weekend open thread – October 3-4, 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: Modern Love, Revised and Updated: True Stories of Love, Loss, and Redemption. This is a compilation of essays from the New York Time’s Modern Love column, and it is excellent for nights when you need something that will take you exactly 10 minutes to read before you fall asleep.

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

{ 1,139 comments… read them below }

  1. Aphrodite*

    What are you doing to save money in these COVID days?

    I would be interested in sharing and hearing about how other people here have changed their approach to finances now and if they have changed. Are you trying to save more money? If so, how are you doing it in big and small ways? Do you feel more of a sense of fear even if your job is stable? Does that affect your financial thinking?

    I am tending to save as much as I can. There may be some fear there but my job in higher education is secure. I also get social security, though not as much as I would like due to foolish choices and decisions when. I was younger. (I didn’t really get smart until relatively recently and am trying to make up for it.) Stll, I bank my entire social security amount each month by building up my general savings, my emergency fund, my CDs and my money market fund. Every penny from a recent inheritance (of a decent but not rich sum) went into that money market account. I set aside a minimum of $200 per month out of my paycheck and it goes directly into savings. I am aiming to ultimately put $1500 per month into savings. I also paid off the last of my debt about six months ago.

    I find it easy to not spend on anything frivilous. My cats are older (18+) so are on medications so that is necessary. I also had an emergency this week with one but thankfully I had the money in the emergency fund.

    I don’t do things like cut laundry detergent in half but I do cut open my toothpaste tubes to get every last bit out. Since March I’ve not been out to eat at all and by this point I don’t really miss it. I never learned to like coffee so that’s never been an issue, and I am not a fan of fast food. (Potato chips are a weakness, however.)

    I also love to browse online, and formerly in stores, during the holiday season. But regardless of time of year, I never buy unless it’s a need. I bookmark items I want to buy and find that many of them are so easy to let go of when I’ve looked at them repeatedly. One lovely but unnecessary item I did buy last week was a silver mercury pumpkin for $78 that I had bookmarked for three years—and because I still loved it as much as I did when I first saw it I succumbed. I rarely buy shoes and those and clothes are all thrift store items that look perfect. Underwear and bras are new of course but having been at home for so long the latter are goimg to last me for much, much longer than normal.

    I refuse to join Costco because I won’t spend the annual fee—I’d have to spend considerably more than. I want to, to even begin to make that up—and because we have a former restaurant store that became a regular grocery that carries oversized everything at near the same price with no fee.

    I no longer color my hair; silver is in and that saves me $90 every month!

    But what gives me the most pleasure is seeing my savings amount go up every month. I seem to be getting as addicted to that as I used to be to other things.

    So I want to hear about you. How has COVID changed you, your finances and attitudes, and your financial practices? Do you like the changes? Are you fearful, unemployed and scared, or ???

    1. Jackalope*

      I’m finding it’s harder not to spend sometimes. I have fewer things that bring me unalloyed pleasure, and normally I don’t do retail therapy but there’s something fun in having packages show up and since I’m working from home I can actually get my packages. I’ve also purchased more books since the libraries were closed in my area for so long. On the other hand, we go out less and don’t do things like plays and movies so it may balance out.

      (I hear you on the Costco. I found the opposite – I have ONE thing that if I buy a membership and buy just this one thing there a couple of times a year I save about $200, so I get that thing and it’s worth it. But before I started using this product the membership was never worth it to me.)

      1. Anonymous*

        This. I don’t spend a lot on going out anymore, but things! Nice tea to drink at home!

        I know you can borrow ebooks these days, but where I live that doesn’t seem to exist/I prefer to read in English over the local language and that’s hard to come by, so I have to buy ebooks if I want them. Luckily I have a bunch I got on sale.

    2. Job Carousel*

      My situation’s a bit different from yours in that I’m in my early 30s and expect to see my income take a big jump in the next few years, but I’ve always considered myself a frugal person. Here are some of the tips that have worked for me:

      – I’ve couponed for the last ~11 years, first out of necessity (making $20K/year for most of my 20s in grad school), and then continued it even after my income went up. Back in the late ’00s you could get a lot of stuff – particularly toiletries like toothpaste, shampoo, and the like – for “free” after reward coupons at drugstores in the US like CVS and Walgreens. Nowadays I take advantage of store’s promotional offers (digital coupons, buy more save more offers, etc.) or manufacturer’s coupons (from the newspaper, printed from the internet, or digital), and combine them with mobile app rebate deals, etc., and can still get a fair number of items for free or cheap. For instance, my local Kroger (American grocery store chain) affiliate frequently runs a deal where certain toothpaste brands are priced at around $3 with $1 off if you buy 5 or more participating items (anything throughout the store), and there are frequently digital coupons on my store loyalty account for $4 off 2 tubes of that brand of toothpaste at the same time. Thus, I get toothpaste for practically free, only paying tax.

      – I do eat a lot healthier these days, and it’s hard to find coupon deals on fresh produce and other healthy, unprocessed foods. So for those things I actually do shop Costco, and meal prep on the weekends so that I can use everything I buy in bulk. Things like buying a 2 lb container of organic baby spinach every week or so — at Costco it’s $4, vs. $6+ at my local grocery stores — do add up to savings over time that I think justify the membership cost. But if the stores in your area sell the same items for the same price or cheaper (per relative size), that’s awesome!

      – I have a cat who needs daily medication too, for what looks like the foreseeable future. My local vet was charing me about $1 per pill of the generic medicine, but I found I could order the correct dose of the same generic medication online for ~$0.30 pill. That’s a cost savings of ~$21/month. I also take advantage of cat food sales when I can. My cats eat a mix of dry and wet food of a pretty pricey brand (because of my other cat’s health issues). Their dry food went on sale for buy one, get one free at my local grocery store this past week, so combined with manufacturer’s coupons on the non-free bags, I saved a ton. For wet food, I buy in bulk online since that means a cheaper price per can.

      – I’ve also sold items on Ebay. I’ve made a few hundred dollars this year selling gift-with-purchase sample sized items from my beauty purchases that I don’t need or use. Instead of selling the items piecemeal, I usually wait until I have a handful of items from the same brand, and then list them for $10 minimum with free shipping, so I make a couple bucks after shipping, packaging materials, and commission.

      – This’ll make me money in the long-term, but it’s a hassle – I recently switched my primary bank for my savings and checking account to one that offers a much more competitive interest rate (even on a checking account!) than what my old bank was offering. I honestly should have made this change years ago, but inertia…

      – My long term investment strategy is index funds, with mostly stocks since I’m younger and plan to keep those investments for decades to come. One thing my parents who are retired do is invest in CDs with 1-2 year terms, since stocks can be volatile and the CD rate of return is often better than the bond market rate of return if you shop around.

      – I do online shop a fair bit, and I usually make purchases through cashback sites that offer X% back on what you purchased. Occasionally I’ve lucked out and have been able to combine a credit card rebate offer with a store coupon code and a cashback site offer to get substantial savings — like a new bed comforter set I bought last year to replace an old, worn-out one. Regular price $100 plus $5 tax (free shipping), -$25 store coupon code, -$11 cashback thru Rakuten, -$25 cashback thru my credit card — so about $44 out of pocket once all rebates were credited. I also always look for coupon codes when shopping online, even if that means signing up for the retailer’s email list to get the coupon code (and unsubscribing afterwards if I don’t think I’ll shop there again).

      – This is more of a psychological hack and won’t work for everyone, but I tie my luxury/splurge purchases to incentives I have to accomplish in order to earn that money, sort of like an allowance for good behavior. For instance, if my goal is to exercise 24/31 days this month, I’ll reward myself not for meeting that goal but for exceeding it — i.e., $10 if I exercise one extra day, $20 if I exercise two extra days, etc. (though I do take several days off exercise no matter what each month, to let my body rest). I purposely make it hard to “earn” the money, so that it takes real, consistent effort and discipline to do. For me, my luxury/splurge purchases are things like nail polish, going out to eat by myself, and cute decor for my home.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        I’m very relaxed financially in that I could afford to retire immediately (at 56) if needed, cutting down on some luxuries, although I do not plan to stop working anytime soon.
        I save tons of money by not eating out much any more, cooking my own healthy lunch, driving very little (cycling to the office the few times I actually go there) and not taking the family cruise that was planned but cancelled by the cruise line.
        I do spend more on home improvements by finally getting to having work done; the last years were too much laden with travel for that. Just now I’m sourcing contractors for a major bathroom redesign.

        1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          I also cut the little hair I’ve got left; buzz cuts are easy to do!
          Getting used in good times to a comfortable but fairly frugal lifestyle, not racking up debt for non-essentials, of course serves well in a crisis. My company had a global pay cut that was quite noticeable but has weathered the various shutdowns fairly well; we are hindered a lot by travel restrictions.

    3. Anonymous*

      Not so much saving money as making some; we’re selling a lot of unnecessary possessions on e-Bay with the aim of saving up for a very expensive overseas holiday in 2022, and have made a very solid start.

    4. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      At the beginning of the pandemic when a lot of people were losing jobs, we took out a big loan so we’d have cash on hand. Our jobs are all secure, but our childcare expenses have skyrocketed—100% remote schooling for a kindergartener is effectively homeschooling, and the math works out better for hiring full-time childcare so we can work than for one of us quitting to homeschool—and the loan is paying for that. This was supposed to be the year that our kid started public school and we could clear out the debt we accrued paying for daycare. Oh well!

      For a while we were cooking a lot and our expenses were lower, but we’re back to ordering in because we’re too emotionally exhausted to cook. We’re definitely hitting that six-months-of-crisis slump. It’s hard. So I’m not pushing us to save money (other than what we saved by not taking our usual family vacation this summer). We’re kicking the can down the road financially, but honestly, that’s fine! We’re in a crisis and that’s a good time to invest in taking care of ourselves.

      1. Anonymous*

        I found that it was easy to save money during the quarantine, for the simple reason there was nothing to buy. My weekly treat was a magazine, and ready prepared meals from a very good caterer, with a few takeaways when my favourite local restaurant reopened. I realise I am very fortunate and others may not be so.

        Now restrictions are being lifted, I am spending more money, but not as much as before. My holiday plans for this year were cancelled, and the replacements were less expensive. I also tend to buy cheaper brands of toiletries and cosmetics, unless something is on special offer or I get a loyalty card voucher. I am a big fan of L’Occitane!

        Somebody uploaded an old British programme to Youtube called Superscrimpers. Some of the savings tips there are rather extreme!

      2. Ditto*

        Childcare expenses are what is killing our budget. We spend less. Than pre-COVID n nearly every other category (gas, entertainment, travel, etc) but a PT nanny to watch our two kids at home and help with virtual schooling costs double the expenses for a FT kid in daycare + aftercare for our school-aged child. Fortunately we can sustain the cost in the short-term but definitely not boosting our savings!

    5. Dottie*

      I was laid off in spring and coincidentally I’ve been saving up more aggressively since last fall because I paid off my credit card debt and was ready to quit my job anyway. I spent two years living comfortably with my fiancé (eating out, traveling, etc) and the pandemic forced us to be frugal again. My only income since Feb was severance and unemployment (the extra $600 really helped). Once a month I’ll get restaurant food delivery for a sense of normalcy, but otherwise I only pay for rent/groceries. I used to live paycheck to paycheck before this last job so I’m not too shaken by suddenly not spending.

    6. HannahMiss*

      I did very well at the beginning of lockdowns for saving. This year I was already on track for saving aggressively for a down payment on a house (just turned 30). I went on unemployment in April, and the extra $600 a week was putting me at nearly double my weekly pay. I intentionally saved as much as I could because tbh, it seemed likely that no additional help was coming and I wanted to shore up my own reserves. That cash is only in a savings account right now because I want it available in case of emergency, and right now the markets seem just a little too risky. Maybe after the election I’ll start moving into into some shorter term investments; my fear is that the day I finally decide to invest will be the day before everything crashes down.

      Early lockdown was easy for saving, because there was no where to go. I bought a few things for the house to make staying in more comfortable, but it was nothing compared to my usual out and about spending; work is so emotionally draining that even the thought of heating up frozen food is too much. This last month has been harder, as I’m now back at work and it’s been very stressful (most of my coworkers just got laid off and my roommates are anticipating the call). I’ve been spending a lot more on frivolous things and take-out because I don’t have the energy to control myself right now. It’s not at levels to be concerned for my financial stability, but spending hundreds of dollars on craft supplies when I no longer have the time to sit at home and my city is struggling is not a good decision. I figure while it’s not a healthy coping mechanism, it’s a not the worst coping mechanism I’ve considered. I am planning on getting back on track with a low-buy month for October.

    7. Rebecca Stewart*

      We’ve had some expenses. We bought a new house and sold the old and moved in July, and while overall that has helped with expenses (it’s a lower mortgage, for one thing) there have been things that we need at the new house but didn’t at the old, and those have to be bought. Room size rugs, for example; the old house had wall to wall carpeting, and this one has laminate downstairs and hardwood upstairs. A little space heater to tuck in the corner of the upstairs bathroom, because the house is 60 years old and it gets cold in there now that it’s not summer. Stuff like that. And that does add up.

      Also not helping is that I am losing weight. I’ve lost 48 pounds so far, and dropped five dress sizes, and at a certain point you just have to get smaller clothing. I’m hoping that I don’t have to get anything else this winter, and am very grateful that my coat is a wool cloak, but that cost us some money as well.

      And we’ve had some medical issues. One of us had to spend a weekend inpatient, so hospital bill, and that meant an extra trip to the psychiatrist and he is not cheap. (He’s good, though.) And therapy isn’t cheap either and two of the three of us need it, and the good therapist doesn’t take insurance.
      But long-term, we have good plans; Boyfriend will get a job eventually, and in the interim he’s writing a book. I have a novel on the back burner, and in 2021 I’ll be focusing on turning that into a book that can be published, and my girlfriend will get through school and start working, and we’ll have two incomes AND someone at home to manage things, and we’ll be in a pretty good situation. The books can only help.

    8. ThatGirl*

      We are saving more just from being home more – gas, tolls, gym memberships are all way down or gone. My husband’s car was paid off in March, and his student loans are on hold, so we’ve been putting that extra into savings. But I have to admit our jobs are fairly secure so we’re not going out of our way to cut other expenses. We are lucky to have enough in savings to cover basic expenses for most of a year if absolutely necessary.

    9. Not A Manager*

      We’ve always had a Costco membership and a Costco-affiliated cash back credit card. Between the savings upfront on Costco items and the cash back from both companies, it more than pays for itself.

      Specifically during pandemic, we’ve saved money like a lot of people by not eating out and by not traveling. When interest rates dropped in early March we refinanced our mortgage, which is saving us a lot in cash-flow and enables us to invest that money.

      Not especially to save money but more to keep myself mentally healthy, during lockdown I started making more of our food that we could have purchased packaged – muesli, yogurt, soft cheeses. It happens that especially on the cereal there are big savings. I’ve always baked our own bread, but during lockdown I got access to wholesale bulk products that I wouldn’t have in the past. Instead of paying at least $6 for 5 pounds of fancy bread flour, I got 50 pounds for $12. No other deals have been quite so spectacular, but so long as I will actually use up the things I bulk buy, the savings do add up.

      Sadly, we are also saving money on co-pays for things like physical therapy and the chiropractor, which we need but haven’t been doing. I’ve let my hair go silver, although I don’t know if that will be a permanent savings or not.

      1. Doc in a Box*

        In a typical year, Costco gas alone is worth the membership fee. It’s consistently 50 cents/gallon cheaper than anywhere else near me, and that works out to about $5-6/fill on the Tardis.

        This year, though, I’ve only filled up about five times since March. I am back in the clinic full-time now, as many of my patients struggled with telehealth, so I expect my gas spending for Q4 of this year will be more typical. Like everyone else, I’ve also saved a lot on restaurants and travel — that last one tends to be my splurge area, as I typically take 2-3 international trips a year.

    10. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve been trying to not spend much at all on anything but groceries and necessities, although I have bought a few e-books now and then. I’m trying to reduce the drain on the money I will need to move. I have to color my hair because I’m job hunting. But I’ve been doing it myself with products from Sally Beauty.

      It helps that I really don’t have anywhere to put stuff. I’m going to have to put my foot down re Christmas. I don’t think it’s a good idea to have anyone come over here, and I really hope I’m not still here by then anyway.

    11. Overeducated*

      After the first 2.5 months of fully remote work, I got my boss to agree to 3 days a week of telework for at least our first year back in the office (we can only commit a year at a time under our employer policy). That was enough for me to be able to take on a brutal commute from a smaller city my spouse and I have been wanting to live in. We bought a small shabby house near the train station.

      So far it’s more spending than saving due to moving and associated costs, but our mortgage payment is $400/month lower than our rent in the larger city that rose every year, and by locking it in we feel more secure that our expenses will stay manageable if one of us loses a job. Not saving for a down payment means we can shovel more into retirement and college savings. Also, child care is $500-1000/month cheaper here, so that should add up in the 5 years before my youngest starts public school.

      Those are the big things. We were quite frugal before when it came to discretionary spending, so that hasn’t really changed.

    12. Girasol*

      We’re not saving for the sake of saving but we’re not spending much. Out here where deliveries are not the usual thing, our few delivery guys are running their feet off, and I imagine the Amazon warehouse people running their feet off too, so I try not to order stuff I don’t really need. We’re wearing out out our old clothes and mending them to last longer because who’s looking anyway? We’re avoiding food waste, not so much for morality’s sake or to save money but to save grocery trips so that there are fewer opportunities to pick up covid there. We’re making do with what home maintenance and landscape supplies we have so I don’t go to Home Depot. We cut our hair with the FlowBee to avoid hair care trips. Exercise is a bike and an old barbell/dumbbell set rather than the gym. (My husband is high risk so I’m avoiding contact with people for his sake.) So we’re not driving much and the vacation we’d budgeted for is cancelled. It’s not that we meant to save money but the necessity of the situation means we’re not using much. And really, we’d gotten a bit materialist, so the practice of doing more with less seems like a bit of a silver lining on the covid cloud.

    13. MissDisplaced*

      Since transitioning to WFH in March, I have spent much less money on things like gas, car maintenance, expensive work clothes & shoes, haircuts/hair color, and personal supplies like makeup, hairspray and the like because those are all things needed physically get to work or to maintain that “professional” appearance. I was always a lunch-packer, so no significant change in groceries or food, except maybe coffee. I had high-speed Internet pre-Covid, so no change there either, though it really would’ve been nice to receive a small stipend from my company to upgrade the speed. The 2-hours+ back a day saved on commuting has been wonderful.

      On the downside, I purchased my house 12 years ago, and things are wearing out or breaking. Last year it was a new roof, and this year the AC system and water heater died (I’ve saved money in case the furnace gives up the ghost this winter). I also re-decorated our office room with 2 big L-shaped desks for my husband and myself, purchased with refunded money after our London trip was cancelled in March. I’m so glad I did that! Otherwise, my back would be killing me, and it’s really made all the difference in my WFH comfort.

      1. Gatomon*

        Ahh, I lost my hot water tank in July, and that definitely stunk even though I anticipated it. It took 10 days to get a plumber in to replace it. The stimulus check really reduced the bite of that expense though. Now my biggest paranoia is my furnace, age 18. It’s started up fine for the winter though, so my fingers are crossed for yours!

    14. Anonymous*

      Doing laundry by hand. It started because going to the laundry room of a big building was pretty terrifying in March, but it’s also saving a lot of course. Also, we had no child care as long as possible – that saved a lot, but the amount of child care we’ll need this year will eat those savings and then some. We also saved some on food in the spring because we’d only buy fresh produce once in 3-4 weeks, but that’s probably not a good habit to keep long-term.

    15. Epiphyta*

      In December, our financial planner said “Election years are always messy, and we’ve been teetering on the edge of a recession for a while now – I’d like to pull your investments way back”. Took less of a bath from the markets than we would have otherwise, but it set the tone for the year.

      We kept our gym membership active until our county moved into Phase 2 and enough of the real muscleheads went back in to keep the place going, then suspended it for six months: it’s locally owned, and while we don’t want to see them go under, Spouse is in a high-risk group and we won’t be back until there’s a vaccine/effective treatment. My local yoga studio shifted to Zoom without too many problems and is offering daily classes; I bought a couple of props and some resistance bands, cleaned up an old NordicTrack and am using them all.

      Dropped the Costco membership to the basic level, as it’s a half hour’s drive and we’re in an apartment without a lot of storage; there are two grocery stores within walking distance. (Costco was useful for replacing bedding when all three of my sets of IKEA sheets self-destructed earlier this year.) The only debt we have is for our car, and we’re paying extra to get it cleared away. Any bit of extra cash that wanders through has gone into savings. I miss going out to eat, but like you I enjoy watching the number climb, especially since Spouse’s company has said they’ll be WFH until at least July of next year, with in-person meetings only a handful of times per month after that: in light of that, and not being able to afford to buy a home where we live, we’ve decided to move when our lease is up. Requirements at the moment include municipal fiber and no upstairs neighbours clog dancing at 10pm.

    16. Gatomon*

      The bulk of my savings (~$1k/month) is coming from money I would’ve put towards my student loans, both the required balance due and extra I was going to pay towards putting them down. Otherwise, I’m not saving much other than gas money. I didn’t eat out much before, and I didn’t enjoy going to the mall and shopping. I’m probably spending more than usual on things like furniture, video games and electronics, but I might have done so anyway since I received a solid raise this year.

      Long term, I’m just letting the student loans sit and wait since I don’t owe any payments, there’s no interest accruing and they are my only debt (aside from my mortgage). I’ll get back to paying them off in 2021, assuming there are no more extensions. I’m also pushing back my next car purchase by a few years, so I think I need to take it in for a service interval. It’s due for an oil change, a bath and the swap to winter tires. Even though I’ll minimize my driving this winter, it’s supposed to be a La Nina winter which means I’ll need them.

      I’m still afraid because it looks like there’s going to be some long-term economic damage, but I’m more terrified about the virus today than my finances tomorrow. I could probably eek out a year if I had no major catastrophes at this point, and with the way our housing market has skyrocketed, I’d probably be able to sell my house at least, even if I’d lose a little bit of cash.

    17. Me*

      We are less about saving and more about killing debt, simply because DH is planning on retiring soon. We are fine for his retirement income. We’ve never carried credit card debt, but I was sitting on two car payments last year, paying off one only to have DH decide he really wanted a new truck before he retired so we added a new truck loan in November.

      So this year, I’ve paid off my car loan (2 years into a 5 year loan), paid off the mortgage (despite low interest rates, we were down to practically nothing anyway) and am on track to pay the truck off by April. I expect DH will retire in mid summer next year.

      We aren’t spenders anyway, but the lack of opportunities to spend has made us evaluate home improvement projects for priority and figure out when we will be able to tackle each one. We will only pay in cash, so that tends to keep us from buying various bits of nothing.

      I do curbside pickup for weekly groceries which means I stick to a list. My grocery bill is down, and my takeout bill is down. I’m cooking a lot more but that’s ok.

      I haven’t bought any new clothes or shoes since the pandemic hit and that’s downright weird for me.

    18. MsChanandlerBong*

      I VERY loosely follow Dave Ramsey. I do not like his political views or the religious slant of his program, but I have made great strides taking what I can from it and ignoring the rest. One of my coworkers was in China in January, and she told me she thought COVID would come here and hurt the economy, so I immediately stopped making extra debt payments and went into what Ramsey calls “storm mode.” I socked away every penny beyond what I had to use to pay for bills and groceries. I did this from February through May. On May 6, my husband found out his employer would be closing permanently and he would be laid off. For once in our lives, we had a cushion. He didn’t have to the first low-paying job that came along simply because he had no choice–we had enough to live for about six months without his salary. Fortunately, he started a new job–which pays 30% more–by mid-June, so we didn’t have to do that.

      Second, paying off debt has been instrumental in weathering this storm. When he started his new job and everything looked pretty stable, I took a chunk of what we’d saved from Feb to May and used it to pay off all but two credit cards. I just paid off another credit card yesterday, so now I only have one card remaining. That’s hundreds of dollars in minimum payments I don’t have to make every month. We are going to focus on paying that off by the end of January (the balance is pretty large; I could possibly pay it off before the end of the year, but only if I took on a crazy amount of freelance work on top of my regular job). Then I have two medical debts left to pay, and then all we will have left is our student loans. The peace of mind from buckling down and working extra (freelancing for me, Postmates for him) and building up our savings has been immensely gratifying.

    19. Cendol*

      Sorry to hear about your cat emergency! I hope they’re feeling better.

      I can totally relate to the pleasure of seeing your savings increasing every month. I compared it to gold or potion hoarding in the RPGs I used to play—one becomes obsessed with maxing out the numbers. As far as COVID-spending goes, I’m one of the lucky ones who has so far kept their job, and, with transit and travel out of the picture for the foreseeable future, I’ve been saving more than usual. That is, until September, when I had a series of pet- and electronics-related emergencies that wiped out my checking account. While it did suck to have to dip into the savings hoard, I reminded myself that that’s what it was there for in the first place. (And, to be frank, my stinginess hurt me here: if I’d been willing to shell out earlier for a new laptop, I wouldn’t have been in such a bind when the old one crashed. I also wouldn’t be looking at buying a new smartphone and new winter coat all in one go!)

      Emotionally, things have been in flux for me (I am separated from my spouse by a closed border, increasingly concerned that even our marriage certificate and quarantine plan won’t be enough to reunite us, and every day it gets harder to be apart), so in the last few weeks I’ve definitely given in to stress and started eating my feelings with $30 takeout orders, at a moment when I should probably revert to my grad school habits of eating beans and rice. Whoops. It’s an odd feeling, being secure about the numbers in my bank account while being anxious about literally everything else.

      1. Epiphyta*

        Hey, Cendol,

        I don’t know if the border in question is the one between the US and Canada, or if you use FB, but the group “Faces of Advocacy/Advocacy for Reunification at the Canadian Border” was mentioned in an article in the Seattle Times on the 26th, and the couple interviewed said they found a lot of support and encouragement there – might be worth a look? I hope that the updated guidelines coming down on the 8th offer you some hope.

    20. OtterB*

      If anything, I think we’ve increased spending overall. Both my job and my husband’s seem to be secure (knock wood). My young adult daughter with intellectual disabilities has a part time minimum wage job; she was off from mid-March to mid-June but then started back to work. Since I began wfh I’m no longer spending $13/day for parking at the office and I am not eating lunch out or grabbing a latte from the coffee shop a couple of times a week, so that saves quite a bit. We do get carryout 3+ times a week, partly in support of local restaurants and partly because I’m lazy. But on the other hand, we’ve substantially increased our contributions to charitable and political causes since March. In addition to our own grocery bills going up since there are usually 3 of us eating lunch at home, we’ve increased our purchases for food pantry contributions (used to be a few cans/boxes a week, now it’s substantially more than that and including more expensive items like baby formula). Also contributing to organizations and the occasional GoFundMe supporting those who are hard-hit by the economic impact of COVID, and organizations we’d like have still standing when things improve (mostly arts organizations and recreational activities for adults with special needs). Plus $ to numerous political candidates and to causes like voter registration and news literacy.

    21. Quiet Liberal*

      I decided to go silver, too! My colorist, who was really fabulous, but refuses to wear a mask, lost my business when our state opened and I could see she didn’t give a rats a$$ about my concerns. The gray really doesn’t look too bad and now I match my husband.

    22. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Not having to pay commute costs has been massive and saved us the most money, even though I started going full time remote last year about this time due to health reasons. In addition to that, the lunches out, the clothes for work, going out on Fridays, etc, all swept into savings now. My gym membership was converted into a monthly payment on a new spin bike which I now use far more frequently and that, alongside some adjustable weights, is the gym now. Our rent went up because we moved to a MUCH nicer flat, but we also have a showpiece garden, quieter neighbors, and far more community here than where we were before, so in terms of mental health in these tough times its been worth the money.

      My job is secure and I will likely see a salary pop in the next six months, and partner is just coming off furlough (and is interviewing around) so we have been focused on paying off debt (due to be complete in March), using up/clearing out clothes and household goods, and working with what we have in the pantry. After the first three months honestly, we don’t even miss takeaway food anymore and I make our pizzas/tacos/enchiladas, etc. We’ve both stopped drinking and that’s saved quite a bit as well.

      I do spend a little bit on clothes – I bought a really nice raincoat so I can walk this winter when its wet, and I bought a few tops on sale this week that I can put on for more polished looking calls. We’ve also splurged a bit on nicer seafood/meat when we do eat it, and switched most vegetables to organic. I bought some hobby supplies for when it starts getting darker sooner, and partner needed a new laptop (his first in 7 years).

      Every month we put some money in savings, some in investments, some in retirement accounts. We need to buy a place to live soon but it depends on a lot of things – probably not until next year, however.

    23. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Incidentally you say you don’t cut laundry detergent in half – but there’s a really good chance you actually can/should. I use less than half what the package says and my clothes are perfectly clean. It’s super concentrated, and the formulations have gotten so much better.

      Otherwise, I am saving money because I’m working from home and generally not going anywhere. Not spending $200 a month on transit is nice, as well as the savings on gas. But I spent a ton this year (new roof, landscaping project, other house projects).

    24. Aza*

      We’re trying to save more money, just because there’s so much uncertainty. We both work in jobs that are safe for now but not necessarily ironclad.

      We got a boost at the beginning, since our daycare fees were vastly reduced for a few months. We’ve also been redirecting student loan money to savings. And some gas money saved by not commuting.

      We consolidated credit card balances to a zero interest card and are redirecting what we would have paid to savings. We can always pay the card out of savings later, but liquidity is more important at the moment for things like the mortgage, which can’t be put on a card.

      1. Aza*

        Not gonna lie, the stress of the past month or so is making it harder for me to save at our previous rate, but I’m still plodding.

