weekend open thread — June 19-20, 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: Home Made: A Story of Grief, Groceries, Showing Up — and What We Make When We Make Dinner, by Liz Hauck. A woman’s account of what happened when she spent one night a week teaching teenage boys living in a state home how to cook.

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

{ 1,193 comments… read them below }

  1. Need help choosing a Mac*

    Hello everyone

    I have a MacBook Pro from 2012 and I have begrudgingly accepted that I need to replace it. It has become too slow and I am sure not sure about the security on such an old device. (though I do have Norton and it says everything is fine.)
    Friends wanted me to go on Twitch and I just could not get it to work, it was too slow and we had to give up.
    I want to play Sims 4 but that is so slow as well.
    (And for some reason I can’t stop Chrome from autostarting every time I start my computer?)
    I am a bit frustated, I have always been really good at Windows computers (others at work ask me for help) but I have never once been comfortable with this Mac. I need a new computer but I am happy with my iPhone and iPad and need the new computer to be able to communicate with them. (Also thinking of buying some sort of SmartTV/AppleTV. I have never had a tv and want to buy one in the near future.)

    I just want to use Word (or some writing program that can read Word files) store pictures, play Sims, watch movies and sync my iPhone and iPad. What do I need?

    (For the Sims, I have Seasons and Pets and want to buy more expansion packs in the future. How much space/memory do I need for that?)

    1. AcademiaNut*

      There are fairly few Mac models, so there’s not much to choose from. If you’re going for a laptop the three main options are

      – MacBook Air – 13″ screen, thin, light, not as powerful
      – Macbook Pro 13 – same size screen, a little heavier, a little more power
      – Macbook Pro 16 – premium, 16″ screen

      For what you want to do now, any of those would do fine. If you’re used to a 15″ pro, the screen will be smaller, which may take some getting used to, but it will be thinner and lighter. Beyond that, there are options for disk space and memory. When you say pictures, how many are you talking about? If you’re saving thousands and thousands of high resolution images, you’d want to soup up the disk space.

      Given the prices and your needs, the pro 16 inch is way overkill in performance, unless you really, really want the larger screen, and is double the price of the others. So it would make more sense to get one of the 13″, the Air if you want a lighter model, increase the memory to 16 GB and the disk space to 1TB. With that you could replace it twice as often if it gets obsolete or breaks (9 years for a laptop is an amazingly long time).

      1. zaracat*

        Re screen size: if you’re getting a tv anyway, you will be able to mirror the laptop screen to the tv for gaming etc so perhaps getting a smaller laptop would work.

      2. Name goes here*

        I have a MacAir w/ a 13” screen and am happy with it. From how you describe your planned usage of it, I’d guess that the Air is going to be more than powerful enough to meet your needs. I personally would not want a Pro — too big, too heavy, not portable enough, even around the house.

      3. Need help choosing a Mac*

        Thanks for the advice! I have a 13” now so that size is fine. I have about 200 GB of pictures on a 500 GB SATA disk. I think. I am not sure how to read it all. It also says I have “4 GB installed”.

    2. LDN Layabout*

      Your iPhone and iPad can still work with a Windows device, if you do want to switch to a Windows PC/laptop. As a confirmed Apple hater since the 90s I won’t debate whether you should stick to Apple or not, but be aware it’s not necessary.

      The Sims 4 is a resource hog in terms of space but if you don’t want to load up on other games too much, you don’t need a top of the line machine. I would stay away from any Chromebooks/netbooks because you want to install software/have in-computer storage for stuff like pictures etc.

      Any recommendations will depend on budget/how you use your laptop (e.g. do you care about weight/portability in terms of travel etc.). I tend to check review sites such as techradar and cnet as a starting point to narrow down choices and they usually also have ‘what’s on sale/offers right now’ pages as well.

      I personally wouldn’t go below 8GB RAM and 1TB storage for any new laptop right now. Brand preferences for Windows laptops tend to be really personal, I’ve always been happy with my HP Pavilion but some people have had really bad HP experiences. I and my other tech buddies would avoid Acer and Lenovo these days, but a lot of my friends who’ve needed budget laptops recently are really happy with their ASUS machines and they tend to be a go-to rec these days for that need.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I’m gonna second this as someone who’s been ride-or-die for Macs since 1999 — if you’re not comfortable with a Mac, you don’t have to get one. :) When you say “sync your iPhone and iPad” what do you mean exactly? Backups, documents, something else?

        1. Need help choosing a Mac*

          Basically I love iCloud and that I can access my computer (Word) files on my iPad and that it serves as backup of my files. (Not enough space for my pictures, though.)

          (I would also like to be able to be more organised with my saved websites in Safari, as in create folders and place the saved websites in the proper folder on my computer where it is easier to do, and then have those changes replicated to my iPad and iPhone. Haven’t figured out how to do it yet, though…)

          1. June*

            You can’t use Safari on a Windows computer. However, you can use Chrome and it will synch all your bookmarks across your devices (including ipad/iphone when you use chrome on them) if you have signed in with a gmail account. (I believe this is true but I haven’t done it because I can’t be bothered. I don’t use bookmarks that much)

            1. Need help choosing a Mac*

              Thank you for that info. Man, so all my bookmarks would be lost on a Windows. (I am never signed into Google, only my Gmail app.)

              1. cleo*

                I used to have a MacBookPro and now I have a new windows 10 laptop and an iPhone. I’m still in the process of getting everything set up but this is what I’ve figured out.

                You can export bookmarks from Safari and import them into another browser like Chrome or Firefox.

                Microsoft has OneDrive, which is their version of iCloud. There’s an app you can install (iOS 13 only) to view your documents on your iPhone. I have an old iPhone that doesn’t run 13 so I haven’t been able to do that. (Ugh).

                You can sync calendars. I use google calendar on both my phone and laptop.

                The main thing I miss is getting alerts for text messages on my laptop.

              2. Observer*

                I’m pretty sure that some of the password managers will also sync your bookmarks across devices. I don’t know about Safari add ons, though.

          2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            iCloud for Windows is a thing. There’s also Dropbox and Box, which are similar third party services, and if you have Word you may also have access to OneDrive, which is basically Microsoft’s version of iCloud Drive.

            Safari for Windows is not a thing, but Safari bookmarks (including sub-folders) should sync across a Mac computer, an iPad and an iPhone as long as you have that set up on all devices.

            I don’t know about backing up to the computer, but I haven’t done that even on my Mac in at least five years; the default is to back up wirelessly to iCloud. Is there some reason that wouldn’t work for you? If you want more space than the free allotment, you can get 50 gigs of iCloud Drive space for $1/month or 200 gigs for $3/month, and that covers backup space, pictures and files and such for all your connected devices.

      2. Scout Finch*

        Thanks for this. I need a new Windows laptop (mine is 6 years old) and appreciate the advice. I have checked CNet, but not TechRadar. This may be the last laptop I purchase, so I want it to make sure it can handle any future games I may get addicted to. :-) I don’t think my normal $500 range will give me what I need, but it looks like $1000-1200 will give me at least 16 G RAM & a decent sized SSD. Most of my pictures are in the cloud.

        Apologies for piggy backing on the thread.

        OP – come back & let us know what you end & buying and how you like it!

        1. LDN Layabout*

          Yeah if you want to game and not buy again for a while it’s 16GB (which is what I’m looking at next year).

          I’ve heard good things about Asus ROGs in terms of gaming set-up and I usually go one gen back in term of tech. Cheaper, still top end spec and bugs ironed out/identified. Dells are also good on the gaming laptop end.

          1. Amaranth*

            I got an ASUS recently as replacement for a 2-year old MSI gaming laptop that stopped working just as we entered lockdown, and its very solid. With ASUS laptops though, not all come with onboard camera, if that is a deal-breaker for anyone. I just bought a nice external setup but its and extra cost to factor in and can be annoying for travel.

            Note on MSI: great graphics and power but I’ve had two now and they tended to run hot and while the extra fans are a plus, they can get a bit loud.

        2. Scout Finch*

          I know it’s Monday, but I wanted to update my post. I ended up buying an Evoo LP-7 from WalMart today. Got good reviews on PCMag, TechRadar & Reddit. $899 + tax – plus I bought the 3 year warranty since the company is not too well known.

          It has an AMD processor & an NVIDIA graphics card. Like I said, my laptop is 6 years old. This will probably blow it away.


      3. Need help choosing a Mac*

        Thanks for the advice! It is great to know I could go to back to a Windows. Portability isn’t so important. Thanks for the review sites, I will check those out :)

        1. LDN Layabout*

          According to google both icloud and itunes can be used on windows to sync everything :)

          and as someone who once had an ipod and installed itunes on a windows laptop, don’t worry, you can’t get rid of it. Even when you want to…

    3. June*

      Watching streaming services on an Apple TV won’t require any use of the laptop. Neither will a Smart TV.

      You can backup your iphone and ipad to a Windows laptop. iphone and ipad will sync through the cloud.

      1. Need help choosing a Mac*

        Sounds great! I wasn’t sure that I could create backups of iPhone and iPad on a Windows but if that is possible I am reconsidering buying a Mac.

        1. June*

          You just need iTunes which is still available for Windows. I mean you could probably back up an iphone/ipad just on a hard drive but I just do it through itunes and then it’s easier to restore .

    4. Abby cats*

      I have a 2020 Macbook Pro and I hate the touch bar with a fiery passion. I will not buy another Mac until they do away with that nonsense.

      Your needs sound more in line with a PC (word processing and gaming). You could easily make that work through cloud backups.

      1. It happens*

        Macs from mid-2021 will not have the horrible Touch Bar, will have the new Apple M1 chip, and more ports. So if the OP really wants to stick to the 16” MacBook Por, wait until it is introduced this fall. But it doesn’t sound like she needs that much power. A good PC laptop (even with a touch screen!) and lots of RAM should do. And a big SSD wouldn’t hurt if it’s used for iPhone backups…
        – another person with a 2012 16” MBP waiting impatiently for the next Apple announcement…

    5. Roja*

      I just upgraded my Pro from 2013 to an Air and am happy with it. I can’t speak to memory and whatnot as I’m not that much of a tech whiz; I just wanted enough to store my photos and videos (so I got the 500G not 250 one). You can check your old mac and see how much storage you’re using and use that as a ballpark for what you’ll want in the future.

    6. Public Sector Manager*

      While I love my iMac that has been going strong since 2008, I don’t game with it. Even if you want to play just Sims and nothing else, go with a Windows machine. Macs are the step-children of game availability and updates! And definitely avoid the Chromebooks. My son used one for school this year and it can barely handle the demands of a First Grade education.

      On the TV angle, all the Smart TVs will accept streaming from your iPhone (it’s seamless) plus they have a free AppleTV app for Smart TVs where you can access your Apple movie library through the tv without Roku or an Apple TV device. So if I want to buy a movie, I usually buy it on my iPhone. With the free Apple TV app, I can watch the movie on my phone, my iPad, stream it from my phone to my parents’ Smart TV when I’m visiting, or watch it directly through the app on the Smart TV when I’m at home, all without buying another device.

    7. Pandemic Pumpernickel Princess*

      Hi there! Fellow 2012 MacBook Pro (non-retina) user here. I thought I was going to have to switch computers until I installed 16 gigs of RAM (not supported by Apple, only works on non-retina 2012s) and swapped my hard drive out for a solid state one in 2018. I freelance graphic design on the side and need to run multiple heavy programs at once. This totally transformed my computer and it runs faster than some newer machines now! Probably not the best solution if you’re looking for an overall upgrade (especially if you want a newer OS, I’m still running El Capitan), but just in case anyone in this thread is also considering revamping their MacBook while staying affordable. (Best part=no touch bar!)

      1. Miki*

        I was going to say: I upgraded to SSD, and added more RAM and it’s still running fine. (2012 Mackbook Pro as well), all this done last year, so it still runs!

    8. Appleuser*

      I recently purchased a MacBook Air with 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD and I love it. I play the Sims 4 on it too and it works great.

        1. Appleuser*

          I have the following packs installed:
          Expansion Packs: Cats & Dogs, City Living, Discover University, Get Famous, Get to Work, Get Together, Seasons
          Game Packs: Dine Out, Parenthood, Realm of Magic, Spa Day, Vampires
          I also have some custom content installed, but not a lot.

          1. Need help choosing a Mac*

            That’s a lot! Great to know it still works fine with that amount!

    9. ronda*


      I bought a Mac at beginning of year…. it came with Pages …. seems like Word.
      I use goggle docs tho.

      I did attempt to use the excel replacement, numbers but found it confusing. Google sheets is much more like excel and easier for me.

      there are videos on how to use them on YouTube, so if you want to use the provided software from apple, you can learn it.

      you can also buy Word from Microsoft and install on your new Mac.

  2. looking for book series recommendations*

    I’m looking for good book series (at least two or more books in the series). The catch is they can’t be sci fi, fantasy, young adult or romance. Which seems to eliminate all series. Are there any good ones outside those categories?

    1. Kiwiapple*

      Loads of crime books have series – Jack Reacher, the Michael Connolly (Lincoln Lawyer/Bosch) ones, Val McDermid has a few series as well…does that appeal at all?

      1. looking for book series recommendations*

        I guess I should say no genre fiction. So no crime, thrillers, suspense, etc. But it does seem like you only find series within genre fiction.

          1. Clisby*

            I love the Flashman series.

            Alexander McCall Smith has a couple of series I like – the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series, and the Isabel Dalhousie series. Both are sort of nominally detective fiction, but the detective part is really subordinate to the life part.

            P.G. Wodehouse has a couple – I’m not sure you’d call them series, since you can read them out of order without missing much – but the Jeeves & Wooster stories, and the Blandings stories are fun.

            1. Clisby*

              Oh, I almost forgot! Someone on this thread awhile back mentioned Robertson Davies, a Canadian author whose books I love. He wrote 3 trilogies: The Salterton Trilogy, The Deptford Trilogy, and the Cornish Trilogy.

        1. RagingADHD*

          I see the mystery lovers all posted at once.

          All kinds of things get labeled/perceived as “genre fiction” just by virtue of being a series. Literary fiction doesn’t really lend itself to series, and there’s a snobbery in publishing that Lit fic should avoid the taint of genre-ish-ness.

          A standalone book about a young woman trying to find her place in the world can be general fiction. If it gets a sequel, now it’s “chick-lit.”

          But if a genre writer sells enough copies, they get to be relabeled as “commercial.” And if their books still sell 50 years later, they become “literature” after all.

        2. Detective Rosa Diaz*

          I don’t know if it counts as a series, but Marilynne Robinson has a collection of novels centered around the town of Gilead and two families who love there. I started with Home.

          1. Jen Erik*

            Gilead is one of my favourite books: it’s rare to find a character who is just good.

            Not, strictly speaking, a recommendation, because I’ve never read them, but maybe look at Trollope? My mum loved them, but I’ve never managed to get into them, and I’m not sure to what extent they are connected.

            There’s the Tom Barber trilogy by Forrest Reid, which he wrote the wrong way round, so it starts with Young Tom, the last to be written – I’ve only read the first two chronologically, but the first is another favourite book. The Huntingtower series by Buchan, can’t tell if that counts as genre or not – it was probably genre when it was written. Similarly D.E.Stevenson and E.M. Delafield – Angela Thirkell – they all have connected books, that aren’t modern day genre, but I can’t tell if they’d be too genrelike for you. Elizabeth Goudge has three connected books, starts with The Bird in the Tree, I think they’re a little old-fashioned now, but I reread them occasionally. And Susan Howatch has a set about the Church of England, but I read them ages ago, and I don’t know how they hold up.

            1. Elsie*

              Yes, speaking of old- fashioned, Jane Duncan’s ´My Friend…´ series! Life in Scotland in the 20s to 40s, the West Indies in the 50s, back to Scotland- I love rereading them, but I don’t think they’re around any more.

              1. Mephyle*

                They are wonderful. I read them from the library… but it was some 40 years ago, so I wonder if they’re still there.
                Jane Duncan wrote several other series shorter than the “My Friend…” books. Of particular mention in my opinion is the Jean series (4 books) which she wrote under the name of Janet Sandison. The first one is Jean in the Morning.
                There is also D. E Stevenson, another Scottish writer who wrote novels contemporary to her from the 1930s to 1970. Several of her books are linked, and there are some pairs and trilogies. Characters from one series sometimes show up in bit parts in another series, and also some links of that sort between her stand-alone novels.

            2. Gray Lady*

              I love Trollope. VERY Victorian (though he’s gently critiquing much of the Victorian ethos throughout, the characters are immersed in it) but also funny and insightful. I slightly prefer the Barchester series, which is centered around personalities and politics in the Church of England, over the Palliser series, which is centered around personalities and politics in the actual British political system of the day. That’s mostly because the Palliser series tends to go more on long tangents about political matters and intrigue — not so much the issues, but the ins and outs of parliamentary politics, which are not as engaging to the modern reader, IMO. The ecclesiastical stuff is less overtly political, though politics play a part, and more rooted in personalities and personal conflict. There are six Palliser novels, all of which are quite long, and six Barchester novels, which vary from quite short to fairly long, but on average are much shorter than the Palliser series. Trollope also has a number of standalone novels.

              1. Palliser7*

                I wrote my masters thesis on the Palliser series! It has been many years since then, but I still think of passages from those books. Trollope was so insightful and amazingly prolific. Great recommendations!

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            That’s what I was going to recommend. It starts with Home and is told from the perspective of one an elderly minister writing his memoirs for his young son (born late in the minister’s life). Subsequent books tell the two family’s stories from the perspectives of different characters. I’ve only read Home and have started the second one, but I’m looking forward to the one that tells the story of the minister’s comparatively-younger wife; it sounds like she came to town after some unconventional circumstances in her youth.

            1. Name goes here*

              I’ve read almost everything Marilynne Robinson has published; they’re great works! Jumping in at Home works, but you don’t have to –– I started w/ Gilead, which I think is where a lot of other people start, as well. Lila, the novel about the minister’s wife, is gorgeous.

              Along the same lines, I’d recommend David Rhodes’s novels, which feature a similar (not identical) cast of characters and are all set in the Driftless area of Wisconsin. Rock Island Line, Driftless, and Jewelweed are all excellent.

          3. Bluebell*

            Yes, I was about to mention Marilynne Robinson as well. I read Home last year. Jack was published fairly recently, so I believe there are four books in the series now. One other author who has characters that cross into other novels is Beatriz Williams, though I’m not sure I’d call it a series.

        3. Disco Janet*

          Pretty much all fiction fits into SOME sort of genre – can you give examples of series you have liked?

        4. MsChanandlerBong*

          I mean…everything has a genre. So I don’t know that you’re going to find much, especially if you’re asking for series versus standalone titles.

          1. Coenobita*

            “Genre fiction” is a specific thing though – e.g., as opposed to “literary fiction.”

            My recommendation is actually Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brody series, which is mysteries but pretty darn literary. Other ideas:
            – John Updike’s Rabbit series
            – Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend series
            – Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy (I normally can’t stand historical fiction but these don’t read like historical fiction at all, if that makes sense)

            Maybe just try searching “literary fiction series,” actually? That might lead to some good results.

        5. Joan Rivers*

          * Louise Penny has a series in a fictional town w/a charming police official who ends up solving crimes, but it’s so much more than that, the town and characters are what make it. If you like the residents you’ll be hooked.

          * Elmore Leonard invented his OWN “genre” that included people who commit crimes sometimes, but is just incredible writing with a great sense of humor. He was the master!
          I enjoy the “dated” aspect of the earlier books, I reread him all the time.

          * One of the best fiction writers I’ve found is JOAN FRANK, a grownass woman who writes about grown people. She’s brilliant, and while she doesn’t do a “series” she does write about women and men, aging, life, and growth in a way I admire, that feels connected to me.

          1. Joan Rivers*

            * JANET MALCOLM just died, she had an interesting career and there’s enough dispute about her work to be spicy.

    2. Chris Zed*

      Murder? Midsomer Murders by Caroline Graham, first book is The Killings at Badgers Drift. Adventure on the High Seas? Patrick O’Brian’s Master & Commander series. All 20 of them :)

            1. Elsie*

              And Ramage, by Dudley Pope. Less harrowing than Hornblower (less literary?) but just as many cannons.

    3. RagingADHD*

      Do you like mysteries? There are all kinds of different subgenres- hardboiled, thrillers, cozy, historical, funny, you name it. And lots of different series. Tons. Just off the top of my head:

      Super lightweight cozies might be “The Cat Who” series by Lillian Jackson Braun or the Goldy Bear culinary series by Diane Mott Davidson.

      Midrange light contemporary but with more complex characters, look at Susan Wittig Albert, Alan Bradley or Anthony Horowitz.

      Historicals, check out Lyndsey Davis or Nicola Upson.

      I’m not real big on hardboiled/gritty stuff, but Ken Bruen does it well.

      Classics: of course Agatha Christie. But also check out Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, Dorothy L Sayers, or Robert Barnard.

      Older mystery series are more likely to be episodic, without multibook plot arcs and less attention paid to the main character’s development over time. Newer series are more likely to really feature or focus on character arcs.

      If you really like series-long, epic plot threads, that might be hard to find. But if you like series with the same characters doing the same kind of thing in new situations, it might be a good fit.

      1. pancakes*

        I want to put in a word for Nicholas Blake mysteries, even though OP said no genre fiction, because he’s uncommonly literary. Blake is a pseudonym for Cecil Day-Lewis (yes, father of Daniel), and was poet laureate of the UK in the late 60s. His detective Nigel Strangeways was initially based to some extent on W.H. Auden, who was his contemporary at school and friend. I read all fifteen of the Strangeways novels during the pandemic and enjoyed them a lot.

    4. Weegie*

      Going back in time a bit, but there’s Olivia Manning’s Balkan Trilogy, Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy (historical fiction, not fantasy genre), or Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Scots Quair (a trilogy starting with Sunset Song). They’re all literary. Can’t think of anything more contemporary off the top of my head!

      1. Emma2*

        I was also thinking of the Balkans Trilogy. There are also Elizabeth Jane Howard’s The Cazalet Chronicles (although I liked the first one best), Hilary Mantle’s Tudor trilogy beginning with Wolf Hall, and Elena Ferante’s Neapolitan Novels.

        1. Weegie*

          Oh, yes, Cazalet! They’re good. And that’s just put me in mind of A S Byatt’s Frederica quartet, which are definitely worth reading.

        2. the cat's ass*

          Yes! You beat me to the Cazalet Chronicles-so good, they got me thru grad school! I heard Howard was writing a last one when she died.

          Also , Susan Howach’s The Rich are Different and Sins of the Fathers; the first is loosely based on the Cleopatra/Ceasar/Marc Antony/Octavious story, the Sins is the sequel. Pulpy but fun.

          1. pancakes*

            The Cazelet Chronicles are new to me and I’m adding them to my list. There’s a terrific 2016 article about Howard by Hilary Mantel in the Guardian, which I missed at the time – “Elizabeth Jane Howard: Hilary Mantel on the novelist she tells everyone to read.”

        3. Baffled Teacher*

          I loved the first couple of Cazalets but feel like they REALLY went off the rails as the century progressed. But as a realistic view into 1930s-1960s upper-middle-class English life/mores/attitudes they are FASCINATING.

    5. Lemonwhirl*

      Are you happy to read historical fiction – that seems to be one niche where there are series but not sure if you’d consider that genre fiction. It’s not my bag, but I know people love books like Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel or Bernard Cornwell’s series.

      You can also find autobiographical series, like James Herriott’s series about being a country veterinarian in 40s and 50s England.

      Also, I know you said no mysteries/no genre fiction, but you might consider Stephen King’s Mr Mercedes series. It’s character-driven and really compelling.

        1. Lilo*

          Patrick O’Brien, maybe?

          Long series tend to occur in genre fiction, unfortunately. I’m trying to think of a series that isn’t scifi, mystery, romance or historical fiction and am coming up short. Series really rely on worldbuilding to tie the series together and those tend to happen in genre fiction.

          1. pancakes*

            I’ve been meaning to read the O’Brien books for years – a good friend was reading them ages ago and would quote and recap some of the best bits for me in emails.

          2. Gray Lady*

            Yes! O’Brian is historical fiction in a way, but it’s literary, and very well written, and less about “let’s make you feel like you’re part of this historical story by inserting these characters in it” and more about “let’s create these characters and place them in this historical setting where they occasionally brush up against historical moments, but mostly are just living out their lives in that time period.”

            1. Astoria*

              Seconding the O’Brian recommendation.

              Also enjoyed the “Master and Commander” moo.

      1. DistantAudacity*

        Or Robert Caro’s amazing biography series on Lyndon B Johnson (and by extension, a lot of the people around him), which is up to 4? books now?

        But yeah, the way the publishing world works, I believe contracts for series is a key feature of the “typical” genres.

      2. Sue*

        I loved the Poldark books also the Wolf Hall trilogy. I’ve read all of Agatha Christie’s books also Sue Grafton’s alphabet series. Recommend Elena Ferrante’s books beginning with My Brilliant Friend and the 3 volume Caro bio of Robert Moses, The Power Broker.

      3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Ken Follett for historical epic series – the Knightsbridge series and the Century trilogy.

        Also maybe John Jakes? He wrote the North and South trilogy, among others. (Mostly in the 70s and 80s, so I’m not sure how well they held up.)

        1. The Other Dawn*

          I love both of those Ken Follett series. I’m really hoping he writes another in the Kingsbridge series. If I remember correctly, A Column of Fire suggests at the end that the next book would be about the pilgrims, possibly the Salem witch trials, etc.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I was thinking of you when I wrote the rec, haha.

            He has another book coming out in November, but this one looks unrelated. Modern political/spy thriller. (I’m curious though, putting it on my mental list.)

            1. The Other Dawn*

              Yes, I already added Never to my list. :)

              I’m waiting on the next book in the Special Agent Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, which will be August I believe. Also waiting on the next Matthew Corbett book from Robert McCammon, which will be 2022. I feel like I’m always waiting for the next book to drop from my favorite authors and it’s such a long wait. Once they’re released, I read them quickly and feel sad when I’m done. Then I wait all over again!

              1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                I have probably recommended these to you in the past, because our taste in books seems to overlap some, but – in the action thriller vein, you might like the Matthew Reilly series about Scarecrow and Jack West. Serieses? Series in the plural – each dude has his own. Scarecrow is more special forces meets James Bond, while Jack West is sort of a modern day Indiana Jones out to save the world.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        * John Cheever novels and short stories could be considered a “series” almost because he had his lane and kept to it. Many writers do. They may hack that path out of the wilderness themselves, it may not have existed before they had the vision. And they make it their own.

        My advice is to sample a lot of writers before you make a list of what you “don’t want.” You don’t know what you want till you find it sometimes.

        * Robert Oren Butler wrote “Hell” and it’s too much like Hell for me, but IS brilliant.
        And he wrote “Intercourse,” paragraphs of couples, real or fictional, w/their thoughts as they’re together. It’s a TRIP! Literary, but clever and funny at times too. His works seem like a series because he’s got a POV others don’t have.

    6. AcademiaNut*

      For some historical ideas – The Barsetshire novels, either Trollope’s or Thirkell’s (literary, life in rural England) The James Bond series (spy) or Horatio Hornblower (British naval history), Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster books (humour), the Scarlet Pimpernell series (French Revolution adventure).

      1. GoryDetails*

        Trollope’s Barsetshire series was one of my suggestions as well – I really love those books. The series starts with THE WARDEN, which is quite short (if that appeals!); the series really hits its stride with the second book, BARCHESTER TOWERS. The stories include common characters and settings, but each book features a new set of people and relationships, and while there are usually some romantic subplots the books aren’t “romance novels” proper – lots of great dialogue, period politics and social commentary, and more.

      2. Gray Lady*

        I’d take Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series over Hornblower. I got into O’Brian first, and at one point decided that I really needed to read Hornblower because everyone was always comparing the two, but to be honest, despite how beloved the Hornblower books are, I think they pale in comparison. I only finished a couple. To each their own, of course, but O’Brian’s characters are much more real and the stories are much more about the way life might have gone for people in that situation, rather than just a “series of exploits” of a naval character.

      1. pancakes*

        That would definitely keep you busy for a while if you decide to tackle it. I’ve only read Swann’s Way.

        Another possibility is Balzac. La Comédie humaine does have some recurring and interlinked characters. I started with Lost Illusions and soon tore through several other of the better-known ones, like Père Goriot and Cousin Bette and Eugénie Grandet. Not to everyone’s taste, definitely, but really interesting if you like history.

    7. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      (Hit post by accident!)
      Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of time
      Pat Barker’s Regeneration
      Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy
      Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey/Maturin books

    8. Cordelia*

      I see a few people have come up with great historical fiction ideas. If you like historical mysteries, I have really enjoyed the Shardlake series by CJ Sansom, he is a lawyer working in the times of Henry VIII. I learned a lot without really trying!

      1. GoryDetails*

        Second the recommendation for the “Shardlake” series – they are mysteries but they also include a LOT of historical and political and social detail, with side cases involving personal relationships of all kinds.

    9. Nancy*

      A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell; The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard; The Balkan Trilogy and its sequel The Levant Trilogy by Olivia Manning; Sword of Honour by Evelyn Waugh (the latter is a trilogy, though, so maybe too short). I’ve also been enjoying the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths, although that does have a crime element.

    10. Bree*

      Have you tried the Napoleon quartet by Elena Ferrante? I’ve only read the first two so far but would recommend, the writing style is gorgeous.

    11. Everdene*

      It might be worth looking at Alexander McCall Smith, he has written a few series about all sorts of things such as ‘No1 Lady Detectives’ set in Botswana or the residents of ’44 Scotland Street’ (including the delightful Bertie, age 5) set in Scotland.

      Jodi Taylor’s Chronicals of St Mary’s has elements of everything you said you don’t want, but the combination is fantastic. The books are about historians who investigate historical events in contemporary time. There is drama, humour, friendship, high emotion and you learn stuff about history.

      A bit left field but you might want to look at Maive Binchy books. These books are not a series per se but the same characters pop up in other books, most of her books are set in Dublin and are a joy to read.

      Final thought (most series I read would be crime/detective) the 4 Call the Midwife books are not fiction but a great read and interesting social history.

    12. Meh*

      Zero snark in this question.

      After eliminating those categories (and the additional ones listed in a sub thread) what remains? I think I must only search broad categories so I think most things fall into those. Genuinely curious about expanding my genre knowledge.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, me too.

        Most of what I read could be termed genre fiction, because I enjoy crime novels, particularly whodunits like most of Agatha Christie’s work, science fiction, and fantasy.

        I don’t like horror, too much gore, crime novels where the victims are children, or sex for its own sake.

      2. twocents*

        No I’m thinking the same. Eliminating all YA and all genre fiction leaves you with nonfiction basically. Even historical fiction is a genre.

        And the only series nonfiction I’ve read has been travelogues, but I greatly prefer fiction to nonfiction for my pleasure reading.

      3. Nela*

        I’d say most of Alison’s book recommendations (although not this week’s, which appears to be non-fiction). I think they’re generally what gets called literary fiction, though I’m not fond of the term.

        Most of what’s been recommended in this thread is genre fiction, which is not what the poster wants. I suspect they want literary fiction and are right that there are not many series within it.

      4. looking for book series recommendations*

        Sorry, yes, literary fiction is probably the category I should have specified. Books I’ve read recently and enjoyed include:
        Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
        The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
        Less by Andrew Sean Greer
        Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
        Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
        A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
        The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, you are literary fiction (I know it’s a maligned term and with some good reason, but it’s the easiest way to capture what’s left when you remove genre fiction). We have very similar reading tastes. The only literary fiction series I can think of other than the Edward St Aubyn books that have already been mentioned is Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (won the Pulitzer) and its sequel, Olive Again. Oh, and maybe check out Nancy Mitford, starting with the Pursuit of Love.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Oh and Nina Stibbe — Man at the Helm, Paradise Lodge, and Reasons to Be Cheerful. (I have only read Reasons to be Cheerful and it stands on its own, but after reading it I discovered there were two books about the same family that had come earlier.)

          2. ARJ*

            I read The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate this past year and really enjoyed them both :)

            1. pancakes*

              If you have any interest in the Mitford sisters I highly recommend Jessica Mitford’s Hons and Rebels, about their childhood. Her non-fiction and the book of her correspondence are well worth reading, too. She had a great eye for people and situations worth poking her nose into and she knew and corresponded with loads of interesting people – Maya Angelou, for example.

        2. Tobi*

          Based on your past reads, you might want to check out Jane Gardam’s “Old Filth “ trilogy. Gorgeous prose, complex characters, lots of illuminating twists of perspective.

        3. I can never decide on a lasting name*

          Looking for, you might like Louise Erdrich, especially her Justice trilogy (starting with The Plague of Doves). I was awed by it!

          I’m also thinking that there would be a lot to find from other Non-White authors (in the US or around the world), but also East European authors; it is interesting how the thread almost exclusively contains the names of White authors related to a West European cultural heritage.

          I have it in French and have gotten stuck in it due to that, but Amkoullel, the Fula boy by Amadou Hampâté Bâ is a fantastic literary memoire, continuing in another book.

