weekend open thread – February 13-14, 2021

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: Necessary People, by Anna Pitoniak. Two friends, one rich and one who’s had to work hard for everything she has, find themselves at professional odds when they start working for the same cable news show and it becomes clear one of them only has her own interests at heart.

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

{ 1,265 comments… read them below }

  1. Laura H.*

    Little Joys Thread

    What brought you joy this week?

    I’m warm and not in the cold this weekend and there’s a virtual Valentines Day Concert by an artist I like that I’m looking forward to.

    Please share your joys.

    1. PrincessB*

      Making Valentines for my son’s preschool class. It was something non work and creative and low stakes (they’re 3 and getting candy).

    2. Christina*

      My little joy is finding a nice guy to talk to.

      I started on a couple dating apps this week for the first time (ended a 15 year relationship last year and he moved out right before the holidays). I’m really not looking for anything serious and just went to give myself time to explore what I want and practice talking to people (and considering we can’t really go anywhere or do anything…I figure this is perfect timing lol).

      I’ve been chatting with this one nice guy so far, which has felt good. But I’m so paranoid and second guessing myself! We chatted in the app for a few days, then talked on the phone for two hours yesterday and texted for another couple of hours tonight. If the weather wasn’t awful this weekend, we were going to try to meet up for a walk outside. Is this fast? Is this a normal pace? How does anyone learn to do this? Ahhh!

      1. Frenchie Too*

        Just take it a step at a time. It took me some time to learn to be on my own after my divorce. Now I’m happy with life in general. Have dated off and on, but haven’t found “Mr. Right”. Time will tell. I have learned to be happy on my own. It raises the stakes for a relationship. They have to offer a real improvement over being free and independent.
        Make sure you have a solid support system and rely on them to keep you on the right track.
        Also, ENJOY! Dating can be so much fun :)

      2. Not So NewReader*

        The advice I see that makes sense to me is to shift from on- line to in-person sooner rather than later.
        Sounds like it makes sense to meet somewhere in public now, just my thought, though.

        1. Venus*

          I also wanted to meet in person soonest, so never too soon for that.

          As to whether it’s too soon to be dating again, Frenchie has a good point of view.

          1. Christina*

            It’s a weird time to be meeting strangers in person though…which I was taking as a nice thing because it took the pressure off. Except now I would like to meet this guy!

            1. Venus*

              Oh totally fair that the situation might not allow for in person! I was just thinking that if you could make it work then that wouldn’t be rushing anything.

              I have been going on a lot of walks this past year, at a socially acceptable distance. I have coffees outside too. It might be an option for you, if there is enough interest and the logistics work out. Good luck!

              1. Christina*

                We were actually going to try to get together for an outdoor walk this weekend, but the weather is awful and we live about an hour apart, so maybe another day!

    3. Potatoes gonna potate*

      Made myself a nice steak for lunch yesterday that sadly I couldn’t finish. Nothing says treat like a well made rib eye.

    4. Zooey*

      I start my maternity leave today! I was just pondering all the things I wanted to get done this weekend and thinking I wouldn’t have time for them all, and then I realised I don’t have to! I will be able to do them next week! Hopefully I have a few weeks before baby arrives to fill up my time

      1. Amaranth*

        Congrats! After 21 years I still recall the best advice I received which was not to feel guilty about recharging YOU when baby sleeps. Sometimes I’d sit and decompress and others I’d nap. My daughter loved to watch me do chores….

          1. Chilipepper*

            Seriously, best advice ever was to sleep when the baby sleeps! And you dont have to listen to other people’s advice.

    5. Perstephanie*

      I spent a day running all my boring errands (bank-pharmacy-groceries-etc.) and at every single stop, everyone I encountered was in a lovely mood. Laughing, joking, warm smiles, kindness. These days I usually approach trips into the world like a hedgehog, a bristling ball of defensive spikes, and this day I unclenched a little.

    6. KAZ2Y5*

      The kindness of strangers. There will be a lot of snow this weekend (like most of the US, I think). Our local Jeep club is offering free rides to any healthcare workers/first responders who have to work this weekend/next week. So, although I have to work at least I can get there safely!

    7. Hotdog not dog*

      I got bored and went “shopping” in the back of my closet. Found a box of fancy scarves that belonged to my late grandmother and have been wearing them around the house. I think I might continue wearing them when I get to go places again. She loved to travel and had scarves from all over the world, some really beautiful and unique pieces! It’s like I’m walking around with artwork AND Grandma.

      1. CJM*

        I love this! I’m drawn to scarves lately and ordered two new ones yesterday as a treat. Many of my scarves carry special memories … like yours do.

      2. Joan Rivers*

        Scarves are great “bang for the buck.” Just throwing a simple scarf over your winter coat changes the look totally, you can have sweatpants on but you look pulled together. And color is so refreshing now.

    8. Just A Guy In A Cube*

      16 month old has added her second sister’s name and “bird” to her vocabulary!
      Kid 3, and I’ve had the fortune to be with them daily for the first few years each time, and I think the language acquisition has been different each time – it’s neat to find things so recognizable :)

    9. Katia*

      I had the opportunity of swimming a bit in the sea (southern hemisphere here) after two weeks of raining. I was so relaxed afterwards!
      Also, I passed an important test, and that means Im on track to be a engineer in December 2021!

    10. Ali G*

      The Dog had his annual appointment at the cardiologist for his on-going heart murmur. He’s doing great! The vet was really happy with how he’s responding to the meds. It was pretty severe when he was diagnosed, so this is great news for us! He’s over 14 so ever time we get good news I feel like we’ve earned another year!

    11. Crowley*

      There’s a long tedious back story, but, this week it has genuinely brought me joy that my appetite and urge to eat unhealthy food have been gone back to “normal” levels and I’m not feeling the urge to eat unhealthy food, or too-big portion sizes, all the time. It’s such a relief. I realise I’m a weirdo haha.

      Also some really genuinely lovely feedback in work, from someone who isn’t normally very vocal about that stuff.

    12. Puppy!*

      Puppy is maturing and more predictable. Still up at 5:00 am. For the first time in my life I am looking forward to daylight savings time.
      Her joy- playing with the neighbor puppy- dancing, leaping, running bring me joy.
      Her excitement when she discovers a “new” toy. (I am just rotating the ones in the house)
      Her human pals who make it possible for me to enjoy her- she has an 8:30 am friend, a 3:30 playdate and sometimes an 8:30 pm. walk friend bring me great joy.

    13. GoryDetails*

      Got a letter from the IRS today – and it was my second stimulus check! Hadn’t realized I was due one. [It’s not that I have any reason to fear letters from the IRS, as I keep up with my paperwork and taxes, but there’s something about seeing that return address…]

    14. Mimmy*

      -Hubby bringing home a specialty Dunkin Donuts donut with brownie batter filling

      -One issue at work suddenly resolving itself

    15. RagingADHD*

      Our guinea pigs are very sweet. We built them a good-size cage with ramps and a second level, and when they get zoomies it is hilarious.

      1. MissCoco*

        My “baby” pig (7 months old) pig is taking his first ever snooze on my lap right now (in his trusty cuddle sack). My heart is full.

        I lose it when they get the popcorns. That little mid-air wiggle cracks me up!

        1. RagingADHD*

          Putting a fresh handful of hay on top of the (still full) hay rack is guaranteed to get some popcorns out of our babies.

          They are about 5 months, best guess.

    16. Otter Dance*

      Diet is working!
      I need to lose weight before surgery, and every pound lost is a step closer to a less painful future. Grrrr to no health clubs or mall walking; I can’t risk falling on the ice and snow outside.

      1. Kuododi*

        Oooh…I’m not facing surgery but for other medical reasons, I find myself in a similar pickle regarding physical activity. If you have access to streaming services such as Amazon prime or Netflix do a keyword search for “workout” or other related terms. Both services have a plethora of video workout options. (From 10min yoga stretches to a full HIIT workout from home.). Hope this is helpful. Best wishes

        Kuododi

    17. OyHiOh*

      My partner got me tulips for Valentines Day. I adore spring bulbs. The high temp today is expected to be single digits and there’s about 3 inches of snow on the ground and there’s tulips on the table by the window. Magic.

    18. Dramamethis*

      It was my wedding anniversary this week and we were able to have lovely dinner out, (we have outdoor dining). They did a wonderful job of keeping patrons far spaced, well over 6 feet, so we felt very safe.

      It was just so nice to do something normal.

    19. StellaBella*

      It snowed about 3 inches here and I love it :) Very cold but I walked outside for 2 hours and I even got my kitty to go on the balcony and walk in it a bit and lick the snow. Such a nice Saturday.

    20. allathian*

      We’re having a proper winter, with a decent layer of snow (about a foot). So refreshing after the dark and rainy ones we’ve had in recent years.

    21. Might Be Spam*

      My daughter came over to witness my absentee ballot and brought me a heart shaped box of chocolate.
      My apartment is warm in winter. It is so nice to not freeze when I have to get up in the middle of the night. My house was freezing no matter what temperature you set on the thermostat. The cold came up through the concrete foundation and there was no basement.

    22. Susie*

      I bought a yarn bowl from our local art co-op. I hadn’t seen them at the store before so I asked if any of the potters made them. Turns out one did and ended up making several… I bought one AND the rest sold out.

      So I’m thrilled I have a new toy to make knitting easier and got to support local artists.

      I hadn’t been in the store for a while (pre COVID) and I noticed some amazing art…so have some more artists on the list to support in the future.

    23. Chaordic One*

      I know this is kind of dumb, but I did have a good laugh at the “I’m not a cat” video. I just have to appreciate the absurdity of the situation.

    24. whingedrinking*

      My partner and I are doing dry February, but we’ve decided Valentine’s is our “cheat” day and I got us a bottle of nice gamay, a little more expensive than usual since we’re saving money on booze.

      I also have my Kickstarter fully funded and I’m looking forward to starting the project once the funding comes through, which should be just as February ends. (If anybody wants to throw in for a cocktail recipe book, there’s still time! It’s here: kickstarter .com/projects/mixesforthemasses/mixes-for-the-masses ).

    25. Sister Michael, Judo Blackbelt*

      Started watching New Girl and a pair of shoes I have been eyeing are on sale plus an additional 50% off!

    26. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’m taking a solo, pandemic-safe trip to the bird refuges and Lava Beds National Monument in the Klamath area on the California-Oregon border. It’s been fun to look at maps and get excited about outdoor places to visit. Just have to pack a lot of warm clothes and raingear.

      1. NoLongerYoung*

        Sounds great – that’s a beautiful part of the state, and I miss seeing it (was there in salmon/ blackberry seasons several years).

    27. Lizzo*

      So thankful for a warm house, but also thankful for the ability to splurge on a new winter coat so that I can continue to walk outside even when we’ve got subzero windchills.
      Also thankful for the peace and quiet when I do take those walks. Only the heartiest of us are out, and we just nod acknowledgement and carry on.

    28. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My teen’s spring semester has her starting late one day a week, and she’s started making us breakfast on those days.

    29. The Other Dawn*

      I recently started crocheting again after maybe 25-30 years. I discovered Bernat velvet yarn and I love it! It’s incredibly soft and silky. I got an email the other day from Joann and the yarn was almost 50% off, plus I got free shipping. Needless to say, I bought a whole bunch in Smokey Blue so I can make a large blanket for a friend. I also bought more of the color I’m using now (Gray Orchid) since I severely underestimated how much yarn I’d need for the current project.

    30. Felicia*

      I had my first ever virtual date last night and I had fun and we both agreed we would like to do it again

    31. the cat's ass*

      What a lovely idea!
      We had take out from our local french bistro for VD/LNY and it was terrific;

      I read Necessary People and thought it was creepy good, thanks for the rec, Alison;

      Got the banking done for two girl scout troops-gotta keep that cookie $ straight!

    32. Spice for this*

      We watched Friday Night Dinners on amazon and had a good laugh! Felt very relaxed and happy after all the laughter.
      Had a day of self care on Saturday and went to the chiropractor and acupuncturist. Felt like a new person afterwards.

    33. overeducated*

      Grocery pick up. We have to hit Lowe’s, Target, AND Aldi for necessities and hopefully it’ll only take a couple hours to drive around instead of most of the day. Such a convenience, even apart from the health risk aspect.

      Also, my dad’s tiny church had “friends and family Sunday” today, my dad invited a lot of us personally, and the Zoom service was half to a third our family. He was really pleased and that gave me warm fuzzies.

    34. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I’m warm and don’t have to go out in the cold, and I fell asleep last night with my husband’s arms around me and our poodle keeping my feet warm at the foot of the bed.

    35. Dark Macadamia*

      Snow! A few weeks ago I scheduled a little one-night trip to a mountain Airbnb because it didn’t seem like we’d get snow close to home this year, and then of course the local forecast changed a couple days ago. The Airbnb was super nice though with a private hot tub, nice view, etc and we did a lot of sledding up there, then came home just in time for a ridiculous snowfall right here! This morning my family built a snow fort in the yard and I love seeing all the neighbors playing, even the adults. Lots of snowmen and silly photos and happy dogs out there today!

  2. D3*

    Just went down a huge rabbit hole! I had no idea how many different flavors of Mountain Dew there are, and no idea what a following of collectors there are. People driving across several states to snag a flavor. People shipping cases from Japan to the US for large amounts of money. A whole world I never knew!
    What internet rabbit holes have you gone down lately?

    1. username required*

      Campervans! Started looking for a small 1-2 person campervan and ended up spending hours scrolling through all manner of van conversion/renovation websites and blogs of people travelling around the world in them.

      1. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

        Username required – check out YouTube! There are some fab channels for van/SUV conversions;
        Cheaprvliving is a good start. After you watch that then others will pop up.
        Check out Boondocking as well. That’s more about purposely living in your car/SUV/rv, but I’ve gotten some great ideas for my camping set up.

    2. CJM*

      Catios! I’m determined to build one this spring. I’ll probably start with an Ikea bookcase and add wire framing and a door. There are many clever designs out there, and it’s hard to keep plans simple when I daydream. But I want to start small and make sure my cats use it before I consider expanding it.

    3. fposte*

      Lady Agnes MacDonald’s 19th century train trip across Canada, wherein she decided to sit on the cowcatcher from Alberta to BC.

        1. fposte*

          Nope! Evidently there was a little seat behind the actual cow-removal portion. She rode that thing through forest fires and across massive ravines. Her husband the prime minister seemed largely resigned.

    4. AGD*

      The history of handwriting in the U.S., especially the streamlined ways im which it used to be taught. The Spencerian script, the Palmer Method, etc. I’d hardly ever thought about this before and it turned out to be fascinating.

      1. Pippa K*

        A few months ago I happened to find an interesting tutorial on how to read “secretary hand,” the handwriting used in a lot of historical materials from the early modern era. I only very rarely use such materials for work, but it was interesting nonetheless! The tutorial is offered by one of the Yale libraries; I’ll reply with the link in case anyone is interested in this particular handwriting niche.

    5. Myrin*

      The Japanese Martime Self-Defense Force, especially their first female commander and their handlings of piracy at the Somali coast.

    6. Double A*

      Baby carriers. It’s literally the only thing I need to buy for baby #2 (our hand me down one for #1 bit the dust). I finally found one that’s exactly what I want, and it’s apparently some high demand/low supply thing that sells out immediately and there’s a huge resale market for it and the only way to get it is to join and monitor their Facebook group and I’m so annoyed. I don’t want to have to strategize to buy a necessary baby supply, I just want to be able to order it.

      So now I’m basically back to square one trying to figure out what to get.

      1. Confused Single Mom*

        I feel like I know what one you are talking about! If it is, I was able to get one with no trouble when they released a new batch so it may not be quite that bad as long as you aren’t going for a really popular color. They might also be doing a pre-order which would make it less stressful for you. Congrats on baby #2!

      2. Petticoatsandpincushions*

        Happy Baby?? If so, I love that brand! Sakura
        Bloom is a really similar style and price pojnt, and a larger company so their restocks don’t sell out as fast :)

        1. Confused Single Mom*

          That’s what I thought too! Happy Baby carriers are definitely amazing, but I’m glad to know about Sakura Bloom as well.

        2. Double A*

          Yes it’s happy baby! It does sound like preordering isn’t so bad, thanks for the input everyone!

          I’ve looked at sakura bloom but I know my husband would prefer buckles to the ring fasteners. But maybe I’ll give it another look.

    7. DataGirl*

      Thanks to a reddit thread, ‘countries where polygamy is legal’. Spoiler- it is WAY more than you’d think.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Historic costumers and costume historians who are looking at histories too long overlooked. I grabbed a bunch of instagram hashtags from a recent post if you want to join me.
      I got caught by history when a teacher first talked about common people: “it wasn’t all kings & queens. Farmers, craftsmen, cooks, housekeepers–how did THEY live?” I’m glad to see that expand.
      #reenactorsofcolor #bipocreenactors #blackreenactor #cocktailsandcostuming #inclusivecostuming
      #costuming #bipoccostumers #poccostumers #costumersofcolor
      #costumingincolor #inclusivecostuming
      #historicalcostuming #historicalreenactment
      #historicalinterpretation
      #livinghistory #inclusivehistory
      #labelladonnahistory #LBDhistorical
      #bipoc #poc

    9. Yellow Warbler*

      I looked up why Christopher Walken speaks the way he does, and before I knew it I was spending hours reading about phonemes and ESL language acquisition.

    10. Roy G. Biv*

      An apartment rental agency in Paris, with videos of the apartments. I keep freezing on the view out the window to try to spot landmarks. And then sitting slack jawed when I check the rental price. And no, I am not planning a trip to France. A rabbit hole indeed!

  3. Skeeder Jones*

    I don’t remember all the names of the different cats but the grey one is definitely judging me for some of my life choices lol

    1. tangerineRose*

      If you click on the picture, you’ll see their names. The gray one is Wallace and the black one is Laurie. Wallace looks pretty confident.

  4. PrincessB*

    Vegetarian/plant based life continues (week 5 coming up). Thank you to all the people a couple weeks ago who helped me realize I want getting enough protein and posted awesome recipes! I tried and failed to get into making my own green smoothies. I bought a premade green juice from the store that’s not bad, but if anyone has recommendations please share.

    1. Lena Clare*

      Congrats!
      Spinach tofu curry (in place of paneer):
      For the tofu ‘paneer’:
      1 block (300 g) extra-firm tofu, pressed and cut into cubes
      1 teaspoon ground cumin
      1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
      1 tablespoon vegetable oil

      SPINACH CURRY
      4 cups firmly packed (250 g) spinach leaves, or 1½ cups (200 g) thawed frozen spinach
      ½ cup (125 ml) vegetable stock
      1 cup (250 ml) plant milk
      1 small white onion, diced
      4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
      2.5 cm ginger, finely chopped
      1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced
      1 large tomato, diced
      ½ teaspoon salt
      1–2 teaspoons white sugar
      1 teaspoon garam masala
      2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

      soy cream or vegan yoghurt, shredded ginger and lime wedges, to garnish

      Put everything in the blender for the spinach curry, then when it is as smooth as you can get it heat it at a simmer in a saucepan for 10 minutes. While it is cooking, coat the pressed tofu pieces in the nutritional yeast and cumin and fry them till crispy, turning often.
      Serve on top of the spinach curry in a bowl with the garnishes.
      I have made this without the sugar and salt and it is absolutely delicious still.
      The above recipe (from Sasha Gill) states that it serves 4 people but honestly I think it serves 2 generously.

      And as for protein: you can get complete protein from a pulse and a grain, so beans on toast or hummus and pitta bread for example. It is rare that we in the West would have a protein deficiency because of the variety of our diets.
      The main thing is to get enough of plant-based vitamin D (sunshine and supplements for me), B12 which I get from nutritional yeast and in cereals and plant milk, and omega 3 oils. Plant-based DPA/EPA supplements help me with the latter.

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      Have you read the book “How Not To Die”? It’s a doorstop, but loads of useful information on plant based living. We’re still omnivores, but I’m slowly steering my family towards plant based.

    3. Otter Dance*

      Boca Crumbles. I toss them into rice or pasta dishes to add protein and sort-of-meat flavor.
      They’re sold as a substitute for browned ground beef. It’s kind of like carob – fine if you don’t expect real chocolate.
      I’m not vegetarian myself; I just find them more convenient than thawing and browning a whole package of ground beef when I only want a little.

    4. Jack Russell Terrier*

      Quinoa is a complete protein. Make a quinoa bowl! Add a simple sauce of your choice – or not, just a squeeze of lemon.

      I make lots of roasted veg – they go in so many things.

      1. Chilipepper*

        If it helps, there is no need to worry about complete proteins. That is a made up idea. An early proponent of organism thought the concept made her work sound more scientific so she used it. Our bodies maintain a “protein pool” so as long as you are eating a variety of foods the body digests the food and stores the amino acids for use as needed. It even recycles the leftover amino acids when they are used for a body process.

        For most people, if you eat a variety of foods and enough calories, you are getting enough protein.

        I second the book rec, How Not to Die, by Dr.bGregor. And Eat to Live by Dr Fuhrman.

        Dr. Gregor has a website, nutritionfacts.org that has great videos. The Bristol Stool scale is not to be missed.

    5. The Other Dawn*

      I’ve made this recipe before and it’s delicious. In my opinion, the coconut oil is what really makes this dish. It calls for shrimp, but you could just leave it out or maybe add tofu instead. It also calls for eggs. I’m not sure if you eat those or not, but I’m sure you could leave them out and the dish wouldn’t suffer, or maybe there’s something else that can be subbed. If you don’t want to grate cauliflower you could just buy the riced stuff in the freezer section.

      https://www.cherryonmysundae.com/2014/01/cauliflower-fried-rice.html

  5. In the wrong*

    Hopefully this counts as non-work related. Have y’all ever seen a post here that you really think might have been about you? Or maybe you know for sure? I found one from summer 2019, before I started reading this page, that I REALLY think may have been about me. The timing lines up, and it wasn’t exactly flattering lol. It was a common enough situation that it could have been about someone else, but it definitely made me uncomfortable, and would have been a wake up call if I’d seen it while that situation was happening! It got me wondering if anyone else has suspected or actually know that someone wrote in about them.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      No, but I read a Dear Prudence chat letter that I think may have been written by my husband’s coworker’s wife (his coworker had recovered from cancer but was also using that as a reason to check out of work and home life before and after). My husband agreed.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Not here. But decades ago I read an Ann Landers letter that I swear was written by my mother. If that was the case, Ann really blew it. The fact that I still remember this kind of makes me think my intuition was on target.

    3. anon4this*

      I had an internally uncomfortable situation with a letter to Captain Awkward a while ago. I didn’t write it, or ask anyone else to write it, or even make the suggestion. But it sounded like it was from me about a situation with a close friend. I’m not ready to rule out freak coincidence, but I’ve been wondering whether one of our mutual friends sent the letter and “anonymized” the details by making it sound like I wrote it rather than them.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I think that’s why advice columns have such a broad appeal. Human problems often fall into the same patterns, so we can identify with different people in a situation.

        1. Sue*

          I’ve seen some that I could have written about my spouse but never any about myself. What does that say about my (lack of?) self awareness..

    4. Coenobita*

      Not quite the same, but I’m like 99% certain that I attended one of the submissions for “worst holiday office party” a few years back. There were just too many specific details for it to be a coincidence!

    5. twocents*

      Nothing about me or anyone I know, but as I’ve gotten older and had more varied experiences, I’ve seen situations that are familiar to me reflected in more posts. It actually makes me really grateful that AAM enforces an “assume good intent” standpoint. I had to step away from Carolyn Hax’s commenters yesterday after one of them assumed a LW was lying and they did a dog pile about what a secretly terrible person they must be.

    6. Just Another Manic Millie*

      At a former company, my co-worker Fergus was always very friendly towards me, and I liked him. A number of our co-workers noticed, and they kept urging me to ask Fergus out on a date. (Both of us were single.) Then one day, I read a letter in Carolyn Hax’s discussion forum that really appeared to have been written by Fergus. The LW went on and on about how there was a woman at work that he liked. The more I read, the more convinced I was that the letter was written by Fergus. And then I read, “I’m afraid that she’s going to ask me out on a date, and I don’t want to date her! What should I do?” I don’t remember what Carolyn said, but I never dared ask Fergus out after that. And he never asked me out. But we were still very friendly afterwards.

    7. Potatoes gonna potate*

      no but I am always paranoid about that.

      Once I saw a really awful glassdoor review and I could have sworn they were talking about me. The former employee had blasted half the company and management. Everyone knew who had written it and it was someone who I had been friendly with and worked under me briefly. She had written something that hit my biggest insecurity at that job.

    8. anon24*

      Not about me, but I once saw a comment in the open thread that was written by a family member. It was really specific to a certain situation and the writing style was definitely theirs. They also commented using their first name. I simply passed by and never mentioned it to them, but it’s made me super cautious of commenting here because I don’t know if they still read this site and I don’t want them identifying me.

    9. Professor Plum*

      I did recognize a situation in a comment a few years ago and could tell who from my workplace had written it. Checked in and it was indeed the person I thought it was. Didn’t know if others from our company read AAM but she did change her username going forward.

    10. DataGirl*

      It hasn’t happened yet, but whenever I open an AITA reddit post written from the perspective of offspring about their parent(s) I am always worried I’m going to find it was written by one of my kids.

    11. Lovecraft Beauty*

      A while back, I interviewed someone and I’m absolutely certain they posted on the Work Open Thread that week about the experience.

  6. MissGirl*

    How do you sustain a friendship with someone with depression when you’re struggling too?

    I have a close friend, and I don’t have many, who has been flaking out every time we make plans. We were supposed to meet up first thing in the morning for a hike and she just texted me (11 pm) that’s she not feeling well. She asked if we could reschedule, and I said, no. We’ve been scheduling stuff and it never works out so I told her just let me know when she’s feeling up to something and we’ll go then, but we keep planning stuff that isn’t happening. She’d even confirmed time and place this afternoon so I was frustrated that she did this again.

