weekend open thread – August 22-23, 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: Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley. A man rescues a young boy after the plane they’re on goes down, and when the boy turns out to be the only surviving member of a rich and powerful family, questions are raised about what really happened on board. This is not my usual fare, but it kept me totally engrossed.

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

{ 1,282 comments… read them below }

  1. Aphrodite*

    What is one product you have bought within the last twelve months that you would unreservedly recommend and why.

    I am asking because I recently ordered a second bed fan (https://www.bfan.world/) because my first one is in storage since I am living in interim housing. I adore this thing beyond reason and thought it might be fun to recommend it. Of course I have no affiliation. I’m simply in love … with a thing.

    Please limit this to tangible items (which can include consumable) rather than trips or experiences. Looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks is perfect for them.

    1. Sara(h)*

      That is an AWESOME question. I have three recommendations, 2 in particular, and all of them are inexpensive. First, the Tovolo mini scoop and spread. Here is an Amazon link (but if anyone buys from Amazon, use the link Alison posted up top, so she gets a commission): https://www.amazon.com/Tovolo-Silicone-Spread-Assorted-Colors/dp/B00TUHR2PU (If you want to choose your color, you can find them on ebay and other places in specific colors). This thing is amazing. My sister got me one, and since then I’ve bought a bunch as gifts. My friend says that hers is always either in the sink or drainer b/c she is always using it. Me too! It is the best for scooping those last bits out of jars. I love this thing!
      Also this: https://www.amazon.com/Premium-Handheld-Cordless-Operated-Keyboard/dp/B07ZXSH3BP/. I have one at home and at work. I use it all the time — small spills of dry oatmeal, spices, or even broken bits of glass. Love it!
      The last one is just an inexpensive veggie peeler that works REALLY well:https://www.kuhnrikonshop.com/original-swiss-peeler-orange/KHN+2776.html. It does rust easily though if it stays wet, so you want to keep don’t want to let it sit in the sink for long, but I’ve had mine for a while and it still is sharp and works beautifully!

    2. Jackalope*

      I got a wrap dress from Toad & Co (actually two, same style but different colors). One of the things I hate about That Place We Do Not Name On the Weekend Thread is that it’s chilly and air conditioned so I can’t wear summer weight clothes when I’m there. Since I’m working from home instead (with no air conditioner), I’m free to wear summer clothes. I’ve loved wearing this dress on warm days; it has a nice fit, lightweight feel, and POCKETS. Plus the skirt is long enough but not too long.

      I’m a big bookworm and normally try to limit myself to the library as much as I can, but since the library has been closed I’ve bought more books this year. I went on an online list of books in some of my favorite styles and just splurged on a handful of them without worrying much other than that they were a style I liked. That was so fun getting a couple of boxes of books in the mail! (My favorite so far has been The Priory of the Orange Tree, in case you were curious.)

        1. KaciHall*

          Same here. My husband burst out laughing when we were looking at old pictures the other day, because there’s a picture from first or second grade, and I’m in a pinafore dress with front pockets, with my hands jammed in and a smile on my face. He says it’s proof that I’ve only ever really needed dresses with pockets and nothing else to be happy. He is wrong, but not by much…

      1. Everdene*

        I’ve discovered Popsy dresses this year. They ALL have pockets! I have bought 5 or 6 so far and will definitely buy more.

        1. Batgirl*

          Oh dear God this is my pocket-filled non skimpy, cute length home! Apple print! Books! Roll on school…

    3. Lemonwhirl*

      I’ve fallen down the baking rabbit hole during quarantine and made a Wishlist of obscure baking tools. My birthday was in July and my awesome husband pretty much bought my entire Wishlist. My two favourite items are:

      A plastic dough scraper – https://triggerfishcookshop.ie/products/plasticscraper
      So great. I don’t know how I baked without it. Really helps lift all the usable dough out of the bowl.

      A Danish whisk – https://www.bakerybits.co.uk/dough-whisk-dark-handled
      Does an amazing job really mixing everything up without too much clumping on the whisk itself.

      Also, I want to advocate buying really good flour, even if it means buying ridiculous quantities from a wholesaler. I’ve been buying 16kg bags of bread flour. I go through them in 6-8 weeks depending how bake-y I feel.

      1. Dani*

        I am Danish and had never seen nor heard of such a thing..! But it looks really cool and usefull!

      2. RagingADHD*

        Yes! I got a dough whisk this year, too. So good for all kinds of thick batters, as well as dough. Gets the lumps out easily without clogging up like a wire whisk.

      3. Jenny F. Scientist*

        I also got a Danish whisk and use it all the time! I got the Tovolo one because it’s all metal.

    4. LDF*

      Glass chair mat. I never bothered getting one before WFH and just suffered whenever I was at my desk in my deeply covered office. Sitting there 8 hours a day forced my hand and it’s a GAME CHANGER. If you want to use your swivel chair on carpet, I cannot recommend glass enough. So smooth.

      1. Cedrus Libani*

        Also, if your WFH space does not allow for a mat, you might consider getting rollerblade style wheels for your desk chair. They’re bigger than the usual wheels, so they work much better on thick carpets.

    5. Princess Deviant*

      I’ve sort of gone on a stress-related spending spree since Covid-19 began, so I have a few things I’m now very fond of!
      Particularly though: this shiatsu neck massager – shorturl.at/hyJ23
      and a pressure-point-relieving mattress topper, on offer from Groupon which is no longer available.

      1. Long drives*

        I am intrigued by the neck massager but the URL posted is not working for me? Just opens to shorturl.at and invites me to shorten a URL.

        1. Princess Deviant*

          Oh that is annoying. It is the Snailax Shiatsu Neck Massager with Heat – Adjustable Back Massager, Heated Neck Massage Pillow, Electric Massager for Neck and Back Shoulder Foot Massage from Amazon. Perhaps searching for it will be better?

    6. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      I got a Samsung Galaxy Active 2 smartwatch primarily because my partner hated the sound of my phone notifications, I missed calls and texts if the phone was on vibrate, and having a vibrating notification machine on my wrist seemed like a good way to keep us both happy. But I’m astonished by how much I like it for lots more things than just getting my notifications reliably, consistently, and quietly (though I do like that part a lot). It tracks my sleep, it rewards me for getting enough exercise, I can use it very easily to receive and send quick Slack messages or texts when I have a squirmy child on my lap and can’t dig around in my pocket for my phone, and one time my mom called while I was washing dishes and I answered the call from my watch so I didn’t have to try to use my phone with soapy hands. (“Mom, I’m talking to you through my watch like Dick Tracy!” She was very impressed.) It turns out getting my phone out of my pocket, unlocking it, finding the app I want, and waiting for the app to launch is actually kind of a hassle, and I have small hands and a large heavy phone (because all phones are large now) and don’t want to be holding it all the time. So being able to check the weather from my wrist—or use my watch to put my phone in do-not-disturb mode if the child on my lap abruptly falls asleep—is really nice.

      I got a magnetic mesh band for it, which I like much better than the silicone band it comes with, and an IQ Shield cover for the screen because I keep bonking it on things. I enjoy playing around with different faces and would be designing my own by now if the design software hadn’t crashed my laptop to the point where I needed to reinstall the OS (oops). I have very narrow wrists and the 40mm size looks good on me. The battery lasts a full two days, since I use a simple watch face that doesn’t take up much energy. And it’s useful to have one designed for sports use so I don’t have to worry about splashing it when I wash my hands.

      So yeah. I’m a smartwatch convert! Highly recommended.

    7. Hotdog not dog*

      Ache No More lotion from the Misty Mountain Soap Company (mistymountainsoap.com) is fabulous! Light, soaks in quickly, and actually works on my frozen shoulder and arthritic knees! I also discovered that it’s good for sunburn and muscle pain when you overdo it in the garden. It also has a very light scent that fades away pretty quickly so you can still wear another cologne or scented lotion without smelling weird.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Love Misty Mountain! I’m going to TN in a few weeks and will have a chance to stop by and load up on my favorites.

    8. Potatoes gonna potate*

      Can I say formula? Lol. I’m glad to be in a time where it’s an option and not just a sub-par alternative.

      Oh and a strawberry huller. I’ll have to think about other stuff.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Ugh ok I just reread your question. So the first item doesn’t fit the spirit of the discussion so my apologies. But definitely on the strawberry huller. I love it.

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Two big hits in the family recently.
      We got a sous-vide and the results really are good. Low slow cook on meat then toss it on the grill. Squid even–instead of boiling for seconds, it’s at 139`F for over an hour. (Too long is still possible, but it takes much longer to get there…and it goes soft instead of rubber.)
      And my daughter who always disliked toothpaste has discovered fennel flavored toothpaste from Tom’s of Maine.

      1. Ali G*

        We love our sous vide! I’ll never cook steak any other way again. I love the idea of squid (or maybe even octopus!).
        It’s also great for re-heating meat. We did ribs on the smoker recently and re-heated leftovers in the sous vide and it was almost as good as the day we made them.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I don’t even try to cook pork chops any way other than sous vide, I will always overcook them. But in the sous vide bin, perfection.

    10. username required*

      A Lavazza electric milk frother. I’ve been working from home for close to 5 months and being able to make lattes or cappucinos is great.

    11. The Other Dawn*

      Goat Milk Hot Fudge from Beekman1802 (dot)com. It’s a small jar, but it’s SO delicious! I don’t use it on ice cream–I keep it in the fridge and grab a spoonful when I want something sweet.

      I’ve started using their goat milk soaps. The bars are huge–9 ounces–and smell really nice. The soap feels very creamy, too. I have their Heirloom Flower Garden Spritzer in honeysuckle scent. What I like is that it is a very light scent and can be used as a room spray, body mist, fabric mist, or anything else you want it for. No alcohol, just water and fragrance. I also just started using their Milk Stick natural deodorant and I’m liking it. My body seems to have started adjusting to it.

      I don’t know if anyone here watched The Amazing Race, but the guys who run this company, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, won season 21. We took a tour several years ago of their farm in NY, which was fun. I got to hold the baby goats. :)

      1. GoryDetails*

        “I don’t know if anyone here watched The Amazing Race, but the guys who run this company, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, won season 21. We took a tour several years ago of their farm in NY, which was fun. I got to hold the baby goats. :)”

        I’ve enjoyed some of the Beekman products too – but I especially recommend Josh’s book THE BUCOLIC PLAGUE, “an unconventional memoir”. [And I envy you the visit – and the goats!] I loved their Amazing Race stint too.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          OMG the baby goats were adorable!! So warm and soft. :) I loved seeing their property. It’s absolutely beautiful. I have an old house–older than theirs–so it gave me ideas for how I’d like my yard to look.

          I’ll have to check out that book–thanks for reminding me. I was going to buy it early on and then forgot about it.

    12. anon for this*

      I bought two silicon drain catchers that sit about an inch down into the bathtub and sink to catch hairs (“TubShroom” and “SinkShroom” since they are both mushroom shaped).

      I have very thick hair, and every time I wash it, a couple hundred hairs fall out. Combing my hair also usually ends with a bunch of hairs in the sink, too. I hate buying drain cleaner because it’s corrosive and awful, but I haven’t been able to avoid that in years.

      Since purchasing these and setting them up, I’ve had no drain problems at all. A few hours after washing my hair, I just pull up the TubShroom – which now has a couple hundred hairs neatly wrapped around it – and put those in the trash, not the sink. Fantastic!

      1. Valancy Snaith*

        Those things are VERY handy, and on a related note, if you don’t manage to get them in time and your drain is running slow, you can get a Zip-It (or knockoff) drain cleaning tool, which is just a long thin flexible wand with backward-pointing spikes on it. Reach it down into the drain, pull up a magnificent wad of hair and soap scum. Done. Drain works perfectly afterwards. Such an ingenious idea, costs about $2 and ten minutes of time. Worth it, worth it, worth it.

        1. NeverNicky*

          Second this recommendation (long curly hair, getting longer and thicker in lockdown/menopause!)

        2. Trina*

          And if that doesn’t work, try a product called Green Gobbler. It’s supposedly less caustic than Drano and is safe for septic systems. I used it a couple of years back on a bathroom sink and then again I used it recently on a kitchen sink. It really cleared them quickly.

        3. Windchime*

          I bought one of these recently! It was very gross and kind of cool to see all the gunk it drug up out of my drain pipe.

      2. merp*

        I used these at my last house but now my tub has an attached drain-stopper (like the kind you push down to stop the tub – idk the name for it) and I am genuinely annoyed that I have to try to figure out something else that works. Tub Shroom works so well!

          1. merp*

            Thank you for telling me this, omg. It had not occurred to me in the slightest that it would be easy to remove.

    13. Not So NewReader*

      Aphrodite, I just have so say I watched the video on the bfan website and I am super impressed with what they had to say. I especially loved the part about how inadequate rest lays the ground work for so many illnesses including cancer… oh my yes! More people need to point this out, it’s that important. I laughed out loud about being cranky from not enough rest as I cannot count the number of cranky, tired people I see around me. I am wowed by this company. Thanks for posting this!

      1. Aphrodite*

        You are most welcome. I discovered it about 4 or 5 years ago. I had been given a Brookstone bed fan by a friend and was super impressed until within one year it died. I called the company and customer service basically laughed at me. So I ended up giving it away on CL (to someone who liked to tinker with stuff) and spent many hours in intense and deep research, eventually coming to this site. On the site, the owner has a short story of how Brookstone ripped off his idea and how he re-started with the b-fan.

        I ordered it and was so impressed. It was much better, and the owner reassured me that they would stand behind their fans and why. And they have. My original one still works beautifully but I decided that this summer’s heat was bad enough to warrant another since I cannot get to the original.

        I don’t want anyone to think I benefit financially from my recommendation because I do not but this is one of those rare products that I was fortunate enough to discover for myself that is SO DAMN GOOD I feel the need to tell others about it. I am very happy you are thrilled with it too.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            It will probably save people thousands in medical bills plus how do you put a dollar value (expense) on pain/discomfort? I am a huge fan of non-invasive therapies. This one is pretty cheap if it works well for a person.

    14. sswj*

      We got a Roomba alternative, and I adored it so much we got a second. It’s a Goovi and I think it’s this model: https://www.amazon.com/GOOVI-Self-Charging-Protectio-Multiple-Cleaning/dp/B07R1SZP62
      My husband found them on eBay for about $100 including shipping.

      We have all hard floors, live in a sandy area, and have 2 people, 3 dogs, and 11 cats. That’s a lot o’ hair, and since the cats have access to their own yard that’s also a LOT of feet bringing in sand! The units are fairly basic in that there’s no bin-full sensor, and it sometimes takes it a while to find the base for a recharge, but it does a phenomenal job on the main sections of floor. It handles throw rugs well as well as floor grates, has an alarm if it gets stuck or eats something it shouldn’t, and has a remote too. Oh, and they aren’t stupid noisy either. I adore them!

    15. GoryDetails*

      Cat-toy division: the CoolCyberCats Cat Catcher teaser wand – a plastic wand with a wire with a toy critter at the end. This model had a mouse, complete with tail, and it’s been making my cats lose their dang minds. (One of them even trots away with it, growling possessively if the others come near.) They’ve liked other toys in this line (there’s a “bee” version that’s very cute), but the mouse is the biggest hit. I can give the cats a full workout just by waving the thing around while I’m sitting in bed reading, though the reading often takes second place to the sight of the cats doing aerial backflips across the bed!

    16. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I think actually my stick-blender-mini-chopper set has been a particular favorite this year. I don’t remember exactly what brand mine is, but I use it all the time for mostly the mini-chopper functions. Purée a can of something, a pint of blueberries for jam, croutons to bread crumbs, that sort of thing, without getting out the whole big food processor. Some of them also come with a milk frother attachment too, heh.

      On the bed fan – do you think it would be useful for situations where, say, the person on ONE SIDE of a king sized bed wants it much cooler than the person on the other side? Can it be focused that way, or is it more of an all or nothing? We currently have a tower fan blowing on my husband’s side of the bed, but it gets me too and I end up freezing and with dried out nose from being blasted by it, and he’s STILL grumbling about being too warm. :-P

      1. Aphrodite*

        Ys, it would work very well for only one person (of two) in a king-size bed. Just place it on that side at the foot of the bed rather than in the middle. I think they address that on the site. Be right back …

        I only did a quick search so I didn’t find it but I do remember reading about that. Here’s their contact page, though. You can certainly ask: https://bedfans-usa.com/pages/about-us

      2. Aphrodite*

        Hmm, I replied to you earlier and the post is not here. I’ll try again.

        Yes, it will work on just one person when two people share a bed. Just place the fan on the side you want–at the foot of the bed as usual but rather than in the middle, put it over to the side of the person who wants the air.

    17. Ali G*

      Great question! I’ve been trying to use less plastic lately and 2 products have been lifesavers:
      Silicone stretch lids: https://www.amazon.com/Reusable-Silicone-Stretch-Flexible-Container/dp/B07CYN1R4H/ref=sr_1_8?dchild=1&keywords=bowl+covers&qid=1598099177&sr=8-8
      Food Huggers! https://www.amazon.com/Food-Huggers-Reusable-Silicone-Savers/dp/B01J4ADMJ2/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?dchild=1&keywords=food+huggers&qid=1598099350&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEzNTVKWFZEME1VSFZFJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwNjczMTcxTkJLQ1hIQUY0OVUyJmVuY3J5cHRlZEFkSWQ9QTAwNzkwODExTDNRT1UxVjdVNiZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2F0ZiZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=
      These are great for ends of cukes, zuke, onion, instead of plastic wrap.
      I also have a ton of reusable silicone food bags.
      Between these products, I’ve had the same roll of plastic wrap in my drawer for probably 8 months. I pretty much only use it for raw meat, so I toss it.

      1. tab*

        I almost bought these a few weeks ago, but I was scared by reviews like this, “Great concept, but they don’t stay on. They have to be perfectly dry to get them on a dish. Then if you put them in the fridge or in the microwave and they get condensation on them, as they do, they will pop off.” Have you seen these problems?

        1. Ali G*

          Not at all! You probably would want to cool stuff before putting it in the fridge, but the lids have totally stayed put. The only time I had a problem was when I should have used a larger size than I did, and it did pop off, so now I make sure I have some overhang all around.
          Also, I only have the round ones, so I can’t speak to the ones that go over casserole dishes or other shapes.

    18. Parenthetically*

      I LOVE this question and can’t wait to read all the responses!!

      SeaVees sneakers — I got these in a beautiful goldenrod color to replace my completely derelict Chuck Taylors and not only are they WAY more comfortable for my feet than Converse (I find Converse ridiculously narrow), but they’re also simpler and cleaner and more… can canvas sneakers be a bit chic? Anyway I adore them.

      Also, dudes, if you have a Costco membership I am BEGGING you to go buy a jar of their mixed nut butter! Spread it on toast! Mix it into yogurt with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup! MAKE COOKIES WITH IT. And then come back and thank me.

    19. Teapot Translator*

      A shredder!
      I know it’s boring, but I’ve been able to shred paper that I’ve had to hold on to because I couldn’t put it in the trash or the recycling bin! So it helped tidy the house a bit.

      1. TPS reporter*

        I love my shredder so much! Even with the USPS struggling I still get so much spam mail.

        My favorite quarantine purchase was Blueland hand soap. Since of course we’re using a lot more soap being at home all day, I felt so guilty throwing away countless hand soap bottles. Blueland gives you a very handsome glass dispenser with little refillable tablets.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I’ve seen the Blueland ads and wondered if the tablets were really as nice as they seemed!

        2. Ali G*

          I’ve been waffling on Blueland! Thanks for the recommendation. We need a new soap dispenser for our kitchen too.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        My fav shredder is a Bonsaii. The last one we had a 4 consecutive hour run time and a 4 year warranty. It gave up just after year 5. We got a new one it has less run time, just 2 hours but I need to stand up after two hours anyway. It seems to be an even better shredder. We use the heck out of it. Previous to this brand we were buying $100 shredders and burning them out in about 7-8 months. I have tried a few shredders…..

        1. Windchime*

          Wow, I think I need one of these. Mine is supposedly heavy-duty but in reality it bogs down if you put more than two sheets in at a time. I would love a shredder where I could put unopened credit card offers in and shred the whole thing, envelope and all.

          1. Sara(h)*

            I bought this Aurora shredder a year ago -Aurora AU1220XA 12 Sheet Crosscut Paper and Credit Card Shredder with 5.2 gal Wastebasket – to replace an older Aurora shredder that lasted 10 years(!) and finally died. I initially replace it with the same less expensive model (the 8-sheet model), but it made this weird high-pitched whining noise that my older model didn’t make. So I bought this upgraded one, and I love it! It never gets jammed either, which my old one occasionally did. But I also want to try the roller stamp mentioned below! Although apparently that works only for smaller fonts, but most things are small font anyway.

      3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I haven’t used my shredder for probably three years, since I bought what we call The Obliterator. It’s just a little roller stamp that you quickly whizz over personal information, then you can put most documents in normal recycling. Where I live, shredded paper isn’t allowed in kerbside recycling so this is a huge time- and effort-saver.

        Search for Miseyo Roller Stamp. It’s about the size of a salt shaker. We haven’t needed to replace the ink yet and it’s used probably daily.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          We just ordered one of these stamps! Thank you for the recommendation — I’ve been so relucant to shell out the extra cash for more clutter in office (a shredder). This seems like a much easier first solution.

        2. NoLongerYoung*

          My condolences! I’m east bay. And yes. I hear you on the urge to return to home state….between the aging midwestern parent, the covid sheltering, the air quality (last year was worse.for me, I did get a window AC because of work from home, with an old bungalow..
          I and the laptop were malfunctioning in the heat). But all factors together….moving is looking tempting.
          My heart goes out that you have the hospice/impending end on top of it all….hug.

    20. Ali G*

      I guess my links were too much for moderation.
      For me, Google “Food Huggers” and “silicone bowl lids.”
      I’ve been trying to avoid single use plastics, and these are so great. I also have a number of silicone baggies, so I really only use plastic bags and wrap for things I wouldn’t want to try to clean up, like raw meat, or stinky things.
      I’ve had the same roll of plastic wrap for so long the box is falling apart!

    21. Notthemomma*

      For the cleaning nerds- Holloway House Floor Cleaners! Years ago I stripped the wax off the linoleum floor and then cleaned and shined with their products. I truly had a couple people think I had gotten new flooring. There is absolutely NOTHING that will ever touch my floors again.

      #2: Sea Foam Bugs B Gone ( in-line or automotive stores). While it’s made to get bug reside off car front grills and bumpers, I use it in my kitchen – in the stovetop, it took the silver jets where the gas comes out from cruddy black to silver and shined. I’ve also used it on the shower walls, faucets, on the grill. It’s pretty cheap, so I now buy it by the gallon and refill spray bottles. Even gave it away to friends.
      No financial interest or connection to either company.

        1. Notthemomma*

          Yes it is! I was a bit worried at first, so I did a regular rinse/wash. Since I first found it a friend had also separately found it and researched that it is safe. She is more of a safety researcher than I, and hers is the gold seal of approval in my friend group.

    22. Lyudie*

      I recently had an allergic reaction to a face product, and after a week plus of super dry itchy skin that my regular moisturizer was just not touching, I got some Aveeno Ultra-calming Night Cream. Omg this stuff is a miracle. After using it just a few times I saw a huge difference. My face is not flaky and gross, there are only a couple of small dry patches left. The leftover blotchiness/redness is mostly gone. The slightly puffy spots (I think eczema flaring) are no longer puffy. I might look into a regular Aveeno moisturizer when this is gone and forsake my beloved Neutragena if all their stuff is this good.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Ooooooh! Thanks for this rec. I have two kids with VERY fussy skin and have the dickens of a time keeping them moisturized and un-eczema-y in the winter.

        1. Lyudie*

          It is a little pricey IMO (but I am cheap lol) around $18 for a small jar (I think it was a bit less on Amazon). But a little goes a long way and it really seems to be doing the trick, I think it’s worth a shot! No fragrances either!

        2. Sara(h)*

          Neutrogena Norwegian Formula unscented hand cream is MAGIC for eczema and dry, cracked hands. When I was a kid, my hands used to crack and bleed in the winter, when a friend’s mom recommended this stuff to my mom, and I’ve used it ever since. It also very healing in general — like for mom’s post surgery incisions once they were almost healed but still sensitive and sore. I buy it 6 tubes at a time!

      2. Stephanie*

        I’ve tried Aveeno facial stuff in the past, and it has all been good. I really liked their calming daytime moisturizer, and their body lotion is the only thing my son can use in the winter on his eczema-prone winter skin.

        1. Chaordic One*

          Most of Aveeno’s stuff is, indeed, very good, but you need to pay attention to the ingredients on the labels. I have soy allergies and I’ve had not-so-good reactions to some of their products that contain soy as an ingredient (mild allergic skin rash and mild hives). I washed as much of it off as I could with soap and water, then took a Benadryl antihistamine. After about half an hour I applied some Benadryl hydrocortisone creme to it. Soy doesn’t seem to be a common an ingredient in cosmetics and lotions and I would imagine that Aveeno products containing it are probably fine for most people.

      3. Caroline Bowman*

        Aveeno is the answer for sensitive skin prone to flares and dry. My children struggled a lot with exzema as babies and apart from the really medical, gross, heavy ointment-type things, Aveeno was the only pleasant, nice-to-use bath / hair / moisturising range we could use. It really is fantastic stuff!

      1. WellRed*

        I just heard of pizza peels today! Can’t figure out what exactly they are. Recommendations? Stores? I’ve been striving to up my pizza game during the pandemic.

        1. Natalie*

          A pizza peel is essentially a large wooden spatula, or a thin cutting board with a handle. They’re used to transport the raw pizza into the oven and then back out again when it is cooked. You can also use them for other items that are baked free form (not in a pan).

          Any kitchen supply store you like should sell them, or amazon, although personally I’d prefer to handle it before buying. Sometimes they’re called baking peels.

          1. WellRed*

            But how do you get it from that to the baking sheet pizza pan whatever without making a mess?

            1. Jeanius*

              Before you put the dough on the peel, put corn meal on the peel. After I dress my pizza, I give the peel a little shake. If there’s any areas that stick, lift the crust and toss addtl corn meal under.

      2. Ali G*

        I love to put the pizza stone on our gas grill with all burners turned up to high. If you make your own dough, most home ovens don’t get hot enough to cook the dough so it gets brown, puffs up and is chewy inside. I get the grill up to like 600 and let the stone get suuuuppper hot, and then put the pizza on, close the lid, and in about 3-4 minutes it’s done and perfect.

    23. Nervous Nellie*

      Two laundry-related items are my best buys for 2020:

      A cheap salad spinner from the supermarket that I use when handwashing delicate clothing items. I can spin out the bulk of the rinse water, so that I can hang bits & pieces to dry in the tub.

      And a tension rod that I can hang in the middle of my tub for said delicates.

      Both were cheap, take up very little space, and save me from COVID danger in my apartment building’s laundry room. Love ’em!

      1. Jean (just Jean) Seeking Electronic Pest-Repelling Devices*

        Another apartment-dweller here delighted with the following bought to avoid the one poorly ventilated laundry room that serves our building:

        The “Ninja 3200 RPM Portable Centrifugal Spin Dryer” transforms dripping items to almost-dry. Its price (approx. $150 US) exceeded my usual impulse-purchase limit but is worth every penny. Electrically powered but needs only 2-3 minutes per load.

        Two perforated plungers, one home-made by modifying a brand-new toilet plunger, the other a commercially available “Mobile Washer, speed up “hand washing” and somewhat relieve carpal tunnel discomfort.

        Several 5- and 2.5-gallon buckets hold all items to wash, soak, or rinse.

        Home washing is remarkably time-intensive and thus only for items too delicate for commercial laundering. My spouse’s work clothes go to a dry cleaner. Bulky/sturdy household items (sheets, towels, jeans) go to a wash-dry-fold service.

        Resources: laundry-alternative(dot)com, ClothDiaper(dot)com, your local hardware store, and The Container Store for plastic hangers with swivel hooks (easier to hang over door tops).

        1. Chaordic One*

          This sounds like an interesting invention. Often I’ll remove still damp items from the dryer and let them air-dry the rest of the way and this would probably work well for most clothes. You’re so right about home washing being time-intensive. These newer water conserving washers take a lot longer (about twice as long) and don’t do as good a job as the older ones with their agitators.

    24. Jaid*

      USB powered fans. I used to keep one for traveling on the bus/train to work and one at home on my desk.

      Also a USB powered callus remover.

      All available on Amazon.

      1. LemonLyman*

        2nd USB powered fans! We have usb batteries that we use to charge our cell phones and now use to power our little usb fans. Great for when it’s hot out and we need a little air movement but don’t need to turn on the AC. Also nice to put on the bedside table at night.

    25. Aly_b*

      I didn’t really notice I needed a new mattress but hoo boy did I, and it’s made a huge difference in my energy levels. Also set up a home gym, which has been awesome (technically more than one item but combined in spirit, I think).

    26. Creapy Arms*

      I bought from amazon the Door-Doc Front Load Washer Mold and Odor Prevention. It’s a little pricey but works great. I would also suggest you watch the Dirt Farmer Jay video on u-tube. I learned a lot from it.

      1. LemonLyman*

        Thanks for the magnetic arm rec! We’ve been having problems with smell from our washing machine.

        There are a lot of Dirty Farmer Jay videos. Was there one in particular you were referencing?

        1. Creapy Arms*

          It’s called Get rid of Front loader washer Stink. Did you know that there is a filter on these washers that you have to clean? He shows step by step in video.

      2. Sara(h)*

        I want to mention that I just watched the video, and Jay recommends using vinegar in your washer. I used to do this, but then I learned it is terrible for your washer and disintegrates the rubber hoses. I highly recommend you DO NOT USE VINEGAR in your washer.

        1. Sara(h)*

          Otherwise, his instructions for cleaning the filter are awesome — so easy, and I didn’t know to do that!

    27. Jules the 3rd*

      I found some shirts on clearance at Dillards. Bought one, wore it, liked it so much I went back and got three more, and I wish now that I’d gotten 2 more than that. Lightweight blouse made of cotton / modal, with a neckline with buttons about 1/3 the way down the front. Sleeves can either button up to 1/2 length or go loose to 3/4. Semi-tailored, so I get a little waist, but still loose enough that you can’t easily tell how big my stomach is (my BMI’s 30, and I’m carrying a lot of it in my stomach). No elastic to irritate my new elastic allergy, and in my favorite colors – dark purple and blue-green.

      It’s not quite formal enough for work, but I wore these every day I wasn’t at work from November to June. I put on a second or third layer for winter, but it layers easily. It’s a little too much for high summer, but any weather under 85 degrees and it is my perfect shirt.

    28. HannahS*

      Pomelos, when they were in season. I’ve always enjoyed them, but I went crazy this winter, buying like two a week while they were in season. It was so much fun to introduce my fiancé to them!
      And on the subject of citrus, also a Buddha hand citron. I don’t know why my local grocery store suddenly had them for a few weeks, but I spent an absurd amount of money on two of them. I attempted to candy both of them–one failure, one success–and gave the results to my dad. His mom, who was dying, used to make candied etrog, but since etrogim are grown with lots of pesticides, we’ve never candied one. My parents actually took the little pyrex bowl of candied citron with them to Israel, so that my aunt and uncle could have some too. It was a buttload of work, but so worth it.

      1. Aphrodite*

        The bed fan can actually be placed anywhere next to your bed–the foot, the sides or, I suppose even the head if you pulled it out a bit from the wall (and didn’t have a headboard). It pulls air from the bottom where the mechanics are and upward and then out. When you place the fan at the foot and get it in between the flat and fitted sheets, the air does blow from your feet upward.

        It is powerful so for me I find that low is best. It’s easy to turn the dial up or down on the controller so you can easily adjust it until you find the right place for you. Since I always like some weight on me, even in summer, I use it with a lightweight blanket and my bedspread.

        Your feet will likely be the coldest since the air hits there first, but if you don’t mind feeling a bit silly, and want the fan to be higher, you can always use socks.

        It feels WONDERFUL. You can feel the breeze all around your body though it is heaviest at the point of entry (that is, at the source of the fan). Even after all this time I can’t believe how much better I sleep. (A bonus is turning it on very high during the day to make the flat sheet and bedding “blow up” and amuse the cats.) For me, it became a “need” rather than a “want” because I sleep better and I definitely feel better.

      2. Aphrodite*

        If you put it at the foot of the bed, yes, your feet will be the prime recipient. But it does flow over your entire body as their videos and illustrations show. You can use socks if your feet get uncomfortable.

        I think it might work best if like me you prefer some solidity in your bedding even in summer. The power of this thing is excellent and I never put it on above low unless I want to entertain the cats for a while with “blown up bedding.” You can put it at the side of the bed or, I presume, even at the head if you don’t mind it not being between the sheets and don’t have a headboard. I use it in the middle of the foot of the bed as I sleep alone but it can also be put to one side if there are two and only one person wants to feel it.

    29. My Brain Is Exploding*

      I said this last week, but a couple of books by Katy Bowman. “Dynamic Aging,” which I’ve already sent to a couple of people, and “Move Your DNA.” How to improve your well-being and mobility with easy exercises and lots of natural movement. Applicable to older folks and also to younger people who can learn to change the damaging loads we put on our bodies.

    30. TechWorker*

      1) some culotte trouser things from sweaty Betty – I always felt I was too short and not fashionable enough to wear culottes, but then lockdown hit and I was like ‘fuck it!’. They probably do make me look quite short, but they make me feel super badass and are in some lovely thick jersey type material that hangs really well and is smart enough to wear for work (once I’m back in the office) but feels like wearing warm pyjamas. The dream!

      2) we got kittens this year and anything that makes litter easier helps! Two great purchases on this front:
      modkat top entry litter box – it wasn’t cheap but it’s just so *functional*. It’s really well designed and makes a reassuring click when you open it to clean it. The scoop that came with it is also easy to clean.
      A heavyweight stone (?) bathroom bin to put the litter scoops in. For the first week or two the litter scoops were just being left on the floor and it made me feel so gross every time I saw it there! Now the scoops stand up neatly in the bin and I can soak them in the bin to clean them and it. Hurrah!

      1. Skeeder Jones*

        Have you tried the Litter Genie? That was a game-changer for me, keeps it from smelling and I just replace the bag every couple weeks.

    31. Girasol*

      Tuft and Needle’s basic mattress to replace my old thinner one. I had just bought an Inofia foldable mattress for a folding guest bed. I let it out of its box and it just laid there like a lumpy old quilt for a week until I gave up on it ever expanding into mattress shape. So I wasn’t optimistic when the Tuft and Needle came. But it expanded like *poof!* I should have opened it in the bedroom because it was mattress-sized on the living room floor in two seconds. So I wrestled it into the bedroom and oh, my. It’s true that you can sleep better on a good mattress! So, so nice. Suits my preference for a mattress that’s firm-ish but not hard. (I should mention that my best friend is raving over her new Avocado mattress. That sounds wonderful too but my budget didn’t stretch that far.)

    32. LQ*

      Bamboo sheets. I’ve tried a few sets but hands down the ones I’m in love with are on Overstock and they are called “Rayon from Bamboo 300 Thread Count Sateen Extra Deep Pocket Bed Sheet Set” (can’t link). They are magic. I love them so much. I’ve now bought 4 sets (the first 2 I bought well over a year ago at a much higher price, I’ve been trying to find new ones since and returned all the rest, these are the ones that are the best by far).

    33. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

      A Ninja Foodi. This thing is seriously awesome. It is an air fryer, roaster, pressure cooker, slow cookier, etc. It was especially handy when our oven took a crapper (the stove-top still worked) and the new oven wasn’t coming four weeks. I use it a lot!

    34. Chai life*

      Because we are still living a fairly quarantined existence the only people we see are our (adult) kids, and that is only in the backyard with masks. I bought a sun shade sail thing (can’t recommend enough!), a pop up shade canopy for more socially distanced seating (ok, but not as much shade as the sail), more patio chairs and small tables, and an old style water jug. Makes visiting so much more pleasant to have shade, seating, and no fuss water available.

    35. T. Boone Pickens*

      My blender finally conked out so I spent a few weeks researching new ones. I ended up getting a KitchenAid KSB1570 for ~$80 on Wayfair. It’s fantastic. I strictly use it for pretty dense smoothies and it’s been humming along for a couple months now. It’s also a breeze to clean, which is great. It’s not a Vitamix..but it’s also $200+ less than a Vitamix.

      I can also fully endorse Anker’s bluetooth speakers, multiport USB chargers, mobile USB charger and their nylon USB lighting cords. All pretty inexpensive and they work great. The bluetooth speaker is going on 2 years now and is a great mobile speaker, it’s lightweight and has a silicon case so it’s durable in case you drop it.

