!

    12. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      Good plants/flowers for front yard

      A few years back, we had a landscape designer re-design our front yard. (He created the new layout and selected plants but we did all the planting.)

      There are several areas with vinca which are now completely over grown and impossible to weed. I am going to remove the vinca but do not know what to replace it with. I’d like a smaller and slower growing flowers – not another ground cover. Anyone have suggestions? The area is full sun and in the Midwest

      1. Ali G*

        Ooh yeah, vinca in full sun would take over the world! They are usually ground cover in closed canopy forests, so it’s not surprising it’s going crazy. Since you have full sun, I would go for all the fun stuff pollinators love: Russian sage, echinacea, etc. All the cool flowering plants. These will spread, but much slower than vinca in full sun.

    13. NeverNicky*

      The tomatoes really loved the week of 32 deg C temperatures and solid sun this week – I’ve just picked over 60 cherry tomatoes from two plants.

      And whoever says chillies don’t ripen outdoors in England – pah! I’ve just picked a dozen.

      Lollo rosso is trying to bolt though … and the rest of the garden is drooping a bit due to lack of water – it’s been unpleasant trying to get round using a watering can

    14. Pamela Adams*

      The feral tomatoes are growing and producing wildly. One has covered 4 rosebushes, so picking the tomatoes is a hazardous exercise.

    15. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Grilled zucchini for dinner…with leftovers tomorrow, and more green & yellow on the way. Thai peppers are coming ripe and are way too hot. All 3 heirloom tomatoes from both plants have been awful because I can’t tell they’re ready…next year it’s back to red varieties for me.
      My potatoes got bugs then the tops turned brown and shriveled so I think I’m going to turn the dirt out on a tarp to see the damage underneath.
      My overwintered fuchsia has FINALLY got a few flowers and is actually looking healthy. No clue what is different.
      None of the tomatoes I planted from seed has bloomed but the foliage has been pretty.
      The exotics are thriving, except for the lemon grass which desperately needs repotting. I’m not sure where they’re all going to go this winter!

    16. merp*

      I am in the process of making myself a little moss garden! I am not much one for big plants (or particularly practiced at gardening) but I am looking forward to some happy green velvet-looking guys on my patio.

    17. Nita*

      The good: lots of tomatoes, and even if I didn’t get a lot of actual daikon, I’ll have a LOT of daikon seeds for next year. The squash is pretty cool. The beets and carrots refuse to grow, but maybe I’ll figure them out when the weather turns cooler. Not that I need carrots anyway… long story, but I’m drowning in carrots for unrelated reasons. Picked some Concord grapes – most of this year’s harvest was lost to some hot and dry weather, but still. It’s still a lot more Concord grapes than I’d like to deal with.

      The bad: the handyman who came to fix some pretty bad damage to the backyard took out all the shrubbery. Including the two berry bushes that were a total fail anyway, and my late grandpa’s roses. That’s what I get for not being there when the action happens. I don’t know how the thing with the roses happened. I thought of my grandpa every time they bloomed on his birthday, and this hurts. Trying to let it go because I just don’t need another thing to go to pieces about right now, and I assume there’s no bringing them back, even if I tell the relative responsible for this what I think of him.

  12. Crafty in small space?*

    Has anyone tried a new craft genre lately ?

    I started wood burning after pandemic and yesterday ordered a small etching tool to etch rocks.

    Looking for new craft activities that uses tools / materials that take up very little space.

    1. Emily*

      Recently, watercolors. (You need some paint, a small palette, a few brushes, paper, and optionally a surface to paint on + masking tape to secure your paper. The supplies that I have store pretty well when I’m not using them.)

      Previously, things like making bracelets out of embroidery floss or fun animals and things (amigurumi) from crochet. All you really need for those is the floss or the yarn, plus a crochet hook for the amigurumi.

    2. CozyDetectiveCrafter*

      Block printing/printmaking! Or whittling, paper cutting, or embroidery. I like printmaking with linoleum blocks but you can use craft foam. This activity has only required some rubber blocks, a carving tool and some paint and paper. I use a journal and I already had some small paints on hand, so the materials I needed to buy were the block and carving tool. There is a starter kit that’s around ten dollars, comes with a block, a piece of tracing paper and a carving tool. I think it’s through speedball.

      Whittling does require wood carving tools and wood, but you can get some basswood cylinders from craft stores or use the wood around your home. The real trick is not cutting yourself. You can start with a small carving knife and some wood.

      Paper cutting can be as tool intensive as you’d like it to be. For this I typically use an xacto knife and a carving mat and some paper. I’ve also seen people just use construction paper and scissors, so the barrier to entry is very low.

      And with embroidery, you can purchase a kit to begin. There are some kits that have 3 embroidery pieces in them, multiple hoops, etc. but I found a cheaper one that had one project only.

    3. OyHiOh*

      Decopage and quilling

      Quilling – long strips of paper, and a bit of glue to fix the end.

      Decopage – pretty pictures (flowers and birds and architectural details are traditional), scissors (cuticle scissors or specialty), glue, brayer (little roller on a handle), varnish or clear poly topcoat. And something to put the pretty pictures on. Wood jewelry boxes are common first projects.

      1. Aerin*

        Seconded, cross-stitch is a tidy and relatively cheap hobby. I have stashed the entire DMC collection and it fits in three 4″ binders, plus an additional organizer case for the multiples. I’ve got a carrying case for my current project and threads, and I keep the patterns on my phone.

    4. The New Wanderer*

      Just tried oil pastels this week, for the first time since high school art class (almost 3 decades ago). My kids and I were inspired by some YouTube videos (the artist is Deepak, if you’re interested) showing basic techniques and it’s been fun trying to copy what we saw. Having pretty good success at it too. Low investment to start, about $5-10 for a starter set of pastels. I already had decent sketch paper and napkins for blending, and extras would be heavy graphite pencils, correction (white out) pens, and tape to create edges on the paper and hold it in place.

    5. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      Fingerloop braiding? All you need is your fingers and materials, which is embroidery floss or yarn. You can make some really pretty patterned cordage.

  13. Christy*

    An update on my synthroid question from last week: I did reach out to my doctor (thank you all!) but by the time she got back to me, my symptoms had abated. I’m actually feeling fine this week. I even slept through the night a few times! (It wasn’t a perfect track record even before the synthroid, tbh.) Again, thank you all for chiming in!

  14. Chronic Pain Sucks*

    We signed up for HBO Max. Seems like a waste . Anyone find an engaging stuff to watch? Old half hour shows are too cringey for me.
    Game of Thrones is too violent for me. Sopranos too.
    Sounds nuts but what I really want is stuff like the Fosters or Bold Type or Switched at Birth Or Younger . So basically I have the tastes of a 7th grader.
    Suggestions?

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I got a free trial of HBO Max when I bought a MS Surface last month. I feel the same way: it’s a waste for me. Mainly because it can only be used on a compatible device and if you’re trying to use it on a Smart TV, it has to be compatible with your cable provider and it’s not, of course. So I’d be stuck watching on my Surface and I’m just not into that. I can use an HDMI cable to see it on the TV, but there’s a slight delay so the sound doesn’t quite match up with the program. The only thing I used it for was watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, something I discovered within the last few months and I love it. But I can find it on You Tube, too, and don’t have to pay for it.

    2. TPS reporter*

      Love Life is pretty good.

      I would also recommend The Wire. It’s somewhat violent but not like GoT or Sopranos.

      Max also has a ton of classic movies in really excited to watch

    3. Jennifer*

      I like the older movies on HBO Max like The Secret of My Success, What About Bob, and Dodgeball. I have the tastes of a 7th grader too, especially during these times, and movies like that are like comfort food for me.

    4. Frankie Bergstein*

      I love the Fosters and Switched at Birth! Great shows! We’re watching Nora from Queens (Awkwafina’s show). Big Little Lies is on there as well, which I also liked.

    5. Coco*

      I loved Bunheads. Sad when it was cancelled. I haven’t kept up with the many iterations but maybe Degrassi? I used to wstch the old shows on the N: South of Nowhere, Make it or Break it, Edgemont. Kyle XY was on a different channel but was fun.

        1. Aerin*

          I thought we weren’t gonna get much out of Disney+ other than the movies, but we really liked Encore and are now hooked on Clone Wars.

      1. Chronic Pain sucks*

        Except that I am pretty sure I have seen all the shows on freeform. I will look at these suggestions.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I just meant that sounds like the kinds of shows you like. You may have better luck with Netflix or Disney Plus.

    6. MsChanandlerBong*

      Honestly, I don’t think HBO is going to have much (if anything) similar to those shows. Succession and Barry are both excellent, but Barry is probably going to be too violent, and Succession is violent in a different way (not physical violence for the most part, but family members treating each other horribly).

    7. Analyst Editor*

      A low-stakes question: how come so many hair stylists don’t do braids? I mean a basic French braid. (I guess it’s not so basic, as I can’t do one.) But I’d figure that is exactly in the line of work for a stylist?
      But I’ve needed one and had a lot of trouble finding a salon to do one for me, when someone who could wasn’t around, and when I don’t have hours to spend trying to do it and then redoing the same lopsided mess twenty times.

    8. LemonLyman*

      Been rewatching the Harry Potter series. Those leave HBO MAX on Aug 25 so if you want to watch, get started now!

    9. allathian*

      Most HBO original shows are pretty violent. HBO Max isn’t available in my area but we have HBO Nordic. The movie selection there is very basic though, so we haven’t watched almost any of them. The only HBO show I can think of that isn’t at all violent is From the Earth to the Moon, the Tom Hanks produced fictionalized documentary about the Apollo space program.

      We’re currently watching Westworld and Boardwalk Empire and both of those are probably too violent for you.

    10. DoctorateStrange*

      If you’re into Criterion movies, HBOMax has a lot of those. It’s definitely helping me check off movies I’ve been meaning to watch.

  15. Not A Manager*

    Has anyone done online volunteer tutoring? Are there particular organizations that you liked or disliked? What was your experience?

    1. MMB*

      I used to volunteer online with the United Nations. They had some very interesting projects all over the world.

  16. Oxford Comma*

    In these dark times, I have turned to watching old episodes of The Great British Baking Show (The Great British Bakeoff is a much better title, IMHO). and I’m starting to become mildly obsessed. So much so that I am tempted to try making some of these cakes and desserts. I would say that I’m a competent beginner when it comes to baking. Any recommendations for cookbooks that would be in this vein and that would not be beyond me? Mary Berry appears to have authored a ton, but I’m not sure where to start.

      1. NeverNicky*

        There’s a lot of Mary Berry (and Paul Hollywood and Nadiya Hussain) recipes on the BBC website – Hollywood’s lemon drizzle squares have become my go to lockdown bake

    1. BRR*

      Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “Rose Baking Basics” was written with the purpose of teaching baking and has pictures for everything. It can feel a little old fashioned but her recipes are some of my favorites.

    2. Chocolate Teapot*

      Lorraine Pascal’s books might be good for beginners. She came to cooking and baking later in life.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      It’s such a fun show. I made my first attempt at bread that didn’t involve a bread machine using Paul Hollywood’s soda bread recipe and it was great. (I still hate kneading though so I haven’t done any more.)

      1. Aerin*

        Getting cookbooks from the library is so smart! A lot of times I’ll find a cookbook but the recipes look iffy, or there might be only a couple I’m interested in. So test-driving from the library works really well. (Just don’t get the book dirty!)

    4. Reba*

      Nadiya and Chetna both have cookbooks! And probably other contestants do, too.

      Smitten Kitchen was basically how I learned to bake — the recipes are not beginner necessarily but Deb often edits them to be a bit simpler (i.e. fewer steps, fewer dirty bowls).

      1. Slinky*

        A lot of the contestants do! I picked up Kim Joy’s pre-pandemic and had a great time making cat buns and meringue ghosts.

    5. Jane*

      There’s at least a couple of great british bake off cookbooks – I have the first one and it seems very well tested, everything I’ve tried from it has worked really well (unlike some other famous bakery tie ins I could mention).

    6. The New Wanderer*

      You’ve probably already seen TGBBO Master Class, but I started with that to learn a few of the recipes since they walk through all the steps and show what it’s supposed to look like.

      As an American, watch out for the conversion amounts. I mistakenly thought 10ml of yeast was 2 tsp (it is for salt, but salt is heavier so it’s more like just over 3 tsp yeast). Therefore my bread dough wasn’t rising very well but the flavor was just fine.

    7. RagingADHD*

      Best tip: bake by weight. You will always get a better result than baking by volume as is usually done in the US.

      I tend to google the actual recipes used on the show. You can often find them on the BBC website, and sometimes other places.

      I have the GBBO Big Book of Baking, (from the season with Nancy) and honestly I can’t recommend it. The directions are usually far more complicated than necessary, and leave out helpful information about the look and feel of a mixture that you can often find online, like how to tell when the eggs are whipped enough, how finely to blitz the butter into flour, etc. What I usually do is pick a recipe from the book that looks appealing, and then google it to find more helpful directions.

      1. Batgirl*

        I always bake Victoria Sponge by very exact weights. So my recipe is very similar to Mary Berry’s but instead of the stated weights, (2oz flour/butter/sugar per egg) I’d use the exact combined egg weight. Victoria Sponge might also be the most British recipe ever and a great beginner’s choice.
        However, double cream is apparently tricky to get stateside so I would make buttercream instead.

        1. Jules the First*

          Double cream is called heavy cream stateside and should be readily available. If not, it can be subbed with “whipping cream” (not the pre-whipped stuff, the liquid for whipping up)

    8. Squeakrad*

      Anything that Nadiya or Chetna have written, or blogged. They are the two best at simplifying complex recipes.

    9. Oxford Comma*

      Thanks for all the suggestions! I’m going to start by requesting some of these from my library system. Will also check out the blog/web site links.

  17. singing in the shower*

    Singing! I have been taking singing lessons (virtually now) for a couple of years and am not satisfied, but I can’t quite put my finger on why. I am very new overall to it (and had issues with my voice previously so I started at a very low level), so perhaps the repertoire is more boring because they are easy songs, but nothing excites me that much. I asked my teacher if there was some kind of curriculum but a lot of it depends on your own voice development, and a lot of the more structured curriculum is geared for children. I play the piano (I am more advanced there), and I get a sense of excitement and mastery when I am learning a piece, but I don’t get that feeling at all with the singing, it’s more like ok we did that, now to the next piece. I have been wondering if I am singing pieces that are too easy maybe? But they do often have difficulties, but I get over them in a week or two, and they don’t usually require lots of work on the dynamics etc. (or at least it’s not something we focus much on). I also don’t know the repertoire so it’s hard to suggest anything. I’d appreciate it if anyone with singing experience could weigh in!