    Then she told me she’s in a depression what with COVID and living alone and work troubles, which I get because of COVID and I live alone and I’m damn lonely. So I’m trying not to be mad at her but I’m also not trying to cry because I was really looking forward to tomorrow. I’m also angry because I could’ve gone with some other people to a nearby lake to birdwatch but now it’s too late to find someone to take care of my puppy. If she’d let me know at a decent time, I could’ve swung it, but now I will be spending Saturday alone—again. I feel like she manages to do stuff with her boyfriend whom she only met a few months ago but I can’t get her to go for a walk.

    So I don’t know how to move forward. If I’m understanding, it feels like I’m swallowing my own feelings. If I’m mad and express it, I’m hurting someone who’s depressed. If I just sit back and do nothing, I lose another friend and I don’t have many. At my age most women are married with kids and disappear as soon as that happens. I’m trying to develop other friendships but you know, COVID.

    1. tangerineRose*

      Are there other ways you can spend time together that don’t involve getting together? Maybe that will be easier to arrange. Zoom or phone calls?

      1. MissGirl*

        She sometimes responds to my calls but sometimes doesn’t. I hate to be the one always reaching out if I’m only bothering her.

    2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I think Carolyn Hax had a question about this recently – she probably is depressed but she’s also treating you badly. I would say leave the ball in her court and don’t schedule anything with her where you need her to show up (you could let her know stuff you are doing anyway if you want to). Maybe she will come around or maybe not, but she’s not in a position to be your friend right now. Drop your end of the rope.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Honestly, I think this can vary. When I I think of my long-term friensdhips…..sometimes we’ve gone through periods where one person was doing more ‘work’ than the other, but most of them have evened out over the long-term and been worth it!

        That said, some people will never pick up their side of the rope and it can be better to end those relationships. So it really depends on what the friendship has been like and what OP is looking for.

      2. username required*

        Yes – I’ve come to similar conclusion with an old friend. It hurts to lose the friendship but I can’t continue to put up with being treated badly. Attempts to discuss the reasons for repeated cancellations are brushed off so I dropped the rope and haven’t heard from her since.

      3. RC Rascal*

        This. As unpleasant as it is to consider this, it sounds to me like she doesn’t want to be friends anymore and is using the depression as an excuse. She thinks that claiming depression is a nice out, and it saves her from communicating honestly and potentially dealing with conflict. You are being nice and supportive, and therefore are missing the hints she is throwing out. My guess is she got a last minute better offer, probably from the boyfriend, and dumped you. It’s the adult version of the teenage girl who declines a date by telling him she needs to last minute babysit her little brother.

        I would stop investing time in this person and see what she does. (My guess is she will just let the friendship drop). This is very painful for you but probably better to know, so you can concentrate on people who may become better sources of friendship, such as the birdwatchers.

        1. Rose*

          I don’t think it sounds like this at all. It could be, but this is also just what depressed people often do. I think if she was trying to slow fade her she’d say she was too depressed to make plans.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      It can help to relax your expectations. If you start out with the assumption that she’s going to cancel plans, how would you change your approach. Some ideas

      – make plans that involve her joining you for something you would do anyways. If she cancels, you still have something to do that you want to do, and if she unexpectedly shows up, it’s a bonus.

      – feel free to cancel if something else comes up. So if your friends ask you bird watching and you would want to go if you didn’t have plans with her, agree to the birdwatching and cancel on your friend. I know this is the exact opposite of normal etiquette (you don’t cancel a social engagement when something better comes up), but if she’s cancelling at the last minute more than half of the time you make plans, it’s the established pattern in your friendship – both of you should be able to take advantage of it. The other option is to only make last minute plans (ie, on less than a day’s notice), so you aren’t blocking time out for her that could be taken by more reliable engagements.

      – don’t make plans for things where you will be really disappointed if they cancel, or where you’ll be out money or time as a result.

      Basically, you want to lower the frustration level to a point where you are okay keeping up with the friendship that she’s able to give. Your current system is making you resentful and feeling like you’re being taken advantage of, and if you keep it up, it will kill the friendship completely.

      1. KeinName*

        i agree. OP is already doing this with letting their friend arrange the next meeting, and is signaling that she is still willing to spend time with them if they do the work, so that‘s a good approach I‘d say.
        What would you recommend in terms of minimizing potential for frustration with a friend who is always late? That‘s my personal problem – i.e. I come to pick her up and she let‘s me wait 20 minutes in front of her house…

        1. AcademiaNut*

          For chronically late people, I find you’re either dealing with people who don’t care as long as they’re not the once inconvenienced, and people who really do struggle being on time even when it matters.

          For the second case, I arrange things so their lateness doesn’t affect me adversely – so I can wait in comfort, or start the activity even if they’re not there yet (and I never risk money on their lateness – they can buy tickets separately). So no offering rides, no reservations at places that require the entire part to be there, and if they’re invited to a meal, I serve it at the time I said I will, even if they’re not there yet.

          For the first case, I’ll make it their problem. After the first 20 minute wait, I’d either stop giving them rides, or give them five minute and then leave. If their lateness becomes their problem rather than yours, they’ve got an incentive to be on time. That sort of lateness is a pet peeve of mine, so I’d be perfectly willing to deal with the fallout of them being mad because I’m not putting up with it.

          1. KeinName*

            Thanks for your thoughts! Yeah, it makes me rage-y too and I haven‘t found a way to deal. We did what you suggested with the home cooked meal once, and were each finished with our portions and about to start on hers when she finally showed up :-) Probably should have eaten it, as a teachable moment, haha.
            I can‘t very well start on walks on my own, since I‘d be halfway up the hill once she arrives… and that‘s the only thing possible at the moment. Well, I‘ll just hold off on meetings for the time being.

            1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

              If the walking part (versus scenery) is important, could arrange to meet at a school track and walk your loops while you wait. Or meet at a park where you can bird watch or have a thermos of coffee until she gets there. Or start at your house so you can watch TV or move through some laundry. If you really want to do it that is.

          2. Esmeralda*

            Or, you just fib about time. For many years I’d say to my husband, we need to leave by X time. X = 30 minutes before we actually to leave. He’d be late, he’d apologize, and I’d very cheerfully say, well, it’s not too bad, only 30 minutes off.

        2. Pond*

          Lateness is sometime I struggle with, largely because growing up my family was always late to everything – not that we didn’t care, but that mentally couldn’t get ourselves together for anything.
          One strategy which I find helpful on both ends (as the person running late and as the on time person waiting) is to have different time expectations than are agreed upon.
          For example, if I arrange to meet a friend, I tell myself that the meeting is half an hour earlier than arranged with my friend, so being 30 mins late by my calendar is being on time for my friend (because I care, but it’s really hard).
          On the other side, anything I plan to do with my family I assume they will be late. So if ex. we’re going somewhere it’s really important to be on time, I will tell them half an hour earlier than the actual time. If we’re going somewhere time doesn’t really matter (ex. going for a walk) then I mentally plan/expect them to be half an hour late, so I am not [as] bothered by it. As AcademiaNut suggested, I make sure I can wait in comfort, and since I expect them to be 30 mins late, if they’re less late than that it’s a pleasant surprise. Sometimes I will also do the opposite of what I do when I need myself to not be late, and arrive to something 20 mins late because I know they’re going to be 30 mins late, so I don’t have to wait as long. This is a tricky thing because it risks you being late the one time they’re ever on time, reinforcing their pattern of lateness. However, it can work if it’s something you know for certain. For example, at the time you would need to leave to be on time, call and ask for a realistic time estimate. If they just rolled out of bed you know there’s no point in rushing yourself because it’s going to be awhile.

          1. KeinName*

            Also very good (if risky, since I get stressed when late myself) suggestions! Thanks!
            I think my friend is similar to your family

        3. Jay*

          My dearest friend is never – and I mean never – on time. I am often early. I realized a few years ago that this was not a reflection of her feelings for me. She really wants to see me and she tries her best. Her best is 20 minutes late. It just is. I love her and want her in my life….so now I expect her to be at least 20 minutes late. In the pre-pandemic days, if we went to a movie or a concert, I went on my own, got there on time, and she had her own tickets and showed up whenever she showed up. Any other plans I just adjust in my head. I won’t make a date with her for lunch at 12:00 unless I know I can stay until 1:30. I look at the 20 minutes I’m waiting as found time to read or catch up on Facebook or do a puzzle.

          For Thanksgiving or something like that, we sit down to dinner without them (her husband is worse than she is). I used to tell them dinner was a half-hour earlier than I intended but now I just figure there will still be food.

          So basically I put her lateness in the “beyond my control” bucket and figured out how I could stay connected to her without being pissed off all the time. There are other people like this who I’m not close enough to or don’t click with enough to take the trouble, and I’ve drifted away from them.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, I drifted away from a friend who was always late when I found that my annoyance with her being late spoiled the fun of seeing her. That said, I think that our friendship withered through changed circumstances as well. She was a great friend when I was unemployed or underemployed and she was making good money. She’d buy me coffee and dinner and never expected anything in return. But when I started working as well, she got flakier and flakier with her lateness. In the end, the friendship just petered out.

        4. Caroline Bowman*

          Do not wait. I know, it feels awful, but beyond a few minutes (which is reasonable), do not wait.

          Ideally don’t make plans that involve you picking her up or being stuck and waiting on her. I cannot bear that, it’s so, so selfish and arrogant. I know some people do genuinely battle with time keeping, but when it’s important, they generally don’t. Thus you are not important enough to make the effort for, repeatedly. This is unacceptable to me personally.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, me too. The friend I mentioned above was working in a high-stress job and making a six-figure salary two years out of college. She was happy to buy me coffee and dinner for a sum that would have me eating for at least three days when I was on a tight budget and she never begrudged me that but was only happy that she could treat me. At the time, I was mostly unemployed so I didn’t really mind having to wait for her sometimes, because she was mostly either on time or at the most 15 minutes late and I could handle that. But when I started working as well and could afford to pay my own way, she got flakier and flakier. Of course, that’s also around the time when both of us got our cell phones, so it was much easier to reschedule. I found that in my busier life I was less dependent on her company and less willing to put up with her inability to be on time with me. It wasn’t even her job that usually caused the delays, or at least she very rarely blamed her lateness on the job. That said, what finally caused us to drift apart was probably when I had my son. She came to see me once when I was on maternity leave and my son was about 7 months old and didn’t stay long.

    4. Professor Plum*

      I once had a friend who always canceled. My solution was to always plan group activities so that she could cancel, but I still had others to spend time with.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, I did the same with a friend who was struggling with her mental health. She wanted to see me and our other friends, but sometimes she just couldn’t.

    5. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I don’t think there’s any one ‘right’ answer to this question. Long-time relationships go through blooms and fallow periods, and you may just be in a quiet period with this relationship.

      If this is someone who has been there for you in the past, and whom you value having in your life, then I think there’s some opportunity to position yourself as the “reacher out” for awhile. On the other hand, if this is a newer relationship or if this is part of a long-standing pattern, then you may decide not to do so.

      If I were in your shoes, I might do some reflection on my own feelings and anger (how much is about her? how much is about the situation? how much of our relationship is about what I want from her, and how much is about what she wants from me?). Depending on what surfaced, I might decide to share some of that with her, or I might set it aside.

      Then I might transition to low-effort points of contact (sharing an email or text, rather than scheduling things). One of my friends is currently going through a separation and possible divorce. I know she doesn’t have a lot of emotional bandwidth, so I let her know explicitly that I’ll just be texting her now and again to check in, with no pressure on her end to respond. Which basically amounts to a weekly sharing of an update or recommendation of a particular TV show. I’d say she’s responding about 33% of the time, and sometimes these responses lead to pretty long phone conversations that are really enjoyable for me.

      That said — you probably wouldn’t want to be in a supportive position like that forever. Right now it seems like she can’t meet your needs, so it’s best to focus on building other friendships. Being the ‘reacher outer’ should only a temporary state to keep the momentum going — but if it makes you feel exhausted or resentful, it’s probably not worth it!

      1. Washi*

        I agree. I think there’s a lot of middle ground between wearing yourself out for her and writing the friendship off all together.

        It might help to just really focus on reaching out when you miss her, not because it’s been a certain amount of time, she should have done it already, etc. Like if normally she would reach out once a month and you would reach out once a month, you don’t have to now get in touch twice a month to make up for her. Once a month (or whatever) is fine or less is fine, if you’re feeling annoyed and want to take a break!

        I think it also helps to think of my friends’ company as a gift I give myself, in the sense that if I reach out and now we’re having fun, that’s a win. I used to feel like it almost doesn’t “count” if I was the one to initiate and felt kinda pathetic if I felt like I was doing more, but I’ve tried to let go of that because it just made me crazy and sad.

        Basically, I think you should focus on what you want at any given moment (miss her? Send a text! Feeling grumpy? Don’t do anything) and trust that the rest will sort itself out friendship-wise.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      A couple suggestions:

      I know Saturdays were a big deal to me for a while. I needed A Plan for Saturdays. I didn’t feel this strongly about any other day. If this resonates with you, then one thing you can do is ONLY make plans with reliable people for Saturday. Decide this is YOUR day and you WILL be doing something. Pick people accordingly.

      You may find that once you have done what you need to do to keep yourself up and running, her cancelations will be less of an impact. So if you go this route, you may have the wiggle room to see where this puts your friendship with this person.

      For myself, I have noticed I do not need a ton of friends. Just a few friends who are constants in my life keep me PLENTY busy. My point here is try to make the thing about friendships less huge in your mind- try to remember that friendships require time and it won’t take a ton of people to fill up your open time slots.

      Another small activity that is good to do is decide to look around with fresh eyes. You probably have a person or more who is always friendly to you and you have not noticed. Take the time to notice the friendly people, especially ones who inquire about specifics such as how’s the pup or other relevant thing in your life.

      I think that moving forward involves changing what you are doing in some manner and probably tweaking what you are doing that you decide to keep doing. I am a fan of making one change at a time. Then I can see how that change is working out for me. There is a whole huge area between being mad and sitting back to do nothing. Try not to skate by that fact. Perhaps set a modest goal of making one small change a week in your life/activities and see how that goes.

      FWIW, it’s fine to be mad. If’s also fine to be conflicted about being mad because she’s human and no different than you or the rest of us in that regard. It’s fine to cry. Anger and tears often pair up with each other. I tend to believe that when an angry person cries then they are really dealing with the nuts and bolts of the matter. Anger can tend to be a crutch that prevents us from dealing with something that perhaps we need to deal with. So let the anger out (take a brisk walk if safe to do so), let the tears out and just accept that you are human and your emotions can be complex.

      1. MissGirl*

        You’re right about Saturdays. They are my one day to have fun so I if I make plans based on her then I’m a lot more disappointed than if it was a random Tuesday. I think I’ll not plan things with her on Saturday but invite her to group things. I am fine with a few friends but it seems like this is a repeat pattern with past friendships.

    7. Natalie*

      Not entirely disconnected thoughts/questions:

      “If I’m mad and express it, I’m hurting someone who’s depressed.” The metric is not, and cannot, be “does expressing this feeling hurt someone who’s depressed”. Lots of things can hurt other people through no fault of our own. *Especially* when we’re depressed! Obviously don’t rage at her, but I don’t think you should avoid saying you’re disappointed in some misguided effort to protect her mental health.

      In another comment you worry that continuing to reach out might bother her. Similarly, can that be her problem to solve?

      Given both of those worries are about how she might react, is it possible that you’re framing something else as worry about hurting her – don’t want her to think poorly of you, don’t want to become resentful, don’t want to inspire a more direct conversation that could be hurtful?

      Assuming you, ya know, actually enjoy her friendship, I think there’s value in trying to stay in touch even if this era isn’t one where you can get together. What about sending her mail occasionally? You don’t need to write out a long heartfelt letter, it could be a card you think she’d like, print out an old snapshot and send it, if you make art send a small art.

    8. Caroline Bowman*

      I’m afraid the depression thing sounds a bit like an excuse for flakiness.

      Obviously depression can lead to isolating oneself and being kind and understanding is or should be our default, but if she is doing stuff with her new boyfriend and her depression is such that she knows she won’t feel well a day in advance of something, then that sounds like flakiness.

      You did the right thing to say that when she finds herself able, she can give you a call and you can arrange something then. Your feelings and loneliness count too. You weren’t mean or nasty, you simply drew a boundary, a simple one of ”no it’s actually not okay because this keeps happening and in this case, I lost out on an opportunity to do something with other people, which doesn’t help *my* depression and loneliness”. You’re allowed to express your entirely reasonable feelings in a fair and polite way. Feeling depressed and low is not a blank checque to be regularly flaky. It just isn’t.

      Lean back and do things with those other people, be friendly and available for a chat as and when, but don’t reach out too much yourself. However much it is un-PC to say it, reciprocity is a requirement in most relationships. Not bean-counting, but a general sense of give and take.

    9. Frankie Bergstein*

      I struggle with this too, and something that helped me recently was advice from an NYT article. In particular, this list of characteristics that are needed as a foundation for close friendship hit home (and allowed me to back off of a friendship that had gone quiet):

      1. Create a foundation of security (hint: Answer that text)
      Before we can attempt closeness, we need to have security. Through his research, Dr. Levine has identified the five foundational elements of secure relationships, which he refers to as CARRP.

      Consistency (Do these friends drift in and out of my life on a whim?)

      Availability (How available are they to spend time together?)

      Reliability (Can I count on them if I need something?)

      Responsiveness (Do they reply to my emails and texts? Do I hear from them on a consistent basis?)

      Predictability (Can I count on them to act in a certain way?)

      To find the article, please search for “How to Have Closer Friendships (and Why You Need Them)”

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        I love this list!! It’s absolutely true and right. It isn’t ”one thing” that makes someone a good bet to have as a friend, it’s a mix of things and of course varies over time and circumstance. I don’t, for example, expect someone who has just had a baby to be free to go out on a moment’s notice (non-pandemic times obv), while they might well have been the most spontaneous and available friend before. But it’s a trend over time that’s the thing to keep track of loosely.

    10. RagingADHD*

      Maybe you can meet up with the birdwatching friends after they’ve had a chance to see some, and take the puppy with you. Friends + lake + puppy is still a good outing! Not conducive to birdwatching, but a good add-on afterwards.

    11. MissGirl*

      Thanks for everyone’s advice. I think the hardest thing is I’ve lost so many friendships to either marriage (and they disappear) or me being the only one reaching out (so I drop my end and they disappear). It’s really, really hard to know that I’m in that same boat again.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, it’s sad how often that happens. Some people when they get married just can’t seem to keep singles in their social circle any more, it’s as if they’re afraid on some level that their partner will prefer their friend over them, or something. And given the number of cases where someone lost their partner and their best friend at the same time because the partner was unfaitful to them with the best friend, it’s not an entirely misplaced fear. Exaggerated, yes, but not completely irrational.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        You may find some relief by deciding that people come in and go out of our lives often. I like the saying, “Friends for a reason, a season or a lifetime.” The last type is very rare. The saying has helped me a lot. Just because a person has moved on does not automatically mean their involvement in our lives was without purpose. I like thinking about that. I sort of have this patchwork quilt of friendships that have somehow carried me through my days and through my seasons.

        You may find it helpful to wish well for those who have moved on. I know this sounds like a silly exercise. I did find it healing in some small ways- because, let’s face it, it hurts when people move on without even a good-bye. Oddly, I became more apt to believe that where ever they were they might be wishing me well, also.

        You could make a deliberate effort to enjoy the company of those around you for today. Staying more in current time and letting go of what the future might or might not hold may provide some relief also. Some nights I get myself to nod off to sleep by making lists of what I am grateful for. I see that spending more time appreciating who is active in my life today, can let me feel a peace or a contentment somehow.

        In short, just realizing that people enter and exit our lives is a normal life experience can be a good way to make life feel a little more balanced and a little less unpredictable.

    12. Tea and Sympathy*

      You say that you don’t want to lose this friend, so I think you need to figure out how to make this work for you.

      You got some good suggestions above on the flakiness thing, so I won’t add to that, except to say that I went through a period of depression/anxiety in the past and I was that flaky friend. I felt really bad about it, but I also sometimes just couldn’t make myself do things that I wanted to do and that I knew I would enjoy with people who I really like. I had one friend who was very good about inviting me places without pressure. She would tell me that she was going to do something at some specific time, and if I wanted to join her to just let her know, and even if I let her know yes, she would double check beforehand in a gentle and understanding way. Most of the time I did meet her, because the lack of pressure made it easier. I know things are hard for everyone now, but it’s possible that she is doing the best she can right now.

      My sister is chronically late. I used to get really annoyed with her. Then I finally decided that it was silly of me to always be inconvenienced when she was the one who was late, and silly to be annoyed when I knew she would be late. So I just started doing what I wanted to do, and then stopped when she showed up. So if she said she would be over in an hour, I would go ahead and run errands, each lunch, whatever I would have done anyway. It worked so much better than just waiting and getting angry. So for your walk, since your walk is about fresh air and exercise anyway, I would recommend just starting on your walk without her. When she gets there she can text you; she can start walking, you can turn around and come back and meet her, then you can go the rest of the way together – cheerfully. Don’t think of this as punishment. Or take a book or something else to do. But plan for what you want to do until she gets there.

      Finally, I have a few friends who never take the initiative in planning things, and even rarely in texting. I don’t know why this is. But when I really thought about it (I went through the normal process of wondering if they really valued our friendship), I realized that they let me know in other ways, much more subtle ways, that they valued our friendship – like remembering something important to me or just saying in some way that I was important to them. Sometimes things balance, but in different ways.

      Sorry this got so long! But non-toxic people that we really like are valuable, so I would give it some more time, while still being thoughtful about how you feel about the friendship.

      1. Sunday Fundays*

        I think this is good advice. The “reason, season, lifetime” quote has been so spot on in my life. I remember so many friends fondly, even if I haven’t talked to them in 10 or more years.

        I have been the flaky friend. And I’ve been the friend who has been flaked on. Sometimes friendship survive the break, sometimes they don’t. From talking with other friends and from my own experience friendship is cyclical and is going to have ups and down and different levels of interaction.

        I have some 20+ year friends I might talk to weekly at times and at other times we go 3 months without talking. I have some friends I have known for 2 years that are the same way. Kind of depends on where we are in our lives and what time of year it is.

        I also agree with Tea there are ways to reframe a changed friendship without losing it’s meaning. Maybe you go from doing everything together to only doing a few things. I am single and childless, and my friendships with people who start dating or have kids changes, but I have maintained friendships with these people and I still consider some my closest friends. Spending time =/= closeness. I just reset my own expectations. Knowing if the situation were reversed I would probably have to make changes as well.

        Best of luck with this OP!

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, I’ve also been the flaky friend (bad relationship and pre-breakup depression) and I’m very lucky in that I haven’t lost any friends because of this. There was also a period when all of my friends seemed to be dating, getting married, and settling down, and I was single. I’m glad that my friends never excluded me from any activities for that reason, but it did mean that there was a period in my life when I wanted to see my friends more often than they wanted to see me, but then I met my husband and we were more or less at the same stage in life, so being friends with them has been pretty effortless for years now. Before COVID we used to meet on average about once a month or so, and that was fine.

  7. tangerineRose*

    Do you have favorite sites to learn about birds? I’m mostly trying to learn more about the birds I see in my backyard (in the Pacific Northwest). Searching for “bird with brown stripes” doesn’t seem like it will work that well.

    1. chi chan*

      iNaturalist is a good app for all kinds of animals. If you post a picture of a bird their AI should give you a name. Otherwise one of the people on the site would id it.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      The free Merlin smartphone app is a fantastic resource for beginning birders. It’s customizable by area, and has an easy to use search function to narrow down the species (colour, shape, size, where you saw it), and then shows you pictures of possible matches.

      The eBird website/app is more comprehensive, but also great. It’s basically a giant database of birders’ reports with an interface that lets you search by region or hotspot, showing the most recently seen birds. Look at the bar chart tab to get plots of what birds you see at different times of year, and how likely they are in your region, click on birds to get species descriptions, pictures and sounds, see maps of where birds were seen…

      1. Generic Name*

        Seconding Merlin! It’s much easier to use than a traditional field guide (which requires you to be able to identify a bird to the family, which isn’t a beginner level skill).

        1. pancakes*

          The Audubon guide I mentioned doesn’t, fwiw – one of the reasons we find it so useful is that you can look up the bird by characteristics: is it gull-like, duck-like, is it a tree-clinging bird or a perching bird, etc.

    3. Cabbagepants*

      Welcome to birding! It’s a really fun hobby and can be very rewarding if you’re into nature or treasure-hunting type activities.

      Most US States have at least one Facebook group dedicated to birding in that state. I live in a pretty boring state and our FB Birding group is still amazing and really active. People welcome newbies and are really great about giving bird ID help.

      For other resources, I’d add the allaboutbirds website and Sibley if you want a physical book.

    4. pancakes*

      We mostly use the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Birds of North America for trying to ID birds, but there are lots of youtube live-stream feeder cams where people identify birds in the comments, and you might want to start there before investing in a book. Try searching for bird feeder cam live.

    5. GoryDetails*

      I usually go old-school, with the Peterson books – I’m on the east coast so I use the one for eastern birds, but there’s one for western birds as well. I prefer their illustrations to the photograph-styles of other guides, as it makes it easier for me to see the different markings.

      That said, even after many years of watching birds, the “little brown jobs” – the many varieties of small birds with similar shapes and colors – still evade me. “Probably a sparrow of some kind” is the best I can usually do, unless I get a REALLY clear view!

      For other resources, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site has lots of info; don’t know if there’s a specific app referenced there but it should include some helpful bits.

      1. Generic Name*

        Just so you know, professional biologists have the same issue and we make jokes about it. If you don’t come back from a field survey without at least 1 “unknown” or “unknown sparrow” you’re probably making up at least some of your IDs :)

      2. MissCoco*

        I was just going to say Peterson!
        My partner got me one for Christmas, and it’s been great. Super user friendly once you get to the point where you can identify approximate types/body shapes, and I really like have it gives similar birds so I can cross reference if I’ve gotten them right

      3. AcademiaNut*

        The field guides can be a bit intimidating for the novice because they have *everything*. It takes a while to figure out what’s most likely in a particular time and place, which is where the apps are useful. I find that the apps aren’t too useful for me now that I’ve gotten better at IDing (plus, it’s only in the last year or two that English apps for my region have become available). These days, if I can’t ID a bird right off, I either didn’t get a close look at it, or it’s unusual enough not to pop up in the app, or I’m dealing with subtle distinctions between species or variations in juvenile/molting plumage.

