weekend free-for-all – March 27-28, 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: Girl A, by Abigail Dean. Lex is known in the media as Girl A, who escaped from the house where her parents had kept her and her siblings captive for years. This is about what happened afterwards and how each of them moves forward. It’s heart-wrenching but very good.

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

{ 1,141 comments… read them below }

  1. Sunflower*

    Is anyone following NYC real estate and have predictions about the rental rates and market over the next 6 months?

    I work in Manhattan and lived there for 2 years with roommates before lockdown. Since we’re WFH, I’m now in a cheaper city on a month-to-month lease in a studio where I’m saving about $600-$900 in rent a month than I would be in NYC.

    I want to take advantage of the lower rents and occupancy and move in alone when I return. I was planning to move back to the city in October but am nervous the rents will be skyrocketing back up by then. I’m expecting they’ll be higher then than they are now but I’m still hoping to get a reasonable deal. I’m planning to move back to Manhattan(neighborhood TBD) or Hoboken into a 1BR or studio. I’ve tried googling this but with most pandemic things, the answers all seem to be ‘who knows’ although signs are pointing that these are the places people are moving out of due to space constraints. Curious if anyone here is following this closely and has thoughts.

    1. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I am not a broker or realtor and I just moved out of NYC a few months ago after living there all my life. So, While I haven’t been following trends or anything, I am in some community groups and based on the posts on my feed, it seems that rents are just as high as ever in any of the 5 boroughs. When I was looking at housing options last summer, prices were just as high as we expected. Tbh I can’t imagine rents ever coming down significantly. I know firsthand that finding a good place can be really difficult – good luck for when youre ready to search!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I am about 5 hours outside the City. Houses are selling at an insane clip here – like within a few days of coming on the market. This is no-bells-and-whistles rural America. There is nothing here. Apparently there is high speed commuter line from this area into the city. I have heard of people commuting daily from here to NYC to work.
      Not really what you asked, but the running commentary around here is about the mass exodus. I wonder if there will be less people renting and that will drive rent prices down.

      1. Filosofickle*

        I hear about the “mass exodus” out of the SF Bay Area too and question the narrative. It’s true some CA folks are leaving for OR/NV/AZ and to the people in those areas it seems like CA must be emptying out, but here the data shows most people are just shuffling around the region. In reality, places like San Francisco and Manhattan always have vastly more people trying to get in than places to live, so some leaving still leaves huge numbers who have been waiting for their chance. Around me rents have dipped some, but unevenly and not everywhere. Luxury, small units, and high rises downtown seem to have the biggest drops in desirability. But otherwise sales are booming beyond all belief. (I honestly expected a pandemic drop and instead it bounced.)

        1. Amy*

          I live in San Francisco and lots more apartments are coming up for rent than normal, and rents have dropped significantly. I can get a one bedroom now for less than my studio. It’s pretty unheard of.

    3. mreasy*

      Live in Brooklyn. Friends funding new places have indicated they’re finding lower rents, but from what I’ve read a lot of the best “deals” will be in luxury where people are more likely to have had the means to leave the city. Who knows if we’ll see a return – ever – to where they were, but there are deals to be had now. I’d be surprised if rents rebound completely by fall, but the sooner is probably better.

      1. Dan*

        From what I read in the WaPo the other day, the same is true in DC. There’s *lots* of luxury units that have come (or are coming) online across the region, and the rents for those are soft compared to developer expectations, as those with $ are fleeing to the exurbs. Yet, there’s a pretty tight squeeze on the “affordable” units, and rents are going up because landlords figure the tenants have little mobility.

    4. Dan*

      It’ll probably take awhile for the “new” equilibrium to stabilize, but in the long run, I question the “death of the city” narrative.

      Why? Cities aren’t *just* about jobs. While I don’t necessarily want a long commute everyday, I’m also single. I don’t want to live by myself in the boonies where I’m far from anything that would constitute a social scene. While I’m not a sports junkie, I very much enjoy going to live sporting events, various performing arts, and most importantly, dinging out. If rents really start to drop in the close-in suburbs, I’ll happily look at relocating nearby to these things, even if I’m permanently WFH.

      Where some of this gets tricky is that many rentals close in tend to be small. That’s fine if you’re leaving to go to the office everyday, but if I’m permanent WFH, I’ll likely want something bigger than a 600 sq ft studio… or some kind of apartment building that has collaborative working spaces as an amenity.

    5. Pregnant during COVID*

      I don’t see rent prices changing so much as competition for rentals. The rental market will likely become more competitive as the year goes on and more people find themselves in your situation, thus making it more difficult to snag a good apartment. What I’m hearing is a number of companies are planning to return to office in September so I expect the spring/summer will be busy months for returning NYers looking for places to live.

  2. Come On Eileen*

    Can anyone recommend a dry food for cats with a sensitive stomach? I generally feed wet food to my cats but rely on dry food when I’m going to be out of town for a day or two (I have an automated feeder that spins around and disburses it while I’m gone). My cat seems to barf up most dry foods that I’ve tried so far. I’m out of town right now and am certain I’ll return to little piles of dried up upchuck, so I’d love to hear what works for you and your cats.

    1. Cat Friend*

      It’s from switching from wet to dry. Either get someone to feed your cats their regular food while you are gone or leave some dry food out all the time.

      1. tangerineRose*

        I give my cats both wet and dry – there’s usually always some dry food out, and I give them wet food when they’re sitting by their food bowls. Works for me.

      2. Equestrian*

        This. Also, Taste of the Wild or Royal Canin. Both are great brands that our cats love and have a limited ingredient line.

    2. Yellow Warbler*

      I had success with several “limited ingredient” formulas with my puker. I think one was Innova and one was Taste of the Wild.

      1. CatCat*

        I also had good luck with limited ingredient cat food. My cat did well on the chicken Merrick brand limited ingredient cat food. My cat horked anything that had fish in the ingredients. The Merrick varieties only use a single source of protein.

      2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        Taste of the Wild was a favorite of our critters as well. We have a girl with a sensitive tummy and while she may puke it up once, its ONLY once and not all the time. Box may be a different situation but in general, limited ingredient wet or dry is the way to go.

    3. TvH*

      Stella and Chewy has great kibble! My cat hasn’t thrown up once since I changed to this food. It’s expensive, but there is a five dollar coupon on their website.

      1. Frankie Love*

        I got a kitten this week. Her name is Frankie, she’s 4 months old and I’m in love.

        She’s soooooooooo cute :)

        1. Quiet Liberal*

          Hooray for you! We got a new kitty about six months ago! Even when she’s naughty, she’s so cute. There are people who don’t like cats, I do not understand it at all!

          I second the Royal Canin sensitive formula. Our old kitty had stomach issues and was a barfer. And, sensitive stomach wet foods gave her the runs. Our vet gave us four or five quart bags of different formulas he had to try, one at a time for several days each. We finally found one that worked. It was a Royal Canin Rx food, though. Kind of expensive, but such a relief to not be stepping on piles in the night. ;)

    4. WS*

      My cat would get so excited about dry food that he would eat too much and puke it back up, then happily go eat more. This happened whenever dry food was limited, so leaving it available in a bowl at all times meant that the novelty wore off and he was fine just eating a little when he felt like it.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. I lean more towards the cat is thrilled at getting dry food, which cats often consider a treat, and it scarfing it down. It could be a sensitive stomach, but if they’re only getting dry food when OP is away, it’s probably them scarfing it down because they’re excited to have it.

    5. Asenath*

      I have a cat who adores dry food and can only very reluctantly be coaxed into eating wet, which the vet recommends. One long-ago cat was what the vet called a “chronic vomiter” because she simply adored wet food, and ate it so quickly that it very frequently came back up again (sometimes, but only sometimes, to be eaten again). She was fed dry food only, in small quantities, and combined with marbles so she worked for her food and couldn’t eat it so fast. There’s so much variation it’s hard to say what the reason is with your cat. Maybe her stomach is sensitive, maybe she needs time to adjust to a change from wet to dry, maybe it’s the specific food that’s the problem. All I can suggest is to try getting your cat used to the dry food on a regular basis – that is, feed both foods regularly – and try different types of dry food. Meanwhile, the only way I can get wet food into my cat is to put out ONLY wet food, which she will eat some mouthfuls of, then after several hours, mix it with a little kibble and sometimes water, then she eats a few mouthfuls more, and finally give up and give her straight kibble because I think she might be starving! So she gets some wet food but not as much as the vet would like.

    6. Bostonian*

      Yes! I have a cat with GI issues who used to throw up with dry food. But when we got a kitten, we discovered the GI cat didn’t throw up when he ate the kitten dry food. Might not be the best selection for you if you’re trying to manage weight. The kind I use is Whole Earth Farms grain free kitten food.

      1. Lizzie*

        My cat pukes a lot less since I have raised her food bowls so that she stands in front of them and only has to tip her head down a little bit. She is a messy eater, so her dishes are on a tray with 2cm sides, which sits on a small wooden crate which happened to be handy when I was looking for something about 6cm high.

    7. Paralegal Part Deux*

      I used Blue Buffalo sensitive stomach for my cat, and she had no issues with it at all. IIRC, it even has either prebiotics or probiotics in it.

    8. mreasy*

      They may be eating the dry too fast because they’re excited about it! I have to disagree with commenters who recommend leaving out dry food, as that can lead to an overweight cat. There are cat food dispensers with refrigeration that you can use for wet food, though they’re a lot more expensive.

      1. Max Kitty*

        We bought the automatic feeders with freezable gel packs for wet food. Our cat loves his wet food, but he wouldn’t touch it from those feeders!

      2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        Our barfer we think had a tough life on the streets before she showed up at the humane society and therefore overeats too quickly and too much. Shes had a secure food supply for 10 years now so Im not sure what the problem is :)

        Because she is such a food hog we had to get two of the special feeders that open based on their microchips – so it is much easier to put a smaller amount of food in her feeder than her brother’s and measure it out. She also has to specifically walk up to the feeder and wait for the little door to flip back before she can start eating, and that seems to chill the grazing problem. Im not going to lie, they were expensive, but we are really happy with how its helped us manage their food intake and it keeps the food fresher.

        We do feed a single packet of wet on a plate for the two of them and that works ok, but we recently found a super palatable high quality wet food that boy kitty wants just as much as she does and now she doesn’t have leftovers to nibble on and complains. You can’t win!

    9. MissDisplaced*

      It’s funny you say that because one of my cats always seems to barf the kibble, but not wet food. And I leave a small amount of kibble out all day and night. Usually, she barfs the kibble early in the morning before I get up and feed them their regular breakfast of wet food.

      I haven’t found a no-barf solution yet, and I’ve tried several types of all-natural, limited ingredient, and/or grain-free types and it still happens fairly regularly (at least 1x per week). Either there is something in the kibble upsets her tummy, or she just eats too much of it, too quickly, and thus regurgitates when it expands. I would say the limited ingredient type (chicken, brown rice) does seem to cause it less so, but maybe she just east less of it? IDK.

      If you’re feeding kibble, you might want to try a limited release automatic feeder that limits the portion size but dispenses more frequently.

    10. CatPerson*

      You might want to give your vet a call to see what the cat might be reacting to in the food.

    11. Vistaloopy*

      We have to get a cat sitter when we go away. Our cat throws up all dry food. Also the litter box is a disaster and he will end up peeing elsewhere.

    12. Come On Eileen*

      Thanks everyone! your comments have been really helpful. I’m going to try incorporating the dry food more regularly into their diet and also just ordered a limited ingredient dry food based on what’s been suggested here. You’re the best :-)

    13. Salamander*

      I like Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Stomach Lamb and Oatmeal. I have a cat who’s allergic to chicken, and he really likes that.

      I would consult with a vet, though. There may be an underlying condition if your cat throws up every day, and some investigation is warranted. Your cat may need something prescription, like Hill’s I/D. Both of my elderly girls with intestinal lymphoma eat this.

    14. Blackcat*

      At the recommendation (and prescription of!) our vet, we now do Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein food. Solved all of my cat’s (many) digestive problems.

    15. MontrealLibrarian*

      I used to work as a receptionist in a vet clinic, and we would put cats with sensitive stomachs on one of these 3 foods:
      – Prescription Diet (Hill’s) i/d
      – Royal Canin Gastrointestinal
      – Purina Veterinary Diet EN

      It’s been a while, so there might be other options out there, but these worked really well.

      Also, always transition on at least a week, gradually integrating the new food, before changing a cat’s diet. It usually helps with gastrointestinal issues. So I would slowly introduce the dry food you pick before switching them to it, especially if you’re not using one of the three options mentioned above.

      Also, it’s possible that your cat throws up because he eats too fast! There are some bowls that exist that make cats work for their food and thus forces then to eat more slowly, which usually helps with the barfing.

      I hope this helps, and good luck!

    16. FalafalBella*

      My kitty has sensitive GI/renal systems. I leave dry food out all the time and feed her canned food a few times a day. The vet recommended Royal Canin or Hills Urinary prescription cat food. My cat loves the Hills dry cat food yet prefers the Royal Canin canned food.
      Good luck.

    17. BelleMorte*

      Raise the bowls, so that when the kitties are eating their necks are more or less straight, I find this helps a lot with my pukers.

      The big deal here may be switching back and forth.

    18. Momma Bear*

      Is it the grain? One of my cats has to be on wet food because even after trying a novel protein diet, we realized it was probably grain in dry food. No grain = no puking. It’s hard to find a cat sitter for wet food, though. I sympathize.

  3. LimeRoos*

    Since this is a huge audience, I’d like some help/book recommendations. I’m trying to search for books I read in middle school, from 1998-2001. They’re mainly sci-fi fantasy. I was a huge fan of Mercedes Lackey. There were a lot of books where I’ve forgotten the name and author but would love to re-read or get an audio book for. I just figured out The Golden One trilogy by LucasFilm written by Deborah Chester. Another was The Scorpion Shards by Neil Shusterman. The other ones I’m looking for are definitely odd.

    The first one is in a post-apocalyptic dust bowl society where a young girl and her dog have to find something like the valley from land before time. Also the dog gets eaten :-(

    The second one is similar to a lot of Caroline B Cooney stories/vibes, a teenagers boyfriend turns out to be a murderer and there’s something about a lake and a cold hand coming out of it.

    Any other recommendations are also great! I’m going to have more consistent free time and want to get back into the stuff I loved growing up. Side note, Werehunter is a fantastic anthology by Mercedes Lackey with some wonderful, disturbing, and comforting short stories. Since I feel bad asking for help but not recommending anything. Also Joust, the Diana Tregarde series, and The Heralds of Valdemar.

    1. HBJ*

      If you don’t get help here, I highly recommend the What’s the name of that book??? group on Goodreads. I had semi-significant memory errors about the book I asked about, and it was still identified within a day.

      1. Retail Not Retail*

        Reddit book related subreddits could be helpful too! Cast as wide a net as possible!

      2. HBJ*

        Lol, totally misread and thought you were trying to find books you couldn’t remember the title to!

    2. Family Estrangement*

      LOVED Joust and re-read it every few years as a kind of comfort food. Tamora Pierce is another gem from that era, with Wild Magic being my favorite.

      1. Erika22*

        LOVE Tamora Pierce – I reread the Lioness Quartet and the Immortals quartet every few years!

      2. Purt’s Peas*

        I still reread Tamora Pierce—she’s held up for me in a way Lackey hasn’t necessarily. I think Kel’s is probably my favorite of the series.

      3. LimeRoos*

        Joust is the same for me, comfort food and I treat it as a stand alone novel. I will definitely check out Tamora Pierce! Thanks!

      4. cat lady*

        I love Tamora Pierce, too, and still reread both her and Mercedes Lackey every few years!

    3. AcademiaNut*

      I still love Lackey’s earlier stuff, but I find her more recent stuff (last 15 years, say) to be pretty dire. She went from an author where I anticipated new releases to one where I literally can’t finish her books.

      On the recommendation front, for books with good characters, LGBT representation and plots, I can recommend Tanya Huff’s stuff. She writes a mix of classic fantasy (the Quarters books, various short stories), urban fantasy with vampires (Blood Books, Smoke Books), urban fantasy with talking cats (the Keeper Chronicles), steam era fantasy with werewolves (the silvered) and military scifi (the Valor books).

      Elizabeth Moon has great stories and good female characters – try the Deed of Paksenarrion and its sequels/prequels for high fantasy.

      Lois McMaster Bujold for fantastic characters and emotionally satisfying plots. The Vorkosigan is science fiction, with a strong character focus, while the Sharing Knife and Penric/Desdemona books are fantasy.

      T. Kingfisher for fantasy that’s just plain fun – the Clocktaur Wars, the Saint of Steel, various standalone books – plus a couple of creepy horror novels.

      1. Ranon*

        Yes T. Kingfisher! So good. I finished her most recent one (Paladins Strength) and very nearly just started from the beginning again, it was so much fun. She has that romance line that the Valdemar books do, too, except with adults that are much better at adulting.

      2. Nicki Name*

        I also liked Lackey a lot back in the day but then her later books became very meh for me.

        I’ll second Deed of Paksenarrion, and add:

        * Abhorsen series by Garth Nix
        * The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (and there’s another book set in the same world, The Witness for the Dead, coming in June!)
        * Robin Hobb’s Realms of the Elderlings books

      3. LQ*

        I’m going to throw a strong second for Lois McMaster Bujold. Even her stuff that’s decades old doesn’t feel decades old. Really enjoyable and there are at least within the vorkosigan series, books with lots of different genres: mystery, romance, adventure, battles, which I enjoyed a lot.

      4. LimeRoos*

        Thanks for all the recommendations!! I have quite a list now.

        I’m also more of a fan of her earlier stuff, I haven’t been able to finish a lot of the newer series’ and basically treat the first book as it’s own thing – Joust, The Outstretched Shadow, and The Shadow of the Lion are the last three where I just couldn’t get into the rest of the books but love the first one and the worlds sounded so interesting. I don’t think I’ve kept up with anything after 2006 really.

      1. I take tea*

        I immediately thought of that as well. The dog detail is very memorable. It’s about two siblings that have to find an uncle to live with. I think it starts with them burying the mother.

        1. Love to read CanCon!*

          It does! Also it had a lot of climate change themes in true 1990s style. I read so many Monica Hughes books growing up (the Isis series, Invitation to the Game, The Crystal Drop, etc) because I loved sci-fi from a very young age and the school library emphasized Canadian authors :)

      2. Sp*

        Yes! I was just scanning to see if someone had mentioned it. I found my copy while going through the basement recently – it smelled bad so I had to get rid of it. I’m not sure I’d have the nerve to re-read it these days.

      3. LimeRoos*

        Yes!! Thank you! That is totally it. It was in my teacher’s library in 6th grade so I haven’t seen it in 20 years lol.

    4. AGD*

      TVTropes has a page called You Know That Show… where you can filter by medium (including books) and there’s a commenter there who recently pointed out that Loganberry Books in Ohio has a blog where people post inquiries (there’s a small fee for posts, but they have lots of experts on hand).

    5. Sparkly Librarian*

      The second one could be Christopher Pike’s Monster. The apocalyptic dust bowl books I know are newer (try Rachel Manija Brown’s Stranger series, or maybe Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes).

    1. Drtheliz*

      Oh, yeah, that book is “reading Watership Down to a six year old” level of downer. I had nightmares when I read it at… 13? Ish, anyway.

  4. Water Anonymous*

    Tap water safety questions!

    Does anyone have any suggestions for a high-quality water filter for tap water? Lately I’ve felt queasy after drinking my tap water and I’m worried about it making me sick. Or sicker.

    When I try to research water filters, every company says theirs is the best and I have no idea who to believe. I don’t mind spending some money for peace of mind.

    And if my tap water is unsafe, does that mean I need to boil it before washing dishes?

    Also, if anyone knows any reliable resources about tap water safety to point me to, that would be helpful too!

    Background info: I live in an apartment in an American city so this is definitely city water, and I’m drinking bottled water until I get a good filter. I’ve never had this problem before.

    1. PollyQ*

      I have no idea how much this would cost, but if it’s affordable, I’d get the water tested to find out exactly what’s wrong with it. In addition to getting info on the best way to to counteract the problem, you’d be doing a good deed if you passed the info along to whoever’s in charge of your local water.

      1. acmx*

        The city should already be testing its water and contacting residents with results.
        I’d check the city’s website for test results.

        1. H2*

          Yeah it’s unlikely that the water is making you sick, at least because of something in it.

          The only way that boiling would really help is if it’s bacterial. How soon after drinking do you feel sick? It would take at least four hours for a bacteria to affect you. A filter would help but no matter what the problem is, you must change the filter religiously or you will build up a microfilm on the filter. As an environmental engineer, I trust tap water in US cities straight way more than most home filters.

          If it’s something else the city would know. US tap water is held to very high standards. (Much more so than bottled water, which is often tap water).

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Yes the city will be testing, but there can also be problems with an individual building — if they have a water tank on the roof that has gotten contaminated for example, or if their pipes are corroding.
          (I am on a well myself, for the first time in my life, and is reminded me to check when I need to do the next well test, so thanks.)

    2. Bob*

      Things work a bit differently in Canada but you might be able to request the test data for your local water.

      Conversely if its unsafe an independent lab should be able to determine why, but that costs money.

      That said some people react to the chlorine residual. Also organics can be safe to drink but aesthetically unpleasing.
      You might try distilled water just to see if it clears things up for you, typically sold in 1 gallon bottles.
      As for filters something like a Brita will remove chlorine and many organics, or you can go with pricey reverse osmosis which removes practically everything but costs more and needs filter changes but is the best of the best for tap water filtration.

      1. pancakes*

        We used a Brita for years and it was fine, but when I knocked the pitcher off the counter and shattered it, I bought a Levoit as a replacement and like it much better. The water passes through the filter quicker because there are two channels vs. one in Brita.

    3. Bob*

      I realized i missed some of your questions.

      Activated carbon removes things that “stick” to it which is a lot of things but not all. Physical filters like reverse osmosis block anything larger than its pores. Water softeners swap magnesium/calcium for salt. UV kills bacteria if there is line of sight (high particulates can “hide” bacteria).
      If your tap water is unsafe then determining why will tell you if its safe for dishes. There are many possible problems with water from bacteria/viruses to heavy metals to organics to particulates to industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals and more. Boiling only kills bacteria/viruses.
      Oh and make sure your hot water tank is set to at least 60ºC to kill Legionella bacteria.

      All legitimate water filters should have test data available to tell you what they remove, if they don’t then don’t buy it. Few will remove bacteria/viruses so you want this to be ruled out at the water utility. See if anyone else in your building has problems with their water.

    4. Family Estrangement*

      I live somewhere with crummy water (military bases…). We are fine using it for dishes and laundry but for drinking and most recipes, we got a Le Bleu 5 gallon water bottle cooler. They deliver new bottles every month. It’s around $70 a month (we go through 25-30 gallons a month with four adults and a kid). Which isn’t cheap but the peace of mind is nice plus I love not hauling water bottles anymore. Oh, and nice cold water “on tap”.

    5. Me*

      Call your utility. Most of the big ones will test the water for you- coliform and maybe lead/copper. By and large, tap water is very safe in the United States. Granted, you may have a localized plumbing issue in the building but if that were the case other residents in the building would be getting sick too.

      Also, Google up the state name and drinking water (example: Washington drinking water) and see if the state agency has an online, publicly accessible data system about water utilities. Our state does, and I can see the most recent test results for a lot of chemical and bacteriological testing for the water system that provides me water. You may even be able to see the water utilities website and read their most recent consumer confidence report. It’s an annual requirement and they have to detail all the testing they do and explain the results.

      Water utilities are heavily regulated in terms of the testing that has to happen. In the case of city water, it’s usually not the water itself that is making you sick, otherwise the health department would be soon aware of a water borne disease outbreak. If your city was on a boil water notice you would be notified. Boiling your water otherwise is just a waste of fuel/electricity. If you were on a boil water then the local health agency would provide advice for various water use around the home (can usually shower, water garden but not drink/brush teeth/use as rinse for dishes.)

      Many of the pitcher filters are just fine- they’ll take out chlorine but not coliform generally. You have to change them frequently so you don’t end up building up bacteria. Most of permanent installations should have an NSF standard for home filtration systems marked on them. But generally these aren’t necessary for city tap water.

      Testing on your own for coliform would run you under $50 but it’s a pretty sensitive test and easy to get a positive result. City water is probably chlorinated to tamp down on bacterial growth in pipes.

      You could spend thousands on testing but for what- the water system already tests the water and the results should be public.

      All this to say that it’s probably not the water making just you sick and not everyone else in the building.

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        >You have to change them frequently so you don’t end up building up bacteria.

        Could you quantify “frequently?” Meaning–is this time measured in weeks or months? One of the reasons I quit using a Brita system is that it was too much trouble to track the time to change the filter. (I could put it into my phone calendar but I’m a big believer in keeping my day-to-day business off Big Tech. [No, I’m not otherwise a paranoid conspiracy theory person.]) thank you!

        1. Me*

          Per the manufacturer’s recommendation. Literally that’s the yard stick here since they’ve done the testing to know how long the filters last.

          Personally I wouldn’t bother with a Brita or any other pitcher system, but I think tap water is just fine anyway.

    6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I just got, but haven’t yet installed, a Waterdrop inline filter for my kitchen sink. The one I got only goes on the cold water line though.

    7. Dwight Schrute*

      So one caveat to the city testing your water that I learned during my MPH program: cities can often decide which neighborhoods they’ll test and which they won’t for their routine tests. They’ll test high income neighborhoods unlikely to have issues and skip over the lower income neighborhoods that may not pass and then say the water quality is fine. They also test by running the water first for a bit flushing out any residue from pipes which most people don’t do when they fill a glass of water. I don’t know if this applies to you or not OP but it’s something to think about

      1. Dwight Schrute*

        Also parts of Flint still don’t have clean water so I wouldn’t be surprised if other parts of the US don’t have clean safe water to drink

        1. pancakes*

          Yep. See Sept. 15, 2020 article in the Guardian titled, “‘We’ve always known ours was contaminated’: the trouble with America’s water.” Lots of links within to other reporting.

    8. Muddlethru*

      I love my berkey! I was on a kick to cut down on plastic use and it’s mostly metal. I live in an area that also has safe water, but I got it during fertility issues and I wanted to clean up my life in every corner possible. Maybe it’s just placebo for me, but it tastes really clean and I just like it.

    9. Jean (just Jean)*

      I mentioned Brita briefly in an earlier comment that must still be in moderation. Here’s a bit more detail. TLDR: I run hot and cold (sorry!) about Brita. Dithering to follow. :-)

      The Brita filters are type 5 plastic and Whole Foods seemingly has discontinued its publicly-accessible bins for collecting #5 plastic to recycle. Our water isn’t exactly unsafe, just gross-tasting when the chlorine is too prominent, and I resent having to spend time, money, and mental energy to make something perfect when most of the time it’s “good enough.” I recently discovered that the plastic parts of the Brita pitcher did NOT melt in the dishwasher…but the largest component, the water-holding part, is too tall for the dishwasher; this means that I have to wash it by hand which makes it a “special project” which is NOT in my game plan as an already over-extended caregiving spouse + parent + worker-from-home, etc., etc.

      Muddlethru commented about a berkey system. I’ve never heard of that company/product but I’m intrigued. Will go to Google.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Chlorine will dissipate in an open container. Low tech solution.

          We had African Clawed Frogs as pets for a while growing up. They’re very sensitive to chlorine, but after 3 or 4 days in an open pitcher, tap water didn’t bother them at all.

        2. Paralegal Part Deux*

          A lot of municipalities have moved from chlorine to chlorimine which does not dissipate and is cheaper to use/doesn’t require as much to use.

    10. Wishing You Well*

      I used to have a pitcher filter but it was inconvenient. I now use a Pur faucet filter and I’m very pleased with it. I can toggle between filtered drinking water and unfiltered water which saves money on the replaceable filters. I had my water tested myself when I moved in. The lab was surprised at how much bacteria was in it. They assumed I had well water, not big city water. The lab also said the water would be undrinkable before it would fail the city’s standards!
      It’s possible your water is making you sick. I strongly suggest getting some kind of filter ASAP. And do your OWN testing. The city water might be fine but something might be wrong with your apartment building’s water lines: cracked pipe, root infiltration, leaking sewer line, etc.
      Please stay well.

    11. I'm A Little Teapot*

      You have to get the water tested from your tap. Because the water coming into the building could be just fine (and thus city tests are good), but the problem could be in the building pipes. And once you know what’s in the water, you can target accordingly.

    12. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

      My hubs went into research mode (which generally lasts a good 2 months) when we find ally decided to get a filtration system. We have crazy hard water and the taste is bike, so we’ve always had bottled water. He set up a pump that went into 2 five gallon bottles and that went to the fridge. But we got tired of hefting those bottles, so Research Mode Commenced! Haha!
      Anyway, he finally decided on the
      iSpring RCC7AK-UV, NSF Certified, 75GPD 7-Stage Under Sink Reverse Osmosis RO Drinking Water Filtration System with Alkaline Remineralization Filter and UV Ultraviolet Filter.
      We got it off amazon, and I copied the above from our order.
      We all love it! The water is good and it is so easy. A++, would buy again! :-)

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        Those reverse osmosis setups are the bees knees. My current office building has one and the water is Fiji-like.

    13. Chaordic One*

      I’m sure that “Consumer Reports” magazine did some testing on these a while back. Many public libraries carry the magazine and have the back issues (if your public library is open to the public), so you might be able to check there. And you could always get an online subscription to the magazine.

    14. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      If this is a new problem, it might be a sign of an infection or other medical thing, so consult your doctor. If you’re worried about the tap water, do as many dishes as possible in a dishwasher, and use the “sterilize” cycle.

      As other people have said, it’s worth identifying the problem before buying a filter.

    15. Skeeder Jones*

      You also can contact your water district for a report on the water. They are required to keep those kinds of records. But even when water is “safe”, it doesn’t always taste the same. I worked in a fairly large water district and their water had a great taste and while at work, I never had a problem drinking tap water. The water where I live, though safe, has a weird taste and I only drink bottled water at home.

    16. She comments now and then but mostly lurks*

      I like our Zero Water filter pitcher. It comes with a little tester that you can use to test your tap water (to see how many parts per million are in there currently) or filtered water (so you know when to replace the filter).