    1. BRR*

      Not speaking as a singer but a former oboist, is it possible you’re just not into it? I’d mention it to your teacher.

      1. OyHiOh*

        Singer here (choral/church, musical theatre).

        Different repertoire and/or different teacher. If you’ve been singing consistently for a few years, I’d expect you to be learning intermediate pieces by now, working on color, shape, and dynamic.

        What do you like listening to? That’s where to select music from. Why did you start taking lessons? Are you achieving the goals you wanted? Do you need to try something different? Maybe (when this pandemic eases) try singing in a barbershop or chamber chorale, auditioning for a community theatre musical, or something else that is different and rewards success differently from singing alone with your teacher.

    2. Llellayena*

      Good singing is a product of good breathing and sound shaping. It’s not something that you yourself will easily notice improvement until someone Compliments you. So it can feel a bit discouraging if you’re only singing for yourself.
      For actual music suggestions, we’d need to know what voice part you are. Also, what type of music do you listen to? Classical choral? 60’s? Hard rock? Much of what you listen to can be tuned into something you practice which could make it more engaging. Singing harmony with someone else is also a good next step. Learning to balance your voice against another can be a challenge all its own.

    3. Colette*

      I wonder if you’d enjoy it more if you were singing with others in a choir. (Not a great time to try that, though.)

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I love singing but solo work bores me. The combination of the group experience and the technical challenge is where my thrill lies. So that’s not happening for a while.

    4. Nicki Name*

      In simpler times, I’d recommend checking out the offerings at your local community college or nonselective public university, if you have one.

    5. Chaordic One*

      You really might want to try to change things up by working with a different teacher. If for no other reason than to get to work with someone who will have a different perspective, approach, technique and who might have some new and different types of music to add to your repertoire.

    6. Jotab*

      Sweet Adelines International – our chorus is using zoom to meet. Lots of vocal training at whatever level you come in. And the sound is amazing

      1. Incessant Owlbears*

        Oooooh I need this in my life! I just used the Sweet Adeline site to find a chorus near me and write to them; I hope they’re still meeting online and accepting new members. Thank you for posting this — I had never heard of them before!

    7. Aerin*

      I was never really big on the classical repertoire. (The classic Italian songs and arias book bored me to tears.) I mainly cut my teeth on musicals as a kid. And since I was learning them mostly by ear, skill level wasn’t necessarily a factor–or rather, I didn’t realize how much of a factor it was, because even with the really complex Sondheim stuff I was just parroting it.

      Not sure how well that would go over with your instructor, though. All my formal voice lessons were classical.

    8. Sopranistin*

      I’m a voice and piano teacher. I have a few thoughts:
      What kind of songs are you singing? Many voice teachers come from a classical background, so they start students off with simple folk songs, hymns, traditional pieces. Is that what you’re doing? It’s the traditional way to start, but I’ll admit, not the most exciting repertoire.
      I assume you learn new songs quickly, since you play piano. So most of your lesson time is probably spent on technique – sound production, breathing, diction… which is very different than when playing a physical instrument, like the piano. Technique isn’t something you never truly ever master, it’s an ongoing process.
      It sounds like you’re learning new songs, but not taking them to completion. For my students, songs are considered “done” when they are performance-ready, including memorized and with accompaniment. Even if you’re not interested in performing, it’s a helpful guide to feel like you’ve mastered the piece. Maybe perfecting some songs in that way will help you to feel the level of mastery you mentioned.
      I would encourage you to have a talk with your teacher. Say you’re feeling bored and would like to try singing different genres and more challenging repertoire. They should be able to introduce you to lots of new music. Part of your teacher’s job is to help guide your musical journey! If they aren’t open to your aspirations and won’t help you experiment, then you should find new teacher.
      Best of luck!

    9. Jules the First*

      When I teach, I try and flag for my adult students which skill we are building with this piece. It might be tone, pitch, rhythm, dynamics, texture, breath control, range, projection…Some pieces we will work on for a couple of weeks to build the skill and then move on, others we will work on over a period of months to perfect.

      When I was learning to sing, we went through a stage where my instructor insisted I learn to yodel…which I thought was lame and pointless, but it turned out to be incredibly useful for learning to control tone across my range. Have you tried asking your instructor what the purpose of a piece is?

    10. Jay*

      Lifelong choral singer and intermittent voice student. I started voice lessons again just before everything shut down. I kept it up virtually for a few weeks but it wasn’t satisfying. For me, the important thing is to know what my goal is for the lessons. This time I wanted to work on a psychological block I have about singing the upper notes in my range. I’m a first alto. I can sing the full range required in most choral music. If there’s a leap to a higher note or I’m singing solo, my throat closes. Totally in my head. I also wanted to work on shifting from the classical style in which I was trained into more pop singing for solo work. In-person lessons are great because they require significant focus, which helps clear my head, and I can see progress over time. But they don’t feed my soul like choral singing.

      You may need a new instructor. I would tell the one you’re currently working with that you’re not engaged with the repertoire. I’d also think about your goals. What music do you like and what do you usually play? Do you play vocal music on piano? Do you want to be able to sing along? Take some specific goals to your instructor and ask if they can shift their approach to meet those goals. If you doe want to change instructors, look at college vocal faculty – they’re accustomed to working with adults. At least young adults. Or look specifically for someone who works with adult beginner/intermediate singers in the genre you want to sing.

      My most recent lessons were actually with School of Rock, which I enjoyed a lot. Most franchises teach adults. I like their approach a lot – my work is literally life and death and I want my downtime to be more lighthearted.

  18. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How is everyone’s writing going?
    More world building for me, I didn’t have much energy to do anything more complicated like plotting during this blasted heatwave…thank God it’s almost over.

    1. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Also, forgot to mention but as usual this is not limited to fiction writing – anything from poetry to quality work advice blogs goes!

    2. curly sue*

      I turned in first round edits of my next book to my editor, so now I wait for her to get back to me with the next set of edits. It’s the first time I’ve written a rom-com, so figuring out the right tone balance has been interesting. Usually I’m more into creepy bad guys and a messy psychological vibe, so figuring out how to keep my antagonist creepy + threatening and still have the overall tone of the book be funny and affirming has been a really interesting exercise.

      While I wait, I’m starting to poke at plotting for the next one. My lead is a stuntwoman, so I think the main external conflict is going to be costuming for women in action films. (as in, miniskirts, bikinis & heels make stuntwomen’s jobs far more dangerous than the men’s.) We’ll see how it shapes up.

      1. I always wanted to be a ninja*

        Sounds like a hit novel!
        I recommend checking out the manga or anime Bleach specifically for the handling of adding in humor naturally to characters who are actually psychologically disturbed megalomaniacs (many gray areas for the motivations for characters to act as they do, actually decent characterisation and story arcs for the females, shifting alliances to defeat the “big bad” but no magical redemption)
        It is funny as___.

    3. RagingADHD*

      Mine is for work, and I’m worried about making my deadline. I can do it if the rest of the material is straightforward, but there have a been a couple of big curveballs already, and I’m only on Chapter 4.
      6 more chapters due by 8/25. Gah.

    4. Aerin*

      Writing goes slooooooowly. Still getting my three sentences per day, but most days I don’t go any further than that. I actually skipped ahead quite a bit, which I normally never do. But this isn’t so much “writing out of order” as “the first act is an absolute disaster and I’ll figure out how to fix it later.”

      I really need to sit down and start making a new list of agents so I can get querying on the previous WIP. The last time I queried was for a different category and also, yikes, 7 years ago, so that list isn’t all that useful anymore.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I’m in revision with Book 2. I’ve tentatively set the release for January 2021. Must hit up editors first . . . D: Spent two days on a new outline, and I think I worked out some things that were bugging me. Yay!

      Also, I finally finished a long story that had been kicking my ass. It’s called “MathLex” and follows a learning-disabled woman and her partner trying to escape from a dystopian US where all written communication has been changed to equations. I put it in the third and final edition of my short story collection, which is now on Amazon.

      The reason it’s now on Amazon is because WordPress decided to downgrade the only payment option on their Premium accounts, so I could no longer sell it directly through my imprint website without upgrading to an expensive Business plan. People could still buy it but I could no longer code it to go back through PayPal to a download page. I would have had to manually email the book later, which is complete bullshit.

      So I added content and re-released it with a new cover that, I must say, absolutely slaps. :) Go to boomkaartbooks dot com / books to see it. I did have to raise the price, but hey, new content too!

      I’m not changing site platforms, mind you. I like WordPress overall. What I’ll probably do is just downgrade the plan and continue to pay for the domain name separately (cheap). A Business plan isn’t worth it; I don’t make enough sales to justify the expense. I can always upgrade if I want it later.

      Also, if you read Tunerville, you can go to the Media page on the Boomkaart Books website and read the Sophisticate magazine article about ghost sex, lol. I tried and tried to keep it in the book but just could not shoehorn it in, so I made a fake magazine. :’D

      Oh, and speaking of worldbuilding, I’ve been playing with Inkarnate (a map-making website) and their Pro edition, which allows you to publish the maps you make in your commercial work, is only $25 so guess what, lol. It also has way more stuff than the free version. I need to be careful I don’t get bogged down in worldbuilding and have to push out my deadline. But it’s FUN.

    6. I can only speak Japanese*

      I think I have finally figured out what’s missing in the plot of my first novel project, and now I “only” need to find ways to address those issues. I hope I’ll be done by November so I can NaNoWriMo this year. (It never works out for me, either due to work or school or whatever, so let’s see.)

    7. Jay*

      Just finished a personal reflective essay and submitted to a medical journal – and it was rejected. Le sigh. Planning to resubmit to an online magazine but I’m making some tweaks first.

      Trying to get myself motivated to get back to a longer form piece which is sort of a memoir. The “sort of” is the problem – I can’t figure out who my audience is.

    8. RagingADHD*

      I checked wordcount last night, and I’ve gutted out almost 30K words in the last 2 weeks.

      No wonder I’m tired.

      I have to deliver this draft by the 25th, and I’m not quite halfway through. Hopefully it will go faster now that I am more in tune with my SME’s thought process.

      It got ugly there for the first couple chapters. I would just glare at my notes and internally scream, “WTF are you on about now?!?!?”

      I *think* (hope)I have a groove now.

  19. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gaming thread! What everyone been playing this week?
    As usual, this is not limited to video games.
    I just got my Switch a few days ago and set it up today! Playing Friends of Mineral Town at the moment.

    1. DarthVelma*

      My love for Elder Scrolls Online remains undiminished this week. :-) My partner is a bit further along on his main character and he helped me upgrade my character’s outfit/look last night. My Nord dude is looking much shinier now. I have a gigantic metallic black and blue battleaxe. It’s glorious. What really amused me was turning around when I was done dying all my armor and realizing my partner had picked the exact same color scheme for the secondary character he’s using to go through all the early game stuff with me. We’re very matchy-matchy.

      Anyway, we finished a big chunk of story last night – there was a wedding and I won’t say anything more spoilery than that – but at least I was dressed nicer for the ceremony. Yay!

      Today we track down a psycho possessed kitty. I’m hoping to see Raz today. We went a whole session without seeing him last night and that makes me wonder what trouble he’s gotten into that will inevitably involve me. :-)

    2. MsChanandlerBong*

      I am playing Super Ghouls and Ghosts on an emulator (I no longer have an SNES). Hardest game I’ve ever played! I tossed around the idea of getting a Switch, but there are only like four games I’d play. I am very particular; I want 2D side-scrolling platformers where you jump on enemies’ heads and collect coins/gems/stars/bananas/whatever. So I’m really only interested in the Mario U game, maybe Mario Maker, and the DK Country games. Seems like a waste to pay $300 for a system and then only play a handful of games on it.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Yeah, I can see that. If you don’t mind handheld only you could go for the Swith Lite, but that’s still $200. I play a lot of RPGs and honestly the more of them I play the more I’m convinced handhelds (and semi-handhelds) are the way to go with them. Sure, less powerful, but a lot of time extra computing power is used (wasted, in my opinion) on better graphics. Honestly, I’ll take the lesser graphics in exchange for not being stuck in the same spot for hours.

      2. Jackalope*

        If you do decide to go for the Switch, my husband discovered recently that you can download a number of the original Nintendo games from their website in a package or bundle of maybe 20 games per download. Some of them are the earlier DK and maybe some of the Mario ones (I know they had Dr. Mario since he played that one but don’t remember the rest since I haven’t used it yet).

    3. ampersand*

      I can’t remember if I mentioned previously that my husband and I are playing the board game Pandemic Legacy season 2 (it’s set 71 years after the pandemic in season—effectively post-apocalyptic). I initially balked at the idea of playing this game now, but it’s turned out to be a lot of fun and, oddly enough, takes my mind off the actual pandemic. Anyone else played it?

    4. Firefly*

      Needing some “comfort food” and redownloaded all the episodes of The Room on my iPad. It’s been long enough that I (mostly) forget how to solve the puzzles and am enjoying being immersed in the world again.

  20. Confused Single Mom*

    I started woodburning too! It’s very relaxing once I figure out what design I’m doing. How hard is rock etching?

  21. Magical Carpet Ride*

    Any recommendations on where to buy a rug? I know what size I want, there are just so many options! Especially because I don’t want to go to stores right now to see them in person. Any retailers that you’ve had luck with for nice rugs?

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Oddly enough, Macy’s online. I’ve tried other sites but there’s so much poor quality mixed in, I’ve had much better luck with Macys. Not perfect of course.

    2. Christmas Carol*

      Ask RUG GATE 2020 where they ordered from, or you could just wait for the rug fairy to deliver one to behind your garage, but then you would have to move.

    3. Selmarie*

      I bought one from Pottery Barn I really like. Bought it online never having seen it in person, and it was exactly as expected. Got it on sale, besides :)

    4. Filosofickle*

      I’ve had good luck with Overstock, specifically their Safavieh line. My medallion rugs are beautiful! And really inexpensive for quality. Look for items with reviews and customer photos to better understand how it will feel and look.

    5. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Hook & Loom has nice eco friendly wool or cotton rugs. Pretty reasonably priced too.

      1. Ranon*

        Second Hook & Loom- their samples are super affordable so you can really see what you’re getting before paying for the whole thing.