        My stumbling block is seagulls. Multiple plumages, lots of hybridization, and often seen at a distance. Also the recent species splits based on DNA – they split the Arctic warbling into Arctic/Japanese Leaf/Kamachata Leaf warblers, with overlapping ranges, based on DNA, and the best way to tell them apart in the field is to… get a DNA sample.

    6. OyHiOh*

      I use the Audubon Society app on my phone. The “ID a Bird” function starts with the state you live in, and the month, and then you can select color(s), size, habitat, wing or tail shape, and flight pattern to narrow down the bird you saw. The information is extensive and includes the bird’s usual calls and their feeding and nesting habits. You can also record sightings of birds you’ve seen, with photos if you like.

    7. Sam I Am*

      The app birdnet is part of the Cornell lab, and it helps id the bird by call. You record it ( make sure your location is on in your phone) and it will show you a pic of the bird so you know what to look for. Much easier for me than starting to just look…and look…
      Good luck!

      1. Sam I Am*

        Also, when trying to id a bird from sight, try to notice beak, eye, and feet colors. This will help you narrow it down faster!

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I didn’t download it after reading requests we not play mating calls during mating season, I’m that much a softie & that liable to fat-finger this phone.
        My favorite is my Sibley Guide to North American Birds because he even painted variations & cross breeds.
        I’ve been thinking about getting his regional guide for my area to save backpack space.

        1. Sam I Am*

          Good to know!
          I’ve only used it to ID birds, not to call them in closer. So I’m making the recording, not playing one. But if I want to play their recordings I’ll keep this info in mind!

    8. SwitchingGenres*

      Stokes guide in conjunction with googling “most common birds in X state.” I like Stokes bc they use photos, not drawings, and have multiple photos for each bird showing variations.

    9. Esmeralda*

      Lol, I had a friend in college who called those “California blah birds” — a large category. My MIL calls them LBJs — little brown jobs.

      You might start out with a small book on common or neighborhood birds of the Pacific Northwest. Setting up a feeder is a great way to get birds to hold still long enough to notice the significant characteristics. Until I got familiar with the birds in our neighborhood, I jotted down features I noticed and then looked them up. That helped me learn what to look for, also.

      1. tangerineRose*

        I’ve been taking a lot of photos of the birds. My indoor-only cats also enjoy watching the birds and making those cute kitty noises.

  8. AcademiaNut*

    The free Merlin smartphone app is a fantastic resource for beginning birders. It’s customizable by area, and has an easy to use search function to narrow down the species (colour, shape, size, where you saw it), and then shows you pictures of possible matches.

    The eBird website/app is more comprehensive, but also great. It’s basically a giant database of birders’ reports with an interface that lets you search by region or hotspot, showing the most recently seen birds. Look at the bar chart tab to get plots of what birds you see at different times of year, and how likely they are in your region, click on birds to get species descriptions, pictures and sounds, see maps of where birds were seen…

  9. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going?
    For me, it seems like the forseeable future will be filled with writing for The Thing That Shan’t Be Discussed On Weekends.

    1. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Also forgot to mention that as usual, this thread is not limited to fiction writing, feel free to talk about any writing you wish.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Ugh. I just submitted a draft of an analysis section for part of my dissertation and got a ‘fail’ essentially – some fairly harsh feedback.

      I’m not shocked (they said it lacked clarity and well, I felt very unclear writing it, so that’s not surprising).

      I’m trying to focus on the fact that this is actually kind of good — I really felt uncertain about the direction I was going in and so if they had been positive/neutral, I’m not sure I would have gotten the material I need to actually build out the chapter more and be sure I’m on the right path. But I’ve never gotten such negative feedback in this context before and I’m feeling a bit deflated. And I’m feeling very worried that this submission has influenced their perspectives on me and now they’re thinking of me as someone who’s sloppy or lacks direction.

    3. International*

      I am starting with my first international writing client this week, and I am overwhelmed at all the choices to be made. How do I bill without getting hosed on the exchange rate? Do I need an LLC? My Googling fingers are really getting a workout.

      I’m a bit frustrated with myself for never having thought of this stuff before, but it was a referral, so it fell in my lap without notice.

    4. lemon meringue*

      I’m very excited about how my novel is coming along! I’ve been mulling it over for the last couple of years, but never made a really sustained effort at getting a rough draft on the page until this month, when I decided I was just going to write 2,000 words a day until it was done. So far I’m 24,000 words in and it’s actually going much more smoothly than I expected. I hate first drafts normally, but this is a project that I’m really excited about.

  10. Zooey*

    Boring but useful question – anyone got experience with microwave steamers? I currently use an electric steamer for all my veggies and I love the way they come out, but the one I have leaks. In general I find the electric steamers also emit a lot of steam into the kitchen. I was thinking about a microwave steamer as they seem more compact (space is at a premium in my kitchen) and all the steam would be contained in the microwave. Do they give the same sort of results? I’m a little wary because presumably the food is being both steamed and microwaved at the same time.

    If you have a good one of a specific brand, that would be useful to hear too!

    1. Dee*

      I have ones, will share link below, that are silicone containers without a separate steaming basket. I don’t have experience with an electric one (and apologies if I’m repeating a lot that is basic with an electric steamer!) to compare it to, but mine gives good results. I’ve used it mainly for good-quality-frozen veg and frozen shrimp. Put in directly to from frozen with a bit of water (amount of water can take trial and error but mine came with an instructional booklet) and microwave til desired firmness. My peas come out so well. Broccoli, the stems cook at a different pace from the heads but that’s par for the course with broccoli. If you are trying to recreate fresh steamed shrimp this won’t do it but it’s close.

      If I’m not sure on the water amount I use more water than I think I might need, and dump it out after. I don’t put seasonings or fats in as it steams because it’s easier to clean, and easier to dump extra water.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I no longer own a microwave, but I had good luck with the microwave steamer when I did. Personally, I always erred towards a few minutes less than I might have on the stove, but otherwise it was the same! (I also don’t have experience with electric steamers so can’t compare on that level).

    3. Holly the spa pro*

      I highly recommend an instapot for veggie steaming. It truly is an all in one. I use it for almost everything.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I don’t own an Instant Pot but from what I know of it, it doesn’t seem like it would be good for steaming? The pressure cooking aspect means veggies are likely to overcook fast.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          This has been my experience – it’s really easy to massively overcook veggies in an instant pot. Like, two minutes makes asparagus inedible.

      2. Holly the spa pro*

        There is a setting specifically for steaming and it works great. It has a little tray you can put inside that hold the veggies away from the water or you can use a litle metal or silicone basket in there. I used mine last night to steam tamales.

        Dont get me wrong, the manual pressure cooking works great for other things. It makes boiled eggs that peel perfectly in 3 minutes.

    4. GoryDetails*

      Funny – I just use my microwave to zap the veggies directly, as the result is pretty close to steaming them. I may add a tiny bit of water to the bowl the veggies are in, but I don’t bother with anything more than that. Don’t know if that’s helpful or not, but that’s my experience.

      1. Anono-me*

        I microwave veggies with a little bit of water also, but I cover the dish with plastic wrap. I really like how they turn out. It is a trick a pro chef friend taught me.

      2. Zooey*

        That is helpful in terms of thinking about results. I’ve never really made that much use of my microwave but have found myself with an unexpectedly big one so thinking I should try and take advantage!

    5. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      I love my microwave vegetable steamer. It’s fast, easy to clean and the steam stays in the steamer so it won’t heat up your kitchen or get steam everywhere.
      I use it primarily with fresh broccoli, carrots, etc but it also works well with frozen veggies.

    6. *daha**

      I have one from Sistema. I’ve only ventured to put veggies in it – generally cut up fresh broccoli or cauliflower, sometimes frozen corn or other veggies. Typically it holds enough for two hungry people. I usually give it 7 minutes and it will steam the food soft. I haven’t tried for crisp.

    7. Otter Dance*

      The steam is contained in the microwave until you open the door. But any cooker will release it eventually. I don’t mind, because dry winter air, right?
      Myself, I just use a small bowl for the food inside a larger shallow bowl (or pie pan) for the water. Nothing special.
      Unless the Instant Pot is already out – but I won’t haul that out for a few veggies.

      1. Zooey*

        I don’t mind steam in the kitchen as a whole but with the electric one it sits right under my cupboards and so the steam is going directly onto those rather than out into the general atmosphere. The microwave is better positioned!

  11. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gaming thread! What’s everyone been playing this week?
    I’m still doing some old Humongous Entertainment games, because nostalgia.
    In other news…CD Projekt Red is having a really bad time lately, isn’t it?

    1. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Forgot to mention that as usual this thread isn’t limited to video games, feel free to talk about any games you wish. Also feel free to ask for recommendations or help identifying a vaguely remembered childhood favourite.

    2. Garden Pidgeons*

      I hadn’t seen the source code hack! Gosh.

      I’m replaying Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations, although I’m having to be pretty careful about saving because my 3DS keeps closing the game every time I put it in sleep mode…

    3. English, not American*

      I recently have been dithering over whether to buy Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee (I know, I’m behind the times). On the one hand, Pokemon Red was basically my childhood and I seriously want a newer Kanto remake. On the other hand, the “Let’s Go” aspect changes the entire core premise of the game and while the demo was fun I don’t know if a whole game of it would be. I also haven’t kept up with the core games since Gen III, though I got the Soul Silver and Alpha Sapphire remakes, and I did play Pokemon Go for a while, but lost interest as completing the pokedex became more impossible. Any old-school Pokemon fans have opinions on the “Let’s Go” games?

      1. Fushi*

        I enjoyed Let’s Go Pikachu a lot! Interacting with your partner all the time and putting little hats on it is really fun lol. The new mechanics for catching Pokemon are an adjustment, but I didn’t find them significantly more boring after hours of gameplay than the old “punch it hard but not TOO hard” style (ymmv if you do want to fill the whole Pokedex). My main complaint is that you can’t search trash cans anymore :(

      2. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Eh, buying the newest shiny thing tends to be overrated in my experience so don’t worry about “being behind on the times”. Protects the wallet a bit, too!
        Also I’m gonna tag along on this one to see what others think of the Let’s Go games.

    4. Office Grunt*

      Been jamming more Historic, since MTGO is a dumpster fire.

      The upcoming Uro ban made me giddy, as did the V-Day Secret Lair.

    5. Hamish*

      I got Chinese Parents in Steam’s lunar new year sale and stayed up until 1 AM last night finishing my first play through. Cute life sim type game with some well-designed mechanics.

    6. HamlindigoBlue*

      I got an email that a few games on my Steam wishlist went on sale, so I just bought Deadbolt and the Call of Cthulhu. I’m still working through Sherlock Holmes Crimes & Punishments. I think I need to start sending Steam emails related to wishlist items on sale to a different folder so I stop buying more games. I’ve got enough in my library as it is that I haven’t had time to play, so it seems kind of silly to add to it. -But I picked up 2 titles for $11. Did I need them? No. I have the same problem with books and yarn.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Ooh, I just finished Crimes and Punishments, hope you have fun with it!
        And yeah, I understand that feeling. It’s one of the reasons why I go physical when I can – the sales tend to be less big and I’m limited to what I can physically fit onto my shelves.

    7. Wishing You Well*

      I’ve been playing Lego Star Wars The Force Awakens. I bought the game new but it has a major glitch: the visuals go black on several of the missions. This means I can’t collect the required gold bricks to do other big missions nor complete the game.
      On the bright side, it’s made doing my taxes fun by comparison!

    8. Dan*

      I’m… kind of glad that CDPR is having a tough go at it. It’s not schadenfreude for me, and the hacking doesn’t factor in to this, but my take is on the colossal failure that is CP2077.

      Why am I glad (in some way) to see that one tank? Because of the way it’s been managed. Lots of people look at video game development as a “sexy” career. But the working conditions inside gaming studios these days are far from glamorous. Many studios are trying to squeeze every last dollar out of their labor costs, which dictates long hours with little time away from work. CDPR in particular claimed they weren’t going to do that to their developers…. and they turned around and did that to their developers. (For those unfamiliar, google “crunch” and video game development.)

      And TBH, this isn’t good for the consumer either. These days, digital downloads allow a company to push a buggy product and patch it after release. Yet, on launch, the studios are going to want full price for their game, because you gotta make money you know. So they actually end up creating a paradox for themselves when it comes to the non-hardcore gamers. People like me who have way more games than we’re ever going to play (remind me why we bought them in the first place?) and other things to do with life can afford to wait a bit. I buy many games on sale, and coincidentally, after they’ve been out and been through a few bug fixes. In the long run, I’m paying less for a better product. As this type of development strategy becomes mainstream, then Day 1 buyers are essentially paying *a premium* to be beta testers. That may feel like a good business model in the short run, but in the long run, more people will wait, pay less, and get a finished product. I donno about the rest of you, but if I’m paying a premium (e.g., full price) I want a working product.

      The *only* way there can be any change is for the bank account to take a hit. For this reason, I’m glad to see *the management* at CDPR take a financial hit.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Yeah, I feel the same regarding digital downloads, but of course when you say that you’re a dinosaur stuck in the past *eyeroll*. Luckily there’s more than enough functioning games out there.

    9. Nicki Name*

      I’ve just learned to play Thurn & Taxis and St. Petersburg on Board Game Arena.

      I’ve also just heard the news that Asmodee is buying BGA.

      I’m chugging along through a Blue Lions playthrough of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I have it turned up to hard, but none of the fights have actually been hard until I started on the paralogues. I’ve got my main character up to A+ professor level at halfway through the first arc thanks to points accumulated in my previous playthroughs (Silver Snow and Verdant Wind). It sure is nice to be able to do all the things on exploration days, at least.

      1. Stepher*

        I hear you! I got mine in August so was about six months behind but am still glad I got it. I am on version 3.0 of my island, keep moving my residents, and still play almost every day. Its more fun if you have at least one person to share recipes with, etc. but you can do it!

        1. LGC*

          It’s literally my first entry into the Animal Crossing series, so I’m still in the newborn “learning how everything works” phase. I’m trying to convince some of my friends to pick it back up.

          My best friend’s wife still plays regularly, it seems? I mentioned that I managed to pick up a refurbished unit for $260 and she immediately was like, “LET ME HELP YOU LIKE THE NEWBORN CHILD YOU ARE.”

      2. SofiaDeo*

        Heroes of Might & Magic V! I specifically kept a PC on Windows XP for years, just to play that game. It works on the Windows 10 update, but my (gaming) laptop runs really hot. I have also had the Mac version, but it was really buggy.

    10. Amaranth*

      My daughter just bought me a copy of Minecraft, which I somehow never got into when it came out, but I’m a big resource hoarder so it looks like a good game for decompressing.

  12. Anonollama*

    I think- although this is sort of work related- it suits the weekend thread better since the focus is health not work. (If you’d prefer this on the work thread, Alison, that’s ok & I’ll repost next week.)

    Question for people who’ve struggled with mental health issues or burnout that significantly restricted your life & prevented you from working/volunteering/etc for a time: What did you look for during recovery as signs that you were ready to start trying to get back to more regular life stuff (including job searching/etc)? What signs of recovery helped you know you were doing well enough to move into next stages?

    If it helps, my focus is more on figuring how to avoid getting stuck in a cycle of never challenging myself for fear of pushing too much too soon.

    1. Dee*

      Regarding your second paragraph, it was all about needing health insurance (US). But about your last paragraph, I think it could maybe help to identify some goals, then break them down to very small steps. (eg “open a browser tab with linkedin” might be a whole step)

      You can always do a ton of steps at once when you feel like it! And if not, you might not be as prone to over reach if the steps are small.

    2. Asenath*

      Small steps. I’m terrible with the kind of plan-and-reward setup that so many people find useful, because when I’m not well I tend to exaggerate the importance of any kind of failure to get the reward – including the type where I wouldn’t try very hard because I just knew I couldn’t do it. But I do like planning and organizing. I cut out the reward business made little plans (‘Today I am going for a walk”), noticed what stopped me – for anything exercise related or stressful, like “Today I will check for new jobs, and, if I find a possibility, apply” doing it first thing in the morning worked best. The only reward I would give myself would be allowing myself to have the rest of the day “off”, guilt-free, or even acknowledging to myself “I’m on a walk! Isn’t it nice?” As I slowly managed to achieve more of a balance – some exercise, some job-hunting (and later, work, and leisure activities), I felt more and more confident about getting back to a “regular” life. I didn’t look for signposts, I just thought about the next few hours, having decided what might be healthy for me – “I will walk”. “I will see my counsellor”. “I will make one phone call to one friend I’ve been ignoring” etc

    3. Gamer Girl*

      Looking out the window and thinking it was a beautiful day, instead of thinking that it was a perfect day to stay in bed and sleep.

      Picking up a book and actually wanting to read.

      Told my doctor and he prescribed some meds (not the antipsychotics that I probably need, but the act of taking what is basically a placebo pill daily is surprisingly helpful)

      Also, I noticed that this started happening more and more as I drastically reduced my consumption of news media (I asked my sister to block my sites and give me a highlights reel at the end of day rather than reading it all myself. Can’t tell you how much is helped to go cold turkey!)

      Making plans for my creative work, rather than feeling I was a total failure.

      Basically, just slowly having the will to live again. Still in progress, but I can feel an overall shift towards “this is better. I feel surprisingly good”

      1. The cat's pajamas*

        Find something low commitment and low effort that will let you test the waters. For example, I want to get back into crafting which is usually energizing but I’m having a hard time getting the energy to get started, unusual for me. I purchased a tiny painting kit, for “kids” which helped. I could make a painting, feel accomplished and like I completed something, but it only took a couple hours. When I’m inspired, I can keep going and make another or work on a different project. If not, I still got to do something and can put aside until next time.

    4. Firefly*

      I remembered my aunt telling me that my toddler wouldn’t go to college in diapers. This is relevant, I promise. So I picked an arbitrarily distant time in the future (2032, btw) and outlined what I hoped a typical day might look like for me then, assuming all other aspects of my life were the same. This felt doable, because after all I had all that time to get there. It included things like shower, dress, blow-dry hair, eat yogurt, work on my thesis for 60 minutes, go for a walk, all the way to go to bed at ten pm. Then the next day or picked one thing from that day and committed to doing it. I honestly think it was eat yogurt for breakfast. When I only had hard things left, I worked on them with my therapist, and she helped me add more things to a typical week list. It was only six years ago, and it feels like forever ago. I can’t even remember what it was really like to feel that stuck. Best wishes

    5. Rose*

      For me, it has been starting to feel bored. When I no longer felt happy watching grays anatomy all day every day, I felt ready. Also weirdly feeling like I’m loosing structure. When this was good for me I planned my days a lot better.

  13. Potatoes gonna potate*

    For those of you who have received the COVID vaccine, did you need to be cleared by a doctor prior to it? My husband and I are in disagreement over it. I have the option of either going to the expo center now or at my doctors office later to get it. I’ve tried googling it but didn’t get a solid answer.

    To expand on it for context, I registered back in January and waited for the invitation to make an appt. While waiting my new doctor office asked if my mother and I wanted it. I said yes. We are now scheduled for a week from Tuesday. When trying to schedule it, the front desk rep said anyone getting the vaccine has to be seen by a doctor.

    The same day, I received the link to make an appt at one of the large centers. They had availability for this Monday so I took it. Seeing as how the appts were for every 10-15 minutes (forget the exact interval now), I imagine they will not be asking for a comprehensive medical history nor will a doctor be doing any examination or checking.

    This is where my husband and I are in disagreement about it. I guess I am a little unsure as to whether medical clearance is truly needed or if this is something differing by state.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I’m in the UK and did not have to be cleared by my doctor prior to getting the vaccine.

    2. KAZ2Y5*

      I am in the USA and did not have to be cleared. I got the vaccine at the hospital I work at, and my eligible family members got it through our county health dept. In all 3 cases they just took medical info and their policy was if anyone had previously had severe allergic reactions to anything then you would need to wait 30 minutes after instead of 15.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      It sounds like the front desk rep meant that anyone getting the vaccine at their office had to be seen by that doctor. Which would just be their policy, for whatever reason. It could be something as simple as they want to restrict appointments to established patients. I had a doc once who offered the flu shot at every fall check up but didn’t advertise it– they only administered to patients with appointments. Now, granted, the COVID vaccine is a different beast, but I still think that’s a specific and not general “policy.” I mean, think about it– if everyone getting vaccinated needed a doc appt, the rollout would be even slower and more limited than it is now.

        1. The teapots are on fire*

          There’s also a limited supply of vaccines each doctor’s office gets and they want to get them to their patients, who are counting on it. The limited supply of vaccines is a huge constraint. For a while our county was only vaccinating people who didn’t have primary care doctors at clinics that had been getting vaccines allocated, for the same reason of scarceness. It’s just all kinds of mess.

      1. RagingADHD*

        It’s probably the difference between a public-health vaccination drive, and a medical practice.

        If you receive services in a practice, the doctor has an ongoing relationship & duty of care that a public health drive does not.

      2. PT*

        It’s a DEA rule in the US that doctors can’t prescribe anything to a patient they have not seen in a year. I have run into this- needing to make an annual appointment with a doctor for a simple prescription refill, like an asthma inhaler- and I have also run into it with my cat, who gets a monthly flea/heartworm preventative.

        It may be the doctor’s office considers a vaccine to be a prescription, and thus you must have an appointment with the doctor if you haven’t been seen in the last year.

    4. Choggy*

      My husband, who is a nurse, received his shots at the hospital where he works and did not need any kind of sign-off, and he’s 60 years old with no medical issues. There are a list of questions they ask before you receive the shot to try and avoid any issues (e.g. allergic reactions). Do you or your mother have any specific medical issues that are worrying your husband? I’ve not seen any recommendations to be cleared by your doctor prior to receiving the vaccination but understand he’s probably concerned because it’s new.

    5. Friedeggplant*

      I’m a doctor in the US. You do not need a doctor’s appointment before getting your COVID vaccine.

      Your doctor’s office may be trying to make sure they can bill for a full physical exam and the vaccine, which is why they are requiring all patients to be seen by the MD before getting the vaccine. If you can get it earlier at the public vaccination site, go there.

      1. KeinName*

        I agree, probably a way to bill the visit. I‘m in a European country and my partner received his shot from a doctor at his work but just handed over a signed form where he indicated illnesses. Took 2 minutes. I have an autoimmune disease and my doctor told me ‚just don’t go get it when you feel under the weather‘, so I suppose no examination necessary to get it.

      2. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Yes, they did tell us since we’re new patients it’d have to be either a physical or sick visit. Physical is covered for my mom’s insurance but sick visit isn’t fully covered yet. Mine are covered. we both need to be seen by a doctor for various health issues. I had already registered so I took the chance but my mom had refused it at first so I never registered her.

    6. Global Cat Herder*

      It’s just the policy of that office. Could be to restrict it to existing patients, could be to make sure they get an office visit fee out of it, but it’s not because it’s medically necessary. (Wanting to get some money out of it is not a bad thing, btw. Individual doctor offices won’t be in business long if they spend all their limited resources on giving shots for free to everyone who wanders in off the street. Those large centers, otoh, that’s explicitly what they’re meant to do.)

      1. Gatomon*

        I thought that vaccine providers were allowed to bill for an administrative fee to help cover the costs of administering the vaccine? (At least in the US.) I’m scheduled at a public clinic tomorrow and they requested I bring my health insurance information so they could bill them an administration fee. I know some counties in my state are waiving the administrative fee for everyone, while others are charging everyone. My county only waives it if you are uninsured.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          My understanding is they are allowed to bill your insurance an administration fee for the vaccine. They are not allow to bill individuals for either the vaccine itself or its administration.

          1. Gatomon*

            I found the local article I read a few weeks back – it appears it was based on a clinic charging the administrative fee and it’s not clear whether the patient actually had to pay that upfront, or if their insurance was billed and that was the charge they saw. It does say that insurance providers can’t pass the charge on in the form of copays and that they aren’t denying anyone uninsured who can’t pay. Not the greatest article.

            I just got my dose at a public vaccination clinic and at no point was I asked for any payment, though they did take my insurance info (as expected, as I am insured).

        2. Pharmgirl*

          Yes, the government is only providing the vaccine itself for free. The large expo near me specifically says they bill your insurance for the admin free. I provided my insurance, so I have no idea if they are waiving anyone that wasn’t able to.

    7. Asenath*

      I would expect that it’s a local policy (that is, requiring a doctor’s clearance before vaccination) rather than something that’s medically required.

    8. Person from the Resume*

      My parents found the earliest appointment through a nearby healthcare system that they are not a part of long before their local provider was offering it. They had to fill out a history online before the drive through vaccine appointment. If they hadn’t they would have had to give their history before getting the vaccine. I’m sure it’s pretty brief most focused on allergic reactions.

      Soon pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS will be offering like they do the flu shot so a doctor/your doctor permission not required.

    9. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      In the UK but under specialist medical management for an ongoing condition. I was advised to get it ASAP, but during the off-week from my meds that suppress my immune system, so I had the highest immunity possible for me right now. After the shot I did ask to sit for 15 minutes just in case, but I was fine.

      1. Majnoona*

        US. Got my second Moderna today. Didn’t have to see my doctor. A zillion of us were getting it. There was a doctor present and nurses but aside from a few online questions didn’t have to do anything.

    10. JustEm*

      Here we did not need to get cleared. Or I should say in general people don’t need to get cleared — I’m pregnant, and I was required to have asked my OB provider about it first (or say that I had – no proof required)

    11. AnonoDoc*

      Unless you have had a serious immediate reaction to a drug, there really aren’t contraindications at this point.

