weekend open thread – August 28-29, 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: You Should Have Known, by Jean Hanff Korelitz. Grace Sachs is the author of a book telling women the signs of problems in their partners were there all along, if only they’d paid attention … and then discovers she hadn’t known her own husband at all.

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

{ 1,038 comments… read them below }

  1. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going? As usual this is not limited to fiction writing, any writing goes.
    I finally got a move on and got some writing done – quite pleased with the progress I’ve made so far. Still in the early first draft so everything is still horrendously awkward, but hey, that’s what editing is for.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Finally, finally finished my first ever actual plot-driven piece on AO3! 20,000 words, it’s taken a massive rewrite twice and I am so glad it’s done.

      Am back to my usual comedy/okay outright smut really stuff now but am glad I stretched myself out once. Massive respect to anyone who regularly has a plot in mind – that was *not* easy.

    2. Girasol*

      One more short story finished, yay! It’s starting to look like maybe I can write enough for an actual book if I can manage to stay disciplined for a year or so.

    3. Albeira Dawn*

      I started reading and taking notes for a side project — except I’m using the Zettelkasten system, so most of my notes get turned into small, complete ideas immediately. Honestly it’s been fun to pick out one idea and write a mini-thesis that can fit on one notecard!

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Hard-copy edit has begun! I took a break for a day or so since I just finished a pass-through. You see differently when looking at the screen vs. on paper, and you catch things you would just gloss over on the computer.

      I also finished my trailer. I can’t stop watching it. It’s sooooooo good. Everyone I’ve sneak-shown it to says the same. :3 I redid the trailer for the first book since it was pretty low-quality and I have better software now; it’s exactly the same but smoother and just looks better. As that one is linked to my portfolio, I thought I’d better upgrade it. The new one will replace it when I release it. Because it’s gooooooooood. :D

  2. Aphrodite*

    Now that, Eve, is self-confidence!

    Alison, does she do this regularly? Has she ever fallen?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She does it all the time and cannot be convinced not to. Moreover, she runs along it. She hasn’t fallen yet. Wallace, on the other hand, did fall once — but continues going back up there anyway. At this point our goal is to prevent any of the others from deciding to imitate those two.

      1. Seal*

        My mom has a huge orange cat that does the same thing on her bannister. He’s never fallen either, but it always scares my mom to see him up there. The cat’s a daredevil.

          1. Former Employee*

            Thank you for the chart. I have trouble keeping straight who is who in terms of people. Thank goodness your cats look different enough that I can sort them out as long as I have the chart as a guide. Of course, they are all adorable.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I made this chart for my mom, who was always forgetting who was who. I had it made into a magnet for her fridge and she can always identify them now.

      2. I forgot the name I usually use*

        I live in a loft and mine does this too. I lost sleep over it for awhile (she even jumps from railing to ceiling beam as fast as lightning) but there is literally nothing that discourages her. They’re little acrobats!!

      3. allathian*

        When my parents’ polydactyl was 4 months old, he’d jump from the floor to my dad’s desk and from there to the curtain rod. He did that until he was about 2 years old and grew too heavy to jump. He could also open doors by jumping on the handle.

      4. WantonSeedStitch*

        My cats have done this. It scares the crap out of me! I especially hate it when they are chasing and fighting one another and one of them leaps up there to escape. If the other attacks them up there…that’s a long way down! Hopefully Wallace wasn’t hurt in his fall!

    2. Tuesday*

      I love cats. “Gosh, there are so many places to sit, how will I choose? I know, I’ll go with this three-inch-wide surface right at the edge of an abyss. Perfect!”

      1. Anono-me*

        I have a theory that Cats are Ancient Guardians charged with protecting the Universe from some terrible creature/s that will come from the Abyss. So all the behavior that drives people to tear their hair out (zoomies, knocking all things off the edge, feats of agility and balance, etc.) is really training in case they are ‘The One’.

  3. the once and future bling*

    I can’t wait for fall when I can wrap myself in a blanket and drink cocoa and read all weekend. What are your comfort reads, the books you turn to when you want to feel cozy and soothed? For me it’s I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith) and Love in a Cold Climate (Nancy Mitford). Sometimes Agatha Christie since there’s something about a world where everything is wrapped up neatly that makes me feel soothed.

    1. Sjnb*

      I highly recommend Cold Comfort Farm if you haven’t read – it’s very funny! And I agree about Agatha Christie :)

      1. GoryDetails*

        I adore Cold Comfort Farm – though more as a laugh-riot than as a “comfort” read. [The film adaptation had some delightful performances, btw.]

        1. Autumn*

          Ha, I think of it every time I see your handle (and your fish avatar is also from a favorite book)!

    2. Pam*

      Arthur Ransome’s Winter Holiday. “Softly, as if it hardly meant it, the snow began to fall. “

    3. German Girl*

      Honestly my comfort read for cold days is the Kiss and Cry series by Annie on Derbyshire writers guild. The first ‘book’ is basically a mix-up of Pride and Prejudice and the whole Tonya Harding scandal and I absolutely adore it and read it every winter.


      The other books are nice, too, and add other Jane Austen novels to the mix.

    4. Loopy*

      Becky Chambers books are mine. I almost never re-read but I just reread everything she wrote a while ago and it was great. I would also expect House in the Cerulean Sea may be a good comfort read.

    5. GoryDetails*

      My favorite comfort reads include Austen’s novels, Sayers’ “Lord Peter” books and stories, and – perhaps surprising as “comfort” reads – classic British ghost stories, primarily M. R. James and E. F. Benson but with other classic tales as well.

      1. Autumn*

        If you like audiobooks, on LibriVox (so, free), Peter Yearsley reads James’s only novel, The Five Jars, and it is amazing! It is not a children’s book, it’s just unclassifiable. A perfect marriage of reader and text.

    6. Autumn*

      Tanith Lee, always my touchstone. Took Cyrion with me to a scary medical appointment just yesterday.

      1. TvrH*

        Oh, I don’t know that one! I’ll have to find a copy. I love her “Silver Metal Lover” book. I hope your appt wasn’t too scary and that you are ok.

        1. Autumn*

          Thanks so much! Got through the MRI (claustrophobia, ugh). Tanith was insanely prolific, but since you loved SML I think you’d also like Cyrion, and the Don’t Bite The Sun/Drinking Sapphire Wine duology!

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I love, love love ‘Vivia’ by Tanith Lee. The copy I have has a painting of Sappho on the cover :)

    7. The Dogman*

      The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett is my goto comfort reads!

      Check them out if you haven’t already!

      1. Pippa K*

        I’m not usually an audiobook listener, but Stephen Briggs’ recordings of Discworld novels are absolutely wonderful. He has a lovely voice and his vocal acting range for different characters is excellent. A few are available from my library via Libby – I wouldn’t have bought audio versions but now I love them.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      The Amelia Peabody mystery series. In the first, Amelia is a newly wealthy spinster who travels to Italy, where she takes on a protege, and then to Egypt, where she organizes an archaeological dig suffering from haunting by dummies. Her parasol comes to be viewed as a dangerous magical item.

    9. Dark Macadamia*

      I Capture the Castle is so good!

      My main one is Pride and Prejudice, or sometimes Persuasion. I also like to reread series I loved as a teen, which depends on my mood but is usually His Dark Materials, The Dalemark Quartet, or Harry Potter.

    10. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I’m a big fan of Michelle Moran’s books like ‘Nefertiti’, ‘The Heretic Queen’ and ‘Cleopatras Daughter’.

      1. the cat's ass*

        comfort reading, you say? Anything by the late lamented Laurie Colwin. And I loved “You Should Have Known. “

    11. Water Everywhere*

      Another vote here for Jane Austen, I think I’ve gone twice through her books since pandemic lockdowns began. Two other favourites are ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ (Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Burrows) and ‘Jane of Lantern Hill’ (L.M. Montgomery). Also, if you want a romance that’ll make you cry laughing then try ‘Bet Me’ (Jennifer Crusie).

    12. OTGW*

      Funnily enough, Hunger Games is one that I go back to almost every year. I know it’s a life or death situation, but just the style of writing, the characters, Katniss herself just are comforting to me. If I’m ever stressed or feeling depressed, I just need to dip into a world I already know and love and have someone struggle with me too.

      I also really love the Harry Potter series—specifically #3. I haven’t read it in the last two years, as the memory was obviously tarnished, but maybe this year if the mood strikes me.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Along this vane but involving mysteries Junior Orchestra and I read the entire Enola Holmes series this summer. We were cackling out loud as she outwitted Mycroft and Sherlock, and then turned Sherlock into an ally.

        (Just be willing to explain Victorian Slang to teens/tweens if they are reading them.)

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          And the Rick Riordan books (minus the first Egyptian series which is good but not great) are awesome – please do not let the disasters of movies that share the same titles as the movies).

          The books are good – and you can so see tweens into teens doing what these characters do.

    13. Quinalla*

      The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle – beautiful prose, read some of it out loud for sure. And a lovely, melancholy story.

    14. allathian*

      L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and its sequels. I’m glad I don’t live in that world, but it’s sort of comforting how everyone’s so secure in their place in it.

      Lilian Jackson Brown’s “The Cat Who…” series of books.

      I second Agatha Christie.

    15. OyHiOh*

      I Capture the Castle is one of my favs. Always nice to see others enjoy it.

      I found it, incidentally, through a list in Writer’s Digest years ago, of books with the best opening lines. “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink” was one of the top three lines in that list.

      1. banoffee pie*

        PG Wodehouse is good comfort reading. And the Adrian Mole books by Sue Townsend are hilarious (though some of the jokes are quite UK-centric). Anne of Green Gables – I love the way LM Montgomery makes the time and place and characters come so alive, though I would have hated to live then.

    16. Camelid coordinator*

      I like to reread A Discovery of Witches when I am stressed. The fan community on Facebook has a real-time read for the events in the book, starting on Sept 18. I get to facilitate one of the days this fall, which I am really looking forward to.

    17. LongArmofCorporateBureaucracy*

      I find Solzhenitsyn and Dostoyevsky oddly soothing if I’m in a difficult spot. It really puts my own life in perspective.

      I’m not sure that will make sense to anyone but me, though.

    18. Silence*

      I like rereading good romance for the happy ending. Particularly Nora Roberts, Nalini singh
      Lois McMaster bujold for the terrible situations she gets her characters into and back out of, the pen and Des series is great when I don’t have much of an attention span
      Pattrica Briggs for urban fantasy
      JD robb, Kerry Greenwood (Miss Fisher mysteries) or Dick Francis for crime that gets neatly solved

    19. Meep*

      Agatha Christie is my comfort read too. I also love Terry Pratchett – it’s a different type of comfort read, but just as comforting.

  4. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gaming thread! What’s everyone been playing this week?
    As usual this is not limited to video games so feel free to talk about any kind of game you want including phone games and board games. Also feel free to ask for recommendations or help identifying a vaguely remembered game.
    Still on the Sims 3. I’ll probably be binging that for the next month or so and then not touch it again for several months. And then it can start again.
    As a side note, I’m still annoyed they never fixed that glitch that kept NPC werewolves in werewolf form if you save during a full moon. I should not be checking moon phases to figure out when to save, EA.

    1. Zephy*

      I have a group that I play TTRPGs with via Roll20. We actually finished a published Pathfinder AP (!) a few weeks ago, which I DMed. Now, one of my players is running a homebrew D&D 5e campaign IIIIIN SPAAAACE. Er, well, the world is more science-future-fantasy than medieval-fantasy, anyway. Think Firefly with a little Star Wars but make it D&D. Spaceships and interplanetary travel, but conventional projectile weapons and also magic.

      The party is employed by a smuggling outfit. I’m a brass dragonborn artificer – I’ve never played that race OR class before but I’m really liking the character so far. I have a half-orc apprentice (actual class is monk), and we’re traveling with a Samus expy and a self-proclaimed emissary of the Void (warlock). I don’t remember what class the Samus expy actually is. Our first mission was to go steal some files off a computer in a sewer somewhere, it went OK. The fun thing about artificers is that they ARE casters, but they don’t “do” magic the same way other caster classes do. They make magic happen with tools. So sure, I can cast Cure Light Wounds, but in practice it looks like doing whip-its or something.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Starfinder is kinda like Pathfinder IN SPAAAAAAACE, and I love it :)

        Which Pathfinder AP? I ran Legacy of Fire for my group a while back, and my husband is going to pick back up our Giantslayer campaign (we went on hiatus at the end of the first book) one of these days.

        1. Zephy*

          We did Second Darkness. It’s the first published AP I’ve ever run, and my first solo DM experience (last time, we had a bigger group of 6 or 7, and we took it in turns weekly or so to DM one-shots or short 4-6 hour homebrew campaigns). It, uh…well, it sure was written in 2008, LMAO. It was, IIRC, the first or one of the first PF campaigns to get into more Drow lore, so it was An Experience to be playing it while Wizards of the Coast were talking about updating the canon to make “evil” races less problematic. Because they hella are. I had to gloss over quite a bit of the middle of the campaign because my group and I are just really not here for the sex and violence that were apparently intrinsic to Drow society a decade and a half ago.

          1. Zephy*

            (my kingdom for an edit button) I realize Pathfinder is Paizo and not WOTC, but PF Drow are more or less lifted wholesale from D&D Drow. And also, the silence from Paizo on the topic of “evil races” was deafening (or, at least, I couldn’t find anything from them in the sea of WOTC content).

            1. Nicki Name*

              I’ve been playing PFS for a few years and have yet to run into anything about drow. Paizo has put a lot of effort into rehabilitating orcs in the second edition, though. It’s also being very visible about enriching its approach to areas of the campaign setting based on parts of the real world that have suffered from colonization and imperialism.

    2. Zephy*

      I also wanted to say that honestly that Sims 3 glitch–if it even is a glitch, that sounds like the kind of thing EA would do on purpose in a Sims game–is hilarious, and I don’t blame EA for never fixing it.

    3. The Dude Abides*

      Starting the climb back to mythic in Arena again. Now that the new Jumpstart has gone live, I’ve added DRC to my burn deck, and it’s put in work. Filtering draws, fueling Lavamancer, it’s amazing. Once I can build up rare WCs, I’m gonna try to build a new burn deck around Harmonic Prodigy.

      Also picked up a couple more signed foils, and a pile of old foil basics, because apparently 1500 isn’t enough.

    4. The Dogman*

      I went on GoG purchase madness mission and bought Worms Armageddon (updated for modern systems like almost all GoG games) and have been having a number of blasts!

      Also I recommend the Creeper World games, been playing them a long time and CW3 is, in my opinion, the best of the bunch but the indi dev has 5 games up that are all worth a bash!

      Also been getting back into some of the old starwars FPS games, the old Battlefront 2 is a lot of fun for a quick blast and some lightsabering…

    5. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Hardcore seasonal character in Diablo 3. Which probably marks me out as insane.

      Also still playing teaching my nephew how to use console commands in Fallout 4 and Skyrim to have maximum silly fun :)

    6. A Girl Named Fred*

      Ahh, I see the Sims for you follows the same path as Minecraft for me – ignore it for several months, then get an intense craving to play it for three weeks straight, rinse and repeat. (I’m in the middle of a Minecraft phase too – just started a Sky Factory 4 world, which so far is really interesting!)

      I’m also really wanting to play my old copy of Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories on Playstation, but I can’t find my copy and neither can my mom at her house, so now I’m trying to decide whether I want to play it enough to look for a way to play it on PC. It’d probably have to be an emulator and those make me nervous because you never know which ones are okay and which ones are virus-ridden… sigh.

      And my perennial game right now is FFXIV – I’m all caught up to main story and caught up to most of the major side quests, so I’m working on leveling all my crafters to max and then leveling up some alternate combat classes to help fill in for our guild when needed. I get SO ANXIOUS when trying to tank or heal though – anyone have any tips/recommendations for getting over that anxiety other than “Just do it more and it gets easier”? (It totally does get easier, but that doesn’t make it less nerve-wracking to start! Would love a combo of both lol)

    7. Public Sector Manager*

      I booted up Borderlands 3 for the first time in ages, mainly for the sage advice and wisdom of Clap Trap.

    8. ecnaseener*

      I actually bought myself Sims 4 last night and played far, far too long. The interface is such a nightmare on ps4 but no amount of frustration can overcome Sims-Induced Hyperfocus lol.

    9. Forensic13*

      Psychonauts 2! I looooooved the first game and am having a blast with this very belated sequel.

    10. LimeRoos*

      Still Animal Crossing – got the clothing store, terraforming is going well, and I discovered the Mario Pipes actually transport you to a random pipe. So now my island has 8 or 9 of them scattered around. I can’t wait for fall and the mushroom crafts and the Halloween crafts. Since I reset I’m hoping I can get all the recipes again. That’s the one thing that’s going a little too slow for me lol, getting enough of the items/recipes I want to actually fill in the island vignettes.

      Husband just “beat” Returnal for the first time. Looking forward to seeing more because wow is it bonkers (in a good way). Really suspenseful and fun. Plus truly gorgeous to look at, especially the underwater realm. The PS5 is also amazing for sharing gameplay – he’s been streaming for friends in WI & IL, and there’s almost no lag when they test it out too. Which is such a cool feature! It’s crazy that you can play through someone else’s system.

      I pre-ordered Metroid Dread after friends talked about it at our movie night. I was on the fence, but they said a lot of good things, and I watched the trailers on the Switch. I’m still disappointed they haven’t put the Metroid Prime trilogy on the Switch. I really just want Prime & Echoes that I can take anywhere. But Dread looks awesome and it’s been forever so I’m looking forward to it.

    11. ScotLibrarian*

      Rebel Inc on my tablet – cannot get enough of pacifying a country. By the same creators as Plague Inc which I have played a lot (even, weirdly, during the 1st lockdown)

  5. Aphrodite*

    Fall is coming! Well, maybe not in terms of weather depending on where you are, but the calendar says it’s only a month away. Do you decorate your home or yard for autumn? This will be my first “holiday season” (autumn and Christmas) in my own home. It’s a bit sad that Covid will still be having an impact on the community’s seasonal events but I plan to have the house wonderfully decorated. I am excited about getting out my decorations that I haven’t seen for two years and seeing what I want to keep and what I want to declutter.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I have a dinosaur on my porch that gets dressed, basically like a version of those concrete geese. Originally he was a Christmas dinosaur, but come February my husband was all “We’re not gonna be those people who leave the Christmas decorations up year round.” I said “Well, what if he wasn’t a Christmas decoration?” And that is how my husband accepted the job of changing Holidaysaurus Rex every month or two. Right now he’s in a hat and backpack for back-to-school, for October he’ll be in his Yoda Halloween costume, and in November he dresses as a turkey with a big handmade false beak and giant fan of tail feathers, before he goes back to the original in December with his Santa hat and scarf ;) (he also does St Patrick’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, and Fourth of July, off the top of my head.)

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          He’s closer to a statue, but not solid – he’s one of those hollow wire-frame-with-plasticky-fuzzy-skin light-up models that Target sells around Christmastime? He doesn’t light up anymore, he’s going on five years old now, but his structure is still sound.

            1. Wombats and Tequila*

              I can’t even!! <3

              Googling *dinosaur yard* led me to a life sized triceratops for the low low price of $5k USD. I better start saving.

          1. Jean (just Jean)*

            He’s cute, but his small stature was a real surprise! I was expecting an H-Rex eight feet tall, with his fearsomeness muted only by his unexpected festive outfits. (Unrealistic expectation, of course: What porch & doorway would accommodate such a hulking creature? And which family and friends would want to do sideways contortions every time they went through the front door?)

            1. Jean (just Jean)*

              Apologies. I don’t mean to be a killjoy with my (pathological?) paleological projections.

      1. Former Employee*

        You and you husband sounds like the sort of people I’d want for my next door neighbors.

        As an older person, I enjoy having fun younger people nearby.

    2. Loopy*

      I’ve never had the knack for decorating- I’ve tried and my decorating eye is baaaad. I love looking at interior design but I never have the patience to enact it quite right. That being said, if I ever decorated seasonally fall and christ would be it for me too! I am nowhere near fall weather but I can’t wait.

    3. Dwight Schrute*

      I don’t do anything inside my house but I do swap out my wreath and put some Halloween decorations up!

    4. Zephy*

      I’m not much of an interior designer (or exterior designer, for that matter). Cohesive decor? I don’t know her. I feel like this is a skill I *should* have cultivated by now, though. Having a place full of mismatched thrifted/freecycled/hacked together furniture is a vibe in your 20s but now I’m 30 and married, maybe it’s time to be a little more intentional about how my living space looks?

      I also have a grandmother who DOES decorate her home for Fall (among other things) – she goes all out, especially for Christmas. So, that’s kind of where my personal high-water mark is.

    5. AY*

      I cannot wait to replant my pots with fall goodness! I bought some mums from my niece’s school fundraiser and I am ready for all the purple fountain grass and ornamental kale and cabbage and all that. My husband says no hay bales this year (too messy) so I’ll have to compensate with more pumpkins and gourds.

    6. Dark Macadamia*

      Yes, fall is my favorite season and I’ve been accumulating more decor every year! I’m not big on candles but I put out a cider-scented one in a cute jar from September to Thanksgiving. I also have seasonal wreaths/door hangers that I switch out – fall is a wooden pumpkin with felt flowers on it. Last year I got two of the little birds from Target, wearing hats that look like an acorn and a pear. They’ll be joined by a Halloween one in October :)

    7. Dancing Otter*

      My seasonal changes are pretty minimal.

      I have seasonal table runners for Valentines, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and a square “table topper” for Halloween. There’s a crèche for the Christmas season – actually, I have two, because I inherited my mother’s – but I don’t always put it out. (A cat once pushed everything out, to curl up in the stable. No, she did not fit. She’s also the reason for no tree.)

      I also change out the quilt on the couch with an autumn-colored or Christmas-themed one, according to time of year. (The Valentine and spring/summer ones are still being quilted.) Obviously, the bedding changes with the seasons: heavy flannel for warmth.

      No wreath or hangings, but different candles, both color and scent.

    8. Girasol*

      I go out on the woods and bring back colorful leaves to put in a canning jar. Nothing says autumn like a big leaf bouquet and there’s nothing that has to be stored away afterward.

    9. Nicole76*

      I love to decorate, especially from September-November. I have different indoor decor for fall, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. I decorate for Christmas and other holidays like Easter too, but those three are my favorite.

      Outside I mostly just decorate for Halloween and Christmas, but I switch out my welcome mat and change up the wreath or sign on the door for the different holidays/seasons.

      I noticed that after about three weeks everything starts to bother me (it feels cluttered) so I try not to decorate too early, and in the last few years I’ve pulled back on how much I put out too, with the exception of Halloween because I have so much stuff I love that I can’t help but put it all out.

    10. gsa*

      Good reminder. We keep a wreathe on the front door most of year, as a rule, if we don’t have one, she makes one.


      Is there a rule about posting pictures? I know you review all links.


    11. Elizabeth West*

      I really desperately hope I can move before the cold weather sets in.

      Nothing too special except when Halloween comes. I used to have a cool grapevine wreath with fake fruits on it that I hung on the door, but I can’t remember if I packed it or donated it. There’s also a red-and-green plaid throw that only comes out at Christmas.

      I want my stuff back. :(

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Last Christmas was the first year I couldn’t join my family due to travel restrictions, so I bought some extra decorations. Fingers crossed it won’t be the same this year.

        There is a craft store near me, which I went into yesterday, having not been in for a while. I swear it has doubled in size, and there are supplies for every handicraft imaginable.

    12. The Other Dawn*

      Decorating for the seasons, other than Christmas, for me means pulling out season-appropriate Yankee Candles and their holders and…that’s about it. :) For October we might buy a few pumpkins to put on our front steps and on Halloween itself, we put lanterns with real candles on the steps (fits the age of the house–1735). (I found a random pumpkin vine in my yard, so I’m really hoping to have my own pumpkins this year.)

    13. allathian*

      We pretty much only decorate for Christmas, and a large part of that is our real Christmas tree. We bring it in a few days before Christmas Eve, decorate it on Eve morning, and throw it out on either 12th Night or Saint Knut’s day (Canute’s day) on January 13, depending on how well it’s held up. I’m a firm believer in not putting up any seasonal decorations too early, and I absolutely don’t want to see any Christmas decorations or hear any Christmas music in the stores before late November at the earliest.

      We do have some winter lights that we put up near the end of October, when we switch to standard time and evenings are dark, and take down near spring equinox, when we switch to DST.

      We have flowers in our back garden, and a few pots near our front door. When the temperature’s right for making snowmen, that’s the time for me to release my inner kid. It’s been fun to do that with my son, but I suspect that he’ll soon feel he’s too old to do it, he’s 12 now.

  6. WoodswomanWrites*

    I posted a few months ago about navigating the journey of my mother’s aging. The comments here were helpful.

    She doesn’t have dementia but she’s 93 and her short-term memory continues to decline. She is comfortable in her retirement community in her own apartment, has no hazardous appliances, and gets her meals from their dining room, eating in her own apartment these days with the pandemic. I live nearby, and I’ve gotten her a pill container for her medication and I fill up a month’s worth so she knows when she’s taken things.