    6. Generic Name*

      I love home furnishings from World Market. I’d steer clear of Lowe’s or Home Depot for rugs, as they aren’t very good quality and they look cheap

    7. Koala dreams*

      I have had good luck with IKEA, depending on what you mean with nice. They are great for nice rugs for a reasonable price, not for luxury rug. I have a soft bedroom rug from them that is wonderful.

    8. Courageous cat*

      RugsUSA.com always and forever. I have known so many people who have sworn by them too. I’ve never paid more than $200 for a large good quality rug there.

    9. Filthy Stinky Rug from Overstock*

      Here’s something I wrote about my experience buying a rug from Overstock.

      In October 2018 I ordered a large rug from Overstock which was for the bedroom of a woman living with multiple sclerosis. When the rug arrived it was apparent from the dirt and smell that there was something seriously wrong with it. The rug arrived in plastic packaging that was ripped, crumbling, and had parts turned yellow like it was old and moldy. I will spare you a photo of my hands, but they became filthy just handling it.

      I thought Overstock offered a full money back guarantee. That’s when I discovered (and you can try checking it now), that their website has multiple pages with information about refunds and returns. Among all that information, I found this single disclaimer on one of the pages: “Any item specifically marked as Non-Returnable on the product page will not be accepted for returns.”

      You can probably guess what happened next. It turned out that in small type on what I thought was a typical product page it had in tiny type (easily overlooked by an older person or someone with visual challenges) that the rug was non-returnable. I was surprised, because so many pages on their website suggest that returns and refunds are easy to get. On a hunch, I checked all my past Overstock orders (none of which I had returned), and found that EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. had “non-returnable” in tiny type. So here’s the first tip:

      TIP #1: Before ordering anything from Overstock, check the entire product page, the checkout page, and every other page related to your purchase in detail to make sure it doesn’t say you can’t do a return or get a refund.

      Because the product was clearly defective (I had two people check who agreed it was gross, but who would put a filthy moldy rug in their BEDROOM?) I hoped that I could talk with someone at Overstock who would be reasonable.

      I had a lengthy discussion with a customer service agent who seemed to be trying many different tactics to get us to keep the rug (they offered a link to a website with rug cleaning tips — something you wouldn’t expect to need for a brand new rug!) but finally said they would allow a return, which I was grateful for and thought was compassionate due to the rug being something that could not go into the bedroom of someone who wasn’t in good health. (Although I can’t imagine ANYONE would want it in their bedroom. Can you imagine putting a moldy rug into your child’s bedroom or an elderly parent’s bedroom, let alone your own bedroom?)

      The Overstock agent sent me a shipping label and email which said all we had to do was drop the rug off at UPS which is at my post office. The rug was huge (8 feet x 11 feet), so it was physically challenging to get it to the post office, but it was returned to the post office with Overstock’s own mailing label on it. Then we waited, and as you’ll read on their website if you carefully review all their return and refund pages, they explain all the things you should wait for before getting a refund. But no refund for the $575.48 ever appeared after reviewing multiple months of credit card statements.

      When Overstock was later contacted to ask where the refund was, here was the agent’s written response: “I have reached back to the returning warehouse and they are unable to verify that they received this rug back into stock and UPS has recycled the tracking for the return. We are beyond time frames to file a lost return shipment claim with the carrier and I am not able to assist with a refund.”

      I can certainly understand if whoever received it at the warehouse decided that it should be disposed of. (Frankly, I don’t understand why they didn’t dispose of it instead of sending it to a customer in the first place.) So here’s how our loss of $575.48 to Overstock will hopefully help you avoid the same problem.

      TIP #2: If you are able to get Overstock to say they will accept a refund, make sure you document everything very carefully. Take photographs showing the return label, getting the product to UPS or the post office, and so on.

      TIP #3: Then check your credit card statement frequently and when there is no refund to your credit card, contact them immediately, and keep contacting them until you get them to do the refund. Don’t allow too much time to elapse. Don’t assume they will “do the right thing”.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        My takeaway: I’m never buying from them. That’s appalling on too many levels. And I’m going to be in the market for a rug soon, so thank you for sharing.

      2. Courageous cat*

        Yeah, IMO when buying things from a place you haven’t bought from before, I would recommend using your credit card. Then just do a chargeback if the retailer doesn’t help you out.

        1. I always wanted to be a ninja*

          Zulily, prices are 10-50% less than Overstock on average. Have found large area wool rugs for $50.

  22. Jessie*

    Guys. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about worrying about turning 40. Today is my 40th birthday. I’m not a big birthday girl, but I like to have a nice day with my family if possible.
    Yesterday was very stressful because my son developed a runny nose, a cough and was very lethargic. We’ve only just broken our four month quarentine, so I was worried he got exposed. I took him to the doc and he told me most probably common cold. I was worried and let my son sleep with me. I wanted to monitor him to make sure he didn’t develop a fever through the night. He didn’t get a fever and I woke up in a good mood. I was planning what kind of cake and letting my son choose. I was looking forward to a quiet day. Then suddenly my daughter started screaming. She had a runny nose and something else must have been bothering her, or she wouldn’t scream like that. I was frantic on the phone trying to get a doctor appointment and even considered taking her to the ER. The way she was screaming, I thought there was something awful. She finally vomited and then became OK. I got her an appointment at 8 pm today just in case.
    But my birthday is screwed. I have two sick kids. I’m so worried.. And I’m bummed. It’s only 3:30 here. Is there anyway I can turn this day around? Or should I give up? Or should we do something another day?

    1. Not A Manager*

      Once you get the all-clear that nothing is seriously amiss with your children, put everyone in PJ’s, order some food if you like that, and make tonight a family movie night. Or whatever else is a low-key, soothing treat for your family that won’t stress you (and ideally you enjoy too). We sometimes used to put everyone in the big bed and just read stories and drink juice.

      You can mark your birthday with your family by singing/having a candle on something/letting them make you a card if they’re up to it. And then plan a special birthday day some other time. Maybe you and the kids could talk today about what you’re going to do when everyone has more energy.

      When you do celebrate your birthday, be sure to really frame that out for everyone (“tomorrow is my birthday day! the whole day is brunch/park/cake/whatever”) so that it feels special.

      Happy birthday. Forty really isn’t so bad. Actually, my forties were my best decade until my fifties. Now that’s my best decade. I hope everyone feels better soon!

    2. Just a PM*

      Do you get birthday coupons/discounts from any restaurants through their “frequent diner” programs? If you do, then maybe a discount birthday meal could cheer you up a little. That might be enough to end today on a slightly positive note, and then you could try again another day.

    3. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Happy Birthday!!!! Pick a day for Jessie’s Birthday Observed and celebrate then. Also celebrate your half birthday when it comes around. Meanwhile pick an easy chore you’ve been putting off…or a really hard one…and do it. Then you’ll have a feeling of accomplishment.

      1. Reba*

        Yes, try to let go the idea that this particular day must be a certain way. (Easy to get into that feeling when you are already anxious about the significance of 40!)

        It *is* stressful and disappointing, not trying to minimize that. But, it’s just a day. Really. Celebrate yourself on an arbitrary day that’s not so chaotic.

        Hope your kids get better quickly!

    4. DarthVelma*

      When he was pretty little, maybe around 5 or 6, my younger brother was sick on his birthday and was very upset because he thought that meant that since he couldn’t really celebrate that day he wouldn’t get to celebrate at all.

      I can remember my parents telling him that it was ok, he’d get cake once he felt better, and it would just make his birthday last a little longer. :-) It’s become a thing in my family. We’re more spread out now and there are more of us, so we tend to do periodic big parties where we celebrate several birthdays (and other life events) together. Doesn’t matter if the party is before or after your actual birthday…it just makes it last longer.

      If you’re all able to do something today to mark the occasion – that’s good. And if you can’t manage it until another day, that’s ok too. What’s important is the memories you all make together, not what day you made them on.

      I do hope that both of your little ones are feeling better soon. And that this becomes one of those family stories – how you were worried about turning 40 and your children distracted you from it and it’s something you can tease them about later.

    5. Jennifer*

      I suggest watching season 5 episode 18 of Bob’s Burgers, available on hulu if you have it wherever you are in the world. Linda turns 44 and is feeling a bit like you, but she managed to turn it around. I also second ordering in some food, maybe some wine if you indulge, popcorn, and making it a family viewing party.

      1. Jessie*

        Thanks guys for the advice. I will take my daughter to the doctor and then see how I feel like. But I think I will be tired. So maybe tomorrow. I told my husband that I don’t want a cake today. Maybe another day.

    6. My Brain Is Exploding*

      And this is why, at my house, we have “birthday week” and spread things out! Find one special thing you can do today (bath and book, go to bed early, etc.) and have the rest of the festivities later. Happy Birthday!

      1. Jessie*

        Took my girl to the doctor and she has an ear infection. Hence the screaming.
        The problem is half our family have birthdays in August. We have birthdays on the 17th, 19th, 22nd, and 26th. So, my birthday is done. There can’t be a birthday week. There are other birthdays.
        Honestly, I sound like a child, but 40 is a big deal and the last year was so awful, I thought a nice sweet birthday with my family would be a nice way to start the year. I am a bit sad, I won’t lie.

        1. Not A Manager*

          I urge you to reconsider “my birthday is done.” Why not set an example for your children? Surely someday they won’t be able to celebrate on their birthday, or their party will be rained out, or someone will get strep throat. Show them that you can reschedule and enjoy the experience on another day.

          Also, you’re disappointed. If there’s a way to mitigate that, it’s worth modeling that to them, also.

          If August is booked up, maybe you can celebrate “4o and a month” on September 15?

          1. Christmas Carol*

            If Queen Elizabeth II can move her birthday two months later in the year, you can too.

        2. A few things are nice*

          Honestly I feel like the world has it out for my birthday- something always happens to get in the way of my celebration plans. So a couple years ago I started having Birthday Things happen a day or two before, instead of the day of. Funny enough, that seems to have helped – stuff still happens on my actual birthday but I’ve gotten the better of it because I already celebrated!

          I know that doesn’t help you right now but I absolutely understand the feeling of being cheated out of your birthday plans.

        3. Jenny F. Scientist*

          We do ‘birthday observed’ all the time! My daughter’s birthday is New Year’s Eve and my oldest’s almost always falls during Pesach. Maybe in, like, 6 weeks, you can just have a do-over!

    7. Ranon*

      I’m so sorry, what a bummer!

      I suggest declaring that birthdays that are primary numbers are the really important ones and having your blowout next year. And then you’ll have 43 if 41 doesn’t work out.

      In the meantime, kindness for yourself and a treat if you can fit it in, I’m sorry your family couldn’t keep their illnesses at bay just a day longer for you!

    8. Dr. Anonymous*

      I am a huge proponent of Jessie’s Birthday, Observed, to be done on a more convenient day. Your birthday can be whenever you say it is.

    9. Jennifer*

      Oh I turned 40 a while ago and I’m getting used to reframing it in my head. We’re just getting started! I feel like I’m just coming into my own as a woman and finally feel free to speak my mind and not care so much about the approval of others. It did throw me for a loop for a while but it gets better.

  23. Just a PM*

    I’m digitizing old family pictures but I’m stuck on what to do after the pictures are digitized. Has anyone else done this and has any advice to share? Specifically, how have you organized them once they’re digital files? Where did you put them? FWIW, I’m planning to make a photo book with a lot of the really old pictures that includes some documents I’ve found from genealogy research into our family tree.

    And speaking of genealogy research, how do you verify records/hints from ancestry.com when you don’t know much about the people to begin with? Asking my grandparents (through whom the genealogy research is based) isn’t going to work because they either don’t remember or don’t want to talk about it.

    1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      What is your goal with the digital photos? Just to have them organised? For years I’ve had mine in a set of folders organised by category then relevant sub category (for instance I have a folder called “places” with a series of folders that all follow a naming pattern of place_key_words, eg France_Carnac). I’m slowly adding tags and deleting the not so great photos using a program called Digikam, and I have everything backed up.

      1. Anima*

        My uncle made a CD with the (still work in progress) family tree and matching photos. He also added all documents he could find (my family goes back to the middle ages). That was an interesting read, and it was linked, like, here is document a, that links to document b, which you can find here (and “here” is a link). Same with photos. Maybe putting something together for the big picture is for you?

    2. Michaele*

      Genealogist here. The physical photos are great to put in albums, with labels as to who, when, where, maybe even why. Avoid the old magnetic photo albums like the plague, over time the magnetic pages will stick to the photos and may tear them when you want to get them out. Do not ask me how I know this.
      As for the digital photos, first make sure that you label those clearly. The format I use is Year, Type, Location, Surname, Given Names, Additional Info, as in “1870 Cen OH Biegalski, Anna Marie 56” (census for Ohio, page number at the end). Just make sure you are consistent.
      I have one inclusive folder for Family History, then subfolders for main families, sub-subfolders for branches within those families. By having the year first in the titles, they sort themselves out. I recommend having a genealogical software program on your computer; that will make organizing your families easier. This is where you will put information that you are still verifying.
      Location is one of the most important items in searching for family history, because all of the records are stored by location. Start with the Census. The most recent one available is 1940. Look up your person on FamilySearch or Ancestry, the two giants, and go from there. FamilySearch has a huge file of documents, and they are all available free. You just have to register. I use both of them because neither of them has everything.
      To verify undocumented information, put the person and the basic information in to both A and FS, and see where that leads. I have had wonderful hints from the Ancestry Trees, also completely inaccurate information, so you are right to use the information only as a hint. When the pandemic is over, go to a FamilyHistory Center, where they will give you free guidance on how to search your family. Happy hunting! (Can you tell this is my passion?)

    3. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Re the geneology – first, if you haven’t figured it out, ancestry.com is notoriously unreliable. People like to say they’re related to people, or make a mistake and never bother to fix it, etc. Don’t believe it until it’s proven. Also, the more you dig into genealogy, the more you risk unearthing some scandal that will offend half the family. Depends on the family of course, but if your family tends towards secrecy, investigate at your peril.

      You’re looking to prove. Sources include: marriage, death, birth, and baptism records, wills, land records, grave stones, census records, etc. These are primary records. Secondary records can be helpful, but you need to know if they’re reliable. Obituaries are one, but people make mistakes/don’t mention the black sheep of the family, etc. The family genealogy book might be a reliable source, or it might be full of wishful thinking. I’ve got one that claims all sorts of people were in the Confederate Congress. Um, that’s historically verifiable. Nope! On the other hand, my mom has some books that were done by professionals or extremely good hobbiests that you can just take as fact.