    12. Potatoes gonna potate*

      Thank you everyone for hte input. I think my instinct was correct that the medical clearance is the specific office policy and nto generally for the vaccine.

    13. RussianInTexas*

      I had my second dose yesterday at my city’s mass vaccination centers, and no clearance was required. They didn’t even asked for an ID, just your schedule confirmation QR code, vaccination card, and some minimal paperwork. You didn’t even had to have insurance or the insurance info/card.

    14. Grammalammadingdon*

      I’m in the US & eligible because of age. I received my 1st shot at a small state-sponsored location & did not need any type of medical clearance. (Second shot scheduled for this week.)

  14. Book Recs*

    I’m looking for books set in small town Midwest, by authors from the area, that gives a nuanced portrait of what life’s like there. Preferably middle brow stuff, not genre fiction.

    Anyone? Anyone?

      1. Ginger ale for all*

        I love that book! Her other stuff plays around with the same themes and character types but And the Ladies of the Club really hits it out of the park.

    1. Astoria*

      “Praise the Human Season” by Don Robertson. It takes place 1972, about an elderly man looking back at his life and marriage. Set in small-town southern Ohio.

    2. CTT*

      I’m not sure if you’re looking for a nonfiction, but a few of the essays in Brian Phillips’ collection “Impossible Owls” are about where he grew up in Oklahoma. The last essay (“But Not Like Your Typical Love Story”) is the one that’s the most about Ponca City and it made me feel like I was there.

    3. Io*

      Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead series is a remarkable intimate and nuanced portrait of a small town in Iowa. I’ve only read the first one, but it was my favorite book I’ve read in years. Stunningly beautiful writing. And she’s lived in Iowa for decades.

      1. Pond*

        It might not be exactly what OP is looking for but I really enjoyed *Lila*. I haven’t yet read
        Marilynne Robinson’s other books.

    4. fposte*

      If you’re okay with YA (not fantasy), I really loved Will Leitch’s Catch, set in Mattoon, Illinois.

      I was trying to find another book I was vaguely remembering and it turns out that if you type “flyover country” into Amazon there are a lot of interesting book results.

    5. pancakes*

      Dawn Powell is one of my favorite writers and is often characterized as a great chronicler of NYC life, but she was from the Midwest (Ohio), and one of her best books, Dance Night, is set there.

    6. Midwestern kid*

      Jon Hassler — I haven’t read his newer books, but his older novels are set in small towns in Minnesota. And now that I see he has written more books since I last read him, I am going to check them out!

      1. Gamer Girl*

        Yep, Kitchens of the Midwest by Stradal is incredible! (I read it based on Allison’s recommendation list. Loved it!)

    7. Jackalope*

      Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine is exquisite. It has some fantastical elements but is not a fantasy book per se. It’s about his experiences as a boy growing up in a small mid-west town and I loved it.

    8. Anono-me*

      Not books but..

      The Prairie Home Companion is a radio show with a humorous twist on small town midwest life; but there are concerns about the Host’s personal conduct.

      I also found the TV show Corner Gas to be a little exaggerated but pretty close.

        1. Natalie*

          Yes, Minnesota Public Radio (which owns the archives) made them available again a couple of years ago.

          (NB: Keillor was already retired when MPR ended their relationship with him and changed the shows name.)

    9. Rick Tq*

      the “Chronicles of Luna City” series by Celia Hayes is up to 9 books now. They are set in a small Texas town and focus on the life and times of an ex-celebrity British chef, the extended and intertwined Gonzales/Gonzalez clan, and assorted local characters. The locale comes in to play occasionally but it isn’t about cows/cowboys or oil.

    10. Professor Plum*

      Fannie Flagg writes really fun books with great characters from small towns. Perhaps a bit further south than Midwest, but her stories are heart-warming and funny.

    11. Overbooked*

      Not a title, but a tool to try out: the library database NoveList Plus’ advanced search feature lets you limit by geographical setting. It’s a little cumbersome, but has improved over time, and has led me to some good finds. (It’s not limited to fiction, and its “read-alike” feature is worth a shot for kids as well as adults.)

  15. Me*

    Anyone get hit with the unemployment scam? (Not quite work related- at least I don’t think, but delete if you disagree!)

    My HR department notified me a week ago that an unemployment claim had been filed in my name. I’ve been jumping through various hoops since then. No idea where/when/how my personal info leaked out but it’s a pain. Only time I’ve been grateful to get an email from HR.

    Supposedly this is a nation wide thing, just wondering if anyone else has dealt with this one yet? If so, maybe someone can speak to the one year fraud alert vs the 7 year fraud alert?

    1. Loopy*

      My father got hit with it. I told him to report the identity fraud but don’t know what happened after that. I got the sense he wasn’t concerned enough about the implications after he filled out the form reporting it. I’m going to follow up with him today on it.

    2. nep*

      Heard of this the other day on NPR. What a shock it must be for people to receive tax forms in the mail for the thousands they ‘received’ in unemployment benefits. Wow.

    3. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Yes, my husband did. His workplace provided resources to deal with it. He had to notify the state (which was also notified by the employer) and froze his credit account. I’m glad you brought this up, so I remember to mention it to my tax preparer.

    4. fposte*

      Yup. It seems like more than half of my workplace (state U) did, so the guidance from HR came out before it got to me, and I received my claim denial in the same mail as my debit card.

      My guess is this is from the Equifax breach—it’s so widespread that that makes more sense to me than a bunch of local breaches. I have my credit frozen from an earlier identity theft, so I don’t worry about fraud alerts.

    5. Hamish*

      I’m a public accountant in Ohio and not only have tons of our clients been getting hit, apparently there have been two unemployment claims filed for people who are still working at the firm. Total PITA for everyone.

      I’ve been sending people the link to report it, and advising them to review their credit report and freeze their credit.

    6. Lizy*

      My mom did in Kansas. She’s retired so the company knew immediately. She said her company had like 150+ false claims. (They probably have about 250 current employees.)

    7. Dan*

      No, I hadn’t heard of that one.

      The thing that drives me most nuts about all of this stuff is that when it intersects with money that people need, in the long run, it creates more bureaucratic hoops to jump through to get that need… or it turns out to be a big time waste.

      I’m pretty sure I got caught up in a scam where somebody was trying to collect an income tax refund on my behalf last year. I had filed and paid my taxes (no refund) at the extended deadline in the summer, and then in November I got a letter from the IRS saying that they needed to verify some information about my identity in order to “continue” processing my return. Part of that process required calling an 800 number and digging up old tax forms. That 800 number? It will not let you in the queue if the demand is high enough. It took me three days to get through.

      When I did get through, they said I was “randomly” selected. Uh huh. I say uh huh for two reasons. First, all of the messaging associated with that information request was all about “my refund” as if that could be the only possible reason somebody got flagged/was calling. There was no option for people with a “balance due” or whatever.

      Second, from a fraud risk standpoint, my tax filings are so straight forward it’s not even funny. I’ve lived at the same address for the last ten years, I have one W2 job, and no other income/deductions. Plus I’ve always owed (intentionally) for the past five years or so. So to flag me for a “random” check, to then have me stuck in a phone queue I can’t even get into? Total waste of everybody’s time.

    8. OyHiOh*

      I got hit to
      In my case, I’ve been dealing with sporadic issues related to probable identity theft about a year ago. My org’s bookkeeper got an unemployment claim, supposedly in my name, sent from state DLE. She told my boss (bookkeeper works remote, boss and I have private offices in a downtown suite), boss told me. I confirmed to bookkeeper that it was fraud and when she filled out the questionaire, she indicated it was fraud, and then sent me a link to report it from my end as well.

      My credit is already locked down already because of the probable identity theft, and I subscribe to a monitoring service.

    9. Dumpster Fire*

      I got hit with it a couple months ago. I went onto the state website where they had a form to report the fraud and filled that out; put a few extra alerts onto my bank and credit card accounts; changed some passwords. Then I got a call from the HR office at work saying that they had received paperwork related to an unemployment claim in my name, who told me to call my local police department. Police told me to put a freeze on my credit so I did that. I haven’t seen any issues or problems although I guess the next time I need a loan I’ll need to unfreeze my credit.

    10. DataGirl*

      A friend did, and since her employer didn’t catch it and money was paid out to the scammer the Unemployment office went after her- wanting the money paid back. Last I heard she spent days on the phone trying to get through to a human with no luck. I’m not sure how that kind of thing proceeds or if people can be stuck paying back money they didn’t receive?

    11. Dinoweeds*

      YUP. It happened to me a couple weeks ago, luckily my HR dept caught it right away and I filed the reports as well as froze my credit. Finally got an email from them the other day saying they were investigating my claim.

    12. Sunrise*

      Yes, happened to me as well. In my case, I found out when I went to file for unemployment. I couldn’t file because a scammer had already submitted a claim. I’ve been working with my state unemployment folks but it’s been a total disaster. You have to speak with them via phone, but it can take hours to get thru. They were supposed to stop the payments to the scammer after the first time that I called and while they worked out that I was actually entitled. But they didn’t. So now I’m going to receive a 1099 for unemployment that I never got and be expected to pay taxes on the amount. And I still can’t get my own benefits because they keep messing up getting my paperwork to the unemployment fraud people to clear me so I can file a legit claim.

      1. Natalie*

        You are not expected to pay taxes on fraudulent UI benefits collected under your name, please don’t do that! Link from the IRS in a reply.

  16. The Other Dawn*

    Question for the writers here: what tips do you have for writing an introduction to a blog post? (Or really any kind of writing.) I keep a personal blog and I normally don’t have a problem starting a post; however, I need to write something for a professional blog and can’t figure out how to start.

    I’ve been going to a personal trainer once a week since 2016. I started, because I’d had weight loss surgery about two years prior and wanted to get in shape for skin removal surgery (tummy tuck with muscle repair). Plus, I really needed the accountability. My trainer is now part of a body transformation business and is one of their many online coaches. I recently joined a free 12-week fitness challenge, which is run by the company, as a way to motivate myself to lose some weight I’d gained last year.

    My trainer asked me a couple weeks ago if I’d be interested in writing a blog post for the company’s blog, and he’d also interview me. He wants me to write about my weight loss journey: what led me to my highest weight, all the different diets I tried, my decision to have weight loss surgery, life afterwards, recovery from back surgery, and anything else related. The writing isn’t the problem, since I’ve written many pages over the last few years (I was thinking of writing a book so I just started writing it all down one day) and can pull much of the information from there. It’s the intro. Typically when I can’t come up with an intro, I will write the body and then write the intro and conclusion afterwards. But I’m coming up empty on this one. Anyone have tips or techniques that might make this easier?

    1. Nela*

      Readers who are interested in the topic often entirely skip the intro, so what you write there can be completely utilitarian:

      – Give a short summary of the results you have, followed by “in this article I’ll explain what we did to achieve it”. That’s it.

      – Start with a question (or several) that people often think about regarding this topic, and “I’ll answer those questions, and more, in this article”.

      My intros on professional articles are usually one paragraph long, sometimes two. They’re there to say “this is what the article is about”.

      1. Dan*

        Totally with you on skipping the intro.

        When I come across listicles with a headline that draws my attention, I really don’t care why the topic is being written about at that moment. I really care about the content of that list. Sometimes I am astounded as to how much was written to preface the list. (And no, I didn’t read it.)

        Same with online recipes, which drive me nuts. If I’ve got something I want to cook, I might look at four or five recipes to get a sense as to how different people are approaching that.

        Except… these days, everybody is burying the actual ingredients way at the bottom of a very long post designed to attract ad dollars. I get it, I don’t begrudge them that. But it ends up wasting a lot of my time as I’m trying to get to the part I actually want.

        I’ve gone back to buying Kindle versions of cookbooks. I stick them in my shopping list, and they often go on sale for super cheap, so I get them then.

        1. Nela*

          I was thinking about recipes too, I don’t think anyone who searches for the topic will read the introduction :) People who are subscribed to the RSS feed or newsletter and have a more personal relationship with the blogger may read it, but 9 times out of 10 I just scan for the actual content.

          1. ampersand*

            Yes! The 15 paragraphs prior to the recipe drive me up the wall. I scroll down to find the recipe. Better yet is a “jump to recipe” link.

            I do appreciate that there’s a reason for this content, and I’m obviously not the target audience if I’m not reading the content!

        2. Professor Plum*

          On a desktop you can usually install a browser extension that will skip the fluff and bring the recipe to the forefront—you can always choose to read the intro if you want. Google recipe extension and the name of the browser that you use.

    2. WellRed*

      Ahh, my advice was to write the body, but I see that’s already one of your tried and trues. How about talking it out with someone about what you might want to say?

    3. Liz B*

      I teach a Public Speaking course, and for something like a blog, it may be helpful to treat it somewhat like a speech and open with an “attention-getter,” something to draw the audience’s interest. Since you’re writing a human interest/slice-of-life kind of testimonial, maybe a short but meaningful anecdote. Without knowing any of the details of your fitness journey, I might give an example like this: “(Trainer) picked up 2 25 lb plates and turned to me and smiled. “You’re ready,” they said. I never thought I’d be a person who casually threw around words like “deadlift” or “WOD,” but here I am, staring down an Olympic bar and 50-plus pounds of weight and (trainer) is right: I am ready.”

      I really love when my students open with something like this, an anecdote or fun fact. Depending on the mood you’re going for, it can be semi-serious (like my example) or funny or inspirational. Just something that opens the door to the body of your blog thematically that also grabs the reader’s attention.

        1. Liz B*

          Yep, we use hook and attention-getter interchangeably! It’s an intro college course, so the jargon is all new to them.

    4. Sooda Nym*

      Can you read some other blogs with similar types of posts and see how those started? I’m not saying copy what they did, but observe what makes them work (or not) and use those styles/strategies with your content. I wonder if you are thinking of this genre as different from what you’d usually do, but if you read some other blogs, you might find it’s not that different, and have more confidence that your own style will work.

    5. RagingADHD*

      I always try to start with a hook. You’re not writing legal analysis or something that is supposed to be extremely academic. It’s a personal story, so start with a story hook.

      The “in medias res” of a crisis moment or decision moment, followed by a “how I got here” flashback, is tried and true for a reason. It works.

    6. The Other Dawn*

      Thank you to those who have responded so far!

      The post will be about my lifelong struggle with obesity, why I decided to have weight loss surgery, how things have gone since surgery, weight regain, and things like that. What I really want to convey is the fact that weight loss surgery is NOT a magic wand–it’s just a tool. What one does with that tool determines their success. And it’s not the “easy way out.” It absolutely doesn’t mean one never has to exercise again or that they don’t have to watch what they eat. And it also doesn’t fix us mentally or emotionally. All it does is prevent one from eating a large quantity of food in one meal. That’s it. The bottom line is I want to provide a dose of reality for anyone wanting the surgery, but to also stress to the fitness community that I don’t regret doing it and there’s no shame in taking this route.

      Sorry, went off on a tangent there! As you can tell, I have a lot to say about it. :)

      I’m starting to form an intro in my mind and hopefully it works, though I just found out it should be limited to about three paragraphs. I’m not sure how much I can convey in such a short post, but I’m going to try.

      Yes to Liz B., who mentioned public speaking. I took that course in college. Since I didn’t start college until my 30s, I found it was incredibly helpful for my job at that time, mainly for organizing my thoughts when conducting meetings or training someone; however, I also find it useful for my personal blog.

    7. Chilipepper*

      I’d be looking for a plot twist type hook in the intro. Like, you’d think this decision to do this weight loss thing would be difficult but it was easy for me. Or I put this off for so long and now I wonder why. Or I’m the last person I ever thought would write a blog like this.

      Followed by any utilitarian details as needed.
      And

  17. Nela*

    Readers who are interested in the topic often entirely skip the intro, so what you write there can be completely utilitarian:

    – Give a short summary of the results you have, followed by “in this article I’ll explain what we did to achieve it”. That’s it.

    – Start with a question (or several) that people often think about regarding this topic, and “I’ll answer those questions, and more, in this article”.

    My intros on professional articles are usually one paragraph long, sometimes two. They’re there to say “this is what the article is about”.

  18. Mourning Reader*

    Good morning, commentariat! I have two “asking for a friend” questions today. I will separate them for threading ease.

    Friend has adopted a lovely young dog, about a year old, sweet tempered, some kind of husky mix with white fur and blue eyes. Recently there was a thread about dog training. Can anyone recommend a good online training resource? Friend has had a dog before, but a small one and she was never consistent with training. This bigger one needs to learn to walk on a leash (without pulling ahead and tripping up her human), the usual sit and stay stuff, and to not jump up to greet visitors. Friend has looked at some YouTube videos and such but probably can’t go to in person training yet, although she is over 65 and should be able to get vaccinated soon.

    Recommendations for good basic dog training online?

    1. Hotdog not dog*

      Huskies tend to be very strong willed and can be difficult to train without a lot of consistency. I would reach out to your local shelter or a breed-based rescue group for recommendations. A lot of trainers are doing online/Zoom lessons.

      1. Lizzo*

        +1 to this. Our neighbors have one, and even though they have been consistent with training, the dog is stubborn as heck and won’t do anything if there is no guarantee of a reward.

    2. I’d Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Reddit has some subreddits dedicated to Doug training and they have some detailed faq pages I find helpful. /

    3. Joie de Vivre*

      I don’t have a training suggestion, but until your friend can get the dog trained a Gentle Leader might help. It is a leash attachment that loops over a dog’s nose. It keeps most dogs from pulling.

      1. Cj*

        Seconding this. Also watch Lucky Dog on CBS Saturday mornings. Hopefully she has past episodes available. They focus a lot on the common commands. Has a new trainer this year. He and the past trainer are both very good, but I think that really episodes showed more the training specifics. I suppose it got repetitive after a while.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I have a husky mix here.
      He was a strange pup and I went flying to google what’s up with him.
      I fell into a guy’s blog about his husky. I will never forget, he said, “Huskies and wolves are NOT dogs.”

      This has been the best piece of advice for me and my little buddy. He’s super smart. And super stubborn. He never learned sit/stay. But he learned, “Go to the window and watch for company. Let me know when they get here.” He enjoys the more complex things and will do them well. Some of it is stuff I don’t want such as taking off his own collar or unlocking doors. It took me a while to learn how to foil these behaviors and I had to deliberately target each behavior.

      1. Zooey*

        Hah! Huskies are too smart. There’s one in my neighbourhood who appears on the local community Facebook page at least once a month when someone reports him roaming free, because he is a genius at escaping and does it any chance he gets. You really need a lot of time and ingenuity to keep up with them!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          My little Houdini can get out of anything. My friend plays with him. Well the dog is fun because he always thinks of something new. So one day my friend grabbed the dog’s paw and would not let go. Any other dog, I would have told my friend, “please don’t do that.” Most dogs would jump around , do head bumps and so on. My dog simply leaned over and stuck his tongue in my friend’s ear. It was enough and my friend let go.
          End of problem.

          My dog is actually smarter than me but I have learned to adjust.

    5. Dwight Schrute*

      Hi! I work for a dog trainer. I suggest Kiko pup for YouTube videos. I know a fair amount of training facilities offer Zoom lessons and online classes so I’d look into local facilities that offer them. We offer Zoom stuff as well as
      limited in person training. I’d suggest staying away from anything balanced training wise as there is risk of behavioral fallout and it can damage your relationship with your dog.

      1. Mourning Reader*

        Thank you all, especially the tips about huskies; I will pass it all along. Dwight, what’s “balanced training wise?” I haven’t heard of that.

        1. Natalie*

          “Balanced training” uses both positive and negative reinforcements. That is, the trainer may use some aversive stimuli to shape behavior. This is in contrast to positive reinforcement only.

          If you’re not a really, REALLY experienced dog handler, it’s hard to tell the difference between good balanced training and abusive training methods.

          1. Dwight Schrute*

            Also, most handlers aren’t skilled enough to correct the behavior they want with the aversive stimuli so they end up punishing the wrong behavior. Huskies are incredibly intelligent and NEED a ton of mental enrichment, exercise and a job to do. Otherwise they’ll channel that energy and intelligence into behavior we as humans don’t like

        2. Dog and cat fosterer*

          “Balanced” training is from Cesar Milan and the people who believe in his bullshit about needing to be the alpha and show dominance. You can be negative, but with a kind No! or Uhoh! and withholding treats, definitely not physical. I also use a strong direct stare when a submissive foster dog (or my dog) is being obnoxious. I keep staring until the dog looks away. I specifically use this when they are looking at me (begging) at meal times, as a way to say “I have more willpower than you, dog, please go find a quiet spot to wait rather than beg”. It’s all very kind and easy, the point is to use their own communication methods to help me. When I want to build their confidence then I do the opposite, and use sideways looks, chin scratches, yawning, and similar to show that I’m no threat.

          I really like Stanley Coren’s point of view: why dominate the dog with force, especially because it teaches the dog that physical punishments are okay in the relationship, when you can much more effectively dominate the situation with a piece of kibble. If the dog is treated physically then it could start to respond physically, and it is more likely to react to children because it can win against them. If a TV show has the caveat “Don’t try our methods at home” then don’t do them! If you hold a gun to someone’s head and tell them to be your friend then they will, but there isn’t a friendship or respect, only fear and the potential to escalate the physical response next time.
          https://youtu.be/wqGMCyoG4iA
          The entire video is good for dog language (you can see his presentation after about 12mins)
          His response to balanced training is 39:00 – 43:30
          I have used a lot of his techniques as he bases them on evidence built from scientific studies and his experience. I bought his book about speaking with dogs, and it really helped me to learn how to read my fosters’ body language, as I get handed problem dogs and need to learn if any aggression is fear (almost always), and if an unmannered dog has any problem fear or is just excited and needs rules. He has decades of experience (he’s retired now) and includes fun stories from his training years, so the book is a fun read, a page-turner.

          1. tangerineRose*

            “you can much more effectively dominate the situation with a piece of kibble” I love this!

    6. Black Horse Dancing*

      Huskies often pull because that’s what they’re bred for. Good luck! Dr. Patricia McConnell is wonderful. Look for her blog–The Other End of the Leash.

    7. Dog and cat fosterer*

      Huskies *pull* on leash. You can try the haltie (band over the nose) but those are often difficult for the dog to adjust to. You can get no-pull harnesses, where they clip in front, so when the dog pulls, they are pulled sideways toward the owner. Neither is perfect, and I suggest that the tool is combined with the owner stopping, and only moving forward when the pulling stops, or the other option is to turn around and walk the other way until the pup starts to pull in that direction. I have used a slip leash (material, definitely not a metal chain) on a husky foster and it worked within seconds. I wouldn’t use a slip leash unless the dog wasn’t pulling all the time, and if it worked almost immediately.

      Training is about being more consistent and stubborn than the dog. It is more work initially but makes things so much easier later.

      I like Victoria Stilwell videos from It’s Me or the Dog. I don’t like that the US ones are more drama (she started her show in the UK) but I suspect that’s a cultural thing about what US and UK audiences expect as good tv, and the training methods are good.

      1. Dog and cat fosterer*

        Also, a family member adopted a husky and got benefit from joining a fb group for local husky owners. Huskies are known for pulling, for destroying soft furniture, and running full speed away from home if given half a chance. It’s best to embrace their quirks and adjust expectations. For example the family member didn’t want to use a crate, but after losing quite a few decorative cushions they finally borrowed one of mine and loved it. They walk the dog a lot so when they go out the husky happily sleeps in its den.

      2. tangerineRose*

        Sometimes I think some sort of sled on wheels should be invented so that someone can harness a big energetic dog to it, and the dog can run around the neighborhood with the person on the “sled”.

        1. Dog and cat fosterer*

          I rollerblade when the streets are clean! The dogs love it. I taught the family’s husky to pull me, and we fly around the neighborhood. I’m planning to buy a specialized pulling harness to take full advantage of their strength.

    8. Dwight Schrute*

      I’d also look into Pawsitive Futures in the Atlanta area. The owner has malamutes and does dog powered sports with hers and they are able to walk lovely on loose leashes when not working. She’s got some videos on Facebook I believe

  19. Loopy*

    Thanks to everyone who commented on my solo hiking thread last week. I am in another weekend of solid RAIN so there is zero chance of hiking this weekend! Still, I’m glad I’ve resolved to try some new places. If only the rain would stop.

    On another topic- lately I’ve been thinking a routine would be good for me but can’t figure out one that would work. In general- I work probably an average of 9 hours a day at a stressful job (occasionally a little longer), followed by about 1.5 hours of studying a day for a certification, and have to prep all my own meals and lunches and do all my own chores (laundry, grocery shopping, dog walking). I often feel overwhelmed and disorganized.

    I think structure is the answer for me, but am curious as to how others have gotten themselves into a regular routine or implemented some structure into a busy life? I feel like I should be able to just do it, but it isn’t happening!

    1. mreasy*

      You feel disorganized because you have a lot to do and very little time! Being strapped for time can cause an overwhelmed feeling for sure. I work a lot of hours as well and I have just had to realize that chores and food prep and pretty much anything other than exercise, work, and eating will have to happen on the weekends.

      1. Loopy*

        I was afraid of that- while weekends are the best time I’m also absolutely burnt out by then. I’m trying out giving myself Friday evenings off, doing almost everything Saturday and then Sunday is a day for me to relax/do fun things, entirely based on how Im feeling. However, today I’m struggling to power through my attempt at Everything-Saturday. I feel like I need almost the whole two days just to recover from the week!

        1. mreasy*

          That is very hard and I feel that myself sometimes. I have had mixed results with this, but if I can power though most of it on Saturday it makes Sunday so much more relaxing.

    2. Ranon*

      We run a weekly cycle, generally light on chores during the week and heavier on the weekends. I’m partnered so I benefit from being able to do task splits, but basically Saturday/ Sunday: laundry, floors, meal prep for the full week, Monday: work, workout, Tuesday: work, veg, Wednesday: work, workout, meal plan, Thursday: work, groceries every other week, Friday: workout, work, takeout. Dishes my partner does every morning, bathrooms I’ll do light maintenance on before my shower (e.g. wipe one thing) or a heavy clean on the weekend. Dusting at random or while I talk on the phone.