    With her cooperation, I have permission for access with her medical team and take her to all her appointments and track notes for her because she forgets later, and they know to call me directly for scheduling, questions, etc. Today I got a call from the staff at the clinic in her building that she had gone to see them scared about her heart (her cardiologist gave her an all-clear a couple weeks ago), they did an EKG and sent it to her primary care doctor who had a call with her today. I called to let her know I’d like to visit tomorrow, and she shared she had an upset stomach so she called her doctor. I was able to get set up on her primary care doctor’s patient website today, and read that they think she has acid reflux and put her on an antacid. EKG was normal. She didn’t mention it. She may have forgotten.

    What I discovered in getting access to her medical record today is that she has been calling her doctor’s office about once a week for the last couple months. She was feeling weak (which I knew about, and they told her she was dehydrated and it seems to be better now since I posted a note in her apartment to drink water), or something is uncomfortable.

    While she’s overall remarkably healthy in the big picture, and has a number of friends where she is, she’s old and understandably anxious. My siblings and I are grateful that I live close by, and my mom is too. I know this journey is very common for so many people and overall she’s safe, but it is hard to watch.

    1. Me*

      You are so fortunate to have such a good relationship with your mom so that you can monitor her health as she ages.

      My mother is in her early 80s and has never trusted doctors. I’ve been working frantically all week to try to get her to go to the hospital with no luck. (Her husband has covid and is hospitalized; she has it based on her symptoms but is in serious denial.)

      I spent many hours yesterday just throwing the kitchen sink at the problem- sheriff’s office, local fire department, adult protective services, meals on wheels.

      Such a helpless feeling to be able to do really nothing. I just can’t imagine being able to talk to her provider about her health.

      I’m very happy to hear that your mother is able to live independently with small interventions!

      1. PT*

        I am so sorry. I used to work in fitness with seniors who would have illnesses or injuries in our facility, but not want us to “make a fuss” calling EMS, and convincing them that the “handsome firemen” *waggles eyebrows* were coming tended to get them to cave in and agree to let the ambulance come and look them over.

        It was a very silly tactic, but it almost always worked.

        1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          Now, that would make me furious. Sooo condescending. I’m in my 70s and I fired my doctor for making a comment like that about a specialist she wanted me to see. The only reason I was resistant was that I was juggling several other medical issues and that was a low priority and could wait.

      2. WoodswomanWrites*

        I’m so sorry to hear that. It must be awful knowing she needs immediate care and not be able to help. I hope you’ll share an update if you can get her to seek care.

    2. WellRed*

      Oh I feel for you. I’m wrapping up a two week visit with mom, 75. Hadn’t see her since Christmas. Her short term memory is all if a sudden Swiss Schleswig, especially with language. Luckily, she’s also not doing things like leaving the stove on,. I won’t hijack the thread but will keep following your updates.

      1. NoLongerYoung*

        I have to say that every time my mom (otherwise very sharp) gets swiss cheese and cranky, it’s a UTI. She’s unable to recognize the symptoms or ignores and hopes it will go away. (Spoiler, it doesn’t). So check talking about it, if possible. The frequency of urination is one sign. The only one I can get mom to recognize.

    3. LDN Layabout*

      What I discovered in getting access to her medical record today is that she has been calling her doctor’s office about once a week for the last couple months.

      Just to add, older people contacting their healthcare professionals frequently? Completely normal. My friend who’s a pharmacist working within a doctor’s office has patients who come in for a chat as much as having their meds seen to.

      1. Dr. Anonymous*

        Family doc here. It’s fine if she calls once a week and then feels better, even if she only feels better until she forgets she called. It’s the ones who don’t call, but should, who make us worry.

        1. My name*

          Not a doc, but my dad’s doc gave him a bit of anti-anxiety medicine. It really helped him. He did have dementia, and he kept filling in missing memories with really bad scenarios. He also had cancer but didn’t remember it, so eventually he went on hospice and managing pain meds and anxiety meds was complicated as his body changed over the last year.

        2. WoodswomanWrites*

          Dr. Anonymous, this is really great to know and makes me feel better. The good news is that she has have a terrific medical team and I know she is getting excellent care.

          My Name, I talked with my mother’s doctor about anti-anxiety medication. She was concerned about risks related to her age.

    4. x*

      This seems like a blog style post which is no longer allowed. Just flagging that might be against the new rules.

        1. WoodswomanWrites*

          Thanks, WellRed. My intention is to see how others have navigated this journey with an aging parent, and the comments are helpful.

        2. Mstr*

          Also allowed are things encouraging discussion/conversation which is happening (as opposed to announcements/just venting/weekly diary entries or something)

    5. NoLongerYoung*

      Woodswoman, I am impressed at the communication level, too. But not surprised – you have always been a woman of great sense and fortitude, as well as compassion. It’s great that your mom is overall safe and allowing you into her care circle so well. Sending virtual hug. (My mom is 92 and still living on her own, albeit much closer now to family and in a condo/senior townhouse row). So I’m following on the advice and support.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        NoLongerYoung, thanks so much for that. I wish you the best with your own journey with your mom.

    6. Dancing Otter*

      Based on my own mother and MIL, who both kept their wits about them for nine decades, oxygen levels can do a number on cognition. Sleeping more and out of it when awake? Low thyroid, low oxygen or a UTI are prime suspects, all of them treatable.
      And of course, diabetic glucose swings, either high or low, though that can be harder to control – or was it just my mother who decided, “I’m old. I’m going to eat what I want.”???

    7. misspiggy*

      Do get her sodium levels checked. Low sodium in the blood can cause hyponatraemia, which often manifests in anxiety and weakness. It should be treated very carefully if chronic, but can be corrected fairly easily.

  7. Green Beans*

    I signed up for a book recommendation service – 3 recommendations every 3 months – last spring. The first batch was one book I’d already read but loved (they check your Goodreads but I don’t update it that much); one book I already had on hold at the library (but loved); and one book I just couldn’t get into.

    This round, I was very specific about what I wanted and I got three recommendations I’m super excited about. I hadn’t heard of any of the books before and they all sound excellent. I’m really looking forward to reading them when they get in!

    So, I’m inspired to start a round of “recommend me a book” here! Ask for a recommendation – the more specific the requirements the better – or give a recommendation if you can!

    1. Green Beans*

      I’ll start with a request. Best nonfiction book about something you’d never thought about before – maybe you didn’t know it (thing/process/sector/history/etc) existed or maybe it gave surprising insight into something that was commonplace.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        Check out the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for an eye-opening history of medical research that has led to substantial breakthroughs, but was founded on racism and exploitation. It’s a well-written narrative focused on medicine and ethics, and I couldn’t put it down.

        1. Green Beans*

          Loved the book! (Also was a cancer researcher, so was familiar with the story but it was a great read even knowing the story.)

      2. TechWorker*

        I loved ‘Prisoners of Geography’. I don’t know if it’s too simplistic for anyone who’s studied history/politics a lot but I haven’t and found it a really good read.

        1. Green Beans*

          Thankfully (for this!), my knowledge of history/politics is pretty limited :) I’ll check it out!

        1. Green Beans*

          Thank you! I really liked Bad Blood (and the podcast about Theranos, The Dropout, is also great.) Will look into the other two!

          1. WoodswomanWrites*

            There’s an excellent documentary about Theranos called The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley.

      3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        “The Path Between the Seas” by David McCullough – it’s about the building of the Panama Canal, which is a technological marvel NOW let alone at the time it was built. Similarly, “The Great Bridge”, same author, about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge.

        1. Hotdog not dog*

          I was going to recommend ‘The Great Bridge’ also! I loved how it intertwined the technical bridge building story with the personal lives of those involved.

      4. Sandy*

        Into the Heart of the Sea! Ignore that they made it (badly) into a Hemsworth movie, the book is *fascinating*. One of my favourite books of the decade.

      5. Evergreen*

        The Feather Thief by Kirk W Johnson! It’s a fascinating mix of genres including true crime, science writing, and history. It’s about the theft of bird feathers from a British museum for the purpose of reselling those feathers of the Victorian Fly fishing lure recreation market.

          1. Blue Eagle*

            I read The Feather Thief. Very engaging book that just gets you mad about the audacity of the fellow who stole all those historic bird skins and ripped them apart to sell the feathers.

            1. Evergreen*

              I found it fascinating for being about essentially 3 things I knew nothing about and also the sort of vicarious thrill of true crime mystery and so forth

      6. Falling Diphthong*

        Bill Bryson’s The Body, which goes in detail through every part of your body and how it works.

        1. AY*

          Bill Bryson’s At Home also fits! Lots of cool tidbits about things like how pepper came to be the spice of choice with salt on our dinner tables.

        2. Green Beans*

          I keep on seeing this! I’m a science writer/comms person in my day job, so I’ve been on the fence about this one, but it sounds like I should bite the bullet!

        3. GoryDetails*

          Also Bryson’s *A Short History of Nearly Everything*! It’s not quite “nearly everything” but it does feature the back story of loads of different types of scientific discoveries, often with some juicy behind-the-scenes info about the major players.

      7. anon for this*

        Deborah Blum’s The Poisoner’s Handbook. It’s about so many things at once. The establishment of New York City’s forensic pathology department in the early 20th century, featuring two pioneering scientists; the biochemistry of various highly toxic substances; lots of fascinating true-crime cases (with a few true-accident ones interspersed), and the politics of Prohibition. I can’t remember a book that taught me so many distinct things, and yet it was easy to read quickly!

        1. Green Beans*

          LOVE this book!!! The Houston Natural History Museum had an interactive exhibition based on it (a solve the crime thing) and I loved that too.

      8. RagingADHD*

        Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel. Really anything by Dava Sobel.

      9. Dark Macadamia*

        I second The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks! Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff was fascinating too.

        Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness is possibly my favorite nonfiction I’ve read. It’s SO funny and surprisingly insightful.

        1. Emma2*

          I agree on Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff – I received it as a gift, probably would not have picked it up myself, but found it completely fascinating and very readable.

      10. WoodswomanWrites*

        I like reading well-written survival stories, knowing that the subjects made it before I begin. With limited space, I tend to give away most books that I’ve read but here are a couple that stay on my shelf. Endurance by Alfred Lansing, published in 1959, is the compelling story of the Schackleton expedition in Antarctica in the World War I era. Another is Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan, about his survival in a tiny raft after his sailboat sank in the 1980s. Both of these stories have stuck with me over the years.

        In the same genre, others have recommended Touching the Void about a mountaineer who survived a disastrous fall in the Andes alone in a winter storm. I’ve only seen the documentary, which is great.

      11. Emma2*

        Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors – it is a history of Indian food, and talks about how the development of the cuisine is tied to successive waves of immigrants and invaders. I found it completely fascinating – it talked about things like the fusion of Persian and Indian cuisines in the Mughal empire, and the introduction of chillies to India by the Portuguese.

      12. Mephyle*

        Who invented screws, and when? Have you ever wondered? One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw by Witold Rybczynski.

      13. mystiknitter*

        Stephen Puleo’s ‘Dark Tide: the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919’, which is in three parts – the actual flood itself, the lawsuit and trial, and the aftermath for the city and the victims. The flood is written as a chase scene – which it truly was, coming at people at 35 mph. Edge of my seat! The lawsuit became the first successful class action suit against a corporation. And yes, you can still see traces of the molasses stain against buildings in the North End. My library chose it as a community read, and when the author came, people spoke about the stories they’d heard from parents and grandparents who had witnessed it. Local history, indeed.

      14. LongArmofCorporateBureaucracy*

        Entangled Life is a great candidate! I knew very little about fungi before reading it, and the book is incredibly interesting and well-written.

        I also highly recommend Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing by Jacob Goldstein (of “Planet Money”). It’s basically Planet Money in book form.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Since you find fungi fun…I just put this on my library wishlist after hearing the author’s NPR interview : Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, by Suzanne Simard.
          Ecological science, I wouldn’t have planned to read it with that woo-sounding title except for the interview.

      15. Koala dreams*

        Peter Wohlleben: The Hidden Life of Trees. It’s about trees and forests, and makes you look at the trees around you in a new way.

      16. Jean (just Jean)*

        David McCullough’s biography of Harry Truman. 20+ years ago my spouse and I listened to the audio version while driving to & from the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, MO.

        Recommended to me, but I haven’t yet read it: The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Marc Levinson.

      17. heckofabecca*

        Some great books from recent history classes:
        – Barbed Wire: An Ecology of Modernity by Reviel Netz
        – The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity by Jill LePore
        – Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History by Michel-Rolph Troillot

        Other nonfiction:
        – How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler by Ryan North
        – nth-ing the Henrietta Lacks book & Bill Bryson (in addition to Short History & Walk in the Woods, I also really enjoyed The Mother Tongue, a history of the English language)

      18. Dev*

        Late to the game, but Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery. Super beautiful book about how cool octopuses are and super easy read. I smiled the whole way through.

      19. jleebeane*

        Very late to the party (and also a terrible time for this thread – the Boston Public Library has been hit by a cyberattack and I can’t log into to my account to add anything to my queues!) but the nonfiction book I just finished and am now recommending to anyone is Mine! How the Hidden Rules of Ownership Control Our Lives, by Michael Heller and James Salzman. Tons of fascinating real-world examples of how the concept of ownership gets applied in ways you wouldn’t think of. I love a book that shows me how I think about things I didn’t even know I was thinking about.


      20. LANbeforetime*

        I really enjoyed the Radium Girls. I also recent read The Third Rainbow Girl which is ultimately pretty self-indulgent and I didn’t love the memoir sections, but was really interesting in re: the actual main case it talks about. There’s also Stiff for a slightly different concept.

    2. Loopy*

      I love this idea! I have a rec ask. I like fantasy but kinda of a weird niche of fantasy- not urban fantasy, and not epic fantasy- I’m into great characters and world building (so the Goblin Emperor was great for me). Other things I’ve loved: Shades of Magic Trilogy by V.E Schwab, Raksura Trilogy by Martha Wells Temeraire series by Naomi Novik (and all her other books are great), everything Laini Taylor has written, same for Leigh Bardugo! I can do YA/adult crossover but sometimes am iffy on younger geared YA and prefer adult.

      And here’s an interesting ask: I’ve mostly grown out of vampire books but occasionally wish there was an original one out there. I read Anne Rice as a teen/young adult and tried to find good urban fantasy but often really didn’t care for it. I’m always still curious if there are any vampire books that dont fall into urban fantasy tropes if anyone’s got one!

      1. Sir Bluebird*

        If you liked the Goblin Emperor, may I recommend The Hands Of The Emperor , by Victoria Goddard? it’s a long, slow-paced book in which a stodgy little bureaucrat takes on centuries of tradition in order to befriend the emperor and change the world for the better while also rediscovering his heritage and true self. its a phenomenal book and it has a TON of incredible worldbuilding and character work

      2. Evergreen*

        Have your read any Robin McKinley? Her book Sunshine might fit your vampire request. It’s been a long time since I’ve read it so I might not remember the vibe quite right.

        1. Loopy*

          I was debating mentioning that as my example but I too read it SO long ago I wasn’t sure anyone would recognize it. You hit the nail on the head but I’ve already read it! Guess I should have had more faith in people’s memories- I know I only remember how much I loved it. But maybe that means I should re-read it!

      3. PostalMixup*

        Have you read any Brandon Sanderson? Stormlight Archive might be a tad toward the epic for you, but Mistborn and Wax and Wayne were excellent.
        For vampire, have you read The Historian? It’s more old-school folklore/historical fiction style and I love it.

        1. PostalMixup*

          Also Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Echoes of the Fall series. This one took a few chapters for me to get into, but then I was hooked.

        2. Loopy*

          I read the first Mistborn book and loved it (great rec) I can’t put my finger on why I had so much less interest in the second one though. I was gifted all three and immediately lost interested early in the second! I’ll check out Wax and Wayne though! I have not heard of or read the Historian but I’m going to put it on my list!

      4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Marshall Ryan Maresca’s Maradaine Constabulary series, about a wife and mother of two who cons her way into becoming the first female police detective in a roughly Victorian setting after husband is crippled in the line of duty. It’s a murder mystery, but it’s also really great world building and characters. I especially like that it’s male-female buddy cop with no romantic tension, and that Satrine is not at all a modern feminist-she was perfectly happy being a stay at home mother, but now she needs the money.

        1. Loopy*

          This sounds great- a little out of my usual read (I rarely do any mystery but I’ve also read a few and like them) but I’m intrigued! Thank you, definitely going on my list!

      5. Falling Diphthong*

        N.K. Jemisen. Her Broken Earth trilogy has been heaped with accolades, and is excellent. I recommend How Long ‘Til Black Future Month, her short story collection, as a good introduction to her writing with stories set on their own (the one about being stuck in a little repeating loop of 10 hours of your day still haunts me) and stories set in the same worlds as her longer novels.

        I also really loved The City We Became, but reading about an entity trying to destroy NYC as it struggled to be born, in March 2020, was something else. I would get distracted because the characters stood close together.

        1. Octavia*

          Seconded – I read the trilogy and loved it so much I read it again, pretty much immediately after finishing.

          Octavia Butler is a constant go to for me. Fledgling may be up your alley for a fresh take on vampires.

          1. Loopy*

            I’ll check everything out- also I forgot about Fledgling entirely!! I have read it, It was very different and is a great rec- I wish I had remembered that as an example!

      6. AY*

        I was a huge fan of the first two books in the Discovery of Witches trilogy. It’s definitely mostly a romance with supernatural and vampire elements taking a backseat.

        I also highly highly highly recommend the Golem and the Jinni series by Helene Wecker. Our two main characters (a golem and a jinni) make their way to early twentieth century NYC and live and work among the Jewish and Syrian communities there. It’s so wonderful. A lot about the immigrant experience but with some evil wizards thrown in.

        1. Cruciatus*

          You said series, so you probably are already aware but maybe others aren’t, but the sequel, The Hidden Palace is out now! I’m about halfway through and am enjoying it as much as the first one so far.

        2. Loopy*

          Ohhh I have read all these and especially liked Golem and the Jinni. I read the sequel too though I preferred the first one immensely! Great recs- I should have expanded more on what I have already read- but you are all hitting the nail on the head, wow.

      7. Dark Macadamia*

        Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden!

        Seconding The Broken Earth trilogy, although it does get VERY dark at times.

        Thorn by Intisar Khanani – older skewing YA

        1. PostalMixup*

          Oh yes, if you liked Spinning Silver and Roots by Naomi Novrik, I definitely recommend Katherine Arden!

        2. Loopy*

          I LOVE the Winternight trilogy, I couldn’t remember the titles or author when I posted but this came to mind! I think I’ll have to save Broken Earth- thank you for the heads up- occasionally when things are hard in life I save those books for a better time, I will get to them since several have mentioned them though.

          Will definitely check out Thor! Thank you! All of this is going into Good Reads for my next library haul (long weekend reading here I come!!)

          1. Dark Macadamia*

            Yeah, it’s some of the best and most unique world-building I’ve ever read and something I will definitely reread someday, but it’s not a series you can just pick up “for fun.”

            Actually, Thorn also has some dark themes but it’s less prevalent and at a YA level. Mostly just like evil relatives and fantasy fight scenes that you would expect for this type of book. Except: (spoiler ish)

            A character is assaulted “off screen” but the description of how they are found is graphic and the effect on them and their family is distressing

        1. Loopy*

          Ohhhh I dont think I’ve read anything by her, I’ll browse her books. Feel free to let me know what your favorites are!

          1. AGD*

            Loved The Shape-Changer’s Wife and the entire (loosely connected) ‘Safe-Keepers’ trilogy (they’re borderline YA, but so well realized, and manage to be compelling while being small-town fantasy). I also really liked The Shape of Desire, but that one’s romance-heavy in a way that I know turned a few readers off. I need to get to her longer series!

          2. BrambleBerry37*

            I love her work a lot. Even her Epic Fantasy Series, which was a shock because I normally can’t do Epic Fantasy because I usually end up just not caring. But her stuff is incredibly character focused and about how the environment and politics impact people rather than the unending grind of history.

      8. Amey*

        Great complex characters and relationships in fantasy (or fantasy-adjacent genres) are my favourite thing. A few in the fantasy-adjacent camp are Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan books (which are SF which I don’t normally read but love these for the above reasons) and Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St Mary’s and Time Police books (about time-travelling historians). I also return again and again to Diana Wynne Jones – Deep Secret is for adults and a favourite but The Dark Lord of Derkholm is firmly YA and great at both satirising and finding the joy in traditional fantasy tropes. I reread all of her (supposedly) children’s books regularly too, however.

        1. Lady Alys*

          Lois McMaster Bujold does have some plain old fantasy novels – there’s a series that starts with “Curse of Chalion,” then on to “Paladin of Souls,” and a few others – those first two were great, with LMB’s usual excellent character development.

      9. another Hero*

        Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko might be up your alley – good characterization, not quite epic imo. You could look into Nicky Drayden’s work, which I think kind of straddles the SF/fantasy line a lot of the time. I imagine you might like Gideon the Ninth. And if you like graphic novels, those are a great place to look for character-driven fantasy.

      10. another Hero*

        it sounds like you might like Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko, Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden, maybe Gideon the Ninth? if you’re open to graphic novels (and not already a big reader of them), that can also be a good source of character-driven fantasy.

        1. Loopy*

          I did love Gideon the Ninth (took a while but the end got me!) Will look into the others, I haven’t heard of them before- thank you!

      11. Green Beans*

        Oooh. A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond Villarreal may fit the bill. It is set in modern day, but not urban fantasy and it is so good and very original!

      12. Batgirl*

        Leigh Bardugo’s Language of Thorns is a wonderful take on fairy tales; it keeps all of the magic while tossing the predictability. I particularly like the twist in the Witch of Duva, or the wolf prince who won’t let you tell him a story with a bullshit ending. All of a sudden you realise Cinderella married a stranger who was into feet.

      13. KLibrarian*

        Oh my goodness, are you me? Your description of what you like to read sounds almost identical to mine except that I lean towards YA fantasy these days because I don’t have time to read 500+ page books. These are all YA, but my recommendations are Finnikin of the Rock (and sequels) by Marlena Marchetta, anything by Maggie Stiefvater, the Graceling series by Kristin Cashore, and the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. I also love anything by Tamora Pierce, but she might skew younger than you are looking for.

        1. Loopy*

          I love finding book twins! All my coworker friends love books and have SUCH different reading preferences and no interest in what I read. I’ve heard Maggie’s Stiefvater’s name a lot and even heard her speak at YALLfest (if you skew YA its a great festival!) any idea where to start with her stuff? Also I recall the Graceling series, I could never catch it at my library in the early days! Will have to request those!

      14. Crackerjack*

        Have you tried The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch? I found the first book absolutely gripping, the third got a bit tiresome though.

      15. Dancing Otter*

        If you like humor with your vampires, Drew Hayes’ series about Fred, the vampire accountant, is highly entertaining.
        Tanya Huff’s series about Henry Fitzroy, on which the Blood Ties shows were based, is not new but it brings in a lot of different fantasy (or myth) themes in the various volumes. Might be too much urban fantasy for you, though: it starts in Toronto and moves to Vancouver. She has other series, both magic (The Enchantment Emporium, Summon the Keeper) and military SF (no titles, because I didn’t like them).
        Wen Spencer’s Black Wolves of Boston is a different take on werewolves (with one good-guy vampire), also with some humor here and there. The author is currently working on a sequel. I like her Elfhome series, starting with Tinker: good character development, not high fantasy, and not what I think of as urban fantasy. I believe the first volume is available free online at Baen Books website.

      16. Abbaso*

        Have you read any Anne Bishop? The ‘Others’ novels in particular (‘Written in Red’ is the first) have a pretty unique take on vampires and werebeasts and such.

        No vampires, but Tanya Huff’s ‘The Fire’s Stone’ fills a similar reading need to ‘The Goblin Emperor’ for me.

        1. KTNZ*

          If you do end up liking Tanya Huff and want vampires, her Blood books are fun, urban fantasy mysteries. Not a super original take, but enjoyable!

      17. Seeking Second Childhood*

        It’s old, so it’s going to be hard to find but it’s certainly got strong characters. Patricia Briggs. The Hob’s Bargain.
        Newer & award-winning so easier to find, and although it comes perilously close to Epic Fantasy, it is far more Whimsical than that usually gets : T Kingfisher, a Wizard’s guide to defensive baking.

      18. TexasRose*

        Try the Sharing Knife 4-part series by Bujold (yes, of Vorkosigan fame). It’s an interesting world-building about a near-Earth plagued by a magical threat, with a population that is divded between magically able humans and, well, farmers and other non-magical folk. Excellent society/world building, but you’ll recognize the geography if you like American history. Very character driven, as well as action packed.

        Bujold’s Penric series is also good, which are mostly novellas. Look for the omnibus editions, Penric’s Progress and Penric’s Travels, as these collect the pieces in order. This is fantasy world-building at its best, in a world where the Five Gods occasionally manifest, and funeral rites include the deceased being welcomed/accepting blessings from one of the gods. And, of course,there are the “demons” – flashes of unorganized chaos that occasionally pop up in the world and that can co-habit a body, and that can jump from one body to another upon their death.

      19. cleo*

        For great characters and great world building I have 2 recommendations.

        The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri – I just finished it and I still am caught up in its spell. It’s very intense and gets dark, so read it when you can handle it. But it’s amazing – set in an India inspired world with really compelling characters.

        Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho – similar to Temeraire – fantasy set in Alt historical England with magic. Excellent, unusual world building and compelling characters. The sequel is even better.

        For vampires, there’s an old Barbara Hambly with vampires that you might like if you haven’t already read it.