          1. Reba*

            I thought of Louise Erdrich, too! Many of her books, even if not strictly series, are set in the same fictional area and have some recurring characters. Marilyn Robinson’s Gilead books are similar — they are not sequential, but have some of the same characters, same setting. I’m not a big Faulkner person but his novels are the same way. Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Bean Trees” has a sequel. And what about the Forsyte saga, if “great families”/upstairs-downstairs is of interest?

        4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          You might like Alison Lurie. Not really series, but you see main characters in one book putting an appearance in a later one, often with a few extra tantalising titbits of information.

          Edna O’Brien’s country girls trilogy too

          Muriel Spark too, greatly underrated author.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            And how could I forget Doris Lessing: there’s the Martha series (five books, series officially called the Children of Violence), and the two books the Fifth Child and Ben in the World about the same boy, and also the two books she wrote under a pseudonym The Diary of a Good Neighbour and If the Old Could… about the same people too.
            And the Golden Notebook is a stand-alone, but you can read it as five completely different books based on the same basic story, seen through different lenses each time.
            And it’s fantastic however you read it. The novel of the 20th century.

            1. pancakes*

              Somehow I’ve yet to read any Lessing, but I love the video of her reacting to the news that she’s won the Nobel Prize as she’s getting out of a taxi. Jenny Diski, who I rate very highly, lived with her as a troubled teen.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                She’d been out shopping, wasn’t waiting to find out! I laughed at that too, it was a very Doris Lessing moment.
                My daughter’s second name is Doris, for my grandmother but also for Lessing.

        5. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          Technically Never Let Me Go is part of the science fiction genre, so if you really liked that you might consider some of the more literary genre fiction. As someone above stated, most genres were conceived retroactively at some point, so classic examples (which may not have been written TO the genre) of some genres might be in your wheelhouse, or, like Kazuo Ishiguro, literary writers who delve into some light genre work. (Honestly, The Magicians read a lot like Never Let Me Go to me.)

          Apart from that, I know of a literary series, but the titles and author are escaping me for the moment. It was about several members of a family. The short story I read had “Banana fish ” in the title I think. It’s going to drive me crazy.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Is this for you or a gift?
        Becausesome examples of authors & titles that meet the criteria would help.

    13. lapgiraffe*

      I read Lonesome Dove last summer and won’t stop talking about it, love love loved it! And I am not a western person at all, LD transcends genre and is truly one of the great American novels.

      That said, it’s technically one in a series of four, and I’ve heard nothing but praise of the others, am considering picking them up this summer.

      1. AY*

        Lonesome Dove was the first thing that came to mind for me as well! Lonesome Dove definitely qualifies as literary fiction in my opinion. It won a Pulitzer! Doesn’t get more lit fic than that.

        Ali Smith has a season-based series that sounds up OP’s alley. I read Winter and am planning to read the rest. Very topical (brexit!) and sharply observed.

        For older books, you could try the Ripley books by Patricia Highsmith. Or Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. I read the first one last year and was pleasantly surprised. It’s set in 70s San Francisco with a huge cast and addresses every 70s topic you can shake a stick at.

        I would also highly recommend the Just City by Jo Walton and the sequels. It imagines what would happen if the Greek gods actually set up the society described in Plato’s Republic. Fantasy-ish but really more about Plato than anything else.

    14. Susie*

      The Patrick Melrose novels (5 book series) by Edward St Aubyn.
      These are not happy or easy stories but the writing is beautiful.

      1. looking for book series recommendations*

        Yes, great suggestion! Unfortunately I have already read them but this is in line with what I’m looking for.

        1. Joan Rivers*

          JOAN FRANK is the most grownup woman, w/the most wisdom and insight, I’ve read in a long time. Highly recommend.

    15. ten four*

      Miss Buncle’s Book by Burke is the first of a short series. It’s life in an English village with a little magical realism.

      1. SpellingBee*

        Love Miss Buncle’s Book and the sequels, but they’re by D.E. Stevenson. Speaking of Stevenson, several of her books are sequential, and characters frequently make appearances in seemingly unrelated books. The Mrs. Tim books are among my favorites.

    16. Teatime is Goodtime*

      Are you looking for fiction only? If not, I recently read All Creatures Great And Small and loved it. It is the first in a series, but I am told the next ones aren’t as good. Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence was lovely and also has sequels (that I haven’t read yet). Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        If you liked a year in Provence, and you like wicked parodies, look for “Cooking with Fernet Branca.”

        1. Weekend Warrior*

          “Cooking with Fernet Branca” is so good! As happens, the sequel “Amazing Disgrace” doesn’t have the same inspired lunacy.

      1. Clisby*

        And his other trilogies – the Salterton Trilogy and the Cornish Trilogy. They’re all good.

    17. Job Hunter*

      The Last Kingdom series by Bernard Cromwell is historical fiction about Alfred the Great and his descendants. You can find more information on Cromwell’s other books on his website.

    18. PhyllisB*

      What type books do you enjoy? That would help us make better recommendations. I’m not sure if these would appeal, but I love the Miss Julia series by Ann B. Ross (and there’s 23 in that series.) The Mitford series by Jan Karon is also great. These ate not romances (though a bit of romance shows up in the Mitford books.) Do you like books with a religious theme? Sharon Gulough Brown’s Sensible Shoes series is wonderful. Also, I’ve heard Ken Follett ‘s Pillars of the Earth series is wonderful. Be prepared to make a commitment with these, they’re about a thousand pages each. Also had a friend who loved Clan of the Cave Bear series. Can’t remember the author’s name at the moment. Hopefully some of these ideas help.

      1. Nerdgal*

        Pillars of the Earth is really good. That is the title of the first book of the three book series.

        1. 3L*

          There’s four Kingsbridge books now! A prequel, The Evening and the Morning, came out in 2020.

    19. Workerbee*

      Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series.

      Thirding (or fourthing) the Horatio Hornblower books. That man is a marvel.

      L.M. Montgomery books, Anne of Green Gables but look beyond as well, she had mini-runs as well as single stories that still felt like they belonged in her universe. These may be meant for young adults but I have retained life lessons learned therein and still return to them.

      Rosamund Pilcher and Maeve Binchy are authors I wouldn’t categorize as romance, though aspects are within. I would call them more “life” novels. For both authors, you’ll see characters pop up across books,

      1. allathian*

        Yes, I was going to say L.M. Montgomery. They were originally written as YA books, but today, they’re interesting from a historical point of view. There’s some romance, but it’s nowhere near the main theme of the books.

        I used to love Jean M. Auel’s Earth’s Children books as a teen (my parents never censored my reading as a kid, I got the first three books in that series for my 15th birthday), but she started repeating herself in the later books, and the older I get, the less I enjoy reading erotica, and I definitely don’t enjoy reading rape scenes as described in Clan of the Cave Bear.

    20. Mallory Janis Ian*

      There are Philip Roth’s Zuckerman novels, starting with The Ghost Writer (1979) and ending with Exit Ghost (2007); there are eight in all, I believe. The collection includes American Pastoral (1997) and The Human Stain (2000).

    21. Big Moody Curve*

      Nonfiction, but embellished for storytelling purposes: The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell. “My Family and Other Animals” is the first of the set. Describes his childhood as part of an eccentric family who moved from England to Greece because they were at loose ends and tired of endless rain.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, that one’s fun. There’s also been at least two quite decent TV adaptations. I also think that he managed to avoid the worst of colonialist thinking in his later books that mostly involved traveling all over the world to catch wild animals for Whipsnade Zoo and later his own zoo on Jersey. Some readers may find his at times humorous descriptions of native peoples and their ways of life unappealing, at times it feels like he’s describing the habits of the animals he’s observing rather than human beings. That said, he turns the same cynical eye on his own family as well.

    22. Small town*

      The Barbery Lane series by Armistead Maupin is great. Predominantly LGBT characters in a time of real change. Also the source of one of my favorite quotes “we have our biological families, then again we have our logical families ‘

      1. GoryDetails*

        Oh, yes! Maupin’s books are great – I adored that series, which I first encountered via TALES OF THE CITY.

      2. pancakes*

        Yes to these too! I read all the books a few years after seeing the mid-90s PBS series.

      3. looking for book series recommendations*

        I did enjoy Tales of the City so I will check this out. Thank you.

    23. GoryDetails*

      I’ve replied to second some of the other suggestions in this thread, including Sansom, Trollope, and Maupin, but wanted to add a historical-fiction series that I adore: Alan Gordon’s “Fool’s Guild” series, set in 13th-century Europe. It starts with THIRTEENTH NIGHT, which has a strong Shakespearian theme, taking the plot of Twelfth Night as historical fact and presenting a very intriguing re-imagining of that story. It introduces the jester Feste, who turns out to belong to the very politically-active Fool’s Guild, which uses traveling jesters, bards, and other entertainers as a vast spy network, sometimes passing information and sometimes acting to change the power structure to preserve the balance of power in the area. The dialogue between the main characters is snappy and sparkling, the scenes of jesters-in-training are delightful, there are loads of historical tidbits in the different locales… Very good series indeed!

    24. Uisce chick*

      I recommend Robertson Davies, a Canadian writer. He has sets of novels that go together rather than strictly being a series: The Debtford Trilogy, the Cornish Tirlogy, and the Salterton Trilogy (I re-read this one a lot). I think they would be literary fiction. They’re odd but great story telling.

    25. Green Mug*

      I loved the Master and Commander series and the Horatio Hornblower series. Both are British Navel based fiction.

      1. mcl*

        In a British Naval-based fiction vein (although this is fantasy), the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik is excellent. It’s the Napoleonic war, with dragons, written in the “olden times novel style” but it’s a modern series. It’s probably most similar to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Probably not for OP since it’s technically fantasy, but might appeal to others in this thread.

    26. Dusty*

      Ferrol Sams trilogy, Run with the Horseman, Whisper on the River, When All the World Was Young. Coming of age in rural Georgia between the two world wars, then college, then WWll. Funny, poignant, immersion into a very different time and place… Enjoy!!

    27. Falling Diphthong*

      The Master and Commander series, by Patrick O’Brian. Set around the early 1800s, charts the naval career of a British officer and his friendship with a doctor, with some Darwin parallels for the latter.

    28. pieforbreakfast*

      Kevin Baker “City of Fire” series centered on NYC, each set during a different period. I especially enjoyed “Dreamland” which focus on immigrants communities in the early 1900s.

      1. tra la la*

        Hit send too soon. Also, Mary Lee Settle’s Beulah Quintet? or Conrad Richter’s The Awakening Land series.

    29. udon the day away*

      Yet another vote for Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey & Maturin (i.e. Master and Commander) series. It’s more like one giant, extended, novel where each book is a chapter. And once you finish, you start it all over again – I’m currently in the middle of my third circumnavigation.

    30. Elsie*

      Are you interested in RL? Life didn’t get much realer than Ireland in the Troubles and Sean O’Casey wrote a series of 6 autobiographies, starting with ‘I Knock at the Door’ and ending in the 30s -50s.

    31. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Beverly Nichols (mid-20thc UK journalist) published several memoirs focused on different parts of his life. I’m in the US where it’s harder to stumble across them at used bookstores, so I only have two. “Merry Hall” and “Down the Garden Path.”

    32. Weekend Warrior*

      The Forsyte Saga is a cracking good read, with a couple of TV adaptations to enjoy as well (Damien Lewis, Gina McKee, etc. in the 2002 version).

      Seconding (thirding? fourthing?) others’ recommendation of Robertson Davies’ trilogies. Davies is a subtle, purposely ‘old fashioned’ writer, weaving his interests in motives, theatre, character, magic, Jung, small towns, fate, and more, into highly readable novels.

    33. *daha**

      Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series of mysteries. Wolfe is a private detective in New York City. He is too comfortable in his 3 story brownstone house to ever leave it on business. He stays in with his gourmet chef, his orchid keeper (10,000 plants in the rooftop greenhouse), and his assistant, Archie Goodwin. Goodwin does all the detective legwork, and he’s got a photographic memory so he can relay all conversations with witnesses and suspects exactly. Goodwin is also Wolfe’s administrative assistant – he maintains the germination records, the accounts, and narrates the cases. Stout started late but lived a very long time. All the novels are short by current standards. If a title has a number in it (like Three At Wolfe’s Door) it means there are three novelettes, rather than a single adventure.

    34. Fellow Traveller*

      What about Wendell Berry? He wrote a series of books all set in a fictional Kentucky town. I’ve only read Hannah Coulter, but I loved it. I hear Jayber Crow is also very good. I think his prose is fantastic.

    35. Mephyle*

      The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott, and after you’ve read the 4 books of the quartet, there is Staying On which is not so much a 5th book in the series, as a coda to the quartet. Genre: literary but highly readable.
      For anyone who decides to tackle it, I also highly recommend finishing off the experience of reading 4+1 novels by reading Scott’s biography.

    36. Person from the Resume*

      Elizabeth Jane Howard’s The Cazalet Chronicles: The Light Years, Marking Time, Confusion, Casting Off, and the final novel, All Change.

      It’s family saga “about the ways in which English life changed during the WWII years, particularly for women.” They follow three generations of a middle-class English family and draw heavily on Howard’s own life and memories.

      It’s extremely immersive. You’re sucked into the Cazalet’s family drama on the home front particularly the teen girls (at the start of the series).

    37. Bluebell*

      Another trilogy just popped into my mind: Amitav Ghosh. I loved Sea of Poppies, which I think was the first one. It deals with the opium trade.

  3. Aphrodite*

    Alison, I just love your cats! Have you ever thought about adopting a kitten to add to your family? I can imagine all of your cats watching in amazement as the new kitten tears through the house and jumps over them and tries to wrestle with them and crab puff them. What fun that would be.

    1. Aphrodite*

      I had three black cats. Athena died at age 15 about four years ago. Aphrodite was put down on Friday of Thanksgiving weekend last year, and my last, Amara, was put down in early March of this year. The latter two were 19 years old and ready to go. Then I moved into my own home two weeks after Amara’s death. It was an awful time.

      But about about three weeks ago I visited a semi-local shelter, about an hour away, to consider cats. And I am getting three in about 2-3 weeks. They are all black; I love all cats but especially black ones. I chose a French theme this time and Chloe is the mother; Dominique is the daugther and Armand is the son. Mom and Daughter had litters about two weeks apart, and the shelter is waiting for Dominique to wean her kittens before I take all three, who are very bonded, home with me. It will be wonderful to not have the new home, though I love it, feel so lonely.

      1. zaracat*

        Hi five to fellow black cat lover! Mine is Olivia – short for Olivia the Pirate Cat – she is a rescue cat with a small tear in one ear and I made up a backstory about her being a pirate cat with a gold earring which got torn out in a skirmish on the high seas. She likes to stick her head into water glasses and jugs to drink from them, and to curl up around my head at night (not great for my hayfever, sigh) and groom my hair as if I was another cat.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          My husband wanted two black cats (though he was open to orange too at my request). We went to the shelter to look, and I was poking around the lobby as I am not much of a cat person. Suddenly I could not move my head, because a wee black kitten had reached out and grabbed my bun. After a minute, I flagged someone down and said, “can you go in that room and tell the guy in the green shirt that his cat has his wife by the head out here?” And it turned out that she had a sister in sick bay.

          Their shelter names were themed to Pirates of the Caribbean. The sick bay sister was due to recurrent eye infections, so after a month of medical foster and different treatments (we couldn’t finalize her adoption until she was off their medical care), we just said “We hate this. She hates this. Can we just *cork pop noise* and be done with it?” So they took out her eye (and I think most of her brain) and she never looked back – her name is now Captain Kyna Whitepaws, SCOURGE OF LAND AND SEA, and she captains the good pirate ship Curiosity. She’s sweet as pie, dumb as rocks and totally fearless. Plus she thinks she’s a dog, so I (the dog lady) am her favorite person.

          Princess Kiara Scaredyfluff the Dark and Unseen, who originally grabbed me, rules my husband’s office with an iron claw but is the biggest chicken ever anywhere other than in that room.

          1. Seal*

            Ha! My black cat Rocco grabbed me by the hair when I was visiting the local animal “just to look” nine years ago. I took him home the next day.

        2. Lcsa99*

          Another black cat lover! Ours is Gallico the Great. :) just love how bright their eyes are with the black background

          1. Not a cat*

            We have Norman. 13, one eye and one ear, and delightful as you please. I WFH, Norman drops by my office, every day, at 8:30 AM sharp (He announces his presence by screaming “MAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!”) to guest star on video calls, edit copy or attack the keyboard.

      2. Nixologist*

        I also have three black cats!
        Hector was a found kitten twelve years ago. Yuki was a rescue from a house of chaos nine years ago. They have been married for nine years and are the most bonded pair.
        Last year I became responsible for an outdoor cat we named Odysseus. He is an scrapper and a scamp and the cuddliest sugar bug. He’s currently teaching the neighbor kittens how to kill birds.

      3. saf*

        We have only black cat – her name is Lamont. She is named for Lamont Cranston (the Shadow). Her tabby sister is Margo (the Shadow’s girlfriend in some of the stories.)

          1. Scarlet Magnolias*

            We have Django the black and white gigantic Ragdoll who loves everyone and lives for curiosity and play. Also Silhouette tiny and all black who lives on fear and food

  4. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going?
    As usual, this is not limited to fiction writing, feel free to talk about any kind of writing you wish.
    While the heat is turning my brain into that sloth from Zootopia, I did manage to get some work done on a long-running fiction project that may or may not end up becoming multiple books (not that I have any plans to get published at the moment). Got a large part of the main cast already together, now to pick up the final member.

    1. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      I finished my newsletter, and am looking at a pitch, but my play is so neglected! Think I need to decide on some structural issues then it’ll feel less hopeless

    2. Woolly Jumper*

      I’ve always wanted to do NaNoWriMo but November is always so busy- so I’m doing it now! I’ve started so many novels over the years and given up on them so my goal with this one is to just finish it, who cares if it’s awful. 5 days and 9.4k words in!

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Book 2 went to betas, so of course, I’m not looking at it but still making notes as I think of ways to improve it. Always while I’m meditating or doing something else that’s difficult to stop. :P

      Now that I’m finished with my certification studying, I can work on the book trailer and do some worldbuilding. I made a whole other document for that.

    4. OyHiOh*

      At work, I’ve been working on/learning grant writing this week. A whole different way of thinking about words!

      I am performing original works (spoken word) at an event tomorrow. My pieces are about 80% memorized and I am not working on them right now. Oops

      The gallery manager up the road is trying to convince me to do something for an open mic and their facility at the beginning of July. Game, but not sure what to do. Am leaning towards introducing George, a paper sculpture I finished recently.

      And I just volunteered my three best theater friends to stage a readers theater production of a script I wrote two years ago, in August. I think they’re up for it, but they need to check calendars before committing.

    5. Suzy D Harris*

      I’ve discovered London Writers Salon. They do a free zoom call at 8.00am in FOUR different time zones so there’s usually one I can fit into the day. I find the opening comments and the sense of being in a room with others really inspires me to keep sitting there. I usually manage about 1k words then feel I’ve done enough for the day!

    6. Not Australian*

      I’m re-editing a work from 2011 which is due to be republished soon, and I’m really struggling. I’m not sure whether it’s just because I’m ‘not feeling it’ as much as when I wrote it, or whether I’m noticing flaws that I didn’t spot at the time – nothing major, just some grammar choices that I wouldn’t make now. I can fix the latter, but there’s nothing to be done about the former except to keep plugging away. Fortunately there’s enough time to be able to reduce the scale of the task to manageable proportions; I’d originally hoped to be able to whizz through it quickly, but clearly that isn’t going to be my fate this time. Sigh.

  5. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gaming thread! What’s everyone been playing this week?
    As usual, this is not limited to video games, feel free to talk about any games you wish.
    In between chugging away at Hades (thank goodness I bought the Switch version so the battery life forces me to put the game down every once in a while) I’ve also been playing some more Stardew – finally had a duck swim in the pond!

    1. LDN Layabout*

      My friends sold me on FFXIV while it was sale. I say friends, now I’m sucked in I’m thinking they aren’t good friends XD I’ll probably follow my MMORPG pattern of going through the main quest, giving up when I get bored of not having new stories and then picking it up again years later after they release more expansions.

      So alternating between that and Genshin Impact, plus pre-registering for a game I was part of the Closed Beta for (Tears of Themis, which is a romance/detective game from the same people who do GI so there’s a gacha element but the closed beta was a lot of fun).

    2. twocents*

      Hoping to wrap up New Pokemon Snap today then play the games I got in the eshop sale. Probably Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion first, since it’s shorter, then Final Fantasy XII. I’m a little nervous for FF because I played the original back in the day and it was … fine. The flaws stand out more than the really memorable parts, but all the reading I’ve done has said this remastered version smooths over those problems, so we’ll see! For half price, I figured it was worth a shot.

    3. GoryDetails*

      Not playing anything myself lately, but I did see a mention in a blog of a game called “Tussie-Mussie” – that’s a kind of small bouquet of flowers, and the game itself apparently involves trying to build a bouquet using cards with different flowers on them, with a strong bluff-the-opponents aspect when choosing new cards.

    4. Nicki Name*

      Still chipping away at Octopath Traveler. I’ve finished all the chapter 2s and my characters aren’t high-level enough for the chapter 3s, so I’m doing some grinding and exploring.

        1. Nicki Name*

          I’m floored by the amount of effort put into the story and character details. Every single NPC has a little backstory so that a couple of the player characters can uncover their backstories, almost every one has items that can be bought or stolen, every one has distinct fighting abilities so they can be either fought directly or temporarily recruited into your part.

          OTOH, combat is really simple and grindy. Mostly you just stand there and keep hitting your enemies with whatever they’re weak to until they fall over. There’s a little bit of strategy in that you have to first break through an enemy’s defense, but mostly it’s about straightforward damage. At least it’s turn-based, which I strongly prefer to real-time combat.

          On balance, I’m glad I got it. (I mean, I’m still playing it…)

        2. twocents*

          Not Nicki (obv!), but I liked it. I think it helped for me to go in expecting that you’re basically playing 8 different characters whose stories don’t intertwine unless you decide to pursue the difficult post-game. Most of the disappointment I’d read related to people looking for the overlap, and it’s really not there. The 8 stories range from usual jrpg trope stuff to genuinely enjoyable, so if you like your Final Fantasies and Dragon Quests, you’ll probably like this.

    5. CatCat*

      I’ve been kind of obsessed with “Merge Dragons.” It’s maybe the dumbest game ever and the only point seems to be to merge things, but for some reason I find it really relaxing.

      1. Epsilon Delta*

        I became obsessed with that game for a month or two! Very relaxing and enjoyable :)

    6. Nynaeve*

      I’ve been enjoying What the Golf? It is possibly the most ridiculous game of all time and it makes me laugh.

    7. The Dude Abides*

      With MH2 dropping, I did some pre-ordering of some lands that had price points I thought were not going to happen.

      Also just got back some cards I sent off to an artist to get signed. During the pandemic, since most artists are at home as opposed to going to events, I’ve reached out to several directly about sending cards to get signed (and paying either their stated rate or a decent tip based on how many cards I’m sending).

    8. allathian*

      We finally got the PS5 we ordered in October. It was meant as a Christmas present for my son, but we got it just before his 12th birthday. On Saturday he persuaded me to play Minecraft with him again. I’m so clumsy and slow compared to him. I stopped playing altogether when they disabled the cheat where you could fly in survival mode, but we’ll see.

      1. LimeRoos*

        Yay minecraft! What I did to practice, because I was nowhere near as comfortable with it as the guys who introduced me to it, was to create my own little world on the easiest setting so I could explore and build without worrying about mobs or anything. So that’s an option if you want to explore it :-)

    9. Not Australian*

      Forge of Empires, which has so far kept me occupied since February and looks likely to last at least another year at the rate I play. I’m currently in the High Middle Ages and struggling to get the supplies I need to progress further, but it’s a game that really suits me – low stakes, with no loud sound effects, and you can opt out of fighting anyone if that’s what you prefer.

    10. LimeRoos*

      I’m still on Minecraft, made a little base on one of the further maps to just explore for this update so we don’t completely ruin Caves & Clifts part Deux. We have made a huge map, probably 30×30 or something like that, so made sure to make our labeling system clear this time, which I highly recommend. Where you start is Origin, then the cardinal directions get N1, N2 etc the further you get. Diagonals are N2W3, S1E2 etc. It’s been working out well.

      Hubby’s playing Ratchet & Clank on the PS5 and it is amazing. There is literally no load time, which is crazy for some of the in game mechanics they’re pulling off. Like, you tether to a rift, and zoom through it to a different platform and it is seamless. It’s a thing of beauty.

      Side note – I’m looking forward to Metroid Dread. It’s going back to the side scrolling 2-D of the original and handheld Metroids. I haven’t played since Echoes, since I didn’t like the controls for Prime 3 on the Switch. Though I did play Fusion & Zero Mission (which is my favorite) on the 3DS. Dread takes place after Fusion and looks to be pretty interesting.

    11. KristinaL*

      I wrote a vocabulary game, but I’m not sure it’s really much of a “game”. I’m mostly trying to make it less of a pain to learn vocabulary.

  6. Bibliovore*

    Content Alert: Grief- recap- husband of 30 years died suddenly 5 weeks ago.

    I cannot stop crying, Wailing. It hits me at odd moments. I couldn’t even tell you what the trigger is. I cry until I can barely breathe.
    I was worried about the dogs but they seem to be getting used to the noise and barely look up.
    I live in a freestanding single family home.
    I ran into my back door neighbor as I was walking my dog in front of my house.Her dog is one if our playmates. She was concerned about my dog ( who was spayed a few days ago. Well look at me being an adult in my life and doing the next right thing)
    I said she had a rough day but is fine ( some puking)
    She said oh, we were worried because we heard her crying and howling last night.
    I was puzzled as I hadn’t left her alone in the three days since the surgery.
    Then I realized. Me. That was me. No filter, I blurted out that was me.
    Awkward moment. She said of course. Mumbled hope things are getting better. I said thanks. I moved down the sidewalk.
    I might be the only one on earth who thinks this is funny,
    Now I am super self conscious.
    I guess the noise I make can be called keening.
    I am thinking of just blasting rock and roll to mask the sound.
    Any other suggestions would be welcome.

    1. Maxie*

      I am sending you big hugs.
      You get to cry and howl for as long as you need. You’ve been through a serious trauma.

    2. Teatime is Goodtime*

      I say keen and wail all you want, it has only been 5 weeks and they can deal. Also, the culture where I now live has a great ability to laugh about stuff like you described–finding grand humor in the face of negativity while still feeling how negative it is–without ever detracting from the terribleness or unhappiness of the situation. It has been freeing for me to learn to do that a little bit and I hope my experience can give you permission to feel those feelings fully too.

      I’m so sorry for your loss. I, an internet stranger living far away, have been thinking of you these past weeks. You are not alone.

    3. WoodswomanWrites*

      You lost your husband, and you get to cry as long and as loud as you need to. The neighbor will be fine. I am so deeply sorry for what you’re going through. I’m glad you are sharing here. I know I am just one of many long-distance strangers who care about you.

    4. Batgirl*

      You are doing the work of grieving. It’s beautiful and unstoppable and hard and impossible. It’s still better done than not done. If you are doing some grieving every day, you will get through this. My extended family are so puzzled and intrigued at how well we are doing after a sudden loss in my immediate family. They not understand how it will always be there and it has to be managed. They anaesthetise it with alcohol. You might be an example to your neighbor if she’s never heard keening before (I always think the word is so beautiful) because few of us escape the need for grief.

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        >You are doing the work of grieving. It’s beautiful and unstoppable and hard and impossible. It’s still better done than not done. …. it will always be there and it has to be managed …. few of us escape the need for grief.

        Heartfelt compliments on your phrasing which is so, so well worded. I wish I had written it myself. I may clip your paragraph and keep it nearby as consolation during my own current grief journey.

    5. allathian*

      I’m so sorry for your loss.

      You’re mourning your beloved husband, and you get to do that any way you need to without feeling self-conscious about it.

      That said, it seems like your house has awful sound insulation, if your keening was loud enough for her to feel concerned… Or was she walking by your house and you had the windows open?

      1. Anonosaurus*

        Oh my dear. I was widowed five years ago and although I rarely howl now, I did so many times. Frankly I didn’t give a flying fornication who heard me. It is pure pain and expressing it is the only approximation of relief available. Nobody who has not experienced it gets to judge you about the expression of it.

        1. allathian*

          Agreed, and I’d go further than that, even people who have experienced bereavement don’t get to judge how others grieve.

    6. Anoningrief*

      I lost my fiancee 10 years ago and I still have waves of grief. Mine are mostly for what might have been. Just allow yourself to go through it. Taking to someone helps.

      Make sure you have told yourself that you are allowed to feel these feelings. I didn’t for a long time and instead stuffed them down. Grief looks different for everyone, there is no one right way. Give yourself grace and the freedom to just feel what you feel.

    7. Jean (just Jean)*

      I’m so sorry for the loss of your husband. It’s an enormous change after 30 years.
      Do you have a sound-muffling location in the interior of your house (basement bathroom? walk-in closet)? Or can you check that the windows are closed? You shouldn’t have to monitor your grief based on the neighbor’s reactions but it is unsettling to think that private sounds are being overheard.
      On a lighter note, your neighbor’s reaction gave me a rueful smile. It is kind of funny.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      When I lost mom, I often bawled in my car for the 40 minute drive to or from work. I probably should have pulled over more often. You do what you need to do to survive. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    9. Dog and cat fosterer*

      If you just got your dog spayed she was probably subconsciously listening for signs of your dog, and could hear you even if it is very muffled to anyone else. She knows and cares for your dog and you, and was maybe hoping to offer help if your dog was recovering badly. Unfortunately there are no pills from the vet or calming sprays to help you. We hear what we want to hear, and she heard an opportunity to support you through your dog, which unfortunately was wrong and made you self-conscious. I don’t know if this advice is helpful, but other people won’t be listening out for your dog so I wouldn’t worry about it. Grieve as much as you can.

    10. Bumpjumper*

      You are in the tsunami days. Those waves will eventually spread themselves out, but for now, catch your breath when you can, let the waves hit when they need to, and don’t worry about anyone else. Your neighbor is obviously a caring person, or they wouldn’t have worried about your dog, and they might be worried that they hurt your feelings, but it will be ok, and someday they will be in the tsunami themselves, and they’ll get it. Be gentle with yourself, and wail all you need to. It is an important part of grief. I send good thoughts and a virtual hug if you want one.

      1. Filosofickle*

        Yes, tsunami days. I wrote a haiku about that this week in my little IG series:
        aftershocks rumble
        cracking wider every day
        beware tsunamis

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Tsunami days. This is a perfect description. Yes, these overpowering waves of pain and sorrow. It’s super important to FEEL the feelings. It’s feelings that go unexpressed that later tear at our health and can even damage relationships. This is definitely hard, hard work. But I kind of think of it as “doing my homework”. If I deal with feelings as they occur, I am better off in the long run.

        You could cover it with some loud music as you mention here. I am a fan of looking at music for how it causes me to feel. Some tunes can energize me. Other tunes can soothe me. Some tunes feel like they go straight to my soul. Other tunes go directly to my angry buttons. And there were days where I wanted LOUD ANGRY music because anger is also a part of grief. (There are still days I want angry music!)
        My friend lost his bro. Some nights if you go past his house you will hear the loudest and angriest music ever made, even though the doors and windows are all closed. Yep, he’s got it ripping. Plenty of people do this. If you met my friend, you’d probably think he is a super kind person to talk with. The angry music does not fit with what you see. This is grief.

        Alcohol, tobacco, sugar and caffeine can really mess around with our emotions and in some cases actually block our ability to move through our emotions. On the plus side, you may not care what you eat/take in or even if you do eat, I know I didn’t care. Since I did not care I used that as a reason to just watch what I was doing with foods and other things. Load up on veggies and fruits and proteins, this will help. I did not care if I ate salad so I ate some salad daily but I ate it robotically, not caring in the least. NO major miracles but it will be a supportive activity.

        All that said, I want to say as gently as possible, you are five weeks out. You have come a long way in five weeks even though it probably does not feel like much at all. You will keep progressing, you will keep moving though this. I feel very comfortable saying this because you talk with us each week and you are very articulate. People who can put into words that is going on are the people who can make out much better. I think in pictures for many years and I did not have any words. I had to teach myself and watch others express things. I realized if I did not learn how to put things into words I would remain locked in my own thoughts. I did not wanna be locked in.

        Do you take walks? Perhaps you can find a walking buddy who would walk with you for a short bit every other evening or something like that. If you think of grief as a whole bunch of wild energy, then it starts to make sense that the energy needs to be dispersed somehow. Some people clean their house to help burn up that energy. I have another friend who lost her hubby this past winter. Her house is now as neat as a pin. I have never seen it so neat. I do understand that I don’t sound like I am answering your question about wailing- but if you think about all the energy that goes into those tears this might resonate with you.

        Under the heading of life lessons- this can be a time where you learn what actually comforts you. Keep looking at simple things like a cup of tea or a soak in a hot bath and similar ideas. Once you learn what seems to help, you can use it over and over for the rest of your life. I really place a high value on a hot pack on my shoulders. It’s not a waste of time to look at this stuff.