      1. My Brain Is Exploding*

        How noisy is it? Does it handle ice out frozen fruit well? Does the base have a rubber gasket and, if so, can you readily get replacements?

    36. Oxford Comma*

      The “ComfiLife Gel Enhanced Seat Cushion.” It has saved my butt. Quite literally. I’ve been dealing with sciatica and it’s been very helpful in relieving that. Even when I’m not working, I like to do things on the computer so I’m on this chair a lot.

    37. Mimosa Jones*

      Face antiperspirant. I don’t have a specific brand to recommend yet, but the concept is awesome. It just makes this whole menopause thing easier to deal with. And mask sweat.

      1. allathian*

        Please post again if you find a brand you’d like to recommend. I’m not menopausal yet but my face sweats a lot, to the point that I very rarely wear makeup anymore. I have sensitive skin and haven’t found any waterproof makeup I’m comfortable with. Or rather, removing it is too much of a chore…

    38. pieforbreakfast*

      Olukai shoes. They’re a Hawaiian company and I first discovered their flip flops, which someone I know calls the “Cadillac of flip flops”, and according to the company are what lifeguards in Hawaii wear. Comfortable, good foot bed and grip. Since then I’ve bought sandals and two pairs of tennis shoes and wear one of them pretty much every day. Their slip-ons and tennis shoes have a drop down heel so they can be worn as a clog, helpful when feet are wet or just needing to put them on to run to the mailbox. And they wash really well!

      1. CoffeeforLife*

        I’m from Hawaii and my partner will only wear Olukai. He wears them to disintegration then gets a new pair.

    39. Roja*

      Honestly, I’ve spent the summer slowly upgrading our food quality. We are fortunate enough to have the money to do it, so I’ve started switching to ethically sourced meat and dairy, and gotten a CSA box. It’s seriously made SUCH a difference in how our food tastes. I never want to go back.

    40. schnauzerfan*

      My Switch Lite and Animal Crossings, New Horizons. I’ve never been a big video gamer, played a few games waay back in the day, Frogger, Robotron, etc., and more recently Tetris and Angry Birds, so yeah, don’t need it wouldn’t use it. But one day I got an alert that Best Buy had a Switch in stock. Figured I could buy one and give it to the niblings if I didn’t enjoy it. (Shhhh, don’t tell them they almost had a Switch!) Here in day 50012 of social distancing it’s been a Godsend.

      1. Black Horse*

        Oh man, I’m loving ACNH. I’ve been playing it with my 15 year old son and it’s been an absolute delight to have “animal time” every day. It’s been a great opportunity for some mom/teen bonding, and it’s so soothing and relaxing. And all I’m doing is watching him play!

    41. Mad Hatter*

      Based on recs from this site, I ordered a bidet attachment in the spring. It’s a Luxe Neo 180 Non-electric bidet attachment and is available on Amazon for under $60. It was easy to install and works great. I’m buying TP and wipes much less often!

      1. A313*

        I’m looking into this. Repeated requests to my husband to install an electrical outlet near the toilet have gone unheeded for years now ;) (He actually is really busy doing so many other things.) My question is, in the winter in a Northern state that gets a real winter, will I be sorry?

      2. Potatoes gonna potate*

        I would always recommend one. I’ve used them in South Asia and Middle east and even in some houses here in the USA and they’re amazing. I bought one from Home depot a few years ago but unfortunately we couldn’t install it in our bathroom as the area was too small and awkward for us to maneuver.

      3. BetsCounts*

        I have the Luxe Neo 120 and I LOVE it. It was only $40, required no electricity and- well it cleans really well. When it eventually breaks I’ll get one with a little fan instead of drip/wiggle drying

    42. Bostonian*

      Definitely a portable phone charger that has a jumper cable adapter so I can jump start my car with it. I don’t drive my car very much, so sometimes the battery dies in the winter if I’m not being so good about taking the car for a weekly spin. It’s pretty small, was about $40-50, and was worth every penny! Saved me from having to wait for AAA so many times!

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I had a car with a dodgy battery and that thing saved my bacon several times that year until I got around to having it replaced. I got them for like EVERYONE for Christmas as a result :-P

        1. Insurance mom*

          I found something similar with a little air compressor and flashlight built in. Will blow up bike tires or lawn mower tires. It was under $100 and I gave to both son-in-laws for Christmas

    43. justabot*

      Wool dryer balls by Friendsheep. There are many good kinds, but these are the ones I tried and loved. My clothes dry so much more fluffy, less wrinkled, softer, and in less time. Totally worth it!

    44. Kara S*

      Cast iron frying pans + cookware. Oh my gosh…. every meal cooks so much better in them and they are way more durable than what I used before.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        I just got a cast iron dutch oven from Amazon (my mom wanted them but didn’t like that htey were so heavy so I took one and returned the other). I can’t wait to use it!

    45. PNW Dweller*

      My sister gave me a modkat litter box. It is the one that has a grate on top with a hole in one corner for the cat to climb in and out of. Game changer! Seriously the only litter on the floor is from me when I scoop. I never thought I would write this, but I love this litter box.

    46. Overeducated*

      An electric flyswatter. It looks like a small tennis racket. We’ve been struggling with mosquitoes indoors since last fall and this was the game changer.

    47. Jamboree*

      This lazy susan is the best invention in the history of kitchen organization. This one has removed a bit of the circle footprint of every other lazy susan design so it fits in shallow cabinets but still spins. The mini lazy susan in the middle is just the icing on the genius cake. I am oddly passionate about this but I like my cabinets organized! https://tinyurl.com/y3xy8cny

      1. Apt Nickname*

        I got a double decker pull out spice rack and I’m so happy with the extra room in my cabinet. Organized cupboards forever!

    48. Lena Clare*

      Oh, I bought a small glass jug with American cup measurements, and I cannot live without it. In fact, I don’t know how I’ve managed till this long without it. I didn’t know I needed it I guess!

    49. BetsCounts*

      I got the Oster My Blend 250-Watt Blender with Travel Sport Bottle. I like smoothies but realized I wasn’t making them because I hated cleaning the blender. Then I picked this up. It doesn’t take up as much space, is super dishwasher safe, and works pretty well.
      I also ordered blanket/comforter storage: “Clothing Storage Bags Organizer, Large Capacity Closet Storage Container Box with Reinforced Handle and 2 Sturdy Zipper for Comforters, Blankets, Clothes”. We had been keeping unused comforters/sheets in stacked folding lid crates, but I realized I was reluctant to put the sheets/blankets away because I didn’t like wrestling with a stack of crates just to go digging through them to get/put away the blankets. These also stack but the contents are visible and are easy to go through.
      Finally, if you spend any time on Buzzfeed you’ve probably seen before and after pictures of people who have used the Microplane Colossal Foot File or the Baby Feet Foot Peel. In our house we call the foot file the cheese grater and it WORKS amazingly well. But make sure to sweep up the- remnants and put in the TRASH, not the washing machine with the towels or anything. The Baby Feet Foot Peel does AMAZING work but don’t use the file for at least a week after you’ve worn the peel.

    50. araminta18*

      How does the bfan work with weighted blankets? I’m intrigued, but I use a weighted blanket so not sure if the bfan would work with it…

  2. WoodswomanWrites*

    To my fellow Californians in fire areas, may you all be safe!

    The smoke where I am in the Bay Area is horrible but my location isn’t at risk. There are fires to the north, east, and south but fine where I am. The fires are causing havoc for co-workers and friends, who have evacuated to the north as well as 50-100 miles south. At least one friend likely lost her house, which she found out about by seeing a photo of her driveway on a local website. Fortunately all are safe.

    With my asthma, air filters are my best friends. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the website Purple Air shows local air quality in real time. I’m going to use it this weekend to locate places that are less smoky within driving distance and get some fresh air outdoors. Take care, folks.

    1. California wildfires*

      Thank you for you post. I just posted a few posts down. I live in Sonoma County. The 2017 fires came within a mile of my home. I had to evacuate in 2017 and 2019. I haven’t had to evacuate *yet* this year, but it is going to be a long few months ahead. Sorry to hear about your friend who lost her home. Hope you find some clean air this weekend!

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      Since there’s a more extensive thread below under the heading California Wildfires, we can continue this conversation there instead.

  3. So worried*

    Electronic faxing
    Please share with me, if you know, how safe is electronic faxing? I electronic faxed my personal info a few days ago, then a couple hours later found out on my own that that info was no longer needed from me (only if I had checked my 403b account before faxing).

    On Friday at 8:20 AM, I received an email from B advising that they received the funds check from my previous employer’s 401K account to roll into my current employer’s 403b account but no signed incoming rollover request form attached. So I was asked to fill out the request. Two hours after receiving that email, I emailed B advising that I completed the request 3 months ago via secure DocSign and if B could check if that signed request was still valid for the rollover. No response from B.
    The following week rolled by without any response from B. (In B’s email they said that if I have any questions don’t hesitate to contact them). When the week was almost over, I emailed N whom sent me the request to sign via docsign; N responded back within an hour of receiving my email advising that the request I signed months ago had expired.
    The 2nd week since receiving B’s email was also coming to an end. I decided to fill out the request and fax it as requested.
    Two days after faxing my personal info, I received a letter from my 403b company that my rollover was completed on Monday (3 days after the Friday that I received B’s email).
    I won’t be so worried right now only if I checked my 403b account or at least receive one simple email response from B.

    1. Probably not helpful*

      Recently I needed an EIN Verification Letter from the IRS. After a long wait on hold, I got through to someone and was told that they’re not allowed to email a verification letter or fax one to an E-Fax or any fax machine that is hooked up to the internet or to a personal computer, supposedly because they can be hacked.

      The IRS will send you a faxed verification letter, but it has to be to an old-fashioned stand-alone fax machine, but you have to be physically present by the fax machine when they send and they keep you on the line while they send it until it goes through. That way you can pick it out of the printer before someone steals it or copies it .

      (They will also mail you a letter, but that takes forever.) I think lots of people who request the letter be sent to them by fax lie about their fax machines not being e-faxes. The IRS is probably overly cautious and I would guess that most of the time nothing bad happens. Do you feel lucky?

      1. What the What*

        I’m an accountant and I use an online fax. Because I don’t live in 1999 when it was normal to have a landline and a fax machine.

        It’s as secure as a secure email system a bank might use to send you bank account info.

        I was as an in person IRS audit last year and the agent made me fax her something. I used my E-fax to send it and she didn’t blink. She then logged onto her email and looked at the fax.

        I was like, “Wait a minute! Is that an E-fax? What about all this BS about standing by your fax machine that’s connected to a landline??” She just laughed and said they’d been using E-faxing for years.

      2. Observer*

        Well, the reality is that a standard fax machine is as easily hacked as an e-fax. The ONLY thing that makes their method slightly better is that they stay on the phone with you while they send the fax and have you pick up the piece of paper.

    2. Doc in a Box*

      I am a physician and was 100% telemedicine for about two months. Medicine requires a LOT of faxes. Because I don’t have a fax machine at home (didn’t ever need one before the world shut down!), I signed up for e-fax with Doximity. I actually prefer e-fax to regular fax, because I get a “receipt” and because everyone else was using Doximity e-fax too, I was fairly confident that my message was going directly to the sender rather than sitting on a shared machine in an office for who knows how long. (So basically, email.)

      In the scenario you describe, it sounds more like B is bad at email.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree that B was probably bad at email. I have done two rollovers and each time I walked beside the rollover. I sent the paperwork the way the company requested and I used the phone to talk to an actual person also. I am sure I was a nag.

        Just my limited experience but a rollover takes about 3 days to complete. One time I calculated the interest lost while in this 3 day limbo. I will never do that again as it just causes more upset.

        At work we switched from stand-alone fax machine to using email for faxing. (Sorry can’t be more detailed.) I fax multiple times a day at work. Email for faxing seems a tiny bit more reliable but not a significant difference. Again, this is just what I am seeing here. My preference is to send things as an attachment in email, which is not really possible with transferring funds as they want layer upon layer of security. That makes sense, also. I think my financial advisor gave up on his system as older people just can’t jump all the hoops. But people of any age are going to want confirmations, that is just normal stuff in doing business.

    3. Observer*

      Fax is a ridiculously insecure way of communicating altogether. I don’t really understand why it’s still considered acceptable for stuff requiring high security.

      Doing it electronically is not going to make anything worse.

  4. Ask a Manager* Post author

    This week’s questions for the crocheters:

    1. I am about two-thirds done with my first scarf and so far really happy with it! (But I see now why people told me last week I’d get bored if I only ever used one stitch.) Anyway, is it generally a good idea to block scarves when you’re done, or is that unnecessary?

    2. I’m very intrigued by this blanket, which is just four Scarfie scarves sewn together:

    Once you have the four scarves done, the instructions just say, “Sew long sides of strips together to make throw.” What … does that mean? Sew with a needle and thread? Somehow crochet them together? I can’t figure out how to interpret this.

    3. Ombre yarn! I don’t think I want to ever use anything else.

    1. Not Australian*

      I’ve been crocheting for years; I’ve tried sewing things together and I’ve tried crocheting – and frankly the latter is a far better option. (It’s also easier to take out if you need to.) Just line up the two items to be joined and pin them with pins at right-angles to the seam. You should find that individual stitches on each piece match up, and you can therefore put the hook through both layers and just do a simple through-and-back single stitch all the way across. It leaves a ridge, but that’s never bothered me … and personally I’d always prefer to have the ridge on the ‘right’ side because what you get on the reverse is just a series of straight lines which are not very interesting – and look terrible in contrast or random-dye yarn.

      I wouldn’t ‘block’ anything myself unless the item had got seriously out of shape during the manufacturing, but then I very rarely block knitting either – I just don’t like how it looks, and you can’t undo it. As an alternative, you could try handwashing the item and drying it flat afterwards.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        All of that pretty much, except that I do block knitted lace because you pretty much have to.

        (I really like Lion Brand’s Mandala yarn for color changing.)

    2. It’s me AV*

      1. It depends a little what yarn you’re using – if it’s an acrylic then don’t worry about it, if it’s wool/wool blend it can help to set the stitches in place and help edges lay flat, but for me blocking makes less of an impact with crochet than knitting anyway.

      2. Yes they mean sewing with a needle – a yarn needle that has a big eye and more of the same yarn you’ve been using for the strips. You’ll line up the stitches at the edges of the strips and then put the needle through one loop from each side. There would be a way to crochet it together but that could create a ridge, so a different effect.

      3. Ombré yarn, so fun!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I was ready to finish something during initial stay-at-home this spring. My clever husband made one for me out of the wire from a Chinese takeout box:
        Snip, fold, solder, sand.

    3. Wormentude*

      I did a big reply and seem to have lost it so will try again…

      There are loads of joining methods. I prefer whip stitch as it looks nearly seamless and is flat. Crochet joins tend to stick up above the work and don’t look as neat in my opinion. Will reply to this with a link showing 7 methods so you can see the variation.

      By the time I’ve finished a piece, I think it’s nice to wash it as it has been handled so much. Once it’s wet, it’s little extra effort to block. For acrylic, I’ll lay it out somewhere flat (spare bed on a towel) and reshape with my hands to make sure it’s neat then leave it to dry. Natural fibres need firmer handling and probably pinning on mats. I’ll post a link to some advice on that too.

    4. possum whisperer*

      On question 2
      I think my mom sews the parts together with a really big needle made for yarn.She’ll make a buttload of multicolored squares and after I stack them in the order they go together (cuz she cant see) she busts out with the big needle and ends up with an afgan or throw or whatever she’s making.

        1. Crafty Crafter*

          For sewing with yarn, it’s a tapestry needle. A bodkin is to pull elastic, ribbon through a casing when you’re sewing fabric. No pointy end. At least in the US. Maybe different elsewhere?

    5. Hotdog not dog*

      Ombre yarn is awesome! The only thing I love more is spatter or tie dyed yarn. It’s fun to watch the colors move through your hands and see what kind of pattern it turns into! I almost never block projects, but I always wash them. There are tons of you tube videos to show you how to sew pieces together. It’s not difficult but can be dull. You’re going to post a picture of your finished scarf, I hope!

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I very seldom block things. Part of that is laziness. But if the item seems to be squared up the way it should be, I don’t worry about it. If the items is wool, then yes, I will block it out.

      There are things that I am careful about how I hang them up to dry. Some stuff I lay out on a towel, say across the dryer or other surface that won’t be damaged by dampness. And I make sure the item is not wrinkly by finger tip pressing the “bad” spots.

      Other folks may have found exceptions but generally I tend to think that when they say to sew crocheted things together they mean use that same yarn and use a yarn needle. This is a needle that is the same idea as a regular sewing needle but it is large (about 3″ or so), it can be plastic and the eye is big enough to accommodate the yarn without shredding it and without driving the sewist nuts in trying to push the yarn through the eye. Most sewing/yarn places have yarn needles for sewing.

    7. CraftyCrafter*

      1. No need to block a scarf–it’s just going around your neck. (Future project: Infinity scarf! Stylish, cozy, and the lack of ends means there’s nothing to give away any unevenness, so very forgiving!)

      2a. I, too, would sew this particular project with yarn, but with a mattress stitch to keep the seams as flat as possible. There are several different methods, so you might want to try out a couple on small scrap swatches to see which you like best.

      2ab If you ever do a blanket with smaller pieces (as opposed to strips), that would be an opportunity to explore crochet joins, which become design elements.

      2c. This pattern is a bit loosey-goosey. If you crochet five strips “about” 56″ each, you will end up with an uneven blanket. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, but I would do one strip to the length you want, then count the number of rows and replicate. HDC rows are pretty easy to count after the fact. At the very least, do one strip, then measure the others against it. When you’ve sewn them together, as others suggested, you can wash it and dry flat, tugging it into shape here and there while it’s damp, if you want.

      3. Ombre yarn is lovely, right? You get color interest without having to mess with joining a bunch of different yarns.

      1. CraftyCrafter*

        It doesn’t seem to want to post my reply, maybe because of a URL, so this is a workaround.

        Here’s a resource for sewing crochet pieces together. You can definitely find videos, too, of course.

        Go to yarnspirations dot com and search for “methods for seaming crochet”. The article shows several different options.

    8. Jenny*

      I wouldn’t make the scarf throw because of the amount of sewing. But sewing is my least favorite part of crochet.

    9. Parenthetically*

      My mother NEVER blocks and the only things it’s made a difference on are the fingerless gloves she made me once — the edges just wouldn’t lay down until I blocked them myself.

    10. Anonbeth*

      I love this! I wouldn’t bother with blocking a scarf unless it’s lace. Blocking acrylic is a fuss anyway.

      Unsolicited advice: if you like the idea of the scarf afghan but are tired of one stitch, you could do each scarf in a different crochet pattern and have a sampler afghan vibe.

      Third, have you heard about Ravelry? It has a huge (huge! Hundreds of thousands) pattern depository with a ton of filter and search options. (The site did a redesign recently that wasn’t handled very well, and that’s a much different conversation. But it’s still the best place for patterns!)

    11. Feline Fine*

      1. Blocking really adds definition to your work. Some stitches/patterns require it more than others. Whether or not you choose to do it, is up to you.
      2. You should sew with the yarn that you made it with. My trick is to leave really long tails at the beginning and end so I can use those.
      3. Love it too!

  5. Well...*

    Removed because this thread is no work, no school. Please post it on the next Friday work thread!

  6. California wildfires*

    Anyone else dealing with the wildfires in CA? My county is dealing with huge wildfires for the third year out of four (3 of 4 years). It is so early for the fire season to start this year — this winter there was only half the rain we typically have.
    No fatalities in my county yet this year, but in neighboring counties there have been. There is smoke in the air, constant sirens, and planes and helicopters; it is all so triggering. I hope to live elsewhere by this time next year.
    Not to mention the difficulty of dealing with wildfires and evacuations in the middle of a pandemic. I never thought I’d find myself reading an Emergency Preparedness email entitled “How to Prepare for COVID-19 in the Event of an Evacuation.” I’d hoped our county would be spared this year. Ugh.

    1. Aphrodite*

      No, thank god. I’m in Santa Barbara and while the smoke is thick we are still safe. Hugs and best wishes to my fellow Californians. Stay safe in all ways and from all things.

    2. California wildfires*

      I forgot to mention, the other 2 years I had to evacuate, but this year I haven’t had to evacuate (yet). Hoping it stays that way, but it’s going to be a long few months ahead.

      1. Elizabeth Bennett*

        I’m in Sonoma County, too (saw you’re post upthread) and was also evacuated the last two times, and not yet this time. It is very triggering. I am so so tired.

        1. California wildfires*

          Hello neighbor! Sorry to hear you are going through this too. So much ash and smoke today, more than yesterday! Hoping that NEITHER of us to evacuate this year, but I already know of one colleague who has lost their home this year. It’s such a conflicted feeling to feel relieved that it’s not me this time, when I know others are suffering, but I just am so emotionally tapped out. :(

    3. WoodswomanWrites*

      I posted a thread above, including my comment here as well in case it’s confusing with two threads.

      To my fellow Californians in fire areas, may you all be safe!

      The smoke where I am in the Bay Area is horrible but my location isn’t at risk. There are fires to the north, east, and south but fine where I am. The fires are causing havoc for co-workers and friends, who have evacuated to the north as well as 50-100 miles south. At least one friend likely lost her house, which she found out about by seeing a photo of her driveway on a local website. Fortunately all are safe.

      With my asthma, air filters are my best friends. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the website Purple Air shows local air quality in real time. I’m going to use it this weekend to locate places that are less smoky within driving distance and get some fresh air outdoors. Take care, folks.

      1. Amy*

        We’re really hoping to find a place with clean air to get outside this weekend, too. Last year when the fires got bad we headed north to stay with family but with COVID going on that’s not an option for us. And I keep seeing posts from people on the coast asking tourists to stay away this weekend because the traffic clogs up the roads, which need to stay clear for evacuees and emergency vehicles headed to the burn areas. Being cooped up in the house trying to stay out of the smoke is awful but we don’t want to become part of the problem. Ugh! Fingers crossed we can figure something out.

        1. WoodswomanWrites*

          This is all so strange. In normal times, I would spend a couple hours in an air-conditioned movie theater or library as an escape, but the virus has nixed that option. I am definitely staying away from areas where first responders need the roads to be clear. Through yesterday, there were inland places just a few miles away where the air was clear and I was planning to to wander around nearby urban neighborhoods today. But now even those areas are filled with thick smoke. Even with my air filters going in my place, from exposure yesterday, my lungs hurt today. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for those with breathing problems who don’t have access to any tools at all.

    4. WoodswomanWrites*

      Crazy times. I saw from your post above that you’re in Sonoma County, the epicenter of ugly fires the last few years. I’m sorry you’re having to go through this again, and thanks for your kind note to my other thread above about my friend losing her home.

      Your comment about living elsewhere rings true. I can’t imagine that with climate change and the trend of more heat and less rain that people are going to want to continue living here long-term. I’m in my 60s and thinking about where I want to retire looking forward a few years. As an asthmatic, for the last few fire seasons I’ve been observing maps of California, Oregon, and Washington and seeing where the air quality is best for when I retire. It’s all about heading north and being on the coast. And it’s certainly cheaper, at least now. Fortunately, I love the Pacific Northwest, spend lots of time camping there, and have friends in multiple places.

      The COVID-19 and wildfire season combo is just surreal.

      1. California wildfires*

        Thank you for your kind words. We are also dealing with an imminent death in the family (on home hospice for cancer) and had a death in the family (also cancer) a few weeks before COVID. It’s been a trying time! I am from the Midwest, and all my family is there, so I’m thinking of heading back there. I love the Pacific Northwest, but I love my hometown too (for very different reasons), and living there I’d be near one set of parents and within a day’s drive of all my family.
        Wishing you the best with your plans for the future.

        1. NoLongerYoung*

          My condolences! I’m east bay. And yes. I hear you on the urge to return to home state….between the aging midwestern parent, the covid sheltering, the air quality (last year was worse.for me, I did get a window AC because of work from home, with an old bungalow..
          I and the laptop were malfunctioning in the heat). But all factors together….moving is looking tempting.
          My heart goes out that you have the hospice/impending end on top of it all….hug.

    5. Amy*

      I’m so sorry. We are also in a county that is heavily impacted – one of the biggest fires is currently ongoing in our county, about a 20-minute drive from us. We are not currently under evacuation orders but we have our bags packed just in case and the smoke is terrible here. That said, we are some of the fortunate ones. I have friends who have evacuated and I am just devastated on behalf of all who have lost their homes. We are doing our best to help out by donating clothes and food.

      I am not from California and though we have lived in the state for about ten years it is no secret that I want to leave. I like our town but I hate the yearly wildfires and I fear for what the smoke exposure is doing to our family’s long-term health. I also hate that everything outside is yellow, bone-dry and crunchy about 8 months out of the year. It not only makes it a wildfire hotspot, it’s just ugly and depressing. I miss the lush greenery of where I grew up. Unfortunately we’re tied down here for at least a few more years due to our work situation. I feel awful for those who have grown up here seeing climate change turn their hometowns into an apocalyptic scene. One of our neighbors is in her 90’s and has lived here all her life and said it was never like this when she was younger.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        This is all so strange. In normal times, I would spend a couple hours in an air-conditioned movie theater or library as an escape, but the virus has nixed that option. I am definitely staying away from areas where first responders need the roads to be clear. Through yesterday, there were inland places just a few miles away where the air was clear and I was planning to to wander around nearby urban neighborhoods today. But now even those areas are filled with thick smoke. From exposure yesterday, my lungs hurt today.

        I learned today that the facility for a wonderful nonprofit on the coast was destroyed. It’s weird when the levels of disaster are so multi-layered that it becomes this comparison of which horrible impact is less awful than the one experienced by someone else.

    6. KR*

      I’m in the Mojave desert. The air quality has been horrible since the Apple Fire started, and now that all the others have ramped up with the Dome Fire as well.. it’s bad. The air is usually pretty clear up here with the exception of some haze and light smog, and for the past week it’s looked like it’s foggy the air is so bad. I’m so sad thinking of the Dome fire and how much of the national preserve has been burned. It’s a beautifully remote, wild, dangerous place and I do care for it. Well wishes to fellow AAMers in CA.

    7. Filosofickle*

      We live in the East Bay and happened to be on a vacation south of Santa Cruz when the fires got going. Ugh. We decided to stay, limiting plans due to the AQ. (The point wasn’t to sightsee anyway. It was to be on the beach for a few days instead of the walls we’ve been staring at for 5 months.)

      Seeing all the pleas from Santa Cruz County (and San Mateo county) not to come to the coast and clog up the roads made me feel guilty. But we were already there. Then, coming back yesterday, our car died in the middle of nowhere and hours later when we finally got a tow — they were tied up with evacuations — it was too late in the day to get parts. So we spent the night in Gilroy. I really hope we didn’t take a room from an evacuee. The CZU zone is so very bad.

      Hopefully the car will be fixed and we’ll get home today. I’m concerned about what we’ll find there — while there’s no evacuation threat it will be smoky and hot. It’s even worse where my parents live, but at least they have A/C! The hotel was actually a blessing, since the AQ and the A/C were great here last night. Having access to the outdoors is what’s kept us sane all these months. Losing that is a blow. I’ve managed to go 5 months of SIP just fine, but during the fire season two years ago it only took 3 weeks before the cabin fever clobbered me.

      Both our families and elderly parents live in the Bay Area. We aren’t moving away. Tho we are hoping to move homes, to one with A/C. We have to figure out ways to better prepare & ride this out because it’s going to keep happening.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        Hope you get home safely. I’m not moving anytime soon. My mom in her 90s is here and I can’t afford to leave my job until I retire.

        It’s the lack of air conditioning that’s getting me, too. Fires in the past started later in the year when it wasn’t so warm. You’ve given me the idea to invest in a portable air conditioner, which I hadn’t thought of. They aren’t cheap, but this wildfire pattern is here to stay and as long as I’m here, I think it’s essential. Thanks for your suggestion that will help my health!

        1. Filosofickle*

          We made it home! Yay! What a weird week.

          Two summers ago I bought a window A/C unit for our bedroom. It’s noisy and can only do so much without insulated walls, but when it was 100 out it brought the room down to 80-85 and it felt very cold sitting in front of it. When it’s bad, which isn’t too often, I just camp out in that room. $150 well spent! Don’t know how good its air filtration is, though.

    8. Chaordic One*

      I’m several thousand miles away to the east of the fires and we’re getting the smoke from the fires blowing our way. Although it is a sunny day, the sky to the west (the direction to the fires) is gray with smoke and the air is hazy. You can see the haze in front of distant hills or buildings that might be a half mile away. My asthma seems to be acting up and I checked the state website and see that air quality has risen to Orange (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups). I’ve been surprised to see so many people out walking their dogs. Most of the people are wearing face masks and I suppose it is not just because of COVID, but also because of the air pollution.

    9. OperaArt*

      I’m in Alameda county, but not near any of the existing fires. My city area had 6 vegetation fires in 90 minutes early last Sunday morning from lightning, but all were extinguished by the end of the day.
      The smoke has been thick for days. I’m very fortunate—no power outages, my A/C kept working during the 105+ degree F heatwave, and I am telecommuting because of COVID-19 so I’m not outside much.

    10. Elizabeth West*

      *Hugs* and good vibes for the safety and health of all of you. I would gladly trade you some clean air and rain from Trumplandia if I could.
      (I know CA is on fire but I still miss it so, so much.)

    11. Starling*

      My family was evacuated from the CZU fire. I’m so tired and so sad from just… not knowing what will happen. I’d like to make contingency plans, but there’s no way to predict what the outcome will be. I’m trying to be in the moment, but I love our house and am sad. All family are safe though, so I’m tying to keep perspective.

      1. California wildfires*

        I’m so sorry! It is so stressful to be evacuated — watching the fire perimeter and waiting for the 2x daily CalFire updates –all the uncertainty. I just realized that the LNU evacs are creeping a little closer than I thought, and it’s stressful — I don’t want to keep going through this every year, and didn’t anticipate this when I moved here 6 years ago. I’m not planning to be here more than another year or two, which isn’t only due to the fires but that is a BIG part of it.
        If it is any comfort, it WILL be okay. I know many people who lost their homes in 2017, and they are okay! But I am hoping for the best for you and your family, and that you get to go back home…soon. Sending lots of good internet vibes.

        1. Starling*

          Thank you! Yes, it will all be ok in the end. Who know what new adventure awaits us ( at least I got most of my wine cellar evacuated – haha!)

          1. California wildfires*

            Good call on the wine cellar — priorities! Sounds like you had a decent amount of prep time for your evacuation, which makes a big difference!

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        I remember when this was originally published after the 2017 Sonoma County fires. I didn’t realize he extended into a full graphic memoir. I will check it out.

        1. California wildfires*

          Yes, highly recommended! His ability to convey emotion through his drawings and through simple dialogue is unlike anything I’ve every seen.

    12. PollyQ*

      I’m in San Mateo county, fortunately not near the CZU fire. (Someone posted video on Twitter of a smaller fire off 280 near Millbrae yesterday though, which is pretty near me.) I realized last year that severe wildfires that cause huge damage and spread unhealthy levels of smoke throughout the Bay Area are our new normal, and it’s horrible. I’m not ready to move out of CA, but boy howdy, this situation makes it a much less appealing place to live overall.

    13. WoodswomanWrites*

      In case anyone is interested, I added a post to my blog today with photos from a trip to the beach when there was a window of fresh air. The sky looked surreal in the smoke. The link appears to have triggered moderation. You can find the blog at WoodswomanWrites DOT com and name of the post is Fire and Fog on the California Coast.

    14. natter*

      I’m in San Jose. No evacuations in the city yet, knock on wood. But the smoke situation is pretty awful, and I don’t know how I’m going to sleep tonight with the knowledge that we could get more dry lightning overnight. It feels like we are just barely going to get through this as things stand; if more fires are sparked…ugh.

      I love it here so much, but this is really hard. Especially given the COVID situation. By and large, indoor stuff still isn’t open here, so outdoor activities have been our saving grace. Now, thanks to the smoke, we can’t even go for a walk or bike ride! Which is the one thing we could do! It’s not great for the old mental health. (And still, we’re doing better than those who had to evacuate!)

      Everyone we know thinks we’re certified morons for living here, and it’s hard to argue with them this week. We’re paying for some of the most expensive real estate in the country – even though our jobs have gone remote for the foreseeable future – and getting choked on smoke at the same time? Where’s the sense in that? Our families live far away, so it’s not like they’re keeping us here.

      But I’ve made friends here, and I love my co-workers when it’s not a pandemic and I can actually see them, and this is actually a wonderful place to raise children if (and it’s a big “if”) you can afford it. I thought we’d found the place we were going to stay until the kids finish high school, anyway…but each year of fires makes that feel like less of a good plan…

  7. Princess Deviant*

    I just wanted to say that yesterday I officially got my diagnosis and I’m autistic. I knew I was, and got told it unofficially but yesterday I got the piece of paper to prove it.

    I’m feeling wiped out now, I’ve been crying a lot, and am relieved. I feel like I’m coming down with an awful sore throat, which is a kind of typical-for-me symptom of ‘not being heard’, except now of course I’m getting my ‘voice’ back.

    Thanks so much to the commentariat here, who gave me advice about it – especially nep. I doubt I would have gone to get assessed if it wasn’t for people telling me their experiences here and I’m grateful for that.

    So what are you grateful for this weekend?

    1. Not Australian*

      I’m going to say ‘congratulations’ – which may seem odd, but TBH just putting a name to any problem is so important that I think it’s appropriate. Once you have identified the enemy, you can deal with it!

      1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

        Being autistic isn’t necessarily “the enemy”—there are a lot of things about it that I love, now that I understand what they are and how to make use of them. Hyperfocus is wonderfully productive, stimming feels good, and there’s nothing like being able to speak my mind in the company of other autistic people who won’t find me confusing or awkward. We’re not broken, we’re just different from allistic people.

        1. WoodswomanWrites*

          On behalf of my young autistic relatives, thank you so much for this wonderful comment.

      2. Princess Deviant*

        Thank you, that is kind :-)
        I will agree with the other posters above that being autistic isn’t the enemy for me – it is me. But I get what you’re saying. I just struggle in some areas and now I know why, and with a diagnosis I can get help where I need it.

    2. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      That’s wonderful. Congratulations!

      I’m grateful for the community that came together for saying farewell to a departed friend this week.

    3. Jessie*

      My five year old is ASD. It was sad but also a relief to get a diagnosis. Once you know what you have, it is easier to understand yourself and understand your behavior in the correct context. I’m sorry you have to wait so long.

    4. Arya Parya*

      Congrats! I got diagnosed a year ago. I can’t say my life got easier, but I do now know my limits better, which helps.

      I’m grateful that the heat wave is finally over and I can sleep again. Because getting enough sleep is very important to me. Without enough sleep I get overstimulated a lot faster.

    5. The Other Dawn*

      Congrats! It’s always a relief when we can put a name to an issue.

      I’m grateful for my husband, who is very handy. I have no idea where he gets it from (definitely not his dad), but he’s the kind of guy who can read a book or watch a YouTube video and then go and rewire all the electricity. It amazes me. At the moment he is converting a small bedroom (8′ x 10′) into an office for me now that my department is permanently working from home. Our house was built in 1735, so this “small” project is becoming quite big: tracing wires that seem to go nowhere, some of which test as live in the ceiling, but dead in the attic above; adding outlets (it has only one!); pulling up four layers of flooring to reveal the original 12-inch+ wide planks (one area was butchered and he found a huge hornet nest under it); pulling down five layers of wall (yes, FIVE layers) to expose the original 12-inch+ wide wood planks, which still have bark on them, and original 1700s plaster on another wall; and then pulling down the ceiling tiles to expose a very damaged, moldy ceiling. He’s been able to figure out every problem he’s encountered and it’s amazing to watch his process of figuring things out.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          We did! I’ll post on my blog at some point, though I’ll probably wait until the room is done.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      A friend of mine received a diagnosis- different from this. She was happy and crying at the same time. I asked her why she was happy. She said, “I knew I was different from others and I don’t fit in. I didn’t know why. Now I know why and I know to handle things differently.” I ended up crying before she was done explaining. She found parts of herself and she could stop wondering, why-why-why.
      Congratulations on taking back your life and your ability to control how life goes for you.

      1. NeonFireworks*

        This happened to me twice in the last year. I spent so many years wondering why everyone else seemed to be able to manage X and Y so easily. Medicine stepped in: my body does X badly, and my brain hardly does Y at all. And for all this time, I thought I needed to work on my psychological resilience!