      20. Whiskey on the rocks*

        The Kushiel trilogy by Jacqueline Carey. The main character is a courtesan so it can be a bit graphic but it’s not a harlequin novel (to me, anyway, but I don’t mind a bit of smut :D). She wrote several other books, related and not, to the trilogy.

      21. Eisa*

        Vampires : Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw. Engrossing and original.

        Re Fantasy in general, n-thing Sharon Shinn who was recommended elsewhere in the thread. Samaria series, Safekeeper series, standalones like “General Winston’s Daughter”… her stuff is frickin awesome!

      22. SarahKay*

        Terribly late to the party, but if you can find a copy anywhere, then I loved “The Dragon Waiting” by John M. Ford. It’s alternate history, set in the time of Richard III of England, with a wonderful vampire character. I have a feeling I read it after a rec on one of these threads ages ago with a comment that the vampire character was the perfect antidote for everyone who didn’t care for Twilight’s sparkly vampires.

    3. PhyllisB*

      Green Beans, what service is that may I ask? Sounds interesting. I’m an avid reader who posts on Goodreads (and write reviews sometimes.) It would be fun to see what they would recommend for me. One thing I’ve discovered about GR is, when you post a book you’ve read that it will give you a list of about five similar books to consider.

        1. another Hero*

          100%. if they don’t have a specific service for it, you can contact them however you usually would and ask for recs. no public library is ever going to be anything but pleased to offer book recs.

        2. Jean (just Jean)*

          +1,000! Only yesterday I discovered this service on the web site of my own county library.

          You might be able to get this service from more than one library branch or library system if you live within reasonable distance of libraries run by more than one town, city, or county. In my area (metro DC, USA) many of the various library systems will give cards to nearby non-locals for a modest fee or no fee at all.

          Three cheers–heck, many more than three–for all local public libraries!

          1. PhyllisB*

            A big amen on the shout out to public libraries. That’s where I get 90% of my reading material. If I bought everything I read not only would I be dead broke, but I would have to buy another house to put all of them. I’ve never thought to check if they have a recommendation service but I will see if they do. Thanks for the suggestion. The staff knows me so well by now that sometimes they will flag me down and show me books they think I will like.

      1. Green Beans*

        My TBR is the service! I’ve been really enjoying it :) they have a pretty extensive form to fill out and I changed a lot from the first request to the second (just in a different reading mood) and they read everything closely the second time.

        Mytbr.co is the website address.

      2. Nynaeve*

        Seconding the recommendation for the public library, but if you’re looking for an app-based book recommendation supplement, I’ve really enjoyed The StoryGraph, which lets you track your reading, owned books, and to-be-reads, but also provides recommendations based on your preferences.

    4. Still*

      What a fun thread! I would LOVE to read something similar to Becky Chambers’ Wayfarer series: a sci-fi with fun and interesting ideas about the future, but one that focuses mostly on the society and what it means to be a person in the world, and how we can all live together well. Any ideas?

      1. PostalMixup*

        Becky Chambers is still on my to-read list so I’m not sure, but maybe the Imperial Radch series by Ann Leckie?

      2. another Hero*

        I haven’t read Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes but based on what I know about it I suspect it would fit the bill

        1. another Hero*

          Space Opera by Valente; Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden; some of the work of Karen Lord and Charlie Jane Anders

      3. Loopy*

        Have you read her latest release a Psalm for the Wild Built? It’s pretty short and not a series, but I loved her other books and felt this had that same vibes.

        1. Decidedly Me*

          That’s actually planned as a series (or at least more than the one) – the sequel is due next year :)

      4. GoryDetails*

        Maybe try Elizabeth Bear’s “White Space” books, ANCESTRAL NIGHT and MACHINE. (I’ve only read MACHINE so far and loved it; it does seem to stand on its own pretty well, though it’s set in the same ‘verse as ANCESTRAL NIGHT.) MACHINE is actually an homage – and a near-sequel – to James White’s “Sector General” books, about a galactic hospital where all sorts of very different alien species, including humans, work together to heal patients and solve interstellar conflicts. (I read RECORD OF A SPACEBORN FEW recently, and enjoyed it very much; while Chambers’ book seemed to focus more on the daily lives of many different characters, while Bear’s has its doctors and military and historians and AI experts focusing on a very specific problem, both books gave me a similar feeling – people/sentient beings just trying to get along…)

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      If I can nest off this to other genres: What is a book, movie, or TV show that you expected to be meh and read/watched for someone else (or because it was the only thing around in English, or whatever) but it was so well done you loved it?

      I just watched Chernobyl on my son’s suggestion. I thought “nuclear meltdown against a backdrop of Soviet brutalist architecture” was going to be dull, but it was gripping. It touched on human behavior that felt universal and so was easy to identify with–we’ve all worked with This Guy. Lots of historic details which I had never realized, even though I was alive and an adult when it happened. And the explanation of how a nuclear power plant works, and fails, was gripping and something a layman could follow.

      1. allathian*

        I agree about Chernobyl, I found it extremely gripping. I was 14 when it happened, and close enough to it in Finland that our authorities were seriously worried about the fallout. It’s one of the first times something happened that I realized would be in the history books later.

    6. Pharmgirl*

      Any recs for detective stories similar to Robert Galbraith/Cormorant Strike? I love that style of detective stories. Bonus points for a series vs. standalone. Thanks in advance!

        1. Pharmgirl*

          Yes, the private detective /noir feeling to it. I like the first one the best (found it the least graphic/gory) and haven’t read the last 2 at all. The world seemed richer than a traditional cozy mystery.

      1. Isobel*

        Have you read Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series? Similarly private investigator rather than police procedural.

      2. Lemonwhirl*

        I love Ian Rankin and his Detective Inspector Rebus series. There are loads of books, some are better than others. I started a few books in with Black and Blue. It was a decent place to start – some of the early ones are a bit wobbly.

    7. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I was going to ask for good non-fiction to listen to at work, but it looks like Green Bean’s request has that covered.

      Instead I’ll ask for westerns in the line of Louis L’amour – larger than life heroes doing epic deeds against a dramatic landscape, but less repetitive. Cause Louis L’amour’s main characters are all pretty much the same dude in a different skin.

      1. AY*

        Have you read The Son by Philipp Meyer? There are three different storylines in Texas in different times. The father’s is set in the 1850s ish times. And then his descendents work in oil.

      2. Green Beans*

        Adding in my own non-fiction rec – The Falcon Thief is the best book I’ve read all year! It’s about a modern-day falcon poacher and the cop who ends up arresting him.

        Will have a think about the second request…

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Unfortunately that sounds TOO engrossing! I’m interrupted 20 times a day at work, so I need something I can stop at a moment’s notice. Also something that doesn’t pull my attention away too much from data entry-I was listening to a book that I disagreed with, and it turns out I can type and listen, or listen and argue in my head, but I can’t type, listen and argue all at the same time.

          It’s kind of a weird thing to ask for-books that are interesting, but on the other hand not THAT interesting.

      3. Former Employee*

        If you haven’t read “Betty Zane” by Zane Grey, I recommend it. It is based on an ancestor of his who was the hero who saved Fort Henry in 1782.

        I believe she was his great, great, aunt. Zane Grey is descended from one of Betty Zane’s brothers.

    8. Albeira Dawn*

      This is going to be incredibly specific: I love labyrinths. Fully obsessed with them. Especially in books where the author has to rely solely on their words to make you feel overwhelmed and lost. Some of the ones I’ve read most recently are House of Leaves, Piranesi, and The Starless Sea (debatable I suppose whether it’s a labyrinth, but for my purposes it is!). I also have a collection of Umberto Eco stories I’ll get around to soon. Any other more modern labyrinth tales?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Shifting genres: Lost in a Jigsaw is a jigsaw puzzle. (One my mother-in-law had, and I would always put it together when we visited.) You fit together the little 9-piece squares that make up the maze, and then those can be connected in any order–the second part of the puzzle is to arrange the labyrinth so that you visit each room once as you pass through the maze. There are bits of imagery to show the right connection, like red flowers along this bit of wall, but the pieces aren’t cut to only fit one way. It is just incredibly satisfying to solve.

      2. Patty Mayonnaise*

        Not a book, but the first season of True Detective came to mind immediately. They go into a literal labyrinth at the end but really the whole season is a labyrinth.

  8. Never Nicky*

    My mum was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer this week. We are waiting for more test results, but it’s likely to be well advanced.

    I live at a distance so a lot of the day to day care and support will fall to my sibling, who lives near to my parents.

    What can I do to make things easier for them? We’re in the UK so medical bills and admin are taken care of.

    I want to be sensitive to their needs but my family is guess don’t tell (and stoic and ‘keep soldiering on’) so wouldn’t say even if I asked … So hopefully by the power of the crowd we can hit on the right things.

    1. WS*

      Talk to your sibling! It’s going to be extra difficult with COVID restrictions meaning that your sibling will often be dropping them off for appointments then having to wait outside rather than going with them, but your sibling is likely to be hit with a ton of appointment-making, driving around and managing testing and test results etc. The more you can help with things like scheduling (and coming to visit for multi-day things so your sibling doesn’t have to miss work) the better. Other needs will be more specific to the treatment that your mum gets, your location, and the type/stage of cancer, so it’s too early to think about those, but don’t underestimate how much hard emotional work your sibling will be doing staying on top of the day-to-day runaround. Admin is absolutely *not* taken care of by the NHS even if the bills are.

      And if they don’t have them already, this is the time to talk to your parents about power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and if they have a will. Do it now before they’re actually in the middle of treatment.

    2. Asenath*

      Phone regularly – perhaps on a specific day at a specific time. Call your mother and/or sibling, depending on whether or not your mother is well enough to talk. The talks don’t have to be and probably shouldn’t be only about medical updates, and each individual one doesn’t have to be long. Because they’re planned and not tied to emergencies, they provide support for you and your family, keep you informed, and provide a natural and easy channel for you to find out what might be needed. Even with medical bills cared for, there might be anything from some paid household help or meals delivered for your parents (in my part of Canada, paid-for home help is generally limited unless you are very poor) to locating paid or volunteer transportation to treatments, if your family can’t provide it all. And needs will change as things continue.

    3. Anon.*

      Try to be a sounding board and share insights but try not to even get close to second guessing or criticizing those nearby. It might seem obvious but I’ve seen it happen a lot, even with good intentions.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Try a bunch of different small things that might work and see what takes. Large print book turned out to be a good thing for my Mom, now in Assisted Living.

    5. Pickle Lily*

      I’ve been through exactly this (as in my Mum also had oesophageal cancer and I lived 200 miles away). My advice is if somebody reaches out with a genuine offer of help, then take it. It might be a casserole, a quick house clean, a couple of hours keeping an eye on things, or a lift to the hospital.

      Mum had daily radiotherapy every week day for five weeks solid (plus chemo and many other appointments), so radio alone was 25 hospital trips… an hour each way in a hilly part of the country in winter. We made a schedule that included me travelling down for long weekends and doing Fridays and Mondays, whilst working from home (not possible for everyone of course). We were also lucky enough to have retired friends with a (proper) 4×4 on standby in case we couldn’t get through and gladly accepted their help when we needed it. Could you help with coordinating friends and family from a distance or talking your family to accept help?

      Swallowing will probably become difficult, if it isn’t already. Start thinking about soft foods that your Mum likes and get a decent supply in the house. Soup (no chunks or bits), custard, yoghurt, ice cream, jelly, pureed potatoes and veg (pureed smooth, not mashed) poached eggs. Could you do a single visit and fill up the cupboards, and batch cook some meals for your Dad and sibling?

      Also pill cutters are great for the massive chemo pills that you can’t touch with your fingers and yoghurt is great for mixing crushed pills into if swallowing them is too hard.

    6. StellaBella*

      I too have been thru exactly this. My mom lived in the US South, I was in the PNW. She was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer at stage IV non resectable. So she had chemo and radiation for a year and lived another 2 years – her chemo eventually shut her kidneys down (they were weak before). I packed my dog and moved to my folks’ place and stayed for 4 months (FMLA and holiday time). I also did a lot of what Pickle Lily says in terms of food options, making her comfortable, going to the beach, and allowing for a mostly normal life. I helped at appointments, driving, took her to the store, did stuff for her, and when I had to return to work I visited a few times in the time she was sick. I called her every day and my brother moved in when I moved out. It was difficult and in the end I wish I had been closer. I wish you a lot of luck and you mom, too, and send healing vibes to her.

    7. Virginia Plain*

      Have you talked to a charity such as Macmillan? There are the Macmillan nurses she may need down the line if it is advanced but I believe they offer other support too. Link in reply – there’s a button for those supporting a person with cancer which may be of use to you and your sibling.

    8. FrizzleBee*

      My suggestion is to think of all the little things that you know they enjoy, and make a point of giving them the chance to do them. Noting each person’s favorite tea, a snack they like that is hard to find, knowing where they like to get their nails done and sending them a gift card with a note that you can help with mom while they do this.. Provide sells care opportunities, and add things get worse or more stressful, do it more often.

  9. GingerSheep*

    Puppies! I got my first puppy ever on Tuesday (a papillon) and it’s going really well! He sleeps well at night, is not too hyper, hasn’t yet destroyed anything precious or otherwise, and is all around funny and adorable! Puppies are really cute and we’re in love with the little guy. House training is an issue, of course, but he’s really young and it was expected.
    We’re surprised at how quickly he’s picking up things (learnt sit in two days, and already walks really well on a leash), but also surprised at how much he sleeps and naps and how quickly he tires out. And he really makes weird noises, sometimes almost human ; my daughter says he has swallowed a baby. What surprised you with your puppies and dogs when you adopted them?

    1. Hotdog not dog*

      Congratulations! We adopted our dog when he was already an adult, but he had never lived indoors and wasn’t trained in the least bit! I was surprised at how quickly he learned, especially the housebreaking part. With puppies there’s a physical aspect as well, since their bladders aren’t mature yet, but he’ll grow quickly. Our dog is an old man now, and he may or may not be bothered to obey any commands, but he knows them! My advice is that you begin as you mean to continue. If you don’t want your grown dog to do something (sleep in the bed, jump in your lap, beg at the table, etc,) then absolutely don’t let the puppy do it now. Otherwise, you’ll have to try un-training him so you can re-train him later, which is much harder! Good luck, and enjoy all the sweet puppy cuteness!

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Seconding on begin as you mean to go on — my husband was unmedicated AND in a toxic job when I brought home my dog at 8 weeks, so he would come home from work and just lay down on the floor and let her jump all over him and smother him with kisses, because puppy kisses make everything better. This was adorable at 8 pounds. Now she is almost seven years old and 50 pounds with tiny pointy feet, and still is highly likely to jump all over him and smother him with kisses any time he lays down, and while *I* think it’s hilarious, *he* somewhat regrets that life choice with every paw print she leaves on his liver. (But she also learned that it’s only okay with him, not me, and I only get face kisses if she’s REALLY sleepy and I deliberately stick my face in her face, then I get the tiniest lick on the tip of my nose before she remembers we don’t lick mama in the face.)

        Something that actually surprised me a lot about mine as a baby: she required VERY little direction to keep her from chewing stuff she wasn’t supposed to. I lost the very tip of one shoelace, and she left a few gnaw marks on a baseboard in the kitchen, but otherwise, I expected to have to puppy-proof everything and really she just wasn’t interested in chewing much until she got bigger, at which point she was very good about only chewing her toys and not anything else. Also, one of her absolute favorite treats is carrots.

    2. Dwight Schrute*

      Aww congrats! Don’t be surprised if your puppy regresses in training as they age particularly around the age of 6 month-3 yrs as they reach adolescence. Paps are awesome little fireball dogs!

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        From being around lots of dogs from puppy to adult:
        1) begin as you mean to go
        2) have patience in the housebreaking – it’s just like potty training a toddler
        3) if they really don’t get the housebreaking – crate training is your friend (and a proper crate is just like a den, it is your dog’s safe zone to go to when scared/tired/unsure)
        4) puppies are like babies and will sleep all the time – this will change as they get older
        5) the smaller the dog the less “people food” they can stomach – and vet bills because they ate something “too rich” are really expensive
        6) puppies have very sensitive tummies – make sure you don’t take them off puppy food too early

    3. MissGirl*

      The noises surprised me as well. When I let her out of the crate the first time I left her to go take a shower, she yelled at me something fierce. It wasn’t a bark but this little half howling, talking thing (like how huskies talk but she’s a sheepadoodle). She does it whenever someone isn’t paying her sufficient attention. We were standing in line at Petsmart waiting for the clerk to come check us in for Dog Day Camp on Saturday and apparently we had to wait too long. That poor woman also got a stern talking to.

      How social she is surprised me as well. If she doesn’t have a good play sessions every third day or so, she’s super grumpy. Every other dog will be resting with their tongues out and she’ll nudge them, roll around in front of them, nibble at their ears, anything to keep them going. As her Petsmart report card attests, she hits the playroom like a bullet and gets everybody romping and rolling.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I have a husky mix and all. the. various. mouth sounds are amazing.
      I was surprised the first day I brought him home. It had been a long drive to get the pup. I decided to have a banana before starting dinner for us. You know the sound that happens when you break the stem on a banana. This little 9 week old, (less than 10 pound) pup FLEW over to me and sat right beside me. He knew what bananas were.

      He’s twelve years old and 60 pounds now and he still flies over to me when I get a banana. And I was correct in assuming he was unusually intelligent and a bit of a smarty pants. The fact that he is still very fond of bananas amazes me and makes me laugh.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Used to have a husky – I miss all the “talking” she would do.

        It’s funny, we went to a pediatric Appt with Junior Orchestra, and they asked what sound a dog makes – she was three – and she was marked wrong for copying the sounds Aurora would make. Trying to convince them that huskies don’t bark…it was a nightmare.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Neighbors: What a good dog, he never barks.
          Me: …. he’s part husky……he only barks at me and it’s single bark meaning he has to go out or he wants his dinner.
          A while later, same neighbors: What a good dog, he never barks.
          Me: Sigh

          I had no idea I was in for so. much. talking. I had a Balinese cat for awhile and they are also talkers. Between the dog and the cat there was lots of chatter going on. If anyone told me how different huskies are, I am not sure I would have really appreciated what they were saying. I was trying to find out more about the breed when he was a pup- because he did weird stuff. I fell into a guy’s blog about his husky. He said, “Wolfs and huskies are NOT dogs.” I said, “That’s you, buddy, you’re my Not Dog.”

    5. Smol Book Wizard*

      Congrats! Papillons are lovely little things from all I know of them – they’re on my automatic envy-and-adore list whenever I see them out and about.
      What surprised me about the poodle puppy I had (and unfortunately couldn’t keep, due to mental health and living situation at the time) was that when I let her out of the crate after coming home, it wasn’t even potty time she wanted as badly as just flopping between my knees and getting scritches. Half the fight about getting her harness on was just that she needed a hug first. Bless.
      Going to be trying out a similar tactic with the German Sheppie we are hoping to bring home in a month.

    6. Puppy!*

      My puppy is a year old now and a delight. This site was so valuable to me.
      First of all, yea! kisses to your sweet one.
      Two- go back and search Puppy! in the archives. These would be from last Oct. Nov. etc.
      I almost ruined my dog with too much exercise.
      I though the more exercise the more sleeping. What I did was make her a crabby, bitey toddler.
      Keep him tethered on a leash to you or in a pen or in a crate to keep the puppy safe for the time being.

  10. Midlife dating*

    Dating question.
    I’m late 40s and have had 2 serious relationships of 3 years each and a couple of not so serious ones.

    I’ve worked a lot with my therapist to process childhood trauma which I believe has been at the root of my relationship difficulties, and I’m ready to be committed.

    I’m very self conscious that I haven’t been maried or had a long-term relationship at my age.

    If someone asks me why, how do I answer that question?
    I definitely don’t want to give them the gory details, and I recognise that it wouldn’t be appropriate! Would something nondescript like “I never met the right person” (that’s actually a lie) do? It’s it a red flag to you that I’ve never been in a long relationship?

    The other issue is I tend to respond more to other people with attachment trauma, so it’s a big old cycle of dysfunction. Again, I’m working on it. Dating is hard, and meeting others is hard!

    But any advice you can give me about answering that tricky question would be appreciated. Thanks.

    1. Blooper*

      This is indeed a difficult question to navigate. One answer I’ve heard is to tell whatever truth about your relationship history and, more importantly, share what you’ve learned from it. Another way is something like, “I’ve taken some time to focus on myself/my career, and now I feel ready/open to building a relationship with the right person.”

    2. 30ish*

      3 years is sort of long term! I would probably also view it positively if someone told me „these relationships turned out to not be quite right so they ended after a few years“. That is better than having married someone not quite right for you!

      1. 30ish*

        Oh, I see that you say there was somebody you viewed as „right“. However, if they ended the relationship i think you can still truthfully say that it was not quite right ultimately.

    3. UKDancer*

      I go with “never met the right person at the right time and didn’t want to settle for the wrong one” It’s not technically 100% accurate but close enough. You can go into more detail if things develop.

      I’d say 3 years is fairly longterm nowadays.

      1. Janet Pinkerton*

        I might even simplify to “never met the right person at the right time”, because if they had been the right person at the right time for you and you had been the right person at the right time for them, you’d have paired with them.

    4. Asenath*

      I’m a bit iffy about the whole “right” person thing – I think there are probably a number of potentially right people. I’d still use “I guess I never met the right person” line without considering it a lie. There could have been a number of reasons a potentially “right” person turned out not to be right, and I don’t need to get into details. I wouldn’t consider one, much less two, three year relationships counted as not having had a long-term relationship!

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        I’m iffy about the whole “right” person thing too. It kind of implies that there’s only one perfect archetype for someone. When it’s been said to me I instantly feel like they must have a specific but impersonal checklist of the perfect partner that I’m being assessed against. In turn I’ve felt weird using that phrase, knowing how it makes me feel as someone who values individualism in relationships.

        When my husband and I met, he was in a similar boat to Midlife. He said something like “I’d like to find a companion to share my life with, but I’m kind of eccentric and I have hobbies some people find obsessive and/or weird, so it’s been hard.” (I swooned, btw). I said that I’d been lucky to meet a few lovely men to share some years with, who are still good friends, but things just never worked out that way.

    5. Loopy*

      Going to agree with folks that saying 3 years is long term enough that I wouldn’t be overly concerned. I wouldn’t say you didn’t meet the right person, just that things didn’t work out. It isn’t automatically concerning- just not the right fit- sometimes people’s priorities just don’t align long term and things like that- so I wouldn’t assume anything terrible based on your dating history.

    6. Washi*

      Honestly, your dating history seems pretty unremarkable and roughly what I would expect for someone who never married. I’m a bit younger but have several wonderful friends on track to a similar amount of experience, and it’s not something I’d expect anyone to justify. For me it would be a big plus because I value the trait of knowing how to be on your own!

      I think in relationships there’s a balance of telling the truth but telling an amount of truth appropriate to the trust you’ve built. Most likely the first time you meet won’t be a good time for childhood trauma conversations but I also think once you’ve built trust and the person is right for you, they won’t be scared away by the whole truth.

    7. photon*

      I agree with Washi & others. Your dating history seems unremarkable to me, and 3 years is long-term. (I say this as someone who has only had 1 relationship, which is currently in the double digits.) There’s nothing you need to explain or make excuses for.

    8. RagingADHD*

      Three years is a long term relationship, in my book.

      “Ive been in a couple of relationships that just didn’t work out. I’ve been prioritizing my personal growth lately, and I feel ready to try again.”

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        +1 to ‘personal growth’ phrasing. I think that’s a good way to “explain” why you’ve been single without going into any details. You were working on yourself and now you’re ready to try again.

    9. Liz*

      I’m honestly in the same boat as you. Not quite 40, but getting there. I don’t think I had an official relationship hit the 1 year mark (although I managed to drag out an indefined toxic affair for 2) so you have a better track record than me in that regard.

      I also tend to be drawn to those with attachment difficulties (I thrive on neglect and intermittent reinforcement) so continue to seek support for that.

      I’m generally pretty content with platonic relationships and cats, but the last time I had aspirations of the romantic kind towards someone I just planned to start off telling them that my earlier relationships didn’t work out and that I’d spent the past few years working on myself. I have recently had a spell of craving a romantic relationship, but I’ve no interest in upsetting the apple cart of my life, and don’t really know how to go about meeting people at this stage of life anyway, so I’m full of admiration for you. Good luck!

      1. Midlife dating*

        Thank you :)
        My platonic relationships – honestly, I have 2 important female ones (I’m also a woman) and I think they’re the greatest loves of my life anyway.
        One I’ve known for over 30 years, and the other for 15…so I can do long term relationships! XD

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It’s through our friendships that we learn how to navigate relationships with SOs, I wish someone had told me that many years ago.

          However, when I met my husband he raised this point by saying, “You have friends and family that have been LTRs for you and that tells me a lot about you.” I had never thought of looking at other people’s fam and friends to see what kind of a person I was with!

          Looking back on it I can see where I was already defining what was important to me and what was not important in a relationship. I did not understand that I was writing a definition when I started. People had to be even keeled- none of this, “I was on speaking terms with you yesterday but today I have decided not to speak to you.” People had to have a base line level of concern for safety- none of this stuff of using their own bad driving to teach others how to drive. (yeah. that.)

          My list went on but as I grew older I realized my list was not unreasonable. Many of these things were normal things for a good number of people. It has always seemed wildly unfair to me but we have to “know” there is something better than what we had out there in order to go look for it. To me it looks like you already know there is something better out there. This is huge, don’t skate by this decision you have in process. Good for you.