      1. MissCoco*

        I like our zero water a lot, my partner chose it since it has some ability to remove lead.

        Be aware that if you have lots of “stuff” in you water, you’ll go through a lot of filters. We use about 1 every month to 6 weeks, but we drink a lot of water, and our tap water has a lot of dissolved solids.

        Unlike other brands, it’s not just a remember to change it thing, because the “ion exchanger” actually contains acidic and basic ions which can then bind to whatever ions are in your water. It works great, but we find that we get an unpleasant taste once the ion exchange is used up, and before their little probe reads as having any dissolved solids (presumably we’re tasting dissolved aqueous ions that are not solids – I haven’t actually looked into what a TDS tester is measuring).

  5. Laura H.*

    Little Joys Thread.

    What brought you joy this week?

    A few days ago I helped stuff Easter bags for little ones as a drive thru thing this weekend in lieu of a usual egg hunt put on by a church group in my parish (the drive up complies with COVID-reasonable practices- plus last year nothing happened so).

    Please share your joys and I hope your Passover and Easter are lovely if you observe those days.

    1. Family Estrangement*

      Frozen mango mochi from the store. Each box comes with six and I space them out over the week as a little treat when I need a pick me up. Makes me happy every time.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I wrote a post for a health & fitness page and they published it this morning. (I’m slightly annoyed they removed all the paragraph breaks and did a little editing, but whatever.)

      I finally found a rack for my wall balls and finally have my gym equipment organized. (Thank you to the person last weekend who recommended a rack at the Container Store website!)

      1. nep*

        How great getting your piece published! Congratulations.
        (Removed all the paragraph breaks? Ugh.)
        Keep up the great work.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Thanks! Yeah, I don’t know why they did that. My trainer, who is part of that company now, said they were having issues with the tech people and replaced them all. Maybe the person who posted it wasn’t paying attention. Honestly, I’m more annoyed about the edits they made, because it doesn’t flow quite the same way it did originally. Oh well, at least it’s there!

            1. The Other Dawn*

              Sure. :) I posted the original on my blog. I’ll post a link to it so I don’t clog up this page. Plus it has my before and after pics in it.

              1. NoLongerYoung*

                What a great blog and inspiring pictures. (I’m a WLS person too, 2002…). Congratulations – I haven’t had the back issues but I am in awe of your upper body strength and workout currently. Thank you for sharing.

    3. Hotdog not dog*

      My friend got a new puppy and she is adorable! My old man dog is smitten, and was a perfect gentleman when we took the dogs for a socially distanced walk together. We were a little concerned that he might overwhelm her, as he’s a big guy and she’s a little puff, but he let her call all the shots. Yay for new friends, cute puppies, and afternoon walks!

    4. Laura Petrie*

      Quite a few things for me!

      My guinea pig sow and neutered boar have been living together for a week and are getting on pretty well. There is a bit of rumbling but otherwise they’re settling down well.

      I’m on my university Easter break and my husband has two weeks off work. We’re planning to turn our box room into a home office and I’m excited. We’ve decided on paint, now we just need to pick new flooring and find a desk we agree on.

      My second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is tomorrow. I’m a student in a health-related field so qualified through that. Otherwise I’d have been waiting ages for my age group to be called.

      Finally, in view of our time off together, I’ve ordered some nice beers from a local brewery and we’re going to have a nice chilled weekend with no Sunday night back to work blues.

    5. Potatoes gonna potate*

      The little Easter bags sounds adorable.

      I don’t have a lot to share unfortunately — it’s been crap storm after another all week. Something I have been desperately wishing for over the last year actually came true this week should have been a joy but even that was marred by reality. One thing that did make me feel happy was that someone posted an issue about an employee in one of the professional groups I am in. I channeled what I learned here and provided some advice. A lot of people “liked” it and said it was good advice. Made me feel happy to know I gave good advice.

    6. North European*

      I am learning a little Japanese every day with Duolingo.
      I have set the bar as low as possible (5 min per day) and I have no ambitious goals, I will probably never speak or write Japanese. Dreaming of a trip to Japan just helps me to cope with my anxiety right now. Concentrating helps me escaping the reality. I have been twice to Tokyo and I absolutely loved it. Also, I have always wanted to learn a language which does not belong to the Indo-European language family (I know 8 European languages and as you know, they resemble each other quite a lot).

      1. North European*

        I want to add something! I sowed easter grass last week (tradition in my country). It gave so much joy to watch them sprout and grow taller by the day. What a small miracle!

    7. Decidedly Me*

      Big joy for me! I was finally able to reconnect with an estranged family member! I’ve been trying to do this forever, but she was hard to track down. I found a way to send her a message and she reached back out. It’s been like no time has passed (minus all the news to share, lol).

    8. Paralegal Part Deux*

      I’m a nerd and always have been and have also been a huge fan of the movie “Tombstone” with Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer. Val Kilmer owns an art studio in Los Angeles now, and he posted on Instagram about an art opening at his studio for his Doc Holliday collection and that the featured artist was selling 100 prints that would be signed by the artist and by Mr. Kilmer. I managed to snag one and have been thrilled ever since. It’s not a huge thing but made my day.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Oh fun! Val Kilmer’s autobiography is called “I’m Your Huckleberry” and is a fun read. :)

        1. Paralegal Part Deux*

          It was such a great read, and I went through it in no time. I loved reading about his experiences on the various movies he made (especially “Tombstone”). He’s a very interesting person for sure and has always been one of my favorite actors (despite his reputation as a difficult actor to work with). When I snagged the print, I was absolutely beside myself.

    9. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Sitting outdoors in the sunlight, on a wooden park bench, for twenty minutes this morning. (I was absurdly early for an appointment.)

    10. Filosofickle*

      So much joy this week!
      1) My sweetie and I took the day off yesterday and went to Golden Gate Park. We rented a little boat, saw all sorts of fantastic wildlife up close, and just enjoyed an insanely beautiful day in the city. It’s the happiest and freest I’ve felt in a long time.
      2) Through a vaccine hunting group, I learned my health provider had silently expanded eligibility based on BMI and armed with that info I called this morning and booked an appointment for Monday! It conflicts with a work thing but sorry not sorry. My partner can handle it.

      1. Filosofickle*

        3) I made a batch of buttermilk biscuits, yum! And I’m about to make a sandwich with one of those and a leftover piece of fried chicken :D

    11. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Finally warm enough to sit outside comfortably, with book, with knitting, or just feeling the breeze. I’m outside now–the redtail hawk is back. Daffodils are coming up. Spring really helps my mood.

    12. Quiet Liberal*

      I have just come in from working in my flowerbeds. I’m pooped, but it was so nice to be working outside in some sun. It has been a long winter. I discovered quite a few daffodils and tulips that are peeking up when I removed the last of the Fall leaves. Spring is finally here and hopefully, the nightmare that has been the last year is behind us. I guess my good news is I’m thinking positive today.

    13. NoLongerYoung*

      I unearthed and shredded a box of 2012 tax backup. Declutter continues, at a slow, tortoise like pace now.

      Lots of unfortunate memories (those of you who remember my difficult marriage…) but the empty, very nice big plastic file tote with rails is ready for re-use. And one more box gone gives me joy!

    14. Voluptuousfire*

      Got my first COVID vaccine dose on Wednesday. I also got a massage Tuesday and I feel much, much better.

      I also ventured to Old Navy for the first time since Feb 2020 to return some stuff. It was great but crowded! Luckily I found what I needed and got out. I miss walking around the local mall to get a change of scenery and going through the clearance sections at JC Penney and Old Navy. I’ve found some great deals for pennies. (No pun intended.)

      I also finally bought a bottle of Seaglass Riesling and it’s fantastic. Not a huge drinker anymore but I enjoy a nice glass of wine on occasion and this was great. I saw it whenever I would go to the liquor store but never bought it. This is my new go to.

    15. The Other Dawn*

      My husband and I got our first vaccine dose on Wednesday! My employer arranged for a vaccination clinic. One of our Board members is part of a local hospital, so they partner with us for various wellness events. It was Pfizer and I’m happy to report we had only a sore arm for a couple days. The next dose is April 14. There’s finally some light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.

  6. tangerineRose*

    I’m the kind of person who re-reads books that I like (usually fiction books), and I know some people who don’t re-read books but do like to read. I’m curious about this. If you don’t re-read books, would you tell me more about why?

    I don’t usually re-read a book right away, but depending on how much I like it, I might re-read it a few months (if the book’s amazing) or a few years later. Even when I know what’s going to happen, I enjoy reading it and virtually hanging out with the characters, sometimes catching nuances and foreshadowing I missed the first time.

    1. Teatime is Goodtime*

      Hmm, I seem to reread almost exclusively by author. A select few I will and most I don’t.

    2. Family Estrangement*

      Sometimes a book is great but the plot is so emotional or heavy that I can’t bear to watch the characters I love suffer again. Ex. Pillars of the Earth.

      On the flip side, I will re-read a happy ending again and again and again as a bit of escapism from the real world.

    3. Juniper*

      I almost never reread books (The Remains of the Day is a current exception because it’s just so dang beautiful) and it basically comes down to opportunity cost. There are so, so many great books out there, and I want to read as many of them as possible in my short time here. The value I derive from reading the same book a second time is almost never greater than the joy I get from meeting new characters, having my world opened up in unexpected ways, or simply learning more about the way the world works.

    4. Retail Not Retail*

      I want to reread more but I’m too weak and place more and more holds at the libraries. (Plural, yes, multiple physical and digital.)

      That said, I finished some books this year and immediately wanted to reread them or forget everything so I could experience them again. The Luminaries and Enter the Aardvark are amazing!

    5. Helvetica*

      I don’t really re-read books although I would re-watch movies and TV shows. Never thought of why until your question but I think if it’s books I loved, I’m afraid of losing the feeling I had when I first read it and maybe being disappointed that it’s not as good as I remember. I just want to preserve the moment. And sometimes, the emotion they evoked was just too powerful. The exception is poetry which is highly re-readable and should be re-read.

      There is one book I do re-read like once a year, which I would dare call my favourite book ever and that’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One hundred years of solitude”. For some reason, it lends itself well to a re-read and I always manage to capture the feeling of magic and awe that I did the first time reading it.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        That scene where flowers rain down from the trees. It’s been years since I read the book but that image is still so strong in my mind.

        1. Helvetica*

          Agreed! Also, when Remedios ascends to heaven and also the yellow butterflies…it is a gorgeous book. The final lines of the book itself always fill me with such sorrow and yearning and just too many feelings to be able to articulate.
          Time for this year’s re-read, I think…

    6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I don’t reread too much because my to-read list is so long, but there are a few specific books, long-term favorites, that I reread every few years. On certain favorite series still in progress, I read each new book as it’s released, but reread the whole series to date in advance of about every third new book, as a refresher on what has gone before and because some particular authors are really good at popping in little things that I don’t remember at the time and later turn out to be less little. (Seanan McGuire, I am looking at you, you wonderful wonderful woman.)

    7. Loopy*

      I don’t re-read books mostly because there are always so many new and exciting books I want to read for the first time- I just don’t feel the need to revisit older ones. Even my most favorite books! My reading time is limited though, so re-reading often means ignoring another book I want to read.

      I also realized this tendency and started using the library more to save money, so often I don’t own a book and it’s more effort to check it out and pick it up for a re-read. And if i own a book that I love, I often give to a friend I know will love it as much as I did (gifting the House on the Cerulean Sea was one of the best gifts I’ve ever given a friend).

      I will caveat this by saying for the first time literally ever in my life, I AM re-reading a book (maybe two!) and it is because two books I thought were going to be stand-alone forever and read in 2013/2014 are getting very unexpected sequels. I loved the first ones so so so much, I am committed to re-reading them for maximum enjoyment of the sequels. For the record, the books are The Goblin Emperor and the Golem and the Jinni. Both amazing books but my memories are far too fuzzy after 6+ years to tackle sequels without a re-read.

    8. The Other Dawn*

      I’ve never reread a book. Once I’ve read a book, it’s not new to me anymore. I really like the newness of reading a book for the first time, which I wouldn’t get with a reread. Doesn’t matter how much I loved the book. And this is also why I try to borrow electronically from the library. But if the library doesn’t have it, or the waitlist is extremely long, I buy the Amazon Kindle version.

    9. Buni*

      One thing to come out of lockdown is my local libraries being basically closed. I used to take out 2-3 books a week, but for the past year I’ve had to turn back to my own (600+) collection.

      Turns out I have some good books! I kinda knew that – obviously I’m the one who bought them – but it’s been nice to rediscover some I hadn’t read in almost 15 years.

    10. Hotdog not dog*

      I love to re read, it’s like visiting old friends! Plus, depending on external circumstances I often pick up different nuances that might have slipped by on a previous read. But then again, I am also one of those people who reads the last chapter first. (No, it doesn’t spoil it, I love seeing how the author gets there!)

      1. Queer Earthling*

        I’m also a re-reader. I grew up pretty broke so any books I had, I had to get my money’s worth and basically read them to tatters; more importantly, I’m a neurodivergent and extremely anxious human, so rereading a book and knowing roughly how it’s going to go is VERY comforting. Things have been so tense that I actually have had trouble picking up new books over the last few years.

        I also tend to not really read for plot so having it “spoiled” isn’t a huge issue for me. I read for character interaction, dialogue and language usage, etc.

        1. Hotdog not dog*

          You know, I never gave it much thought before, but knowing what’s coming in a book is VERY comforting to me. Reading lets me escape to a world where things are very much defined, unlike the actual world. The more stressed I am, the more likely I will choose an old favorite over a new book.

          1. tangerineRose*

            Yeah, knowing what’s coming in a book is comforting to me, too. That might be part of why I like re-reading.

        2. OtterB*

          I was just telling a Twitter friend the other day that a series I was rereading (from almost 20 years ago) was in some ways more enjoyable this time through. I didn’t remember the details of the plot, but I remembered the general shape, so I didn’t have the anxiety about whether the characters I liked were going to come out okay.

        3. LQ*

          The comfort thing is something I’ve found a lot but I don’t like to re-read because it seems different than my memory for me. (though I re-watch things until the end of time) So I read things that have the same tone and pacing and style and plot. It’s very comforting. I’ve set down a few books because I could tell they were getting too interesting for me. Any review that says that the reader was surprised or enjoyed because it wasn’t like other books is a big ole NOPE for me right now.

        4. allathian*

          Yeah, me too. I’m not neurodivergent, but I’ve certainly noticed that I prefer reading old favorites when I’m stressed because they’re comforting. When I’m less stressed I enjoy reading new books more.

          In 2020 I read perhaps 50 or so books, maybe 2 of those were new to me. I have a few favorite authors whose new books I’ll always pick up and read no matter how stressed I am, but I’m very unlikely to start reading books by an author whose works I’ve never read before when I’m stressed.

          I also tend to read for character interaction, dialogue, language usage, and world-building rather than plot.

    11. matcha123*

      I think you are combining two things, if I like to read, and I read a book that I think is only okay, I won’t re-read it.

      When I was younger I would basically buy books (Babysitters Club, etc.) read them once and then leave them on the shelf. I liked buying them/getting something new. I liked reading them. But the content wasn’t so intriguing that I’d want to read them again.
      Now, I have a small handful of books, mostly non-fiction, that I would be fine to re-read. My reasoning is the same as your last sentence.

    12. Meh*

      I’ve re read books on accident and I’m “guessing” everything that’s going to occur until it hits me that I’m not psychic but I’ve read it before. I don’t do it as a rule – it’s not as fun of a journey as it is the first time

      1. The Other Dawn*

        That’s happened to me a lot. If I got it as a digital loan from the library, no big deal. But several times I’ve read it through the library, or bought it in hardcopy, and then years later bought it off Amazon because I forgot I read it. I finally started a Goodreads account so I can keep track of what I read.

    13. Laura Petrie*

      We are decluttering at the moment and I’ve had to get past the ‘one day I might read it again’ mindset. I’ve kept some books I’ve already read multiple times and know I’ll look at again. The rest will go to the charity shop once they reopen or a book box someone in my community has set up.

      Personally, I generally don’t enjoy reading stuff if I know the plot and outcome. I have so many books on my real and kindle ‘to read’ pile I’d never get through them if I added in stuff I’ve already completed.

      I’m like this with films and tv too. There are a select few I’ll rewatch, otherwise I’m not interested

    14. Blendaboo47*

      I don’t reread. I also don’t tend to rewatch stuff. I have reread a few books, but those tend to be ones where I want to recapture the comfort I had reading them the first time, and not because I want to re-experience the plot. Otherwise, I remember what happened, why bother retreading. I guess I could ask… why DO you reread?

    15. Decidedly Me*

      I’ll sometimes reread books. When a new book in a series comes out, I’ll reread all the books before it, even if it was recent. I now tend not to start an unfinished series, though.

      I haven’t reread a book outside of the above scenario in awhile, though I did much more when I was younger. Whenever I do, I like several years to have passed so certain parts are still surprising.

      The reason for not rereading more is because there are so many new things I want to read and for every reread, that’s one less new read I can tackle.

    16. allathian*

      I think novelty for its own sake is overrated. Rereading old favorites is like visiting with a long-lost friend. I also like catching nuances and foreshadowing I missed when reading the first time. The same thing applies to favorite movies and TV-shows. There’s no way I’ll get to read or watch it all, so I don’t mid rereading or rewatching.

      Some old favorites include books from my childhood, like the Moomin stories. I have fond memories of my dad reading them as a bedtime story when I was about 10, when the language was more advanced than my reading skills could handle. I read them in my late teens, in my late 20s and in my mid-40s when I read them aloud to our son. I discover new layers to the stories every time I read them as I’ve matured.

      Some Anne McCaffrey books I enjoy rereading, although I’m no longer the fan I was in my teens and early 20s, but they’re great comfort reading. I also enjoy reading mystery books again, because although I enjoy discovering who did it as I read, catching the foreshadowing is fun as well. That’s why I can read Christie’s books, especially the Poirot mysteries, until they fall apart.

      1. Chilipepper*

        I’m like allathian, I re read for all those reasons. And I like to read old favorites that suit my mood or state of being. Its healing in a way. And I would stay up all night with a new book so I only re read to help me fall asleep.

    17. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I re-read books that I like enough. If I don’t like the book enough, then I don’t reread it. Example: Mercedes Lackey, her Valdemar books. I have all of them, and I just reread almost all of them. Exception being the White Gryphon series and the Oathbound/Oathbreaker books. I don’t feel the need to reread those ones for whatever reason. I know people who never reread anything. Whatever works for you.

    18. lemon meringue*

      I also like to re-read so I’m not the target audience, but I do often feel kind of bad about re-reading when my to-be-read pile is as big as it is. I think re-reading is a different reading experience, so for a book that I really like, I do try to read at least twice. But at the same time, there are so many books I haven’t had a chance to read even once. Book problems.

    19. Sweet Sunny*

      I am a fast reader and often miss details when I read. Also, if things get tense I get anxious and will skip ahead to get past the scary/tense/uncomfortable part. If I finish a book and I really enjoyed it a lot I can actually read it again and get tons more out of it than I did the first time. (Now that I know the outcome I can slow down and really read the scary parts.) And if I wait a year or more to reread a book I often find it’s like reading it for the first time – I really don’t remember a lot from the first time around.

      1. allathian*

        I’m the same way, a very fast reader, even when I don’t skip any parts. When Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out, I was on vacation and read it through the night, 1,000 or so pages in about 8 hours and I didn’t skip anything.

    20. OtterB*

      I re-read often, but it’s been interesting thinking about why as I read this thread. Most of the things I reread are because I like the characters and like to hang out with them. Usually but not always a series. Often I see nuance or foreshadowing in the reread that I missed the first time through. Some are comfort reads, that invoke a feeling of a place or lifestyle or relationship I would like. Other books, once I know what happened I’m not invested enough to reread. And, as someone said above, there are a handful of books that I loved, that I have kept on my shelf through multiple moves, that I doubt I will ever reread because they were so intense.

    21. Chaordic One*

      I guess it all depends. As an adult I reread a lot of the books I had read as a teen and in my early 20s when I was in college. Many of the works of “great literature” were complex and when reading them the second time I got a lot more out of them and appreciated the humor that I had missed the first time around. OTOH, there were books that didn’t hold up very well and when I reread them a second time I became aware of holes in the plots and writing that revealed various prejudices and stereotypes and just plain bad writing sometimes. And sometimes there were books that were technically well written and the words flowed beautifully, but again, the prejudices and stereotypes of the writer kind of ruined them for me.

    22. Elizabeth West*

      What I don’t re-read: Anything I didn’t really like or was meh about (life’s too short). This has included bestsellers everyone else went gaga over. Generally, if I really like a book, it never leaves my library and I will re-read it to tatters. If it’s a library book, I will buy my own copy to keep and re-read.

      I did end up donating a butt-ton of books I hadn’t read in ages to the library for their book sales before I moved, just to cut down. Now I’m kinda regretting some of that, but I’m sure I’ll feel better about it once I don’t have to unpack them.

    23. LQ*

      I don’t reread much if at all. Honestly part of it is that the world in my mind is different from the book and I don’t feel a huge amount of pressure to maintain the “author’s vision” once it’s moved into my head. If the world and characters have moved in to set up shop in my head then I want them to live that going forward and not feel like I need to continue to reanchor them back to what it literally said. If they don’t move in and set up shop in my head then they were just fun experience and I’m ready to move onto the next one.

      I think that it’s easy for me to end up falling in love with my version of what happened and then go back and re-read and realize that it’s not how it was and am then very disappointed. This is also why I find myself leaving authors if I am away from them for a while. My memory of something can shift and alter around enough to think that something that was never in the books was in them and then when you go back and see it’s not it’s a disappointment. Or thinking that an author or a series was really great and had these attributes and then you come back later and either you’ve changed (your memory or your self) or the author has. And it’s almost always me.

      I want to love the things I’ve loved but I find it’s easier to do that if I don’t necessarily hold them as the literal thing.

      That said, I’m not at all bothered by spoilers or anything else, so it’s not about surprise or new. And for a new favorite series I’ll find myself going to the wikipedia for it like 2 books in so that I can get the layout of the story and then diving through and consuming all the books. I’m real weird!

    24. Person from the Resume*

      I have reread some books, but I generally don’t. I have a massive to read pile. I want to read more new books than I have time for. Why do you reread?

      I will say I like plot focused books so maybe that’s a factor?

      I guess I just reread a book. Around 1998 I read Joan Slonczewski’s The Children’s Star in a magazine. That put the author on my radar but it took me until now to read the first two books in the Elysian Cyle, reread The Children’s Star, and read the final book in the cycle. I had only the vaguest memory of the story, but I did remember really liking it. I didn’t really think of it as a reread since it was mostly a surprise to me.

    25. GoryDetails*

      I’m an avid reader in general, and a frequent re-reader of favorite books – though I’ve found that my “keeper/re-read” shelves have been shrinking as the decades pass. Some of my must-keep-in-case-I-want-to-re-read-it titles have lost my interest over time, and others are in the so-so category so I let them go in the confidence that if I ever *do* want to re-read them I can easily find copies somewhere. But the must-keep books are still there, the ones I may want to pick up in the middle of the night if I’m sleepless, or during a snowstorm if I want some comfort, or just because it’s been a while: Jane Austen’s books, Tolkien’s Hobbit/Rings books, M. R. James and E. F. Benson ghost stories, Zenna Henderson fantasy/SF stories (those are keepers in part because they’re getting VERY hard to find – why won’t somebody reprint The Anything Box or Holding Wonder?), Sayers’ “Lord Peter” books…

      I also sometimes “re-read” via audiobook, as I like to listen to audiobooks while driving, and if the book’s new to me I may find myself frustrated at missing key bits when I have to focus on navigation. If I’m listening to a book I’ve already read, I’m not as worried about missing bits here and there – and often the audio version provides a different look at a familiar story.

      1. SarahKay*

        If you read ebooks then you can buy “Believing: The Other Stories of Zenna Henderson” which contains all her short stories that aren’t about The People. It includes the contents of The Anything Box and Holding Wonder, plus five other stories and three poems.
        I have (very battered) second-hand copies of The Anything Box and Holding Wonder but was delighted to find the ebook available too. (There is also an ebook with her collected The People stories).

  7. tangerineRose*

    Hank and Wallace look so cute together! Looks like something got their attention, and Hank is going to watch it while being quite relaxed.

  8. Might Be Spam*

    I need to get a mouth guard because I am clenching and grinding my teeth. My dentist wants me to spend $500, but that is too much for me to spend on something that I may not be comfortable using. I tried a child-size sports mouth guard, but it is too thick and uncomfortable. I have a small jaw and I need suggestions on something more affordable. Do you have any products or brands that work for you?

      1. Liz B*

        Seconding the Sisu! Most people wear them for roller derby. They’re moldable to your teeth and are super lightweight.

    1. V*

      Hah, are you me? I had the same recommendation from my dentist this week and there’s no way I’m spending that amount on things that many people struggle with getting comfortable with. I bought a cheap pack on Amazon (like 4 for $15) and using them as-is makes me gag, so I am currently working through them cutting them down / trimming them so they don’t stick so far back.

    2. Might Be Spam*

      The custom mouth guard from the dentist only covers the teeth and doesn’t touch the gums. I gag easily, and need something that won’t press on my gums and fits tightly enough so I don’t swallow it. I’m not sure if it’s a reasonable fear, but I worry about swallowing it and choking.

    3. Yep Torii*

      I also require a small and flexible night-time guard because I have torii, and I have had very good luck with the Plackers “Grind No More” guards, available for very little money at most every drug store.

      1. Yep Tori*

        Looks like I misspelled “torii.” It’s “tori,” which is the plural form of “torus,” as in “torus mandibularus.”
        Sorry!

      2. ThatGirl*

        I use the Plackers little ones. They’re supposed to only be for 3-4 nights but I wear them for weeks till they wear out.

    4. Bea*

      Plackers! I order from Amazon. You can buy 10 or 16 in a box. The box says use 3x then toss, but I usually wear 5x. Very comfortable.

    5. Flabbernabbit*

      I bought the custom guard from the dentist. Complete waste of money for me. It was uncomfortable and I couldn’t bear it in my mouth. It did motivate me to examine exactly what I was doing and use that to teach myself to not to clench and grind my teeth in sleep. A game changer. So I use nothing.

      1. Janet Pinkerton*

        For what it’s worth, as a counterpoint to this, I bought the custom guard from my dentist and I’ve found it helpful. Not too uncomfortable—it’s pretty unobtrusive in my mouth. And my teeth aren’t literally grinding down! I’d recommend it, generally. (Not for you, Flabbernabbit, just wanted to share a positive experience.)

        1. Blue Eagle*

          Want to second Janet’s experience. I got a biteguard for my top teeth through my dentist almost 20 years ago and am still using it ($500/20 years = $25/year). I wear it every night to sleep and have no discomfort. And my jaw no longer hurts in the morning and my headaches went away.
          Hope you are able to find something that works for you.

        2. Belle*

          Same experience. I bought one and it has dramatically improved my sleep, teeth and reduced headaches. Mine was about $500 bit has lasted over 5 years and is still in great shape. Plus my dentist can adjust it as needed. Life saver.

        3. Wishing You Well*

          OP: PLEASE get a tooth guard from wherever and wear it every night to prevent bigger, chronic problems in the future.
          I’m with Janet: My custom, dentist-made tooth guard was $300-$400. You could shop around for prices. My guard is preventing tooth, nerve and jaw damage. The dentist will adjust it if you have problems. If you think a tooth guard is expensive, you’ll be shocked at how much untreated bruxism costs (and hurts)!
          Best Wishes for a good outcome!

        4. LDF*

          Same here, I’ve had a few custom ones from the dentist and it’s a game changer. I mean, it’s been so long since I haven’t used one that I can’t compare physical symptoms, but holy hell, those nightguards get ground to hell so I’m so glad it’s not my teeth. My newest ones is loads thinner than my first one. If someone has had a bad one at one point it could be worth trying again.

      2. Flabbernabbit*

        Good to have counterpoints. The goal for me was the same as others, I think. Better sleep, reduce blinding headaches, sore jaws and grinding teeth down. I had the “luxury” of understanding what I was doing because I was doing it while awake also, whenever I used a regulator scuba diving. I’d surface with horrible headaches and jaw pain from biting down on my regulator unnecessarily hard. Finally linked it to the sleep thing, and developed exercises and massage with a practitioner, practiced jaw placement, recognized anxiety related causes, and applied them all to great effect, which improved more than just sleep.

        I was spending a lot on massage alone for this, so if you are doing that too, losing productivity at work, then a $500 mouth guard doesn’t seem so terrible an investment when you think about it.

      3. Lobsterp0t*

        I’ve had two types. One was a hard one for the top teeth and the other was a soft one for the bottom.

        Hard one was comfier but lasted less time.

        Soft one lasts about 18 months to two years for me. And I think I push it – I threw my last one out because I could see light through the holes I ground through it.

    6. No Tribble At All*

      I also have a custom guard from the dentist. Mine only goes over the bottom teeth and is acrylic. I don’t love it, but I do love not having my jaw hurt in the mornings. I know some of the grinding is hereditary so I can’t de-stress myself out of it.

      That said, getting the impressions done was very unpleasant and I legit lost my lunch. I also have a strong gag reflex but the custom night guard is thin enough it generally doesn’t bother me.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        Huh, mine only goes over the top teeth. I wonder if it’s based on which teeth are more damaged by grinding…

        1. No Tribble At All*

          I think it was because I told them upfront I have such a strong gag reflex, so they figured something touching only the teeth (sorta U-shaped) would be better than something that touched the entire roof of my mouth. They said it didn’t matter which teeth it went on as long as there was a barrier between them.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Ah, that makes sense. My gag reflex is more psychological than mechanical, so that’s not a concern with me, but I can’t watch that one pocket spaghetti vine without losing my lunch.

          2. Chilipepper*

            I have one from the dentist. It is only fornthe top teeth and is u shaped, ot does not cover the roof of my mouth.

            I tried a few over the counter versions while I waited for the custom one to be made and come in. They were all awful and waaaay less comfortable than the custom one.