    11. justabot*

      I’m so sorry. Megan Devine’s book “It’s okay that you’re not okay” is one of the best books on grief I have come across.

    12. Myrin*

      Oh Bibliovore, I’m so incredibly sorry for your loss! I’m sending you heartfelt jedi hugs if you wish to accept them.

      Also, I’m sure your neighbour felt very awkward (and maybe even downright bad!) that she asked and won’t think any less of you (how could she? You lost your husband last month!), so while I understand the instinct, I don’t think there’s anything you need to feel self-conscious about. You’re allowed to grieve.

    13. Lizy*

      If my husband of 14 years died suddenly I’d be a freakin’ hot mess. 30 years? I’m so sorry. Wail and keen all you need to – there’s a reason so many cultures have keening as a part of the grieving process.

      Also, I hope you’ve found – or will find – someone to do that quilt for you.

    14. NoRegularPosterName*

      Oh Bubliovore, you get to keen & grieve in whatever way you need! If you feel the need to disguise your sounds, then play music that you love (don’t need to blast it though unless you want to!) As a widow of almost 8 years (after 38 years married), I can attest that it will get better but it will take time. You deal with your grief however you need to, and let others deal with their feelings about it in their own.

      1. Bibliovore*

        Thank you for sharing. I had a check in with my GP yesterday. They found me a counselor to talk to. (not sure about the talking part, does it count if all I do is cry for 50 minutes?) I do have moments of gratitude- like the 36 years we had together (34 married, had to do some math) That I have a roof over my head, food in the fridge, clean clothes, the dogs, a good job.

        1. c-*

          Yes. Yes it does. Therapists have tissue boxes on their desks for just this reason.
          Please go. Talk if you can, cry all you need to. Crying in company is better than crying alone.
          Sending you big hugs if welcome.

        2. OyHiOh*

          It absolutely does count if you cry for most of a session! Its time and space to be with what you’re feeling and experiencing. Over time, they’ll help you with tools and skills to live with grief but it’s only been a handful of weeks. Frankly, I’m impressed that you have clean clothes! At that stage, I had friends coming over to “help” do the laundry. I also had friends and family doing online grocery shopping, with delivery. It was about 4 months before I went to a grocery store and that shop was incredibly difficult. All the things I bought for Mr Oy, that my kids and I didn’t eat. I still have a jar of salsa that I’d bought for him before he got sick, and never opened.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          One of the things I “had” to learn was that sometimes what we really need is for another person to say, “I see. I see you crying and in pain.” Just to be seen and feel heard is that important.

          A good counselor will help guide you and you will probably say a few things. My aunt went for counseling after she lost her hubby. It was not any big miracle at any given appointment. It was more like check-ins what’s going on this week and how is your self-care doing this week? Then they would add an idea or two to the mix of things she was doing. You won’t need to add a ton of stuff because you are plenty busy now, it’s more like being strategic about what you are choosing to work on each day.

    15. Not A Manager*

      Keen away. Please don’t censor your expression of emotions, especially in your own home. When my first husband died, I remember that physical pain of grief but also the physical release of being able to express it. I think it would have really harmed me to feel that there was no safe space or time to mourn in that instinctive way.

      I’ve been following your posts. My heart is with you. This time feels unbearable (and yet, as you say, there are these weird periods of normal functioning). I wish I could say something other than, this will become more bearable over time – which can feel kind of double-edged when you’ve lost a loved one.

      My husband died sixteen years ago. Tomorrow my sons and I will visit the cemetery (and then we will take their step-father out for dinner). A few weeks after he passed, I had a dream that my children and I were on a boat sailing away from the coast, and my husband was standing on the shore. In a way that’s true. What I can tell you, sixteen years along this particular journey, is that I love and honor my husband and carry him in my heart. I have a different life and new relationships, but my husband is there with me, sometimes so quietly that I don’t notice him. But sometimes when I need him, he will step out to speak to me in his voice, or he will visit me in a dream, and I cherish those moments.

      I’m sending you all good thoughts and caring at this very difficult time.

      1. Bibliovore*

        Thank you for your experience, strength, and hope. It IS hard to see the other side. I keep trying to remember “hurt people, hurt people” and not to be an asshole. (that is my mantra when I am on the phone with the insurance representative who seems unable to deal with death of a spouse. Isn’t this the job of life insurance people?)

    16. Maxie's Mommy*

      It was explained to me that not only I was grieving a person but also my expectations of the future—our retirement, travel plans—all the things we had talked about over the years. So complicated.

    17. Wishing You Well*

      I’m very sorry for the loss of your husband. I cannot imagine…
      Sending healing thoughts.

    18. Elizabeth West*

      I’m sure they’re concerned about you too. Playing music is fine if you’re feeling self-conscious about it. But I wouldn’t worry too much about bothering them.

      I don’t have any other advice except there is no way around grief but through. I would like to offer you my condolences and a big *HUG*. I’m thinking of you and sending you love. <3

  7. djfo23eo93*

    I recently mishandled an interaction with a member of a structured social group with many active members that I co-manage, and need some advice going forward about how that plays out in the group going forward.

    Without going into lengthy details, I had met them individually a few times years ago. The last time, I had a negative impression about their behavior and faded out of being in touch. Now, a few years later, the individual has joined the social group that has dozens of active members. I shared my negative impression of them with others in the group in the context of a leadership role and as time went on, I didn’t feel honest about what I had done. I eventually told them what I had said and why, and in that conversation learned I had misunderstood our interaction years ago. They were understandably angry. I apologized for damaging their reputation and promised to speak with everyone I had talked with to explain my mistake, and did so.

    Committed to owning my hurtful behavior with this person and doing my best to clean it up, I offered a call where they could ask me whatever they wanted about whom I’d said what to, and tell me how they felt. I apologized again, listened to their feedback and took to heart what they said about how I had harmed their relationships with others. We wrapped up by thanking each other for talking and agreed not to bring it up again, an ending that’s as well as could be expected in a difficult and unpleasant situation.

    I know I messed up, and I don’t need to be told that here again. My question is for anyone who has been in a comparable situation where you wronged someone, but you have to continue to see them regularly as part of the same organized social group you see regularly. I won’t approach them, leaving that decision to them about whatever boundary they need. Other than that, how did you navigate the social awkwardness? Did you step back not join the group for a while? Something else?

    1. RagingADHD*

      I don’t have an exact parallel, but I have had a couple of situations where someone was understandably angry with me over doing what I believed (and still believe) was the right thing.

      I couldn’t avoid them without it becoming a spectacle and giving the impression that I was angry with them or was shunning them, which was not the case. So I just decided to not be the one to make it wierd.

      I went about my normal routine and was cordial to them in passing if we happened to encounter each other. I didn’t force myself onto them, didn’t avoid them, just greeted them as I would anyone else and kept moving. I did try to make sure that they always had the option to avoid me, if they wanted to.

      It was a bit of playacting at first, because I did feel awkward inside. But it soon became quite easy with practice. I reminded myself that the purpose was to make the situation easier for them, by not creating friction.

      I’m not sure what the circumstances were, but you seem to be giving yourself a lot of guilt over a sincere misunderstanding. If they were behaving in ways that gave you a bad impression — well, that’s just part of the reality of living in the world. Our behavior impacts other people, and they are entitled to form opinions based on it.

      True, you didn’t have the whole story, but if someone says and does things that alienate people, of course folks aren’t going to stick around for the whole story.

      It sounds to me like you were acting in good faith throughout, and particularly extra-conscientious about clearing up the misunderstanding. You’ve done what you can, and as far as I can see have nothing to reproach yourself for.

      1. djfo23eo93*

        It’s the going forward part that I’m focusing on with my question here, and your comments about your comments about how to navigate the inevitable social interactions are very helpful.

        (And since you mentioned it, your impression of events is pretty accurate. The alienating behavior was real. The reason why was the misunderstanding.)

        1. Lilo*

          I’m sticking with my interpretation here and I think you need to stop apologizing. I mean I’m assuming the behavior must have been pretty bad if it left that kind of impression on you.

          1. djfo23eo93*

            That’s behind me now. Instead, I’m seeking guidance with any suggestions on moving forward in awkward social interactions.

    2. Lilo*

      I mean this is really hard without specifics, but if someone made you uncomfortable or rubbed you the wrong way to the point you felt the need to dustance yourself and warn other people about them, does their interpretation of the situation really change what happened? I’m having trouble judging if what you actually did was wrong. Your comfort and perception matters, even if it wasn’t intended.

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        Eh, I can see this person’s side. Per the post, the person rubbed OP the wrong way once years before and OP went out of the way to poison an entire social group against this person. The bad behavior would have to rise to a pretty high bar for me to think that that is okay. And OP didn’t have any recent experience to confirm the bad impression when the disclosure was made. I wouldn’t want someone poisoning the well for something I did they didn’t like years ago without talking to me about it first.

        For OP, there’s not much to do except be cordial and distant. Maybe time will mend things or at least make them less awkward.

        1. Lilo*

          True, I just know there’s this pressure, specifically on women to give people, particularly men, the benefit of the doubt even when we’re made to feel uncomfortable. This happened to me once at a job where we had a coworker who kept touching our hair. The guy kept saying he was just playing aroubd.So I want to emphasize that someone else’s interpretation or intentions sometimes do not matter, the impact does

          1. twocents*

            If djfo was just relaying a statement of fact (he kept touching my hair despite being asked to stop, and I’ve distanced myself since) then I don’t think they’d be in this situation now.

        2. RagingADHD*

          We also don’t know what OP actually said in terms of “poisoning the well.”

          If, for example, the discussion was about giving the newcomer a volunteer role and OP said, “I’m not sure that would work, he seemed pretty flaky when I knew him,” or “Well, I wouldn’t want to put him in that role because he seemed to sow conflict and hostility,” then I’d say those were just fair observations, even if OP might have judged the original situation differently with all the facts.

          Or if he came up in conversation and OP said, “Meh, I dealt with him before and I didn’t care for him.” That’s not poisoning the well, it’s just an opinion.

          If it was the classic “Schrodinger’s Autist” scenario where he was benignly awkward and they went around telling people he was a creepy predator for no reason, or someone lost a valuable possession and OP believed the guy was a thief and said so, then yeah — OP did wrong.

          But the way OP is characterizing the situation, it doesn’t sound that way to me.

          1. Lilo*

            Exactly. If djfo accused the guy of stealing when he didn’t, yeah wear that sackcloth. But if it’s more an opinion or “he made me uncomfortable”, then stop beating yourself up.

    3. djfo23eo93*

      As an update and to my surprise, the person contacted me to say they apologize for the behavior that initially made me uncomfortable and they accept my apology and forgive me for how I responded. That will make the future social gatherings less awkward for sure.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        That is good news!
        The best advice I had heard about reconnecting with people is to find common ground. Find things to talk about that you know the other will agree with you or share with you.

        My husband had a customer who was angry. Some of that anger could have been justified but my husband did not appreciate the attitude/yelling. There was a pause in the conversation. He noticed a picture on her desk of a bunny. “Oh, you have a bunny? So do me and my wife.” [Common ground and something occurring in present time] They chatted about bunny antics. When the conversation resumed about the main problem the woman’s demeanor was TOTALLY different. My husband was able to resolve things.
        Not the same as your example, but generally speaking, common ground in present time can be a powerful tool for reconnecting with others.

        1. djfo23eo93*

          That is a good example of common ground. It speaks to finding one’s own humanity and recognizing it in the other person as well. I think what helped me in this instance was my willingness to be vulnerable and take in what the other person was saying even though it was not a pleasant conversation.

  8. Eighteen thirty nine*

    My MIL is passive aggressive AF and I need help on how to deal with her! Anyone got any tips? We unfortunately use her for child care 1 day a week and will need to do so for a while yet (financial reasons). My family live several hours away so cannot do childcare.

    For example, we gave our baby a longer name e.g Elizabeth but we call her by Beth (she may want to be known as Elizabeth when older, so rather than call her Beth, we decided on the longer name) but MIL will ALWAYS use the longer form of her name despite nobody else calling her that.

    Does anyone have any advice on how to cope with a MIL like this?

    1. Lemonwhirl*

      Give yourself the gift about not caring about as much of this stuff as you possibly can. I try to identify “the hills I’m willing to die on” – and mine are usually related to safety. (When the situation directly involves my kid himself and his behaviour, these hills are also related to kindness and some to manners.) I personally would not fight this battle unless my MIL was calling my kid something like “Stinky Boy” in public when he was of school-going age. (Because then it’s about clearly embarrassing him and risking that his private nickname becomes a school yard taunt.)

      It’s unfortunate that your MIL uses your daughter’s full name when you call her something else, but the less you can make it about you and what you want, the happier you are going to be. Try to find the kindest lens – maybe your MIL is trying to establish a special connection with her granddaughter. Maybe your MIL really loves the name you chose.

      Good luck – I know these situations are hard, and I’ve really found that using the kindest lens and picking my hills reduces my stress levels and makes me much happier.

    2. LDN Layabout*

      I’m sure you have other examples, but if the worst she’s doing is calling your daughter by the literal name you gave her, and she’s providing 20% of your weekly childcare then ‘coping’ feels over the top.

    3. WS*

      Is your baby harmed in any way by being called two different names? No? Then it doesn’t matter. If your MIL feels more powerful by asserting herself over things that don’t matter, that’s fine, you can be gracious and allow it. Much better than if she asserts herself over things that do matter, like vaccinations or seatbelts.

    4. Batgirl*

      What are some other examples? I admit I’m struggling to see how the name is so problematic. Your daughter will learn that there’s more than one version of her name this way. If it really bugs you a lot you can respond with “It’s actually Beth” or “We’re teaching her that her name is Beth for now, if you wouldn’t mind”, very cheerfully every time she does it. Every time. Cheerfulness is a great protection. I sympathize if she’s extremely subtle but the attitude is still *there*. I’ve experienced that. My advice in those situations is to take everything she says literally: “Why yes, it is nice to take things easy while you look after my child!” And ignore the subtleties so convincingly that she doesn’t think you see them.

      1. Eighteen thirty nine*

        We call her Beth, cards are from us + Beth, we talk about Beth in conversation and MIL always says Elizabeth in reply. It seems disrespectful?

        Other examples: the wedding outfit (my partner and I are getting married next month) we have chosen isn’t her style so she has bought (what I would call old fashione d and too warm for summer) outfit. Table sittings are not to her satisfaction so she keeps suggesting where people could sit, but she doesn’t know my family so they are all downgraded from the top table etc in her versions

        If we spend time with PIL then it’s never enough time. If I mentioned I’m tired it’s because I’m too fussy with Beth and need to put her down more so I can sleep/do chores.

        1. WS*

          Again, I can see how this would wear you down, but it’s not important. She can suggest what she wants and wear what she wants, but that isn’t your problem. Smile and ignore.

        2. LDN Layabout*

          It sounds like you’re so exhausted from the nit-picking that you’re no longer able to differentiate between ‘this is a genuine issue’ and ‘literally anything she does is a problem’.

          Look at your first example. You’re upset that a grown woman chose a different outfit for herself than the one you wanted her to wear. You have no criticisms beyond it’s old-fashioned (not your problem) and too warm (not your problem) so it’s clearly not inappropriate to wear.

          For the rest? Keep making your own decisions. Stick to them. You and your partner are a unit (and if your worry is that your partner gives into them, that’s a partner problem not an in-law problem).

        3. allathian*

          I’m sorry, but you lost me at the wedding outfit. A bride may have some say in what her bridesmaids wear, if and only if she’s willing to pay for their dresses, but trying to dictate what other guests wear, no freaking way! In this I’m absolutely and totally on your MIL’s side.

          You do the table sittings your way and make it clear to her that your parents will be at the top table and if she doesn’t want to sit with them, she can seat herself at another table. But you can always remind her that weddings aren’t just about spending time with people you already know, but also about getting to know your in-laws, and it would make you so happy if she would spend some time with your parents.

          Let her call your child Elizabeth if she wants to do that, it’s not going to hurt your baby. Concede this and she can feel she’s won something and maybe she’ll be less fussy about some other things. She just might change her ways when Beth starts talking and says “Grandma, why do you call me Elizabeth? Everyone else calls me Beth.” Or else Beth will just shrug and think that it’s just grandma’s way.

          It would be a different story if Beth was the name on the birth certificate and she insisted on calling her Elizabeth.

          She’s been a parent too, and while many things have changed since the time your husband was a baby, she does have a point, you don’t need to have body contact with your baby 24/7.

          1. D3*

            Maybe I’m off base, but I thought she was talking about the wedding outfit *for Beth to wear* not for MIL to wear?
            Went back to reread and it could be interpreted either way. But OP buying a dress for Beth seems more likely to me.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yeah, I originally read it as the mother-in-law trying to choose a new outfit for the OP or the daughter, not for herself. It’s not clear (and could be wildly different situations, depending).

            2. Clisby*

              Doesn’t matter. If the MIL bought the outfit for herself, of course she should wear it. If she bought it for OP or Beth, just put it aside and ignore it.

              1. RagingADHD*

                Yes, either way it is a non-existent problem. What MIL wears is her own business. If she wants to buy extra outfits for the baby, then they just don’t get used, or they get used on a different occasion.

              2. D3*

                It matters because assuming that OP is telling her MIL what to wear and saying “I’m on MIL’s side” can be hurtful if it’s an incorrect assumption. Allathian jumped all over this based on a leap that probably isn’t correct.
                How we speak to people and the assumptions we make about them always matter.

                1. allathian*

                  I definitely read it as the OP wanting to tell the MIL what to wear. It didn’t even occur to me that the MIL would pick clothes for Beth for the wedding. Naturally it’s up to the parents to decide what their child is going to wear to the wedding, certainly if the child is too young to dress themselves (I wouldn’t force a tomboy preteen or teenage girl to wear a dress at a wedding, never mind young people who are exploring their gender identity in a more profound way).

                  I’m sorry if I jumped to conclusions.

        4. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

          Just ignore it. And with the wedding outfit – that is a non problem, as for the wedding seating, her son, your future husband should be stepping in and telling her that you appreciate her input but you both have it covered. The rest is a waterfall of annoyance (I have an ex-mil much the same) but anything that doesn’t harm, just let it roll over your back. It
          Is hard but you will be much happier. But seriously, your partner needs to step up when needed.

          1. Is it tea time yet?*

            I agree with Haven’t picked a username yet, and would add that anything about the wedding (AND any similar large plans in the future) should be on a strict need-to-know information diet. For instance, when you are planning Beth’s first birthday party, invite MIL, but all she needs to know is when and where to show up. As a guest, she doesn’t need to have details about who else is coming, what the cake is, etc.

            If your MIL likes to offer unasked-for advice, just say “OK” and continue to do your thing without discussing it with her. This applies to parenting, life decisions, parties, how you wear your hair, whatever. Be like a duck and let that waterfall of annoyance (love the imagery!) just roll off your feathers.

            In short, good, clear boundaries make better relationships. Your partner absolutely needs to step up and do most of the enforcing of those boundaries though, since MIL is their parent.

        5. Lizy*

          Eh you picked Elizabeth for a reason. If you wanted her named Beth… then name her Beth. As a kid, I was called Beth by one side of the family and Elizabeth by another and Liz at school and Lizzy by friends.

          As for the other stuff… honestly it seems like you’re nitpicking. Let her pick out her own outfit. The rest? Let it go.

        6. Dark Macadamia*

          I think you’re hugely BEC with her right now and need to learn to let go of the things that don’t matter. It’s okay – most people have MIL conflicts sometimes because it’s a very weird dynamic to adjust to, having someone be kind of your mom but definitely NOT your mom at the same time!

          She’s literally calling your child the name YOU chose. If it bothers Beth someday you can support her in asking MIL to stop, but until then it doesn’t matter. You said yourself that you chose this name so she could go by Elizabeth if she wants – are you going to be resentful of your own kid if this happens? Are you going to see it as MIL’s “victory” instead of respecting Elizabeth/Eliza/Betty’s choice?

          The only rule you get to have about what a guest wears to your wedding is that they can’t wear a wedding dress. If she looks frumpy or gets too warm that’s her problem.

          Other people’s opinions on how you plan your wedding or how long you visit and why just… don’t matter. Stop including her in those conversations. Get your partner on board with your boundaries and stick with them.

          1. RagingADHD*

            And you know what? Sometimes MILs or other guests do show up in actual wedding dresses. And even then, the marriage is still valid and nobody’s bleeding or on fire.

            It’s annoying but nobody can actually “ruin your wedding” with their wardrobe choices.

            1. Figgie*

              When our niece got married, her mother and her stepmother both showed up in white, wedding dresses. My niece said nothing and just had the photographer change the colors of the dresses to a light gold and a beige and when they asked about the color, told them that the photographer said that was how they photographed in the light. :-)

              No one thought less of the bride, just the mother and stepmother. Plus the bride was young and is very attractive. Seeing the pictures with all three of them in wedding dresses just made the mother and stepmother look much less attractive in comparison

              1. WellRed*

                Bad enough to have one mother like this, but two?! All you can do is laugh at people like this.

              2. Clisby*

                If I had been the bride, I’m not sure I could have stopped myself from laughing at my mother and stepmother. Niece rocks.

        7. I'm A Little Teapot*

          You need boundaries. You currently don’t have boundaries, or you’re not enforcing them, which is why you’re being annoyed by all the stuff that you should let roll off your back. It doesn’t matter if she uses the baby’s full name, or ends up looking old fashioned at the wedding or is too warm? Those don’t matter. You do need to set and enforce boundaries around the complaints. Once you have boundaries in place and feel like you can enforce them, you’ll start to feel better.

    5. Cordelia*

      How to cope? I’m assuming there are other examples other than the name thing, but if that’s it you probably need to let it go, and appreciate that she is saving you loads of money by providing free childcare. Perhaps also think of her as another loving and supportive adult in your child’s life rather than someone you “use” for child care.

    6. MissB*

      My coworker goes by a name that is the shortened version of a longer formal name. Let’s assume it’s Beth and Elizabeth.

      She tells this funny story of her first day in Kindergarten and her teacher calling her Elizabeth. She says her name is Beth (because that’s all she’s ever been called) and her teacher says no, your name is Elizabeth. She ran home crying.

      So basically your MIL has saved your child from the trauma of learning her full name on the first day of school.

      (I didn’t make that up, my coworker really learned her full first name on her first day of kindergarten and really ran home crying!)

      MIL relationships can be tough! Some day, you may be one too. You may hold strong opinions about your DIL, but you now know how not to be. Choose your battles with your MIL. Presumably she’s providing loving care.

      1. allathian*

        Of course, things have changed a lot in recent decades, but I’m amazed she could get out and run away! Daycares and kindergartens here have gates, with the handle on the outside in such a way that a child can’t reach it from the inside of the fence.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Ha. When I was in first grade in the 70s, our classrooms had a wall of nearly floor-to-ceiling windows that were open during warm weather. A couple of times, one boy got up in the middle of class, jumped out the window, and ran home just because he didn’t want to be at school anymore that day.

          1. D3*

            ummmmm any chance his name was Matt? And the teacher was Mrs Andersen? and the 1976-77 school year? (or maybe the year before?) I might have been in your class….

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              It was the 1976 – 77 school year, name of Randy, in Mrs. Mullins’ class. Must have been a gen-x kid thing lol

        2. MissB*

          Similar to Mallory Janis Ian, this would’ve been in the 70s. I feel like we had a lot more freedom to come and go, with a lot less tracking.

          1. allathian*

            I hear you.

            It’s just that I’m in Finland, and here kids as young as 7 (first grade elementary) ride the bus to school on their own, and it’s not even special school buses run by the school district, but perfectly ordinary public transit. My son was considered a late bloomer by some when he told me quite firmly when he was 9 that he could go to school on his own. But it is one reason why most kids get a cellphone when they start school, even if it’s just a dumb one for calling and texts at first. Kids are still monitored, but at a distance. :) Kids in daycare and preschool/kindergarten do have to get picked up by an adult.

    7. Asenath*

      I’d let the name thing go. I had a relative who called a child by her first name instead of the middle name everyone else used for years, and although it became a bit of a family joke, no one really worried about it much, and it didn’t seem to matter to either the adult, or as she grew older, the child, long term.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Yep, I have a friend whose legal given name is “Jenny” and has an aunt who insists on calling her Jennifer. I think the aunt even makes the argument “it’s the name your mother gave you” (it’s literally not!) which would be horrible in some contexts but in this scenario just makes the aunt look ridiculous.

        I have relatives who always called my uncle “Johnny” even though he preferred John. Those same relatives call my sister “Sandra” when she’s only ever gone by Sandy!

        One set of grandparents calls my daughter a nickname everyone else stopped using 4 years ago. It makes them seem a little out of touch but my daughter doesn’t mind so neither do I. People are just weird about names!

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          My nanna consistently referred to my ex-husband as ‘Joey’ when everyone else knew him as ‘Joe’ and his given name was ‘Joseph’. (Not his actual name, but it was the same thing of putting a ‘-y’ on the end of the short version of his name.) No idea why – I can only assume she got it in her head and it just stuck – but it’s definitely not an unusual thing, especially among older generations.

    8. Jessi*

      May I suggest the reddit forum JustNoMIL? Lots of others in the same or similar situations

      1. RagingADHD*

        JustNoMIL is for inlaws who do stuff like feed peanuts to children they know are allergic, or cause drunken ciolent scenes at the wedding.

        OP doesn’t need any encouragement to catastrophize a very normal situation.

        1. fposte*

          It also skews to really drastic recommendations in response; I think it’s probably caused posters to blow up salvageable relationships.

            1. twocents*

              IDK, reddit can be good for a laugh, but if someone wants serious advice and actually has to live with the consequences of the following the advice, then that particular subreddit isn’t one I’d choose.

              AITA is another. Sure, that internet validation may be nice that you aren’t a glassbowl (in the biased version of events that gets presented), but in real life, if everyone thinks you’re a glassbowl, then it doesn’t matter if you’re “technically” correct.

              1. fposte*

                Yes, it promotes the simple binary and focuses on what’s justified (pretty much any reaction to an asshole, for that sub) rather than what’s useful or constructive. Reddit thinking you’re not an asshole doesn’t translate to a real-life solution.

    9. Baseball Fan*

      I’m saying this as gently as possible because I think we’ve all been there:

      If you need her for childcare, then you’re “paying” for that care in annoyance. If you want more distance and boundaries, you’d need to switch to a paid childcare worker. It’s very reasonable to tell a paid nanny what you want your kid called. It’s much less reasonable and risks ruining your free childcare situation to make calling your kid by her full name or what your future MIL wears to your wedding a big deal in your relationship with her.

      Also: I have a name like the Elizabeth/Beth situation — named Elizabeth after a great grandparent but always always intended for my name to be only Beth. I have one uncle who has always called me Elizabeth (and is literally the ONLY person who has ever done so), and it’s been a fun joke/familiarity in our relationship. Your MIL will have a special name for your kid, and that could be fun for both of them.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Re: the name thing, I was going to say something similar. My grandfather calls me by a name that no one else uses. It wasn’t confusing growing up and it was very special to me. My father hated it, and that was because he had a terrible relationship with my grandparents and I knew it. That was the part that hurt, not the name.

      2. Overeducated*

        Also, I pay $1500/month for childcare and the teachers and staff call my kid (the equivalent of) Elizabeth. I think this is just one of those things someone elsr does differently that isn’t the hill to die on.

    10. Elf*

      I am so sorry. I am you about six years later.

      If you can, stop using her for childcare immediately, but if you can’t (I couldn’t), make a specific plan now for stopping by the time your child turns 3 so as to limit the damage she can do.

      Make sure you are on the same page with your husband. Throw a couple trial balloons by having him ask her to change something she’s doing (probably not the name thing, I know that one gets on your nerves no end, probably would get on mine too, but that’s a b***h eating crackers problems and is actually harmless, I’m sure there are other things). Determine if she actually follows these directives when they are given, or if she undermines, routes around, or ignores them. If she undermines your instructions, you may end up having to choose not to say anything about a lot of things in order to not make it worse, in which case it will be even more imperative that you have an exit plan. If she actually follows directives about your child you may be able to have a working relationship.

      No grandparents are better than grandparents who actively undermine your parenting. Lots of people will be *but family* about it, but it *will not hurt* your kid to not have contact with a grandparent, especially if you cut the cord soon enough. Get your husband on the same page. If he is *not* on the same page, do everything in your power to minimize the unsupervised time this woman has with your kid and to accelerate the timeline for her not providing childcare.

      You do not want to be me. We had *just* gotten to the point where we could stop with the childcare, and then the pandemic hit and she ended up homeschooling our oldest since he was supposed to be in Kindergarten, the schools were radically unsafe, and that had been her job before retirement so she was very qualified. Academically this was great, but his behavior has been so negatively impacted, and she doesn’t follow any rules/requests (while claiming to). As a single example, we generally expect our son to wear clothes two days before washing unless they get dirty for environmental/laundry reasons, and if he wears the same clothes second day she sends him home in new clothes she bought.

      Until recently, I couldn’t fight any of this because husband wasn’t on board with limiting/cutting contact if she wasn’t complying with our requests and saying anything would make things worse because she would double down and go behind our backs, but she has finally crossed enough bad enough lines that he is done too. Now we have the difficult task of separating a kid who has been utterly spoiled and told how miserable he will be without her. Do not be me.

      1. Annie Moose*

        Every family handles things differently, to be sure, but I’m not sure I’d describe allowing a child to wear a different outfit two days in a row as “spoiled”…

        1. allathian*

          I agree, but it’s up to the parents how they want to raise their children (within legal limits) and the carers need to be on board with the parents’ wishes. The MIL is undermining the OP’s parental authority, and that’s unacceptable.

          My son would happily wear the same outfit for a week, although as he’s 12 now, that isn’t workable any longer, preteen stink. He’s always changed his underwear and socks daily, and when he was in daycare/kindergarten he often came home in dirty clothes. But in the early school years he’s been fine with wearing the same outfit for a week, unless he spilled lunch on himself or something.

          1. fposte*

            I think culture is divided on this right now. One belief is that as long as the child is cared for safely and affectionately, differences in care are a good chance for the child to learn that different rules exist in different places. Another is that carers need always to act as parent proxies in rules and schedules.

            I don’t think you can make free kinship care fit version two. Ceding a certain amount of control is part of the package there. Identify the hills to die on–aka, “I will pay to put my child in day care rather than accept this”–and see the rest of the variants not so much as disrespect but as the actions of somebody creating their own relationship with a child rather than replicating yours.

            1. HannahS*

              I’d agree, fposte, and I think that’s a really good framing of something that I haven’t been able to articulate.

            2. AcademiaNut*

              Honestly, I think the only way you can ask for total control over everything is to hire private care – a person who works only for you, and accepts your rules and systems when they take the job – or do it yourself.

              With free family/friend care, you don’t have the leverage – they’re doing a very valuable service for free, and that gives you limited control over how things are done. With a daycare, they offer a set of services, and you have to work within them. They’re not going to have a completely different schedule, diet and discipline method for every child. Some things, like organic only food, all natural toys and intensive parenting styles are going to cost more. And other things are impractical in a group – your kid isn’t going to be held 100% of the time, and they’re going to be required to wear diapers if they’re not toilet trained, no matter what you do at home.

              If the carer is being abusive or neglectful, or the kid is otherwise in danger, you have to remove the kid immediately and find something else. If it’s a mismatch in parenting styles, you can discuss it with the carer, and if you can’t come to an agreement, you can live with it, or find something else. And that’s true regardless of whether you’re paying or getting it for free. You can say whatever you want about what they *should* be doing, but if they won’t, you can’t force them.

            3. allathian*

              Yes, that’s a really good framing! I actually implement it in my own life, so I probably sounded more judgmental than I intended. The same thing happens in many coparenting situations, where the kids are okay with the rules being slightly different at each parent’s house, as long as they can agree on the big stuff. Things like lights out at 8.30 in one house and 9 in the other, or going on bike rides with one parent and spending more time in front of a screen with the other. This is rarely a problem unless the relationship between the parents is really fraught and they’re engaging in a popularity contest with the kids in the middle.

              My MIL is a fabulous person and she has a great relationship with our son. We’ve never had any big disagreements, because she’s pretty much on the same level with us on things like safety (car seats and seatbelts, bike helmets) and food (occasional treats are OK as long as the food is generally nutritious and healthy, but daily ones are too much). We’ve only had minor disagreements on things like my MIL helping our son dress and undress himself when he was perfectly capable of doing it himself. My MIL said she just wanted to pamper him a bit. This would have been fine if my MIL had seen our son only occasionally, like once a month or less, but for a particularly busy period at work when our son was in daycare, for several months my MIL was the one to pick up our son 3 or 4 times a week and spend a couple of hours with him until either I or my husband could leave work. She was even down as the third emergency number to call if our son had to be picked up early and neither I nor my husband could be reached. At the time, she lived less than a mile from the daycare and could’ve picked him up quickly in an emergency. We also trusted her to provide appropriate care for a sick child, given that she’s a retired nurse. Luckily for us my MIL understood our reasoning in that she was providing daycare for our son and not just the occasional day out as a treat. It also helped that it was my husband who talked about these issues with his mom.