    10. Batgirl*

      Three years is long term?! I don’t really see what you’re embarrassed about. Your counterpart is only going to want to know if you’re a good person or if you are right for them. If you were a serial cheater, or something perhaps then you’d feel coy, but you’re allowed to have relationships of whatever length! The phrase I’d probably use is: “It was always either the wrong person or the wrong time”. You don’t have to disclose anything before you’re comfortable.

    11. JSPA*

      “Oh, you know, priorities change.”

      “It seems obvious now that a good, mutually-nurturing relationship is something I crave, but try telling that to 30 year old me!”

      I mean, it’s true! Whether you were looking for other things, not looking, not coping, having too much fun in non-relationships, having too much trauma in bad relationships, sabotaging or otherwise screwing up what you now believe (or then believed) could have been good relationships–it’s still true. And it lets you have both some gentleness towards, and some distance from, you as you were, a decade ago.

      1. Filosofickle*

        I’ve often used the line “it wasn’t a priority for me” with a smile, especially when asked why i’ve never been married. The idea of “it wasn’t a priority before and now it is” is simple and neutral. I’m a woman who dates men, and it’s always landed well. Later there is more I can say but on a first or second date that’s enough.

        I am coming off a 4 year relationship, but prior to that there was very little. Some people will assume a lot about me based on that. Some of it will even be true. (I definitely had a lot of work to internally.) I’m self conscious about it, but if they judge it they judge it. I can’t change my history. And the more squirrelly or defensive I act about it, the more red flags I raise.

    12. Wishing You Well*

      Um…wow. Asking WHY you’re not married etc. sounds like a “none of your business” question except, maybe, among very close friends and relatives. The question implies something’s wrong with your status when there’s not. Have a generic response ready for any not-your-business question such as “What an odd thing to ask.” or shrug and say “Don’t know. How’s your day going?” (Deflection often works.) Pausing before you answer can give you time to plan a response. Not every question has to be answered.
      Sharing personal information with others is always your choice on with whom, when and how much you share. It sounds like you’ve made good progress and I wish you the best in the future.

      1. Liz*

        I had assumed OP meant when potential partners ask during the “getting to know you” phase, but on second reading there’s nothing specific about that.

        I’d agree that if random people are asking, that’s very inappropriate. I find it pretty shocking on the odd occasion when people ask about that out of the blue and I don’t do much of a job of hiding that. It’s like the kids question – people often have a lot of painful reasons or even trauma related to relationships. I think when I’ve been asked I’ve given a vague answer, and if pushed I’ll say “it’s just not a priority for me”, which is true. I’m so shockingly terrible at romantic relationships, I’ve put a lot of effort into investing my energies elsewhere.

      2. RagingADHD*

        I also assumed this was in the context of a dating conversation, when it is normal to discuss relationship history.

        FWIW, OP, if I were on the dating market I would consider that someone who’d never been married might well be a better candidate for a successful relationship than someone who was fresh off a nasty divorce, or who bent over backwards to stay in unhappy partnerships, etc.

        If you are dating someone who is currently single, they also have some kind of history that obviously didn’t result in a lifelong marriage. You don’t have anything to be embarrased about. One way or another you’re both in the same boat.

        1. Jessica*

          Your history seems so normal and reasonable to me. Late 40s and never had any relationship–not a dealbreaker but I’d wonder why. Late 40s and had some long and short term relationships but nothing that turned into a match for life? Well, that’s why you’re available! If you’d met Mr./Ms. Right and settled down with them and were living happily ever after, we wouldn’t be on this date. If it was some bad things and bad luck in your life that kept you single till now, they were my good luck because it meant we get to meet. I’m not going to be an ingrate and criticize you about it.

          Also, I think the majority of marrying couples are marrying without giving it sufficient thought or knowing the other person (or sometimes themselves) well enough, and many of those marriages are ill-advised. So never married at midlife could mean various things, but definitely one of those things would be that you’re more sensible and discerning than the average person. That’s a good thing in my eyes.

        2. Jessica*

          Your history seems so normal and reasonable to me. Late 40s and never had any relationship–not a dealbreaker but I’d wonder why. Late 40s and had some long and short term relationships but nothing that turned into a match for life? Well, that’s why you’re available! If you’d met Mr./Ms. Right and settled down with them and were living happily ever after, we wouldn’t be on this date. If it was some bad things and bad luck in your life that kept you single till now, they were my good luck because it meant we get to meet. I’m not going to be an ingrate and criticize you about it.

          Also, I think the majority of marrying couples are marrying without giving it sufficient thought or knowing the other person (or sometimes themselves) well enough, and many of those marriages are ill-advised. So never married at midlife could mean various things, but definitely one of those things would be that you’re more sensible and discerning than the average person. Good judgment is a good quality!

          1. Jessica*

            Ugh, sorry for the accidental duplicate post! Midlife dating, please take it as twice the encouragement, because you deserve it. :-)

    13. Not So NewReader*

      I think there is something to be said for “never met the right person”. If these LTRs that you have had were the right person then one of them would still be there.
      Perhaps you could say, “Never met the right person at the right time” and that would feel more honest to you.

      It was just before my 46th birthday when my husband passed. It was hard. But marriage is a lot of work, anyway. Both people have to work at things and work at keeping the relationship alive. It’s a big commitment. With this in mind, I decided that I really did not want to get married again. I wanted to experience different aspects of life, instead.

      Now here’s the key- I also knew the that a solid way to make myself look foolish was to declare, “Done with marriage!” Because life is such that when one makes broad statements like that, something happens to change all that thinking. So I simply said, “I am not interested in a LTR right now. There are other things I want to focus on.” I was 45 when I said this.

      What I learned was a lot of people are amazing and really great. They take us at our word. It’s okay to say, “Never met the right person.” People can hear that and just accept it. It’s our own selves who wrestle with the message the most. They are not thinking about it that much. I too wrestled with what to say and how to say it but that whole thing worked into a non-issue.

      I think others have covered the fact that you indeed have been in LTRs before, so I won’t hammer on that one. I’d suggest letting yourself up for air. If your potential SO is as judgy and limited in thinking to turn this into an issue then that is good information- you can guess that this person is not for you. Real love is as big as all of the outdoors, it can embrace and accept you, as is and where is.

      Even when I was not much of a believer, I did turn to that famous definition of love, “Love is patient, love is kind, love is not boastful or proud…..’ What does your definition of love look like? It’s okay to include things as, “Love doesn’t judge me for the life I have had and my choices that I have made.” This is your person.

      1. Midlife dating*

        Thank you so much for this comment and the other earlier one! I’m very touched by what you said.

  11. Pam*

    We came in the house yesterday, and one of the Jack Russell’s was making weird noises in his crate. Turns out that barking sounds weird when you try and do it while holding your Kong. He’s 10, so definitely a puppy in mind only.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My boxer regularly barks, grizzles or burps while she’s holding a hollow tubular bone in her mouth, which sort of megaphones the sound in a weird echo-y way and always cracks me up.

    2. Msnotmrs*

      My pittie/American bulldog is a snorter, so when she picks up her Kong and starts breathing, she sounds like Darth Vader. It’s pee-your-pants funny.

  12. Blooper*

    This is indeed a difficult question to navigate. One answer I’ve heard is to tell whatever truth about your relationship history and, more importantly, share what you’ve learned from it. Another way is something like, “I’ve taken some time to focus on myself/my career, and now I feel ready/open to building a relationship with the right person.”

    1. Virginia Plain*

      I’m not completely comfortable with the “focussing on my career” aspect that some have suggested. It might be true in which case go for it but I feel it often panders to a sexist expectation that if you aren’t married/don’t have kids by a certain age it’s because you have somehow rejected that life and chosen to work. I’m in not dissimilar circs and I never once made a decision to end a relationship, reject a partner, remove myself from the dating scene etc. Things sometimes just happen how they happen. I have a career because I have to put food on the table and a roof over my head, and to be a useful member of society, not because I can’t catch a man! Im not a member of the Victorian middle class expecting to go straight from my father’s house to my husband’s house, and nobody ever talks about a man “choosing a career”. Bit of a Bridget Jones soapbox here (“can’t put it off forever you know, tick tock tick tock” etc) but there we are.

  13. German Girl*

    How does your garden grow?

    I had thought I had destroyed my roses with too aggressive pruning followed by some unexpected frost this spring, but they bounced back beautifully and just now they’ve started another growth spurt. I might get something resembling a hedge out of them after all.

    1. GoryDetails*

      Heh! Roses can take quite a beating; “aggressive pruning” seems to please them no end!

      My own garden’s bobbling along, lots of jalapenos, some sweet peppers and tomatoes, some eggplant. The cucumbers are vining like mad, racing past the containers and supports I’d put in place and now climbing the nearby shrubs – but while they have tons of blossoms there are still very few fruits.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I have been pulling out weeds and plotting what fall-bloomers I can fit into the newly open spaces. I have a lot of lilies, which are largely done, mixed with an orange local plant I don’t know the name of, which voluntarily moved in a few years ago.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I found I have a pumpkin (or squash) vine growing in my yard. I can only assume it’s from feeding the birds since we definitely didn’t plant it. I decided to let it grow and see what happens. It’s about 10 feet long and has about four vines coming out of a main vine (from what I can tell, anyway). I was excited to see male blossoms yesterday, as well as some female blossoms with fruit under them; however, a deer came through overnight and had a snack. It took a bunch of the leaves, part of the vine, and a few of the buds. But I still have some blossoms and the bees are very busy in them, so I’m hoping I get something in another month or so.

      My jalapenos are doing okay; however, the scotch bonnets and habaneros are doing absolutely nothing. It’s just as well–we bought a spa and I’ll need to take out the raised bed in order to lay down either a gravel pad or make a small deck. I at least have enough jalapenos to make fruit/jalapeno jam with them.

      My crabapple trees are loaded so I decided I’m going to try making crabapple jelly. I just pick a few pounds so I’ll probably do that tomorrow.

      My McIntosh apple trees are doing really well after bearing almost no fruit for the last three to four years. Thankfully I only lost a couple dozen apples during Henri last weekend. I’m hoping for lots of apple pies and apple jelly this fall.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Oh, I have a question. Has anyone accidently but severely pruned their dwarf lilac?

      I am helping a friend with her garden. She got a little too ambitious with the hedge clippers and now the few remaining leaves are dead. Unfortunately, we transplanted it as it had to be moved. I got out a good size root ball, so I am thinking maybe it will come back next year? Has anyone done a rejuvenation pruning on a dwarf lilac? I know I have cut privet and andromeda down to a stump and they came back just fine. My regular, full size lilac also responded positively to a semi-rejuvenation pruning job.

      The plant is of sentimental value to my friend. Thanks in advance.

    5. Bobina*

      I feel like I’ve posted about them all the time, but seriously, if you’re a novice gardener like me and want some pretty flowers with not a lot of effort – tuberous begonias. I even planted mine way too early and was worried the cold would kill them, but they survived and the plant is so pretty and full of flowers right now!

      Other than that, starting to get into fall/winter prep. I really want some winter flowers, so looking to get some bulbs for winter flowering, and trying to figure out what I want to try again for next year. The ranunculus were kind of a bust, but I’d quite like more anemones I think.

    6. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I don’t have a garden (maybe next summer hopefully!) but I baby-stepped into the world of gardening with…indoor herb plants from Trader Joes (if you can call it gardening!).

      I bought mint, rosemary and basil, and all were around $3-4 each. Very low maintenance, low cost and they smell heavenly. I put them in a rectangular plastic basket that sits on a windowsill and watered once a week as per instructions. Sometime earlier this week my husband closed the window and moved the plants and they dried out but still smelled nice. I just cut them now and googling how to wash and use them. I watered hte soil again just to see if they will re-grow throughout the week but if they don’t, I won’t be devastated as I’ll replace them and be better at maintaining them.

      If this works out, I’d love to get more herb plants.

  14. Parental Funeral Advice*

    I want some advice. Parental death discussion ahead.

    My dad died recently, and his funeral is today. We did not have the best relationship, tl;dr he was a very absent parent and a bit of a self-centered jerk. He had checked out of his marriage with my mom for the last 20 years, at least. He had severe depression, which he only briefly got some treatment for when I was very young, and fundamentally didn’t really know how to grow or maintain relationships with most kinds of people. (He did have some friends in his hobby/occupation. So, some people had a good relationship with him. Just not me.).

    Thing #1 I would like advice on: How should I respond to people I anticipate talking to me about how they are going miss my dad? Or emoting at me? Or expecting me to emote at them?

    I’m not having a ton of big feelings right now. (Of course, these might come later. But that is at least where I have been for the last several days). I do feel frustrated, and anticipate more frustration, that there really isn’t space to say that he was a bit of a self centered jerk and get into my feelings, because they aren’t really socially acceptable, especially to the people who are mourning the man. I have been talking with some of my friends who know me well enough to know we didn’t really have a great relationship, and who I can talk to about this. But they aren’t going to be at the funeral.

    Context #2. I think having a bunch of people in a funeral home for two hours is very unsafe, Covid-wise. I am guessing I am already going to be grumpy because of needing to hold my tongue about what I actually want to say about my dad, and then going to be doubly grumpy because I feel like we are creating an unsafe situation. (I have bought masks for people to wear, I have printed signs to put up that say please wear a mask, and I have a contact tracing station I am going to staff outside the funeral entrance to get names, emails, and phone numbers of everyone who attends. I think I have implemented all the mitigating things I can do.) The state I’m in is 65% fully vaccinated.

    I’m going to be inside for the service part to support my mom, I just feel unsafe going inside this room filled with strangers who aren’t distancing, some of whom probably aren’t vaccinated and also aren’t cautious in their public interactions, and some of whom are probably not wearing their masks snugly to cover their nose and mouth.

     Thanks for any advice or coping mechanisms or reassurance that it makes sense that I want to protect my own safety.

    1. infopubs*

      Absolutely it makes sense that you should do whatever you need to do to be Covid safe. Do you think it would help to talk to the funeral director and ask what their safety protocols are? They might be willing to be the enforcers of mask rules. I hope you’ll at least feel like you can take frequent breaks to step outside for some fresh air. If you check in with your Mom often but for short bursts, she’ll remember that you were there for her and the amount of time you spend breathing inside air is reduced.

      I have a similar relationship with my father, so “what to say” is something I think about, too. My plan, if asked about how I’m doing at the funeral, is to say, “I’m just kind of numb right now.” No one needs to know that numb=not having big sad feelings, and numb is a socially acceptable way to be in that situation. Maybe you can also lean into the Covid excuse for no hugs or long convos, too.

      I hope you can find some peace after all the funeral hubbub is over.

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      On the covid side, I attended a funeral recently and the funeral home stationed an employee at the entrance to remind people to put on their masks. He handed out masks if people didn’t have one. There was a sign that masks were required by the funeral home to enter, so it took that pressure off the family. I thought it was handled very well.
      On the emotional side, people will want to offer condolences because that’s mostly the point of a funeral. You can just smile vaguely and nod…you HAVE suffered a loss, although it came years ago when you first realized your father was not meeting the family’s needs. When all else fails, it’s perfectly polite to excuse yourself from an uncomfortable conversation by saying you need to greet another guest, help your mother, or just need a moment alone. People are willing to grant a lot of leeway for family members at a funeral, so I hope you do what’s best for you.
      My condolences on your loss so long ago, and I wish you peace and strength today.

      1. Lizzie*

        Captain Awkward refers to this issue on her twitter feed on August 4th – On the topic of grieving an estranged parent by Cheryl Strayed

        1. the cat's ass*

          It’s a powerful Dear Sugar essay entitled, “we are the solid.” It’s okay to feel numb and relieved. I know when people came to my mother’s funeral, i just thanked them for coming and told them how much my dad and my sister and i appreciated their presence (this was way pre-Covid).
          Socially distanced hugs. It does, weirdly, get better.

      2. Parental Funeral Advice*

        “you HAVE suffered a loss, although it came years ago when you first realized your father was not meeting the family’s needs.”

        this is very insightful, thank you for sharing this perspective

    3. Anon.*

      First, this is hard for you. It’s not hard in the same way that would be if you were deeply mourning a beloved parent, but you are welcome to be focusing on yourself and your mom, not on friends of your father. It is socially acceptable to do what works for you to some extent, so you can just say one of the scrips above like “I’m numb right now” or something like “It’s still really fresh” or just “I’m not even sure how I’m doing right now.”

    4. SortaKindaMostlyOkay*

      I had similar feelings about my mother and wondered how to respond to people. I like to be honest for my own sense of integrity, but of course blurting out the truth often isn’t socially acceptable. I planned to say “Thank you; that’s kind of you” or simply “Thank you for being here today” instead of sharing my feelings. I wouldn’t care if that was a non sequitur.

      When my mother died last year, covid restrictions meant that only immediate family could attend the service, so I was spared those interactions. I really like Hotdog’s idea of stationing a funeral-home employee at the entrance to handle masking. Be prepared to ward off hugs, which I assume you won’t want as a covid precaution. I imagine putting up my hand in a cautionary pose and saying “I’m not hugging due to covid.”

      1. SortaKindaMostlyOkay*

        And I’m very sorry for what you’re going through. It’s hard no matter how you got along with your parent.

    5. They Don’t Make Sunday*

      I’m sorry you’re going through a complicated loss. For people emoting at you: If they do (assuming they’re more distant from the loss than you), that’s awfully selfish (per ring theory—support in, dump out). You don’t owe these people your emotions.

      You can keep a few stock phrases at hand: “Thank you for coming,” “Mom especially needs everyone’s support right now,” and just, “Nice to see you. If you’ll excuse me.” If people say a bunch of nonsense at you about your father, try to mentally replace it with “I am at a funeral and feel the need to displace the air in front of my face. I am talking to you because I don’t want to have left without talking to you for fear of Doing Funeral Wrong.”

      YOU get to do whatever you need to at your father’s funeral, including being numb and avoiding conversation. And going outside for air. And disappearing when you need to. Good luck. It will be over soon.

    6. I can never decide on a lasting name*

      There might be so many people that you do not ger a substantial conversation with anyone, and that could make it easier to stick to standatd phrases that you pick in advance. The above suggeation of being numb is great, also other phrases that are not lies (makes it easier to say!), but also do not communicate how you actually *do* feel.
      If people are sharing *their* loss, might it be possible to sympathize with the loss as if it wasn’t about your father? As if a colleague shared that they had lost someone?
      Good luck with this difficult day!

    7. WellRed*

      The funeral home should be handling everything including the Covid-19 stuff. I wish you strength to get through today.

    8. RagingADHD*

      All the suggestions are good for things to say. I’ve also used rhings like:

      It’s been difficult.
      I’m just glad I can be here for Mom.
      We’re doing our best to get though it.

      IME, most people know better than to emote at close family unless they are close family too. Those that will impose that way tend to be very self-centered. You can use that to your advantage, because it makes it easy to just let them talk about themselves, and you don’t have to say hardly anything. It also makes it easy to pawn them off on someone else, because they aren’t interested in you anyway.

      I am sorry for your loss and hope evetything goes smoothly.

      1. Girasol*

        I felt awkward about dealing with all the people talking to me about Dad’s death because I didn’t think I felt like you’re supposed to feel. I ended up channeling a sort of Miss Manners formality: “Thank you for your kind words. He had a good life. I’m doing as well as can be expected. There’s nothing I need just now but it’s so kind of you to offer. I think I just need some time.” It’s okay to keep people at a distance while you take your time to figure out how you feel about it because polite people aren’t supposed to pry.

    9. HannahS*

      If you’re there to support your mom, then I think you have no need to listen to any of his friends talk at you about him. It’s totally ok for you to interrupt and stay stuff like, “Thank you for coming; it’s nice that you were so close with my dad. Why don’t you find yourself a seat? The service will start at 3:00.”

      You absolutely can and should feel very free to tell people to wear their masks correctly. If they come up to you and your mother, please step in front of her and say, “Please, pull your mask over your nose before you come speak to us.” Interrupt them when they speak and say, “Please, put your mask on and keep it on while we are indoors.”

      Remember most people (unless they’re raging jerks) will NOT get into an argument with the daughter of the deceased at his funeral. They may grouch about it later, but really, who cares?

      1. Windchime*

        We held services for my Dad in May. They were outdoors, and despite having a young lady there who offered masks to people who didn’t have one, we still had several people refuse to wear a mask. I didn’t get close to those people. A particular branch of the family is anti-vaxx; one of them is now in the ICU on a ventilator.

        Some people are absolutely raging jerks. It’s sad. Condolences to you, OP; it’s a tough time but you’ll get through it.

    10. Not A Manager*

      It sounds like you’re planning to sit next to or near your mom for the service (where people aren’t going to be talking to you), but you’re concerned about any pre- or post-service indoor mingling?

      I’d say that people would note your absence, but don’t mostly care about your presence. Put on your mask and pop into the room for 5 minutes at a time, and the rest of the time be “busy” elsewhere. If there are one or two people that you can tolerate, when they come to speak to you, suggest that you step outside to chat for a few minutes. “Go to the bathroom” but take a detour on the way. “Grab something from the car.” So long as people see you there, they won’t really notice *how* you’re there.

      When people offer condolences, just listen and make small sounds. “Thank you so much,” “I know he will be missed by many people,” “what a lovely memory, thank you for sharing it.”

      As for yourself? “Me, I’m doing as well as can be expected.”

      All good thoughts to you for getting through the day safely.

    11. Exif*

      We just buried my FIL last week. We held a graveside service only for safety reasons. Everyone was very understanding about it.

    12. Daffodilly*

      Been there when my abusive mom died. Mostly I would thank people for coming. If someone point blank asked me how I was feeling, I would just say “kind of numb, actually. Just getting through each day.” and that worked every time.

    13. Squirrel Nutkin*

      On the COVID side, perhaps you could spend the time that’s not the actual service lurking outside the funeral home and just interacting with people there? I’m going to guess that the other people who come outside may be mostly the ones who also feel unsafe being indoors in groups right now and might thus respect your physical space, stay masked, etc.

      I know you didn’t ask for advice on this issue, but I do want to recommend Jeanne Safer’s book *Death Benefits*, which is about taking a meh/lousy relationship with one’s recently dead difficult parent and using some reflection on it as a means of personal growth and flourishing as you move forward.

    14. Seconds*

      Recently my uncle died; I thought him a very problematic person, and in fact at his funeral almost everything said about him involved violence. (Someone from his office talked about the desks he broke. He didn’t get fired because he was the owner.)

      His daughter posted this on Facebook about her father’s death: “There’s nothing like the love between a parent and a child.” I thought that was beautiful—the listener can read whatever they wish into that. (I still don’t know how she actually feels about him or his death.)

    15. WoodswomanWrites*

      Pre-COVID, I attended my father’s funeral. I had comparable feelings about him as you do about yours, with the added strain of the unpleasantness of his second wife/widow. What worked for me was recognizing the good intentions of people who wanted to chat. I thanked them for attending and whatever kind words they shared and then just moved along. Fortunately his widow had no more interest in talking with me than I did, so that prevented what would have been the most awkward interaction.

      I hope that being with your mother makes it easier. I was there with my siblings and we all felt the same way, so spending time with them helped a lot.

    16. Parental Funeral Advice*

      Hi all – thank you for taking the time to comment on this.

      The funeral is over, and ultimately things went ok. Hopefully folks who attended don’t get covid, either vaccinated breakthrough cases or un-vaccinated cases.

      Two phrases a relative provided that I really like that I would like to share with others in a similar situation: “It won’t be the same without him here.” and “He will be missed by many.”

    17. Not So NewReader*

      #1 “It’s good he had you.”
      “I understand.”
      And don’t forget the ambiguous “mmmmm” which allows them to fill in their own blanks.

      At my mother’s funeral the thing I was not prepared for is that NO ONE said to me that they were sorry for my loss. NO ONE. And this is one of the many ways death causes relationships to change. Decide to keep an eye out for the few people who actually “get it”. Those people may not be at the funeral. They might call or write you later on. I later found out that I had a couple aunts that totally knew and understood what I had been dealing with. These aunts could not attend the funeral because of distance, weather and transportation.

      Try to keep in mind that it is not your job to comfort them. It’s not your job to resolve their sorrow for them. Leverage what you say here about supporting your mother, tell yourself this over and over. I told myself that I was supporting my father. This helped me to redirect the conversation to something about my father. “It’s good that you can be here for [surviving parent].”

      #2 Ask the funeral home to tighten up Covid protocols. You might be surprised on how much they are willing to do here.

  15. Sara Sunflower*

    I recently found pictures of old nostalgic posters that I’d love to own but unfortunately don’t seem to be available for sale anywhere. There are high quality photos of the posters but not scans so even getting prints of the pictures would not be the best quality. Other than getting an artist to recreate them, is there anything I can do to get/print/create these posters?

    1. Sara Sunflower*

      Link attached to my name. Scroll down to the bottom, I’m talking about those three dinosaur McDonald’s posters.

      1. fposte*

        Can’t link through names these days, so post the link in a followup. They may turn up on Etsy or eBay or elsewhere, and I know I’m not the only person here who enjoys a bit of a search.

        1. Orchidsandtea*

          Oh damn, you’re good. Are you in the mood for a different search? I’m looking for the Missoni shawl-collared cardigan Reese Witherspoon wore in Legally Blonde.