    7. Nervous Nellie*

      Congrats, Princess Deviant! I think knowing more about who you are is a wonderful gift. You are under no obligation to explain yourself, or to feel labelled. Autism does not define you! And truly, it is a wonderfully different way of seeing the world in so many ways. I am delighted for you that you have some answers – that is always empowering.

      What am I grateful for? Well, first, for nep, who regularly mentions things I immediately want to research and explore more about. A fine advisor, nep is!!

      And I am also grateful for this super forum, which has both improved my work savvy and given me great personal advice and a window into the lives and minds of the commenters here. I am so excited for you that you are getting your voice back, but do know that you are always heard here.

      1. Princess Deviant*

        Ah that us such a lovely comment, thank you so much. I am truly very touched! Nep is indeed a fine adviser :-)

      2. Mimmy*

        Nep is pretty awesome – I remember her encouraging me as I was preparing to attend my very first out-of-state conference two years ago.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, nep, you mention stuff and I google… A LOT. I may not comment, but I do race off to see what you have found. ;)

    8. Princess Deviant*

      Thank you all so much for your lovely replies, you are very kind. I feel less alone when I come in here and chat to others. It is such a nice space!

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I know my ADD diagnosis helped me — may yours give you as much self-understanding!
      I’m grateful that my 13yo is on a mission to purge her outgrown things and “be cleaner than the parents”… she has even started washing & folding things to take to the consignment store!

    10. nep*

      Thanks, all, for the very kind comments. Wow. I am so, so grateful for AAM and this smart, compassionate group of people here. Alison really created something special with this weekend gathering.
      Peace and best of health.

    11. Mimmy*

      You sound relieved and that is wonderful. I too suspect that I may have some autistic traits (which are probably secondary to my congenital condition, which is relatively rare) but am wary about getting formally assessed. It’s been so tempting though because finally understanding my difficulties and getting my voice heard sounds so freeing. I’ll have to go check out your thread from last week.

      1. Princess Deviant*

        Thank you, I am. The discussion wasn’t last week, it was originally last year. You can find the link if you search for weekend-free-for-all-april-6-7-2019 on this site and then Ctrl F Princess Deviant. it should take you there :-)
        There was loads of good advice. I also forgot to thank Awful Annie and Tau – so big thank you to them if they are reading,

    12. lazy intellectual*

      Virtual hugs (if you’re into that). I got diagnosed with ADHD yesterday and I’m still processing it. I think it’s a step in the right direction. I’ve also wondered if I have ASD as well, but it’s possible my ADHD explains a lot of my symptoms.

      Best of luck to you!

    13. allathian*

      I’m happy for you! I think it’s always an advantage to know yourself better. I hope it will help you advocate for your needs in the future.

      1. allathian*

        I’m grateful for my husband, who is my soulmate and a true partner. I’m grateful to this blog for giving me the opportunity to grow and learn and realize that I’m very privileged in many ways.

    14. AnonyGirl*

      If I can ask-where did you go to get assessed? I have had people suggest that I may be on the spectrum, but I dont even know where to begin or who to talk to. All I see in my area is geared towards children.

      1. Princess Deviant*

        I’m in the UK. I went to my GP with details of how I was experiencing difficulties in each of the triad of impairments (communication, social interaction, and repetitive behaviours), and my GP used this to write a referral to the ASD assessing department. I looked up the AS-10 before I went, which was helpful too because they asked me to fill it in. I found some of the questions very geared towards men, so it was also helpful to me to read how women experience it; I read Women and Girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder by Sarah Hendrickx which was formative in helping me describe how the characteristics were specific to me as a woman afab.

        I waited a long time for an appointment. Before I went I was asked to fill in a lengthy questionnaire about childhood behaviours which I had to get my mum to help me fill in. This was honestly the hardest thing because my mum doesn’t think I’m autistic.

        That was followed by an interview a few months later with a psychiatrist and an autism specialist nurse. Usually you would go with a family member and they would interview each of you in turn, but I told them I was going on my own so they interviewed me jointly.

        They told me there unofficially that I was autistic, but I had to wait for the report, go over it for errors, send any corrections back then have a follow up assessment to discuss reasonable accommodations before I got an official diagnosis, which was on Friday. The whole process took approx 18 months. I think it would have been slightly less, say 12 months, if, you know, Covid-19 hadn’t happened. But, still, it was a time.

        I’m glad I can now use the diagnosis to get support in work and at uni. My family are still my family, having a diagnosis has not made any difference whatsoever to the way they see me or treat me, which is good on the one hand.

        Good luck!

    15. KoiFeeder*

      Congratulations on your official autism license! Having that little piece of hard evidence in your hands means so much to so many autistic people, I’m glad you’ve gotten yours after all this fuss and hard work.

      Fair warning that actually making a laminated “autism license” and keeping it in your wallet severely annoys the allistics. Not sure why, I know I’m hilarious.

        1. Princess Deviant*

          Oh bummer, I just got an email saying they are not taking physical orders due the pandemic right now. Will have to wait.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Wait, you can buy them? I made my own with the school’s laminating machine.

            Other people have the same sense of humor as me! A miracle!

            1. Princess Deviant*

              Yes, evidently we do :), and you can download it for free from the National Autism Society’s online shop (I don’t have a printer, hence I tried to order it).

  8. Relocating during pandemic?*

    Selling house?

    TL;DR – what cons should we be thinking of when maybe making a major relocation?

    We are considering a move. We moved to this house when our oldest was ready for kindergarten. This was the cheapest house in the neighborhood, and we selected it because we could actually afford it and not because we loved it. The school district is small, highly desired and defined by the neighborhood boundaries. It’s a half acre nicely wooded lot with some very tall fir trees, 1920s era house and we’ve done a lot over the years to make the place better. Wrap around porch installed, fir double hung windows with true divided light added to replace existing windows and pretty much every major system has been replaced.

    That being said, there is still a lot to do. I mean, a lot. It looks nice and shows nice but there are quite a few things I’d like to do in the next 10 years.

    And it’s kinda overwhelming. Dh just finished a drainage project on the back patio and it made me really look at the patio and wish it were concrete instead of very charming cobblestones (like original cobbles used in streets way back when). Cute but try to put a table and chairs on it? Wobbly because those cobbles aren’t uniform.

    On Sunday, we got up, looked at each other and said, let’s go look at a house instead of biking! Yeah, really. Dh had already shown it to me and I’d brushed it off a few weeks ago. Obv it was still in our brains because within the hour I was arranging for an afternoon viewing.

    It’s well outside of our metro area. We were already at the edge of the big city, outside of city limits but still have an address that suggests we live in the city. The potential new house is 1.5 hours away in the foothills of the coast.

    Much newer house, actually bigger which is weird but it’s also mostly on 1 level (except the bonus room that would be an office). 5 acre parcel with small orchard, big garden (I’m a gardener), huge greenhouse (big dream come true), she shed (claimed!) and really big shop (2 stories tall, could park a bunch of motorhomes or cars in there). Just pluses all over the place. Nice finishes throughout. Perfectly landscaped and hardscaped. Even has a chicken coop, even if it’s woefully undersized for my current flock. Checks all the boxes in terms of aging in place and ease of maintenance.

    I met with our realtor and she gave us a figure that imo is awesome but in dh’s opinion is $50k shy. There is zero inventory in our price point currently in the neighborhood – everything else is much more expensive. Either way, it’s much more than the coast house would cost. And our mortgage is already small. I started the loan process today, just in case.

    We are both full time remote. Our kids are in college (one sr year and one just started grad school) and neither is likely to end up back home. Only one costs me money on a monthly basis and that’s because we pay his rent.

    It just feels weird in this pandemic to isolate even more. I have one really good friend that is moving about a half hour away and being on the coast we assume that we’d get a steady stream of visitors (is that a pro or a con?) What else should be in our “con” column?

    1. Cards fan*

      Be sure to check the reliability of available internet service in a remote area, especially if you need it for work. Otherwise, it sounds awesome!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        And cells.
        Cells do not work where I live and it is a pain in the butt to keep explaining that. People don’t usually understand the sentence, “Cells don’t work here.”, so you end up saying it five times to be heard once.

        1. Relocating during pandemic?*

          Good point! Cells don’t work at our current house unless people are connected to the WiFi. Since we both do multiple conference calls a day, that’s very tied into the ability to get internet up there.

          I know the cable comes from the phone company, so at least there would be a land line backup.

      2. Relocating during pandemic?*

        Very good points made by all so far!

        Yes, they use internet. They say it’s strong. We noted two locked wifi networks while we were in the driveway, one quite strong. Obviously that’s a huge concern for us, so we will have to check it out further.

    2. Lizard*

      I guess you probably would have mentioned it, but any medical needs? Eg needing regular appointments with specialists, etc. How far away are the nearest GPs, dentists, or hospitals?

      In any case, it sounds like a lovely house!

      1. Relocating during pandemic?*

        So far we are just at the point in our lives where we need annual visits to care providers. My work insurance covers us statewide and there are providers within 20 minutes in two directions.

        There is a hospital about 20 minutes away, but the nearest level 1 hospital is an hour away. It’s probably not as available as where we currently live.

    3. Ranon*

      5 acres is a lot more work than 1/2 acre. Does being outside the city also mean being far from the nearest airport? If there are places you intend to fly to (later, presumably) that can really tack on some travel time. If you’re traveling infrequently that’s presumably not a huge deal.

      That being said, if doing outside work is part of your leisure activities, go for it- my parents were in a similar spot to yours about a decade ago and they’re still thrilled to be out in a spot with some land and loads of out buildings, my stepmom is swimming in produce, my dad has completely redone his shop, and even though they don’t have many neighbors they’re quite friendly with the ones nearby.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Debbie downer here. Five acres is A LOT of work. How far away is the rescue squad/fire company/police?
        I assume you will have a septic and a well. What condition are they in?
        Are you able to subdivide? For example, let’s say 15 years from now you want less responsibility, do zoning laws allow you to sell off a part of your property? I am asking this because in my area 5 acres is kind of a flag warning that subdivisions may NOT be allowed.
        The house does sound wonderful, but why are the owners moving? This is always an interesting question to ask.
        Taxes. Of course, always taxes. Make a list, using paper and pencil. Here I have village, town and county. Then there is school and library. And I have water bills. Wait, we haven’t even started on all the other taxes not related to property.
        How are you at country living? I mean real country living. Does the thought of a bear or a coyote rattle your mind? (Some of us who live here are rattled by this stuff.)
        One thing I see here over and over is the LACK of people to call for help with plumbing, heating and such. There’s not a wide variety of choices and that can bother some people. I am 45 minutes from the nearest mall, 30 minutes from the nearest grocery store. There is one gas station in town. If we lose power in our area there is no way to fuel up without going at least 10 miles from here. Because of the lack of help, it’s good to be handy around the house. Are you guys gated toward being handy?

        1. Relocating during pandemic?*

          Pretty much everything is 20 minutes away, but good point to check the local fire district! The yard is pretty good from a wildfire perspective- the tree line rings the property but other than the orchard there aren’t but two trees near the house.

          We would save at least $4k/year in taxes. The metro area we are in is quite high in taxes although our current home is somewhat softened by local taxes because we are in an unincorporated area of the county. Same with the potential new house, so a lot of the taxes tend to be county level, and no city level ones.

          We are 20 minutes outside of two towns, one that has a respectable population. There is a third town 30 minutes away, so I’m not horribly concerned.

          We are handy, having served as the overall contractor for alll of our home improvement projects. We have pretty much every tool known to man and woman alike, and I buy a fair amount of them. The house is only 16 years old so my biggest concern is the roof. Good points on the availability of tradespeople!

          The house uses radiant heating that isn’t electric based so I’m ok with losing power. I’d be surprised if they didn’t have a generator but that’s something to think of. Solar is likely an option, and I could totally see a solar installation in the lower field being a possibility.

          1. Relocating during pandemic?*

            Forgot to mention that we are used to coyotes and the occasional odd bobcat so I’m not worried about wildlife in general. Not a bear area.

            Good things to think about!

          2. Sam I Am*

            I have propane hot water that heats the house, but the pump won’t work with the electric down. I got a small generator for this purpose.. it’s large enough for heat, fridge, and wifi. If your radiant pump is electric (the pumps often just plug into the wall) you may be able to do some sort of battery bypass is you don’t want to go the generator route.
            Good luck with everything!

            1. Relocating during pandemic?*

              The radiant heat uses oil to heat the water. I would assume it has an electronic assist to light the flame? No idea.

              It does have a large wood burning fireplace (enclosed so nothing pops out).


              1. Not So NewReader*

                Separate chimneys, right? One for the furnace one for the fireplace? And the chimneys have or soon will have a proper inspection?

                1. Relocating during pandemic?*

                  The furnace doesn’t exist. It does radiant heating in the floor using tubes of hot water embedded in the concrete so there isn’t any off-gassing.

                  The chimney would be inspected as part of the home inspection. In our current house, we installed a wood burning insert last year. We’d consider doing that at the potential home too as it would alleviate any concerns about the mortar in the chimney. With the inserts, they sleeve the chimney with an exhaust pipe.

                  Another good thing to bring up!

        2. bunniferous*

          My 80something year old parents have about that many acres and do just fine with it. Dad was mowing today. But definitely have a well inspection and test the water quality as well. Also if you have never lived with a septic tank you will need to understand how they work and how you do have to be careful what you put down the pipes.

          1. Relocating during pandemic?*

            I’m definitely going to have to check that out as we’ve always lived on city sewer.

            I’ve heard they can be touchy!

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Check to see if there is one of those septic tank alarms. This alarm goes off when you need to pump out. If you don’t pump out, the alarm machine turns off your water. You end up with NO water until you pump out.

      2. Relocating during pandemic?*

        Great points!

        We don’t travel much. DH would travel maybe once a month for work but he’s downshifting at the end of the year, so it’s likely it’d be less frequent. We are a half hour from the airport and this move would tack on just over an hour.

        5 acres seems like a lot for sure. There is certainly a lot of grass to mow. There are larger trees that ring the property. We do have a chainsaw and we are both handy. We are used to having a tree cut down into rounds and then we turn the rounds into firewood. But most of the perimeter trees seem mid-maturity instead of old growth.

        We pretty much spend every evening and every weekend in the yard doing projects, and it’s taken 17 years to transform part of this yard. The other property is already transformed. The plantings around the house are small bushes like hydrangeas and not towering hedges of 12’ high camellias like we have. Other than needing a riding lawnmower I don’t think it’ll be bad!

        1. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

          You don’t have to mow the whole thing! You can put in a meadow/grassland/prairie bit with native grasses etc. Or just leave a good bit unmowed-sounds like you’ll be out in the country where people don’t care about that stuff so much. My parents have a lawn area around the house, but the rest is wild with mown paths.

          BTW, my dad enjoys the riding lawnmower so much that he actually keeps more mown than they otherwise would.

          1. Relocating during pandemic?*

            it’s funny because dh has always wanted a riding lawnmower, and the two homes we’ve owned have only supported the use of a battery push mower. Tiny amounts of grass.

            I do like the idea of a meadow! I think the very lowest part of the property that is slightly wooded is a grassland, but I didn’t walk down that far to check it out.

            1. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

              If you get half the joy my parents have with their big property, it’ll be a move well worth it. Every time I go visit my mom has to show me all the new stuff they’ve been working on. It sounds like a lovely property-just don’t get your heart too set on it in case there are issues.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          If you have a lot of open area you could let a farmer hay it. I am sure it’s different in other states but here if a field is hayed for agricultural purposes, the landowner can get a nice break on taxes. It’s an ag exemption.

    4. My Brain Is Exploding*

      How are the medical providers, hospitals, etc? How close do you want to have secondary and tertiary care?

      1. Relocating during pandemic?*

        I think worst case would mean traveling back to our current town for specialty care. Both of my siblings live here so we’d always have a place to stay.

    5. Long drives*

      I lived in the country for a number of years. I agree with all the Comments above, especially about services and Internet. Verify how Internet is provided; I’ve seen places that claim to have it but really you’d be using your phone as a hotspot.
      How handy are you all? Hubs had to get very good with a chainsaw (it can be hard to get people out to do any kind of lawn, cleaning, or handyman service.)
      Check out the neighbors. Are they friendly- or resentful of the new people? Do they hunt on their land- and expect to be able to hunt on yours? Trespassing was a constant issue for us. Check out zoning ordinances- you don’t want a chicken farm to suddenly spring up next to you.
      Water. If it’s a well, taste it. Well water has a reputation for being great, but ours was high in sulfur and iron. It turned all the whites orange. Even with a water softener and thousands of dollars of other water treatment equipment, it was still undrinkable.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        If it’s a well, ask if they’ve had it tested anytime lately, including for PFAS.

        My parents moved to a lovely 6 acre small farm at the edge of a lake, only 30 minutes outside the town where I grew up. It was great until this past couple of years, when we found that a local plant had been dumping an under-regulated possible carcinogen (think DuPont and PFAS and you’re in the right area). My parents got their well tested – they’re now part of the free water delivery from the company, but still haven’t figured out what to do about the chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys they raise to eat themselves.

        1. Relocating during pandemic?*

          Luckily PFAS aren’t a concern on our coast (outside of some specific areas of California and we don’t live in that state).

          I’ve asked for the well log and depending on depth and material that they drilled into, it’s likely that I’d just ask for a nitrate and arsenic test to be overly safe. It’s not a huge agricultural area and it isn’t the part of the state known for naturally occurring arsenic but the water would be going on edible plants.

          The house is served by a water district that pulls water from a river nearby that is reasonably pristine – no wastewater upstream. The treatment processes they use would take care of anything I’d be concerned about. Water is my specialty!

      2. Relocating during pandemic?*

        The immediate neighborhood seems to all be 5 acre parcels with the exception of the end of the road which has horses on the property and seems to be the biggest lot. There are only about 8 immediate neighbors. The overhead shots make it clear that they are all average sized houses with outbuildings and gardens.

        I have chickens and I noted a rooster crowing when we visited. Nothing in the area seems big enough to support a pig farm or really large scale farming at all until you get about 10 miles further into the valley proper.

        I am always concerned about the source of water! I know the water district and the treatment processes they use so I’m not worried about that. The well on the property is for irrigation use.

        Most of the property is fenced and it’s all quite open. Good point on meeting the neighbors!

      3. Clisby*

        It didn’t occur to me when I first read the post, but you’re right about the hunting (or, you could be right depending on the area.)

        My husband is from SE Ohio, and once we were visiting his father, who lived on a farm of maybe 130 acres. I had to go to Columbus for a day of meetings at my job (I almost exclusively worked from home), and said something like, “Oh, you can take Emma walking around the farm.” He looked at me like I was crazy, and said “I can’t take her out walking – it’s deer season.”

    6. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

      Are you permanently remote or will one or both of you potentially have a long commute if and when the world goes back to normal?

      1. Relocating during pandemic?*

        DH is permanently remote. They switched to hot desking a few years back although he retained his office. He has been telecommuting 4 out of 5 days since we got a puppy over a year ago. I was only doing 1 day a week of telecommuting but have been fully remote since the pandemic started.

        My boss has stated that my position description will be rewritten to have a fully remote option. My employer has a process to apply for telecommuting so I’m probably submitting that paperwork early next week for approval. The bigger boss has already said yes (that boss has their main home and spouse in a different state several hours plane ride away, so he’s obv telecommuting during this pandemic). I wouldn’t move forward without that paper being signed, because I’m still a few years away from wanting to retire. DH will shift to part time at the end of the year (which means 40 hours instead of 70) but he will likely fully retire in the next 3-4 years.

        We had one person go fully remote for years until they retired about 5 years ago so it isn’t without precedent.

        I know that’s the main point of my insecurity about moving. I don’t want to lose my very good job.

    7. Esmeralda*

      Kids in college: Right now it may seem that you will not be supporting them much/at all after they graduate, but I suggest having a contingency plan for that and give it some consideration in buying the new property, given how terrible the economy is and will continue to be for some time to come. Remember that it was hard for people graduated during the last recession to find jobs even after the economy improved.

      (My husband and I discussed this very topic last week: I had planned to retire early, but I now expect to continue working for the foreseeable future in case we need to help support our son, who is a college junior)

      1. Relocating during pandemic?*

        Good point! We would always be happy to have them come home and stay with us. The number of bedrooms hasn’t decreased but the number of bathrooms is higher than the current house. The shop has stubbed out plumbing for an apartment.

        The oldest is just starting his 5-year fully funded PhD program, so he’s pretty set for awhile and isn’t likely to move back to this coast while in that program.

        Neither kid will have college debt. I’d love to stop paying the younger son’s rent when he graduates from college, but that money isn’t shifting to a different bucket so we could still swing it just fine I think.

        I’d really love it if the kids would move home, but the best we can hope for is a few weeks each year gradually shifting to a few days a year. Sigh.

  9. Greta*

    Update on my post from last week re: what to do about a family member’s request.

    Thank you to all who chimed in with advice. For those who didn’t see it, in a nutshell, my BIL asked to come stay with us (me, husband, live-in MIL, and kids) for an extended period of time because he is lonely during the pandemic. He lives across the country (USA) and proposed to drive here and quarantine in his van in our driveway. I really did not want this to happen because I don’t think it’s possible to fully quarantine in a van with no bathroom or kitchen, I am in my 3rd trimester of pregnancy, we are struggling to WFH and take care of kids, and adding a long-term houseguest who would not be here to help out is just too much right now (particularly since we are high risk for COVID).

    All 60+ commenters agreed my husband needed to shut this down and he did, compassionately and without throwing me under the bus. He told his brother it would be too much right now and proposed we look at early spring instead. It did not go well. BIL sent several angry texts back saying “that doesn’t work for me” and we need to “just figure it out, take time off work if you have to” because he is “not going a year without seeing his mom” and he “needs his family.” This is what I was afraid of. He has had a rough year for personal reasons and I know he really misses seeing his family (my MIL and husband are his only living immediate family). But the texts really made my husband angry because he thinks BIL is being totally unreasonable. I dearly miss seeing my family too (I probably won’t see my parents or siblings for 1-2 years by the time this is all over) but that’s the reality of this pandemic when you live far apart.

    Fortunately cooler heads prevailed and instead of this becoming a massive fight, my MIL was able to talk everyone down and BIL has agreed to postpone to early 2021. I’m still worried about how that’s going to go given that COVID will certainly still be an issue then, but I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. Any additional thoughts on how we could make this situation work are appreciated.

    1. Still*

      I’m glad your husband and MIL have your back and that you’ve managed to at least postpone the visit!

      To be honest, I’m exhausted just reading about your BIL and his demands. Somebody inviting themselves to my home, especially for an extended period of time, is already pushing it. Not coming up with a very explicit plan about how they’re gonna help out and contribute to the household during that time? Unacceptable. Getting angry and pushy when faced with refusal, especially when they tried to invite themselves over during a time when no thoughtful human would think it’s a good idea? Quite frankly, this person would be disinvited from any stay at my house, ever.

      I know there might be family and cultural expectations at play and that you want to be considerate towards him, and that this is not a line you might be able to draw, but just as a data point: I think your BIL’s expectations are outrageous and you’d be fully entitled to not host him at your house overnight, ever.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree that behavior would seal their fate in my books.

        In the name of peace and harmony it seems like your MIL has the magic touch. I’d talk to her and ask her how to pull this together with the dual goal of peace and safety.

        It took me a bit to figure this out, but we do have to trust our inlaws to know how to deal with each other. They have had many more years practice. It seems like your hubby and MIL respect your “NO”, so your part in this seems to be to just stand by that “No” answer and not waffle. If you seem indecisive/wishy-washy it’s going to make it harder for them to back you.

      2. Dancing Otter*

        Yes, not a single night! If he decided not to leave the next day, how would you get him out?

      3. Wishing You Well*

        Wow. You’re supposed to fix BIL’s problems when you’re about to give birth in a pandemic? And he gets irate when he hears the word no? And he STILL wants you to take him in after a barrage of angry texts? Wow.
        There’s no way I’d let this guy into my house or on my driveway. He might be lonely but it’s more likely he’s broke because when does “I need company” translate to “I have to live in your house”?
        Concern A: He’ll establish residency at your place and it will take a full-blown eviction to get him out – even if he’s living there for free. The “living-in-my-van” is ridiculous; he’s aiming to live IN your house.
        Concern B: He will refuse to quarantine while living with you because he’s lonely.
        Concern C: his temper. Next time you have to tell him no, he’ll have his tantrum inside your house in front of your children. Could you all handle that?
        He can easily see his mother and brother outside the house (outside restaurant, maybe) without living at your house. Suggest they Facetime with him. The loneliness issue should be separated from the residence issue. You sound like a kind person. You also sound like you have enough on your plate without adding more.

      4. WoodswomanWrites*

        Same. If it were me, with such an angry response and demanding that his brother quit his job to cater to him, this would ensure that he would not spend even one night at my house. Issuing threats sure doesn’t build familial connections. If he wants so badly to be near family, he can find his own place nearby and get together in the way the rest of us are seeing people–masked, outdoors, and at a distance.

        I’m glad that your husband and mother-in-law are taking the lead on this. In the meantime, if he’s that unstable, counseling could be helpful and they could be encouraged to seek it out to take care of himself. That’s not for the rest of you to do.

    2. WellRed*

      Why am I not surprised BIL had an unreasonable reaction? I guess it was just reading between the lines of last weeks post. I’m so glad your husband and mIL have your back. I wouldn’t do anything else right now. Let him cool down, waaaau down.

    3. Joie de Vivre*

      If he comes (and I hope you can figure out some way to keep that from happening), don’t treat him as a guest. He needs to help clean the house, make meals, do his own laundry, yard work, and any other family chores you have.

      I really hope your husband or MIL can’t shut this down. Good luck n

    4. Ali G*

      Have a talk with your husband and MIL and set some metrics for what the world will need to look like before you will be comfortable with having BIL visiting. What things need to happen? Kids in school/daycare? Baby sleeping through the night? How many cases a day where you are and where he is would you consider low risk? Decide these things now, get yourselves on the same page, and then you will be able to objectively evaluate if BIL can visit or not.

      1. valentine*

        Have a talk with your husband and MIL and set some metrics for what the world will need to look like before you will be comfortable with having BIL visiting.
        This is the missing piece. Your baby will still be too young in early 2021. You can’t trust a person who wants to keep breaking quarantine and put your whole household at risk, who says you need to stop working (¿Qué? to attend to him?), to maintain sufficient hygiene and otherwise not increase your risk. Early next year simply isn’t doable.

        Hubs didn’t shut it down. He, what, argued and compromised and let his mom mediate? None of that is good. Why is BIL making demands and why do hubs and you feel like you can’t outright tell him no? Did BIL raise hubs? Is he significantly older? Do you have a policy where all family is welcome in your house whenever they want? I don’t understand the lack of defending the castle. Someone needs to tell BIL that he can’t visit for the foreseeable future and you will revisit the topic in 2022, unless you know sooner that you need to say no to that as well. (If you don’t own the property or MIL shares ownership, you’d do well to change that.) MIL, however, is a free agent who can go live with him or go see him somewhere (hubs can’t because child care), quarantine, then return to your house. But if BIL is in town or nearby, would any of you tell him no, when you won’t now?

    5. Brob*

      Take time off work if you have to????

      Omg, the entitlement. How dare he? I would not want to see this guy anytime soon.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        That’s something teens say to each other when they are working their first jobs. But after that they realize, whoops, no really can’t say that.

    6. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Your BIL having difficulties does not mean you have to fix it for him. He’s an adult. He can seek out therapy and whatever else he needs. He also could take steps to move closer to his family. He’s the one living far away. All this is to stay – he’s being unreasonable and childish. Which is not your problem. You have actual children to deal with. The adult baby is pretty far down the priority list, whoever they are.

      You do what’s best for your family. If you’re not comfortable with him staying with you in the future, there are hotels and airbnbs and tents and campsites. He can figure it out.

    7. Come On Eileen*

      Thanks for the update on this. My recommendation? Give yourself the gift of not thinking about this for the foreseeable future. It’s postponed, that’s good enough for now. Your BIL allowed to be angry and frustrated by this — most people would be. 2020 is a crappy year for almost everybody. You don’t need to do a single thing about his emotions. He’s an adult and can manage his feelings. I’m glad your husband spoke up.

    8. Jules the 3rd*

      If your BIL comes to town, he has to have a place to stay that’s independent of your property. No van in the driveway, not in a guestroom, his own place. Visits have to be outside, masked, and distant.

      I did clean out my car port to have an outside space with a roof where we could see people. If you can set up something like that, and let BIL know, it may make him feel more welcome and more patient. Carport’s open to the air on three sides, so almost like being totally outside, but the roof and power outlets means we don’t have to worry about weather. If you do set up something like that, you may have to be clear it’s just for *visits*, he can’t live there.

    9. Parenthetically*

      I mean, the solution to me pretty clearly needs to not involve BIL living with you — you’re still going to have a baby! And an overworked husband! And a demanding job! In your shoes, I think I’d present him with a couple of options:

      1. MIL moves out, MIL and BIL rent an apartment together. Obviously contingent on BIL being able to meet MIL’s needs.

      2. BIL rents an apartment nearby (or rents/buys an RV with water and a toilet and a kitchen and parks it at an RV park nearby, not in front of your house) and forms a (maybe-socially-distanced) pod with your household. Contingent on BIL abiding by the same standards you’re abiding by to keep yourselves safe.

      You, MIL, and husband all present these as the only options, with your house being 100% not on the table.

    10. Aphrodite*

      Your BIL sounds very entitled , though I believe he is acting out of his own desperation and not just being a jerk. However, that doesn’t really matter. I am so glad to read your husband took the reins in this issue and stood firm against the texts, and that your MIL was a calming voice of reason.

      However, the issue is not solved, merely postponed. Like you, I believe that COVID will still be around for at least another year. Even if it is mostly over–there is a safe and effective vaccine–by early next year your BIL will still demand to stay with you, to not help out, to be there only to satisfy his needs.

      What he needs to be told by his brother (your husband) and his mother is that if he is that lonely he needs to be the one to help himself. He needs to save money for a hotel, or your mother needs to put him up, or he needs to buy a tent and stay in a campground or something other than sponging off you and your husband. He needs to take responsibility for what he wants–and that does mean staying in a van in your driveway and making himself at home in your kitchen and bathroom. No way! I would keep the door firmly closed to him unless he has made arrangements satisfactory to himself for where he will stay, wash, eat and so on. You are dealing with an entitled moocher who is more than willing to run roughshod (and become abusive) if he can’t get what he wants when he wants it. The lack of COVID won’t change that. Beware!

    11. allathian*

      Glad to hear your MIL has your back and has shut this down for now. Your BIL’s reaction would tempt me to cut ties with him completely. Perhaps your BIL will see his mother when it’s safe for her and perhaps your husband to fly to see him? There’s no need for you to accommodate him as your guest ever again.

    12. eeniemeenie*

      I’m happy for you that he’s not coming! Saying no gets less difficult over time with practice.

      This was a crappy situation because it was a choice of either (a) saying yes and having BIL in your home, which you did not want; or (b) saying no and sitting with the discomfort of guilt and BIL’s hostile reaction.

      I agree with your husband. Your BIL is being completely unreasonable. I hope you remember this is not your fault. You’re not forcing BIL and MIL apart – the only way you could do that is is if you held MIL in a basement for a ransom. It’s sad that he’s had a rough year and misses his family – that’s valid. But we are in the midst of a pandemic so we’re all making sacrifices. He’s not alone in missing out on family presence and support. His wish to see his family does not trump your own needs to remain physically and emotionally healthy.

      You cannot control your BIL’s reaction or emotions; thus you are not responsible for them. So if this situation repeats itself next year, let BIL get mad and have whatever reaction he wants to have. He is not a two year old; it’s not anyone else’s job to placate him. That should not have any impact on your decisions about how you keep yourselves safe.

      Hope you have a healthy and happy new baby!

    13. Observer*

      need to “just figure it out, take time off work if you have to”

      I’m glad you MIL managed to talk everyone down. But please recognize that your husband’s initial reaction was 100% on the money. This was not just a personal quirk or a “feeling” on something subjective. Your BIL was being objectively unreasonable.

      You DO need to do a realistic reassessment a couple of months before the projected visit date. Do NOT allow BIL to insist “But you agreed”. It may be doable, and it may not be. And if it is not doable, you will need to hold firm.

    14. I'm just here for the comments*

      I’m happy that at least for now you’ve got some breathing room from your BIL. I can also understand the impulse to push things off and restart the conversation at a later date rather than outright ban your BIL from ever stepping foot in your home, and hopefully your husband and MIL can work out a more tenable plan in the future. I just want to throw this thought out there as I was following your post last week as well – you say your BIL won’t be helpful when he visits, but I think you can and should put your foot down about the amount of work you’ll be doing for him (which should really be none, in my opinion). Why? Because he’s already proven that he can care for himself- he’s living alone far away from family; who’s doing his laundry and cooking his meals and cleaning his place? If not him, then he has figured out a way to get it done (i.e. paying other people to do it) and there’s no reason for him to suddenly become helpless just because he visits. If your MIL and husband want to wait on him hand and foot then that’s their prerogative, but make it clear to your husband that your plate will still be too full to take on a full-grown manchild (but maybe don’t use that exact description). Setting boundaries is not being mean or controlling, it’s simply letting your family know what your limits are so you don’t end up completely overwhelmed and overburdened, and I have a feeling your husband may be more in agreement than not. Good luck.

  10. Jessie*


    I have a strange situation regarding the apartment we live in. So, backstory: My husband and I were supposed to live overseas when we got married. But due to sudden circumstances we.moved back. We had never bought a place, so my mom offered us her old apartment to live in. It was in the family building. So, my aunt and cousin were neighbors and my mom also had another apartment she stayed in when she was in town. The apartment was for free. We stayed there for a while and had our two kids there but the problem was the apartment was a dump. It had not been renovated for years. And to make matters worse, a huge building sprung up right next to us, shielding the sun, so it became very dark and depressing.

    So, we decided to start looking for a house. Twice, we found a great property, but the deal fell out at the last minute. The second time, I was literally sitting at the table with the real estate agent, with the contract right in front of me, when the owner of the house comes in and says that he won’t be selling after all because he got a better deal. Uff.

    So, after that, I got turned off house hunting for. a while. Then, our circumstances changed again and it seems that we needed to look for a house at the other end of the city. So, not the suburb where we were going to buy a house. So, we were kind of stuck. But we needed to make a decision fast, because 1, the house was a dump and becoming dangerous ie cupboards falling on someone’s head in the kitchen etc 2 Our son got accepted into a school at the other side of town and his therapy was there too (he has Aspergers). I was spending four hours in the car dropping and picking him up. So, we decided to rent a furnished apartment near his school, just for a year until we found a house.

    I chose an apartment that I really liked and that was the opposite of the dump we were leaving.. It was big, airy, and sunny. The furniture was very classic and the terrace was as big as our old apartment. It was super expensive too. And in my opinion renting is just money down the drain. But given our situation, I thought we could treat ourselves for a year, until we find a house. So, we moved in last February and it was great and very close to my son’s school. No more four hour rides. No more yucky kitchen and bathroom yay.
    Current problem: Well, once we moved, we realized that the apartment was a bit deceptive. Even though it looked really great. It was super old. Things didn’t break, they disintegrated. Like you would pull a drawer and the knob would come out of your hands, the showers would break, half the bulbs in the house didn’t work and when my husband tried to fix them, it turned out that there was a problem in the electricity itself. There was also.an occasional smell of sewage that come from the bathroom yuck. And there was an unbelievable ant problem. And on top of all this, schools were shutdown due to corona and the whole reason we moved there (to be close to my son’s school and therapy) was now null. And again because of corona, we couldn’t bring maintenance people to fix the problem. It depressed me because one of the reasons we moved was because of the the terrible condition of the old apartment. And now we were back in the same situation, but paying a crap load of money for it!!!

    Then we quarantined there for four months, and this apartment that I was so happy about, became like a prison. A month ago, we broke the quarantine and came to stay with my family on the coast. And I’ve been thinking a lot about this apartment. And I just hate it. It just has so many awful memories. I have severe anxiety, so the quarantine really triggered me. And all I remember from this. place is the endless stress, the non stop washing of groceries and surfaces and the bloody masks and the smell of disinfectant. I’m getting a bad vibe from this place. Is that crazy? Every time I think of going back, I get triggered.
    Now,, I’m thinking of breaking the contract, paying the penalty and either renting a new place or moving back to the dump. My husband thinks that’s nuts. He says the dump is still a dump and not livable. The new apartment is close to my son’s school which is opening next week. That, it IS a nice place but just needs a bit of maintenance, which we could do. And that if we break the contract, we would have to pay a penalty. And that there is no such thing as a “vibe.”