      The Mormans have a ton of records and they make them available to people. There’s various libraries which have genealogical collections. The Burton Collection at the main branch of the Detroit Public Library is an example. There’s also genealogical groups. The New England Genealogical Society is an established and respected one. If they’re publishing or recommending, it’s generally trustworthy.

      Be prepared also for dead ends. Records were lost or destroyed. People were deliberately left out of the records. People were paranoid and hid from the census.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Discretion with family stories is a huge thing. I have gone in and out doing genealogy long enough now to be convinced that if we go back far enough we’d find that very few of us are with our biological family. Some where in the story line there is an orphaned ancestor who was taken in by a non-relative or some such thing.

        However, it’s important to remember that while society is much more accepting of these things, the descendants can still be very rattled by the news. Just a simple example: My father passed away. Right after he passed, I found out that our name might not be “Smith”, it might be “Casey” instead. Annnnd my father was no where around. I could not ask him. So, Peach!, I was sitting there missing my father and saying, “We’re not Smiths?”. It felt like my world went haywire.
        I came back down from all that, of course. But it’s good to know that a conversation might hit someone in an odd way for unforeseen reasons. If you get to talking about people about genealogy you can end up spending time on talking to/comforting a person where you had not planned on spending that time. It was helpful for me to have some follow up on that whole thing, also.

      2. Just a PM*

        Yep, I’m with you on the family secrets. I stumbled across ours when I first started digging into my geneaology about ten years ago. I asked my mom about it, she told me everything, and then said not to say anything to anyone else because the person in question doesn’t want those in my generation to know.

      3. LegallyRed*

        I think it’s important to note that there’s nothing unreliable about the *records* on Ancestry. It’s the user-submitted family trees that should be taken with a huge grain of salt. But I hardly ever look at those anyway unless I need leads to follow. Part of the pleasure of genealogy for me is the pleasure of finding things out — digging through the census and marriage records and death certificates and piecing together different branches. It’s like detective work.

        I’m pretty sure this is what you meant; I just wanted to clarify for people who are less familiar with the site. I’ll also add that the “hints” it gives me are usually pretty accurate. I almost never have to reject them as they are generally independently verifiable against other information that I already have. (Again, except for the family tree hints; I just ignore all of those.)

    4. Kathenus*

      I’m the family photo digitizer as well. This year I did a whole bunch for my dad’s 80th birthday, and then did a photo book for him. For now I’m just categorizing by things like – Mom and Dad, Kids, Immediate Family, Friends, Extended Family – paternal side, Extended Family – maternal side, Places we’ve lived, Vacations, etc. And then there can be subfolders under any of these as needed.

      A couple of years ago when I had just started I gave immediate family members a digital photo frame and a flash drive with a bunch of the photos on it. This year my brothers are getting photo books of our childhoods.

    5. D3*

      I digitized them and (years ago) burned them to CDs for family members.
      I organized them in folders by decade, and within that, by where we lived since we moved around a lot (“Elm Street Years” “El Paso Years” etc.) Thankfully nearly all of them could be sorted that way. There were a few landscape photos with unknown dates, I stuck those in their own folders.
      I named the files with the first letters of the names of the people in them and other info. So a picture of my brothers Marsha, Jan and Cindy in their Halloween costumes would have been named MJC-Halloween-1978.jpg etc. Always right to left on the initials of the people in it. If there were 5+ people in the photo, I just named it something like Group-photo-at-Christmas-1981.jpg

      They’re backed up online and multiple people have user access to them.

      As for verifying info you find online, look for sources and verify those sources. I tend to be pretty trusting of places that have well documented information and do less verification there, probably not the best. But if someone is detail oriented and has taken the time to document a christening record, a census record and a death certificate for an individual, they’re probably not the type to jump to conclusions. I’ve seen people who claim Robert is the father of Bobby when the two men were born 4 years apart, and SHOCKER that site had zero sources documented!

    6. Double A*

      My mom makes photo books using Shutterfly. They don’t take up much space, and my toddler loves looking at all those photos.

    7. Wishing You Well*

      Genealogist here.
      I have all my ancestral photos scanned. Now I’m making USB memory sticks for any extended family members who are interested. Very few are interested. *sigh* I am also considering putting the photos on a website for relatives to access (not the general public). (It’s not rare for people to copy your ancestor’s photo and claim it’s someone completely different.)
      Photos are useless without the information of who, where and when. On the backs of very old photos, I use a mechanical pencil with a very light touch. (It’s a chore, but it breaks my heart to see unlabeled old photos in a garage-sale boxes or in the trash because no one living knows who or what the photos are.
      I really encourage you to make both physical photo books and digital records, in the hope that somehow these photos will exist long into the future.
      As for Ancestry or FamilySearch, don’t take anyone’s word as fact. You’ll have to become an amateur genealogist to verify your lineage.
      P.S. I don’t recommend entering your genealogy on FamilySearch. Anyone can alter or erase what you enter. I hear Ancestry has settings that can keep your research from being altered.
      Good Hunting! It’s thrilling to find a (verified) new ancestor!

      1. Michaele*

        I have a few thousand ancestors on FamilySearch. Yes, other people can make changes to what you have entered, but it is rare for the data to be removed from sight. In fact, it is never actually deleted. I have contacted the person who removed some of my family, discussed the issue with him, and replaced it. (Don’think he will ever do that again.) If you cannot restore the information yourself, contacting FamilySearch will get it restored.

        What usually happens is that people ADD to your information. FamilySearch is working to create one gi-normous tree (more like a family web). I have linked into many other lines in FamilySearch and my research has benefited immensely. And yes, you have to at least spot check the information. Right now I am adding hundreds of Birth, Marriage and Death records in Poland that will be a blessing to many others as well. Family History is fascinating.

        And as for family secrets, well, when you have a double adopted step-half-sister, and you have at least one divorce every generation since 1870, when Caroline Marquardt Jung divorced her husband one January morning and married again tht afternoon, family secrets aren’t so scary. But then, most everything I’m coming across now is several generations out. It’s my family, warts and all. I learn from their lives and grow, hopefully better.

    8. Just a PM*

      Thank you all for the advice! I definitely need to do some more planning to figure out how to organize everything. One thing that I did luck into was a brief family tree my grandma did in my mom’s baby book that goes back five generations from me (so these would be my great-great grandparents). I also have been able to have my mom confirm a few identifying details for her grandparents so that is helping, but you all are right — there is a lot of mis-identification!

    9. Nita*

      We’ve made photo books with them. Best idea ever. It’s a little time-consuming to make the books, but we can add comments, organize them, and the books seem more durable than photo albums. No worrying about those pesky pockets that are never the right size for old photos, or about the smaller photos falling out and getting lost…

    10. Ghostly Apparition*

      On Ancestry just use the Hints and Ancestry Member Trees only as possible hints. People transfer all kinds of incorrect info onto their trees from other trees so beware. You can always park info in the “shoebox” if you want to investigate it later. Use every search offered such a wills, probate etc to look for dates and family members. Use Fin a Grave (free!) as this can sometimes give you information. Look for obits with Newspaper.com- not free but they give you a week free trial.

  24. Choggy*

    Does anyone watch Rhett and Link on YouTube? I find them hilarious and it’s a nice change from the usual fare.

  25. Me*

    I need to whip together some fabric baskets (basic round bottom, two layer). The outside will be burlap and the inside… some sort of fabric.

    That’s where I’m stuck. I’m not going out to the fabric store to get fabric- trying to use what I have on hand, which seems to be thin off white muslin or a stiff and heavy white fabric.

    Which would you use?

    The burlap is garden grade so very open weave. I’m adding some felt jungle animal heads and leaves to the outside of these. I’m just waffling between the two fabric choices, not sure which one will support the burlap better to hold the shape. Any suggestions?

      1. Me*

        It’s very tight. I offered to sew some baby crib dust ruffles for a pregnant friend a few years ago and it was one of three fabrics she gave me. It was way too stiff for that purpose so I replaced it with a better option and she told me to keep the other.

        I’ll give it a try this morning!

    1. Llellayena*

      The stiffer white fabric. Burlap won’t hold shape well because of the loose weave so it needs a bit of stiffness behind it. It also seems counterintuitive, but the stiffer fabric will be easier to work with. It will hold shape better while you’re sewing. The muslin is so light it might warp out of shape or generate tucks you didn’t intend.

    2. StrikingFalcon*

      If you want the inner fabric to provide some support, I would use the thicker fabric. A thin muslin won’t add support unless you use some kind of iron-on or sew-on stiffener, in which case the fabric choice doesn’t really matter

    3. RosenGilMom*

      I have an overabundance of tee shirts for that kind of project. Not undershirts, but pretty colored ones that are a little too worn for everyday use.

  26. Yetanotherjennifer*

    Any techies out there? My high schooler’s computer is a 2009 MacBook Pro. It works fine for what they need for school, but it crashes regularly. I was thinking of converting it to a chrome book or Ubuntu/Linux. Any advice or recommendations? A new laptop is just not possible right now, and we have the family Mac mini as backup which is only a 2012, but it’s not as cool as a laptop.

    1. TPS reporter*

      I like my Chromebook. It’s decent, reasonable price. It’s not exciting but gets the basics done like emails and word processing. This is especially helpful if you store things in Google docs or sheets. Also videos look great on it.

    2. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I know windows, not macs, but when the windows machines are like that they either need to be wiped and reloaded from scratch, or hardware of some sort is going. Or both sometimes.

      The desktop may not be as cool, but if it’s functional the teen will get over it.

      1. StrikingFalcon*

        Yeah I would start with reinstalling the operating system. Back everything up and then wipe the drive completely and reinstall from the disk. There’s a good chance this will solve your problem.

        If you are going to install a different operating system on the same laptop (what I understand you are saying), I would not install Chromebook’s. Google and Apple don’t exactly put any effort into making their stuff compatible.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Honestly, I love Ubuntu and Linux, but I don’t think the issue is resources. That’s an 11-year-old laptop. Apple hardware is fairly solid, but 11 years is a long time for wear and tear, and sometimes laptops just die. If you don’t think it’s a hardware issue, I’d honestly I think a reinstall of macOS (using the Shift-Option-⌘-R startup key combination, which installs whatever the original OS was or as close to it as is still available, instead of the latest OS version) would be better than Linux on there, because Linux on bare metal (not virtualized) Apple hardware can actually cause damage, because Apple has proprietary ways its kernel hooks into the hardware and manages things.

      1. talos*

        I’ve seen Linux work fine on Macbooks of that vintage, but would echo that Linux on Macbooks is not that easy. If you don’t have prior experience or anyone to help you, you might not be able to pull it off.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        Yeah, at that age there’s a good chance that hardware components are failing. Backing up and re-installing the OS is a good option to test, but be a bit careful about *which* OS you install – the most recent ones will likely either not work at all, or be very slow.

        As a long time Mac/Linux/Unix user, I really wouldn’t depend on installing Linux on an old Mac as a way of *improving* performance. As a fun experiment to learn about computer OSs and hardware through breaking and fixing stuff, sure, but not so much as a practical approach.

        The other thing to consider is what software they’ll need. If it’s mostly email, google docs though a browser interface and web browsing, they’ll be okay on Linux. If they need commercial software like Microsoft office, or the Kindle app (or games), Linux is a lot less useful. A usual solution to that would be to run Windows with Linux in a virtual environment (or vice versa), but installing Windows inside Linus on a Mac is again, possibly fun to play with, but not necessarily practical.

    4. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      How is your internet connection? We had a chrome book and a lousy connection, and it made for a lousy and frustrating computer. Everything ran off the internet, so even writing a paper was AAARG! On the other hand, I’ve heard from a lot of people who love their chrome book, so either it’s not a common problem or it’s been fixed since.

      I run Linux Mint with Cinnamon and like it quite well. It’s actually kinda boring, in that wonderful way that functional technology should be. Cinnamon looks a lot like an older windows so there wasn’t any learning curve to using it, though there are a gazillion different types of Linux ranging all the way to ones with no GUI if that is your fancy. It ran fine immediately and wasn’t too difficult to install. I highly recommend having another computer available so you can google issues that come up while the one you are working on is down. The main issue I have with it is that a lot of programs don’t have a Linux version. There is WINE, which runs windows programs on Linux, but I haven’t ever actually figured that out. I keep meaning to, but I haven’t ever gotten around to it and I’ve run Linux for YEARS.

      1. StrikingFalcon*

        As far as I know, Chronebooks still run everything off the internet – that’s basically the point of them. They have very little storage space. That works really well for some people, but not everyone. If you have a poor or unstable internet connection, or need to run any non-Google software, it’s probably not the best choice

        1. Observer*

          Actually, current versions of Chrome OS do have an off-line mode. Specifically to deal with the unfortunate reality that not everyone has a good always on connection all the time.

      2. Aerin*

        Some things will continue working on the Chromebook if you lose your network connection, it’s just that changes won’t be saved until it reconnects. Drive is fully functional offline, and so is Novlr (the program I use for fiction writing). You can also run most Android apps on it, and many of those are able to run partially/entirely offline.

        So if you’re interested in a Chromebook and your internet connection isn’t great, you’d have to figure out exactly what you’ll be doing most on it and research those specific sites/apps to see if they’ll work for you. FWIW I’ve used one as my primary machine pretty much since they came out and it works great.

    5. fluffycushion*

      My spare is a 2010. The hardware on your 2009 is probably fine, it’s just a software issue likely.

      I know money is probably tight but you can buy a slightly newer second hand one for fairly cheap and still get a few years out of it.

      I bought my 2010 in 2017 for 300 Australian dollars. It still works except the graphics are a bit shaky.

      1. Observer*

        Nope. Once you get to this age, hardware is going to be the most likely issue. Especially when dealing with a computer that is being regularly used as opposed to a spare the gets used a couple of times a week, if even that.

    6. too hot today*

      For linux: are you planning on buying a laptop with linux pre-installed or installing it? I’ve installed linux on two windows-based laptops (wiped windows, installed linux). Both had semi-problems connecting to the internet. (one machine would happily connect to our home internet, but had difficulty connecting to others. So, if you’re connecting to only one network, it wouldn’t be a problem. Luckily I have a unix sys admin handy. The second machine connects fine, it just flakes easily.). Just a cautionary note. However, once the difficulties were over come, I love having unix lappies.