      When I was studying for my license I found it helpful to do one heavy weekend day so I could go a bit lighter during the week but that’s just personal preference.

      1. Loopy*

        Reading this is super helpful. I’m realizing just by my reaction to other people’s approaches that in theory I really want to keep at least one of my weekend days entirely free. I think I WISH I could get more done during the week but I’m just not sure it’s feasible. That’s probably why I’m struggling. I like the idea of doing it one way, but in practice it’s just not the right way for me with my schedule! I think a somewhat heavier weekend in terms of prep and chores is probably just unavoidable to make my weeks bearable!

        1. DataGirl*

          I haven’t had a full day free since having kids (nearly 20 years now). Even before them, I remember having to do grocery shopping and cleaning on the weekend, although there was definitely a lot more room in my schedule. Now it’s more about taking the occasional evening ‘off’ to sit and veg. I have no idea how adults, particularly adults with kids, ever have free time to do fun things. Even if I catch up on the daily/weekly chores like cleaning, laundry, grocery, cooking, etc there’s still always between 5-25 additional things on my list that need doing. I think a schedule can help with keeping on top of the regular stuff, but I’ve just come to believe that being an adult sucks.

          1. allathian*

            I have a lot of time to myself, probably more than many adults, especially parents. But one reason for that is that currently our son doesn’t have any extracurriculars at all (COVID) and even before, he only had two days with extracurriculars a week. I feel privileged because whatever he does or doesn’t do in elementary school has no bearing on whether or where he’ll go to college, here only academic achievement counts. We’re also in an area where it’s standard for kids as young as 7 to get themselves to and from school on their own. My son started going to school unaccompanied when he was 9 and felt comfortable doing it. He takes the bus (public transit). Most of the very young kids who go to school on their own live within walking distance of the school.

            It also helps that he’s a neurotypical kid with no particular difficulties either at school or in his social life. He has one best friend, but he’s consistently voted as the most popular boy in his class, which means that he gets along with everyone.

            He did go through a couple of years with a lot of screen time, but now he’s cut back on his own initiative because he prefers to read. Even with the screen time he had plenty of time to spend with his friends and it never affected his schoolwork or his sleep, so we were fine with it. He’s also been getting a reasonable amount of exercise with his dad, he’s just not into team sports (and I’m glad, because I wouldn’t want to be a soccer or hockey mom!).

            I don’t volunteer for anything. I was a member of the board of my son’s daycare PTA, but when he went to kindergarten and school I decided that I was done with it.

            I’ve basically decided that for my mental health, I need as much free time as I can possibly manage to get, and I’ve stopped feeling guilty about that.

            1. allathian*

              I did get a professional certificate last year. I estimate that it took on average about 5 hours of work per week, although there were weeks I did nothing and I scheduled a whole week’s vacation to study for my final exam, and I spent the same amount of time on studying that I would otherwise have worked.

            2. DataGirl*

              You make 2 really good points allathian:
              1) In the US public transportation is scarce if not completely unavailable in most places. In my city of 100,000 people we don’t even have buses. And with urban sprawl, most places are too far away to walk to, so you have to drive everywhere, which means kids are generally totally dependent on their parents for transportation.
              2) Both of my kids and myself have multiple health issues, which means we have a minimum of 2 doctor/therapy appointments per week. When it’s bad we may have up to 2 appointments per day. With COVID some of those appointments have gone virtual which helps, but many are in person and again with that urban sprawl often we have to drive up to 30 minutes each way to get to them. So yeah, my family in particular is probably a lot busier than average.

              I manage the day to day stuff okay, barely. The things that really get me though are the ‘extras’. Right now just a sample from my to-do list: take vacuum to the repair shop, take computer to the repair shop, go to the cell phone store, work on taxes, sort through and pay bills, clean the front closet, clean the bookshelves (cat pee issue), drop off Christmas presents to friends who each live 30 minutes drive away in opposite directions, take down and wash all the curtains (cat pee again), and about 20 other things. There is just not enough time for everything so I’m perpetually behind and stressed out.

              1. allathian*

                Yeah, and even if you can walk, huge subdivisions in the US don’t have any sidewalks at all. Granted, our small subdivision doesn’t have any sidewalks either, except by the main road where the buses go, but speeds are limited to 30 kph/20 mph (with speed bumps) and people are pretty compliant. One of us usually walks him to the bus stop in the morning, but he gets home by himself in the afternoon. Now it’s easier that we’re both WFH, but when we were at the office, he used his own key to get in. Both of us have pretty flexible schedules, so when we were working at the office, one of us would leave early and the other would leave at the same time as our son left for school and then stay at work later, to minimize the time he had to spend at home alone (or with a friend).

                Your situation sounds really stressful, and I’m sorry you’re struggling. My son had some speech development delays, but even then it was at most two speech therapy appointments per month, usually only one, for two years.

    3. fposte*

      It sounds pretty darn organized to me. Are you feeling like you should be able to get more done with those 20 minutes of free time? Because maybe not.

      I love an app called Home Routines, which allows me to set housekeeping items for a day of the week, or a recurring period, and gives me gold stars when I do them. Even if you’re not talking about housekeeping, a system like that (or even put whatever you please into the app) might be helpful in limiting the possibilities for a given day or week, so you don’t feel like you have to do fifty things every time the clouds part. Treat it as a menu to select from rather than a to-do list.

      1. Loopy*

        I might check this out! Also, if not that I want to fit more in, I just want to work smarter I guess. One Sunday I did a little meal prep and was so pleased on Monday-Tuesday evenings when lunch was already made. I realized I hadn’t really been thinking about what made more sense to do on weekends/v. weeknights. Like Laundry for example- I’m one of those people who insists on being home while the washer/dryer runs, so weeknight evenings make most sense so I’m not trapped at home on value weekend day times. It’s also something I can do WHILE I study.

        1. Hi there*

          That was going to be my suggestion for you—to put laundry and any other little chores you can on weekdays. When I was overwhelmed with work and a baby I read some advice to do a load of laundry every day so it doesn’t pile up. I don’t have that much laundry anymore but it is much easier for me to do a load a few times during the week before work or between WFH meetings that to do a Saturday laundry extravaganza. Same with cooking—spread it out and do just enough that the meals are covered and varied. I also like to freeze a few portions of whatever I make so that there is some day in the future when I won’t have to cook.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      It’s worth 2 cents at most but it’s what I got.

      I prepared meals two or three at a time. A small turkey breast would be 3 meals for me and my husband with some left over for my dog. I could make a salad and that would last a few days. We were not WFH and I still am not WFH. I do 3 lunches on Sunday. If I was FT, I would the remaining 2 lunches on Wednesday.

      For years I did laundry on the weekend. With two of us that meant 3-4 loads. It was a hike to get through it, but somehow I thought that was a good idea. Now my current approach is to do one load every other day or so. I am finding this so much easier. One bonus here was things dried quicker because there’s less clothes at any given time. I hang most things up to dry and during the winter it was a hassle finding space for it all with my old approach.

      I have also shifted more to the “pay me first” approach recommended by some financial advisors. But I pay me by doing my own work before leaving the house in the morning. So before work, I might clean the bathroom or run a load of clothes. I love the symbolism that I take care of my own needs before anyone else.

      Other things have cropped up for me. I have gotten interested in owning less and buying less. I don’t need more crap to do and take care of. I am also more fussy about products that I do buy, they have to work well. Meaning, it can’t take hours of my time to get a product to work as intended.

      1. Loopy*

        I like the idea of 2-3 meals at a time. I always felt like an entire weeks worth was just too much to get through, but that sounds manageable and not overwhelming. I like the pay me first approach but I just cant get up any earlier I think (I start my work day at the office at 700 or at home at 730 usually). I also like the idea of buying less so less to clean and organize!

        1. Hi there*

          I am a little embarrassed that my comment above is so similar to NotSoNewReader, sorry about that! One more idea I have is to think about what you can automate or make easier. When I am busy I get tired of making decisions and keeping track of things, so I try to keep things simple. We always have pizza on Friday, for example, and breakfast for me is almost always oatmeal or yogurt with granola. Thursday dinner is usually something from the freezer, either something that I have made or good old Amy’s. I also use the crockpot more when I am busy since I can set it up in the morning & be done and then have leftovers for lunch later that week. I also like the way crockpot prep can fit into the little bits of time I might have available.

    5. Adventurer*

      First, yay for solo hiking!! I am a woman in my early thirties who has been hiking and backpacking solo since I was in college, and I love it. (I was also a park ranger for five seasons in my twenties.) If you have any lingering questions on that front, let me know!

      I have no tips on the organization front, because I really feel the same way!! Going to follow these other comments for tips too.

    6. RagingADHD*

      I build and fall off of routines all the time, so I’ve come to understand that they will never be perfect or permanent — but still worth doing.

      Getting ready to leave for a busy day in the morning is stressful and can be hectic. Trying to switch up your morning routine first is going to add mental effort and is therefore least likely to stick.

      The best place to start is building the evening routine before bed. There are so many things you can do to set yourself up for a good day — laying out clothes, doing a 5-minute tidy, packing your bag or your lunch, going to bed at a set time, etc.

      I recommend making a list of things you’d like to incorporate in your evening routine and then adding them 1 per day. Then you can do the same thing with a “get home from work” routine, and a “get ready in the morning” routine.

      Doing the evening/afternoon routines let you think forward and be proactive, which leverages the benefit. Then when you are ready to build a morning routine, you’ve already eliminated a lot of morning stress.

      1. Loopy*

        Thank you! This is a super helpful approach and resonates with me. I already do some of it- I never ever have a weekday where I don’t lay out clothes or pre-pack my lunch/work laptop. I think I would like more ideas like this as I know those things make my mornings much easier and smoother. It also gives me a good area of my day to focus on.

        I’m also realizing I like ideas that are time savers, like work smarter not harder!

        1. RagingADHD*

          If you already lay out clothes and pack your lunch the night before, you have a better routine than most people.

    7. Disorganized*

      I’m terrible at maintaining healthy habits, especially with all that 2020 brought. I found the only thing that helps me keep in top of stuff is finding ways to not have to think about it myself. I’ve been using services like HomeChef and Hello Fresh so I don’t have to think about as many meals. My sister also uses an automatic vacuum like a roomba to keep her place cleaner and I’ve just accepted that my space will never be as clean as I’d like it because I just can’t keep up. I use simple things like getting a second laundry basket for clothes that are in between clean and dirty so they don’t end up on my floor and make me feel worse. I also splurged on color changing/smart light bulbs and I have them on a schedule to change colors to mark when I should be starting the next part of my routine (living alone and WFH can really put you in a funk due to lack of environmental changes). I’m sorry I don’t have much advice on things that don’t require money, but sometimes just paring down what you need to spend psychological energy on really helps.

    8. Pharmgirl*

      I feel you – your second paragraph is almost me right now too! One thing I’ve been trying to get better about is doing the “quick” chores daily. If it’ll take 5 minutes or less, I try to get it done. I use an app called Tody that I really like that’s been helping. Getting quick stuff done during the week means less to do on the weekend which makes the weekends easier to enjoy. Otherwise, most of my chores and cooking I do on the weekend. I try to cook 1 big meal each weekend day and use the leftovers during the week, with frozen / take out sprinkled in. Ideally, I don’t want to cook on a work day. Sometimes though, I think I structure too much – I try to split all my chores over the two days, but I’m wondering if getting everything done on 1 day and resting/relaxing on the other day might be better for my mental health.

    9. Sooda Nym*

      For super busy “seasons” in my life (sounds like you are in one of those) I love the idea of “minimums.” The idea is that you figure out the minimum you can do to get by, and if you have to, you let everything else kind of slide for a while. So, for example, your daily minimums might be: work, study, feed yourself, personal hygiene, feed & walk the dog. That might be all you can handle, but all of those things must get done every day, or you start setting yourself up for falling dominoes of getting behind. Weekly mins are probably laundry, grocery shopping, maybe some cleaning, etc. Weekly can happen on the weekend, or you can divide tasks up onto weekdays. Then, once you know the minimums, you can still look for efficiencies and corners to cut. Maybe you can’t cook every day. But you can cook enough for 2 days, so you alternate kitchen days and laundry days, or whatever. Maybe your weekly minimum is cleaning your house for one hour. Won’t get the whole house clean, but you can hit the worst of it every week. Don’t forget to include “self-care” in the minimums. Exercise if it’s important to you, or religious activities, or a hobby you really enjoy and want to spend at least one hour per week on… This is just one chapter, and it’s a busy one, so it’s okay to lower expectations for the less important things right now.

  20. Mourning Reader*

    Second question: another friend, who has unfortunately suffered health, financial, and family setbacks in recent years, has received an Official Letter from the IRS in regard to back taxes owed (about $16k) from previous, more flush years. They are threatening to take her assets, and she doesn’t have much. She is living on Social Security Disability… the kind that people who have worked for years are on, so she has a decent monthly income, but lost her house in foreclosure a couple of years back. (She lived with me for a bit before the SSDI was approved and she was broke but luckily the income came in and she found an apartment near me last January, just before covid hit. We are still pod buddies.)

    Anyway, she is terrified that the IRS will come for her car and tow it. In the throes of worry, she suggested putting her car in my name so they wouldn’t take it. I don’t think that would work, and if discovered could make it worse to be hiding assets. I am trying to reassure her that it’s very unlikely the IRS would do this. Firstly, her debt is probably chicken feed compared to big money debt they would likely go after. They might impound a million dollar yacht but why would they bother with an old car toward a $16k debt? Even if they go after her SS income, wouldn’t they take some small percentage each month and not take her whole income for months?

    In any case, I have advised her to
    -contact a cheap or pro Bono lawyer or tax accountant for better advice, or,
    -send the IRS a letter with a small check, saying you will pay that much each month, so that you look cooperative and forestall any more extreme action

    My impression is that the irs is currently overwhelmed and overworked and underfunded, that these letters were likely auto generated with some trigger for amount or timing, and that the likelihood that they will take her car is slightly above zero.

    Normal advice would be to call and set up a payment plan, but my friend says no one is answering phones there these days.

    TL:dr…. what’s the risk or reasonable course of action for a large (to us) past tax debt?

    (Side note and update to my real estate investment question from last week: I am thinking of using my inheritance money to buy a small house near me to rent to this friend. She is currently living in a 2nd floor apartment with 15 outdoor steps to the parking lot, and laundry also down those snowy stairs. Her disability impairs her walking although she is currently ambulatory I worry what happens when her legs aren’t working? Which has happened to her before. Of course I wouldn’t do this without her involvement but it would be so cool if she lived in a little one story near me; she loves to garden and misses her yard terribly, has a great balcony garden in the apartment but it’s not the same. She’d be a good and trustworthy tenant, and now that we have a decent president we are not as worried that SS will be cut so her income, while not high, should be stable.)

    1. Joie de Vivre*

      Depending on your location, H&R Block has tax pros who are dedicated agents (not sure that is the right term). The dedicated agents are authorized/certified to deal with the IRS and situations like this. I don’t have any idea of how much it would cost.

      1. Joie de Vivre*

        You’d need to confirm, but I believe the dedicated agent is authorized to negotiate with the IRS on behalf of the client.

    2. WellRed*

      You’re a good friend but please don’t buy a house solely for this purpose. Is becoming a landlord something you wanted to do anyway?

    3. Ali G*

      You are right. The chance of someone showing up one day to take her car or anything else is so, so small. We had family friends that owed hundreds of thousands of back taxes and no repo men ever showed up at their door. What your friend does need to do is find some credible way to start communicating with the IRS. Likely she can get a portion forgiven and put on a low payment plan to pay off the rest.

      1. Sue*

        NEVER put someone else’s vehicle in your name. I agree there is no reason to do it here as the IRS is not going to repo her car but it is absolutely never a good idea. If she were to be in an accident, you could be sued. If her insurance was inadequate, you could be looking at liability.
        I also agree with others about the house, nice generous thought but a big headache and fraught with potential problems. I wouldn’t mix money and friendship in this way, it so often turns out badly even with good people.

    4. Amtelope*

      She can apply online for a payment plan; search on the IRS website. It is probably better to talk to a human on the phone because they can offer more flexibility/lower payments, but if she can’t get anyone on the phone, applying online is a good place to start.

      They are extremely unlikely to seize her car, even though technically they have a right to do that. They can and will garnish her SSDI checks, but they can only take 15% of each check. She can probably set up a better payment plan than that with the IRS, but that is the worst thing that is actually likely to happen.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        This. A couple of my friends have had to deal with back tax issues, and repo is not a thing they do. They garnish income instead.

      2. DataGirl*

        Yep, she can set up an account on irs.gov then set up a payment plan that way. I just walked my husband through this- it’s kind of a pain as they require quite a bit of information but we got it done in about 15 minutes.

        Also, they are really backlogged- our 2019 taxes haven’t been processed yet and I recently read an article that they have around 7 Million 2019 returns still to process, so she can use that slowness in her favor. We still owe on 2019, but I can’t make a payment since they haven’t processed it, so we’re just saving as much as we can in the hopes that by the time they finally get to us we’ll have enough to pay it off.

    5. Natalie*

      The worst course of action is worrying about it endlessly and not contacting them. The likelihood that they’ll take her car in the middle of the night is quite low, but it’s higher if she just sits on the letter indefinitely.

      I agree setting up a payment plan online would be the best course of action for now. That shouldn’t require paying an enrolled agent or anything, she can do it herself. Once she has that immediate worry taken care of, she will be less anxious and more able to think about what she else she might want to do to take care of this. Payment plans can also be changed, if she is able to get ahold of someone over the phone in the future.

    6. pancakes*

      No one can take possession of her car or seize income without first getting a judgment against her. It is possible for them to obtain a default judgment against her if she ignores the letters, though. She needs to call the IRS and try to set up a payment plan.

      I don’t want to alarm you, but your idea that changes to social security are off the table seems a bit naive. Neera Tanden, who is presently being confirmed to head the Office of Management and Budget, has a history of proposing cuts to it. So does the new President. Search his name in connection with the Simpson-Bowles Commission.

      1. Dan*

        I agree with you, but I don’t think SS cuts are a partisan issue (AAM hates politics around here, so I’ll try to stay away from that…). It’s recognized on both sides of the aisle that there’s a mismatch between the benefit payout and the revenue generation. And TBH, the longer we wait, the more painful the cuts. (*How* the mismatch gets dealt with is a partisan issue, but the fact one exists is not.)

    7. Janet Pinkerton*

      Okay it’s hard to get through on the phones, for sure, but there are certainly people working the phones. It’s worth trying.

      The most important thing is to not ignore it.

      There are options for this. One option is setting up an installment agreement—a formal agreement to pay a little at a time. Another option is this: if her financial hardship is so great that she cannot pay any of it, then IRS has a status called “currently not collectible” which means IRS will not try to collect the debt, though they will look to see if your situation improves and then you’d be able to pay the debt. Another option is an offer in compromise—saying “hey I can pay x amount of this” and IRS agrees that this compromise is worthwhile since it makes it easier to collect the debt.

      IRS acknowledges that people have basic living expenses that they need to be able to pay for before they can pay past tax debt. That’s why they have programs such as these. The term to use is “financial hardship” when you call.

      If you try these things and don’t have success, contact your local taxpayer advocate—just search for “local taxpayer advocate (your state)” (no quotes) and the contact information for the Taxpayer Advocate Service will pop up. They can facilitate your request with the IRS but they are very busy and you may be able to do it without them.

      Another source of assistance is a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic—they can help you with a tax dispute and are either free or inexpensive. Just search for “LITC (my state)”

      I’ll check back a few times this weekend—feel free to ask me follow-up questions.

    8. Black Horse Dancing*

      I’ve talked to the IRS numerous times and usually they are great to work with. Your friend may even get her debt waived due to financial hardship. She needs to check our their website for forms and go from there.

    9. osmoglossum*

      Your friend definitely needs to tread carefully because the IRS tends to go after people who owe smaller amounts (and $16,000 is considered a smaller amount) as it’s easier to get money from them — the folks who owe large amounts and own yachts, etc., usually have access to tax lawyers who fight to the death to prevent any kind of payment.
      (In 2018 I owed the IRS $10 (yep, ten dollars) and, as my executive functioning was at a low point, I kept forgetting to mail a check. After six months, the IRS started to withhold 24% of an investment that gave me a monthly dividend of $45. The withholding went on for months, even though, if you do the math, one month’s withholding was sufficient to repay the amount owed. I spoke to 3 people at different offices in the IRS and they were baffled. They all said the threshold for withholding was $50. They could not understand why this happened.)

    10. Wishing You Well*

      I had a friend in a very similar situation: facing a surprise tax bill while having NO income (nothing) for a couple of years. She met with the IRS in person and negotiated a lower tax bill. She’s a shy person, so she probably had someone help her get the settlement.
      As for real estate, don’t buy a house for your friend to live in unless you can afford to let her live there for free – meaning, if for any reason, she stopped paying rent, it would not create a financial crisis for you. Do you want to be a landlord paying for taxes, insurance, liability, maintenance, repairs? Can you afford an ongoing cleaning crew, a yard crew and a maintenance person since your friend is disabled and might become more disabled? And you would be HER landlord.
      Actually, you’d have FAR less liability and it’s probably cheaper if you simply paid her rent where she lives. It might also be better for the friendship if you don’t become her landlord. Still, you’re a very good friend and you have a good heart. Best Wishes.

    11. Cj*

      CPA here. She should be able to get her debt put in “uncollectable”. Do you have legal aid nearby that she can contact? Or a CPA that would work pro bono on this? She’s right that nobody in answering the phones. A letter can be written, though, but even then she may continue to get notices for a while because they are so far behind on processing correspondence.

    12. Girasol*

      Does she know she owes this much or is she taking their word for it? The IRS can make mistakes. They once told me I owed $20,000 when I felt sure I’d done nothing wrong. I contacted a tax accountant (with that much on the line I wasn’t going to deal with it alone!) and he not only found their error but also found deductions that I wasn’t aware of. That resulted in a refund that covered his fee. Working out a payment plan with the IRS is a good idea but only if your friend is sure that she really owes that money.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        I came ot look for this comment after I made mine. We used to get these letters all the time, occasionally the taxpayer forgot to include a tax form that resulted in higher tax but sometimes it was mistakenly reported under their SS#. It happened to me in my state, I got a letter stating that I owe a different state $30k. I called the dept and insisted that I’d never travelled to said state and I have never even earned that much in my entire life. I had to escalate it to a higher up as the rep on the phone was unhelpful and he was able to clear it up in 2 minutes. So, that’s definitely worth looking into.

    13. ....*

      She just needs to contact the IRS and make a payment plan. I don’t think she needs to move assets around or try to hide things, just call them and tell them she doesn’t have enough money and they’ll give her a plan. They’re pretty used to this type of thing

      1. ....*

        Sorry saw that they’re apparently not answering the phone. She could send a registered letter asking for the plan then or consult a Tax accountant who might have a line of communication with them

    14. Anonymous Fed*

      Well the lines are busy all the time because the agency hasn’t been adequately funded or staffed for quite a few years. This is out of my scope of experience and area of expertise, but this is what I know. Keep copies of everything, all correspondence and all forms. Document phone calls (especially dates) and numbers called. Names and employee I.D. numbers may be helpful, but often are not.

      Before she considers setting up a payment plan, she should look at the IRS-dot-gov website (Yes, the website is HORRIBLE! and often not very helpful) and type in “Offer in Compromise” and read the information there to see if she might be eligible to have some of the back taxes waived. There’s an application fee, but it sounds like there is a very good chance your friend would be eligible for a low-income certification which would waive the application fee.

      If that doesn’t work, then she should set up an installment agreement and start paying it off in small(ish) monthly amounts. The best way to do that would be to go the IRS-dot-gov website, click on “Pay,” then click on “Payment Plan (Installment Agreement)” and set up the installment agreement online. If she can get through the phone lines, the IRS can set up the agreement for her over the phone, but they charge extra (like a couple of hundred dollars) to set up the installment agreement for you (which is a passive-aggressive way to push you onto the website) and to encourage you not call them.

      If she doesn’t pay, the penalties and interest will continue to accrue. If she pays, the penalties will usually stop, but the interest will continue to accrue, although the interest rate usually isn’t that bad. Before they actually take assets or place liens on property the IRS would usually assign a Revenue Officer to the case and she would get a letter from that specific individual with contact information for her to reach that person. If she didn’t do that, then the R.O. might show up at her house to discuss things before they would confiscate her property.

      For the 48 contiguous state, the IRS hours are from 7:00am to 7:00pm in each time zone. (Alaska and Hawaii have to call during the hours for the Pacific Time Zone, so I believe that would be 6:00am to 6:00pm for Alaska and 5:00am to 5:00pm for Hawaii.)

      If you live in the Eastern and Central Time zones the earlier you call the shorter the wait times are (after 10:00am Eastern Time Zone and after 9:00am in the Central Zone) the west coast kicks in and the wait times go up a lot. OTOH, if you live in the Mountain and Pacific Time zones, the later in the day you call, the shorter the wait times are (after 5:00pm Mountain Time Zone and after 4:00pm Pacific Time Zone they stop taking calls from the Eastern Time Zone and the wait times drop off a bit).

      (The IRS phone system screens calls based on the area code of the phone you’re calling from. It depends on the specific time zone the area code is assigned to. The IRS will only take your call during the hours set up for that time zone, even if you actually live in a different time zone than what your phone is assigned to. If your area code is in the Eastern time zone, they will only take your call during the hours set up for the Eastern Time Zone, even if you actually live in a different time zone.)

      If your friend is unable to get things resolved after attempting to work directly with the IRS, a last resort might be to contact the “Taxpayer Advocate Service” (TAS). In rural states, there might only be only one TAS office for the entire state, while in more urban states there might be several offices within a large city. Most of the offices are closed for in person meetings and some of them have limited hours, but most of them are still taking calls. Type “Taxpayer Advocate Service” into the search engine on the IRS-dot-gov website for info about locating an office near you, hours and phone numbers.