            1. Janet Pinkerton*

              Same here—it is u-shaped over the top teeth. (And as a bonus it works as a retainer if you, like me, never wore that!)

    7. Peacemaker*

      After spending the $500.00 on a mouth guard from the dentist (and using it long after I should have replaced it!), I started using mouth guards from the Clear Club. It’s a subscription service where you can choose how often you want to replace your mouth guard. For me, they are less than a tenth the cost of the one from the dentist. As a result, I feel OK about replacing it when it gets ugly, about every 9-12 months. They have been very good about sending me the self-fitting kits until I thought it fit correctly. It took me a couple of tries, and then one more after the first mouth guard I used for six months. My dentist bugs me about buying his mouth guard every now and then, but I just tell him I have it covered.

    8. Jen*

      I got a custom night guard and no matter what I tried it made me gag (the dentist tried altering it too). So I might try some cheaper ones first just to see how you react to them.

    9. Texan In Exile*

      My bonus daughter got a custom bite guard on amazon for only $100 or so. If I can find the information, I will add it here.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        Here it is! I am going to order one, I think – my dentist wants to charge $300.

    10. ten four*

      I’ve been using my custom guard for years and it’s a lifesaver. BUT! Definitely try out some over the counter ones first. I found that the sports guards aren’t great for sleep because they are just gigantic, but there are a bunch on the market specifically to sleep with. I’ve used Plackers, Dentek and Oral-B brands with pretty good success.

      I have found that with the Plackers the insides of my cheeks get a little rubbed and uncomfortable after a while. I’ve never had any issues like that with my custom guard. So if you find your jaws hurting less after trying some of the over the counter versions but they are uncomfortable in other ways you might give the custom type a shot.

    11. Girasol*

      Is the grinding bothering you or did your dentist notice the problem? I had a dentist tell me I had a grinding problem. He fitted me with a spendy mouth guard (well, not exactly “fitted,” because it didn’t). Then he insisted that a mouth guard wasn’t helping enough and I also needed braces to fight the teeth grinding plus several fillings replaced too, at a cost of upwards of $14,000. I threw out the useless mouth guard and switched dentists. For the last ten-plus years I haven’t needed any treatment for teeth grinding or anything else but regular cleaning. If teeth grinding isn’t bothering you, a second opinion might be in order.

      1. Disguised as me*

        I didn’t notice any grinding but my dentist said it was very apparent. I went through the uncomfortable fitting process and can’t stand my custom mouth guard. Now he wants me to get braces too. I’m going the second opinion in route if he brings it up again.

        1. No Tribble At All*

          Yeah that’s suspicious. For me it’s apparent I’ve been grinding because the tips of my canines are worn down, and my spouse told me he could hear me doing it. But this dentist seems…. overly enthusiastic.

          1. ThatGirl*

            My teeth are noticeably worn down on one side, I always wondered why no dentist had previously pointed it out and suggested a night guard.

      2. Chilipepper*

        I don’t grind, but I do clench and the dentist said it was leading to some problems but I never noticed so I was skeptical. But after an adjustment to the custom guard, I now find I really notice the clenching and am sore in the morning if I forget it.

    12. Rara Avis*

      I have a custom dentist-fitted guard I’ve used for years. Not uncomfortable at all, and it helps remind me to relax my jaw and stop grinding. It actually is a reassuring feeling, like a weighted blanket. (But I also get a sense of comfort from fastening my seatbelt and tying on a mask.)

    13. PostalMixup*

      I bought a Dentek Ultimate from target. It sits on my top molars and has a thin band across the roof of my mouth. There’s nothing on my front teeth, which I was looking for specifically. I also have a small mouth, and it fits well.

    14. I don’t post often*

      Get the one from the dentist – you will be glad you did. AND you will not grind through it as quickly. I spent two years trying to avoid the one from the dentist and now I’m hoping acing other problems related to grinding. (Sidebar, I grind my teeth all the time, not just sleeping).

      1. Figgie*

        My spouse refused to pay $500.00 for a mouth guard when he didn’t know if he would be able to tolerate it. We are in Mexico and the dental care has been incredible and much cheaper than back in the USA. We have decent dental insurance but our dentist here costs us less than our copay.

        My spouse had a custom made mouth guard made by the dentist while we waited and the total cost of the visit and mouth guard was $25.00. And if he didn’t like it, they would redo it for a couple of bucks until he was okay with it. Fortunately, it has worked perfectly and he no longer wakes up in the morning with a headache and stiff neck.

        1. Imtheone*

          When you can travel, take a trip to Mexico and get a guard made (if if that’s a possibility for you.)

    15. Salamander*

      I tried a lot of the ones on the market, but ultimately went with the one my dentist made. It is so much more comfortable, doesn’t slip and slide around, and I forget I’m wearing it. It also keeps my teeth from shifting. I wish I hadn’t spent the money on the drugstore ones.

    16. Eff Walsingham*

      Back 20 years ago or so, I *destroyed* the custom mouth guard my dentist had made for me. Apparently I clenched it so hard that it split right along the middle of the ‘crescent’. She said, “I’ve never seen anything like this” and passed it around the practice for everyone to marvel at. Then she suggested I should try one of the drugstore ones, since (a) I no longer had insurance and (b) they weren’t as hard and therefore might have more ‘give’ and not be as brittle.

      A few years after that, she told me that research had shown that some patients actually clench harder when they use a guard because there’s something to bite, so there might be some benefit to going without it, at least for a while, if I was still getting the headaches anyway.

      So basically I’ve tried multiple options. The pricey guard from the dentist was uncomfortably tight at first but I got used to it, yet I’d say it wasn’t durable enough to justify the cost. The drugstore one was bigger and more cumbersome, which meant I didn’t use it as much. Now I use nothing, and I get the impression I only grind my teeth some of the time, based on headaches and damage to fillings. Currently I’m trying a more holistic approach to stress in my life, so we’ll see how that goes.

      1. Cendol*

        I fear I am in that category of patients who clench harder, lol. Just got a custom mouth guard a few weeks ago and I swear sometimes I wake up gnawing on that thing. But I do find myself clenching my teeth less during the day now, FWIW. No idea why.

        The damage from night-grinding was apparent for me (broke a molar!). I decided the money was worth it to try to save my poor teeth.

        1. Old and Don’t Care*

          I think I do clench/grind as much or more with my mouth guard in (custom from dentist, fits on bottom front teeth only, about an inch long.) I mentioned that to my dentist and she said that was fine, the guard was protecting my teeth. Tooth damage was the reason I got it, no headaches or jaw pain.

          It was about a third of the price of a crown. I wish I had gotten it prior to cracking several teeth from grinding.

    17. Kuododi*

      Your pricing sounds comparable with the last time I inquired for myself. Unfortunately, I chose not to invest at the time and I’m now reaping the fallout of not protecting my teeth. (Sensitive teeth to the degree I need prescription toothpaste. Chronic headaches, chronic jaw pain, even biting sores inside my cheeks and lips.). $500 now beats an unimaginable $$$ from managing the above listed conditions. (Shoot, the prescription toothpaste alone would have more than paid for the bite guard. $20-25/ bottle depending on insurance.)

      Best wishes for your future.
      Kuododi

    18. Lobsterp0t*

      So, getting a sport guard isn’t the same at all.

      It sucks, but you might just have to shell out the money. Apparently hypno therapy is helpful for this issue. I haven’t tried it yet (it feels a bit woo to me) but I’m tired of the tension headaches I get from bruxism- so I might have a go once I find an option that looks ok.

    19. Jenny F. Scientist*

      I’ve been fine with commercial ones; I squeeze them really thin and trim down the edges until it’s comfortable. I’ve also used the Plackers ones.

  9. Mild PTSD self-help?*

    I’ve been having some concerning physical and emotional symptoms precipitated by a recent event in my life. I went to my primary care doctor who said he believes I have mild PTSD and would benefit from therapy. He gave me a referral to an appropriate resource. Unfortunately, the soonest I seem to be able to get an appointment is in 2 months. So that’s not terribly helpful for me right now.

    Anyone with experience with this know of self-help coping resources that may be helpful in the interim?

    I’m really hoping I can bring the stress down a notch, even if just a little bit, as it’s been unpleasant and disruptive in my life.

    1. Crispy Pork*

      I’m sorry you have to wait so long. Having gone through this proces myself I know how hard it is to find mental health care.

      When I am struggling I just focus on sticking to a simple routine so I’m not in bed all day. I go for a walk, meditate, do yoga, exercise, and read. Be kind to yourself and do whatever makes your day easy – for me it means getting takeaway and leaving the house in a slight mess.

      Good luck to you.

    2. Princess Deviant*

      Do stuff that’s comforting for you, eating, sleeping, walking, being in nature, whatever.
      Keep to a routine and be kind to yourself, as the other commenter said.
      You can work out other more helpful and healthy coping strategies with your therapist when the time comes.
      I personally find mindfulness meditation very helpful also. I like Danny Penman and Prof. Mark Williams’ guided meditations on YouTube and they’re very short.

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      It will depend a little on what sort of symptoms you’re experiencing. That said, typically a good start for PTSD is to work on the ‘window of tolerance’. (If you google image search that, lots of helpful diagrams will pop up.)

      Grounding techniques will be helpful for this. Personally, I’ve heard lots of good things about the ‘5-4-3-2-1 Senses’ technique, but there are lots of different ones – google is your friend here. With these techniques, you’ll want to practice them early and often when you’re in a calm-ish state. It will feel boring, but it is worth it. When we’re feeling highly aroused, it is very difficult to recall new habits/skills unless they’re already ingrained. (For googling purposes – many practical tips for managing panic attacks can also be helpful for PTSD).

      If you’re struggling with nightmares specifically, I highly recommend getting a nightlight and a white noise machine. The nightlight recommendation is contrary to a lot of the ‘good sleep’ advice you’ll see, but with PTSD symptoms, the brain really needs to be reminded that they are in the here and now, not in the past. Waking from a vivid dream into full darkness will not help with that, you want to be able to look around and orient yourself.

      Lastly – many people find it helpful to get a journal and record symptoms (if you google ‘intrusion diary’ a bunch of options should pop up). This can be both a helpful tool to help you notice patterns (like if symptoms get worse in certain settings) and progress.

      Good luck with everything.

    4. Jackalope*

      I’ve found the 5-4-3-2-1 technique to work well, and you can totally look it up online. You find five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste (or one thing you can feel inside your body). I personally switch to four things I can hear and three I can feel since that tends to work better for the context in which I need it. It’s helpful in giving you something else to hold onto when the PTSD hits, and can take you outside of the stress long enough to help stop the spiral of panic/fear/anger/etc.

    5. Family Estrangement*

      Speaking from a spouse perspective, I notice a marked difference in my husband when he is exercising every day vs. when he’s not. The longer he goes without moving, the more the anxiety itch starts building and disrupting things.

      In my life (non-PTSD, so feel free to disregard), when I have intrusive thoughts I use the two minute distraction technique. I always have the news up on my phone so I just pick any article that seems remotely interesting and read it. Usually takes about two minutes which is apparently the time scientists have determined your brain need to switch to another task. After I finish reading, the intrusive thought has usually passed or else feels way less intense.

    6. Retail Not Retail*

      I’m sorry you’re having such a delay. I second exercise because it’s like that bit from Parks and Rec about constantly moving so your thoughts can’t catch you. And for me, exercise is as simple as walking my dog and playing pokemon go while listening to a podcast. Not music, I can be too “ugh this song sucks!” and not get distracted enough.

      It hasn’t been fully enough for depressive swings, whew, had to start a new med and I’m thinking of restarting therapy with our EAP, but it is good for distraction in the moment. (I have a hip injury and walking is about all I should be doing frankly, my job is way too active. Which may mean my tolerance for exercise as distraction is getting too high.)

      It may also be good to look at your 2020 habits – have you been working from home? Have you been going outside on walks if allowed? Have you kept a routine? Do you get to talk to or see someone who cares about you?

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I am a big fan of treating the physical symptoms concurrently. I’d go one symptom at a time, something to calm a stomach ache. Maybe some peppermint oil for headaches and so on. These symptoms are probably smaller than the ones you’d actually like to address but start with the symptoms that you can find solutions for.
      Once your therapy does start, continue addressing physical stuff as it shows up. Even using tame OTCs can be of some relief. Physical relief helps the mind to process what actually needs to be processed.

      OTOH, I am a big fan of regular walks. Don’t turn this into something hard. Perhaps decide on 15 minutes walks every other day- make it doable so that you actually do it.

      I am also a big fan of affirmations. The problem with affirmations is that it takes time to see any results. And when things get thick, it can be tough to remember to do them. Perhaps write a couple affirmations out and tape them to your bathroom mirror. Each time you see them say them out loud. It matters what we tell ourselves. Saying things such as, “I will help me/myself get to a better spot” can sound too simplistic to be of any support. But an affirmation like this is super-super important.

    8. Firefly*

      I use several well-being apps to manage my anxiety and PTSD. Have you checked out the PTSD Coach app?

    9. Anonymato*

      I recommend the Center for Mind-Body Medicine – on their website under “Education” there are some webinars and recordings of things like breathing and guided imagery to do by yourself or you can sign up for an online Mind-Body Skills Groups. Their stuff is actually research based for stress and PTSD, but really practical. I hope you feel better soon!

    10. fposte*

      There are DBT workbooks specifically aimed at PTSD—some of them may even be freely downloadable.

    11. Oatmeal*

      C-PTSD here. I think what I would focus on is making your environment the best you can. So that’s eating well, sleeping well, exercising, doing fun things to the extent you can. Along with that I’d focus on mitigating the symptoms. Grounding techniques are great things to practice with. But it really depends what you’re experiencing right now. Nightmares or panic attacks or elevated anxiety/dread or…there are depression and PTSD screeners online (they’re questionnaires, you can google them) if you want to see for yourself why the doc thinks PTSD and get a better handle on what the symptoms are.

      1. Oatmeal*

        ETA Like others say there are a lot of workbooks and things. It’s not that I think you can do harm trying those by yourself, but depending on what is actually happening it may just be frustrating to try by yourself, in which case I’d work more on sleep etc. but I have complex ptsd and I don’t know what mild looks like so my suggestions may be off-base.

    12. Generic Name*

      My trauma therapist has suggested using the “calm” app. I would avoid reading books on trauma until you are under the care of a therapist. I am currently reading The Body Keeps the Score, and it’s tough reading sometimes.

      Does your employer have an EAP program? When I’ve used mine in the past, I was able to get a telephone appointment quickly. Maybe that would tide you over until your appointment.

    13. I don’t post often*

      As someone who experienced physical and mental symptoms due to grief, it may help to attend a support group geared to those that have experienced a similar type of trauma. (Again, not sure this would be helpful in every case but it wasn’t for me). In my case, my arms, from elbow to wrist hurt in the weeks after my loss. Attending a support group (which offered no formal counseling, just people sharing their experiences) was helpful, as another person commented that this was completely normal for the type of loss I experienced.
      I did also go to counseling. I second the comment about the EAP. I didn’t know this resource was available at my company until that time.

    14. Skeeder Jones*

      Just before the pandemic, I had a car fire while driving on the freeway. Between that and the pandemic, I started having major anxiety attacks and was constantly in a state of mild anxiety. It was also messing with my work life as all of a sudden, meetings where I had to present/speak had me freaking out and I would be in a state of hyper-anxiety until the meeting was over. I know the anxiety was part mild PTSD. I have a therapist and that helped but it’s not like I could talk to her every day. I did a lot of things that each brought it down a little:
      I got a cat. I was no longer the sole living being in my apartment and petting her was very therapeutic.
      I started using the Calm app when attacks came and also had a ton of success with Happify which helped me find ways to shift my body’s emotional responses and actually change the emotions I was feeling in the moment.
      I temporarily went on an anti-depressant
      I started taking CBD oil on a maintenance basis and also used a combo THC/CBD vape during attacks (after work hours only even though I worked from home so it didn’t super matter)
      I started having short solo outings to do things that helped put me in a different mindspace, such as going to a o a park with a journaling/art books (52 Lists of Calm and did some of the lists and also with some art supplies like adult coloring books or books that help you learn how to draw), rented a waverunner for an afternoon on the ocean, rented a duffy boat, went kayaking (I’m fortunate to live near the ocean but maybe there are some nature spots that really resonate for you).
      It was really the combination of actions that helped, each one brought it down a little bit.

    15. Lobsterp0t*

      The practices I learned with EMDR therapy were all about using the tapping method. I think if you look up emotional freedom technique the explanation of what to do is quite similar?

      It isn’t PTSD related but I have also found DBT worksheets to help with other forms of anxiety – there is some good material about Wise Mind in those which I imagine would not hurt as an interim self help practise.

      1. Lobsterp0t*

        The thing I was thinking of is the bilateral tapping which isn’t emotional freedom technique (which I got confused with it and haven’t used, but also involves tapping) it is bilateral stimulation.

        I found that very helpful and because I was doing EMDR therapy at the time it was a way to anchor in something that felt very safe. It worked to ground me and stop panic and anxiety.

  10. Teatime is Goodtime*

    Sourdough! I’m getting in to sourdough. The learning curve is a bit steeper than I want it to be, but I feel like I’m making progress. I’ve found some good resources, some good recipes and some good new concepts to chew on, but u always like more!

    So: What are you baking? What are your go-to recipes? What hydration levels do you bake at often? What resources do you like? I’m all ears!

    1. Batgirl*

      I’m just getting into gluten free baking and while I’ve discovered ace recipes I am finding it so, so tough with anything that needs a rise or starter. It’s probably my cold, northern English house. One thing I have discovered is if I put my slow cooker on very low, place the dough or starter on top of the slow cooker (upturned lid) and cover with a tea towel then I am getting a very reliable rise because of the moisture and gentle heat. I’ve only tried it with naan starter and naan bread so far (which is a quick rise), but this Easter break may give me enough energy to try sourdough loaves and starters again. I also want to try a nutella braided loaf.

      1. Unemployed in Greenland*

        If you have any links to those ace recipes, would you be comfortable sharing? I would love to know them! I’m trying to make gluten-free these days, and it’s so darn difficult. I don’t know if I add xantham gum when I shouldn’t, or if I’m just getting the proving wrong, or what, but everything turns out either grossly spongy and damp or flat as a pancake!

        1. Batgirl*

          Go to GFOAS – gluten free on a shoestring. I’m eating the corn dog recipe right now. I’m British so have no idea what they are supposed to taste or look like. Took minutes and they’re ace. I’ll be making these every weekend. I also recommend the blueberry scones, Chocolate donuts, buttermilk pancakes and weight watcher pizza dough as tasty but easy places to start. She recommends using better batter or cup 4cup (Doves Farm is the UK equivalent which is what I use). The recipes sometimes call for xantham gum, but to omit it if your blend already contains it. Some recipes require a gum free blend to work (Dove’s plain flour for me). She also has recipes to make your own flour blend, but to make them you need superfine rice flour, which I can’t get in the UK. Coarse rice flour, present in most blends, is responsible for gritty textures and dry, uneven results.

          1. Teatime is Goodtime*

            This is so interesting, thank you so much for sharing! I’m definitely going to put it in my back pocket for when I bake for friends. :)

    2. Not A Manager*

      I love my sourdough. After years of experimenting (with decent-to-excellent results that we were happy to eat), I’ve found a recipe and technique that I’m quite happy with. I’m sure I’ll keep tweaking it over time, but for now we like it.

      Things I’ve learned:

      *My starter thrives best when fed a 50/50 mix of whole wheat flour and bread flour. It gets sluggish with AP flour or all-white flour.
      *My white bread has a better structure if I use bread flour and a little bit of whole wheat flour – not enough to make it taste like whole wheat bread, but enough to give it some oomph. My ratio is about 8:1 bread flour to whole wheat flour.
      *It’s easiest for me to use an “almost no-knead” technique that combines autolyse with occasional folding, stirring or slapping (depending on how wet the dough is) in order to stretch the gluten.
      *We like loaf bread that we can slice for sandwiches. All of the recipes for free-form loaves or loafs baked in a dutch oven can be adapted for a loaf pan.

      1. Teatime is Goodtime*

        This is all great to hear, thank you for sharing! I’m trying to find good recipes that don’t take much babysitting since I can’t always know ahead of time what’s going on in my life day to day. Good to know that that exists in your life! :)

    3. BRR*

      I have a loaf of oat porridge sourdough in the oven right now. The oats release moisture while baking so the inside is very soft. I generally use Tartine bread and Tartine book 3. I also like website the perfect loaf (but generally use a little less water, his doughs are always sticky for me). My standard sourdough is 80-85% hydration.

      1. Teatime is Goodtime*

        I’ve been reading the perfect loaf! So helpful, but I’ve also found my doughs too wet, so it is so nice to hear that you’ve had that experience too!

        And I’m so impressed about your high hydration, I’m far away from that at the moment. I’ll check out the Tartine stuff, thank you!

    4. Meh*

      For you sourdough peeps- how much do you figure you spend a month feeding your starter? I know I would not be able to make enough waffles/pancakes with the part you toss from feeding. So I’ve been reluctant to start thinking of the cost/waste.

      1. Teatime is Goodtime*

        I don’t have that much waste, to be honest! And I have even less when I plan well, but I’m still getting the hang of that. A few things help with this: first, I often keep my starter in the fridge, which cuts way down on the feedings. I pull off of that for levains and then feed the whole thing when it gets low. Second, for some recipes I don’t bother with a levain and just use starter. This works especially well if sourdough isn’t the only levener, for example in english muffins, because the starter doesn’t have to be gram perfect in the same way. There’s more wiggle room. And lastly, I’ve been baking quite a bit recently! :) And regularly, too, so it ends up a bit predictable. But YMMV.

      2. BRR*

        King Arthur has a cracker recipe that I use for my discard. I’ll save the discard from a couple of feedings in its own container in the fridge then adjust the rest of the ingredients to scale depending on how much discard I have. You can also use discard in other bread recipes to add flavor (it’s great in pizza dough) by subbing out flour and water and adding a little more salt. Eg if you add 50g discard subtract 25g flour and 25g water from the recipe and add 1g salt.

      3. Teatime is Goodtime*

        Oh I realized I didn’t answer your question, sorry! I feed my starter at minimum once per week 50g bread flour and 50g rye or whole wheat, depending on what I have handy. But I often feed it more than that since I’m making so much right now. So it doesn’t end up being that much in terms of cost.

      4. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        Pennies, really. I’m not that fussed with all the details and I use a one step recipe so I don’t do a separate levain and don’t really discard that much. It’s not the way you are supposed to do it but I keep my starter in a plastic tub on the counter and only feed it when I notice that there is a lot of dark liquid on top or the day before I intend to make bread (so every 5 days roughly). I just pour off the excess liquid and add an unscientific amount of water and flour (a couple of giant spoonfuls), sometimes a bit of sugar if it seems like it’s very weak.

        So far I’ve had perfectly fine results doing it the lazy, cheap way. Flour costs 45 pence for a 1.5kg bag, and I’ve used three or four bags since I started making sourdough a year ago. So for me at least the waste and cost is negligible.

      5. rye loaf*

        I keep my starter in the fridge. I feed it once per week, or once every two weeks. A gigantic spoon or two of flour and more-or-less the same of water. I have about 3/4 -1 c starter when it’s all stirred down. I don’t toss any from feeding. I generally make about 1 loaf/week, where the loaf takes about 100 (+/- 40) g of starter, and makes about 1.5 kg finished product.

      6. Meh*

        Thanks for the feeding replies! I have the book Salt, Flour, water, yeast and his feeding schedule/amount just seems so wasteful and the amount of flour isn’t trivial.

        1. BRR*

          Ah, yes. Nobody knows why he calls for such astronomical amounts of flour. In his second book he even calls for less.

    5. lemon meringue*

      I have a heritage sourdough that I’ve had good results with for years now. Because I’m not as dedicated as I could be, my main sourdough recipe goals are that it’s not too disruptive and doesn’t require me to clear out tons of refrigerator space or use plastic wrap.

      My old go-to recipe was the Cooks Illustrated Almost No-Knead Sourdough, which I loved, but they took it down last year because apparently a lot of people were having trouble with it. I tried to email them for a copy of the old recipe, but no dice. I’m still trying to recapture that magic. (The new version apparently works well, but it’s too fussy for me to use on a regular basis.)

    6. Esmeralda*

      I recently made my first loaf ever — it came out great. King Arthur Flour, starter recipe and no-knead loaf — recipes online.

    7. RagingADHD*

      My fave sourdough resources are the YT channels Foodgeek and Bake with Jack.

      Favorite tool discovered this year is the Danish dough whisk. It’s brilliant for all types of dough and batter.

      Favorite way to proof sourdough is in the Instant Pot on the yogurt setting.

    8. Aealias*

      I make sourdough every week or two for breakfast bread. So much cheaper than buying bagels!

      I used the King Arthur starter recipe and their no-commercial-yeast bread recipe, but I use theKitchn’s technique – which I think is the Tartine technique mentioned above.

      I never throw out starter. Ever. Every few months I get enough extra to make a maple-walnut sourdough quick bread – a bit expensive, but delicious and filling for a breakfast treat. I just weigh all the starter I have, add an equal volume of water and equal weight of flour, pull off the two cups I need for my King Arthur recipe, and put the rest back in the jar and back in the fridge. If I were using a levain recipe (which I don’t cause Spouse doesn’t like the larger holes I typically get with a levain) I’d pull the old starter for the maple-walnut bread, feed the remainder, and then pull the couple of tablespoons for levain and return the rest to the fridge.

      Links to follow!

      1. Aealias*

        Oh! I forgot to mention! Recently I’ve been brushing my loaves with a bit of water after they’re in the Dutch oven and before they go into the oven-oven. I seem to get a better rise and thinner crust that way, which is popular in this house.

  11. Crispy Pork*

    My 10 yo son was recently diagnosed with autism. I am struggling to figure out when and how to tell him about this? My husband thought it would be best to wait until he’s a little older but I wonder if it’s better to tell him now matter of fact. It’s so confusing to know what is best for him.

    I am also surprised with how much I am grieving over the diagnosis. Since he was very young my son has had other minor special needs and more serious mental health issues so I thought I was prepared for anything. But since the diagnosis I am finding myself alternately relieved and heartbroken.

    Any others (not necessarily just parents) in a similar situation, your insight would be much appreciated.

    1. Princess Deviant*

      I was diagnosed as autistic very recently as a 45 year old woman and I’ve struggled all my life with things that would have made a lot more sense if I’d known I was autistic!
      So if I’d had a diagnosis at age 10 I would have liked to know about it.
      I was also quite mature for my age.

      It was a huge relief to be to find out I was autistic as an adult, but I did also experience grief because of the ‘lost’ time. What you’re feeling makes complete sense! Your son will see your emotions too, so it may be helpful to him to explain them so he understands.
      Everything was so confusing to me when I was younger, it would have been brilliant if there was someone there to explain it all.

      I feel now that my insides have started matching my outsides. It’d maybe be good for your son to have that opportunity too.

      By the way, many autistic people prefer identity first language (autistic person) rather than person first language (person with autism) because we feel that being autistic is an inherent part of our personhood rather than something we have to “deal with”, like an illness, for example.

      1. Queer Earthling*

        I’m 33 and while I can’t afford to get tested, I’m almost certainly both autistic and ADHD.

        My mom was encouraged to have me tested when I was a kid but, because my mom wasn’t a very good parent, just like…didn’t feel like it and never did so. So instead, I struggled in school and with social interaction without knowing why, which led to me developing extremely intense social anxiety and low self-esteem because I felt broken. Having some explanation would not have fixed all of it, but it would have been nice to know that my problems weren’t just because of personal failing.

        So, yes, I’m on team “tell your kid.” It’s not a bad thing to be autistic; it’s just an explanation for something that’s already there.

        Also, if possible, look into resources from autistic people, not ones exclusively from parents of autistic kids and certainly not from Autism $peaks, which most autistic people consider a hate group.

    2. Honesty is the best policy*

      A diagnosis doesn’t create anything that wasn’t already there, just gives a name to what’s been present all along. Your kid knows he is how he is; keeping the label from him is not going to change that. And he’s been this way his whole life, the whole time you’ve been parenting him and loving him. Adding the label doesn’t change that.

      I think keeping information from your kid that might help him understand himself better isn’t a good policy. I have a child with specific medical needs and he’s understood what those are and how to articulate them since he was three.

      Presumably if he was diagnosed that means he’s undergone assessment, too, so it’s not like this conversation will come out of left field – you start it with “you know how we were all noticing x, so we took you to do y? Here’s what we found out.” Did the assessor give you any age appropriate resources to help your kid understand the diagnosis, more information on living as an autistic person, etc? Those would be good things to pass along.

      Did you get any resources on parenting an autistic child? Can you join a parents’ group in your area? It’s normal to feel however you feel when there’s been a new diagnosis in your family, and going through it alongside others can help.

      1. tangerineRose*

        “I think keeping information from your kid that might help him understand himself better isn’t a good policy.” This!

    3. Batgirl*

      I teach a high number of SEN students and while it’s really important for me to know that my student is autistic, it’s even more important for them to know. Imagine trying to teach a child who doesn’t know something intrinsic about how they go about things.. like they don’t understand that they are left handed or that other people aren’t. I think matter of fact is the way to go. It’s awful when a student gets it in their head that it’s wrong to be even slightly different, or that one aspect of themselves is a shameful secret. They then fight every tiny measure that could possibly help them. I never mention a student’s diagnosis to them, I always let them raise it with me, and explain how they learn to me.. and there’s a huge variety within diagnoses anyway. It’s still up to them who they want to be. Usually the parents are either the biggest challenge or the biggest support. Yes, parents have to grieve pre-existing ideas; I’ve had wonderfully supportive parents say that to me. It seems to be universal. They do that privately though. To their kid, they give ownership. Ownership of information about themselves. Ownership of decisions about who they will be. Even when it’s really tough and unclear of what that will eventually look like.

    4. Rebecca Stewart*

      My father, myself, and two of my three kids are autistic. No one knew that’s what it was till the eldest of my boys got tested around 2005. (And we looked at my dad and said OHHH! in comprehension, and then we looked at me, the genetic link, and said, OHHH! and now we know what to call that family quirk.)