    25. Rara Avis*

      We were barely making it in one of the most expensive cities in the country, and then my husband’s employer laid off 44% of the workforce. The whole industry is struggling, and he’s had one interview in 3 months. So we aren’t saving, but so far we’ve been able to avoid debt. Gas costs went down but groceries went up a lot — higher prices and more of us eating at home. (I got free lunch at work.) Our usual vacation is to visit family across the country, so we saved by not buying plane tickets.

    26. allathian*

      My biggest savings are that I don’t need to pay for my monthly commuter ticket now that I’m WFH for the foreseeable future. My employer’s said that they’re not going to schedule any meetings with mandatory in-person attendance until there’s a reliable and safe vaccine available. I’m also saving a lot by not buying Starbucks lattes every morning. My employer provides something they call coffee but it’s undrinkable, even for a caffeine addict like myself. These savings are, by and large, offset by our bigger groceries bill, though. I haven’t had a haircut since February, mainly because my stylist works in my office building, and I used to go every five or six weeks. I’m enjoying my longer hair, so I’m going to keep it, but some styling would be nice at some point. It’s not a huge priority for me, though.

    27. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I lost my job in March and went on UE so I saved aggressively. once baby was here, I relaxed a bit on eating out and buying cute stuff for her. Now that I lost my job again, I’m picking up small projects here and there and try to save as much as I can. Extremely difficult for a shopaholic like me who gets pleasure in shopping and buying new things.

    28. Momma Bear*

      I’ve always been a savvy shopper, so not much about that has changed. I am cautious vs fearful. I save the most on the outings I don’t go out on b/c there’s few places to go. We don’t eat out much. We don’t go to movies, etc. The kids don’t go anywhere so don’t need so many new clothes, shoes, or supplies. Etc.

  2. Germank106*

    Yay, I’m the first one to comment. I took a break from crocheting and finished Socks for the grandson. They’re pretty simple, but he absolutely refuses to take them off. Mom has to sneak in at night and peel them off his feet. I think I might have to make another pair. Hope everyone is well. Enjoy the weekend.

    1. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

      This surprised me into a smile, thank you so much for sharing! It’s adorable that he didn’t want to take the socks off. I’m just starting a sweater for my toddler, I hope he like it half as much…

    2. Quiet Liberal*

      It looks like the cats are resting on some crochet work you’ve done, Alison. I did a little knitting many years ago, but never crochet. I love those colors and the stitch. Is that a test piece or did you make something for your furry friends?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s a scarf I’m crocheting for my brother-in-law! And you can’t really see it, but a scarf I made for my husband is draped over Hank too.

  3. Completely anonymous*

    If you knew a secret about a family member that would really affect how they viewed themselves and their past, would you tell them? It’s easy to say “if they want to know, they’ll ask,” but what if they don’t know enough to ask?

    This isn’t the situation, but it’s like if one person had been adopted but didn’t know it. They mention in conversation things that feel weird from their childhood and their relationship with relatives, etc. and you know that a lot of it was because they were adopted, but no one told them. You’re not their parent, their parents are dead, but you see that their own lack of information is harming them. On the other hand, they have a narrative, it seems to mostly work for them, how can you upend that with a new narrative?

    I might post the actual situation in the comments, or I might not.

    1. RagingADHD*

      Since their parents are dead, I think you might send a note or an email and say,

      “You’ve mentioned several times that you wonder about X and Y from your childhood. There is actually some backstory there, that you were intentionally sheltered from as a child. I don’t want to intrude or upset you. But if you’d like to hear the whole story, I’m happy to talk about it whenever you want.”

      Then you leave it up to them.

      I had a cousin reach out to me with a similar offer about some family secrets (though hers did not affect me directly at all). The first time she mentioned it, she had a lot of stipulations about not repeating it to certain relatives, so I declined. I do not have the bandwidth to keep up with complex lines of who knows and who doesn’t know. If you don’t want it repeated, just don’t tell me.

      Later on, the situation changed and she reached out again without the stipulations, and I was happy to find out more about the family.

      1. Anonymous*

        “You’ve mentioned several times that you wonder about X and Y from your childhood. There is actually some backstory there, that you were intentionally sheltered from as a child. I don’t want to intrude or upset you. But if you’d like to hear the whole story, I’m happy to talk about it whenever you want.”
        This is a great approach.

      2. Southern Academic*

        So while this is a nice script, decide in advance whether your family member would respond well / handle well this amount of non-information.

        I do not appreciate not knowing stuff; it makes me more anxious than not. So even if I didn’t really want to know the final secret you had (that I was adopted or whatever), once you’ve said, “I know the truth, do you want me to tell it to you?” I would not be able to comfortably let that go. Honestly, I probably would not want to be told.

        Take your family member’s mindset into consideration in even broaching this.

        1. RagingADHD*

          OP said “the lack of information is harming them.”

          I don’t know what that’s referring to, but I think if someone is actively suffering or at serious risk (I’m thinking maybe some kind of medical history), there’s a moral obligation that outweighs the risk of them feeling uncomfortable.

          If there’s not any real potential harm, just misinformation, then that obligation doesn’t exist.

          1. Southern Academic*

            All I’m doing is providing a possible insight on the situation here. If somebody told me what the OP proposes to tell their family member, there would be no going back; I would be made more anxious and discouraged by not knowing.

            There are multiple kinds of harms, and it’s important to weigh possible insights in the balance. Since we don’t know more, all we can do is suggest our own possible reactions to the news.

    2. JobHunter*

      Yes.

      I have no specific advice on how to broach the topic, that will depend on your relationship with the person.

    3. Anonymous*

      This would depend on so many factors. The age of the person, whether the information had any chance of causing harm, how many people knew of it so that it might come out it an awkward way if I didn’t tell, how close my relationship was with the person, etc. It’s hard to say without knowing more about the story as some things might seem too fraught to disclose while others might seem more informational and harmless.

    4. totally anon for this*

      After my father passed away, I found a document that suggested a distant cousin may in fact be my half sibling.

      I burned the document and have done my best to forget it ever since. Every time I remember, I wish I’ve never found it.

      I have no desire to seek the truth in any way. I have serious mental health issues (multiple depressive episodes among others), and I know I don’t have the mental strength or mental fortitude to deal with the consequences of finding out the truth. It’s just going to be another way my life gets wrecked.

      Besides I don’t see what good would come from the truth. My mother and sister would be destroyed by the revelation. The cousin has already struggled with his parents’ divorce, and finding out that he isn’t, in fact, their biological child would be devastating.

      I don’t care about the truth. I care about our peace of mind. I spend a lot of time and effort to reach a place where I’m mentally stable and if not happy, at least content. I’m not going to let anything ruin it, if I can control it.

      If your family member is happy, and the weird memory and stuff isn’t a major concern for them, then let them be.

      1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

        My mother and uncle were contacted by their surprise half-sister some years ago after her 23andMe test turned up ancestry that didn’t match either of her parents, and her mother confessed to having an affair with my grandfather. It really shook our family up.

        I was personally glad to have the reminder that even the most supposedly sainted people can be flawed. My grandfather is venerated in our family, particularly for his dramatic and splendid romance with my grandmother, and I think trying to live up to the standard of that romance has been particularly hard for my mother and uncle, so… maybe if they’d learned about this affair much earlier, they would have been freed from having to try to achieve something impossible. But we learned about it many years after my grandfather’s death, and nothing really changed; my new “aunt” hasn’t become close to the family, and there were no inheritance or legal issues. I think some people in our family would say that learning about my grandfather’s affair was a net positive, and some would not.

        It sounds to me like you have very good and valid reasons for keeping that secret, and your own health comes first. But you might be surprised by what other people want to know, or would want to know, even if the truth is painful.

        1. totally anon for this*

          I’m glad that it went quite well with your family.

          It seems, though, that your grandfather was a decent man who made a mistake. I didn’t mention this, because I thought it would be too much, but my father was an abusive man, and many of my issues can be traced back to him. He wasn’t the kind of father someone would be happy to have, and frankly I was glad when he passed away. Tbh I just really want to forget I had a father at all.

          1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

            As the child of an emotionally abusive father, you have my complete sympathies.

      2. Anonymous*

        I burned the document
        I would say it belongs to your cousin, who has a right to know who he is. Maybe the knowledge would give him peace of mind. It might make things fall into place, including the divorce. Maybe he would feel liberated. Maybe it would be devastating, like any major shift, but not forever. You’ve made a lot of assumptions about the consequences, such as your mom and sibling having to know, and you’ve chosen for everyone, just like your father and whoever the mom is may have done.

          1. c-*

            Hey, you two, that’s not a kind thing to say at all. The poster made the best decision for them at that moment, and they’re the expert on their family situation. If they say that’s what was best for the circumstances, we should take their word for it. Judging other people’s families on the minuscule snapshot of an internet post is unnecessary, unhelpful, and unkind.

    5. AnonyMouse*

      I think you should dig more into why you want to tell them. Will this information really help this person have a happier and more fulfilled life? Or are you tempted to tell them more as a result of your own guilt or the burden of having this information? If you suspect it may be the latter, then you need to focus instead on dealing with your own feelings and coming to terms with taking this bit of information to the grave.

      No internet person can tell you what’s best. It depends on the information, yes. But it also depends so much on the person and how they will handle it. Will the information change the way they choose to live their life or will it just be another burden on the mind…

      For what it’s worth, I’ve been in this position before, and I chose to take it to the grave. The truth does more harm than good sometimes.

    6. Job Carousel*

      I’d be very careful with this information, particularly if it involves a false paternity/maternity situation like others have mentioned, where your relative has gone their whole life thinking their parent is X but it’s actually Y.

      On one hand, it’s valuable to know who your relatives are for health reasons (which is why healthcare providers always ask about family histories of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc), and some people might prefer to know the truth even if it hurts…

      But then it could totally shatter someone’s self image and cause a lot of harm.

      I think back to a memoir I read by Dani Shapiro called Inheritance. She had made a career as a writer, authoring several prior memoirs about her Jewish identity and family background. Then she took a consumer genetic test on a whim and was shocked to find out she wasn’t related to her relatives on her father’s side, which was her Jewish side that she identified with so strongly. It turns out her parents went to a shady fertility clinic in the 50s/60s that used other men’s sperm to augment or replace the infertile male client’s sperm. By the time Dani found this out, both of her parents had passed away, so she had no way of knowing whether they knew she wasn’t her dad’s biological daughter or not. It caused her so much anguish and made her question everything about herself.

    7. Biziki*

      Ooph, this is a tricky one, and something I’m debating as well within my own family.

      In my case, one of my parents and their siblings believe that their parent (my grandparent) “went to live with the nuns so [they] could go to school.” In my books, this sounds like residential school, but for the rest of my family, they just don’t see it that way.

      Once travel is something I feel okay doing again, I plan to go to Ottawa where the bulk of the residential school archives are, to see if I can learn more about where/when my grandparent attended school. If it turns out that my grandparent did indeed attend a known and clearly documented residential school, this would distress my family a great deal. (Google “residential school nutrition experiments” and you’ll find a CBC article that covers two of the schools my grandparent may have attended.)

      In my case, I may have to decide what information I share with my family, but I am willing to make the decision to risk gathering that knowledge for myself. I want to know, I want answers. Whether my family feels the same, I don’t know. So maybe it’s a bit more clear cut in my case, because I know what the benefit to myself would be – I value that knowledge and transparency and I don’t want my family history to be shrouded in shame.

      In your case, I wonder, what would be the benefit to you, to share this hidden knowledge? Are you curious about how they would respond? Would you feel a little bit like you could be proud of yourself for bringing them awareness? Does holding this secret make you feel uncomfortable and you think telling might make you feel better? I know these seem like really loaded questions, but the information you get when asking yourself this could maybe lead to some insight about where the benefits and losses of sharing this knowledge might fall.

      (I don’t know if I can post links here, but if I can and someone is wondering what residential school is, this 1 minute video sums it up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_tcCpKtoU0 )

      1. 2QS*

        Another Canadian here – this is awful and heartbreaking, but I would want to know as well, and stop second-guessing it from a distance. Thinking of you and your family.

      2. Pam*

        if it’ was a female grandparent, I would think that it was ‘go away to have a baby and give it up.’

        1. BetsCounts*

          That was exactly my first thought, but based on Biziki’s comment it seems as though it was more forced assimilation with possible side effects of human test subjects.

    8. Myrin*

      I think it depends on what the person in question is like and how they’d likely react to information like that – are they always calm and collected or rather prone to anxiety and fretting, for example – as well as the likely outcome – is their life going to change for the better with that information or is it actually going to make things worse?

      To go with your fictional situation, I’m personally pretty sure I’d like to know, mostly because I’m mentally stable and not easily swayed even by shocking things, but also because you say the lack of information is actually harming the person – if something was actively harming me and your revelation could make me feel better, I’d very much like you to clue me in! But that’s me, and really, like I said, it depends a lot on the person and what the actual situation is like.

      1. Anon for a minute*

        I agree that unless the information itself is essential, the deciding factor should be how it would affect the person – and maybe others. My maternal grandfather divorced my grandmother when my mother was little and was never heard from again. For a government form, I just needed the date he’d passed away, but in looking for that, I found that he’d remarried and had a new family and my mother has a half-brother she doesn’t know about.

        If it were just me, I’d contact him and say hello, I think we’re related. But my mother feels scarred by having grown up without a dad, and she’d be hurt to know that he had another family that he apparently didn’t abandon. Also, my mother can be quite a difficult and unpleasant person, and I’m not sure I should expose this innocent stranger to the fallout of all this. Which sounds awful, but it’s an actual consideration. Maybe I’m making the wrong call, but I’ve decided on the path that seems least hurtful to everyone.

    9. Sara*

      I wouldn’t.

      I found about a surprise half-brother after my dad died, and it’s done nothing but bring me and my family grief and heartache. I wish I didn’t know. It’s ruined so much.

    10. PX*

      I think it really depends on what you know about the person. Its really difficult because everyone is an individual, but even as you see in the comments, there’s a split between people who would want to know vs those who wouldnt.

      I would also think really hard about what your motivations are. Is this coming from a place of selfishness (I dont want to carry this alone) or paternalistic thinking (I know what will be best for them) or do you really truly think this information would improve this persons life in some way.

      For me, I’d want to know. I’m secure enough in myself that while it may put things in context, it wouldnt necessarily change my entire world view. But thats just me.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, me too. I’d definitely want to know, and if I learned later that a family member knew a secret about me or my family that affected me directly and didn’t tell me, it’d probably sour my relationship with that person forever.

    11. Catherine*

      In your shoes, I would be likely to tell the family member because I’ve had things that “felt weird” about various situations that really preyed on my mind and receiving the piece of context was generally helpful for me to understand that things weren’t my fault.

      That said, in your family member’s shoes, depending on the nature and caliber of the secret.. I would not, as the proverb goes, shoot the messenger. But I would probably look for ways to make anyone else who knowingly withheld that information from me absolutely miserable for having done so.

    12. Anonymous*

      We have an actual situation like this in our family. My aunt and her husband had a perfect love story. They met at university and were both very good looking people. Got married and had two kids. She talked and still talks about him like a God and would make many sarcastic comments about her sister’s husband (my dad) because their relationship was rocky.
      Then I found out a few years ago that my “perfect” uncle had taken a second wife. We are muslims and live in a muslim country and this is legal but unlike other countries it’s not common at all and when it happens, it’s usually behind the first wife’s back. So, my aunt doesn’t know. But the whole family does. And every time she talks about his amazingness, we all just side eye each other, trying not to react. And not just this, but he divorced the second woman and went on to marry another one. So, he had two relationships behind her back.
      I especially have to grit my teeth when she goes after my father. And that’s not the end of it. He emptied her bank account. He sucks at business and she kept bailing him out from her own money and now she has no money.
      Sometimes, I feel like I really want her to know. But what good will it do? It will break her heart. I don’t know what situation you are dealing with, but it’s definitely a hard decision to make.

      1. Anonymous*

        I hope your family is prepared for the fallout when she eventually finds out about this and that everyone else knew. Devastating. Poor woman.

        1. pancakes*

          Yes – it’s twice the heartbreak, if not somehow more. Not only is he doing this behind her back, the entire family is colluding with him to keep it from her.

          My biological father’s parents separated and his father ran off and had a second family that only came to light after his death. I can’t quite imagine not wanting to know about that sort of thing, nor taking it upon myself to help hide it. In many of these scenarios the impulse to do so seems to be just as much about sparing oneself an awkward conversation as it is about a paternalistic sense of trying to protect the other person from seeing their own family for what it is.

      2. Filosofickle*

        My uncle & aunt were together for 50 years until his recent death. They never had children. Upon his death, we found out he had a whole other family with multiple children — he didn’t leave any information or instructions so we found out when they called: “Hey we haven’t heard from our Dad so we’re calling you, the emergency contact sibling who doesn’t know we exist.” It’s been shocking. Can’t say we didn’t suspect, but he had flatly denied it when asked. Most of my family would rather this have stayed buried. It hasn’t bothered me as much but it really pissed off his sibling (my parent) to be left holding the bag as well as feeling responsible for my aunt. We’re trying to be gracious with the new cousins — it’s not their fault my uncle was a $#@$! — but we’re not really embracing it.

        We really struggled with what to say, if anything, to his widow. As the weeks unfolded after his death, we learned he had come clean about 1 child, but that’s all. Then yet another kid (from another mom) came knocking on my aunt’s door also looking for my uncle, their father. Surprise! So she had to find out that way AND deliver news of his passing. She was completely rocked. So we know she knows about 2, doesn’t seem to know about the rest, and we decided not to bring it up. This has been a clusterf*ck.

    13. Batgirl*

      I say this as someone who was betrayed in my marriage, but deceit is a matter of taking away someone’s informed consent.
      I get what you’re saying about it being a matter of the past, not a matter of ongoing consent, but people are entitled to information about themselves; especially if those things went into faulty lessons and poorly informed decisions.
      Imagine you were suspicious of someone, but they ended up being trustworthy and helpful. You’d decide your instincts were not really trustworthy going forward. If you then later found out this person had drugged you, or otherwise deceived you so you wouldn’t remember their true nature, you’d be upset (to put it mildly) , but you’d get your faith in your instincts back. It’s a priceless thing.
      This person has an instinct that things are off. Let them know that they are right.

    14. Not So NewReader*

      I went down a rabbit hole. I decided I was sick of how secretive my family could be. My father took a lot of secrets to his grave that he never shared at least with me. So I got involved in secrets.

      The thing about secrets is that the story goes back and back and back. Using your example, initially it seems like just, okay, so this person was secretly adopted. Well come to find out the bio parents had this or that going on. And the story involves three other people. So you follow up with all these people and they each have a twist to the storyline. As you listen to the parts what should be clear cut no longer appears clear cut. It’s a lot more complex than appears on the surface.

      So I had the humbling experience of thinking I knew some secrets and actually what I knew was a piece of the story but not the whole story. There is always more to the story no matter how deep you dig. Someone else always adds in a piece that changes the whole storyline.

      Genealogists are very interesting people to talk to because they see the patterns in families and they see the patterns in people. From what I can tell my elders argued a lot over estates. They argued so hard with each other that they stopped speaking to each other, permanently. Now, this type of arguing is well recognized but back then it was a much bigger deal because it was all kept secret. Secrets make everything bigger. The fallout from this is that I have relatives I don’t even know exist. And I am at least 4 generations removed from those arguments!

      So I got myself deeply into this stuff. In current time I have cousins who do not care one iota about any of it. And they probably never will.

      Takeaways for me:

      1) If I catch myself thinking I know the story behind x or y, I need to remind myself that I only know PART of the story. There is always more to the story.
      2) Many people think nothing of things that I think could be important.
      3) Brace for practical minded folks who demand to know how this helps them in current time.

      I think the best you can do is the next time family member mentions something is off, let her know you are available for coffee and conversation sometime. Put the ball in her court. Be prepared to wait decades for her to take you up on it. She won’t forget, believe me. Maintain the position that you know a piece of the story but not all of it. Holding this stance will help you and help her SO MUCH. It will help you keep things in balance if she does not ask and it will help her keep things in balance if she DOES ask.

      This more modest approach of saying that you know a piece of the story also saves other family relationships. The person who comes across as “I know a big secret” is the one who gets chased with rocks as it drives others that nuts. Saying you have a part of the story also allows others to enter the parts of the story they know. I know first hand that everyone has something to contribute to the storyline that changes it in some manner.

    15. Anon1000*

      I know a family secret. A few years back, my aunt (now deceased) told me that her aunt (also now deceased) had a child out of wedlock and put the child up for adoption. Afterwards, she married a different person, had kids and great life. I have no idea if my Second cousins (great aunts children) know about their half sibling or not. Or if they would want to know.

    16. Asenath*

      I would let it go. I found out a family secret about myself as a young adult, and it didn’t bother me at all. Another was told me by a relative (about herself) who had assumed I knew it all along, and when I heard another story about her, I decided to let it lie, since if it was true, she’d decided not to share it, and if it wasn’t, there was nothing to be gained and possibly something to be lost, at the very least, her being forced to admit that people believed the story.

      True, some people have been devastated by discovering the truth about circumstances surrounding their own birth, or other similar facts. Others aren’t. These days, anyone who wants to find out details can do so, and even in the past, I think generally word got out eventually, even when there was a kind of social agreement not to mention something that might make a child feel like they didn’t really belong in the family. I wouldn’t tell someone what I knew or suspected about their birth unless they asked. And if, as in this case, there are puzzling family relationships, the person most directly concerned could certainly think about the adoption (or whatever it was) as a possible cause, and then ask. I’m also not a fan of digging up the past to try to explain family issues that are occurring today. I’d say, deal with today’s issues directly, and maybe in the process the historical roots will be exposed. Maybe they won’t. But at least today’s situation will be improved.

    17. Chaordic One*

      I hope this doesn’t derail the thread, but here goes. My extended family has several members who I suspect are gay or bi-sexual, but mostly it isn’t talked about and I don’t know how I would go about bringing it up.

      There’s the unusually masculine cousin who amicably divorced her husband and the various middle-aged bachelor cousins who never married. I strongly suspect that an uncle (who has since died) married and used his wife (who has also since died) as a beard. They never had any children, which doesn’t really mean anything, but there were just things about them and their marriage that seem weird.

      It’s just weird and awkward. I find myself trying to keep in contact and keeping the lines of communication open and letting them know that I like them and care about them, but I also want to respect their privacy don’t want to be nosy or intrusive if they are, as I suspect, gay and not ready to come out. If they wanted to come out to me, I’d be fine with it, but I don’t know how to tell them that.

      1. speculation run amok*

        various middle-aged bachelor cousins who never married.

        dude. unmarried != being gay. just sayin.

        1. Chaordic One*

          You’re absolutely right. How silly of me. I must be letting my imagination run away with me. Cousin Bert is probably just friends with his longtime roommate Ernie and they’re probably just waiting for the right girls. And cousin Quentin? I’m sure lots of straight men go on vacation at Fire Island. ;-)

          1. Alejandro*

            You need to rethink your stereotyping, Chaordic One. I’m straight, in my early 40s, and not married. My parents, though not abusive or anything, seemed to make each other miserable and yet were seemingly trapped in a marriage. So for me, I would only get married if I absolutely were sure it was the right thing to do.

            1. Anax*

              Yep. There are a lot of options in the queer spectrum, too. They may be asexual and uninterested in dating. They may be transgender and find it difficult to find a relationship where physical/social dysphoria isn’t a deterrent. They may be poly and in a relationship with a married couple, and one or all of them are concerned about social repercussions if they were to be open about their relationship.

              There are… a lot of possibilities which would look from the outside like “gay” or “uninterested,” and speculating on it excessively is kind of rude, you know?

      2. Queer, out, and private*

        One way you can demonstrate yourself to be a trustworthy person they might want to come out to – IF THEY ARE IN FACT GAY – is to a) not engage in stereotyping like theorizing that a divorced and “unusually masculine” woman or a middle-aged unmarried man are probably some flavour of queer; and b) to genuinely respect their privacy and accept that fact that what your family members do with their sex lives isn’t even remotely relevant to you.

        Also, I am out to basically everyone I know but I studiously avoid mentioning my sexuality to people who seem very very very eager to show me how cool with queer people they are. I don’t want any aspect of my sexuality, including my orientation, to become the focus of my non-sexual relationships, and I find invariably that’s what happens when people who REALLY WANT TO KNOW if I’m gay because they are REALLY REALLY FINE WITH IT and JUST WANT ME TO BE COMFORTABLE BEING MYSELF find out.

        It’s not weird or awkward to not know who your cousins have sex with. It’s fine.

      3. allathian*

        Why is it weird and awkward? Especially in cases where everybody directly concerned is dead, speculation is pretty fruitless anyway.

        I think it’s odd that people are so quick to speculate that someone’s gay if they never get married. While I hope that everyone could be as open and comfortable about their sexuality as I am as a cisgender, heterosexual woman, the reality is that lots of people aren’t for a variety of reasons. Even if they are gay, they are allowed to remain in the closet if that’s what they want to do.

        Besides, your impressions may be wrong. How well do you know your cousins? In my freshman year at college I went through a phase of dressing very butch. I usually wore Levi’s 510s (too curvy for 501s), a lumberjack flannel shirt, Doc Martens boots, and a buzz cut. It took me a while to connect the dots because for a few months, I was wondering why I got hit on by more women than men. When I realized what was going on, I let my hair grow a bit longer and dressed a bit less butch…

    18. bunniferous*

      If this is regarding parentage…..tell them. I found out at 59 that I had a different father than I knew. Yes, it was upending, but I am glad I know the truth. If they find out from someone else and then learn you knew all along, it might make your relationship more difficult.

    19. Jackalope*

      A few years ago I read a book called “It Didn’t Start With You” by Mark Wolynn. The author is a counselor who worked with people dealing with generational traumas (for example, he had a number of clients and their offspring wrestling with the Holocaust and its fallout), and he said that many forms of trauma, as well as our response to them, are handed down by our parents. He shared a fascinating study, for example, of rats who were exposed to a shock while at the same time also given exposure to a specific cherry scent. 3 or 4 generations of their offspring were afraid of that scent even though they’d never experienced the shocks. (He also shared stories about people living in war zones who left and had children who had automatic responses to, say, the sound of gunfire even though they’d never been in the war zone themselves.) The author had a bit of the hammer/nail issue (If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail) where since his main experience was working with people dealing with generational trauma and so he linked all problems to that. That being said, however, he had a lot of experience working with people who were able to discover past trauma in their families that had been kept from them but was still affecting them (for example, they had an aunt or uncle who committed suicide and no one ever mentioned that person to them, but when they reached the age that the aunt/uncle had been when the suicide occurred, the parent who was the sibling of said aunt/uncle suddenly started acting strangely towards them and having weird emotions that fell into place for everyone when the story came out).

      Because of that (and because of my preference for *knowing* what the past was), I would lean towards sharing the family secret. People often fondly believe that hiding it will protect either themselves or the person they’re hiding it from, but in reality it tends to leave an emotional mess that the person the secret is kept from can’t fully process because they don’t know what in the heck is causing the problem in the first place. To use your hypothetical example, it’s easier to cope with a secret adoption if you know that’s what the issue is and so you can, for example, go read up on how other people have dealt with the same issue, rethink your memories knowing, “Aha! THAT’S what that random comment meant!”, look up your biological family and finally have people that you consider family that actually look like you, and so on. There have been many other people here who have had strong feelings the other direction, however, so I would probably fall on the, “Hey, you’ve made comments around [X], and I have some information that might help clear things up; let me know if you ever want to know what’s going on.” And to help yourself out, maybe write everything down beforehand in a way that makes sense and try to tell yourself the story a couple of times; this is your family too, and you might also have emotions around this secret, so let yourself process it enough that if the person *does* want you to share, you can do so and not accidentally pour your emotions all over them at the same time so they have to deal with both. (Not to say you can’t be honest about how you felt if it was negative, just this might help so they don’t feel like they’re carrying you too, since you’ve had more time to come to terms with whatever it is.)

    20. Nita*

      This is very close to home. Before she died, my mother-in-law told me a secret. I think it’s the reason she and her husband divorced. It’s a heartbreaking story. I asked her if she ever told her son (my husband) and she said no, and she’d like not to. So I told her I won’t say anything to him. He’s since found out bits and pieces of the story, but not the really horrifying part. And of course he wonders what drove his parents apart. I thought for a long time whether I should say more, but in the end I can’t. Everyone involved is dead. The secret does not involve my husband directly, and knowing what a kind man he is, I’m sure it would break his heart to know. I did tell him, very vaguely, that his mom and I talked and I got the impression that the divorce happened because his dad let his mom down when she needed support, and she could not forgive him even though she still loved him. But I couldn’t say any more than that…

      1. Mademoiselle Sugar Lump*

        See, to me, that’s absolutely something he should know. He knows parts of it and he knows something is off. Yes it could hurt but it also help him with understanding things. “Oh! that explains (that thing that always seemed off, those conversations that didn’t make sense).”

        1. fposte*

          I also think it puts Nita in an unfair place. “Here’s this information that I want to unburden myself about but that you now need to keep secret from your husband.”

          1. Nita*

            I don’t know… can’t see telling him the details. It’s literally the most horrible thing I can imagine happening, on a personal level. Not on the level of adultery or not knowing who your real parents are. It also doesn’t really add anything he doesn’t know about his parents’ character. It’s just a horrible thing that happened in their past, and he does now know the general story but not the specifics. There’s also absolutely nothing that can be done now. I hate secrets though.

          2. TL -*

            Yeah, this would fall under the “I don’t lie for other people” rule for me, and I would have told MIL that. (And then I would have told husband.)

            But I can see my best friend not telling, for the reasons Nita listened. To be completely, I think my bestie does it as much for herself as for the person she’s protecting; usually the other person ends up handling it just fine and bestie gets to be like, “I did this for other person and that makes me a good person.”