              1. fposte*

                That sounds lovely. The great thing about a good relationship is that you can actually talk through some of this–understanding grandparents will get the “No, seriously, less screen time is important to us” and other parental takes even if that’s not where they themselves started.

          2. traffic_spiral*

            But it’s also a bit “Choosing Beggar” to be like “I want thousands of dollars worth of free child care from my MiL, but also you have to follow arbitrary details to tickle our need for control – like calling the child by OUR preferred nickname as opposed to just the child’s name, and also don’t let the kid wear fresh clothes every day.”

      2. Justgoawaymil*

        This thread is full of people saying that op and you are overreacting and I just want to say it is absolutely bananapants that she heard ‘we want him to wear clothes more than once before they’re dirty’ and her response was to buy a presumably large selection of entirely new clothes to keep at her house and constantly outfit him with. I bet she doesn’t even reuse the clothes he came in.

        1. Elf*

          Yes! She makes him change his clothes! We send extra clothes with him for in case he spills on himself or something, but they are ignored!

          As for “spoiled” not only does she buy him a ton of stuff despite us telling her not to (and find every possible loophole around any rule we make, like when we said that anything she got would have to be at her house because we had no room she started coming over with a bag of toys and taking them with her when she left) she also goes out of her way to undermine us having rules for him in front of her the second our backs are turned.

          I’m not saying the OP’s mother in law is anything like mine, I’m giving a warning about the slippery slope, and telling her to test to see what kinds of boundary violations are going on. In my case it’s bad (and has extra stuff of she hates me and treats me and my relatives badly, and also hates my father in law and lots of other people and treats them badly too, it is really not about me). It might be perfectly possible for OP to have a decent relationship with her MIL, but only if 1) she and her husband are a team, 2) they find a few things that they really do want changed and see what happens when they ask for that, and 3) the MIL actually responds reasonably to those requests and follows through.

          1. RagingADHD*

            Given the examples here like treating your family badly, it’s odd that you chose to lead with really normal, non-harmful behavior like “buys clothes for her grandchild”.

            1. Elf*

              There’s a big difference between “buys clothes for her grandchild” and “tells her grandchild his clothes aren’t good enough and makes him change into different clothes that she bought”

              I think it’s exceptionally easy for people with an outside view to dismiss large amounts of exceptionally bad, disrespectful behavior. I think it is much worse for kids to see their parents treated badly and their parenting undermined than it is for them to never see their grandparents again.

              1. RagingADHD*

                My point is that you chose an example which, out of context, makes it sound like you are over-reacting rather than an example people could understand, which it sounds like you have plenty of.

                If you say “it’s warm in here,” people are not being dismissive to respond with “have you tried opening a window?”

                They don’t know the house is on fire. Because you didn’t say so, and nobody is psychic.

          2. SP*

            Clothing solution: kid wears outfit A Monday. Hang it up to air. Kid wears outfit B Tuesday. Hang it up to air. Kid wears outfit C Wednesday. Hang it up to air. Thursday: Kid wears outfit A.

            1. Elf*

              Yes, in theory, but that is a little more involved than our six year old can manage independently and we do in fact have him dress himself independently because he is six and should use those skills. The system we have found that works FOR HIM is that he puts his clothes on the pyjama shelf the first night, back on in the morning, and in the hamper that night. If he has more than one set going his room ends up a mess and the laundry gets messed up, and also it isn’t her place to be interfering with it.

              1. Mstr*

                Is it also too involved for him to explain to others why he’s wearing the same clothes two days in a row? Do you risk his peers/teachers thinking he’s strange or unkempt?

                1. Elf*

                  The “don’t wear the same clothes two days in a row” thing is *extremely* American.

                2. allathian*

                  @Elf, I agree it’s extremely American. In first or second grade, when my son could be trusted to eat without spilling most days, he’d happily wear the same clothes for a week. His clothes got changed when they were objectively dirty, except for socks and underwear, which he changed daily (and still does). Nobody thought anything of it. He’s 12 now so he usually wears the same clothes for a day or two, i.e. he changes when he showers. Daily showers have never been a thing at our house, I don’t shower daily unless there’s a heatwave, like right now. I do realize that in a warmer climate it’s more often necessary to shower daily and to change clothes daily.

                3. Amtelope*

                  I agree that teachers and to some degree peers (in the United States, can’t speak to this being “extremely American” or not) are likely to respond badly to a child wearing the same clothes two days in a row. Once in a while if it’s a favorite shirt won’t get noticed, but “every outfit gets worn two days in a row” will raise the question of whether the child has enough clothes at home to wear, or whether parents are washing clothes often enough. Like it or not, the expectation is that kids change clothes every day, and so I’d highly recommend figuring out a rotation of clothes that puts a couple of days between rewearing the same outfit if you don’t want to field a ton of well-meaning, uncomfortable questions about whether you’re able to afford enough clothes for your kid to wear or whether your kid needs help doing laundry at school.

              2. Patty Mayonnaise*

                Would your MIL still buy him new clothes all the time if it was less apparent that he was wearing clothes twice before washing? If the answer is no, I would be managing your son’s clothing situation more actively on your end to avoid the massive environmental impact of your MIL buying new clothes all the time. Though it does sound like she might buy him new clothes all the time regardless.

    11. Jay*

      Choose your battles. Choose them *very* carefully. Then try to let everything else go. Stop trying to argue with her or get her to agree with you.

      When you do choose a battle, be ready to follow through. If you absolutely need her to do child care, then you can’t really follow through with boundaries around your kid, because the logical endpoint of having a sitter who doesn’t do what you want is that you get another sitter. You are paying for your “free” childcare with a lot of psychic energy and distress. Might be cheaper overall to find a paid sitter.

      My mother disregarded pretty much every routine we had with our daughter. She wasn’t a daily part of our lives – she lived two hours away – so I let it go, with two major exceptions: pool safety, car seats and seat belts. I once sat in the car in the driveway at my mother’s house for 20 minutes until she buckled her seatbelt (she was sitting in the back so the seatbelt alert didn’t go off). I told her we needed to install a lock on the door that led to the pool. She said no, don’t be silly, Daughter will never go out there if we tell her not to. I said “we install the lock now or we don’t come back to visit until she’s old enough to swim by herself – so maybe 16?” My husband installed the lock later that day.

      My sister-in-law makes passive-aggressive comments all the time that sound like they’re compliments and really are not. Used to make me really, really angry. Now I look at it sort of anthropologically, like she’s a member of a culture I don’t know much about.

    12. Not A Manager*

      I’m thinking this might be a bit of a two-way street. Some of your examples sound pretty controlling to be, to be honest. You might ask yourself why it’s so important to you to control your MIL to this extent. She’s not a paid servant, she’s an autonomous family member who’s (a) providing you with a valuable favor and (b) a GUEST at your event.

      Whether she is passive aggressive or whether you for some reason are super invested in being in charge of her (or a little of both), fortunately the solution is the same. Disengage from her as much as possible in the areas that trigger you. I don’t think there’s any need to cut contact as someone mentioned, or even to have less contact. What you need is less fraught contact.

      Make a plan for getting some other kind of childcare as soon as possible. (Free childcare is never free.) Stop sharing your own personal planning with her unless you want her input. (Wedding planning is an example, but this extends to thoughts about your child’s school, plans to purchase a home, change jobs, etc.) The more you can loop her in AFTER your decisions are made, the better. Then you can politely (!) listen to her tell you how you’re wrong, and cheerfully say, “those are all good points, but unfortunately we’ve already enrolled Beth/made an offer/quit our jobs, so we’ll have to just keep your advice in mind for next time.”

      Practice re-formulating her annoying comments on your life into loving ones. “If you’d fuss less over the baby then you could get more sleep, and this kitchen would be cleaner, too!” = “Thanks, MIL! I appreciate that you’re looking out for my sleep.” “You never spend enough time with us.” = “Aww, I love it that you never want to see us leave.” If you think she’s passive aggressive, turn it back on her. Find a way to make her needling remarks into sweet ones.

      I think when you feel less beholden to her, and when you feel that interacting with her is a choice you make on your own terms, it might be easier to let her operate autonomously within the sphere that you’ve given her.

    13. Analyst Editor*

      I think most of the advice is great here; wanted to add a few points:
      1) if you’re still sleep deprived and baby’s not sleeping through the night, or you’re stressed or depressed, or it’s PMS time, a lot a lot of small things feel really negative when they’re actually not that big a deal. I speak from personal experience.
      2) Your MiL wants what is best for your child and, unless there’s something really wrong with her, she is also interested in your child’s health, safety, and happiness. It is good for your child to have multiple people who love her and whom she can trust, besides just you and your partner.
      3) Be careful with online forums that validate what you’re feeling without knowing your situation or looking at things through their own situations you don’t know anything about. Context is so important and always lacking online.

    14. RagingADHD*

      Repeatedly suggestimg that your family be kicked off the family table is passive aggressive, but easily ignored. Just don’t read or respond to her suggestions.

      The other things aren’t passive aggressive. They are just normal, minor annoyances of trying to be family with someone who is really different from you. Nothing you’ve said in your follow up comments suggests that she is undermining the way you parent your daughter in terms of safety, routines, nutrition, or rules. Or that she’s cruel or hurtful to anyone.

      Taking any of this as a red flag to cut off contact, as some other posters suggested, would be a massive over-reaction, and destroy a relationship that has every chance of working out just fine in the long run.

      You and your MIL just kinda rub each other the wrong way. That’s a shame, but this is the kind of thing that can often get worked out in time, if you try to chill out and treat her with kindness. The more you get wound up about it, the more she will get wound up too. If you can stop pulling your end of the rope, the tension will stop escalating.

      The more you just let her be her, the more she will let you be you. Over time, if you are persistently kind and polite you may come to appreciate each other’s differences, and even discover some things you have in common.

    15. Christmas Carol*

      A friend of mine named her daughter “Jennifer” but Grandpa always called his first-born granddaughter “Jenny” Friend would scream at her father, NO her name is JenniFER. Grandpa retaliated by calling the baby FER. Which is why a now thirty-five year old women introduces herself as “FUR”

      1. Anonymous Today*

        What is wrong with a grown woman who scream at her father over calling a child a perfectly acceptable nickname?

        Surprise! Jennifer aka: Jenny aka: “FER” sided with Grandpa.

    16. Wishing You Well*

      On the name situation: A neighbor had a daughter with a 3-syllable name. When the girl was a few years old, we noticed her parents were using a shorter nickname for her. We’ve always used the longer birth name because we were never told to use the nickname, not by the parents or the girl. (I thought etiquette required using the full name until you were given permission to use the nickname.) I never heard the girl introduce herself, so I don’t know what she calls herself. Were the parents or the girl silently irritated with us? I’ll never know ’cause no one ever said a thing.
      Sheesh, this people stuff is complicated!

      1. twocents*

        This situation is a bit funny to me, because my parents did the same: gave me a long name and then referred to me only by a nickname. Around 10, I didn’t like the nickname any longer, and was in the position of saying repeatedly to my parents, “It’s Elizabeth” until they finally stopped calling me by the nickname.

        So I really, really don’t think this is a hill to die on. It’s obviously a “shoulda coulda woulda” situation, but if you have more children, I would not give them a name you don’t want them to be called.

    17. Esmeralda*

      OP, this is tough! I see you are getting comments that tell you that each example is not a big deal, but I suspect that it’s not any one thing — it’s an accumulation over time of apparently small stuff. It adds up! And it’s hard when that’s the case because then others think you’re over reacting because X or Y is such a small thing. (Also, we’re not getting the tone of voice or the nonverbals from your MIL, or the history of her treatment of you). It’s the constant drip drip drip drip drip…

      As much as possible, I’d say to have your partner deal with their mother. As someone else suggested, work with your partner on a plan to cut back and eventually eliminate the need to have MIL babysitting more than very occasionally (or at all). And definitely put MIL on an info diet.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I completely understand the way annoying, picky little conflicts add up. Saying “keep it in perspective” is not dismissive.

        It is the actual, literal coping mechanism OP asked for.

        You cope with this petty shit by constantly reminding yourself to keep it in perspective, and ignore anything that isn’t actively damaging. It is the answer to the question OP asked.

    18. EM*

      It’s really tough for parents to accept that their child is quite independent of them, and will end up having a relationship with their grandparents that looks different to the relationship with parents. This is especially true when they spend a lot of time together. My mother managed this pretty well – I ended up really close to both of her parents even though she found them very difficult to deal with. I confess, I haven’t done it as well and find it really difficult when my baby runs to my parents-in-law away from me. I have to remove myself that I *wanted* her to have a big network of people who love her, in part so she had different opinions and support networks.

      Your daughter spends a lot of time with her grandma. If she doesn’t like Elizabeth (or doesn’t like Beth) that will be her choice to make, and learning how to say so as she gets older will be a good life skill. If your mother in law loves your daughter and takes care of her well and safely, and your daughter is happy in her care, then give yourself permission not to worry. They will be able to work a lot of stuff out between them.

    19. Not So NewReader*

      Lots of good thoughts here.

      My wise friend always said be careful what help you accept from others. People can and do feel like they are buying a part of you with the help they offer.

      I understand that you need her help with child care. I am sorry to say but it seems that she has set her own price for that help. And her price is that she gets to call your kid by the name she chooses and other things you mention here. Everything comes with a price and we don’t think about that very much until we hit a rough spot in a relationship with a person.

      I suggest that you tell yourself that this is the best things can be right now and things will change in a bit. Nothing is forever, even though it sure feels like it is forever. Grandma may get a wake up call one day when Beth says, “Grandma do you call me by my full name because you don’t like me or because you are angry with me?” And you can just let Grandma flounder her way though that one on her own.

      The one alternative suggestion I have is to look around and see how Grandma addresses others. My family is oddly formal with names. It takes a lot to get family members to use nicknames or shortened versions of the name. I mean it takes YEARS. If there was more than one Elizabeth in my family, we’d move to including the middle name. So there’d be Elizabeth Ann, Elizabeth Jane and so on. This all sounds oddly formal until you know the family system and see how everyone is treated.

      I have to ask what else is going on here? I could see me talking about an issue like this with my own MIL. But there was an underlying issue. And that issue was that she had decided not to like me almost the moment she met me. And every. single. thing. went through that filter. She was randomly contrary with me because it suited her. I had to learn when to speak up and went to let things go. I drew my line with name calling and insults. And I would just walk out of the house, no matter what I was doing at the house. I’d like to say it got better- but I think that by drawing my lines all I did was prevent it from getting worse. And sometimes that is as good as good gets. It took decades to play out but I was watching a mind deteriorate and this was the beginning of that process. In the end, I landed on feeling badly for her because her life was sad.

      1. SoloKid*

        Grandma might not flounder; “Your parents have called you that but you’ve never told me your preference. Would you like me to call you Beth?” is a reasonable reply that respects the child’s boundaries. I don’t see any evidence that the kid doesn’t like to be called Elizabeth.

    20. Anonymous Today*

      There are nicknames for my name. Only family calls me by those. Out in the world I am “Amanda”. Not “Amy”, not “Mandy”, etc.

      After you made it clear that you named your child “Elizabeth” so she would have choices, you turn around an insist that she be called “Beth”.

      Maybe she likes it that her Grandma is the only one to call her Elizabeth and thinks it’s part of their special relationship. After all, your daughter probably has a special name for her Grandma.

      In the immortal words of Elsa: “Let it go.”

  9. Chocolate Teapot*

    I have been seeing a specialist for a medical condition for some years, but it doesn’t seem to be helping. Lately, it has been a case of turn up to appointment, get seen late and receive a repeat prescription.

    I happened to do a search of specialists in my area and out of 11 reviews of my specialist, 10 were negative, with similar experiences to mine.

    So I have made an appointment with another specialist, who gets glowing reviews. It depends what they are like, but how have people handled this change?

    1. zaracat*

      I’ve had to do this with both my family doctor and psychiatrist. It’s a great opportunity for a fresh start, and one aspect of that which is also a huge help for the new doctor is preparing a thorough, well organised medical summary for them including timelines for things like significant medical events (+/- life events if it is relevant to the illness, which it definitely was in the case of my mental illness) and trials of different treatments, rather than leaving them to rely solely on a referral letter or summary prepared by the previous doctor. Often one of the crappy things about a crappy doctor is that their medical notes are poorly organised and contain misinformation or the wrong emphasis, and this is a great time to correct that. If you save your summary in a digital format the practice staff may even be able to add the information directly into your new file if the practice records are digital.

      A change of doctor because of dissatisfaction with the previous one is also a good opportunity to reflect on what is important to you in the professional relationship and to try set a new standard right from the start. Remember that it’s not just the doctor who matters here. How good the practice staff are and how well you get on with them plays a huge part. A lot of the workplace advice in AAM on being clear and assertive about what you need can be applied to this setting as well.

      Best of luck!

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Do it do it do it. I long ago had a Planter’s wart that didn’t respond to treatment. My health insurance changed, so I had to switch podiatrists, and the new guy had it gone in two visits.

    3. fposte*

      I think you give yourself and them a little adjustment period for the ways you’re not interacting the way you did with Dr. Whoever, but otherwise I think it’s a standard plan. And don’t feel you have to stay with the new one just because you’ve left Dr. Whoever behind–you can utterly go “Whoa, Dr. New is not for me” and go to Dr. Third.

      1. D3*

        Exactly. People often think the doctor cares more about them and that relationship than they really do! Not that doctors are uncaring, but most doctors have hundreds of patients and you only have one doctor (Or one kidney doctor, one OB, etc.) So it’s natural that you see that differently than they do. You’re going to remember their name if you see them at the grocery store. If they see you at the grocery store and you haven’t been in for a while, they may not know your name off the top of your head! They may not even recognize you. I know I couldn’t keep track of that many people very well!
        It’s not that big a deal to switch doctors. People do it all the time for a variety of reasons. You don’t have to explain yourself, you don’t have to say goodbye, just make an appointment with the new doctor, sign the release to get records transferred to her office, and you’re done!

    4. RagingADHD*

      Changing docs has always been a positive thing for me. For routine wellness care, Ive found drs and practices that were just better run and I get along with better, so it’s less hassle and a better experience.

      For my chronic conditions, I’ve seen incremental improvements in some by switching to someone with a different approach. Nothing miraculous, but as you probably know, even a 10% to 20% improvement in symptoms can be a wonderful relief.

      For others, there just honestly isn’t anything more to be done other than monitor bloodwork and renew meds. But the improved relationship with the new person reduced my stress and gave me confidence that they were on the lookout for new possibilities that may arise in the future.

      1. RagingADHD*

        In terms of logistics, you just make the appointment and give them your old doctor’s contact information so they can transfer the records. You don’t have to do anything about switching, it just happens.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          Thanks for everyone’s comments.

          Funnily enough, the new specialist used to share a practice with my current specialist, so it was probably worth waiting until the address changed!

  10. FishFish*

    Pet parents and enthusiasts, when the time comes is there a ‘good’ way to separate kittens from their mom to take them to their new homes? Their mom is a wild outdoor cat (still hoping to be able to have her neutered) and the kittens have become tame over the last few months. They’ve had their shots and I have homes lined up for them but am worried about taking them from her. Does it matter how it’s done (as in she arrives home one day and can’t find them all or it happens one by one)? I know I’m overthinking it but she’s a great mom to the little guys.

    1. WS*

      By the time they’re 12 weeks old, her job with them is coming to an end. She’ll be feeding them less and spending more time away and probably getting pregnant again. However you do it will be fine.

    2. Dog and cat fosterer*

      I split them up at least a week before they go to homes, because sometimes mama’s milk has immunity to gut problems and I sometimes have to deal with diarrhea at weaning. I don’t want to give kittens to adopters just as they get sick.

      I sometimes put mama in a large dog crate, so that she can see them but not feed them, so her milk dries up. That seems to be a good step before the kittens leave. As WS says, most mothers are ready for their kittens to go!

    3. Sloan Kittering*

      Longtime kitty fosterer here. In the wild the mom eventually leaves them, usually when she goes into heat again, so don’t feel too bad. I adopt kittens out at two pounds. Really when they’re able to eat solid food they don’t “need” mom at that point, although they’ll continue to nurse if it’s available.

      We project our family feelings onto cats but it’s normal for them to divide up.

    4. RagingADHD*

      We just foud a 5-6 week old kitten in the shrubbery a couple weeks ago and took him in. He had one night of being sad that there were no other cats here, and then he was dandy. The vet checked his teeth and explained how to gradually phase him off formula + solids to all solids + water, and said he was totally fine to be separated from mom.

      If this cat is traumatized, I can’t tell through all the purring.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Hit the button too soon: the neighbor who found where mom + siblings were hiding said that mom looked for him for a day, but not longer than that.

    5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I think the most important thing is to wait until the kittens are fully weaned. Not just able to eat other stuff but no longer suckling the mother at all. This mostly means about three months. The friend who gave me my cat wouldn’t let me have her until she was three and a half months old, despite being weaned a couple of weeks previously. The friend told me the mother was still behaving in a very maternal way with them, she hadn’t pushed them away, so I respected that.
      When my cat had kittens they left one by one as and when the new owners could pick them up. the last was five months old and I was hoping to keep her, but what do you say to a 3yo little girl who asks you very sweetly, when her parents agree too?

  11. WoodswomanWrites*

    To all the pet owners who post on this site, here’s a thank you from someone who vicariously enjoys the company of your animals. I love animals but don’t have them for multiple reasons, ranging from allergies to lifestyle. From the photos of Alison’s cats to the threads about pets’ antics, reading about them on the weekend threads makes me happy.

    1. Puppy!*

      I cannot have cats because of allergies. I love seeing Alison’s kitties and hearing about the antics on the weekend thread.

    2. TPS reporter*

      Ive always had cats. It brings me so much joy when friends or family come over and my cat loves them. It’s like they know that person is an extension of me. If they sit on a lap oh it’s over. So cute.

    3. Doctor is In*

      My dog has caught 2 moles in our yard this week! Mommy is so proud of her. Of course the yard is a mess of holes.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      Aw! I took all the books off my bookcase today so I could move it, and my cat is thrilled to have a new climbing structure! He and the bookcase are both black so it looks like one of the shelves has eyes now :)

    5. Marion Ravenwood*

      Same! I miss having animals (I hope to get a cat at some point but a lot of places here will not rehome if you don’t have a garden except in very specific circumstances) and Alison’s cats and the pet posts in the weekend threads bring me a lot of joy :)

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        Fortunately, I can enjoy my friends’ and neighbors’ animals. There are a neighborhood cat and friendly dogs on walks who all enjoy pets. I just have to wash my hands afterward.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      I agree. I probably won’t have a pet again for a long while. Since I’ll be renting for the foreseeable future, I don’t want to have to deal with deposits and cleaning fees until I have my own house again or end up with an SO who has a dog or whatever.

  12. Bloggy McBlogFace*

    What blogs/ websites/advice columns do you read and why? I’d love a list of new recommendations!
    I like AaM of course and have got loads of useful info about jobs, but I admit I mostly read it for the hair-raising situations people write in about!
    I also really liked UnF*ck Your Habitat, but I suppose that is not really a blog. I enjoy her Twitter feed.
    I couldn’t really get into Captain Awkward’s style of writing but she does have fantastic advice.

    1. Bob Howard*

      Here are a couple:
      Bret Devereaux at “A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry” https://acoup.blog/
      Is a really interesting look at the join between history and popular culture, taking time to look in detail at things like medieval fabric production, the idea that Game of Thrones has any valid historic basis, and the dangers of the “Warrior Culture”.

      Matt Read over at “Confessions of a Community College Dean” https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/confessions-community-college-dean
      Gives an account of the difficulties in education, but there is a host of dealing with real management difficulties on there as well.

    2. zaracat*

      I read dreamwidth Agony Aunts, which is a small group of people who pick over the advice given by other advice columnists. Each entry has links to whatever column it came from originally. I find it really helpful to get different perspectives on why particular advice is considered is good/bad. I like Captain Awkward also, again because the commenters offer lots of different perspectives and give examples – not having open commenting in the last few years has lost that, sadly. At one point when I was working through a lot of personal trauma I followed several WordPress-hosted blogs written by people dealing with complex PTSD and in long term therapy, and also wrote one myself (it’s no longer up though). I found these bloggers a very supportive group and I learned a lot from them, including how to deal with social interactions I’d messed up. I also follow a podcast called Two Shrinks Pod, which is locally based to where I live. And David Tennant Does A Podcast, because, well … David Tennant.

      1. Mary Bennet*

        I’ve seen that Captain Awkward has a forum too: anyone know if it’s worth checking out?

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          It’s commenters only, the Captain doesn’t participate there at all, so if you’re looking for more interaction like was in the comments before the site went largely closed-to-commentary, then it might be worthwhile. But if your primary interest was the Captain’s advice, the forum doesn’t have that at all. (I personally didn’t find the forum all that interesting, but YMMV.)

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            I was surprised how little I was interested in CA once the comments closed. I think there are a small minority of people, including myself, who are really into comments, while most people never read them. I have never checked out the forum I just sort of stopped checking the site so often.

          2. Mstr*

            @Sloan I stopped reading but first I quit the comments. I actually think there was a point where the comments really jumped the shark into expressing/supporting unhealthy ideas, often developing elaborate “what if” and “but I” situations and accusing everyone else of being insensitive to their personal quirks.

    3. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      I check various advice columns on ArcaMax’s syndication site, including Ask Amy, Miss Manners, Dear Abby. It’s irregular but Toronto Magazine’s Urban Diplomat is great, Annalise Barbieri in the Guardian (not Mariella though, she’s terrible imho), Dear Wendy occasionally- on her own blog, and almost all of the Slate advice columns except for the sex and teaching ones. Dear Prudence is unto a religion for me.

      1. allathian*

        Agreed on ArcaMax and most of the Life Advice columns. I’m pretty selective in which of them I read. I avoid the religious stuff like the plague. Dear Wendy is also a favorite of mine.

    4. CatCat*

      I like to read The Moneyist. I’m super into personal finance and enjoy reading advice columns so I guess that’s the why. I learn a lot. 95% of the time, the issues on The Moneyist are not ultimately money issues, they are relationship issues.

      1. MissGirl*

        Me too. Makes me a little glad my family has no money for us to inherit since that’s like 80 percent of the problems. Are there any other finance advice columns you like?

      2. Elizabeth West*

        This is a good one too; I see it on the news aggregate I read in the morning sometimes.

    5. MissGirl*

      I’m not sure why but I don’t like Captain Awkward. I tried reading for a few months but found it aggravating. I’m back to reading Dear Prudence now that Danny is out. His advice was getting bizarrely aggressive and mean spirited. Love Carolyn Hax.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        I find the letters and the answers on Captain Awkward just too long and wordy. By the time I get to the end, I forgot the beginning!
        And yes on Danny. I think by the end he stayed to be mean and sarcastic just for the sake of it.

        1. twocents*

          Agreed. Some of them seem hellbent on presenting a situation in the most convoluted way possible. Like, do we actually need two decades of recap about how much you despise this person, or can you just focus on whatever is prompting your current complaint?

          I do think the Captain is pretty good at breaking down those unnecessarily verbose letters into actionable steps. She just gets a bit sidetracked into her own story times.

        2. allathian*

          Agreed on Danny. I largely quit reading Slate because of Danny. Might go back now that he’s gone. I liked reading Lavery before he transitioned, and I found some of the columns he wrote when he was transitioning quite interesting. I guess I just don’t like male advice columnists in general, although to be fair, I don’t like all female ones either.

          I love Caroly Hax but sadly she’s no longer available on any syndicated site like Slate or ArcaMax, so I’ve largely stopped reading her as well. I don’t think subscribing to Washington Post or the Miami Herald would be worth it just for her columns. I do read her columns occasionally to the extent that I can given the limited number of ad-financed articles that the sites allow.

      2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        Agree. Danny had a bizarre take on the world. For me, the last straw was when he cursed out an elderly woman renting out her old house whose tenant wasn’t paying and was about to go into foreclosure for being an evil capitalist landlord.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          He has some personal vendetta against landlords. My actual last straw was when he lectured a teacher who buys snacks out of pocket for her under-previledged students, and who had the snacks stolen, for complaining about the theft to the administration, because apparently since she could afford some snacks, she should be able to feed anyone who wanted them.
          And that one time when a person wrote in about how they just didn’t want to work because working sucks, and he suggested they join a commune.

      3. HBJ*

        Oh, the author has changed? I gave it awhile after Emily left, but eventually stopped reading because the advice was so bad. I’ll have to try again now that it’s someone new!

        1. ampersand*

          I’m not yet sure that new Prudence is providing better advice than Danny was. Some of it has sounded similar enough that I’ve had to check I wasn’t reading an old column (I wasn’t).

          1. Observer*

            There seems to be a rotating cast. The advice seems different, but not great either.

      4. The Other Dawn*

        I didn’t like CA at all. Her answers are just WAY too long. I’d lose interest after about two paragraphs. Dear Prudence with Danny wasn’t good, either. He was OK in the beginning. I stopped reading once it started going downhill. I tried once more several months ago and I agree, aggressive and mean spirited.

    6. lifesempossible*

      The first blog I ever got into was Get Rich Slowly! The original author is finally back (the years that it was under other ownership weren’t the same), and it’s both primarily about money, but also about life. I’d categorize it more as psychology.

      I also like Seth Godin’s blog. He has a short daily blurb, sometimes about business, sometimes life, sometimes society or politics or culture.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The Bloggess–I adore Jenny Lawon.
      I lurk a bit on Twitter for history, books, and perpectives from other cultures. In no particular order and I know I’m missing some key people : Shiv Ramdas, C.L.Polk, Ellen Kushner, Nnedi Okorafor, N.K.Jemison, Natania Barron (her #ThreadTalk for fashion history with cultural background!!), Paul Couchman (TheRegencyCook), Lego Lost At Sea, Lara Maiklem (Mudlarking)…

    8. RussianInTexas*

      Dear Prudence, now finally without Danny. Other Slate advice columns: Care & Feeding, Money, HTDI.
      Paging Dr. Nerdlove
      Carolyn Hax
      The Moneist
      Few reddit pages like: IdiotsInCars, WeWantPlates, McMansionHell, CrappyDesigh, UrbanHell.
      Captain Awkward does not work well for me either, the letters and answers are just so very long.
      Few Twitter feeds: Giant Military Cats (HIGHLY RECOMMEND), 70th Dinner Party, 70th Fashion, Best of Nextdoor.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Oh, and GoFugYourself for fashion. The Fug Girls are great.
        And Jalopnik for cars.
        Other fun reddits: Legal Advice and Personal Finance.
        I don’t have a reddit account and just reader. Same with the twitter feeds: don’t actually follow anyone, just check out the feeds when the mood strikes.

    9. GoryDetails*

      This one, of course. Also love Captain Awkward (with or without comments – though the most recent “questions from the search engine” post did have comments enabled, which was fun). Also read a lot of advice columns, though some have become less interesting in recent years – Miss Manners isn’t as elaborately pithy as in early days, the new Ask Prudence is OK but rather tame IMO.

      In the non-advice-column category, I’m enjoying SF-author John Scalzi’s blog (whatever.scalzi.com), where he posts along with his daughter Athena – book reviews, pet pics, random photos, a nice assortment. (Athena’s been posting reviews of Japanese snack boxes lately, so intriguing that I ordered one myself. Be warned.)

      I also like David Morgan-Mar’s blog (dangermouse.net) – he’s an Australian author/cartoonist/photographer/teacher, and the blogs range from what-the-dog-did-today to lovely photo-essays of area walks to chats about ethics.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Scalzi is SO AWESOME.
        I also like Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. He cracks me up.

      2. Myrin*

        Oh man, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve been to Scalzi’s site (through no fault of his own, I simply fell out of reading over time) – last time I read, Athena was still little!

    10. Amey*

      I’ve cycled through pretty much all of the advice columns mentioned here but the ones I continue to read are here at Ask a Manager (every day!), Captain Awkward, and Carolyn Hax. Top tip for Hax is that the daily column counts towards your free articles but the weekly live chat doesn’t as long as you have a free account. Most of the columns are pulled from the live chat.

    11. Elizabeth West*

      AAM (!), and I will always read Care and Feeding on Slate even though I don’t have any kids. Carolyn Hax also, since I still have a WaPo subscription. And I read Ask Amy every day in the LA Times. I used to read Ann Landers and Dear Abby in my parents’ newspapers for years, so that’s the kind of thing I like most.

      1. Golden*

        I read Care and Feeding too (also no kids yet). Although, one of the columnists seems to use it as a giant infomercial for their accomplishments, to the point where it has become comical.

    12. Small town*

      Try the Dear Sugar archives. Not currently being written but Cheryl Strayed is genius. Feel it in your gut truth.

    13. Bloggy McBlogFace*

      So many good recommendations thank you! Lots for Carolyn Hax, and lots against Danny (I don’t know him!)

    14. Alianora*

      I haven’t read the whole thing but I’m enjoying A Slob Comes Clean for decluttering/household maintenance tips.

    15. Anonymous Today*

      Check out “Work Friend” at NY Times. It’s done by Roxane Gay, the writer.

  13. Just Lurking*

    I’ve been reading Wendy Atterberry’s (DearWendy) advice for probably a decade now, since she was part of The Frisky. Our lives and opinions are,very different, but I enjoy her work.