    My question is, have you ever had a bad vibe from.a place? And is there anyway we can turn this around? Can I get rid of this anxious feeling I get from this place? Can I turn it into a happy place.

    PS: my son hates the place too and keeps asking to go back to the old apartment. The new place is much prettier, but my husband thinks that he is associating the new apartment with the quarantine and that’s why he hates it. Quarantine meant no.more play areas, parks, malls etc.

    1. Asenath*

      I don’t get vibes, but there have been a few places I would prefer to never live in again for perfectly rational reasons! And it sounds like you do have good reasons for wanting to not return to this apartment. Whether you should listen to those reasons is another issue. You and your husband (and maybe your son, if he’s old enough to contribute to the discussion) need to consider all the factors. Is your husband right that the repairs could be done easily? How much is the penalty and how would it affect your budget? Could you set a limit – OK, we can reasonably expect to get the essential repairs X, Y and Z done by DATE, and then we’ll look to buy or rent elsewhere when the contract ends. In my experience, living in a place I really dislike is a lot easier when I have plans, with date attached, for an exit. How bad is that commute if you move back to the gloomy dump? For me, being near a child’s school and therapy would counteract a LOT of faults in the apartment, but you may think of things differently. If you do decide to stay, and the quarantine eases a bit, you and your son can explore the area for amenities like parks, which will also help if you decide to move locally at the end of your lease.

    2. WellRed*

      I think it’s possible to get bad vibes from a place, but it sounds like your vibes come more from the situation than the actual apartment. Do you really want to move back to your family dangerous dump (and what’s that all about?) does it have to be either or?

    3. Not So NewReader*

      My vote is to move to the new place. I have had three apartments. I know for a fact once I reach this point I am done and that’s in caps- DONE.
      Unlike the other places, check this new place out thoroughly. Look in cupboards, turn the water on and off, flick the light switches. Give it some serious scrutiny. You now know where are the pitfalls are so you definitely know where to look.
      The problem that I am seeing is the you have had several serious instances involving housing. Having panic attacks does not seem unreasonable to me after what you have been through. It’s a basic need to feel safe in our home environment. Making matters worse you select a home to purchase and that falls through. So this is many whammies all in a row.

      As far as house hunting, not a comfort but as a confirmation, I ended up in tears in the process of looking for a house. Looking for a house is daunting especially if you have constraints such as location and/or budget. It’s not always FUN like it seems it should be.

      My best advice given your whole setting here, is to start asking for help from trusted people in your lives. This is really hard and you shouldn’t try to shoulder it alone. Whose judgement do you trust the most of those around you? Who has special knowledge or expertise that would be willing to give you some advice at no or low cost?

      Find a path where you are running TOWARDS something, as opposed to running AWAY from something. Bring in well chosen people to help you get there.

      1. VelociraptorAttack*

        I think the “new place” is the current place and there isn’t actually a new place that has already been found.

    4. Anono-me*

      For the next month or two, with school starting next week, it probably makes sense to go back to the expensive appartment temporarily.

      But I would start house and apartment housing online today, so that you have appointments to view new places next week . I would also have someone else who is handy take a look at the next place before you commit to rent and have a formal home inspection if you decide to buy.

      As far as the plan to stay in the expensive appartment and diy the maintenance; I am concerned that the maintenance may not ever get done, since it hasn’t already and it was so bad that you left for the summer. (Also, it sounds like no diy maintenance was done on the other place. ) TBH it sounds like neither of you are DIY people.

      Question: with all the problems with the expensive place, can you ask to end the lease with less/no penalty once you find a good place?

    5. Jules the 3rd*

      If you can stand it, try for your original plan, but maybe move up the house hunting part.

      You’re going to need a place where you can stay when school goes remote. If you’re in the US, the pattern is ‘school opens in person, kids show up sick, schools close’. There’s no reason to think that fall 2020 is going to be anything other than that for us (except for the few ‘schools open virtually and skip the in-person / get sick part’). We may get back to in-person school in a year, fall 2021.

      A house might have enough yard for your kid to be outside some, even if he can’t hang out with friends.

    6. valentine*

      A vibe is a feeling and yours is you’re unhappy with the apartments. Ideally, you would’ve moved somewhere new. (When you’re looking, open the drawers and turn on the faucets and lights, on your way in and on your way out.) I don’t understand why you have to pay a penalty when there’s so much wrong with the new place. (Ants?! Just no.) The price is worth your freedom, though.

      The dump: Why doesn’t your family fix it? Even if they did, though, the lack of sunlight makes it a nonstarter. Proceed as though it doesn’t exist. Don’t factor it into your decisions.

      1. Jessie*

        The dump is my mom’s and she doesn’t want to spend money on it. It’s a shame because the other apartments in the building have been renovated and look great.
        My husband and I are not DIY, but we had an endless streams of maintenance guys coming to fix things, but in a couple of days, they would break again.
        In the new place, I was weary of bringing anyone in, because of corona. The ants specifically were terrible. I tried washing and using vinegar and peppercorns, but they would be back the next day. They got in all our food. I threw a ton of food because of them. One time, after I boiled some pasta, I found dead ants floating in the water. It was a newly opened pack. How did they get in there!!! In the end, we had to give in and got someone to spray the apartment.
        We have five months to go before the lease ends. I will try and spend some money on the place, but if I still feel that way by next month I will have to break the lease early!

        1. Anono-me*

          Try ant disks. (But put them where the kid can’t get at it.)

          If repair are regularly failing shortly after they have been made, a responsible maintenance person should be returning and redoing the repair. Maybe you are trusting the wrong DIY people. It might be helpful to educate yourself about the repair before you hire someone, so that you know what to expect.

        2. Natalie*

          In the new place, I was weary of bringing anyone in, because of corona.

          You need to get over this, whether you stay in your current apartment, move to a new rental, or buy a place. We are looking at months more of this at a minimum and things just can’t go unmaintained that long. As long as you aren’t hanging out in the same room as the worker for hours you’re basically fine – sit in your bedroom or go for a walk while they’re there.

    7. allathian*

      Ouch… I think you, like your son, may be associating the apartment with COVID restrictions and that’s one reason why you don’t like it. Of course, the way it’s disintegrating doesn’t help. I really, really hope you’ll find a house soon, preferably one that’s not too far from your son’s school. A 4-hour daily commute to school doesn’t sound reasonable.

      That said, I get bad, bad vibes from old churches that were originally consecrated Catholic. I desperately try to sit still if I’m attending a wedding or funeral in an old church. I don’t have this problem in churches that were built after the reformation. I’m basically a lapsed Lutheran although I’ve never really been a believer. When I was 5 I asked my recently widowed, very pious grandmother what the difference was between believing in Santa Claus and believing in Jesus, and 40+ years later I still don’t know the answer to that question. I lost my belief in Santa early, we celebrate on Christmas Eve and kids sometimes get their presents from a person disguised as Santa in person, and when I was 4 my uncle dressed up as Santa but didn’t disguise his voice. I panicked and screamed the house down until he took off his beard, but that was the end of my belief in Santa… This is one of my earliest coherent memories.

      I’ve never felt more at peace than when I got the chance to walk among the standing stones at Carnac, France. The balmy weather at the time may have had something to do with it, I suppose… But it happened 26 years ago and it’s still the place I visit in my mind whenever I want to feel calm and strong. I suspect I’d feel the same way at Stonehenge, although I’m unlikely to ever get the opportunity. A friend of mine, who’s an RE teacher and very religious, had the chance to visit Stonehenge once, but she got very bad vibes from the place and had to leave early.

      1. Jessie*

        I think this will derail the thread a bit. But if we are focusing specifically on vibes, then I have to share this. A few years back, I was working as. a journalist. I was doing a story about a guy who claimed that his sister and brother went missing during the revolution that happened in my country. We met at this weird cafe that he suggested.. There was something very off about it. The cafe was two levels, and he asked me to go to the bottom level to do the interview because it was “quieter.” I’ve been to many cafes that were two storey, but when I looked down, it was total darkness. I got a very creepy vibe from it and gott scared and insisted that we do the interview on the top floor. It was a bizarre interview and the guy was acting strange. After we were done, I went to my car, and the guy suddenly said that his parents home is right on the this street and if I would live to visit. He had told me earlier, that his parents didn’t want to be interviewed. I also got a. creepy vibe from the basement. So, I told him, what’s the point? He told me, well you can take pics to go with your story. I told him that I don’t take pics (I have a hand tremor due to a neurological problem). He said, well then give me your phone, and I will take some pics and give it back to you. Usually, for something like that, I would send our office photographer to take some snaps. But he kept nagging, so I’m like, ok, take my phone and I will wait in the car.
        He took my phone. Then he made a big show of putting HIS phone and HIS wallet in my backseat and told me to “please take care of them” until he comes back. So, he goes and I sit in my car, looking at my notes. And I wait and I wait and I wait. And he’s not coming back. And he has my phone, so I can’t reach him. So, I’m like ok, he left his phone, I will use his phone to call and ask where he is. I get his phone from the backseat, and lo and behold, it’s not a real phone, it’s a bloody toy phone! . I’m confused. I reach for his wallet. It’s empty and stuffed with old menus and random paper. I’m in total panic, staring at the stuff. My mind is not comprehending what the hell is happening here. Then I figured it out. He was a con artist. He tried to get me into that creepy cafe and I refused. He tried to get me into the basement and I refused. So, he decided to cut his losses short and take my phone. It was an iPhone, so he still made himself a few thousand pounds (in our currency). I was beyond hysterical. And when I went to the police station, I was told that they did not want my “phone,” their plans were for something much more sinister. It gives me chills until now, to think what he planned for me. And the only thing that saved me, was the “vibe” I got from that eerie cafe and the family basement. So, yeah, bad vibes happen.
        Lol, I derailed my own thread.

        1. allathian*

          That’s scary! I’m glad you got away with just a stolen phone.
          I wish you luck in your house hunting and I hope you’ll update us here on the weekend thread.

    8. Nita*

      In your shoes, I’d re-start the house hunting and be ready to pay the penalty if you find a good place before the lease runs out. Depending on where you are, the market may have become more buyer-friendly lately.

      Also, lots of sympathy on the argument with your husband. I’ve been having a massive argument with my husband over a corona-related issue for the last two weeks. He thinks it’s all good and we don’t need to do anything, and I am staying awake nights in dread of what will happen if we do nothing. It’s so hard to convince someone to take a financially painful action, when they think everything is fine, and they don’t need to spend massive money to fix it. It’s a schools-related thing for us… I think maybe we’ve sort of kind of reached an agreement, but there are so many unknowns we’re both just throwing around what-ifs.

    9. Overeducated*

      I’m a renter under contract for my first house. The amazing things about renting are that you don’t have to do major maintenance, and you can just walk away when your situation changes. The dump and the new apartment both sound like they need a lot of work that won’t be done for you during covid or ever…so walk away. If you have the money to pay the penalty, do it. That’s a perk of not owning.

      Find someplace better. No dump. Another rental is ok. I don’t think it’s throwing away money, but I’ve never had free housing to compare it to, only mortgages where you mostly pay interest the first few years anyway.

    10. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I don’t think i’ve ever gotten bad vibes from a place, but definitely bad memories. I’ve lived in a few places that later on I just associate with bad memories. Sometimes it is totally worth it to just pay the penalty, I fully believe that peace of mind is worth the $$$.

  11. fluffycushion*

    Does anyone not want to go to a family members occasions? I have one brother, who I really like. BUT! I hate going to his life events. I went to his wedding which was fine enough but know I am facing a lifetime of events like christenings, kids birthdays, his milestone birthdays and more. I know it sounds awful but I really don’t want to do this. I only know two people at these events, most of who spend their time talking to others. I hate making small talk with people I am not interested in, like my sister in law’s family or my brother’s friends. I just don’t care about these people and I hate pointless small talk with people I only see every few years.

    I am single and childless by choice. There are no major life events for me he is expected to attend. It strikes me as unfair and a one sided deal I have to spend my life going to these events. I just want to say ‘I love you, happy special occasion, but count me out of the party.’ I really don’t think not being there would be a big deal.

    Or am I being a jerk?

    1. Asenath*

      If you want to maintain a relationship with your brother, it’s probably a good idea to go to some of these events. They can strengthen your connection with him and his family, and without these rituals its very easy for even close relatives to drift apart. You can reciprocate by setting up your own rituals to which you can invite him and his family – personal achievement, Fluffycushion’s Annual Party in honour of Holiday of Choice, that sort of thing.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I haven’t ever been to any of my brother’s family occasions, and my nephew is… eight? I think? We didn’t attend each other’s weddings. We live in different states and mostly the only time I see him is when I go visit my parents in my hometown, which I don’t do except at the occasional Christmas. I don’t like his wife or her family pretty much at all, but that’s sort of incidental- mostly it’s just that my family tends not to be very close and my siblings and I really don’t have a lot in common. I’m somewhat close to my parents, but we generally prefer to go somewhere to vacation rather than hang out at our houses, which is why I don’t go up there much. (My sister is single and childless and also lives locally to them and my relationship with her is functionally similar.) So for me, it’s been fine, but if I lived closer, or if I saw them a lot and then just skipped everything big, it might be more weird.

    3. Jessie*

      You’re not a jerk, but you should go. If he’s your only brother, and you guys love each other, then it probably means a lot for him that you go. Maybe reduce the number of events. And you could tell him about your discomfort about making small talk with strangers. Maybe he can help you out more.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      Do you want a good relationship with your brother? Do you get along? Do you want to support him and something that’s important to him? If so, then you should go. His wanting you to be present at his special (to him) events should take some precedence over your dread of small talk with people you don’t see often. It’s only a couple hours (or however long you choose to stay). I mean, you don’t need to go to every single event, but you should go to some. You might not think it’s important to him you be there, but he might like you being there at least sometimes. If I had a sibling who never attended anything to which they were invited, I’d get a really loud message they don’t care about me and it would really hurt our relationship. And would you truly not care at all if you invited him to a big life event, or multiple events, and he didn’t go? I know you say there won’t be any (not sure if you mean there won’t be events or that he wouldn’t be expected to be there if there were), but you never know what the future holds.

      I’m childless by choice, too, and I hate going to kids’ birthday parties and such, but it’s something you do when you have family. Especially if you’re on good terms and care about the relationships.

    5. GoryDetails*

      I don’t think you’d be a jerk to just send love and congratulations while declining to attend, but that doesn’t mean your brother wouldn’t think so. Perhaps you could choose one or two events to attend just to keep in touch – doesn’t hurt to be a little acquainted with extended family/friends – or suggest other times to visit when it’s just family; that way you could spend time with your brother and get to know your niblings, but avoid the small-talk situation.

      FWIW, my family’s on the laid-back side – we are close, but we don’t visit often, and not just because we live a 4-hour drive apart. Nobody gets upset if there isn’t 100% attendance at major holidays or events, and in general we make visits (or did, before the current unpleasantness) on non-occasions, spending time with each other rather than large groups. That may not fly in all families, though, so if your brother and family really, really prize having everyone show up for events, you might have to decide how hard you want to push back. But I think a cheerful “can’t make it this time, love to everyone” should be fine.

    6. Emma2*

      Could you go to the once in a lifetime events (wedding, christening) and suggest an alternative to the regular events (birthdays) if some celebration beyond a small gift is expected. Depending on how you feel about it, maybe you could offer to take any kids out for a day to celebrate their birthday, go out for a day with your brother and his family, or have them over for dinner with a birthday cake for dessert? That way you can “spend more quality time with your nephew/niece than you would at the party” – both true and a reasonable line to use to explain your approach.
      I generally don’t think childless adults should be expected to attend children’s birthday parties – welcome to attend if they are close to the child, yes, expected to attend, no. These are events for children, and adults are there largely to supervise the children and engage in child-centred socialising.

      1. Washi*

        This is what I do. I’m glad to see that someone else doesn’t love these big life event parties, because I feel like such a weirdo for not liking them! I’m actually a pretty social person, but something about this kind of event gives me the heebie jeebies. I’ve avoided having parties for my own life events as much as possible, but I agree that you can’t just decide to avoid other people’s parties without consequences to the relationship.

        I go to the things that are extra important and don’t have an alternative celebration option, like weddings. For birthdays, I’ll occasionally go, but more often, I’ll preemptively make individual plans with the person. This is more for friends, since I don’t live close to my family, but I actually find people tend to be flattered that I independently kept track of their birthday and am reaching out well ahead of time to take them out to dinner or whatever. (That might not work so well with a brother where it’s more expected that you know when their birthday is.) But yeah, I think especially for kids, special time with Aunt Fluffycushion could turn into a fun tradition!

    7. Caterpie*

      I don’t think you’re being a jerk, sometimes these sorts of events can be really draining (even if you like them!).

      Would it be possible to make it through some of the once-in-a-lifetime events like Emma2 said, and pick and choose from the rest, such as kids’ parties? My siblings are both married, but I would 100% have no problem if they wanted to bring a friend to something like my kid’s party. Is that something you could try? It seems like your brother invites his friends to these, so hopefully he wouldn’t mind if you brought one yourself. That way you’d have a buddy and wouldn’t have to make small talk with strangers.

    8. Alex*

      I totally feel the same way about events. Weddings, parties, etc….all torturous obligations, not fun at all!! The only exception is if I know and like most of the attendees–for example, two childhood friends got married, and the guests were mostly also MY childhood friends, and so that was fun.

      But events where I know only the person being celebrated? No no no no no no no no….awful.

    9. BRR*

      First, you don’t have to go if you don’t want to. But unless there’s more to it, it sounds a bit extreme. Are there that many events? If it’s every weekend, that’s wayyy too much. But sometimes you just suck it up to make someone else happy.

      It’s also going to be how your family dynamics are. My family is pretty big on attendance. My husbands family doesn’t treat it as a big deal if you can’t make it.

    10. Marthooh*

      For kids’ events, send cards or letters instead; you get extra points if they arrive ahead of time. For once-in-a-lifetime things, pick a few and show up to them with a smile plastered on your face (you don’t have to stay to the bitter end, either!). For the rest, have something else already planned, “…but congratulations! And thanks for thinking of me!”

      1. CJM*

        That’s what I did with my sister and her three kids’ annual birthday parties. I politely opted out after attending a few. My husband and I simply didn’t enjoy them: the drive, high expectations, small talk (and nothing but small talk), scanty refreshments, and family tensions. I know my sister was disappointed, but I had to look out for myself and my own family first. We did attend every baptism, graduation party, and wedding — and all holiday celebrations until recently — with good cheer each time.

    11. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Honestly, yes, you’re being a jerk. Not to think it, but to act on it.

      I don’t want to do a lot of things. But doing the things is frequently what it takes to maintain healthy relationships. And sure, you may just not vibe with your SIL’s family or your brothers friends, but such disregard for them is kinda crappy. They are human beings, and just because you don’t know them doesn’t mean you can’t get to know them better and maybe even like someone. You are perfectly capable of going to various events and being pleasant and friendly. You need to do so.

      You get christened once. Birthdays are annual. You’re looking at what, 5-10 things a year? Is it really going to kill you to spend a few hours at some event 5-10 times a year?

      As for major life events for you – you have birthdays too. What’s wrong with having a Halloween party or something and inviting your brother?

      1. Colette*

        And the thing is, the first time you go, you won’t know anyone. But if you talk to a couple of people, you’ll get to know people over time. You don’t have to become friends with them, but it’s OK to have a pleasant conversation with someone you only see every few years.

      2. Dan*

        10 events per year is almost one per month, which is too much in my book. OP doesn’t say how far she lives from her brother, but if there’s much travel involved, then one visit per year is reasonable. If they live down the street, then once a year looks grouchy.

        1. I'm A Little Teapot*

          Obviously there’s a range here, and yes distance does factor in. But foregoing all of it? Nope.

    12. Jules the 3rd*

      If you do skip out on Big Events, try setting up special smaller events for just you / your brother’s immediate family (wife n kids), to maintain the relationship. We meet up with the family for trips – Grand Canyon, Paris, Washington DC – but that doesn’t work for everyone, I know.

      Relationships are not about keeping score (one-sided deal?!), it’s about connecting. You’re probably not doing much connecting with your brother at Big Events anyway, but they’re the easy way to keep up the appearance of intimacy. Someone else is doing the planning, all you have to do is show up and chat.

      But make sure you check with your brother on each of them, because ‘whether I should go’ is really a question between you and him.

    13. valentine*

      I have to spend my life going to these events.
      You don’t have to! And it’s perfectly fine not to.

      If you want to spend time with him or the kids in person, pick random holidays, like National Ice Cream Day, but not always the same one, to avoid the guilt and expectations associated with certain, especially Christian, fed hols.

      If you have a good relationship, sit down with him and discuss what’s important to both of you and what kind of role you want to play in each other’s lives.

    14. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just good at it*

      I hate weddings, bar/bat mitzvah s, christenings, holiday parties, etc… Although I am lousy at small talk, I can do it acceptably.

      If I could get away with it, I would never go to a large family event again, but when they occur I put on my suit and go.
      1. It makes my parents happy.
      2. It makes my family happy.
      3. It’s the right thing to do.
      4. I don’t want a year of, “Where were you?”
      Suck it up and go. A few hours versus a lifetime of being shunned.

    15. Dan*

      I think trying to think about it holistically is overwhelming you a bit. I’d just take things one event at a time.

      However, if you want to plan a bit and you live any distance apart, you might just decide that you’ll visit once or twice a year or whatever, and ask your brother which big events those visits should be for? If you live down the street, that’s going to look stingy. My blood family is dinky and my brother and his wife have no kids, so I don’t get dragged to endless events.

      That said, when I was with my ex, her family was local, and there were LOTS of them. There was always something going on on the weekends. My ex thought that working was beneath her but got bored while I was at work, so she really thrived off the family contact. (We had no kids). Except… when the weekends rolled around, I just wanted to chill a lot. That was the cause for endless arguments. She didn’t want to go “alone” and she wouldn’t accept the fact that I needed some down time. I tried compromising with “big” events or monthly, or something, but nope. Anything less than “everything” was not acceptable.

    16. Jazz*

      I’ve gone to parties where I only knew one or two people, who spent most of their time talking to others. I have social anxiety so it made me really miserable. I felt so stupid just sitting around alone or attempting to make small talk with complete strangers. It’s not something I’d do again at this point because someone merely appreciating that I attended a party where I barely saw them is not worth the stress and humiliation it causes me.

      My suggestion would be to let your brother know that you’re not attending whatever event because of how uncomfortable you are around crowds of strangers, and ask if you could celebrate it with him separately (like take him out to lunch or simply visit him to drop off a card/gift).

    17. RC Rascal*

      You need to go. Things can have a way of changing over time, compounding and sometimes escalating. My mother’s sisters family saw no reason to attend our life events but expected everyone at theirs. My mother constant forgave her & made excuses for her, but privately it made her very sad. Only my dad and I saw the sadness.

      I hate the entire pack for the way they treated us & the number of times I saw my mother cry over it. As far as I am concerned they are all selfish insufferable jackasses.

      Sometimes it isn’t about you.

    18. Gatomon*

      No I’m 100% with you, and in the same situation (single and childless by choice). Kids events in particular are miserable to me – mostly they don’t care much if you’re there anyway unless you spend other time with the kid to build a relationship. Other parents don’t care as soon as they find out you don’t have a kid.

      I’d hit the big ones like major holidays* and adult birthday celebrations, but opt to just send a small gift or cash + card for birthdays past 2 unless there’s a family-only celebration.

      *Depending on how painful these are I might limit this too. Perhaps you do Christmas and Easter but have plans for Thanksgiving or something.

    19. ...*

      Its certainly your choice whether you go or not, and you could explain that these parties just aren’t for you. He may be hurt but you don’t need to do something you don’t want to do. I do personally enjoy these types of events happening every now and again and I enjoyed my sisters wedding, baby shower, and baby birthdays. You can definitely still throw a life event party like a milestone birthday or a housewarming for buying a home or a pet adoption homecoming party or something. It sounds like you dont enjoy these though, haha, but I love to celebrate live events or exciting moments even if its not kids or wedding related. Ive enjoyed celebrating promotions and houses and birthdays and friends businesses and stuff as live events so dont feel like you cant celebrate other important stuff.

    20. allathian*

      Would your brother be open to you bringing a friend as a +1? That might make things a bit less awkward for you. If your friend is more social, she could be your buffer with the small talk. I’m pretty introvert myself and fundamentally don’t like small talk very much, because it’s so draining. But for people I really care about, I’ll deal with it, even if it means that I don’t want to have anything to do with people for the rest of the weekend or whatever. That said, I guess it helps that my only sibling is even more introverted than I am…

      1. allathian*

        I’m married with an 11-year-old and my sister’s childfree by choice. She has an SO but they don’t live together and both of them are happy with that arrangement.

    21. eeniemeenie*

      What strikes me about your post is your issue on fairness. I have never heard single/childless friends begrudge being a part of their family’s major life events because of an imbalance on the number of each party’s parties. It makes me wonder if there’s a deeper issue here that wasn’t mentioned. I also can’t help but ask, why is it so burdensome to attend these events? I hope that doesn’t come across as snarky because I am not asking sarcastically. Unless your brother gets married multiple times and has sixteen kids, most of the events you mentioned are one-offs or occurs only a couple of times a year. As his kids grow older you likely won’t even be invited to their birthdays.

      Most people attend their sibling’s major life celebrations because they genuinely want to be a part of that celebration – for you it sounds more like a burden you begrudgingly tolerate. Is it because there’s something about your brother or his events that you dislike, or do you hate attending big events in general? If it’s the latter, it’s reasonable to tell your brother you prefer to bow out of attending parties but celebrate in other ways (have a special lunch with him and his family, send a nice gift, etc). If you just don’t want to be a part of celebrating his life events at all, you can do that too – but yeah, this does risk affecting your relationship with him.

    22. RagingADHD*

      It sounds like you have some kind of real disconnect with your brother and his wife. If attending joyful life events feels like a chore, and you resent the fact that he won’t be “forced” to attend any for you…yikes.

      I’m sorry you don’t have the kind of relationship where these would be things to look forward to. I’m especially sorry you seem to have lost the entire rest of your family, since you don’t know anyone. Certainly there’s a self-reinforcing cycle there, if you skip such events or don’t talk to anyone, you can’t get to know anyone better.

      Maybe there’s some grief or trauma around those losses that’s making these events more painful? I don’t know.

      You sound like you’re in a bad place right now, and I hope things get better for you.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        I have to agree with this. It doesn’t sound like functional family dynamics and OP you do have my sympathies if that’s the case. Even with people who are not single and childless by choice wouldn’t feel so resentful about attending happy events.

    23. Pennyworth*

      Do you see your brother outside of these events and generally get along? He might be inviting you because it would be unkind to exclude you, but would he mind if you politely declined and made sure to privately celebrate the milestones with visits and gifts? My SIL deliberately excludes my brothers siblings from their milestone celebrations and posts about having the ‘whole family’ present, which stings a bit even though we don’t actually want to attend.

      1. allathian*

        Why do you follow her on social media? Sounds like you don’t have much of a connection with her.

  12. Venus*

    How does your garden grow?

    This year’s drought is having the effect of very few tomatoes, although there are a lot of cherry ones. At least I enjoyed the process. I look forward to digging up potatoes, although I don’t know when to do those.

    1. Anonymath*

      We’ve hit the worst of summer here, so not much is growing. DH pulled the okra trees, so I don’t have to get on a ladder to harvest them daily. Weeds are taking over , and it’s too hot to deal with them now. I’ll tidy up before a Fall planting in October. The teeny peppers are still going and so is the basil, but everything else is pretty much done. We’ve got one avocado still growing and a couple of bunches of bananas. This might be the first year we get ripe bananas from our plants. The papaya trees are all above the fence line, but no signs of buds yet.

    2. GoryDetails*

      My garden’s limited to four self-watering planter boxes, but they’re all doing pretty well – peppers best, eggplant next, tomatoes third, tomatillos last (only had a couple of ripe tomatillos so far). Of the tomatoes, the yellow grape tomatoes are the biggest success; I’ve been snacking off of those daily for weeks, and they’re still producing madly. One other variety had bad blossom-end rot, but another, Aunt Gertie’s Gold (a yellow beefsteak heirloom) has been producing beautiful big tomatoes, very tasty! Though I’m not the only one who found them tasty; something chowed down on almost half of one big tomato. Not just one little bite, as when the chipmunks try to decide if they like something, but massive consumption! I have a wire cage around the planters so I didn’t think anything bigger than a chipmunk could get in, but then I peeped out the window one late afternoon to see a groundhog (!) halfway up the plant. It had found a way to nudge past the wire, and was dining on a mix of tomatoes and, surprisingly, the *leaves* of the eggplant – not the fruit, which it obligingly left for me, but those leaves must be awfully bitter. I’ve reinforced the cages and hope it’ll keep the beggar away for the duration of the season.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      Crappy. Green beans are coming in dried up, which is really odd. My scotch bonnet plants got eaten weeks ago. My jalapenos are growing, though, so I’m hoping in another few weeks I can start making fruit-jalapeno jellies again.

      Right now I’m trying to find books that talk about garden design in the early 1700s (New England). My house was built in 1735 and I have a huge side yard. I really want a large flower and herb garden there, but don’t know where to start. I know I want it to have a more formal design, meaning shaped areas and walkways, but not formal shrubs and things like that. Just defined areas, I guess. I’m absolutely not a gardener and don’t have a clue what should do where or which plant should pair with which, so I’m hoping I can find some resources to give me ideas. I want something that looks like it fits with the age of the house.

      1. GoryDetails*

        Re garden design recommendations:

        AN ISLAND GARDEN by Celia Thaxter, a charming look at her garden on the Isles of Shoals; probably more useful for atmosphere and incentive than specific design (though you can find the layout of the recreated garden online if you want to see what it looks like now!)

        AN EDEN OF SORTS by John Hanson Mitchell, one of several books he’s written about his land near Littleton Massachusetts; a mix of history, garden styles, and native plants.

        And for more specific plans, THEME GARDENS by Barbara Damrosch; the themes include Colonial and other types that might be what you’re looking for, with sketches and layouts and plant information.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Thanks! I just found the layout online and that’s exactly the kind of thing I’m hoping to find.

          I just ordered two books, which arrived today: Early American Gardens: “For Meate or Medicine” and American Gardens in the Eighteenth Century: “For Use or for Delight”. I’m hoping they’ll have some good information, though I’m not seeing much as I’d hoped in the way of illustrations.

            1. The Other Dawn*

              Thank you for that! I checked out his Instagram and he has some beautiful property. It’s giving me some inspiration for my own.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The local historical society may be a good resource. Ours has a nice little research center (volunteer staffed). You might even get lucky and turn up images of the home in earlier time periods.

      3. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

        Try googling “formal herb garden”. I’ve always loved those. “Kitchen garden” or “potager garden” might also be what you are looking for. Just look over the images a bit and see what makes you go oooh.

        Personally, I’d go for a formal circle and spokes center with low herbs, and have it get taller and wilder around the edges.

      4. Pippa K*

        Do you have a favorite fruit-jalapeño jelly recipe that you use? I’m looking for a good one (for canning, not freezer jelly).

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Yes! I’ll post the link below. It will go to moderation, but will be released eventually.

        2. The Other Dawn*

          Both of these are for canning and use liquid pectin. I also included my blog posts so you can see what it looked like and any notes I wrote at the time. For example, the blackberry recipe didn’t make as much as what the recipe said it would.



    4. GoryDetails*

      Well dang, my (lengthy) post seems to have disappeared. No links in it to trigger moderation, so…? Anyway, the gist is that I had my first Aunt Gertie’s Gold heirloom tomatoes this week (big yellow beefsteaks), really tasty – but I had to share them with a critter, which turned out to be a woodchuck that was finding its way inside the fencing and was actually climbing the plants to snarf down the ripe fruit! (It was also nibbling the leaves of the eggplant, which seemed really weird; plants in the nightshade family have really bitter leaves. Maybe it has a sophisticated palate?)

    5. Ali G*

      My Fresno and cayenne peppers are gorgeous! I’ve never seen such vivid red! I also have these really pretty yellow ones. Taste testing tonight.
      I don’t have quite enough yet to make hot sauce, but I am hoping in a few weeks. If this works out, I am going to plant twice as many next year. These seem to be the only things I can grow because of all the critters around.

    6. Hotdog not dog*

      Everything is still growing like weeds! Since I became unemployed I have more than enough time to weed, water, and trim, and the extra attention seems to be working. Last week I made several gallons of pomodoro sauce, 5 loaves of zucchini bread, and froze 3 quarts of green beans. Today I’m going to make pesto and see how drying some of the other herbs goes. I’d love to overhaul the perennial bed, but need to watch the budget. Hoping for some good sales at the nursery in September!

      1. Eva Luna*

        Join a local gardening group! There’s one based in a neighborhood a couple of miles from us, and much of what’s in our perennial garden has been given to us by people splitting perennials or changing things up. And they do a giant seed swap and a giant seedling swap every year.

    7. Jules the 3rd*

      US Southeast, we’re having a very wet summer. It was cloudy and cool through June, so everything’s taking a couple weeks longer than usual.

    8. Wishing You Well*

      My backyard is scraped dirt. We’re having construction done and the plant destruction is hard to take. *sigh*
      I hope next year will be better/greener.

    9. Girasol*

      Tomatoes and cukes doing great, corn (planted late in the bed that the peas took up until June) is on the way. Beets, potatoes, and carrots all growing fat, and my first try at salsify. Winter squashes burgeoning. The beans died, both plantings. They just disappeared shortly after they came out. I found out why: an epic assault from pillbugs. Water, it seems, fosters pillbugs, and the usually dry paths between my raised beds happen to be downright swampy this summer even though I’m not overwatering. I think I finally found the culprit: The neighbors are entertaining their bored kiddies with a wading pool, and they empty and refill it next to the fence rather often. I haven’t the heart to ask them to do anything about it now when life is rather difficult, so I’ll put up with swampy paths and do without beans this year. I’m debating installing a french drain or at least flagstones between the beds for my muddy feet, but that has to wait until I can shop more widely than just the monthly grocery run. (My husband has leukemia so I’m doing all I can to reduce our risk of covid.)

      1. Eva Luna*

        Maybe try some cedar chips? We have some between our raised beds and it’s helpful with the mud. Around here you can buy them outdoors at garden centers, or maybe someone near you even delivers?

    10. pieforbreakfast*

      Dig potatoes after they’ve flowered and the leaves start yellowing. You can go early and get new potatoes if you want, just dig from the outer edge of the plant and pick a few without disturbing the main stem.
      I’m at that point in my summer grocery shopping where I buy very little produce and I love it.
      My tomatoes are all dealing with a leaf fungus which is causing them to drop and the a lot of the fruits have cat-face or blossom-end rot. But I cut around the issue and eat them anyway because they are friggin’ delicious. I usually rotate crops every two years and I didn’t this year and I think I’m paying for that.
      Beans awesome. Basil is doing well after a stumbling start. Shishito peppers for the win! Cucumbers out of control. I always plant more than I need and I always am trying to find what to do with them. Usually I have an office to share them with but not this year. I may start dropping on neighbors’ porches .

        1. Eva Luna*

          Most of the food bans around here don’t do perishables, so I decided to set up a weekly produce swap in a local community garden. We just set up a table on Saturday mornings, and people with gardens drop stuff off and people who need food pick stuff up. It’s been a lot of fun! Also our neighborhood is very diverse, so we swap recipe ideas and people try veggies that aren’t part of their regular cuisines. (I’ve never had so many questions about what to do with chard!)

    11. allathian*

      We picked our blackcurrants last weekend. They didn’t give a great harvest this year, but fingers crossed for next year.

    12. Nita*

      Not too bad, lots of tomatoes and a little bit of squash coming up. Our growing season is long, so I’m hoping to plant a few things soon for the fall. I’ve finally got my car back, but I’m scared to leave it parked in my neighborhood because I can’t afford any more post-burglary repairs… I guess I won’t be working on the garden even once a week now. Hopefully once every 2-3 weeks will be enough at this point. My parents are handling the day-to-day watering, and getting lots of fresh tomatoes for their trouble :)

    13. Lena Clare*

      It’s pretty good out front! I do need to do some weeding today, but nothing major. It should only take a few minutes I hope.
      It was cool because my mechanic called round yesterday and noticed. He commented on the garden out front and said it looked nice!

      I have booked prople to sort out the backyard. That’s getting dug out and flagged at the end of October. I then will need to wire brush and paint the walls myself. It’s a huge job but needs to be done. I want to also insert some hooks along the tops of the walls to hang lights from, and I’m going to have fun planning the small garden bit so can’t wait for that bit but am kind of dreading the diy stuff lol!