      I would tell him now, personally. I knew for years that I was different, that I had to hide it, and it was SO much work to mask and appear neurotypical, that when I did realize that was what it was, I was relieved. It would have been nice to know that I’m not broken, just different.

      For the record, in my autistic family, my dad worked happily in an auto plant his entire career, had a couple friends there, had a good marriage and was a decent father to his daughters, enjoyed his hobbies of gardening and small engine repair, and was a good grandfather. I’ve enjoyed being a stay at home mom and working as a housekeeper and personal chef, and I get along well with all my family (except my sister, which is its own thing), and I’m working on writing a book. I have plenty of friends and am going to marry again next year. My elder boy is in welding school and will have a good career. He’s waiting til his life is in order on the career front to date. (He’s the sort who will show up at a family Thanksgiving and introduce his fiancee when no one had any idea he was dating anyone.) Right now he’s living with my mom because her back is bad and Dad is no longer around to take care of their acreage. And the middle kid graduated in 2019 with a degree in meteorology and is off to go work on his master’s degree, and he’s engaged to a very nice girl he met at school.

      So autism doesn’t cut you out of having a perfectly good life.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        > (And we looked at my dad and said OHHH! in comprehension, and then we looked at me, the genetic link, and said, OHHH! and now we know what to call that family quirk.)

        That’s about what happened (with my mom and her mother + her aunt + both of their parents) when I got diagnosed!

        And can agree that autism doesn’t prevent having a good or happy life.

    5. Not A Manager*

      Tell him now. He already knows that something is not typical in his experience, and he probably already has unpleasant internal explanations for it. This will help him understand the real reasons. Although you are grieving, he might not have the same reaction. He might be relieved to know what’s going on.

      Also, do you have support for you? You are absolutely allowed to grieve and to feel any number of things, and you deserve a place to discuss it that is safe for you *and* safe for your child. You don’t want to inadvertently bring your own feelings to him.

      1. ten four*

        Seconding that some support for you might be in order! When my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD I was really taken aback and it took me a little while to process. And I love her and she’s wonderful and frankly having a diagnosis and treatment made all our lives a lot better and happier. It just took me a minute. And I didn’t want to dump that on her, because there’s nothing wrong with – her brain is just wired a little differently. It really helped to talk it through with my therapist and other moms.

    6. Nicki Name*

      Not one of my autistic relatives has suffered from getting an explanation for why they struggle with certain parts of life. Tell him! The more knowledge he has available to work with, the better.

      I’m curious, why is this heartbreaking for you?

    7. Jen*

      My Dad is a pediatrician who specializes in neuro issues, including autism. Think about it this way, you’re now getting the resources and toolbox to help him approach the world. Interventions can really make all the difference. My dad picked up that our neighbor’s son was undiagnosed ASD and got him the correct therapies and the kid went from constantly in trouble and failing out in 9th grade to graduating with honors and getting into a great college program. Knowing what you are dealing with can make all the difference.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        I want to echo this. My cousin’s twin sons, now 11, are autistic. It has been really helpful for them to know this about themselves since they were younger. Early on their parents accessed resources to help them navigate the world, and now the kids are old enough to know what they need to care for themselves in a neurotypical world.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      A person I worked with had some struggles. I could see things were difficult but I couldn’t really say too much. One day, she told me she had good news. Her face was lit up, she was smiling. She told me her diagnosis. (not autism but definitely life impacting). I said, “WHY are you so happy?”
      I will never forget. She said, “All my life I have known I am different from other people. And I never understood why. NOW, I know. It has a NAME [meaning her diagnosis]. I now KNOW why I am different from other people.”

      The relief this person was experiencing was so strong, I could almost feel it myself. I will never forget that day.

    9. Generic Name*

      My son was recently diagnosed at 14. Honestly, I wish he had been diagnosed earlier. He had some very difficult behaviors in early elementary which were likely because he was having a hard time coping with the school environment, and he probably would have had a better experience if we were able to get him the appropriate therapy.

      I told my son about his diagnosis right away. I told him that the diagnosis was information about how his brain works, and most people’s brain works in a certain way and some people’s brain works in a different way. I told him it had to do with information processing and thinking styles.

      We are currently going through the intake process for ABA therapy, and the therapist has been great about listening to his wishes. One of his most challenging behaviors is basically he melts down when he gets frustrated by changes in routine, etc. and the therapist mentioned that they might need to arrange things to basically trigger a meltdown. My son spoke up and said that he didn’t want to be “set up”, and she listened to that and took a different approach.

      1. Imtheone*

        I’m a Special Ed teacher. One thing to do to help stress from changes in routine is to practice them. Schedule a time when unpredictable things will happen — every Friday at 4 pm, for example. Then build on that.

        1. Generic Name*

          Interesting! What types of things would you suggest for something “unpredictable”? Like “suprise! We’re going to the pool today!”? I typically give him a heads up the day before and then the morning of an appointment, for example. When he goes to high school, we’ll tour the school a few times and have him practice walking to his classes.

    10. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Tell him. He may be a child, but it is his life, his brain, his emotions. If you don’t tell him, then when he does find out later and realizes that you knew and didn’t tell him, he’ll have every right to feel angry and betrayed.

    11. lemon meringue*

      This isn’t what you asked for, but you may benefit from a few therapy sessions to process your feelings about the diagnosis and discuss the best way to let your son know. I think it’s important to be able to put your own feelings to one side and focus on supporting your son, so that he doesn’t receive any mixed messages about what the diagnosis might mean for him. And try not to let your mind run away with how this diagnosis may or may not affect his future; maybe you can try to think of it primarily as a tool to help figure out how to best support him.

    12. Dark Macadamia*

      I’ve seen anecdotes about people getting diagnosed as adults, telling their parents, and the parents are like oh yeah we knew that we just didn’t want you to be “different” – it seems almost universal that people in this situation wish they had known sooner. A diagnosis doesn’t change your kid, but it does provide a framework for understanding himself and his needs. It’s great that you are figuring this out so early and thinking so much about how to support him!

      When looking into information and support for both yourself and your kid, focus on organizations that center actual autistic experiences. Many autistic folks find Autism Speaks to be really harmful (focuses on “curing” autism and what a burden it is to the parents/family) and recommend groups like ASAN (Autistic Self Advocacy Network) instead.

    13. I grieved too*

      I totally get the grieving. it may not be quite the same situation, but my daughter had clear learning difficulties when she was 8. When she was “officially diagnosed” at 11 or so, I definitely grieved, for maybe a couple of years. So, I’d say it’s normal to grieve some – it seems that life is hard enough without other obstacles being thrown in the way. We just want our kids to be able to do whatever they want, and be happy. It’s heartbreaking when they have obstacles thrown in their way. As for when to tell him – oh, that’s so much on you/your kid and how the info gets processed. There’s probably pros and cons to all the choices.

    14. OtterB*

      Re the parenting grief. My daughter, who is now 27, is not autistic but she has some overlap in traits to the point where it was suggested several times when she was younger that we have her tested for autism (but a couple of experts said no, and I think they were right). She has ADHD, intellectual disabilities, and a speech output problem to the point where she’s essentially nonverbal. One of the things I found was that I didn’t accept her disabilities once and for all. I would think I had, but then she would hit a standard milestone (e.g. starting middle school) and I would grieve again for a little while. For me it was a cyclical process. I had to go ahead and grieve the loss of the parenting life I expected to have, so that buried grief didn’t poison my relationship with the child I had.

      When she was an infant we went through some genetic testing for her. (Nothing identified.) The developmental pediatrician said to keep in mind that having a diagnosis was helpful because it could warn you of common problems to beware of, but that it didn’t define the child. Even with a fairly well-understood diagnosis like Down Syndrome, he said, there could be a broad range of abilities and problems, and so you always dealt with the child in front of you.

      Re telling him, this wasn’t an issue for us so take my advice with a grain of salt, but if you read to him my inclination would be to look for a book on autism or neurodivergence that you could read. Vet them carefully; there’s some awful stuff out there. But that might plant some seeds that you could have discussions about later.

      1. OtterB*

        Adding, one thing that helped me was learning to separate the things that bothered me about her issues from the things that bothered her. If she was unhappy about something in a school or social situation, then it needed to be addressed. If I was unhappy about something but she didn’t care, then as long as it didn’t have health or long-term consequences, I needed to let it go.

        Actually, that’s not bad parenting advice in general. As my brother put it when our kids were younger, his greatest parenting dilemmas were in deciding whether some activity or behavior was wrong and needed to be stopped, or just weird, and needed to be let alone.

        1. RagingADHD*

          I wish more parents in general had that attitude.

          I participate in a lot of neurodivergence-related hashtags on Twitter, and the amount of young people who seem to torment themselves over every tiny harmless behavior quirk is just heartbreaking.

          “Is it wierd that I do this? Is this a ND thing?”

          When the real answer is, “Maybe, maybe not, it’s not hurting you or anyone else, so why does it matter?”

          There’s a strange backlash to the normalization of differences that has turned every mark of individuality into a diagnosis.

          A disorder is when you have a *problem*. If it doesn’t cause actual problems, just let kids be weird!

    15. Janon*

      Good for you for getting him diagnosed! It’s a gift to be able to get accommodations to make a person’s life better versus pretending they are neurotypical! There are some tiktokkers who speak about their experience with autism.

      In my

    16. I need tea*

      I’m on team “tell him”. I was recently diagnosed with autism in my 20s, but I’ve spent my entire life knowing I’m different. I’ve also spent my whole life knowing I can’t do things others easily can, that I get upset at things others don’t, that people don’t always understand my questions, motivations or behaviours… I thought I was just a defective human, and that made my life extremely difficult. I think had I known I was autistic from childhood, my relationship with myself would’ve been a lot better. (To give some context for the extent this can go to, I was abused, I self-harmed and I attempted suicide multiple times. Had I known I’m autistic and known what that means for me, each of those things may have been less likely to happen, and I’m as certain as I can possibly be that I would never have attempted suicide if I’d known I was autistic.) There’s massive relief in knowing that I’m not a failure at being neurotypical – it’s just unreasonable for me to be expected to be or act like a neurotypical person, and it’s unreasonable of *me* to expect myself to be or act neurotypical. There’s a lot of joy in knowing and being unashamedly myself. As soon as I got diagnosed, my quality of life massively improved and these days I’m doing really well. I’m finally happy being me – I just wish I could’ve had this happiness sooner.

      In terms of support, I would say vet resources carefully. There’s a massive difference between the ActuallyAutistic community and communities about autism led by allistic (non-autistic) people and they have completely different approaches (and many, many resources will fall into the latter without this being obvious). The former includes autism as a potential and valid part of identity, uses the social model of disability (i.e. the problem is not the disabled person, the problem is that the world is set up to exclude the disabled person), discusses positives like autistic joy, provides support by and for autistic people who’ve gone through similar experiences, and – this is key – centres the experiences of people who are actually autistic. A lot of resources that are made by allistic people, for allistic people, about autistic people, can be really harmful, downright abusive, and may be considered hate speech by the autistic community. Self-advocacy communities, networks run by autistic people at least in part, and autism professionals who are either autistic themselves or who center the experiences of autistic people in their practice are potentially useful resources to look for. Red flags include promotion of ABA (google “the great big aba opposition resource list” for a variety of resources and experiences regarding ABA), attempts to suppress non-harmful stims, “coping mechanisms” for autistic children that seek to encourage or condition kids to pretend to be neurotypical, use of “person-first” language (i.e. “person with autism” to describe autistic people as a group or to describe individuals who prefer identity-first language (i.e. “autistic person”) (this one’s tricky; professionals are often trained, and allistic people strongly encouraged by other allistic people, to use identity-first language, usually with the reasoning that “a person is not their diagnosis”, so use of this doesn’t necessarily mean a person or resource is bad, although it may indicate at minimum a lack of awareness of the community the person or resource purports to support. Most autistic people, however, do feel that autism is a significant part of their identity and dislike person-first language as it makes autism sound like something that can be removed from the person or like an illness to be “cured” or “treated”, and some feel that it’s an indication that allistic people need to be reminded that autistic people are people. Preference is to use identity-first language when describing groups, and use personal preference when discussing individuals.)

      Also, there are lots and lots of autistic adults out there, who are experts in their own experiences and neurodivergence, who are skilled and happy professionals, etc., etc. Autistic adults are an *excellent* resource for young autistic people – having role models is important, seeing people who look and act like you is important, and knowing others have been where you are and being able to learn from them is important. Meeting and getting to know the various incredible autistic people in my life has helped me develop a better understanding of myself, discover new things about myself and discover new strategies, learn how to better advocate for myself and has helped me improve my skill at a wide range of things, from social situations to boundaries to self-care and inclusion. I’d recommend supporting access to autistic-led events and groups – this might be really helpful for him, especially when it comes to his social health. For example, the “autistic person who struggles with socialising” idea has truth to it, but in my experience, many autistic people struggle primarily with *allistic* socialising and find socialising with people who are on their wavelength, often other autistic or neurodivergent people, much easier and more enjoyable, because allistic and autistic communication styles and relationship preferences can be very different, but both are valid. Learning to communicate with both autistic and allistic people is important (for everyone, including allistic kids), but a lot of autistic kids never learn that their communication style is valid or never get the chance to use it with other autistics until adulthood, and that’s a real shame! That’s not to say communication and relationships between autistic people will always go swimmingly, but if it’s possible and feasible, giving your son the opportunity to explore those things with other autistic kids could be really beneficial.

      Also, I’d recommend finding or developing a good support system. Unfortunately, some groups for parents of autistic children can encourage problematic or harmful behaviour towards autistic kids, so it’s probably worth some time upfront vetting groups so you can find somewhere that’s genuinely supportive and helpful for you and genuinely positive for autistic people too (groups that autistic adults are involved in the management of might be a good starting point). You and your family deserve good quality support, and there’s nothing wrong with feeling what you feel. Take time to grieve – but remember there are positives to this, too. Your son is who he is and you already know and love him – it’s just now, you have a better understanding of who he is and hopefully this better understanding will help your whole family love and care for each other even better.

    17. Former Neurodiverse Child*

      I had to find out about my own diagnosis via nosing about in my parents’ desk. I was maybe eight at the time; I did not have the maturity to process that alone, but I also couldn’t tell anyone that I knew, and it was far more traumatic than it needed to be.

      In particular, I found out that my therapists were reporting back to the state on whether my parents should be allowed to keep me. (I’d been taken out of an abusive home and was briefly in state care.) If you would like to terrify a small child who has finally started to feel safe, that’s an effective method. From then on, I was masking with everything I had – I have no symptoms, I’m not struggling, I’m a normal child who deserves a family.

      Fortunately, I was also the kind of eight-year-old who would steal my parents’ books on raising a neurodiverse child, and I was able to self-administer the therapy that I was outwardly insisting I did not need. But it would have been much better for all concerned if my parents had leveled with me. I knew I was different; that wasn’t the issue. They could have just told me that this was a thing that happens, and some things would be harder for me, so they were going to get me extra help.

      Remember, children are sponges. If you treat an issue matter-of-factly, they will too. If you treat it as a dark, dreadful secret, they will internalize that shame, and they won’t talk to you about it.

    18. Chuck*

      I would tell him now. My mother hid my disability diagnosis from me (mild cerebal palsy) and my brother’s autism diagnosis from him. We both found out accidentally when someone let it slip. By the point we found out my mother was dead and so I carry a lot of rage about why she let me think I was just not trying hard enough and why she left me to struggle in the dark. I also have an incomplete understanding of my disability as she was the one who handled all my medical appointments.
      Your kid knows he is different. By delaying this conversation you risk adding to a sense of alienation. Everybody deserves a framework through which they can understand themselves.

    19. Just me*

      I have an autistic child and I relate to needing time to grieve. I found the assessment process incredibly stressful, (my child handled it well) in part because of the huge financial pressure. When the diagnosis came through officially I just shut down. It was like when you go on holiday and get the flu. My body was just done with the stress and insomnia.

      I took a time to read up and think about what this meant for my daughter. I also put supports in place before I talked with her.
      She actually took the diagnosis in stride. I have taken the approach of focusing on all brains being different and all people having strengths and weaknesses. I highlight her strengths, which I believe are related to her autism and approach weaknesses as areas that she can work on to make stronger.
      She has some cognitive delays so these conversations are pitched at a young level.
      Our paediatrician gave me advice to surround her with a supportive network of people who are positive about her abilities and to give her as many opportunities to succeed Socially as we can. This has translated to me hiring a sympathetic teenager (who she admires) to help her with music practice and a lovely grandma to tutor her. I could do both of these things but this gives her two additional people to practice social skills and who are a supportive network (her peer network is small). I have found that she is happiest with either adults or younger children -this reduces the focus on her cognitive differences compared to same age peers. Obviously your son’s milage will vary.
      At the end of the day she needs unconditional love, positive regard and a soft place to fall – just the same as all children.
      Also everyone is different but I haven’t found autism communities helpful. I find autism parenting blogs can really focus on the negatives and in turn sometimes autism communities can be negative towards neurotypical parents. When she is older I will support her seeking g out these networks if she wants to.
      Best wishes to you. Parenting can be so hard an it is very important to look after yourself as well.

    20. Oh Brother*

      Adding another voice to the tell him crowd.

      The brother I grew up with is autistic; now he’s in his 30s, he has still never been told his diagnosis.

      It really affected our relationship growing up. (´why does Brother act like that?´ Answer: ‘Because you did something wrong. You need to Try Harder and don’t ask questions.´)

      It also really affected my relationship with our parent. When I found out the diagnosis by accident I asked wait, do I have any diagnoses you’re not telling me?! And got ‘uhhhh… no.’ in response.

      There was a pattern of support for him vs bootstraps for me which culminated in parent buying my brother a house and kicking me out of the family home. And then being A S T O U N D E D that we’re not close lol.

      What telling him might have changed: naming the traits may have made them easier to deal with. Normalising ´everyone’s brain is a bit different’ instead of there being a Huge Secret That Must Never Be Mentioned would have made things a lot easier. Saying Brother needs support because reason would have been a lot easier to deal with than the ‘Brother needs all these things because we love him more and you’re worthless’ message I received.

      I haven’t spoken to Brother in over a decade. The hidden diagnosis is only one facet of the reason but it certainly didn’t help.

    21. Dee*

      In general a ten year old can handle hearing about their own selves and diagnoses and all and there are huge downsides to waiting where you don’t have the words for what’s going on with yourself and it sucks. But I absolutely would recommend getting the heartbreak under control before you tell him. I would recommend consuming info by autistic people about experiences, perspectives on life, etc.

    22. Blackcat*

      I really recommend therapy for you to help deal with the grief/disappointment.
      For your child, the diagnosis is likely going to be a good and helpful thing! But it will he harder for him if he feels like it’s something *you’re* grieving over. As a teacher, I saw a fair number of teens get diagnosis of autism or ADHD, and for all of them, it was like a weight lifted off their shoulders. Rather than feeling bad for not coping well with school, they had autism and now could learn to do better. Feeling “different” is far, far easier than feeling “bad” which is how many neurodiversel kids without diagnoses feel. There’s a lot of shame around different needs, and having a diagnosis can help relieve that shame.
      He is still your same child. His challenges will be *less* now that there is a diagnosis that helps lead to appropriate therapies. The diagnosis is ought to be good news in his life. He *will* pick up on you feeling like it’s a thing to grieve, and you need to do the work to process those feelings in order to best support him.

    23. RagingADHD*

      Analogy: When I was in kindergarten, apparently nobody expected the students to be able to read at all. So there was a collection of Babar books on the shelf, in French.

      I picked one up and tried to read it, and absolutely freaked out. I thought I’d suddenly forgotten how to read and something horrible was happening to me. I suppose I was vaguely aware that other languages existed, but certainly didn’t know how to recognize them. It terrified me.

      Then someone explained they were in another language, and immediately I stopped worrying that I was losing my mind or about to die.

      Somebody needs to tell your son that most of the people around him are speaking another “language”, so he can stop worrying about it.

      Of course your son’s other MH issues are a factor in how well he takes this onboard, but as a late-diagnosed ADHDer I generally consider getting the right dx to be great news that should be shared with him ASAP.

      I understand your difficult feelings, but the dx means he isn’t broken, his feelings aren’t wrong, and his difficulties aren’t because he’s screwing up or not trying hard enough. This can be a huge relief for him.

      He is wired differently. And there is a lot of information and community out there to help him mediate between the way his insides work, and the way the world is set up for the majority.

      You can understand him better. He can understand himself better. He can understand how to navigate the world better.

      When he’s working with the natural flow of his neurology instead of fighting against it, everything else can get a bit easier.

    24. Woolly Jumper*

      Hi there! I’m an elementary school teacher, so my comment is coming from that perspective- I think it’s best to tell your son, as it can be empowering to know “wow, there’s a word for why I’m different, there are other kids like me” and keeping it secret can send the message that being autistic is shameful or something to keep hidden. Also, as he grows up (and 10 is old enough to start this) self-advocacy will be super important, so feeling confident and proud of his identity as an autistic person can start now! I know the time around receiving a diagnosis can be really stressful and scary for parents, but you will make it, and having the diagnosis means he will have access to sped experts and school resources to support him. Also I’d encourage you/your husband to dig into why you want to wait to tell him- our culture sends a lot of negative, ableist messages around disability and autism, so working on unpacking those in yourselves can help you to better support your son. You’ve got this!!

  12. Family Estrangement*

    Family estrangement question

    Has anyone here struggled with family estrangement (yours or a partner’s)?

    My husband’s family is lovely on paper. Southern charm with a large helping of family pitching in to support each other. In reality the family rules and expectations are deeply hierarchical and often cruel with a heavy pour of sexism and racism. As an example, one uncle told his daughter in law she needed to have four kids because “the Mexicans are breeding” (I’m Hispanic, though didn’t yet have any kids) and “All Indians eat with their hands”. I was present for the second one and pushed back but he doubled down (!).

    My husband is the son of the lowest ranking member of the prior generation. She was an oopsie baby 17 years younger than the first child and they have never let her forget it. At one point her brother literally told her she killed their dad. So, dysfunction on a lot of levels across the decades. My husband was born and grew up pretty poor but has gone on to be quite successful as a military officer. But every time we went home, he was the same dumb poor kid everyone expected to be able to order around or mock (“jokingly”) even into his thirties. We now understand why a few other extended family members have left the family and literally never returned.

    Once we had a kid, we realized how badly we wanted to protect him from the kind of pain my husband endured. His mother couldn’t protect him (it’s own depressing saga) and she has always sided with her family, up to and including leaving us alone on her only grandson’s first Christmas after a blowout with the racist uncle and his awful wife because she *had* to cook everyone breakfast. We didn’t see her that day even though we were only 30 minutes away.

    So. It’s a lot. And it probably sounds like regular garden variety family dysfunction but it’s taken years of therapy and a LOT of reading to get here (highly recommend “will I ever be good enough” by Karyl McBride). COVID was an excellent buffer in 2020 on why we’re not traveling to see these people. And we’re moving this summer to be many many states away.

    And yet despite all of this, it really hurts my husband to not have a family. And estrangement, while apparently common, is an often silent trauma. People are starting to understand and talk about things like mental health and depression but the stigma around family estrangement is excruciating. Forgiveness and a happy hallmark ending aren’t always possible (ask any number of LBGT teens tossed out by their families).

    I guess what I’m asking is, has anyone here been estranged from family? How did you manage? Does it ever feel less soul crushingly awful? What did you do for funerals? Have you found a useful support group or other resources?

    Folks who have loving families (as do I), please be kind. If you haven’t experienced this level of toxicity closely, it’s far too easy to give “straight talk”/“common sense” reconciliation/conversation advice that is quite painful. I know it is to be expected on an online forum but I’ve always found the AAM community to be exceptional.

    1. Kiwiapple*

      I was estranged with my dad and his wife after an argument for 2 years. It gave me strength and space to figure out what I wantee from that relationship. It was only after going to counselling (about a different matter but related) that I felt strong enough to not let the phone go to voicemail and actually have a conversation. But it was on my terms when and how I got in touch.

      1. Family Estrangement*

        Thank you for sharing your experience! What criteria helped you feel comfortable reaching out again?

        We’re current low contact (LC) with his mom. I think he would prefer no contact, but the hardwiring is pretty strong that he needs to be a “good son”. After a number of years of watching him be guilt tripped and gaslit I mentioned that in an abusive marriage, it’s not possible to be a “good spouse”. And we don’t hold it against people for leaving the partners who hurt them. Yet family is supposed to be fixable with just one more conversation. That helped us significantly scale back on many of the unspoken but very much mandatory visits. We know that there is love there but the good moments are so fleeting while the negativity can trigger really intense anxiety or depression lasting for days or weeks. Therapy helps but to use the abused spouse analogy (with great respect for those who have endured those relationships!) it’s hard to heal when active harm continues.

        1. Kiwiapple*

          My counselling involved a lot of work regarding being more confident in using my voice and words and being heard. And because I felt like I could apply that, within the estranged relationship, one day I just picked up the phone to answer it rather than avoid it. I chose that action. I wasn’t told to do it by anyone.

          I don’t know if that’s helpful or not.

          1. Family Estrangement*

            We love the term “use your words” and have found it super helpful in our marriage.

            For me it was really hard to watch this strong, confident person who has accomplished so much and is an authority figure for >100 people kind of shut down when we were around his family. Most people have a hard time not reverting to old patterns when home with their parents (ex. Always feeling a bit like a teenager at moms house) but his body had all these memories and protective mechanisms that would always override in the moment. The Body Keeps The Score helped us understand some of those dynamics.

            I hadn’t considered NC as a way to potentially salvage LC down the line. Thank you for the perspective. And I agree that making the *choice* from a positions of strength and not guilt/shame/obligation/fear is so incredibly empowering!

        2. Crispy Pork*

          It’s difficult to draw an arbitrary line defining when to go from low contact to no contact whatsoever. If my personal experience helps at all, I went to NC when two factors collided: (1) my mum was refusing to respect my boundaries and (2) I wasn’t strong enough to defend said boundaries, resulting in weeks of depression.

          I realised I needed to heal before I could have even low contact with my mum. I would be okay for awhile; then when she crossed said boundaries it would trigger weeks of depression, setting back all the work I did for my mental health. There was no way I could recover as long as my mum kept sabotaging my progress, however well intentioned she may be. I’m in the process of accepting She Is Who She Is and once I get there, maybe I will have the energy to respond to her boundary crossing with little more than an eye roll. But right now I am too angry, upset, and depressed to respond with resilience.

          1. Family Estrangement*

            This is SO similar to our experience. Sometimes all it takes is a shitty text or a short call to derail the whole day/week. Actual physical visits require weeks of emotional recovery. On good days I have a lot of compassion for how terrible her life has been. She had an awful childhood, a cruel husband who cheated constantly, her own oopsie baby, is in poor health, and then she hates her job. But she also makes terrible choices! And turns into a waterworks martyr at any conflict or difficult conversation. It’s exhausting.

            1. Texan In Exile*

              But just because you have had a crummy life doesn’t mean you can treat others badly. :(

            2. Crispy Pork*

              I hear you. My dad went through horrendous abuse during his childhood. If there was a movie about his childhood people probably wouldn’t watch because it would be too much.

              Knowing his childhood, it was so difficult for me to hold my dad accountable to the hurt he inflicted on me. I knew he loved me and would die to protect me if need be; but he was emotionally absent and made WTF choices as a parent. As soon as I became an adult I very much had to parent him rather than the other way around. My mum was an enabler in that whenever he hurt me deeply she would say “Oh but dad loves you so much, it’s just his awful childhood that made him this way.” The underlying message was that I had no right to be sad or angry because he had a good enough excuse to hurt my feelings repeatedly. It messed me up a lot and I tolerated toxic and even abusive behaviour from other people. Even now I struggle to draw boundaries without wondering if I suffered ‘enough’. I’m still in therapy.

              1. NoLongerYoung*

                This… light bulb moment for me. Thank you for sharing this insight. I just realized this is why my own situation (I “know” why they were awful…) still hurts:
                The underlying message was that I had no right to be sad or angry because he had a good enough excuse to hurt my feelings repeatedly. It messed me up a lot and I tolerated toxic and even abusive behavior from other people. Even now I struggle to draw boundaries without wondering if I suffered ‘enough’.

        3. Joie de Vivre*

          Thank you for the abused spouse analogy. I’m estranged from my twin sister. People don’t understand. But my life is so much better without the turmoil having her in my life causes. We are very low (basically no contact) unless it is something to do with our mother.

          Honestly, I wish I would have gone no contact years before I did.

          Not what you asked, but I can’t imagine circumstances to establish contact again.

          To give an example of how bad our relationship was before no contact- in our 30s she burned me in effigy while I was standing next to her. That sort of thing from her was so normal that at the time it happened I just rolled my eyes.

          1. Family Estrangement*

            I’m so glad it was helpful! I hated seeing him hold himself to a literally impossible standard. If your best friend treated you the way your twin sister did, no one would blink at ending the friendship. I’m so sorry people aren’t more understanding. This random internet stranger agrees with you and supports the hard choices you’ve had to make!

        4. Not So NewReader*

          “it’s hard to heal when active harm continues.”

          This is super important that you and your hubby see this and understand it.

          Ever get a papercut at work first thing in the morning? For some unknown reason you manage to smack that fresh papercut on everything in sight all day long. By the time you go home, that little stinkin’ papercut REALLY hurts.
          And this is just talking about a papercut.

          Human hurts, emotional/psychological hurts, can grow expediently each time a new injury occurs. (The new injury is not actually big, but the pain from it is HUGE.) In order to get that papercut to knit closed, we have to put a bandaid on it. We have to isolate the wounded area and protect it from further harm until it reknits. Sometimes we have to do that for our hearts and minds also. We have to step back and allow our hearts and minds to reknit.

          My story is much tamer than a lot of other people’s stories. I always felt that 20 years of damage growing up would take 20 more years to re-work. Argumentatively, I could have set myself up for a long haul by thinking this way. On the other hand, it’s reasonable to assume that 20 years of hurt is not going to “fix” itself inside of a few months or few years. I do think that the time it takes is the time it takes. Therefore, we are all different as to how we process our live experiences.