  14. Jessi*

    Moving advice!

    I spent all of my twenties living across the globe moving from one country to another for a job with nothing more than a suitcase or two, so this is my first move as a grown up with actual furniture. I have been reducing all the stuff we own, and don’t use by listing it on Olio (an app a bit like freecycle), tossing stuff ect. But I would love to hear your best moving tips and tricks. The boyfriend works for a moving company, so I’m less worried about the actual moving of boxes, more things I can do now to make the whole process more smooth/ less chaotic

    1. Fran*

      Mark the boxes clearly. Pack first the non-necessities like books, out-of-season clothes etc and let the survival things last.

    2. zaracat*

      For relatively short-distance moves: put the whole drawers of cutlery (flatware) and utensils in your car and unpack straight into drawers in new house, then return empty drawers to old house. Clothes on hangers: place a large bedsheet down, lay the clothes on it (still on hangers), wrap the sheet around all of it, then unwrap at new house and hang straight up into the wardrobe. And I’m sure you know this already from previous moves, but having a “need straight away” box is handy: stuff like kettle/coffeemaker, a few plates and mugs, can opener, painkillers, torch, dustpan and brush, cleaning cloths and towels, a blanket, bluetooth speaker so you can listen to music while unpacking even if power isn’t on yet. Have all important documents eg inventory, insurance, lease agreements etc backed up on phone and/or a USB stick in case originals get lost, plus phone numbers for anyone you’ll need to contact if things go wrong eg estate agent, insurance company, locksmith, emergency department in your new location, local police station.

    3. Thunderstorm*

      Wardrobe boxes are the BEST. So much easier to pack and unpack clothes closets.

    4. A Simple Narwhal*

      When packing, be sure to make a separate box of necessities you’ll need right away when you get to the new place. Things like a plate, a bowl, a cup, a set of utensils, a hand/bath towel, dish/hand soap, a roll of toilet paper, etc. (Adjust the numbers if there’s more than one of you, of course.) There’s nothing worse than finally having everything moved in and then realizing you have to go digging through a dozen of your boxes just to eat dinner or take a shower.

      My last move was the first time I’d heard of this trick, and let me tell you it made the first day or two so much easier!

      1. Jessi*

        The boyfriend legit works for a moving company, so between him and a couple of coworkers I effectively have

        1. Colette*

          Professional packers label boxes things by the room they go into – e.g. “kitchen”, “bedroom”. So if you want to know which box has the strainer in it, you will have to label them yourselves, or ask them to do so.

    5. Marion Ravenwood*

      The night before or morning of the move, put a fresh duvet cover on your duvet and fresh pillowcases on your pillows. Just before leaving, pack the duvet and pillows in a separate (clear) bag, with the new covers still on. Then when you get to the new place, all you have to do is put a new sheet on the bed/mattress and you can just throw the duvet and pillows on the top! I’ve used this tip on my last couple of moves and it feels so much easier than faffing with putting a duvet cover on when you’re already tired and just want to fall into bed.

    6. Filosofickle*

      If it’s a long haul move or one that involves any storage/handoffs, do a proper inventory. Number each box, mark each box with the number, and have a master list of what’s in each box! Keep like items together. Furniture items get numbered too. The inventory doesn’t have to list every single tchotchke, but enough where if box #17 went missing, you’d know what to claim. Just “kitchen” isn’t terribly helpful in that case.

      Consolidate the most essential items in a few boxes, so you can easily find which ones to open to get through your first couple of days. I also like colored labels (orange = office, red = master bedroom) so it’s easier to quickly spot & redirect movers who seem to want to put things anywhere regardless of the markings.

    7. Elle Woods*

      The advice provided here so far is spot on.

      One bit of advice I always give people: When you get stuff moved to your new house, get your bed assembled (set up, put the sheets on, etc.) first thing. The last thing you’re going to want to do after a long day of moving is realize that your bed isn’t ready & waiting for you. I learned the lesson the hard way the first time I moved. I haven’t made that mistake again.

      1. Maryn B.*

        Have one or more First Night boxes. Pack in them everything you need to make the bed, shower, dress in clean PJs and clothes for the next day, eat a take-out meal, and whatever else you know you’ll need to do the first night in the new place. I always include wine, glasses, and ibuprofen–and we always congratulate ourselves for it, because by the time we can’t do another thing, we need all three.

    8. Hey y’all*

      Plan out your drinks/food for the day. Plenty of water, some easy to eat snacks. It’s easy to get hangry and frustrated if you are dehydrated/hungry.

    9. Drtheliz*

      Keep your kitchenware! If you want an excuse to replace something, take it, but otherwise keep it! We reduced the kitchen to “everything I vetoed throwing out” (you are not getting rid of my stainless steel big frying pan, or my ten liter pot.) when we moved internationally a few years back, and are glad if every single item.

    10. Elizabeth West*

      These are all great tips. Bookmarking this thread because surely at some point I’ll be moving again?

    11. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      We’ve moved a bunch, including overseas with a few suitcases. One thing I’ve always done, regardless of distance was to ensure the box/bag of critical papers (passports, bank and insurance information, pet information) was kept with me at all times, clearly filed in a plastic accordion file, in its own (bright colored) tote bag. Sure there are other papers in other boxes we needed to keep, but keeping he important ones with me made me less anxious. (I know it seems obvious about the passports, but we have multiples and some with older visas in expired passports and drivers licenses and different countries require different proof, etc).

      Similar to the information tote bag is the First Night Box and also this last move I kept all my cleaning supplies in an open box (including two rolls of toilet paper, two of kitchen towel) because you are inevitably doing some last wipe up in the old place or some new wipe up in the new place. I also keep all of our “moving supplies” in an open box so I can quick grab another roll of tape, the tape gun, the marker(s) or any number of trash bags before, during, and after the move.

      Finally, this last move across the city I packed change of clothes for partner and I for a day or two (and towels) inn a designated suitcase as the others were in use as other clothes moving vehicles. I just needed to spot that suitcase and grab it.

      Moral of the story – keep important stuff visible!

    12. Not Australian*

      Figure out the nearest source of takeaway/delivery food to your new location and have their number already in your phone. On the day you move, you won’t want to cook anyway; just call them up/go through the app and get your food brought to the house. There is nothing quite like that fresh hot pizza turning up at your door just when you’re dropping from exhaustion!

  15. Buying health care for the first time*

    I’m living in a country with good national health care, but will be moving back to the US soon.
    My residence will be in one state, but I will be spending a lot of time in another state with an elderly relative. So I guess I need something that covers out of state care? I don’t think I will qualify for any subsidies. I would like to sell some stock this year, which would be counted as income, but would that mean I would have to pay a lot more for health care?

    Any tips on navigating the system or what to look for and watch out for? I’m feeling overwhelmed and a bit scared from all the horror stories out there.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      My understanding from my own recent adventures with health insurance is that all (?) US states have insurance navigators to help people make decisions. There are also professional insurance brokers. I’m not being super-helpful here because at the time I was so highly stressed I did not retain much information beyond that relevant to our own situation.

      I would wait for additional wisdom from other AAM commenters. If you have any contacts in your intended state of residence or where your elderly relative lives, I would also reach out to them. If your relative lives in an organized residence there may be a social worker; they won’t have the time to support you in detail but perhaps they could make a quick referral to someone else. You might also ask the county, municipal, or state Departments of Aging and/or Health and/or Human Services.

    2. Annie Moose*

      Will you have health insurance available through a job? If so, that’s where I would start. Employers should have a designated person (or people, at a larger employer) who handle that sort of thing and can get you the information. In this situation you would likely only have a couple different choices so the decisionmaking is considerably simpler.

    3. Aurora Leigh*

      I’m no expert, since all my health insurance has been through an employer (and I spent 1 yr without any).

      But state lines don’t matter so much as what’s in network vs out of network for the insurance plan. The hospital just across the state line might be in network while the clinic down the street from your house is out of network. Out of network charges are where most of the really scary bills come from (situations where the hospital you went to was in network but a dr who treated you was out of network). If you’re physically living nar the elderly relative and just happen to be across a state line you might have coverage in both places. Otherwise it’s just like travel — you hope nothing bad enough to require emergency care happens and everything else can wait till you get home.

      You can browse available plans on the ACA website and I think they have a helpline as well. Good luck!

      1. Esmeralda*

        Yes, in and out of network is the key. My son goes to college out of state. He gets MRIs (= charge for the scan, charge for the nurse, charge for related medications, charge for the radiologist to read the scan) in that state. It’s all in network for our employer provided health insurance.

        Meanwhile the urgent care I can literally walk to from my house is out of network….

      2. NopityNope*

        Thirding this! If the states are adjacent, it’s usually okay. I used to divide time in NY and NJ and had no trouble finding in-network docs, hospitals, etc. in both places. But definitely look for a robust list of in-network providers in both states.

      3. Old and Don’t Care*

        This may not apply to individual plans and the OP should proceed with caution. I have an individual plan and live on a state border and providers across the river are not in my network. Other states may be different.

    4. NopityNope*

      Assuming you won’t have employer-provided health insurance, start at healthcare(dot)gov, the official Affordable Care Act site. If your state has its own program, you will be directed to that site. In NY, for example, you get insurance through the state marketplace, not the federal one. The following is based on my experience there, probably similar in all marketplaces.

      You will see the available plans/prices. You will also find info on the income levels for subsidies. (Note: There were recent changes due to the American Rescue Plan that raised the income cap, good news.) If you don’t qualify for a subsidy, you simply pay the premium listed. If you do qualify, you enter your projected income, then submit last year’s tax return and your premium amount is lowered based on income. All taxable income is considered, so capital gains will likely count, as do dividends and other investment income. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the rates in the marketplace. Not pocket change and maybe a bit of sticker shock after national healthcare, but $300/month lower than what I could get from from my employer’s retiree plan (to cover gap before Medicare eligibility).

      Selecting a plan, enrolling, and income verification/subsidies is all done through the marketplace, not the insurance provider. You do pay your premium to the insurance carrier. If anything changes with your income, you can request a subsidy re-evaluation at any time from the marketplace.

      However, you may want to speak with a state or federal insurance navigator (state/federal paid, so theoretically unbiased and there to help) to ask about both your multi-state situation and also to get guidance if you didn’t file US taxes last year. My marketplace website has a prominently-displayed link to connect with an insurance navigator.

      1. NopityNope*

        P.S. If you don’t qualify for a subsidy, your premium isn’t on a sliding scale or anything. There’s just rate $X for everyone. The subsidy reduces that, but if you don’t get a subsidy, the rate doesn’t rise based on income. In fact, you don’t even have to prove income if you don’t want the subsidy.

    5. Purple Penguin*

      I recently moved back to the States without US employer health insurance after a long time overseas. I’d suggest first getting travel health insurance for your first months back (Allianz Global is what I used). Then once you’ve re-established residency in your state, go to healthcare(dot)gov to see what the options are. I’ve recently discovered that some insurances cover *some* out of state health expenses.

      I’d also check out digital nomad blogs to see how they recommend dealing with US health insurance while moving about within the US. A lot of them were really helpful as I planned my move back Stateside (because boy oh boy was there a lot of stuff to think about!).

      1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        We are looking at/starting to plan our return for late next year and health care is, of course, the big one. Appreciate the recommendation, and will post up my own thread when the time comes!

    6. Tea and Sympathy*

      Thank you for the ideas. I won’t be employed in the immediate future because of the elderly relative, and I’m just a few years away from Medicare. One state is in the Northwest and the other is in the Midwest, so definitely out or network. But I didn’t realize that there were people to help navigate the system, or that nomad insurance could be an option. I’m feeling a bit more optimistic now.

  16. Loopy*

    Thanks for everyone’s advice last week on owning a second property/cabin. I’m terrible at getting back to reply but I always read everything and it gave me a lot of great experiences in both directions to think over. While I’m still considering it down the road, admittedly I’ll have to be more practical about the distance at the very least. I wouldn’t have enough money to really do it probably for another three years of saving though, so we’ll see where I am in life then.

    In the meantime, whats your favorite 250 dollars or less home upgrade? Something splurge-y. I’m thinking a fancy showerhead and some really nice smelling body wash/soaps, but am super curious on what other modest upgrades folks have felt really made a difference (mainly in comfort/enjoyment). And if anyone has anything above that range that really changed the feel of their home- feel free to mention that too!

    1. Thunderstorm*

      Less than $250: we got a great bathroom sink/counter on sale to replace a swirled pink monstrosity. It really cheered me up to get rid of the ugly.

      Over $250: skylights for our great room. It brightened it SO MUCH. At least once a week, we’d wonder aloud why we’d waited.

    2. Ranon*

      In unsexy comfort upgrades, if there’s anywhere in your house with a noticeable draft it can likely be fixed with sealing/ weatherstripping/ etc for less money than you’d think and fixing it would likely improve both comfort and energy costs

      My other go to is sheets, you spend so much time touching them, it’s nice to have nice ones.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Paint! My kitchen was a weird cream color that made it feel like walking into a bowl of dodgy off-brand vanilla ice cream. When I had the kitchen redone, since all the cupboards were gone anyway, I repainted it a bright teal (because if there’s anywhere you can get away with eye-searing bright paint, it’s in a kitchen where most of the walls are covered with fixtures anyway and the paint is more of an accent than a feature). Then they put up bright white cabinets, and it’s now the most cheerful room in my house. I accent the teal and white with red and orange, and it feels bright and sunny and tropical even in the dead of Midwestern February.

      Similarly, the smallest bedroom in my house was painted dark charcoal grey with dark wood trim, and I swear walking in there it felt like a closet. I painted it a lovely spring green and replaced the trim (which was battered, because it used to be a teenage boy’s room) with white trim, and now it feels ten times bigger and so much nicer.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        “My kitchen was a weird cream color that made it feel like walking into a bowl of dodgy off-brand vanilla ice cream.”

        Oh lord, I hope people don’t think this about the house I just painted for sale! I was between SW Creamy or SW Repose Gray. My husband was on his way to Lowes to pick up paint and asked me for the color. I hadn’t decided yet, but I had the chip for Creamy and didn’t have one for Repose Gray, so I handed him the Creamy chip and said, “Here you go!” If it would have been for us to move in, I would have been more thoughtful, but I just wanted some neutral color on the walls and I didn’t care much whether it was off-white or gray.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Haha, this one was a weird yellowy off-white, and if I was just looking at it in pictures instead of having been there in person, I’d have wondered if it was from years of someone smoking in the room – so it wasn’t even quite a nice neutral, it was just an awkward color in general. I think you’re fine!

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I saw a very creamy vanilla-colored house once and thought it looked delicious.

    4. Llellayena*

      Under $250: I have a leather modern-look wing back chair with nailhead trim that I got on sale for $112 because one of the brass casters on the leg was broken. Replaced that with a metal cap and now have a wonderful chair that makes me smile!

      Over $250: I designed and built a custom set of built in bookshelves with varied shelf heights and depths specifically to fit my library collection. Wood, fittings and tools (because any new project requires purchasing at least one new tool!) cost around $400 I think.

    5. lifesempossible*

      I’ve been in the midst of home upgrades, and I like this question :)

      Less than $250 – We painted a small bedroom in a dramatic dark navy and it transformed the room. It made the woodwork shine. We have hardwood floors under the carpet that someone covered many years ago, so ripping that up was close to free (needed some tools) and then we had to replace quarter rounds. (Obviously not everyone will have beautiful hardwood floor underneath their carpet.)

      Not sure if this counts, but rearranging and getting rid of stuff has also been extremely helpful. We had a ‘workout space’ in the main living room, but recently made it a living room again and found a free reading chair on Facebook marketplace. Absolutely the best decision we made in a long time. We sold a wide dining room set and found an affordable narrow one, and that has made the whole room look more open. Changing out your wall art/room decor would be cheap and easy. Anything that is a large visual object can change a feel… a rug, bedding, wall art.

      Over $250 – I paid my plumber cousin to remodel the bathroom. It was a literal grandma bathroom (my grandma’s bathroom, to be exact), and replacing the shower and vanity and floors just made it feel like mine. We installed double shower heads and it’s a luxury.

    6. Teatime is Goodtime*

      Investing in a really nice, exactly-what-you-want upgrades to things you use or look at frequently. The latest for me has been some new (to me) beautiful china for tea. Just a small set, but perfect for our daily morning cup. We use it nearly every morning and it just makes tea that much more special. We already had beautiful mugs and some tea sets for other types of tea (e.g. gongfu cha), but this made every-day tea more thrilling and beautiful.

      Other, past investments have been things like sheets or couch cushions or another big serving spoon because we used it so frequently it was always in the dishwasher. :) So my answer would be to turn it right around: what do you use most frequently? What do you touch or look at on a regular basis?

    7. fposte*

      One of the happiest upgrades I put in was getting switches wired so I could turn on lights conveniently. Every time I go down to the basement I enjoy that.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        This is a good one! We also had an electrical outlet dropped in on our front porch, so we could stop running an extension cord out the window from the living room. Now I wish we had added an extra outlet on the back deck, as well, for plugging in the pellet grill more conveniently. I may have that done sometime later.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, while my initial impulse is always to aesthetic changes, it can often improve your life more to make a small functional change that makes things better than just “good enough.”

      2. pancakes*

        New switchplate covers where they’re very visible are a good update, too. Brass, chrome, ceramic or porcelain look a lot nicer than the more common plastic ones. Rejuvenation and House of Antique Hardware have good selections.

      3. Fellow Traveller*

        Yes! And dimmer switches on everything. I love being able to control how bright lights are.
        And electrical outlets that have USB plugs.

    8. My Brain Is Exploding*

      We changed all the cabinet hardware on the kitchen for way less than $250. Got the handles and knobs at Target. It looked so different! We loved it. Spouse is handy so several tiling jobs came in near $250: a tiny bathroom floor, kitchen backsplash.

    9. twocents*

      It might sound silly, but getting a dehumidifier. Dropping the humidity in my house from 70+ to 50-ish has just made being at home so much more comfortable. I’m kinda kicking myself for waiting so long because the $150-ish was totally worth it.

    10. RussianInTexas*

      Under $250: I got all new decorative pillows and throws for my living room.
      Over $250: new dining table, chairs, rug for the dining room. Was not super expensive online.
      Way over $250: new blinds for all my 17 windows. Right now they are sitting in boxes waiting to be installed. My current ones are either vertical vinyl yellow (!!!!) in the living area, old apartment quality in the bedroom, or not at all. The previous owners of the house had…very specific taste.

    11. Mallory Janis Ian*

      $250 or less: Our back deck isn’t covered, and it’s in full sun for most of the day. We’re thinking of getting one of those easy-up tents to add some shade cover so we can sit out any time of the day, instead of having to wait for early morning or after dinner.

    12. RagingADHD*

      -A nice new low-profile ceiling fan (less than $250).

      -getting a gas line put in for the dryer. It dries soooo much faster and better than the electric. Doesn’t seem splurgey, but it was awesome.

    13. Wishing You Well*

      I LOVE my instant hot water dispenser! Tea, boiling eggs, pasta, Jello! It even cleans dishes and rinses recyclables faster than regular hot water and there’s no waiting for tap water to heat up! I won’t live without one now.
      That said, splurge on anything you use daily. I splurged recently on top-of-the-line stainless flatwear. I love my spoons and forks!

    14. Janne*

      Under €250:
      – a thermostatic tap for my shower. I put it on 38°, turn the tap on and perfect shower temperature water comes out. So much better than having to mix hot and cold water. It was €50 as one of Aldi’s special products.
      – getting a rug professionally cleaned. Not all of the tea stains came out (the rug is 100% wool and more than 20 years old) but it became so fluffy! It cost around €100 for a 1.5×2 m rug.

    15. Redhairedrunner*

      High quality sheets. High thread count cotton in the summer and flannel sheets in the (northeast) winter. You spends hours in your bed it should be comfortable.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Cotton percale is really nice and it lasts FOREVER. It can be pricey but look for sales.

        1. BrambleBerry37*

          Stone cottage regularly has sheets for under $70 that are cotton percale. Also, HARD NO on high cotton thread count for summer/warm weather. 220 or fewer! It means a cooler experience.

          High thread counts have been the bane of my existence FOR YEARS. Those cotton sheets from the 70’s everyone remembers with fondness? 200-220 thread count cotton percale. Everyone can and should love what they love, but I remain crabby that percale 220 sheets have gotten so rare.

          1. Windchime*

            A few years ago I splurged on some super hight thread count (600?) sheets at Costco because I’d heard so many nice things about them. I hate them; they feel like sleeping on crisp paper. They’re not soft at all! I’ve gone mostly back to my cheap sheets from Target.

          2. Clisby*

            You are not alone. I found one source where I can get 140-thread-count 100% cotton percale sheets.

    16. Firefly*

      Under $250, a new bathroom faucet that is easy to clean and looks amazing. The one that was here when we moved in had all these weird grooves and two handles, and with our hard water it always got crusty and never looked clean. Our new one is sleek, matches everything better, and best of all – easy to clean!

      My next splurge will be a new puzzle holder. I love jigsaw puzzles, bit don’t have the space to have one “in progress” and out all the time. My old puzzle holder is getting worn out, and a new one might just be my birthday present to myself. Really, anything that makes your favourite hobby better is a great choice!

      1. Clisby*

        Sorry, part my comment was lost.

        Under $250, blackout curtains for our bedroom.

        Over $250, air purifier for our bedroom (doubles as great white noise machine).

    17. NopityNope*

      Comfy chair and huge planters for the deck. Drop in perennials instead of annuals and you’re good to go with just some watering.

    18. NoLongerYoung*

      If you own your place, go for functional upgrade(s) and start a “wish list” for future for the soft goods. Easy enough to pick up a new throw pillow on sale, but planning (like you are doing here) for the functional ones is so great. I did pay to have all the outlets/switches swapped (aged beige for fresh white) and new plates, LED wafer/can lights (and remove the old 80s light fixtures and repair ceilings/ paint/texture.) Added addition can lights. Replaced all the old smoke glass/gold fixtures with brushed nickel (cheap ones, I can upgrade later but getting some matching /not gold-brass /the wiring done was critical).
      All of that -way more than 250. But a complete transformation.

      Under 250, the biggest changes were: replacing every light bulb in the house with LED.

      Or swapping out the bathroom faucet (one of those crystal ball/faceted ones) and getting new towel bars (both of these sets and faucets were on sale at Costco). You can do the faucet yourself (truly). I was able to replace most of the towel bars/toilet paper holder, and add the hand towel ring (thank you, you tube).

      Note, we had already repainted the bathroom as part of the remodel (swapped tub for walk in shower). That made a big difference. Every time I walk into that bathroom (this was all for mom, me in 5-7 years when she is gone), I am pleased that it is light (the LED can lights+new light fixture over the mirror…) and more modern. And that is without replacing the beige formica and oak vanity. Just the paint, trimmings and new lights made it so much better.

    19. SP*

      Updated the light fixtures in the bedroom to more stylish IKEA pendants. They are much more cheerful then the standard domes.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Definitely lighting, better fixtures or easier access to turning on the lights. It’s also an opportunity to reduce your electric bill with upgrading the light to something more economical.

    20. LQ*

      Better lights. This is something my mom told me would matter and I was like yeahyeahyeah whatever, but it’s so true. Not just like a good light, but layers of light. I live in a studio apartment. I have in my main room 9 lights, not including a few things that ancillary are lit (little gardens with lights). It lets me have BRIGHT need to to seem like the middle of a summer’s day lighting in the middle of winter with no shadows and not like one harsh bright overhead light, but just BRIGHT. But also turn that down. Reading light. Ambient light. Table light, tv light, desk light, desk light, etc… I bought 3 big new high high brightness and yet variable lights in the last year and it’s made such a big difference. I need something that’s right at my bed that have variable brightness. I set all of them up on automated switches too so they can be remotely controlled, coming home to a not dark home makes my days so much better.

    21. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

      Replacing “builder grade” light fixtures with something more stylish is a good one. They don’t have to be super expensive either.

      1. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

        Of course you need to be comfortable with doing some basic wiring, but instructions are usually included (and there’s always YouTube.

    22. MissCoco*

      Seconding shower head and insulating windows if it’s a need.
      If you have a tub/shower combo, I think the bow-shaped curtain rods are about $50, and really made a difference to how spacious our shower feels.

      Also painting if there’s a room that’s just an “eh” color

      New sheets and new throw pillow covers are fun as well, to spruce things up and give a bit of variety

    23. Elizabeth West*

      I bought a really nice white rag rug at Tuesday Morning to put beside my bed, for about $60. The cheapo purple shag dorm rug I’d had before was okay but definitely not plush enough for a bedroom. It felt nice to get out of bed and put my feet on a thick fluffy thing instead of a thin scratchy thing. And it’s washable!

      It’s in storage right now; I hope it’s okay and not all full of spiders. I wrapped it up pretty well—it looks like a body, lol.

    24. Seeking Second Childhood*

      We have a 1950s house with only a few standard windows. We bought one of the AC units that stands inside the house and vents through a hose — and custom-cut a thick piece of Lexan to let us mount the AC in a bottom-hinged window in our LR.
      Next on the wish list is some sort of exterior blinds to keep the solar heat _outside_ of the plate glass windows.

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

      In the hallway of my old 80’s apartment I painted the dark wood-look internal laminate doors white and replaced the door knobs with something modern. It was cheap and brought so much more light into the space. Hallways are often overlooked, but can really transform the overall feel of a place.

    26. Anonymous Today*

      I can’t think of anything specific offhand.

      My suggestion is to walk around your home and see if there is anything that makes you less than happy and fix that. A bed that has a tired duvet or quilt; a piece of artwork that you loved 10 years ago, now you’d like to replace it; a cabinet or other furniture item that really needs to be refinished, etc.

    27. Marion Ravenwood*

      I would love a really nice set of dinnerware. I have some good everyday stuff but would also like something a bit nicer for special occasions (or just for when I feel like it!). For years I’ve been eyeing up the Cornishware striped set in yellow but I think it might have to be parked until/if I move out of my current flat, as there isn’t the space for another set at the moment.

  17. The Other Dawn*

    Anyone here live in or near Las Vegas? I’m curious about the weather and temperatures in February.

    I’m starting to plan a trip for next year to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Actually, it will be our 26th at that point, but we want to take the trip we couldn’t take this year. Even though we went to a historic inn overnight in-state and it was really nice, I’m really missing the big trip we didn’t get to take. Our anniversary is in February and I’m starting to look at hotel prices. We’re going with something really nice–or at least I want to–and prices are still decent around that time. We’ve been to Vegas many times, but never in February. We’ve typically gone in September/October for the most part. I think once we may have gone in May, many years ago.

    So, what’s the weather like around that time? I checked the average temperature calendar online, but I’d love to hear from someone who has experienced it firsthand. It seems like it would be nice weather by Northeast standards, much like springtime. Although we could probably go this Fall, I really want to go all out for the hotel room, which means needing more time to save money and not hit the credit card for everything.

    1. Meh*

      I lived in Vegas for a decade and it fluctuates. It’s still cold, but way warmer compared to the NE or Mid-West. Days are short. I’ve never done a Vegas vacation but as a resident I can firmly say I never spent much time outside just wandering about. It was always from car to casino. So weather was never a huge concern. Casinos are colder during the summer when the AC is blasting so indoor winter Temps may be more comfortable.

      If you haven’t already been, book a tour of the Neon museum (they offer both day and night, night is way cooler).

      1. The Other Dawn*


        Yes, I’ve already begun making a list of things I want to see and do. We’ve been there enough times now that we don’t feel the need to be in the casino much. We’d rather take some day trips, visit some attractions and things like that. I’d like to visit a few things I’ve already been to, simply because I enjoyed them so much the first time around: the Mob Museum, the Erotic Heritage Museum, and the Pinball Hall of Fame, which I understand is moving to a larger space. We’ve been to the Grand Canyon, but I’m not sure I want to go again. It was great, but it’s a long trip from Vegas. We’ve been to Death Valley and Red Rock Canyon. I heard there’s now a zip line at the Rio and one on Freemont Street, which I’d love to try. We haven’t been since 2013, so I’m sure things have changed quite a bit since then.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Oh, been there, too! :) I was trying to think of the name and couldn’t remember–thank you for jogging my memory.

        1. KristinaL*

          I liked Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay. They have a lot of interesting creatures, not just sharks.

    2. goodnu*

      Vegas is super dry all the time but if it’s cold or windy then it’s unbelievable. Make sure you keep your lips covered in aquaphor and carry hand lotion. Moisturize more than usual and bring a travel humidifier if you have sensitive sinuses. Drink a lot of water! I lived in Vegas for 13 years and I have to prep myself when I visit my parents or I get bloody noses (so dry!) and my skin starts to flake. It’s a fun place to be a tourist, have a great and relaxing time!

  18. Venus*

    How does your garden grow?

    We got rain this week! My grass was doing well despite the drought because I keep it long, but it was becoming a problem. The tomatoes and peas will be very happy too!

    I will have to gather the garlic snapes in the next week, which will be the first thing picked this year, yippee!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      We got no rain for like 2 weeks of 90 degree temperatures, so I was having to go out and water my poor tomatoes twice a day because they were just melting. Last night, we had fifteen minutes of literal palm-sized hail that was hitting so hard it was bouncing back up off the deck anywhere from knee to waist height, but all the plants seem to have come through THAT okay. But in the last 15 hours we’ve gotten something like four inches of rain, and it’s supposed to continue through the day and possibly the rest of the weekend. Fingers crossed, little plants!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’ve put out buckets for impromptu water collection–even our trash can. I want to rig up a screened water barrel though, to get the water without mosquitoes.

    2. CatCat*

      All my veggies are doing great except my jalapeno. It’s like its growth is stunted. All veggies are getting the same sun and have the same soil. The only difference is that the jalapeno is the only one in a large plastic pot. The other veggies are in grow bags or self-watering containers. I thought I might be over watering the jalapeno, but when I scaled back, it started drooping badly. There are no aphids pestering it. It just isn’t getting bigger and fuller like the other veggie plants. I’m at a loss.

      Any advice?

      1. Venus*

        No advice, but my peppers never seem to grow! Very frustrating! I have them in full strong sun and in good soil.

        1. CatCat*

          It’s so weird because my bell peppers are going strong. Maybe this particular plant just isn’t the hardiest.

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

        Is it a black plastic pot? Depending on how strong the sun is where you are it could be overheating the roots. Maybe some hessian cloth wrapped around the pot might help?

      3. MissB*

        Mine start out that way every year and then after about 3 weeks they pop out of their stupor and go gangbusters.

        I start mine from seed so it’s always a bit depressing to plant my jalapeños because they seem to be so slow and sad. My fish and paprika peppers are huge and lush by comparison.


    3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      My lettuce is doing well–or was as of yesterday, we’re heading into a heat wave — and some of the mixed greens have put up flowering stalks.

      Cucumber plants have started to flower, and I finally transplanted the tomatoes. “Finally” because first they were shipped late, and then I was sick.

    4. Llellayena*

      I have a bumper crop of lunchbox peppers that are supposed to be orange but haven’t figured that out yet. They’re currently a lovely shade of dark green and I’m sitting here going “come on already! Change colors!”

    5. RagingADHD*

      The green beans are coming in fast and hard, and we’re gorging on blueberries and inviting all the neighbors to come pick.

    6. Forensic13*

      Doing well over all, though I’m having some stunted growth with the seeds I sowed directly into my new raised beds. And we’ve got a trio of crows who’ve moved into the yard. Which I wouldn’t mind, except they seem to find my little radish seedlings really fun to uproot! Ahhh.

    7. Pamela Adams*

      The feral tomato in the greenway is producing like mad, and pumpkins have taken over one bed.

    8. Bobina*

      Oof. A lot of the wildflower seeds I planted seem to be coming in but very slowly and quite small. I wanted lots of flowers so a tad disappointed and hoping growth picks up soon.

      Think most of the anemones are done now, but glad the heuchera seems to be doing well, along with the alpine strawberry I got as a gift from a neighbour. The violas seem to not be enjoying the heat we’ve been having (the flowers seem to wilt straight away) – same as the nastartiums which seem to be having a lot of yellowing. Hopefully the rain over the last few days will cheer them up.

      But actually, the rubber plant that I’ve had indoors seems to be thriving! I started watering it much more regularly, and I’ve already gotten about 3 new leaves this year whereas last year I just got one. So glad I’ve finally gotten that one right.

      And the begonias are looking pretty lush too. No flowers yet, but even the foliage is pretty enough for me. Actually contemplating on if those can be turned into indoor plants because would like to have them year round!

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

        I keep all my begonias inside. Fussy as hell, but if you can find Their Happy Spot and can calibrate the watering to light ratio for that spot they’ll do really well. They really seem to hate change, so I have to put them in a spot where I can leave them all year round. I also have to be super consistent with watering, but by dryness, not schedule. Water a day too early or late and they get cranky, so that means I’m checking them daily. I’ve also learned to take cuttings early so I have babies if the original plant turns up its toes.