          1. fposte*

            I’m mostly good at art searches because you can do reverse image searching; clothing unfortunately doesn’t respond well to those. I highly recommend r/helpmefind on Reddit, which is full of thing-focused bloodhounds.

      2. fposte*

        It looks like the McDonalds posters were only available at Disney Parks, so unfortunately grabbing one off of eBay or Etsy is a longshot. However, if it’s the dinosaurs and not the surrounding poster elements that you like, that’s the art of William Stout, and he has several dinosaur books, readily available on eBay, that you could legally cannibalize pages out of to make framed art.

    2. infopubs*

      You might try searching eBay for them. You can save the search so that eBay sends you an email anytime something comes up in the future. I’ve had success finding weird stuff this way. Might take a while, but it’s a low investment of energy. Good luck!

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      Would you be happy with smaller framed prints (at the biggest size the photos you’ve found would allow)?

    4. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      If you try to get reprints made, you might run into copyright issues if they’re in the date limit. Some photo reproduction places are stickers for not reprinting without permission.

  16. Speed Demon*

    I’m curious about friends and speeding tickets. This happened years ago. A friend and I were going out to eat at a special restaurant. I met her at her apartment because she didn’t have a car. However, I was feeling sick because I was so hungry (that happens to me, I can get nauseous if I don’t eat). I felt so bad that I wasn’t up to driving and ask my friend if she could drive my car to the restaurant. She agreed, we went and had delicious food, and I drove us back to her place.

    A few weeks later, I got a speeding ticket from a camera. It was when my friend was driving us to the restaurant in my car. I went back and forth for a bit if I should ask my friend to pay it. I’m lucky to be in a state where a ticket from a camera doesn’t give you any points on your license or raise your insurance so I was only concerned with the cost of the ticket. On the one hand, I thought my friend should because she was driving. On the other, she was only driving as a favor to me because I was sick.

    I ended up not asking her to pay it, just doing it myself. It drifted through my mind this week because a relative is in a slightly similar situation. So in a circumstance such as this, would you ask your friend to pay or just pay it yourself?

    1. mreasy*

      I would have paid it myself just to avoid the hassle and potentially awkward conversation, unless it was a financial burden.

    2. Empress Ki*

      I would have mentioned it to the friend. If she’s a decent person, she’d offer to refund you. If I understand well, you also made a favor for her by picking her to her apartment because she didn’t have a car.

      1. P*

        I would have mentioned it as a heads up, you might want to be more careful in the future kind of way- I wouldn’t ask her to pay for it, but accept if she offered.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        At least in every state I’ve lived in, for a camera ticket that doesn’t matter. They act as the equivalent to a parking ticket rather than a full moving violation because the camera can’t tell who’s driving the car, so they don’t add any points or similar to your license like a regular ticket would. It’s literally just the fine, and that’s legally attributed to the registered owner of the car. The only way out of it is to prove that you aren’t actually the owner — if someone else was driving and you want to collect the fine from them, that’s between the individuals.

        1. mreasy*

          You know, my then-boyfriend got a camera ticket in my car for running a red light (this was 20 years ago). I challenged it because I wasn’t driving the car and they took down his information to give him the ticket, but ended up never contacting him, while my ticket was voided. So maybe it varies per state/jurisdiction?

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Could be – that’s why I specified “in every state I’ve lived in” :)

      2. Come On Eileen*

        Same – because where I live (Northern California) a red light violation is added to your driving record (you can do community service if you qualify to remove it, but otherwise it’s a point on your license). I wouldn’t want my driving record damaged by someone else’s red light violation.

      3. noahwynn*

        Totally agree. My BIL was driving my car in another state and got a speeding camera ticket. I challenged it and they dropped it because I was able to easily prove I wasn’t driving. They asked for me to identify the driver and I just left that part of the appeal form blank. Worked in Arizona but not sure if it would in every state.

    3. Southern Girl*

      If I had been aware she was driving too fast and I asked her to slow down and she did NOT, then I would ask her to pay.

    4. GoryDetails*

      Under those circumstances – and assuming you never mentioned to her that you would prefer she kept to the speed limit – I’d pay the ticket myself. If I thought the friend was an unsafe driver I might mention that – or at least refrain from letting them drive my car again – but if it was a one-time thing I’d let it go.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      When I got essentially a camera ticket because someone driving a car registered to me blew through a toll plaza without either paying the toll or having a toll pass, I sent her a scan of the camera ticket/invoice and told her that I would obviously be paying it, since it was assigned to my vehicle and I wanted to ensure that it was paid promptly so I didn’t get any fallout, but that I expected reimbursement for it within a week since she was the one who had been irresponsible. She didn’t have any issue with that and sent me the money pretty much immediately. (I wasn’t in the car at the time, and the first I heard about it was when I got the notice in the mail, so I was a little irked :P )

      If I were in your friend’s situation, had you mentioned you got a camera ticket while I was driving your car, I would have offered to pay it immediately whether you actually asked me to or not.

    6. Don't like driving*

      Since you asked her to drive, I think you should pay the ticket. She was doing you a favour AND she didn’t have a car so didn’t know where the speeding cameras were/ might have been uncomfortable driving etc.
      If I was the friend and was asked to pay, I would never agree to get into a car with the owner again.

      1. WellRed*

        I agree with most of this, but really, “ didn’t know where the speeding cameras are”? Maybe don’t speed. Especially in someone’s car.

        1. Don't like driving*

          Absolutely agree. What I meant was, I (as a nondriver) have observed that people are more likely to accidentally speed when they don’t know a route, like when there is a surprising lowered speed limit somewhere that someone driving the route every day will deal with automatically.

          1. RagingADHD*

            Yes, there’s a stretch of road near my house where the limit goes from 40 to 20 very suddenly because of a school zone, but a) you can’t see the school from that point, it’s around a curve. And b) the trees around the sign get overgrown very quickly and sometimes obscure it for a week or so before they’re trimmed.

            There are all kinds of situations where people can get caught out without intending to speed.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              I recently got my first speeding ticket (first! In almost 30 years of driving) from a camera that was installed right before a freeway on-ramp. Basically, I drove 20 mph in a residential area, turned to go towards the freeway and got busted right as I started to speed up. According to Nextdoor, I am not the first.

              Things like that happen all the time with cameras.

                1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                  That made me so mad! Like, what am I supposed to do???? But I paid the darn thing. Next week I have to take that ramp and I’ll just… do what I can.

            2. Siege*

              Yep. We have several school zones near my house. I have no idea where the schools actually are, since none of the three are visible from the road. One of the lights that announces the closest zone didn’t work for months in 2019, and if you aren’t expecting the zone you’d never know due to trees, a curve, and the fact you’re actually driving past a massive cemetery that straddles the road. (Funeral home on one side, graveyard on the other.)

      2. Person from the Resume*

        Nah! She was speeding. She is responsible for the fine. Simple solution: don’t speed.

        A speeding ticket is NOT inevitable.

    7. Dumblydore*

      She was doing you a favor so you should pay – unless it’s a financial burden and she’s a Google executive.

      My husband went to help a friend move and accidentally damaged a piece of furniture. I would have been incredibly annoyed if the friend asked to pay for repair. If someone is doing you a favor I think you should bear reasonable costs of their mistakes in the process of them helping you.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I wondered if she was speeding because she wanted to get you food since you did not feel well. (My husband was a diabetic, and I’ve BTDT.)

      I think a reasonable compromise is to say something but offer a different plan. This could look like, “We got a speeding ticket the other week, rushing to get food for me. I thought about this and I have decided to carry small snacks with me to prevent such urgency again.”

      Another solution would be to stop some where closer and get a small fruit or veggie juice drink to guzzle down. The overarching idea is to acknowledge that it happened because you had an urgent problem so you are absorbing the cost and you are going to endeavor not to have another recurrence. She probably did not fully understand how serious the situation was so she gunned it to get you the help you needed. You can point out that driving normally in these instances is okay, no need for speed.

      I will say it is scary to watch someone in low blood sugar or just plain low on food. I have run out of food myself because of doing heavy work and whoa, baby, it’s not good. I try to keep something with me most times so I know I won’t end up in a bind.

  17. Photo Finish!*

    Where/how do you store your digital photos? I have photos all over the place. Saved to my phone, laptop, external hard drive, memory cards, all over. I don’t trust any of these to last forever and I’m nervous about putting them on a website storage system that could delete itself or get hacked. If I print them, there would be thousands of photos and so very expensive. How do you all manage your digital photos?

    1. Dwight Schrute*

      I’ve got mine backed up to google drive and it’s worked well for me in the ~three years I’ve used it

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Folders within folders within folders. I have all phone photos go to “Camera Uploads” in Dropbox automatically, and I think they’re also backed up on Google Drive, too. Those I can sort through by date, and I generally remember when I did certain things of interest. Then I have another folder for collections, like “Pets” and “Home” (wall hanging, renovations, etc), folders for certain trips or events, etc., and I copy them out to those folders as I get to them.

      For organization, though, I found Flickr to be the best. The albums and tagging make it one of the best I’ve used, and we used it for a huge client collection of professional photographs. However, it does take a lot more work (like when I uploaded vacation photos there, I geotagged all of them and tagged them by subject, like landscape, hotel, food, etc. ), but it’s the ideal place for your favorite photos, IMO.

      1. Drizzle Cake*

        Flickr doesn’t exist any more I don’t think!

        Mine are all in Google Drive. A while ago I spent a few days sorting out all my disparate albums into one place in folders with years and themes. I felt so much better once that was done. I try to sort the ones on my phone every few weeks so they don’t build up again.

        1. Pippa K*

          Flickr is still alive and functioning! It’s still my photo archive/sharing space of choice. Sure, it’s past its heyday and I’ll be sad when it’s gone, but I haven’t found anything better for my needs yet.

        2. Formerly Ella Vader*

          My photos are in my Flickr Pro account. It definitely still exists, although it doesn’t work as well for me as it used to.

    3. Anona*

      Google Photos. It’s not ideal, since it doesn’t store at full resolution, and I’d like a second backup system, but any phone I take on my phone automatically uploads to this app. I also use a feature to auto-add pictures of my kid to an album that is shared with family. I don’t love the face recognition aspect, but it’s great for her great grandma to see photos and videos as we take them.

      1. Observer*

        If you’re willing to pay for enough storage, you can save in full resolution to Google photos.

        But there is also no reason you can’t also have a second place to store your pictures.

        1. Drizzle Cake*

          I use Google Drive which gives you loads of free storage and keeps your original resolution. No need to pay?

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      I have an external hard drive just for photos. More recent years are sorted pretty neatly with monthly folders inside yearly folders, but the earlier ones are a disaster because I used to make a folder for individual events and even rename all the photos things like “me sally bob” and “sally big hat 2”. I’m working through trying to get them more standardized (luckily, I numbered those folders so at least I know “3. zoo” comes before “4. christmas party” and so on)

    5. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      Things I’ve scanned (old family photos) are on my computer under genealogy subfolders, which are sorted by family branch). I tend to scan at pretty high resolution in case I want to use a cropped version of any photo, or if I need to zoom in for detail. When I save them, I use a short description instead of a numeric file name. I’ve also saved those to Google cloud as albums, and can access them on my phone. Phone photos that are vacation shots or family gatherings or other special shots get downloaded onto the computer for backup. I’m getting less obsessive about downloading every single photo, and just pick “best of” now and delete others. It was getting kind of overwhelming.

    6. Girasol*

      A USB stick, my laptop, and my husband’s laptop, to be sure that damage to any two won’t lose them.

    7. PollyQ*

      Multiple belts and suspenders:

      1) External hard drive (multiple copies in different directories)
      2) Automatic full backup (BackBlaze)
      3) Online directories (Google Drive & Dropbox)
      4) Many are still on my iPhone & iPad

      It’s possible that I’m overdoing, but I do recommend having multiple digital copies. I also recommend finding a way to consolidate & organize them in some way that makes sense to you. If you can’t find something you’re looking for, it doesn’t really matter how many copies you have.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        Yes, multiple back-up systems are critical. I have an external hard drive for photos, which is also automatically backs up on the cloud through Carbonite and I manually back it up to iDrive when I add new content.

        An external hard drive isn’t enough if it fails. A friend dropped his and it took lots of work to extract the images and put them on a new drive. If you’re concerned about hacking in the cloud, you’ve got the external drive and in my case a second cloud back-up.

        Organizing them into folders has been key. Nearly all of my photos are nature photography, many of which I post on my blog, and I need them to be easy to find. For example, I have a gazillion photos of birds. I have a folder labeled Birds and then subfolders of places I’ve visited multiple times, and then an additional subfolder with the month and year for dates. So it looks like this: Birds – Shangri La National Wildlife Refuge – Geese and Ducks 1-1932.

        1. WoodswomanWrites*

          Also, I use an actual camera for most of my photos rather than my phone. My laptop is a PC rather than an Apple, and if there’s anything I want to keep that’s on my iPhone, I email to myself and copy it to my external hard drive.

          1. PollyQ*

            You should be able to use Apple’s iCloud on your PC, or a 3rd-party app like Dropbox or Google drive to sync from your iPhone. (But if you have a system that’s working, obviously no need to change!)

    8. HBJ*

      My phone backs up to google drive. I started doing this after my phone broke, and I lost all the photos (except the ones that were put on social media or I’d sent to someone). I don’t pay for extra storage, so I download from there to an external hard drive in three month increments. I don’t have to remember when I last downloaded or look; I just know once it hits April, I can go in and download Jan-Mar, etc. I save photos off my non-phone camera to the hard drive as well. The photos I “favorite” on my phone stay on my phone, that’s one backup of the best of the best. Honestly, I should have another backup. I have yet to figure out a good way to synchronize everything to multiple hard drives at once.

    9. AcademiaNut*

      Double backup is good. I import use a photo organizing program, and back everything up to an external hard drive (in case my computer breaks or is stolen, and it’s something that I physically own, so a website storage system can’t delete them). I then back up the good photos to a web based service (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc), which provides backup in case, say, my apartment burns down.

      If you are worried about photos getting hacked, there are ways you can encrypt them before uploading to a cloud service, that protects them with a password. You do, of course, need to remember the password.

    10. Fellow Traveller*

      Piggybacking off this question – how often do you delete photos and what is your method or criteria for culling? I’m pretty good at deleting photos right away if they don’t turn out (blurry/ eyes closed/ etc.) but I’m still left with so many pictures that are acceptable and similar. I have a hard time choosing which to keep, so I just keep all of them… and it’s starting to eat away at my storage and be unwieldy to manage and sift through.

  18. Strong Aroace Vibes*

    What forms the foundation of your Relationships, as compared to your friendships? Are your partnership-relationships based on the same core elements as your close friendship relationships…but grow so much closer and more all-encompassing and you decide to be a day-to-day life-leading team; or is it fundamentally different? Or, another way to get at the same question, what do you get out of your close friendships and do you look for all of that to come from a partnership relationship as well (along with additional life-sharing elements)…for you, is a partnership simply a more-encompassing closer friendship that probably also includes a connection based around sex?

    I’m particularly interested to hear from people with close female friendships, because for me I’d say that a life-sharing relationship is at its core the same thing but more, built into a committed everyday life-navigating child-raising team.

    I’d assume that replies would be quite different from queer and straight people, and depending on gender, but I’m interested in all takes.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I thought about this for a hot minute, almost decided to not answer, and then I noticed your username and snickered, because that context actually makes me think that my explanation will probably make more sense (to you, at least, if not to anyone else) than I had originally feared. I’m mostly aro and entirely ace, so there’s actually only very very minor distinctions between my relationships with my husband (who I’ve known in some context for 17 years), my male best friend of 8 years and my female best friend of 20 years. Husband and I were friends for like eight years before we started dating, and he has been largely accepting of my brain settings – he was the one who specifically wanted marriage, and I said “You sure? You know my brain,” and he said yep, partners, so here we are. (Reserving the right to not further explain the way my marriage works, because I recognize we’re a little odd, but it works for us. :) )

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Male best friend is also housemate with husband and me, and in fact our relationships are apparently similar to the point where we have had to clarify that we are not a poly triad on several occasions. (Normally I refer to him as my brother.) All three of us are straight.

        1. Hrodvitnir*

          Allo here, but that shared living situation/relationship setup is the dream! I’m so glad you have a partner and friend (platonic partner?) that it works for.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            It’s wonderful :) we all moved in together before husband proposed, and when we got engaged housemate’s mom was like “you’re gonna have to move out, married people don’t want housemates,” and I told her to zip it and we absolutely want him to live with us pretty much forever. (That was one of the points where we had to clarify that we aren’t a triad. :-P )

      2. Strong Aroace Vibes*

        Ha, yes your explanation seems entirely sensible to me :)
        Not knowing what sort of replies I would get back, I was happy to read yours as the first one!
        I’m glad the username provided the necessary extra context for people who would pick up on it.

    2. mreasy*

      Run of the mill hetero lady married to a bi man here. I am very lucky to have fiercely close friendships, and they are quite different from my relationship with my husband. He and I are close and can talk about most things, have a lot of interests in common and very similar world views – I love spending time with him. But also, when we’re together, I often have the impulse to kiss and hug him, or even just put my hand on his shoulder or his hand. It feels comfortable and meaningful to be touching each other. And we are sexually attracted to each other as well. With my friends, I think I am more open about a lot of things (a lot of this because most of my very close friends are women and we can relate on some things better), because certain emotional support and connection I just don’t rely on my husband for. On the other hand, I have emotional needs and wants that he fills that I would never ask anyone else for. On the other other hand, I would be perfectly content to live in a household with my two best women friends and our cats and our similar home decor styles, if I didn’t have him in my life. This is why I don’t really think “partner” fits for me w/r/t my marriage, as much as I don’t love the terms “husband/wife” – I think I have a lot of partners in life, and he is one of them, but my friends are also my partners, as we’re on a team to keep each other happy, just in different ways. I would be devastated to lose my husband, but just as much to lose one of my best friends.

      1. Washi*

        “I think I have a lot of partners in life, and he is one of them, but my friends are also my partners.” I love this and feel this way as well!

        For me, I actually do express a lot of physical affection with my closest friends (cuddling, holding hands, kisses on the cheek, etc). And my friends, especially my best friend, meet my emotional needs that my husband doesn’t always. I don’t have sex with my friends, but for me the biggest distinction is that my husband is the person I pick to be my partner on the group project of running a household and in the future, having kids. We are able to work together in a totally seamless way that I’ve never experienced with anyone else with no nagging and only very rarely arguments. And because of this, he’s the only person I could imagine being legally attached to.

    3. Anona*

      Yes, it’s a closer friendship+ sex. The sex help makes it closer, as does sharing day to day life together. And there’s definitely additional closeness when you’re sharing life decisions together, whether about your kid or your property.

    4. DrunkAtAWedding*

      Statler and Waldorf-ing mostly. We’re judgy about everyone.

      I generally don’t express that side of myself with other friends even close friends, because the level of trust/intimacy required to be that mean/judgy and have the other person understand it as intended is so high. I had trouble with that last sentence because ‘understand as intended’ was hard to clarify. It’s like…yes, I’m being mean and judgy about people…but I can still like them, and you can still like them, and it’s not something that needs to be talked about or dealt with any further than this, and it doesn’t need to change either of our relationships with that person.

      There’s also the sex thing ofc, but that’s just not as important. I’m not aro or ace, but I think I might be demisexual, so maybe that’s a factor there.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Oh, I feel this one.

        I also recently paraphrased The Princess Bride to tell the story of my relationship: “He was amazed to discover that when she was saying “I’m going to stab you with a bag of frozen peas,” what she really meant was, “I love you.””

      2. I am a unicorn but not your unicorn*

        Amen re: the snark. That’s a really good distinction. My people are folks I can say things outloud to that I can’t say to other people.

      3. Expiring Cat Memes*

        It’s that deeper level of trust and emotional intimacy for me too. Snark and in-jokes are a big part of it. But really it’s being able to be physically, mentally and emotionally stark naked and vulnerable with that person and know that they truly see you, love you, and will care for you/stimulate you/make you feel good – and you’re doing the same for them.

    5. HannahS*

      To me (heterosexual cis-female, married to heterosexual cis-male) my friendships are centered on shared interests and with some shared values, and my romantic relationship is centered on shared values and shared lifestyle with some shared interests.

      I have close friends across the political spectrum and with vastly different religious and spiritual beliefs, with all different lifestyles and values around money, sex, family, travel, charitable giving, morality, etc. We’re friends because we share some values, but more because we enjoy each others’ company. There might be a limited number of subjects that we enjoy talking about, or a limited number of activities that we do together. I could never live with any of my closest friends; despite our mutually emotionally supportive relationships and the fun we have together, we’d…well, we’d kill each other in short order because our lifestyles and temperaments are not compatible for sharing space.

      My husband and I have similar political, moral, and religious views, and are on the same page about family life. Obviously, I enjoy his company, too, and we do have shared interests, but I wouldn’t describe our relationship as “friendship but stronger and also sex,” because the foundation of it is that we’re building a shared life and I don’t have a desire to do that with any of my friends.

      1. Mstr*

        “Building a shared life” hits home with me. Yes, my spouse is the person I’m closest too & share the most with & we have a lot in common … but there’s something more than friendship here & it’s kind of tied to the lifetime commitment for me — my friendships wax & wane & our daily life-building/future/long-term plans do not depend on each other … we haven’t vowed to be together in sickness or in health & I don’t want them to make my medical decisions for me if I’m incapacitated. Which is not to say that others can’t choose a platonic person to be many of those things to them. But I have the the deep commitment to myself & partner in all things, which comes before friends.

    6. Liz*

      I’m also grey ace/aro and this kind of thing has always puzzled me! I’ve seen a few people talk about romantic relationships being “like a friendship but closer and you can tell each other anything!” and my mind was boggled because on the rare occasion when I’ve experienced attraction, I’ve been on my best behaviour the whole time and never been able to relax enough to get to the “telling everything” phase. Sex winds up as a substitute for closeness. I can’t think clearly when I’m like that, so I’ve not exactly been going out of my way to pursue things like that over recent years.

      I currently have a housemate who I regard as a queer platonic life partner. We dated when we first met but didn’t work out and found we worked better as friends. Since then we found we are just 100% relaxed around one another, enjoy doing similar things, and have largely parallel or overlapping life goals. We are both poor, underemployed millenials so we needed to live with other people in order to move out, so we decided to get a house together. The key thing was just… being able to be around one another for prolonged periods without getting on each others nerves!

    7. photon*

      I think it’s a question of partnership and priority. We’ve decided we come first in each other’s lives; we build a life together logistically; we work together to figure out where we’re going on major decisions (eg jobs, homes, etc). While we don’t have sex with others, I don’t think that’s necessary or sufficient for that sort of partnership.

      I see no reason, in theory, that friends couldn’t build the same sort of partnership (especially since I think of my partner as my best friend!). In practice, though, it might be difficult, because there’s no societal structure for it, and it’s probably hard to approach wording that sort of commitment or being confident that the friend won’t de-prioritize you when a love interest grows sufficiently close.

      1. Firefly*

        Bi cis woman married to bi cis man, and what photon said describes our marriage uncannily well. We’ve chosen monogamy in our partnership and we have one child, bit we are such good friends and love just being together.

    8. I am a unicorn but not your unicorn*

      “Are your partnership-relationships based on the same core elements as your close friendship relationships…but grow so much closer and more all-encompassing and you decide to be a day-to-day life-leading team”

      So for me, this is a false dichotomy, because I have people that I don’t have sexual relationships with that are part of my life-leading team (and I could have sexual relationships with people that I’m not making a life with, but there’s pandemonium on and who has time to date?)

      To set the scene, I live with my wife of 7 years (we’ve been together for 8). She’s got a girlfriend of 11 years. GF has a husband and a teenager. We do not have children. We also have a dude that we describe as our mutual best friend or our brother, labels that all three of us really acknowledge don’t really work but English is lacking in good words for relationships (and “queer platonic partner” is one most folks don’t get, so… it’s easier to tell the AC folks “we’re out of town, our brother is going to meet you at the house tomorrow”. Though all three of us are different races, so we do occasionally get raised eyebrows with “so how do you know Dude!BFF?” “He’s our brother!”). So some of us are bi and my wife’s a lesbian and husband is straight. Dude!BFF is straight. Husband doesn’t date other folks. I’m dating my dissertation right now. :)

      So some of us are sleeping together and some of us are not, but all of these folks are people that I plan on living the rest of my life with (even if we don’t always manage to be in the same physical location). Dude!BFF gets his mail here when he needs to and had his address set here for awhile when he needed it and has in and out privileges on the house (I mean, this is his home.) Me and Wife and GF and Husband are currently talking about where the 4 of us want to live (they live in another state right now, it’s a long story) because we’d all like to be in the same place sooner than later, we just need to get Teenager graduated. We took off on not much notice to where they live over Christmas because there was medical stuff going on (which is what really, finally kicked off the “no, seriously, we all need to live in the same place again” conversation.) If something happened with one of us, they’d be in the car ASAP. Etc.