          One curious and odd thing I learned that might be of interest to you is this: Toxic families fill up our lives, our days and our minds. There’s very little room for the good people to get into our lives because our families or other toxic person fills up so much space in our lives. Unfairly, sometimes to get good people in, we have to let go of the toxic people first. This is kind of like stepping off a ledge because we have NO way of knowing who will come into our lives and start to fill all. the. gaps. we have in our lives.

          We can go for a while floundering. And this can be scary. A good rule of thumb is that when you meet a quality person, they will probably lead you to more quality people. You can kind of see it playing out here on AAM. People read for a while and after a bit they start commenting or asking questions. Quality attracts more quality. And this happens in real life also. Go one person at a time. So let’s say Bob from work tells your hubby, “Hey, you might want to check out this book club I belong to.” Hubby decides that Bob is a good person so he goes ONCE to meet the book club. Then he decides later whether to join or not join. It’s an inch by inch process.

          One suggestion I have for the future is that your hubby may want to eventually connect with people who have already left the family. These people will still be kin but they may tend to be more like minded with your hubby. Some of the family I have connected with are pretty interesting, they like talking about present time and what is going on NOW. Well, this serves two purposes: It puts the past in the past. And the second purpose is it fills in the knowledge gaps, the lost learning opportunities that happened because of disfunction. “We have some catching up to do, let’s do it.”

          1. Family Estrangement*

            That paper cut analogy is lovely! The scar just keeps getting deeper and wider each time. We are so hopeful to cultivate some found family once we move away. I don’t want the next decade of our life to be consumed with this trauma and hurt. Especially because of our son! We want to meet good people (agree that AAM is amazing!) and build a different life.

      2. pancakes*

        I have been off and on estranged from family and it’s never felt awful to me – to the contrary, I’ve always thought being able to get away and make a new life elsewhere has been a great fortune, and a source of freedom, comfort, and release. My boyfriend of many years is similar with his family, though a bit more extreme in every way – they treated him worse, downright abusive at times, and years ago hired a private investigator to track him down. Our mutual interest in getting away from our families and finding our own people is probably a key part of why we get along as well as we do.

        You can decide what to do about funerals on a case by case basis.

    2. WS*

      Is it possible to cultivate relationships with individual members of the family? My partner was going to be estranged from her entire family with the exception of one younger sister but it turned out that one particular family member was driving the appalling treatment, and once she cut contact with that one person, she formed different and better relationships with all but two of the others (who gave into that one person’s tantrums and minimised contact). The “family unit” turned out not to be a unit at all, but a group of people all stuck in the decades-long pattern of catering to that one controlling person at all costs.

      1. Dan*

        Yeah… that’s my family. It’s really weird, because my parents are still married and cohabitate, but I pretty much don’t talk to my mother at all, while I talk to my dad weekly, and this dynamic has stretched back years, if not even a couple of decades.

        And yeah… growing up, the mantra was “don’t upset your mother.” *Everything* was *always* about what mom wanted… to the point where I skipped my senior year of high school and moved out of my mother’s house. And even then, my mother fought me on that too, and we never once had an adult discussion about what was best for *me*. Not even once.

        After that, I decided my life was better by minimizing my mother’s presence in it.

    3. Jessi*

      I feel like Reddit could be a good place for you and your husband. There are a couple of forums: justnomil – for people with difficult and not nice mothers in laws/mothers and justnofamily- for people with tricky families. I feel like this may be a good resource for you as all the posters there will get it. They have had to put in place boundaries (usually that someone has tried to stomp all over), go low or no contact and in some places cut members out.

      It’s such a hard situation and I wish you all the best xx I also want to briefly chime in and say protecting your son from it is 100% the right thing to do. Not much harder than knowing you are unwanted

      1. Family Estrangement*

        I’ve been to JustNoMil but didn’t know about JustNoFamily – thank you for the recommendation! It’s definitely been tricky to have folks focus on just MIL or just FIL when, to be honest, multiple members of each family are toxic. There’s one good one on his moms side and a couple good ones on his dad’s side but we’ve struggled to maintain direct relationships without being honest about the abuse. Plus certainly they have seen some of it with their own eyes. It would be too painful to tell them and have them still choose the hurtful relatives instead of us.

    4. Complicated Family*

      My situation is different and perhaps not useful–it wasn’t the whole family and the problems weren’t so overt but instead quite subtle. Also, I didn’t end up actually going no contact with that family member.

      However, I did make myself come to terms with that possibility emotionally and that was very helpful for me. So, I spent time thinking about what circumstances would cause me to say no more, what I wanted out of the relationship (and wasn’t getting), what no contact or low contact would look like, how I would feel and what I could do about it. In a sense I did some pre-grieving. Or real grief about the realities of the actual relationship I had versus that which I was hoping and wishing for.

      With that sorted out in my head, I had a much easier time drawing boundaries and holding them. I wasn’t grieving at the same time, or at least no so rawly.

      1. Family Estrangement*

        The pre-grieving is real! It’s letting go of the relationship you wish you had because that person just can’t be what you need them to be. I’m one layer away from the mess (though I am very low contact with a few folks in my family). I’ve always found the “but what if they DIE before you reconcile” peculiar. As if the other person doesn’t also have choices in the way they contact or treat you. The cultural narrative around forgiveness can be brutal for abusive situations because it demands/expects forgiveness without any kind of apology or even future behavior change.

        1. Hotdog not dog*

          You can forgive someone without any input from their side whatsoever. I had a terribly toxic relative who I cut contact with years ago. There is no need for us to reconcile, he lives his life and I live mine. His behavior is not my problem. Occasionally I will hear second or third hand news of him from other family members, and I can honestly respond, “too bad for him, not my problem.” I forgave him for me, not for him. I just couldn’t give up the mental energy to maintain either a relationship or a grudge, but I’d be waiting for Satan’s ice rink to open for business if I waited for an apology or any meaningful change. It wasn’t easy, but I basically decided to forgive the past behavior and refuse to accept any future behavior. That meant severely limiting contact from my side, which led to him cutting me off entirely. (His side of the story is that I am selfish because I didn’t help him financially when he had some legal consequences from a drug problem, but that actually barely scratches the surface.) If he ever were to legitimately get his act together, I would still wish him well but I don’t want him in my life.

          1. Family Estrangement*

            I completely hear what you’re saying. I think my husband is willing to let go of many of the emotional ties without actually forgiving. I’m not sure if that makes sense as I type it out. He will never forgive certain things from his childhood. But he will eject the mental and emotional energy of managing the memory/person. All or most of the benefits of mental forgiveness without needed to send any more compassion down the black hole of abuse.

            I think that’s what you were getting at, and we’re getting there. I don’t think we have enough distance to feel apathetic/calm about this stuff. It’s still too raw even after years of therapy :\.

            Still, it’s good to hear what it can look like from the other side!!

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Just as forgiveness serves a purpose, I often think that the LACK of forgiveness fills another purpose.

              Maybe the perpetrator needs to fully understand that their harm they inflicted has caused a life-long result. With some people that is the only thing they understand is when the response is hard and heavy. It’s sort of the psychological equivalent of dropping a concrete wall on their narrow thinking.

              1. Family Estrangement*

                Yep! They have not earned the luxury of a clean conscience. We won’t play pretend happy family anymore. And if that makes them uncomfortable, well, it should!

            2. Sueb*

              People who seriously question that you had to do this or push forgiveness and to forget don’t have to go back to being mistreated. You do. Any decent person will get it.

              1. Family Estrangement*

                I’ve come to realize that many of the enablers do know that something is wrong. It’s simply more convenient for them to have someone else be down range of the firing squad. Otherwise, gasp, they might have to endure mistreatment instead.

    5. Might Be Spam*

      Estrangement doesn’t feel good, but it is better than staying in a horrible situation. Estrangement isn’t about punishing anyone, it’s about protecting yourself.

      I blocked my family and I’m using the time to heal and learn what healthy relationships are like. I’m learning what healthy boundaries are and how to recognize when someone is starting to cross them. I finally believe that I am worthy of respect and it makes maintaining boundaries easier.

      I expected to feel guilty about blocking my family, but instead, I feel relieved. I feel safer because they can’t attack me. I still wish for a Hallmark family, but the more I learn, the more I realize that they are never going to be what I need.

      1. Family Estrangement*

        This was so validating to read (though I am so sorry to hear how common this seems to be!). You are exactly right about how estrangement doesn’t feel good. It painful for folks to tell us that we’re being selfish somehow. We don’t feel *good*, we’re just desperate to avoid active harm. I recently blocked some of his family’s phone numbers (part of my trigger for posting here) and you nailed it on the relief. I didn’t realize how much of a grenade some of those messages would throw in my day.

        1. pancakes*

          It isn’t selfish to not want to spend time with racists and bullies. It’s self-protective.

          1. Family Estrangement*

            I appreciate this! We’ve been in survival mode for so long and it’s comforting to hear other people’s validating reactions. Like, there aren’t any other relationships where we’d be ok with this kind of treatment. But family is treated like this really strange exception.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Agreed. A healthy reaction is to extract oneself. A less healthy reaction is to stay in the situation hoping for things to get better when there is no plan for any improvement ever.

            Sometimes healthy things hurt- exercise, diet, preventative shots in the arm… These things are not always great in the moment. We harvest the benefit later on.

    6. Detective Rosa Diaz*

      I have gone no-contact with both (divorced) parents at different starting points. I was never close to my mom’s family. As a result of the dynamics on my dad’s side (warm support of him and baffled and continued lack of support for my boundaries towards him) I now don’t have many family relationships at all.
      I don’t mind about either parent OR about my mom’s side, but I do have a lot of hurt about my dad’s side.
      For my own emotional health I am holding fast to the boundaries (I.e. didn’t tell most of them about my new foster son), but it is a source of pain. I miss the lowkey family comfort, having little visits, the sense of belonging that folks with good family relationships describe. I also felt terribly alone with the new life changes (foster placement) and of course the pandemic.
      How i manage:
      – only discuss with trusted people so as to avond judgment and criticism
      – hold fast. In the past I gave new chances and it never worked out. Now I have peace of mind.
      – always have a plan + a few lines ready about the major holidays, because people very innocently always make assumptions and show an interest and it helped to have some standard answers ready (“Oh, just quiet time this year”, “Actually we are not close. (Subject change)”)
      – know who is important (mostly my aunt) and prioritise them. When my other aunt died I did go to her funeral. It was awkward. My father took the opportunity to interact of course but I was able to stay close to some cousins and sit with them for the meal.
      – discussed all this in therapy. For a long time I felt shame, like this reflects on my worth. Good therapy helped with that (some).

      Best of luck to you both!

      1. Family Estrangement*

        I am honestly floored by how similar this is for us. I hadn’t gone into my husband’s dad’s side of the family because it’s a whole other wreck but you described it perfectly! He was a terrible husband and father (cheating multiple times, didn’t want a kid, never invested time or funds in his son, very emotionally volatile, drank too much) but by all appearances, he seems to have been a good son and half decent brother. He was also a police officer and military reserves so a member of the community. This dude still, in the year *2021*, finds is funny to say the word “colored” to talk about black folks.

        And yet, Grandma thinks he walks on air. And that my husband must not be close to him because he didn’t attend enough basketball games in high school (?!?). So every. single. conversation. with her involves a detail into how he needs to forgive his dad. Lots of spiritual references included. It’s a bit of a miracle my husband hasn’t exploded yet.

        We tried having a relationship with the one aunt and uncle we like, but they’ve had to pull back at least once because my husbands dad pitched a crybaby fit about it. Which, for us, means we can’t completely trust them and that’s sad. They’re lovely and it’s not their fault, it’s just sad.

        We miss the low key family comfort. I actually enjoyed Thanksgiving with the cousins on his dad’s side. But if we cut off his dad, we lose access to all group gatherings where people make the trip to be together. We could try to hang out with cousins individually but it not the same as feeling like you have a family around the holidays.

        Thank you for sharing your experience with the funeral – I think that was a brilliant strategy!

    7. Crispy Pork*

      I have recently cut ties with my mum and have gone low contact with my dad. Like your husband I struggle with the guilt – I have always thought the onus was on me to pretend my parents didn’t hurt my feelings rather than requiring them to stop hurting me. But therapy has helped tremendously. I think of therapy vs no therapy as crashing into a pavement with vs without a helmet.

      Family estrangement sucks. I only cut ties with my mum as it was the lesser of two evils. When I’m not angry I miss her. But I know I have no mental strength to maintain contact with mum right now. Maybe next year, or possibly later, I will make contact – only when I’ve emotionally recovered enough to defend my boundaries; because she will cross them.

      Fortunately I haven’t experienced a lot of stigma about my situation. That’s because I don’t tell people who I know are likely to make a hurtful comment. All of my friends who do know have been supportive.

      Toxic Parents by Susan Forward is an excellent book which validated my feelings towards my parents and offered helpful, practical tips on how to deal with my parents and my feelings about our relationship. It’s opened my eyes to toxic behaviour which I previously didn’t register. Like your MIL, both my parents experienced significant trauma in their lives. So while they are inherently good people, they have toxic beliefs and boundary problems which I have normalised my entire life.

      1. Family Estrangement*

        Love the helmet analogy! And yes that it’s the lesser of two evils (with both still excruciating). Figuring how what boundaries are reasonable and then effectively enforcing them has been a years long learning experience. My heart hurts for him every time he lowers his expectations and they find still more ways to disappoint. I wouldn’t say that his parents are inherently bad people. They’ve had tough lives. But they make a whole lot of terrible choices.

    8. Jay*

      I was the kid in your family. My father’s mother was manipulative and vindictive. By the time I was born she wasn’t speaking to my mother, and when I was 3 she told the entire family that my mother wouldn’t allow my father to go go his cousin’s funeral (in reality he was out of town and didn’t know his cousin had died because his mother refused to call the house and talk to my mother). After that, he told his mother that she was welcome in his home and in his life as long as she treated his wife with the respect she deserved. She never spoke to him again. He also lost his sister and the rest of his extended family. He never regretted it; as far as he was concerned, it was his mother’s choice and his mother’s loss.

      I know that my brother and I were better off growing up without her in our lives. She would have tried to weaponize us against our mother, used money to manipulate us (she tried that with my father for years), and/or treated us like second-class citizens compared to her other grandchildren. I wish my parents had talked about it more – for much of my childhood it was a deep mystery and a forbidden topic. My father never talked about it. It would have been better for us if he had.

      You can set the boundaries you need to set without officially cutting them off. Explain what you need and how you wish to be treated, and if they don’t/can’t do that, you hang up the phone or leave. They have the power to change their behavior, and if they don’t, you can interrupt the cycle of abuse by holding your boundaries. It is HARD and it is sad. It can also be life-saving. Gentle hugs if you want them.

      1. Family Estrangement*

        Thank you so much for sharing this perspective!! I know my husband wished his mom had protected him more. As a kid, you trust your parents and trust the people they bring into your life. We know now that she was too dependent on them to strike out on her own. And she still is (literally lives in her sister’s rental house). But we are fully independent and we have a chance to protect our son.

        We will do a better job of talking to our son about his family from a young age so that it’s not some terrible reveal or forbidden mystery. Sometimes people hurt us, and it’s ok to not spend time with those people. Heck, maybe it’ll be a good early lesson for him on the importance of boundaries.

        I don’t think we plan to officially cut them off since that raises the stakes for possible reconciliation down the line. But I like the idea of carving out even firmer boundaries.

        1. Jay*

          If your kids are aware that their grandparents and other relatives are no longer in their lives, please explain to them that it isn’t their fault. I had seen my father’s mother regularly (without my mother) until I was 3, and then she was gone. I’ve recently started to unpack the wound that left. I still think my father did the right thing regarding his mother – but pretending it never happened was very much not the right thing.

          1. Family Estrangement*

            Our son is very young (he turned 1 during the pandemic) so I don’t think he would actually recognize any of these family members but it’s helpful to keep in mind that even very young kids can grow attached and that it’s part of our job as parents to put him around good people. Far easier to keep folks outside the door than try to evict them from the house later!

    9. Bucky Barnes*

      I was estranged from my father. I did talk to him numerous times and try to fix things. But when that didn’t resolve anything I cut off contact. He passed away a year later due to chronic health issues. I don’t regret the estrangement because it was the only way I could get some peace. My mental health had suffered because of the issues with him.

      1. Family Estrangement*

        This is more or less what I’m expecting to happen with my husband and his dad. He’s accepted that he was a terrible father. And that he doesn’t care for him as a person. There’s still some lingering nostalgia/southern obligation, but he won’t be sad when he passes. Of course we still have to get through the next 10-30 years first.

      2. Family Estrangement*

        Not to say you weren’t sad! But I understand why you didn’t regret the estrangement. The more I learn about mental health the more I see how my husband keeps getting dragged back into really dark and painful mental spaces after interaction with family.

    10. Batgirl*

      When you block the people who do direct harm, there’s usually a second round of blocking you have to do with the silent enablers or pushy status quo types. It’s sad, but most people actually do understand abuse and unhappiness on a primal level. It’s not a mystery to those of us who grew up in happy homes. Homes are happy because when someone says “stop”, people stop. It’s not that the enablers misunderstand, it’s that they don’t care. The abuse is not that bad for them and they think you can work around it. Eventually you get to a point where only safe people are in your space.

      1. Family Estrangement*

        THIS. One. Thousand. Times. This.

        I think it’s from Captain Awkward but the term “Flying Monkeys” ala the Wizard of Oz has been used. The enablers who are dispatched or who take it upon themselves to bring you back in line.

        It would be easier for everyone if we just kept playing our role the “Happy Family!” play. And we’re the bad guys for ruining the play even though the script for our role is dehumanizing, our costumes haven’t been washed in 30 years and there’s an actual problem person taking an actual live dump on stage every time there we’re just supposed to ignore.

        Hard pass.

    11. Lizabeth*

      I don’t have any experience about estrangement, however I’d like to say that “family” isn’t limited to blood relatives. You can and should collect your own “family” of people that you respect and respect you. Then keep contact or no contact with blood relatives as you see fit. You don’t owe them anything, regardless of what they are saying.

      1. Family Estrangement*

        Agreed! We’re not located somewhere we can really put down roots so it’s been a little harder to develop a “found” family. Hoping to really dive in when we move this summer! (And we have invested in a couple of lovely college friends).

    12. c-*

      I’m very low contact with my mom and keep many family members at a distance for a variety of reasons. What has helped me:

      – Captain Awkward’s blog archives (look through her tags to filter her advice by topic) are invaluable. I cannot recommend her enough. You two go read her at your own pace.

      – Instead of making any “hardset” choices (“I will cut X off once and for ever”) I take it on a case by case basis. I evaluate what outcome I want, how much energy I can pour into it, and what’s the most likely strategy to get me that. Then I act accordingly. I also don’t announce the boundary to the boundaried person, just quietly behave however I need to.

      – I take lots of breaks: when I’m sad or angry, to grieve for what I deserved from my family and didn’t get. After dealing with family, to recharge.

      Hope this helps!

      1. Family Estrangement*

        I LOVE Captain Awkward. Her blog actually started this journey for us many years ago. She has an incredible way of naming otherwise invisible things. Like, you know something is wrong but you can’t quite explain how. And if you can’t name it, maybe it isn’t real. But it IS real.

        Agreed on avoiding any kind of boundary announcement. The things that have worked so far have been slowly and steadily racheting down expectations. No we won’t be visiting as often. We don’t always pick up the phone. Texts/emails can take a while.

    13. Family cutoff*

      I am estranged from most of my family, and very low contact with most others. And you’re right, there is little understanding from others, and a whole lot of stigma around people who are estranged from family.
      For me, it’s been a very good thing. Broken patterns of abuse, freedom and space to forgive. I can breathe. I can let my guard down. I am proud of myself for standing up for myself and ending the cycle. I feel stronger.
      It’s a challenge when I see/hear people talking about how AMAZING their parent is and they say things like “My mom is the best! But then, aren’t all moms?” or “My dad is nothing special, he’s just like all dads, but I’m always amazed at the depth of his love and support for me.” – I feel a deeper sense of what I never had, and I feel unseen. No, all moms or all dads are not like yours. I’m here. And I’m not the only one.
      So I stay off social media entirely the week of mothers and fathers day.
      I hate, hate, hate, hate it when people say stuff like “at least your mom’s not DEAD LIKE MINE.” (and yes, that’s happened multiple times with multiple people! I can recognize that the loss of your mom is hard for you, why can’t you understand that the presence of mine is hard for me?) or “I don’t’ understand how someone could do something like that to their parents AFTER ALL THEY DID FOR YOU RAISING YOU.” I don’t usually want to tell them about all the hell I went through at the hands of my parents, but short of spilling all about what I’ve been through, it’s hard to reply to that. People I don’t even know well push me to reconcile! Like the receptionist at the dentist who went to high school with my brother. She recognized me, asked how they were, I said I don’t know, I don’t talk to them any more, she kept telling me I *HAD TO* fix that! I have never been so relieved to to go to the dentist’s chair.
      I end up just not telling people that I’m estranged from my parents. In situations like that now I just say “They’re good, thanks” and change the subject.
      Even my husband had a hard time understanding. He does his best to be supportive, but I can tell he really has no concept that parents can be less than a good thing. He will periodically do things like trying to cheer me up by asking me to tell him things from my childhood. Things like “I appreciate how hard you’re working to make Christmas fun for our kids. Remember how magical Christmas was as a kid? Tell me about what it was like to feel that as a kid.” …….aaaaaand I got nothing. So I feel worse. He just can’t wrap his head around it, because his experience was all great. (My inlaws are amazing people I love dearly!) He’s learning, and it doesn’t happen as much any more, but it’s definitely something we have to work through.
      I’ve been able to block my parents on all social media and from contacting me by email. Unfortunately, there’s no way to block the USPS from delivering letters and packages and my parents continue to send stuff weekly, so I don’t even get my own mail any more. (It’s been 7 years since the last straw.)
      Weddings and funerals have been tricky. When we have gone, my husband sticks to my side like glue and we avoid my parents. Another sibling has at times run interference so I didn’t have to talk to them a few times. But it’s always stressful.

      1. Not a Hallmark family*

        I identify with this! I haven’t gone NC with my family, but there are boundaries and they are there for a reason, even if my husband doesn’t understand. However, in the last couple of months, my sister was having a hard time and she lashed out at me in texts, which I read to my husband (and he had been a witness to how it all unfolded). He’s made comments in the past with a tone (that I was careful to parse out whether I was just feeling defensive or whether he was making a negative judgment about me) about how I’m not close to my family. Now, he understands.

        Finally, after all these years of experiencing the dysfunction of all of them (and being part of it), I did not retaliate at all to my sister’s texts or even explain all she got wrong. I know she’s wrong, I know she was going through something very stressful, and while I feel a sort of objective compassion for her, I don’t really care what she wrote (some of it was really nasty). It also helps me some that my husband saw the whole unfolding and how being too involved with my family is just too destructive.

        It helps we haven’t seen each other because of COVID, but I will continue my practice of showing up to the things I want to, be a pleasant guest, and then leave it all behind. It used to bother me a lot that I was expected to show up for everything, while it was clear no one really cared once I was actually there. Now, I kind of look at it like I am fulfilling an obligation that’s important to ME, and I choose which obligations. That my attendance somehow pacifies them is irrelevant. Doesn’t mean there isn’t sometimes some awkwardness, but I can deal with that. I only wish I could have arrived at this understanding of it all years ago.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        “My mom is the best! But then, aren’t all moms?” or “My dad is nothing special, he’s just like all dads, but I’m always amazed at the depth of his love and support for me.” – I feel a deeper sense of what I never had, and I feel unseen.

        I love how articulate this community is.
        This is so true, getting out into the world and actually seeing what could have been, what should have been actually drives UP the grief and sense of loss. For a while, that is.

        One day I was sitting with a group of women friends. One said, “And mom and I are going to lunch on Tuesday.” I was tired and not thinking. I caught myself just in time because I almost said, “WHY on this green earth would you do THAT?!” Duh. Because it’s not me and not my mother. That’s why. drrr.
        I was 48 years old.
        I ended up saying to myself how much longer am I going to continue to be blind-sided by these little “gotcha’s”?
        I did find some rest in the hard truth. I realized that the “gotcha’s” are going to crop up for the rest of my life. They will be further apart, and less of them. But they will always be there. I learned to quietly say to myself, “Yep. That’s so not me. But I’m okay anyway.” I can choose to reassure my own self, even though my mother would not try to reassure me.

      3. Family Estrangement*

        You’ve described the stigma perfectly! I cringed reading the “at least your mother’s not DEAD LIKE MINE.” It’s startling how many people take poor family relationships in *other people* as some kind of personal affront or problem that needs to be solved. Or else do not pass go do not collect $200 proceed directly to that the estranged child must be some kind of psychopath. In the most generous interpretation I think they’re just deeply sheltered and simply cannot bear to imagine child abuse. And it’s simply too exhausting (and not your job!) to educate every person along the way.

        I was in your husband’s shoes and I started reading a lot of blogs and books to better understand what my husband experienced. It was… a start. I still don’t fully understand (not possible) but at least I’m not actively causing pain I think. And he knows that I 100% support whatever decisions he makes with his family.

        I really appreciate you sharing your experience and I wish you much joy in all things ahead!!

      4. Dan*

        “AFTER ALL THEY DID FOR YOU RAISING YOU”

        Well, it’s funny, because in the US at least, your parents have a legal obligation to raise you until you’re 18. So… we’re supposed to thank them for meeting their legal obligations as a parent? Never mind that most/many people have children because they actually wanted to. (As for college, I paid my own way and have the student loans to prove it, TYVM. I can, however, thank my parents for cosigning them!)

        As for me, I describe my mother as physically present but emotionally absent.

        1. Batgirl*

          This is what my partner’s mother says, when she wants him to repay stuff that extended family did to help them after his dad abandoned them.. in all honesty it wasn’t much. They occasionally bought him something for school. She never does them any thank you favors herself of course, other than nag her son to suck up on her behalf.
          I always pipe up cheerfully “Don’t you mean when they helped you? P was a child, and obviously children don’t owe anyone anything for being raised!” She has stopped saying it when I’m there, and has stopped talking about what she herself “did for you” entirely because my partner always says “like what?” these days.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          “AFTER ALL THEY DID FOR YOU RAISING YOU”

          And herein lies the rub. You got married, had babies because you were supposed to do that. It was a social expectation/obligation. (When I was a kid.)

          My mother did not want me. She had me because society expected her to produce babies, after marriage of course. She was VERY clear on this point, so it’s not something I am assuming. “You have to have babies….it’s expected from you.” she told me.

          It probably made sense to people then that I should thank her for filling her obligation. It was sacrifice and severe hardship on her part so I needed to say thank you. Eh, the ones who demanded the babies be produced can say thanks. Just my opinion.

          1. Dan*

            I’m glad you threw in the last couple of sentences, because I was about to say that we weren’t the ones who created a societal obligation on our parents to have children… those who created that obligation owe the thanks, for sure.

            BTW, I wouldn’t have suggested that you were assuming your mother’s motives with child birth. My mom was fine with little kids in the house, she was not fine when the kids weren’t little anymore. And I think my mom knew that for that a long time… she was a primary school teacher before I was born and was a sub afterwards. She would *not* touch the middle school and high school grades.

            Once I started to understand all of this, my first thought was that they spent too much time in sex ed talking about the baby making parts and the headaches of raising an infant, and not enough time talking about the part where kids actually grow up.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I have noticed more talk in recent years about some parents locked into an emotional age. Once their child gets past that age the parent is locked into, things can really start to go bad. Like me, you far surpassed your mother’s emotional age. We can’t parent our own parents.

    14. no name for this one*

      I’ve been estranged from all living family for decades now for reasons of severe abuse. So I empathize.

      I’d say it gets less soul-crushingly awful over time, but there are always going to be trigger points. Holidays suck because the expectation of “everyone has a family, everyone goes to family” is so pervasive. But at the same time, if you know “yeah, holidays are going to suck when everyone asks ‘Are you going to your parents/in-laws’…’,” then you can put in as many buffers as you can — prepared light responses as mentioned below, subject changes, making it very boring for the listener, and diverting to their plans if that’s emotionally okay to hear about.

      I gritted my teeth through my last parent’s funeral and settling their estate because I had no choice but to do so. A few years later, my sibling did something irrevocable even by the standards of extremely abusive families and I cut all ties. But if your husband doesn’t have to deal with being the executor or co-executor of an estate…there’s no reason he has to go to any funerals. He can mourn in his own way if going to a funeral is going to result in more abuse. He is not obligated to show up to take abuse.

      The fact he’s military may help in some ways in terms of glossing over any version of low or no contact he and you choose to impose. “Well, you know how it is when you’re in the military, you move around a lot…” (As a military brat, I’ve used that line to good effect.)

      I wish you both the best.

      1. Family Estrangement*

        Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I continue to be blown away by how many thoughtful responses this question is generating. We’ve felt so alone in this, with the exception of one friend with a very cruel mother. But even then she stays in the relationship because the wider extended family is lovely.

        One of our worst fears is that the flying monkeys will come for us when one or both parents start to experience health issues (my husband is an only child). We are financially comfortable and would be willing to provide some support, but it’s like opening a black hole. The expectation will be drop-everything-to-come-home-and-help and that’s just… not going to happen without destroying his mental health (and mine). So we’re just waiting to cross that bridge when we get there.

        We may or may not skip his maternal grandmothers funeral when it happens in the next few years (she’s over 90). With feelings still as raw as they are now, I’d be scared of some kind of hostile confrontation while we’re trying to respectfully grieve. It’s just not worth it.

        1. Dan*

          Speaking of which… my biggest fear in life is that dad passes before mom. It’s unlikely short of a freak accident, but it’s still my biggest fear nonetheless. The biggest problem is that psychologically, my mother functions at a level closer to that of a pre-pubescent child, and has been like this ever since I remember, so age-related decline isn’t the issue here. She’s not able to have a coherent conversation about her cognitive and physical limitations, but does fine with dad around. Without dad? Oof. And that’s the hard part… what’s the plan for mom if dad’s not around? “We’ll face that when it happens.”