            1. allathian*

              I have the same rule and I’m very upfront about it. It’s meant that a couple of times, someone who wanted to confide in me has backed out of telling me something in confidence, but that’s fine by me. I don’t want to know other people’s secrets. I especially don’t want to know any secrets that affect my husband directly and that I couldn’t share with him. So I won’t promise anyone that I won’t tell him things they tell me, if those things affect him in some way. If a friend tells me something in confidence that only affects them, it’s a different matter and I won’t tell my husband.

    21. KoiFeeder*

      There’s a strong genetic history of autism in my family, but at the moment it seems to be sex-linked rather than an unmitigated dominant gene. But there’s been some stuff uncovered recently, and that combined with a few autism diagnoses on a previously unimpacted side of the family suggests that there’s a strong chance that the gene gets carried along regardless of whether it’s expressed and that it may not be as strictly sex-linked as we thought.

      In my opinion, the family autism is both pretty predictable and only disabling when society gets stubborn about performing normalcy, so I don’t consider it a big deal. In fact, if it turns out that they’re also carrying it, I’d consider that a good thing because they might have resources and tactics we don’t and vice versa. But that branch of the family doesn’t talk to my branch because we’re the weirdos, so there’s a high chance that they will not like the idea that they are and always have been the same breed of weird.

      If it turns out that, yes, they’ve got the gene too, I’ll probably tell. At the very least, I’d want to make sure that they’re not gonna sell that genetic information to autism speaks, and hopefully it’d be helpful to some people.

    22. fposte*

      A big thing for me would be whether or not it’s actionable. If there’s something they’d do with this information, not just feel about this information, it would tip me toward telling–like does it affect money or benefits? Does it mean there’s health information they could have access to but don’t? I also might tell if the secret is one that’s rebounded on them–if you know their dad had an affair with a man but he’s now homophobic toward your queer friend, or their dad left their mom for a man and she’s homophobic toward your friend. It’d also depend how I knew. Did I find out through my own obsessive research that their beloved grandfather was a deserter and not a war hero? Nothing I need to share.

    23. Completely anonymous*

      So here’s the real story: I’ve known my step-children since they were very young. I met their father shortly after the divorce. Everyone in their family and older adult social circle knows that the precipitating event for the divorce was their mother’s infidelity. But of course they were not told this. They were told that daddy and mommy love them very much but no longer love each other.

      Shortly after the divorce, their father met me. Their mother “met” the man she’d been having an affair with, introduced him as her new boyfriend, and married him shortly thereafter. She worked very hard to create a new nuclear family with him slotted in in place of their father. It was a complete shitshow and they divorced a few years later in a very traumatic fashion which included New Stepdad’s infidelity and their mother’s more-or-less breakdown.

      During that time it became clear that their narrative was “when dad left us” even though he had shared custody. He did move out of the marital home, but he would have stayed forever if his wife hadn’t pretty much ended the marriage by finding a new love.

      Now my step-children are middle aged, and both their parents are dead.

      When I talk to them about their current lives and relationship issues and parenting issues, they will casually refer to things like “mom met a new man and brought him home,” or “dad escaped this bad marriage by moving out.” They are confused by why their mother worked so hard to integrate the new man so quickly. They wonder why she felt removed from them and why she was not emotionally accessible.

      I don’t have answers. But I think that the story becomes more clear when you know that their mother really wanted to rectify the perceived mistake of her first marriage by re-creating a nuclear family with her second husband, and that a lot of her subsequent shame and depression had to do with her having given up a good husband in favor of a guy who turned out to be a total asshole.

      I suppose that a lot of that could be inferred without knowing about the infidelity. I know that my late husband was always sad that his children thought he’d just left the marriage, when the reality was quite different. So maybe that’s my motivation. But I also feel that at least one of the adult children is really struggling with his memories of his childhood.

      People were talking about documents. I have a cassette tape left by their father, where he wrote their names and “not to be opened until your 18th birthday.” He was around when they were 18, so he could have given them the tape but didn’t. But he also kept it, and after he died I have it. I asked my rabbi if I should just throw it away, and he said it belongs to them and to keep it in case they ask for it. But that’s totally disingenuous. Of course they won’t ask for it, because they have no idea it exists. It’s probably all just static by now anyway.

      I guess it’s best for me to just keep quiet. It hurts me to hear his one child really wrestling with memories of his childhood, and it hurts me that literally everyone over a certain age in their sphere knows about this. And it’s weird to me that someday I will literally take this information to the grave. But neither child has asked me why their parents divorced or what I know about it, so I guess it’s best not to volunteer information.

      1. Reba*

        There are services that can (attempt to) restore cassette tapes! I think your sense of your rabbi’s advice is right, and should be extended to just telling them. And maybe apologizing for not doing so when he died — depending on how long it has been, not sure from what you have written. Say you have this tape, would they like it, maybe it can still be heard. I would be heartbroken if I learned someone had kept something like this from me.

        I don’t think you really have scope to share your analysis of the kids’ mom, but you have all the right in the world to talk with them about their dad!

        I’m sorry for your loss.

      2. RagingADHD*

        I think you should tell them the tape exists, that their father chose not to give it to them, but that you will if they want it.

        This is not a life-altering revelation about their identity. It’s just additional context on a story they already know.

        You should also keep your observations/opinions about their mom to yourself. Nobody knows what goes on in a marriage except the people inside it. You have a single fact and a single perspective. If the kids had ant memory of their parents’ marriage, they already have experiential knowledge of what it was like in that house. They knew something was wrong already, just not exactly what it was.

        1. Epiphyta*

          +1. You’re not giving them “the one true truth about ‘How Your Parents’ Marriage Really Was!’ ” It’s a tape with their father’s perspective on what happened, one piece of the reality. If you have not heard it, you aren’t even sure of that.

          And, as kindly as possible, it’s not yours. I’m dealing with a similar situation right now, as a sibling of Spouse’s has died and he has turned up family papers relating to Sibling’s mother (FIL’s first wife), which Spouse is passing along to his nephew. You say that your stepchildren are middle-aged; adults get to decide for themselves when and how, and with what support, they process challenging information.

          I understand your impulse to protect them. Consider something my father was fond of saying: “Assume ‘They’ are going to ‘find out’. How does that affect your actions?” In the case of my family, harm done – abandonment, adoption, adultery – was always compounded by the secrets people told to themselves and one another to try and cover it up.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Don’t you think that they might hate you if they found out you knew all along?
        At the moment, if I’ve understood correctly, the step children don’t know about their mother’s infidelity, and they see their father as the one who left, who broke up the happy family. Why should their father be cast in a bad light like that when it’s the mother who triggered the breakup? I would say you should tell them asap.

        My father always hammered on that he wanted my partner and me to get married. I didn’t want to – I’ve always hated the idea. Then one day he explained why, and it was a secret he’d never told anyone, not even his wife or my elder brother: he wasn’t the son of the man named as his father on his birth certificate. His mother had got pregnant from another guy (someone much higher up in society) and this other guy married her to make an honest woman of her. But everyone knew (small town) and my father was often called “bastard”, and it was a name that was very hurtful back in those days. Once he’d told me that, it made sense to me that he didn’t want the same to happen to my children. I was able to reassure him that society had changed, that in fact over 50% of children are born to parents who are not married in the country I live in, and that everyone always assumes we are married even though neither of us wear a ring.
        He felt so much better once we’d had that conversation and I’m so happy that he was able to confide in me and that we were able to have that heart-to-heart talk.

        1. RagingADHD*

          She said the kids’ narrative is “dad escaped this bad marriage by moving out.”

          They know he didn’t break up a happy situation. They also know their mom jumped into the new relationship wierdly fast, and it was a trainwreck.

          They just don’t know the exact timing or what dad’s final straw was. Unless they have zero relational intelligence, middle-aged people have probably guessed that an affair was a possibility.

  4. Jackalope*

    So I was wondering if anyone has brilliant ideas for continuing to socialize as we come into winter. I recently bought a shade shelter to use against precipitation as well as a few more lawn chairs so that if we have temperature-appropriate gear we can still congregate in the backyard and not get precipitated on. We’ve tried it out once and it was great. I also bought a super bright lantern so we could have light. Anyone else trying to find ways to make outdoor gatherings happen? Any ideas on what we can do to prep for cold, rain, and snow to have people still in our lives in person but safely?

    1. Anonymous*

      I’ve thought about getting one of those big outdoor heaters you see on restaurant patios. They seem to work well in that setting but I don’t know anything about the cost.

      1. Anonymous*

        That’s a good idea. I’ve thought about a fire pit but have friends who are sensitive to smoke. Something that provides heat but not smoke might be good.

        1. Anonymous*

          I’m not sure if it will help but solo stove makes a fire pit that contains a lot of the smoke (not sure if it’s smokeless) and is on sale right now.

        2. LNLN*

          My SIL attended a gathering outdoors where the host provided single bed sized electric blankets to the guests (and extension cords). She loved it!

      2. Natalie*

        From what I hear there’s been quite the run on those lately, they might be hard to find. So if you’re thinking about it, I’d start looking now.

    2. Jackalope*

      For those who are curious, this is the shelter we got: https://www.rei.com/product/171377/kelty-discovery-shade-shelter?cm_mmc=email_tran-_-ereceipt-_-20200923-_-img_prod1&ev36=&RMID=EReceipt_PROD&RRID=17794220&ev11=

      It’s the Kelty Shade Shelter. Putting it up is a bear (who decided to make you stick the pole through SLEEVES instead of hooks like tents have used for years??), and it wouldn’t work in blustery weather with lots of wind. On the other hand it’s 10 feet by 10 feet meaning you can easily fit two different households with safe distances and you miiiiight be able to get three or four if you were all at the far corners. When I used it I was on one side and my guest was at the other; it was raining but we didn’t get wet and we were able to enjoy being outside. Again, this isn’t trying to recommend this specific item but giving you an idea of this is something that might help you spend more time outside with friends or family members not in your quarantine bubble.

    3. LemonWhirl*

      I’m not sure there are any brilliant ideas beyond outdoor heaters. Also, I am a big believer in the saying “There’s no bad weather, only poor clothing choices.” I’d be investing in really good thermal layers, hats, gloves, rain gear, etc.

      If you’re set on entertaining, you might buy a bunch of warm blankets for yourself and your guests that you can wash before events.

    4. Ewesername*

      I have a heated travel blanket that plugs into a USB, so I use a rechargeable battery pack with it. We’ve cleaned out our garage, bought a couple of space heaters and plan to be in there until we can’t take the cold anymore.

    5. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      Can you do outdoor activities where you move around to keep warm? Sledding, ice skating, hiking, skiing? Outdoor socializing in the winter is already a thing; it’s just a thing that usually involves exercise.

    6. Anonymous*

      We were at our friends’ backyard the other day and they had a chiminea. I’d never seen one before. They give off a lot more heat than a portable firepit and seem to be about equally smokey, which is to say quite a bit. We had to air all our clothes afterward, but we were quite warm well into a cold night.

      Our other friends had just purchased very lightweight down camping throws so we all had lovely wraps in their backyard.

      The comment about clothing is pretty accurate – last night I dug out my long underwear and warm boots for the first time, and that made a huge difference in my comfort level being outside.

      One friend is going to open up the back wall of her garage so that she can have the front and back open for cross-breeze and entertain in there with heaters. That seems a bit extreme to me, but she’s a DIY kind of person who enjoys those projects.

    7. Anax*

      I was so smug about the California winters being relatively easy to go out in – and fire season is making going outdoors at all unsafe. Arghhhh.

      I think wet seating is one of the biggest problems when congregating outdoors in winter; you can dress warmly, but dressing waterproofly is harder. Chairs you can bring indoors or otherwise protect from the damp seem like a good idea. Outdoor-safe lighting so you can gather outside even when the sun sets at 5pm, and maybe a big tea kettle?

    8. pandora366*

      We have board game cafes that accomomdate 5 people so we go there for cold, rain and all. Since Covid-19 gave me more time to work playing anime soundtracks and pop music, I invite others for concert here and there – works when you have musician friends, or audience who are willing to listen!

  5. Grandkid number 11*

    Looking for suggestions on how to explain this COVID situation to an elderly who lives in a personal care home. My grandmother, who is 95, sort of understands what’s going on but is still accusing us of abandoning her. The rules at her home is only two designated people can visit, but only one at a time. We have to stay in her room, we can’t take her anywhere. And while we’re there, it’s full PPE- mask, face shield, gown, gloves. (We’re in Canada- full blown second wave is happening)
    We’ve had multiple conversations about what’s going on, but it the severity doesn’t seem to be sticking. She’s quite on the ball about everything else that’s happening. I’m thinking because she’s not out in the world, experiencing it, it isn’t happening for her.
    Ideas would be appreciated

    1. Job Carousel*

      That sounds so hard for everyone involved — I’m sorry!

      Since she’s 95, maybe she remembers people talking about the influenza pandemic that happened a few years before she was born, or the polio outbreaks and world war that happened when she was a young woman — would relating the severity of this situation to those situations possibly help? You could say it’s a once in a 100 years phenomenon, much more serious than a seasonal flu or a cold, and that’s why so many precautions are in place.

      It sounds like your family is doing their best to make sure she’s being cared for during this challenging time. Are there any other creative ways you can make her feel cared for — bringing a tablet in with your visits and video calling with other family members who can’t be physically present, bringing in cards or letters from others, etc?

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Can you leave a written note with her about what is happening? Maybe reading it once in awhile will help her remember.

      Can you set up regular calls with her by phone or video conference?

      What about sending postcards every few days?

    3. Not Australian*

      Similar problem with my mother in law, 90 and still living independently. She doesn’t understand why people aren’t visiting her and feels we have abandoned her, whereas the truth is she’s had to have one designated ‘point person’ to deal with all her needs (shopping, banking, appointments etc.) and has hardly seen anyone else since February. The only way we could make this work was a phone rota where she gets a call every day from one or other of her children. It’s deadly dull for her, but at least she understands that she really shouldn’t be going out on her own.

      For your gran, how about an informational poster about Covid somewhere that she’ll see it every day – on the back of the bathroom door, perhaps? If it’s a proper formal poster. i.e. not made by a family member, she may realise that this is a bigger phenomenon than she thought. Also, regular phone calls – at the same time each day if possible – so that she starts to recognise the ‘new normal’ for what it is.

    4. Pennyworth*

      Is she the sort of person who would accept the notion of authority from on high? – as in ”We have to follow these new rules and wear protective gear and stay in your room. I hate having to do it, but rules are rules”. You could also talk about what you will be able to do together once the rules are relaxed so she has something to look forward to.

    5. Girasol*

      Can you ask if she remembers her parents telling her about what they went through in the 1918 flu? It was before her time but I imagine it hadn’t been forgotten by the time she was a child. If she remembers the 1918 epidemic, perhaps it would be a step toward explaining what’s going on now.

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        I’ve done some reading about the 1918 flu. Interestingly enough, the people who lived through it seemed to frequently NOT talk about. Rather than want to talk about it, at least in the US they seemed to mostly want to forget it ever happened. So there may not be family stories.

        However – polio is another option, and someone in their 80s/90s would likely remember that.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yes, indeed. I remember Doris Lessing talking about it – she was born in the midst of it, yet nobody ever talked about it. Like WWI which had just preceded it, it became a Great Unmentionable. I had never heard of it before reading Doris Lessing, to the point that it almost seemed like it was another of her stories rather than something that really happened.

    6. Totally Minnie*

      Does she have a good window you can use for visits? My grandmother is also in her 90s and living in a care facility, but her bedroom window is easily accessible from the sidewalk, so she’s still been able to have visitors several times a week. We leave the window closed and call her on the phone so we can stand together and have a chat.

    7. Anax*

      I’m staying in – I’m young but asthmatic – and it’s definitely easy to forget about things like masks and PPE when you don’t see them! I would guess that that is indeed a huge factor; I’m very aware of the statistics intellectually, but man do I forget about masks every time I step outside, and have to look around wide-eyed. No good advice, but can confirm that that’s a Thing.

    8. HC*

      I’m late to reply but I’m going through a similar situation with a family member. Is it possible to facetime using a caregivers phone? That way different people can facetime even if only one or two people can see them in person. Then other family members can rotate who goes on facetime. I wouldn’t recommend putting more than one or two people on at once since that can lead to confusion but this has helped my family out greatly when my family member is having a “good” day. On bad days though she seems to not fully understand that we’re not just a picture though so it may be hit or miss.

  6. Anonymous*

    Just a quick update for those folks who kindly gave me advice about a nervous dog recently. Two attempts to take her out for walks have so far failed as she just will *not* have anything to do with men whatsoever, but I’ve got an arrangement to try to take her out on my own one day this week. The original idea of taking my other half with me was that the owner didn’t think I would be strong enough alone to wrestle with the dog if she got ornery – I haven’t walked a dog of any kind for thirty years or more – but we’re running out of options and it’s got to be worth a try.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        I think that due to the technical issues the site is experiencing (see Allison’s post from yesterday) the usernames aren’t being saved, so you have to retype them in the “name” box every time, at least that’s what’s happening for me. It defaults to Anonymous when you don’t fill in the name.

        1. Teatime is Goodtime*

          Also, it just told me I need to slow down with commenting, but I hadn’t posted any at all! And it ate my comment, which is frustrating. :(

    1. WS*

      I had a (very short and slightly built) friend who was told the same thing about her dog, but she was able to control the dog quite well by staying close to her. The dog was only scared enough to try to run away once, so my friend just sat on the ground so the dog wouldn’t pull her into a fall, and it worked great – the dog came straight back for comfort.

      1. Reba*

        Sitting down — this is what my very petite sibling does with their big dogs!

        Good luck with desensitization, Not Australian!

    2. Cat and dog fosterer*

      When she gets ornery during a walk does she try to back up, or turn and pull, or get aggressive as defense? Sorry if you have mentioned this previously as I don’t remember seeing it.

      If the dog backs up then it is harder for them to pull hard, so a properly sized collar or harness should work unless the neck is unusually wide. If the dog turns and tries to run away then I would suggest a no-pull harness. There are several types including one that clips in front which works well for me although I was given some as a donation so I haven’t tried other no-pull harness types (https://positively.com/dog-training/methods-equipment/training-equipment/head-collars-no-pull-harnesses/). I have used a material (not metal) slip collar and tried a prong collar (didn’t like it) for large strong dogs that have never walked on leash, just initially to teach them how to walk without dragging me off my feet. I would never use a slip collar on a reactive dog as they can become irrational from fear and would pull to the point of pain which would only increase their fear. They can also continue to pull hard with the collars so a no-pull harness really is the best way to keep the person walking them from falling over.

      If they are reacting to dogs or people then the best technique is to distract them with food before they get close. Get them to associate men with their favorite treats ever, such as plain chicken. If the dog reacts and ignores you then just turn around and walk away for a bit. If you want a video showing how to do this positively I can look for one.

  7. Ask a Manager* Post author

    My crocheting question of the week. I’m making a blanket with Wool-Ease Thick & Quick yarn (from Lion), and I’m finding it really holds onto cat fur if our cats walk/sit on it. The yarn is a light color so it really shows up … but beyond that, a strand of cat fur will sort of attach itself in the blanket … which isn’t very suitable for blankets in this house. I figure I’ll give this one away to someone without cats, but I’d like to make myself a version of the blanket in a yarn that won’t do that. Is that a common problem with any yarns with wool in them? Or are there types of yarn where you can avoid it? (Unfortunately the yarn is really well suited for this blanket.)

    1. Germank106*

      Wool is a natural fiber and, just like the dirt clings to the Sheep’s fur, dirt and cat/dog hair clings to the Wool. That partially has to do with the Lanolin in the Wool and the staple length of the fibers. The good thing is that the hair is easily removable just by washing and/or with a lint roller or sticky tape.

      1. Anonbeth*

        Wool-ease is only around 20% wool, so I don’t know if this is it. Honestly cat hair (and people hair) gets knit into everything I make regardless of fiber type, and I just roll with it. It’s not like it won’t be covered in hair after it’s done.

    2. Faith*

      You could try a Pima cotton yarn if you want a soft natural fiber that doesn’t grab every cat hair it can. But wool is not going to work if you don’t want cat fur sticking to it; wool loooooves other animal hair.

    3. Hotdog not dog*

      It’s a great yarn, but “fluffy” yarns do tend to attract pet hair. If it’s something I’m making for myself I just match the yarn color to my dog, since the only way to deal with Husky fur is to just embrace the madness. If it’s a gift, I try to either select a smoother textured yarn or work on it outside my house. (I’m one of those people who always has a project bag on hand in case of five minutes of free time) I also make sure to wash the item and use a lint roller before I give the gift. Keeping your project in a large ziplock bag while in progress also helps.

    4. Anonymous*

      You may try either the Heartland or Hometown USA lines from Lion Brand. They are acrylic, but not as fluffy so may pick up less hair.

      Cute blanket pattern.

    5. Batgirl*

      I think acrylic is the most practical around either kids or pets. It used to be just the one consistency but now there’s loads of wooly or thin or cable type textures. You can play around with wool-acrylic mixtures too.

    6. The teapots are on fire*

      Honestly, I’d look for a tweedy color that just blends with the cat hair. I bought a couch this way once. I brought a bag of hair from both cats to the store and bought the one that blended.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        +1000! I have clothes that go through the washer and dryer, and come out with cat fur on the *inside*. I have kitchen towels that proclaim: “Cat fur – a fashion statement and a condiment.”

        You want a soft, cuddly blanket? Cat fur is soft. Embrace the fur.

  8. Anxious Insomniac*

    How do you deal with anxiety? If anxiety is an overestimation of the problem coupled with an underestimation of one’s ability to deal with the problem, how exactly do people cope with that and change that equation?

    I’m on meds. So any other tips would be good. Thank you.

    1. happybat*

      I’ve had a bit of success lately with examining my foundational ideas – for me the big one was ‘I am responsible for everyone else’s emotions’ Looking at that and talking about it helped me grasp that it wasn’t all that reasonable and helped me reshape it into a belief that works better for me ‘I should take reasonable care and pay due attention to other people’s emotions’

    2. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      I recommend the app Headspace, which teaches a nondenominational variety of mindfulness meditation. After a free 10-day introductory course, you can pay to unlock a whole variety of courses with techniques specifically aimed at particular situations and conditions. I found their anxiety course pack really helpful and have continued to use its techniques for several years since I first listened to it.

      Your definition of anxiety is an interesting one—I have a similar visualization where I think of anxiety as looking through a telescope that makes all the problems look HUGE—but I think “change the equation” is still implicitly letting the anxiety call the shots. If you’re in that “equation” mindset at all, you’re in an anxiety mindset, because you’ve defined something as a problem to be anxious about, and then you’re having additional anxiety about whether you’re correctly adjusting your parameters. The key is to get out of that mindset altogether.

      That’s where mindfulness comes in, for me. Just being able to say “Whoa, I’m in a very anxious space right now, that’s probably affecting the way I’m approaching this” helps me step back and access my rationality and start over from first principles: Is this, actually, a problem? What problem is it? For whom is it a problem? What is it getting in the way of? And from there I can usually figure out what needs dealing with (which is probably not the thing my anxiety was fixated on, and may in fact be the anxiety itself) and how to deal with it.

      Anxiety is a very self-focused view, as seen in your equation having a heavy emphasis on you and your abilities and your understanding of your abilities. It’s also artificially narrow; the anxiety telescope zooms in on one tiny point in the distance while ignoring everything else around you. Rationality is the space from which you can see the bigger picture and consider other perspectives and acknowledge other people’s needs and feelings, and that expansion of viewpoint is what’s necessary for both accurately defining problems and finding solutions that stick. So: Identify that you’re in an anxious mindset that’s distorting your perspective. Don’t fiddle with the telescope’s settings; put it down, and look around you at the whole big everything. Take in all the information you can, compassionately (or at least dispassionately) and without prejudgment. Then return to the issue you’re trying to fix, and see whether getting a little bit out of your head and your narrow focus helps you to make sense of things.

      Meds are good but they’re no substitute for therapy, so I hope you can work with a good therapist on this. Best of luck.

    3. Janet Pinkerton*

      I’m on both Wellbutrin as a daily and Xanax as needed. Not sure if you have both kinds but I’d recommend it. Exercise really helps me—I like to lift heavy weights. Therapy was also a big help and probably the first thing I needed. I’ve since graduated. One of my favorite tricks from therapy is to actually think something through to its worst case scenario logical conclusion. It actually isn’t usually as bad as anxiety makes it seem like it will be.

    4. Claire*

      Things I do to manage my anxiety: regular exercise (walking, swimming, yoga, BodyBalance classes), eating small but regular meals and snacks (anxiety tends to make me forget about food then binge, so I plan my food carefully to avoid that as much as possible), drinking plenty of water (I carry a Chilly’s bottle everywhere), and meditation (including using sleepcasts to help me fall asleep). And I schedule “worry time” – ten minutes once a day to sit and write down what’s worrying me, and what I intend to do about those things, in a dedicated journal. This lets me tell myself “I’ll deal with that at Worry Time”, which can short-circuit my brain’s inclination to go over and over things in endless circles.

    5. Dottie*

      I have anxiety and OCD which for a number of years tried different meds and mostly managed on my own. I’ve seen a therapist for about a year now which has been so helpful. She helped me recognize anxiety symptoms sooner than later (ex: flight or fight is perceiving danger, so ask yourself if there’s an danger currently and talk outloud to yourself logically about it as talking will help you not hyperventilate). I pay out of pocket and it’s worth it, especially right now when my health-anxiety fear is in overdrive. Otherwise I read for fun, play Sudoku, video games, ride my bike… things I like that will help distract or channel that nervous energy into. If I feel a way, ask myself if I need water, food, more sleep, a laugh, etc. In severe moments I use a benzo as needed. Remember to be compassionate with yourself too, because this shit is hard and we’re doing our best to cope under the circumstances!

    6. Rebecca Stewart*

      I try to sort out the things that are problems that I can take care of versus the problems that aren’t under my control/I have no ability to change.

      For example, I can’t do a thing about winter weather. But when we moved, we moved to a place where our streets will get plowed and it’s less distance to a main road. I can keep stashes of meds and food and necessities because I have a large pantry. I can make sure the car has survival gear in it. So I put the nervous energy of anxiety into getting all that “right”, and then I can handle the fact that we may get an ice storm and there’s nothing I can do about it.
      I also try very hard to keep a good sleep schedule and eat sustaining food as anxiety is much more likely to rise up and eat my head when I am tired and hungry. Managing life stress in general is also part of this; often a spiral that needs the rescue med to manage it starts when I feel pressured and pushed and feel like I don’t have enough time/spoons to do all I need to do. So part of my daily treatment is to make sure I don’t get in that situation by preplanning and working hard to make sure I have as orderly a life as I can.

      1. Jackalope*

        This is a lot of it for me, too. I try to take the issues, figure out what I can do about them (preferably what I can do *today*), do the thing, and then when I keep worrying about it, tell myself I’ve already done what I can and firmly move on. It helps to have thoughts I can return to that make me happy; for example, I love my cats, so I might redirect my thoughts to whatever cute thing they are doing at that moment. Once a week I go on a 4.5 mile walk in the morning before I do anything else, and I was getting caught up in anxiety spirals that made those walks less pleasant than they’d been in the past, so I brought a list of character development questions for a new-ish D&D character and spent the morning pleasantly figuring out what kind of character background she has. Things like that can really help.

        And a shout-out to making sure basic needs are met. Just grabbing food and going to bed on time, as well as getting a good amount of exercise, make a big difference. It doesn’t solve everything, but it means that your body isn’t trying to fight on THAT front as well.

    7. Anon for this*

      Just starting to use a Circadian Optics light box in the past few weeks. I am amazed to report that I feel significantly better. YMMV.

    8. Cendol*

      This is exactly the root of my anxiety—the fear that something terrible will happen and I won’t be able to cope. The advice of my therapist was to make a list of bad things that I *have* coped with in the past. A sort of “resilience box” that I can open up and look through when I’m feeling particularly afraid. And I haven’t been too discerning as far as what goes in the box, you know? The time that I put my life back together after a burglary is there, but so are the multiple times I emptied my sink of dirty dishes. Just piles of proof that I have faced and navigated every challenge I’ve encountered so far. (And they don’t have to be challenges that you faced alone. Having proof that you have other people in your corner—that you won’t be alone if it really does all fall apart!—is also helpful.)

      And if you find yourself continuing to spiral with “What ifs,” or challenging the experiences in the box, try to interrupt the cycle. I don’t do well with breathing exercises, but I’ve found that it’s been helpful to stand up, walk around, and eat a menthol cough drop, particularly if anxiety seizes me in the middle of the night. I also put my procrastination skills to use. “This is all very interesting, but why don’t we think about this tomorrow?” :)

    9. Skeeder Jones*

      I had horrible anxiety at the start(ish) of the pandemic due to the state of the world and additional traumatic events in my life (car fire, death of a friend, death of a family member, stressful project at work). It was so hard to deal with because of that feeling you get in your body when you have severe anxiety and it was affecting my confidence at work, where I’ve always done well. I attacked it from a lot of angles. I did begin taking medication, but I also had therapy (been seeing the same therapist for over 10 years) and did some self-care kinds of things including going taking lunch to a park and doing some journaling and coloring. I started using some apps like Calm and Happify and they would help kind of reset my mind when I was spiraling. I also used self talk like “I am feeling x, this is why. It is ok to feel this way, it is part of being human. I won’t always feel this way” and my therapist also mentioned thinking about it like a software glitch so sometimes I would tell myself that as well. I learned that I could also redirect my energy by getting involved in a project like cleaning out my expired spices, folding laundry, stuff like that. I also got a cat (I live alone so it is nice to have this little creature in my life that keeps me company) and petting her or brushing her coat was also stress-relieving for me. I also used a CBD vape pen, but I’ve heard some bad things it can do to your lungs so I tried not to use it very much. (I tried other delivery methods but they didn’t work) It took a few months but it gradually got better and now I rarely have a full-blown anxiety attack. I’ll send you some good vibes!

    10. Anxious Insomniac*

      Thank you so much everybody – this has given me a lot to think about and a lot of practical advice. I really do appreciate y’all taking the time to write your responses out. Bookmarked this to come back to again.