    7. Gatomon*

      Have you identified the cause of the crashes? My concern is the hardware. I actually used to have a 2009 Macbook Pro and I believe there is a way to get it to boot into the built in hardware diagnostics and make sure nothing is flagging in a scan. If an issue is caught then it’s time to let it go; repairs would be expensive.

      You can put Linux on it, I did it for kicks once, but you’ll be better off just reinstalling MacOS. I’m not sure what OS version you’d be running now and my impression is that Apple has locked things down further. This won’t fix any hardware issues though, so try that first. If the hard disk is going the stress of rewriting the OS might push it over the edge.

      At the very least, make sure your child is saving their work in multiple places, not just on that laptop, and try to transition them to the desktop. With covid there may be some resources out there to ensure your child has what they need to learn online if needed.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I believe there is a way to get it to boot into the built in hardware diagnostics and make sure nothing is flagging in a scan.

        It’s imperfect, but you’re right—there is a built-in hardware test. If you hold down the D key during bootup.

      2. Observer*

        At the very least, make sure your child is saving their work in multiple places

        I can’t emphasize enough how seriously you should take this!

    8. Laura H.*

      Seconding looking into a used if repair/ wipe and restore doesn’t work.

      My first laptop that was mine met its end thanks to some accidentally sloshed tea. (RIP Dell Inspiron mini) in Spring of 2012 mid- Brit Lit paper. I was madder that I prematurely killed it- still mad. Parents bought me a used Lenovo Thinkpad from the awesome folks who tried to revive the Dell. (Sadly the place is now out of business- way pre COVID) But the Dell was DOA from the get go.

      But that used laptop? I got 6 years, and a Bachelor thesis capstone project outta it.

      Find a shop that does comp repair and may sell refurbished units. I was never aware of what the used one went for but I think I got the money’s worth outta it.

    9. AnonEngineer*

      Many laptops have very small air passeges for cooling. It is possible that these have caked up with 10 years worth of fluff and dust. There is even an anecdote of someone carefully dismanlting their laptop, and proudly stating they replaced the air filters. There were no filters, just tightly packed crud. Backup everything then see if it can be dissasembled and cleaned.

    10. Observer*

      Check with the school. If they have something specific in mind, go with that if you can. Otherwise:

      Chromebook. You can get decent stuff for not an enormous amount and keeping the software up to date is not something you need. Check to make sure that you get a model that will be updated for at least 5 years. (I think that the most recent ones go up to 8 years.) Not that it will stop working once it stops updating, but without the updates you do start losing both security and ability to troubleshoot.

      Linux, even Ubuntu is not a wonderful choice if you are not technically inclined and are on a tight budget. Yes, it’s true that in theory you can use stuff that’s lower specced than Windows, but there is a limit to that. And if you are not technically inclined it gets harder, because you do need to know what you are doing to get it set up for decent performance.

    11. Observer*

      I just re-read, and you want to convert the existing laptop.

      Don’t bother. Try wiping and going to a factory reset. But realize that if this is a hardware problem (and it probably is), it’s not going to matter. I know that Macs tend to have a fairly long lifetime, but all computer hardware does have a finite lifespan.

      “Cool” is not really relevant here. Usability is. And the Mac Mini is more that sufficiently usable if the laptop dies.

  27. Goose*

    I’m loosing a war of attrition with my cat. She has learned that if she bites me enough I will get up and see what she wants (my auto feeder didn’t work, my auto feeder worked but I forgot, I’m bored, etc.). I’ve tried to ignore her but… bites hurt. I’ve tried high pitched yipping, low pitched yipping, moving myself out of the way, moving her out of the way… nothing seems to be sticking.

    Any suggestions?

    1. NRG*

      What worked with my bitey cat was to excessively pet him, including rubbing his fur backwards, which he hates, until he ran away from me. I acted like a bite was a request for that treatment. He stopped biting after about 3 weeks of this.

    2. JobHunter*

      If she just wants attention, getting up and leaving without giving in to her demand will eventually work. Sit somewhere else and ignore her. I would sometimes make eye contact and hiss loudly (like an angry cat does) before leaving the area to discourage my bossy kitten. He got the message. You can also push into the bite to make it uncomfortable/awkward for her.

      Be sure to dedicate 15 minutes or so a day to play with her. A little active play every day might be enough to help her change her behavior.

    3. sswj*

      In my cat-filled world, unpleasant behavior gets them bumped off the bed/chair/lap immediately. Not so hard that they’d be hurt, but it’s a swift and clear “I don’t want you here when you do that.” If they pop back instantly they get the same treatment. If there’s more than a few seconds of lag time I’ll let them stay and see if they can behave. If they do they stay, if they don’t it’s back on the floor for them.

      The key to this is to pick a behavior or cue from them that you don’t mind, even if it’s just sitting and staring quietly. When you get that, even for 2 seconds (provided it doesn’t immediately follow rude behavior) then you can get up and see what they want. You also want to randomly go see what’s up even before the obnoxious stuff starts. Do NOT give in to the bites or other rotten things, even if it means keeping a squirt bottle near you always. If you hold out, hold out, hold out and eventually give in you are teaching them persistence, and they will just extend the period of irritating behavior until you do give in finally.

      So in a nutshell, the bad behavior gets them put on the floor, or in extreme cases locked in the bathroom or something for a few minutes. Appropriate behavior means they can stay with you and will get your attention for whatever it is. It has to be that clear, and it’s part of the Nothing In Life Is Free type training. Cats are perfectly capable of learning manners, it just takes a bit of conniving and a good deal of your own persistence and patience sometimes.

    4. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      Personally, I think when an animal is hurting you, it’s fine to get a bit rough. Not enough to actually hurt them, but enough to get your point across. Say “HEY!” very loudly and push her away vigorously or thwack her lightly on the nose.

      My brother once literally kicked the cat off his bed. My brother had been asleep, you see, when something bit his toe and he reacted appropriately. The cat was sent flying. It was rather offended, but not hurt, and ever after it would bug our other brother when it wanted something at night. It still liked and trusted both of them.

      I know we are supposed to train our animals with all positive reinforcement, but when you watch how they interact with each other, you see that they have no problem reinforcing their boundaries by force if necessary. I am currently introducing a cat and kitten, and the cat will cuff the kitten (no claws) if she gets too close. And the kitten backs off.

    5. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Tap her on the nose with a firm “No”. Frankly – if another cat would do it in response to bad behavior, then it’s fair game for the human to do it. I tend to copy what mother cats do to discipline their babies.

    6. CatCat*

      My cat sometimes pounces out of nowhere and scratches me. It hurts! I think she wants to play, but I can’t reward her with what she wants. I pick her up and put her in the bedroom when she does this for a time out.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Loud sound coupled with sudden movement. What I liked about this is that I never touched the animal. I used it on my pups also. One pup figured out that my eyes were closed when I slept. (He napped next to me.) I guess out of curiosity he decided to lightly paw at my eye lids to try to open them. The first time he did it, he more or less got away with it because I had never seen such behavior. The second time, I sat up quickly and wagged my finger “no-no-no!” and he never did it again. I really startled him. I use finger wagging a lot when I am correcting behaviors, they do seem to catch on that finger wagging means Not Good.

      It’s a good idea to stop the biting as there’s no way to know what bacteria you are getting exposed to with those bites.

    8. ...*

      Idk if it would work for a cat, but to train my dog not to, I was told to show my dog how he was hurting me. So if he bit me I would scream (extremely loudly) and clutch the area he bit and lay on the ground. (the point was to make it super dramatic so it was obvious that they are hurting you.) it worked pretty well honestly

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My cocker spaniel was a 4 month old finger-chewer when we got her. (“Secondhand puppy”…someone had too much on their plate to train & socialize her.)
      I don’t know if it’s recommended, but this worked…teenaged me decided to put my fingers in farther when she started to bite. She always backed off and looked perplexed and I gave her love & pets until she chewed again…repeat.

      1. sswj*

        I’ve done that too, both with puppies and kittens. You have to not mind the possibility of getting bitten (I haven’t been, so far, but …) it does seem to make them find the mouthing not so fun after all.

    10. Jane of all Trades*

      You can spritz her with a little water. Doesn’t harm her, but most cats hate it and will leave you alone.
      However, if she is aggressively asking for attention I would make sure that she gets the gets the attention and stimulation she needs. Do you play with her, and/or does she have toys, perhaps a window to look out, perhaps a kitty playmate? I personally think that having two cats can be excellent for everybody involved, and the added costs and time are minimal. If that’s not the right path for you, consider whether she gets all her needs met in terms of attention, affection and entertainment.

  28. Nicki Name*

    PCOS plus perimenopause sucks. But there’s one particular sort of suckage I’m wondering about.

    I take hormonal birth control to mitigate the PCOS symptoms. It turns out I’m having high blood pressure during the week that I’m on iron pills and having my period. So I’m now taking a blood pressure medication during that week, and that seems to have smoothed things out.

    What I’m wondering, if anyone else here has dealt with this, what I’m in for when I get to proper menopause. Am I looking forward to having to take the blood pressure medication all the time, or should it settle down when the hormones do? Is this an early sign of something else I should be worried about?

    All I’ve found from googling about this is a couple studies saying that blood pressure can vary across the menstrual cycle, but the differences found are very small. I’m looking at a change of 15+ points.

    1. A313*

      This won’t really answer your question ;) I’m in menopause and have PCOS. I’ve been taking spironolactone for some years now, for acne. It’s a mild diuretic, also, and can lower blood pressure, but I don’t think that’s why anyone takes it. Birth control never really helped with my PCOS symptoms. I did think that after menopause, any negative effects of PCOS would become irrelevant. However, PCOS has lifelong effects on health, unfortunately. Maybe talk to your doctor about something besides hormonal birth control, or you can simply take the hormonal birth control continuously. If you really understand how hormonal birth control works, it turns out you are getting a “fake period” because when HBC was first introduced, it was assumed women would be more comfortable taking it if they still appeared to get their period. In many/most cases, there’s no reason to have the fake period. I did this for some years with great results. Also note, menopause can be a long period of time (years) of fluctuating hormone levels. This is probably best for a conversation with your doctor.

      1. doyoucreditit*

        I take spironolactone solely to lower my BP. It’s potassium-sparing, and I was having daily muscle cramps even on high-dose potassium supplements on my previous diuretic.

        1. A313*

          Interesting! Learned something new, thanks! I just had to get my potassium blood level checked (it was fine). To me, it’s been a miracle drug for my acne.

    2. WellRed*

      I’m not a dr but have never heard of hormones affecting blood pressure. But I suppose it’s possible? Maybe it’s the iron pills? Are you eating or doing anything else differently that week?

    3. Headachey*

      What kind of hormonal birth control do you use? If the pill, why not take it continuously so you skip the priod (which isn’t a real period anyway, but withdrawal bleeding) and thus skip the hormonal and blood oressure fluctuations? Anc then if you’re not bleeding you might not need iron supplements.

    4. WS*

      Is there anything else going on in that pill-free week? Personally I always got a migraine then, which certainly put my blood pressure up! Once I started a preventative for the migraine, the blood pressure evened out. I could get away with only having a pill-free week every 12 weeks without breakthrough bleeds but couldn’t go longer than that – are longer times on the pill possible for you? I switched to a Mirena IUD which has been absolutely perfect for me, but I know it isn’t for everyone.

  29. midnightcat*

    Just a quick update and thanks for the advice about having a flexible cystoscopy. (I changed name as someone else has a similar one, hope that’s ok!)

    The test was clear, so no bladder cancer or anything – they’re also sending me for a CT scan of my kidneys.

    While I’ve had some after-effects and feel a bit sore, weirdly it seems to have hugely calmed my bladder down, perhaps because they filled it with water and drained it – it feels like I’ve had a reset, strangely!

    1. Alaska_Blue*

      Wonderful news!! Congratulations!!! Also yay for your bladder feeling better!!

      CT scan of kidneys is not too bad. The contrast they used with me (had scan 2x) made me feel very warm/flushed in locations with lots of blood vessels. They did warn about this, but framed it as “some women feel like they urinated in their pants”. That was not the sensation I had, more just that area was suddenly much warmer than the surrounding skin. I found the machine loud and clicky but was able to close my eyes and relax.

      Once again so happy for you. I hope everything continues to feel good and only gets better from here. :)

      1. midnightcat*

        Thank you – I really appreciated your advice last time, and I’m sorry that obviously it was part of a very different set of experiences.

        And thanks for the heads up! I had looked online for information about what a CT scan involved (though I’m sure they’ll send me some details when the date comes through) and absolutely nobody mentioned any of that, so I am really glad you did!

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          They might ask you to have blood work before they do the CT. The contrast is not good for people with impaired kidney function, so sometimes they want you to have a renal function panel to make sure your kidneys are okay. It seems to depend on the facility; my mom had one place order it and another place not. So don’t be alarmed if they send you for lab work beforehand; it’s to make sure it’s okay to give you the contrast.

        2. Alaska_Blue*

          Do not be sorry at all, please. Heck I’m the one who doesn’t tell people I had cancer because it wasn’t “that bad”. If you don’t have to experience what I did, that is a wonderful thing. I just want your doctors to give you answers and a treatment. You referred to symptoms and difficulties that make life hard. Among my wishes for world peace, there is also a wish for everyone to get good sleep. :)

    2. Wishing You Well*

      Bladders with Interstitial Cystitis often feel better after hydrodistention; it’s a standard treatment for IC. Some patients have this done on a regular basis (once or twice a year) for the relief of symptoms.
      (But I hope you don’t have IC.)
      Fingers crossed.

      1. midnightcat*

        I meant to specify that it wasn’t hydrodistention, although I guess the principle is slightly the same – just they put water in as part of the test and then drained it out again. I don’t think it’s the same as having hydro done under a general, but perhaps it works in the same way…

  30. Jennifer*

    Does anyone else here use meal kit delivery services like hello fresh or dinnerly? I just canceled my dinnerly subscription because I didn’t have a great experience. Have you had better experiences with other services?

    1. Colette*

      We did a trial of Good Food and Hello Fresh. I enjoyed Hello Fresh better, personally, but neither was worth it for me.

      1. Colette*

        I should specify that they’re great for some people, but given my food limitations and dislike for cooking, not a great match for me!

      2. Jennifer*

        Yeah to me it’s not worth the money. And with the cheaper ones, well, you get what you pay for.

    2. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

      We do Home Chef and we’ve been pleased. They have a lot of options and you can customize some things (Like substitute ground beef with ground turkey, shrimp instead of scallops, etc).