    15. Potatoes gonna potate*

      tax pro, one that specializes in resolutions. IRS seems scary but they work with you on these issues. At best, the pro may be able to do an Offer In Compromise (I am not sure of the specifics as I never did those but they are an option for those who owe a lot to have their debt significantly reduced). Find a real tax pro, that could be a lawyer, Enrolled Agent or CPA, do not try those ads on TV – my professional peers say they are full of scams.

      1. Cj*

        If she wants to do an offer in compromise she better find somebody who will do it pro bono, as they are extremely complicated.

        You also need to send the amount the of money you want them to compromise for along with the application. If they deny your application, apply it to your debt, but will not refund it.

        The IRS is wrong a lot. If she’s not sure she owes yes, she needs to contact them by letter. It will take a long while for a response.

    16. Otter Dance*

      Offer In Compromise.
      Even the IRS knows they can’t get blood from a stone. If she is insolvent, which it sounds as though she is by your description, the IRS will accept a payment plan for far less than they are currently claiming. (But woe betide her if she fails to keep up the payments.) She will need a complete balance sheet of financial assets and liabilities and a projection of income and expense.
      If they do garnish, they can’t take so much that they put her below the poverty level, or prevent her from getting necessary medical care.

      Does she agree with the IRS calculations? It’s not uncommon to have a preliminary claim reduced, if they are disallowing valid deductions, for example, and the taxpayer can document the deductions.

      Separately, don’t become her landlord. What would you do if she couldn’t make rent, or caused damage to the property? It’s worse than lending money to a friend, because it goes on and on and on.

    17. Mourning Reader*

      Thanks everyone for the very helpful suggestions for my friend. It gives hope! I will cut and paste specifics to her via email.

      It’s sweet of you to say I’m such a good friend, and while I hope that’s true, I also hope it’s what any decent person would do in our situation. I bet it’s very common right now for people in dire straits, especially in the US, to be bunking in with friends and families.

      I don’t think I’d want to be a landlord absent this situation, but that’s largely because of previous experience with an unreliable tenant. Nothing as bad as the horror stories previously mentioned, but more work and risk than I’d want to take on. I am still mulling it over but I think trustworthy tenant like this friend might largely mitigate that risk. I’m not making any sudden moves in any case. It gives me an excuse to browse Zillow… not just for 30-somethings any more!

      I know Social Security in the US is going to be in trouble long term, but I hold out hope that there will be some kind of adjustment in time to mostly preserve benefits to people my age and up. I’m thinking people who are currently in the system might end up with reduced benefits, but unless “they” run out of money entirely, it’s unlikely that my friend will end up with no income anytime soon. In another 15 or 20 years maybe. Most proposals I’ve read about grandfather in people currently in the system. I had read that the previous administration had a plan to make people requalify for SSDI every 6 months. That kind of thing, rather than eliminating the program entirely, was more of a threat to benefits in the near term. And frankly, if SS runs out of money and stops paying, the US economy would have to be correspondingly f’ed up and we’d all go to hell in a hand basket anyway. Meanwhile I’ll keep paying my dues to AARP and hope I die before the system collapses.

      (Strangely enough, all my recently deceased family members died within months of first receiving SS, so as a group, we’ve put in much more than we’ve received. With so many elders dying of covid, I wonder if the system is saving vast amounts of money? Or is that offset by the lost productivity of younger working people who also died? Well this has gotten morbid, sorry.)

    18. Susan.*

      If she hasn’t paid her taxes, what makes you think she’d keep up with rent payments to you?
      And she is breaking the law by not paying her taxes. And she’s considering being dishonest by putting her car in your name.
      You are not responsible for her. It’s okay to tell her no. She (not you) should consult a tax lawyer or an accountant.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is fine until we consider people who encounter outrageous medical bills or lost their house in a house fire or lost their job through no fault of their own, etc. Sometimes crap happens to people who do “everything right”.

        We have no idea how OP’s friend got to where she is. There is one thing we can be sure of, most of us are only a heartbeat away from financial ruin. It could be a catastrophic illness or accident. It could be a huge loss due to fire or storm, or it could be we find ourselves unemployed for much longer than we ever imagined. There are other reasons stuff like this happens. There are very few of us who are totally immune to losing any semblance of the life we have now and take for granted.

        Having said all this, a pearl of wisdom I have held on to OP, is to not give so much of ourselves that we become basket cases that other people have to take care of. If you are no longer able to take care of her because of your own misfortune that kind of defeats the point.

        I remember when my father got hit with my mother’s medical bills. Her bill totaled TEN years of his GROSS pay…. and he had retired to take care of her. whoops. When she died, my aunt- my father’s sis- offered to take another mortgage out on her house to pay those medical bills.
        Yeah, I got a lump in my throat at this point in the story.
        Wisely, my father declined the offer. And his reason was, “I know that I may not be able to make your mortgage payment the way I should. This means you, too, can lose your house. I’d rather know for a fact that you are safe in your home and if I need a place to land for a few weeks while I figure out where to go next, I can come to your safe home for a short bit.”

        This was such a smart move. Sis knew that she could do something practical to help my father- her bro. My father knew that he had the option of staying with his sis. I think just knowing that he had a Plan B, was enough to help him find a path through the mess he had on his hands.

        Some times smaller helps can actually bring about longer more enduring results.

    19. bluephone*

      Not a lawyer or tax professional but I’ve had various family members who worked for the IRS, or as tax preparers (including being able to negotiate with the IRS on their client’s behalf), etc.

      1. Do not try to move any of Friend’s assets into your name, don’t let her do it, etc. The IRS will find out, they won’t accept any excuses or justifications, and then you’ll both get in a *heap* of trouble. Just wanted to repeat that to drive it home.
      2. Friend is probably best off first contacting a tax lawyer or preparer before sending anything to the IRS like payments, especially now.
      3. Unfortunately, no one’s going to be answering the phone at the IRS for a while, to say they are backed up because of COVID is to call smallpox “oh just a rash.” The IRS has something like 70 million unprocessed returns from the 2019 fiscal year (which had an extended deadline because of COVID) and yet also thinks that they will be able to process the 2020FY returns in a timely fashion). So your friend is probably better focusing on finding a tax lawyer/person to help her, instead of even trying to call the IRS at this point.
      Good luck to her!

  21. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

    Gardening thread! What’s happening on the green scene?

    I went out to get “just 3 or 4” replacement plants today. Spoiler alert: I did not come home with just 3 or 4.

    1. Hotdog not dog*

      I’m planning my garden and drooling over all the seed catalogs! I need to either buy several more acres of land or narrow down my wish list.

    2. Anonymath*

      All my semi-tropical plants are bundled up with Christmas lights on. Our poor baby mango is under a very large cardboard box. We’ll let it get some sun for a couple of hours today if the temps hit 40, but they are all in for a very rough Monday. We’ll see what survives. Last time it did this I lost my mango and both passion fruit vines.

    3. Ali G*

      Ugh, we just discovered that one of our giant oak trees needs to come down. It was apparently rotted and the woodpeckers started in on it. I’m sad!

      1. Workerbee*

        That is very sad! I deeply hate and am saddened when trees come down.

        Given time, money, inclination, and space available, is there a way for you to keep some of the wood and repurpose it for something? A carved bowl, or something bigger…

        1. fposte*

          I have seen some amazing chainsaw carvings on stumps! If my big sycamore goes I’m thinking about looking into it (please don’t go, big sycamore).

        2. Ali G*

          Because the extent of rot, it isn’t worth the money to have them be careful in taking it down. So unfortunately, this one will be firewood (the non-rotted stuff at least).
          We also have a GIANT black walnut in the yard that will come down before it rots and will make beautiful slabs. It’s really expensive to to cut a tree in a yard for products, so it’s only worth it if you know you are going to get good stuff.
          But once my husband gets his new shed I will probably replant another somewhere to start to make up for the loss.

      2. allathian*

        Awww, that’s sad. I love the sound of woodpeckers, though, it’s so homey. I’m not very good at identifying birds, but I did see a black woodpecker not too long ago. They’re about the same size as crows, black with a red crown (males) or a red neck (females). I heard the knocking on wood, and located the bird by sound and felt like I had achieved something. I even managed to get it on video, although it was too high up in a tree to identify its sex.

    4. Never Nicky*

      We’ve had an unusual amount of snow for my part of the UK so nothing has happened, and I’m bracing myself for casualties.

      I keep telling myself snow is an insulator and the plants will be happier under a 6 inch blanket of snow than braving -5 Deg C temperatures ‘naked’.

      1. allathian*

        You’re right about that! Our rhododendrons are probably only surviving the -20 C /-5 F temps thanks to a blanket of snow.

    5. GoryDetails*

      Haven’t started any seeds yet (though I should have), but am enjoying the lettuce variety from my Aerogarden. And my amaryllis plants are all sprouting multiple stems with four or more blossoms each, a nice long-lasting display.

    6. Bobina*

      Other than replanting my peperomia into a smaller pot and less compost-y soil, not much happening. Its been very cold here so hoping all the bulbs that started sprouting will survive. Realised I apparently have powdery mildew on some of the heuchera I bought in November, so did a bit of tidying up on those plants and hoping it doesnt become an issue.

      Not much else, just waiting for this cold snap to end and a couple more weeks for more light then I’m gonna sow a few more seeds and see how those go!

      Really cant wait for summer to see how all the random things I threw into pots turn out! I bought some grasses (Karl Foerster) which I really hope will survive and grow because they look amazing and will go well in my outdoor space!

    7. Generic Name*

      I just got a free jade plant, and I’m very happy about it. Nothing better than free plants! My husband upgraded our back yard raised veggie garden bed. It was one board of pine (leftovers from something else) and now it’s redwood to match our deck. It is currently hovering right at zero, so seeing anything green outside seems so far off.

    8. Parenthetically*

      The polytunnel has been deconstructed so the soil can air out and be prepped — it’ll go back up in March after the weather warms up a bit, and we’ll start planting out spring things!

    9. JobHunter*

      The cherry tomatoes have just started to ripen. There are probably a dozen inflorescences now. I just changed the water and added fresh Hoagland solution, so I expect the tomatoes to really take off now. The cuttings from the last plant in the garden are spindly but also most fruitful. The heirlooms started from seed in the Aerogarden are lagging by comparison. I have one last lettuce plant left, and it’s struggling under the shade of the tomato jungle.

    10. Might Be Spam*

      I brought my green pepper plants inside in the fall and they are all still alive even though I tend to neglect them. I’m wondering if I should prune them or if that would be a bad idea. I’m hoping that they will bloom this summer and get new peppers. I don’t know if that is even possible. I will probably prune a couple of them and see what happens.

    11. DataGirl*

      We started our first garden last year, 3 large raised beds. Last year I just got whatever transplants I could find in stores and it went well so that’s my plan for this year too. A lot of people in my gardening group are starting seeds already inside, but I have no space for that.

      Last year I had way way way too many cucumbers (SO MANY PICKLES) so I want just one or two plants this year. I’ll do a full bed of tomatoes again as we cook with them constantly. My zucchini and squash failed last year (powdery mildew and squash vine borers) so I’m not sure if I’ll try them again this year or not. If I don’t it will give me more room for chilis, so maybe I’ll skip them. And I need a ton of basil- last year I had maybe 8-12 plants and that wasn’t enough. We live for pesto. :) Man, I wish it were spring already!

      1. allathian*

        A friend of mine who’s really into using every edible part of a plant in cooking has made great pesto using carrot tops! We even have a commercial manufacturer that makes carrot pesto, it’s great. Lovely green color.

  22. Me*

    Soup question.

    We’ve had an entire night of freezing rain/sleet. It’s sitting on top of 4” of snow from the night before. I still have power. And heat.

    Did I mention I live in a forested area with huge fir trees all around the house? I’m starting to hear big booms. Probably branches. I think we are better off than many in the region, just because we are so close to the line where some folks got snow and some got freezing rain/sleet.

    What’s your favorite winter time soup? I need to cozy up to the fireplace today with a cup of yummy soup. I’m stuck in tomato/veggie soup mode. Kinda tired of it. I pretty much have ingredients for everything, certainly can’t travel to a store today and have some leftover roasted squash. Suggestions?

    1. mreasy*

      Butternut squash + green apple + coriander is one of my favorites. Just sauté an onion w salt, add half a diced apple & sauté til soft, then add your cubed butternut squash (about 1/2 squash to 1/2 apple but entirely up to you), coriander (the seed not the leaf, stock, seasoning to taste. Cumin and some smoked paprika are another good seasoning combo with butternut squash in a soup.

      1. Me*

        Yum! That is a contender for sure. I have honey crisp so I’m not sure that would be a good substitute for Granny Smith?

    2. Dee*

      No recipe but: I like squash, black beans, and corn together. I’d either: puree the squash and thin it with veg stock and dump the beans and corn in, or.. If the squash is like cubed, I’d start with a shortcut cream of something soup and then add the beans, corn, and squash. I’d also add cooked macaroni or rice cause I’m weird with my soups I think, and spices and maybe something acidic like a vinegar.

      possibly adding more liquid like something creamy (cream, shortcut with a cream of celery can soup, etc) and thinning it and add the

    3. Anonymath*

      Our new go-to is lamb and barley soup. Roast a lamb leg, cube it and add beef broth, mushrooms, diced tomatoes, carrot, celery. We’ll be throwing in some rutabaga because that what’s growing in the garden. Add pearl barley and cook until everything is done. It’s hearty, delicious, and keeps you warm.
      Also made some overnight crockpot congee because it’s cold in the mornings too.

    4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Smitten Kitchen has a recipe called “Cozy Cabbage and Farro Soup” (I think it’s originally from the book Six Seasons).

      I don’t know if I would call it my favourite, per se, but it’s SO easy and requires no special or fancy ingredients. We’ve made it a lot this year.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Farro is AMAZING and makes the best ever warm salad with roast veggies, goat cheese, and balsamic.

      1. Me*

        That took me down a rabbit hole!!! I ended up ordering the six seasons cookbook, lol.

        I’m going to try this recipe next week though- been wondering how best to use the farro in my pantry. Thanks!

        1. Old and Don’t Care*

          Smitten Kitchen’s One Pan Farro with Tomatoes is great. I make it year round, with grape tomatoes.

      2. Pharmgirl*

        This is great! I got cabbage in my misfits market box I wasn’t sure what to make with, and just bought a new bag of farro. And 6 months ago accidentally bought a case of stock instead of a carton. I love recipes that help me use ingredients up!

      1. Me*

        Me too! I love making it from scratch but it’s also like a 3 hour prep, LOL!

        I’m going to thaw some thighs for next week.

      2. pieforbreakfast*

        I recently made broccoli cheddar soup with dumplings and it was great. Who knew dumplings could go in other things?

    5. Professor Plum*

      I recently made this butternut squash soup with coconut milk and curry. It’s yummy! ifoodreal.com/instant-pot-butternut-squash-soup/

    6. Legalchef*

      I made a really good lentil soup the other day (made it in the instant pot but you could do it in the stove). Chop a few carrots, celery stalks, 3 cloves garlic, and an onion. Brown some sausage (optional). Drain sausage fat if there’s a lot, dump veggies on top along with some cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, 2 c of lentils, 2 qt broth, and 1 can diced tomatoes. Cook until lentils are done. A few mins before eating, stir in some greens if you’d like.

      This makes a ton, so if you don’t want leftovers for the freezer then you can halve it.

    7. Susie*

      We’ve been eating so much soup recently–Below are our favorites

      https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/article/healthy-slow-cooker-recipes: we eat this every 2-3 weeks because I will roast a chicken in the off weeks so we can use the bones for the stock for this

      Minestrone: https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2016/09/the-best-minestrone-soup-recipe.html. We basically follow the recipe in regards to timing of adding different ingredients, but change things up based on what’s left over from other meals

      We recently discovered this: https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-slow-cooker-white-beans-in-parmesan-broth-229480
      It’s not particularly hearty, so maybe better for spring. But so good.

    8. Buni*

      I made a big batch of beetroot borscht yesterday – bought pre-cooked beetroot so all I had to do was stick them in a pan with a good base of red onion + stock, going to be awesome with a big blob of sour cream.

    9. Generic Name*

      Google sausage bean and kale soup. It’s made with mild Italian sausage links, white beans, and kale, and is very tasty. I’m not a big soup person, and I really enjoy this recipe.

      I also make something I call hamburger soup. Very simple recipe:

      1 lb hamburger
      1 tsp garlic salt
      1/2 tsp garlic powder
      1/2 tsp pepper
      2 cans kidney beans, undrained
      4-5 beef bullion cubes
      2 16 oz. cans chopped tomatoes
      2 cup water
      1/2 head cabbage chopped

      Brown hamburger. Add rest of ingredients and simmer for 1 hour.

    10. GoryDetails*

      Had a great Buffalo chicken soup yesterday – rich broth, chicken shreds, some corn and celery, and of course the hot-wing seasoning. I don’t have a recipe for this one, though I did find several variations online – if you like that Buffalo chicken hot-sauce flavor it might be worth a try.

      Soups I make myself: lentil and sausage, with some kale or other dark leafy greens. I like lentils anyway, and the greens can be fresh or leftovers or frozen or canned, whatever’s on hand.

    11. RagingADHD*

      Oh, onion, squash, chicken broth & thyme would make a lovely pureed soup. Maybe even throw in an apple.

      YUM.

    12. Parenthetically*

      My husband has an outdoor job, so in the winter I make soup every weekend so he can have something hot in his lunch. Last week I did chicken tortilla, the week before I did chicken noodle. This week I’m making spicy three-bean chili. Just off the top of my head, other recent ones we’ve loved: potato, leek, and corn chowder. Minestrone. Pumpkin and black bean (a Rachael Ray recipe, VERY good and simple). Curried brown lentil. Cauliflower and cheese. Zuppa toscana (a perennial favorite).

    13. Sister Michael, Judo Blackbelt*

      Beef stew is always a winner for us! I brown the seasoned meat first before adding it to a crock pot with veggies, stock, and red wine.

    14. Bluebell*

      We made cauliflower soup tonight and it was delicious- used a Smitten Kitchen recipe. She also has a corn and cotija cheese chowder which is so good. I’m sure she has ideas for a good squash soup as well. Homesick Texan has a really delicious sweet potato and chipotle soup that is perfect winter fare.

    15. Square Root of Minus One*

      A huge fav of mine is a lentil/chickpea/spicy sausage soup.
      Cook 200g lentils in boiling water until tender, same for 200g chickpeas.
      Sauté two chopped onions, a big teaspoon of puréed garlic, about 100g of diced spicy sausage (chorizo does the trick but I like chicken better than pork).
      Put together and season to taste. Salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, coriander, whatever you like. I add a couple tbsp tomato sauce if I have an open jar.
      Put it in about 2 liters vegetable broth, 30 to 40 minutes in the cooker.
      My personal trick : once cooked, divide in two halves, purée one half and leave the other as, then mix again.

    16. Likethecity*

      Salt and Lavender has a great recipe for Instant Pot potato leek soup! I just made it again last night, it’s a favorite of ours that is frequently on rotation when it’s cold!

    17. DataGirl*

      I made cheesey potato soup and pretzel bowls Friday night, so good. Check out Yammie’s Noshery for recipes. Today I’ve got a huge pot of chili on the stove and made cornbread to go with it.

      1. DataGirl*

        ooh, another favorite is carrot, ginger, clementine soup. My recipe is from a German cookbook but there are probably recipes online. I like to make a savory carrot bread to go with it.

    18. allathian*

      My husband made some great pumpkin soup two years ago, basically boiled and pureed pumpkin with a bit of cream (non-dairy for a vegan version), season with salt or a vegetable stock and garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds (we cheated and bought the seeds separately, peeling them would have been more work than we were willing to do). He defrosted our freezer last week, what with freezer temperatures outdoors making it so easy, and found a box or two. Reheated in a saucepan and seasoned with chili sauce it made for a yummy light lunch on a cold day.

  23. Dee*

    Would it be rude to ask someone from a phone line specifyally to adjust their microphone?

    I’m having issues with being able to hear people from a particular organization. They have been doing things from home, and ever since they started, people’s individual equipment plus my sensory issues has led to me not being able to continue conversations, in a situation where calling back later doesn’t work.

    I have been letting people know that I can’t hear them. Some will adjust things and then I can hear them, while some don’t really know what I’m talking about and do nothing. I figure they have their equipment for ergonomics reasons. Asking about microphone adjustment might be something where I’m asking them to sacrifice ergonomics, depending on what specifically they’re using. Would it be something where it wouldn’t hurt to ask anyway, or should I not?

    1. mreasy*

      It doesn’t hurt to ask – just say, “I’m having trouble hearing you” and ideally that will prompt them to speak up or move the microphone. If it’s multiple people, and they seem to have the same equipment, they should be able to solve it in the same way. We’re all dealing with weird conditions and I’m sure you’re not the only person who’s had an issue.

      1. Dee*

        Yeah I do say that, and some people just completely do not understand that they are being hinted at to do anything. Which I get. It’s an issue that most people aren’t going to have in the same way I do due to my sensory issues so if you talk to a hundred people and most of them can hear you just fine you might be confused when one can’t.

        So I was thinking being direct from the get go would be a better approach, if it wasn’t rude.

        1. mreasy*

          Yeah I think you can be direct and ask them to adjust for your call – like John, I can’t hear you, is there any way you can get closer to your mic for this call or something. They may have things set up for ergonomics but changing it for an hour or less call should be fine. Though I understand your concern! Everyone wants to be comfortable in wfh life.

        2. Asenath*

          I think being direct is best. You can do that without being rude! Like everyone these days, I am online a lot, and it is very common for someone to have difficulty hearing.

          And as an example of how hinting is ineffective I will mention, but not name, a group in which someone had a lot of noise coming over their microphone – we could all see who didn’t have his microphone muted – and the group leader, instead of saying directly but politely “Joe, we seem to be getting some feedback – would you mute your microphone except when speaking?” or possibly just muting Joe, repeatedly hinted that someone must not have their microphone muted until a couple of group members addressed Joe directly in the chat. Do not be so tactful that your point doesn’t get across.

          1. Dee*

            Thank you! I knew I would be able to say it in a polite way but as someone with chronic pain I was wondering if that politeness would be canceled out by asking people to like put a crick in their neck over the phone! But from what everyone is saying I’m less concerned about that now.

    2. Dee*

      (Hope it’s okay to ask here now – while they are volunteers and that still might count as work for them, I’m not calling in any sort of work or volunteer context)

    3. LQ*

      Honestly, it’s really unlikely that the way they have their microphones set is for ergonomics reasons. The org they work for may not have paid for (or may not have been able to get) headsets for everyone, which is a potential reason for this. So many people are just using built in laptop microphones, which is brutally hard to understand.

      You are well within reasonableness to let people know you can’t hear them.

      You will not be asking anyone to sacrifice ergonomics, they may need better equipment, and if this is a place you talk with on a regular basis you can sometimes point that out that staff may need better gear. But there is a microphone for every kind of vocal situation. You are very much over worrying on this. Just say, “Hey, I’m really struggling to hear you, can you move closer to the mic or turn up your volume or something? My volume’s all the way up and I can still barely make it out.” I’ve done. “It’s really important I understand you so I really need you to adjust your mic situation.” I’ve occasionally asked people to go on camera if their mic is really bad and you can do a tiny bit better with a little bit of lip reading if it’s not too much audio delay.

      1. LQ*

        I see from your other note, is it not volume that’s the issue but that they are touching their mic and it’s getting that horrible scratching/thumping/mouthsmacky sound? If so you may need to explain that they need to move their mic slightly farther from their face. “It sounds like your mic is catching on something when you talk and I’m having trouble understanding, any chance you could try moving it slightly away from your mouth? I know that’s a weird ask but I’d appreciate it.”

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t have an official hearing impairment, but I am convinced my hearing is going down. It runs in my family.
      I take calls on speaker with the volume turned all the way up.

      Some phones are worse than others. I dread cell phone calls. I try to keep going in conversation if I can get every 3rd or 4th word. But many times, the cell connection is just too awful. The next worse is the cable line phones, the voice goes in and out. oh help.
      But putting calls on speaker seems to be a magic bullet for me right now. There are phones with built in amplifiers. I had got a couple for the older people in my life and they worked well.

    5. Rick Tq*

      Ask for adjustments when needed. If you can’t understand the person there isn’t much reason to call instead of using e-mail.

      I use an inexpensive dual ear headset from Jabra at work for many of my calls. It is a wired USB unit (so low cost) and it helps a lot. I also am more than willing to tell people their laptop mic and speakers aren’t working properly, and those people are frequently the source of echoing on our calls.

      Ergonomics needs to take a back seat to clarity in communication, using a cheap microphone isn’t a good solution.

        1. Rick Tq*

          Have you tried using a headset? I use a Jabra Evolve 40 headset and having good quality speaker on my ears really helps. I have over-the-ear hearing aids so I can’t use ear buds or other in-ear headphones. I’d love to have over-the-ear units but they are a lot more than I’m willing to pay.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I freely ask certain co-workers if they’re using speakerphone because I’m having a hard time hearing them. If yes, I ask them to use the headset microphone for my call. Only one person has protested, and only briefly –we tried reconnecting, same problem, and when I cheerfully responded,”OK, then just send me this in an email because I really can’t hear what you’re saying!” they put on the headset.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Annnnd I just read updates to this page with your followup …sorry that this is not helpful as a result.

  24. mreasy*

    4 or 5 years ago, I sent Alison an email about a job situation I was dealing with. A few days later, I was going through a mental health crisis and wrote her back asking if she’d pull it. Alison had already scheduled it and written an answer but agreed to do so. This crisis landed me in an inpatient hospital a few days later. I know it’s been a long time but I still feel bad wasting Alison’s time on the answer – especially since it was a tough question and I imagine her work was very thoughtful. I have long since gotten a new job and I’m doing much better. But sometimes I think back to it and feel bad! Has anyone else had a similar experience with asking to pull a letter? Also, I’m sorry, Alison!!

    1. Quirky Law*

      Really glad to hear about your recovery.