      1. The teapots are on fire*

        I recommend any of David Burns’ books on mood, with written exercises on cognitive behavioral therapy. It gives you a structured way to reframe your thinking and it’s really helpful.

    11. pretzelgirl*

      Things that help me:
      Therapy
      Meds
      Exercise ( I have to go every other day or can drastically tell the difference. In fact I don’t have time today or tomorrow and I am worried)
      Eating right
      Getting outside
      ASMR
      Also I am not sure of your family life or situation. I have 3 little kids. After the 2 littlest are in bed I retreat to my room for an hour of me time. I watch silly videos, eat some dessert and veg. It is my time where no one needs a thing from me.
      Take a mental health day, schedule things you love to you for yourself. A massage, exercise, picking up your favorite take out, binging a favorite show

  9. help*

    I’m the person who caused a coronavirus panic at work. And now here I am again. I am feeling like coughing more often. Otoh, I am in an area affected by wildfires and I do have asthma. I am so afraid of what my company’s management will respond if I say “I would like to be removed until I get tested” if it turns out to be a false alarm. Especially if my client site learns and freaks out again. However, if they learn I am hiding symptoms even though I have a plausible excuse of asthma, and indeed it could just be that… idk. I really feel crappy either way. I wish I could just slip off for a quick test and report back.

    If I KNEW that you couldn’t get it twice, I would feel so much more relieved. Colds, flu, and asthma flareups are pretty common right? Totally plausible for what I’m experiencing. On my end, I wear a mask constantly, go outside if I need to cough, sanitize, use my inhaler and minimze risk. Still taking public transit. I take my temp on entering and have sworn to myself if I have a fever, I leave immediately and report. My boss is pretty good but does inadvertently guilt me by talking about how difficult it is to get my position covered, which has led both my needed times off to be delayed and me to hesitate reporting it

    Thank you all!

    1. Lena Clare*

      Get medical advice immediately – it’s irresponsible to go into company with a suspicion of it – then if you need a test you can tell your employers you need to isolate. And you’re not responsible for causing a panic – we’re in a pandemic, people are anxious. But that shouldn’t stop you from getting a test. I’ve been off work 3 times with covid-19, and I’ve had 1 test only, which was negative. I don’t care, I’d rather be overly cautious and stay off with what turns out to be a cold than infect people around me.

    2. Jessie*

      I think you should definitely tell them. Even if it causes panic. That’s not your fault. I think a lot of people will go through this in the coming months, because we are entering flu season. So, people will keep getting sick and wondering whether to go on as normal because it’s just a cold or to actually say something just to be cautious. I guess for people who tend to get sick a lot in winter, it will be hell. I think tell them.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      You really don’t have a choice because asthma means that YOU ARE AT HIGH RISK of complications.
      And that’s before acknowledging company medical rules about reporting symptoms, and potentially local laws.
      Tell your manager you need to be tested. Get tested. Then because of the asthma thing, stay inside a place with air purifiers during your quarantine to help rule out wildfire/allergies issues.
      I acknowledge I may sound harsh, but I heard first-hand accounts of epidemics from my parents & grandparents & their siblings. Except for the ones who died before I was born from a contagious disease.
      Please do the right thing.

      1. Eeeek*

        Studies have actually shown people with asthma are statistically under represented in hospitalized corona patients. Not that she shouldn’t be careful and report to work because she totally should!

    4. Thankful for AAM*

      Can you not call in sick due to asthma and get tested? Are the tests regulated or take a long time for results?

    5. Jackalope*

      Just want to extend sympathy on what I’ve started calling Schrodinger’s COVID. I regularly have symptoms (like a chronic cough, for example) that match the COVID list but probably don’t mean anything. It’s frustrating and sometimes frightening.

      1. Kiwi*

        We just got a new dog and I’m still asthmatically adjusting to him – which includes a lot of coughing and wheezing. I kept worrying it was COVID until I took some benadryl and the symptoms cleared right up – but i can’t take benadryl all the time cuz it knocks me out. Schrodinger’s Cough is a good name for this!

    1. Rara Avis*

      My cross-stitch project is languishing in a corner, but I did tie-dye with my kid this week. Nail-beds are still blue.

    2. Jemima Bond*

      I am in the midst of creating a large patchwork quilt for my brother and SIL (they asked if they could commission one. ) I’m enjoying it but it’s a big task! For example the first stage was making 272 half-square triangle units – the finished square being 2 and a half inches. But as you go the numbers go down, logically (I’m now in the midst of sewing two pieced components together, 68 times) which is motivating, it sort of speeds up if that makes sense. But then there will be the quilting – I only have a domestic machine and sending it to be long armed would double the cost, nearly, so I’m going to do it by hand but sort of tying it with crows foot stitching.
      I think it will be lovely – a bears paw block in a mix of fairly modern prints in turquoise, orange, lime, navy and a little yellow, with a white-on-white background.

    3. RagingADHD*

      My kids are 11 and 13 and want movie-accurate Halloween costumes for Belle and Rapunzel.

      I have all the fabric and wig supplies, have the bodices cut out, and Rapunzel is flatlined and ready for basting/final fitting.

      I’ve also been learning to knit socks by Magic Loop. Very fun!

  10. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going?
    I fear I myself won’t have much to contribute to this the coming months, as most of my writing will probably be related to the Thing That Shan’t Be Discussed In This Thread. Maybe I’ll gush about a loose scene I wrote here and there, but there definitely won’t be much else happening at this point in time.

    1. Writing anon*

      Changing my name for this one – I have so many fanfiction WIPs that it’s just plain embarrassing at this point, as in almost a dozen separate 15-25k fics that just aren’t getting finished, or which are finished but are now on their seventh or eighth editing pass. NaNoWriMo has been attempted in the past, with only debatable success.

      Solution – use Kinktober prompts to make myself write and finish and post one fic, generally less than 3k, per day, to get over my incessant need for perfection and endless editing. Writing shameless smut isn’t a self-help tactic I’d suggest for everyone, but it’s an easy list of prompts, depending on which list you use, that forces you to commit to daily or near-daily posting. It’s working so far.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Hmm, while Kinktober might be out of my alley (I’m very bad at smut), small simple writing prompts may be the way to go for me, just to get something done.

        1. Writing anon*

          I’ve seen other people tag “Fictober”, which is a similar prompt-a-day tag but with less smut (or as much smut as you’re comfortable writing, I guess). Googling it brings up a few different prompt lists to choose from.

    2. Teatime is Goodtime*

      Oh man, the site just ate my comment, which is very frustrating. I hadn’t posted any yet, but it claimed I’d posted too many too quickly and that I need to slow down. :(

      The TLDR is that I’m not getting much fresh writing done, but that may change with time for two reasons. First, the darkness of winter may make my other hobbies (e.g. sewing) harder and second, I may be having trouble writing fresh stuff while editing another work with a friend.

    3. Rebecca Stewart*

      I decided to make 2021 the year that I get the story bashed into shape to send it to a publisher, and that includes the entire three generational story plus some side plots that showed up along the way, which I would like to get into enough shape that if the main book(s) sell, they could be standalones in the same universe.
      Til then I am doing a lot of background reading, occasionally making notes, and working on this year’s main project, which is losing weight (down 48 pounds!) and getting better food and general life habits. Like going to bed on time, getting up at a good hour, etc. All that will help my writing when I decide to make it a priority.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve been working on worldbuilding; I found a very detailed guide online (look up “SFWA worldbuilding questions Patricia Wrede”) and have been using that as an outline to construct this world in my head. Most of it won’t go into the narrative, obviously, but it will help me put myself in the space.

      Now that a first revision is behind me, I can concentrate on my conlang, too. I need to go back and re-read the books y’all recommended.

    5. Anonymous*

      I told a friend about NaNo yesterday and now she wants to do it with me! I haven’t been this excited since… I can’t remember, but at least it’s the most excited I’ve been all year.

  11. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gaming thread! What’s everyone been playing this week?
    I went back to my childhood and did a bit of Pajama Sam: No Need to Hide When It’s Dark Outside. The nostalgia is real with the Humongous games. Also snagged Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter for €5, so I’m currently installing that.

    1. IrishEm*

      I treated myself to Untitled Goose Game this week and I am utterly charmed.

      Still playing ESO for a few mins each day to claim daily rewards, but the daily rewards aren’t as good as they used to be.

      Debating rebooting Assassin’s Creed 2 or Brotherhood. I miss hanging out in Renaissance Italy with Ezio.

    2. Nicole76*

      I recently acquired a Nintendo Switch and and have been trying out a lot of games thanks to the local library’s huge collection.

      So far I really like:

      Penguin Wars – An updated version of a game I had for the original Gameboy. My husband and I like to battle each other. I’m thinking about buying it but it’s only available on eBay unless I purchase a digital copy which is currently on sale for $7.50. I prefer physical game copies and don’t know much about how downloaded Switch games work. My fear is losing access to the game in the future. Is there a way to store it on a memory card for safe keeping? Will it require access to Nintendo online to play? I need to research the answers to this unless someone already knows and can tell me.

      Paper Mario The Origami King – Usually I don’t like games that include a large story as part of the gameplay but this one is so cute I don’t mind it. So far it’s easy enough that I haven’t gotten frustrated and quit.

      If you couldn’t already tell, I’m not what many would consider a “gamer”. I’m not into really complicated games and go for the cuteness factor. My favorite game is Disney Tsum Tsum on my phone and I just bought a used copy of Angry Birds Star Wars for our PS4.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Normally what should happen is that once you bought it, you can redownload it as many times as you want, even if the specific game is taken down from the store (I suppose an exception would be games that pose serious security risks or something). You can, of course, grab one or more large enough microSD card(s) and have them all stored on there. But I totally get you regarding the physical preference, although in my case it’s more “I’m a collector/hoarder”. In that sense this current trend of “send out broken stuff on release date that requires a massive day 1 patch to actually work” hurts my soul.
        Also, we don’t gatekeep here, so you’re good :). If you only read Harlequin romances you’re still a reader, so why would someone who only goes for cute and/or non-complicated games not be a gamer?

        1. Nicole76*

          Thank you for the info; that makes me feel better about the idea of downloading a game, at least from the aspect of not losing access to it.

          I’m not sure if I consider myself a collector, but I do really like seeing a physical representation of things I own, such as video games, movies, and music. I still buy CDs for that reason.

          I keep mentally going back and forth about whether to buy Penguin Wars online for $7.50 or spend $20 and get a used copy from Ebay. Apparently Nintendo already stopped selling it in stores. It just came out in summer 2019 so I’m not sure if that’s the normal lifespan for a game or if it was just that bad to most people.

          1. LavaLamp*

            Jumping in a bit late, but 90% of my games are digital on the Xbox shared between 3 consoles (my dad’s bricked itself and I’m using an old one and lending him my one x). You don’t lose anything. Everything is in a cloud somewhere, SD cards, and external hard or solid state drives are your friends. Even with my dad’s Xbox dying, everything was there the second he signed in on mine.

          2. A.N. O'Nyme*

            The lifespan of a game kind of depends, really. Very popular first party Nintendo titles, for example, most likely won’t go out of print until the end of their consoles life cycle. A lot also depends on the store: I got the Switch version of a new game in a series I’m a fan of from one store because my local store didn’t even have the Switch version, but they’ll have the Switch version of the sequel, so a lot depends on what the store thinks can sell/if they even know it exists.
            I’ve also looked up Penguin Wars: one store I frequent flat-out doesn’t have it, for the other it’s apparently a pre-order (I’m in Europe).

      2. Holly the spa pro*

        I was really weary of downloading games also at first! I would definitely recommend getting a microSD card and saving your games to that, though ive never had an isue re-downloading games on Switch or PS4. And its nice to not have to worry about damaged disks and the like.

        If you purchase a nintendo online account you also get access to some NES and SNES games if that is something you are into.

        1. Jackalope*

          Yes, we discovered that there’s a huge collection of original Nintendo and super Nintendo games you can get on their website for the Switch.

    3. Bittersweet_silver*

      OMG Pajama Sam; Freddy the Fish and Putt-Putt Goes to the Zoo were our household jams!

      My partner got me started on Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle which started easy but now on world 3 really getting me thinking/trying different strategies.

    4. LDN Layabout*

      I am still obsessed with the Witcher 3 and haven’t touched my Switch in a month…

      I highly recommend the game though, especially since it’s fairly…dismissive of some gaming tropes (Geralt just wants to be a good dad).

      1. Smol Book Wizard*

        I know very little of the video games, but I’m slowly working my way through the novels and so have occasionally started seeking out clips on youtube, to get a visual interpretation. Geralt’s desire to be a Good Dad is common, as far as I can tell, throughout all the adaptations. Bless.

    5. Nynaeve*

      I finished What Remains of Edith Finch, chipped away at the yellow level of GRIS, and started Baba is You, which is a fun little puzzle game. Like IrishEm, I also bought Untitled Goose Game, but haven’t played it yet.

    6. Jackalope*

      A few months ago someone on here recommended Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and when I asked about it they recommended trying another tactics game first to see if I enjoy that sort of thing. My husband brought Final Fantasy Tactics into our marriage (a thing I didn’t know until that came up!), so I’ve been dipping my toe into that game. It was tiresome at first but now I’m starting to figure out more of what I’m doing, and my characters have leveled up enough that I’m not having TPKs so often (or close to TPKs). Much more fun that way! I haven’t decided yet if I like it yet but it’s intriguing enough that I’m going to keep playing for awhile to try it out.

      I’m still looking for a game with lovely Skyrim-like graphics and no dungeon crawls (and less killing people/things!); we’ll see if I can find one. I haven’t finished Skyrim’s main quest (I’m at a spot that requires a loooong dungeon and I just can’t yet), but I’ve been enjoying the side quests and wandering around in the wilderness.

      1. Stormfeather*

        So I actually just talked about Genshin Impact in my own response to the thread. I’d say maybe take a look at it and you may love it, or it may be totally not your thing (especially if you hate the “free to play” genre with microtransactions, although as I said in my post it’s definitely playable without paying, just a bit more frustrating waiting to try to get more “draws.”

    7. GoryDetails*

      Had another family Zoom D&D game today, with a really enjoyable melee. We (heavily-armed fighter and two mages) were helping a desert-clan mage/warrior to re-seal an evil portal, and we got to use nearly all of our various weapons, armor, spells, summoned creatures, healing abilities, and even the occasional deliberate plan. Fended off the impressively-high-hit-point baddies, kept the evil gate from opening while the desert-clan guy did his spells, and came out the other end with all wounds healed and a nice safe ward on the evil portal.

      For extra points: it was our group who’d inadvertently broken the seal in the first place, while exploring the ruins on our way to meet the desert tribe. We… kinda-sorta didn’t bother to tell them that…

    8. Stormfeather*

      I actually started Devil’s Daughter, and I know I played a fair bit of one of its predecessors and find it interesting… but I gotta admit one of the very early tasks you have to do in the game seriously put me off just out of annoyance, so I haven’t gotten very far in.

      This past week I’ve been playing Genshin Impact whenever I can for the most part since I find it totally addicting. It is unfortunately one of the “free” games with a ton of microtransactions to, for instance, try to get the specific characters you want with their Gacha system, but it is definitely playable free (I’ve gone ahead and chipped in 5 bucks for their “get a bit of free stuff every day” thing, figuring it’s not terrible to support the game anyhow, but have put my foot down to spending more on it RN). It’s a single player game, but with co-op available once you get to a certain point. It’s utterly gorgeous and has been compared a LOT to Breath of the Wild for the visuals and the open-world exploration, and has a ton of things to do, solve, explore, etc. Very fun, despite the “free to play” aspect. (I’m mostly playing on PC, with a character on a different server on PS4 that I’ve barely played, and it’s also available on IOS/Android, not sure what else).

      Other than that, I’ve been playing a bit of Among Us with friends and with friends of friends. Would like to play more but haven’t been able to find the groups for it yet. It is a simple game and yet stupidly addictive and fun, and already has people coming up with new “modes” for it that are basically rules you adhere to or whatever to twist the game around in weird and fun ways.

    9. SunshineDaisies*

      I got Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 for free and accidentally stayed up until 5 am playing in sandbox mode. I created an Alice in Wonderland section and a section in homage to Once Upon A Time, including a custom coaster that no one will ride.

    10. Finny*

      Ordered all the Shantae goodness from Limited Run Games. Awaiting the Shantae plushie that should ship sometime this month, and all the Shantae and the Seven Sirens stuff I ordered back in May, which will hopefully appear sometime this year. I cantvwait–2020 sucks, but it’s also The Year of Shantae, which is fantastic.

      Also having a ton of fun with Goblin Sword. And discovered Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia is horrible for my vision issues, despite my love of platformers–all the dark backgrounds and characters so small I can’t see them mean I promptly returned the game to EB and got my money back. Sad, as I’d really been looking forward to it.

  12. Anon for this*

    After much discussion my partner and I are likely to never have children. If it were solely down to me, I would want to try. My partner both doesn’t want kids and doesn’t think his depression would cope, which I understand.

    On a good day I’m happy with this decision, on a bad day I grieve the kids and grandkids I thought I’d have. (I know you don’t choose the latter :p).

    I’m at the age (early 30s) where people are starting to ask if we’re having kids and I’m looking for a bland enough answer that doesn’t make me want to cry (and doesn’t involve saying ‘I don’t want kids’). I’m young enough to say ‘not any time soon!’ but that won’t last forever.

    1. Lena Clare*

      When people ask you that question they’re asking you about your body and your sex life, both of which are none of theit business! so I’d be inclined to say something like “myob”, “wow, are you really asking me about my sex life?”, or something like that. This will shut down any future questions from the same people. However, if you don’t want to say those things, going with a cheerful “not yet! How’s your garden coming along?” might feel more polite to you, but be prepared for people to think that means they can push you on it.

      The only thing that worked for me was saying to a family member who repeatedly asked me when I was going to have children, “please stop, this subject is very upsetting for me and I may never have them even though I want them. I don’t want to be reminded of that every time you say it”. Ymmv.

      1. Lena Clare*

        Btw, I’m 46, and my ex and I split up because he didn’t want children and I did. I do not have kids and never will. Some days I still haven’t grieved for this. I’m sorry for your pain.

    2. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      Many many sympathies on a hard situation.

      Some options:

      “That’s a personal matter and I’d rather not discuss it.” + change of subject

      “We’ve decided not to.” + change of subject

      “Your guess is as good as mine!” + change of subject

      “We haven’t decided.” + change of subject

      “Unless you get a birth announcement, please don’t ask about it.” + change of subject

      “Haha, you wouldn’t believe how many people are asking me this question right now, and it’s such a personal thing that I’m always surprised someone I’m not married to/partnered with thinks they get to know about it!” + change of subject

      “Oh, haven’t I shown you our baby photos?” [pulls up a picture of twin chimpanzees] “They have my nose, I think, but Reginald’s eyes.” + do not change the subject, absolutely insist that those chimpanzees are your precious babies, until the other person awkwardly changes the subject and then goes to warn other people not to ask you about this

      If the people asking are your relatives or coworkers, you can tell one trusted person about your decision and ask them to spread the gossip around so people know not to ask.

      Good luck!

      1. Lena Clare*

        “Haha, you wouldn’t believe how many people are asking me this question right now, and it’s such a personal thing that I’m always surprised someone I’m not married to/partnered with thinks they get to know about it!” + change of subject

        Omg this is brilliant.

        OP, all of DoAE’s suggestions are excellent!

    3. IrishEm*

      I hate this question. The best part of the pandemic is I don’t have to dodge the inveterate matchmaker auntie who thinks I’m a Sad Spinster waiting desperately for a Man to find me. That family has no idea I’m out as Ace and don’t want kids. And that’s fine for me, and by me. Your situation is tougher in a lot of ways because it’s such a raw wound. *hugs if you want them*

      When the subject of kids/mens comes up (and it always does, around Auntie) I just look at her and say I’d rather not discuss my sex life than you very much.

      When she presses (as these types of people inevitably do) with the “but who will look after you when you’re old?” I just roll my eyes and say it’s probably going to be the staff in whichever nursing home I go to.

      But wanting but not being able to have kids? That’s a pain I can’t understand. I hope you can grieve it with your partner and people aren’t too intrusive.

      1. jolene*

        What has being ACE got to do with not wanting kids? You don’t have to have sex to have a kid nowadays!

    4. Anonymous*

      I’m looking for a bland enough answer that doesn’t make me want to cry (and doesn’t involve saying ‘I don’t want kids’).
      This implies you still do want kids, in which case, are you triple dog sure this is the right decision for you?

      1. Anonymous*

        This wasn’t a kind or helpful comment.
        Deciding *with your partner* not to have kids does not equal not wanting them. It’s a difficult choice made due to specific circumstances, and what’s right is generally not easy. We have to respect the OP’s decision and answer the question asked, not stray off into second-guessing.

        1. sswj*

          Bah – I forgot that this machine doesn’t have my name saved.
          “Anonymous*
          October 3, 2020 at 7:04 am ” is me … sigh :/

          1. Workerbee*

            It may be a question coming from a sincere place of compassion and concern. It’s still not what the OP is asking for with the question, and has a lot of potential to derail.

            1. Anon for this*

              I’ve thought about it a lot and talked about it with close friends and I’m happy with my decision.

              Tbh one of the conversations I want to invite *least* is ‘are you sure you’re doing the right thing, maybe you should break up’ so… here’s a reminder that may happen.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I heard: “Well you will regret that decision!” I simply said, “If so, then that is MY burden to bear and has no effect on you.”
                Other times I went with, “Eh misery loves company?”. These were people who chronically complained about their kids for simply having kid-type behavior.
                My elders would get, “oh, okay then”, in a manner that said this subject was over.

                Life is a long series of trade offs. We forego one thing to have another thing. It is possible to be very cognizant of the trade off and yet still be very happy with the choice made. Meaning, we can grieve the road not traveled but still stay on our road of choice. You could simply say, “I am content with this decision.”

                I have hit a few forks in the road and I was very much aware that the decision at that fork would change the course of my life. There was a starkness to the moment. I dunno, like a super keen awareness of that I will never encounter this particular fork in the road again. I had to let go of one thing in order to have another thing, for [reasons] that other thing was more important to me. I did decide to make the best of the life I chose. I think that deliberate decision helped with the tears over the road not traveled.

                1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

                  Seconding the value of this “fork in the road” approach. For me those moments ring like a bell, and then the choice is made and one door closes and another opens. Knowing that I make those big decisions in that space of clarity helps with the grief over what I won’t have. It wouldn’t be a difficult decision if there weren’t things to value in both paths.

                  “I am content with this decision” is a great phrase.

      2. Shut it down*

        Did you know that there are more conditions in the universe than “I want kids [or, indeed, anything else important] and have decided to organize my life so I can have them” and “I don’t want kids”?

        I have one kid. I want more kids. Kid and I almost died during my high-risk pregnancy, and my spouse isn’t willing to risk it again. I am very sad that more kids aren’t in the cards for me. Sure, I *could* leave my partner and either find a new partner or have another baby on my own, but I would be more sad about that than I am about a future without the kids I imagine, so I don’t.

        Unsolicited advice is usually rude. Unsolicited advice on a topic about which you almost certainly know less than your interlocutor is foolish as well as rude. I’m sure this anon has thought from every angle about the best decision for her, because when you want a kid and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, there’s a period of time when that’s all. you. think. about. She writes she came to this decision with her partner “after much discussion.” I’m sure she’s considered it.

        Next time, you could consider not piling on to someone’s grief by trying to make them doubt themselves.

    5. nep*

      ‘Never know!’…*change of subject*
      (It would annoy the hell out of me to have people asking that. Jeeeez Louise, people. Just stop.)

    6. Hotdog not dog*

      I went with “it doesn’t seem to be in the cards right now. I’d rather not discuss it,” stated firmly and followed immediately by a change of subject. I ended up being surprised by a late baby, but prior to that I was the best auntie in the world to my friends’ kids as well as my actual nieces and nephews.

      1. Cathiecjr*

        I like this one. It implies that there could be a few different things going on (want to but can’t, don’t want to, mixed feelings, etc.) So you can avoid the automatic- “you’ll regret it.” The “I’d rather not discuss,” shuts down the follow-up that the ambiguity if the first part might otherwise lead to. Plus it does imply that there’s some hardship/emotions there that would be painful and inappropriate to pry into.

      2. Anon for this*

        I like this phrasing too (although a part of me feels guilty at hinting at fertility issues because… it’s *more* of a choice for me? Or something?). I have close friends who are planning to have kids as well as multiple siblings, so I’m hoping I get to be an auntie. Congratulations on your late baby!

        1. Hotdog not dog*

          Thank you! It was partly choice and partly fertility issues, but the whole thing was too complicated to go into in most conversations. My husband also has a chronic illness that takes up a lot of bandwidth, so we were on the fence about whether we could also handle a child. We decided against fertility treatments and had made peace with the decision. About 5 years after that, I discovered that I had neither a stomach bug nor early menopause!

      3. Eeeek*

        I think this is a good one! Some of the suggestions Here are a little over the top! “Why are you asking me about sex life!!!” Is just going to come off as unhinged

        1. allathian*

          Eh, I don’t know. Some people get a bee in their bonnet about this to the point that they don’t seem to realize that their questions and comments are inappropriate and unwelcome. It’s just a way to return the awkward and hopefully ensure that the person never brings this subject up in conversation with that person again.

    7. Germank106*

      Considering that this is a bit of a rude question and not really anyone’s business, you might just stick to a simple “No”. You also might want to talk with your partner and be open about your feelings. Lots of people with depression are parents, so he might have another reason why he does not want children.

      Incidentally I have 7 children and we were often asked “why do you have 7 children?”. My husband finally came up with the ultimate answer “Because we can’t afford a TV”. That shut most people up.

      1. Queer Earthling*

        My grandparents had 13 kids, and when people asked my grandpa why, he’d say, “We always lived by railroad tracks and they’d wake us up in the middle of the night, so…”

      2. Parenthetically*

        My brother, who has five kids, is known to respond with a remark about flunking high school sex ed.

      3. Anonymous*

        Before smart TV’s, you could use the kids as a remote control … Lessee, you have On, Off, Channel Up, Channel Down, Volume Up, Volume Down and Plug.

    8. Farther down the road*

      I am mid-40s, no kids. People have asked for 20 years. At some point you don’t mind making them uncomfortable, because the people asking after you have been married a while don’t know you very well or they wouldn’t ask. Nowadays, my favorite answer is: “No. This bloodline ends with me.” People are stunned to silence, and don’t know how to take it. Hilarious.
      Enjoy your life. No one’s life turns out exactly how they plan. But every day can still be beautiful.

    9. Washi*

      I think if your goal is to move the conversation along with as little discussion as possible, I think the key will be some variation of “Nope!” + IMMEDIATE SUBJECT CHANGE. Conversations are a little like throwing a ball back and forth; if you just say “that’s none of your business,” while it’s a totally fair response, it’s going to leave the other person not knowing what to say and therefore prone to continue putting their foot in their mouth. If you give them something else to work with, a halfway decent person will take the ball back and run with it, even if it’s a little awkward. “Nope! …Hey, isn’t that a beautiful tree?” = excellent.

    10. Thankful for AAM*

      I grieve the kids and grandkids I thought I’d have.
      I grieve them too. What I said varied on where I was in my grieving process but I always sort of separated my reality from what I said. I’m finding it hard to explain but for me, the answer varied on the person asking and my own feelings. I needed several go to answers in my pocket and my internal dialog was almost always, “this answer does not matter, it is only my shield.” Otherwise I got caught up in what ibwas saying and what it meant, how accurate it was, etc.

      And often my answer was, if I talk about that I will cry, *blank stare. For ppl who cared it made them stop the convo and not ask again, for the other people, it was a way to shoot the awkwardness right back at them. For the old lady aunts that would likely backfire.

      I have fertility issues and did get a surprise baby pretty quickly but then did not get pregnant again even with medical intervention. It took me a long time to grieve for the ones I did not have and now for grandchildren as my adult child has no plans to become a parent (I also get I cannot count on grandkids but I’m still sad not to have them).

    11. Jessie*

      I don’t know if this is helpful at all. It’s a bit extreme. My cousin has severe infertility and has tried to have children naturally and has tried through IVF. Her doctors told her that her chances are very low and it will most likely never happen. And she’s so blunt about it. I’ve never seen anyone go about it this way. She will literally tell people the moment she meets them. For example, when I introduced her to my friends once, she said “hey guys, I have a rescue dog that I want somebody to adapt, do any of you guys want him. I do a lot of rescue. I can’t have kids you see.” Or another time, at my son’s birthday she told one of my friends, “It’s so loud. I can’t handle kids. Thank God I’m infertile.” I don’t know if it’s a self-defense mechanism or she has been asked so many times, she just wants to get it out of the way. But most of the time, people are stunned and don’t say anything.

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        It sounds like your cousin could use some sessions with a therapist to help her work through her emotions. That is pretty extreme, and frankly rude. I’m not going to go around asking random people if they want kids out of the blue, and to get a response like that is just screaming that there’s something going on.

          1. Courageous cat*

            I mean, considering it can be a loaded subject for many, yeah I’d say it’s rude to lay down something unnecessarily heavy during a very lightherated and completely unrelated exchange. Don’t ask someone to bear the brunt of the emotional labor of navigating that if they were just asking about your dog.

    12. Long drives*

      We married in our 20s and I got that question for 20 years. “We like the life we have,” worked well. Maybe I was lucky, but I don’t remember anyone pushing beyond that. Now when I meet people I hear, “Do you have kids?” to which I pivot, “No, but I have two dogs. Do you have any pets?” Works like a charm.

      If it’s helpful: I really like little kids and if I’d chosen another partner, I might be a mother. But now, nearing 50, I have a great life and can say I have no regrets.

      1. A313*

        I like your answer a lot, *“No, but I have two dogs. Do you have any pets?”*. The info is out there and immediately moved on from with an innocuous question to the other person — perfect!