      These are all the folks that I’d drop everything for at any given moment and just Go, along with my sister from another mother (I’m Red’s female best friend) and our “little sister”. And that connection just kind of happened? So they’re all family. I also have close friendships with folks I love and adore and we check in on each other and hang out when we can and show up for each other and text every day etc, but it’s not the same thing. They’re not folks I organize my life around? So for me, I have

      – casual friends – folks I like a lot and I’ll have fries at the bar with and we like each other on social media and I love talking to, and if we had more time maybe we’d be good friends but we don’t
      – close friends – mostly female, close friends that I talk to pretty much daily and we discuss the difficult things in our lives and we make an effort to see each other and we support each other
      – family, some of which I’m sleeping which but some of whom I’m not – people that are involved in the daily operations of my life and that I’m organizing a future around

      1. Tali*

        This reminds me very much of the concept of “bashmates” or a “bash” from the Terra Ignota series. Basically a formed-family of people who are or choose to be related to one another. Some may be sexual partners, some may be blood relatives or raised together in the same bash as children. Everyone shares family logistics and there may be children. The children grow up and may move out to start a new bash with their chosen friends, classmates, lovers, and so on.

    9. RagingADHD*

      For me, romantic relationships with someone I couldn’t be best friends with never worked.

      I wouldn’t say that my marriage is fundamentally the same as my close platonic friendships, because there is a much deeper emotional and spiritual intimacy in our marriage. But it does contain all the same elements of liking, attachment, easy communication, trust, etc that go into best friendship.

    10. Janet Pinkerton*

      My wife and I have a lot of shared values, way more than I do with any close friend. Many of my friendships are based on shared experiences or past shared experiences, whereas my wife and I met in school but don’t work together or have shared hobbies. We don’t even see the same movies. I don’t think I could ever live one-on-one with one of my friends.

      I had a close friendship with another lesbian, and while we weren’t attracted to each other, we definitely had that special kind of queer woman close female friendship. Like when I came out nearly everyone asked “oh are you dating Lauren?” I was not. It’s hard to describe what I mean here. And we don’t really talk anymore, and I think a big reason is that we’re both married now and we are getting that type of connection from our wives. But we were never interested in a romantic or sexual relationship.

    11. Not A Manager*

      For me they are absolutely not the same at all. My friendships are based on shared interests, compatible world-views (don’t have to be the same, but we can respect each other’s and learn from them), and compatible senses of humor. My relationships include all of that stuff, but also have a particular, personal attraction that I can only describe as You!!! There’s a sexual element to it, but there’s also just a you-ness to it.

    12. Batgirl*

      I think the main difference is friends only need to have one or two compatibility points with me, because our time together is part time. Those connections are important but you can part ways to be different away from each other. Marriage is however a game of close quarters so you have to be compatible in pretty much everything, including attraction, and you also have to prioritize each other so that you grow in the same direction. I think people get scared by that standard, but I have tried a less so version of it and it just simply wasn’t as close or rewarding as being someone’s first priority, their touchstone and vice versa.

      1. PX*

        I like this comment. I think kind of similar, in that if there was lets say a 10 point scale of compatibility, I could easily be friend with someone from like a 2 or higher. But if I wanted to be in a serious relationship with someone, I’d need compatibility to start at like..at least a 7? And there would also be compatibility elements I’d consider in a relationship that wouldnt necessarily come up in friendship (eg sexual compatibility or financial compatibility).

        Now I’m picturing some kind of chart with different categories and the compatibility levels required on each to be classed as casual acquaintance, good friend, romantic partner potential etc!

    13. Green Beans*

      Very different for me! Sex aside, friend is an almost entirely different category than romantic partner – I’m looking for a very different compatibility. Different values alignment, different level of shared interests, different amounts of conflict and resolution. For me, if you fit in one category, you don’t really fit in the other.

    14. Anon for this one*

      Cis-het female married to cis-het male. I don’t have a lot of close friends. General friends/acquaintances are activity-specific (book club friends, etc.) Closer women friends – definitely values in common; sharing things that we have in common such as childbirth or UTIs and just navigating the world as a woman. (My husband would listen to this stuff, but it’s not that I wouldn’t tell him, but…it’s stuff he just doesn’t get.) Husband: we knew we wanted kids so had to be on the same page about how to raise them, and about how we do our finances (which is a deep level of intimacy, really), and yes, sex. We are a team in other ways that my close friends and I are not (working together caring for aging parents), and of course living with someone also increases the intimacy in very in-your-face-and-annoying ways which might kill a relationship with a close friend!

      1. allathian*

        Yup, same here. I’m also a cis-het female married to a cis-het male. I don’t have a lot of friends either, I’m in my late 40s. I find that I’ve only been able to form close friendships with other women who are very similar to me, in that most of them are married, all of them are, at least AFAIK, heterosexual and monogamous, all of them are white and from a middle-class background. I’ve been friends with most of them since high school and college (I never left my hometown). Sometimes I think that the glue that keeps us together is our shared history. Even before the pandemic, months could pass that we didn’t meet, but when we did meet, it was as if no time had passed at all. I don’t really share very intimate things with any of them these days, although we did when we were younger and single or dating. When I was in college, I had a much more diverse group of friends or friendly acquaintances, including men, gays and lesbians, and foreigners, some of whom were POC. This was especially the case when I was myself a foreigner as an exchange student in France, and later as an intern in Spain. But these were all situational friendships that were very meaningful to me for a while, but didn’t last once my life circumstances changed and I moved back home.

        My husband is not only my partner, he’s also my soulmate and best friend. Naturally we have our differences, but we’re on the same page on matters like raising our child, our finances, the distribution of chores… Both of us are fairly introverted homebodies. He sees his friends more often than I see mine, but that’s as much due to the fact that some of his best friends live within walking distance, and mine don’t. As a college student, I had a couple FWBs, so sex with a male friend is not out of the question when both of us are single. It’s just that with every male friend I’ve ever had, the friendship ended either following an FWB arrangement that didn’t work out, or an unrequited crush on either side. I’ve never experienced a platonic friendship with a guy.

    15. Software Dev*

      I have a couple of close friends who basically are my life team/support network and fulfill all the emotional needs other people get from spouses. I’m pretty ace and I just don’t really like living with people, so for me, these relationships fill that niche (and are completely platonic). So as someone else said, depending on your emotional/physical needs, its not either/or—whatever you decide your definition of family is can work.

    16. Strong Aroace Vibes*

      I appreciated reading all the replies as they came in this morning! Every one was just as thoughtfully written as I’d expect from the AAM comment section. The diversity of perspectives was really a surprise to me; given the language around friendships/relationships isn’t very nuanced, it was interesting to see each person going in a different direction in their own actual lives. Of course, of the hundreds of people on the thread, the people who reply to this post are going to be people who have some interest in or a personal necessity to have dealt with this question…which I’d think is why queer people and particularly ace people are overrepresented here (at least, that’s why I myself am interested in this discussion).

    17. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t think marriage to a person offers a comprehensive package for a good number of people. FWIW, I think we need our friends and the more diverse group we have the better. We were married 23 years and together 27. Now on my own, I am enjoying a new richness from my friendships. I have a male friend who comments along a similar line, “My friendships are better than my previous marriages.” (He had two previous marriages.)

      I think we both enjoy the flexibility to move about and get inputs from a wider range of people. I am getting involved in a wider range of things and tackling new-to-me topics. Unlike my friend I am not sure if I would say this is “better” than marriage. I think that each setting offers things of value that you can’t get from the other setting.

      Younger me fed into the line about marriage being a destination or a goal. As if, once married the journey is over. I just think that is such a misconception. The journey continues even after we get married. We just have another person to consider as we navigate our way.

    18. MEH Squared*

      I have complicated feelings on this subject that I will try to tease out here. I’m bisexual, female-presenting, gender-questioning, and happily single/childfree. I’m Taiwanese American and was raised to believe that my duty as a woman was to marry and procreate. I realized in my early twenties that I did not want children and in my thirties that I did not want to be married. In the last decade or so, I came to the conclusion that I did not want a romantic relationship, either. I’m a terrible romantic partner and it felt like more work than I wanted to do.

      I have two best friends for whom I am ride or die. They are both married to other people, but they have both made it clear how important I am to them. I get my emotional needs met by them and I prefer having close friends to romantic partners any day of the week. One of those relationships lives in the gray area between friendship and romantic relationship, which we are both fine with. The other one is someone I’ve been friends with for a quarter of a century and I fully expect we’ll be in an old folks home together, giggling over fifty years worth of shared experiences.

      I do wish I could add a Netflix and chill buddy into the mix, but not while all this is going on (waves at world around me). My ideal would be to meet with them a few times a week, go out for dinner and a laugh, have sex, and then we go our separate ways. I am set in my ways and don’t like the idea of compromising or having to check in with someone else when I want to do something. If I want to eat cereal at three in the morning every night for a week, I’m damn well going to do it.

      To sum up, I enjoy my solitude much more than I desire coupling with someone/s else.

      1. MEH Squared*

        Annnnnnd I realize I didn’t actually answer your question as to the basis of my friendships/romantic relationships. I tend to be attracted to someone as a friend first and then develop physical attraction for them (in a romantic relationship). This is separated from people I’m strongly physically attracted to (which rarely works out for anything other than sex). With one of my best friends, we can talk about anything and everything without fear of judgment. She is the yang to my yin and we agree with varying degrees on nearly every issue. With my other best friends, we message every day on the regular and have many interests in common. We’ve seen each other through some very dark times and are both stronger on the other side. With both of these people, I know I can ask anything of them and would do anything for them in return.

        I would want a mixture of both if I were to date, but with the added complication of not wanting to live with someone, not wanting to be monogamous, and not wanting to be accountable for my time (while still being considerate of each other). I realize it’s not a reasonable ask and it’s better for me to stay out of the dating pool completely.

        1. allathian*

          Oh, I don’t know. Have you ever considered being a secondary or tertiary partner in a polyamorous relationship? I have no experience of those, but it’s at least something to consider.

          1. MEH Squared*

            I’ve considered it, but, honestly, part of me being a bad partner is that I get waaaaay too emotionally invested in a romantic relationship. I really don’t like who I am when I’m partnered and I don’t feel I get enough out of it in return. In other words, it’s a me thing that I don’t want to put in the effort to change.

            1. allathian*

              Fair enough. I don’t know if you’ll see this, but here goes:
              My sister had a 10-year engagement and they ultimately broke up because they had vastly different life goals, my sister’s been very firmly childfree since her early 20s and he made the classic mistake of thinking she’d change her mind. She didn’t, and they broke up eventually. She’s now in a relationship with a guy who also has a long relationship behind him. Because there won’t be any kids in the picture, they’re very happy living separate lives during the week and only staying at either his or her apartment on weekends, and sometimes for longer periods when they’re on vacation. They aren’t accountable to each other for their comings, goings, and doings, except on things like do they spend the weekend at his or her place, etc. AFAIK they’re both monogamous, but even if they aren’t, that’s none of my business…

    19. Meep*

      Queer woman in a relationship with a woman here. I find that my friends are diametrically opposite in personality to my wife. My friends tend to be larger-than-life dramatic personalities. I love them dearly and I find them highly entertaining. I’m a quiet sort of person and when I’m around my friends, I’m in the role of listener and appreciative audience for the dramatics.

      I enjoy the company of my friends, but I couldn’t live with someone like that 24/7. My wife is as quiet as I am, and there are no dramatics in our household. We make a good team in running our household, raising our kid, running our business together, that sort of thing. And every so often (at least, before COVID), one of my most dramatic friends would come to our town to visit us for a while and bring us some excitement and glamor for a week or so, and we would enjoy the visit and then get some rest afterwards.

    20. Super Anon for This*

      Lesbian woman here.

      For me, I’d say it’s really just a normal friendship except we live together, smooch, and sometimes have pants-off-funtimes.

      The sex part is honestly the least important part; it’s fun sometimes but not really that important for us.

      I would say the biggest practical difference is that because we both live together and are in a Relationship, you have to work more at resolving problems/ pulling together/ etc compared to even a close friendship.

      But honestly mostly it’s not that different than any other friendship.

    21. ThatGirl*

      It’s funny. I’m a queer cis woman married to a mostly straight cis man. No kids. He actually has talked a lot about not liking the construction that your spouse should be your best friend; he sees those things as very different. His best friend is female and while they make excellent friends, there’s no way they could have the kind of relationship he and I have.

      Anyway, to me… there definitely is a sexual/physically affectionate component to my marriage and it’s what started it – we had chemistry and we were young and horny when we got together. But it grew and expanded and evolved. We were lucky to grow together. We have overlapping interests but our own hobbies. We have common goals and values. And we’re committed to partnership in life, even as sex may wax and wane. We have a shared language, history, references, jokes, etc that’s all ours.

    22. Jackalope*

      Bi woman married to a straight man here, and I have a couple of thoughts. I’ve had a lot of long-term friendships (going back 20-30 years in many cases), and there is a big element of “super close friendship” in my marriage. I’ve also lived as a (platonic) housemate with a number of my friends, so I’ve had the close relationship in close quarters (which, to be honest, I enjoy; I love living in community). So here are some of my thoughts on the differences.

      One of the big differences obviously is sex and sexual attraction. That affects not only sexytimes, but also the chemistry we have when interacting at other times as well – how we touch each other, the feeling in the air between us when we are hanging out, etc.

      I’d also say that another big difference is how we make decisions. A big point of the relationship is that we have joined our lives together in a way that is closer than with many of my friends, even the ones that I lived with for awhile. Years ago I was living in the house some of my friends had purchased. I remember an ongoing conversation that they were having about redecorating/remodeling, and they were clearly having it with each other only. I mean, if I’d had a strong opinion and shared it I’m sure they would have listened, but they weren’t seeking out my input because I wasn’t married to them and didn’t own the house. Now, obviously that could have been changed if we’d bought it all together, but either way, there are going to be some decisions that you make with people your life is permanently joined to that are different than that of “just” close friends.

      Finally, one of the things I was really looking for in marriage (and found, happily) is someone that you come first with. As I said, I have a really solid community, and I’ve had many times when I have been able to lean on them when I was single (and when they could lean on me in return). But if it came down to me or their spouse, their spouse won, even if we were living in the same household at the time. If we were both having crises, or if we both kinda wanted to hang out with them for some one-on-one, or things like that, the other person would pick their spouse first. A few years ago I had an accident and broke a finger on my dominant hand. The next couple of months were TERRIBLE, trying to deal with basic household issues like cleaning litterboxes, washing dishes (no dishwasher), maintaining general order, etc. I had friends who jumped in and helped in a lot of ways; a couple of drop-bys with food, a friend who came over once and washed all of my dishes for me, things like that. I am continually thankful for the ways in which people showed up for me during that time. But because I wasn’t married (and was living alone at the time besides the cats), there was no one who was there to make sure the dishes were washed and the litterboxes were clean EVERY DAY. It was such a miserable time. Compare that to the pandemic, which happened after I got married. We’ve had a quarantine pod, and have other people we’ve seen regularly…. but having another person in the house every day who’s my top priority and whose top priority is me, has made a HUGE difference.

  19. L. Ron Jeremy*

    I have friends that are on the edge of financial disaster and are really concerned that they will become homeless now with the loss if the eviction ban and the supplemental unemployment benefits about to expire.

    Anyone else in this boat? Really tough to help them as I dont have extra money to give them and having them move in with me is just not an option due to my current health issues.

    1. Tib*

      Could you give them a meal? Life goes on during these crises and as the person in my family who does all the food things, I’d be thrilled for a meal that just shows up with no planning or prep required.

    2. Not A Manager*

      Meals, allowing people to shower at your place if necessary, storing a few of their things, helping them pack or downsize. Just be sure that whatever you offer is done with an open heart, and that when something won’t work for you, you say so without making it into a big deal.

      You won’t be able to solve this huge, systemic problem and if you compare every gesture to an impossible standard, nothing will feel like enough. The best you can do is to be a loving friend.

      1. WellRed*

        If possible, let them do a load of laundry, charge cell phones or use your internet to house search. As long as it doesn’t cause trouble to you.

    3. Sunshine*

      There should be financial assistance for rent, mortgage and bills. There has been federal money coming down for this purpose. Google the county name and rental assistance. Or reach out to your county public health/ human services department and they can direct you what’s out there.
      That said, this is my professional experience in my county. But every state and local area has discretion of how they participate in these programs. My hometown school district just declined the food program that covers all food for students. It’s a program that actually brings in a higher level of revenue for the district.

      1. L. Ron Jeremy*

        Thanks for the info.

        What’s wrong with free food for all the kids that your district declined the federal program?

        1. Daffodilly*

          If it’s the one in the news this week, it’s because kids might “become spoiled”
          So shameful that they’re willing to let children be hungry over ridiculous fears like that.

          1. PollyQ*

            My guess is that the “spoiled” concern is mostly a lie, and what they really want is the poor families to leave their community. But yes, absolutely shameful either way.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            I believe that was just one place and not an entire state. The board involved is being urged to reconsider.

            They were feeding all the kids and not looking at income. I don’t know the answers but I thought the headline made it seem bigger than the article stated.

    4. Smol Book Wizard*

      As someone who was in some strange and awkward financial and living situations in the past, I think sharing space and a meal on a regular basis can be super valuable, even if they aren’t living with you formally. Good filling food that they don’t have to cook, store, or pay for, plus a comfortable place to spend some time and maybe do some laundry/other cleanup, can be a really sweet and comforting gesture whatever they go back to afterwards. Thanks for thinking of your friends in this time.

    5. Observer*

      The slow rate at which Federal rental assistance has been coming through is a disgrace. But things are picking up a smidgen because more states are finally getting their act together. If you can point them to a local Legal Aid type organization that could help them – BEFORE they get evicted, that could make a huge difference to them. A lot of people who think they wouldn’t qualify actually do.

  20. L. Ron Jeremy*

    Anyone watch the Bob Ross documentary on Netflix? What did you think of it?

    I enjoyed the show, but I was saddened that his final wishes weren’t carried out.

    1. Double A*

      I hadn’t heard about it but I love Bob Ross. I watch The Joy of Painting sometimes as a way to slow my brain down before bed. Definitely helps me wind down to sleep! I’ll check this out.

    2. London Calling*

      Bob Ross is my ‘great discovery’ of the pandemic. In first lockdown (UK) I used to make sure that work was done and cleared away, dinner was eaten and cleared up by the time he was on TV so I could properly relax and watch. His voice is so soothing and calm and he was just so – inspiring is the only word – about how it’s your painting, you do what you want with it, there are no rules for you to break and no mistakes to make. Loved it (and still watching).

  21. Anon.*

    Interesting question. I’m a cis woman married to a cis man. If it’s relevant, our relationship is monogamous and we have kids. It’s fundamentally the same as my close female and male friendships in that they are all based on shared traits / personality, and similar ideas about what it means to stay in touch or hang out together. This might not be obvious from the outside, though. My partner and most of my close friends are all nicer, smarter, more ethical, and more serious people than most people. They like in-depth conversations (not always about the same things—I have a lot of varying interests). One thing that’s different with my husband is that I am an intense person, and I hold myself back with others, but I don’t with him. He can actually take it! That means we have vigorous intellectual arguments and I tell home how I really feel, two areas I otherwise avoid letting go in because I know it will overwhelm people. Another difference is that loyalty and commitment are greater and more difficult because of all of the everyday challenges.

    1. Anon.*

      Nesting fail. This is in reply to Strong Aroace Vibes. Btw I’m not aro or ace but maybe not as far off as most from that.

  22. Laura H.*

    Little Joys Thread

    What brought you joy this week?

    While I’m still sleeping a weird schedule, I’m glad to be getting enough sleep and I think my antidepressant dosage is better calibrated as my doc increased the dosage and I have had 16 days at the new dose.

    Please share your joys.

    1. L. Ron Jeremy*

      I watched the Bob Ross documentary on Netflix. Mostly joyful, with a bit of sadness thrown in for context.

    2. Zephy*

      I’m still down almost a pound this week, even despite grabbing a piece of candy every time I walked past the big bowl at the front desk at work. (I’m counting calories so I know I was still in a deficit, but I was definitely not expecting to see a loss on the scale this morning.)

    3. AGD*

      I’ve been sick, but had a very easy time at the clinic a few days ago when I finally dragged myself out of the house to get myself looked at. Started to feel better pretty quickly after the antibiotics began doing their thing. Grateful to have access to modern medicine.

      I’ve also done a lot of arts and crafts this week while waiting to feel better, and started reading a novel yesterday that I think I’m going to end up cherishing a bit.

    4. WellRed*

      Bunch of piping plovers on the beach late yesterday afternoon, darting along the shoreline. I usually only see one or two. The water was sparkling.

    5. Hotdog not dog*

      I just got back from a visit to my local organic farm stand. They had some really beautiful and interesting new veggies today! I’m looking forward to lunch!

    6. Elle Woods*

      The multiple rain storms we’ve had this week have brought me great joy. We’re in a severe drought and have had very little rain this summer, so having it rain at least three days this week has been huge. Depending on which source you consult, we’re 5-10″ behind for the year so every little bit helps.

    7. tab*

      I set a goal for myself to increase the treadmill speed over the past two weeks. On Friday I hit my goal, and it made me very happy. Tired, but happy.

    8. Meh*

      We moved into our new home and have almost unpacked everything. The joy was in finding room in my much smaller kitchen for my polish pottery collection. I have some dishwasher I’ve been holding onto for 18 years that didn’t make the cut and will be donated.

    9. Liz*

      My cats.

      We adopted a 14 year old deaf tabby from our local adoption centre a few weeks ago and it’s been an absolute pleasure watching her settle in and explore. She is affectionate and full of life for her age and clings to you for cuddles.

      Sadly, our oldest cat passed away on Sunday at the age of 19 after 13 years with me and a 3 year period of worsening health. It almost seems as if she saw that her brother would no longer be alone and felt she could finally go. Her final day was spent curled up in her basket, and I was holding her when she passed.

      I’m so grateful she was able to go at home on her own terms. The other two have been such a source of comfort, snuggling up and purring. The older cat clearly misses his sister, but he is bonding so well with his new companion, it’s a joy to watch them sharing kitty kisses and slowly sharing closer and closer space.

      1. The Dogman*

        I am so sorry for your loss. I am glad you could be with your cat when she passed though!

        I lost my old boy (choc lab) last summer and the old girl (bull mastiff x black lab) the summer before and I still miss them, but the floofy boy and crazy girl I have now, and our skinny little cat too, keep me occupied and give me kissess and cuddles when I get sad.

        And good on you for rescuing that old girl too, I hope you get many happy and healthy years with her!

        All the best, you are a good human!

    10. Double A*

      I went through my closet and pulled out everything that I can’t easily nurse in and I moved it to the back to the closet so now everything that I look through I can actually wear and it’s taken a surprising mental load off.

    11. Anthony J Crowley*

      I don’t know if this counts as small, but last night I met some friends from work for drinks and it was just fantastic. Haven’t seen them in over 18 months and it was just great to do something normal and see humans.

      (Numbers are falling where I am and we were sitting outside, fwiw)

    12. the cat's ass*

      I ‘m getting a recognition award from my region’s GS organization, and I’m astounded, since I’m the Roy Kent of the org.

    13. WoodswomanWrites*

      I caught up on the phone with a couple celebrating the one-year birthday of their son, and we made plans to finally get together safely and outdoors so I can meet him.

    14. Voluptuousfire*

      Using my new digital oven to roast a chicken. Hoping it turns out well!

      It also is finally cool enough to open the windows. The summer has been so humid and I really prefer when the windows are open. Fresh air makes me feel so much better.

      I’m also down 10 lbs from mid-July. I stopped ordering out so much and make sure I eat a little something every 3-4 hours. I also do a brisk walk most days and will take my brach cruiser bike out tomorrow to the bike paths so I can get riding again

    15. GoryDetails*

      Visited a favorite local herb-themed restaurant with a friend for the first time since COVID. (Pickity Place in Mason NH, for the curious; quite unique, very enjoyable, well worth a visit if you’re in the area.) Anyway, while waiting for our seating we were wandering the herb gardens and admiring the resident cats, and a particularly handsome long-haired creamsicle-colored cat came over to say hello. We were near a sundial surrounded by a “clock” made of different varieties of thyme, and the cat hopped up onto the sundial as if to pose for a photo op – but the sundial wasn’t attached to the base, just resting on top of it, and it flipped over. The cat did that delightful levitation-and-sidewise-teleport that startled cats can do, and then pretended very earnestly that this was how it had meant things to go all along, while my friend and I fell over laughing.

    16. RosyGlasses*

      I had my first craniosacral massage today and to say it was impactful and therapeutic is an understatement. I feel oddly peaceful and much calmer than I have been – in a sea of work and family stress – this was a lifesaver.

      Now currently curled up in my favorite chunky sweater, candles lit, French music playing, flipping thru books and magazines.

    17. LongArmofCorporateBureaucracy*

      Two little things:

      I’m *so* close to being done with Volume I of Marx’s Capital, which I’ve been working on for months. It’s been a slog, but I’m proud of myself for pushing through.

      I was taking a walk the other day and a cat pushed its head out of a hedge for pets when I went past. It felt like he was waiting for me!

    18. allathian*

      I got myself a new bike helmet. It’s lighter than the one I had, and sits more comfortably on my head. Yay!

    19. lady gamer or something*

      I mentioned in the comments on another post that we had some caterpillars. They’re all chrysalises now! We got to watch the last one shed its last caterpillar skin.

  23. DrunkAtAWedding*

    Slightly odd question, but what are professional manicures usually like? As in, the whole process of getting them? I ask because I just learned to do my nails myself, with lots of help from the internet (because poor) and I was surprised/disappointed the one time I tried paying someone else to do it. Because I have only one single experience with a professional manicurist, I have no way of knowing if it was a normal experience and I’ve just spoilt myself with nail care, or if it was bad compared to other manicures.