      1. Blue Eagle*

        We have done Home Chef for the past two years. Initially we ordered every 2 weeks, now we are ordering a little less than once a month. We find the recipe card instructions very easy to follow (we liked them much better than Hello Fresh). Also any time there is an issue with our order (a couple of times there was a minor issue with ingredients), they were prompt in responding to emails and giving us partial credit to make up for the issues. We recommend them highly!

    3. Llama face!*

      I’ve done Good Food and found the meals are so-so quality wise. They seem to REALLY like shallots for some reason so you generally have to halve or quarter the amount they say in the recipe or it just tastes overwhelmingly like shallot. The quality of the meat & produce varied. Sometimes excellent and sometimes not so good. I had some difficulties with deliveries in the winter because we get very cold winters here and the insulation of the box doesn’t protect against cold very well. So I ended up with frozen vegetables several times (frozen cukes are not saveable). That may have been a problem with the delivery service; I suspect they were leaving the boxes in an unheated space overnight in the -40° C weather because a few times I grabbed the box as soon as they dropped it off and everything was thoroughly frozen and just starting to thaw.
      Price-wise it worked out to $12.25 Canadian per meal which was reasonable for an occasional delivery but too high for me to do regularly. I think prices have gone up a bit since then.

      1. Llama face!*

        If it helps, I did the 3×2-person meals deal that didn’t include all the veggies pre-chopped, etc. Also I did like that they used local or Canadian farmers/producers to get their food supplies and used recyclable & reuseable materials for shipping. And they also donated a portion of the money from each purchased box to provide school lunches to underprivileged children.

        1. Nessun*

          I still do Good Food, as I find the local sourcing and recycling great pluses. I didn’t have the same experience with shallots, though I see a lot of garlic in my choices (which I promptly chuck – I do not mince garlic, I buy it in a jar that way!). I do find that for a single person the 2×3 meals usually works out to food for at least 8 meals for me, so the pricing is good in my circumstances.

    4. Firefly*

      We’ve used HelloFresh for almost a year now. I love it: here’s why. I really enjoy cooking as a hobby, it calms me down after work, and I love trying new recipes. I do not like the work of meal planning: looking up recipes, making grocery lists, etc. I plan and organize so much for my job that it takes the fun out of the hobby of cooking. Getting the boxes is so easy and I get to try all sorts of new foods. The quality is awesome. And the rest of the week we balance out the cost with really simple meals like scrambled eggs or pasta.

      1. Pippa K*

        We use HelloFresh as well and are really pleased. They’ve expanded the meal options quite a lot over the past couple of years and we like every meal we’ve chosen, and really love many them. We’re eating more veg, we enjoy cooking together without having to plan the shopping, and HelloFresh does carbon offset and uses a fair amount of recyclable materials, which we also like. There’ve been some recent shipping delays, but I suspect this is due to current circumstances beyond their control, and they’re good about refunding for any problems.

    5. Amtelope*

      I’ve done both Home Chef and Hello Fresh and liked both. Home Chef seems to have a little more variety/option to customize, but they’ve been less reliable in terms of boxes arriving late (although that also may just be that all shipping is unreliable right now.) For me it’s worth it because I actually like cooking, but I’m so tired and out of executive functioning skills by dinnertime most days that the actual process seems overwhelmingly hard. Having all the ingredients for meals I want to eat in neatly packaged bags with step by step instructions feels easy enough that I’ll actually do it rather than say “… or we could just order a pizza.”

    6. Aerin*

      We did Blue Apron but I found it got real samey real fast. There’s only so much you can do with “saute in olive oil on medium high.” It was a lifesaver for when my husband was still in school, if only because we didn’t have to plan the menu. But once he graduated, we dropped it. We thought that being able to get extra meals out of it would make the cost work a little better, but few of the meals reheated very well.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        I’ve done Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Dinnerly and Home Chef.

        The only one where the produce and meat was decent is Blue Apron. Hello Fresh’s produce was always half dead by the time I received it.

        Home Chef had a major work over. At the time I was buying it the chicken was so salt.

        Dinnerly choices were just meh.

    7. Bay Area*

      My local Targets sell meal kits (Hello Fresh and another brand I can’t remember), so you could check yours and try before signing up.

    8. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

      I love the concept and recipes of Hello Fresh, I had it for a few months and it was definitely worth it.

      However, I was missing at least one ingredient in almost every single box. Their customer care is fantastic, and they would refund you the cost of the ingredient, plus usually a little extra. If you do decide to try them, check the bags when you first get them to make sure you have everything!

      The recipes were super easy and tasty, which for me, was great.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t watch the events in any kind of order, mostly just when they turn up in my YouTube feed, but I love the Marble League. The commentating is brilliant.

      1. RMNPgirl*

        I’m rooting for the O’Rangers! Although I also like the Green Ducks, but that may because of the quacking fans :)

    2. CTT*

      One of my friends introduced me to this like, 3 weeks before the US shut down. I went to dinner at her house and we watched it after we ate – it’s one of the last normal moments of this year and now marble racing makes me weirdly nostalgic and sad. (A sentence I never would have even contemplated last year!)

    3. The Other Dawn*

      John Oliver talked about this on his weekly show and I’ve yet to watch it. Thank you for the reminder to go watch!

    4. Might be Spam*

      My son introduced me to the Marble League and I’ve been catching up on the earlier seasons. I love how seriously they treat it. Reading the comments is a lot of fun, too.
      Go L’Orangers!

    5. Arya Parya*

      Yes, I watch it. Found out about it through John Oliver. It’s way more fun than you would expect it to be.

    6. NeonFireworks*

      Oh wow, I watched the Marblelympics last year and really enjoyed them – even subscribed to the channel – but didn’t realize there was a new series!

  31. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A question for the crocheters: Do you really count your stitches in every row as you go? It seems like that would make it hard to do anything else at the same time, like talk to people, watch a movie, etc. If you don’t count your stitches, are you using stitch markers, or do you just reach a point where you don’t need to?

    Another question: If I strongly prefer the look of crocheting in the front loop only … can I just do that and ignore all the other stitches? Assume I only want to make blankets and scarves. Or must I master the others?

    (Yes, I stuck with the crocheting after last week. I’m still finding it very hard, particularly the magic circle, but I did complete my first usable item yesterday: a coaster. A coaster that I now realize looks like a doily, which was not my intention.)

    1. Not A Manager*

      I crochet, but I’m not sure I understand what “knitting in the front loop only” means.

      When I’m crocheting stitches that make a pattern, usually I don’t have to count after the pattern gets established because I can see what stitch I’m over and I know what to do.

    2. Shell*

      I pretty much only make scarves and baby blankets, and my go-to stitch is half-double, back loop only, which I imagine probably looks much like front loop only. It’s fine to have just one stitch. If you get bored, you can always pick up others. If I am just making a rectangle, I definitely don’t count stitches. With a little trial-and-error, you get to recognize when you are at the end of a row. And if you are inadvertently increasing or decreasing, you’ll figure it out in a couple of rows, because your edges will start to look weird.

    3. Alexandra Lynch*

      Usually I hook through both the loops. But it depends on the project whether you can get away with just going into the front loop. I would think that it would tend to make it curl, personally.

      I would find making a blanket with nothing but single crochet boring and tiring. It’s things like making half-circles with double crochet that are fun.

    4. Not A Manager*

      Ah. From the replies I think I understand about the front loop only. I was taught that for regular single and double crochet, you go through both loops. I find that the yarn tends to deform more if I only go through one loop.

      It’s fine to just do the stitch you like for a while, but I agree that it will probably get boring after a bit. Sometimes if you’re learning from a chart or a video, other stitches can seem pretty complicated, but it’s worth giving them a try. Something as simple as adding double crochet to your repertoire will allow you to make some interesting patterns and might make later projects feel more rewarding.

    5. Shell*

      Also, if you Google “Hopeful Honey crochet,” you’ll find a ton of great video tutorials. (The person who does them is British, so you’ll notice British and American names for the basic stitches are not the same but that isn’t too hard to get used to.)

      1. DistantAudacity*

        Thanks for that recommendation!
        Found a lovely scarf-recipe to use for some yarn that I «accidentally» earlier this summer.

    6. university minion*

      1- Yes, I count, but I figure out the stitch repeat and do it like I count measures in music (1,2,3,4 2,2,3,4 3,2,3,4 etc) Often, it’s not the total number of stitches in a row that you need to keep track of, but something within a repeat, so you’re never counting that high. Depending on what I’m doing, I may only need to pay attention to the last repeat of a row or something like that.

      2- You can do whatever you want and there will be certain techniques you gravitate to, but learn how to work in and around the various parts of the stitch. You may find things you like better, or ways to combine stitches that look really neat. Depending on my mood, sometimes I really enjoy stepping out of my comfort zone, and sometimes I most enjoy whipping up an old faithful project that I’ve done a million times.

      3- There’s nothing particularly special about the “magic” circle and if it gives you problems, don’t do it. Chain 4 and slip stitch in the first chain to make a loop, then go from there. Your finished product won’t look any different.

    7. Grits McGee*

      I’ve found that once I get into the groove, muscle memory kicks in and I don’t need to count stitches as closely for repeating patterns. Otherwise, bobby pins make decent crochet stitch markers and they’re easier to find/cheaper than the real thing.

      When I first started crocheting, I only crocheted with the front loop because I didn’t know any better. :) It does affect the look of the finished product, but I never had any structural issues with my pieces.

    8. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      You need to count when you are still learning – after you become familiar with it, you only need to count for particular stitches. Stick with it. Crocheting is fun. Start off with scarves. They are quick and easy

    9. Slinky*

      I personally do count as I go, but that just kind of works for me. Stitch markers are a great alternative. I bought mine from Michaels. They come in a good-size pack and are reusable, so a $5-ish investment will last you forever.

      Front loop only is fine, but as others am have noted, it can be a bit limiting. Shifting between both loops, front loop, and back loop can give you more interesting, varied texture, but when you’re learning, do what works for you! I’ve also heard the crocheting in only one loop uses less yarn, so it may help stretch your stash, but I’ve never actually compared, myself.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      I think that you could just go in the front loop but I think it makes the “weave” stronger if you use both loops. Picking up one loop might not wear as well over time as picking up two loops. Probably not a big deal on scarves but heavier things like blankets could be pulled apart by their own weight? I would pick yarns that are machine washable, so I would be thinking about picking this up out of the washer and it’s soaking wet. How are those stitches going to hold up? On smaller stuff I’d be less concerned.

      Counting. No I stopped counting after a bit. It seemed to me like I could “see” it better? Probably I just got used to how the yarn worked up in crochet work. Doing round items is different because it’s much easier to lose a stitch. I reached a point where my solution was to check the row I just completed before going to a new row. When I first started I really had to watch what I was doing when doing round things. It got easier.

      Doilies. I think if you use a different yarn you can get away from that doily look. I am thinking like a rug yarn or other textured heavy yarn, but not sure. Perhaps a square shape would also help it to look less like a doily.

    11. Best Cat in the World*

      Once I get into a pattern, I tend to count every handful of rows, the number depends on the pattern and the number of stitches and how much I can be bothered to unpick if I get it wrong.
      I’m not got into crocheting or knitting in the round very well so tend not to use stitch markers for the moment but I probably will to mark the start of the ring of stitches.

    12. Might be Spam*

      My grandmother taught me how to crochet when I was in college and we made matching afghans.

    13. Crafty Crafter*

      Sharing my experience from over a decade running a volunteer knitting/crocheting group where we taught newbies. There was one memorable blanket, crocheted by an experienced crocheter, no less, where one end of a blanket was a full 12” wider than the other because “I don’t count stitches,” and she had added so many stitches on the way up.

      * If you are just repeating one stitch for the whole project, such as a single crochet or half double crochet, yes, DO count the stitches occasionally. Maybe every 5 rows or so, and mark the row with a stitch marker, so that if the count is off the next time you count, you know where the problem is and can find it more easily—or you can just rip out a limited number of rows if you don’t have the patience to find the problem. New crocheters especially find it difficult to get the hang of where to put the first and last stitches in the row, leading to some…interesting shapes.
      * As someone said above, if you work with a combination of stitches, it becomes evident in the next row or so if you added or dropped a stitch, so there’s much to be said for patterns, even simple repetitive ones. But I still count-and-mark, although not as frequently.
      * If you’re talking about single crochet it will take FOREVER to complete a blanket or largish project. That leads to frustration, and giving up. So I advise expanding your repertoire to other stitches and stitch combinations to keep it interesting.
      * Consistency is key. It’s fine if you want to crochet through the front or back loop only, but do it consistently. In fact, single crochet through the front loop is how one makes ribbing with crochet!
      * There are plenty of bad videos out there. I really like the ones at TL Yarn Crafts and The Crochet Crowd on YouTube. My best advice for videos is to avoid anyone who is using the videos to showcase their lovely long manicured nails instead of showing you how to crochet!
      * If you decide to follow a pattern, start with professionally written ones. Lots of people see something cool online and just jump right in. The problem is that many of those are poorly written, skipping steps or making assumptions. If you do want to use a random internet pattern, check the comments before starting. If a ton of people are having problems or saying “this is a great pattern but I had to do this and this to make it work,” red flag.
      * With that said, LEARN TO READ PATTERNS! I know sooooo many people who make the same thing over and over because they won’t learn how to read patterns, so they never try anything new.
      * If I may make a plug around my personal pet peeve: NO KNOTS. Knots are lumpy. There are several methods to join yarn or change colors without knots. If you must absolutely must use knots (You don’t need them. Seriously.), at least leave a few inches of yarn and weave it in. Nothing destroys a lovely blanket like a bunch of knots with fraying snipped-off yarn ends. (Okay, stepping down from soapbox now.)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Super helpful, thank you! (And thank you to everyone else too.) I hadn’t thought about a blanket taking a lot longer with single crochet — that’s because something like a double or treble is taller and thus will cause the item to gain size faster, right? I shall have to rethink this plan.

        1. university minion*

          Yes, and it’s also pretty mind-numbingly boring. My first blanket was literally this.
          The ripple afghan is classic for a reason (and adapts well to scarves or even dishcloths, if you want to start small). It’s all single crochet but with a tiny bit of variation (you skip some stitches and have multiple sc’s in others in order to get the ripple), along with the single crochet being back loop only.

        2. Crafty Crafter*

          Correct! Knitting is more dependent on the size of the needle and yarn thickness. With crochet you also have to factor in the stitch you’re using.