      Out in the alley the neighbours have continued to weed and it looks pretty clear for most of it, although there is still a lot to do. The worst bit is around the neighbours directly either side of me and they won’t come out to help, so I’ve been trying to do it by myself which is hard work. Every time I clear the weeds they come back even stronger the next week. It’s like day of the triffids.

    14. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I managed to get a good zucchini and there are a couple of other edible ones getting close. There are flowers and tiny tomatoes on a few plants but they are nowhere close to ripe yet. I also realised that the reason why one of my zucchini plants has stopped producing any flowers is that the poor thing is completely covered in aphids. I thought I had splashed it with soil when I dumped a bucket of water on it. I moved the pot to the other side of the house away from any other plants and I will try to remove the worst of them but I think it’s a goner.

      I have been radically trimming and reducing a hedge and I had a massive pile of branches to deal with. I ended up using them to build a kind of woven compost bin over the area of the garden that had been overshadowed by an overgrown evergreen tree for the past 12 years at least. That spot has been very dried out and depleted so I’m hoping that by composting all the weeds and leaves over this spot for a while I can revive the soil and plant stuff on it next year. In the meantime I have a funky contraption that seems to be discouraging the neighbourhood cats, so that’s a bonus.

    15. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      The cucumbers are doing well: the new plants are growing quickly and the existing vines are putting out new flowers. Only a few cherry tomatoes, alas.

      I have ordered strawberry plants, to plant this fall for harvest next spring, and am feeling wonderfully organized.

  13. AvonLady Barksdale*

    A financial question! My grandmother passed away suddenly (it’s been a very tough week) and I learned that I am the beneficiary of her IRA. It’s not a huge amount after taxes, but it’s a good cushion of extra funds at the moment. I will use part of it to pay off a small amount of credit card debt, and after that, one option would be to pay off my student loans. If I do that, I will still have a little left, but I’m slightly hesitant. I have two consolidated loans and an expected repayment date of August 2025.

    Getting the debt paid, which is, generally, important to me, even though my credit score is pretty high.
    Relieving myself of the monthly payment during this time– my already not-great pay was cut due to COVID-19.

    Interest is pretty low.
    The monthly payment is not a hardship even if it’s annoying.
    There are a few other things I’m trying to save for, like a down payment on a house.
    I would feel more at ease in general if I had a cushion in case I lose my job (though I would still have enough for a few months of expenses).
    My dog needs surgery (found out the day of the funeral, he has a potentially malignant growth, 2020 can suck it) and I’m worried that his insurance won’t cover enough, especially if he needs follow up treatment, so it would be nice to have that money available. (But between me and my partner, we could handle it.)

    So what would you do? Pay it all asap? Does it make sense to, maybe, repay one loan and not the other? Is it true that carrying this particular debt is not really a big deal so I should just keep on as I have been?

    1. Asenath*

      I’m sorry for your loss.

      I’m no financial expert, but when I’ve gotten my hands on a bit of unexpected money, I’ve generally split it – so much towards debt, so much towards savings (including the savings I set aside for pet emergencies) and generally some (even if its only a little bit) just to spend. The exception was when I could wipe out a debt I’d been really looking forward to paying off, but it sounds like you can manage paying your debt and don’t have high interest debt. Another possibility is just leaving it there – I think in some cases you can leave the money in an IRA in your name and not pay taxes until you take it out.

      1. Lifelong student*

        There are rules about how long you can leave money in an IRA- it is not indefinitely. There are ways to minimize the tax impact.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        There are weird rules for inherited IRAs! I still haven’t wrapped my head around them all. But from what I could gather, it just made more sense to do something with the entirety. I think there’s something about how I would have to withdraw all of it within 5 years or something like that. If it had been more money, I would have kept a bit liquid and invested the rest.

    2. Venus*

      I enjoyed watching Til Debt Do Us Part and she has told people to allocate their funds to savings (retirement), emergency funds, and big spending (down payment) as much as debt repayment. Especially when it is low interest! I know it’s hard for me as I want the debt gone, yet there’s no good reason because it is so low interest. I would split it, same as Asenath.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yeah, I think that’s where I’m leaning. Low interest debt with a high credit score can’t really hurt me that much. There’s always the option of waiting and taking care of immediate priorities first, like the cc debt and my buddy’s vet bills, then I can always pay off the loans down the road.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            That’s what I am favoring right now, when savings accounts or even bonds will not get you as much interest as the rate on a really low-interest loan. I’d favor paying off the debts completely, then putting the money that you were paying on debt each month into a house fund. You will not have a cash cushion, but you will have the cushion of having more free cash every month and no debt payments. If you had a big emergency expense, you might have to take out a loan and…you’d be back where you are now, with outstanding loans, right?

            But there’s nothing wrong with splitting the difference, either, for the reasons you gave, if the interest rate is really that low.

            The main thing I would advise is to be careful as the withdrawals will probably be considered income, so if you can spread it out over the 10 years it might be better for you, tax-wise. But if you were planning on retiring in 10 years or less, you could withdraw all of it after you stopped earning income, which would ease the tax burden.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            But that delays the house downpayment.

            It really boils down to timing and discipline – if you’re looking to get a house ‘soonish’ (at a guess, within 3 years) AND are confident that you can keep yourself from spending it, then keep the post-cc-payment inheritance as cash. If it’s going to be more than three years, pay off the student loan and work to put the payments aside as savings.

            The problem I’ve run into as we pay off debt is that I’m only putting part of the payments towards savings / retirement. We have been expanding our lifestyles a little. I don’t think going from ‘$20 for sushi 1x/mo’ to ‘$20 for sushi 2-3x/mo’ is badly extravagant, but I do get the occasional pang over it when the bill for the new doors / AC for the house come due.

            1. WellRed*

              I’m not a fan of buying a house while having any significant other debt. Others will disagree but as long as I can’t pay off student loans, I don’t consider myself in a place to buy.

              1. MsChanandlerBong*

                Same here. I could go out and buy a house now, but I don’t think it would be smart to do so. I probably won’t wait until my student loans are paid off, but I will wait until all my other debt (a couple credit cards and about $10K worth of medical bills) is paid off, I have a six-month emergency fund, and I have at least 10% to put down (my credit union is doing conventional mortgages with only 5% down and no PMI, but I’d rather put down 10%).

              2. Venus*

                This can depend on the cost of renting versus buying in your area. In some cities and towns it is much cheaper to buy, and someone will be better off financially in the long-term if they buy a home while having student loans. I can appreciate that it works for you, but there are so many different circumstances and sometimes having a mortgage and student loans is the better financial choice.

          3. Colette*

            The issue with that is that it takes time – and given the general instability in the job market, savings is probably the better choice right now.

    3. Ali G*

      Definitely pay all the credit card debt.
      I also waffle on the student loans. I have 12 years left on mine, but recently paid off the higher loan and my monthly payment was cut in half, so I decided to not do it.
      Could you see how much your monthly payment would decrease if you just paid one? That way you still have a chunk f change if you need it for the pup (ugh I am so sorry, 2020 can literally GF itself), and reduce your payment. You only have ~5 years left which isn’t that long, so you aren’t really saving yourself much interest by paying it all off.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Ooh, cool, thank you– weirdly, it didn’t even occur to me that my monthly payment would decrease if I paid one off in full (my brain is not all there right now). That might help with the mental pay-it-all-off-now while still keeping the cushion.

        And for sure, the credit card is number one. It’s only about $1k and I was planning to use my bonus to get rid of it… until bonuses stopped.

        1. Natalie*

          Since your monthly payment is manageable, if you apply some of this to your student loan debt consider paying the same amount even after your required monthly payment goes down. You’ll have some of the cash available, the option to drop down to the minimum required payment if necessary, and you’ll pay the remaining loan faster and thus pay less interest.

          retain the flexibility to

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I got a little bit of money ahead a while ago. The very first thing I did was get help for my dog. He had thrown his back and hips out of alignment with all his shenanigans and bouncing around. It reached a point where he could not stand or walk. He was 5 years old at the time. I got his structural issues taken care of and I got him some stuff to help with calming so he did not bounce so much and continue to hurt himself so badly. All this was 4 digits out of pocket.
      I could have put that money toward, you know, very practical things. I am here to say, NO REGRETS about taking care of the dog first. It felt so good to get him proper care.

    5. BRR*

      Ugh I’m sorry for the rough time. I think it depends on how much you have in emergency savings. How long will it realistically take you to find a job in your field? I’m not sure a few months is enough in this day and age.

    6. Aerin*

      So sorry for your loss.

      In addition to what others have said, I hold onto the hope that there will be some sort of student loan relief/forgiveness on the horizon. So if you’re managing your payments fine and have other concerns, definitely handle those other things first.

    7. fposte*

      My condolences on your loss.

      I think once you pay off the CC debt it becomes pretty situationally dependent on interest rate, amount, etc. I would do a spreadsheet figuring the different alternatives. How much do you want to have in your emergency fund? If you pay off the loans, how long will it take you to save that up, using the money that would have been loan payments, and how much will you save in interest?

      On the IRA: It used to be that you could stretch inherited IRAs out for nearly forever, but that ended, so there’s no need to try to preserve this one as part of your retirement. However, you don’t say that it’s a Roth–have you figured out what taxes you’d pay if you withdrew all the money this year, and what tax effect stretching the withdrawals out for a few years would have?

    8. I'm A Little Teapot*

      You don’t have to commit the money to one thing. Pay off the credit card. Bank the rest of the money for now. You can always make a lump payment to the student loans later.

      Not sure the rules on inherited IRAs, so make sure you do your research. It’s not just like a checking account. And remember, you don’t pay tax on inheritances. The estate would pay any taxes. (disregarding the inherited IRA part) Not sure if you were clear on that, so just stating it.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t think AvonLady Barksdale was the heir of the estate, though, just of the inherited IRA. That being said, ALB, it sounds like you were thinking you needed to withdraw it all and pay taxes this year, and you can space the withdrawals and taxes out over 5 years.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            So many new rules! Yeah, I know i have time but also that there’s a limit. It’s a small enough amount that I just prefer to cash it now. It’s more use to me if it’s liquid, just a matter of allocation.

    9. Dan*

      I’ve spent my adult life, for one reason or another, managing debt. It’s only recently where my emergency fund had more than $500 in it.

      First things first, pay off the credit card debt. As far as the student loans, it all depends on what the interest rate is. I still owe close to $40,000, but my rate is 1.9%. My monthly interest payments are $70, and I expect to pay off the balance in full in about 4 years. My monthly payments are around $750.

      I am in no hurry to pay off that balance. In the COVID-19, I don’t care how stable one thinks their job is — pretty much everybody’s job is at risk depending on how this thing plays out. Having cash in the bank gives you options, which is really important. If the interest payments were killing you, that’s a different story, but cash in the bank is a better play.

    10. RC Rascal*

      Dealing with this right now. If you haven’t already taken the distribution consider rolling it into an inherited IRA. you will then have to take Required Minimum Distributions over a 10 year period. This was you will minimize tax burden & total value of inheritance will be about double provided you invest it properly over the 10 years.

    11. Oxford Comma*

      My condolences on your grandmother’s death.

      I personally would pay off all the credit card debt and then do my best to pay any balance off in full going forward. With the balance, maybe portion it out. So much for savings, so much toward your dog’s surgery, some on the student loans–can you pay one off or a portion of one? and then maybe use a small part of it to do something fun.

      As long as you don’t have late payments, installment debt, which is what your students loans are considered is “good debt.” But that said, I got to a point where I could have just made the monthly payments but I was sick of them and it and I was fortunately able to pay them off in full and I did, but I waited till I had more of a safety cushion.

  14. Grim*

    SF Bay Area native here. I’m in the east bay and have been closed up in my home 24/7 up since last weekend. Currently at 187 on the AQI smoke index at 4:40am. Thank goodness for our AC, which was installed 5 years ago.

    Friends in the Santa Cruz Mountains have been evacuated and one has had their home burn to the ground. Really hard on them; most had time to pact up before leaving, but how much can fit into a car? Not much. Also hard on the fire crews, many now working 48 hour shifts, shorthanded without enough resources; Just enough to help douse the flames to aid the evacuations, but not enough to contain the fires, most of which are at zero containment.

    I can concur about climate change impacting California. Here in the Bay Area, we had a wonderful Mediterranean climate year round but not anymore. We now have drought, heatwaves, population growth due to jobs, now massive fires. But I’ll never move away; all my family and friends live here and how many can say they can fish, camp, hike, snow ski, sail the sea and water ski all within a 4 hour drive?

    My question is when will the current fires end? Looks like many more weeks and we’re due for more tropical storms with lightening coming up from Mexico early next week.

    Now if I could buy some N95 respirators…

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      Another Bay Area resident here. I hear you. A friend’s house has burned down. As for when the fires will end, I anticipate that won’t be until it rains this winter eventually. Honestly, I’ll settle for containment at this point.

      There’s a thread further up with a lot of comments with the heading California Wildfires.

    2. PollyQ*

      Part of the problem is that with all the fires breaking out at the same time, and the # of firefighters available reduced due to COVID, none of the fires is getting the full resources needed to fight them. So, unfortunately, I think the answer to “when will they end?” probably is “many more weeks.” Right now, I’m hoping that the possible lightning storms don’t actually happen, or if they do, that they won’t spawn too many fires.

  15. Erika22*

    I see there’s already a couple other moving/home questions this weekend, so how about another: for those of you who own a home, how did you decide when and where to buy?

    In the past decade I’ve lived in nine different apartments/houses in four cities (in two countries), and five of those places have been with my now husband. Our current flat is cute and cozy (read: small). Lockdown/pandemic has made us want to get a bigger place further out of the city, and since we’re getting older and plan to have a kid someday, we’re considering buying something. There’s a bit of time pressure because my husband is the main earner and plans to quit his job in a few months, so we’d like to move before that happens. We’ve agreed it makes sense to rent for the first year in our new area before committing to a house anyway. We can hold tight in our current flat but it’ll be rough during winter and SAD if we aren’t going into the office.

    We’re researching areas based on needs and wants, but what I’m finding is that I don’t want to move so far from the city as I was fantasizing during the height of lockdown. It feels like we can’t really decide where we want to try living, and I feel like part of that is the reluctance to say “this is it, we’re staying here for the next 5-10 years” when we’re so used to moving and living new places. I’m still not sure if we’re even ready to “settle down” in this sense!

    Anyone have advice on at what point they decided to buy a home and where? Or anyone in a similar situation?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I bought instead of continuing to rent because I had two dogs, 70 and 50 pounds, and finding rentals that would allow them was more hassle than I wanted to deal with. Also I was tired of moving regularly and REALLY tired of crappy landlords/management companies.

      1. Erika22*

        Yes getting a pet is a huge +1 in the buy column for us! It’s so hard to find places that allow them!

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          One of my requirements was a yard that was (or, worst case, could be) fenced. I ended up with a 1/3 acre and a six foot shadow box fence already in place. We moved into my house the week of my younger dog’s first birthday, and she was so beat from playing outside in her backyard that we had to literally carry her to bed the first two weeks straight because she’d just conk right out in the middle of the living room floor. We joke that I bought the house as her birthday present :)

    2. Ali G*

      I decided to buy because:
      I have moving
      Wanted to be able to paint, renovate, decorate (hey that rhymes!)
      Wanted pets
      I was also in a position to do so at the bottom of the market from the bubble burst in 2008, so it made financial sense.
      I have since moved twice, but once into my husbands place before we got married, and now into our jointly owned forever home (or at least 20 years).

    3. Asenath*

      I decided to buy at a time when my friends all advised me not to because my economic situation wasn’t all that secure – I had a decent-paying job, but it was clear it wasn’t a long-time option. I’d managed to get a temporary assignment in a city I liked instead of in my official location, which I disliked more and more as time went on. I was renting in a centrally located small old house, and I knew my excellent landlady was thinking of selling. I knew the house needed work, but the location was excellent for me and I like the historic feeling of the area. I also wanted some security, without the possibilities of noisy neighbours and rent increases if I continued to rent. And then I got my hands on some unexpected income for some extra work I did. So I bought the house I was living in, quite cheaply (my landlady was very reasonable, and I knew all the flaws of the place), and when, as I more or less expected, my job ended, I had a foothold in the city and neighbourhood where I wanted to live and a mortgage that was fixed for several years and less than I’d pay for a nice apartment. It worked out extremely well for me. Eventually, I realized that my fondness for old houses and their renovation and maintenance was best expressed by watching other people do it on TV, and, having held down a new job for a number of years by then, I sold it for what I could get which provided enough money to put a good downpayment on a nice apartment-style condo, all on one level, in excellent condition, and with any exterior maintenance done by the board. I’m staying here until they carry me out feet-first. My old house, which I remember fondly when I don’t think of the roof leaks and plumbing problems, was renovated beautifully, if you can go by the photos, but has been re-sold a couple of times so I wonder if some flaws still exist.

      1. Erika22*

        Yes to a mortgage lower than rent! That’s also a draw of buying. But like you I’m not a reno person – I’d be inclined to fix like one major thing but if it requires too much work at point of sale I don’t think we’d buy it.

    4. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I wanted to buy. I knew it. I wanted to stay in one place, I wanted to be able to paint and decorate without worrying about the landlord.

      As for where – I narrowed it down to a general region, then was researching specific towns as I saw houses I liked. I did not decide I wanted to live in Laketown and only look in Laketown. Others can do it differently, but it worked pretty well for me.

    5. Aerin*

      We bought because we were sick of living in apartments (well, I certainly was, with the awful noisy neighbors we had on literally all sides) and because the house rental market in our area is basically non-existent. But we also wanted the ability to paint and make changes as we saw fit. Our credit wasn’t great at the time so we ended up staying in the apartment for an additional year while we paid stuff back. We also got a savings-secured loan which was a big help in that front, because basically the money went into our savings account and was automatically paid back out of it, so we didn’t have to do anything once we’d gotten it.

      We’re actually at the point where we’re considering moving again. We’ve been in this house 7 years, and while it feels weird to say that a 3BR house feels small for 2 adults, the layout sucks. Everything is cramped and narrow and there are barely any closets. So now the question is if we want to buy or build. Our current location is honestly a dream: close to three different freeways so it’s really easy to get to work and around the city, immediate neighborhood is quiet but within about a mile is just about all the shopping we could need, gas station, two libraries, plenty of restaurants, all that. So just tearing down and rebuilding something that’s a big bigger and fits our specific needs is looking more and more appealing, since anything prebuilt that we buy would probably need some work and we already own this land.

      Sadly it’s something that will probably have to wait a while. Spouse had to take a pay cut to change fields so he’s trying to get either a raise at his current job or to find something else that gets him at least back to where he was. So that’s first on the agenda before we can talk to the bank or an architect.

      1. Erika22*

        I get what you mean about the space just not being proportioned well – I’ve been mentally knocking down walls in our flat and sighing over the possible space. Good luck getting everything in place to start that journey, it sounds really exciting to design something from scratch just for you!

    6. Jules the 3rd*

      We bought when I got my first post-grad school job. I could pay the mortgage on just my income, hubs could go back and finish his degree, and we got a big enough house to have a roommate for a few years, until we were ready for a kid.

      – My job was with a company I really liked, and that had lots of room for me to grow
      – Our metro area was high-growth, with lots of jobs in both my and my husband’s fields
      – I was 30, in a long-term relationship, and talking about kids / retirement
      – We had a prior roommate looking for a place for 18mo

      Everything just came together for us and it seemed like the right time and place.

    7. Long drives*

      We first bought because the rental market was expensive with slim pickings. We saw a townhouse that at the end of the day, was nicer than the rentals and less per month in mortgage payments. Location was key.

    8. No Tribble At All*

      We were sick of the apartment complex having sudden inspections (think 1 a month for 6 months!) and for paying cat rent. Then Amazon announced they were putting a new HQ in the area and my husband turns to me and says “okay so we should buy, like, now.”

    9. T. Boone Pickens*

      I ended up buying a lot because I couldn’t really find anything that blew my doors off. I really wanted to find a house that either backed up to a wooded area or was a little isolated from my neighbors as I’ve been living in apartments for 10 years now and I just…kind of want some space you know? It got to a point after looking at my 30th house I just thought…geez why not just buy a lot and build exactly what you want? So that’s what my plan is.

    10. Reba*

      Like you, I have lived in several places, and for the past few years I feel like I go back and forth between “clearly I am a City Person” and “I’m ready to have my home on the remote mountaintop now!” And these days, of course it’s like why are we living in a city again, hmm…

      It is wise to rent for a while before buying in a location. Once we did not do that, and it became a major regret. In our current place (condo) we bought a unit about 4 blocks away from our old apartment :D Honestly we got TIRED of moving, maybe you will get to that point too, or maybe not!

      Housing in my city is pretty bonkers, so we were able to significantly upgrade our space without paying much more per month in mortgage payment+HOA than our rent (which increased every year, even in a rent controlled building!). That was the main realization that pushed us to seriously shop for a condo. Some kinds of units were available to buy that were not really available to rent.

      I’m grateful we are not riding through the pandemic in our old place, with loud and mean neighbors, not quite enough space and not quite enough sunshine.

    11. Firefly*

      My husband and I lived in 11 places in 10 years before we bought our house. We had thought we wanted to live in a small town after many years in several cities, but ended up renting in a small town when I got a temporary job and…nope. We ended up buying an hour from there in a mid-size city that we’d spent a lot of time in. We knew we were ready to buy when I had a job with long-term possibilities, and when our finances were such that our mortgage payments were lower than renting. We ended up going with a much smaller house that we’d planned in exchange for a much better neighbourhood and a large fenced yard for dog and kid. That was ten years ago, and I’m never leaving!

    12. allathian*

      We bought a lot and built our house 9 years ago. Three of my husband’s friends decided to move into a particular area and we started looking for a lot there. We had to make a few compromises but at least they were ours. The mortgage we’re paying is a lot cheaper than renting a house of anywhere near the same size would be. We have 5 bedrooms, one of them is our library/movie room and another’s our office. Our son has a room for gaming, schoolwork and computer stuff upstairs and a separate bedroom downstairs. This has been a blessing during the current pandemic, because I WFH in the office, our son goes to remote school (our schools are open, but he has a slight cough now and kids need to be at home if they have any respiratory symptoms at all) from his gaming room and my husband has a computer set up in our bedroom. With a headset each we can all be on video calls at the same time without getting on each other’s nerves.
      Our house is built on a slope and half of downstairs is below ground level (our 3-shower bathroom, utility room and sauna – I’m in Finland and most one-family houses have one – are underground), which really helps to keep it cool even in the hottest weather. We have a portable AC unit upstairs for really hot days.

      Now that I’ve written all of this down I realize it sounds like we’re fabulously rich. We aren’t, but we just decided to invest most of our disposable income in our house. Other people put their money in fancy cars (we have two cars that actually get driven, both are about 15 years old, and my husband has a project car that gets maybe 500 miles on the odometer each year and that’s from 1988) or on spending most of their by American standards very generous vacations traveling, etc. As you can imangine, we’re happier than ever with this choice in these times.

    13. Windchime*

      I bought my current house because I was taking a job nearby and my sister also lived here. Nine years later, my job is now remote and my sister has moved, so there is no reason for me to continue living in the traffic and the endless, endless rain. So I’m in the process of starting to look for a house in a lower cost of living. Will it be my forever house? I don’t know. Maybe. But I’ve learned over the years that if I can love one house, I can love another. This is a nice house, but I can find another nice house.

    14. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      We were living in a crappy flat in an old Victorian building which was cold and drafty and the landlord’s method of fixing leaks was to stuff old blankets into the area. (Seriously – our flat was accessed by a staircase leading up through a utility area and there was water on the floor and mushrooms growing out of the wall at the bottom of the stairs where a pipe was leaking behind the wall. He tore off the plasterboard and stuffed an old bedspread into the wall, then covered it with a board. He did something similar under the bathtub). So we wanted to move into a better place as soon as possible.

      My husband was working in a different nearby city so we wanted to move there. We looked at places that were close to public transportation and other local amenities like a small supermarket and were affordable. We did consider renting in the city centre but our current place is only 10 minutes by train in normal times and it was less expensive to pay the mortgage than to rent, and we have more space than we would have had. It’s been nice to be in a slightly more suburban area because we have a garden and open space nearby. We’d be unlikely to make a profit if we sold this house as the market around here has been pretty static for years, but it would at least probably sell fairly easily if we decided to move.

    15. Jay*

      We rented and moved almost annually for ten years before we bought a house. We wanted to buy a house because we wanted to make it ours and my husband desperately wanted a yard – he’s a farmer at heart. We bought THE HOUSE. The one we said we’d stay in until they moved us to the nursing home. The one with an orchard and a garden and a pool. We renovated the kitchen so it was perfect for us. Once our daughter was born we realized immediately that the location was impossible. We were both commuting in opposite directions. Her daycare and our social lives were in the city where I worked, over an hour from my husband’s job. We’d never found a community where we actually lived. My husband really didn’t want to move. We argued about it for a while, and then I changed jobs and took a pay cut and we had to downsize. He was angry, but went along with it. I decided I was never again going to think a house was permanent and would focus on whether it was working for us now, not what I wished for in the future.

      We moved to the city where I work and bought a house that was fine. Not perfect, but fine. The yard is much smaller – but he can actually finish the projects he starts because it’s much more manageable. He commuted for a year and then found a job locally. Until my daughter was 12, everything she did was within a mile of our house – her school, her dance classes, the playground, her friends. There are two supermarkets within two miles (we go to the further one because it’s Wegmans. Enough said). When we had more money we put it into renovations instead of moving to a “better” house. We’ve now been here almost 20 years and plan to stay after retirement unless and until we need a first floor master, which would be difficult to create.

      tl;dr: for us, location and affordability trumped everything else. We wanted to own because we wanted to have complete control over the house and yard, and we realized we needed to live where we had community. Nothing is forever; if this house stopped working for us, we’d sell it. We deliberately bought in an area that is fully built up – there’s no new construction in this neighborhood and houses sell fairly quickly, so we won’t be stuck with it. We’re not house poor. The house serves us, not the other way around.

      1. Erika22*

        This is super useful and reassuring, thank you! I think we get so focused on the permanence of buying and worry so much about it being THE house that we forget it’s not necessarily forever, just for as long as it serves our needs.

        1. Jay*

          Exactly! That’s one of the best arguments for not being house poor (and there are SO MANY OTHERS). The people I know who regret buying mostly fall into a couple of categories: they bought something because someone else thought they should, or they bought a house as a financial investment and their future depended on the appreciation in value. It may be an investment. In many areas of the country, real estate is a good bet – but not everywhere, and not always. So buy if that’s what works for your life right now and buy the place that works for your life right now. In our area, real estate costs are low relatively to the rest of the country but rents are comparatively high. Since we’ve been in this house so long and have refinanced twice, our current mortgage payment is about 1/3 what we’d pay in rent for a decent townhome, and probably 1/5 what it would cost to rent a house this size. Of course, we have a lot of expenses we wouldn’t have if we rented, so it’s not a simple apples-to-apples comparison. You’ll figure it out.

    16. Potatoes gonna potate*

      My husband and I started discussing moving earlier this summer and we weren’t really sure where to go. Eventually we settled on New Jersey as it’s close enough to where we currently are and still within a 12 hour drive of where his family is. Other than that, our budget really controlled a lot of factors. I’ve already decided that wherever we end up moving will be temporarily, 3-5 years until we have a bigger budget.

  16. nep*

    Anyone use dealdash dot com? I’ve heard of it, but never ventured onto the site to see what’s up and how it works? Legit? Good deals?

    1. mreasy*

      We looked at it awhile back and the “deals” end up not being so great when your fee per bid/etc is factored in. It seems scammy to me.

    2. KuklaRed*

      Scam. Scammity scam scam. They keep getting shut down on fraud charges and then reopening with a different name. Stay away.

  17. Teapot Translator*

    I want to hear about other people experiences with ailing elderly parents and whether you chose to live with them or not and why.
    My dad is sick and will probably die of his illness, we just don’t know when (a month from now? a year from now?); it all depends how he responds to treatment. In the meantime, he doesn’t feel secure being alone at home, particularly at night so he wants someone to stay with him at night. None of us (my siblings and I) has enough space to have him move in with us. I feel like moving in with him is asking too much. It’s a lot to take on.
    So, I want to hear about how it went for you. What worked, what didn’t work, what you wished you’d known before making the decision, etc.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I think the number one thing to do is find out his thoughts on this question. None of our parents moved in with us. My father was the one parent we would consider living with because he was flexible and considerate. My MIL did not want to live with any of her children because HER MIL lived with her and that was not a good story.

      If you do move your dad in with you, it would probably be wise to think of it as temporary. One or two people cannot provide 24 hour care for a person and still keep a job. In these scenarios the caregiver often times ends up in the ER.

    2. Amethyst*

      I lived with my paternal grandmother for nearly 4 years & it left me with PTSD, a side of the family I don’t talk to anymore as they revealed themselves to be deeply dysfunctional & toxic, & a vow to never be in the position of caretaker for an elderly person ever again. What I didn’t know going in was that she was an extremely abusive woman (which explains why we had extremely limited interactions with her growing up, but I was never told just how toxic the woman was until I got it firsthand. Even my mother says that my story is much, much worse than her own with that woman.). My answer is based on that, which…admittedly, I’m very biased based on my horrific experience with her.

      I wouldn’t do it. Even if your father is a nice guy, I wouldn’t. When you inevitably have an argument (or even a heated discussion), where would you go to cool off? Where would your safe place be in a home that’s his & that he could chase you into in order to continue that argument/discussion? Where would you go that would guarantee you your own mental & emotional space so you could recharge & decompress?

      If your father develops serious side effects of medication (or something else) he’s taking that may include personality changes & cognitive function changes, how would you go about getting him the help he needs? My concern is (because this actually happened to me) that if he becomes violent toward you & you call the police to protect yourself, they aren’t going to do much, if anything at all because he’s elderly. They’ll make a report to APS who’ll come out to investigate & make sure *your father* is safe *from you*. Because this is exactly what APS did to me: They blamed *me* for the woman’s behavior when I’d done nothing at all except breathe. I learned that APS takes the stance of “Elderly people are nice & kind & sweet so any reports of violence done by them is wrong & it’s the reporter who committed violence toward the elderly person.” So I’d really keep that in mind.

      I would stay safe inside my own home & have an overnight nurse or home care aide to stay with him. They are trained to handle all kinds of situations. You are not. They have the experience under their belt to handle all different types of personalities. You don’t. You have the baggage of being So & So’s daughter that may result in him deciding he doesn’t have to listen to you because you’re the child & he’s the parent. They don’t have that baggage. AND you can keep your sanctuary, & the nurse/whoever you hire to stay with him can go home at the end of his shift & decompress & recharge.

      1. Summersun*

        Unfortunately, I agree with this. My elderly uncle is currently seeking help in dealing with his wife, whose dementia has her telling her friends that he regularly locks her out of the house and steals from her. Getting her support and medical treatment has turned into protecting himself from her accusations.

    3. LuckySophia*

      After grandma died, grandpa didn’t want to/was afraid to be alone in his house at night, so his multiple adult children (most of whom lived nearby) took turns staying overnight in his home. They worked out a rotating schedule…(and frequently had to swap dates among themselves). Sometimes a different person came each evening and stayed through breakfast, or maybe lunch; or they advance-prepared his dinner and put it in the oven or fridge before they left. Sometimes one person would stay for several days in a row. Among them, they juggled stuff like helping him with laundry, or shopping for his groceries or taking him to Dr. appointments once he quit driving. It was mostly “workable”…but the main issues revolved around what I’d call “unequal division of labor.” Some of the adult kids didn’t do their fair share, either by not performing a relatively equal number of nights on duty…or they showed up, but blatantly ignored the extra tasks like helping with laundry, or meal prep. Grandpa turned out to remain surprisingly healthy, so this “night companion” situation went on for about a decade, which ultimately took a toll on the couple of adult kids who were more attentive to his needs and ended up “covering” for their sibs who so often had Reasons Why They Just Couldn’t Show Up on Their Assigned Night After All.

      Your situation is different; your dad’s illness imposes a timeline that is much more finite. But, illness imposes additional/special caretaker demands of its own. I’d say IF you & your sibs are considering being “overnight companions” to your dad in his home…you all need to sit down in advance and be really clear and honest about who is or is not able to commit their time and energy on a reliable and consistent basis. And then be willing to hold each other accountable over time to whatever commitments were made originally.

      I wish you and your sibs and your father well.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        That’s kind of our plan. My grandfather doesn’t want to leave his home. My mother– his only child– will be here for a few weeks, but when she goes home his great-nephews will rotate (they’re all in their 20s and live at home). He also has a home aide who will come in occasionally, and he has a woman who comes to clean and her husband who takes him grocery shopping. So it can work if people live nearby.

    4. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Honestly, as hard as it is, he may need to move into assisted living or whatever is appropriate. Alternatively, if the money is available, hire caretakers.

      I wouldn’t move in permanently with my parents. I have my own life. That doesn’t mean I won’t try to help them out, but there does come a point where they have to be willing to help themselves.

    5. Public Health Nerd*

      I tried moving in with my chronically ill mom (and otherwise stable dad) and grandma while Grandma was recovering from an accident. It almost wiped out our relationship permanently.

      What’s worked a lot better is I help them find caregivers to spend the night as needed who they hire and pay. I think it works better to have a boundary between My Kid and The Person Who Bathes Me, at least most of the time. It also gives them more control over the situation- if they hate it, they can fire their caregiver. But you can’t fire your kid. (Easily anyhow)

      These days, I go over and help as a one-off solution, but if it’s long term, I help them find someone. (Often a RN/LPN/etc friend who wants extra cash).

    6. Anonyme*

      How many siblings do you have? It wouldn’t have to be an all or nothing. Perhaps each of you could do a week or a few nights at a time? If you are able to split for home health aide for 1-2 nights a week who can also help with bathing that might make it more manageable. No one person feels stuck with a permanent move. Other possibilities include:
      – meal delivery services
      – lifeline service if no one can stay, your dad can press the button and have emergency services respond.
      – hiring a housekeeper.

    7. Books and cats*

      This is such a personal and situational decision.
      First, you have my empathy. My father’s leukemia diagnosis came with “not if, but when” .
      1. Rotating night care in his home between you and your siblings could work. Especially during the beginning if he doesn’t need much physical care, just someone there and maybe basic household chores.
      2. Depending on finances, pool your money and hire a day or night aide.(when my grandparents lived with us when I was a kid, Aunt on the other side of the country paid for a housekeeper)
      3. Contact your local Area on Aging. You can find it on line. They can also be a great place for resources and some financial help with aides, if he qualifies. (Pre covid, furloughed for now, I worked at the library, in senior services.)
      4. If his condition has an organization, such as American Cancer Society or, in our case, Leukemia/Lymphoma Society, contact them.
      5. Don’t forget other extended family and friends who my want/be willing to help. That relative that’s a recent grad might be happy to live in for companionship during the week, even working during the day, (rent free, of course) and you and your siblings could cover weekends.
      6. Don’t forget to take care of you during this time!!! Your emotions will go high and low, that’s okay! Do what you need to in order to weather this storm!!
      My sister and I live 1 1/2 miles apart. I live a “field and a dirt road” across from my parents house. I literally put on shoes and ran there once when Mom called, from shoes to inside, one minute! We did it with only home health taking care of ports and such. But, that was our circumstances with great relationship all around. Not everyone has those luxuries.
      Wishing you and your family the best of outcomes.

    8. AcademiaNut*

      I agree that moving in with him is a big ask. Some things to consider, though:

      – what is it about being alone, particularly at night, that worries your dad. Could it be solved by some other means (a medic alert system, for example)

      – talk to your Dad’s doctor, with his permission. What is the prognosis of the disease, what sort of help and level medical care will he need as it progresses? How long could the current state (able to live alone, not comfortable doing so) last? Will you be providing company or acting as a nursing aid (bathing him, for example). Will you need to hire medical help even if he has someone living with him?

      – what is the current situation of you and your siblings? Single? Coupled? Kids? Do you work outside the home? Do you own or rent?

      – what is your relationship with your Dad and siblings? Do you get along well, can you discuss difficult topics calmly. Can you depend on your siblings to reliably and fairly share the work and worry? How many siblings are there to spread things around, and are they local vs distant?

      – how much money can you put into this? Can you hire an aide to live with him, and take turns giving the aide time off? Can you afford assisted living?

      1. No fan of Chaos*

        Some things I have learned by experience. If he still drives, put a locater like LoJack on his car. You never know if you need to find him. If he walks, insist he always carries his phone (in case you have an emergency). Put wi-fi cameras in his kitchen and basement and on any stairs. You can check on him any time. Does he still cook? Is he safe with the stove? Maybe disconnect it and tell him whatever. Subscribe to a meal service that is ready to eat. Be sure he has an Uber account and knows how to use it.
        I’m 71 now and wouldn’t live with my children and their families. We all need privacy and space. Put me in a home where the food is good and they serve dessert nightly.