    My manicure routine is something like, remove all polish, soak the nails, gently push cuticles back, file nails into a squoval/almond shape, then paint with a base coat/colour/top coat, and moisturise hands once the paint dries. I always file in one direction, not back and forth, because I’ve read that filing back and forth is bad for the nail. I also don’t cut my cuticles, because I’ve read that that can invite infection.

    The one time I paid someone else to give me a manicure, it was really unpleasant. I knew it wasn’t going to be as luxurious as my personal routine, but I was surprised at how bad it was. She was really rough with jabbing my cuticles back – and was surprised when I said it hurt – and then she cut them. She also filed back and forth rather than in one direction, and didn’t know what an almond shape was. That last one surprised me because surely squoval/almond is quite a popular shape for nails? The painting wasn’t great either. She managed to get an air bubble under the gel polish. So…how much of that is standard?

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Sounds like you had someone who wasn’t very good at their job. Or just doesn’t care.

    2. Exif*

      I got my fingers and toes done several times (at different places) when I was in weddings. They were always rough with me and made it painful, and I ended up with scabbing on my toes. Never again.

      1. Windchime*

        My sister once got a pedicure right before we went to Hawaii. The person was so rough with the razor thing that they basically skinned the bottom of her heel raw and she limped around the whole time. It was awful.

    3. Nanashi*

      I only had a professional manicure done for me once for one of my birthdays, and at a place that came with very good recommendations. I explicitly asked not to have my cuticle cut, because mine is mostly harmless and I didn’t want to deal with possible fallout. Everything went well, but no epiphanies. What I liked about the process is that they had tricks for getting the polish dry quickly and hassle-free, and the result lasted a couple days longer than it usually would. But if you have a steady non-dominant hand, which is guaranteed to come with a bit of practice, and your routine tells me you have that, then you are fine on your own – unless the salon provides really good hand massage or something else similarly worthwhile.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      My experiences have been very hit or miss. The first time I got one was a place at a mall and they left little bits of clipped skin around my cuticles and didn’t do a great job filing/shaping, but the paint was fine. I’ve been to one fancy spa type place that did a great job, and another where I asked them several times to fix things before finally just giving up. A couple days ago I went to another mall type place and they were awesome. I think you just have to shop around until you get lucky, unfortunately.

    5. Janet Pinkerton*

      Depends. Did you go to a fancy place or a place where it cost $10?

      But honestly you’re not likely to find someone who takes more care than you do. I’ve never met a manicurist who only filed in one direction.

    6. MCL*

      I always pay a bit extra for a shellac mani (I don’t get manicures often, but I am very rough on my hands and it’s nice to have color that lasts more than 3 days). I think the person you saw wasn’t good, but if you like your own method of doing your nails, you should stick with it! It’s so much cheaper. :)

    7. RagingADHD*

      I have never enjoyed a professional manicure at any price point. It hurts, and every single time I wind up either with my cuticles bleeding, or they shred later in the week. I can’t imagine that I somehow randomly got the worst person in the shop every time. Perhaps I just have delicate cuticles.

      The only nice part is the hand/arm massage, or the hot towel/foot rub in a pedicure. I will say I usually get a nice polish job that lasts longer than when I do my own.

      1. DrunkAtAWedding*

        I think I have delicate cuticles too, because my sister would do the jabbing thing on her own nails. That’s one of the things that made it harder to tell whether I was being overly sensitive/critical or if the experience was bad compared to others.

    8. mreasy*

      I have had unpleasant pro manicures but they’re almost always lovely. If something hurts, they should stop. And its standard to ask what shape you want and if you want your cuticles cut, or if you just want them pushed. I love a pro manicure, not least because I can’t do my own nails at all.

      1. mreasy*

        I’m so sad to hear of everyone else’s negative experiences! A mani-pedi is one of my favorite treats.

        1. Stephanie*

          It’s a favorite treat of mine, too! I had a less than pleasant experience once at one salon, but tried a different one a couple of years ago, and they are so good. It’s never painful (it absolutely shouldn’t be), and they do a much better job than I can. (Plus, I was lucky enough to find an inexpensive place that I’m happy with, so I can treat myself more often.)

    9. fueled by coffee*

      I’ve only gotten manicures a few times (before high school prom and family weddings), mostly because it’s quicker and cheaper to just paint them myself, but I always ask them not to cut my cuticles and they’re totally fine with it!

      Can’t help much with the rest, but I’d suggest just trying a different manicurist to see if it was just something about the one you went to.

      1. DrunkAtAWedding*

        I don’t really want to do that because I’d literally be paying just to answer this question and there are cheaper ways to do that (like asking here).

        I’m not planning to make a habit of paying people to give me manicures or anything, I just went that one time because I had a voucher.

        1. RagingADHD*

          My MIL loves a mani-pedi as a treat and girl-bonding, and loves to treat my daughters, so I go along and make the best of it.

          There’s a place near me that has really good massage chairs in the pedi station. A warm foot soak + massage chair is nice.

        2. RagingADHD*

          My MIL loves a mani-pedi as a treat and girl-bonding, and loves to treat my daughters, so I go along and make the best of it.

          There’s a place near me that has really good massage chairs in the pedicure station. A warm foot soak + massage chair is nice.

        3. Batgirl*

          It depends on the origin of your voucher but sometimes bad beauty places give out vouchers when they’re struggling for business. All my poor spa experiences have been based on such deals. Either way, bubbling the nail polish sounds amateur as fuck.

    10. ronda*

      messing with the cuticles on my hands and removing gel polish were painful… I dont get my hands done, but I do get my feet done.
      my feet are not as sensitive and they do a better job than I do as a less flexible older lady.

      I also dont really want painted, so there is that. I just trim my nails when they start bothering me.

      It looks like the only thing you skip is the massage, and I do like the massage, but they are better at the massage shop!

    11. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I try to be regular esp pedicures in the summer but it never happens. I always tell them to absolutely NOT touch my nails, and very few actually listen or respect that. and I hate sitting and waiting for polish to dry but the instant dry gel one is like $20 more.

    12. PollyQ*

      None of that is standard — you had a thoroughly crappy experience. If you feel like trying again, I’d look for a recommendation from a friend.

    13. NoLongerYoung*

      I treat myself once a year and then only go when it’s a friends’ pamper venture. (I have a friend who is a caretaker and seriously needs to do self-care – we mutually agree to go periodically to get her into a great place).

      However, neither place that we use is rough. They have the massage chairs and bring you wine or tea. They ask my preferences at every step. It’s slightly higher price than the “high volume” low cost place that is closer to my house. But they also use a special, completely disposable liner system for their pedicure chairs, etc. So for a maybe 3-4x a year excursion, worth the slightly higher expense.

    14. the cat's ass*

      Oh bummer! You had someone who wasn’t good at their job or just didn’t care. I put a little grocery $ away and have a pedicure once or twice a year at the same place and it’s awesome; i hate having my soles scrubbed with a loofa so i have them leave that out, and they are very thorough and gentle, and the regular polish lasts for weeks or months.

    15. Clisby*

      Agh! I’ve never had a professional manicure or pedicure specifically because I’ve heard it’s common to cut cuticles. No. Just no.

    16. Elizabeth West*

      You had a terrible manicurist. I’ve only had one but was nothing like that.
      Mine was at a spa in OldCity and it was actually quite nice. They did the paraffin wax thing and it felt so good. The manicurist was very gentle and my nails looked amazing afterward even though they weren’t very long.

    17. Lemonwhirl*

      I got a manicure once, so that my hands would look good in our wedding photos. The manicurist was lovely – very gentle, but the whole experience was weird and awkward for me. It was like holding hands with a stranger for a very uncomfortable and prolonged period of time. But then I’m maybe weird because I hate massages too and am just generally not a fan of people touching me.

      1. allathian*

        That’s possible. I have similar feelings. I’ve only had a manicure once, and it felt really weird. That said, I do enjoy getting a pedicure and having my facial hair removed by a professional beautician. Or rather, I vastly prefer my face without hair to a hairy one, so I’ll put up with the slight discomfort for the enjoyment later. I really enjoy the scalp massages I used to get from my hairdresser (haven’t been since February 2020) and the pedicures. I’ve had a neck-and-shoulders massage before, and that was okay, but I don’t think I’d be comfortable with a full-body massage.

        I’m generally not a fan of people touching me, either.

    18. Patty Mayonnaise*

      I used to get manicures regularly and most of this stuff has never happened to me (and this was just popping into cheap places in my large city with lots of nail places, not spas). If a bubble happened under the polish, my manicurist would redo the whole nail to fix it. They do commonly file in both directions and sometimes cut cuticles though.

    19. Chauncy Gardener*

      I’ve had great ones and some really poor ones. It sounds like you’re doing a great job on your own! The only think I do that it doesn’t sound like you’re doing is to use some instant cuticle remover on your cuticles and under your nails. It works great. I think the one I use is by Sally Hansen. It’s in a blue plastic bottle
      Oh yes, I also use a ridge filling basecoat, especially on my toenails. Makes the polish look super smooth and professional!

  24. I'm A Little Teapot*

    My parents have been living with me since May. (Retirement, sold house, moved, had to find new house.) They are moving into their new house on Thursday. Problem: they will not have kitchen counters or a kitchen sink, for at least a week but more likely 2-3. Any ideas for how to help them camp out? I’m thinking paper plates, plastic utensils, etc to minimize need to do dishes, stock up on premade foods that minimize need to wash pots/pans, and finding something to provide at least some counterspace to work with.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I had a three week window between having my old cabinets/counters pulled out and my new ones installed. It’s doable, but fiddly, haha. My stove/oven was still available, and my fridge, but no dishwasher, kitchen sink or counters. I brought in an eight-foot banquet table (I had a few of them already, and you may know someone who can loan one, but if you need to buy one or two, Costco and Target both usually have them pretty reasonably priced, the type that fold in half for storage) and set up the microwave and coffee machine on one end. (I joked that my kitchen looked like a break room, which was funny since two of us worked from home at the time.)

      Disposable plates/bowls/cups/utensils, yes. I bought premade foods, and made some of my own, in disposable foil pans so I could throw out the pans instead of having to wash them. We did end up having to wash some utensils – serving spoons and the like – in a washtub, but it wasn’t too onerous. We also ate a lot of sandwiches and salads. If the weather still permits in your area, do you have a grill you can loan them, or maybe get them a cheap one? Burgers, hot dogs, etc, all require a minimum of hassle to prepare and eat. I was gone for a week in the middle of ours on a work trip, and my guys spent most of that week just ordering pizza or getting takeout :P You/they/whoever can pre-prep something like a big batch of taco protein (chicken, beef, whatever) and freeze it in portions for tacos/burritos. If I were doing it again, I’d crockpot a ten pound pork butt into bbq pulled pork ahead of time and freeze that in portions, it goes well on sandwiches or on baked potatoes. Speaking of – Baked potatoes with toppings – you can easily do baked potatoes in a microwave, even if they don’t have a grill or oven.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        If they’re breakfast types, you can make a batch of egg muffins and freeze them – beat a few eggs, pour them into greased muffin tin, add some cheese/toppings, bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. They reheat from frozen in 30 seconds in the microwave, without any significant texture weirdness, and can be eaten either as-is or mashed up with a fork to do breakfast burritos.

    2. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      If they have a stove you could put a large cutting board on it for some counter space, or maybe get one of those islands that has a few wire shelves under a tabletop. That could even be stationed in another room and donated whenever they don’t need it anymore.

      If they have a microwave there’s plenty of easy food available. Frozen ‘steam in bag’ veggies, baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, leftover ‘real’ food if you’re close enough to bring them casseroles and such, and healthy cold foods like yoghurt, canned tuna, salads, etc can help balance out less healthy microwavable stuff.

    3. LDN Layabout*

      Ikea have fab little kitchen island/trolleys that could be useful now and possibly in the future if they’ll find it useful anyway.

    4. Batgirl*

      When my kitchen was being done I made do with my dining table and a kitchen trolley, electric grill, microwave and washtub. You can even buy plug in stovetops now.

      1. Daffodilly*

        I would, too, if I could afford it! But with major home reno happening, it’s possible the budget is too tight for that.

      2. Clisby*

        As someone who lived through a 6-week kitchen redo, eating out, or even buying prepared food and microwaving it gets real old, real fast. Heck, even when we’ve just been on a vacation for 7-10 days, I have to detox from restaurant food when I get home. Not because the restaurant food was bad – it’s much richer than what we normally eat at home, so after a week of it I feel like I’m carrying a lead cannonball around in my stomach.

    5. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Thanks all for the ideas. They have all the cabinets, fridge, stove and microwave. Once the toaster is found in the boxes they’ll have that, same with all their dishes and pots/pans. Dishwasher isn’t usable yet until the drain is in. And I found some peg board in my garage that we can clean up and use as a temporary surface. I need to clean the laundry room anyway, will make sure to scrub the sink well so they can use it for dishes.

      I’ll make sure they stock up on premade foods. They can come to my house and use my kitchen too if they want, it’s about a mile away. And I have countertops and a sink.

      1. HahaLala*

        I’m in the middle of a kitchen renovation, and we’re going on about 2 months without a usable kitchen, but it really hasn’t been that bad. We have the stove and fridge still (sounds like they will too) and we set up a temporary kitchen on our dining room table, with our pantry and dishes stored in bins under the table. We prepped a bunch of freezer meals (like lasagna, enchiladas, meatballs, etc.) that we can just reheat to eat and not need to dirty a bunch of dishes, and we’ve cooked lots of low prep/sheet pan meals, since the counter space is the biggest issue. We’ve used foil on pans and paper plates a lot more than usual to save on dishes. We bought some plastic bus tubs to carry dishes up and down the stairs to our laundry sink, which has definitely been the biggest help in still being able to cook. We’ve gotten used to our system now, but I’m so looking forward to having a kitchen again!

  25. Exif*

    Does anyone know the logistics of applying for credit when you usually keep your credit frozen (all three major credit bureaus)? I called the CC I’m interested in applying for, and their explanation was insanely convoluted. It sounds like I can lift it temporarily, but the way the rep made it sound, a delay in processing could make it so they miss the window and can’t pull it.

    1. fposte*

      I would just lift the freeze (IIRC there’s usually a tab on your credit report to do that), then apply; that gives a little room in case you hit a glitch with the usual procedure. Some places don’t check all three services so it’s worth asking in case you don’t have to lift all three. I wouldn’t worry about what the CC company says about how to lift–that’s with the credit bureaus.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I was recently (this spring) able to do a temporary lift of my freezes online when I applied for a new credit card. I could even specify for how long — I made it two weeks, just to be sure. But I enabled my freezes online, too, so I had my PINs and everything, I can’t say if that would work for you. I think the lift was immediate, but again, this was online. I actually did the lift shortly after I applied, I figured they wouldn’t run a check for a day or two.

    3. HamlindigoBlue*

      It’s not a difficult process. I usually ask which agency they pull reports from and lift the freeze on the one they will use. Each of the websites makes it easy to temporarily lift a freeze, and you can set how long the lift should last before it freezes again. It’s not a big deal at all.

    4. Leeny*

      It’s easy and takes less than ten minutes to temporarily lift credit freezes. I just lifted mine for a credit check for an apartment and all it takes is going to the three credit bureau’s websites and clicking their “credit freeze” tabs. From there you either sign in or fill out some information and boom, you’ve temporarily lifted your freeze.

    5. Tris Prior*

      I did this earlier this year. I applied, the credit card company notified me that they couldn’t run my credit because the bureau they were pulling from had it listed as frozen (d’oh! I’d honestly forgotten I’d done this), I was able to lift the freeze online, done. I froze it again the next day. It was much faster and simpler than I expected.

  26. Potatoes at home*

    A few random questions about house and home —

    We bought a house last year. Lots of repairs & construction have been necessary. It’s an older home built in the 1930s. Saying this b/c I knew this going in and adjusted my expectations (and frankly I do love living here/in this area so).

    Lately I’ve been noticing that all the doors in our house are getting harder to open and close. It’s hard to describe but it’s like the doorways suddenly shrunk. I’m not sure how or why that is – one theory we have is that the load upstairs is too heavy? If so – that’s a total bummer as we don’t even live up there, and have very little furniture, just all stuff.

    Another issue is that since we closed last year, our mortgage has been sold 4-5 times now, I’ve lost track. The first time it happened, I googled and found that having it sold a few times over the life of the loan (20-30 years) is normal. BUT 4 times in less than 1 year seems really alarming to me. Each servicer has assured nothing will change but…still I worry.

    Finally, we just got a renewal for our homeowner’s insurance and it went up $300! I’m surprised b/c we never filed a claim. My only other experience is with auto insurance and that only went up by $30-35 every year despite multiple claims/accidents (none of which were our fault). So I’m surprised at such a huge increase. Is this normal for homeowners insurance?

    1. anon24*

      Is it very humid where you are? My first thought is that humidity is making the door or the door frame temporarily swell, making it hard to close.

      1. mreasy*

        Yep, we have one closet door that is impossible to open from July thru September for this reason.

      2. RagingADHD*

        My thoughts exactly. This will probably be seasonal, where they are tighter in summer and looser in winter when they dry out.

        Homeowners insurance is often tied to the value of the house, as well as overall risks and claims in your market. If there were lots of claims for storm damage or flooding in your state or area, it can raise rates for everyone. And if your property value made a big jump, it will affect your taxes and insurance.

    2. LizB*

      Regarding the doors – it might be a temperature or humidity thing that will come and go. The doors in my house (built 1920s) fluctuate between being difficult to open/close and so easy to open that the latch won’t catch when you try to close them. We’re pretty sure it has to do with the wood expanding and contracting based on the weather.

      1. Clisby*

        Same with my 1925 house. I haven’t noticed it with interior doors, but we have wooden casement windows and wooden french doors going into the back yard, and it happens with them every year.

    3. fposte*

      Yes, it’s common for the humidity of late summer to swell wood a little and make doors stick. They’ll likely go down again in fall/winter.

      I think it’s just a really frothy year for financial and homeowner stuff, so it’s annoying to have your mortgage keep getting sold it’s just a shrug and keep track thing.

      Homeowner’s insurance certainly can go up, and since it’s a large sum, it doesn’t have to be a big percentage to make a hit. What percentage is the hike? The first thing to do is call the insurer and ask 1) why and 2) if it’s possible to get a discount.

      1. merope*

        I agree; it’s probably humidity, especially if you don’t have central air or the a/c is not super efficient. If it is concerning, you can take the door off the hinges and plane a little bit of wood away (maybe on the hinge edge, so it doesn’t really show). My dad (who is a carpenter by trade) did that with my doors when I first moved into my house and they have given me no trouble ever since.

        1. MCL*

          Yes, I had a door that would always stick in the summer, swelling in the heat and humidity. It was always fine in other seasons. I had a handyman plane off a bit and it mostly solved the problem. That door was replaced by a steel one a couple years ago, so obviously it truly doesn’t stick any more!

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      Doorframes shift sometimes based on the weather. I lived in Arizona for a few years and our bedroom door would stick about half the year because of temperature. It was always so weird the first time in months I’d give the door a big shove and practically fall through it because it wasn’t stuck anymore!

    5. newbie*

      I second (third? fourth?) the comments about humidity and your doors/frames.
      For the insurance hike, this is one consequence of home values and construction costs going through the roof as they have the last year. Much of the insurance premium is calculated based on the amount it would cost to replace the structure, so if the value and cost to replace go up, so do your premiums.

    6. Tib*

      Regarding your mortgage: I’d channel your worry into meticulous checking at each change. Make sure that the company actually purchased your mortgage and that payments are being received and credited correctly. Also make sure that any insurance and escrow portions are being collected and paid correctly. My guess is that the multiple changes in a year can be blamed on the Covid economy and that things will slow down eventually. Or your mortgage could be in an attractive class that makes it more likely to be sold. These days mortgages are rarely held by the original institution for the full term. We didn’t want our mortgage to be sold and were able to pay extra to prevent it. Unless the bank gets sold, we’ll be with that bank for the full term of the mortgage.

      Houses are more affected by changes in humidity than apartments (assuming that’s where you’ve been living before this). Old houses with their dated construction and insulation are especially susceptible. Wood tends to swell in the humidity and shrink when it’s dry. Plan to run a humidifier during the winter if your climate is cold and dry to prevent the wood from cracking. All our panel doors cracked the first winter we lived in our house because we didn’t humidify as much as the previous owners did.

    7. ronda*

      you signed a mortgage contract with the details, so they can’t change that without getting you to sign off on it.
      but administratively, make sure you keep copies of all your on time payments, as with it switching around a bit, it is possible that they will not have the payment info updated in a timely manner, but when you send them the proof or payment, that should clear up any problems.

      you can always try shopping around for new insurance each year to see if you can find better rates. It is a hassle but if it saves you a bunch of money it is worth it.

    8. Grand Admiral Thrawn Rocks Blue*

      I work for an insurance company for houses. Mostly we insure Florida, as well as some SE states – the rate increases are insane and not stopping. The costs of picking up the pieces after increasingly bad hurricanes is devastating.

    9. Wishing You Well*

      On home/car insurance policies: shop for quotes from other reputable companies. Some people advise doing this every few years. You can save a LOT of money. Years ago, I saved $1000 in 1 year in premiums by changing companies. Recently, I save hundreds of dollars on house insurance by finding a better rate and telling my current insurance company about it. They matched the (legitimate) quote from that competitor.
      Bonus tip: don’t let your house insurance company include the cost of your lot in their coverage. Your lot can’t burn down and insurance doesn’t cover “earth movement” anyway.

      1. Blomma*

        A reputable insurance company/agent would not include the value of land when determining the replacement cost of a home. They would use a replacement cost estimator tool to determine the amount of insurance needed to rebuild a house.

    10. Potatoes at home*

      Hi all, thanks for the responses. I didn’t consider the humidity but yes it has been humid this month, with Hurricane Henri coming in last weekend. It’s our first summer here.

      1. Former Employee*

        Do shop around for Homeowners Insurance. And see how much you can save if you bundle home and auto. I don’t mean to sound like Flo, but the concept of a bundle is not limited to any particular insurance company. As far as I know, all or almost all of them discount the cost if you put all of your coverage with the same company. Just make sure that the company has a high Bests rating or equivalent. The last thing you want is to have second rate insurance in the event you need to make a claim.

        And as someone else mentioned, always double check to make sure that your new mortgage company is for real. There are definitely scammers pretending they are your you new mortgage holder and telling you the new address where you are to send your payment.

    11. The Other Dawn*

      Another vote for shopping around for homeowner’s insurance. Also, see if you can get home and auto from the same place. You will typically get a discount for having both with the same company. If you’re a member of AAA, they have insurance, which I didn’t know until recently. I switched both home and auto, and my total premiums were cut nearly in half from Nationwide.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      A dehumidifier will help with the doors if the doors become too much of a problem.

      Yeah, I worried when my mortgage got sold also. It was less about me and more about the whole mortgage industry. We were fine and nothing changed on our end. The mortgage industry did not make out as well. At the 15 year mark, I refied and reduced my mortgage by 55%. The new place hasn’t sold my mortgage and I have been with them for 13 years now.

      Insurance. What worked for us is we got with an agent who handled over 100 companies regularly. This meant the agent shopped for us. I check with the agent about every 5-7 years to see if we can do better. I’d let the $300 jump go and on the next raise start shopping.

    13. WS*

      Usually it’s a humidity problem as others have said – I have a relatively new house but there’s still two doors that stick in humid, hot weather. But if it continues after summer, it could be an issues with the stumps or slab of the house moving and that should be checked out before it’s a major problem.

      Climate change is pushing homeowner’s insurance up. Mine went up $250 this year and I’ve never made a claim.

    14. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Similar age to house I grew up in. I was told she should have left one end of each solid wood door unpainted to prevent warping. Get that checked, because I’m going on a long-ago memory from a contractor who may or may not have been right.

    15. Blomma*

      Construction costs have gone up a lot which leads to insurance companies increasing policy limits since your dwelling limit is based on an estimate of how much it would cost to rebuild your house. Natural disasters (such as fires in CA and other western states) lead to large numbers of claims, which often result in rate increases. If you’re in Washington State, there’s recently been a massive change in how rates can be calculated (search ‘WA State credit ban’ if you are) and many people are seeing rate increases. If you have an insurance agent, definitely check with them for any discernible reasons why your premium increased and what can be done about it.

  27. Sunflower*

    Has anyone re-read books that they read when they were younger (high school/college age) and felt like they hit different at this age? I’m looking for some suggestions to add to my list. Now that I’m older, I tend to sit and reflect on themes from books whereas when I was younger, I just plowed through books because I loved reading.

    I’m more interested in the not so obvious/impactful ones as I already have a number of historical(ie Ann Frank) and school-required type books on my list. For example, I just re-read Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfield which I read originally when I was 19. The book is about how a girl moves from teen to young adult and how her ideas on relationships change. I found it interesting since I’m a few years older than the age when the book ends and I definitely understand her learnings much more now than I did then.

    1. Valancy Snaith*

      My favourite example of this is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I read it for the first time when I was about Francie’s age, and have read it every year or two since. It’s almost an entirely different book to read as an adult.

      1. Clisby*

        I’ve read that 3 or 4 times, most recently within the past 10 years.

        Within the past 15 years: the entire Anne of Green Gables series and the entire Betsy, Tacy, and Tib series.