          I have a one bedroom apartment and live 600 miles away… my brother lives nearby, but it’s not right to make this his problem either.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This is going to sound horrible, but I figured if my mother outlived my father, she’d have to go to a nursing home. Not only did I lack the skills to fully take care of her, I also had no objectivity left in my system. The likelihood that I would blow a fuse would be very high. Fortunately, I read some where that most elder abuse occurs in homes. This is because family is tired beyond comprehension and stuff happens. I was relieved to read that asking strangers to intervene is not as unfair or cruel as it sounds on the surface. I sincerely doubted my ability to be fair to her at all times. I wasn’t far off the mark, in real life it took dozens and dozens of people to take care of her. And my father was still alive. He couldn’t do it either.

            1. Dan*

              Isn’t it something how we (royal we) have gotten to the point where we have to acknowledge the realities of being human and its associated limitations as “horrible”? Taking care of people who cannot take of themselves is not a part time job. We understand that with young children, and those limitations are worse with older adults because 1) They’re physically bigger, and 2) You legally cannot make them do stuff they don’t want to.

              I cannot quit my job to care for elder care. Who is going to pay my bills? And even with permanent WFH as an option, 1) I’m not moving somewhere with no social network and 2) I can’t do two things at once.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                It’s good to drag the concept of limitations out into the light of day. I love the sentence- “Taking care of people who cannot take care of themselves is not a part time job. ” Oh my, how true that is. It actually can feel like 3 full time jobs running simultaneously.

                I really relate to your concerns here, Dan, as I ended up in the ER after wearing myself out running between two parents. My mother’s family felt that was no excuse for not taking care of them. They sincerely believed I should run between two hospitals spoon feed each parent AND hold down a full time job… in a different state. I landed in the hospital on that one.

                Even now I am trying to help an older friend who is loaded up with this magical thinking. I can’t be specific but her ideas of what “should” happen are no where near realistic. In a simple example, you go not go to the store one day and purchase 12 windows, then bring them home and install them the next day. That is not quite how that works. She thinks her responsible off-spring will be able to do this for her.

                The first example here felt like a personal condemnation at me.
                The second example, now Older Me, realizes just how much magical thinking goes on in elder care. Our medical care plans are very labor intensive and it’s fairly normal for older patients not to be able to do the plan- taking meds, getting to therapy and so on. And some folks seem to not realize how much is involved in some of the ideas they can come up with, like my friend here.

                1. Crispy Pork*

                  I can so relate to this. I had multiple mental breakdowns as a result of “raising” my parents full time. I thought if they knew how much I was suffering they would stop making demands of me. They did not.

                2. Dan*

                  “They sincerely believed I should run between two hospitals spoon feed each parent AND hold down a full time job… in a different state. I landed in the hospital on that one.”

                  Wait, did you actually *try* to do this? I suppose one of the upshots living 600 miles away is that it takes an extra large dose of delusional thinking to assume that I would just move to area where I have no roots with at the snap of the finger.

                  Let’s be clear… I’m not terribly worried about myself for this one, at least in terms of providing physical care. I’m far more concerned about my brother who lives just a few minutes away. Sure, usually “the other” sibling who can’t help physically could help financially, but that gets complicated too. I’m still renting and whatever I end up buying is going to stretch the limits of my discretionary funds, meaning there won’t be much in the way of substantive elder care funds.

                  It’s entirely possible that I am imagining a situation that will never come to fruition, but I have the mental capacity to plan, and my parents… not so much. And this is a situation that with *no* contingency planning in place isn’t going to be pretty, and some people are going to end up not very happy.

                3. Not So NewReader*

                  @ Dan. I was 21-22 at that time. They goaded me into running down to CT. I was a bad daughter etc. One month I held back the rent money because I had no money for gas. Meanwhile paying for food was an issue because of my crappy job. I went on weekends and it was brutal. I guess my body was just shutting down because I couldn’t feel things like hunger or the gas pedal. To this day, this scares the crap out of me. I stopped driving long distances alone since then.

                  Be super careful about paying bills for your parents. Precedent and all that. For me, I found the most supportive things people said came from my father’s family. “You are there. We are not. You see what is going on and you are THE best judge of how to proceed.”
                  Wow. I was/am impressed with that.
                  I think that you are wise to focus on your bro. I hope you start saying these types of things to him now, in a calmer time, so the two of you can both know where each other’s limits are and know when to drag in outside help.

                  I totally agree with saving for your house and getting your house. It was awful watching my father face bankruptcy because of her bills. But as he wisely told someone else, “Stay out of it. If I need a place to go for a few weeks while I figure out what to do next, I know I can stay with you because your place is financially secure.” He went on to point out that if that family member started trying to pay the bills they BOTH could end up on the street in a cardboard box.
                  When I did his estate, things were precarious. I looked over everything and realized that I had one more month to sell the house (small, unfinished vacation home), if not the estate would be in bankruptcy. This almost shattered me. Bankruptcy was such a BFD then. Now medical bankruptcies are pretty common and people are a whole lot less judgey. Incredibly, I sold the house in that month.

                  After what I have seen with medical bills my standard reply to anyone is “Don’t even attempt to pay your parents’ medical. You probably won’t be able to cover it.” I am sure that between my parents their out-of-pocket totaled over a half mill. Eh, my husband’s illness for 3 months was 20k out of pocket, extend that out it would be 80k for a year. That 80k does not include mortgage, heat, lights, etc. It’s just medical bills. And I am lucky, other folks have it far worse.

                  To me, paying our parents bills in old age is just another social expectation we need to be shed of. It’s no longer practical nor is it attainable.

      2. Jackalope*

        Also, at a funeral if you DO want to go, I’d recommend bringing a buffet friend who can help with whatever’s needed. Deflect the most toxic people; take the person who always makes it about them aside and let them rant at said friend for 2 min while everyone else gets a break; hang out for a bit and then say, “Hey, it’s been great but now we have to head out, nice meeting youall, bye!”; whatever is helpful. Obviously prep them beforehand so they know what you need, but that can make it more survivable.

    15. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I have a soft estrangement with my dad’s family. They’re not bad people in general, but like your husband’s family the dynamics are messed up. Dad and his siblings had a golden child/lost child/scrapegoat child dynamic, and that has resulted in lesser but still weird dynamics in my generation. I simply don’t want to deal with it, so I have distanced myself. I send Christmas cards, I actually saw my aunt this past week briefly (first time in YEARS), etc. But I don’t seek out their company or contact in general.

      For me, I don’t really feel the loss. I never had strong relationships with them due to distance and age gaps. It would be nice to have those relationships, but I get by with friends.

      1. Family Estrangement*

        Yep! My husband was the scapegoat grandchild. The golden grandchild had a completely different experience. Not from grandma herself, but from the wider family. The golden child went to private school and a top ten university. My husband went to a military college and then commissioned as an officer. Fast forward and we are far far more successful and it’s like they can’t stop trying to put us back in the “right” place at the bottom of the pile.

        So glad you’re able to get by with friends. That’s the kind of future state we hope to get to!

    16. This helped me*

      Over the years, I’ve read so many books directly (or indirectly) related to this topic. To me, the one that “gets” it the most, and also gives really helpful ideas about what to do, is “Not the Price of Admission” by Laura S. Brown. It’s an extremely insightful, validating and empowering book. At least I thought so!

      1. Family Estrangement*

        Thank you so much! Just bought – should be here on Tuesday :). The more I learn, the more confident I feel that we’re making the right choice to exit stage left.

    17. Wishing You Well*

      I’m sorry you’re going through this. It is tough. Your husband gets to decide how to proceed since it’s his family. You would make the choices if it were your family. Hubby’s first priority is to his mental and physical health and his immediate family (you and your child). Low and no contact might be the only practical choices.
      However, if he decides to see his family in person, you get to decide if you’re going and whether you’re taking your child. Your spouse can take a support person/people with him. Yes, he can. (I hope he doesn’t go, though.)

      Yes, I have estrangement in my family. It takes a lot of therapy, reading appropriate books and learning new skills, taking different actions than in the past. Estrangement hurts but it’s often VERY necessary. Is it selfish then? Yes, in the best possible and healthiest, life-affirming way. A person must be selfish enough to not set themselves on fire to keep someone else warm. You can mourn the family you didn’t get and the disappointment of what you got. It does get better with time, provided you start protecting yourself by changing what you’ve done in the past.
      P.S. Funerals are not command performances. You can ignore them, send a card/flowers or attend. Do what’s best for you at the time.
      Sending you the biggest Internet hugs, if you want them.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I got so much out of reading what other people have been through. Sometimes it was relief- hey this person went through Much Worse Thing and they went on and had a life. Other times, it was more like, “Oh this sounds like ME. And again, this person too is coping, look at that! I can cope, too. I can find things to help me along!”

      2. Family Estrangement*

        “Funerals are not command performances”.

        Thank you for this! And yes, as I have been on this learning journey I have backed waaaaaaay the hell off trying to provide any kind of advice. My goal these days is to listen, to validate, to problem solve what works for us, and to support his decisions (while still leaving room for my own boundaries and needs). He knows his family best, though of course I have been impacted as well.

        Hugs gratefully accepted. No one should have to navigate these things feeling so alone!

    18. Disco Janet*

      My parents and I are estranged from my father’s family. His mother and brother (my grandma and uncle) have both died since the estrangement started.

      In severe circumstances like yours and mine, I think the advice needs to be different than those who have reconciliation in mind. (For context, we’d always had a rough relationship because his family hated my mother and preferred the other grandchildren over us – but the breaking point was when I finally broke my silence about the fact that a relative had been abusing me since I was a child, and they all sided with the abuser.) It felt soul crushingly awful for me at first because I felt like it was my fault that my dad didn’t have a relationship with his family. But after some therapy…honestly? It’s pretty easy. We do not think of them as family. In general, we don’t think of them at all. The first couple years were sometimes rough around holidays and birthdays, but I really hardly ever think about it anymore, and my dad has reported the same when it does come up. They are people that used to be in our life but are now for all intents and purposes dead (some actually dead – some just dead to us.) We grieved it for a time, but like any other sort of grief, the passage of time makes it much more bearable. I think having the hard “we are done forever” was much easier than wondering and hoping if someday we would reconcile.

      For us, it’s been 16 years since we were last in touch with his family. I’d say the first two to three years were pretty difficult, but after that it rapidly got easier. Please get your husband a professional to talk to about this though, and ask some questions before booking a session to make sure they are supportive of estrangement and will not push him to reconcile.

      1. Family Estrangement*

        I am so sorry to hear that your family chose the wrong side to support. I will never understand how predators are allowed to continue harming children. Kudos to your immediate family for getting it right.

        I wish I’d had your advice on gauging therapists before I started this journey. We had a couple hiccups with people who always wanted him to go back to square one and have conversation X or Y or “forgive” and it makes you crazy. He’s found some better professional support since thankfully and I’ve used my work EAP to process some of my own fury so that I’m not dumping it on my husband to manage.

        Fingers crossed that a couple years after moving far away we’ll start feeling safe again and perhaps even a kind of stoic calm about it all.

    19. OtterB*

      There was a really excellent “Dysfunctional Families” set of discussions on the Makinglight website. I’m linking to the most recent one, which begins with links to the previous ones. https://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/016632.html

      The group is much quieter than it once was, but people do still keep an eye on it and respond to new comments, and your husband might find reading the old threads comforting in some ways. He is not alone.

      1. Family Estrangement*

        Thank you so much! Hadn’t heard of this group (and archives are my jam. I can peruse them slowly over time with the right comfort food to stay calm). I’m saving many of the comments from this thread to share with him later tonight. I’m completely blown away by the kindness here.

        1. Squeakrad*

          I’m not sure if I’m just really lucky and choosing my friends, or if the San Francisco Bay area is especially understanding, but I’ve been estranged from my family for many years and none of my friends ever batted an eye. I think everyone here understands it for an intelligent, competent person to cut off their family entirely there must be some fairly good reasons.
          I’m guessing I am much older than you – in my 60s – and my mother died quite a long time ago but I hadn’t spoken to her or interacted with her in years before she passed. She was quite ill the last 10 years of her life so I will deal with her doctors and her siblings, but we only had perfunctory hellos on occasion on the phone.

          When I finally made a decision of NC, I was quite upset and spent many therapy sessions crying about it. But literally within a few months I felt a huge weightLifted from my shoulders – my mother was quite toxic and verbally and occasionally physically abusive and I hadn’t realized that the scars ran deep while we were in contact.

          And my siblings felt entirely differently – her youngest brother was her favorite and loved her to pieces, and my little brother was her caretaker throughout her life so they do not understand why I would stop talking with her. Even though they witnessed the verbal and physical assaults. I don’t talk to my little brother anymore for a myriad of reasons, but my younger brother and I have established a gentle rapport from a distance.

          My main point with all this is that it hurts to make that decision whichever decision you make, but it can feel better and better as time goes on and you establish healthier boundaries.I absolutely miss having a family – I have wonderful friends and an incredible husband but no nuclear family to share holidays or life events with. And that ache sometimes is overwhelming. But the alternative was the life of incredible pain that would’ve been worse.

    20. Lizy*

      Oh it’s tough, for sure. As time goes on, it gets better, but it’s definitely tougher at “big event” times.

      My grandmother (and grandfather, but he’s the Head Asshat so I’m less inclined to care about his feelings) will never see her great-grandchildren. My kids literally make up half of her greats, and we’re the closest by far, so it’s a lot she’s missing out on.

      I have to remind myself that it’s not OUR doing. They did this to themselves. I mean, yes, technically I made the decision to step away, but I did it for my sanity and for my family (husband and kids). We want a better life for our kids, right? We want to be a good example and show how to take care of your own well-being and mental health, right?

      My sister is still very much involved in that side of the family, and our relationship has definitely changed and had a toll on it due to the estrangement. It took along time for her to understand that I wasn’t blaming her, nor lumping her in with the disfunction, but also that I wasn’t going to put up with the disfunction if she tried to bring it on me. I had to set some hard boundaries and there are still some topics we just avoid. Honestly, I feel the worst for her, because she has to straddle both worlds.

      I wasn’t in her wedding. By that point, both she and I agreed separately that was the best option. I didn’t want to instigate any drama on her day, and she didn’t want to have me be uncomfortable or be put in an awkward position. I was still very much involved, but I wasn’t a bridesmaid or maid of honor. For the most part, I avoided the family and just focused on other things. It was easy for me, because I was essentially the wedding planner and I thrive in those types of roles. There were definitely some odd moments, and one with an aunt that I still joke about, but that was it. I kept my focus on my sister and didn’t allow myself to get involved with the family.

      My grandparents will likely pass soon. They’re in their late 80s or 90s by now. I don’t expect to go to either of their funerals. I would consider going to my grandmother’s, but ONLY if my grandfather dies first. I actually still hold out hope that she and I could reconcile, but that will only ever be a possibility if he goes first.

      So it can be done. I would argue that sometimes, benign estranged SHOULD be done. It sucks, for sure. I grew up with tons of aunts and cousins and my kids have nothing. I wish they had that extended family experience, but at the same time, the price is not worth it.

    21. Paralegal Part Deux*

      Yes, with my mom’s mother who was abusive and just not a good person at all. We cut all contact with her when I was 18 (after she hit me in the face with a hairbrush) and didn’t even go to her funeral when she died when I was in my late 30s. We only knew she died because a cousin posted about it on Facebook. It was like a death at the time, but it was also freeing. To be free from that toxicity and level of hate is the best feeling once you’re past the grief process (and you will go through the grieving process.) I never once missed any of it once we were passed all of it and that the rest of the family finally grasped it was a “do not discuss” situation and that we were serious. My mother didn’t grieve for her mother when she actually died; she only grieved for the relationship that she should have had, if that makes sense.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Relating to this. I did not cry at my mother’s funeral. I had spent over 20 years crying. That was my grief right there. I did genuinely feel bad for my father who seemed totally blindsided by it all. That was it. But he went to his grave not knowing why I never talked about my mother.

        1. Paralegal Part Deux*

          The sad part is that everyone knew of the abuse, but they expected my mom to put up with it anyway. When my grandmother came after me, that was the final straw for my mother. You do go through a grieving process because, in a sense, that person has died to you. It’s not an easy process by any means.

          Eventually, though, you learn to live with that pain and move past it. Then, once you’ve removed that toxic person from your life, it makes you wonder what took you so long to do it, you know?

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Eh, I figured I was just dense. I had to go beyond extinguishing all hope. Hope died and I kept going. I wanted to be able to at least know that I tried. As I look back now, I went well beyond “trying”. When it starts to tear at your health, probably you shoulda stopped a while ago. So that became my red flag, if I start to feel run down, tired, depressed, it’s too much.

    22. Burnt eggs*

      When I cut myself out from the rest of the family, I used a throw-away email, sent a factual ‘this is why’ to the siblings, set an auto reply that responses would not be read and deleted the entire account the next day.
      I do see my living parent, but if a sibling is there, I do not look at or respond.
      I’ve skipped funerals of extended family and have already told a few people I trust implicitly I will pay them to be my bodyguards when my parent dies. I have told my now adult son that if I am in the will, he will have my proxy and any inheritance is his 100%.
      It took a lot for me to finally get to that point, and what helped was writing out a pro/con list, bullet points of reasons, and a lot of painful soul searching. It came down to they are/were people I would never willingly let in my life under other circumstances, so why invite a cancer into my life?
      It will be painful the first couple of years, but worth it.
      Good luck to you all!

    23. Belle*

      I haven’t spoken with my father in over 10 years and only call my mother once every few months now. For me, it was actually a relief once I cut the contact off. My father was physically and mentally abusive and I didn’t cut him out until my 20s. My mother really only cares about herself and would often make hurtful comments to me and went out of her way to treat my sister well and me not.

      Honestly, other than funerals, I rarely see either now, and I am okay with that. I take peace in knowing my son is safe from the abuse and mistreatment. I do try to talk to my sister some, but keep clear boundaries which is easier because I live out of state.

      For some, it can be less painful by blocking a family member.

    24. Brave me*

      I’m so sorry you and your husband are going through this… It’s so very painful when those who are supposed to be a shelter from the world (family!) are the ones you need shelter from! I would recommend captain awkward’s site for her awesome scripts and suggestions. In my own experience, being estranged from family members can be lonely in that people with lovely or even just typical families don’t understand. They think you’ve just had a little disagreement and need to forgive. It’s so, so, so much more than a little disagreement… It’s often been a lifetime of belittling, disdain, attacks, disregard, sabatage, hated, etc, etc. And yet, that little child inside who just wants to be loved still wants them to love us. It’s helpful if you can put boundaries around the unrepentantly hurtful people in your life, and learn how to stop wanting or needing anything from them. I wish you so very much encouragement for this difficult journey.

    25. Transform or Transmit*

      I haven’t responded yet because I didn’t have much to add from others, but you seem to appreciate more stories and the previous post about hiding medical info from children was a reminder of the ways in which abuse can manifest.

      I am LC with some family, as they care most about how they appear to the world. It did mean that they limited their abuse to emotional as they would never want to be seen as abusive, but it did mean that love was conditional and most family aren’t good enough. I see them at group gatherings and don’t get into situations where I am alone with them.

      I have friends who are NC. They started as LC, decided to try NC for their own health, and have no plans to contact ever again. But YMMV, and you can always resume contact in future if you change your mind. My cousin went NC for several years with the same person where I’m LC, and now they have resumed a limited relationship. People with bad boundaries don’t seem to ask a lot of questions when there is NC and then things suddenly become LC.

      Trauma not transformed is transmitted. Take the time, relationship-building, therapy, and/or books you need to transform, and when healthy decide what contact if any works for you. Take care of yourselves first.

      A few thoughts:
      Build a new family. All the crappy ones become FOO, Family of Origin.
      One way to cut off contact without feeling too cut off is for your husband to forward all emails, texts, and calls to you. You can decide ahead of time what and when to share. The other option is to have him block and then he checks for those messages when he’s doing well, although if you are willing then forwarding to you is likely best.

      Holidays are the most stressful for many people, and I have always wanted to find a way to reach out to others who were in similar situations. Maybe this year I will invite my friend, and extend the invitation to others, and have a true Family Holiday Meal without the FOO but with all the best parts. You can build new family traditions!

      1. Transform or Transmit*

        I’m tryig to think of other practical advice. For example a family member of Friend recently passed away, and they worried that FOO might use an inheritance as a way to force contact. Friend wanted to refuse the money, and I suggested that if the amount was substantial then it would be good to take it from FOO (they would inherit if Friend refused) and a good lawyer would be very happy to be paid to deal with FOO and be paid from inheritance. Friend didn’t go to funeral, but I like the idea of friends as bodyguards. I’ve seen Captain Awkward suggest the same, and if you aren’t familiar with her archive then definitely check out her post about Alice. There are many practical solutions and I’m sure many of us would be happy to share in future and learn ourselves.

    26. Chauncy Gardener*

      I have been estranged from my entire birth family for decades at this point. Parents, siblings, everyone. I too was the lowest rung and was blamed for EVERYTHING, including my parent’s divorce—–which happened when I was a toddler. Yup. I still really miss the concept of having a family, but not having my ‘real’ family in my life is just the biggest relief. No feeling like crap for a week after I see them. No dread. No guilt. No toxic mess. I pulled away from them when my child was young and I saw my family start to treat them, as a BABY, the same way they treated me. All of a sudden, the scales fell from my eyes and I turned into Mama Bear. No way was I going to let them do this to my baby!!!

    27. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I wish I could add solid advice but I’m still in that boiling pot of water with no end in sight. It’s only a few years ago I realized that my living parent is a narcissist and suddenly I’ve seen everything through that lens. Lots of guilty thoughts.

      For me what adds another layer of complexity is that I’m from a culture that worships parents, especially mothers. Cutting ties with any family member is a huge sin, both religious and social. Parents are expected to live with their children, so the idea of estrangement is nonexistent. When I used to talk to friends about it they’d say “oh that’s normal mom stuff!” Lots of anger and shame directed at me for saying my parent isn’t an angel.

      The strongest feeling I can say is loneliness. No one gets it. There are online groups but it’s not the same as your actual people understanding it. Not even my sibling understands what I feel. I do slowly see the narrative changing to admit that not all families of origin are happy hallmark families.

    28. Seeking Second Childhood*

      From a friend’s experience — consider reaching out to the other estranged cousins. If you are breaking ties for similar reasons they did, it might be family without toxicity.

    29. Lobsterp0t*

      It’s hard to feel like you have a family but simultaneously don’t.

      I have found research and resources for people experiencing ambiguous grief and loss to be most helpful. Because that’s really what this is.

      I miss my dad all the time. I have to remind myself that what I miss is both the person and the dream of the person I wished he was.

      But it is right that I am not in contact and I try to look at what I have done with the mental and emotional freedom of estrangement – my other relationships with my family members have grown and deepened a lot.

      I guess what helped me the most was deciding what me own boundaries were and under what conditions I would be willing to try and make a relationship work. Those conditions are, sadly, unlikely to be met – but they’re not outrageous. And by sticking to them I am showing up for myself and my family (wife, sibling, and others) in a way I never did before.

      It will always suck to NEED to be estranged. But estrangement itself can be freeing and can be its own form of closure.

    30. Salamander*

      I went no contact with my dad and his family last year. It was difficult. Initially, I tried to do low contact – just sending holiday cards and keeping things on a surface level and talking about the weather. But he really lashed out at that – he drinks, and that’s problematic. And I had to take a step back. There was a lot of flailing on his part, drunk texts, attempts to manipulate me through other family members. It was hard.

      Now, about a year out, I feel better. The explosions and drunk dialing have gradually tapered off. I had to realize that I could not have the relationship I wanted to have with them. They were always wanting something from me that I couldn’t give. And that’s okay.

      There is no combination of magic words that will get people to do what you want or need them to do, no secret incantation that you can discover if you beat your head against the wall long enough.

      I wish I had done this sooner, ripped the bandaid off earlier. But I wasn’t ready. And not doing so is not a personal failing. The situation is what it is.

      I’ve found peace, and I wish it for you, however you pursue it.

  13. Jimby*

    We’re about to start trying for a kid. Anyone have a recommendation of good books to read on pregnancy/parenting?

    1. Zooey*

      I like Emily Oster’s Expecting Better on pregnancy – looking at the data on different things. The follow up about child rearing is quite good too but more boils down to ‘do what you feel’. Also great for data based stuff is the website Evidence Based Birth which gives an overview of recent research on a lot of key pregnancy topics.

      This is a very idiosyncratic pick but I also found ‘The Myth of the Perfect Pregnancy’ by Lara Freidenfelds a really helpful read pre / early pregnancy. It’s a history of miscarriage so for many people it would be exactly the opposite of what you want. But for me it was helpful to be able to think about how our culture has shaped discourse around pregnancy loss and encourages you to ‘bond’ at very early stages.

      I also liked the Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill which is focused on hypnobirthing but is less dogmatic about natural birth than many of the books in this area.
      Contrastingly I have found information from the La Leche League on breastfeeding very helpful but their book is *so* emphatic about a ‘natural’ approach it put me off.

      In general I have found Amazon’s kindle samples really helpful for pregnancy and baby books because the tone can really click with you or not. I can’t currently access a physical library to browse but reading the samples of books has given me a really good sense of which ones worked for me.

      Good luck in your journey (however long it may take… it was a long time for us, one cycle for a close friend , so hard to predict what you’re embarking on!)

    2. Juniper*

      Oh, congrats! There are so many crappy books out there, I probably spent more time researching what books to read thean actually reading the ones I ended up with. When it comes to pregnancy and childbirth, Emily Oster’s first book Expecting Better was an island of sound, data-backed information in a sea of outdated, over-the-top, or just plain questionable advice. Debunking the Bump was similarly eye-opening. As for how to get pregnant, Taking Charge of your Fertility is a great resource for understanding how fertility and and reproduction works and really made the whole process more accessible. For the actual childbirth experience, I turned to Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Some might find it a little woo-woo, but I’m certainly not one to go the doula/home birth route and I found it immensely enlightening. I liked how the starting off point was that my body could handle this, and then broke down all the different stages of childbirth and how to approach each one. I found it incredibly empowering as I navigated the often very clinical/medicalized side of childbirth. Hubby read it too and also found it provided a useful perspective as we prepared our birth plan.

      1. rkz*

        Are you me? Lol. These are all the books I read as well. Taking Charge of your Fertility was basically our guide to getting pregnant. As I told the midwife who recommended it, I knew a lot about how to avoid getting pregnant but had no idea how to go about trying to conceive (other than the obvious parts lol). Emily Oster’s book I would recommend to anyone as I think it helped make pregnancy so much less stressful and cut through the endless noise of a gagillion things people will try to tell you to do/not do while you are pregnant. IF you’re interested in attempting to birth without medical interventions, Ina May’s book is a must-read. That said, it was a tricky balance for me to read and affirm that my body COULD do this while also keeping in mind that that’s no guarantee that it WILL. I ended up dehydrated and with high blood pressure so had to transfer from my birth center to the hospital and chose to get an epidural. I don’t regret that decision, nor do I regret reading Guide to Childbirth lol.

    3. Jay*

      “Becoming the Parent You Want to Be” by Janis Keyser and Laura Davis. My standard gift to first-time parents. I quoted them constantly – “Life in a family is a balance of needs” – because they gave me permission to put my needs into the equation when we made decisions. I also liked Penelope Leach for basic baby care info.

    4. Ranon*

      My best resource was a podcast- The Longest Shortest Time. There aren’t new episodes anymore but if you start from the beginning there’s certainly plenty there. At a minimum the interviews with Ina May Gaskin and the episode “A Childless Man Gets a C-section” which was hands down the best prep I got for my “whelp, guess it’s C-section time” c-section.

      For parenting it’s hard to say until you meet your kid and know who you’re dealing with, but Baby 411 or the APA’s first five years books are good alternatives to 2am googling for the basic stuff.

      1. Jen*

        I’ll note that there’s a lot of scary stuff about c sections out there but I had a c section for a breech baby and it really wasn’t so bad. The failed attempt to flip him was extremely painful and I kind of regret trying that first.

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      I liked “Brain Rules for Baby” and “Parenting with Love and Logic for Early Childhood”

    6. Fellow Traveller*

      I really liked Like a Mother: A Feminist journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy by Angela Garbes. It has a lot of the same research as Expecting Better, but comes from a place that really examines the social and emotional landscape of child-bearing and being a mother. I actually read it after my child was born, when I was an emotional, exhausted, lonely mess, and Garbes’ writings really made me feel less alone. I also like that she does look at c-sections, something which I thought was missing from Oster’s book.

    7. Sp*

      I loved Let’s Panic About Babies as well for a more light hearted take on it. I also found The Birth Partner really helpful. Don’t forget to read the parts about what recovering from childbirth is like. I didn’t consider that maybe I would be feeling rough and it was an unpleasant surprise. Good luck.

    8. Adventurer*

      Congrats! I’m currently seven months pregnant with my first and got some great advice from commenters here too a few months ago. :) I also heartily endorse both of Emily Oster’s books. I also found Bringing Up Bebe really interesting – I found a couple things that were minor parts of the book problematic (too big of a focus on mother’s weight was one) but got some really interesting ideas from it, about different parenting methods between middle and upper class families in the US and France (and fun stories about living in France generally.) I also liked “Like a Mother” by Angela Garbes

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        The Portable Pediatrician is an awesome book. Breaks down each age/stage and what to worry about, expect etc in each. It was a lifesaver for us! I give it as a shower gift for all my friends, nieces/nephews etc and everyone raves about it.

  14. Retail Not Retail*

    I’m dealing with insomnia for the first time in a good long time. I started a new medication and I added it to my bedtime routine, but I’ll be moving it to the morning after this week because this is crazy. I hope that’ll make a difference but if I just need to ride out the adjustment period, any advice? (I really cannot power through no sleep, my job is unforgiving and we’re hitting warm temps now. I do not need to be punch drunk or hopped up on caffeine.)

    1. nep*

      These are not new or extraordinary things, but just putting out there what helps me get to sleep and sleep more soundly: reading, even just a few pages, close to bedtime as opposed to looking at a screen; wearing a sleep mask (makes a world of difference for me); avoiding eating within a couple of hours of going to bed; deep breaths while lying in bed.
      All the best. Hope you’ll be able to resolve this soon.

      1. Retail Not Retail*

        What’s bad is I haven’t needed good sleep hygiene for the last 2 years thanks to my job! Out in fifteen minutes wake up ten minutes before my alarm ready to go.