    9. pandas as pd*

      Going slightly against the grain here: My mom moved semi-permanently in with my grandfather when he needed care, and me (the granddaughter), my wife and dog moved in for the last few months. It was amazing.

      Not that death and dying is ever easy, but being there for all the little moments (when he felt well enough to be wheeled outside for the first day of spring, when he discovered he could facetime my cousins, when he felt reminiscent and told me stories about how he met my grandmother, watching him watch old movies with my dog asleep in his lap) was so meaningful. The fact that he knew and loved my wife in a way that would never have been possible with just visits was amazing. I think it also made his passing easier – no one felt like we had unfinished business.

      Of course there were conflicts and hard times, but you have to evaluate your own experiences, and in the current climate the risk that with COVID if you do chose to put him in a nursing home visits may be severely restricted or cancelled. I would worry extra about this!

  18. Moving update*

    Earlier in the spring/summer, I remember there were a few of us moving due to covid, and I actually did, so I thought I’d update and see where other folks ended up!

    My husband and I were living in a spacious 1br in a high rise that we’d originally settled on because it was a good price for the square footage, considering its proximity to a metro station. We had busy work and social lives, so we were only really there in the weekends. But when covid hit and we were home all day, we realized that we got almost zero natural light and had super noisy neighbors not amenable to turning their music down, sharing laundry was stressful, as was trying to dodge fellow residents and leave the building for a walk.

    We ended up deciding that what the heck, we are renters! Might as well take advantage of the flexibility, and we decided that we would just move back if we were unhappy. For about the price of our 1br, we found a small 2br townhouse about 1.5 miles outside the downtown area of our suburb and we are really happy, mainly with the quiet and the ability to just walk right outside. However, I don’t think we would have made the move if there weren’t some other non-covid factors that had also changed – we hadn’t commuted by metro for years, and both of us now have cars. So covid was partly a kick in the butt to try something else.

    SO did anyone else move? Or decide to stay?

    1. Anonymous for this*

      I also moved!

      Last year was when I decided to compromise and live in a basement in the suburbs. I really needed to save some money, and I traveled so much in the spring and summer of 2019 that I did not have time to do a thorough apartment search anyway. I figured the basement would be a bit short on the natural light, but the place I found had a lot of parks nearby. Far from work, but I decided to try out commuting and see if I could deal with it. That turned out to be…not awesome for me (my immune system has been a bit wonky lately, and I was getting sick almost every week, presumably from exchanging air with so many other people all the time). I was pleased when suddenly in March I could WFH, which led to a period of better health. But now I had another problem, which is that I was locked in a basement most of the time for months on end. So much for my plan to get light by visiting parks. My neighbors above and to the side were not quiet. It was also a miserably cold and grey spring where I live, and the basement never warmed up, even in June. This left me shivering all the time even under a couple of blankets. I used my space heater so much that I accidentally fried a power bar. Completely sick of it, I spent about 3 months apartment hunting and got lucky. I found a slightly smaller but much nicer apartment that gets a ton of light all day, and is closer to my job but not overpriced (I am still WFH, but not for long at this rate). I’m very very happy and thankful. I don’t regret the year in a basement – it allowed me to finally pay off my obligatory millennial student loan after more than a decade – but I’m not going to miss it.

    2. Tthankful for AAM*

      I’m the opposite. I have been wanting to downsize. But we learned, during our COVID quarantine when my husband got it, that our house is perfect for quarantining from the world and from each other. It is set up so we were able to live in separate parts of the house for 24 days.

      It was not the size of the house, 1,700 square feet, but the split bedroom plan that worked so well for us. Spouse lived in the front 2 bedrooms and bathroom, behind a door that separates them from the rest of the house, and I lived in the master bedroom and bath. I used the kitchen but we both stayed out of the living room. I never got it but spouse was very ill and eventually was hospitalized. He is home now and

      So now I’m thinking we will stay as the house worked so well. I am even thinking of turning the closet in one bedroom into a mini kitchen, like you might have in a studio.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        So glad to hear that your husband has recovered and that you never became ill yourself!

      2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        We moved – after three years living in a townhome style two bed, 1.5 bath with a depressing “garden”, with loud jerkwad neighbors who always started partying at 2am, to what was supposed to be a short term rental ground floor, 2 bed, 2 bath flat with a garden that should be in a magazine. We are in London so the rental market here is nuts in the best of times but this is a case of everything working out for the best.

        I’d had it with the place we had been renting (seriously, the stress alone living next to those jerks was more than enough) and indicated we were leaving end of our lease end of April. It rented in about 6 hours, to a couple who were adamant that they had no flexibility in timeline. We hurried to get something under contract by mid-March because everything we wanted kept getting snapped up. And then.. Covid hit, the market locked down, and the owners who were supposed to be emigrating to America now couldnt. We got stuck and somehow this place came up on the market as a short let – its down the street from a good friend of mine (we knew the area already), single story flat with walk in shower. We took it, sight unseen, for four months!

        Its turned our better than we could have ever imagined and we are signing on to stay up to another year, but more likely 9 months. Somehow our needs meshed with what the owners needs were for that time frame and while its a little cramped, the layout is excellent for WFH/quarantine, the neighbors are quiet/considerate, we love the village, there is community, and it will work while we figure out where do we buy, do we stay here or return home to the US, what is the world going to look like by next spring?

        Oh and the old place? I got a frantic text from the handyman the morning the new people were supposed to be moving in to tell me that there was a massive water leak from the upstairs bathroom into the downstairs bathroom and did I know anything about it? I’d always reported anything water related, so said no – it had started leaking two days after we left. Last I heard the whole ceiling and flooring had to be ripped out, bathroom piping reworked, just the works, which meant the new tenants could not move in until there was a functioning bathroom. Talk about luck!

    3. Erika22*

      Still in the process of looking! I posted above – we’ve gotten a little stuck on where to move (stay close to current city or move further out) and if we’d want to buy eventually. Your situation sounds like ours and what we’re aiming for – send those vibes our way!

    4. Annie Moose*

      I moved this spring, but the process was ongoing when covid hit, so it wasn’t a factor in deciding to move (just in how I moved!). In retrospect I’m so thankful I did it. I’d been in a small one-bedroom apartment (just me and the cat) and quarantine was hard on my mental health simply because there was nowhere to go. I could either sit on my couch, sit on my bed, or sit on my (very tiny) balcony if the weather was good enough.

      But now I’m in a whole house and I’m loving it! It’s amazing how much difference it can make, simply having more space. (I joke that I can now sit on my couch, sit on my bed, or sit in my office, so many more options) And my cat loves it too. He was very stressed out about sharing the apartment with me 24/7, but the house has given him so many more places to nap and he can be as close or as far away from me as he likes. I keep losing him… I have most of his spots figured out by now but every now and again I’ll go through the house twice and still have no clue where he is! So we’re both a lot happier having more space to ourselves.

      And man, what a difference it makes working from home when you have an actual office with a desk and not just the couch and coffee table…

    5. misty*

      I moved from the east coast to the midwest for school. I decided in May to move with a roommate due to cost of living and a crazy housing situation. My situation is much more stable now, my rent is much cheaper and I have much less roommates.

      I de cided in May and moved into my new place on Aug 1st. Everyone on here gave me a lot of good moving advice

    6. Windchime*

      I haven’t moved yet but am gearing up to do so. I’m tired of gray, rainy Seattle and now that my job is fully remote (except for the odd meeting here and there, post-Covid), there is literally no reason for me to keep living here. So I’m planning to move back to the East side of the state.

  19. Lost Duckling*


    I’ve been feeling more and more lost with each passing week. I’m hitting a wall and need someone to talk to but at this point, I don’t know who: a counselor/therapist, job coach, or even just a general life coach. I’ve always had a pretty good handle on my anxiety and low level depression but it’s gotten out of control with being home so much. I’m the only one of my friends and family who is furloughed, everyone else is back to work at their same jobs in some way, so I’ve got major job worries. I already felt fairly aimless in life before the quarantine so all the lockdown stuff has made it all the worse. My weight is the highest it’s ever been but even with all the time in the world from lockdown, it’s all I can do to even go for a walk in my neighborhood now and then. I haven’t used the downtime at home for anything productive like online volunteering or learning a new skill, so all these months feel like a waste.

    All these whirling thoughts and anxieties send me into a panic and depression. Feels like I’m constantly in a place of hating everything about me. I want to make a change but everything feels so overwhelming that I don’t know where to start. When you’re spiraling, where is the first step to getting your head above water?

    1. WellRed*

      I think counseling/therapy is where you need to start. You need to take care of yourself before you can make life or job changes.

      1. Wishing You Well*

        Good suggestion. If you don’t know where to look for counseling, ask your doctor for a referral or recommendation. If you can’t do in-person sessions, phone therapy as a new client is slightly more challenging but it’s doable.

      2. StrikingFalcon*

        Yep, therapy. You need an outside voice helping you sort through it all. Medication also helps some people break the cycle.

        Since you are out of work, look for a place that offers a sliding scale payment scheme. There’s also more virtual therapy available now too.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I have the daunting threesome of hydration, nutrition and rest. Of the three, probably water is the easiest. Make sure you are getting good amounts of water into you each day. Bonus points for adding a drink with electrolytes in it. Stress burns up vitamins and minerals like wildfire. With these nutrients gone, your anxiety and depression will probably ramp up.

      I think of it as a circle. I eat crappy foods/can’t sleep/forget water because I am stressed, then I become more stressed so I eat more crappy foods/sleep even less/what’s this thing–water? I have to break that cycle some how. I think that adding proper hydration is the easiest entry point. I measure out my water in the morning so I know how well I am doing during the day. Proper hydration helps organ function, this includes how well the brain works. I think we will find in the future that some dementias start with chronic dehydration that is how serious this is.

    3. voluptuousfire*

      Writing it down! When I get overwhelmed and I have no idea where ot start because my anxiety is causing 100 different thoughts to ruminate, I just grab a notebook and start listing things. I’m not a journaling type in that it wasn’t a regular thing but it can help.

      Or even better–write everything down and then take a pad of sticky notes and a sharpie marker and write out each thought or point on the sticky note and put it on the wall. You can organize the points/thoughts in an order that makes sense to you to tackle. I did this a few years ago when I got overwhelmed with all the projects and tasks, emotional and physical, I had swirling around in my head. It got so bad I had insomnia for 3 days. I created a grid by posting 4 stickies–easy, hard, sooner, later. I wrote my thoughts down on the stickies and went thorugh them, categorizing them by what I thought was harder/later, so on. Having that visual map of my thoughts made a huge difference.

  20. GoryDetails*

    What are we reading now?

    I’ve enjoyed some varied titles recently, including:

    YOU COULD LOOK IT UP by Jack Lynch, a history of reference works from ancient Babylonian laws to Wikipedia

    NATSUME’S BOOK OF FRIENDS (Vol. 20) by Yuki Midorikawa, from the delightful manga series about a boy who can see magical beings, yokai; lovely artwork, touching/funny/sometimes-scary stories, episodic enough that the books can be read out of order but with some character development along the way.

    THE TRUTH IS A CAVE IN THE BLACK MOUNTAINS by Neil Gaiman, one of his short stories published standalone with illustrations – this also appeared as a stage production with music, which I’d love to see. A rather dark tale of love and vengeance with a nice mythical tone.

    THE IRON RING by Harry Stephen Keeler – this one’s delightfully bizarre (which goes without saying when we’re talking about Keeler), with a woman on death row on a trumped-up charge, and assorted characters vying to either free her or suppress the truth.

    And on audiobook, THE GREAT HALIFAX EXPLOSION by John U. Bacon, about the devastating munitions-ship explosion in 1917.

    1. Parenthetically*

      Just finished the strange, gorgeous, dream-like The Plains by Gerald Murnane. Achingly beautiful, layered, complex prose, and a hilariously meandering, opaque story.

      From the sublime to the ridiculous: also just finished the 5th or 6th Maisie Dobbs book. Cracking mysteries, appalling writing. But lots of fun and easy to devour.

      1. sswj*

        Ha! A while back I kind of binged on Masie Dobbs audio books. I did indeed get sucked in by the essential mysteries, but eventually found myself wanting to dope-slap both the author and the protagonists. I decided to give it a rest when I found myself saying snarky things out loud in response to the reader’s narration.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I just read N.K. Jemison “How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?”
      Some of the stories jumped immediately into the ranks of my favorites. Speculative fiction and sf with the occasional nod to horror, and wonderful/wonderfully diverse characters & settings.
      I also picked up Taaktumi after a recommendation from someone here. It was more effective horror than I was prepared for… I think I’ll be getting reruns in my nightmares this winter.

      1. Windchime*

        I recently read the Broken Earth series, also by N.K. Jemison. It was such a good series. Highly recommend.

    3. Emma2*

      I had somewhat fallen out of the habit of reading, but recently read some lighter (YA) books and some audiobooks and am suddenly back to reading; it feels a bit like catching up with an old friend.

      This week, I have been listening to AMERICANAH by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on audiobook. I read the book several years ago, and had been planning to revisit it. Adichie is one of my favourite authors, and I am loving the book a second time – it is a love story, but also a story about race and relationships and immigration. That makes it sound very serious, but the books is full of humour, and Adichie just writes so well.

      This week, I also read SUCH A FUN AGE by Kiley Reid (a story beginning when a Black babysitter caring for a white child is detained in a grocery story; it is a comedy of good intentions when it comes to white liberals and relations across races) and LIKE A MULE BRINGING ICE CREAM TO THE SUN by Sarah Lapido Manyika (I picked this up after watching a YouTube video by Brown Girl Reading – I recently found her channel and I think we have somewhat similar taste in books, so have been interested in what she recommends).

      I have started reading THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS by Isabel Wilkerson (history of the Great Migration in the US). I have also just started DEATH AND NIGHTINGALES by Eugene McCabe (a novel set in Fermanagh in Ireland in 1883).

    4. My Brain Is Exploding*

      Just started “A Beautiful Mind” for book club. So far it’s a bit of a slog

    5. Dancing Otter*

      I’m mostly rereading this week. Discovered a completed boxed set of Narnia on Audible, which I might “read” next. Did you know the author did NOT consider Wardrobe the first volume in reading order, even if it was written first?
      There’s a new volume in the Liaden Universe series (Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, available from Baen Books’ website) coming out soon, so I need to refresh myself where the last one left off.
      Beyond that, who can sort books for discard without rereading some of them?

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, I have a hardcover omnibus edition, it’s been years since I read it, and Wardrobe’s the second book in that set.

    6. AcademiaNut*

      I recently read Harrow the Ninth by Tamsin Muir, and was up very late one night to finish it in one reading. Very engaging, completely and utterly bonkers, and the kind of book that takes intense concentration to read, but has it pay off when you figure out what’s going on. If if you haven’t read Gideon the Ninth prior to it, it will make no sense.

    7. CJM*

      I’m reading The Idiot by Elif Batuman (thanks to Alison’s recommendation a while back). I’m really enjoying it. The main character’s self-doubts, travels, and love of languages remind me of my own young adulthood. I’m almost done and already miss my time with this book.

  21. DarthVelma*

    I guess I’ll start the gaming thread this week. I’m curious if anyone else had any big personal game accomplishments this week.

    Partner and I are still deep into Elder Scrolls Online. We started on a new quest line this week and killed our first big world boss and helped kill a dragon last night. It was exhilarating! :-)

    We’re currently doing stuff in the Khajiit lands and I’m really loving the architecture. It’s this interesting blend of disparate but recognizable styles into a cohesive whole.

    Later today I’m going to force myself to learn the crafting system. The partner keeps hinting that I really need to just bucklet down and do it. I’d just rather go bash things. I have to convince myself that if I learn the crafting, I can make better stuff to bash more and bigger things with.

    1. Caterpie*

      Congrats on the world boss and dragon! That’s really cool that you can share that hobby with your partner. I like to game with (in the same room, I mean) mine too but we use different platforms, so we can’t really play together like that. Can I ask how many hours per week you need to put into ESO to make it ‘viable’, if that makes sense? I love Elder Scrolls games but have always heard MMOs can be time consuming if you don’t want to spend a lot of real life money.

      I beat Pontiff Sulyvahn in Dark Souls 3 last night, so that’s my accomplishment. The next area is super PvP heavy and my build is very strictly PvE, so that’ll be fun.

      1. MEH*

        Dark Souls III is my favorite game of all time. Congrats on beating Pontiff Sulyvahn! He’s one of the toughest bosses in the vanilla game. I’m all about the PVE as well, so I play offline when I’m embered up. Enjoy the rest of your time in Lothric!

      2. DarthVelma*

        Well, I have some eye strain issues and a very screen heavy job, so I rarely get to play video games during the week – 1-2 nights if I’m lucky, many weeks not at all. So I’m mostly limited to playing ESO right now on the weekend. I’m probably putting in about 10-20 hours per week right now. But we’re doing all story-line stuff, so if I don’t play for several days, I just pick up where I left off. I’m finding it really low stress.

    2. Lyudie*

      I’ve been alternating between Animal Crossing and Fallout 4 (yes I have diverse interests :D). I played a bit of ESO because I heard you can do more solo with it than most MMOs, I am too flaky generally to do a lot of guild-type stuff. I haven’t gotten very far at all with it though…need to get back into it and give it a proper go sometime. I have not looked into the crafting system but I generally love crafting lol.

    3. Square Root of Minus One*

      I’m also an ESO player with my partner. One of our dates during shelter in place since we’re long-distance.
      It’s funny how our styles differ. No accomplishments this week because we’re not currently playing (vacation), but we both picked up crafting very early on, and boy, are we glad since researching equipment is super long (smithing especially). I guess our accomplishment would be that we’ve both successfully organized our research so it goes on the full two weeks we won’t be here, without stopping in the middle.
      We haven’t really made it into Elsweyr yet, but I’ve been in love with the lore a long time through the previous games and I LOVE wandering around Tamriel. I’ll take on Vvardenfell when I’m back :)

    4. Catherine*

      I got Spiritfarer for the Switch and I am absolutely addicted. It is a very tender management sim about death and grief and I cry every time I have to let a passenger move on.

      1. MEH*

        I’m playing Spiritfarer at the moment as well (Steam version), and I recently had to help my first (and thus far favorite) passenger move on. I actually said ‘no’ out loud when she said she was ready, and I bawled the entire time. It’s such a lovely and emotional game.

      2. Hi there*

        Wow, thanks for this recommendation. I got a switch lite so I could play Animal Crossing with kiddo and had been wondering about other games.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My husband just stomped upstairs bemoaning a problem with DDO… he & a friend have been exploring an expansion during a free trial period, playtesting it for possibly buying the pack for friend’s kids. And the game has had some as yet unknown catastrophic failure so they’ve rolled data back to JULY.
      I love that world, and I love its feel, but the game’s bugs long since drove me away. I think my last straw was the third time I had to reassign skill points because they got blanked out.
      In other news, I’m going to pick up a copy of one of the Dance Dance Revolution games we didn’t have… yay BuyNothing Project.

    6. GoryDetails*

      I’ve been playing in a family Zoom-based D&D game run by my nephew, and based on Elder Scrolls/Morrowind. We got through what he called the “tutorial” phase, lots of short quests in different places to introduce us to the geography and the various magical and weapons/armor-type options; now we get to decide whether to go on the big quest to be Chosen Ones or to divert to more typical adventurer-style activities. We’ve already developed some character quirks based on the dice rolls; one character’s become really, really good at summoning spectral creatures, while another’s had bad luck with one particular spell even though all the others have been working well. And my character discovered early on that trying to use the “luck roll” to improve my success seldom worked, so I’ve decided to skip the luck roll entirely…

    7. MsChanandlerBong*

      I beat Super Ghouls and Ghosts last night! It was probably the toughest game I’ve ever played, but I enjoyed it. I think I’ll try Mega Man or Castlevania next.

    8. Gatomon*

      I started Horizon Zero Dawn on PS4 a few weeks ago but just couldn’t get into the story and controls. I really wanted to like it but… I don’t get the hype.

      So I put that down and started The Last of Us Part II, which is much better. I’m enjoying playing as Ellie, and I’m glad they finally sorted out how to render a horse. (I played TLOU Remastered just after finishing RD2 so to see those nightmare horses after how well RD2 did… ugh.)

    9. Warm Weighty Wrists*

      Oh I hope you’re still around because I’ve been wanting to ask someone about Elder Scrolls Online! How much plot/story is there? I played Neverwinter for a while, and I was good with the patience of chipping away at things to level up, but I ended up stopping because 1. I felt it was taking up too much of my time, and 2. there wasn’t a good enough story to the quests to make me feel like the time investment was worth it. (Possibly relevant: I did join a guild but I didn’t quest much with others or make any friends or anything. I’m pretty shy in a gaming context.)
      Since then, I’ve avoided MMOs because I assume they will all have the same problems, but I really enjoy the Elder Scrolls world(s) so it would be fun to play some quests there on a casual level.
      I’d appreciate any impressions from ESO players!

      1. DarthVelma*

        ESO has a LOT of plot/story. I’m not much for PvP in this type of game, so story is important for me and so far I’ve found the story pretty engrossing. And I’m just completely in love with some of the characters. I don’t want to get too spoiler-y, but there are characters that are silly funny and others that have a dry sense of humor and some that you’ll just want to hug when you have to help them make hard decisions. There are serious and dignified characters trying to do the right thing. And there are assholes who you have to help anyway. There are story moments that have real weight, where you feel like what you do matters. And then other times, you just whack things and everybody thinks you’re awesome for doing it. :-)

        And I want to be a Khajiit. We were playing last night and there was an interesting human and I told my partner “This might be my favorite human…which still puts them behind my least favorite Khajiit”. I’m going to be very sad when we have to move on to parts of the story that don’t really involve them.

  22. insurance fraud, please?*

    I think one of my wedding vendors wants me to commit insurance fraud and I’m not quite sure how to deal with it. Obviously I’m not going to commit the fraud, but looking for some scripts for how to move forward with the vendor.

    I was supposed to get married this fall, but we aren’t going to be able to have the wedding we planned for (and don’t want to hold a big gathering during a pandemic). We bought event insurance before the pandemic hit and the insurance company is allowing us to file a claim. I have no clue if we can even be refunded, but they said there isn’t a downside to filing. Anyway, as part of the claim filing we had to get a confirmation in writing of each vendor’s updated cancellation policy.

    One vendor said, in writing, that they would refund half of the deposit if we cancel. I submitted this to the insurance, and calculated my claim amount accordingly. I let the vendor know that I’d keep them updated, and that our plans going forward will depend on how the claim is handled. The vendor then emailed me asking if they could actually keep all of the deposit since they figured the insurance would just refund it.

    My understanding is that the vendor wants me to tell my insurance that they won’t refund anything (even though they said their policy is to refund half for cancellations, which I already submitted in our claim) so that they can keep money they originally planned to return. They even mention that they are usually a person of integrity, which tells me they know it is wrong.

    I feel like this is shady for them to even ask, and has left me feeling really disappointed in this vendor. I’m sure whole mess has been terrible on small businesses, but using a client to defraud a fellow business involved in the wedding industry isn’t cool either. It’s also not fair to the other vendors to cut a deal like that with just one.

    Am I missing something? I wanted to give the vendor the benefit of the doubt (and maybe others in the industry can weigh in unless it violates the no work rule) but I feel really icky about it. If we postpone, I also don’t feel 100% about continuing to work with them. It’s a shame, because I was hoping to hire them for other events in the future (they do other events outside of weddings) to support them post-pandemic. Any advice, or does anyone see anything I’m missing?

    (Also would love to hear happy stories about small, meaningful, socially distant weddings too, to keep things light.)

    1. Not A Manager*

      I’ve found it useful on several occasions to just play dumb. “Wait, I already submitted a claim for 50% because our contract says you’ll refund 50% in case of cancellation. Isn’t that right? I think it says that in clause 7a.”

      Most people will find it hard to state (in writing even), “oh yeah, I know that’s what the contract says but I want to commit fraud.”

      1. insurance fraud, please?*

        Thank you, that might also help the vendor realize what they’ve asked me to do, in case they didn’t realize it before. Also commits more to writing and shows that I’m not complicit.

      2. Not A Manager*

        Two things. First, I don’t really understand what a lawyer is going to clarify for you. If the vendor is actually asking you to file for 100% of the deposit, the lawyer will say, “that would be insurance fraud, don’t do it.” There’s really not much else for them to advise you on.

        Second, it looks like you are keeping your vendor in the loop about your insurance claim as a courtesy to them. Your future plans depend on how much you will lose from canceling the wedding, and that depends on the insurance claim. I’d just stop looping them in at this point. You have two separate contracts, one with the vendor and one with the insurer. Ask the vendor for your 50% back per your contract with them, and tell them that as soon as you are ready to plan your postponed event, you will let them know.

    2. Sandra*

      It is insurance fraud. And they know it. You could spend up to 5 years in prison, have a $50,000 fine and be charged with a felony. (In my state)
      I would talk to my lawyer about it and ask him what to do.
      A similar thing happened to me while I was getting estimates on a tree removal.

      1. insurance fraud, please?*

        Talking to a lawyer isn’t a bad idea. I think most of the ones in my area will do free consultations for stuff like this. Thanks!

    3. eeniemeenie*

      I really feel for the vendor as so many businesses are suffering badly. But of course you don’t need to participate in insurance fraud! “I’m sorry, I already advised my insurer of your 50% refund policy so $x is the amount we’re getting back. I’ll keep you updated.” That’s all you need to say.

    4. lasslisa*

      Before you bring any sort of escalation I’d just tell the vendor “sorry, the insurance only reimburses according to our contract, so I still need you to reimburse half like we agreed.”

      If they then start saying they won’t refund half, or whatever, that’s when I’d talk to a lawyer for a letter, but if you haven’t tried just saying “no, sorry, that won’t work” that should really be your first step.

    5. Microwedding Proselytizer*

      This isn’t really about insurance fraud, but my husband and I got married with 12 guests last fall (long before COVID reared its head) and it was pretty marvelous. We were able to rent a BnB/small guesthouse about an hour’s drive away in a “vacation” spot from Fri-Mon, everyone got their own suite and bathroom, and it was pretty affordable. Our guests were siblings/parents/grandparents, so no friends sadly, but we had professional photos done and had breakfasts and dessert catered. It was INCREDIBLY relaxing and low stress, and we loved it, we had such a fantastic time we were talking about doing it again (sans wedding) with the family regularly.

  23. My Brain Is Exploding*

    What did you watch this week that you enjoyed? I watched “Pick of the Litter” on Netflix. PUPPIES!!

    1. DarthVelma*

      We watched the first episode of Lovecraft Country and really enjoyed it.

      There was some really nice genre trope-busting in the first episode, and I liked that. They also explicitly referenced the racism in Lovecraft’s works. Given the folks involved in this project, I really trust them to keep the parts of Lovecraft that are worth keeping (the man created some really awesome monsters and mythos), while jettisoning the parts that are just not ok without pretending they weren’t there.

      1. GoryDetails*

        Yeah, I’m enjoying Lovecraft Country too. Had read the book when it came out, and am pleased with the adaptation – what a great cast!

      2. Scarlet Magnolias*

        I was hoping for better monsters, the ones in the first episode were about on a par with the creatures in
        Hellboy The golden Army. Meh

    2. GoryDetails*

      On Netflix, Next in Fashion, a fashion-design show rather like Project Runway. I’m not a fashionista at all, but I like seeing the different forms that clothing can take, and in this case the cast (nearly all of them already established designers, fwiw) was great fun to watch.

    3. Aerin*

      We finished up with the broadcast seasons of Clone Wars. Now we decided we’re gonna go back and rewatch the Star Wars prequels before moving onto the final season, since I know part of it takes place concurrently with Revenge of the Sith and I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen that since it was in theaters.

      Also I really liked Palm Springs on Hulu, and I’m getting a kick out of Star Trek: Lower Decks.

      1. Annie Moose*

        What a coincidence! I’ve been on a big Star Wars kick lately, watched the prequels (well, episodes II and III) and have been working my way through Clone Wars. I just finished season 3, the last half of which took a massive quality leap IMO, which makes me pretty excited because people say seasons 4-6 are even better. Ahsoka’s fantastic, and I understand Rex becomes a much more major character later on which makes me happy because he’s by far my favorite clone (mostly because his armor looks the coolest). I get excited every time he’s onscreen even if he’s just standing around listening to Anakin’s stupid plans, haha.

        1. Aerin*

          Rex is my husband’s favorite, too! After only a couple of episodes he went and looked it up to make sure nothing bad happens to him.

          I think season 3 is definitely where they started taking advantage of the groundwork they’d laid, doing longer arcs and looping back to things they’d set up earlier. A writer friend on Twitter said that it does wonders for Anakin’s character development (Padme’s too, to a lesser extent), and you really do see why he starts to distrust and resent both the Jedi and the Senate.

          I will say season 6 is a little more iffy. IIRC it was intended to end with season 5, then they got renewed when they weren’t expecting it and had to kind of scramble for content. So it feels a little more like deleted scenes than anything else, but it was still good.

    4. Esmeralda*

      His Girl Friday, which I’ve seen many times and my husband, amazingly, never had before. Rapid fire snappy patter, Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant; beautifully restored print on TCM. Rosalind Russell runs after an office flunky and tackles him! on the sidewalk! at night! she’s wearing a fabulous suit and heels! One of my favorite screwball comedies.

    5. CTT*

      I (finally!) finished the last season of Dark; I thought it was a satisfying finale on so many levels. I can’t wait to see what those creators do next (although apparently their next project has a horror bent, so we’ll see if I can handle that).

    6. allathian*

      History documentaries on Discovery. A great 3-part documentary about the American Revolution and about the ordinary people who played a huge part in it, from a 16-year-old girl who rode for dozens of miles one night to assemble the local militia, to Native Americans who fought on both sides and the battles between tribes that resulted from this, to manumitted slaves who worked as spies. This one was an eye-opener and the episode names made me laugh because they referenced Star Wars. The second one was literally The Empire Strikes Back.
      A documentary about mummies by Ramy Romany. It’s rather refreshing that the host is Egyptian by birth.

    7. Puppies!*

      Thanks to your recommendation, I just watched it and am bawling happy tears. It was just what I needed. (And I’m a cat person!) So thank you.

    8. Warm Weighty Wrists*

      We started Perry Mason this week, and continue watching Counterpart, both of which are excellent in a “nobody’s a good person” sort of way. I also started Season 4 of Wynonna Earp on my own, and I do love those characters.

  24. ThatGirl*

    My dad is 68, he survived a heart attack and two months in the hospital in late 2016 and is doing well. He is in generally good health but his heart and lungs are weaker than they used to be. He lives in rural PA, my brother lives in a group home in northern Indiana. My problem is dad wants to come visit my brother and others in that area this fall. Even as a road trip, seeing that many people strikes me as a bad idea in the age of corona. What can I say to him?

    1. Analyst Editor*

      Does he live alone? See what he has to say. Or brainstorm ways for everyone to see each other not in the group home (which I agree sounds like it can be a hotbed of pestilence under certain conditions). I’d guess he might say that he’d rather take the risk than live alone in rural Pennsylvania in isolation for another year or however long until this blows over. I think the calculus for the risk you can tolerate changes for different people, especially as they get older, and especially if they themselves aren’t putting others at risk by taking risks on their own behalf, and that’s ultimately their own choice to make….

      1. ThatGirl*

        He is married, I don’t know how my stepmom feels about it.

        COVID has actually hit my brothers group home already (as I was afraid it would) though thankfully most people are mild/asymptomatic. It’s just that I know he’d want to see other people and would have to stop along the way. He came so close to dying or permanent disability before, I’d hate to see that happen now because he was eager to travel.

        But yes, I know ultimately it’s his decision.

    2. My Brain Is Exploding*

      My first thought was wondering what the group home will even allow. Not sure you can talk him out of it; perhaps defining metrics (eg, he’ll only go if the positivity rate where he’s going is less than 50%, etc) and precautions he’ll take while there (such as outside visits) is the best you can do. Make sure he goes to the doctor first and has his flu shot, etc.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Well probably the group home would let him see my brother outside, I’m unsure of their inside visitors rule. Nowhere has a 50% positive rate! But Indiana’s is higher than ideal right now and that county is a hotspot. So it worries me.

    3. fposte*

      I have a lot of sympathy for people up in years who are realizing that if they wait until visiting is completely safe again, they may never see some loved ones again. But a group home is going to be really hard to manage, and then throw in “others.” This isn’t a situation where everybody’s doing a test and then quarantining in advance of the visit.

      My main concern is that he’d be picking up virus at the group home and taking it to the others or vice versa. Would it be truthful to tell him “It would break [brother’s] heart if you/the cousins got sick from this” or “It would break Bob and Shirley’s hearts if [brother] got sick from this”? People who feel invulnerable themselves are sometimes more susceptible to the vulnerability of others. I don’t know that you can convince him not to visit, but at least maybe it can get pared down a little (and I’d still encourage him to get a test a few days before he goes).

      1. ThatGirl*

        Ironically my brother’s already tested positive and has been in isolation for three weeks. But it’s less him and more the “others” and it would break my heart if my dad got sick, he went through so much after his heart attack. Sigh.

        1. fposte*

          You can always try telling him that; it may still involve another person enough to move him out of the notion that the risk he runs affects only him.

  25. Jaid*

    I called Lap of Love and they’ll be here on Monday. It’s time to let my cat go.

    I got her in September of 2000 and I’ll miss her so much.

    1. Lyudie*

      I am so sorry Jaid. We had to do this with our cat in February. It’s so hard even when you know it’s the right thing to do. <3

      1. I take tea*

        I’m so sorry. Lots of sympathies from a fellow cat slave. It’s a really hard decision, even if it is the right one.

      2. Grim*

        My old fuzz buddy is approaching the end as well. He’s been with me 17 great years and I rescued him from a horrible existence.
        You’re doing the right by your loved one.

    2. Not My Money*

      I called them yesterday for our kitty girl. She’s around 20 as well (aged 2-3 when we rescued her 17 years ago). She’s winding down and we don’t want her to suffer. The woman I spoke to was so compassionate and I’m glad I found them from this site.

    3. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

      I’m so sorry. We used Lap of Love in June and were very pleased. They were kind, gentle and dealt with me being a blubbering mess with compassion. Virtual hugs going out to you.

    4. Cj*

      We also had to put our cap to sleep a couple months ago, just one week shy of her 20th birthday. We have five other cats, but each one is unique, and we miss personality and cuddles so much.

    5. Jaid*

      I couldn’t wait for Monday. She basically stopped eating and drinking and could barely turn over.

      I ended up at the 24 hour clinic in Levittown at 8 something PM. They were kind and proficient.

      Now to get used to the silence at home…

      Thank you for your kind thoughts and well wishes. Bella was loved and she loved me.

      1. allathian*

        I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope that the knowledge that you did right by her and your wonderful memories of two decades of cat companionship will sustain you.

      2. PNW Dweller*

        I’m so sorry for your loss and for the hard choices you had to walk through. A big virtual hug from someone five months ahead of you with a similar story.

      3. Windchime*

        I am so sorry. I lost my 19 year old boy many years ago and it was so hard to see him go. I can think of him now without pain, but it was really hard at first. I’m thinking of you.

    6. My Cat's Meowmy*

      I am so sorry. My kitty will be 20 in February, he’s definitely an old man now, and I’ve entered the Bargaining phase of grief. I’ve been imagining my world without my boy and it’s awful.
      It sounds like you were in tune with your cat’s needs and you gave her the best support and care that you could. How wonderful it must have been for your cat to know she was so loved, right up to the edge of the rainbow bridge.
      There’s an artist online called Jenny-Jinya who makes incredible works that absolutely play your heartstrings like a harp. I don’t know if you’re ready for this, but she’s recently posted one about someone who helps their dog move on. There are many stories in the comments from people honoring their own fur-family.


      1. Jaid*

        I’ll be getting the clay paw print in the mail. I’ll be asking Marcia Reiver of Raku Ceramics to make a plaque like the one she made for my kittyboy.

        Thank guys! I look over at the sofa and she’s not there…

  26. Dainty Lady*

    A couple weeks ago I asked for advice about how best to help my stepdaughter with a new baby (thank you all!). The time has come! I think we’ll go down later this week.