      2. Anonymous*

        Yes, love this! The perfect conversational segue.

        Are you planning to have kids? No, but after all this crazy corona is gone, we’re planning to do a big trip to Morocco and Egypt! Where’s the last place you traveled?

        1. AnonCF*

          I tried that answer once and got “Traveled? You really DON’T have kids! That’ll stop once they come along! *knowing wink*”

          Some people will really assume their life choice rules ANY topic, so keep that in mind. When I encounter those types, I just ask about their kids.

    13. Anonymous*

      I have a dog, so for me it’s easy to say “only the 4-legged kind!” That usually does the trick.
      FWIW I have a good friend that always thought she would have kids, and married a man who was adamantly against it. I think it’s better that both partners going into the marriage are honest about what they can and can’t bring into the relationship. I think at first she waivered because it’s a big deal to commit to it, but I can tell you ~10 years in they seem really happy. She’s said that she knew what she was getting into and she appreciated that he made it her choice, rather that saying maybe, or whatever, only to later to be in the firm no category.

    14. Anon Lawyer*

      Arabic has a perfect answer for this – inshahallah. If God wills it. It can mean a lot of things. You can adopt a lot of versions of this for your culture. “We’ll see” is a simple one.

    15. Wishing You Well*

      When people ask if I have kids, I say, “No. How about you?” That usually gets them talking – at length – about themselves. If people ask,”Are you having kids?”, a good answer is “If I have any news, you’ll be the first to know.” (even if you’ll never have news and they’d be the last to know!) Then change the subject.
      I hope better days are ahead for you.

    16. PollyQ*

      IMO questions about family planning like that are unacceptably intrusive, and the sooner we can get everyone on board with the idea that it’s as rude to ask that as it would be to ask a casual acquaintance how much they earn, the better society will be.

      So, I would say you’re fine to push back a little on the questioner for asking, rather than feeling like you have to come up with some way to describe your choice. A small quizzical headshake followed by “That’s an awfully personal question, don’t you think?” or “I prefer not to discuss such personal matters” or “Why do you need to know?” are all appropriate responses.

      (And my sympathies to you for the difficult situation you’re in. I’m sure nothing about it is easy.)

    17. My Brain Is Exploding*

      A couple of thoughts…1. is it ok to ask someone you are just getting to know (of any age!) if they have kids, as long as you follow their lead? (If they said no, I would not ask further questions!) 2. Same issue here but we are of grandparenting age and it is doubtful that we’ll have any. People do ask if we have grandkids. Nope. I don’t mind the ask. But not the follow ups of “why not?” (“IDK, not my business”) or “oh, wait until you do, they’re so wonderful…”

      1. Double A*

        I think for most people, “Do you plan to have kids?” is totally a small talk question, and a small talk answer will suffice. Most people won’t blink at “Nope!” or “Not sure!”

        And the question “Do you have kids?” is definitely a small talk question and reading rudeness into it is…ungenerous. And again, a breezy yes or no is all most people are looking for.

        I definitely understand why it can be a painful question, it’s been a painful question for me at points when I knew I wanted kids but had no idea if it would happen. But I’ve noticed a lot of people here think it’s inherently rude to ask about and…I just disagree.

        If someone starts talking about how you’ll regret it or you’ll just love it once you have them, that’s a great sign they’re looking to talk about themselves and your can easily pivot the conversation to their kids/grandkids.

        1. Aza*

          It’s such an awful question. It’s caused me so much pain in the past and I’ll never ask someone this.

          If they bring it up, great! Otherwise, never.

      2. JustEm*

        As someone dealing with infertility, I am fine with people asking if I have kids, but definitely not intrusive follow up questions if it’s someone I’m not close with. I often volunteer “no, but I hope to.” The least helpful thing is unsolicited advice!! A vacation or my relaxing will not fix my husband’s abnormal sperm…

        1. allathian*

          Yikes, that’s awful. I’m so sorry.
          I hope they’re not asking the reason for your fertility problems, or if they do, that you’re able to shut them down without telling them the real reason. Or you’ll hear suggestions about “why don’t you do IVF with donor sperm” or “if he’s the problem, divorce him and make sure the next man you marry has a good sperm count”, as if the only reason you married your husband was to have his kids!

    18. Shut it down*

      “I wish we could!” said cheerfully is my go-to, which shuts things down hard and effectively. On occasions when I can’t say it cheerfully, I use a flat “nope” and change the subject immediately.

    19. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I’m older than you but for various reasons never had kids. I just generally say “well, it just never happened” because I don’t want to get into a tedious discussion about my health, my ambivalence towards kids, my concerns about the world, etc etc. If they pry more they are being rude.

    20. Aza*

      I’ll preface this by saying I hateeeee questions like this and have historically found myself freezing like a deer in the moment and later coming up with the perfect response. I hate how these can just come out of nowhere and take my breath away. I’m sorry people suck. No one should ever ask you if you plan to have kids unless you bring it up. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with it. I privately struggled with infertility and found these types of questions crippling.

      I like “Wow, that’s really personal!” Or, “wow, what a question!”

      I found it helpful to practice some responses aloud.

      And I’ve also shut these kinds of questions down when I’ve heard others ask them of other people. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. I hope you find peace.

    21. Esmeralda*

      “My, that’s a mighty personal question, isn’t it? So, how about that SPORTS TEAM NAME game last weekend?”

      People who are persistent: Return awkward to sender: “I’m not interested in talking about it, that’s why I’m changing the subject. So, how about that SPORTS TEAM NAME game last weekend?”

      People who STILL persist? “Wow, that’s so rude” and walk away.

      BTDT.

  13. Myrin*

    I’d love to hear some fun little (often useless, often not) things you guys are good at! I’ll go first:

    I’m very good at telling whether something is lopsided or not. I don’t need a bubble level to discern at one glance if a picture frame is right or if a piece of furniture is standing in the right angle compared to the wall, I can see it immediately and very precisely.

    I’m also very good a figuring out why exactly two people are talking past each other. I encounter this situation pretty regularly, where two or more people are talking about something but somehow neither side ever spelled out what exactly they’re refering to and for some reason, it never crosses any of their minds that they might simply be talking about different things. I’ve diffused many a situation by simply saying “Hey Carl, I think you’re talking about A while Dave is talking about B, is that correct?”.

    Looking forward to your responses!

    1. Lena Clare*

      Oooo I love this! I have good colour vision! love putting colours together that other people think won’t go, but then are amazed that it looks good afterwards.
      I get a real kick out of that. When I was decorating my front room my family were like teal and yellow will never go well together, and guess what they love it now.

    2. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      It’s amazing how many dishes I can fit in a dishwasher, in such a way that they all come out clean.

      I’m generally good at spatial relations; I know which piece of furniture can be moved where to within an inch’s clearance, and I can squeeze through narrow spaces despite not being very narrow myself.

      1. Turtlewings*

        You are a Packmaster! Two of my sisters are like this; when packing the car for long trips (which is quite a lot of luggage when you’re a family of 7 with multiple pets), they can just Tetris it all in there when I would have given up long ago. Packmaster abilities are very valuable.

    3. Grace*

      Secret useless superpowers!

      My former housemate’s useless superpower was that he never measured anything when doing bulk cooking (big batches of chili, Bolognese etc) and yet it always, without fail, ended up fitting perfectly into his big Tupperware with no room to spare.

      I’m not sure what mine is. Maybe convincing myself so hard that things aren’t lost that I find them? Lost my ID a while ago and knew I’d probably thrown it away along with the envelope it had been in, but told myself so much that “it’ll turn up” that it did.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Mine is finding lost things. For other people; not myself. My kids learned when they couldn’t find something to ask me and I would usually find it within five minutes. (My husband on the other hand, still stubbornly holds out.) Now for myself? I am still missing a cell phone that went MIA about six years ago.

    4. Anonymous*

      I’m pretty good at seeing whether or not things will fit somewhere, such as “will this closet fit through that doorway”. That only works when I can actually see the items in question though, I’m horrible at estimating distance/size. Similarly, I actually need a ruler near me to see how big “5x25cm” or whatever is. And of course, as I don’t use inches screen sizes are just confusing to me. Sure, I know my laptop’s screen size, but I have no idea what increment “an inch” is so I have no idea how much bigger a 20 inch screen is compared to a 15 inch screen.
      I also have the amazing gift of being able to fall asleep pretty much wherever within 5 minutes. It’s not really a deep sleep – other people can tell I’m clearly sleeping but at the same time I’m still kinda aware of what is happening around me? I don’t know what to call that. It’s still pretty refreshing, though.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Woops, somehow didn’t get my screen name on there. Looks like it defaults to anonymous if you don’t fill in that field.

      2. Anonymous*

        Ooh, I’d love to be able to see whether things fit, since I am the exact opposite. I cannot for the life of me measure anything by eye, and I’ve bought too many things which are obviously too small or too big for the space, so I compulsively measure things out beforehand – like furniture – and keep notes on my phone.

        1. A.N. O'Nyme*

          Oh I still measure things out exactly when I go out to buy things, but if you’re moving stuff around and want to move something into a different room or to a different spot in the room (or if your purchase has been delivered and now needs to go to its designated spot) I’m very accurate in seeing whether or not it’ll fit. In my closet/doorway example, I need to be able to actually see the doorway and closet. I’m pretty accurate then, whenever I’m off it’s usually only by a couple of millimetres.

      3. MommaCat*

        So, in regards to inches, if your hand is close to average-sized, then your index finger is about 3 inches long, with the distance between each knuckle being in the neighborhood of one inch. And when I spread my fingers out as far as they go, the distance between the top of my thumb and the tip of my pinkie is 8” (for my husband, it’s 9”). Obviously, don’t use these measurements for anything exact, but that can help you get a basic idea of sizing.

    5. Helvetica*

      Such a fun question! I have some great ones:
      * I can pick up a book by an unknown author in a bookshop and just by the title and cover, and a brief flip through, will know if I’d like it. It has never failed me.
      * I have excellent colour vision, i.e. I see so many shades, especially for those inbetween colours like blue-green spectrum, and sometimes it seems unbelievable how differently other people see those variations.
      * If I wonder “How’s Mary doing?”, I will inevitably bump into her in a completely random place. So if I ever want to bump into someone, I only have to think of them and they shall appear soon.
      * And my most useless superpower – I am excellent a spotting romantic interest between two people, either one- or two-sided but I am terrible at recognizing such romantic interest in me, which I’d much rather have.

    6. PX*

      Ooh, I love your skill of seeing people talk past each other! I’ve had that in the past with two friends and it was so odd to see – although theirs was more of a personality mismatch than just misunderstandings.

      Not sure I have one, although I have a pretty decent memory and can on occasion find my way in cities which I’ve only visited once years before!

    7. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Eight times out of ten, if I have an alarm set, I will wake up ten minutes before it goes off. This is juuust unreliable enough that I still set the alarm.

      This isn’t something I control, but any time I walk into a zoo or animal park, all the otters (if there are any) fall asleep and some pair of animals will commence attempting reproduction on exhibit. :-P

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        “This is juuust unreliable enough that I still set the alarm.”
        Thing is, if you don’t set the alarm you can’t wake up before it goes off!

    8. Michelle*

      Well, I’m not sure if it is a super power, but I can brainstorm lists. When I anticipate a scenario, my brain just seems to start working on the problem and automatically downloading ideas for what needs to be taken care of, packed, scheduled, etc. down to the minutia. You want to run a book sale? My brain has a list for that. Taking your kid to a sports tournament? My brain has a list for that too. How about a family picnic at the park? I’ve got you covered. Outfitting your RV? Looking for gift ideas? Wondering what to store in your medicine cabinet? Anticipating a winter storm? Yep, yep, yep, and yep!

      I get so frustrated by lists I have found online for various things. They are rarely/never detailed enough for me. If you look up a standard party list, it will include things like paper plates, cups, napkins, centerpiece, decorations, and ice, but my brain’s party list includes things like sharpie markers for writing names on cups, containers to send leftovers home with guests, balloon weights, extra toilet paper, playlists by theme, matches for candles, and emptying the medicine cabinet before guests arrive. It is almost a game for me to brainstorm a list for something new or upcoming, and then if possible, start an online search to see if I can find any other items to add to my list that I perhaps haven’t considered.

    9. Hotdog not dog*

      I see shapes and colors differently than most people. I will know automatically if a color will match an item that is home in my closet or if the size and shape of something will fit/look nice with other items I’ve seen but are not currently in front of me. It also happens with letters, so if I’ve ever seen a word written out I can always spell it correctly. When I was a child I was not allowed to compete in my school’s spelling bee. Because I never spelled a word wrong they were sure I was cheating, but all I had done was read the study list once. Now that spell check exists, this is not a useful superpower!

      1. ParkingWoman is a silly superhero name*

        There, they’re, their, spelling is still useful. AI just doesn’t do conext yet.
        I used to say my superpower was finding a parking space. This was much more impressive living in San Francisco than it is living in rural New England.
        My Kryptonite unfortunately is still on full display … I pick the wrong check out line every time. If someone’a going to lose a credit card, it will be someone in line ahead of me. Don’t get behind me unless we’re in the bank teller line.

      2. Jen*

        That’s such an awesome superpower! I’m the opposite – I can be looking at a piece of furniture and not be able to picture it in the other corner of the room.

      3. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Sorry but I am so outraged on your behalf at why the school would do that. That’s terrible!

    10. Foreign Octopus*

      I am excellent at skinning gammon.

      When I was eighteen, I had a job working at a deli that required gammon skinning every shift and I can get the perfect fat-to-meat ratio every time. It’s been 12 years but I’m the go-to gammon skinner at Christmas and it’s something I quite enjoy because people don’t expect it from me.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        Foreign Octopus,
        I tried googling it but cannot quite figure out what skinning gammon means. It seems gammon is raw pork? Are you taking off the skin? But perfect fat to meat ratio seems to imply something else?

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          The gammon I typically skin has been boiled first so everything’s cooked. It’s the sort of gammon you’d have as cold cuts for Christmas dinner, I suppose. The way it’s normally cooked is that it’s boiled in the skin to keep everything tender and in one shape so it has to cool first before I come at it with my knife and the perfect fat-to-meat ratio is the white bit left over at the end so it doesn’t dry out.

          Sorry for the confusion and I’m really curious what your search history is looking like now!

          1. Thankful for AAM*

            I use duck duck go as my search engine and browser on my phone so technically I have no search history!

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Near as I can tell, gammon is salted/brined ham, cook before preparing. One website said Virginia ham, but I’ve never heard that term either!

    11. LemonWhirl*

      Finding public toilets is my superpower. More difficult to pull off these days, but in any establishment, it’s like I have a homing instinct about where the toilets are.

    12. Valancy Snaith*

      I can fold a fitted sheet so neatly that it is virtually indistinguishable from a flat sheet, and do so in under 30 seconds or so.

      Thanks to a stint working in an ice-cream shop as a teenager, I can scoop perfect photo-quality balls of ice cream.

      Not me personally, but my husband can rip an apple in half using his bare hands. It’s a fun party trick.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        I can also fold a fitted sheet and have no idea why so many find it difficult!

        On the other hand, I’m a librarian but am terrible at searching my Outlook mail for half remembered emails.

    13. Buni*

      I’m an awesome catch*. I throw like a drunk octopus, but I can pluck an object out of mid-air with two fingers while doing three other things. All those ninja films where something is thrown at the side of someone’s head and they catch it without even looking? C’est moi.

      er, as in physical, not matrimonial…

    14. Anonymous*

      My favorite activity is to challenge myself to recognize a celebrity just by voice- i.e. they’re doing a commercial voiceover or in an animated movie. I’ve gotten pretty good!

      1. beancat*

        Ooooh, mine is similar! If I’ve heard a voice actor in something, chances are I’ll recognize them in any subsequent role. It’s funny how many times we’ll be watching something and I can just pick the VA out with only a single line. “Hi Steve Blum!” “Oh, that’s Travis Willingham!” “Heeeey, Stephanie Sheh!”

    15. GoryDetails*

      (Try, try again – apologies if this is a duplicate. Screen name GoryDetails.)

      Ah, the minor-superpowers! I envy some of the ones already listed – my own tend towards trivia/information, which can be annoying (when I romp away with the win in Trivial Pursuit) or helpful (when I can “name that book!” from a vague description or a title-keyword and cover-color. [Librarians and bookstore workers often have this talent, so perhaps it’s not one of the more rare ones.]

      A friend of mine has find-a-parking-space karma – it’s truly amazing; drive down a crowded Boston street and a parking space will open up just as she gets to her destination.

      [Will post a reply to this with a link to All My Friends are Superheroes, a very funny book about mundane talents as superpowers, as the posts-with-links seem to take longer to show up than those without. If I can post at all, that is; I already got a “you’re posting too quickly, slow down” message!]

      1. GoryDetails*

        OK, that worked – but this time I (a) used an incognito window, and (b) filled in my screen-name field *before* trying to post the comment. Not sure which one helped the most. Anyway, if this reply works, it’ll have a link to my BookCrossing copy of All My Friends are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman ( https://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/14829958/ ), with my comments in the reply.

        Among the superpowers: The Couch Surfer, who is “not only able to withstand long periods of acute poverty but is also able to nutritionally sustain himself with only handfuls of breakfast cereals, slices of dry bread and condiments. Mysteriously always has cigarettes.”

      2. PhyllisB*

        Yes, I forgot about the trivia superpower. When we used to play Trivial Pursuit my brother-in-law always wanted to partner with me. I can’t remember what I walked into the kitchen for but I can remember some obscure fact that no one cares about.
        My kids used to tell me I needed to try out for the gameshow Million Dollar Pyramid. I said no, because get me in front an audience and I would do good to remember my name.

    16. I don’t like to brag but...*

      My useless superpower is a really keen sense of time. I’ll be in a room without a clock- ask me what time it is and my guess is nearly always within 5 minutes. I guess my internal clock is strong!

    17. Llama face!*

      I can find four leaf clovers with a glance. As a child I had a collection of over 100 four leafers, several five leafers, and one mutant that was 3 clovers conjoined so it effectively became an 8 leaf clover (would have been nine but two of the leaf lobes were also conjoined). This is part of having a really good eye for things that break patterns.

      Sort of related to that, I can also easily notice wordplay opportunities in people’s names. I’ve joked with friends about starting a baby name review service so they can run names by me before giving their child Extremely Awward Initials or the like.

      And I also can notice the same as you, Myrin, when other people are talking past each other. However, I don’t always see it if I’m one of the participants (which would be very useful).

    18. Stephanie*

      This is fun!
      I have an excellent color memory. I can tell if something in a store is the same color as something at home in my closet. I’m a very good gift wrapper–I had a couple of jobs where that was one of my duties. I can fit more dishes in the dishwasher than anyone else in the house. After having an accident-pone greyhound, I’ve gotten very good at bandaging cuts on my dogs.

    19. Jen*

      Through my job, I’ve become very good at understanding writing that makes little sense or is riddled with typos. I sometimes “translate” texts for friends.

    20. NRG*

      I have two
      (1) I can detect the smell of bananas at very low concentrations or mixed with other smell. Someone in the building had a banana? I can smell it.
      (2) I am good at giving people “ear worms” (Song stuck in your head )

      1. Buni*

        Oh, I can do (1) as well! But in my case it’s because I absolutely loathe bananas, and the neighbour three doors down cracking one open can make me heave; I’ve had to change train carriages, leave shops etc…

    21. Anonymous*

      I have good visual reasoning — alignment and levelness, pattern, color compatibility, color memory — but not sense of volume!

      I can remember sequences of numbers easily. My mom has this one, too.

      My verbal skill is that I’m good at coming up with mnemonics.

    22. Cruciatus*

      I actually was thinking about this recently…I have two I can think of.

      The first is that I always know when the oven timer is about to go off. I always stand up and head back into the kitchen just as it goes off. Doesn’t matter if it’s 7 minutes or an hour and 20 minutes. I’m not keeping track any other way (that I’m conscious of). My brain is always just like “it’s time.”

      The other is I always know how many steps I’ve taken in a day. I’ve had a Fitbit for a very long time now so I just know how active I’ve been on a certain day, whether going to the store and moving around that way, or having a lazy day at home. I know within a few hundred steps what my total is at the point I’m checking.

      1. Animus*

        My minor superpower is sometimes great, sometimes not: I can see how people feel. I am almost always right. (I tested that out with people I trust/trust me.) That makes me a great sales person, because I can basically tell if someone likes my suggestions or not without asking them, but is also very, very grating on me, because I feel like I have to accomodate everyone. I recently met someone with the same thing, and THAT got annoying fast, because we would say good morning and then ask each other why we are so happy/calm/unhappy/close to tears/stressed etc .

    23. Anon5775*

      I can tell actor’s voices in commercials too. I also am talented at finding the weird thing – so like I’ll be spot checking something at work totally randomly and I’ll find the errors that others can’t – it just seems I can stumble across the weird things that will cause problems later. I can also see patterns that others don’t seem to, in work problems , like in fabric patterns. I ALWAYS wake up before my alarm clock, but something like 90 min is too long and I’d definitely prefer 5 min. I’d love to know if others have this thing: when bringing memories to mind I usually remember where I was sitting, what direction I was facing, that kind of thing. Do others have this?

      1. CJM*

        Yes! My memories are all about orientation — just as you describe. And I’m nearly always keenly aware of how I’m oriented, so any directions I give are full of “to the north of X,” etc. I’m surprised that some people don’t think like that even a little. Maybe I swallowed magnets as a kid and know due north at all times?

        1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

          I also remember myself in relation to objects, spaces, and directions. My spatial memory is so strong that if I’ve been somewhere once, especially if I walked there or took public transit, I can get there again from the same starting point ten years later. It’s been almost 15 years since my partner and I visited Tokyo, but if you put me down in front of the ryokan where we stayed, I could confidently lead you to the place with the godly dumplings, and I’m fairly sure I could also find the restaurant that served us crunchy deep-fried fish spine and the shop where I bought my mother a vegetable twirler. (It was a lot harder to get Japanese kitchen tools in America 15 years ago.)

          I have an excellent sense of direction… in the Northern Hemisphere. When I visited Australia, I got turned around 90 degrees—yes, 90, not 180! I thought east was north, north was west, and so on. It was profoundly disturbing and I was so glad to come home to where directions work properly.

    24. NeonFireworks*

      I have perfect pitch. I don’t talk about it much, since it makes people go wide eyed and say “oh wow!” because it is rare and supposed to be semi-magical. I would say it’s a bit fun but a nearly completely useless superpower, and also has downsides. The only times it is truly helpful are when transcribing music or trying to identify a classical work. I do work in an area adjacent to music (think audio production), but I don’t often have to do either of those tasks, and even if I did, relying on my brain would be more of a shortcut than a path to unique solutions. There are also downsides. Hearing anything in a different key from the usual feels like it ruins it. On the level of aesthetic appeal, I do enjoy being able to hear keys, but I also get hung up on the “personalities” of different ones, which is completely subjective. And most Western music is not at all about that. Plus I dislike the elitist attitudes that people have about it.

      1. Tau*

        Fellow perfect pitch person and yeah, it is weird how much of a fuss people make about it, isn’t it? I’d categorize it as more of a party trick than some great fundamental secret to understanding music or idk people get really hung up on this for some reason.

        And agreed about the downsides – I had to leave a choir once because a few weeks before the concert the director noted, as an aside, that the key we’d been rehearsing in all this time wasn’t actually the key we’d be singing in, it was just what we had sheet music for. And this was something that happened frequently, he liked changing keys for some reason. But hey, it doesn’t matter, it’s not like any of you us have perfect pitch and would have to frantically mentally transpose everything throughout the whole concert, right?

        …OK, I’m still a little bitter.

        1. Jackalope*

          I don’t have perfect pitch but even I would find that difficult. You get used to singing things at a certain pitch with the notes at a certain point in your range and then when it changes you have a whole new relationship with the song. My choir director did that with one song a year or two ago only a couple of practices in (since it was in a key that most of the group found very rough), and it was much harder to learn the second time even though it was a much better key for my range.

        2. NeonFireworks*

          I would be too! I once got an invitation to do some work with a period recording group, and turned it down when I realized I’d make mistakes (e.g. assume a piece was in A major when it was actually being played in period B-flat) and also it would drive me bananas.

      2. Sleepless*

        I have pretty close to perfect pitch. It just means that if a musician is even the slightest bit out of tune, I make a horrible cringe face that everybody around me can see. It doesn’t really have an upside.

    25. lily*

      I’ve got two!
      First being I’m very good at reading people. It’s not something I realize I’m doing, so I’ve only recently discovered that everyone doesn’t do this. I’ll have an interaction with someone, especially with friends of friends, and then be able to describe that persons personality, with shocking accuracy. I will even get some of the reasons behind how they act. All from how they talk, what stories they’ve said, how they react to things. I don’t fully understand it, so I’m not sure what else plays into it. It’s fascinating and a little eerie.
      Second is directions, if I’ve been somewhere, I can do it again. Most of the time I can reverse it and get home from wherever I’ve gone too. Very useful.

      1. PhyllisB*

        On the directions thing, I’m the exact opposite. I can get somewhere but a lot of times can’t remember the reverse directions. Isn’t there a name for that problem?

      2. D3*

        The directions one is me, too! doesn’t matter if it’s been 20 years and is in an area I’ve never lived in or been to since, I can totally find that one house we went to for dinner with a friend of a friend. (As long as they haven’t made major changes in the layout of the streets. The one and only time I struggled was in a city where the formerly two way streets were all made one way streets and a new expressway had gone in.)

    26. Tau*

      I have an absurdly good memory for sequences of random information, especially numeric. I’ve memorized every single credit card number I’ve ever had without actively trying, and not only do I always win those “repeat what the person before you said and add a piece of information, drop out if you say something wrong” games, I’ve been known to still be able to rattle off the full sequence two months after the fact.

      The annoying thing is that I seem to have a really bad memory for experiences – it is frightening to me how much of my childhood is a blur. All things considered, I’d probably go with the latter option if I had to choose.

    27. Paperwhite*

      I’m good at modifying recipes. For example, if a recipe is Chicken With Mushrooms and someone I’m feeding hates mushrooms I not only can take the mushrooms out but figure out how to adjust the flavors and sub in another vegetable. Which is a really simple example — the times I’m proud of this ability is when someone wants me to make sugar free cookies or to make a muffin recipe that calls for dried fruit when all we have is fresh fruit (just tossing in fresh fruit will waterlog the muffins).

    28. Pam*

      I am a very fast reader, and have a good visual memory for things on pages. (Helps in knowing the 12 million rules at my university)

    29. Jules the 3rd*

      Good at fitting stuff in / packing (though bad about doing that with my body)
      Can tie a cherry stem into a knot with my tongue; fastest time was 6 seconds.

      1. willow for now*

        I can do the cherry stem too! I try to order drinks that come with stemmed cherries, and when I start having trouble tying the stem, it’s time to stop drinking!

    30. Mephyle*

      I can tell how strong an earthquake is within two-tenths on the Richter scale. This is even more surprising since for the first 40 years of my life I lived in a region where earthquakes are so rare that I never felt one in those 40 years.

      In classical art, I can recognize St. Jerome at any stage of his life (young and plump or old and gaunt) and any period of painting, with or without his symbolic accompaniments (lion, skull, etc.) This of course wouldn’t be remarkable if I had any familiarity with saints or education in classical art, so I note that I didn’t.

    31. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Almost ashamed to say powerpoint – I can turn any confused mess of half-thoughts into a well-reasoned visual story that is easy to read and understand. And I love doing it too!

      I also have weird intuitive moments – last year a few days before Halloween I was closing my locker at work and I had a very very strong sense that it was going to be a long time before I would open it again. I was headed home as I wasn’t feeling very well, one thing led to another and I haven’t been back to the office since. Earliest is maybe next spring!

    32. MacGyver*

      One of my superpowers is spatial relations. I always know what direction I’m going in and where I am in relation to other things, even in a city I’ve never visited before. And I can pack a moving truck easily and safely, and with balanced weight. (Not doing all the schlepping myself, though!)

      Another one is what I call macgyvering. If an essential item is missing, I can make a good and functional substitute out of completely unrelated materials found around most anyone’s home.

      Also trivia.

    33. Sleepless*

      I have an odd talent for making things flow when serving meals to a large group of people. I was pretty useful back when church and Cub Scouts were a big part of my life, and they are no more.

    34. Anonymous*

      It’s a bit odd but when I am in a grocery store and I choose to do this I can add up in my head my total price as I go along choosing items. It’s kind of like an automatic adding machine but more ethereal than substantial. Yet when I get to the register I know, almost always within one dollar, how much I have spent. I have no idea how I came to have this ability because while my basic math skills are strong anything much beyond that is not something I understand. And don’t even talk to me about triangles or pi. (Pie is okay, though.)

      I am also an expert layperson on nonverbal communication. My boss sometimes depends heavily on my opinion once he realized how right I usually am. But I like noting nonverbals not as much in people as in places like stores, streets, architecture, homes, advertising and more. It’s a fascinating field.

    35. Anonymous*

      I’m great at identifying actors who play Star Trek aliens. A lot of the actors play different characters of different species across different series, or even the same series! The actor who played the Ferengi Brunt also played Weyoun in DS9.

    36. Summersun*

      I worked in a jewelry store for 8 years. I’m really good at eyeballing gemstones to estimate the carat weight and clarity. This is not a good party trick when surrounded by insecure social climbers.

    37. TechWorker*

      Mine is dull – I am a very fast reader. I read every word and every line… but I don’t really know how because if I for instance sound out the sentences in my head I am *way* slower (I remember my teacher when I was about 10 being like ‘do you read multiple lines at once?’ – I have no idea :))

      For fiction books I also tend to forget details fairly quickly, even I understood and enjoyed the whole storyline I can’t necessarily tell you what happened. I guess folks who read more slowly probably have better recall :)

      I’ll share two of my friends are they are more entertaining and things he is ‘proud‘ of :p:

      – being able to start a round of applause
      – being able to guess the size in ml/g of a food item without looking. Near pointless – but fun to test :p

    38. retirement is all it's cracked up to be*

      Regarding the seeing two people talking past each other, any time I’m asked at a wedding to give advice to the couple, I say something like ‘before you get too far into an argument, stop and make sure you’re talking about the same thing.’ It may have happened to me and my husband of 45 years a time or two….it’s good life advice in general.