    2. Purt’s Peas*

      If there’s any way you can reduce the pressure to sleep, I think that will be the most helpful. I believe that you can’t power through on no sleep, but here are some examples of things to tell yourself to reduce the pressure:

      – If I don’t sleep, I’ll take a sick day and have some nice time off.
      – Meditating in bed might be boring and not count as sleeping, but I’ll feel pretty good the next day.
      – I’m getting more sleep than I think. I’m drowsing a lot between thinking “I haven’t gone to sleep yet.”
      – One night of low sleep might put me in a bad mood, but it’s bearable.

      For me that kind of thing has made the biggest difference—there’s a gulf between miserable insomnia and next-day foul mood, vs a kind of chill low-sleep night and next-day tired feelings.

      Other strategies for me include, meditation/alternate nostril breathing before I go to sleep; meditative and enjoyable counting (I like the Fibonacci sequence, so I find it pleasant to go through it and rarely make it past 21); listening to a soft audiobook or podcast with a sleep timer to eventually shut it off; making sure to keep your room cool.

    3. ALT*

      I’ve had a flare up of stress induced insomnia lately and the things I’ve done that have helped have been using a white noise app and also leaving my phone on the other side of the room at night so I can’t just grab it off the nightstand when I’m having trouble falling asleep. Good luck!

    4. Courageous cat*

      Can I ask what the medication is? I’m dealing with the same damn thing right now with an antipsychotic. I am not sure if it will go away so I’ve stopped it for now. If it goes away, I’ll power through – but if it doesn’t, ugh it sucks to ping awake like 5 hours earlier than normal.

      1. Retail Not Retail*

        Oh man it is! V raylar (spacing to hide it from search engines/spammers) and i’m on it to kick the depressive part of my bipolar 2 problems and the insomnia is merely ramping up the mania so no, I’m not grouchy or tired, let’s go on a walk at 5am!!!

      2. Retail Not Retail*

        I’ll report back next week if the morning timing makes a difference.

        Yesterday I walked about 12 miles and worked 7 hours mulching (pushing wheelbarrows) in mild heat (70s and humid). I stayed at my job site for almost 3 extra hours because people visited, then I walked my dog when I got home. I got little sleep that night.

        I eked out about 3 solid hours last night. No 5am walk – storming! (That’s actually not that unusual, my alarm is 5:30 if i get up earlier why not walk the dog?) i did however tear through my old broken laptop and old broken phone for hours which seems super healthy.

        I’m an obnoxious morning person, not grouchy when sleepy.

        1. Retail Not Retail*

          Argh yes insomnia brain is infecting me. I got little sleep Thursday night and Friday went from about 4:30am to 7:30pm with the longest time sitting my 2 30 minute commutes.

    5. Dan*

      Do you exercise? I’ve got a whole host of sleep related quirks, medical and otherwise, but assuming you don’t have any other underlying medical conditions (such as sleep apnea), I’ve found that regular exercise is the #1 thing (besides eating or drinking before going to bed, hah) that affects my sleep quality.

      I learned this back in college, actually. My first two years, my dorms were on the opposite side of campus from most of my classes, so I got a lot of walking in. Junior year, I moved to a dorm right next to my classes and did a lot less walking. That had an immediate impact on my sleep quality.

      One thing that hasn’t helped in old age… WFH. Right after college, I had a job as a ramp agent for one of the airlines. An 8 hour shift meant four hours of lifting 20 to 50 lb bags. We didn’t have belt loaders for those types of planes, so those shifts were like doing 4 hours of HIIT five days a week.

      I simply can’t do that any more with a full time job. But WFH being what it is, a middle ground must be found.

      1. Retail Not Retail*

        Alas, my job is not quite HIIT intense, but is definitely more intense than any work from home gig besides a gym instructor doing lessons over video.

        I want to go back to gym classes, but the world needs to be a bit closer to normal. Additionally, my hip can take work and walking my dog and that is pushing it.

        Yesterday I walked 12 miles in spring heat and pushed heavy wheelbarrows and all that jazz… and got 3 hours. After the same amount the night before. I’m kind of convinced it’s the medicine since my lifestyle has not changed.

        1. Dan*

          Dang, you walk like that and you still can’t sleep? That totally sucks. I couldn’t quite follow what your options are with/without the medicine, but I’d totally say talk to your doc. I’m at a point in life where things that interfere with good sleep will not be tolerated, even if they’re otherwise good for me. (Because bad sleep is never good for you, period.)

          1. Retail Not Retail*

            I’m changing the dose time and waiting a couple days to see an improvement and then calling. I’ve tried others with similar goals and I’d really like this to be under control.

            But hey no severe depression nap if you can’t sleep!

    6. This helped me*

      “The Sleep Book” by Dr. Guy Meadows has totally recalibrated the way I sleep and how I approach it. I’ve struggled with insomnia for decades, and his framing/tactics are simple, unique, and they’ve worked for me. I realized that all of my sleep hygiene practices were actually a barrier to good sleep.

    7. Lilly*

      Not medication induced, but I had a bout of anxiety-induced insomnia this year, i think at one point I didnt sleep for 3 days straight, and I need 8 hours min to function. I tried some cognitive behavioral therapy for sleep which was very enlightening. #1 lesson that was new to me was that being tired is different than being sleepy. I was trying to go to bed tired, but awake. Melatonin 2 hours before bed helps me get sleepy and avoiding exercise 3 hours before bed. Do not look at a clock. Do not look at a screen or turn the lights on. If you cant sleep, get out of bed and do something boring in the dark until you feel sleepy, then try going to bed again. Repeat.

  15. Medea*

    Because of home office and lockdown, the only make-up I’ve used in the past year is lipstick to bring a little color to more official zoom calls. The rest of my make-up has been untouched since March 2020. What can, if anything, be used later on? Shall I throw away everything? I’ll check expiry dates but I know that there are other rules (like 6 months after opening for mascara (?)), I just don’t know what they are. This wasn’t an issue before because I used to buy the smallest bottles and use them up pretty fast.

    1. Grace*

      You can generally tell if makeup has expired based on whether the smell/colour/consistency has changed.

      If you have especially sensitive skin, maybe it would be worth throwing things out, but otherwise I wouldn’t bother. I know a few makeup artists who abide strictly by the 6/12/14 months after opening rules for clients, but will happily use old makeup on themselves.

      Generally: powder products will be fine no matter how long it’s been; liquid face products like foundation will be fine unless they smell weird or have gone gloopy. Mascara and eyeliner are probably the only ones I’d bother changing – I haven’t actually changed mine and have never had any issues, but they’re the main concern. If you have an eyeliner pencil, you can just sharpen it until you reach fresh pencil that no bacteria has touched, though.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I used some of my mom’s eyeshadow from the eighties for Halloween one time a couple years back with no problems.

        Some of my makeup is a decade old. Probably should replace it, but I haven’t used it up in this long so I hate to spend more money. I need to get a better shade of red lipstick anyway, but it’s not like I can wear it with a mask so…

      2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        I had a compact powder that went funky. I think if you have oily skin and that oil gets transferred to the powder by a sponge or puff, eventually it will get rancid. But it was a powder I’d had for quite a long time, so it’s not like it went bad overnight. And I’ve had some lipsticks that got too dry over a period of several years and felt odd when I tried to use them. But I tend to buy REALLY cheap lipsticks, which might explain the shorter shelf life for some of them.

      3. Liz B*

        I went through all my stuff early on in lockdown and was really honest with myself about 1) what would likely go bad in the next few months or was already iffy, and 2) what do I actually wear. I got rid of about 75% of it. I’m in grad school and fully virtual, so I’m kind of planning to buy myself some new stuff that I really like when I get a job after graduation as a treat. But there was soooo much that I had that I just DID. NOT. use.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      In general, anything liquid or creamy should be tossed. Powders might still be OK to use.

    3. Nixologist*

      Powder products are basically good indefinitely unless something weird happens(like they get moisture on them and develop mold), lipstick sticks/concealer sticks tend to have longer life than actual liquids (foundation, etc), but if liquids are used hygienically and sealed well they’re good until they look or smell off.
      Definitely toss the mascara, liquid eyeliner, that’s too close to your eyes and too difficult to sanitize.

      Really a smell test and visual inspection is enough. If they look fine, smell fine and apply like they used to, it’s probably fine.

    4. PT*

      I don’t use makeup all that often, and one tip I have is to write the date you opened it on the label with a Sharpie. I’ve had many times where I was like “I just bought this!” and it was three years old, it felt new to me because I hadn’t used it that much.

      1. Filosofickle*

        Just pulled out my “new” tinted moisturizer for the first time in months and saw it’s dated 8/18…

    5. PollyQ*

      I keep makeup forever, with no attention to expiration dates, and I’ve never had a problem with it. As long as it smells OK, I keep it.

    6. No Tribble At All*

      Mascara will probably be dried up and clumpy after 1 year being opened, anyway. Liquid eyeliner might be OK — depends on the brand. Powders are fine. Other liquids/creams can be OK, depending on how you access it. Pumps/squeeze bottles are generally cleaner than something you dip your finger/a brush into.

  16. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

    Thanks to everyone for their comments on my post about small hatchbacks and SUVs a couple weeks ago.

    Happy update: After weeks of not seeing much that I liked as far as age, mileage and price, I found a gorgeous, low-mileage 2018 Honda Fit on Carvana. They gave me a trade-in offer for our dented, well-worn 14-year-old Honda CR-V that was way higher than I anticipated and enough to make the Fit affordable for us, even with the used-car market being kind of insane right now.

    The Carvana process (the topic of another recent weekend post) was a little bit clunky — it’s definitely not for someone who needs a car RIGHT NOW as there were snags with getting paperwork back and forth, our delivery was pushed back a day, then the car arrived three hours late on the rescheduled delivery day — but our patience was rewarded with a car that was just as advertised. We took it to our mechanic during the 7-day trial period to make sure there were no hidden problems, and we got a totally clean bill of health. So, with some reservations, I recommend Carvana to anyone who is curious. 

    As for the Fit… I love this car! For a car with an engine that’s literally the size of a soda bottle, it’s both peppier and much quieter than I expected, rides smoothly for a small car, has all the features I need plus some unexpected bonuses, and… for all of that, I averaged mid-30s miles per gallon in my first week. It’s a tiny car that squirts in and out of parking spots yet is as roomy as our CR-V was (obviously minus some of the cargo room). Whoever said the Fit was like a TARDIS (tiny on outside, huge on inside) was spot on. The Fit is so much more “me” than an SUV–even a relatively small one–and this shiny new car has been a nice morale booster for us at a rough time. Thanks again for all the advice!

    1. Jay*

      We’ve bought two cars through Carvana and had generally good experiences, although the second one was – weird. We didn’t get the title when we bought the car (paid cash) and finally after four or five months, they called and said they hadn’t been able to locate the title. The temporary registration had expired and we couldn’t register the car without the title. They gave us a 1K credit and exchanged the car for one we picked out – that happened to cost a little less than the one without a title, so we ended up with cash back. They were very nice about the whole thing but I was a bit freaked out that they’d sold us a car to which they did not have the title.

      1. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

        Oh yikes. Based on my experience, while it was positive overall, I could totally see how that might happen. The Carvana folks are very nice. But it all sort of feels like a work in progress and for all the positives of Carvana, somehow I feel like I scored a victory by coming out of this with a legit, properly registered car!

        1. Jay*

          Yeah. The difficult was compounded because we purchased the car for our daughter, who lives in another state, and she came home for winter break before the temp tags expired, so all this came to light while she was home, thousands of miles away from the car. Before they called us about the title they called her repeatedly to tell her she needed to get permanent plates, but first she needed an emissions test, and then she needed the title….ugh. Before this I would have said I’ll buy all my cars from them, but now….I’m really not sure.

      2. mreasy*

        I loved my Carvana experience as well, but I was going from no car to having a car, and the delay didn’t cause any issues (I don’t use it to commute). I had been wanting to buy a car for years, but the opportunity to do it without dealerships put me over the top. I’m thrilled with my low-mileage 2018 Fiat, which I presume was a rental due to miles and the deluxe interior package (leather, heated seats, etc, which I would never pay more for but which I certainly enjoy). Also I felt pretty special having a car carrier show up to my house lol!!!

    2. M*

      We recently got a car from Carvana and we also found the process clunky but we are also thrilled with our car. We are one of those families with a relatively high income but a pretty poor credit score and for me, the issues (many delays in paperwork and taking delivery of our car at 11 PM in the snow in January) were really outweighed by not having to go into a dealer and deal with the salespeople and the finance people and the low credit score dance. And I will say, every time I talked to a member of their team, they were incredibly positive and pleasant. Even their chat bot, who I found delightful. We will need to replace our second car sometime soon and I will likely buy from them again.

      1. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

        I agree on all counts. The five days in between purchase and actually receiving the car were occasionally stressful, but still so much better in my mind than going to a dealership. All the dealers who had cars I was potentially interested in near me have wretched reputations and I’d basically rather run in front of traffic than haggle with a used-car dealer, so in a way I felt like I had nothing to lose by rolling the dice on Carvana. Congratulations on your new car!

    3. Smol Book Wizard*

      Welcome to the happy Fit-drivers club! I adore my little red car… it behaves nicely and holds SO MUCH. I hadn’t heard it called a TARDIS before but that completely scans. :)

      1. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

        I can definitely see why the car seems to have a cult following, and the newer generation of Fit has some great colors — I strongly considered a red one as well.

  17. Loopy*

    Does anyone else here get really really overwhelmed when looking for recipes online? Cooking is really not my thing, so I don’t have any regular go-to food/recipe bloggers. But alas, I need to eat, so occasionally I’ll look up simple recipes and there are always so, so many results and I never have enough of a sense of which is best. All the blogs look the same to me. And often when I go to the reviews for anything popular, the first 20 are saying it looks good, or something chatty without having even made the dish yet (I’m sure I could dig but often I just want the recipe in as little time as possible!).

    I just don’t have the time energy or interest in really delving into the cooking world, so does anyone have any go to recipe bloggers (food bloggers?) for easy, simple, fast vegetarian recipes with affordable, common ingredients? I’m on a budget AND since I don’t cook much, I really am not looking for having to go out an buy one off ingredients. I also am working with grocery stores that only stock the basics (I’m in the southern US and not a big city).

    Also, I had a vague idea that I wanted to make veggie wraps for lunch using a peanut sauce that led me to this question, so if anyone has a favorite peanut sauce that meets the above criteria that would also be great!

    1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Cookie & Kate for sure – her recipes are always spot on and she uses obvious, normal ingredients you can get anywhere

      Feasting at Home is a new find for me and her stuff is fantastic – she has a thai peanut sauce veggie wrap recipe too :) which I haven’t tried but is on my list

      Oh She Glows and 101 Cookbooks (Heidi) are also some really good options.

      1. Cimorene*

        +1 for Cookie and Kate, maybe also love and lemons? I also like half baked harvest, not all vegetarian but she does vegetarian regularly enough.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Not so much overwhelmed, but I find that every recipe I find online needs to have the seasoning massively increased and that weirds me out. Like, ok, maybe my spices might could be a little old and not as oomphy as fresh (though they’re not; we just restocked the spice cabinet like three weeks ago) but one half-teaspoon of cumin for three pounds of meat and vegetables? I don’t think so, even with the freshest.

      1. pieforbreakfast*

        I double seasoning recommendation almost always, and garlic usually as well. I’m thinking the consensus is the general public is seasoning adverse and it’s easier to add seasoning for those who fall outside this range then the opposite.

    3. Jay*

      Not a blogger and has a subscription fee, but the New York Times Cooking section is our go-to. I love it. The reviews are amusing and often helpful, the indexing and search work well, and the recipes come out as advertised.

      1. Team 9-5*

        I find Cooks Illustrated (same group as Cooks Country and America’s Test Kitchen) to have some of the best and most foolproof recipes. Their content is behind a paywall but recipes can’t be copyrighted (any accompanying story/explanation can, though), so other websites will often have their recipes. I just Google “Cooks Illustrated chocolate pudding” and click on the first link to a free website.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I love ATK.

          But I also recommend that even non-cooks invest in a cookbook with basic recipes they like. So much less hassle. And you can still cook even if your internet or power go down. (Assuming a gas oven in the case of power outage.)

          1. BRR*

            I also like having a few books. They’re easier for me to follow and I like not having to read a novel first.

            ATK has a vegetarian cookbook that might be good for the OP. I like testing a cookbook first by checking out a digital copy from the library.

            1. Anona*

              I have the ATK vegetarian cookbook and I like some of the recipes but I don’t find it simple. There’s a stuffed peppers recipe that’s stuffed with beans and cheese and is SO delicious.

          2. Jay*

            I also like ATK, and I think the website is a better investment for non-cooks, or new cooks, because the videos are really helpful. The Cooks Country Meals in 30 Minutes really are simple. Some of the others….not so much. I remember a “weeknight” meal that took at least 2.5 hours and used nearly every bowl we had. It was delicious….on a Sunday.

            (reposting the nesting fail from below)

          3. lapgiraffe*

            I am giving a nod to both NYTimes cooking and ATK, my sister and I share subscriptions but honestly I’d pay for both on my own they’re so helpful. I pretty much never go looking for other blogs unless I’m cooking something very specific/unique (major exception to this is a smitten kitchen, Deb is the BEST).

            Also agreeing with the books, good ones are tested like the paywall sites and so helpful to have on hand. Barefoot Contessa is excellent here as well.

            Cookbook trick – get them from the library! I like to check out ones that intrigue me before committing to buying them, and you can check out so many at once.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              I do the same thing! It’s a great way to decide whether a cookbook is just pretty (so many are these days) or will be useful & used too.

        2. L in DC*

          I am Ride or Die ATK. They also have their recent shows on YouTube through their ATK Channel (including Cooks Country)

      2. Never Nicky*

        I’d suggest BBC Food for great recipes without the chitchat but maybe the terminology differences would be off-putting? (And we weigh everything, we don’t do cups!)

    4. CTT*

      I really enjoy the Washington Post’s food section (which now goes by the name “Voraciously”). I’m already a WaPo subscriber so I don’t think it has a separate fee outside the usual paywall, but it is a great resource.

    5. LDN Layabout*

      It’s partly finding sources you love and partly being confident in your cooking which will come with time, because that confidence will allow you to pare down the ‘complicated’ recipes.

      https://www.nigella.com/recipes/sesame-peanut-noodles The dressing here is a killer (and the recipe in general is a great budget/storable lunch), but you don’t need to keep it exact for it to be good. I ignore the garlic infused olive oil and I never have sweet chili sauce on hand, but I go with either chili/hot sauce and a touch of sugar.

      Regular food blog haunts:

      bbcgoodfood.com – BBC Good Food
      smittenkitchen.com – Smitten Kitchen
      cookingonabootstrap.com – Jack Monroe’s blog, she’s experienced poverty herself so she’s actually really good re: budget recipes
      seriouseats.com/the-food-lab – Kenji Lopez Alt is really good at the SCIENCE behind cooking stuff, so much than just recipes, this is where I go for tips and technique (it’s a case of, I wouldn’t do everything he does because I’m lazy, but even doing SOME of them will improve what I’m cooking)
      theguardian.com/food – Guardian Food, huge repository of recipes, good how-tos and recipe collections etc.

    6. Lizabeth*

      I read the WP food section and the blog Smitten Kitchen religiously. The WP recipes are hit or miss for me but Smitten Kitchen are hits 100%. I do find ATK recipes to be much more involved than I like – Cooks Country is a little less involved. Check with your local library to see if you can check out their magazines online with your library card. Food 52 has recipes as well but I’ve not done any of theirs yet. And their shop always has me drooling over cookware etc… Alton Brown of Good Eats and Good Eats Reloaded is great for TV binge watching – he explains things well and I own the cookbooks and find them pretty good (see if the library has them!). Love seeing the sock puppets belching in his face but that’s just me…PBS is good for cooking shows when they are on – they used to have most of Saturday devoted to them but programing has changed over the years.

    7. Anona*

      I love love LOVE Budget Bytes. She has a ton of vegetarian recipes and they’re pretty simple typically.

      Most of what I cook comes from her website. Like you, I don’t have interest/time right now in looking at a lot of websites.

      1. Anona*

        And if you go to the recipe section, she has tags for quick recipes, vegetarian, and also cost per recipe, so you can easily find ones that meet your needs.

      2. Anona*

        Last comment, her spinach and white bean quesadillas are so simple and delicious! She got me into white beans.

      3. ALT*

        I second Budget Bytes. Simple and good recipes that have never failed me. And I second the white bean and spinach quesadillas, I just made them last week.

        1. Oatmeal*

          I recommend budget bytes for people who want to eat yummy things but don’t get a lot of pleasure out of cooking itself. There’s a trade-off, but you may very well not mind. When I’m busy, I don’t.

      4. 00ff00Claire*

        Budget Bytes is one on my go to sites! Even for some of her recipes that are not vegetarian, she explains how you can make it veggie. I like her black bean and corn quesadillas, vegetable enchilada casserole, and veggie pot pie (I do add chicken to that one since we eat meat). I’m pretty sure she has a peanut sauce recipe too.

    8. KuklaRed*

      While I am an avid devotee of Cooks Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen, my go to for solid recipes is epicurious.com.

    9. Teapot Translator*

      I also get overwhelmed when searching for recipes. Not so much now, but in the past, I would try to find recipes for something, get overwhelmed and go lie down and have a nap. I’m doing better now, but I still get overwhelmed sometimes.

    10. Rebecca Stewart*

      My peanut sauce for chicken satay would work for you. It is quite literally just creamy peanut butter, enough coconut milk to make it a sauce consistency, red pepper flakes, fresh chopped garlic, and fresh grated ginger enough to get the heat level and flavor you want, and I usually add a teaspoon of Penzey’s Bangkok Blend seasoning to finish it off. Sometimes I add extra cilantro.

    11. Muddlethru*

      We did a promotional trial of Purple Carrot and it’s been awesome. They give you a little recipe book, then putting the ingredients together was like a little puzzle. Meal delivery kits aren’t super sustainable and we also don’t want to spend the money forever, but it’s been like a crash course on cooking REALLY good plant-based food. My husband is a carnivore but he will eat vegetarian/vegan if it tastes good and is appealing.

      We may even keep this subscription as we’re going to have a baby in may, not sure!

    12. Apt Nickname*

      I tend towards the WaPo food section, King Arthur Flour for baking, and generally Googling for everything else. When I Google, though, I compare the recipes to each other in case the one I have the ingredients for is some weird outlier. Don’t forget that often a single ingredient is replaceable or omittable.

      I can’t recommend a peanut sauce recipe but I can recommend the purchased House of Tsang peanut sauce.

    13. llamaswithouthats*

      Honestly, I like Allrecipes. They are beginner friendly and tend to require ingredients that people are likely to have in their pantry and/or nearest grocery store. A lot of blog recipes are usually customized according to the blogger’s tastes and require unusual ingredients, which can be cool if you’re really into cooking but a pain if you just want an easy recipe.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Yep, and the comment section on allrecipes is actually helpful. It’s full of people who have actually made the recipe, and often have improvements or variations, or at least honest opinions.

        1. llamaswithouthats*

          Yes – I actually modified an Allrecipes recipe according to the comments, and they were on the nose! The original recipe requires too much butter, and a lot of commenters recommended half of the butter amount.

        2. Anona*

          That’s actually one of my least favorite things about allrecipes! It seems like the recipe ratings really take the comments into account. Like if you make a 5 star recipe without making whatever modifications suggested in the comments, it usually won’t be good. Because of that I avoid it- just too much sifting.

          But it is a good general resource because it’s so big.

    14. Juneybug*

      I would suggest listening to The Lazy Genius podcast #174 Try A Meal Formula (basically a rotation of seasonal menu items for a few weeks, then change).

    15. Dark Macadamia*

      HelloFresh has all their recipes online, you don’t have to actually subscribe or buy the kits. Occasionally there will be something like “Italian seasoning” with no description of what it contains, but you can either Google recipes to make something comparable or buy a premade mix (Mrs Dash, etc) in the spice aisle.

    16. AlabamaAnonymous*

      Have you checked out Pam Anderson (the cookbook author, not the actress!). She and her two daughters have a blog, threemanycooks. But she also has a book series — How to Cook without a Book — that are great. The first book is regular recipes but she recently realized a new version “Cook without a Book: Meatless Meals: Recipes and Techniques for Part-Time and Full-Time Vegetarians.”

    17. Batgirl*

      Oh, I am so with you on the chatty commentators. They drive me nuts! I have a favorite blog where about half of the recipes are simple and fool proof and half are more of a challenge, prone to failure in the hands of amateurs. Of course I’m interested in people’s different experiences of the recipe but I only get a half dozen “This looks so great! I can’t wait to make it!” (I usually have to go to Facebook for that kind of insight and dazzling commentary). Following the dizzy half dozen is a couple of grumps who have made all sorts of ill advised substitutions and are cross that the recipe didn’t work anyway. Then, because the blogger doesn’t have all year for this nonsense, she’s closed comments without a useful word being said by anyone but herself. My kingdom for an intelligent reviewer…

      1. Dan*

        I wish there was a rule that said you could only comment/review on something you actually attempted. My favorite as of late was a kindle e-cookbook that I downloaded and had to return because the formatting was so fubar it was all but unusable. Somebody left a five star amazon review and said, “I wasn’t able to cook anything because the e-book formatting was so screwed up. But it’s not fair to punish the author for that.” (Well ok, but if you didn’t cook anything, what did you review?)

        My other favorite with substitutions is the opposite of what you describe… “five stars after making all kinds of subs so the original recipe is no longer recognizable.”

      2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        Smitten Kitchen has a great function in her comments where its split into General, I Made this! and Questions which helps IMMENSELY to cut out the chatter. I like to do a quick check of the Questions and I Made This! to see if anyone has done an interesting sub, any recommendation on oven time, or if I need to make a substitution based on what I have on hand, if there are any comments on that. Since her site is so old and people are still commenting on recipes from 10 years ago, it is very helpful.

        That is the only blog where I have seen that function and I wish others had it.

    18. Fellow Traveller*

      I also get very overwhelmed by the sheer number of recipe blogs out there- there is such an infinite number of recipes out there and an infinite taste preferences that it’s hard to pick something reliable. During the pandemic I’ve actually started cooking from cookbooks rather than combing the internet. I’ve been borrowing them from the library, and if that is an option for you, I’d highly recommend it.
      If you can get Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (or How to Cook Everything Vegetarian), I find that is a great place to start.
      America’s Test Kitchen also has a solid vegetarian cookbook, but I find their recipes a little fussy sometimes.

    19. HannahS*

      Smitten Kitchen is one of my favourites. Her food is vegetable-forward and flexible; if you don’t have this you can use that, etc. She has a large vegetarian category. She also has a few good peanut-y sauce recipes. I like this one:
      https://smittenkitchen.com/2015/08/takeout-style-sesame-noodles-with-cucumber/
      Depending on your budget, you might not feel that both tahini and sesame oil are affordable. I stock both, but I find that I reach for the sesame oil much more frequently than the tahini. If you go more for dishes from East/Southeast Asia, go for sesame oil. If you go more for dishes from the Middle-East, tahini is more common.

    20. Dan*

      Yes, but part of the reason I get overwhelmed is everybody’s attempt at SEO. So if I want to look at a recipe, I have to scroll/search for the ingredients section so I can see if I’ll actually like any of this stuff.

      However, keep in mind that “the best” is often up to personal preference. I like food with a lot of seasoning, so I can tell by looking at a recipe what’s got enough seasoning, and what’s got more than I really care to prep. But my problem with the above is that if I want to compare 4 or 5 recipes and see what different people are doing, it’s really kind of a pain in the ass to cut to the chase.

      So I’ve been getting into kindle versions of cookbooks off of amazon. They’re always a bit cheaper than a hard copy, and they often go on sale… I’ve picked up a bunch in the $5-$10 range. They cut to the chase and tell me what I need. It’s worth it to me to pay a few $ to avoid the ad clutter. I’ll also note that I usually don’t *know* what I want, and the books are great at showing me things I wouldn’t think of or otherwise wouldn’t be top of mine. Recipe blog searches are better if I have a specific dish in mind but want different prep options.

      But I’ll recommend ATK as well. They’re diligent about the recipe development, and explain *why* they do what they do. And most of the stuff is simple enough to put together on a weeknight.

      One thing you could also look at is plant-based or vegan options. Plant based could work good for you if you have limited variety in your shopping.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        If you want plant-based basic recipes, Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is one of my go-to books. The section on individual vegetables is great.

    21. pieforbreakfast*

      Joanne Eats Well With Others is a trusty blog with vegetarian recipes. There’s chatting but it’s easy to scroll through. She also does weekly dinner meal plans that provide five dinners and a dessert to make without having to choose if you want.

    22. CatPerson*

      Why not just buy a good all-purpose cookbook, such as Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything?

    23. I take tea*

      I like physical books as well, but if you like videos, I think Cheap Lazy Vegan is very nice. She isn’t as overwhelming as many and doesn’t use too much ingredients. (She has a veggie patty made out of kidney beans, oat meal and ready made tomato sauce, for example. Very nice.)

    24. Bethlam*

      I like Taste of Home. Uncomplicated down- to- earth recipes with normal ingredients.

      I’ve also made things from Valerie’s Kitchen. Her crockpot split pea and ham soup is terrific.

    25. OyHiOh*

      I would download the Good and Cheap cookbook myself. The author wrote it as part of a Master’s thesis on cooking with a SNAP (food assistance) budget and assumes a choice of limited skills/time/equipment. It’s been updated at least once I know of, perhaps more. Naturally, because animal protein is expensive compared to plant, there’s quite a few veggie recipes. The recipes feel familiar and comfortable, like cooking with your grandma.

      If you were to suddenly find yourself with a bit more interest, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything is a modern classic. It’s very much about teaching technique and vocabulary, so that when you’re faced with “saute until transluscent” you know what that means without further instruction. Plus, all of his basic recipes have loads of variation suggestions, so that you start to get a range of how flavors, ingredients, and techniques play together.