          Single crochet is the shortest stitch, followed by half double, double, triple, etc. Pros and cons to all stitches. Single crochet takes longer, but leaves a more even edge. Double crochet can leave a gap between the “chain 3” to start a row and the first double crochet. Worth researching techniques at some point to alleviate that. Or, you can use a combo like sc 1, dc 1 that gives you not just more height but a lovely pattern and smooth edges as well.

          Final note seconding something someone else mentioned. UK and
          US use the same names for different stitches—double crochet means something different to our friends across the pond. Double-check patterns to make sure you know which one is being used!

        3. Wishing You Well*

          A single crochet blanket will go faster if you double your yarn and use a bigger hook. (It will take more yarn and be heavier, though.) Double and treble crochet might be somewhat faster but they require more motions than single crochet to finish a stitch.
          Stitch markers are great, especially for big projects like blankets. Even experienced stitchers use markers. I use markers that can be opened (like safety pins), in case I accidentally stitch one into my project.
          The snuggliest blanket in my house is very loosely stitched! Surprise! All those little air pockets make great insulation! So using a bigger hook than recommended without changing the yarn might increase speed AND snuggliness.
          I hope we get a blanket photo some day!

        4. Dr. Anonymous*

          My first (and only) afghan was made out of shell stitch. Once you get the first couple of rows down, it’s easy to see where you start the next shell of 5 double crochet stitches, and then you do one single crochet in an equally obvious place, and then you repeat until you run out of obvious places, and then the row is done and you do a little end of the row thing and then turn around and go back for the next row. After a while you don’t even have to count to 5 anymore; you can tell when the shell is done. Plus, it’s pretty.

    14. Lifelong student*

      Counting depends on the pattern- sometimes it matters, sometimes not so much. If the repeat is long enough, you can always fake it in the next row by a well placed increase or decrease. I do like stitch markers- but you can use a piece of spare yarn. If you are working in the round as implied by the magic circle (which I do not use- just chain and join to make a circle) counting might be more important until you get to later rounds. I often crochet, work on the laptop, and watch TV all at the same time- so even with counting you can break it down into a rhythm so it doesn’t have to be a long count. Keep at it- it becomes addictive in time!!

    15. fhgwhgads*

      I only count for the first 2-3 rows. After that it’s easy enough to eyeball it. And it’s not as though I count as I do it. But when I get to near where it looks like it might be the end, I’ll go back and count and see if I’m where I think I am.
      If you have a stitch you’re comfortable(ish) with and don’t care for the look of the others, feel free to not master the others. The only reason I might suggest another is if you were still on the fence of if you like it or not, and by trying some others you might find one you dig more, but if you’re cool as-is, there’s nothing wrong with only doing it one way. It’s supposed to be enjoyable. If you’re not interested in becoming an expert-at-all, don’t bother.

    16. RagingADHD*

      I don’t count stitches as I go. I just memorize the motif and repeat it. And I use visual landmarks, like the end of a row or a round, to keep me straight. If the direction is something like “work 8 double-crochets in the center loop”, I’ll just work a bunch until they look about right, and then stop to count.

      One thing about making larger/longer items is that you have more time to zone out and chitchat, like driving on a straight stretch of road. If you’re always doing a fiddly bit that requires concentration, then the pattern is too fiddly for chatting. (Or you just need more practice).

      If you have one particular stitch that you like, there’s no reason in the world that you need to learn all the others. You’ll have time enough to learn them when you encounter a pattern that requires them. And when you have good muscle memory on hook handling and thread tension, it’s so much easier to acquire new stitches.

    17. Batgirl*

      I only crochet blankets with one stitch that looks like a loop (my grandmother taught me, no idea what it’s called) and I only do three, then a chain then three more till you get a row of seashells with gaps between. It’s not hard to count 1,2,3 chain because it becomes a rhythm. You do have to be aware when you’re coming up to a corner though, because the corners are six loops, where you also split the previous rows corner into two threes.

      1. Batgirl*

        Oh i see now that loop means howmany you pull the hook through. For my stitch (which is perfect beginners/tv/conversation stitch imo) you do hook under, yarn over, pull through, yarn over, hook under and then yarn over which you pull through the two loops. Repeat until you have a three strand seashell and do a chain, repeat.

    18. The Other Dawn*

      Ah, crocheting. :) I need to get back to it. I’ve only ever done basic crocheting, but my mom taught me and it makes me think if her when I do it. Another reason to get back to it: it will keep my hands out of the Cheddar Jalapeno Cheetos, something that’s become quite the staple for me during post-op recovery and the pandemic, and now WFH.

    19. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Okay, I have completed three coasters. Coasters that I fear are doilies:

      https://imgur.com/a/Twwu1Pi

      In the photo, they are in the order I made them in, so you can see some improvement happening. These are all the same pattern, so the first one (on the left) is comically bad. The third one is closer to what it should be, although I have to figure out why it has a few holes (missed stitches, I’m guessing).

      1. RosenGilMom*

        if you use cotton and make them square you have a washcloth or dishcloth, quicker than a scarf ….. Happy Crocheting !

      2. All the cats 4 me*

        Alison, those are very decent efforts for the amount of time you have been crocheting! I would have been very happy to have produced those in my first couple of weeks!

        You can join your round pieces together to make a scarf, blanket, etc. There are lots of designs based on small pieces joined together (called motifs in the lingo). You already have three made so you are well on your way!

        Here is an example of a round motif blanket from the Ravelry pattern search

        https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/colorful-join-along-motif-blanket

        The only difference between a scarf and a blanket are how many motifs you join together.

      3. Dr. Anonymous*

        Oh, you really are getting better. It looks really pretty normal. You could have missed a stitch or your tension could be just a little loose where you’re joining at the end of the round, which happens. Nice work!

    20. HannahS*

      No, I don’t count my stitches; I rely on on the stitch markers when crocheting in the round. When crocheting rectangular pieces, you eventually reach a comfort level with whatever stitch you’re doing that you don’t need to count, or it becomes obvious when looking at the piece what you need to do next.

      Yes, you can only use the one stitch that you like. It will not affect your ability to make rectangular objects! Crochet a foundation chain as wide as you want your thing to be, and just start crocheting until it’s as long as you want.

    21. Tortally HareBrained*

      I’m far enough along that I don’t have to count if I’m doing a straight blanket or scarf depending on the stitch as I’ve become aware of the beginning/end stitch. Someone gave good advice to use something as a stitch marker at the beginning and end of your row as you learn. If I’m making amigurumi I have to count, and can do that while watching some TV (sports, Lone Star Law, reruns) but have a hard time talking to people. I do those type of projects with my husband in the room, and since most amigurumi is short rounds I just ask him to wait for me to get to a stopping point.

  32. OyHiOh*

    Music!

    What are you playing/singing or listening to?

    I found two copies of the full vocal score to The Messiah in my family’s music library this week. After 20+ years, I can still hear alto line of Hallelujah in my head (sang either soprano or alto every year for close to a decade from early teens onward).

    Also found the hymnal from the first organist job my dad had. Y’all, it’s not just printed in German (I knew it was a German language Lutheran church). It’s printed in pre WWII font. It feels precious and worn.

    Playing Grieg and Scarlatti for new piano pieces, and turned an old familiar Mozart into a Joplin style rag. Have only needed to change the left hand to accomplish that!

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Listening to? Honestly, I recently got into mxmtoon, and I think her music is fantastic, even though I’m a Gen X’er, and so maybe not the target audience.

      1. OyHiOh*

        I have a friend, male/Boomer, who listens to Taylor Swift soooooooo, I say listen to what you like, target demographics do not belong in the same paragraph as arts/culture/entertainment!

    2. nep*

      Lots of Led Zeppelin lately. I’ve had a Led Zeppelin revival in my life over the past few months, and it’s fantastic. Can’t get enough of many of these songs I’ve ‘rediscovered.’ And listening to interviews of the members. (If you’re into Zeppelin, check out the BBC vid of Jimmy Page sitting and listening to Stairway to Heaven and talking about it. It’s priceless. I could listen to him and Robert Plant all day.)

    3. Jaid*

      It’s a nth anniversary of Woodstock, so I’ve been watching a bunch of videos taken at Woodstock ’69 on YouTube. But I have a love for Vaporwave/e-music/80’s synth videos, too.

    4. Llellayena*

      Listening to Pentatonix, yay acapella music! And I so want to see that messiah score, oooooo! I also can sing the hallelujah chorus in my sleep.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I love acapella! I’ve seen Straight No Chaser several times and recently discovered Pentatonix. I also went to a college regionals competition and that was fun to watch. They are SO talented!

      2. OyHiOh*

        Pentatonix and Maccabeats are my go to’s.

        May I suggest Maccabeats and their remix version of Hamilton? It is gloriously cheesy and the “king George” bit is rollicking good fun

    5. Nessun*

      Lately I’ve been enjoying Peter Buka’s piano covers of songs. He gives a wonderful flavor to Alan Walker and pop artists (his version of Dance Monkey is soooo good). I’ll listen to his whole spotify list on repeat all day!

    6. Amethyst*

      My high school choir sang the Hallelujah Chorus at the close of every winter concert, inviting the audience members who knew the song to come perform with us. I can still sing the soprano part in my sleep & I get really excited over it, lol.

      I’ve been listening to Jackie Evancho, David Archuleta, Pentatonix, Deep Forest (I’m completely obsessed with the bass voice), Celtic Thunder, Celtic Woman, Billy Gilman, Anna Nalick, East Village Opera Company (The Flower Duet is my favorite & their blending of rock & classical is genius), Kalan Porter, Savage Garden, & Gypsy Soul’s True Love (Scarborough Fair). & whatever comes on the Pentatonix radio station on Pandora while I work. Pretty frickin’ eclectic, lol.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The earworm of my year is Daði Freyr “Think About Things”. I made a point of listening to the Eurovision videos when it got cancelled. (I’m in the US.) So much great music, but this one apparently is in my head “now and forever” so to speak.

    8. Might Be Spam*

      I’m listening to Irish music with the Virtual Irish Fest that usually happens in Milwaukee every summer. I like singing along knowing that other people are singing, too.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Do something kind. Go online and leave kind messages for people. Volunteer. Write letters to all your congresspeople. Whatever. No, it doesn’t fix the problems. But it also doesn’t make them worse, and enough little kindnesses can really add up.

    2. nep*

      Agree with I’m A Little Teapot. (And I can relate today, as there’s a similar event near where I live too.)
      It sounds fluffy, but it truly makes a difference not to feed the negative by giving it rent-free space in our head. Compassion and kindness move mountains. That is the truth.
      Wishing you peace and well-being.

      1. nep*

        (Compassion and kindness toward yourself first of all…Not saying you have to ignore the negative feelings you have about the rally–on the contrary. Let them be just what they are. There comes a sense of moving through them.)

    3. nep*

      Also, just in general–Meditation and spending time in deep woods have made a humongous difference for me lately.

    4. Not This One*

      I just re-discovered Top Chef (currently watching Season 17, which I have available On Demand), a show I have extremely fond memories of watching with friends a decade ago, but haven’t really watched since. I think it’s working so well as a coping mechanism for me right now because there is SO MUCH that happens during episodes that I really need to watch it with my full attention – so there’s less opportunity for my thoughts to drift to things that are stressing me out.

    5. Aerin*

      Pro-tip: If you loudly play copyrighted music during a hate-speech rally, they won’t be able to post any videos of it online without triggering takedown notices. Disney’s a pretty solid choice. If one wanted to do such a thing.

      1. Double A*

        Oh my God this is brilliant. I vote “Let it Go” on repeat. Wait wait I want to make a whole playlist.

        Let it Go.
        Poor Unfortunate Souls.
        The mob song from Beauty and the Beast (with the line, “We don’t like what we don’t understand in fact it scares us.”)
        A Whole New World
        It’s a Small World

        What else??

      2. SweetestCin*

        I wonder if using music that the author has been adamantly and publicly against hate speech would help. I’m thinking along the lines of Rage Against the Machine, Tom Petty, or other artists who have gone legal over the use of their songs.

        The use of Disney though…absolutely EPIC. Some of those are such earworms!

  33. Chaordic One*

    Housekeeping questions.

    I’ve been keeping my windows open quite a bit more often during the summer and my house is just a bit more dusty than usual. It’s not a big deal, just one of those minor annoyances that needs to be taken care of. So, how often do you dust? How often do you vacuum? How often do you wash your floors?

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Ha. My house just gets dirty. Leaving windows open does get it dirty faster, but I don’t like the AC and I do like fresh air. I try to vacuum weekly. Dusting? Wash floors? When it’s bugging me.

    2. Alexandra Lynch*

      I grew up in a farming area, and spring and fall we had to dust and mop Every Day. There was just so much dust in the air from plowing and harvesting all around us that we barely kept up with it doing it daily. We also had a lot of dogs, and so floors had to be washed daily.

      When I moved into a city and had central air and cats instead of dogs, I found I can dust every two weeks without seeing visible dust and cobwebs, but since I have dark wood floors I sweep a couple times a day (especially in the kitchen where I drop bits) and damp mop once a week. I do damp mop more if it’s wet weather and we humans have been going in and out a lot.

      It does not help that one of the cats is a medium-hair and sheds like there’s no tomorrow. I damp-mopped the library where I sit yesterday, and yet I turn my head and there’s a clump of cat hair along the baseboard. (sigh)

    3. D3*

      How often *I* do it is never.
      My husband does most of that and a housekeeper does the rest.
      Dusting once a week in most areas.
      Vacuuming twice a week
      Floors are just spot cleaning most of the week, but kitchen daily. All non-carpet areas get a deep steam mopping once a week.

    4. BRR*

      I plead the fifth.

      I try to vacuum once a week. Doing my non carpet floors is umm, a bit longer. I try to dust once a week but it’s probably more like every other week.

      1. Recreational Moderation*

        I generally follow my mom’s philosophy: “We vacuum once a year, whether it needs it or not!” (she was kidding)

    5. Chaordic One*

      Now that think about it, when I was a kid I recall my mother talking about a book she checked out from our library. Written by the humorist, Erma Bombeck, Erma basically said that not only was dusting not necessary, but that it was O.K. to allow your children to draw pictures and messages in the dust with their fingers. Just don’t allow them to write dates in the dust.

      My mother thought this was hysterically funny and told my dad. Ever since then, whenever I see dust in my parents’ home (which isn’t very often) there usually date written in the dust by my father. 12/19/2019. 8/11/2018.