    New question — I have a friend who lost his job due to covid. He’s posted on FB about unemployment being barely enough for the rent, not food, utilities, or anything. Would it be hurtful or insulting in any way if I asked if he would be willing to come by our house while we are gone to water the plants, feed the birds, etc., being paid what I would pay a professional someone to do it? I hesitate because he’s a mature man with grown up children and this feels so teenagery — Hey Joe, wanna make a few bucks? I would love his help; he’s a very careful and responsible person that I trust. I just seriously do not want to hurt his feelings or pride, or make him feel obligated just because we’re friends.


    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’ve done similar in the past. Generally my phrasing has been something like, “I need someone to swing by and (do xyz) while I’m gone. I’m expecting to pay someone $whatever and given my druthers, I’d rather pay someone I know and trust than a stranger if possible. No is a perfectly acceptable answer, of course, but is that something you might be interested in before I keep looking at further options?” It’s always gone fine for me, at least.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Make sure you are paying him enough to cover his gas/transportation costs and give him pocket money. Don’t assume he has enough money to pay for gas the whole time you are gone. Depending on his setting he may be counting the number of miles he has left on his tank.

    3. Anono-me*

      I think asking your friend if he wants this small job is a kind thing and a win-win. If he doesn’t want it he can always say no. Red has some good wording. I think making it clear that you have a plan B that is acceptable to you if Joe doesn’t want the job is key. NSNR makes a good point about gas money, maybe pay upfront.

      If you have a garden or Joe is house & bird sitting; you may want him to harvest whatever is ready while you are gone. It will help your plants to continue to be more productive and he will have the veggies that would otherwise go to waste.

      Also, I would also accidentally leave a few things in the fridge that will be spoiled by the time you get back. That way you can call and ask Joe to please take care of them for you either – pitch them or eat them (Half a jug of milk, most of a loaf of bread, some eggs and maybe a pound of ground beef you pulled out of the freezer and forgot to use.)

    4. Dainty Lady*

      I did go ahead and ask, saying of course no problem if he didn’t want to or was too busy; I did mention the FB post since it’s pretty obvious that I wouldn’t be asking if he was still employed. He said yes, if a family issue makes the timing work out. I responded, Timing sounds okay but don’t hesitate to pull out if you need to, I can always call the professional service so no worries at all. He only lives a mile away so gas isn’t a big deal (and he’s someone who would bike for green reasons).


    5. Venus*

      Red’s wording is good.

      I would ask him. He is very likely posting on social media in the hope of this exact thing. Red’s wording makes it easy for him to refuse if he has a conflict or logistics problem.

  27. Alex*

    This is extremely low stakes but something that is driving me nuts. My cutting boards never feel really clean, and every so often I realize that they SMELL. When the smell builds up, I soak them in a bleach solution, which helps some but doesn’t completely get rid of it. They also stain easily, like if I cut a red pepper or something like that, the board is red.

    I don’t have a dishwasher, so I do my best to scrub with both a scrub brush and a sponge (and hot water and dish soap) every time I use them. But it seems like the little cuts that inevitably happen (because it is a CUTTING board) trap bacteria and food residue. The wood one I have is slightly better than the plastic ones, but of course you have to maintain the wood one with oil (and maybe that is why my wood one isn’t quite as bad smell or stain wise, because I use it less often).

    Any recommendations on either how to clean or new kinds of cutting boards to buy? I cook a lot so I would be fine buying something new if it was going to stay non-stinky for a long time. One of my plastic ones is a pretty high quality plastic one from King Arthur so I know just spending more won’t solve the issue (OK, my others are IKEA..).

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Hm. All of mine are IKEA and they don’t have that issue that I’ve noticed (hands up if you just went in the kitchen and smelled your cutting boards to be sure … just me then?) but I have a dishwasher and put them through it regularly. :-/ try scrubbing them with a brush and some baking soda maybe? Scrub scrub, let that sit a bit, scrub some more, rinse well in hot hot hot water, maybe another round of scrubbing with vinegar, and more rinsing?

      1. Alex*

        Oh I haven’t tried baking soda–I can definitely try that.

        Yeah a dishwasher would be really nice…..

    2. Mohr*

      I’ve heard at restaurants they take rags soaked in a bleach solution, lay them out over the cutting boards, and let them sit overnight. Then rinse off and scrub the next morning.

      You mentioned you’ve already tried soaking in bleach — maybe you just need a longer contact time?

    3. fposte*

      Maybe I’m just hard on mine, but I don’t consider them long-term investments. I just think there’s too much potential for uncleanability in the knife nicks. I buy reasonably priced Oxo and pitch them if they start to stink.

      1. Alex*

        I do tend to keep things way past their expected lifetime. I honestly can’t even remember when I got these so maybe I just need to say goodbye!

        It’s especially hard as I get older–like, these towels that my parents bought me when I went off to college? Why are they frayed? This is an outrage! And then I realize that was over 20 years ago now….

        1. fposte*

          Oh, yeah, that’s definitely me as well. I’m currently indignant over the worn sofa upholstery that got put on 20 years ago.

          1. Windchime*

            Yeah. I’m wondering why a pillowcase I have is so thin. It’s because it was a wedding gift in 1980.

        2. Colette*

          Yeah, I was annoyed yesterday that I had to put a new binding on the quilt that always sits on the couch, and then I remember that my mom made it after my grandma died … in 1994.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          My former professional chef husband prefers wood cutting boards when washing by hand because the bleach can get into the surface with just wetting the surface. Plastic, you may want to soak in bleach water occasionally.
          The wood you can also sand down and re-treat. (I think beeswax with mineral oil, but looking it up would be safer.)

        4. Not So NewReader*

          I agree with your indignation. I have my parents Cannon towels from the 70s and they are as good as they day they were purchased. No fraying, no color loss. Planned obsolesce. It’s a thing.

          We can do better and we chose not to.

        5. allathian*

          I have some linen-cotton kitchen towels that my grandmother initialled and hemmed for her trousseau. She got married in 1942 so they’re nearly 80 years old and still perfectly serviceable.
          I’m glad I have a dishwasher and I pretty much wash our cutting boards every time I use them, even if I use it for cutting something innocuous, like cucumber. But in your case, I think that soaking them in bleach overnight might work.

      1. fposte*

        I stayed with a friend who used a marble pastry slab as a cutting board. You will not be shocked to hear that her knives would have struggled to cut butter.

    4. Not A Manager*

      Make a paste with baking soda, a few drops of dish soap, and a very small amount of water. Liberally slather the paste all over your cutting board. Let it sit overnight, then scrub the board with the dried paste before you rinse it off.

    5. Kathenus*

      Whenever mine get discolored in the knife cut areas I just spray some bleach cleaner on it and leave it in the sink for a bit before cleaning. And as others mentioned, plastic boards definitely have a lifespan. I have one corian cutting board I got at a craft show years ago that I love, so if you can find something like that it’s a less porous option.

    6. Esmeralda*

      Research shows that wooden cutting boards are more sanitary than plastic. (And in my experience don’t get smelly if you wipe them off.)

      I don’t use any sort of oil on my wooden boards and I don’t baby them in any way (except the fancy bread board we got as a gift). Every so often I will clean them with coarse salt. Sometimes I will rub them with a lemon rind (after I’ve used the lemon) and then clean with salt. I’ve had them forever.

      1. sswj*

        I never oil my cutting board, but I do periodically pour boiling water over it and then scrub with a soapy brush. It never, ever goes in the diswasher though. For some reason I thought that actually ruined them and made them less resistant to funk.

          1. PNW Dweller*

            Wood in general shouldn’t go in the dishwasher- it’ll warp and I feel like it could get funky. Wood somehow has a natural healing making it more sanitary than plastic. At least that’s a bit of folklore that I follow.

        1. Chai life*

          I’ve had my wood butcher block countertop for 35 years. End grain wood (most newer cutting boards are not end grain, I don’t know if that makes a difference). I cut everything on it, clean after each use with a wet soapy sponge, wipe soap off with hot water and sponge.
          I clean it more thoroughly a few times a year with a green scrubber. I have never oiled it. It has never smelled.

      2. Emma2*

        Like Esmeralda, I never oil my basic wood cutting boards (I have one for onion/garlic/chillies/etc and one for everything else). I do sometimes clean with coarse salt; I use a lemon rind to rub the salt into the board, let it sit for a bit and then rinse it all off. Mine are at least 10 years old, maybe 15 (maybe more?).

        1. Sarahkay*

          I’m another fan of wooden boards, and never oil them. I do keep one side for onions and garlic, and the other for everything else, as the onion side can smell a bit onion-y. Mine is about ten years old and going strong but my mum’s had that beat by decades, and she never oiled hers either.
          I think it was a wedding present; certainly Mum used it daily from my earliest memories, and I’m nearly 50. Last Chrismas it was given a ceremonial burning because it had been used for so long it had quite literally worn through. It was only about a quarter inch thick, and the decades of steady use had just gradually worn it away in the centre where most chopping took place.

    7. No Tribble At All*

      We use Epicurean brand cutting boards — they’re a thick durable plastic, and we haven’t had issues with smell. One of them did stain when ~someone~ left an old baking sheet right on top of it for a while, but they hold up really well!

      1. No Name Yet*

        Was coming to recommend Epicurean – they’re great! We particularly like the ones made of composite material, they hold up well, and feel closer to cutting on wood than plastic (but are as easy to clean as plastic).

      2. AGD*

        I have one of these as well! I paid a fair bit for it, but as far as I can tell, it’s indestructible.

      3. SpellingBee*

        Thanks for this recommendation! I need some new cutting boards so I’m going to check them out.

    8. PX*

      Pretty sure I remember reading somewhere that wood oil for cutting boards is just a myth to get you to spend more money. I certainly never use it and my boards have survived years!

      As far as smell goes, I find the occasional boiling water and really good scrub with dish soap does the trick. Baking soda is also a good option. Also I find trying to dry it as soon as it’s been washed helps.

      1. Flabbernabbit*

        Lots of people don’t use oil and get away with it as you have. Depends how you use it, your environment etc. But oiling wooden cutting boards is a good thing, not a myth. Boards can crack if they dry out from lack of oiling, especially if the wood isn’t great. Same is true, apparently with my leather chairs. Didn’t know I had to condition the leather. The leather is cracking now. Got to go slather my face, come to think of it.

        1. PX*

          Hah, see I’ve always known about leather (grew up polishing shoes) so that’s an “obvious” one to me.

          I think when it comes to wood for chopping boards like you say it’s a factor of what wood it is and certainly how you treat it. For me making sure you generally keep it dry it and don’t let anything too acidic sit on it for a long time seems to have helped.

    9. Observer*

      I stopped using regular cutting boards and got some ceramic tiles. They work well, and the surfaces are pretty much impervious so nothing gets into it.

    10. Melody Pond*

      Several years ago, after I read about a particular study in a book (the book was Green Housekeeping, I think?) that found it’s mostly not possible to fully sanitize plastic cutting boards after they’ve been used, and that wood cutting boards are far more resistant to bacteria — I tossed my plastic boards and bought a fairly cheap wooden bamboo cutting board. (As I recall, researchers in this study left raw chicken juice on a wood cutting board, without even cleaning it. After like a day, 98% of the bacteria had died off.)

      I think I have oiled my bamboo cutting board maybe ONE time, in like eight years. Otherwise, after doing something messy on it, or perhaps something involving raw chicken juice, I just wet it and lightly scrub it clean with a little dish soap, rinse it really really well, and let it stand up to air dry. So far, the main bamboo cutting board I have, has held up really well, despite my blatant lack of oiling. And it’s got no stains or smells.

    11. Flabbernabbit*

      I’m a woodworker and make cutting boards among other things. It’s worth investing in one made of a good hardwood like maple, cherry or walnut. Acacia is good and less expensive. Never oak or something like that which has more pores. End grain even better but usually more expensive. I made a 1.5” thick one and it never smells. Hubs uses a different board for garlic and onions though. And I do sand it down sometimes, though not necessary. Wash it by hand right after using it, oil it regularly (beeswax, walnut oil, but personally I would not use mineral oil). If your board is too dry, it will soak up other stuff. So oil it, for prevention. Lemon and baking sofa as others said in between.

    12. Dancing Otter*

      I buy cheap plastic ones, run through the dishwasher frequently, and am perfectly willing to replace as needed. That’s been for cracking, though – knife “wounds” getting too deep – not from any odor or stains.
      The lovely wooden one I was given years ago gathers dust because I don’t want to work so hard to maintain it.

  28. Nervous Nellie*

    Hi AAM friends! Question for you – what games have you invented to amuse yourself during this very strange time?

    Here is one I have devised: I own a lot of DVD movies that I bought in thrift shops over the years, and back in April, I started a game with them. I watch a film, and then must watch a film with one of the actors from the first film (bonus points for choosing a film with the same minor supporting actor). I have watched dozens of films since then and have not broken the chain yet. It has turned out to be more fun than randomly flipping through the stack of movies, and has really been a neat way to notice lesser-known actors and compare their performances side by side. I am still devising the ‘rules’ of the game, like giving myself bonus points for finding films with 2 or more of the same actors, or viewing 3 or more films in a row with the same supporting actor. Why not, eh?

    Even comparing big stars is good fun too. For example, Helen Mirren in The Mosquito Coast as a young mum married to a wild-eyed inventor (Harrison Ford), gave me reason to hop next to her incredible performance in The Queen. What a contrast!

    I have been keeping a list of the movies and linking actors and will staple it into my pandemic diary when this is all over. And I have been enjoying using the IMDB (Internet Movie Database) as a lookup reference.

    And you? I am game to hear your games, LOL.

      1. Nervous Nellie*

        LOL! Funny you should say that – I was noticing in the dozens of films I have watched that they are Kevin Bacon-less……

        I sure do have a lot of Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Brad Pitt, Natasha McElhone, Richard Jenkins, Harrison Ford & David Suchet films. It is interesting seeing the patterns – lots of action movies & drama, a few comedies, no romances, lots of ‘guy’ stuff. I hadn’t really noticed that before!

    1. Analyst Editor*

      I think a lot of directors prefer certain sets of actors. It’s really interesting to look up the actors in a movie and see some older, completely obscure movie they all worked on together, or many of them worked on.

      1. Nervous Nellie*

        Totally, yes! I am seeing a lot of related directors/actors and even producers and composers.

    2. Wishing You Well*

      We are rating high-end dinner plate designs online: gold medal if we’d eat off it, silver if we’d hang it on the wall and bronze for Nope!

      1. Nervous Nellie*

        That is fantastic! I recall some Versace plates in the early 90s that were positively lurid….

    3. Skeeder Jones*

      I did that a few years ago with tv shows. I started with 30 Rock, followed Jane Krakowski over to Ally McBeal, took Calista Flockhart and watched Brothers and Sisters, then grabbed Rob Lowe and moseyed on over to Parks and Rec and that actually took me full circle since Amy Poehler guess-starred on 30 Rock a few times. I like the idea of doing that with movies though because it would help me watch movies I wouldn’t normally think of.

      1. Nervous Nellie*

        Skeeder, if you have not seen The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, you might get a kick out it! Jane Krakowski was tremendous in it. And the always amazing Carol Kane was too, and could lead you into the 80s series Taxi, and, and, and…..

    4. Oxford Comma*

      I use Letterboxd to do something like this. They have a free account, but I think you need the first paid tier to make watchlists. Most of mine are private lists, but I’ve also used other people’s lists to try and make my way through whatever I want. I get obsessed with actors and I’ll try to watch everything they’ve ever done.

    5. AGD*

      I love this!

      I’ve been playing with creating and maintaining databases for utterly trivial things (like Every Piece of Clothing in My Wardrobe, with columns for the colors, fibre content, where and when I bought it, and how often I wear it – and a page of graphs and statistical analysis). I get a disproportionate amount of pleasure out of playing with data, which might explain my job (academic social scientist). I was the sort of child everyone thought was going to be a librarian or an archivist, so this is on brand.

      1. Nervous Nellie*

        Great minds, AGD! I am a bean counter by profession, and a ‘sorter’ by nature. I have organizing rubrics for everything, including the cases of DVDs I am drawing on here. What a pleasure it is to gather data & sort!

    6. Auntie Social*

      I play “Recast”—if my daughter and I have watched an old movie on TCM then we recast it with today’s actors. Or we take it a step further and recast an oldie with the cast of Clueless or something. Kinda fun, you can play it alone or even as a party game, if we’re ever allowed to have those again.

      1. Nervous Nellie*

        I love it! I am going to go back over my just-watched lists and recast all those films. Thanks for the great idea! Good fun!

    7. Buni*

      My friends & I have been playing Don’t Get Me Started over email. Basically, someone nominates you an incredibly boring, non-confrontational, everyday object / subject (examples to date: lamp-posts, bread rolls, listening to the radio) and you have to GO OFF.

      We take turns sending each other 250-500 words on why [subject] is just the worst thing ever, each rant having to start with ‘Oh my God, don’t get me started on….’. It’s frickin’ hilarious.

      1. Nervous Nellie*

        That IS hilarious! I am doing periodic Zoom calls with my sister, and I bet we could freestyle them on the spot, like a poetry jam. I am going to suggest this to her next time! :)

        1. Buni*

          It started as a stuck-in-the-car-on-long-journeys game so should absolutely translate to zoom. Slight rules: it can’t be completely spurious (no ‘my mother was killed in a freak bread-roll accident’) but it also can’t be based on anything ‘real’ (no ‘I have a gluten intolerance and bread rolls legitimately make me ill’).

          The other game is Conspiracy Theory, where you’re given two completely unrelated events (e.g. sinking of the Titanic + assassination of JFK) and have to link them into one vast conspiracy theory.

          We spent a lot of the time stuck in the back of the car on long journeys as kids…

  29. merp*

    Looking for input! A recent favorite quarantine daydream is “find a remote job and move out of the city somewhere beautiful.” (I should say it’s currently a daydream – might get there someday!)

    There are so many places I haven’t been or heard of – does anyone want to recommend a spot I should daydream about moving to? No real rules, although I would love trees and/or water :)

    1. Mohr*

      I looooove Appalachia — although maybe it’s because I grew up there.

      Probably my favorite weird little town is Harper’s Ferry (both WV and MD). It’s on the Shenandoah River and it’s got a historic area that’s nice to walk around, and there’s hiking and rafting and kayaking and forest all around. Plus it’s relatively close to places like DC and Baltimore, if you ever feel the need to be in a city for just a little bit.

      Also there’s a great kettlecorn company there that sets up shop at fairs and sometimes on the side of a road that’s particularly well-traveled by hungry kayakers. Can’t remember the name, but I think that’s part of the magic.

    2. Aerin*

      Look up images of Stanley Park in Vancouver. Evergreen trees on one side of the hiking path, ocean on the other. Vancouver is definitely high on my list of daydream relocation spots. Other places I’ve visited that I could happily live: NYC, London, Edinburgh, Prague, Vienna. (Edinburgh has recently been edging out of daydream territory and into serious consideration.)

    3. Anonymous bird*

      My family just moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee and we are loving it! It’s beautiful here, affordable and the weather is awesome. There’s also a lot of cultural activities here and it is very family friendly. We moved from the Northeast.

      1. Anonymous bird*

        I should have added it’s a very outdoorsy place with tons of hiking, bouldering, mountain biking etc. People are always outside. You can paddle board, SUP and kayak on the river and there are a lot of nice lakes nearby. A lot of people call it the Boulder of the East and it was recently written up in Outdoor magazine!

    4. 2QS*

      I was born and raised on a hippie island in the PNW, which will always be home – but I also lived in the Finger Lakes area for a while (Ithaca, New York) and loved it! Middle of nowhere and cold winters, but incredible scenery and parks and hiking. Living on any of the hills guarantees pretty sunrises and/or sunsets. Prettiest fall seasons I’ve ever seen, by a long shot – almost the entire town turned a luminous amber in October every year (you can tell I grew up among evergreen trees).

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Hippie PNW island was what came to mind for me – something in the Gulf Islands maybe. Sheltered ocean, forest, mild climate, wildlife, not too many mosquitoes, but also close enough to Vancouver or Victoria that you could do occasional runs into the city for shopping and such.

        1. Windchime*

          That sounds like the San Juan Islands. Or perhaps Anacortes, WA. It’s a cute little town by the water so there are sailboats and beaches. Not too far from the border, so it would be easy to hop on over to British Columbia for the afternoon.

    5. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      Orkney Islands in Scotland. Relatively remote, beautiful, lots of wildlife and amazing archaeology. Long dark winters and long daylight hours in summer but relatively mild climate. It’s also not so remote that you don’t have regular shops and town amenities like pubs and museums. Not a lot of trees though.

      1. Sarahkay*

        Seconding the Orkney Islands. I was there for two weeks a few years back and absolutely loved them. True, not a lot of trees, but there is a road sign in the main town, Kirkwall, warning of otters crossing – how can you resist?!?
        I was also lucky to have pretty good weather in what was a horribly wet summer for the south of the UK. Since Scotland has a reputation for being very wet (unfair in many cases, it’s mostly the west coast that is particularly rainy), the week before I headed off I got a lot of teasing at work about how wet it was going to be. Turned out, they were right – it was very wet, but only for them in the south of England. I had a reasonable amount of sunshine, and very little rain.

    6. Ranon*

      Ouachita Mountains, Arkansas- loads of trees and water (it’s where Arkansas spring water comes from, after all), near Hot Springs for some degree of city convenience.

      Upper peninsula of Michigan is also beautiful but you’ve got to be into winter for year-round habitation.

      Bits of Idaho are pretty stunning, especially Coeur d’Alene

  30. Potatoes gonna potate*

    How do i figure out what’s a reasonable price?

    We’re looking to get repairs done in our house, some minor some moderate. Neither my husband nor I are handy or too knowlegeable about construction work, so weve been asking around. I asked for quotes in a group and got a few people messaging me. I sent them all the same pictures of what we need done. One guy said 10k another said 8k. For installing electrical outlet covers one guy said $100 per outlet cover. (Even that I figured out is not very expensive).

    I then asked a friend of mine who owns a construction company and he said it was $2-4K max with labor and mark up. He said “10k is a ’here you go and don’t ever speak to me again’ price.”

    I’m willing to pay for service, I’m not trying to be Stingy but I don’t want to get taken advantage of.

    1. Ali G*

      Angie’s List is good to see what others paid for similar work. Also, the trades are really busy right now (at least where we live), and they can afford to be picky. They might be purposely turning you off with high prices because they aren’t interested in your job. I think that is what your friend meant about the price.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Oh yeah definitely. I’m familiar with it. I’ve also heard it called the “fuck off” price.

      2. Wishing You Well*

        Angie’s List changed completely when she sold out to HomeAdvisor. I used to use Angie’s List all the time. Now I have to use Yelp.
        Try YouTube for home maintenance tutorials. Replacing plastic electrical covers is faster and easier than loading a dishwasher.
        And, yes, contractors who don’t want your job will WAY overbid so you’ll go away. If you agree to their price, at least it was very profitable to do the job. Always get more than one bid on bigger jobs.

        1. Potatoes gonna potate*

          Oh I didn’t know they were home advisor. I tried them and man they were/are aggressive. I had one calling me multiple times in 20 minutes despite picking up the first time and saying I’ll call him back.

          The electrical plates was just one of the things needed and an example of the price gouging.

          I don’t like YT videos but I’ll look some up.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      $100.00 per outlet COVER? That sounds outrageous. You’re talking decorative (or plain) wall plates or something, right? (Just want to make sure you’re not talking about something where they’d need to do actual electrical work, like installing the whole outlet.) If so, you can buy cheap plastic ones for like $2.00 or less and put them on yourselves. I honestly wouldn’t pay someone for something like that and most definitely not $100.00. Maybe $20.00 if you get a decorative cover and don’t want to be bothered with doing it yourself.

      Make a list of everything that needs to be done and get several quotes. Ask them to break it down so you can pick and choose what you want to do.

        1. Parenthetically*

          That is truly bananagrams. They require one screw and take about 3 minutes to replace and cost, like Dawn said, about two bucks. If you’re wanting to replace the plug bit, it’s still really cheap, you just have to turn off the power.

        2. RagingADHD*

          They aren’t charging $100 for the wall plate because that’s what it costs to do.

          They are charging $100 per plate because that’s what would make it *worth their while* to come to your home and spend time doing all these little jobs.

          Every business has an opportunity cost, as well as labor & materials.

          It only “costs” $2k – $4k if they have nothing else going on and aren’t turning down other work to fit you in. If they have a full roster of high-end jobs, they would be doing your work at a net loss.

      1. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

        I think I paid $0.64 for my last outlet cover. Took me 30 seconds with a screwdriver to put it on. Even if you had to buy a screwdriver, even if you got a gold plated screwdriver, it’d still be way cheaper to DIY. If you can tie your own shoes, you can put on an outlet cover.

      2. pancakes*

        White ceramic or porcelain ones aren’t much more expensive and look nicer. $100 per outlet is outlandish. This is a very simple task that requires nothing more than a screwdriver and takes no more than a minute or two.

    3. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Why don’t you do some research and see what you can tackle yourself? Youtube is very helpful for this. Even if I’m not going to do something myself, I like to know what’s involved so I know if the contractor is bs-ing me.

      Also, at least in my area, all the fix-it people are swamped. Especially the good ones. That will contribute to higher costs. And be aware that there are national shortages of various things. Don’t bother trying to put in a wooden fence this year.

      1. fposte*

        I just found that out! Somebody in my neighborhood put up a wistful post seeking 4x4s for fencing and I actually had a bunch just hanging out unused, and they said there hadn’t been any in town for some time. So that worked out nicely–I basically got people to slightly clean out my garage for me.

      2. Natalie*

        Oh interesting. That gives me another reason to do the hog wire version I’m obsessed with!

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Uh, I think you should ask your friend to do the work.

      I hired a friend here. He worked for about 2.5 years on this place. This went well for us. He worked at his own pace. He left easier stuff for me to do, which saved me labor costs. We had a tense moment or two because construction causes tension. But we backed off and thought about things then regrouped and we were fine after that.

      If your friend is booked up, ask him who he would recommend. Contractors all know who is good and who is ripping people off. That is because they have to repair the work of the rip off artists.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Ha that was my first instinct too, I asked him, he said he’s too busy and can’t commit but gave me the # of a colleague. We have someone else coming tomorrow to give a free estimate

        1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          Definitely a good way to do it if you can, or if you find one person you’re happy with ask them if they can recommend another. My husband has a friend who is a surveyor and he’s been able to suggest other people, and once I found a good electrician I got him to suggest a plumber. This has worked out better than just calling new people every time. Neighbours might also know people that they were happy with.

    5. MMB*

      I’m in property management and we had every electrical outlet in our building completely replaced for less than $800. And yes, we used a competent, fully licensed and insured company.

    6. PNW Dweller*

      Do you have any realtor friends? They might have some go to people they would recommend.

    7. No fan of Chaos*

      I get the best handy people from Home Depot. Go to the front service desk and tell them what you need done. Hang Christmas lights. Replace toilet. Put up some shelves. They will print out a list of three people who offer to do this kind of work. I call then and then ask them about the work I need done and listen. Then ask them how long they have been doing this kind of work and listen. They are relying on Home Depot to recommend them so they will do their best. The last duo I found have been working for me and my entire family for the last five years as needed.

  31. blackcat*

    Cat peeps!
    My older cat has gone through some digestive troubles. We’ve worked that out with a vet and he’s doing much better on a new hypoallergenic food.
    But in the midst of this, he has stopped burying his poop, and he hasn’t restarted. His literbox is in the home office, which obviously is near people yet can’t be attended to right away. So when he poops and does not bury it in litter, the room stinks to high hell. Which is awful if either myself or my husband is on a zoom call in there. We don’t really have another room to put it in.
    What can we do to cut down on the stink? Can we convince him to bury his poop again? Should we try a new litter?

    1. Grim*

      My old fuzz buddy never buries his poop, but fortunately, his younger brother usually covers it for him, but often with an unfortunate time delay.
      Tried different cat litter but it made no difference. You may have to buy an automated air freshener that periodically gives a squirt into the room.

    2. A313*

      My older cat stopped burying hers, I think as a “message” to her younger brother. He actually would often go in and cover it. Now, he is gone, sadly, and she still doesn’t cover anything. I have no idea how to get a cat to do it if they don’t want to! You might want to try a new litter, though, and put out 2 boxes, one with the new litter one with the old, and see how that works.

    3. I'm A Little Teapot*

      This can be a side effect of arthritis. Or it could just resolve itself in time. Or he’s just silly.

      If you want to throw money at the problem, consider a auto-cleaning litterbox. Or just figure out how to take 2 seconds to grab the scooper and shove litter over it.

      1. blackcat*

        Not to make this a work problem since this is the weekend thread, but that’s what we do when one or the other of us is not in the middle of a video conference meeting. It just seems super awkward to pop out of a call for a minute to be like “sorry, I need to cover my cat’s poop.”

        1. I'm A Little Teapot*

          If possible, just mute and turn off your camera for a moment. I frequently mute because of my sneezing!

    4. TL -*

      My almost three year old cat sometimes covers her poo and sometimes gets distracted by wiping off her paws and doesn’t, though she’ll usually cover it next time she has to go. If I’m near, I’ll cover it where she can see. When she was little I’d “help” her cover by guiding her paws. It helped but I’d be careful depending on the age of the cat – if they have arthritis that would probably be very uncomfortable or even painful.

      Probably a covered or automatic litter box is your best bet for smell containing.

    5. Black Horse Dancing*

      Cats don’t always cover their poo. It can be a hierarchy thing, a bored thing, or simply it hurts to flush thing. Just be happy he’s using the box! I agree with muting the Zoom call/camera off, then quickly scoop or cover. Your colleagues don’t need to know at all what you’re doing. Then light incense if you like it or simply light a match and blow it out.

    6. Kitty*

      My cat had severe GI problems and his poops began to smell so bad I would gag and vomit. After much trial and error, I ended up putting him on a raw diet. The size of his poops became much smaller and the smell was barely noticeable.

  32. Jackalope*

    Anyone had an interesting or amusing mishap (preferably non-COVID-related, although I’m not too particular) to share? I had one recently that was awful at the moment but is becoming more amusing now that I have more than a week’s worth of days between me and The Incident, and I’d love to hear your stories too! Share something we can laugh (or shudder) at, that’s an okay story now that you’re out of it.

    CW: Bees

    So, background: my friend/housemate (let’s call her Nora) and I decide to go camping, since we both like it and what else is there to do this summer anyway? We stay up late the night beforehand, and so when we’re getting ready to leave the next morning I have a bunch of caffeinated tea to keep me awake. This has a predictable effect on my bladder, and so a few hours in I’m all about finding some facilities, which unfortunately are few and far between out in the middle of nowhere. We come to a trail head with an outhouse, and I’m seriously excited about it; I park the car and get out to go do my thing, when I realize there’s a serious fly in the ointment. Or rather, a bee. LOTS of bees. SO MANY BEES. (*Spoiler alert: not really bees; they are actually much worse.) They are large and black & white rather than the usual friendly yellow/black combination, and they are making it clear that I am an intruder. SO many new friends, and NONE of them acting happy to see me.

    Soon I have a swarm of large black eusocial insects flying and buzzing all around me and acting super aggressive, including regularly dive-bombing the car where Nora is still sitting. I walk over to the outhouse, nervous but also desperate, and there is a [so-called] BEE sitting on the handle. I move my hand nervously towards the handle and back off; her friends are clearly not fans of me trying to touch the handle, but matters are getting urgent. Eventually she moves and I try the handle, and it’s LOCKED. (Later Nora opines based on the fact that the outhouse seems to be the center of the swarm and there are many of our new friends flying in and out of the vents that the hive itself is probably inside, which if correct means that I was SUPER lucky that it was locked, but this did not feel lucky at the time…) I back away, and make my way back to the car as carefully as possible, with lots of loud, buzzing companions, while Nora is looking at one of the bees that landed on the windshield right in front of her and thinking, “This animal has a face like a skull; it can’t be a bee.”** We are both Captain Awkward readers (this will make more sense to our fellow CA fans), so when I crammed myself back in the car making incoherent scared noises while patting myself down for any new friends who joined me in the car [thankfully none of them had], she exclaimed, “IT’S FULL OF BEES!!!” CA uses that analogy for abusive relationships of all sorts, and let me tell you; having been someplace that was full of literal members of the bee family…. Well, I’m never going to date that outhouse, that’s for SURE. Final score: bees 1, Jackalope & Nora, 0. Their home was safe.

    (I will add that they were most restrained, given how close we were to their hive [even if we were wrong about it being in the outhouse, the fact that there were so many of them indicates that it was still close by]. Neither of us got stung at all, or got any other consequences other than some stern warnings. Which is good, given that their sting apparently feels like being hit by a baseball bat.)

    ** For those of you who are wondering, it turns out they were bald-faced hornets, which are a type of yellow jacket. If you aren’t familiar with them, go look at the Wikipedia picture, and that’s pretty much what she was looking at.

    1. Mimmy*

      I don’t have any stories to share but O. M. G. !!! I would not have made it to the door handle, I would’ve immediately hightailed it back to the car!

      1. WellRed*

        Seriously. Jackalope, it’s like you were in a slow motion horror movie and we’Re all screaming “get back in the car”!!

      2. Jackalope*

        All I can say in my defense is that I REALLY needed to pee. So much so that my sense went out the window.

    2. Esmeralda*

      Ho-leeee crap, you are lucky! Wasp stings huuuuurrrrrttttt, and those insects are very aggressive.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I live in the woods. Apparently we have a cracked in something somewhere but we can’t find it. What HAS found the crack? Two or three rounds of ants. House flies gslore. A carpenter bee. A white-faced hornet. A big black wasp.
      I’ve never used fly swatter or pesticide like I’ve had to this year!

    4. Girasol*

      I did go look at the picture and OMG! Wikipedia says that although they are beneficial for pest control they will defend their nest vigorously, not just by stinging, but they have the unique ability to *squirt venom into a nest predator’s eyes.* Run away, run away!!

    5. Pam*

      I had a lovely trip-&-fall the other day. Neuropathy means I can’t feel my feet, and my large Frankenstein shoes don’t help.
      I was moving the baby gate that keeps our dogs separated, caught my foot in the electric fan cord, and fell in slow motion. My glass of tea flew through the air, and turned a somersault on the way down. I said a few curse words on the way down, but got up with nothing but bruises.

    6. allathian*

      Yikes! Now I’m curious, how long did it take until you actually got the chance to pee? I’ve been forced to resort to peeing by the side of the road more than once because when I gotta go, I GOTTA GO. The two-door trick works. You open both the front passenger door and the rear door and pee in the space that can’t be seen from either side, as long as you’re in a reasonably sheltered spot and not immediately facing any houses. To be fair, I’ve only done this when traveling with my husband and son. They avert their eyes but it’s not the end of the world if they see my bare ass.

      1. Jackalope*

        I drove a couple more miles down the road, jumped out of the car, and did one of the fastest pees of my LIFE, even though there were no members of the bee family present at all that I saw this second time. So maybe 15 minutes? Thankfully there was virtually no traffic (I think there were maybe two other cars during the hour we spent on that road?), so I waited for a spot where I could pull over and didn’t see anyone else coming. The only person who might have seen me was Nora, who didn’t care.

    7. PNW Dweller*

      Mine is just funny. I stopped by to visit my parents and their 1 year old dog was so happy to see me. I went out to his yard, played a bit and when I tried to go back in, he grabbed my shoelaces from one shoe and tried to pull me back into the yard. They have a grab bar by the door and I was close enough to hold onto that as he quickly had me off my feet. I looked like I was in hurricane gale force wind (and I’m not a small person!) I was laughing so hard, as was my stepmom, so it took a little bit of time to get my feet back on the ground.

  33. Goose*

    Sometime this fall I am planning to visit my parents for a number of weeks, but I have no idea what to do about my cat. I can’t bring her with me because of family allergies, and I’m not sure my normal sitter (1 hour/day) will be enough for her. She’s been so needy since quarantine started (unable to entertain herself despite toys, window ledges, perches, etc. and we play and cuddle a LOT.

    I wouldn’t want anyone staying at my place, but she doesn’t like other animals so dropping her off with a sitter would be tough. I’m anxious, but also feel silly like I’m over thinking it. Am I being a cat helicopter mom?

    1. I take tea*

      You are not overthinking it. You do need to plan for your pets. A sitter one hour per day for several weeks would absolutely not be enough, I would not do that for longer than a weekend. Do you have any friends or maybe a trusted colleague who could look after her in their own home for some weeks? Maybe somebody who would like a pet during these times, but do not want the long time responsibility. They might like to borrow the cat for a while, as long as you bring all their stuff and food and work out funding for emergencies (tip: write down the number/s to emergency veterinary as well as the standard one, if you have one). I think it would be the least stressful alternative, if you don’t want anybody in your home (which I can understand).