    26. ronda*

      below is from a comment on another site, but I thought it might be interesting for you. Her recommended site may be a good idea for you (provided you find that they have vegetarian recipes)…. but also maybe one of those prepared meal packages (hello fresh, etc)

      “I’m once again going back to the food idea, as that is a huge time suck, both mentally and physically. You need to lower your standards for a while. I love the idea of the giant Costco trays, or the “if it’s Tuesday, it must be tacos” approach. Another option: cooksmarts . com. I don’t know anything about your other meal planning service, but I used this one when things were crazy because it (1) gives you balanced meals that are adjustable for dietary restrictions, (2) provides efficient cooking time and prep (e.g., you cook extra chicken on Monday to use in Thursday’s dinner), (3) and creates an entire grocery list for you based on the meals you selected, which you can then edit to drop the things you already have. There’s even an option to have the selected groceries delivered to you (I didn’t use that so can’t vouch for it). Oh: and my family actually liked the food. There are other services that do this, too, of course. But the key is that if you’re going to pay for a meal planning service, you want one that does as much of the work for you as possible. And that includes the mental work of deciding what to have on what night and developing the grocery list. “

      1. ronda*

        I just checked their site and searched for vegetarian and it does seem to include vegetarian meal plans.
        Looks like 1st month is free if you want to try it.

  18. Venus*

    How does your garden grow?

    Whether an outdoor veggie plot or mold on a coffee cup, all updates and questions are welcome.

    My tomato seedlings have their first set of true leaves starting up! It is starting to feel like spring here.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I posted below and it’s in moderation. Hopefully Alison can put it in the right place.

    2. Crackerjack*

      Husband has been signed off sick with stress so he is doing gardening and DIY, always his go to activity to help himself feel better. Which is great, but this means our battle over the lawn has begun earlier than I hoped. He likes a lawn to have only grass in, and clear edges where it meets the flower beds. I love a lawn with moss in it, daisies, buttercups and dandelions, patches of clover and I like it to bleed into the beds a little. Last year he ruthlessly dug up all daisies and my clover leaving ugly bare spots and I could have cried. He reseeds every year to try to get the grass to take hold and then he cuts it within an inch of its life. So I’m worried about my lawn at the moment.

      But in happier news, he also got plug plants for our hanging baskets and planted them with our 4 year old and she and I sowed sweet peas outdoors and lupin and lobelia seed inside to propagate, so I’m looking for action from those soon. The daffodils are fading here but the grape hyacinths and forget-me-nots, and the wild garlic are coming on a treat. Also lilac anemones that are planted on my cat’s grave. It always makes me smile for him when those come up. Next month, or May, there will be clouds of forget-me-nots under every bush and drifts of garlic in every hedgerow, and it will be wonderful.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My purple peppers in the Aerogarden have both sprouted some greenery, and the oxalis have a handful of tiny sprouts and I think two bulbs that are all go go Godzilla. I just planted them like three weeks ago so I’m hoping for more sprouts in the next week or two. I’m torn on how to take care of them when they’re in this interim phase – I’ve been keeping them in the garage most of the time for the unsprouted bulbs (and to protect the sprouts from overnight frost), but moving them out to the driveway every couple of days for a few hours so the sprouted ones can get some light too. Seem right?

      My front yard and garden are full of volunteer green onions. I pulled up a big clump of them from the garden by the bulbs, shrugged and jammed them down into a spare pot of dirt (though the dirt is from last year), so they may or may not make it – it was more an experiment. I didn’t want them where they were but if they wanted to try and be successful elsewhere, more power to them. :)

    4. Anonymath*

      We spent Spring Break spreading about 7 cubic yards of mulch, so even though the trees are mostly still dead from the storm, at least the ground looks better. Planted most of my spring seeds and sweet potato slips, and the lettuce is finally starting to come up. Still need to cut back the dead oregano. I’m looking forward to being fully vaccinated so I can go to the big nursery and replace my dead tropical trees.

    5. Never Nicky*

      I’ve just potted on my tomato seedlings (and if they all survive, I will have to hope friends want some!) and some lollo rosso and Little Gem lettuces.

      My half hardy annuals are well underway and so are some herbs.

      In the garden itself, my primulas and bulbs are looking great, especially the new anemones. The forsythia is in full bloom and the buds on the cherry are swelling.

      The days are warming but nights are still chilly but it won’t be long before I can plant out last year’s cuttings.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        I planted a seedling tray of tomatoes, planning to share with friends, and then it met with disaster in the form of a trailing skirt. I’ll be lucky if 2 or 3 starts survive once potted up today. Luckily, I am not the only one of our friends who enjoys gardening, and I have acquired four tomatoes and a basil from various directions. Yay for generous gardeners!

    6. Llellayena*

      I’m starting to contemplate my yearly herb purchases. Since I moved back to NJ from NC I always seem to get the timing on planting a little off (I miss the long growing season!). Any suggestions on when I should purchase/plant basil and other herbs in medium sized pots outdoors in NJ? Thanks!

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        Tender herbs like basil usually go in the last week of May. (In Northern NJ) slightly sturdier ones like rosemary or any of the perennial herbs can go around mid May. Anything earlier than that you risk frost damage.

    7. OhGee*

      I’m in zone 6a in the northeast US, and I’ve got some tomato seedlings that are just starting to get their true leaves, too! I think the biggest change I’m making to seed starting this year is setting up shelving with grow lights. I realized I truly needed them when I started Brussels sprouts for the second year in a row and they went spindly again. I start my seedlings in a sunroom and it’s still not enough. So in two weeks or so, my lights should arrive and I’ll start again with some new seeds. I’ve also got melons and a few other starts, and am going to check the conditions outdoors and possibly start some of the “as soon as the ground can be worked” veggies today! I’m also thinking about which indoor plants need to be repotted in the coming weeks – I have a blood orange that fruited for the first time this winter, a passionflower that takes over half the sunroom, two hibiscus that I’m hoping will flower this year, a terrestrial orchid (harder to kill than your typical orchid) and some other more typical houseplants.

    8. Nixologist*

      The tulips my mother planted years ago are coming up for spring!
      Indoor garden-wise, I think we’re turning a corner with my areca palm. It was a Christmas gift that has really suffered this winter, but I’m cautiously optimistic I’ve figured it out. My Valentine’s day bromeliad moved windows and is thriving. I repotted some quarantine seed baby spider plants, and now I just have a ton of spider plants in pint glasses. I’m gonna trying summering the spidies outside this year!

    9. Decidedly Me*

      Indoor seed starts are going. Bare root raspberry canes are now in containers and not bundles. Onions, garlic, and potatoes are in various stages of being started now.

      I was able to find a honeycrisp apple on mini dwarf root stock, which was exciting! My partner really wanted one, but we don’t have space for a full sized tree. Now to find a pollinator for that.

      I bought a few things last years that didn’t do great over the winter and am waiting to see if they’ll return :(

      I think we’ve been more excited about growing things than we feasibly have room for, so we’ll see how this goes! Have some raised beds on the way and will be buying some more containers, too. Found a bulk soil place nearby that’s on the list to go to today.

    10. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      Some of the seeds I started are finally starting to sprout. I think it might still be too early to plant them out in the ground but I also bought some pea plants on a whim and they are in the plastic greenhouse for now. There are a lot of weeds in the front garden that need to be dealt with but I just haven’t had the wherewithal to deal with them. There are also two huge fuchsias that need to be cut back and possibly moved elsewhere but it’s a big job and I don’t feel like doing it.

    11. Hotdog not dog*

      Mold on a coffee cup! I was in person in the office and had to go into a colleague’s office for a file…she had left a partial cup of coffee on her desk last year, and it didn’t age well!

    12. fposte*

      My cold sowing is paying dividends, and I was such an idiot I can hardly believe it. I planted seeds in a variety of repurposed plastic containers with the notion of transplanting them later. And a couple of them have flush lids, and I filled the soil up to the top without leaving room for the plants. Oops.

    13. fhqwhgads*

      I bought a house whose previous owner was much much more of a green thumb than I am. There are tons of potted plants in the yard that weigh at least 100 lbs each (pot+soil+plant). I really don’t want to deal with all of them and a lot aren’t really very…alive. How does one go about getting rid of that? I can’t even move the pots. Do I call a landscaper? Or a handyman?June removal? Who is an appropriate person to deal with getting rid of the plants and the excess soil and the super heavy pots?

      1. fposte*

        Take pictures and post on your local FB/NextDoor. If there’s a local gardeners or master gardeners group reach out to them as well.

    14. Lurkey Turkey*

      I planted radishes, peas, and beets last week and a few seedlings are poking through the dirt already. Very exciting! I also planted my cauliflower seedlings, but maybe too soon. Two of them look unhappy about the move.

    15. HannahS*

      My seeds still haven’t arrived! I ordered from a small Canadian company, wanting to support them, but it’s been a month and I still haven’t received my order. I’m very disappointed; it took over two weeks for them to put my two seed packets in the mail. They say on their website that there might be some delays due to COVID, and while I don’t want to be unsympathetic….it’s been over a year; it’s not like this should be coming as a surprise. So I’m a bit grumpy. But, you know, we’ve still had some cold nights, and I’m only balcony gardening anyway, so it doesn’t really matter. I’ve saved an egg cartons and yogurt containers for sprouting seedlings.

    16. RagingADHD*

      Spring has sprung and it’s the traditional time to plant tomatoes outdoors (Palm Sunday) but it just will.not.stop.raining.

    17. Sparkly Librarian*

      We have nasturtiums finally! I planted these seeds at the beginning of quarantine last year, and they sprouted but barely grew until about December, and now we have the first blooms seemingly overnight. They’re along the fence in a spot that’s just out of sight unless I come around that side of the house, and the worn old red fence looks much nicer with some greenery climbing it. Plus the rainwater tends to drain there and this will keep it from being boggy without a lot of attention.

  19. The Other Dawn*

    Not my garden, specifically, but I finally got a landscaper over to give me estimates on some major (to me) projects.

    There’s a lilac bush on the north corner of my house that’s gotten out of control and has some poison ivy growing in it. I want them to rip all that out so I can plant something else, though I have no idea what to plant there. It needs to be something that will do well in the shade. I want a flowering bush, but I’m thinking those options would be limited.

    I’m also going to have them scrape off the top layer of soil on the bank of a stream on my property and plant grass seed. It gets really overgrown with weeds every year and I just can’t keep up with it. It embarrasses me because my neighbor’s side looks so nice. I have no idea how or why it looks so nice since I never see them or their lawn service do anything with it.

    As for the garden, two of my raised beds need to be completely weeded out and new dirt put it. I used the wrong thing (unscreened top soil–I had no idea what I was doing) when we built them and I’m tried of all the weeds that come up in them every year.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      In CT we had rhodos, andromeda and mountain laurel in shady areas. I actually like the andromeda the best. It got leggy at one point. Some how my father knew he could cut it down to a stump and it totally regrew itself. That was kinda neat.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I’d love a rhododendron, but the landscaper said it probably wouldn’t flower much being in the shade all day. I like the looks of mountain laurel or andromeda, though. He suggested both of those.

        1. Daydreamer*

          Hydrangeas are great in shady areas! You can also propagate them In simple steps and end up with multiple new bushes. Good luck in finding the perfect new addition to your yard.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Oh, I hadn’t thought of hydrangeas! I’ve seen so many beautiful ones in friends’ yards and I love them. Thank you!

  20. Crackerjack*

    Ooh I wrote a long comment and not sure what happened to it – maybe in moderation? This is a test one anyway.

    1. Bethlam*

      Me too! I created a new thread, hit submit, and the page refreshed as if it posted, then poof!

      It wasn’t a long one, but anything is a pain to type on this little phone screen.

    2. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I always write it out in an email draft if on my computer or notes on my phone just in case.

    3. Hi there*

      That happens to me when I am reading/posting from my iPad. Sometimes I’ll switch to the computer if I have very strong feelings and want to make sure my comment is posted.

  21. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going?
    As usual, this thread is not limited to fiction writing, feel free to talk about any writing at all.
    I’ve mostly been working on something for That-Which-Shan’t-Be-Discussed-On-Weekends, and it’s going pretty well I think.

    1. Liz*

      I need to start completely reworking a YA novel I wrote (my literary agent sent it out on one round of submissions to publishers and got some similar feedback from them in their rejections, so she suggested I do a redraft before submitting more). I haven’t felt like starting, because I just mentally feel so DONE with those characters.

      Also I’m waiting for my agent to read my first draft of another, newer YA novel I wrote, and I’m very anxious, hoping she likes it.

      I finished a nonfiction book on Pompeii because I have vague feelings that I want to write something involving Pompeii in a future novel. Also, I made a few notes on a mystery I want to write at some point, inspired by a creepy text my mother got from an old acquaintance (which turned out to be nothing in real life, of course :-)).

    2. Yellow Warbler*

      I am waiting on payment for several industry articles I did, and there’s been NO communication from the person I was told to send billing to. The person I worked with has also been radio silent since publication, though she was chatty before I handed everything in. I’m scared that I’m bring ghosted/ripped off, but technically the billing period still has a few days before it’s officially late. I am an anxious mess.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        As someone who writes for money, it’s really normal not to hear anything after publication (because the work is finished) or from the billing person. They don’t normally communicate during this period at all since there’s no need to. They will either pay you on time or not, and if it’s not, at that point you follow up to inquire about its status — but all of this so far is normal.

        1. Yellow Warbler*

          This helps, thank you! They are my first international client, so I am a bit adrift regarding norms compared to my usual work.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I have to say, I’m grateful for the chance to earn a free certification for that thing we do not speak of on weekends, but WHYYYYYYY could that not have happened earlier? Just like school did, it’s seriously interfering with my writing / editing.

      I just want to make books. I don’t want to be distracted by extra stuff (other than a hot dude lusting after me; that distraction would be just fine, haha).

  22. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gaming thread! What’s everyone been playing this week?
    As usual, this thread is not limited to video games, so feel free to talk about board games or any other game you can think of. All games are welcome here, we do not gatekeep, there is no such thing as “real games” and “not real games” (whatever the hell that is supposed to mean anyway).
    I’m keeping an eye on the Vita games, I feel that with the rumours going around of the digital store closing their prices are going to go up, though I do have to say I don’t exactly trust the source of the rumours. As far as gaming goes, I’m still on Stardew Valley because I like the distraction and the soundtrack to that game is really soothing.

    1. Unemployed in Greenland*

      I bought Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion as a Christmas gift for myself (first holiday season ever all alone, but hey it worked okay.) It’s a really good setup as an introduction to the overall Gloomhaven game. The rules are complicated, but there are guides in Jaws that really help to make them clear.

      I’m excited about the replayability, but a bit bummed because I reached the end of my first full campaign with my first two characters. And it will be a wrench to leave them and start over.

      I’m more interested in the regular Gloomhaven game now, but I know it doesn’t have nearly as easy a setup as Jaws. Playing the computer version instead would be awesome, but I have no idea if I have the specs needed to run it – and I do not want to buy a new computer just to play it, you know?

      1. LDN Layabout*

        Steam has a good refund policy for situations like this:

        ‘You can refund a game purchased on Steam if you request the refund within two weeks of purchase, and have played the game for less than two hours total. When your game is refunded, it will be removed from your Steam library, and you’ll receive the full value of your purchase back.’

        And Gloomhaven is on sale right now :)

      2. Purt’s Peas*

        A friend bought Gloomhaven right before the pandemic, and we got a chance to play like two full-day sessions…enough to get addicted :) Can’t wait to start playing it again.

        I think the setup will be a beast if you’re picky about getting all the correctly-themes pieces (I was). But if you’re ok with any style door, for example, it would be better. Also some upfront sorting might help….but there are so many dang pieces.

    2. Nicki Name*

      I went ahead and dove right in to a Crimson Flower playthrough in FE3H. I’m up to chapter 7 and I’ve recruited almost all the students already. I want to just race through this and get to the new stuff. Wait, no, I still want to do all the paralogues!

      1. Jackalope*

        I just started a Verdant Wind run-through. I’m seriously considering doing something crazy like teaching all of my physical warriors magic and teaching my mages weaponry, just to see what will happen. And because some of the “non-mages” have some pretty cool spells, I discovered. I too have recruited everyone; this is an NG+ game so I just used my renown to renew all of Byleth’s A level supports with everyone, & got them all by chapter 3. Which means I have the whole game to play with everyone instead of just the chapters after I’m able to recruit.

        1. Nicki Name*

          I put my NG+ renown into boosting my professor level to A+ and then raised all my supports to C so as to at least give my recruitment a boost. Since I have training and battle points out the wazoo, everyone is overleveled compared to where they should be at the point I’ve reached.

          I’ve always taught my mages a bit of weaponry so they have some way to do damage to enemies who are resistant to magic. I hadn’t thought about teaching magic to my physical fighters, though. I think I’ll try that!

    3. I take tea*

      We found our SET-game again and played it. It’s a card game where you pick out sets of three either with similarities or differences. Very challenging and also fun. I used to be pretty good, but now we had to state a rule that neither got to say set more than twice in a row, so we could be more even. It felt nice, we used to play it a lot long time ago.

    4. Holly the spa pro*

      Husband and i picked up Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos for the switch. It is a fairly blatent zelda rip off but plays very similar to a rogue-like. I like it because the puzzles require teamwork to complete and you can switch between different classes repeatedly. Something fun to play together for togetherness.

      I have a really hard time remembering the name of the game so ive just started calling it “ruining tacos”.

    5. Marion Ravenwood*

      We’re playing a lot of Hearthstone: Battlegrounds at the moment – two of our other friends also play and we’ll usually go into a round of matches with four of us and then four other random players. I’m still not great at it but feel like I’m improving, and it’s a nice social thing to do with friends during lockdown as well.

  23. ThumbsNotGreen*

    For new gardeners: can anyone recommend a good book or website for novices? I have a small yard (1st time after decades of urban apartment living) with enough space for flower and vegetable beds. I especially need help with scheduling — when to do / plant certain things throughout the year. I’m in the US, mid Atlantic. Thanks!

    1. Ranon*

      Timber Press publishes a series called “Growing Vegetables in the (region)” that is excellent, where region is southwest or Midwest or wherever you are- it’s a month by month format so you can flip to whatever month it is and see what tasks need doing and what you can plant for your area.

    2. Blue wall*

      Check out books by Mike McGrath and his podcast You Bet Your Garden. He only does organic gardening.

    3. Brave Little Roaster*

      Hello, Mid-Atlantic neighbor! A couple resources that I like are extension dot UMD dot edu (or any state) for advice on your hardiness zones, planting timelines, etc; and the website for the nursery Chesapeake Natives for specific native plants for your area and when to plant them. I’m originally from a much different climate so I found these to be very helpful when I finally moved to a place with a yard. You can also check the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang to guess when last frost is coming up and if you live near a farmer’s market, chat with the vendors about what they are planting in the next few weeks/months* to see if you’d like to do the same. Good luck!

      *Actually if you have more specific farmers market questions, let me know since that’s partly my line of w0rk :)

      1. RagingADHD*

        In the States, the Cooperative Extension Service always has great information on local conditions, even down to the county.

        I wasted so much time & money starting out, trying to use general advice for my zone number that couldn’t take into account local specifics, like humidity, drainage, soil composition, etc.

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      If your area has a local garden club, check their website. A lot of clubs post links to resources that their members have found helpful. (Google “garden club Town Name”) Local nurseries are also great sources of information, and a lot of them also have free resources on their websites.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        +1000 on the garden club suggestion! Also, Rodale’s Organic Gardening book is great. And Fine Gardening is a great magazine for beginners and everyone.
        In general, vegetables in full sun, well drained soil near a water source. Watch your yard. See which parts thaw out first-those are the warm spots. Ask your local garden center what zone you are in. I’m in northern MA and all the plant catalogues say we’re zone 6, but there’s no way we are since all my zone 6 shrubs get killed in the winter. Anyway, up here the guaranteed frost free date is the end of May, so that’s when we plant tomato plants and other warm weather crops. We can plant peas, radishes and lettuce now. Hope that helps! Have fun! It’s the BEST hobby

    5. Skeeder Jones*

      This may sound strange, but in CA a lot of water districts have good information about what plants thrive in our climate, plant recommendations, watering schedules, etc (largely because of ongoing drought conditions and a 2015 state mandate to reduce water usage) so you might check to see if any of those resources are available from your water utility.

    6. I take tea*

      I don’t know good resources in English, but check out companion planting, which is what to grow together and what not to.

  24. Friend In Distress*

    Content warning for death of a relative and cancer.

    A very close relative of my best friend/roommate is now on hospice care due to cancer. My friend is going to be a mess, even more so because she feels like she can’t breakdown in front of her family so she does it here in our house. She lost a grandmother in December and has had sporadic screaming breakdowns in the months since. I can only imagine how much worse it’s going to be with a relative that she’s really close with. Plus, as she told me, she hasn’t been able to see her relative in a year due to the pandemic; because the relative has cancer, her doctors had her under very strict isolation so even outside masked gatherings were not a option. My friend feels like the pandemic stole the last year she and her family had with the relative.

    I’m going to be there for her as much as I can but I’m also a very empathic person and honestly her sobbing breakdowns scare me. The next few weeks/months will be a real challenge to find a balance in helping her and taking care of myself. I have people I can lean on for support and I have places I can stay if things become overwhelming and I need to get some space for a bit (obviously I don’t want to abandon my friend in her time of need but sometimes getting out of our small house is the best thing for me to get some space from her)

    Advice on how I can help my roommate and also help myself keep my head through all this?

    1. Workerbee*

      My first thought is, if you haven’t already been making use of the people and places you can go to, to start now. Make it a regular thing, too.

      My second thought is to suggest therapy for your friend. This is not because you aren’t being there for her as much as you can or that you don’t care as much as you do; it is precisely because you care that you’ll want her to get some aid that a professional can provide.

      And because, simply, yes: Your friend gets to feel what she’s feeling about horrible situations. Yet, though I am not a doctor, screaming sobbing breakdowns since December with the prospect of more to come are not what I’d call healthy, healing, or helpful for anybody.

    2. Not A Manager*

      Does she “need” you to participate in or intervene in her breakdowns? If yes, then I think you need to back out of that asap. It’s not healthy for you to have to manage someone’s “scary” expressions of emotion. If not, then maybe you need a routine or a script for yourself when these things happen.

      Can you examine what scares you about the breakdowns? Is it the fact of such raw grief and suffering? Do you fear that she will harm herself? Do loud expressions of emotions remind you of something unpleasant in your own background? Once you have a sense of why this is scary to you, maybe you can create a self-talk script to counteract it. “Roommate is very sad and this is how she expresses and processes it. I know that she’s always okay afterward. I’m going to put on my headphones and do my own projects for half an hour, and then I’ll check on her.”

      In terms of the larger processing of grief, I’d suggest Captain Awkward’s advice about how to be supportive to friends without becoming overwhelmed. You and your friend will both be better off if you know how much help you can safely and cheerfully provide, and if you are willing to limit yourself to that level of support.

    3. WellRed*

      You posted about this before, I think? It sounds like it hasn’t gotten any better and you’re expecting it to worsen. Your friend is in need of professional help, starting with her medical doctor. I know everyone grieves differently but this sounds off. Please take care of yourself.

      1. Friend In Distress*

        Did I already post this? Sorry if so. My friend does see a counselor but I’m thinking of suggesting grief counseling for her. She didn’t do that with her grandmother but I think it would help her. She’s been dealing with depression through the pandemic any way with other family issues and a stressful customer service job, so family losses on top of all this are making it all the worse. I do know I can’t fix all of her issues but being her friend and roommate, I’m usually front row to her breakdown.

    4. Wishing You Well*

      There’s a mental health hotline: SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) that you and/or your roommate could try. They might be able to recommend good support practices for you and grief-specific help for your roommate. I wish I could offer more…
      Sending good thoughts.

  25. Erika22*

    Last year there was a letter from someone who has trichotillomania, and it turned out several commenters have trichotillomania or dermatillomania. How are you all doing? How is your pulling? (And LW, if you’re lurking, how are you since your letter?)

    I pull my eyelashes and eyebrows. My pulling has gotten pretty bad over the winter, and since my work has gotten more stressful the past couple of months it hasn’t really relented. I’ve started using eyelash extensions again to cover my eyelash gaps, and I’ve booked a microblading session for next month, so I /look/ like I’m doing ok (and thinking I look ok helps me feel more ok, if that makes sense). And in terms of stress, I told my boss I have one more project than I can handle currently, so she’s going to try and move it off of me, which is already helping me mentally. Plus we’ve had some beautiful days weather-wise lately, so that’s also really helping. Overall I think things are turning around!

    What about the rest of you?

    1. Jen*

      For me it comes and goes, depending on stress level. I pull my hair at the back of my head so it isn’t as noticeable. The problem is I find it’s a vicious cycle because pulling causes irritation which leads to more desire to hair pull. Unfortunately most of my tricks are for head hair (hats, scalp treatments) and not eyebrows or eyelashes.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      My left arm is pretty much hairless now… But at least I haven’t been going outside, so no one notices.

    3. NeonFireworks*

      Pandemic has meant too much trichotillomania, partially because of stress and partially because no one’s going to see it so I don’t have implicit imagined peer pressure. I also had a dermatillomania flareup and I’m pretty mad at myself now because that patch of skin is a horrible mess.

      Both have been worse than this, though, and I think they’ll drop off again as life returns to normal and spring/summer approach in the Northern Hemisphere.

    4. KR*

      Dermatillomania here. Been breaking out really bad for no apparent reason. It’s been almost impossible not to pick. Really difficult and it’s all on my face. Blah.

  26. Bethlam*

    If you were asked to do a commercial endorsement for a product you use and could heartily recommend, what would it be?

    I’ve always been a fan of Dawn dishwashing liquid – have used it all my life for dishes and lots of greasy jobs. But on a nice day this past week, we pulled the grill out of the garage to scrape off the winter grease build-up. Usually it’s not too bad, but my husband didn’t get a deer this year and we’ve grilled burgers with a higher fat content than venison, so way yucckier than usual. And Dawn just knocked the job right out of the park!

    So what product do you use that you would enthusiastically endorse (doesn’t have to be cleaning, but I’d love to find a better bath/shower cleaner than the one I use)?

    1. llamaswithouthats*

      CeraVe. It basically healed my eczema, and I also love their facial products. I don’t use any other skin care brand.

    2. Atheist Nun*

      Well, since you mentioned Dawn…

      1 part Dawn + 1 part white vinegar sprayed onto your bathroom/shower surfaces, then scrubbed with a Dobie sponge, is an excellent cleaner. I suspect it is because tub/shower dirt is greasy (from skin oils and bath oil products), and Dawn is excellent at cutting grease. It is also a problematic product, of course, because Dawn is petroleum based.

    3. Never Nicky*

      Snag tights. Perfect fit for short and chubby legs and in amazing colours.

      So comfortable it’s like wearing nothing (except you don’t get chub rub)

      1. Bethlam*

        Short and chubby legs, hmmm? Then they sound tailor-made for me. Will Google to see where I can get some.

    4. I love new cleaning products*

      I’ve recently used both Folex carpet cleaner and those plastic drain clog removers with the little spikes on them to great effect. The Folex removed a couple of stains that when I moved in, and the clog remover was very satisfying (but incredibly gross!) to use.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      About 20 plus years ago I bought a Krups grinder for coffee beans. I cannot kill the thing. It just keeps working.
      I have used it for making bread crumbs out of slices of bread. I loaned it to a friend to grind up chaga. (This is like grinding up wood. Friend was so certain he ruined the machine. Nope. It’s fine. ) It will not quit. Currently I use it for grinding up eggshells to feed my dog. The blades are not dull and the motor sounds as good as it did the day I bought it. It was $20 at that time, I never expected it to last like this.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Calcium. Rather than buying calcium supplements for my dog I grind up a shell that I would have thrown out anyway. The ratio is one egg shell per pound of meat that he eats. Since he eats 14 ounces, I just give him the whole shell. There’s usually residue left in the coffee grinder, so technically it’s not a full egg shell.

          Yeah, he downs it, no problem. ha. I save a few bucks.

    6. Batgirl*

      Schar gluten free products: everything they make is dependably delicious in stark contrast to much of the competition.
      Corsodyl toothpaste: very different flavor to the majority but you get hooked on the cleanliness and difference it makes over time.
      Lucy Bee coconut milk: It’s one of the few brands not watered down and it’s utterly gorgeous as a result.
      Shea Moisture hair care: I always come back to this stuff because my hair is too frizzy and dry without it.

        1. Batgirl*

          I have not tried the ladyfingers – they’re next, so thanks! I adore the viennese whirls, I have no need of shortbread recipes because they’re the only tea biscuit (cookie) I need. As for sandwich bread, I have never needed to toast it to make it edible! Also, the solidly good loaves are even better recently; I won’t buy any other brand after many sad experimental bread purchases.

      1. Bookgarden*

        Oooh, I placed an order directly from Schar about three weeks ago! I got ladyfingers to try to make GF tiramisu, deli bread, and ciabatta. The multi-grain ciabatta was soooo good. Tiramisu was my favorite dessert before having to go gluten-free.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      This might seem trivial, but last year, I bought an OXO Good Grips silicone drain cover to fit over the bathtub drain, which has a pop-up closure rather than one down inside that you operate with the little lever. I needed to keep my long hair from clogging up Mom’s pipes when I wash it in the shower.

      I LOVE that thing. It goes right over the pop-up drain, and it’s weighted on top, which keeps it from floating away. Costs about $8 at Target and totally worth it. I’m taking it with me when I move.

      1. NoLongerYoung*

        I have a comparable OXO item for covering the garbage disposal hole for the sink. I got it because DH would toss silverware (spoons, in particular) in the sink randomly (if he bothered at all), and sometimes they’d fall into the disposer. I’m nearsighted, and if I didn’t look INTO the disposal, and turned it on, the edges of the spoon would be chopped at by the blades before I managed to hear and jam the switch off again.

        After losing some spoons (who wants to eat with a serrated spoon?), I bought the kitchen sink version. Equally as lovable!

    8. Wishing You Well*

      Is a trio okay?
      Refresh Plus eye drops (no preservatives), Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen (non-greasy, subtle smell and comfortable on the face) and Working Hands Hand Cream (for extremely dry hands, comes in a tub).
      I have no connection to these companies but these products make my life so much more comfortable!