    39. Elf*

      Are you me? Seriously, this is my exact skillset! (I’m very good at spatial things generally in addition to knowing if things are lopsided/level, for example knowing if a piece of furniture will fit in a space without measuring)

    40. They Don’t Make Sunday*

      Mine are boring: my eye goes straight to any typo, and, a little less boring, I’m good at food analogies. Not so much what ingredients are in something, but I can identify what unrelated food the thing I’m tasting tastes like (once had a beer that tasted exactly like barbecue Lays, for instance).

      I’m way impressed by the two people I’ve met who have a photographic memory of people they met once months ago. I knew one person who told me
      what I had been wearing the first time she met me a year before (and we didn’t cross paths again for a year). After we were friends she told me that she doesn’t reveal her ability in casual situations because it weirds people out.

    41. allathian*

      Interesting. Do you also get an urge to fix lopsided pictures in other people’s homes, like Hercule Poirot?

      The only thing I can think of is that I’m the opposite of dyslexic in that when I’m learning a new language, I need to see a word written down once and I can spell it forever afterward, including things like diacritical marks or umlauts, even if I forget the meaning of the word. This is true for languages that use the Latin alphabet, I haven’t attempted to learn Greek, Hebrew, or any of the languages using the Cyrillic or Arabic alphabets, never mind any of the Asian pictograph languages. The downside of this is that I frequently have to remind myself that just because someone’s a bad speller doesn’t mean they’re stupid, incompetent, or lazy, it just means that they can’t spell.

    42. Blue Horizon*

      I can listen to a long and detailed explanation of a complex topic and then summarize it perfectly and succinctly in a single sentence. I can’t do it all the time, but I do it often enough that I’ve developed a reputation for it.

  14. Paperdill*

    I’m having a “What Do I Wear??” crisis.
    I’m working as a nurse in a drive-through Covid clinic in a car park, and has just been promoted to team leader.
    Because I am a casual employee, I’m not provided with or expected to wear scrubs. Most of us are in PPE most of the day, so uniform doesn’t really matter anyway.
    Management were happy for us to wear whatever we wanted as long as it was warm enough in the winter and we had comfortable shoes. I was in cargo pants and a long sleeve t-shirt and a sloppy joe (a “sweater“ for you Americans), but this feels a little too casual now I’m team leader of the whole sight and have to be the “person in charge” answering fiddly questions or listening to complaints, needing to deal with visiting agencies etc. (plus it’s getting hotter, now spring is here).
    What can I wear that is a little bit smart looking but goes with my chunky comfortable sneakers and is going to be light enough now that warmer weather is upon us?
    (Note: don’t wear PPE unless I’m going to a patient, as I’m running to storerooms, doing the admin stuff, checking staff between stations etc.)

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Some sort of a jacket or Chanel style cardigan? I mean the sort which look more structured.

      1. Fellow Traveller*

        Yes this. I heard a tip on a fashion podcast once where the stylist said that the number one thing you can do to polish your look is a nice jacket/blazer/cardigan or some such layering piece. I have a really nice blazer/ jacket from Eileen Fisher and I swear it makes my yoga pants look classy. Lfor warmer weather, maybe a light weight cotton or linen one? Uniqlo makes these long linen shirts that you can wear buttoned up like a shirt dress or open like a long cardigan or duster.

    2. CTT*

      A cardigan over a plain t-shirt or tank top would work with jeans (or maybe even cargo pants? It would depend on the cut) would work. And the nice thing about cardigans is you can have one or two in a neutral color and wear them all week.

    3. Anonymous*

      A better pair of pants, but still comfortable, can sharpen up any look. I like my beta brand but every one is different.

      1. WellRed*

        Ugh. Sorry just realized you said it’s getting warmer, not winter. Good quality T-shirts with light jacket or cardigan. Good pants could still help but might not be your thing in warm weather.

    4. Cambridge Comma*

      In a country I used to live in, it was typical for healthcare staff who didn’t wear scrubs to wear all white. E.g. white polo shirt and white jeans. You could probably find white summer trousers that would be comfortable. Somehow all white looks clean and medical no matter how casual the clothes.

    5. Thankful for AAM*

      I am not in health care but just found Figs scrubs. I wanted something for working with the public that could handle frequent washing and scrubs seemed to fit. Anyway, I got two of the fancy shirt they have with a kind of tall collar and cap sleeves. They are blousy and comfortable here in South Florida. I rotate those with a couple of work/logo polos I got along the way. And I layer on a light jersey cardigan in AC.

      Could a shirt like that work with your cargo pants? I’d lean toward more formal on the top as you can more easily change a shirt quickly if you needed more formal for somwthing specific. And the fig top I got looks very polished I think. I have asked friends and no one recognizes it as a scrubs top.

    6. The teapots are on fire*

      Khaki pants without the cargo pockets, and a shirt that buttons. But if you carry a clipboard and look harried, everyone will know you’re in charge. Healthcare is so weird that I don’t know what clothing norms apply anymore.

    7. Sleepless*

      I think I’d wear scrubs anyway. Comfy, pockets right where you need them, relatively inexpensive, easy to wash, and simple.

  15. Frugal*

    Right now, getting a new laptop would make the most sense for me. Soon I’m gonna start working on several personal projects, which would need software not supported by my current laptop. I’ve done my research and chose which model to buy, and I’ve also saved money for it. It’s more expensive than any of my previous laptops, but it’s a relatively recent model and should last some time.

    My current one was already an “old” model when I bought it, which I did without doing a thorough research. It’s only got 2GB RAM, and crashes often, and has a host of other problems.

    But, as a frugal person, I just can’t shake off the … guilt, I guess? I just can’t stop thinking ‘Do you really need a new laptop? Can’t you just make do with the old?’

    Any tips for dealing with this kind of feeling?

    1. Bobina*

      This can often be me, and while the decision was made for me when my old laptop ultimately crashed, I can say that having a new, better laptop is so nice in terms of speed, convenience etc that part of me wishes I’d done it before.

      So maybe try and think of it as an investment in your future, but also about increasing your quality of life? You know how people talk about how living in poverty diminishes your life due to never being able to invest in things that last longer or make your life more convenient? This is a good example. Make the investment, improve your quality of life, chances are once you have it – your brain will stop going on about it.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This this this.
        I also save my old laptops as “backups,” and that makes me feel less maudlin about replacing them (I tend to get attached, lol).

    2. Anonymous*

      Considering you took future-proofing into account, I’d say focus on that – a larger investment right now should save you money in the long run, as you’ll probably take longer to upgrade than you have in previous years.
      As for “can’t you just make do with the old”, well…You literally cannot, as the software you need is not going to work on the current laptop.

    3. Blue Eagle*

      My go-to when I feel like similarly is to find a place to donate my still-working old item where they would appreciate it. Then go and buy the new item. Other people are buying new items and you should too – you are worth it!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        This. If you can afford to upgrade your laptop without selling the old one, try calling a school in a low-income area about donating it to a family who can’t afford it for their student.
        Or try calling a job-outreach program in search of someone job hunting without tech for video calls.
        Even keyboards & mice & headsets & webcams might make the difference.

    4. AspiringGardener*

      It’s 2020 – get the new computer! There’s a 0% chance that it won’t be used/useful in the future as computers are so essential.

    5. Pennyworth*

      If your current computer has a host of problems it might just die one day. Mine died a few months ago, but I had put off replacing it for reasons similar to you. I love the replacement, especially as I got a 40% discount. Can you wait for the sales, such as Black Friday, and get a really good deal? I also make big ticket items seem cheaper in my head by dividing the price by the number of years I expect it to last which gives a low annual cost. You can even do a cost-per-month calculation.

    6. Laura H.*

      You get the life you can out of your tech. And when it doesn’t function as needed (slow can be dealt with, crashing, or other issues cannot), you need to make plans to get a new one.

      I’ve told this before, but I very prematurely killed my first laptop back in 2011. (Still am gun shy about drinking anything around the laptop- despite the fact it was done in by a small spill as I was transferring the cup and not a spit take.)

      I used its replacement until the still relatively new replacement battery stopped holding a charge, and it was slower than I wanted.

      Fortunately it’s decline and my decision point coincided with that year’s tax refund. (Didn’t need a massive laptop for my personal use)

      But knowing I made it work for as much as I could helped make the choice easier. (It was a refurbed laptop as well so it had my 7 years plus whatever mileage was on it prior).

      Good luck. :)

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I call these things learning experiences. I give myself a free pass for the first round. If I make the same error twice then I yell at me. (lol) Eh, just decide that going forward you will do your research.

    8. Anonymous*

      Imagine you had a pair of sneakers that weren’t just worn-out looking and had lost their ‘spring’, but actively tripped you as you were walking. Wouldn’t you replace those? A computer that crashes often is the same thing.

      1. PollyQ*

        Gosh dang it, that was me! Stupid name save bug!

        I also had a follow-up thought, via my armchair psychoanalyst, which wondered if the guilt were partially about you committing resources to “personal projects.” Is there maybe some part of you that feels like you don’t “deserve” to have/do that for yourself?

    9. Anxious cat servant*

      It’s a lot cheaper to get one now than to wait until your current laptop dies a terrible death and you need to replace it immediately!

      That’s how I made myself feel better about shopping for a new laptop while I was between jobs. I used the time to decide what I wanted and then lucked out when a friend’s small business was upgrading and I was able to get one of their barely-used MacBooks for a total steal.

  16. Nameless Shark*

    My dad had a horrific, emotionally and physically abusive childhood. As a result he is emotionally deficit in some ways. He is not abusive but has still hurt me many times. He doesn’t know how to express affection properly and comes across stilted and awkward when he tries. When I went through difficult times he literally didn’t know how to respond. He would flee or freeze, leaving me bewildered and feeling emotionally abandoned. While I know in my heart he loves me, I frequently find myself hurt by his actions (or inactions) but also feel like I *must* forgive and forget, given his abusive childhood. I have repressed a lot of painful memories I have of my dad.

    I wonder if anyone else has a similar experience? Of having a parent who is genuinely well meaning and loving but has also inflicted a lot of pain unintentionally. Is it possible to come to terms with this? How much more do I need to be understanding/accommodating to the ways he crosses my own boundaries given his own awful childhood and subsequent mental health problems?

    1. nep*

      Sorry you’re having to face this.
      Genuine questions–I want to understand better: What would be the opposite or alternative to ‘being understanding/accommodating to the ways he crosses your boundaries’? What would coming to terms with this mean for you?

    2. Control What You Can*

      I think you have been plenty understanding and have given your dad a ton of grace. Has he had therapy or does he have any interest in processing his trauma?

      I have been through something similar with my own father, although his childhood would more be filed under somewhat neglectful of emotions. For whatever reason, he is incapable of being a supportive presence in my life, so I just don’t expect anything from him. He’s a broken appliance and while I can’t just throw him out because he’s my dad, I also can’t expect him to do what I need him to do. At the best of times, we have a superficially pleasant relationship. At other times, we have next to no relationship.

      It sucks, but he is unwilling to recognise how his behaviour affects other people. I think in his case, it’s massive aversion to any conflict.

      I’ve had loads of therapy and have also built myself a better support structure. (Also, FWIW, because of my dad’s crappy conflict aversion and my mother’s untreated mental illness, I had a pretty shitty childhood. But before and I as became a parent, I worked HARD to make sure I could be a properly supportive and loving parent to my kid. So, you know, it’s great that you understand where your dad is coming from and give him grace and slack, but having a shitty childhood doesn’t automatically mean that you’re broken and can never be fixed. Learned helplessness, if that’s what this is, is a choice.)

      1. Happier without my parents*

        “I can’t just throw him out because he’s my dad,”

        PLEASE don’t use this phrasing, ever.

        Cutting a harmful parent out of your life is not “throwing him out” – it’s sometimes absolutely the healthiest and necessary thing to do.

        And as someone who has had to do it, this phrasing is REALLY hurtful and offensive. I pray that this kind of thinking is not something that you’ve been gaslit with to keep a harmful person in your life. It’s exactly the kind of crap I dealt with when trying to exert boundaries.

        And the truth is, I could not flex and bend and accomodate my parents in a healthy way. ESPECIALLY since I was the only one making any effort.

        1. Not A Manager*

          I really think that Control What You Can was just extending the analogy of the broken appliance. You can throw an appliance away, but you can’t throw a human being away. And as you say, choosing to go no-contact isn’t throwing someone away.

        2. Anonymous*

          But all too often, this is the reality of the culture around us. I come from a culture that celebrates parents and definitely turns a blind eye to abuse, and even sighing in frustration is considered a terrible sin. While going NC may very well be the best thing to do — and I don’t disagree — it can be the most difficult thing to ever consider and for some that’s just not something they can do. Just because they choose not to do that doesn’t mean they’re not trying to help themselves.

          1. Happier without my parents*

            I didn’t say that was the choice she had to made. I didn’t say she wasn’t helping herself. I said that the WORDING she used about how she’s stuck with her dad because she can’t “throw him away” is really wrong. So much judgement baked into that wording and that she should not use that phrasing.
            She can do whatever she wants. But going NC is not, and never should be phrased as, “thowing him away.”

            It was a “watch your language because it’s harmful” warning.

        3. Control What You Can*

          I’m sincerely sorry if I caused you any distress by my words. Not a Manager is correct – it was an extension of the appliance analogy.

          I am glad you were able to take action to protect yourself.

    3. Dear liza dear liza*

      I have a similar father. Over time and with some therapy, I realized I had to draw very strong boundaries. We don’t live near each other so I send him cards for birthday/major holidays and have one meal with him if I’m in town. He follows me on social media but I don’t follow him. One of my siblings has completely cut him off so he’s careful about asking more from me. I have another sibling who sees him regularly and keeps me updated in general.

      It makes me sad but he is so manipulative with other relatives that it reinforces my decision to minimize contact.

    4. Not A Manager*

      “I have repressed a lot of painful memories I have of my dad.”

      My counter-intuitive experience was that when I stopped repressing those painful memories, it also made room for me to experience the good memories. I used to think about my relative through a sort of emotional padded blanket – everything was wrapped up so that no sharp edges could poke me. That meant that I could narrate the bad stuff to myself in a sort of blasé manner – “oh yeah, ho hum, that happened” – but it also meant that I couldn’t really emotionally access the good stuff either.

      Once I actually named the bad stuff instead of dancing around it, I unexpectedly had a lot more access to the good stuff. It was like someone tuned the TV back to color from having been all grays.

      Also, my previous “compassion” for my relative and their childhood had been more of a narrative explanation than a real emotional connection to what they’d experienced and why they behaved the way they did as an adult. Once I acknowledged to myself the extent of their poor behavior, and that it had damaged me, I was able to feel compassion for myself as a young child and see how I had wound up where I am as an adult. And that opened the door for me to feel actual compassion for my relative’s childhood experience and why they exhibited some bad behaviors toward me and other people.

    5. grace*

      Nameless Shark,
      I feel for you. I, like your father had a physically and emotionally abusive childhood. I did not have children knowing that there is a cycle of abuse and zero family support. I have a brother. He had three children. I watched exactly what you described. It would help you to get advice from a professional. From what I have observed, things got better with him and his kids as they left home and had their own families. Mostly from lowered expectations of him. He was not going to change. As his children had healthier relationships, they modeled good parenting practices for him. He is an amazing grandfather because his children basically instructed him how to behave with other people.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      The general boundary that I like to use is: I cannot allow myself to become injured (physically, emotionally, financially).

      It is good to realize why he is the way he is. But that is only one step in the process.
      I am not a fan of “forgiving AND forgetting”. I don’t think we should always forget. Sometimes we need to remember so we do not get injured again. As to the forgiving part, I think that is a personal decision, so I will just leave that part alone.

      I think that if you can’t find where he ends and you begin, then you have probably given too much leeway. Maybe a pro can help you make a short list of examples where you are going to draw that hardline. “Dad, if you continue to say X, I will hang up the phone/leave the house/whatever.” Here X is a targeted behavior that you have decided you will not deal with anymore. Again, this is the type of thing a professional can best help you with.

      I do have an odd suggestion, it might not be a good idea for your setting. My father grew up in a rough environment. Life was pretty unkind to him. But he was tough for me to hack sometimes. And he was the better parent in my life. My father hit on an idea that seemed to work for us. He told me to call him by his first name. In odd way this was a pressure relief, we both could exhale a bit. You seem to be leaning toward keeping him in your life on some level. So being on the watch for little ideas that have larger meaning might be a supportive activity for you both.

    7. PollyQ*

      The facts that your father had a horrific childhood, and genuinely meant well and loved you don’t actually mean that what he did to you wasn’t abusive. I’m not saying you have to label it as abuse, but maybe just leave some room for the notion that he wasn’t just a victim of abuse, but also a perpetrator.

      Even if you don’t feel it rose to that level, I still don’t think you “must forgive” him, just because his childhood was so bad. He presumably made a choice to be a parent, and he’s still responsible for what he did & didn’t do. And again, I’m not saying you can’t forgive him, just that it’s a choice you’re free to make or not make. I definitely don’t think you need to forget anything, or to continue to let him hurt you going forward. Understanding is one thing, accomodating is another. You are always allowed to draw boundaries to protect yourself. (Captain Awkward is great for advice on how to do this.)

      I’m very sorry you had to grow up with this. My parents were somewhat emotionally abusive to me, and it’s really a done a number on my life in some ways. And yes, they were well-meaning and loving, and had childhood issues of their own, although not as bad as your father’s. But what they did still harmed me.

    8. Generic Name*

      My son’s dad was (and still is) emotionally abusive and manipulative to me. I’ve heard all kinds of possible explanations for his behavior. He might be on the spectrum. Or a narcissist. Or have borderline personality disorder. Or maybe just just a selfish asshole. I finally decided that it doesn’t matter why he treated me like crap. It doesn’t excuse his behaviors and I make no effort to forgive him. I treat him cordially because we co parent our minor child.

      Your dad’s crap childhood provides background and explanation for his behavior towards you. It’s not an excuse. I believe that everyone (except maybe in cases of profound mental disability?) is responsible for their own behavior. He may have a reason he tramples your boundaries, but you still get to enforce them. If that means he doesn’t get to be a part of your life, that’s on him.

    9. Nita*

      I’ve redrawn my boundaries myself. It took a while, and a little bit of internal mourning, but I’ve firmly gotten it through my mind that I have only two people I can count on in life – myself and my husband. No expectations of any kind of help, or understanding, or words of wisdom from my parents. This is probably not their fault, but this is how the chips fell in my childhood. So now that my expectations are at rock bottom, I’m not surprised if they fail me or do something that should make me ashamed, but am pleasantly surprised if they do something nice. Which, I admit, has been happening a lot this year.

      Maybe not the greatest mindset, I know they need to be loved, but I guess my heart is a few sizes too small for that :(

    10. Frankie Bergstein*

      I have a physically and emotionally abusive dad, and I’m still healing from it (and probably will be throughout my life). We have limited, but if I were in an ongoing, in-person relationship with him, I’d want to set boundaries to protect myself.

      My thinking is that it’s definitely possible to come to terms with it – I don’t hold resentment or anger towards him – but it’s been a long and slow process for me to get here. So I’ve had the experience of having two parents who couldn’t care or support me for various reasons. I think reading books on attachment theory or on trauma (e.g., Trauma and Recovery, The Body Keeps the Score) might be helpful if you want a research perspective vs. my story.

      If I may, I’d like to push back slightly on the latter paragraph in your letter — you don’t have to be accommodating to them, in my opinion. My long, hard struggle has been to realize I need to be accommodating to myself. It took me until well into my twenties to figure out when I was hungry and needed to eat, what exercise made me feel good, how much sleep I needed, etc. Now at middle-age, I’m learning to identify, ask for my needs to be met appropriately, and – what feels earthshattering to me – is to realize that my needs are just as important as everyone else’s.

      Also, if someone has behaviors that hurt me because of something that happened to them or a mental health condition they have, I can be compassionate but still choose not to have a certain type of relationship with them. I had a close friend who talked over me, interrupted me, told me who I was/what I should think and shared very information I told her in confidence. I could have chalked this up to her past, negative experiences and tried to accept it or owned that it was really hard for me to be close friends with someone who did these things and add some distance to our relationship. (Ultimately, this friendship didn’t survive because of reasons related to communication.)

      Sending you lots of good luck!

    11. Not Your Circus, Not Your Monkeys*

      Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation or action as of his poor behavior never happened. His history of being abused is an explanation, not an excuse.

      Mental health issues and history of being abused don’t grant anyone the right to overstep your boundaries or decide what your boundaries should be.

    12. Smol Book Wizard*

      I wish I had a conclusive answer myself. My parents are not abusive, but in practice are controlling and not good at boundaries, and I’m still untangling all the tendrils that have wound their way through my brain and figuring out which ones are from them and which are actually mine. To some extent, what has helped me is just practicing acceptance and distancing myself from what they do: “my parents are doing XYZ right now, this is not a thing that I do or want to do, they are doing it for reasons of their own and I don’t need to get involved either to stop them or to join them.”
      One of the trickiest things in the world is knowing that you are loved very imperfectly. I’m sorry you’ve been having to deal with this.

    13. Minocho*

      I struggle with this as well – also with my father. When I was younger, I didn’t understand why he would say hurtful things, why he would insist my emotions should be suppressed and ignored, while his emotional responses were “logical”. As I found out more about my paternal grandparents and paternal grandmother’s very cruel parents, I began to understand why my grandparents, dad and aunts and uncles are the way they are, and I tried to forgive and forget it. This was an issue because I got it stuck in my head that forgiving meant they weren’t responsible for the things they do that hurt others – which also isn’t fair.

      At the end of the day, I’ve now arrived at the point where I have sympathy for the sixteen year old woman my grandmother was – but that pain gives her no excuse to pass that pain down to others, and I and my family aren’t required to take it when she wants to dish it out 70 years later. And my father, for all that he may have his issues due to things from his childhood, is an adult and doesn’t get to keep acting out of that emotion without me establishing boundaries and clearly letting him know when he’s overstepped them.

      Both my grandmother and father have been upset with me for establishing those boundaries. I happen to know that my grandmother especially talks behind my back to extended family about me, and wields the club she believes is most important – “you won’t get any of my money when I die!” – ruthlessly, not able to believe it has no effect on me.

      I suggest the best thing you can do is decide what you need, and decide how best to get it – with the understanding that you cannot control others. You can give your dad advice on what you want. You can ignore it. You can try to distance yourself emotionally from him. You can try to fix him. But keep firmly in the front of your mind what YOU need, and what you can do to best serve that need. When you need space, take it – don’t burn yourself out trying to fix or help him.

  17. PX*

    Guys, who else is super excited that Sohla has joined the Babish Culinary Universe? The 7 course tasting menu from convenience store items was perfection.

    Also he had her do a video on tempering chocolate. *cackles at the pettyness*

    1. Purt’s Peas*

      That tasting menu video was awesome. It’s so cool just to see that level of expertise and sheer competence.

      1. PX*

        I know! I really wanted to try some of them. But also at the end where they had the compilation of her being so unsure about if they would be good (“this might suck!”) and I just wanted to be like, “No Sohla! Look at what you did! This is so amazing – you’re so good!”

        But also just the range of things she knows about. I like to think I’m casually acquainted with a reasonable variety of food things but some of the stuff she made in the video I was like..what is that?! Honestly. I dont know if she wants to, but I feel like she should be in some Michelin star, Heston Blumenthal type restaurant where she can be allowed to go wild with creativity.

    2. Ellie*

      My husband and I were so happy to see that she’s found somewhere to cook and create and be noticed for her talent (and hopefully be well compensated; maybe she’ll earn a Rolex of her own lol). We love Sohla!

      1. PX*

        Me too! I casually saw something from Babish where he talked about how surprised he was with the success his channel has had, so I love that he chose to do this in terms of expanding it. I really hope he’s paying her well (and lets be honest, there probably is no way he isnt given what went down) :D

    3. Anonymous*

      Yes! I was aware of Babish but had never watched him so she’s bringing in new viewers to the benefit of all!

      1. PX*

        Same! I had seen the crossovers he did with Brad, but never really watched any of his videos before. After this I found myself watching one or two and they are not bad! I can definitely see myself going to them in future if I want to try something new or need inspiration, so a smart move on his part!

  18. Lcsa99*

    Can someone recommend a stand alone GPS? Something like a Garmin, as ours is starting to die. Or very nearly dead, to be more accurate. I know you can just use apps on the phone but for various reasons we’d rather use something separate and obviously our car does not have one built in. We just need something good that can give us turn by turn directions.

    1. Anonymous*

      You used to be able to buy stand-alone Garmins, which sat on your dashboard and acted just like the built-in ones. IDK if they’re still on the market, but you might be able to buy a used one off eBay or something. You might also be able to get your built-in one replaced.

    2. pancakes*

      We have an old-ish TomTom model that’s still going strong. It’s not always reliable about suggesting time-saving routes in very congested traffic, but in fairness that’s very tricky in the NYC area, and not our main purpose in using it. For turn by turn directions it’s good.

    3. Red haired runner*

      My parents prefer having a stand-alone GPS even though their cars have built in ones. They have been using a garmin brand one that mounts on the windshield. It gives very detailed directions and even traffic warnings. They’ve had it for about 4 years and it still works great.

    4. allathian*

      We used to have Tom Toms in our cars, but now our main one is a Garmin. We got it two years ago before our road trip around the Baltic Sea. It works very well and we get regular updates.

  19. Batgirl*

    When I was in your shoes with a similar partner, I wanted to know “What are we going to do instead?” Kids are a lot of energy and time, and sacrifice of other options. If you’ve always auto-pictured them you may not have considered all the alternatives… for me it was travelling. I could have gotten excited about a non kid future if it had involved a lot of travel and adventure. So I would answer blandly, but then follow up by talking about the other things I’m really excited about and actually can plan for. To hold off tears, focus on that stuff, even if just internally.
    As someone without kids, who does want them, I find the best, blandest out-loud answer regarding plans is “I don’t know” with a c’est la vie shrug. Even when the question is “Do you want them?” Truly, who can know? It’s why we don’t all go the sperm bank with buyer’s certainty like we’d go to the mall. So much of the potential happy outcome of the decision is tied up with other people, based in luck and in financial situations, and in a body you have no control over that you don’t really know if that decision to try is definitely going to be happy for you until you’re actually pregnant and sometimes not even then. It’s like they’re asking you about the weather in ten years.

  20. Anonymous*

    TW: miscarriage

    This isn’t about work but mentions someone I know from there.

    My manager and friend (we’ve known each other 8 years and started together) recently told a few of us she was pregnant. It was early days and she told us because our company was planning to go back to the office and she didn’t want to risk it. I’m one of the few who knew (for various reasons) and she was *so* excited and I was so happy for her, having known her so long and been to her wedding and so on. She was due her 12-week scan this week.

    Unfortunately and tragically, on Wed she called in to say she’d had a miscarriage, which I was told when I logged on to start. And it’s her birthday soon and it’s all just awful. I feel so, so awful for her. I texted her to say how sorry I was, but I am wondering if there’s anything else I can do to help. I’m covering her at work and have said to take as long as she needs, I am happy to do it, so hopefully that’s the most helpful thing at this time in a practical sense, but could I send a (very gentle) card? I want her to know I’m thinking of her and while giving her space also let her know she’s not alone. Especially when she’s back at work I want her to feel she can bail and ask me to step in and not take on more than she’s able to (while also obviously doing whatever she wants to do).

    Thanks, any thoughts are appreciated.

    1. One Commenter*

      Oh man, that sucks and I’ve been there. The most helpful thing that people did in that time for me was to be there for me: picking up my slack, listening, having my back. Giving me room to grieve. And recover: miscarriages are physically hard on the body in the moment, and there’s all the hormonal stuff afterwards, too. A card wouldn’t have been necessary for me, but if you are moved to send one, go for it. I wouldn’t have taken it amiss at all I’d keep it general, though, like “thinking of you” or something like that, but maybe that is just my opinion.

    2. Randomity*

      I had a miscarriage at 17 weeks and I never expected anyone to send cards but quite a few people did and I was SO GRATEFUL. So so very grateful for people acknowledging that my grief was real. I would say do it.

    3. Wishing You Well*

      If you send a card, find a blank one and hand-write your sentiment in it. “Thinking of you” is enough, if you’re stuck for a thought. For speaking to your friend, you can ask,”Is it okay for me to say…you can ask me to step in and take over if you need some alone time?” I find that first part of the question softens the message a lot.
      I am very sorry for your friend.

    4. Potatoes gonna potate*

      With my first one, a friend sent me an Edible arrangements delivery and I loved it. She also included a sweet message.

      Second – nothing

      Third – it literally happened on my way to work and I stopped at the obgyn to confirm it. My mgr encouraged me to take the day off but I didn’t want to. Going to work was my “normalcy.”

      Personally, I love cards and messages. If you know this person would appreciate them, you can’t go wrong with a card. Maybe flowers or food or a gift card.

  21. Bibliovore*

    I have white beans, about a half lb of loose Italian sausage and an instant pot. I’ve had a few fails lately from internet recipes. Anyone have a tried and true recipe for these ingredients? FYI – there is no broccoli raab available where I live.

    1. Catherine*

      What spices have you got on hand? I am a stovetop person, not an instant pot person, but I’d throw that together with a diced onion, some minced garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and whatever stock I have on hand and let it all simmer. Might add some spinach or cabbage near the end of the cook time, maybe rip up a little parsley or grate some parmesan on top for garnish, would probably finish with a squeeze of lemon to brighten the whole thing up.

      1. AP.*

        This is good. I would just add that the sausage should be cooked separately on the stovetop, then drained on a paper towel and added to the beans towards the end of cooking.