    9. Windchime*

      I’m not much of a gardener but I’m trying a little bit this year. My sister got a tomato plant and planted it at my house. The guy who mows my yard found a second, volunteer tomato and replanted that, then he brought me over an extra cucumber plant that he started. So I have a sad little garden that has a healthy tomato, an almost-dead tomato, and a teeny tiny cucumber plant. I don’t have high hopes for any of it.

      1. Venus*

        I am always surprised when my garden does well. See what happens and maybe you will get lucky!

    10. MissB*

      Veggie garden is doing fabulous. It’s nice to go out there and look at all the plants I started from seed. They’re really taking off in this heat.

      My shade garden in the front is beat to heck. We had a concrete patio and pathway put in this week and the shade garden boarders it, so of course the plants got a bit trampled. One of the contractors came by yesterday and sprayed off the chemical they put down to bring out the sand in the finish. It’s now all over my plants nearest the concrete. I can’t walk out there yet so I just stare at the white, trampled plants.

      Hopefully some of them pop back.

  19. Jill Pole*

    Religious folks . . . how has your church/synagogue/mosque/other faith community handled covid? Have you been happy with their response? My own church disappointed me terribly, but I found another church community online that welcomed me in. What was your experience like?

    1. LDN Layabout*

      Not my own, but my family’s? Badly.

      My godfather carried on going to church in spite of having his elderly father, wife and baby at home. He’s 60+, his wife is 50+.

      He got covid, his wife got covid. His father didn’t, by some mercy. I had to bite my tongue hard while being told this.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          So far so good, which I’m grateful for, since I care about them deeply even though some of their choices I’m less fond of…

      1. NoLongerYoung*

        In California, and they took it very seriously. Immediate pivot, streaming services, and on non rain sundays, outdoor services (with chalk circles/ limits as well). Even the participants in leadership on the streaming, modeled good protocol and socially distanced and masked appropriately- the keyboard player, for example. Every rule was followed. They gathered and incorporated video clips and pictures from the homes/pods, and put a lot of extra effort into it. Continuing to stream first service as not everyone can come in. This will be our first in person Sunday without registration plus trusting folks to mask if not vaccinated. (Rules just relaxed here).

    2. CopperPenny*

      I think it was handled very well. I am in Australia for context. We went entirely virtual suddenly last spring. One Sunday it was church as normal, the next only 5 people could attend. Our church pivoted rather gracefully to live streaming the services. When we could open up some more, they continued live streaming while having people in the church. So if anyone is sick, they are encouraged to stay home and watch the live stream. We’ve had more covid cases here recently, so they cut the childcare to encourage people to stay home and keep the numbers down. They encourage zoom calls during and after live-streaming the church so you are still involved in the community and talking to others. We have been really impressed with it. We actually joined right after the church went virtual and have been welcomed in. They have done a great job of balancing safety and connection.

    3. Jean (just Jean)*

      My congregation has been very helpful, running online services, shivas (condolence calls and daily prayers for bereaved families), and other events along with a few socially distanced in-person activities. Personally speaking, I realized that I do not enjoy remote services (because I miss being able to chat with other congregants, and because it’s so lonely when the online sessions end) but that’s not the fault of the congregation!

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Same here. I’m looking forward to going back in person. I gave up on Shabbat online a loooong time ago. Our shul plans to keep online options going for the High Holidays, which will be nice for us because it’s across town and we may choose to do YK from home.

        I will say that one advantage of online worship was being able to “join” services in our last city. We really loved the rabbis there and it was comforting to have that option, at least at first.

    4. Jay*

      My synagogue shut down in-person services last March and will resume this Friday with a hybrid model. We have a very small sanctuary, so they will allow ten people to come in person. You have to RSVP to attend and have to be vaccinated. There will still be a Zoom feed for everyone else.

      I’ve enjoyed the online services. They also offered expanded Adult Ed and created new opportunities to socialize online. I’ve been very impressed.

    5. Buni*

      My church went online asap, 3-4 services a week from two different churches, along with mass mail-outs of supporting literature for major festivals (read-alongs for the services etc). Our Children & Families and Youth workers did similar for the kids – a near-constant supply of home activity-packs accompanied by online instructions, online ‘party’ events or film watch-alongs for the teens.

      We went back to socially-distanced in-person services just before Easter, though we continued broadcasting them for about a month’s overlap. It’s been going fine, attendance figures are more or less back to where they were. Basically, it was a massive effort (I work in the office, I’ve never bought so many stamps….) but I think we did okay!

    6. MissGirl*

      Very well. We went completely online for a number of months. When we returned in person, masks were required and pews closed off for distancing. We’re now returning to normal but they’ve kept the Zoom option.

    7. Cookie D'oh*

      Last March, the church shut down and all services were online. After reopening, there was limited capacity at both services. People wore masks and there were masks and sanitizer available in the building for people to use. I know there was also support for people who were strictly staying at home and not able to come in person even after restrictions were lifted.

    8. Aurora Leigh*

      Most churches in my area handled it well — pivoting ot online immediately then as restrictions lifted having outdoor services or roping off pews and requiring masks indoors.

      One of my coworkers lives in a very anti-mask county (which has one of the highest death rates in our state, go figure) and she continued to attend in person services at her small church. She said half the sanctuary was “normal” and the other half people could wear masks and distance from each other if they wanted. That went about as well as you would imagine.

    9. Lizy*

      For the most part, I’ve been very happy with it. We shut down, like most, and our pastor did virtual sermons. We did reopen relatively early – last summer – BUT we live in a very rural community and cases were low in our area. We shut down if we had a cases in the church, and our “community” things like nursery and coffee hour didn’t restart for another couple of months. In the fall, the decision was made to not close church again for COVID. But again – low cases.

      If anyone’s been sick, they stay home and we pray.

    10. RagingADHD*

      My church started back earlier than I thought advisable, but we have a number of medical professionals in lay leadership, and they designed some protocols we felt comfortable with: limited, reserved seating; one family per pew with an empty row between, and staggered seating from side to side. Masks required. Pre-wrapped communion at the end of the pews instead of going forward to the altar.

      They added extra services and designated one as the high-risk service with no singing. They also livestreamed services for folks who weren’t comfortable with in-person at all.

      From what I gleaned in the emails, they were pretty lackadaisical about precautions at the “normal” services. But they did keep them well at the high-risk service, so that’s what we attended.

      I am sorry but not at all surprised that about 2/3 of our folks were very casual about their risks. We can’t know how it’s related but our pastor’s whole family got ill, and he very nearly died (spent over a month on the ECMO machine) and may never 100% recover.

      But I take comfort in the fact that they created multiple spaces and options for people to opt in or out of different risk levels, and made sure to respect people’s comfort levels.

      My daughter was supposed to be confirmed this year, and they held joint Zoom & in-person classes. But she was so sick of Zoom school, and the dual classes were so hard to hear, we just opted out. She can start over in the fall.

      I was happy that there was zero pushback on that decision, and the leader of the confirmation class said he’d do the same in our position.

      We’ve had open access to vaccines for over-16 since March, with plenty of walk-in, 7-day-a-week availability. Anyone who can be vaxxed and wants to, has done it by now. So they are removing most of the precautions but still maintaining the Saturday service with masking. My teens are fully vaxxed now, so I’d be happy to go back to normal service, but my husband works Sundays. It’s been nice to go together, even though the circumstances were awful.

    11. Llama face!*

      My church has done a good job of taking COVID precautions and were proactive in reducing risk beyond what our slow and frustratingly insufficient gov rules mandated. We operated with the mindset that we had a duty to protect and care for our local community in this way. For a large part of 2020 we converted to online services only which was a brand new thing for us. Never done before! We went from using Facebook Live to Zoom to Youtube recording and then back to Zoom. In the summer when cases were lower and restrictions had been reduced, we moved back to a mix of limited in-person attendance and online. Fall had usgoing back to online only. Now that things are once again improving we have reverted to limited in-person attendance- you have to sign up in advance since there’s a people limit- along with Zoom and are anticipating doing a few outdoor services in the summer. For the in-person indoor gatherings we have well-distanced tables and only close contacts can sit at one table (no travelling/visiting other tables). Everyone wears masks all the time except for a few very well-distanced situations where a speaker is using a microphone and is far from the tables. We were always quite active on our Facebook page and that has continued to be a helpful way to maintain community support for things like arranging meals for new parents/bereaved. All in all I was really proud of how the leadership in my church responded to COVID. Some of the other churches in my country with their “But Mah Rights!” attitudes did NOT impress me, to say the least.

    12. OyHiOh*

      The two local temples handled COVID badly. Apart from weddings or funerals, I don’t see myself attending services locally. I’m disappointed, but I was already frustrated with them for various other issues. I’m about to start going to services in the next town north, where a temple I have previous history with seems to have handled COVID much better.

    13. Coenobita*

      I actually joined a new congregation during covid! I didn’t even know it existed before and found it when searching for online High Holiday options last fall – I was looking for a Reconstructionist congregation and there’s not a ton of them around, so I was surprised and pleased to find one less than five miles from my house. Anyway, they have been great, with lots of opportunities for virtual engagement and community building. It turns out I actually really like participating in services from my couch, though it’s a bit weird not having met anyone in person yet. They are still almost entirely online; I think the preschool-age religious school class is meeting outdoors periodically and someone had a bat mitzvah reception in a park, but that’s it.

      I’m glad you found a welcoming church community online!

    14. StripesAndPolkaDots*

      The Zen temple/monastery I’m a member of started doing everything on Zoom. It’s great , especially since it helps people who live out of town particiate. They’re just starting to bring people back in person.

    15. Elizabeth West*

      My sangha group in OldCity has been meeting online since the first lockdown. Now that most of them are vaccinated, they’re meeting in person but we have a hybrid online/in-person sit, so I can still participate, as can one of our board members who moved to another state. This may continue for a while, or it may go back to lockdown conditions if things don’t get better—the vaccination rate in that area of the state is (in our whole state, actually) is very low, and the Delta variant is wreaking havoc in OldCity. The hospital had to reopen the COVID ward. :(

      I have to say, it’s kind of bittersweet to see them in the room. I miss them and I’m glad I can still meet with them until I find another group.

    16. Mr. Cajun2core*

      I think my church handled it well. Online only for many months. Online is still available for at least one service a day. Optional return with social distancing and masks required until recently. Currently mask are optional with 1/2 of pews social distancing and 1/2 free sitting. Required attendance returned only about a month or 2 ago. Note: there are *many* exceptions for the required attendance.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      Alison, feel free to delete this! (I’m tiptoeing into a serious topic and didn’t want the comment to end up as a reply within an unrelated subject.)

  20. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    I have a chipmunk burrowing in my garden. He has already dug up the bulbs from half my oxalis. *angry face* Tips on getting rid of him before he summons a bigger family and starts doing more damage?

    1. StellaBella*

      Do you have a dog? Get the dog to pee on the burrows. The threat of smelling a hunter near them will make them leave.

    2. GoryDetails*

      Much sympathy – the cute little devils are a plague in my area too. I’ve wrapped my veggie-planters with chicken wire, and made a chicken-wire cube in the side garden so the leafy greens might survive – it does work but it means I’m always having to mess with the chicken wire to tend to the plants. There are scent-based repellants that may or may not help (reviews are mixed). A homemade version from raw garlic and hot peppers is organic, simple, and might help; worth a try, anyway. If you saturate the soil around the bulbs it might nudge the chippies to move elsewhere. Good luck!

    3. Kathenus*

      I have a neighbor who ‘planted’ plastic forks around the plants to help deter squirrels, no idea if it worked or not but might be a no harm way to try to handle it.

      1. Llellayena*

        Nope, very much did not. I have the forks in my planters and I still came out to dug up plants (and dug up forks!).

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      I never did figure out how to get rid of them, but this spring a mama fox raised her brood under our shed, and I haven’t seen a chipmunk in weeks.

    5. NopityNope*

      I use Liquid Fence for deer, and it works well. It’s not labeled for chipmunks, so I’m basically saying that I’ve had good luck with their products, so I would be willing to try their All Purpose Animal Repellant if I had a chipmunk problem. It’s smell-based, so non-toxic.

    6. Not Australian*

      Can you get ‘Zoo Poo’ or equivalent where you are? Not only will it help your garden’s fertility, but the scent of e.g. large carnivore faeces is an active deterrent for smaller pests.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A friend calls them “rats with racing stripes”. Someone in their family badly sprained an ankle in ground the critters had undermined. I’m having a rock wall destabilize. Plus, relocation can spread disease if they have it. So I suggest the traps without relocating them. If you’re using no poisons, contact a bird rehabilitator or wildlife sanctuary and ask if they’d be interested for feeding injured hawks, owls, etc.

  21. Jean (just Jean)*

    Content warning: Intense sadness.
    Question: As a recently bereaved adult child who is also a spousal caregiver with scant time to grieve…any suggestions? In the early weeks I processed a lot while asleep and dreaming. More recently I realized I can “let my grief out” on weekends or when walking or driving alone. (Note to self: go park somewhere semi-private. It’s too dangerous to cry while driving and too socially awkward to sob while stopped for a red light.) The problem is that I have limited private time and space and I need to find extra margins of both in which to not only process my loss but also afterwards reassemble my usual keep-everything-running-smoothly self. Yes, I am also working on ways of passing off some of that keep-everything-running-smoothly business to other people.

    1. allathian*

      I’m so sorry for your loss.
      Do you have any support groups for caregivers in your area? Or access to respite care services?

      1. Observer*

        Yes, please look around for respite services. If you or your spouse is over 55 you may be eligible for services through your local Agency for Senior Services (or whatever it’s called in your area) or an organization funded by that government agency.

        If you have 311 in your area they may be able to point you to appropriate services in your area. Not all 311 services will point you to anything but government agencies, but it’s worth checking it out.

    2. justabot*

      I don’t know if this is what you are looking for, but intense exercise (think HIIT type classes) helped me immensely. I don’t mean this in a “cliche” kind of way. It truly was such a mood stabilizer. And physical exertion helped when the only thought I could keep in my head was “don’t fall off the treadmill” or “just hang on for 15 more seconds.” It was like a mental break from my emotional pain and grief. And endorphins would kick in and I could actually feel some of the distress dissipate a bit. I took group fitness classes. The other thing I liked about that is that I could be “near” other people, but I didn’t have to talk to anyone, no one asked questions, everyone was working too hard to have conversations. And I could be in my pain, make grimacing faces, even be teary, let out a yell, and people would just think it was the strenuous exercise.

      It was a good way for me to not be completely isolated from other people, but not have to be “on.” I could also roll in with no makeup, hair in a messy ponytail, comfy workout clothes and blend right in. Like I didn’t have to put in the effort to look polished and put together, something that took way too much effort and energy for me when I was just trying to survive. Having somewhere to go where I could just go as I was without judgment is part of why the gym stayed on my list of places that felt safe. In a weird way, it became sort of a sanctuary. And keeping structure and routine in my day by getting up and going to a class helped me so much. And just doing something all for “me” that was positive and healthy and uplifting and also gave a lot of confidence.

      Take this for what it’s worth. Grief and caregiving is complicated and this is simply one thing that helped me.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Exercise really does “burn off” the stress hormones. Long-term stress bathes your body in fight-or-flight chemicals, and if you don’t purge them from your sytem they cause all kinds of serious damage.

        Even if its not HIIT, regular exercise of any kind is a lifesaver when you’re caregiving, grieving, and especially both.

    3. Aurora Leigh*

      I have not experienced that level of grief, but I have had long cries while taking a hot shower — no one can tell I was crying since the hot water makes my face red anyway.

    4. RagingADHD*

      As a bereaved adult child who was also a caregiver to 2 toddlers and a widower who was having a total breakdown: respite care, grief counseling or a support group, and a gym membership.

      I nearly wound up in the hospital myself before I got a structured self-care plan in place. Don’t put it off. You must proactively deal with the physical and emotional impact of your grief, or your body will wreck itself.

      I’m so sorry for your loss, and I hope you find those safe places very soon.

    5. NoLongerYoung*

      Jean, I am so sorry. You are getting great advice. And, you may find that you need to gently expand the circle and let a few more folks know you don’t have it all together. I needed space to process, and time, but I also needed a lot of logistical support. I had to open up the door a little in two ways. One was physical help. One was emotional support.
      For the first, I was surprised at who pitched in and helped. Sometimes it was a one time help, but lifesaving at the moment to have an extra set of hands to do.

      For the second, example…. encouraged to try out to a new experience, kayaking…trusted inner circle person arranged it all, took me and then let me paddle, and process while just quietly being there – close enough to raise an alarm if I couldnt paddle, but not interfering.

      The ability to physically get exercise, in the outdoors, almost solo lol and have a “nature bath” for my emotions, was priceless.
      She knew (also a widow) that I needed it, even when I was relentlessly driving myself.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      “The problem is that I have limited private time and space and I need to find extra margins of both in which to not only process my loss but also afterwards reassemble my usual keep-everything-running-smoothly self.”

      You are wise to realize, “get a plan”.

      To me, losing my last parent was the hardest loss I experienced. But losing that first parent was also life changing. I do think that the changes were much harder and more intense when the second parent died. Both losses in some ways were worse than when I lost my husband. There can be a lot of reasons why.

      As gently as possible, I’d like to suggest that it might help to reset your expectations. Think in terms of needing some permanent or longer term solutions. I have no idea what this could mean. It could be that you hire someone to sit with your hubby once a week so you know you have that hour or two of free time every week. And you decide that this is your new normal.
      Or if you are doing all the cooking perhaps you decide to get a subscription for meals to be sent to you- heat and eats types of things.
      I know a couple who worked long hours. They dropped their clothes off at a laundry mat and had someone else wash, dry and iron their clothes.

      It took me two years to reknit myself after my father passed. I still held down a FT job and kept the house up and took care of other family members but I needed huge amounts of resources and time put into self-care. I got into nutrition and thinking of food as fuel, my energy source. I started watching what I spent time reading and watching on TV. There’s so much garbage out there, I wanted things that were either uplifting or things that would teach me something. In short I did a lot of “life streamlining” type activities. I ditched the stuff that was no longer important to me. I picked up new things that would help improve my quality of life and my ability to push through what I needed to get through.

      I don’t think we can speed the process along. I DO however see that we can just promise ourselves to keep making tweaks to our lives so that our new needs are met in some manner. My father has been gone for almost three decades. I still make tweaks in my life and in how I handle things.

    7. My Cat's Human*

      When I was full-time caregiver to my dad, who couldn’t be left alone, the margins were usually my only get-away / private / decompress / vent time. When someone else came in to sit with him so I could grocery shop (he had lots of food restrictions so shopping myself was easier than getting wrong items), i would shop quickly then take 15-20 min afterward for me – exactly as you said, I’d pull over somewhere and either call a friend to vent, or eat a treat I bought myself at store, or just sit/think. 15-20 min that was MINE.

  22. Baha*

    Towards the end of this year, I will have every other childfree. This is not my first rodeo as I have older children but am wanting to prepare myself.

    I have never really had any hobbies other than binge watching movies. I do like to try new things and tend to go with the flow. I have never had a lot of friends and with parenting over the years, the few left went in their own path.

    I am looking for ideas to fill some of my time and keep my mind on something other than missing my youngest. While cost isn’t really an issue, I tend to be frugal. I am also trying to get out of the house as I know with older kiddos it just broke me sitting at home. I do have a much needed and overdo haircut lined up and a movie night at a theater. Suggestions??

    1. twocents*

      Check if there are any meetup groups in your area. I like meeting new people while doing an activity, so you have immediately a common connection. Also a good way to find new hobbies, even if you decide to drop the group.

    2. German Girl*

      Pick up a sport? It’s a great way to get out of the house, meet people, and feel good about yourself. About half the people in our beginner and intermediate ballet classes are in your situation (the ones in intermediate usually did ballet as a child or spent a year or three in beginner).

      1. Chaordic One*

        I really enjoy volunteering with my local “Friends of the Library” group. I’m one of the volunteers they trust to walk along the shelves in the main library and put the books back in order and to re-shelve things. (They don’t trust everyone to do that.) And I also work in their used book store where the resell donated used books. One of my fellow FOTL volunteers also volunteers at a church-run store that primarily resells used clothing.

    3. I take tea*

      This may not be possible as of yet, but when it i: dancing! Preferably some kind of dance that you really must concentrate on (take a course, if possible). I’ve always found dancing very good because I can’t fokus on anything else than getting the steps or figures right. Plus the endorfines that come from moving your body to music.

      And not all dancing is couple bound, if that feels bad, both a lot of folk dance is in a group and then you have line dancing or historical dances that moves in lines.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I love, love, love our local contra-dancing group. They are so friendly and enthusiastic about new people, and every dance starts with a half-hour lesson, which is all you need to pick up the basics and get started.

        You don’t need to bring a partner, and you meet some awesome folks.

        They’re starting back in July with a vaccine-card-required dance, and I just can’t wait.

    4. sswj*

      Do you like animals? Many shelters need not just dog walkers or people to help clean pens and litterboxes, but people just to hang out and socialize kittens and puppies, and just give some human interaction to the various animals waiting for adoption.

    5. Girasol*

      Is there any touristing you can do safely in your local area, like maybe a trip to a museum you haven’t seen or a road trip in some area where you’ve never gotten around to going? Does the local paper list any weekend outdoor events that capture your interest? When I started retirement I began there just to shake myself out of old habits and open my mind to something new. I picked up hobbies too, but those came later after I’d had a chance to re-calibrate.

    6. Dark Macadamia*

      Are there museums or other attractions in your area that you used to visit/never got around to? Activities you enjoy that your kids don’t? Day or overnight trips that felt like too much work with kids but would be a nice little outing alone or with friends?

    7. RagingADHD*

      Check out the public libraries near you for clases and group activities. Ours have book discussions, game nights, presentations on interesting topics like “intro to beekeeping” or “how to hack your brain.” Also craft groups for knitting, papercrafts, jewelry, all kinds of stuff.

      Many places are opening up activities now, so there will be a lot of newbies.

    8. Alex*

      Hobbies that I’ve been into at one time or another that took up my evenings and/or weekends: martial arts (yes I picked this up in my late 30s!!) and ceramics. Neither is exactly cheap, but both fostered great casually social time.

      I’ve also enjoyed regularly volunteering with my local food pantry and a few local farms.

      I wouldn’t say that I’ve really made actual *friends* this way, as in–not people I spend time with outside of these activities. But I did enjoy seeing the same people and chatting each week.

  23. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Happy Juneteenth +1
    This white woman has been invited to her neighbor’s party. They said not to bring anything, but my mom’s training is nagging at me that a house gift is right for first time visit. After 2 years, somehow we’ve always socialized in the yards or in town. Technically this will still be in the yard because it’s a yard & tent thing–but it’s a big deal dress up thing.
    My flowers are all in-between so I can’t just pick a bunch to share. Except my smoke bush, would that be weird or lovely? Help! What do you suggest?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Honestly? I think a plant is lovely but if it’s a “get dressed up in a tent in the yard” event, you might be better off with something easier to set aside, like a bottle of wine (in this case I would go with a nice sparkling). But if you do want to go the plant route, an orchid is always pretty (and my local supermarket always has them potted).

      1. Victoria, Please*

        Agree that a nice bottle of sparkling is a good idea. Do you maybe have some herbs like basil or mint? I took a little bouquet of fresh herbs as a small gift recently and it was a good one. You could even mix the smokebush in as an accent.

      2. pancakes*

        Yes – if you want to bring flowers or a plant it shouldn’t be something the host needs to find a vase for. I would bring a bottle of wine. A good cava or crémant is festive. My favorite cava is Juve y Camps and it’s under $20/bottle.

    2. Cookie D'oh*

      If they told you not to bring anything, it’s okay not bring anything. If I invite people over and tell them not to bring anything, I won’t be offended if they come empty handed. I just want to enjoy their company.

    3. Not A Manager*

      I’m not understanding why it would be wrong to bring a hostess gift. Do make it something that no one has to fuss with immediately. A plant is fine, but cut flowers that require the host to find a vase can be a bit annoying. Wine is great if you’re sure they are drinkers.

      But since this is a big dress-up event, AND you are worried about not following instructions, why not send a gift the next day? That’s a bit more formal than bringing something, but if the occasion allows, you could have flowers or a plant delivered (or drop it yourself on their doorstep), with a note saying how much you enjoyed the party. Even more formal is to have something delivered the morning of the party (this would really have to be a plant or flowers), with a note saying how much you are looking forward to the event.

    4. Max Kittyl*

      Just a side note, Juneteenth is today, June 19. It was celebrated as an official holiday yesterday because it falls on a Saturday this year.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I went back up and looked at my post–I don’t really know where the plus one came from. I was invited before Wednesday’s flurry of activity in Washington DC.

    5. Nicki Name*

      If they said not to bring anything, then tell your etiquette training that following the host’s request is the most polite thing to do. Just show up in your finest and prepare to enjoy some food!

      (Also, as Max Kittyl says, today is actual Juneteenth.)

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Seconded. If I specifically tell someone who is coming to my house not to bring something, and they disregard that and bring something anyway, that’s not a great first-visit experience on my end, because I was pretty plain about my expectations. And not to put too fine a point on it, a white person disregarding the wishes of a POC like that, at a Juneteenth celebration, is going to say something.

        1. Tali*

          “a white person disregarding the wishes of a POC like that”… and giving them a gift? You really think someone would assume racist, disrespectful intent because they brought a gift?

      2. RagingADHD*

        There’s regional interpretation at play here. Where I am, “what can I bring” means I am offering to contribute to the meal, and “nothing” means it isn’t a potluck.

        It doesn’t mean “no gifts.”

        If you brought a pie or a casserole, that would be bad manners. I can’t imagine anyone around here being offended by a hostess gift like a plant, fancy coffee, or a bottle of wine.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Agreed. I hate it when people bring food after I specifically tell them not to (haaate) but I have never turned away a bottle of wine or a little box of fancy chocolates or whatever.

          1. Clisby*

            Adding … I understand why people might hesitate to bring cut flowers, but if I were the host, I’d love them. I have plenty of mason jars I can stick them in temporarily – I don’t need to go off on a flower-arranging project just because fresh flowers have unexpectedly shown up.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              BINGO — mason jar. I have plenty myself, and they’re not something that makes someone wonder if they have to be returned or not. Since I know she likes the smoke bush flowers, I can bring them over already in water. Now let’s hope the torrential rainstorm we’re having doesn’t flatten the flowers and cancel the party.

        2. Valancy Snaith*

          This is how I would interpret it. Especially for a big-deal fancy dress-up thing, I’d lean towards a hostess gift being appropriate, but definitely something small that wouldn’t be materially injured if it gets put aside for the evening and not really looked at until the next morning!

        3. Coenobita*

          Thank you for putting this into words – this is 100% my cultural/regional background too and I was struggling to articulate it! I was taught never to arrive at a party emptyhanded, but there’s a big difference between a casserole and, like, a gifty little tin of fancy candies.

          I probably wouldn’t bring a whole plant… I usually go by my grandma’s rule of thumb, which says that good host(ess) gifts are things that (1) are easy to use up and (2) easy to regift :)

  24. Eye Have A Problem*

    Last week I posted about my doctor expecting me to get vision insurance from my new employer so I could buy contacts through her (I always buy them online because they’re significantly cheaper).

    I e-mailed her to make sure her prices hadn’t dropped, and they’d still be $10 to $15 more a box than what I’d pay online. It sounds like the vision insurance only allows you to use the $160 contact allowance through your doctor or their special website that charges the same prices as my doctor. So…vision insurance seems like a waste in that respect.

    My current health insurance always covers an “in depth” eye exam (I get my pupils dilated and get the yellow drops in my eyes) because of a medical condition I have. And I guess it covered the contact fitting too, because I never had to pay for that. Do other health insurance plans do that too? I’m wondering if I should just skip vision insurance altogether.

    1. Reba*

      Vision insurance is arcane, isn’t it!

      Fwiw mine covered the better exam (which I also need) retinal image and contact fitting.

      What if you bought some of the contacts through the doc, so that you could use that allowance, and the rest online?

    2. My Brain Is Exploding*

      It is unusual for medical insurance to pay for contact lenses, eyeglasses, etc. However, it MAY pay for eye exams if it is relevant to a health condition you have.

      1. TiffIf*

        My yearly eye exam is covered under my medical insurance at no co-pay as preventive care for all ages. However any glasses/contacts etc is covered under a separate vision benefit that is a lot less comprehensive.

        It’s so weird.

    3. Don’t put metal in the science oven*

      I’ve never found separate vision insurance to be worth the cost for what it covers. Like yours, my medical insurance covered the actual eye exam. My optometrist also really pushed for me to buy glasses at her office but it was 4x more than Walmart. I’m not a fan of Walmart but the glasses were SO much cheaper. Slightly less quality but I factored that in.

    4. T. Boone Pickens*

      I’ve found vision insurance to be a bit of a mixed bag. It’s always covered the usual exam/dilation etc. When it comes to glasses or contacts I’m given an allowance to use towards my contacts (usually around $100 or so). With my old doctor it was still cheaper to buy the lenses online and then fill out an ‘out of network’ form to get my allowance. With my current plan, it’s shockingly cheaper to buy my lenses from my doctor. The brand I wear has pretty aggressive rebates so it ends up being about $150 for a years worth of contacts which seems pretty cheap to me.

    5. Unkempt Flatware*

      She wants you to buy vision insurance so that you can buy something from her that you get cheaper elsewhere without buying vision insurance? What is her reasoning beyond the purchase?

    6. Rusty Shackelford*

      My health insurance pays for my eye exams because I have a condition. In fact, I had vision insurance for a while, but it stopped paying for eye exams once they became “medical.”

  25. lifesempossible*

    Hello everyone! Random etiquette question…

    I attended a college acquaintance’s wedding on May 1st. For the gift, I wrote a check (it’s my longstanding choice for wedding gifts) put it into an envelope, and placed it in the box for cards at the reception. Am I being impatient if I notice it is still not cashed? I know that they are in the whirlwind of moving to a new city and probably wading through all their gifts (they did not have a honeymoon), but what is usually the timeframe for that kind of thing? (I know thank you cards take longer, but I’m wondering solely about whether they’ll cash it.)

    This exact situation (college acquaintance wedding/wrote a check) happened three years ago, and that check was never cashed. I was not…ah… very concerned or communicative and I never said anything to that couple then. Any thoughts on best actions?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      at six weeks, I think you’re okay to check with them.

      This sort of thing is why I hate hate hate writing checks, heh. I once wrote a check for a donation in August, it still hadn’t been cashed in September, and when I contacted them to ask when they were going to cash it, the dude was like “Oh, we were going to hold those until at least the beginning of the year.” WHAT EVEN?! Come on. Now I have a secondary checking account that I never use, so if I have to write a check, I transfer the money to that account and write the check and then if someone wants to sit on the check for six months, it’s a much smaller annoyance.

      1. HBJ*

        That’s absurd! They’re going to be dealing with unhappy donors who want that tax deductible receipt for this year.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          No idea. I asked them to shred the check and I’d make my donation via another method instead, and they complied.

        2. The Other Dawn*

          Saying this as someone who works at a bank: Typically personal checks are considered stale-dated after six months and the bank could refuse to cash or deposit it if they so choose. But these days many tellers just don’t look at the check since they’re usually running it through a machine. I see lots of checks clearing where the maker forgot to date it. And sometimes the bank is fine with an older check.

          1. HBJ*

            This has not been my experience as a customer. Our business had one customer who semi-frequently made mistakes on checks. Sometimes the date, sometimes the amount (written out and number didn’t agree). They wrote the date wrong twice, and the bank wouldn’t take it.

            We learned to double-check the checks immediately upon receipt.

            1. The Other Dawn*

              Then your bank is doing exactly what it should be doing. I just meant that even though they should refuse the check, it depends on human eyes to actually look at it and catch the mistake. If a business deposits 300 checks in one deposit, the teller isn’t looking at each check usually. They’re probably fanning through them quickly, making the deposit, and then running them through a machine to capture the images. The images are then transmitted and may not be looked at unless they’re over a certain dollar amount. The bank I’m at now (I’m in the back office), I see lots of check images where no one caught the fact that the check has no date, or the written amount and numbers don’t match.

      2. Observer*

        I once wrote a check for a donation in August, it still hadn’t been cashed in September, and when I contacted them to ask when they were going to cash it, the dude was like “Oh, we were going to hold those until at least the beginning of the year.”

        I would NEVER give that organization one cent again. That’s inexcusable and TERRIBLE management.

        It’s also terrible treatment of donors who have a reasonable expectation of getting receipts in a timely manner, and CERTAINLY within the same tax year. In fact, there may even be a legal issue here.

    2. Aurora Leigh*

      As someone who got married last year, part of our delay with cashing checks was that many people made them out to Mr and Mrs LastName but we didn’t have a joint account yet and changing my name was a bigger headache than usual due to Pandemic. Not sure how it would have worked if I wasn’t planning to change my last name. Cash or gift cards were much easier for us!

      1. Abby cats*

        This! I always make wedding checks out to either the groom or to the bride in her maiden name. Never to both, and never to the bride in her married name.

        1. Wishing You Well*

          FYI: you can make a check out to “John Smith or Jane Doe” and either person can cash it.

      2. HBJ*

        I had this happen, fortunately, with only one check. I took a photocopy of my marriage license to our bank, and they deposited it no problem.