      I’ve written to Captain Awkward twice. The first time, she published my letter with a nice response, and the comments were super helpful as well. The second time, I became irrationally afraid that I was the only person in my situation, and that the people involved would see the letter and recognize me. I wasn’t even saying anything that would hurt someone’s feelings, but I emailed the captain apologizing and asking her to disregard the letter. She sent me some very good advice privately, which I really appreciated.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I am glad you are in a better place. Sometimes looking for real help has a couple of false starts as we fine tune what it is that we actually need for a given set of circumstances. I am glad you kept going and found something.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      It happens – don’t feel bad about wasting her time. As for CA – check today’s blog post re: “Guest Post Situation.” Her concern and care for her LWs is front and center, in a tricky situation.

      1. AnonToday*

        I read CA somewhat frequently (I’ve dropped off a bit) and didn’t realize that all was going on. I like the way Captain took accountability for the site’s part in hosting the letters and what changes would occur going forward.

        They’ve had some doozies on there from guest posters, I’ll never forget the one guest who got really defensive in the comments and insinuated that the OP was a bad person if they (also disabled person iirc) weren’t willing to put their disabled dad on their back and carry him up 3 flights of stairs. It was bizarre.

        1. Mstr*

          I still remember reading the response to that letter (not even the comments, the actual response) and thinking “Oh, no!!” Like imagine the state of mind you have to be in to write “since you have bought a house that isn’t very disability friendly because it adequately suits your own needs, you are of course now required to host & personally carry someone up three flights of stairs nevermind that you have a bad back yourself & the stairs are narrow & potentially hazardous . . . You have made your choice so lift him now and be prepared to keep on lifting as it is your duty & obligation . . .” My eyes just got wider & wider & I’m still in disbelief that this response was in earnest & had presumably been reviewed before publication . . . Just wow. I couldn’t go there anymore after that.

          1. AnonToday*

            The “you bought a 3 story house so therefore you are wealthy and Kardashian-level privileged” insinuations were gross too. The airport closest to my family member is surrounded by very affordable 3 story houses. Planes take off and land RIGHT over them 24/7 and it is a high-crime area. I would be shocked if any of the residents make enough to be considered middle class. It just seemed like such a shallow way of thinking.

            Also, mobility assistance is no joke and requires a good bit of training. I don’t know many people (even able bodied) that could just lift their father safely, never mind up 3 flights of stairs!

            I’m not sure if that was the last letter the person was a guest commentator for, but they definitely had more than one guest spot and regularly brought similar content into the comment section.

            1. RagingADHD*

              Safely for the dad as well.

              I got put in a position once where family members expected me to care for a relative who’d had open-heart surgery and wasn’t fully ambulatory. No training, not even a transfer belt. (The people who made this decision weren’t thinking straight, and it was sprung on me when they pulled up in the driveway.)

              She fell over on top of me trying to bring her in the house, and just…nope.

              I couldn’t even extricate myself without hurting her horribly. We just had to lie there until the ambulance came.

              “Just carry dad upstairs on your back” is a great way to break both their necks.

    4. RagingADHD*

      I once wrote to an advice column (not Alison) about a personal relationship situation, and then was worried the person would see it, making everything worse. I contacted the blogger asking to pull it.

      They refused, published with a reply in which they were a huge jerk, and added my request to pull the letter as more fodder to be obnoxious. It was very eye-opening about them as a person, and the quality of their advice in general.

  25. Greywacke Jones*

    Due to small children and general life stuff, I have found that my time and attention span has gotten rather fragmented. I have found that when I have small pockets of downtime during the day, I tend to default to scrolling through my phone. I’d like to be on my phone less, so I am looking for some activities to replace this that are similarly low-key, and can be picked up and set down easily. Preferably something that doesn’t require lots of small parts or sharp things (see: small children). Some things I have already thought of: 

    Adult coloring book
    Sudoku book
    Crochet? (I would be a total beginner, not sure I have the patience right now)

    I like to read but tend to save that for larger chunks of time when my kids are asleep, and I am super uninterested in knitting but open to basically anything else!  

    1. Dee*

      I thought crochet before I saw you had said it. I only know how to start and do the basic stitch but I love doing random rectangles, I find it quite relaxing!

      Coloring book made me think of puzzle magazine. Don’t know if you are into puzzles but upside would be one or two writing utensils instead of a lot of colors. My colored pencils seem to go everywhere and that’s without kids.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Crocheting granny squares is pretty easy, they’re quick and portable, not a lot of pattern to memorize, and when you have enough of them you can put them together for a patchwork blanket. (Depending on how old the kids are, they can help decide how the squares go together, for some whole family involvement?)

        1. Salymander*

          I used to crochet blankets that were one giant granny square, so I didn’t have to sew all those little squares together. You can make the rows in alternating colors, and you just keep crocheting until the blanket is the size you want. No sewing, no patterns. Great for small blocks of time or for using lots of leftover yarn or small lots of yarn from sales or even yard sales (in other words, you can do this on the cheap!). The finished blanket looks a bit like a giant, colorful square spiderweb.

          Using those small blocks of time, you can also learn a new language. I did that when my child was small, and I learned quite a bit of spanish and some sign language. I just practiced a few minutes here and there throughout the day (maybe 2-3 times a day?), and it all added up. I’m not fluent *at all*, but learning a bit made me feel productive and didn’t require much mental energy (with a colicky baby, I had no mental energy). There are phone apps for this now, so it will be way easier now than it was when I did it. My daughter is learning Japanese now with an app, and she is doing pretty well with it considering she only spends maybe 10 minutes a day at most. OP, I know you said you want to be on your phone less, but at least this way you would be doing something useful on your phone. And you can teach your children as you go, which can be fun too.

      2. MissCoco*

        Yes Crochet!
        It will be a bit of a learning curve of course, but once you get a few staples down (chaining, single crochet, double crochet, slip stitch) you can do all kinds of exciting modular things with granny squares, hexagons, African flowers, and others.

        Also dishcloths are super easy to start with, cotton yarn is cheap, and if you accidentally make too many, they are super as little gifts

        I got a color-by-numbers book for Christmas, and have been enjoying that as slightly more mindless even than regular coloring book where I have to pick colors

      3. NoLongerYoung*

        Crochet – that’s what I just took up. I am making these scrubby dishclothes – basically squares/ rectangles. Great colors, and my good friends do not mind that I’m still not quite square.

        I get a glorious sense of satisfaction each time I finish one. And, the better ones are now being given and mailed as gifts – small tokens of “thinking of you.” I’m churning out more than I can use.

        The bonus is, I am more patient with my elderly aunt and long-winded sister during phone calls… I can hook away and still hear and remember every word. :-)

        1. allathian*

          A coworker is always knitting or crocheting in work meetings when she’s neither leading nor taking minutes. She did this in person as well when we still had in-person meetings at the office. She’s very professional and a great employee, and I’m just so grateful that my job doesn’t care about optics. I’ve been considering taking up crocheting again, but haven’t actually done anything about it yet.

      4. Double A*

        I’m in a similar life place and the other day I suggested to my husband we should subscribe to some magazines. There’s more bite sized articles, but you can also kind of pick them up and out them down, and they’re more curated than just The Internet.

        We haven’t done it yet but are planning to!

        1. Fellow Traveller*

          I highly recommend subscribing to The Week. It gathers and summarizes articles from a variety of domestic (USA) and international news sources, and I like that I feel like I get a somewhat more balanced media diet than we were getting from, say, the New Yorker. We’ve been getting it for several months now and we like to read each other articles and discuss them. It also has great book recommendations and and fantasy (for us) real estate listings that are fun to look at.

      5. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Crochet is also extremely portable and low-investment: one hook sized to standard cotton yarn and a ball of that yarn. Often available from thrift stores, Freecycle, Buy Nothing, and tag sales.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          One more thing, knitting and crochet in are both things that kids can learn a lot earlier than we think. One of the string wizards I know started knitting when she was four. (Clothes for toys.)

    2. Holly the spa pro*

      I love handheld games for little pockets of downtime. Not all games are easy to pick up and put down but many are. The 3DS is pretty inexpensive now.

      Ive also been trying to do a lesson in duolingo instead of scrolling through instagram or some such.

    3. Greywacke Jones*

      To clarify, I am looking for something not involving screens. Between work and my phone I am feeling screened out.

    4. Susie*

      Mostly just sending solidarity and appreciation for this post. In a parenting group, there was a HUGE thread with book recommendations to read while the kids play. I was like How?????

      I am a knitter, but my 5 year old sometimes he decides he’s a cat and destroys my yarn….I have delved into crochet and curious about embroidery. I’m also trying to do more baking because my kids can engage somewhat but then get bored and do their own things.

      All that said, I tend take the down times to do chores so I have more time after the kids go to sleep to what I want to do.

      1. I heart Paul Buchman*

        If it is a help I have two tips to make knitting more childproof. The first is to knit even straight knitting back and forth on circulars as they are harder to pull out than straight needles. The second is to put your yarn ball in a tightly knotted drawstring bag (with the working end fed through the top), prevents kids rolling it around. Worked on my crawlers/toddlers.

    5. Adventurer*

      You can order basic cross-stitch kits online – cross-stitch is so easy and meditative, and you can just do a few stitches at a time and then leave the needle stuck in the cloth for when you pick it up again. Another fun craft is wool felting – can be very therapeutic to stab felting wool with a needle over and over again. : D (They also sell basic kits for this online. It’s way easier than you think to form little animals, balls to make garlands, etc.)

    6. Anon5775*

      There are small loom kits to make scarves and what-not and are likely easier to learn than crochet. And you could try short stories or collections of 1-2 page stories like Chicken soup for the soul books.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        My mom read magazines when we were that age.

        I think most of the traditional feminine crafts were done a lot by mothers who had the same challenges that mothers today have. Of course, a lot of them also involve needles and are rather slow going.

        1. Greywacke Jones*

          That is a good point. I’m glad I’m not dealing with cooking over an open flame while fending off toddlers or something.

    7. Deborah*

      Origami is pretty self contained and there’s some fun stuff you can do as a beginner.

      It sounds like you are trying to occupy your hands, but just in case, podcasts can be super portable and fill in time.

      1. Greywacke Jones*

        Origami, interesting. I remember trying to learn some from a book years ago and finding it hard to make sense of the picture. Would you recommend looking at videos?

    8. HamlindigoBlue*

      Crochet is a fun way to spend some time. There are tons of tutorials out there, and an entire set of crochet hooks aren’t expensive.

      I’ve started listening to audiobooks while I knit or crochet. I have library cards for two separate library systems, and between the two of them, their audiobook selection is really good.

    9. OyHiOh*

      Origami or quilling. You might like doodling patterns – I’ve got a handful I’ve done enough I can freehand them onto card stock anytime I want to send a card to someone – because you can do a little bit, come back and finish the same pattern or start something different.

    10. Dark Macadamia*

      I like doing hand-sewn felt projects! I started with making a bunch of toddler-friendly ornaments for the bottom section of our Christmas tree but you can also make little 2D images/samplers, mini plushes, etc. My sister gave me a Klutz kit called “Sew Mini Animals” which is technically for kids but really fun and satisfying as a quick project.

      Similarly, cross stitch and embroidery are good, you can get kits for any level of difficulty or just “doodle” and practice stitches on a scrap of fabric.

    11. Teatime is Goodtime*

      I LOVE figuring out how to make my little corners of time useful! I have a toddler too and here are some things that worked for me:
      -Basting shapes for an English paper piecing quilt. This requires dedicated prep before hand, but once you get the hang of it, it gets quick and brainless and easy to pick up and put down at any time. I had a friend who even had a little tin with shapes and a pre-threaded needle with her at all times so she could do one or two while waiting for the bus and such.
      -Flash cards for learning a language. Like, actually physical flash cards. I can do five, I can do 20, I can do one… I can write them too!
      -Taking a dusting cloth and going over stuff. I hate dusting, but if I do it in my weird corners of time then it doesn’t feel too bad. And I get to put it down any time I need to with no guilt!
      -Sketchbook or other small notebook activity. For a while I had one in every room on a tall shelf with a pen or pencil in it all ready to go.
      -Learning new songs, kids songs or otherwise. I’d print out the text and start memorizing. Doubled as entertainment for the kid!
      -Stretching! I wish I did this one more. Sometimes I’ll do two squats or see how long I can stand on one foot. It accumulates! Also: sitting upright to work on your posture. I definitely need to do that one more!
      -I like the origami suggestion upthread. That is one I definitely use.
      Also: petting my cat, but that’s because she demands it…

      1. Greywacke Jones*

        Lots of ideas thanks. Good to remember exercise, I tend to be a bit all or nothing about that. Always good to move a bit!

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I do try to get on my exercise bike during down time, including video calls where I am not doing much talking. I just go slowly enough that I don’t get short of breath. It’s still better than nothing. I’ve done a lot of ripping out of crochet projects though when I’ve tried to use it on the exercise bike while on a call!

    12. Fellow Traveller*

      I feel you! I have three kids too and being meaningful with the time when I need to be vigilant but not interactive is hard! My friend is teaching me how to juggle so I try to always know where my juggling balls are so that I can pick them up and practice in these moments. Other things I’ve been able to do: Listen to audiobooks or music while going on walks with my kids. Journaling – I have a journal with very small entries. Or I wrote something in a journal I keep for the kids. Calling friends to chat (though that admittedly kind of requires a screen these days). Leafing through cookbooks. Chores.
      I don’t know… some days I just stand in my kitchen and feel lost.

      1. Fellow Traveller*

        Oh… two more things I just thought of: I will do a short HIIT workout- lunges, push ups, squats (sometimes using the baby as a weight), that kind of thing. I do use my phone because I stream the workout, but I think one can just as easily do it without.
        Also I wrote haikus. Sometimes I just write them in my head and put them on paper later. It’s helped me find the small joys in the drudgery of life with small children.
        And I wanted to say something that has helped me with screen time was using the ScreenTime app on my iPhone to set limits on when I can use certain apps and for how long. For me, having my phone say, “You’ve reached your limit for today” really helps me think about how I want to spend my time.

    13. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

      Do you embroider/Xstitch/Blackwork? There are SAL’s (stitch alongs) that give you a small part of the pattern each week. I’m a member of the Peppermint Purple SAL on Facebook and she gives us a small square or rectangle every Wednesday. It’s a year long SAL, and you can join in anytime that you want. And if you want the entire pattern all at once you can get last years SAL. It is free. Oh, and the Steady Thread is doing a year long SAL as well, also Blackwork but botanicals. Bigger patterns and those come out twice a month.
      There are embroidery and Xstitch SALs that are going on, on different groups, but Blackwork is my current obsession so that’s what I m doing. I really like the SALs, because they are small bits and if you get behind it doesn’t matter. I’m still working on my 2020 (needed new glasses and didn’t realize it).

    14. Slinky Malinki*

      Same boat! I successfully deleted Facebook from my phone, still do quick scrolling on AAM or Instagram but nowhere near what I was doing. My kids are 5 and 3. Here is what I’ve been doing:

      Stretching and mini-bouts of exercise! I am terrible at long stretching sessions, and don’t have a good setup for someone to watch the kids or to take them with me on serious workouts. But I can do small, “better than nothing” bursts scattered throughout the day.

      Decluttering one small area at a time. Your house may not need this, but mine does, and again it’s less daunting than the whole house. It has made a huge difference in my mental health to not look around and see messes everywhere! (I mean, it still gets messy, but not as permanently).

      We have a cool puzzle from Grimm’s that is a rainbow spiral of wooden blocks, and I sit and put it together in new designs. I find this meditative. It was pricy but will last!

      Going through photos and posting to Google photos for family and friends to see, or to the photo frames we got people for Xmas.

      Planning small remodeling/organizing projects, like building shelves or getting baskets to organize the pantry.

      Origami book and paper, or folding airplane book are also really cool!

        1. Slinky Malinki*

          I don’t comment often, so I just chose it in honor of yours! My best friend from New Zealand sent us Harry McClary and we got hooked on all of them!

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            That’s one of the few kids books I ordered without having read myself just from descriptions of other people online, and the American small kid in my family adored it.

    15. Gamer Girl*

      Crocheting washcloths and dishcloths is easy and forgiving–usually one of the first items you learn to crochet since the final shape doesn’t matter for the it to still be useful. All cotton yarn works well, and since you’re going to use it as a useful item you don’t have to worry too much about mistakes! If you want to learn some new stitches, youtube and crochet blogs have tons of good patterns to get started with.

  26. Goose*

    Now that I live in Miami, I realize the few words in Spanish I picked up from Duolingo are not cutting it. Does anyone have any advice on how to learn a language… Fast? Another software, a tutor, etc?

    I can pick up some words, but I think his problem is the speed that people talk

    1. nep*

      I would say a native-speaker tutor from around where you live, if you can afford it. I think the more you familiarize yourself with what you’re going to hear in your environs, the better.

    2. Teapot Translator*

      I second nep’s recommendation to find a tutor. Other options : listen to TV or radio in Spanish.
      Also, give yourself time. You need to get used to the speed, the accent probably. If you’re talking to someone, you can ask them to speak more slowly depending on the situation.

      1. nep*

        Great points, tips.
        I often hear about this on the radio and keep meaning to check it out…News in Slow [Language].

      2. Pippa K*

        Tv and radio definitely help. Watching Spanish-language tv or films with subtitles on helps get you used to ordinary conversational speed while still letting you follow the story, recognize familiar words, and pick up new vocabulary. Netflix has some really good Spanish shows.

    3. Courageous cat*

      Where are you in Miami? I used to live in Edgewater for a little while right by the bay and it was lovely, but yeah, I struggled with the Spanish stuff too. There is a LOT more of it than you realize before you move there (especially Uber drivers). I mainly just did Duolingo but agreed that it wasn’t super helpful.

      If you need any recommendations, highly recommend checking out the Wetlab for some drinks – cheap as hell (especially for Miami), on the water and absolutely beautiful – and in the back of a grad school science department. Wild experience.

    4. osmoglossum*

      Yes, if you can supplement your online learning with a tutor for conversation, that would be ideal. I’m liking Babbel for online beginner/intermediate language learning. However, I much prefer live classes – whether in-person or Zoom.

    5. Amaranth*

      Try spanish television with english subtitles to help with hearing vocabulary and intonation. I think Telemundo has this option, and some of the shows on netflix.

    6. Healthcare Worker*

      UCF (University of Central Florida) in Orlando has a great on-line Spanish course that lasts about 8 weeks, if I recall correctly. It’s not for credit but for personal fulfillment. It focuses on functional Spanish that you would hear in conversation, etc. Every week there is a live on-line course but it’s also recorded if you can’t make the class or if you want to review it. It may be helpful to you.

    7. Elf*

      Get a Pimsleur audio course (expensive but your local library probably has it on CD). They are really designed for speaking and listening.

    8. Chilipepper*

      I work in a library and people learning English taught me to look for kids books on tape. If you can get the physical book and the book on tape and follow along, it helps a lot. Looking and listening together really seems to work. Kids books are great bc they go from beginner (picture books) to high school and can grow with you.

      Also, learning a few phrases like, sorry, my Spanish is poor, can make people happy you are trying and they instinctively slow down.

      Welcome to South Florida! I’m north of you, but still south. Lol

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Also pay attention to which region’s Spanish is being spoken. I studied French in school, and was frustrated when I could not understand the French language radio show I found. It was weeks before I realized it was produced for and by Haitian immigrants.

    9. Cats on a Bench*

      I also recommend working with a native speaking tutor. There’s also the News In Slow Spanish podcast that could help you get used to hearing native speakers. Be patient with yourself. It takes more time than you realize to pick up enough of a new language that it feels like you can converse on a variety to topics easily.

    10. Estudio*

      I recommend
      -SpanishDict, the best Spanish dictionary app I’ve found
      -Busuu: technically free but better if you spring for the paid version. Listening/reading/grammar exercises with spaced-repetition-system (srs) flashcards for grammar. It has a set course you can follow, put reminders on your phone, etc.
      -For a tutor, you can get someone online through iTalki or Tandem. Often tutors are about $10-$20 per hour. I HIGHLY recommend you find someone of Caribbean background, as you are most likely to encounter Cuban Spanish which is fast and a very difficult accent to learn for English-speaking Americans who learn Mexican or Spain-accented Spanish in school.

      Those are what I use, but the most important thing is to devote time and energy to whatever method you choose!

  27. WellRed*

    I was overpaid by UI. I qualified for three weeks but they accidentally paid me for either 5 or 6. I did pay taxes on the money. Not surprisingly, I’ve been unable to give the money back though I assume at some point the state will seek to recoup. Anyone else dealt with this? And, for the time being, I assume I just go ahead and file as is?

    1. 653-CXK*

      When I had UI three years ago, I was paid the full amount over 30 weeks; I did make sure that they took taxes out of each UI check – even though it was a small amount, it helped immensely when it came to tax time.

      I would contact your UI agency and let them know that you were overpaid, and ask them how to rectify the overpayment. Most likely, it’s an error on their part, but likely they will tell you to remit the overpayment. You will likely receive (or have already received) a 1099-MISC form, which will tell you how much you’ve received in unemployment benefits. If the 1099-MISC shows the extra amount, telling your UI agency you’ve been overpaid will trigger them to send you a revised 1099-MISC to file with your taxes.

      You could file your taxes as is, but later on, you may have to send an amended tax form (1040-X) once they’ve straightened out your UI payments. A tax advisor may be a better resource for this.

      1. WellRed*

        The issue is I can’t get ahold of UI. I left VM and sent emails. They are non responsive (to the point I only did it as a formality). and I don’t see this being rectified this tax season. I definitely won’t ever touch that money but I’d like to not be responsible for it any longer. Sigh. Nothing is ever simple,

        1. WellRed*

          I agree I’ll probably get some sort of amendment form down the road. Thanks for confirming I’m thinking in the right direction,

        2. 653-CXK*

          After listening to a newscast about our own states’ UI problems (being on the phone for hours, being hung up on) I can believe your frustration.

    2. Not My Money*

      I was overpaid 2 weeks (when they were just certifying people automatically but I’d gone back to work) but I can’t reach anyone at UI to figure out how to give the money back. Supposedly I’ll get a letter someday with instructions but not until they notice. I cannot figure out what to do until then.

      1. WellRed*

        Yeah, this is where my thinking has been, but getting the 1099 was a reminder I’ll have to deal with it eventually,

    3. WellRed*

      Well weird coincidence! I just now got a call supposedly from State office ( the number was right) to follow up on correspondence. He gave me his name agent number but I balked at giving him my DOB and last four of social. Which he said he needed to verify the issue (I asked if he could confirm what I emailed about). It was all very cordial but now I’m not sure what to do. I guess I’ll have to follow up with another email in case the call was legit (which I suspect it might be). Advice?

    4. Dan*

      Hang on to the overpayment, and they’ll come find you eventually. Just be ready to pay up when they do.

      The details are fuzzy at this point, but a few years back when I had to go on UI for a couple of months, I notified the UI office that I had a job and was terminating my UI. I can’t remember if I got a couple of extra checks or not, but I very clearly remember getting correspondence from the UI office stating, “Employer X has notified us that you have begun working for them effective Date Y. If this isn’t correct, please let us know.” Again, the details are fuzzy, but I found that communication a bit odd given that I had already notified them that I was closing out my UI claim due to a new job. It’s not as if they needed confirmation from a new employer to stop paying me, you know?

    5. Also on UI*

      Are you sure you were overpaid? If it was recent, it might have seemed like more money than you were eligible for because of the additional federal pandemic unemployment money.

    6. Otter Dance*

      The 1040 package (one page like fun!) has a spot for UI repayments **in the year they recoup it**. Report this year as though you were entitled to every penny. After all, you did receive it, even if you shouldn’t have.
      Don’t bother trying to initiate repayment. The UI bureaucracy will figure it out on their own eventually, and you don’t want it recouped twice.

  28. Needle Felting*

    Does anyone do needle felting? I’d like to start but have no idea what tools and materials I will need…the options are overwhelming! Any suggestions or favorite online sources?

    1. Holly the spa pro*

      I dont do felting per se but i experienced that same overwhelming feeling when i started working with resin. I found the most helpful resource was some specific youtube searches. Id try things like “needle felting for the absolute beginner” or “basic supplies for needle felting”. Videos like that will usually have links for supplies as well. Good luck, it looks like fun!

      1. Dee*

        the channel Maqaroon has some (felting for beginners, ten things you must know.I think she explains things in a very helpful way and her videos are well made and often relaxing even as they are teaching things.

    2. oranges & lemons*

      You don’t need too many materials to start. Just some wool roving in the colours you need for your project, some needles or a needle pen (it is a good idea to have backup needles because they can break) and preferably a piece of foam. For basic needle felting, you probably don’t need to get too finicky about the needle type. I’d recommend getting a pen to start because it makes it harder to stab yourself or break a needle.

      My advice is to pick an easy project that doesn’t require too many colours (my first was an apple) and just give it a try. It’s quite easy to do without a pattern or anything–it’s kind of like sculpting. If you’re willing to pay for a kit, that makes it easier to get started, since they provide all the colours you need and the idea for a project.

    3. RagingADHD*

      We started with a basic kit from a chain craft store. It’s nice to have everything for one project, and then you can add or upgrade if you decide you like it.

      We did not keep up with it.

    4. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I took this up last winter when I was stuck flat on my back and unable to walk decently for a few months. It was great fun and so easy to do – just stab stab stab into a ball or oval or whatever. No need to worry about counting stitches or anything like that. I bought a few kits – a snowman, a dachsund, and a chicken – and did all three and love seeing them around the house.

      If you get a kit they just send the needles, wool,and foam pad to you as part of the kit and then you just get going. The fact it was so easy made it attractive as I was in pain a lot of the time and didn’t have a lot of headspace.

    5. MissCoco*

      I used to do it as a kid, it’s shockingly easy to learn. Felting needles, a block of foam, wool roving (if I recall correctly merino is good as it’s very “grabby”), and an idea. I made all kinds of fruits with little faces, and some creatures too. I found blobby things to be most effective, as I’m not very good at sculptural art/putting things together in 3D

      If you want to get more sculptural you can wrap roving around little wires to make bases for thin bits.