        That will prevent the beans from getting too greasy, and also the sausage doesn’t benefit from an extended cooking time.

    2. Anonymous*

      That kind of sounds like the beginnings of Italian wedding soup. I’ve never made it or seen it made, so I can’t help with a recipe. But maybe look it up? You can sub ingredients if there’s something you can’t get (spinach vs. broccoli rabe).

      1. Anonymous*

        Kale and white bean soup! I don’t have an exact recipe because I usually just make it off the cuff, but at its most basic it’s just combining the cooked beans, browned sausage, kale and water. You can use stock if you have it on hand; I usually add a cup or so of veggie stock and use water for the rest. Whatever you have on hand is fine. If you have some time to do so add sautéed onions, carrots, celery. Depending on the sausage seasoning you might not need to add much more in the way of seasoning. Bay leaf if you have it, definitely. Taste before adding salt because the sausages usually have plenty.

        1. Still*

          Google Roberto the Soup for a delicious, incredibly versatile soup based on beans, sausage and any leafy green you have handy. It also has a charming story behind it – and of course who could resist a soup called Roberto? It’s one of my absolute favourites and I’ve been recommending it to anyone who’ll listen.

    3. Aza*

      Budget bytes’ sausage and white bean skillet is my go to easy meal! It also asks for spinach. Truly easy and yummy, made it just this week.

    4. Bibliovore*

      Tadah!
      Made the beans in the instant pot- 25 minutes on hi with sauteed chopped onion, smashed garlic, celeray and carrot. thyme, rosemary, sage, and bay leaf.
      sauteed the sausage on the stove in a soup pot.
      Combined the beans , sausage, bean broth, and parmesan rinds in the soup pot for about ten minutes. Added bunches of chopped kale – simmered until the kale was done.
      Served on stale bread that I had toasted. finished with some shredded parmesion and a drizzle of olive oil.

      Thanks for the recipes!

    5. Esmeralda*

      I don’t have an instant pot, so can’t advise on how to do the beans — I cook them on the stovetop. Make sure they’re well-seasoned: chopped onion, chopped garlic, chile flakes, salt, pepper, lots of thyme (that’s my favorite), broth rather than water. You can also put in thinly sliced celery, shredded or thinly sliced carrot.
      DON’T put the sausage in with the beans. Form it into little meatballs and brown them, or just brown it well. When the beans are cooked, THEN add the sausage. Deglaze the pan you browned them in (water or broth or beer or white wine), pour that into the beans. Stir in a good glug of olive oil.
      Broccoli rabe is good! but you can use any green you like. Thaw some frozen spinach, stir it in after the beans are cooked. You can also stir in some chopped tomato. A squeeze of lemon is nice.

  22. *daha**

    I’d like to hear about your experiences with air fryers – particularly the countertop oven style that are supposed to broil, bake, roast, toast, and rotisserie. Currently I’m using a toaster oven that curves out in back large enough to heat a 12″ frozen pizza, holds a bundt pan for baking, and broils my hamburgs, pork chops, steaks, and london broil. So my idea with the air fryer would be to replace it with something that does all that, plus adds the speed of a convection oven, the rotisserie, and the actual air-frying for things like frozen french fries.

    1. Ali G*

      I have the Cuisinart toaster oven air fryer. It also bakes and convection bakes. I like that it shortens a lot of cooking time and also uses less oil. It takes a little getting used to, since it cooks so much faster. I think you’d want the bigger one than I have, since I can’t do pizza or rotisserie. I’ve had good success with it for potatoes/fries, breaded cutlets and quick cooking salmon.

    2. Doctor is In*

      I looked into an air fryer; did not realize it is actually a small electric oven. My stove’s oven has a removable shelf so I only have to heat up part of it for smaller uses so decided I did not need one.

      1. fhgwhgads*

        Specifically they’re small electric convection ovens. If your oven has a convection setting and the divider, then yeah you basically already have an air fryer. If it’s not convection, what you have is slightly different, but may still make a standalone not worth it. However, it won’t yield quite the same results.

    3. Moth*

      I know I’m late to the reply on this, so you might not see it, but I did recently purchase a countertop toaster oven that bakes, roasts, toasts, rotisseries, and can air fry (so can also convection). I’ve used it quite a few times and overall like it, though I don’t know if something suddenly went out on it, if I’d buy it again. My main reasons for purchasing it were that it was a brutally hot summer here and I wanted something that wouldn’t require I turn my full oven on to bake, I wanted to be able to cook an easy dinner that tasted good and would last me all week (rotisserie) and I wanted to be able to air fry veggies. I find it does pretty well with the air fry function, though probably not quite as well as a dedicated air fryer, since the space is just bigger. The rotisserie is really nice, though the oven requires quite a bit of cleaning after because it splatters as it roasts. And mine (Instant brand) is not able to bake without the convection fan going. That’s probably the bit that frustrates me the most. I thought it would be fine when I purchased it and that it would be easier to convert my recipes, but it’s been more difficult than I thought and makes it so that I’m less inclined to use it. That being said, I just don’t have a lot of time to cook or bake right now, so maybe if I had more free time, I would be using it more often and would be happier with it. Just my thoughts on my experience!

  23. Kali*

    I’m now doing a masters at a university (so I’m going to talk about a thing happening at a school, but it’s not a work or school issue if that makes sense, so I hope this is the right post!) with a collegiate system which, in this case, means that I’ve been assigned to a college. It’s nothing to do with academia but, if I lived on campus, I would live there, and there are study rooms and things I can use in there if there weren’t a pandemic on. All of this means that I get copied into emails aimed at everyone at the college, including the students who are living-in. So far, the emails have been as follows;

    We get that you’re excited about welcome week, but please remember the rules about not going into one another’s flats.
    Stop having parties.
    STOP having parties.
    One flat has covid-like symptoms and has been isolated.
    We hear some of you are planning a party for tonight and have invited students from other colleges. Do NOT do this. (Got this one today)
    Two more flats are now showing symptoms and are in isolation (got this one 20 mins after the last one, so expect further updates tomorrow after the party does or does not happen).

    I’m so glad I’m not doing halls again.

    1. Anonymous*

      Oh, man. I feel bad for anyone put at risk by people who just won’t act maturely.
      (Are universities doing anything/able to do anything to enforce this ‘stop having parties’ rule?)

      1. Workerbee*

        I’m one who thinks schools should default to remote learning (while at the same time I don’t have a working solution for the kids who are better off away from home for a variety of reasons) because of the near-constant outbreaks. It sounds like there are still activities and easy opportunities to congregate exactly as before. I don’t blame the teenagers for being no more “mature” than the adults who’ve been adulting longer.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          My entire major, both grads and undergrads, defaulted to remote learning because we could get away with it. Some of the other majors that decided they needed X, Y, and Z classes to be in-person went to a blended learning style.

          The thing is that they didn’t close the dorms, so there are still parties, so people are still getting sick. And while it’s good that they didn’t kick everyone out of the dorms, I’m wondering if there should have been more stringent measures put in place to determine who got to return to the dorms after summer break. Although I’m not sure how I’d make that decision, so it’s probably unfair of me to expect someone else to do so!

      2. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

        In the UK, a lot of the colleges told students that it would be blended learning, and recommended that they move to their university. Then, a few days after they had all moved in, told them that it would all have been online learning after all. It very much looks like the universities just wanted the room and board income from the students.

        So, in those cases, the universities could have been straight with the students, they wouldn’t have all moved into halls, and there would be less parties!

        1. Kali*

          In my case, I’m doing bioarchaeology so my course IS blended. I’m not sure about the courses without a lab component.

        2. D3*

          My kid is in this spot right now. If they hadn’t moved in, they would have been off the hook for rent + meal plan. But since they did move in, it’s all effing due for the *entire school year*, even if they move back home where it’s safer. I am pissed.

    2. Anonymous*

      Several students in Boston were recently expelled and no, they won’t be getting their $36k tuition back. That’s the only thing that’s going to work in some cases.

      1. pancakes*

        Not having them return to campus in the first place would work too, but would cut into the school’s revenue. I hope the way some schools have handled this poorly will be talked about for years to come and widely disdained.

        1. Botanist*

          While I’m not defending schools that are handling this badly, I’m familiar enough with the budgets of several small schools to say that “cuts into the revenue” is an understatement. They’re looking at single-year deficits the size of their whole endowment if they don’t have students on campus—which really means closing the school for good. Which doesn’t make the outbreaks any less severe! Or playing games with families and the fees, that’s not ok either. It’s just such a tough place that a lot of schools have ended up in, I really think a lot of them simply didn’t have a good option.

          1. Thursday Next*

            Even a lot of large state schools don’t have the funds to, basically, cancel school for the year. The Atlantic magazine has a good article about the University of Arizona’s reopening. One thing the article noted is the UA has an operating budget of 2 billion/year but and endowment of 1 billion. State funding has gone down 84% in the last 10 years. The article acknowledges that reopening was partially about the money but made the point that it had to be.

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      I think we risk demonising young people a bit in this situation. People of all ages are being utter cockwombles regarding the restrictions, but because these people are in a college, you know about it. (Otherwise we are reserving this level of scrutiny for MPs only.) If you are talking about an Oxbridge college (I don’t know how things are at Durham) the students often don’t have much privacy with porters aware of their comings and goings. The rest of the country can and do break the rules without getting caught.
      I’m much more concerned about the reports of students in halls being locked in after one person tests positive, with restricted access to food and in some places the fire doors blocked. I don’t know whether it’s legal or not for people other than police or military to detain people like this, but it seems very worrying.

      1. Tau*

        I was reading an article about this just now – it affects two universities I attended back in the day, and I know some of the dorms involved – and it’s horrifying. My jaw especially dropped when I read about students going without food for two days, followed by a university official being quoted as saying there were “initial teething problems” with the lockdown.

    4. D3*

      As mentioned elsewhere in this thread, my kid in college is stuck living in the dorms for now. And it’s a suite style dorm – 4 students in a 4 bed, 2 bath unit. Their roommates are inviting people over (parties, basically, with 12+ people in the living room. Not *calling* it a party because it’s “just watching a movie!” but still…) and so far management isn’t doing a dang thing. They also have 2-3 people who seem to be sleeping on the couch and always around.
      Thank god we paid extra for the private room setup but I really hate that my kid is spending pretty much all their time alone in their room because of it.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        This is probably a dumb question, but since management won’t do anything about the parties, do you think you could tell them to either shut down the parties or move your kid into a single? Since you are paying them to house your kid in a safe environment, and getting him sick with COVID when it could have been prevented is not keeping him safe.

          1. Anonymous*

            Huh. Your kid’s school has a very different definition of a single than my college does. We have those four-people-but-separate-bedrooms, but those are called quads. A single is one bedroom with a shared bath with another bedroom, and no shared living area.

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

      In my opinion they should never have allowed in person classes at all. Most college students are fresh out of school and have a very hard time adapting to a world where you’re in charge of yourself. College authorities are (supposedly) older and more knowledgeable, and they should’ve known better. Too much freedom, boiling hormones, a new environment and a pandemic is simply too much for them to handle.
      (Also… expulsion is an extreme punishment. Suspension? Yes. Sent to volunteer at the local hospital/retirement home/food bank? Even better.)

      1. pancakes*

        Sending people who haven’t complied with social distancing measures out into the community as penance or punishment is not a good idea unless you’re trying to maximize exposure.

      2. Kali*

        Quite apart from anything else, you’d think anyone involved with a college/uni would be familiar with how fresher’s flu goes around!

      3. AcademiaNut*

        Yeah – students are behaving badly, but you don’t set up a system that’s guaranteed to fail. Universities are set up to be the exact opposite of social distancing. Close community living, classes in poorly ventilated rooms, extensive mixing (dorms, classes, clubs all being different people), strong mixing with the community, dependence on public transit and copious alcohol consumption. And we are talking about 18-22 year olds away from school for the first time, which is not a demographic group known for reasoned logic and self restraint.

        I do think that on campus instruction/living should have been reserved for students in lab based programs (with the priority on senior students, who need the lab this year to graduate), and students who don’t have a reasonable place to remote learn from (can’t live with family, family is abusive, no access to internet).

        I wouldn’t put community service on the menu as a punishment, because that puts the community at risk if they’re volunteering at a homeless shelter *and* sneaking out to party. Expulsion with no refund is a reasonable response to students who break isolation/quarantine to socialize.

        I can sympathize with the financial pressures of the universities, however – they’re in a tough spot. They really need government financial support if they’re expected to function with a significant cut in income, but fairly normal expenses.

    6. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I love it that people are expecting 18-22 year olds (roughly) to behave maturely, given that their brains are still physically developing and we’ve got people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and probably even holder doing stuff that is counter productive to getting sick.

      The colleges should have shut down, wholesale, all of them. What else did they expect was going to happen? OF COURSE you’re going to have a bunch of teens/barely 20s partying, and by extension, of course they’re going to pass around a virus.

    7. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I find this really frustrating and I wonder if I went to the same place. Even if nobody is having an actual party, the very nature of communal living is going to lead to outbreaks. My college had communal kitchen and bathroom facilities so even if I never did anything like a party or hang out with someone else, the mere fact that I had to leave my room increased the risk of catching something.

      I feel like this is all a ploy to blame students when really the universities and governments should be held equally to account. After all, we’ve been hearing for months about how low the risk is for young people and that they are less likely to get sick, and now that it’s being proven that that was nonsense, the narrative has shifted to young people are irresponsible and it’s all their fault.

  24. Anonymous*

    Trivial topic for these times…but has anyone looked at the new ‘Rent the Runway’ offerings on thredUP? Too expensive for my budget, but fun to window shop.

    1. nep*

      I see it’s defaulting to ‘Anonymous’ and automatically posting instead of giving notification that I must fill in the name box, as the site used to do. nep here.

  25. Need advice on renting!*

    I asked recently about negotiating rent when my current contract is up [I’m in the UK].

    I pointed out to the property manager (I don’t have direct contact with the owner) that my current rent is higher than a lot of similar flats in the same area, mainly because the % increase (from my previous contract) is higher than what the market rates have been, and in fact many current listings are asking for rents that are actually lower than what they were asking a year or two ago.

    The property manager offered to do a ‘desktop valuation’ of what my flat would currently rent for. I’m interested in what they’d say, but I wonder if it’d be more wise to just offer a price I think is reasonable. I’m mainly concerned they’ll deliberately over-value and it’d be like a ‘gotcha’ thing.

    For context, I’d be okay if my current rent was held steady for the duration of a 3-year contract. Objectively speaking, it’s only slightly more expensive than the other place I mention, but since I’d avoid the hassle (and expenses) of moving, plus some sentimental value, I’m okay with that. They’ve already offered to hold it steady for the first year, but not sure about the rest.

    1. PX*

      In your case I would just offer the price you want. Like you say, the chance that they conveniently over-value is a bit high. I know in bargaining some people say never offer a number first, but in a scenario like yours, given you know exactly what price you want to pay – I say just give that number now so you have less haggling/discussions to deal with.

    2. Anonymous*

      Do your own rent research and prepare to present it. It’s the property manager’s job to charge you as much as they can get away with. There are too many great negotiating techniques to list here.
      Oh, I wish you’d speed-read “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss! It’s a very powerful book on negotiating and upends traditional theories. Best of Luck!

  26. Jessie*

    Hi!

    I’ve got a photography question. I have mild tremors in my head and hand due to a birth defect. They are super mild and not really noticeable. However, I’ve not been able to take photos all my life because my hand shakes a bit so the photos are blurred. So, I avoided taking photos.
    However, I have two kids now and ever since I became a mom, I started to take photos with my phone camera to capture special moments, but often the photos are blurred, which really upsets me. My husband doesn’t have a problem, but he’s not always there to capture these moments.
    So, is there any camera that would work for someone who has my problem?

    1. Anonymous*

      I don’t know of cameras that specifically help with that, but I sometimes have trouble staying as still as needed when taking a picture and I love my remote shutter release for that. I have never looked into whether they work with phones, but if you’re into getting a camera equipped to plug one in, maybe worth a try? Camera can be on a simple tripod or just on a solid surface.
      I know it could be tough with kids moving about and such, but if they’re playing in one area and you’ve got the camera set up to capture them, might work on some occasions.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          It isn’t saving for me, either. Must be something with the increased site security this week?

      1. Anonymous*

        I had to google remote shutter release :) From what I understand, I wouldn’t actually be holding the camera right?
        I think that might be hard with kids, especially if you are having a spontaneous moment you want to capture.

        1. nep*

          Right. You wouldn’t be holding the camera. Agree, for many shots it wouldn’t work. But if the kids are in a certain contained area doing something, it’s conceivable that you could get some good shots just holding the remote shutter release, if the camera is on a solid base with the kids in view.

        2. Professor Plum*

          Perhaps look at a monopod instead of a tripod. That way you still can aim but the monopod may give stability.

    2. Lcsa99*

      I can’t recommend a particular camera, but have you tried different settings? If you set it for a faster shutter speed (a “sports” setting or something like that would work) plus set it to automatically take 3 (or more) photos in rapid succession, the chances of getting a good one should go up. You don’t want a pause between the multiple pictures, just have it take all three instantly.

      If you’re using your phone, you can also try taking a video, then pausing it and taking a screen shot to get the picture you want. That method doesn’t always work but it might be worth a try.

      Other than that the only thing I can recommend is leaning the camera against something for support. Anything will work – a table or chair, the support post on the swings. You might have to get creative with angles but it does make a difference.

      1. Jessie*

        Yes, I find that taking photos in rapid succession really works sometimes. I do that on my phone camera sometimes.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I’ve owned several Panasonic Lumix cameras over the years and they’ve all had an image stabilization option. There was a low setting and a higher setting. I found it very helpful and mostly for taking concert pictures.

      1. Anonymous*

        Oh, I didn’t know about image stabilization. That sounds like something that would really help :)

    4. Cambridge Comma*

      I’ve seen little tripods for sale, perhaps that would help?
      Also, maybe get something to take photos that you don’t mind handing over to your kids. I have a pair of two-year-olds and the pictures they take are a great mixture of bizarre and actually really good. You just have to delete a lot of pictures of the floor and ceiling.

    5. Lady Alys*

      I have never used one myself, but I see ads for gimbals built in to selfie sticks, which somehow even out the wobbles as the user walks/bikes/whatever. The Wirecutter website has a review entitled “The Best Android and iPhone Gimbal,” but they are in the process of updating their recommendations as of August 26.

    6. Reba*

      If you want to be able to use a phone, look for models that have good optical image stabilization! (And make sure this feature is turned on, if it’s an optional setting.) Most high end models like iPhone, Galaxy, Pixel all have great cameras.

      Ditto if you are looking at a handheld camera. For DSLR and mirrorless cameras, some manufacturers do the stabilizing in the lens, while others do it in the camera body end of things. Nearly all modern cameras have some form of this tech, though they may call it slightly different things. However, some cameras claim things like “anti-blur mode” or other things that are not true stabilization, just increasing the shutter speed.

    7. Wishing You Well*

      My photographer husband suggests you get brighter lights for faster shutter speeds. There’s apps like “Filmic Pro” that allow manual control of shutter speeds on cellphones.

    8. D3*

      Use the flash. Seriously, it will help with faster shutter speeds and freezing the action. Or if your phone has it, use the night option, even during the day. That will raise the ISO and make for faster shutter speeds.
      Any camera you get is likely to be heavier than your phone, which seems likely to increase your tremor.

    9. crookedglasses*

      So long as you’re holding it by hand, having a faster shutter speed will have the biggest impact. There’s a few ways that you can control that, and most of these principles would work with any camera (including one on a phone). If you’re just shooting with auto settings, being in an environment with more light should help. You can get more light by taking photos while you’re outside or else utilizing flash more often.

      If you can flip it to manual settings, having a higher shutter speed paired with a lower aperture will also help. (Just flipping it to a portrait setting might get that done as well – those generally are set to have a lower aperture so that you get the effect of an in-focus person with a softer background.) Turning the ISO to a higher setting will also help offset a high shutter speed.

      Many cameras will allow you to set the shutter speed and then automatically adjust the other settings to accommodate that. If you want something where you can just set it and forget it, that might be the way to go. It’s possible you can even do that with the camera that’s on your phone.

      If you do seek out a dedicated camera, I’d recommend finding one that does well in low-light settings. I’ve been generally impressed with Canon’s low light capabilities.

      There are some tricks you can also use to stabilize how you’re holding it. If you can rest your hand on a surface while taking photos that can help. Depending on how you’re positioned, you might even be able to rest your hand against something like your knee, your other arm, etc.

      Good luck!

      1. Jessie*

        Thanks :). These are really good tips! I haven’t used a camera for years, so I’m very ignorant. I’m just curious though, why would a low light help? I mean in terms of stability?

        1. Reba*

          The association is that when there is less light, the camera opens wider (aperture) and/or stays open for longer (shutter speed) in order to capture sufficient light. And the longer the exposure time, the more possibility for movement! So a camera that touts its strong low-light performance should have good stabilization as part of the package.
          (ISO is also a factor here but not related to stabilization.)

    10. Workerbee*

      Set the camera or phone camera to video. You can capture everything and later, if you choose, select still shots to save. Combining with a tripod or propping it up somewhere could help as well.

    11. KoiFeeder*

      I get down on one knee and tripod my camera on the upraised knee. It’s not perfect, but for spontaneous moments it works well enough. Perspective can be a lil weird sometimes, but between the occasional weird perspective and blurry photos, well, I prefer the former.

  27. Blue Eagle*

    Cooking Thread

    * Thanks to Teatime is Goodtime for the ginger lemon shortbread recipe. I finally had time to purchase some crystallized ginger so I made your ginger lemon shortbread and it turned out great and was tasty!
    * The shortbread was a nice end of meal for the rack of lamb I made for the very first time. I had always shied away from it because it seemed like something that would be too difficult to turn out well, but the grocery store had a half-off sale that I couldn’t resist. Luckily an internet search resulted in an easy recipe and the rack of lamb turned out great, too!

    What things have you cooked for the first time and how did they turn out?

    1. Not Australian*

      During lockdown I’ve been experimenting with beremeal – Orkney stone-ground barley flour. It has a slightly ‘nutty’ flavour and is heavier than regular flour, so rather than try it with ordinary recipes I’ve been using recipes designed specifically for it, many of which are based on centuries-old originals.

      It’s been a mixed success. The flavour of the beremeal itself is quite strong and can overwhelm anything you put it with; I tried shortbread first, which tasted okay but a bit bland – and then cheese scones, which were seriously heavy and dense and the cheese seemed to ‘get lost’. I’m going to try lemon shortbread next, as I feel you need an extra boost of flavour to counteract the beremeal taste.

      On the whole, although it was an interesting experiment, I don’t think I’ll bother to buy any more – although if I’m ever up in Scotland and I get offered something made with beremeal I will at least know what to expect!

    2. Bibliovore*

      Last night I made buffalo chicken wings from a Melissa Clarke recipe . They came out amazingly great . We were so excited we forgot the celery .

    3. Nessun*

      I’m hardly a cook, but during the whole lockdown/shop from home times I’ve been getting GoodFood baskets and cooking from the recipes and food they provide. I never in my life thought I’d ever make a risotto (having seen waaaay too much Hell’s Kitchen and therefore being terrified of it), but my basket had risotto on the menu so…I did it! And I was amazed how well it came out. Definitely saving that recipe to make on my own again – and comfort level with food is rising!

    4. Chaordic One*

      Fairly recently I tried a souffle and it turned out surprisingly well. I love a good souffle but I had always heard all these stories about souffles falling and that sort of scared me away from actually making one before. I’m also a bit confused by the elevation thing. In the past I’ve lived where the elevation was approximately 5,300 feet above sea level and I know that complicated cooking and baking and you need to make adjustments for that. Currently I live at an elevation of approximately 4,300 feet above sea level.

      I used a basic recipe that I pulled off the internet and just made a plain one, instead of a cheese or chocolate one. It took a bit longer than the recipe said. At the time the recipe said it would be done, it was still sitting there in the oven looking flat, but then it started rising so I left it in for another 5 minutes and it came out surprisingly well. I’m now looking forward to trying to cheese and chocolate souffles. (Probably goat cheese, or maybe a cheese substitute since I have dairy allergies.)

    5. Queer Earthling*

      We tried to make some granola bars! They turned out more like cookie bars but they were pretty good so I’m not complaining.

    6. Teatime is Goodtime*

      Oh Blue Eagle, I am so happy to hear that the recipe made you so happy! :) You have made my day.

      I tried making buttercream for the first time a while back, a not-sickly-sweet version without eggs, and that was both easier than I thought it would be and a great success. I made a vanilla bean version to start out. That combined with my favorite chocolate cake recipe and some raspberry jam has definitely been my biggest “first timer” success in a looong time. I even used a piping bag for the first time and it turned out so beautiful! The same buttercream recipe with strawberries and a simple yellow cake worked out well, too, but I think I haven’t found the right simple yellow cake recipe. It was missing something and, now that strawberry season is over, I probably won’t get to experiment more until next year.

      Lets see, I’m still tweaking my chocolate tarte recipe. My first rounds with madelines have turned out surprisingly well despite their reputation. And Foccaccia bread! I have finally settled on an herby, spiced version with cheese on top. I keep meaning to experiment more, but I’m currently stuck on that one. Such a delicious problem to have.

        1. Teatime is Goodtime*

          Yes! I use Anne Burrell’s focaccia recipe, and the directions and ingredients from the plain version are taken/quoted directly from her:

          Plain Focaccia
          Ingredients
          1 3/4 cups warm water
          1 package active dry yeast
          1 tablespoon sugar
          5 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
          1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
          1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

          Optional Ingredients
          Chopped rosemary

          Equipment
          3 bowls, one large, one small and one medium (not metal)
          Wide low pan (specifically a “jelly roll pan” or similar)
          Parchment paper
          Large flat surface that you can use to knead the dough

          Directions
          1. Combine the warm water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Put the bowl in a warm, not hot or cool, place until the yeast is bubbling and aromatic, at least 15 minutes.
          2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 1/2 cup olive oil and the yeast mixture. Mix until it starts to come together.
          3. Once the dough has come together, dust your kneading surface with flour and pour out the shaggy dough.
          4. Knead for a least 10 minutes or until the dough is soft and smooth. Add flour if the dough is too sticky. Tip: The dough should bounce back when you poke it.
          5. Coat the inside of a non-metal bowl with olive oil and place your dough in it. Rotate the dough such that the bottom half of it is covered in oil. Flip and repeat such that the dough is completely covered in oil.
          6. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap, a lid or a dish towel. Place it in a warm place until it has doubled in size, at least 1 hour.
          7. Coat a jelly roll pan with the remaining 1 ⁄ 2 cup olive oil. (Chef’s Note: This may seem excessive, but focaccia is an oily crusted bread. This is why it is soooooooooo delicious!).
          8. Put the dough onto the jelly roll pan and begin pressing it out to fit the size of the pan. Turn the dough over to coat the other side with the olive oil. Continue to stretch the dough to fit the pan. As you are doing so, spread your fingers out and make finger holes all the way through the dough. (Chef’s Note: Yes, this is strange. But when the dough rises again it will create the characteristic craggy looking focaccia. If you do not make the actual holes in the dough, the finished product will be very smooth.)
          9. Put the dough in the warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. While the dough is rising a second time, preheat the oven to 425°F.
          10. Liberally sprinkle the top of the focaccia with some coarse sea salt and lightly drizzle a little oil on top.
          Optional: We like to add a little bit of rosemary to the top of plain focaccia.
          11. Bake the dough until the top of the loaf is golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.
          12. Remove the focaccia from the oven and let it cool before cutting and serving.

          Spiced Focaccia with Cheese
          Ingredients
          All the same plain focaccia with these changes:
          • Subtract 1 ⁄ 4 cup oil from the original recipe (in theory–I always end up adding more and probably still do a full cup)
          • Add 1 cup of grated Parmesan (this will make up for the oil subtracted above)
          • Add 1 teaspoon each of: garlic powder, oregano, thyme, basil, pepper and any other spices you like (I often don’t measure and probably add more than this)
          Optional Ingredients
          • 1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1 teaspoon paprika for an extra spicy version

          Directions
          1. Add all of the spices and herbs to the dry ingredients at the beginning of the focaccia process (step 2).
          2. After the second rise, just before putting the loaf in the oven, top the bread with the Parmesan cheese.

    7. Anonymous*

      I made lamb mulligatawny soup from one of Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbooks. Turned out really well.

    8. Anonymous*

      I’ve been off work this week and decided to try some baking projects. First I made macarons. They weren’t quite uniform in size and a few had some cracks, but the texture was perfect. Made chocolate ones, and filled them with a ring of Trader Joe’s hot fudge on the outer edge and homemade salted caramel in the center. Delicious!

      Also decided to try kouign amans, which was my first attempt at laminated dough. It was difficult (I think my dough itself wasn’t quite right) and despite chilling between turns the butter always seemed to soft. So they didn’t bake with the layers they were supposed to, but still tasted great.

      My project for today is going to be Micheal’s Keralan star bread from GBBO. My first bread attempt!

      1. lily*

        If you want to try laminated dough again, I’d suggest doing puff pastry. Since it has no yeast, it’s easier to deal with laminating. That being said, I grew up helping with croissants every year and they are so good. Laminated dough is so good, I’ll have to do some soon

    9. Potatoes gonna potate*

      Early in the quarantine I made a lasagna from hand-made noodles. Market was out of lasagna noodles but luckily had flour so I googled/youtubed. They tasted amazing. Now I wish I had the time and energy (severe pain in both wrists so can’t do much) to make handmade noodles.

    10. Auntie Social*

      Made cookies while talking to my tiny elderly neighbor. She suggested creaming the ingredients with a potato masher instead of using a spoon or mixer. Perfectly creamed with minimal effort—I got schooled!!