    2. Ali G*

      I think if you are going to be gone weeks, an hour a day is not enough. What is the reason for not wanting someone to stay in your place? In general I don’t like to leave my home empty for a long time, so I like having someone there while I am gone. Do you have a friend that can stay maybe a couple of days a week or where the cat can go stay? You could also try Rover and see if there are any sitters that don’t have other pets.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      If you don’t want someone staying at your house and you don’t want to drop her off with a sitter, then you should think about boarding her if you can afford it. You can try a boarding place or ask your own vet. My vet charges something like 15.00/day. I realize that’s going to add up, but this is multiple weeks and the it sounds like you don’t want the two best options. The alternative is to have someone come twice a day.

    4. Not A Manager*

      I wouldn’t board a pet if I could help it, honestly. I think you’re better off reconsidering whether you can have someone stay over, maybe an acquaintance or someone who is well recommended.

      Otherwise I’d ask around for people who would actually like a quiet, private daytime space. There are a lot of students and WFH who might really value being able to come to your place during the day and who would be willing to play with the cat in exchange for a stipend, wifi, and a quiet workspace.

      1. Liz*

        This is a good idea. I’d expect to still pay someone to come to my house every day but if you could find someone willing to spend the majority of the day at your place and use the space to work for the day, it’d at least get your cat in the company of a person for a good amount of time but wouldn’t be someone fully living at your house.

        I definitely would not board the cat for several weeks, I imagine that would be extremely stressful for kitty. I also think it really isn’t fair to kitty be alone for 23 hours a day either. For a shorter vacation, sure, but not for a number of weeks.

    5. Kathenus*

      One additional thought is to start weaning on the amount of playing and cuddling now – not stopping them, but reducing them so that it’s not such a huge difference when you go away and it’s a pet sitter. You have the luxury of some time to do that, which may help her deal with it better if it’s not going from play/cuddles all day to one or two hours seeing a petsitter.

    6. Roja*

      For a couple of weeks, you do need to have someone stay over, or you need to find a friend or local foster family who can take her for a while–preferably someone she already knows! But that’s a really, really long time to leave a single cat. Your other option is boarding her. But please don’t leave her by herself that long.

    7. Anon here*

      Maybe reconsider someone staying at your place? Cats do best in their own home, of course, and the less disruption for her, the less you’ll worry. We did have a pet sitter basically live at our house for a 12-day trip, and he spent the night. It was a little weird, and I’m a pretty private person, so I had to choose what would be best for my cat so I could enjoy the trip. We did have to return a movie he’d left in the (was afraid to look at the title, but it was just a regular movie, whew!), but the mail was brought in, plants were watered, house wasn’t left vacant, and most importantly, my cat was safe and as happy as she could be without me and a stranger in the house (who wasn’t such a stranger after a few days). A previous cat needed to be boarded for medical/observation reasons, and refused to eat. Luckily, that was only a couple of nights. You know your cat best, and your comfort level of having someone stay in your home, but if you can make adjustments so you’re as comfortable with it as you can be, that’s where I’d focus my energy.

    8. Goose*

      Based on everyone’s comments, I’m reconsidering someone staying over. I’m going to reach out to a few people so it’s not a stranger staying. Thanks all!

      1. allathian*

        Good luck! If that person doesn’t live too far away, they wouldn’t even have to sleep in your house. Even with clean sheets, etc. I wouldn’t be comfortable with anyone from outside our immediate family sleeping in my bed.

      2. Emma*

        Yeah, that’s really what I would recommend. When I had a kitty I had a trusted friend who lived out in the suburbs and always enjoyed staying in my city apartment with the cat for a few weeks while I was on vacation. Kitty got company and I gave friend a nice gift – still way less expensive than boarding. I tried boarding once and kitty was a nervous wreck – they are very territorial and can get pretty freaked out in a new environment.

        1. Windchime*

          Years ago, I used to board my cats at the vet. They charged a little extra for a “kitty condo” so I thought, “Yes, I want my cats to have the condo!” Turns out the “kitty condo” was a cage that was slightly bigger than the non-condo cages.

          I would avoid boarding at a place like that if possible. I felt terrible knowing that I had been leaving my cats caged for days on end. Now I have a house sitter coming in.

        2. Jaid*

          I’d look after my parents cats when they went on vacation. It helped that they recognized me as someone who already had been visiting.

    9. Black Horse Dancing*

      Many pet sitters also do house sitting. A bonded pet sitter is worth their weight in gold.

  34. tabby cat troubles*

    Hello all. This is my first time posting in the weekend open thread. I have a question about my cat, and I’m hoping someone can help.

    I have a 7 year old female fixed cat. I’ve had her for 4 years. In the past 8 days, she has defecated outside of her litter box twice. She defecated in an entirely different room than her box. I called the vet and scheduled an appointment for next week, but in the meantime, does anyone have experience with this? My cat has always had very good and clean litter box habits, and there have no been no changes in the household, so I’m not sure what is going on. This is the first time that she has had accidents like this. She continues to urinate in her box, the two accidents have been poop.

    I have not thoroughly cleaned her litter box in a long time. I scoop twice a day but rarely actually change the litter. Could this be contributing to the problem?

    Thank you!

    1. Goose*

      Giving it a good clean couldn’t hurt. Is she drinking enough water? Has her eating habits changed at all? Not going in the litter box is a clear code for ‘something’s not right.’ If she’s not spraying it doesn’t sound territorial, but more that she’s uncomfortable in the box for some reason. Could be the box, could be the littler, could be something medical. Glad you’re headed to the vet!

    2. A313*

      It could very well be the litterbox. I completely change the litter once a week and wash the box with a mild dish detergent and lots of hot water. Cats’ sense of smell and cleanliness is so much better than ours, so even if you think it smells fine, she might not. Also, do this before it becomes a habit for her to do her business elsewhere, or you have a bigger challenge trying to direct her back to the box. The vet visit is also a good idea, just in case, but the box cleaning has to happen either way.

      1. A313*

        Dr. Elsey’s litter is very popular (we use it), and I understand it’s helpful to get cats back to their litterbox.

      2. tabby cat troubles*

        Thank you for this. I just got done thoroughly cleaning her entire box. I dumped the old litter and used hot water and dish soap to scrub out the box and the lid. I also went ahead and cleaned the little room her box is in, figured it couldn’t hurt. I poured fresh litter in and her box is cleaned and ready. I also left the lid off because I read online that sometimes lids make cats uncomfortable in their box.

        She’s used this type of litter and box for years, so I’m wondering if the issue is that it was just too dirty and she was a little fed up.

        1. A313*

          Yeah, she could have gotten fed up :) I meant to ask if there was a lid. Some cats like them, but many don’t. They trap odors in the box if it’s not as clean as she’d like. If she continues going outside the box, or if she hasn’t been in a while, a vet visit can see if there’s anything going on medically. Good luck!

          Funny story: one of my cats accidentally got trapped in the closet and attached bathroom for the day (no litterbox in there). We got home after work and my husband discovered the the cat chose to poop on one of the silicone and foam knee pads he used for working on yard projects. It was an interesting choice — I figured that since the knee pads were well-used, they probably had a strong “scent” to them already; and the poop was perfectly centered in one knee pad.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I have multiple cats and I very rarely change the litter. I scoop everyday, but I don’t find I need to completely change it out. What kind of litter do you use? It’s possible you’re using something that actually does need to be changed out.

      I’m more inclined to think it’s something to do with either age or more likely a parasite and/or protozoa. One of my cats was doing this for months even though we scoop everyday. Since I have a lot of cats, I couldn’t figure out who was doing it since I never saw anyone do it. It took awhile before I finally caught him in the act. I had his stool sample tested and he had roundworm and coccidia. An online search says: “Coccidiosis is an intestinal tract infection caused by a one-celled organism (a protozoa) called coccidia.” I had to give him two rounds of meds for the coccidia and I’m treating for the roundworm now, which is also two rounds. I haven’t found poop on the floor in at least a week, which is a big improvement.

      1. tabby cat troubles*

        Yeah, her last stool sample was 2018 so the vet said to definitely bring a stool sample so they can check. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if that is the issue. She’s used this same litter and box for years so its not like I tried a new brand or anything, and there have been no changes in the house. So my two guesses are either that she has a parasite, or maybe it was just too dirty and she was annoyed.

    4. I'm A Little Teapot*

      My first thought would be she’s making it clear that you need to empty and wash the box, then put clean litter in. Assuming that’s the case – you now know that you need to be better about litterbox maintenance.

    5. cat socks*

      Dumping the litter and entirely cleaning the box is a good thought. Dr. Elseys cat attract litter is good for kitties who have had litter box avoidance issues.

      However since nothing else has changed, my first thought is that it could be a medical issue. Your vet should be able to determine that with a stool sample.

      I have five cats and their litter boxes are made from large storage boxes. It’s very awkward and heavy to completely dump the litter and clean them out. I usually do it a few times a year because I need to haul them to the driveway and hose them out. Otherwise I just add fresh litter as the level gets low.

    6. Kathenus*

      I think you’re hitting on the two most likely things – a medical issue, since this can definitely cause some cats to associate the litterbox with discomfort if they have a health issue involving urinating or defecating; and litterbox hygiene.

      I scoop my litterboxes anytime I notice they’ve been used, and fully change out and scrub them every 2-3 weeks. I definitely notice my cat seeming a bit put off by the litterbox if I go too long before full cleanings.

      Good chance it’s one of those two. Since your vet appt. isn’t until next week, I’d suggest scrub and change out your litterbox right now to see if things change between now and the vet appointment, as a data point to help figure this out. Good luck.

    7. tabby cat troubles*

      Thank you all! I just got done thoroughly cleaning her box. I emptied the old litter and scrubbed out the box with hot water and dish soap. I also went ahead and cleaned the little room her box is in as well. The box is cleaned out with fresh litter in it. She’s of course taking her Saturday 12-hour nap right now, so I’ll keep an eye on her later when she’s up. Thank you again!!!

    8. Dancing Otter*

      Could she be angry about something? My daughter’s tomcat does his business on her clothes when he feels she hasn’t been giving him the proper amount of worship and treats.

    9. Black Horse Dancing*

      Kiity may simply want two litterboxes–one to defecate in, one to urinate in. Also, arthritis can cause this as well as gut issues. And if kitty is declawed–a horrible practice–that can also lead to litterbox issues.

  35. Dnd Newbie*

    I just joined my first DnD group with a group of strangers online, and I have a question about the DM. It’s a specific group for beginners, but it feels like he’s frustrated with decisions we make. For example, we are currently attempting a prison break and have been chatting this week to come up with a plan. The DM occasionally pops in to tell us why something won’t work, and it seems like there is “one” solution that we just aren’t getting and it’s making everyone, including the DM, frustrated. Is this a case of “puzzles for toddlers” or should I speak up and ask him what he wants?

    1. merp*

      I don’t have a solution, but I would say this is not really great DM behavior! The DM’s role is to go with what the party ends up doing – I am sure it’s frustrating sometimes (where once the party I was in completely ignored the main plot to talk to every NPC in the tavern because we thought it was fun, for instance) but they shouldn’t really be railroading you in one direction and one direction only.

      DMing is super challenging and I’m not trying to be rude about this person – just that I think you are right to be frustrated by this. Maybe bringing it up as a group can help if you get the sense they wouldn’t be too defensive about it.

    2. GoryDetails*

      Yeah, that’s not a good way for a DM to handle things. It can be helpful with newbies to be a bit more proactive in guiding their choices, but there are in-game ways to do that – charismatic innkeeper, renowned local wise-person, even a rival band of adventures who can be overheard discussing the DM’s desired plan at a nearby table at the pub… That doesn’t always work either, but it can be a fun way to nudge the players into asking the more helpful questions.

      And you can always just talk to the DM, explaining that you’d prefer it if he provided some more direct hints rather than simply putting down each of the players’ suggestions until they land on the right one. Though if the other players are enjoying the figure-it-out stage you may need to be more patient.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Ditto to the DM hasn’t thought through the plot options. A good DM will take the unexpected and run with it. Like when a friend admits to nightmares about a specific type of monster the night the campaign is due to start, and DM was going to use hordes of that monster as plot point…. and the friends didn’t know for decades.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      Yeah, this is bad DMing. I’ve seen this referred to a “pixel b!tching” after the old point and click adventures where you had to find the exact pixel to click on to progress.

      A good (and experienced) DM will set up a situation, have a couple of ideas of how it could be resolved, and then let the players run with it, adapting as necessary. Some groups will go for brute force (attack en masse, fireballs and lightning bolts) others will be more subtle, and some will get really creative and outright weird.

      Also, a DM shouldn’t be telling you “no that won’t work”!!! That the opposite of how RPGing should go. They should be clarifying rules as needed, but not vetoing your plan. Instead, they should let you run it and see what happens – it might work, it might end horribly. As a DM I might give novice players suggestions on effective implementation of their plan, but wouldn’t make them play mind reading games, or micromanage them into doing what I would.

    5. PNW Dweller*

      I’m sad your DM is being a control freak. The best part of D&D is getting to use your imagination. The DM in return needs to be able to adapt to how you guys approach your task. Can you tactfully suggest that strategy chats don’t include the DM? If that doesn’t fly it may be more enjoyable to find another group. Before giving up, a last ditch might be “DM, I gotta be honest, it seems like we aren’t on the same page. Instead of being fun, this is becoming an exercise of frustration for everyone. I’m not sure if this is for me. Is there something you can think of that would help our knowledge gap?” Also, have you heard of Critical Role? It’s a live D&D group, you can watch old episodes on YouTube. Matt Mercer is their DM, you will be able to see how a great DM helps guide the group.

    6. Ktelzbeth*

      Agree that this doesn’t sound right or fun. Not everything will work, but the DM should let you try anything game-legal and fail, perhaps in a hilarious way, instead of telling you things won’t work. I’ve even known DMs to be so enthralled with a solution the players came up with that the DM let it work, even though it wasn’t the initially planned solution.

        1. DnD Newbie*

          Thanks! It was only our third session but I had gotten attached. Back to the character creator…

  36. Bekx*

    My mom is incredibly emotionally immature and I’m really struggling with how to be around her. My husband and I are trying for a baby, so this has been extra pressure since I know she will want to be involved.

    She’s the type of person who has temper tantrums, silent treatment, slamming doors, sighs, etc. She refused to talk to me the day after my wedding because the preview photos my photographer gave us the day after didn’t have any of her in them. She gets easily offended and has maybe apologized to me three times in my entire life and that’s only when my dad tells her to. I love my dad but he enables her.

    I went to therapy when I was wedding planning about it, but I don’t think I was with the right therapist. Her advice was to treat my mom as a toddler and remember that toddlers can’t express emotions the way adults can. That’s great and all, but it still doesn’t help when I’m in the situation and she’s doing something inappropriate or embarrassing.

    Any time she’s critcized she blames it on her disability or her breast cancer or her heart condition. She won’t let my dad even go out to lunch with me without her there too.

    I’m at my wits end. It’s exhausting. People tell me to set boundaries but what does that mean? I can’t cut her out of my life, because she does love and care about me, but being around her is exhausting.

    What do I do?

    1. Colette*

      First of all, you can cut her out of your life if you don’t want her in it. But first I’d try some boundaries.

      “Mom, I’m not going to talk to you when you’re acting like that.”
      “You sighed, is something wrong?” – and then if the response is anything but a clear statement of a problem you can fix (and want to fix), move on and ignore any further sighing.
      “Please don’t slam the doors.”
      “If you aren’t going to talk to me, I’m going to leave/hang up” – and then follow through.

      Basically, ignore any behavior that’s not OK, or call her on it. And enforce consequences (which are likely to be packing up and leaving or hanging up the phone).

      And like a toddler, you have to be consistent 100% of the time, or you’ll train her that if she continues to behave badly you’ll give in.

      (And I’m sure she loves you as much as she is able to do so, but … part of love is doing things that are good for the other person, and that doesn’t seem to be happening here. If you need to walk away, that is OK.)

      1. Bekx*

        Thanks for supplying some scripts. That helps. Last time I took the high road, and man was it hard, but I do agree it probably is the most effective. It was sad because I wanted to talk to my dad more, but he enables her so I have to be consistent. You’re right.

      2. Mimosa Jones*

        If you ask your mom if anything is wrong and she says no, then you can say, “Ok well unless you tell me, I’m going to assume you’re happy.” The toddler version would be “use your words.” Then you’re free to ignore any silence and stomping because she’s been informed that it’s her responsibility to tell you when she’s upset with you.

    2. Esmeralda*

      Let me just say that yes, you can cut her out of your life. Just because she loves you doesn’t mean you have to put up with her exhausting, mean, selfish, embarassing, or nasty behavior. You just don’t.

      You don’t have to cut her out of your life completely, of course, but please know that it is a perfectly reasonable option.

      Boundaries: read captain awkward’s blog. That’s the best resource anywhere on what boundaries are, how to set them, how to maintain them. Plus she’s a good writer!

      1. Bekx*

        Thanks, I love captain awkward. I should read her more often, my struggle is I tend to get angry when she does these things because I feel like I’ve told her I don’t like it when she says XYZ or does ABC before, so my fuse is a lot shorter than it would be with a rude stranger.

        1. Observer*

          This is one place where your therapist’s advice come into play. You are reacting like she’s a reasonable ADULT who should be able to respond appropriately to the things you tell her. But she’s a toddler, stuck in permanent toddlerhood. How would react to a toddler?

          Also, the tools you use with her are the same as you would use for a toddler. Just dressed up a bit. Will they change who your mother is? Not likely. Will they change some of her worst behaviors? Possibly. Will they make your life easier and less stressful? Undoubtedly.

          TLDR; Your mom is a toddler. So, you don’t let a toddler get away with bad behavior but, emotionally, you don’t take it the same way to you take it when an adult misbehaves.

          You’ve gotten some good scripts. Use them or edit in ways that make you more comfortable.

    3. Dan*

      I’ve functionally cut my mother out of my life. This is somewhat awkward, because she’s still married to my dad, whom I’m close to, and they still live together. So how does that work? Well, I live 600 miles away and I talk to my dad on the phone after she goes to bed, so that seems to work. I visit once a year, stay for a holiday weekend, and that’s it.

      It’s not as awkward as it may sound, because mom doesn’t think or communicate at an adult level. So most things are really shallow without any real substance. She’s been developing memory problems, which compounds things — she now repeats the same things over and over, and if you tell her that, she then flies off the handle.

      Yes, my mother loves me (or so she says) but I’ve just come to accept that she loves me in the way that she can, not necessarily in the way that I need her to.

      1. Bekx*

        Thanks, your mom’s memory problems are pretty much how my mom has been my entire life (brain injury), so I relate with that well.

        1. allathian*

          If it’s a disability, it may help you to think that your mom isn’t being malicious. Obviously what she’s doing isn’t acceptable even if it isn’t intentional. You’re definitely still allowed to set boundaries on what kind of behavior you’re willing to tolerate from her. It’s important to learn this now so that you can protect any children you may have in the future.

          1. Firefly*

            One note here: it is possible for someone to have a disability that affects X and still be malicious in ways that involve X. For example, my mom had anxiety attacks and needed to take tranquilizer a to cope, which meant lots of naps and inability to drive. However, if she was mad at teenage me or my brother, and our dad was working, she would purposefully take an (I needed) tranquilizer so she couldn’t drive us to special events. She admitted this later when she was more stable. Led to us feeling like we had to be understanding of actions that were specifically mean

      2. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Yes, my mother loves me (or so she says) but I’ve just come to accept that she loves me in the way that she can, not necessarily in the way that I need her to.

        As someone with mother issues, this is really helpful and something I’ll keep in mind.

    4. LGC*

      Okay, so…apologies for invalidating your entire experience, but here’s some tips:

      1) To be honest, you can cut your mom out of your life. She might have good intention(somewhere…), and I don’t doubt that she does love you and care for you, but her behavior is causing you a huge amount of pain. How much a person loves you (or says they love you) shouldn’t matter that much – if they have a history of hurting you, you’re not obligated to give them your time.

      It’s something I’ve found freeing in similar situations – I don’t have to put up with abuse just because the abuser did something nice for me (or even a lot of nice things for me).

      (Caveat: there are some situations where people ARE genuinely trapped, especially in domestic abuse situations. But it doesn’t sound like this is in play here.)

      2) This does not mean that you should cut your mom out of your life. First of all, it doesn’t sound like you want to. Second, even though I wrote a novel about the joys of estrangement, it’s not all puppies and rainbows – you definitely do want to continue seeing your dad, and I think that if you estrange yourself from your mom, you’re going to estrange yourself from your dad too.

      3) I think the missing piece of what your therapist said was…you also don’t treat toddlers like adults partly because they don’t have emotional regulation. You’re planning to have a baby soon, right? So imagine a couple of years from now, you and your husband were successful and now have a toddler. You’re baking a cake, and your two-year-old daughter wants to HELP MOMMY BAKE. Do you let her get her little hands in everything, pour the batter into the cake pan by herself, put it in the oven, and then take the hot cake out when it’s done?

      I’d hope not.

      4) So basically, if I were you I’d start with the middle road of…not having your mom as involved with major decisions. One term of art I’ve heard is putting her on an information diet (which is slightly different – you don’t give her as much information about sensitive decisions), which is another way of thinking about it. And I think that – unfortunately – might have to apply to your dad as well. It sounds like he’s influenced by her to the point where you can’t see him without her (!!!), so you might not be able to share as much with your dad as you’d like.

      It sounds like that might be the best situation – pulling back somewhat on the contact, but not entirely pulling back. She might (okay, probably will) fight this, but that’s her problem.

      1. Bekx*

        Thank you so much for your detailed reply. I really connected with a lot of what you said. She’s been on an information diet for a year or so now, because she was sharing details of my life to her coworkers, but she craves any sort of information about me… Even if it’s just that the dog farted in her sleep.

        You’ve given me a lot to think about for sure!

        1. valentine*

          she craves any sort of information about me… Even if it’s just that the dog farted in her sleep.
          This is obsession. Why? What does she get out of it? Because that’s what’s happening. You tell her not to do xyz and she steamrolls you because she needs it and you’re willing to continue playing your role.

          I can’t cut her out of my life
          Because of this, whether you told your therapist this or just because she sees the interaction continues, I think your therapist was saying your mom isn’t going to change. She may love you, but is her love, both noun and verb, useful, much less beneficial to you? I see only harm on your tale, and you don’t have to keep living like this. Since your parents are a unit, you have to treat them as such. It’s painful to you, but what if you could detach and reducing contact also reduced your anxiety, dread, and fear? I’d try it for six months, then another. Until you feel free.

          And your dad isn’t merely enabling her. She’s a boat rocker and his role as the at-first-glance less-bad guy is a vital leg of your triangle. (See: https://www.reddit.com/r/JUSTNOMIL/comments/77pxpo/dont_rock_the_boat/?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share.) She couldn’t do what she did/does without him.

          You may want to search JustNoMIL for stories of crashing the birth (don’t tell her you’re pregnant until the kid’s 20; barring that, don’t reveal how far you are, so she can’t estimate the due date), doorstepping, and home invasion.

          Further reading: Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist; Adult Children of Immature Parents; Emotional Blackmail; The Emotional Incest Syndrome: When a Parent’s Love Rules Your Life; Toxic Parents; and My Mother, My Self.

    5. Wishing You Well*

      Try therapy again. I hope you get a compatible therapist this time. You’re dealing with a lot and you need someone who is neutral with advice. Hopefully, in sessions, you’ll determine your emotional needs and if your mother is capable of giving you what you need. Boundary setting and enforcing them are great things to learn and practice in the relative safety of a therapist’s office. New mothers need to do a LOT of boundary setting with other adults and the skill is essential in parenting.
      I hope you and your husband have good news soon.

    6. Jessi*

      Might I suggest you spent some time on the reddit forum justnomil? I feel like you could have a good place to vent and get advice there.

      I personally would just ignor her acting like a child. Ignore sighs and treat silent treatment like a gift.
      For bad behaviour just up and leave every single time “Seems like you are too upset to carry on with this visit/ phone call, so I’m going to go. Call you again next week/ see you next time”.

      this is your baby, and body and life and you don’t have to let her be involved any more than you WANT her to be

    7. Not So NewReader*

      There’s lots of videos on YouTube about narcissistic parents. You might want to check them out, perhaps something will parallel your setting.

      I think that you will have to draw your lines with her, set your boundaries. My mother had poor behavior in public so I quit going places with her. It was too much work. And I kept going drawing a boundary on specific things as I went along. She would drive me places and I am not sure how I got there alive. So I took over driving. She had made it very clear that she hated doing meals and laundry for me, so I took over that (by the time I was about 7).
      Finally I moved out and did not see her that much. She claimed she loved me but her definition of love and my definition of love did not match at all. She loved me when I marched to her tune and she could shut love off like it was a water faucet. That’s not love.

      1. allathian*

        Whoah, doing your own meals and laundry at 7? How old were you when you finally moved out? You learned to be independent early, that’s for sure.

        1. PNW Dweller*

          Having a narcissistic parent I think leads you into taking care of yourself. I was in the same boat. You can’t have needs because theirs are always more important. If I remember correctly my 1st or 2nd grade specialty was instant mashed potatoes. Moving in with my dad and stepmom full time at 15 was strange. For the first time in my life I was allowed to be a kid; and I was told (by my stepmom) that school lunch making was the mom job. So was laundry.

          1. allathian*

            Awww, that’s sweet! You had a good stepmom, although to be fair, I think it’s a parent’s duty to teach their kids to do chores as they get older. My son’s great at filling and emptying the dishwasher and folding and putting away his clean clothes. Parents do a great disservice to their kids if they teach them to expect to be waited on hand and foot. If they can’t do basic chores, nobody’s going to want to live with them when they get a bit older. But yeah, expecting a 7-year-old to do everything for herself is bad parenting at best and it would be considered neglect in many places.

          2. Batgirl*

            Yeah, my partner has a toddler-mother and he is a crazy level of competent born of early onset responsibility, and gets kind of fidgety when people are doing something for him as though he is not allowed to be a guest, or to be cared for. She on the other hand gets nostalgic for the days when he was her child carer and doesn’t feel that adults looking after her is quite the same level of emotional fulfilment. I get really evil and say “Ooh tell me about how you used to mark his birthdays!” (She didn’t and knows she should have). She does legitimately have conditions but she quite despises treating them or even entertaining independences that she could do. Every time she behaves like his worth is tied to serving her his confidence is crushed. He sees her for who she is, but really struggles to see himself.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I was 20. I decided I was not going to leave and come back, leave and come back. I decided that I would leave once and that would be it. So I waited for that time where I knew I could jump and make it.

          In some ways, it actually helped me. I can work with next to nothing and keep going. It’s to the point that bosses comment, “You never need anything….”. It just never occurs to me to ask for much stuff. I can usually take what is in front of me and make it work.
          The other way it has helped me is that nothing that has happened to me since those years has been that hard. Nothing.

      2. Texan In Exile*

        She had made it very clear that she hated doing meals and laundry for me, so I took over that (by the time I was about 7).

        Holy smoke that is so wrong. I am so sorry that your mother neglected you like that. You were a little kid. You should not have had to prepare your own food and wash your own clothes!

        My mom did not get up to make us breakfast starting when I was about ten, I think. I learned when I was an adult that she had been deeply depressed and just couldn’t get out of bed. This was in the 70s before they had the good drugs. She has since taken anti-depressants and is a new woman.

        I am now 56. When I saw her in March, she told me, unprompted, that she was sorry that she had not made our breakfasts when my siblings and I were kids. I was gobsmacked. I hadn’t brought it up. I have never mentioned it to her. But I have known my entire adult life that there is something really weird about parents leaving their kids to fend for themselves in the morning before school.

        I am sorry you had to go through that. It’s wrong.

        1. Black Horse Dancing*

          I don’t think it’s weird. In my large family, we all made our breakfasts (cereal and milk) and lunches–lunches from first grade on and breakfast from 7 or so. Kids are very capable of these simple things.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I’m fine with teaching kids to do stuff, no prob there.

            I see a problem when the parent has checked out and the kid is fudging their way through things because no one taught them or no food supplies are available. That’s neglect.
            I see an even larger problem when the parent tells the kid that they don’t deserve to have food. That’s disgusting.

    8. Natalie*

      For whatever it’s worth, I have a newish baby (4 months old) and I haven’t been in communication with my mother for 2-1/2 years. I’m working with a therapist right now to decide what I would want if/when I decide to get back in touch with her and let her spend time with my daughter.

      I might consider giving therapy a try again. It’s possible you weren’t with the right therapist, and it’s also possible that they could have explained further or suggested more or different tools if they knew that particular thing wasn’t helpful. Don’t be afraid to ask a therapist to explain or clarify something. I find it’s helpful for me to focus on actions and behaviors – I’m not really at a place where I need help delving into my childhood or untangling emotions, but I need help articulating what behaviors I can’t hang with, what I would like to see instead, and how to achieve that.

    9. Amy*

      I think there is a lot of good advice upthread already, so I will just add: when your baby arrives I think you will find that the importance of your parents in your life will take a backseat to the importance of your new family. You are not going to have the bandwidth to worry about your mom’s behavior as much, which is a good thing.

      You can be “busy” with motherhood as often as you need to be to ignore her calls (and truthfully, you WILL be really busy). You will also likely feel more of an obligation to stand up to her ridiculous behavior because you’re not just protecting yourself – you’re protecting your child. And access to grandkids can be a great motivator for people to change their behavior. The first time she pulls this kind of stuff with you and there’s a baby in the picture (even in utero) you can absolutely become distant and inform her that you are not interested in having her around your family if she’s going to behave that way. She can pout all she wants but it is YOUR call, and there’s nothing she can do about it. Heck, you can draw these boundaries now, but the leverage of the grandbaby sure will help. And they are boundaries you really do need to draw, both for your own mental health and to set an example for your (future) child who shouldn’t be exposed to this toxic behavior.

      One last note – when you are pregnant, I would recommend you think carefully about how much information to divulge to her and when. If she is going to be boundary-stomping and stressing you out you probably don’t want to share every detail with her, and I definitely wouldn’t include her in discussions about name choices, birth plans, or exact due dates. When you’re in labor, go have the baby and tell her after the baby is safely delivered. Access to this kind of info is a privilege that she doesn’t seem to have earned if she’s just going to stress you about over it.

      1. Bekx*

        Thanks for these tips. I have the added comication of having awesome inlaws, who my husband is extremely close with, my mom gets jealous that we are so close with them. I don’t tell her we see them, but sometimes my husband forgets and then we have to back pedal a bit. Or my inlaws say something that I hadn’t told my parents and then my mom gets offended because she heard it from them not us.

        1. Natalie*

          So with this kind of thing, in my experience you will tie yourself into knots trying to avoid offending your mother with the fact that you’re closer to other people. It’s not sustainable, especially with a child. Are you going to ask your kid to lie to your mom about events or time spent with your husband’s family?

          This will take some time, and probably some therapeutic support, but ideally you want to get to a point where you aren’t being led by the nose by her reactions. Maybe you still have some feelings about her reactions, sure, but you’re able to *tolerate* those feelings rather than manage them away.

    10. eeniemeenie*

      Setting boundaries means not taking responsibility for your mother’s behaviour or reaction.

      Let’s take as an example her silence treatment about your wedding photos. Taking responsibility for her sulking would look like this: “I’m so sorry the preview pictures didn’t have you in them, I’ll contact the photographer right now and ask them to send photos with you. Please don’t be mad, I’ll do this right away.”

      Removing the responsibility of your mum’s emotions to her might look like this: “I’m sad to hear you’re angry about this, but I didn’t personally choose the pictures the photographer sent to preview. If you want to contact them yourself you can do that. Happy to give you space to work out your feelings, let’s talk later, bye.”

      If she blames her disability or health condition about her behaviour, try saying this: “Yes, it’s difficult to live with a disability. However, it’s still hurtful when you slam doors/yell/cry because XYZ.”

      If she chooses not to be in your life because you won’t accommodate everything she demands, that’s *her* choice to sever ties with you and the only thing you can do is respect it. Or…give into her demands and feel stressed out. Can you sit with the discomfort of saying no to your mother? Or are you trying to ask how you can keep saying yes and be happy?

      When you have a parent like this it will invariable affect your husband and your future kids. She is not a toddler where you can put her down for a nap when she tantrums.

      1. Bekx*

        Thanks! I’m kind of proud of myself because that’s what I did with the wedding photo debacle! I’m trying to work on the feelings of embarrassment when she reacts this way. My husband reminds me that her behavior is not a reflection of me, but it’s hard to not care.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Feelings of embarrassment. Decide not to wear her embarrassment for her in the moment. I’ll do an example: Mom has bad behavior x and people are staring. Immediately say to yourself, “I refuse to carry your embarrassment for you, Mom. This is your embarrassment to wear/carry, not mine.” When you feel the feelings of embarrassment rushing toward you just say this quietly inside your mind right as the situation is unfolding. “I refuse to carry/wear your embarrassment FOR you.”

          It’s funny/odd you know, where I landed after a bit was that there is very little anyone can do in public or in a group that embarrasses me. It took me a while to get into the swing of this, but once I got it, then it just seemed to carry over to everyone. One time a friend decided to pull a joke on me while we were cashing out at a store. Friend thought he would catch me off guard. I did not even break stride. I just pushed it right back to him. We never went through that again.

          Something that is good to know, passers-by can see when a family member is giving a ration of crap to another family member. We read like open books to each other. Not everyone who sees you dealing with your mother’s behavior blames you, matter of fact, they marvel that you are still trying. Just so you know this….

        2. Batgirl*

          I think it’s pretty difficult to just decide you’re suddenly not going to feel something. It’s not like you decided TO be embarrassed; its not a decision so you can’t u-turn. Feelings are like the weather, when the conditions are right they manifest.. I think you have three options:
          1) Fake it till you make it. Act how your personal hard-to-embarrass hero would react. Sometimes feelings follow actions.
          2) Own the feelings. Exactly as though they did show up just like the weather. Say out loud “Wow, I am so embarrassed, please excuse me.” Warn your mother “I get embarrassed when you do x and will probably leave” . If she calls you an arsehole remember that feelings aren’t decisions: “Maybe! I’ve tried for years to be graceful enough to not care and I’m just not”. Or just acknowledge it to yourself that you won’t sit through any embarrassment and enjoy it any more than if it were rain.
          3) Avoid the situations you find embarrassing with minimal explanation “That’s not always enjoyable for me. No idea why it’s not not more fun” or “Sorry I’m busy”.

    11. Rusty Shackelford*

      When setting boundaries, one thing people don’t always understand is that you can’t expect other people to respect them. The way you set a boundary is that you decide what it is, and you enforce it yourself. So you can say “Mom, don’t treat me that way” until you’re blue in the face and it will accomplish nothing. The way to enforce that boundary is to say “Mom, I don’t want to talk to you when you’re like this, so I’m going to hang up now, bye!”

      Also, motherinlawstories dot com is a great site with lots of people who are in the same boat, and are full of good advice or just a listening ear. It’s not limited to MILs. Any troublesome family member is up for discussion! And it never ends up on Buzzfeed. ;-)

  37. Going Underground - arthritis advice please*

    Hello, regular reader/commenter using a different username today because I want to be anon.

    I wondered if anyone here has any advice about arthritis – particularly rheumatoid arthritis.

    Last weekend my fingers swelled up alarmingly and the joints on my thumb, index finger and middle finger were very painful.

    The swelling subsided by Monday morning, but the pain persisted, along with weakness in my hands (picking up heavy items hurts and doesn’t feel doable at the moment, I can’t open jars or carry heavy items).

    I had a phone consultation with my GP on Tuesday morning, and she booked me in for a blood test this week; she’s also going to check me over and look at my hands.

    My mum has rheumatoid arthritis (hers started about 7 years ago), and it began exactly like this. When the Dr heard my mum has RA she said it sounds likely that this is what it is, although of course they’ll look at other things it could be too. Having read up on the symptoms etc, I am feeling that it is likely to be RA or some sort of arthritis.

    I am hoping some of the wonderful AAM readers can give me advice about this – what things have worked for you to alleviate the pain and make your hands easier to use?

    I bought some compression gloves which are helping a little with the pain and swelling. I’ve also been alternating between putting my hands in hot water and cold water which helps, and not doing anything which stresses those joints or really hurts.

    I’m only 46 and have an office/computer/writing based job – I’m due to go back to work on 1st September but am feeling a bit worried about how I can do my job if my hands are still like this!

    I’ve not been taking Ibuprofen or anything because it doesn’t feel like the pain is intense enough for that, but would that help with the inflammation/swelling?

    I’m in the UK, which will probably inform the advice you give :)

    Thanks in advance for any help you can offer; I may not be able to check back/reply for a while, but I really appreciate any advice etc anyone can offer!