      I picked it up after someone showed me at a fiber fair, which are great, but sadly, probably not going on much right now.

    6. Purt’s Peas*

      I started with a little fox that came in a kit from Michaels. It included instructions and absolutely everything I needed to make this fox. It was so fun and the animal came out really nicely.

    7. Skeeder Jones*

      I just started doing wool felt painting (2d vs 3d) and I’m seriously hooked! I bought a kit on Etsy that had everything I needed to get started (except for the “canvas” which is just a sheet of felt). I’m finding it pretty easy to get started and I’m on my 2nd piece. I love love love it!

  29. WellRed*

    Second question, also tax related. Mom just received a quarterly tax bill for my brother’s business. Because he was still alive and in biz during that quarter, I told her we are likely going to have to pay it. Does that sound about right? She has filed all the “death papers” etc. it’s about $700 so not the end of the world but she’s still paying for his cremation (had to use credit card). My regular reminder to have life insurance here.

    1. Asenath*

      You probably have to pay it since it is for a period when he was alive. I guess a lawyer would be an expensive option, but you might also contact directly the tax authorities and ensure that they do know his business is wound up so they don’t keep it on the tax list. It’s surprising how many different officials and offices want their own forms filled out and their own certified copies of the death certificate. I’m sorry for your loss.

    2. Not A Manager*

      It should be paid from the business assets, though, or I guess maybe from his personal assets. Unless you and she inherited any assets from him, you should be able to walk away from his debts.

      I think this is worth a phone call to a tax lawyer. For something like this, especially if it’s cut and dried, they will probably just tell you the answer during the initial consult and not charge you for it.

    3. fposte*

      Assuming it was his personal business, technically his estate has to pay it, not you and your mother. I think you’ve posted about this but I don’t remember the details. Was there anything in his estate that went to your mother and you? Did he have debts that exceeded its value? If you got nothing and his estate was insolvent, you don’t have to dig into your own pockets (but you may have to get paperwork in order). But if you got anything—am I remembering a vehicle that was to be sold, or was that somebody else?—the IRS is in line on that before you.

      If he incorporated, I got no clue, but it’s not likely to put you and your mom *more* on the hook unless you were officers.

      1. WellRed*

        The estate basically consisted of his “stuff” and a motorcycle we haven’t sold yet. Oh and a 20 year old F250 that’s parked at a friend’s for now ; ) Even that requires excessive paperwork. He was a one man mechanic shop.

        1. fposte*

          Ah. Well, there’s no option to sell the stuff and *not* pay the taxes, so I think you’re right to plan to do so.

      2. Generic Name*

        Agreed that your brother’s estate would owe the money, not his surviving family members. Please don’t go ahead and pay out of your own pocket on his behalf. People die all the time owing money, and there’s an entire court system set up to deal with it (probate court), which by the way moves very very slowly. Who is the executor/ personal representative of the estate? If there is none, then I think the state deals with everything. I’d hang on to anything you get until someone asks for it, which may not be for a long while.

        1. WellRed*

          No probate required because of the low dollar amount of his estate. At the most I think she’d do a payment plan but for now, she’s not planning to do anything. I just want to make sure we don’t fun afoul of anything. You guys are all so helpful.

          1. Generic Name*

            I guess it’s different in every state because every death in my state goes through probate court. I wouldn’t pay a bill that didn’t have my name on it.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      The bill should go to the estate, NOT to the two of you.

      If the estate can’t pay it, then an attorney will need to jump in here with advice.

      While YMMV, my friend lost her husband. Hubs left behind a ton of credit card debt. Since the accounts were in HIS name only and he was DEAD, the attorney said to just notify the creditor that he died. My friend was not on the hook for all of her husband’s random debts.
      Again, YMMV with state laws, special circumstances and unforeseens. My best advice is do not pay it until you know you absolutely have to.

    5. Anono-me*

      A good set of auto mechanics tools is usually quite valuable and tends to hold its value. (It is pretty hard to wear out a screwdriver.) Your family may want to reach out to someone knowledgeable about auto mechanic tools before selling. Also, maybe a recent trade school grad, might make a good deal for the entire kit.

      Building on Wellreds reminder to have life insurance. Many Credit Unions offer life insurance with a payout of $1,000 with their membership. Most Credit Union memberships cost $5. So even if you can’t afford a monthly payment, maybe you can swing a single $5.00 payment (or two). But you do have to watch your mail for the opportunity to sign up for the $1,000 life insurance policy from the Life Insurance Company. And because it is a marketing tool, sometimes you have to re-sign up every year.

    6. Wishing You Well*

      It might seem expedient, but don’t pay this bill out of pocket. A lawyer advised my parents not to start paying bills of my late grandmother’s because my parents could then become responsible for even more bills that rightfully belonged to the estate. (My grandmother was poor, so some bills likely went unpaid.)
      Get legal advice.

  30. Anonymous Today*

    I recently learned that my husband of 25 years had a year-long affair, and I’m struggling to figure out what to do. It’s devastating and a huge betrayal. We’re in couples counseling which is helpful for figuring out what happened but not so much for what happens next. He is very apologetic and wants to rebuild our relationship. I’m really torn and waver back and forth about whether I want to salvage the marriage (which was generally pretty strong before this) or get divorced. I can’t imagine how I can ever trust him again, yet I also can’t envision my life without him. (My feelings change at least weekly!) I’m not rushing myself to make a decision, but I also don’t want to be in limbo for a long time. Any advice on dealing with infidelity in a long-term relationship?

    1. Workerbee*

      I am so sorry.

      My only advice would be not to put pressure on yourself to unequivocally decide anything. He’s had a full year of knowing what he was doing. You just found out. You get to take all the time you need, and he does not get to pressure you either, no matter how sincere his “I’m sorry, let’s rebuild!” sentiments are. This is something he chose to do; his choice was foisted on you. Perhaps having your own counselor as well would help.

      Chump Lady online could be a good resource for just thinking about everything and hearing from others in similar situations.

      And in the end, let your choice be what you truly want, not what you decide after you’re tired from the hours of therapy or eager make-up dinners or tension in the air. Best of luck to you!

    2. Not A Manager*

      It would matter to me whether the affair was in the past when I discovered it, or whether it was still going on. It would also matter how long in the past it was, and how trustworthy he had been in the meantime.

      I do think that your c o u n s e l i n g should be helpful in figuring out what to do next. You can talk about what rebuilding trust would look like, and you can also talk about what separation would look like. It might help you to have someone of your own to talk with, as well.

    3. fposte*

      I have a sibling who reconciled after a spouse’s affair. They both did extensive therapy and the reconciliation has definitely stuck; they were something like 25 years married at the time and it’s been 10 years since then.

      I’m definitely somebody who prefers to make a decision rather than to keep churning something around, but this seems like somethingbwhere the churning has real value. What if you redefined limbo as something else? What if you focused on what you’re certain about rather than what you’re not, and what you feel today rather than what you’re planning for 20 years? “Percival and I are separated but cordial, with the occasional date.” Could you find a summation like that (or whatever fits your situation) definitive enough to carry you for the time being?

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Yes. I think we often feel an urge to make a decision because that removes a lot of the anxiety around uncertainty. And it is so deeply disquieting to be carrying around the weight of a decision like that with you.

        But there is value in allowing yourself to sit with the discomfort of ‘not knowing’ for a little while. Try to be kind to yourself. Practice self-compassion if you can.

        And remember, deciding to stay for another day doesn’t mean you need to stay for another year. And staying for another year doesn’t mean you need to stay for another ten.

    4. Courageous cat*

      I’m sorry! My recommendation at a time like this would be to separate for a while. Stay with family, in an AirBNB, or short term rental of some kind, and see what life is like without him. I feel like the only way you’ll be able to decide one way or another is to get some real physical space from the situation and see how you feel once you no longer live together.

      This is on top of counseling, of course.

    5. Yellow Warbler*

      I’m so sorry. I am the type of person who can’t give second chances for infidelity, it’s just too intrinsic to my value system. I left, and I don’t regret it.

      You never really know your own feelings on something like this until it’s no longer theoretical. I’d say to give yourself time to figure it out, and demand the space from him to do so without influence/guilt/obligation.

    6. RagingADHD*

      Individual counseling is the exact right place for figuring out confusing feelings and what you want.

    7. I Want To Go Outside.*

      This happened to me in 1985, my partner (of 2 years) and my closest friend. I thought I would die from rage and grief. I went no contact for 6 months, then we bumped into each other through random coincidence. We started talking and slowly got back to seeing each other. I’m not proud of this, but I would go back to her place and sleep with her to show her what she was missing. I couldn’t sustain the rage, I enjoyed her company, and so we slowly got back together. I can’t imagine living with her while all this was going on. I needed to know that I had other options while I decided whether to give her another chance. And I took my time deciding, and she knew that me deciding that I wanted to end it was a serious option. I needed her to know that.

      Two years later we bought a house together, which was the only act of commitment open to us, we got married when we could (yay equal marriage) and we are still together 36 years after we first met. It worked because she was truly remorseful and felt she had no excuse at all. She also agreed to break all contact with the friend. And she was willing to wait while I was deciding what I wanted. After we had reconciled I got flashbacks of rage and humiliation for at least a couple of years, but they slowly faded out.

      Coincidentally, we were talking this morning about getting together when I was so young, and I said that I’d probably missed out on some good sex (but lots of bad sex) but on the other hand I’d never had my heart broken, and in that instant I truly believed it. |She gave me a funny look and I said Oh yeah…….. So I’m living proof that you can so completely forget a heartbreaking betrayal. I think it’s because it’s been overlaid with so many memories of all the good things we have.

    8. LNLN*

      Here is the thing that helped me the most: realizing that what really mattered was not whether I could trust him, but that I could trust myself to handle however things turned out. We separated briefly and that space and time really helped me. It was scary at the time, but I am glad we did it. We did stay together (married 41 years now) and have a very good marriage. But I knowing that whatever happens (he leaves me, he dies, he develops a chronic illness, etc.), I can handle it is what gave me the courage to stay in this relationship. I wish you well!

  31. Crowley*

    I feel like this is a ridiculous question, so, sorry in advance.

    So for the last three years I’ve been wavering about whether to move or not. Nearly 3 years ago I moved back into “the marital home” after moving out for a few months when I left my ex husband. I didn’t really want to be here but it felt like the best option for various boring reasons.

    At the end of last year I realised that I’m just done, I need to be out of here. But due to the state of the universe it’s taken me until now to get up the momentum to even take the first tiny steps in making this happen.

    The place is currently what you might kindly describe as a mess. I have largely got over my hoarding instincts, so I’m happy to let a lot of the stuff go, but… I don’t quite know how?? There are piles of stuff everywhere and I don’t know how to get the place in a condition to be able to get an estate agent round to value the place or god forbid take photos!

    What I think would help is someone coming round and kind of walking me through the start, to gain momentum, but, I’m in the UK and the only person who can come into my house is my bubble and to cut a long story short they can’t come in for a while. I don’t really have any storage space so it’s also all THERE and I don’t really want to spend a lot of money buying storage that might not work for wherever I move to.

    TLDR: how do I get started decluttering when it feels way too overwhelming to even start and I want to cry whenever I try.

    1. CTT*

      I bet you could hire someone from a cleaning service that specializes in this sort of thing to walk through the house with you virtually. It won’t be the same as letting someone loose in person, but it could be a good start.

      1. Crowley*

        Oooooh there’s something I hadn’t thought of! I’m all for throwing money at the problem. Thank you!

        FWIW I’ve just been having a think and it’s not even that I haven’t got started yet – I actually have – it just feels like even though I’ve started, there’s just so much to do that it’s not worth carrying on. Getting someone who’s used to doing this kind of stuff onto it might actually help me know that it’s worth carrying on.

      2. Venus*

        Also, if you can’t find a professional with the decluttering specialty then you can still ask local cleaners about helping you. I have a family hoarder who has relatively little money, so they found someone local who came and cleaned their home weekly, and each week the cleaner would do a deep clean of the decluttered part in addition to a quick clean of the earlier parts. The hoarder couldn’t cope with cleaning and decluttering, but had the energy to deal with the clutter when someone else was doing all the cleaning.

    2. WellRed*

      Since you can’t currently bring in outside help, can you at least start with the stuff that’s absolutely junk? (Broken appliances. Moldy books. Magazines). Rent a dumpster or hire someone to haul it off (not sure what UK options are). Then, when it’s time to consider, say, donating bettter items, maybe you’ll feel more confident or will be able to bring in help. I also recommend tackling at a time one thing or room or whatever makes the most sense for you.

      1. WellRed*

        Oh, just saw other comments, yes, my first recommendation would be to hire a pro. Didn’t think that was an option.

        1. Crowley*

          To be fair I didn’t think of it until the other comment!

          …. I also didn’t think of renting a baby skip and putting stuff in. Oooh. That is actually a really good idea, I don’t have a car so struggle because I can’t easily get rid of the big stuff. If I have a skip coming that’s quite an incentive to have a load of stuff ready to put into it! Thank you!

          1. Pippa K*

            Yes! We had one for a DIY remodelling project, and having it sitting there prompted me to clear out some other awkward clutter. Such a relief knowing someone else was going to take it away!

    3. Teapot Translator*

      I’m not in the UK, so I don’t know if it exists there, but can you hire a dumpster? Here, there’s the 1-800-GOT-JUNK option. This would take care of the stuff that is definitely trash. They park it in your driveway and you put the stuff in.
      Maybe Unfuck Your Habitat has some recommendations on this? Like start by setting yourself a timer of 20 minutes and focus on one tiny area?
      I get the wanting to cry. When it’s someone else’s stuff, I have emotional distance, but my own stuff, it’s not just stuff, you know? It’s regrets, memories, dreams, whatever.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      My father had lost his primary house, so he moved the contents into his seasonal home. The seasonal home was kinda full before he started adding to it. By the time he passed, his seasonal home was full to eyeball level with little footpaths through each room. If I wanted something in the corner of a room, I had to start by removing items that were right at my feet and solid-packed to that corner.
      I understand what happened and why. But it didn’t keep me from getting pretty angry.

      Get a dumpster.
      Put things on the front lawn with free signs.
      Donate/give away stuff.

      I started the mess by just taking away the things I was 100% certain I did not want. I was careful to get rid of broken things because I did not want a stack of items to repair.

      Go ahead and cry. Any thinking person would be in tears for many reasons. I did things like allow myself a timed cry- I could cry for 10 minutes then I had to get up and do some more. Sometimes I just leaked some tears and kept working. I found rest was super important because it is an emotional drain- all these different emotions come out. I could have run for 5 miles and been LESS tired. So rest should be a part of your daily plan for tackling this.

      I have emptied 4 houses and I refuse to do it any more. However, one pattern I saw was just when I thought I could not work on the house any more and we were never going to finish, that was when a dam burst and I could see a finish line. So it can get very dark, but in my experience when it is darkest is right near the time the project is finished. I just did not realize how close I was to finishing.

      1. Crowley*

        Another good point: I think part of the reason it feels overwhelming is that the more layers I get rid of, the more past traumas are uncovered and need to be dealt with. Which is actually a good thing, it just feels overwhelming and scary as the process is ongoing. But that’s something I can work with, too, and cry breaks sound like they might actually be really useful for me! Letting the emotions out in manageable chunks ftw, haha.

        1. Generic Name*

          Oh man, cathartic decluttering. I still live in “the marital home” and plan to for the foreseeable future, but I still got rid of plants of things that had bad memories, or simply just things I didn’t want anymore (I’m looking at you, giant box of coaxial and hdmi cable). Honestly? It felt great. Yes, I did sit and have a cry over some things, but it was such a weight lifted to have certain things gone.

          Whatever path you take, please allow yourself time to feel whatever you are feeling, even if it slows the process down.

          1. Parenthetically*

            100% agree. Name the feelings (“Seeing this Doo-dad makes me feel sad and angry”), accept them (“It’s okay for me to feel sad and angry, all feelings are fine”), and take a break or don’t!

          2. NoLongerYoung*

            NSNR and other here were so helpful when I was decluttering. I’m down to the last closet after over 1000 cubic feet (seriously – much much more) of stuff.

            The decluttering was about the feelings. In general, I did these things:
            1) Sell the valuable (you can use the money to help jettison the junk).
            2) it’s like unraveling a knot… some days, just start with the closest, easiest thing. Anything you do is a positive step.
            3) reframe your thinking where possible. I donated a lot. I found a computer friend who fixed an older laptop (and purged it) so that a youngster in his caretaker’s circle, had a school machine.

            I looked at everything I “rehomed” as freeing it up to serve the needs of someone else. I didn’t need it – but someone surely did somewhere. I found (here in the US) free on craigslist or free on facebook local group, with porch pickup, had folks stopping and just taking. (I tried to group some things).

            4) I actually found a junker guy who came and got much of the stuff – I didn’t pay, he got it for free, he probably sold it but… I did not have to touch it. Just set it outside and he took it.

            5) with some of the free things, I found a few good people and I kept their contact info. Then when I found more, I just sent them a picture and they came and picked up more.

            6) Trusted pod friends- they came and sat outside and helped me sort and clear on the patio table(s). I set up folding tables and we sorted. I had “cleaning parties” for a couple hours on Saturdays outside (in good weather – and I have an open but covered patio)… and chatted and sorted and they dropped things off at donation stations when they left in their cars. I will be forever grateful for the friends who regularly and routinely came alongside me and supported me in the emotional clearing. I often only prepared and did these because one of them was coming. (We have subsequently traded many “do for” each others, including dog sitting and sewing/mending/baking which I can do for them).

            Most of all – be patient with yourself. I learned to be excited with each box that left. It didn’t get that bad overnight. I did have to call and do a zoom support with some friends on occasions as I cried and shredded pictures of the (difficult things). I did not do those in the beginning – they went far from sight immediately. I didn’t even think of them until I was ready. I still have two boxes of pictures and bad papers in the back of the last closet. But bit by bit, I made headway. You can too. Sending a hug.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          An odd, unanticipated thing can happen.
          I found myself changing and the work did seem easier in small ways.
          For example: Once I decided to get rid of my mother’s wedding gown (too small for me and I was already married.) I found it easier to let go of that old dresser or old painting. Some decisions are harder than other decisions. Suddenly, those other decision can appear easier after working through a few tough calls.

          The other thing that bubbled to the surface is that I found parts of myself in that I began to identify what was actually important to me and what was not important to me. I learned I was more practical than I ever imagined. In a silly example, I donated my father’s pots and pans. I have good pans, I don’t need extra. This decision alone got several boxes of cookware out of the house. But sheets were different. Sheet wear and can rip. Having an extra set or two made sense. After making some of these types of decisions I recognized patterns in what I was doing and I started making decisions and working quicker.

          You may find that your thought process evolves and changes in positive ways. I was surprised to see these changes.

    5. Never Nicky*

      I agree with throwing money at the problem – especially if you compare that with a price on your time.

      Whether that’s a declutterer, skip or house clearance I guess depends on what you have, the condition it’s in and what you want to keep.

      Lockdown regulations here in the UK specifically permit cleaners and domestic help, plus tradespeople so you should be able to find to help.

      Good luck!

    6. Also decluttering*

      I started decluttering while listening to related podcasts, and the one I liked best was The Declutter Hub. They have some episodes about limited tasks that might help you get started, like one on decluttering your junk drawer, another on decluttering the cupboard under your stairs, one that is all about socks! Personally I find that starting with one drawer or cabinet, preferably one that is fairly easy to deal with, is a good way to get started, and then you build up some momentum. The hosts talk a little bit about their fee-based services, but not nearly as much as some other organizational podcasts which spend half the episode trying to sell you a $40 organizer.

    7. Crowley*

      It’s funny, I posted here feeling like I’m right at the beginning, but I think posting helped me process a bit – actually I’m not at the beginning. I posted 4-5 weeks ago about not feeling able to get rid of my old wardrobes and posting here helped me actually do it and now they’ve been gone like a month. So some of the stuff that’s lying around is because it’s no longer in the wardrobe, and because things are actually moving. I’ve got rid of a mattress that’s been in my kid’s room for years, I sold something I’ve been trying and failing to get rid of for free for like 18 months, I got new curtains for the kid which have been needed for approximately forever. And I actually spoke to a mortgage advisor, after getting a number for one back in November.

      I think it’s not that I’m at the beginning of the process, it’s that now I’ve started I can see how big the process is, and that feels overwhelming, and all these comments are actually helping with that, too.

      But I think renting a little baby skip will help, and hiring someone to do a virtual walkthrough to see what I need to do first will also help.

      1. I Want To Go Outside.*

        Is your local authority still helping with disposal of big things? The last time I used it it cost about £25 for up to 5 items. It’s run as part of the waste collection service (dustbins etc) I’ve also discovered that one of their “household items” skips is a short walk away , with a bunch of recycling skips, and I’ve been loading up carrier bags to put in the right skip.

        1. Crowley*

          They are, but the costs are…. let’s say unpredictable. When I got rid of the wardrobes the website told me it was going to cost £120 but when I called it cost £30, which made no sense at all from what the website said. Also there’s a delay of 2-3 weeks from booking it, and you have to either cover stuff so it stays dry or keep it inside. I’d honestly rather pay for a skip, at least I wouldn’t have to wait as long!

          Also our tips aren’t accessible by foot. Drives me bonkers. You’d think they WANT people to flytip the stuff :(

    8. Anono-me*

      It might be helpful to go through things with an attitude of “I don’t need/use this; it must go to someone who does need it.” It won’t help with stuff that is too bad and must thrown away, but it will help with lots of stuff. (Don’t make charity pay their trash service to throw your trash away.)
      Clothes and household goods, sometimes even furniture (in good condition) can go to Abuse shelters for people rebuilding their lives.
      Old clothes and blankets that are no longer in good shape can go to pet rescues or charities that make rag bags to sell for cleaning.
      Reuse Art organizations will take lots of odd stuff for artists to use.
      Obviously you will need to do some research and make a few calls, but I always find it easier to share stuff with someone who needs/wants it.

      Also, one of the smaller church charities that I deal with sends people out to help gather stuff out of house and haul it away. (Pre covid, temporarily suspended)

      1. tiasp*

        At the same time, if trying to find the best place to dispose of things is paralyzing you (or you know where you want them to go but you can’t seem to get to the point where you get rid of them), it’s okay to just throw things out.

    9. Piano Girl*

      A couple of suggestions; look into Flylady.net. She divides your house into sections and you work in that week’s section and move to the next section the following week. She encourages her to get a dumpster at first to help.
      The other suggestion is if the house is really bad. My sister-in-law was a hoarder. She was also in really bad health. When she passed away, we realized that we would have to hire a hazardous waste company to deal with it. Instead, we decided to sell the house as is (there is a market for this!) and walked away with the cash. It It was definitely the right decision.

      1. Generic Name*

        Yes! I hear so many people say that their house is not sellable because it’s not totally updated and fixed up, and in most markets that’s simply not true. I wonder if it’s HGTV’s influence? Sure, you won’t get top dollar for a run down house, but in most places if you set the price right, you can sell your house.

    10. *daha**

      Would the rules allow a cleaning crew to go into your house while you are out of it? And could you be somewhere else, like a hotel, while this happens? I know there are companies that work under these circumstances in the US, but I don’t know what is available in the UK.

    11. Fish Microwaver*

      You have started. You have made the decision to declutter and move. The initial decision is often the hardest part.
      Are you able to engage a professional declutterer, who could assist you with decision on how and where to start removing stuff? I’m sure there are declutterers who could do it virtually. This step would accentuate the momentum you already have. Maybe some online counselling would validate your decisions and help you process your sadness.
      Another resource could be the “Unf*ck Your Life” website.
      Good luck to you. I hope you feel better with every passing day.

    12. chi chan*

      You could try the Marie Kondo Method. Her series on Netflix shows her going to people’s houses and helping them but the method is pretty simple. First bless your house for sheltering you. Then declutter by category. She starts with clothes, then books, then papers, then miscellaneous(kitchenware, tools) and last sentimental items. Make a pile of all the category items in one place. Hold each item. If it sparks joy keep it, otherwise discard. By the time you get to sentimental items you have a lot of practice. Watching the episodes over a few days helped me get in mind for my own decluttering.

      1. llamaswithouthats*

        I enjoyed this show! The method actually seems very streamlined, as it’s divided into 5 categories. And it focuses on what you want to keep. You get rid of whatever it is you don’t want in the end.

    13. 00ff00Claire*

      You can check out the blog A Slob Comes Clean by Dana White and her book Decluttering At The Speed of Life. She has practical advice of how to work through clutter when your starting point is overwhelming. She also has specific advice about dealing with stuff that is also emotionally overwhelming. Her advice might come across as pretty basic and repetitive, but it really is helpful.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        This is my current favorite because it allows for improvement over time. If you have too many X items to fit in the container where you store X, pick your least favorite to donate. If you have only a little energy at that point do only a little bit. Marie Kondo’s method requires a large initial investment in time and energy that I found overwhelming. But I did like her thoughts about how to decide which was my least favorite.

    14. twocents*

      My grandparents were hoarders, my grandfather more than my grandma, and when gpa died, everything stayed the same because it’s been too overwhelming for her to know where to start.

      My suggestion would be to pick something small. A shelf, for example, and tell yourself that’s all you have to do today is make a decision (sell, donate, keep, trash) everything on this tiny shelf. Once you find the momentum to start, I think you’ll find it gets easier. Also don’t be afraid to be ruthless; I know it can feel like “ahh, I’m putting all this garbage into the world” but it already exists and carting around junk out of guilt won’t serve anyone.

      Have strength friend!

    15. Seeking Second Childhood*

      One other thing that has helped me is posting items on Freecycle and Buy Nothing, and occasionally scanning the ‘in search of’ posts.
      I find it much easier to get rid of usable objects when I know someone wants it. Family lost everything in a fire? The urge to help gives me energy to part with my extra X, Y, and Z.
      (Bonus, Freecycle and Buy Nothing the come pick it up from you.)