    11. Jemima Bond*

      My OH has grown chard in his allotment this year. Last week I made it into chard au gratin, following the established principle of anything is good if you fling enough cheese at it. The recipe has you slightly pickling the chard with spices before putting in the oven with cream and sprinkling with gruyère. It was really tasty although not the most low-fat recipe!

  28. Little Old Dog*

    Does anyone have experience with getting pet insurance for an older pet? Is it even possible at a certain point? Our little old dog is 15 and having issues. She’s on a bunch of medication and they’re really adding up. I’ve been looking at pet insurance but all I seem to find are ones that won’t insure pets over 14 years old or will insure older pets but not for pre-existing conditions. I’m guessing the answer is there is no insurance option to bring down the cost of her meds but I thought I’d ask.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      I think you’re probably out of luck here. Pet insurance is weird as I’m pretty sure most only accept kittens or puppies and then cover them as they get older. I tried to insure my rescue cat and no one would do it. I’ve accepted that I need to pay out of pocket for these things and I’m okay with that, but since your dog is elderly and has a pre-existing condition, I think you’re going to find it very hard to find an insurer. Sorry.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        I haven’t found that to be the case, my dog is a rescue and wasn’t a puppy and Healthy Paws covered/covers her with no issue.

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          I should point out that I’m based in Spain and not the US so please take that into account as well.

          1. jolene*

            Ah, European countries charge much less in vet bills. I never took out pet insurance when I lived on the Continent.

    2. CatCat*

      Not sure given age and pre-existing conditions (and even if it were possible, premiums could be through the roof), but I thought I’d toss out alternatives that brought our costs down when we had a pet Diamondback Drugsn expensive meds:
      – Costco pharmacy can do pet meds and we found these cheaper than at the vet
      – A compounding pharmacy may be able to do the meds. Diamondback Drugs (delivers via mail, focused on animal prescriptions) was a life saver for us. A drug that had cost us over $100/month and that skyrocketed in cost to over $300/month (for the same drug) was only $50/month compounded. The vet specialist we had been seeing recommend Diamondback Drugs after she and colleagues on a professional listserv went on a flurry of discussion about quality alternatives when the drug price was jacked up because it impacted many vet patients.

      I hope you find a good option to help bring those costs down!

      1. CatCat*

        Typo/paste fail above with first reference to Diamondback. They were not the source of the expensive meds, but the affordable ones.

    3. Reba*

      In my area, many vet practices offer a “membership” where a monthly fee covers your basic visits and preventive care, with discounts on other services and meds, etc. So it’s like insurance in many ways. Maybe that is an option to explore?

    4. Anonymous*

      You’re better off researching your dog’s meds for generic and over-the-counter versions. Sometimes a pet med is a small fraction of the vet price if you can order it yourself. Also, I’ve found some veterinarians charge MUCH less than others. Call around.
      Pet your dog for me!

    5. I'm A Little Teapot*

      This is going to vary hugely based on what country you’re in. In the US, I have not been impressed with the pet insurance and even with a kitten would not bother. YMMV.

  29. Blue Eagle*

    This was going to be my suggestion. Video chats with other members of the family while you are there so she won’t feel like she is alone.
    Something noticed about the older grandparent generation of the family is they seem to enjoy listening to the younger people in the family talk among themselves. If only one person is allowed to visit at a time, then this type of interaction can only be experienced through a video chat – and if it is a Zoom-type chat where multiple people can be on the line at the same time – – even better.

  30. Lucky Penny*

    I’m

    I’m planning an outdoor pumpkin carving for my brains and I’m trying to think of what food would be safe to serve. Snacks are easy with individually bagged options but I’m stumped on a main course. My friends and I would usually do a big crockpot of something (stew or soup or meatballs) or delivery pizzas, but something like those doesn’t seem as safe right now. Maybe it’s just the buffet style I’m worried about and it would be better if I served for everyone?

    What are you all doing with food at gatherings right now? Any ideas recipes or serving styles to safely serve people?

    1. D'Euly*

      What about something like a hot sandwich – meatball subs, Cuban pork, etc – wrapped in foil individually, then baked and handled with tongs, to be unwrapped by the eater?

    2. Anono-me*

      Maybe a main course cooked in tinfoil would work for this event. I think some people call them campfire meals.

      I like salmon or chicken with a few slices of citrus and onion and seasonings. (Sometimes I add carrots or broccoli to the chicken.)

      I’ve also had a shrimp, sausage, corn on the cob, potatoes, onions butter and old bay version.

    3. Not A Manager*

      In my experience, people absolutely won’t adhere to not all gathering around a buffet or remembering to use hand sanitizer before touching the serving utensils.

      I’ve had good luck bringing out the main course at a specific time and literally having people come up in their family groups and serving them myself. Obv we wear masks and I’ve carefully washed my own hands.

      If people are carving pumpkins then presumably they have their own tables or places to set up. Another option is to portion out your main course into smaller “family style” serving bowls and place those within reach of each family group. If you’re ordering pizza you can order smaller ones for each family.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I think that’s what I’d do. A crockpot of chili would work if you serve it out and have each group come and get it in turn, and have individual dishes of sides. You could even wear disposable gloves while dishing and serving (although washing your hands well before and after would be as good).

        Pizza would be totally fine if you were careful about passing them out. Prepare people in advance for how it’s going to go, have the pizzas show up at the front of the house, and pass them to each family group separately. You could also order something like KFC and pass it out the same way, or order individual box meals for each person.

    4. SecondGuesser*

      I just have to ask – a pumpkin carving for your brains?
      My best guess is that you meant “friends” but I’m half-hoping you are actually a zombie.

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        I would think one of the perks of being a zombie is not having to worry about coronavirus…

    5. Anonymous*

      I’m afraid that Not A Manager is right about people not behaving. This is why the suggestion of D’Euly is so good and helpful.

    6. Jackalope*

      I would add that we’ve also tried to have people bring their own dishes when possible (i.e. plates and silverware) so there isn’t a contamination risk there. If you then have only one person serving, and that person washes up really well beforehand and is masked, that really cuts down on avenues of contagion.

  31. Venus*

    How does your garden grow?

    Mine is pretty quiet, and I don’t expect much to change except that I will plant garlic in the next few weeks.

    Are there ignuana updates?!

    1. GoryDetails*

      Southern NH: garden winding down now, though we haven’t had a frost yet. I desperately need to get some help to clean up the yard before winter, so I can do proper gardening next spring. I would like to put in lots of bulbs this fall, if I can get the overgrown yard taken care of first, and if my increasingly achy joints permit {rueful grin}.

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      In Northern NJ we’ve had our first light frost, so I’m pretty much in cleanup mode. This weekend I will be dividing some of my perennials to share with friends, planting some bulbs, and raking up the chestnut pods. The squirrels and deer have eaten the fallen nuts, leaving me with a yard full of spiny outer shells. I don’t want my dog (or me for that matter!) to get any of those spines stuck in him – they hurt!

    3. Thankful for AAM*

      No news is good news when it comes to iguanas! My garden is safe and the tomatoes continue to climb!

      Back story (with funny story at the end) is that, like many florida communities, we back onto water management canals and a small lake. The iguana flourish around the water and climb the courtyard walls around our houses to get into our yards and onto our roofs. We paid a lot to have them removed but they just come back. At one point we had over 50 on our roof. The iguana removers told us one male stakes out a roof as his territory and gathers a harem of many females. Females can have 70 babies at a time so the population grows fast. And all the houses near the canals have them.

      So funny story is the guy who owns the house next door asked me to do something about the 8 iguana living on my roof as they come into his yard and scare his renters and their dog.

      I told him I had spent $1,000, the HOA spent $5,000 and knocking it back to 8 was a success, that I had removed any plants they like to eat from my yard, and that he might have better success if he 1. also removed the plants they eat from his yard and 2. trapped them in his yard if he wanted to pay for it. Oh, and they are wild animals and I don’t control them. Ok, not a funny story exactly but funny to me bc it was so ridiculous.

      1. Venus*

        The guy is completely clueless and ridiculous. As if humanity hasn’t been trying to control animals forever, almost completely unsuccessfully! But your story is good for a laugh, thanks!

      2. KoiFeeder*

        I’d pay to see this man run around trying to catch live iguanas.

        Actually, I wouldn’t, iguanas can mess you up if they want to. But he might learn a valuable lesson.

    4. Llama face!*

      I’m growing tomatoes in October! I had an extremely late start so my plants only started flowering at the end of summer. But now I have 3 little tomatoes started one one plant and the biggest one is already about the size of a large cherry. Of course we are running out of growing weather here (short growing season) so I have been dragging them inside at night to avoid the frost. They are in pots so I can move them. Fingers crossed that I get enough sunlight to grow at least one complete tomato!

    5. Nita*

      Mostly tomatoes now. The awesome squash seems to be recovering from mildew – yay! For some reason, none of the beets grew a proper beet root – anyone have an idea what could be wrong?

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A neglected flowerpot sprouted marigolds & a single basil plant, another has the slowest growing lilies on record, so I merged them. They’re on the porch because a slug turned up. First one since the heat wave.. come to think of it, maybe it’s why the lilies are slow & stunted.
      I managed to get a day to mow & edge before the rain dropped a forest of leaves on my lawn.
      I’m getting serious steps in by tending houseplants because we scattered them across 5 rooms & the garage to stall off bug explosions.
      Weirdly my dahlia started glowering again this week, with stems all too short to pick any.
      I am dithering over LED grow lights.

    7. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I have none but I would love to have one, especially flowers. I love flowers.

      I did find out that my favorite flower ever that smells like heaven…can be bought at Home Depot.

      Well, before I even buy anything, I guess now is the best time to learn.

      1. Venus*

        There are no minimum standards for a garden! A favorite flower indoors sounds like a great place to start. Just check that it isn’t toxic to a young child or pets, as appropriate for you. It is surprising to me that stores sell toxic plants.

    8. Generic Name*

      The growing season is winding down here. We’re harvesting the last of the squashes. The rest of the veggies honestly didn’t turn out too well. Husband says he didn’t enrich the soil as he should have. I have more experience growing flowers and I stick to hardy natives that withstand my neglect. :)

    9. Pippa K*

      Argh, just went out to find that the deer got in and ate several ripe tomatoes I was going to harvest today, plus almost all the remaining green tomatoes and a big chunk of the Brussels sprouts plants. They left the tender radishes and herbs, but I’m sure they’re planning another raid tonight so I’ve taken defensive measures.

    10. KoiFeeder*

      Believe it or not, the autumn crocus seeds did NOT die in the refrigerator. We have one still alive! It’s very exciting.

    11. allathian*

      We’re winding down in preparation for winter, but two weeks ago we planted a lot of bulbs, especially tulips and daffodils. We’ve also planted a couple of highbush blueberry bushes and a purple chokeberry (aronia) bush, so we’ll see if we get anything from them. Admittedly the chokeberry is mainly for decoration, although the berries are edible. We also moved a rhododendron to a better spot in our garden, although it’s possible that one’s a lost cause by now. This fall has been unusually warm here, it feels weird to be able to work in the garden in just a t-shirt and sweatpants in September. My in-laws were here, too, as my MIL misses the garden she had in her old house, and it was warm enough for a pleasant picnic after all the hard work. We also started a tiny wildflower meadow for pollinators in the sunniest spot of our garden.

  32. Unicornucopia*

    I’m wanting to get into crochet, specifically amigurumi but also maybe some hats and things. I’m vaguely familiar with crochet from older family members doing it around me but I’ve never really made anything myself. I’m still struggling on some of the basics, I can’t quite figure out the magic ring and how to get it without a central hole. I’m also a bit confused about some things in the pattern, I’m not really sure how you can do two separate single stitches in one, and I don’t really understand working in a spiral vs a round. I find I do better with videos than just articles for learning, but most of the videos I’ve found tend to want more experience than I have, and right now with pandemic things I can’t exactly get help in person. If anyone has any YouTube channels to recommend or other words of advice, that would be appreciated!

    1. Tortally HareBrained*

      I don’t have any videos to suggest, but I will say I almost always work in a spiral when I make amigurumi even if the pattern says otherwise. The difference between the two (as I understand it) is that in the round you chain one between each round making a straight seam. In a spiral you just keep going which means the “seam” is slanted but normally can’t be seen.

      If I get to something tricky I tend to look for a video that shows just the type of stitch I need help with, instead of a video pattern for the whole item.

      Wishing you luck, Amigurumi is a fun hobby!

    2. Lifelong student*

      Totally recommend TheCrochetCrowd.com . Great videos and a funny, helpful host. There is also a FB page with a helpful community.

    3. university minion*

      You don’t *have* to do a magic ring if you don’t want to. Chain 4, then slip stitch in the first stitch of the chain. There’s your ring!

      Just like when starting out working on the flat, it’s a good idea to do some swatches first. Make some koozies (cylinder – flat bottom, round sides) and spheres (Hanukkah Balls anyone?) to get a feel for it.

      Spiral means you never end one row and start a new one. Round means each row has a defined beginning and end. Stitch markers are your friend here.

      As for 2 stitches in one (how you increase), don’t overthink it. Make a stitch and instead of moving onto the next spot, make another stitch in the same set of loops. If you’re having trouble fitting the hook through the loops to get 2 stitches in the same place, you might want to work on loosening your tension a little bit. Amigurumi uses a relatively larger yarn and narrower hook in order to get a tight “fabric” (ie, on the flat, I use an H hook for worsted weight yarn. Many people use an I. When I make some sort of stuffed shape, I use an E or F).

      Clear as mud?

    4. Amigurumi tip*

      The best tip I have is, use a hook that’s a size smaller than what’s recommended on the yarn label. This will help the stitches hold their shape and keep the weave tight enough that the filling won’t poke out when you stuff it.

    5. Wishing You Well*

      You can use yarn and a yarn needle to sew around that central hole in your crochet and pull it shut. Make a knot to keep it cinched and bury the ends in your amigurumi. Or make a traditional ring instead of a “magic” ring.
      I’m DELIGHTED you’re getting into crochet!

  33. Tortally HareBrained*

    After losing our senior rabbit unexpectedly in August, we brought home a new baby lop this week. She’s adorable, sassy, and rapidly gaining confidence.

    Anyone have any stories of adjusting to life with a young energetic pet after being used to the slower pace of a senior one? I’m looking forward to watching her learn to navigate the world but boy is she going to be a handful (in the absolute cutest way).

    1. GoryDetails*

      Congrats on the new bunny (and sympathy for the loss of the old one). I’ve never kept rabbits myself, though some friends have; if I weren’t a cat-person I might covet some myself… But as to your question, I did wind up with some young and (very!) lively cats after the loss of my beloved senior fluffy-lump of a cat last fall, and so I’m familiar with the transition from “happy to just sit there all day” to “zooming around the house demanding attention and ALWAYS wanting to play”. Fortunately for me and my waning energy level (and increasingly achy joints), the young cats amuse each other quite a bit, so I can sit back and watch the show. And they like playing with the laser-pointer, so I can do some remote entertaining-of-pets without having to actually run up and down the halls myself. With a young rabbit… I can only think of setting up a playpen kind of arrangement, so it has room to explore without getting into places too inconvenient and/or hazardous.

      1. Tortally HareBrained*

        There are so many zoomies!!! We are also finding that rooms that were bun-proofed for our older rabbit may not be as safe for the new one, so just watching carefully and modifying as we go. Luckily she’s still so cute it’s charming instead of annoying.

  34. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

    I’m 11 weeks pregnant and getting to the point where I’ll make it common knowledge (it’s my third and I’m definitely starting to show.) I play a tabletop role-playing game with over the internet once a week with some friends. One couple in particular lives out of town and last year on Halloween lost their baby at 20+ weeks, just one of those things. I know pregnancy stuff is hard for her because she asked that we avoid those topics in our game (easy enough). How would people suggest I break the news? They could probably never see me, as long as I didn’t stand up on video chat, but there’s overlap with Facebook and people I do see in real life, so it seems weird to treat it like a pregnancy in an actress (and hide it completely). We’re also coming up on the anniversary of their loss, so I’m sensitive as to timing as well.

    People who have experienced something similar, how would you have wanted to hear about someone else’s news? (Note: while I am perfectly excited about our addition, I don’t need the world to celebrate it? It’s more that at some point I will disappear into a hospital and reappear with a new person and it seems weird to not address that event ahead of time.)

    1. Anon*

      I had a lot of IVF. This kind of thing wasn’t hard for me personally but it was for others in the online forums I used. Without exception people said to break the news in writing so they can digest it in their own time, and don’t go overboard with the sympathy.

    2. Randomity1*

      I had a miscarriage at 17 weeks so have been her.

      With it being close to the anniversary either do it within the next week or so, or wait until after. I would let them know personally rather than as part of the group – in the immediate aftermath I found out about a friend’s pregnancy on Facebook and I was completely devastated. Don’t make a big thing of it, be as gentle as you can. I’m torn as to whether to mention their loss – I think you’ll need to go off what you know of them and how they handled it.

      Congrats!

    3. Teatime is Goodtime*

      I’d write them directly a day or two (or three or four) before your next game and break the news that way. Something like this:
      “Hi ZZZ, I know this can be a sensitive topic, so I wanted to tell you personally before I make a public announcement: I’m pregnant, 11 weeks in. The baby will be due on DATE. I’m planning on telling everyone at the end of our game on DATE, just so you know. I don’t have any plans to discuss it beyond that, but if I do, I’ll try to let you know ahead of time–I really enjoy playing the game together with you and I want to make things as comfortable as possible. With hugs (or whatever), NAME”

    4. Aza*

      Do it by text or email to give them space to respond. Tell them you wanted to give them a heads up privately and don’t need a response.

      This is immeasurably preferable to telling them by phone or zoom or in person, which puts them on the spot.

  35. Batgirl*

    I’m really interested in learning crochet terms so that I can follow patterns other than the one my grandmother taught me. I first want to work out which stitches I already know. This is one I made with her method. The stitches look like shells but they aren’t what crocheters call “shells”. https://imgur.com/gallery/afjvuFj
    I’ve worked out that I’m starting with a chain of slip stitches, then I make each shell with three loops joined at the top (single crochet stitch from what I can work out) and then separated from the next shell with a slip stitch. You do six loops at ends to make corners and split them into two sets of three on the next go around. Im wondering what stitch would be my next best to learn?

    1. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      I think you are doing the granny stitch / granny squares. In US terms, it uses double crochet (dc) stitch. Pick up a beginning crochet book, it will describe all the basic stitches and how to put them together to make the fancier kinds.

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      I am a new crocheter too! I got a lot of books from the library and sort of skimmed it to see what the basic stiches are. They are called different things in the US and UK. But I found an amigurumi vidoe that I wanted to make so I watched it, jumped out to some of her short how to do stitches videos, looked at a few of the books to get simple pictures, etc.

      I’m still sticking to text for the patterns instead of the diagrams but slowly those are starting to make sense too.

      I’m the, jump right into a thing you like, kind of crafter. I find doing it makes the most sense to me.

      I’m really stuck on yarn types!

  36. Anonymous*

    My brother’s service went perfectly last week and I made it through my short comments like a pro. It was simple, casual and spirit lifting for all who attended. My stomach settled and I feel lighter than I have. So many people ask here “should I go to the wake/funeral/text/send a card/make a donation/offer to cook”? Etc. the answer is pretty much always going to be yes. Adapt for covid and adapt for the relationship or situation. So much in life is just showing up (doesn’t have to be literal). Just. Show up. Don’t overthink it. I’m so grateful to all those who did in ways big and small.

    1. Not A Manager*

      I’ve been thinking about you. I’m very glad that the service was meaningful to you and that your community was supportive. My your brother’s memory be a blessing to you all.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I am glad things went well and I am glad that service was uplifting. That in itself is a remarkable gift.

    3. NoLongerYoung*

      WellRed, thinking of you. I’m grateful the service went well and appreciate the thoughts on just showing up. In this time of covid, what were some of the most helpful? I am thinking of how to do an outreach in a gentle, non-intrusive way…somewhat similar situation….

      1. WellRed*

        Honestly, it varied by what day it was and it felt like the right people showed up for the right task at the right time. But in those first couple of days, what I appreciated most was a friend offering to pick up groceries for me (i gave her a small list of easy to eat things like crackers). I also so appreciated all the messages (texts/calls/FB dms) from his friends and friends of the family when they heard he was dying (it was all very quick, a weekend) to reach out and express sympathy and to tell us and him they loved him. We didn’t feel alone.

  37. Alex*

    I have been inadvertently saving money. I am wedded to my budget and have been for years, but I’ve always prioritized things like travel and fitness activities that I enjoyed. I haven’t spent anything from my travel budget in a year now, because I had been planning a big trip for this year. My fitness activities are mostly still off and not coming back any time soon. So those budget line items have been snowballing in my bank account.

    I also definitely have been spending less on eating out/coffees out. This wasn’t a large expense for me anyway, but I’ve barely spent anything in that category.

    I did splurge on a few things, though. I’ve been treating myself to some fancier grocery items here and there. I bought some really nice fuzzy slippers and a new warm blanket for my bed.

    Generally, though, I have a pretty decent cushion (a couple years’ worth of living expenses in my savings account) and as steady a job as can be expected, although I don’t want to be too cocky about that. I also have some always-needed skills I can fall back on in an emergency, and a pretty solid plan if I do get laid off. So my fears are for our country/world overall rather than myself personally.

  38. Anonymous*

    My niece had a little one recently, and I am on the other side of the country from her, so pretty much all I can do to help her out is be the reasonably-well-to-do eccentric auntie who sends things. Specifically, she and I made a deal this week — she will get the munchkin a bookcase, and I will stock it well for him – my plan is to send him a book a month pretty much indefinitely. (We’re both big readers – a couple years ago, this kid’s BIG BIG BIG ask for Christmas, with all her “if this is too much that’s okay and I’m sorry” disclaimers, was a nice copy of Walden, and I was like “Look, kid, books are not a Big Christmas Thing, books are an ANYTIME thing, so your copy of Walden is on its way and I still need your Christmas list.”)

    I’m starting a list, but in general my knowledge of kids’ books starts at about 6-8 years old, so I am taking all the recommendations you have for baby and toddler books. I do have some basics on my list already – Pat the Bunny, Corduroy, Goodnight Moon. I think the only thing we’d really like to skip is any of the ones with an electronic component that make noise.

    1. Anonymous*

      Don’t know how old the little one is by now, but birth through 3 months or so my baby loved “Black and White” by Tana Hoban.

    2. Anonymous*

      One of my favorite board books is Penguin & Pinecone. There is a whole Penguin series but I really love the Pinecone one.

      Sandra Boynton books are fun.

      1. Nessun*

        Second Sandra Boynton – my nephew and nieces adore those books (my sisters have basically memorized them at this point!)

        1. Anonymous*

          Thirded! For young kids, the Gerald and Piggy books are also great. Books about Miffy the rabbit and Maisie the mouse are nice too. Also mine love picture books with lots of animal photos.

      1. Nita*

        Yes! I’ve recently discovered the author wrote a whole series of books… can’t wait to read them to the kids when (if) the library ever reopens.

    3. Michelle*

      My babies/toddlers loved anything with touch and feel, so any titles in the Usborne series That’s Not My… (Kitten, Bear, Car, Bunny, Fairy, Robot…the list of titles goes on and on!). Bear Snores On is great as a board book, but we liked the traditional printing as well.

    4. Anon1000*

      Board Books – anything by Rosemary Wells and Sandra Boyton.

      Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

      How Dinosaurs Say Goodnight by Jane Yolen

      Click Clack Moo Cows That Type

      If You Give a Mouse A Cookie

      Biscuit

      Sheila Rae The Brave by Kevin Henkes and all of his other books

      Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

    5. Hotdog not dog*

      My son LOVED Dinosaur ABC, which had a different type of dinosaur beginning with each letter of the alphabet, a picture and some basic scientific information, and the phonetic pronunciation of each dino’s name. It was a board book we received as a gift when he was an infant, and I read it to him at least 10,000 times until he was old enough to read it to himself (which he did an additional 10,000 times). He is now a teenager, and still has the book on his bookshelf.

    6. Anonymous*

      There are some really great board books with illustrations that “move”–I think the first one was Gallop.

      1. Ms. Frizzle*

        Oops, computer fail. More ideas:

        Any book by Mo Willems! I love the Pigeon books in particular.

        We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

        There’s a really nice set of bilingual board books called Lil’ Libros. Most or all of them are by Patty Rodriguez.

        The Monster at the End of this Book

        Interactive books are a lot of fun! I like Don’t Push The Button, Tap The Magic Tree, and Press Here.

        Go Away, Big Green Monster is great for littles. Definitely get a board book, it can be delicate.

        It’s Ok To Be Different, by Todd Parr

        Sheep In A Jeep, by Nancy E. Shaw

        Other favorite series: Llama Llama books by Anna Dewdney, How Do Dinosaurs books by Jane Yolen, and the original Pete the Cat books.

    7. Anonymous*

      I love this idea. My little one is 18 months and loves:
      The Very Hungry Caterpillar (board book edition)
      Dear Zoo (lift the flap)
      Where’s Spot? (Also lift the flap)
      Also the “That’s not my…” series and if your niece is religious there’s a Great for ouchy-feely book called The Funniest Animals God Ever Made.

      We also really like:
      Guess How Much I Love You
      The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom and pretty much anything else by Julia Donaldson.

    8. Anon Lawyer*

      I have a 10-month-old. Here’s my recs and anti-recs (of popular stuff that always gets recommended);

      Recommendations –
      * You Are New, by Lucy Knisley. Absolutely delightful and always makes me tear up.
      * B is for Baby, by Atinuke – beautiful illustrations and a West African setting
      * Have You Ever Tickled a Tiger – Betsy E. Snyder – the best of the touch-and-feel books I’ve found, which my baby loves.
      * Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney – this is a whole long series if she ends up liking them. I also like Llama Llama Sand and Sun because it’s another touch-and-feel book and also there’s some “Llama Llama for littles” ones that are good for a quick short world.
      * Goodnight World – art from a bunch of different NW indigenous artists; it’s beautiful.
      * Vehicles by Xavier Deneux – simple cutout cardboard shapes that are lovely and he does other similar stuff.
      * You Are Light by Aaron Becker – beautiful backlit shapes that are fun for the baby and nice simple language.
      * Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle – sweet truck plus farm animals book
      * Click Clack Moo by Doreen Cronin – baby’s first book about unions.
      * Where’s the Astronaut and Find the Unicorn both have you lift felt flaps to find things. They’re cute.

      The “That’s Not My . . .” series is everywhere and it’s ok but I’d only buy one. They’re all kind of the same. I like “That’s Not My Meerkat” because meerkats are cute.

      Anti-Red:
      * Pout-Pout Fish – this is somehow everywhere but the messaging is super weird and the rhymes are off. I left it in a book box.
      * A is for Activist – also everywhere if you’re liberal. It’s to fun to read out loud (inconsistent rhyming/scansion) and will mean nothing to any child younger than like 14. I”m not personally that interested in the message books for tiny kids but Baby Feminist, Anti-Racist Baby, and the GayBCs all seem better if you want to go that direction.

      1. Bluebell*

        So delighted someone else recommended Click Clack Moo. I loved reading that to my kiddo. Also a big fan of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. One friend gave us a Children’s literature anthology, and we liked that a lot.

    9. Jcope*

      My favorites are for a little bit older children.
      The Forgetful Bears
      Amelia Bedelia (several different stories)
      Turkey Pox (cute for Thanksgiving Prek )
      Snowmen at Night
      Little Bear series
      Franklin Series
      Curious George series
      Mr. Peabody’s Apples
      Tale of the Three Trees
      Cam Jansen series

      My favorite Christmas book for all ages is If You’re Missing Baby Jesus
      Pony Pal series
      A-Z Mysteries
      Pippi Longstocking
      Mrs. Piggle Wiggle

    10. Teatime is Goodtime*

      Some of my favorites have already been said, so here’s ones I didn’t see (or forgot by the time I got to commenting):
      -Sandra Boynton! Pretty much anything, but here are our favorites: Blue Hat, Green Hat, The Going To Bed Book, Horns to Toes and In Between, Opposites, But Not The Hippopotomus.
      -Gossie by Dunrea
      -Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
      -Freight Train by Crews
      -Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
      -We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
      -Little Blue Truck by Alice Shertle and Jill MecElmmory
      -Time for Bed by Mem Fox and Jane Dyer
      -Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
      -Little Gorilla by Ruth Bornstein
      -Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle
      -Funny Face by Nicola Smee

      And for the parents: Go the F**K to Sleep. Look it up on youtube as read by Samuel L Jackson.

    11. 00ff00Claire*

      Moo, Baa, La La La and others by Sandra Boynton are great for babies and toddlers.

      My nephew loved Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle when he was a toddler.

      The simpler Eric Carle books, such as Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? are good too.

      Dog’s Colorful Day should also work for the older toddler stage and Pete The Cat I Love My White Shoes as well.

      I Like Me by Nancy Carlson has a great theme and although its target audience is preschool, it seems to resonate with kids who are developmentally younger.

      1. Aza*

        Oh! Forgot about brown bear Brown Bear, but we have the big version with little windows that you push back and she was obsessed with it for the first 1.5 years of her life

    12. Lurker*

      Agree with others, anything by Mo Willems is great, but for toddlers, the Elephant and Piggie books are prefect. Lots of emotional intelligence and empathy there.

      Kevin Henkes is also wonderful. Egg, for 1-3 year olds, is just fantastic.

    13. CorgisAndCats*

      I love the outdoors/woods and animals so my favorite to read to my babies were Little Owl’s Night and Little Owl’s Day by Divya Srinivasan. The illustrations are cute and I love the tour of the forest at night and the day from the perspective of a little owl. I find most board books extremely boredom inducing and these keep me semi-engaged even though I have read them 100+ times. I am loving the recommendations on this thread though and will have to add to the bookshelf!

    14. Lana*

      My 2.5 y.o. loves:
      Oh No George, Chris Haughton
      Boo and Baa have Company
      Alfie books, Shirley Hughes
      Frog and Toad books, Arnold Lobel

    15. MMM<