    3. RagingADHD*

      I think it’s worth following up at this point just to make sure it didn’t get lost. Wedding cards are notorious for disappearing.

      1. Epsilon Delta*

        We received a beautiful 3D card for our wedding (it was like a vase of flowers with a square base). There was a check taped up inside the inside of the base. We nearly missed it. So if your card was at all oddly shaped, even if it was just one of those cards that folds 3 times like a Z, it would be worth making sure they knew there was a check inside!

  26. Teapot Translator*

    What’s everyone doing this weekend?
    The weather might be getting better today, so I may go for a bike ride. I’ve raised my bike seat (again). Starting is really hard, but pedalling is easier. Tomorrow, I’ve signed up for a sea kayaking intro class. Please cross your fingers that I don’t fall into the river.

    1. CTT*

      All three games for the Euros today should be great, so I’ll be watching those and trying to get a few things done around the house. And then my local team plays a game tonight, although I’m sort of dreading that. I’m on a committee related to the team and we’re having a talkback with some fans pre-game that I have to attend, but all my friends have other plans tonight so I have no one to go to the actual game with! So I’m debating sticking around for that.

      So basically just a lot of soccer.

    2. Girasol*

      Hey, me too! I’m increasing the intensity of biking, doing some steeper hills and longer routes out in the country where the scenery is lovely at this time of year. In a day or two on a nice calm morning I’ll take my little kayak out on the lake and see if my sore shoulder is ready yet for some paddle therapy. Kayaking works wonders on shoulders. Your sea kayaking sounds fun. Most kayaks are pretty stable so I’ll bet it would be awfully hard to fall in on an intro lesson.

    3. GoryDetails*

      I’m cat-sitting some friends’ aging cat over the weekend, and as she has to be fed every couple of hours I can’t make any long expeditions. But I do hope to fit in a little geocaching-and-BookCrossing trip while the weather’s so lovely – a drive to a nice hiking trailhead, with stops at some Little Free Libraries along the way. Then back to convincing my own cats that the mysteriously-closed back room does not in fact contain monsters (though the friends’ cat can be… testy…).

    4. Marion Ravenwood*

      I went to see In The Heights with some friends yesterday, then today went for a run, cleaned my flat and got my haircut. Now (it’s early on Saturday evening here as I type this) I’m going to try and finish my latest sewing project. And tomorrow the weather isn’t great, so I plan to watch one of my favourite Twitch gamers and write up an interview for my side hustle, plus do some research for another interview later this week.

    5. The Other Dawn*

      Planning a trip to Las Vegas for February 2022. It will be our 26th wedding anniversary, but we’re treating it like our 25th. We wanted a big trip this year, but with COVID still hanging on it didn’t happen. I’d love to go next month, but I need time to save money so as not to completely destroy my credit cards. It’s so nice to be planning travel again.

    6. Abby cats*

      Celebrating Father’s Day with a grillout. Fingers crossed that the weather holds up; it’s looking like a 50-50 shot.

      Sending an (anonymous) shout-out to my parents for accommodating my and my husband’s laundry list of medical dietary needs. They’re in their late 70s and eat whatever they want, while we’re the sickly ones who need tons of substitutions.

  27. Red Sky*

    Is there a way to tame frizzies without blow drying? I’ve noticed my grey hairs are coarse and frizzy and really stick up compared to the rest of my somewhat fine, straight-ish hair. I’d say I’m about 1/4 grey with most of it around my face. I have to wash my hair everyday otherwise it gets too oily and itchy. I have a short bob and hate blow drying, especially in the Texas heat. Is there a product I can use that isn’t oily or heavy to keep the greys smooth without weighing down the rest of my hair or making it look oily? Googling shows so many options and it’s been years since I’ve used any product, so not even sure what some of these new-fangle serums/creams/oils/sprays are.

    1. mreasy*

      Bumble & Bumble makes a product called “don’t blow it” intended to tame air-dried hair. I use and like it!

      1. the cat's ass*

        If you have curly/wavy hair, Devacurl has some great gels (super lightweight for the summer), which give me beautiful curls/waves and smooths/eliminates the Einsteinesque frizz that happens this time of year!

        1. Llama face!*

          Just a heads up that when Devacurl is googled the first thing that comes up is a bunch of ongoing class action lawsuits alleging the product has caused hair loss and other scalp issues on a bunch of people. :(

    2. DistantAudacity*

      Look into using hair masks regularly.

      A light-weight “shine” oil or finishing cream may helpful. Also – anti-humidity products. You may need to experiment a bit, because all hair is different, and using the right (small) amount is key!

      Personally, I’m a big fan of Aveda products for my hair! Generally speaking, I avoid supermarket/budget options unless I specifically know it’s a good product – my personal experience is that I somewhat get what I pay for, at least with these more finicky type styling products.

      Also, you may look to ask a hair salon for advice on products and how to use, especially if it’s one that carries a good range of products (no need to get an actual haircut!)

    3. Water Everywhere*

      I use coconut oil to control frizzies on my air dried mostly-grey hair, a very small dab rubbed between my hands to melt and then I run my hands through my hair. I’ve found that if I avoid the roots my hair doesn’t look or feel greasy any sooner than without the oil, and also that it washes out better than some commercial products I’ve used.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. I found a natural oil spray at the health food store. I apply it on the bottom half of my hair. I like to spray it onto a brush and then brush it through. Works good in the winter dryness and in the summer heat.

    4. MissCoco*

      Your style and styling preferences sound similar to mine

      I swear by It’s A 10 keratin leave in. I use a generous quarter-sized dollop run through my wet hair just after a shower, and then the 2nd day I use a smaller amount and dilute it by running my hands under water.

      I also like flipping my hair upside down into a microfiber towel after a shower, it keeps some volume in, after 5-10 minutes I shake my hair out, put a part in, and let it air dry.

      I also like oily/ silicone anti humidity products, which I use very sparingly during the day to keep the little wispies at bay

    5. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Living Proof No-Frizz Instant De-Frizzer sprayed on my dry hair helps smooth it quite a bit. I also use Bumble and Bumble Save the Day Daytime Protective Repair Fluid on the ends of my hair – it has camellia oil in it, but it’s a light lotion, not an oil. I’ve never had any problem with the it weighing down my fine hair or making it look greasy. I’ve also heard good things about the Bumble and Bumble bond strengthens products for helping with dry, split ends, which can contribute to frizziness.

    6. Kate R. Pillar*

      I use home-made flaxseed gel (recipes easily googleable; I use the most simple version of just flax seeds and water – needs to be kept in fridge, keeps for 10 days or so, but can easily be frozen, which is what I do).
      You can apply copious amounts, then let it dry fully (your hair will feel stiff and crinkly at that point, this is called “gel cast”). You then scrunch out the gel cast – ready to go.

      I have wavy hair, it works great for me.


  28. Dog bite*

    I’m moving into a new neighborhood and yesterday went over there to drop some things off at the new home. I was standing in front of the passenger side seat as 3 maybe late teens were walking by with their dogs. I was going in the direction that would cut across them so waited to let them pass.

    The first dog walked by and ignored me. The second dog barked at me and pulled on his leash towards me but moved on. The third dog barked, lunged, and bit my leg.

    It was maybe a 15 pound terrier mix. I was able to pull away and my pants weren’t torn so I didn’t think it was a big deal. ( this is the first time I’ve encountered an aggressive dog ). The owner was apologetic/ horrified and I was in a rush and I went on my way.

    After telling a couple of friends , they all asked whether I had asked the owner about whether the dog was up to date on rabies vaccination, whether the dog has a history of biting, contact info, etc.

    If I ever see this dog and owner again, should I ask those things? Or just steer clear?

    I have a large bruise and 2 parallel lines that look like scratches turning into scabs on my leg.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      (My biases up front: I am a dog owner and one of my work tasks is reporting animal bites that come into my hospital’s ER to the state health department.) You probably should have asked for contact info at the time, but at this point the horse is out of the barn, especially since you phrase it as “if I ever see them again.” If you see them again *and* their dog tries to jump you again, then there’s room for that conversation at that point, but “Hey, remember me, your dog bit me six weeks ago, let me grill you about his history of biting and vaccination status” isn’t going to get you anywhere. If the walker had been blasé about it, like “here we go again,” then I’d be a little more concerned, but “horrified” sounds like this isn’t a normal thing. (Or if the dog walker was a child, I’d have said something like, make sure you let your parents know that happened in case Fluffy is feeling ill or something, at which point if I saw the parents later with the dog I might touch base with them then.) From what you describe, a medical professional wouldn’t have recommended a rabies series even if you had gone in for medical attention, and since you didn’t (I wouldn’t have either), I’d personally chalk this one up as info to keep in mind in case of future interactions, but otherwise let it go.

      1. pancakes*

        This makes sense.

        I’m not sure I see the point of asking whether the dog has a history of biting – if it does I wouldn’t count on its person being honest about that.

    2. Wishing You Well*

      I am SO SORRY a dog bit you!
      I think the time for any action has passed.
      A dog bite or scratch that breaks the skin is serious and should be reported to animal control or appropriate authority. You would need to know immediately if the dog has had its rabies shots because you need to be treated immediately if the dog is unvaccinated. You would need paper proof, too, not just the owner’s say-so.
      Glad you survived and I wish you much better things in your new place!

    3. Annie Moose*

      If your pants weren’t ripped then you likely don’t have much to worry about from a medical perspective. (by which I mean–the dog’s teeth weren’t actually in direct contact with you) I’d monitor the injury (and your general health) for any unusual symptoms, but aside from that there isn’t much to do.

  29. Dade*

    Does anyone have any tips on how to interact with neighbours when you see them outside? I’m extremely shy and get nervous everytime I see a neighbour headed my way (especially if they’re someone I recognize). I don’t know where to look, what to say etc and I think that I come across as cold a lot of the time when I’m just really nervous (neighbours are quite friendly with my husband and not so much me). Any help would be appreciated! I’m working to get over my shyness

    1. fposte*

      Do you know what kind of interaction you would like to have with the neighbors? That might be a good place to start.

      I like the concept of being a “good ender”; my main stress with neighbor-type interactions is how I get out of them when they’ve outlasted their realistic scope. Three sentences and then I’m back inside with my empty trash can? That’s clear and finite. It’s a little trickier when you’re staying outside, but even there saying cheerily, “I’ve never been able to talk and weed at the same time, so I’m going back down–see you another time!” is viable. But it really helps to think about what *you* want rather than trying to figure out what your neighbor wants and whether you’re giving it. (And I think ducking neighbors occasionally is very, very common.)

      1. Whiskey on the rocks*

        This is very helpful. I am also not great with small talk, have terrible RBF, and I suspect my neighbors also think my lovely husband married a somewhat standoffish wife. Figuring out how to end the interactions is the most stressful part, though!

        If we’re more just in passing, I’ll wave and say hi without making a move like I’m heading their way to have an actual conversation. Usually that then goes: “Hi!” “How are you?” “Doing well, how are you?” “Fine, thanks.” “Have a good day!” The end.

        If there’s to be more of a conversation, it’s totally fine to stick with the weather. I think that’s why god invented weather, to give us something to talk about with people we don’t know. Plus then you can look up at the sky! Similarly I sometimes will compliment something on their property (flowers, new car, house painted, whatever) because then you can look at that thing. Then: “Okay, nice to see you, I’d better get on. Have a good day!” Which I will say regardless of time of day or night.

    2. Nicotene*

      Uggghh I don’t know why I have so much anxiety around this. I think neighbors are the most awkward possible interaction. My neighbors seem to hang out on their back porch 24/7 and I’m not sure if it’s rude for me to go out and mow while they’re there? I used to try to find another time because it seems so rude to me to start up a big racket (and it’s a big yard, so this is 20-30 minutes of intrusion) but the only times they’re not out there are if it’s raining or too hot to breathe. Also, they stare at me over the fence anytime they see me – I smile and wave, they look startled/annoyed. I hate neighbors.

      Separately there are also little kids over there shrieking any time I want to enjoy my own porch, and they always yell over the fence and I find the interaction awkward so again I try to avoid them. Not my best work.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Yesss I had a neighbor who was constantly in his front yard and VERY chatty. I hate yard work anyway and it was miserable when I wanted to work out there and had an audience while I’m all grubby and tired lol

    3. RussianInTexas*

      My interactions with the neighbors are basically a wave or a “hi” when I walk by on an evening walk, or pulling in to my garage.
      I don’t even know their names, and I lived in this house for over 6 years. My partner knows them better, but only very slightly better, from mowing the lawn at the same time as the neighbor. We are all civil, and will redeliver wayward packages or mail, or let each other know if something is wrong, but that’s that. When I lived in apartments, I never knew my neighbors at all.
      It’s ok not to be chummy with your neighbors if you don’t want to. My neighborhood organizes events in the park that we go to, but we still don’t talk to neighbors there either.
      Now, we don’t have kids, so there is no excuse/need to interact more with the neighborhood.

    4. Anon for this*

      Wait til they’re within 10 ft. Say hi. If they stop to chat, talk about the weather, any random neighborhood observations, etc. for a minute. To get out, say, well I’ll just finish my walk, good to see you! Be along your merry way.

      1. Dade*

        Thank you for the note on the distance! I wish I could get over this phobia (it includes not knowing where to look when i recognize someone I know :|)

            1. RagingADHD*

              If they see you, wave and go about your business. If they don’t, just go ahead with what you were doing. It’s like a long-range up-nod.

        1. Annie Moose*

          If you’re uncomfortable with eye contact (which I totally get–I have ADHD and one of the symptoms for me is being deeply uncomfortable with meeting someone’s eyes), a trick I learned is to focus between someone’s eyes rather meeting their eyes directly. People aren’t necessarily going to notice that you aren’t actually meeting their eyes!

    5. RagingADHD*

      General etiquette in my area is based on both proximity and observation.

      So, if we’re both out doing stuff in our yards, it’s friendly but optional to wave and say “Hey.” And it’s fine if that’s all.

      If one of us wants a chat, or has a specific question / topic to discuss, that person will go over to the fence or property line and throw out a conversation-starter.

      It could be topical, like “I saw a woodpecker on your deck rail, did you know about that? Might want to get a termite check.”

      Or it could be general chitchat like “that new shrub is looking great” or “how have you been?”

      Whether the conversation continues is just like any conversational cues – does the person reciprocate, do they seem busy, etc.

    6. Esmeralda*

      Hello Name! Nice day today!/wow it’s hot today isn’t it!

      Forgot their name? Just say Hi Neighbor! Lol, that’s my go-to! Hey kids, how ya doin? Or just, Hi, how’s it goin?

      1. Dade*

        Thanks everyone! I’ll try these things. Also helps to know I’m not the only one who gets stressed by it :)

    7. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      You can get a lot of mileage out of a cheerful “good morning!” (or evening), with a friendly smile and a bit of a wave. This fulfills the basic social niceties- you’ve acknowledged their existence and been pleasant.

      If you want to do a bit more, it’s time for the old standard, small talk. The worst thing about small talk is that it tends to be repetitive. The best thing about small talk is also that it tends to be repetitive. This means that you can get better at it with practice.

      An easy form of small talk is the obvious neutral observation, which the other party then agrees to and makes an additional remark on the same topic. “Such lovely weather we’ve been having.”+”yes, and such a gorgeous breeze”. “those sunflowers are getting so big.” +”Thank you, we’ve been really enjoying them.”

      If you want want to go slightly more involved, try the question on a neutral topic instead. Ideally this would be about something you’ve talked about before. “Did you get to go to the ball game you were talking about?”. If you are still new, you can ask things like “have you lived here long?” instead. If they seem like they are enjoying talking about it, ask a follow up question or two. If you are asked the question instead, use at least a couple sentences to answer, then feel free to ask the same or a similar question back.

      Sorry if this is all too obvious!

    8. Not So NewReader*

      The lots are small here so if I am working in the yard I can see the neighbors repeatedly. My rule of thumb is to say hi once. I don’t say something every time I walk within earshot of them- as that would be too much, they are also trying to do stuff.

      What I like about this is that I acknowledge their presence. It just feels rude not to acknowledge another human being near by.
      A lot of conversation is just practical matters.
      “Pull your dog in the house there’s fox out back!”
      “Would you like some extra hostas/squash/whatever?”
      “Here’s your mail, it was in my mailbox.”
      “I see you have a flat tire. Do you have a plan for that or do you need help?”

      Some conversation is just a check-in. Because we are next to each other we know what normal looks like, and if something is different we might inquire.
      “Everything okay? I haven’t seen you around in a few days.”
      “Did you find your lost dog?”
      “There was a stranger that I have never seen before wandering around on your property while you were at work.”

      Some conversation is just a mini-celebration.
      “Hey, the new car is NICE! Congrats!”
      “Spring is here, it feels so good!”
      “The new garden looks great!”

      I found it helpful to think of some conversations as on-going. Which is kind of odd because each interaction is just a few minutes, not something one would think of as conversation. But this means three days later when I see the neighbor has found their dog I can say, “I am so glad the dog is back!” Or I can recall a comment from a year and a half-ago and I can say, “I remember you were tired of that old vehicle, I am so glad you found something new for yourself.”

      If the neighbors want to chat they can come over and chat for a bit. Likewise with me, I can walk over to talk to them. It seems to be courteous not to stay too long- a few minutes is fine. “Oh, well, I should let you get back to what you were doing!” OR “I need to finish this weeding so I can mow. I’ll catch ya later!”

  30. Time’s Thief*

    I need food ideas. Heat makes me lose my appetite to start with and then I’ve had some life stress lately which just makes it worse. I had coffee with oat milk this morning and I feel sick to my stomach, like I just drank a quart of regular milk. Dinner was a basic salad with chopped lunch meat for protein and I couldn’t manage more than a cup. Nothing sounds good and everything leaves me feeling a bit nauseous. I had this happen last summer where heat and stress got me to a point where I was super weak forcing down sips of broth and I’d rather not go there again. Anyone else relate and what have you found that keeps you nourished?

    1. Job Hunter*

      Can you handle the taste and texture of meal replacement shakes? I use a plant-based protein powder, but only half the recommended amount per volume of liquid, and let it rest in the fridge overnight after shaking it in the shaker bottle. It’s one less thing to worry about in the AM when heading to work (just grab and go) and the powder seems to hydrate better, too.

    2. McMurdo*

      Oh, this happens to me too. When it does, I throw out all notions of what constitutes a “meal”. Does it have calories? Does it not make your stomach turn? Great! Eat it! I’ve had 4 slices of brioche, a banana mushed up with some cinnamon, or various other snacks for “dinner” at various points. I also try to keep things like carrots and pretzels, which are usually non-offending and easy to eat, within reach for most of the day. Whatever it takes!

      1. McMurdo*

        Also, peanut butter is a godsend if it doesn’t offend. Peanut butter toast, dip for apples, straight, it’s all a good source of protein.

    3. Copper Penny*

      It sounds like your goal should be calories first, everything else second.
      Grazing might be your friend here. Smoothies with protein powder. Cheese and crackers, veggie and fruit party trays. Muffins, zucchini bread, banana bread. Google zucchini slice. It’s basically a type of quiche and really nice in that’s situations. It is really nice cold. If you can, put finger foods next you to while working and while watching tv or whatever you do to relax. Put containers around the house with trail mix, nuts, dried fruit ect so you can grab a few each time you walk by. Eating small amounts frequently can sometimes help with food nausea. Instead of stopping to eat, try to fit eating into what you already do.

    4. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Seconding what McMurdo said: you don’t need meals, you need food. If that means having cold cereal for supper, or a handful of nuts mid-afternoon because that’s all you can deal with, do it: something that’s food at 9 a.m. is also food at 6 p.m., or vice versa.

      And short term, what you mostly need is to stay hydrated. Water with a little bit of lemon or lime juice or cider vinegar can be good if you don’t want to drink plain water.

      You’ve probably thought of this, but if not, try eating at the coldest part of the day/night, even if that means waking up early, eating a little, and lying down again.

    5. RussianInTexas*

      Gazpacho, cold cucumber soup, bean salads, non mayo cole slaw. My go to for the heat.

      1. c-*

        I live off gazpacho in the summer. 2 kg *very* ripe tomatoes, 2L water, 1 glass olive oil, 3 spoonfuls white vinegar, 1/2 large onion, 1 green or red bell pepper, 1 chopped apple, 2-3 garlic cloves, 1 chunk old bread, salt to taste (I use 2 spoonfuls). 1/2 cucumber is optional. All raw, mix together till smooth. Do not bother making it if you can’t access very good tomatoes, ripe and tasty: results will be miserable and you’ll be better off making ajoblanco, gazpachuelo or vichysoisse.

        Look up traditional recipes from around the Mediterranean, summer is miserable here and we’ve come up with great recipes to cope. Cold hummus, tzatziki, etc, are all great. Cold lentil-and-veggies puree works a treat as well.

    6. Llellayena*

      Try things that have a lot of water in them. Watermelon, apples, zucchini, cucumber. Use dips to fill in the calorie gaps like hummus, tzatziki, peanut butter, yogurt. Roasted vegetables are fantastic cold: zucchini, eggplant, carrots, asparagus. Graze rather than full meal.

    7. Bobina*

      Ooh. Are cold things better? If so, cold cold watermelon. Any cold fruit really. Smoothies. Yoghurt. Ice cream. Definitely vegetables – something like crudites – perhaps with hummus or something similar for a dip for extra calories.

      As others have said, dont worry about trying to eat the “right” thing, just focus on finding something that you can/i> eat.

      I might also play around with times. If the heat really affects you, try eating early in the morning or late at night when its cooler if that works for you. But I am absolutely one for eating all the cold things only when it gets hot.

      1. Clisby*

        Yes to cold watermelon. Also really cold pineapple. Carrot & celery sticks. Olives, if you like them. Cashews/pecans/pistachios.

    8. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      I concur with others. Concentrate on calories and hydration but don’t fret about super balanced nutrition, and grazing on small, cold things may work best.

      Frozen berries, mandarin wedges, grapes or any popsicle that’s real fruit, coconut milk, or yoghurt. You can also freeze Pedialyte into popsicles, or just ice cubes for a smaller bite.

      Cold slices of cucumbers and tomatoes with a drizzle of salad dressing would probably work better than leafy things. Charcuterie-esque things are more calories dense. Small bites of summer sausage, cheese, nuts, and olives.

      You could also try sucking on candied ginger throughout the day, or sipping iced ginger tea with a dash of lemon and honey.

      If it gets really bad again, consider taking to you doctor about taking an antiemetic. They do make you sleepy, but are safe enough to get people through morning sickness.

    9. Redhairedrunner*

      Can you stomach something like Gatorade or sugary mint tea? When I’m not feeling 100% I find that drinking my calories is the easiest way to get them.

    10. Okay*

      As someone else here said, you might also be dehydrated. As in, water doesn’t stick even when you drink a lot of it. You might need to replenish sodium and potassium. I was using Gatorade for a while til I realized it really doesn’t have all that much potassium. I bought some powdered strawberry-lemonade Pedialyte, you just mix it with water and it has a lot of electrolytes. If you can’t find it you can buy it online. (BTW you can get it in bottles too, but I didn’t like the “unflavored” one I bought.) As for food, others have made great suggestions. I would additionally offer saltines, they may help with the nausea. Good luck with the stress, I hear you on that!

    11. Aphrodite*

      I notice that I often eat only a sandwich for dinner; it can be homemade or purchased; I don’t care. But it’s cold, quick and tastes pretty good even when I don’t feel I have an appetite. I also adore beyond measure gazpacho. There are a gazillion recipes online but my favorite is my own version, adapted over many years. It’s not a true gazpacho but it is cold and it is full of vegetables. I could live on it and nothing else all summer if it had any protein. I tend to go through it very fast. And I love the Trader Joe’s plain sparkling water (for 99 cents). I keep massive numbers of bottles around and drink that.

    12. Emma2*

      I make paletas or ice lollies by making fruit purees, and putting them in ice lolly moulds with some yogurt and freezing them. I sweeten the yogurt with a bit of honey; I might puree the fruit with some lemon or lime juice and add a bit of honey or sugar if I think it is needed. I usually put scoops of each thing into the mould and swirl it around a bit before freezing. The lollies are refreshing on a hot day, will provide some hydration and do provide some calories and nutrients although not enough to live on.
      You can make them with ingredients like avocado or coconut milk – those would up the calorie count, which it sounds like you might need.

    13. OyHiOh*

      When I was college age, I did hotel housekeeping for a summer job, and rode my bicycle to/from work. WI, glacial hills, humid, about ten miles from home to work, and then back again. I routinely demolished a quarter of a watermelon upon arriving home in late afternoon, and then at a very light dinner later in the evening. Generally, when the rest of the family was gathering for “tea” (a weird Oy family ritual of tea and snacks around 9 pm, which started when we kids started hitting teen age years and were unlikely to be home for dinner but definitely home by bedtime) I was starting to look for dinner.

      So I’d suggest to redefine what “a meal” looks like. Buy prepared trays of fruit and veggies, if that helps you get from thinking about food to actually eating it. Have some hard boiled eggs, sliced cheese and deli meats, nuts, crackers – you can make yourself a balanced plate from those types of things. Also, use smaller plates (salad or desert size), knowing you can go back and fix more if you need it.

    14. tuesday last*

      when this arctic-bred girl moved to the southern US — fizzy water cut with juice to get calories into me.
      Now I’d do smoothies, with frozen fruit and yogurt, and maybe protein powder if I was feeling adventurous.

    15. Abby cats*

      Frozen yogurt. Not fake ice cream, plain Greek yogurt put in the freezer. Frozen berries are a bonus if you’re up to it.

      Watching my macros is really important in the heat. I need protein if I’m having simple carbs, or else I get woozy.

    16. BrambleBerry37*

      I have awful heat sensitivity and lack of appetite is a big issue. First, unfortunately, one of the best ways to not be nauseated constantly… is to eat. Calories, wherever you find them, are useful. Smoothies, juices, and pedialyte are your friend! I have also found buying some pico de gallo from the store along with an avocado and just mixing some chunky guac is something I can keep down in the heat. Find some tortilla chips you like, or othe carb delivery system, and bam. Do recommend.

      But yeah, of it gets bad enough, highly recommend meal replacement shakes thrown in the freezer and just CHUG.

      Good luck!

    17. c-*

      I thought of another one! Huevos rellenos:
      1. Boil a dozen eggs till hard.
      2. While they cool off, mix 300g of caned tuna with half a cup either a) mayo, b) cocktail sauce, c) tomato sauce or d) half mayo half ketchup.
      3. Peel eggs, cut width-wise, carefully get yolks out with a spoon
      4. Mix yolks in with tuna till smooth. Adjust sauce till to your taste, then generously fill each half egg with the mix.
      5. Stick into the fridge and eat cold or lukewarm.
      They keep for about 5 days, are bite-sized, tasty, and full of protein.

      Salmorejo is also very good.

    18. Bubbles*

      Seconding the gazpacho rec above, it really is awesome! There’s also a cold cucumber soup recipe that’s delicious and super easy, I’ll type that up at the end of this. And ice cream, of course! In addition to cool, liquid-rich snacks, I’d recommend some kind of dry bread for the nausea, too: crackers, dry toast, etc. (Tomato sandwiches, like just bread, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and mayo, might be good for this, too.)

      Something else that might “unlock” it is, paradoxically, leaning into the heat and eating some very spicy foods! (If you enjoy spicy foods, obviously; ymmv.) I’ve been going crazy for Chinese cuisine lately, and I’d say if you have a specifically Sichuan/Szechuan restaurant in your area, that might be a good place to try. I find that the heat of it makes me sweat and, ironically, cools me off!

      Cucumber soup (from “12 Months of Monastery Soups,” which is an awesome cookbook but does contain a typo on this particular recipe that I’ve fixed here):
      Bring 6 cups of your chicken or veggie broth to a boil; add 2 large cucumbers (seeded, peeled, diced), 8 mushrooms (sliced), 4 scallions (chopped), salt and pepper (Bubbles would sub sichuan pepper here, but the recipe means black pepper).
      Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
      Blend the soup and add 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar, plus sesame oil and ginger to taste.
      Chill. (It’s good hot, too, but that’s a Spring dish and we’re now firmly in Summer.)

      Good luck!

    19. ronda*

      caffeine can irritate the stomach…. so maybe try something else for drinking.

      One friend said when his wife was on chemo, she could only stomach beer… So that is what she had and he said it was fine cause she needed the calories.

  31. the cat's ass*

    Dear Commentariat,
    I need your help sorting this out. A fairly new neighbor, who none of us know well, has built, is advertising and running an entertainment venue from his back yard, directly abutting mine. He’s advertising it on FB, charging $ for tix, etc. These musical interludes are usually on a fri or sat nite (once on a Tuesday from 3-9, reggae, that wasn’t so bad, but 6 hours of it seems excessive), and are supposed to run from 4-8 but it’s more like 3-9 and are LOUD and even more of a bummer, aren’t even that good. I’ve called him and asked, could you please turn it down a little (nope) does he have a permit for amplification (required by my city, nope), could you ask your guests not to toss beer bottles over my fence and park in my driveway (hangs up). The ‘hood isn’t zoned for this sort of thing and I’ve called the city and they have told me that neighbor has to call them re zoning, permits, etc. which he will never do, because why would he? I’d prefer not to call the police with a noise complaint about this, because, you know, police, but i’m getting tired of having to deal with no parking , noise and a snotty attitude from this guy. TIA.

    1. CTT*

      I think a good first step would be to call back the city and tell them that he had continued to have these events and ask what your next steps should be to stop it.

      1. pancakes*


        This story reminds me a bit of a very memorable old case we read in Property class in my first year of law school. It’s from the 1930s, and involved a married couple who jointly owned property. They weren’t getting along well because the husband decided to open and kept operating a “boxing pavilion”!

        1. CTT*

          omg I’m mad I didn’t get that case in property! We did read “as a matter of law, the house is haunted,” though.

          1. pancakes*

            We didn’t get that one! I need to have a look at that. A lot of memories from that class came back to me recently because there was a Brokenwood Mysteries episode about a tontine for a family farm.

            1. CTT*

              Oh that’s a fun one! If you Google Stambovsky v. Ackley there’s a Wikipedia page on it. It’s mostly about representations about property, but since it involves a house the seller told everyone was haunted, the judge had a field day with corny jokes.

              1. pancakes*

                I love that they asked one of the ghosts if he was happy with their new paint color.

    2. MMB*

      The neighbor has already indicated that he isn’t interested in working with you or making any concessions. Unless he’s renting and you can speak with his landlord then the police are really your only option. Many cities have a “noise complaint” line specifically set up to handle this sort of thing. We live in a college town and it’s a godsend. Alternatively, if you have an HOA they may be bale to help.

      1. Clisby*

        I live in Charleston, SC, and we have a separate Livability Court to handle cases like this. I don’t know how common it is, but they’re the first go-to for things like too-loud music, trash all over the place, etc.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      You can call the police non-emergency number. You can also tow the cars parked in your driveway. If you feel bad about that, you can post a sign before you do it, but really– parking in your driveway? At the very least you can control who parks on your property.

    4. Workerbee*

      Your neighbor is behaving like an asshole, and such persons get by in life by depending on others putting up with it. Unless you are the only two homes at the end of a dead end street out in the wilderness, you can’t be the only household affected. Get a group to make a police complaint.

      1. the cat's ass*

        Thank you, everyone! We don’t have an HOA, and glassbowl man owns the house. It went on yesterday from 3 pm (sound checks) to 10:30, (we called the police non-emergency line) when it was supposed to be 4-8. And people came up the path next to our home and peed in front of my other neighbor’s home and left their beer bottles there. Monday, I’m calling the zoning/permit departments at the city and also rounding up the neighbors because there is safety and power in numbers.

        1. Reba*

          Do you have a city council or similar representative? In my city that’s where I would start my complaints.

        2. OyHiOh*

          I was going to suggest permit/zone office before police, also. Document date, time, who you talked to, and how long they say it will take them to deal with the problem.

          Next strategy after that, find out when your city council’s government committee meets. Committee meetings are open to the public and are composed of “a number less than half” of the city council members and city staff in departments related to “government” of the city. If permit/zoning office doesn’t fix this in the timeframe they estimate, show up to government committee meeting, and tell them what’s going on. Nine times out of ten, if you go to the appropriate office, and then follow up with the correct city hall committee, you’ll get decent resolution faster than going through the police, complaining to your city councilperson, and/or complaining in a city council meeting.

    5. NopityNope*

      Also, make sure you are documenting everything with photos and videos, especially if there is anything potentially endangering people/kids.

      Since the rational first step—talking to him—isn’t going to work, I would call in a noise complaint every single time (in my area, the ordinances say amplification shouldn’t be audible beyond the property boundaries in the daytime, so it’s not just about how late the sound goes) and have anyone parking on my property or blocking my drive towed. Every. Single. Time.

      I’d also report the unlicensed business, and talk to the City Council. For the council, I might see if the other neighbors want to go en masse, but I would actually encourage other neighbors to call in noise and other complaints individually. Multiple complaints from multiple people equals a bigger problem.

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

      Does your area have any anti-COVID restrictions in place? My local government has been publicly criticized for their (lack of) mesures, but boy they love boasting in social media about how many illegal parties they bust per weekend.