    6. Valancy Snaith*

      I live in a rural area and I’m super into housekeeping, so…a lot. We have a cat who looooves to shed, so I dust mop the hardwood and tile floors on the main floor every day. Every single day. Dusting happens every other day or so (every day in the spring when the pollen count is up). I mop the floors weekly, and twice a year when I do my spring/fall housecleaning I move all the furniture and scrub the floors handsies-kneesies. I hate it, but my God, they look gorgeous when I’m done. The basement is carpeted and the Roomba runs three days a week, and I vacuum with the real vacuum once a week.

      Now, my husband is deployed at the moment and when he’s home the floors are his chore (except for the spring/fall mopping). But same schedule when he is, I would say.

    7. Crafty Crafter*

      My house is never dusty. Wanna know my secret? I take my glasses off as soon as I get home and don’t wear them in the house. (Nearsighted and know my way around my own house—who needs ‘me? Unless I have to be on the dreaded computer.) It’s magical how much dust that eliminates! ;-)

    8. Parenthetically*

      I dust every other week, but should dust every week. I vacuum 3 or 4 times a week (two kids and a husband with an outdoor job — ALL the crumbs and dirt). I mop floors as infrequently as I can get away with, since it’s my least favorite household chore. Monthly or less.

    9. cat socks*

      I vacuum the living room and dining room once a week. I use the vacuum to pick up crumbs and cat hair from the kitchen floor and then use my Shark steam mop. This is done once a week as well.

      The upstairs gets vacuumed less often, maybe every couple of weeks.

      Dusting is done as needed. It’s not part of my weekly cleaning plan. I hate moving stuff off shelves and tables to dust.

    10. RagingADHD*

      We either sweep or vacuum a couple of times a week, because we get so much grit/leaves tracked in, and we are crafty, so there’s always bits of paper, thread, and cloth everywhere.

      Dusting – anywhere from once a week to once a month, depends how busy we are.

      Washing floors – other than the bathroom, which is about once a week, there’s no set schedule.

    11. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I dust about once a week, maybe twice. Hopefully less now that the building finally changed our a/c filter. I use microfiber cloths and Endust.

      I vacuum twice a week. We have a short-haired dog and a curly-haired me, so there’s a lot of shedding. I steam mop the floors once a month, maybe? I used to do it more when I was the only one working from home and I didn’t have to disturb my partner too much to clean.

      We have a 2-br apartment, under 1000 square ft, so it never takes me too long to do these things.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      Once a week, mostly. Sometimes every two weeks, depending on how dirty it is and how mentally or physically exhausted or busy I am. Sundays are typically boring so that’s when I do it. Plus, it tires me out so I can go to sleep early enough if I’m working and have to get up on Monday. Right now, I’m not in my own space, so I at least try to clean the bathroom once a week, and the laundry room area, which is kinda my “kitchen.”

    13. allathian*

      My husband does most of the vacuuming in our house. Everything gets done once a week, but the kitchen gets done whenever it needs it. Counters get wiped every day. Same thing goes for dusting, although we aren’t very fussy TBH. Dust is OK, visible gunk isn’t. Our floors get washed once a year if that, although any spills will get wiped off as soon as they’re seen. Our main entrance, where we store our shoes, gets vacuumed once a week when it’s dry and every other day when it’s wet. It helps that we live in an area where you don’t walk indoors with shoes on, it’s pretty much a cultural no-no here, on a par with chewing with your mouth open or farting at the dinner table. If there’s a formal party where stockinged feet aren’t OK, people bring indoor shoes.

  34. My Brain Is Exploding*

    Whoever wrote about second hand embarrassment last week… I didn’t know that was a thing but it explains why, for example, when I watch Monk and it gets to the cringe-worthy party of the show, I mute it and turn on the closed-captioning! Anyone else?

    1. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      That was me! Yep, it’s bad. Mute/closed-captioning works well, though I’ve also been know to stick my head under a pillow and ask my amused family to let me know when it’s over. Or take a bathroom break. Rom-coms are so totally NOT my thing. I’m not a particularly easily embarrassed person in real life, though I am apparently amusing to tease.

      Audio input is worse, for some reason, than visual input, thus closed-captioning and also why I needed recs for totally non-embarrassing books to listen to at work.

      1. Llama face!*

        Rom-coms are THE WORST for that aren’t they?
        I get secondhand embarrassment about written stories sometimes but it’s easier to skim past in a book. Both the visual & audible experience make it way worse for me. (Unfortunately CC doesn’t seem to help me)

        My family has no idea how many times I didn’t really need to get a drink/go to the bathroom when I said “don’t worry about pausing it” and snuck away from a terrible moment when we were watching tv or movies together.

    2. MinotJ*

      Yes! I didn’t reply to the comment last week because I couldn’t think of any books without those parts. But when I’m listening to an audiobook and it gets cringey, I fast-forward 15 seconds and check to see if it’s over. I’m okay missing plot points because I can’t handle those feelings; once I hear those moments, I feel embarrassed all day and I have to keep remembering that it wasn’t me who did or said that stupid thing!

    3. Llama face!*

      I replied to that thread too and I will pause a show and come back to it later (if it seems like an important part of the plot that I can’t miss), or if not I’ll walk out of the room for a few min til it’s past or skip/fast forward past it because I get such an unpleasant feeling from watching those shame/embarrassment moments. I think that’s why I cannot watch most reality tv; the entire premise of most of those shows is a giant embarrassment cringe for me. *shudder*

    4. Summersun*

      Same. My husband is obsessed with Curb Your Enthusiasm, which is nothing but screaming fights and horribly embarrassing situations. Between growing up in a verbally abusive household and having strong second-hand embarrassment, even the theme song makes my heart race and my hands tremble. That show is utter bullshit and Larry David is my personal Satan.

    5. Parenthetically*

      Ahahaha oh man I have found my people! I mute and turn on CC for cringey things. And I cannot watch The Office, Arrested Development, or any of those kinds of shows. The secondhand embarrassment makes me feel like crawling out of my skin!

      1. Nessun*

        So much this!! My friends get annoyed I don’t like their sitcom recs, but I CANNOT watch and enjoy them. Every second scene I’m hitting mute or hiding. Comedy has to be so very specific for me to like it (as in, I know it when I enjoy it, but I avoid so much). I cannot watch people get into situations where they are embarrassed, even if the character isn’t embarrassed for themselves I’m embarrassed for them!!

        1. StrikingFalcon*

          Yeah I just tell people I don’t like comedy. There are some I like, but very, very few. I’ve been watching a lot of anime lately. Lots of funny shows without that kind of humor!

          1. Nessun*

            Anime’s a little easier even with the discomfort, because I’m not si good at the language (usually don’t watch dubs). I do the same though – just tell people I don’t watch comedies. Then they’re confused when I mention loving something like Blackadder.

        2. allathian*

          If your friends get annoyed, you need new friends! Friends are allowed to have different tastes from each other.

      2. 2QS*

        I am usually a human with a sense of humor and lots of optimism who is not easily rattled. I watched one episode of The Office and it upset me for the rest of the day.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I just picked up my library hold for The Office and not 10 minutes into episode 1 I wanted to turn it off. My family pestered me into 2 episodes then I put my foot down. I’ll tell them I’m not the only one.

    6. Jennifer*

      I have been known to fast forward through cringe-worthy scenes. I still enjoy the show/movie but there’s a scene or two that I just can’t watch. It’s so weird but I’m glad I’m not the only one.

    7. Might be Spam*

      I’m so glad I’m not the only one who hates second hand embarrassment. I even skip ahead in books.

      1. allathian*

        I rarely skip completely but I will skim read it. I’m a fast reader anyway, but skimming ensures that my emotions remain disengaged.

    8. Generic Name*

      So is this why I never really enjoyed the office? My husband loved it, but I thought it was so cringeworthy. I also didn’t like An Idiot Abroad. I generally don’t like shows where one of the main premises seems to be making fun of people. I’m also not a fan of shows about awful people being awful (I’m looking at you, Shameless). Maybe I’m just a snowflake.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        For me it’s the verbal equivalent of not liking pratfalls and eye-poking. So many shows that I can’t watch with my family. Home alone, Pink Panther, Road Runner, they all make me cringe.

    9. Dancing Otter*

      I remember watching “I Love Lucy” reruns on daytime TV when I was sick as a child. I buried my face in the pillow at some of the stupidities. At age seven or eight.

      I know Lucille Ball was supposed to be such a great comedienne, but all I recall of those shows is her repeatedly humiliating herself. And I didn’t understand why adults thought that was funny.

      I still don’t.

      1. Scarlet Magnolias*

        I never could stand Lucille Ball and never found her funny, Alice Kramden however I thought was hysterical

    10. Square Root of Minus One*

      I do that a lot.
      When I was a kid, my father took me to the movies to see a comedy called “The mouse”, which was basically two hours of seeing two grown men being given hell by a mouse tricking them in their house. And everyone around laughing their heads off.
      Oh the embarrassment. I don’t think I can ever forget this. And no one ever understands why I don’t like this movie.

    11. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      My husband is like this. He’ll leave the room if something is embarrassing, or just turn it off altogether. There’s still an episode of STTNG that I have only seen half of because he got embarrassed and changed the channel and I never went back to finish it.

        1. Summersun*

          Several TNG episodes stuck with me as super cringey. “Wesley tripped catching a ball and broke a greenhouse and gets sentenced to death on the orgy planet” was one, and the one with Famke Janssen where she chose to “imprint” on Picard instead of on her husband through arranged marriage.

    12. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      My brother is hearing impaired so I grew up with CC on all the time. I’m kinda addicted to it – I have normal hearing and still find I miss things or that the background noise to vocals ratio is off on the show. Or it’s a show with someone with a strong accent (we watch a lot of British TV). Or you just pick up on the filmmaker’s intentions with CC like “ominous music” as a caption.

    13. NapkinThief*

      I’ve found my people! This is why I could never get into The Office – I couldn’t get past 10 minutes into episode one; it just made my skin crawl.

      I especially hate shows/movies where the plot centers around someone trying to keep up some sort of deception without getting caught and they KEEP ALMOST GETTING CAUGHT. I literally get up and walk away and ask someone to tell me when it’s over. My husband thinks it’s funny, but it seriously feels physically uncomfortable for me to watch people embarrass themselves!

    14. Sarahkay*

      There are TV programs that I loved as a kid, but by my mid-teens I couldn’t bear them any more because of second-hand embarrassment; Fawlty Towers and the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films spring to mind.

      I’m really sad about the Sherlock Holmes films as Basil Rathbone was my ideal personification of Holmes for a long time, but I just couldn’t bear the cringe-inducing stupidity of Nigel Bruce’s Watson – my palms are feeling sweaty with embarrassment just remembering one particular scene.

    15. Ghostly Apparition*

      I can’t watch stand up comedy shows. I get a crawly anxiety feeling. I think it’s because I’m afraid they won’t be funny and and I’ll be horribly embarrassed for them!

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

    So… I found out my mother is being converted into the antivax cult. She has been watching their propaganda for hours each day, and went as far as to tell my father she won’t let him get “poisoned” whenever the vaccine is available. I really want to know who is sending her those videos and block them for good.

    1. Llama face!*

      Oh dear! My sympathies. I have a similar situation and it is so aggravating. In my case I know the culprits but they live closer to my family member than I do and have much more regular contact so they managed to thoroughly convince them of that nonsense. Aargh!

    2. Parenthetically*

      Oh noooooooo!! I watched the same happen to my grandmother and it made me furious. So sorry.

    3. I'm A Little Teapot*

      My sympathies. My mother isn’t that bad on vaccines, but she’s definitely shifted that direction. What she doesn’t realize is that while she’s got the dr’s order to not get live virus vaccines, she can get killed virus. She is going to have a fit when she realizes that my sister will 100% require her to be up to date on her vaccines to be around any babies (hypothetical for now, but I suspect they’ll be coming in a year or 2. Sister was talking about house hunting with her long term boyfriend).

      Also, apparently she’s decided that it’s ok for a white woman to use the n-word as long as it’s not used against a person. Honestly, it would almost be worth the aggregation to move my parents in with me permanently if it meant I could force them to have more human interaction and get them away from Fox news. Though in their case, the bigger culprit is Rush Limbaugh.

    4. allathian*

      Ouch, I’m so sorry. I’d be tempted to say, “well, don’t expect me to mourn if you die from whatever the vaccine is designed to prevent”. Having different opinions is all very well, but I despise anti-vaxxers with all my heart. It would serve them right if all of them died of something that’s preventable with a vaccine they refused to get. I do feel sorry for their defenseless children who won’t get the protections they’re entitled to. Although I would be happy if you had to be vaccinated to attend public school and daycare, the only exceptions being kids who can’t get some kinds of vaccines for health reasons. Parental stupidity is not a health reason.

      1. Observer*

        Although I would be happy if you had to be vaccinated to attend public school and daycare, the only exceptions being kids who can’t get some kinds of vaccines for health reasons.

        Totally this.

      2. Dancing Otter*

        Yes, parents who refuse to vaccinate perfectly healthy children with standard childhood are guilty of reckless endangerment if not outright child abuse, in my opinion.

        However, I have my doubts about the methodology being used to test the proposed COVID vaccines. There are reasons we require rigorous testing before drugs are approved. Does no one remember diethylstilbestrol or thalidomide any more?

        1. Observer*

          I think that we’ll do better with the vaccine – in the US the companies ARE doing phase 3 trials. The real problem is how long they are going to run. (And the trials are supposed to have at least 10K participants for any of the vaccine candidates.)

    5. Observer*

      What makes it worse is that there are actually some very real concerns about the current covid vaccinations that are being tested (and the fact that the Russians are rolling out a vaccine without a phase 3 type trial is REALLY hair raising.) I’ve heard a number of epidemiologists and vaccine experts talk about this.

      Which is one of the reasons that they want multiple vaccine candidates being studied and that intensive trials continue after the first vaccines come out. It’s also one of the reasons that there is so much discussion of who should get the vaccines first. Part of it, of course, is going be a matter of availability and triage. But the other is a matter of weighing the different levels of risk. The fact that the Trump administration is running this particular show (in the US) is not going to inspire extra confidence, either. I *do* believe that the career people here WILL do the right thing. But I do understand why people would be nervous.

      None of this is to say that the vaccine will be “poison” or anything like that. But the anti-vaxxers are taking excellent advantage of the fact that a lot of the discussion around this assumes that people are stupid and also glosses over the very real issues.

      1. nonegiven*

        I will eventually probably get a Covid vaccine. I just don’t want to be an early recipient of a new one.