    7. Unkempt Flatware*

      As a single small woman living alone, I’d take drunk men near my property at night very very seriously. That’s a huge safety issue for me. This basically sounds like a drunk crowd dangerously close to you. Call the cops and report.

    8. Mstr*

      I don’t see this mentioned but I’ll throw it out there. This might stir the pot, but while your waiting for city/police/legal actions to take effect — if he’s advertising performers … maybe you could also send the performer an anonymous email letting them know that this venue is a private residence that is unlicensed. Perhaps they won’t want to take the risk (of being shut down early, of not having insurance coverage, etc).

      1. pancakes*

        I think anyone performing or DJing or whatnot at a private residence is extremely likely to be well aware that it’s not an actual club or professional venue.

        1. Mstr*

          The part where there’s actual tickets being sold differentiates it from playing at a private party or something though. If you’re a fan of theirs and you show up to no parking, no public restrooms, liquor being sold without a license & the show ends early because of noise complaints, etc … are you going to be happy about your experience? Maybe someone should ask them WTF they’re doing.

          1. pancakes*

            Whoever is buying tickets to these things is almost certainly paying at the door, not through something like Ticketmaster or a venue box office. There isn’t one, because it’s not a proper venue. Whether the people who attend these events are happy isn’t really OP’s problem. These events are a problem even if they are.

            1. Mstr*

              If guests are unhappy or injured at this uninsured venue or turned off by the unprofessionalism or any other reason, it is also the entertainers’ problem in addition to the hosts. They lose fans, they might have legal culpability, etc. So the idea is to get the entertainers to question the event host or consider dropping the gig … to inconvenience the event host so that he receives pressure from them as well as the neighbors. It would be less fun & profitable which discourages the event host. What’s difficult to understand about this? Are you 100% sure all entertainers have done their due diligence and are happy to take on risks and destroy neighborhoods so they can jam?

  32. Copper Penny*

    Lunch ideas! I need lunch ideas that are they type of thing I can have for lunch everyday for a while with minimal decision making. Right now I’m altering between pb and j and lunch meat sandwiches. I need a new idea, we are tired of sandwiches. It’s winter here so no salads.

    1. Cookie D'oh*

      If you’re up for cooking, what about making a pot of chili and eating it through the week? Sometimes I’ll make eggs and toast for lunch. I also like frozen meals occasionally. Or I’ll eat dinner leftovers for lunch, like pasta. I like the blog Budget Bytes for recipe ideas in general.

      1. Copper Penny*

        We used to do dinner leftovers but I’m wanting to cook less so we have dinner leftovers for dinner. We are a bit burned out over here with Covid and baby and going in and out of lockdown. We have eggs and toast for breakfast most days. The pot of chili is a good idea. Thanks.

      1. Queer Earthling*

        I was gonna say this, my default meal at all times is a baked potato with the standard “loaded” toppings, or you can add chicken or something if you want more protein. (My spouse often does chicken and salsa on theirs.)

          1. Lilo*

            The big long Idaho ones work great for me. We do these as a dinner and do toppings like bacon, broccoli, cheese, and sour cream but you could really do anything.

            You could just nuke and eat a sweet potato though toppings are trickier.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I do sweet potatoes with a black bean topping. It’s yummy and a full meal by itself.

          2. Queer Earthling*

            Russets are great and inexpensive, and I also like Yukon golds! Also you can put savory toppings on a sweet potato if you like; some people don’t like it (my spouse thinks I’m weird) but I think the savory/sweet combo is really nice.

            Also, you can oil (and, if you like, salt) the outside of your potato before microwaving, just as you might do in the oven, for a little more flavor.

    2. Nacho*

      Rice is a pretty easy meal, and can change a lot depending on what you do it it. Various sauces or spice mixes can do a lot for rice.

    3. RussianInTexas*

      I know I mentioned this upthread, but I had gazpacho and bean salad for lunches for the entire last week. Make them on Sunday, put in the fridge, done.
      If you in a winter, make soup on Sunday.
      I also make a bunch of hard boiled eggs for the week, eat as needed.

    4. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      Some of these may be too close to your current sandwiches, but something like tuna/egg/chickpea salad sandwiches might be enough of a change of pace and you can make a batch of the filling ahead of time. Or grilled cheese sandwiches (with a smear of pesto!) and canned soup.

      Skillet quesadillas are quick and easy. Canned black or refried beans and cheese is really all you need, but additions of stuff like cooked leftover meats and shredded spinach are great. Maybe some salsa or sour cream for dipping.

      If you’re up for cooking ahead of time, you can roast a sheet pan of root veggies and make a batch of quinoa/rice/farro/barley/whatever and have grain bowls. Just reheat and stir in a flavor addition like harissa, sriracha, pesto, balsamic dressing, etc. Or make a batch of colcannon, reheat a bowl and top with a fried egg plus maybe cheese and hot sauce.

      Oatmeal -sweet or savory- is pretty quick and easy. Instant ramen can be dressed up a bit with spinach, shredded cabbage and carrots, sliced mushrooms, frozen shrimp, kimchi, or an egg poached with the noodles while they cook.

    5. Redhairedrunner*

      I’m a big fan of quiche, just make one or two at the start of the week. There are nearly endless filling combinations and it’s not bad when reheated in a microwave

    6. Dade*

      I make a big batch of burrito filling (rice, beans, chicken etc) in my instant pot, put 3/4 cup portions in plastic wrap in the freezer and pull them out every time I want to make a wrap. I add cheese, avocado, tomato or whatever. I even send them with my husband to work and he eats them cold. They’ve been a lifesaver (hopefully not the same idea as a sandwich)

    7. D3*

      cheese and crackers + fruit
      Chips and salsa (Add black beans to the salsa for some protein if you want)
      Hard boiled eggs

    8. Skeeder Jones*

      I telecommute (pre-covid, 3+ years) so I usually make batches of food to eat throughout the week. My latest is a version of fried rice. I found some rice made from chickpeas and lentils that I use. I also buy riced veggies (cauliflower & sweet potato and riced broccoli) and then I pre-roast them with some avocado oil, salt, and garlic powder. So my actual ingredients are:
      1 pkg Brown rice (I buy the frozen 2 minute microwave kind from trader joes)
      1 pkg riced cauliflower & sweet potato and 1 pkg riced broccoli, pre roasted
      1 pkg lentil and chickpea rice
      frozen peas
      cut up rotisserie chicken
      minced garlic
      toasted sesame oil
      soy sauce
      oyster sauce
      6 – 10 eggs fried with the rice (I like to use a lot of eggs for the extra protein)

      becuase it is high in high fiber (due to the brown rice and chickpeas and lentils), but also high in protein (due to the eggs, added chicken and chickpeas and lentils) and has the “hidden” veggies, I don’t even feel guilty that it’s fried.

    9. Bucky Barnes*

      Soups are good, and I really like cooking a batch of pasta, mixing it with Buitoni pesto sauce and halved cherry tomatoes, and then eating it cold for a few days.

    10. The teapots are on fire*

      I make mini-fritatti (maybe really crustless quiche) in nonstick muffin pans. Spray with nonstick spray, chop up veggies (mushroom, artichoke hearts, broccoli, tomato, what-have-you) and throw in some cheese. Fill in the muffin cups and then pour over some beaten eggs (6-8 will make a dozen of these), sprinkle a little Parmesan on top, and bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes.

    11. Burnt eggs*

      Look up ‘tater tot hot dish’ or any ‘Midwest hot dish’ (casserole for non-USA midwesterners). Hubby takes his lunch every day and these provide variety. Sunday nights we put in individual containers for the week. If you make this at the same time as your regular dinner, it doesn’t add too much to the weekly chores

      1. BrambleBerry37*

        +1 A lot of people talk badly about casseroles, but they are an easy dump and bake dish that freezes beautifully and fills you up. They are also easily altered for your and your fam’s tastes, either with preferred proteins, spices, and soup base.

    12. Tali*

      If you have a rice cooker, the easiest and simplest meal I can think of is “takikomi rice”: chop some sausage or other processed/pre-cooked meat and steamable veggies (broccoli and carrots are easy, and can get them frozen), and put them on top of some rice and set your rice cooker to cook. You can experiment with flavorings (common: soy sauce, dashi stock, mirin, rice vinegar. Or any liquid soup stock will do), just pour it on top before you close the rice cooker. And of course you can put almost anything in with the rice. The bigger the rice cooker, the more servings you can make at once. Plus you get all the major food groups with very little work or prep–you can set the timer the night before and have it ready to pack for lunch, or make it in the morning if you work from home.

  33. McMurdo*

    Any advice for apartment hunting in a new city? My new job is in a big city about 2 hours away, and although it pays decently, it doesn’t pay “throw money at a leasing agent and be done with it.” In college I just kind of fell into housing arrangements and now that I have to find something on a budget with no existing contacts, it’s a major source of stress.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Plan a house-hunting visit, and before you go, research neighborhoods. Search for apartment buildings or Craigslist in those neighborhoods, and make appointments to see places during your visit. The important thing is to get a feel for neighborhoods you like (and can afford) and start from there. If you have a few neighborhoods on your list, you may even be able to walk around and look for rental notices, but that depends on the specific city.

      1. Bobina*

        Yup. When I was moving to a new city, I planned one weekend to visit, and set up lots of viewings before I arrived. Did a lot of idea gathering via the power of the internet (reddit to the rescue about what the good/bad parts of town were, as well as using maps to figure out what a sensible radius would be to live in as far as a commute to the new office) and then during the visit, got to see different parts of the city and absolutely fell in love with one neighbourhood that met all my needs and chose to move there. Been there ever since.

    2. Llellayena*

      Sometimes the chamber of commerce has apartment hunting resources. Baltimore was great for that (even though I never ended up moving there). They had a crime map, apartment listings, neighborhood descriptions, it was amazing.

    3. lapgiraffe*

      I gotta say, I only had two apartments in 13 years before buying, both times I looked on my own and then broke down and got an agent, both times went with one found with the agent, both times had amazing apartments that I stayed in long term. The second one I was in for nine years, was in a great neighborhood at an actually decent price, including a garage spot (!!!) included, and had absolutely lovely landlords I’m still friends with to this day. Whereas I’ve seen countless friends do the find your own place thing time and again, and there’s always something whether bad landlords, broken appliances, compromising on several things and making their lives (unnecessarily?) harder, and in general not finding anywhere worth staying for more than 1-2 years. And so in the end they have all probably spent more on moving than they ever saved by not using an agent.

      I know the expense seems silly and truly may not be in the cards, but if I ever had to rent again, even considering the network I’ve established, I’d 100% do whatever budget massaging I needed to do in order to use an agent. I just think you end up with better options, and I can’t stress enough, better landlords. You might even find some willing to pay the fee for you!

    4. Call me St. Vincent*

      When I lived in NYC, I got multiple apartments through craigslist. That seemed to be the way most people found their apartments as well. I don’t know about your city and what people generally use, but it’s worth a shot to try craigslist. Just search “no fee” apartments to avoid paying a broker fee.

      1. Clisby*

        When my daughter started grad school at University of Florida, she and I drove to Gainesville for an apartment hunt. She got a lot of good leads from Craigslist, and wound up renting from a landlord who had advertised there. We just made sure we could actually visit the apartments she was interested in – I’ve heard crazy stories about Craigslist scams.

        If we hadn’t been able to do that, she would have rented from one of the apartment complexes near the university that cater to students.

  34. HannahS*

    Nursing pillows: what was your favourite? Feel free to name brands. I’ve seen both the plain C-shaped ones and the fancier firm-shelf-with-waist-belt ones. Not an urgent thing, obviously, but I’d like to buy one to have around when the baby comes.

    Also as an update, we bought a Peg Perego stroller. It fit the bill: small, light, easy to fold, can convert to a double stroller should we have a second child…though I did have to swallow my shock over the price. Trying them in person was so valuable. We were *this* close to just buying a City Select online at the recommendation of multiple people, but I found the folding mechanism almost impossible to use–I’m short with janky shoulders and can’t hoist the whole stroller off the ground to fold it. I realized that everyone I knew who loved that stroller had a house–they probably aren’t folding and unfolding it every time they use it, as we would be in a small apartment.

    1. Lilo*

      I used a Boppy sometimes but to be honest I sometimes found the pillows just got in the way. I used an armed pillow (sometimes called a husband pillow) to prop up my arms and that helpeasier. The Boppy ended up getting more use to prop up my son or for tummy time.

      I will say it gets way easier.

      1. Clisby*

        I had a Boppy, but hardly used it. I wish I had thought of getting one of those husband backrests – I usually wound up using regular pillows.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      I used the C-shaped Boppy SO much. As a headrest when I needed to set the baby down, to help me sleep comfortably while recovering from C-section, and when nursing. I had 3 covers and sometimes machine-washed the whole pillow as well.

    3. RagingADHD*

      I loved the Blessed Nest stuffed with buckwheat, because it was moldable. Not sure if they make it anymore, but we still have it 14 years later and use it as a wedge pillow for propping up in bed.

    4. Double A*

      I just had my baby a few weeks ago so I have very up to the minute input on this! I like the Luna Lullaby nursing pillow, which is the Wirecutters pick. It’s L-shaped and I find it easier to get it into a supportive position. My friend also gave me a Boppy, which is C shaped, and I don’t like it as much. I find it harder to get into a supportive position.

      My other favorite pillow isn’t a nursing pillow, but I use one of those chair-shaped pillows that I in bed. If you’re using a bedside bassinet and planning to nurse in bed throughout the nights, it provides extra back support without having to fuss with a bunch of normal pillows (though I use my normal pillows for additional support and padding).

      I’ll link in a reply.

      1. Double A*

        Here’s the link to Wirecutter reviews: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-nursing-pillows/amp/

        And this is what I mean by chair pillow: https://www.target.com/p/20-34-x20-34-cut-plush-bed-rest-cream-room-essentials-8482/-/A-78656295?ref=tgt_adv_XS000000&AFID=google_pla_df&fndsrc=tgtao&DFA=71700000084268438&CPNG=PLA_Bedding%2BShopping_Local_Conquesting%7CBedding_Ecomm_Home&adgroup=SC_Bedding_Local_Brand&LID=700000001170770pgs&LNM=PRODUCT_GROUP&network=g&device=m&location=9032459&targetid=aud-1289682520027:pla-939962361735&gclid=CjwKCAjwq7aGBhADEiwA6uGZp4h7f82gp1sGmu6AEu1-6x0VwiHrX2TAcC_oY4H6Pn5bHVPV1ZTpyRoClsEQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

      2. Fellow Traveller*

        Completely agree as to having something comfy to sit up in bed! We don’t have a headboard and sitting up to nurse in the middle of the night was awkward and uncomfortable without the proper support.

        I have multiple Boppys, but only used them for a short time for nursing. They were great for tummy time and now my kids (1.5 and 4) sleep with them instead of a regular pillow. I think they like how they can really cuddle up in the curve of it.

    5. Call me St. Vincent*

      I used a Boppy with both kids and loved it. A friend gave me a My Breast Friend pillow and just a note that those pillows are NOT c-section friendly. Hits right at the wound area so that was an absolute no go for me, but she had a vaginal delivery and loved it.

    6. D3*

      I’ve tried the Boppy (wasn’t the right curve for my waist – I’m 6 ft and my waist was too broad. It’s built for more petite people, I think) and the MyBreastFriend (Hate the name, but the pillow was worse, trying to get it all the way around my waist one handed – with a hungry baby in the other hand – before and after, UGH)
      My favorite was a straight uncurved cylindrical bolster pillow that came with the couch!

    7. Aurora Leigh*

      I have the C shaped boppy pillow and really like it! Nursing didn’t work out for us for many reasons, but it was still really helpful for arm support while holding baby and she also uses it for tummy time and it will still be useful when she starts sitting. So I love how multipurpose it is!

      I also really like the Boppy pregnancy pillow that is shaped like a comma. Great for pregnancy and I also liked to put that on my lap and then the C shaped boppy on top of it.

      Not for nursing, but we also love the Boppy infant lounger — babe is 2 months now and we’ve used it nearly every single day since we brought her home. So handy to have a place to put her down that’s not a “container”.

    8. Aealias*

      I had a sort of J-shaped pregnancy pillow similar to the Leachco ones I see advertised today. When baby came, I just wrapped it around me, and stacked the ends to give me a good nursing height. The pillow served excellent double-duty. (It also made a fair donut when I couldn’t sit comfortably for the first few days post-partum). Honestly, even a couple of solid pillows off your bed can be good. It’s SO dependent on getting a height that’s right for your body, and having the flexibility to adapt to whatever pose works for you and your baby on a given day.

      1. rkz*

        Another vote for my breast friend! I saw someone up thread mentioned they didn’t like having to strap it with baby in one hand, but I’d just put my guy down to put it on (if he was hungry he was crying either way lol). I also loved being able to get up and walk around a little without re-setting everything. I will say I didn’t use it for the first month or so and just used regular pillows because I couldn’t figure out how to get the positioning right. But then I used it all the time until about six months.

    9. Sopranistin*

      I had both the Boppy and Breast Friend. I went through stages of using both. Overall, I used the Breast Friend pillow more often. I liked the strap to hold it in place and found the pocket really useful! The Boppy is good bc it’s multipurpose – a seat for baby, tummy time prop, and my husband used it to give baby a bottle.

  35. Arnica*

    Anyone use arnica and find it to be worthwhile? If so, what form (tablets, topical gel, something else?).

    I bruise like a peach amd I have a gnarly face procedure coming up. I’d like to speed healing so I don’t look like a ghoul on Zoom.

    1. pancakes*

      We find it helpful in gel or cream for muscle aches. Ask your doctor about scar prevention because there are some incredible ointments for that now. I can’t remember what was recommended to me years ago when I had surgery but it was impressive. It may have been Mederma? For ordinary cuts and scrapes around the house we use Joshua Tree Climbing Salve and it’s great stuff.

    2. Girasol*

      Do you get enough vitamin C? Raising my vitamin C level made a big difference when I was bruising badly after tae kwon do class.

    3. Queer Earthling*

      I often use Tiger Balm for bruises. Also, I have some issues with the company’s recent behavior but Get The Butters has a bruise soother that really is unparalleled.

    4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I’ve used an arnica salve for minor bruises. It’s not a prevention but it did seem to help speed the bruise to healing a bit faster. I think it might act similar to aspirin as a blood thinner though so be cautious and don’t double dose.

    5. WS*

      The tablets are often homeopathic so don’t really have enough arnica in them to do anything. I’m pale and bruise dramatically and have found the topical cream really good.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I have only used the gel.
      Oddly, when I initially tried it I did not like it at all. It felt like it did not do anything.
      Years later I tried again and now I use it like I would use a muscle rub cream.

      I also use Gaia brand Turmeric. I started using this when I had several teeth removed. I liked it a lot and now I use it on other types of pain.

  36. Anon5775*

    Hi all, I have plantar fasciitis and/or Achilles tendonitis. I keep seeing these leg massagers or shaking devices designed to improve blood flow I think. Do they work? Some brands I’ve seen advertised are: legxercise, slabway, relaxify, powerlegs, cloud messager. Anyone have experience with these or similar devices? Do they work? Thanks in advance!

    1. fposte*

      I found the Foot Log an ugly godsend for plantar fasciitis. Stretches always make mine worse. Eccentric loading is somewhat helpful. But the Foot Log just reset the neurology somehow.

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        Tennis ball or a cold can of soft drink (soda) worked for me. Also stretching multiple times a day – calf stretches pushing against a wall, and wrapping a towel round my foot and gently pulling it back – as well as calf raises whilst waiting around for stuff (kettle boiling for tea, brushing teeth, waiting for the train/bus when I still went places pre-Covid etc) and not running on hard surfaces.

    2. Elle Woods*

      I dealt with this a few years ago. Mine got so bad I had to see an orthopedic specialist. I asked about leg massagers for plantar faciitis. His opinion was that they’re a waste.He recommended shoe inserts (Spenco Total Support inserts) to wear for a few weeks. I also picked up a Foot Rubz ball to roll under my foot for a few minutes a day. Within a few weeks, I was good as new.

      Good luck! PF/AT is no fun!

      1. NoLongerYoung*

        Shoe inserts. I started with Spenco and later upgraded to a custom orthotic set (I have 4 things structurally wrong, including pronation, so the high end podiatrist assessment/video of my gait was ultimately invaluable in full diagnosis).

        My final two steps which took me from hobbling in agony, on NSAIDs and injections….to the elliptical and moving mom for 12 hours of stairs? After I got the custom orthotic, I was finally able to exercise enough (and encouraged by my progress) to be able to lose weight, and then I added pilates, which strengthened all the foot and ankle muscles as well as hip flexor stretches, etc… I am a new person. And 30 years ago I was less fit than I am now. The feet are so critically important!

    3. H.R. Caligula*

      I started wearing PowerStep Pinnacle Signature Arch insoles (ordered off Amazon) that eventually relieved the pain. That was back in ’14, no issue since.

    4. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

      Get a foot rocker! The more you stretch the area consistently, the faster it will go away and then you’ll be in the habit of continual stretching once you’ve healed (plus arch supports, and all the other good ideas listed here).

    5. MsChanandlerBong*

      I had the best result by freezing a bottle of water and then using it as a foot roller. The ice soothed the inflammation, and rolling my foot helped with my symptoms.

  37. Sleeping in a Locker Room*

    Any recommendations for a cooling mattress protector? Partner runs too hot and we have a new mattress. Can’t change the sheets every day.

      1. Sleeping in a Locker Room*

        They’re right next to the air conditioner, so I doubt a fan would do more…

        1. fposte*

          The fan can blow under the bedcovers. Have a gander at them online and see what you think.

      2. Seconded*

        Oooh I second, third and fourth this suggestion. We have a Bed Jet (the dual option, so I can be cool and my husband doesn’t freeze) and it’s life-changing. Cools in summer and warms up the sheets in winter. Remote controls, fan speed and temp options, easy to set up and easy to use. Highly recommended. It’s not cheap but totally worth it.

    1. pieforbreakfast*

      Last year I got an Iso-cool memory foam topper and then changed to bamboo sheets and it has made a big difference in comfort during sumer heat.

    2. Sleeping in a Locker Room*

      Thanks! I do need a better mattress protector as ours is too hot, it’s necessary due to the dampness, and the mattress is soft enough- no foam is required. Anyone have a mattress protector they like?

  38. Decidedly Me*

    Any favorite resources, tips, or advice for learning a new language? I’ve started studying Spanish and am currently using Duolingo, Memrise, and Rosetta Stone.

    1. Janne*

      You can look for a reputable news source in the language you want to learn and read a couple of short news articles every week. If there are words you don’t know, look them up and write them down with their translation. The bonus of this is that you also learn what’s going on in your destination country. The vocabulary that you get from there can be a bit weird (I know 12029032 words for “to report” in Danish now) but some of it is really well applicable in real life.

      There are also lists on the Internet of popular YouTubers from each country. So you can look up some popular YouTubers in a genre that sounds okay to you and try to watch them. YouTube has a setting in which you can play the video at a slower rate, so that it’s a bit easier to follow. Sometimes the subtitles work, that’s amazing. I also try to find documentaries in that language by looking at channels by news/tv institutes (like, equivalent to the BBC).

      1. Green great dragon*

        Yes! I read online with the Google Translate app ‘tap to translate’ setting – *so much quicker* than a dictionary.

        Tweets in the language of your choice are so much less intimidating than a full article. @MicroSFFesp, for example, retweets Spanish versions of @microsff, and you can click through to the original for the English version once you’ve tried the Spanish.

    2. Teatime is Goodtime*

      Go meet other people, if you can! Mutual interest will pull you across the rough patches where your interest wanes and get you through to the waxing (that sounded better in my head).

      Someone here reminded me about coffee break french last week–maybe see if they have a Spanish one? Or find something similar. Listening is really important.

      Look for popular kids books. They’ll be written in more simple language and give you lots of vocabulary ( I second keeping a vocab list!)

      Also, I did well for a phase with dual language books. I’d read a page in the new language and then reread it in English to see how much I had actually understood.

      Even if you don’t need it, I do also recommend taking a class, even if it costs a bit of money. I find the accountability helpful and sometimes teachers are just better at explaining tricky grammar stuff when there is a real-time back-and-forth. Also, great way to meet people who are learning too! And learn about new and local resources.

      Good luck! It is rewarding, but really hard and long work.

    3. Atx*

      I speak fluent Spanish and learned from scratch, and have never lived abroad! Here’s what I did:

      First, I will say that no app will teach you how to speak a language. Apps are designed to get you addicted to them and they’re the least valuable in terms of advancement. No one I know who learned how to speak a second language as an adult did so through online apps.

      I highly recommend taking classes with native speakers. I did so through Italki, and you can find tons of Spanish professors there. I reached a fluent level in 2 years and I attribute it to taking these one on one classes. Every class was in Spanish, even at the beginning when I couldn’t understand or speak it well. This will obligate you to use the language, think it in, and listen to native people speak which helps with comprehension.

      Speaking is the best way to learn. You will not learn to speak it without speaking, same concept applies to learning how to play an instrument. You can’t learn to play the guitar by listening to people or reading music theory. You have to play.

      The teachers can guide you through grammar resources and teach you all of that stuff. Writing was also very helpful and was one of the ways that got me actually thinking in Spanish instead of having to translate in my head.

      I don’t recommend listening to news in slow Spanish or other resources where the language is slowed down, because it’s a rude awakening when you hear native people speak at their normal speed. Spanish is one of the fastest spoken languages in the world and you will never train your ear if what you hear is a reduced velocity. Listen to different accents and dialects.

      All in all – use the language, speak it, study and practice every aspect (reading writing grammar listening speaking vocab), be patient, don’t obsess over small stuff like why does this phrase translate to this when it makes no sense. No need to waste countless hours obsessing over random things because things won’t make sense and it is the way it is, learn it and supéralo! (Move on, hehe).

      Another tip: don’t worry about how you sound right now or your accent while speaking. That will change with time, the muscles in our mouths have to get used to the new sounds and it takes a ton of time. There are tips and tricks to sound more natural when you speak, but you need to learn to communicate first. I spent the first 2 years learning the and the next 2 getting rid of my American accent. I’m sure I have a slight one but native people say they would guess I’m from some South American country. Happy to know my hard work paid off!

    4. Elf*

      Strongly recommend the Pimsleur audio courses. They are expensive, but you can probably get them from the library for free.

    5. Green great dragon*

      Find a Spanish person wanting to practice their English to chat with. Plenty of options out there – I used mylanguageexchange – small upfront charge but once you’ve made contact you can chat outside the site. If you’re just starting you’ll probably want someone with good English, if you’re a bit further on try someone whose English matches your Spanish.

    6. c-*

      Credentials/Biases upfront: am a 4-language-speaking translator and HS foreign language teacher who got her English from a B2 up to a C2 at 16 through the power of Animorphs, fanfiction, and teenage boredom in class. I’ve always learnt better when I had a textbook for grammar and could do my own thing outside of that.

      My go to: find the things you love doing in English for pleasure and start doing them in your target language. Fanfic? Start reading some in Spanish. RuPaul’s Drag Race? Watch the Spanish edition. Cooking shows, Disney movies, advice columns, NatGeo articles, sports? Same deal.
      Start easy so you don’t get demotivated: you can start with subtitles in English, then in Spanish, then no subtitles (look up “scaffolding” so you have an idea of how it works).
      Also, you need a solid grammar base or you won’t get anywhere, especially if you’re just starting off. Textbooks with exercises and audio tracks are way better for this than apps, so get a beginners’ to A1/A2 level and follow the method, or sign up to a class. Look up Communicative Language Teaching, it’s a great approach.

    7. Tali*

      Just adding to what others have said–Busuu’s paid course is pretty good for Spanish. It’s not a panacea of course, but if you need an app to serve as the core program pushing you forward, it’s the best one I’ve tried.

  39. Nicki Name*

    Happy Juneteenth to everyone in the US! Are you doing anything special today?

    With the pandemic still happening and all, I’m just sitting at home, drinking a red soda and contemplating the state of the country.

  40. "Horror" book recommendation for 7-9 year old*

    Hello, I’m looking for scary book recommendations for a child reading at around 7-9 year old range. There are not that many books for this age group that are genuinely creepy enough for him (but obviously I don’t want anything scarring!). He really loved “City of Ghosts” by Victoria Schwab (not the Netflix show!) so I’m getting the whole trilogy. He did not like goosebumps / scooby doo etc recommended by the librarian, but seems to like more serious books (he loved the abridged version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde). So kids’ editions of the horror classics that do a good job of preserving the atmosphere work too. He’s particularly into fantasy, even if it’s not that scary, “weird” works. I’m trying to avoid gore / sexual content.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I don’t have kids of my own and I read my first Stephen King book when I was nine, so grain of salt, but – has he seen the movie “The House with a Clock In Its Walls”, came out a couple years ago with Jack Black and Cate Blanchett? If he saw that and liked it, it’s actually based on the first book of a 12-book series by a guy named John Bellairs, the Lewis Barnavelt series. Bellairs also wrote the Johnny Dixon series. They’re both mostly written in the late 70s to early 90s, but at least the Dixon books are mostly set in the late 50s. They’re both boy adventure books with some spooky supernatural shenanigans. I know I was 10 when I first read the Johnny Dixon books, and I loved them.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        (Sorry, I mean “boy adventure books” in that the main characters are mostly boys going on adventures – think younger Hardy boys, with supernatural nonsense. Not in the “only boys should read them” sense. I enjoyed them just fine as a girl in the late 80s :) )

        1. “Horror" book recommendation for 7-9 year old**

          Thanks, looks promising! I put a hold on our library’s copy of the ‘house with a clock in its walls’.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Trying to think what else my gran (who was a children’s librarian) brought home when my sibs and I were younger. Maybe the classic Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books, by Steven Schwartz? Though the scary part of those for me was always more the pictures than the stories.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I watched a documentary about the art from the books, on Amazon Prime streaming I think? It was fascinating.

      3. pancakes*

        I started swiping my stepdad’s Steven King books at that age, too. I’m not sure it’s advisable but I’m not sure it’s harmful, either.

        Has he read any of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books?

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          My parents’ general rule was, I could read whatever I wanted at our house. Books I wanted to take elsewhere (including to grandmothers’ houses) had to get parental approval. :P (My mom tried hiding her bodice rippers for a while, but I literally read every book we owned and I was insistent that I was going to read SOMETHING, and they didn’t lead to any awkward questions, so she just gave up. Our next house was walking distance to the library.)

          1. pancakes*

            Similar for me, though it was my grandmother’s house that was a short walk to the library!

      4. Amey*

        Yes, seconding John Bellairs! I read these at about his age and it sounds like I was a similarly advanced reader (e.g. I read most of Dickens at 12). The John Bellairs books were marketed at kids but they’re not silly like Goosebumps – properly atmospheric and spooky with depth. I don’t know for sure how they hold up now (I read them in the 90s) but definitely good to try. I also really enjoyed the various novels about ghosts by Betty Ren Wright (my favourite was The Ghosts of Mercy Manor but she wrote lots of books) but these were marketed more at girls I think and were less classic.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I just reread a half dozen of them, between the Johnny Dixon and Lewis Barnavelt series, within the last year and they held up pretty well. Not perfect, but pretty well.

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          OH MY GOSH thank you! I have been sporadically trying for like TEN YEARS to remember the title and author of a book I read a thousand times as a kid, and you mentioning Betty Ren Wright made me google her and the book I’ve been trying to think of was her “Ghosts in the Attic” with the little boy ghost and the stamps.

      5. Damn it, Hardison!*

        I still love John Bellaire’s kids mysteries! I have very vivid memories of The Figure in the Shadow from my childhood. I picked up several of the books a few years ago from Barnes & Nobel and re-read them about once a year.

      6. Caraway Seed*

        John Bellairs was going to be my recommendation as well! Bellairs passed away relatively young/unexpectedly, and Brad Strickland was hired to continue the series, so he is also an author you might want to check out.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      A lot of my 6th graders loved the “Skeleton Creek” series by Patrick Carman. It’s lower reading level/high interest level so should be good for a younger reader who wants less “silly” horror :) It also includes video supplements which I don’t think are necessary to the plot, but add to the spooky – the premise is that the two main characters are communicating via a journal and a vlog, and the reader has access to both.

    3. Valancy Snaith*

      He might be ready for Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar, which are not “scary” in the horror sense, but definitely scared me at that age! It’s more absurdist/creepy.

      1. Alex*

        I loved those books so much! I’d call them “ridiculous” rather than scary or creepy but maybe that says more about me than the books…

        1. Filosofickle*

          I wouldn’t have called them scary either and I’ve never liked scary things really at all. But weird for sure! The one with the teacher that turned kids who misbehaved into apples and people assumed she was a beloved teacher because she had so many apples on her desk! Until she had all apples and no more students. I could see where that would be scary, it just wasn’t to me.

    4. Queer Earthling*

      I obsessively read ghost stories at that age! I recommend looking into:
      • Mary Downing Hahn’s ghost stories; my favorites are Time for Andrew and Wait Til Helen Comes, but she has several others. (Also some really good not-ghost historical fiction.)