        1. Filosofickle*

          Betsy Tacy and Tib were my favorites! Loved them! I have a long solo driving trip coming up and I got Anne of Green Gables on audio book to listen to.

      2. Old and Don’t Care*

        I only read that as an adult, and was much more invested in Katie then Francie. Would have been interested to read it as a teenager.

        1. Patty Mayonnaise*

          Yes, the Francie/Katie thing happened with me too! I was very invested in France for the first reading when I was 14 and much more on Katie’s side with everything when I reread at 23.

      3. AllTheBirds*

        Somehow I KNEW this would be the first response.

        I too read the book when I was Francie’s age.

    2. Yomigaeri*

      I’d say that many so-called classics that ever were “required reading” are required too early and it’s nice to reread them with more life experiences under the belt.

    3. HannahS*

      I re-read The Bridges of Madison County when I was in university after thinking it was this really great sweeping romance when I read it in high school…and then came away feeling kind of incredulous. It was so obviously a self-insert character on the part of the offer and a real ego-stroke on his part. I understood my grade 10 English teacher gently advising me to choose a different book for my final assignment.

    4. Msnotmrs*

      “The Giver” by Lois Lowry really holds up to repeated re-readings as an adult. As a kid, I thought it was a bittersweet story about a kid who didn’t fit in, and as an adult I see it’s a story about the slowly building dread of realizing you are living under a wicked system. Not quite high school/college age, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

    5. Hotdog not dog*

      Yes! I have a teenager, and have been reading along with whatever he’s been getting assigned. It’s been awesome getting to revisit some old favorites, and even better to be able to discuss them with someone reading them for the first time. Not a favorite at all, but I hated The Great Gatsby in high school because I thought it was boring. I hated it recently because it seemed like every character was an asshole. (I suppose that was kind of the point, but I like to like the characters in my books.)

    6. Generic Name*

      I read the Mists of Avalon when I was newly married in my 20s, and I re-read it in my late 30s after my husband moved out. The book absolutely hit differently nearly 20 years and a marriage and child later. Morgaine was a much less sympathetic character the second time around.

      I also read A Prodigal Summer when I was about 25, and at the time I felt like I was too young to really get it. The protagonist was in her 40s, and I’ve been waiting to read it again to see what I get out of it. Maybe in the next few years.

      1. Workerbee*

        Ooh! I first read Mists when I was 11, and that both shocked and influenced me for a time.

        I haven’t been able to return to it for years. :/ I fear I would be annoyed at how, if the characters would just SPEAK UP, so much more joy would have been had overall. Which would be even more AU, I realize.

    7. Felis alwayshungryis*

      Yes! In high school (very early 00s) we studied The Handmaid’s Tale. I liked it then, but boy is it relevant now. I reread it a few years ago and it disturbed me with its relevance then, I’m not sure if I even could read it right now. I didn’t go near the TV series.

    8. Ranon*

      The Phantom Tollbooth is pretty delightful, I caught a bunch more of the word play this time around.

    9. allathian*

      Anne of Green Gables is definitely one such series. I first read it when I was 12-13 and we lived in the UK. I had almost no English when we moved there, and after 3 months I no longer needed a student tutor in class. Reading lots of books in English certainly helped. I read it again in my 20s, and since then I’ve read it every 5 years or so.

      When I was a kid, my dad read the original Moomin books to me and my sister. I re-read them in my teens, 20s, and 30s. When I was in my 40s, I read them to our son. I got something new out of them every time.

    10. FD*

      Like many American high schoolers, I read Great Gatsby in high school and didn’t care for it. I like it a lot more as an adult and I feel like the entire thesis of, “you shouldn’t spend your life chasing a time in the past that you’ve convinced yourself is idyllic” is going to sail over most high schooler’s heads.

      1. allathian*

        Granted, I only read it as an adult (not American), but I agree, high school kids are too young for that to resonate. I suppose some who peaked early and for whom high school was the best time of their life might get that experience in college, but I expect that the older you get, the more sense it’ll make.

    11. Workerbee*

      Yes! I am re-reading John Fowles’s “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” and boy was that wasted on me in hugh school. It is such a prescient, delightful, editorialized read now where I think I missed so many nuances at the time. I am in fact reading my high school copy.

      By contrast, other books known as classics have not held up for me and it makes me wonder how many classics have been grandfathered in and are just too tired and obsolete.

    12. Wish I was Meg*

      Madeleine L’Engle time trilogy – really liked the first and third books, not so much the second. Saw so many different layers rereading them as an adult. Also Phantom Tollbooth is a lot of fun – caught much more of the word play as an adult.

  28. Too Many Cards*

    Do I have to get EVERYONE a holiday card?

    My family doesn’t exchange gifts for Christmas and birthdays anymore. (We’re all well into adulthood, shipping gifts was getting expensive, and trading gifts cards seemed silly, so we all agreed to stop.) I kept sending my brothers and their wives each a Christmas and birthday card every year. One brother/SIL also sent me a card, but the other couple never sent me any until they had kids (the card is chosen/signed by their two kids).

    Greetings cards are getting expensive and I often have to spend a lot of time and go to multiple stores to find ones I like for six people (twice a year). So, for the past two years, I started only sending cards to my brother/SIL that send me a card, and to my other brother/SIL’s kids.

    I didn’t think this was a big deal, but my mom found out and was absolutely aghast.

    What do you guys think?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I mean, I don’t send Christmas cards OR birthday cards, except for a birthday card to my mom. So I think no big deal, especially if they don’t mind. (My brother’s wife did once pitch a fit because I didn’t send her a birthday card, but I was like “I haven’t sent you one in the last ten years, why on earth did you expect this year to be different?” :P )

      But if you want to accommodate your mom’s weird insistence that everybody has to get them, you could just get an assorted box of Christmas cards and an assorted box of birthday cards instead of spending your time and money on individually selected ones.

      1. Too Many Cards*

        I’ve looked at assorted card sets before, and I’ve never been able to find any I like. (There might be one or two good cards in a set, and then the rest are meh.) :(

        There was a year where I just ordered a bunch of pretty cards off Zazzle, which was convenient and cheap (I had a coupon code and a membership trial to get free shipping). I was going to do that again, but the shipping was ridiculous (something like $10 for a handful of cards).

        1. NoLongerYoung*

          Options my friends/family do:
          * have a printed card made (vacation picture, you and family). Just pop a little note on the bottom like (enjoyed seeing you at Thanksgiving). Two of my very busy but close friends do this. (They even use printed address labels, so you save the mailing list year to year – print on clear mailing labels, etc). Snapfish, Zazzle, etc. Once you get it set up, super simple.
          * cheaper – I’ve done a home printed Christmas letter. I have a slew of cousins who are not close, but they send me one. (Templates at HP, etc, or christmas paper). I include 1-2 pictures of “something” for interest and to use up space. Got Misty (dog)… changed jobs… moved mom. No matter how mundane, I can share my life a little.
          * Buy a holiday themed blank card box set. Then write what it is you feel. You don’t have to buy individual cards this way, or go with sentiments you do not feel.

          I’ve done #2 and #3 these past few years. It is surprising how much people value snail mail, still.

        2. Pennyworth*

          Perhaps don’t bother so much about whether you like the card? Many people just glance at the front of the card, read the message inside and toss the card out after the holiday/birthday.

    2. HannahS*

      Personally, I don’t think it’s polite to send a card to some siblings and not others unless, like, you barely even talk to one sibling. Why not just buy a box of plain stationary and write whatever message you want? You don’t have buy individual different cards for everyone.

      1. Too Many Cards*

        I text/call one brother on a regular basis (we share some common interests and he’s just easier to talk to), and the other one with kids I visit once a year (though I haven’t the past two years because of covid).

    3. WellRed*

      Tbh, I expected you to say you were buying cards for a lot more people. I also think what you are doing is fine. You’re sending cards to both households, right? Or, can you just do Christmas cards and skip birthday cards or whatever?

      1. Too Many Cards*

        I do buy cards for friends, but it didn’t seem relevant to buying cards for family. (If I find a card I like I could buy it for a brother and a friend, but I wouldn’t send the same card to both of my brothers’ households.)

        Yes, I send cards to both households. I send my brother/SIL each a card, and then the other brother/SIL’s two kids each get a card (and they also get shipped gifts).

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      I think sending holiday cards should be fun and not require this much effort. My criteria for sending them is (1) do I want to send this person a card? and (2) would this person enjoy receiving a card/be hurt if they didn’t? Some years I send tons of cards, some years it’s just immediate family and close friends, usually it’s in between. A cousin I’m not close with won’t get a card but an internet friend I chat with a lot will, etc. I think the best solution for you would be buying a box of identical cards with a brief sentiment inside, and then write a long message to the people you want to do that for and just a brief note to those you don’t.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        And I just realized – are you sending Christmas cards to individuals? So 2 to your parents’ house, 2 to your brother/SIL, and 2 to the kids who are in a 4-person household? I can see where that would seem like a slight to the bro/SIL who don’t get one because, well…it is, if you’re going out of your way to NOT send them cards when half their household gets one! Just do one Christmas card per household and stop doing birthday ones at all (or just to your parents and/or the kids, if you want)

      2. Too Many Cards*

        I kind of wish I didn’t have to send cards at all because it feels like a lot of effort anymore. (I guess because as I get older I have less free time and energy for this stuff.)

        The one brother/SIL didn’t send me any cards at all for a couple years until they had kids (and the cards they send are from the kids, not them). So does that mean they probably didn’t care about getting cards from me much?

        1. Dark Macadamia*

          It means they didn’t care about sending cards before they had kids (or didn’t have time, or forgot, or…). I think most people don’t feel strongly about this at all – it’s fun to get cards but not a big deal if you don’t.

          It seems like maybe your family (mom?) has unusually strong feelings and expectations about card-giving that make this feel more personal and complicated? I think if you don’t enjoy sending them you should stop. Anyone who has weird feelings about what it meeeeans is overreacting, and if they’re upset their cards aren’t being reciprocated they can stop sending one to you, too.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, I’m wondering if this is about some of the sibs breaking free of the family belief that cards are very important and others still sticking to it.

            For me, I’d say do what you want; in the wider world, there’s no uniform expectation about cards or no cards. But you can’t require your siblings to feel how you want them to about your decision.

          2. Washi*

            I almost wonder if the OP and I are from the same small Eastern European culture because my grandparents especially are obsessed with cards that specifically say the relationship on the front. So like, it must say “happy birthday dear cousin-in-law” or something.

            If your mother is aghast as a matter of principle but no one actually seems personally offended, then just do what works for you. I’m really sporadic and inconsistent with my card-sending habits and have not been cast out of the family or anything because like you, the cards are not the meat of my relationship with them anyway.

            1. Too Many Cards*

              OMG. My mom only buys cards that say the relationship on them. I thought she was the only one that did that! I don’t understand it at all. Especially since those ones are often the more generic/sentimental ones.

              As far as I know they weren’t personally offended. They didn’t say anything when I was sending them cards, and they didn’t say anything when I stopped.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                The ones that say “mother”, “daughter” or “nephew” on them cost more and take more time to pick out. Supposedly it shows how much you care.

                I think this is a generational thing. I remember my parents getting a couple hundred cards when I was little. (I counted them.) But the time I was in my teens it dwindled to 30 or 40. Just before my last parent passed, he got maybe 3 or 4 cards. Postage went up. Relationships faded. People died. People moved with no forwarding address. In short life happened.

                You can get boxes of cards at the dollar store or tag sales if you want to get something. You can print cards out on your computer. Staples sells envelopes for computer printed cards. You know your mom best. IF this is just one thing in a long list of things she complains about, then I probably would not knock myself out here. Why bother if the complaints don’t stop? If she is other wise happy, just by her a mom-card and call it good.

        2. traffic_spiral*

          “as I get older I have less free time and energy for this stuff.”

          Oddly enough, as I get older I appreciate these little social traditions more and more. People die or just drift out of your life more and more, and you start to realize why your parents and grandparents put the effort into these little things to stay in touch and remember each other.

          If it’s too much work to get multiple cards, just get multiple copies of the same card. Also, consider the whole “family portrait” card (yes, pictures of your pet in a Santa outfit are always good). But don’t ditch the tradition. Of all the things you’ll regret spending time on later, it’s rarely keeping ties with people instead of letting them drift away.

    5. Asenath*

      I don’t think it’s particularly a big deal. You could save some time by sending everyone the same cards, and personalizing them with notes inside, but it sounds like you’re also sending a lot of cards for the number of people involved. I can see sending each brother, sister-in-law and child a card for their birthdays (that would come to 6 cards once a year, and I wouldn’t send any if the recipient didn’t also send cards), but for Christmas, I’d go with one card per household.

      1. Too Many Cards*

        The only problem with sending one Christmas card per household is the kids really like getting mail, so they might be upset. But the brother/SIL that send me a Christmas card send one signed by both of them, so it would make sense to switch to just sending one for both of them.

        My other brother/SIL never sent me any cards at all, so that’s why I thought it was okay to stop. When they had kids, they started to get one card that usually says “aunt” on it for both kids to sign, so it still felt like brother/SIL aren’t sending cards.

    6. Sunshine*

      You can get a box of nice/blank inside cards at target and such. Or a craft store like Joann fabric has bigger boxes in a variety of colors or patterns. You don’t have to go over the top but you could print a photo or write a quote. Fifty cards would be about ten dollars.

    7. ronda*

      I am wondering if your mom is aghast at your brother too for not sending you cards for all those years!
      and how does she know, did brother say something?

      Will she get over it, or does it damage your relationship with her?

      If it is about fairness of sending to 1 brother and not the other……. decide to send 1 per household or none to any family.

      If it does damage relationships, maybe it is better to send them, but dial back your need to buy specific special cards for each person and just buy a box of good enough cards.

      1. Too Many Cards*

        She only found out because she mentioned she’d just bought a birthday card for one of my brothers, and asked if I’d bought one yet. (The answer was no, that I’d stopped sending them to him a few years ago.)

    8. RussianInTexas*

      My partner and I don’t send Christmas/greeting cards at all, except for last year, due to be, well, 2020 and all that came with it.
      Even then we just got a box of the non-denominational seasons greetings cards, and the same ones went to everyone.
      We get cards from may be 3 people/families, and we don’t attach any sentimental value to them, they get recycled in a couple of days after receiving.
      It’s totally ok to limit the number of people who you send them to.

      1. Wishing You Well*

        You can send season’s greetings via email with an individual message. You can send paper cards via the mail. You can send postcards (which cost less to buy and mail). You can make an effort some years and not others. You can add and drop people from your list. You can do a mix of options every year or quit altogether. It’s up to you. You have my permission! :)

    9. Aphrodite*

      I went onto Etsy and found some vintage Thanksgiving postcards that I liked. (One is hilarious, showing a man in an old-fashioned nightshirt sitting up in bed with a look of screaming horror on his face and his hair standing on end as he looks at a ghostly image in the doorway of a turkey. Of course, it is the T-Day version of “A Christmas Carol,” and it made me laugh.) I have scanned the fronts of all four cards and will create modern postcards through an online service and send those out in the first week of November with a cheery note; my pescatarian friend will get the ghostly turkey one though I have my doubts she’s ever read any of Dickens’ books.

      I am now looking for similar vintage Christmas postcards so I can do the same thing in December. That way, everyone will get something for the holiday that is unique (and inexpensive).

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        This is brilliant. Vintage cards are so weird (like there was a whole genre of insulting valentines for people you hate?) and I’m sure people will love receiving them!

    10. Pam Adams*

      I buy a generic “box o’ holiday cards” that support an organization I like. Everyone gets the same card- or one of two or there if it’s a mixed batch.

      I will hand-write different messages to different recipients, or sometimes just sign and send.

  29. it's me*

    What are your stories of contacting close or close-ish DNA relatives who are total strangers shown to you in the results of commercial DNA tests?

    1. fposte*

      I haven’t, but I have a friend who does this all the time not only on her own behalf but on that of friends (she’s the ancestry detective among them). It’s generally gone quite well but she’s generally contacting people of an age where family stuff is more interesting than raw. She generally only contacts comparatively close relations and accepts a fairly low response rate. Every now and then the response is a little overwhelming (there’s a cousin sending her long missives in a language she only speaks with the aid of Google Translate), but she very much enjoys putting together the family jigsaw pieces.

    2. Zephy*

      My mom was adopted as a very young child and was able to track down her biological mother, plus two half-sisters. She mostly did it for medical-history reasons, but was fortunate enough to get in touch with her birth mother before she passed earlier this year, and now she has two apparently-very-cool sisters that she’s been getting to know. I still haven’t met my aunts, I hope to soon.

    3. fueled by coffee*

      The reverse situation, I think, but my uncle did one of those DNA tests a few years ago and had someone contact him saying that his father had been adopted and our branch of the family showed up as relatives, and did we have any information.

      There was a distant cousin who had given a baby up for adoption in a place and time frame that made sense for this guy’s father (pregnant single teen in the 1920s), so we passed over the info we had. Then the guy got mad because he didn’t want to believe he could be descended from our ethnic group (why are you doing DNA tests then??), so that was that.

      I’ve heard about people learning unpleasant things about their families through these kinds of DNA tests, so I would recommend caution depending on the nature of these relationships – finding out about an unknown 3rd cousin is much less traumatic than finding out about an unknown sibling.

      1. Zephy*

        My best friend’s mom (white as can be) did a 23andme or one of those and also was upset about having African ancestry. Like, ma’am???? That’s where humans came from???? What were you expecting????

        1. PollyQ*

          Obviously “upset” is the wrong reaction, but DNA tests don’t go back tens of thousands of years.

          1. allathian*

            They do. That’s how we’ve found out that most Caucasians have between 1 and 4 percent Neanderthal genes, for example.

            1. PollyQ*

              OK, some do, but I don’t believe the commercially available ones are that sensitive, or literally every human would show African heritage, and they don’t.

              1. allathian*

                Fair point. But lots of people have African ancestry even if they look completely Caucasian. Just like pretty much every African-American who has former slaves in their ancestry most probably also shows European heritage.

                1. allathian*

                  Sorry about that, “former slaves” should be “Africans who were brought to the US as slaves.”

    4. RC Rascal*

      An adopted friend did this and found information she used to contact her birth parents. The birth mother it turned out had died young, but the father was alive and she visited him and her previously unknown half sisters.

      It didn’t go very well and she ended up concluding she was glad she was adopted and better off growing up in her adoptive family.

    5. Sleepless*

      So, my grandfather was raised by a single mother who never told a soul who the father was. Years after he died, my brother did a bunch of genealogy research and sent his DNA to Ancestry. He got a couple of hits for second cousins on the opposite corner of the country. He emailed them and asked them what their connection was to my grandfather’s hometown. One of them readily replied that her great-uncle had moved across country from there and changed his name because “he was accused of doing something he didn’t do.” She sent a picture of a gentleman who bore a striking resemblance to our grandfather. My brother uncovered a story involving our great-grandmother, her employer’s son, and the son hopping a train to take him as far from home as possible. The relatives across the country had no other information for us and were not at all interested in meeting us. At least a 100 year old family mystery was solved for us, though we still have lots of questions nobody will ever be able to answer.

    6. Former Employee*

      I haven’t done it, but I have read that people are sometimes misled by the results. An example is that people have been told they have a half sibling they never knew about and think their parent was involved in an elaborate cover up when it turns out that the DNA in common for a half sibling can be about the same as that for a first cousin.

      1. seahawks*

        That’s not actually not really true. A half sibling will match waaaay higher than a 1C; a first cousin matches at half of what a half sibling does (say 800 vs 1700cm). The problem is the DNA companies labelling – aside from parent/child (and maybe full siblings), they’re really only capable of labelling as cousin relationhips. If it says “Close Family – 1c”, that is almost certainly (like 99%) NOT a first cousin. That category is: aunt/uncle, niece/nephew, grandparent/grandchild, half sibling, and double first cousin (sharing both sets of grandparents).

        The only real exception to this rule is if someone’s tree has a high level of endogamy (e.g., Jewish populations), which can make matches appear closer than they are.

        1. remembering high school biology*

          Isn’t a half-sibling ON AVERAGE going to be a 25% match and a first cousin ON AVERAGE 12.5%? So it’s possible to get close, with a higher-than-average homology between cousins and/or lower-than-average homology between half-sibs?

    7. Smol Book Wizard*

      I am curious, because my dad was adopted in a closed adoption. But I don’t think he has any interest in knowing, so I am holding off on that account. Not sure what I’d do if I suddenly found lots of relatives anyway – goodness only knows I have plenty as it is! But I can definitely see the appeal, at least in the abstract.

    8. it's me*

      I have two reasons for having this on my mind.

      One is that my grandmother’s youngest sister gave up a baby for adoption, and this now-grown baby reached out to my mother and aunt some time ago looking for information about her birth mother. My mother and aunt were taken by surprise to be reached out to by her, although they did know that their aunt had a baby she gave up. They are currently putting together what to say to her about her mother. She was a kind person, but somewhat troubled. My aunt actually served as her caretaker at the end of her life. When I took the 23andMe test, this cousin showed up for me, and when my mother took it, she did for her as well, which makes sense.

      Now, the other reason has to do with the other side of my family. My father was born in Germany to a German woman just after the war. Several years later, my grandmother married an American serviceman and they all came to the US. My grandmother and stepgrandfather never talked about who my father’s biological father was. They are both deceased, and my father passed away in 2015 never knowing who his biological father was. I assumed that without being able to test for a Y chromosome, I would not be able to tell much on my own, but after my mother took the 23andMe test, I was able to see who in my results was related to me through her and who was not. I took the Ancestry test as well. The 23andMe test showed me a second cousin who was related to me through my father. The Ancestry one showed me someone who shared 11% DNA with me. These people’s names in their trees were completely unfamiliar to me. I will note that while the second cousin was not on Ancestry, the closeish relative on Ancestry was also not on 23andMe. This was a key factor in me “triangulating” to put together what was possibly going on. 23andMe has a feature where your matches can share surnames in their families, and one of the names my cousin had twigged when I looked at the tree of the 11% relative on Ancestry. I even IDed a man of the right age with this surname who could very well be my biological grandfather. I mulled this over but it didn’t all make sense together, in part because Ancestry doesn’t show information for living people and many of these folks are still living. So I couldn’t clearly see the connections. However, last week I took a look at these sites again and did some research, and realized the second cousin and I must be related because her grandmother was a sister of my apparent biological grandfather, who is deceased. Obituaries were a big factor in figuring this out. As for the 11% relative, I realized that she was probably one of four half-sisters, most living, of my father, that is, they were all daughters of the supposed biological grandfather. According to Ancestry, this amount of shared DNA *can* indicate a half-aunt relationship.

      Now here’s the thing. This fellow got married and joined the Army, and went to Europe. My father was born just after the war. This guy’s oldest child was born soon after my father. Now, I’m somewhat doubting my half-aunt and even my much younger second cousin would welcome hearing that the man who was their brother and great uncle respectively had some sort of relationship with a German woman while he was married and fathered a child. So, I haven’t reached out to them in any way, and my second cousin hasn’t logged in in a long time and probably hasn’t seen me, and my half-aunt’s test is run by someone else in her town, possibly a relative by marriage, who runs a number of other trees and tests. This is something where once you breach the topic, you can’t go back, so I’m very hesitant, more inclined to wait and see if any of them notice and contact me. Besides which, the key players here are all deceased, so the need for contact in the service of closure is much less immediate than it might be otherwise. With the caveat that I may be wrong, well, I think the fact that these people popped up on two different services without being on the other service, and had this unusual name in common that my cousin happened to mention, goes a long way.

    9. HannahS*

      We had an affair in the family come to light from one of those tests. One of my cousins (Margie) is adopted; one of HER cousins (who is a genetic relative of Margie’s adoptive parents) did a test and found an unknown cousin. As it turns out, Margie’s adoptive dad slept with Margie’s nanny, right around the time that Margie joined the family. The nanny was sent away, had a baby boy, and he was adopted by a farming family in a nearby town. Everyone in the story is over 75; Margie’s parents died many years ago.

      Luckily, Margie was THRILLED with the discovery of this man, and several of the cousins in her generation have met him. He also knew the story of his origins, although Margie did not. I think it was kind of known that her dad was a philanderer. But it could have been very upsetting, to discover in late life that your dad cheated on your mom with your nanny.

  30. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Weird skills time! What ability do you have that might never see use in regular life?

    I can a) stack a deck of cards while shuffling and b) alter the tone, octave, timbre and accent of my voice at a moments notice.

    1. Hotdog not dog*

      I can match colors without having to see both items at the same time, regardless of lighting. For example, I can tell if the sweater I’m looking at under fluorescent light in a store will (or won’t) match the pants hanging in the closet at home. I can also “see” the colors within other colors, so if you’re ever wondering whether a black top is more blue, green, red, or whatever, I can tell you.

        1. Mimmy*

          OMG same here!!! I can reasonably match different pieces of clothing, but I’m terrible with knowing what colors actually look good on me. I didn’t even think about how colors look under different lighting.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        That’s a seriously impressive ability, no lie! If you have any interest ever in IT I’d suggest UI design – because someone who can figure out how something looks under different lighting would be a godsend around here.

        1. Not a cat*

          I have this too. I’m a content writer for an ISV and the designers always tell me I should have gone to school for design.

      2. Hotdog not dog*

        Ha! Most of my friends hate shopping with me! I get impatient when they pick the wrong things, and I’ve been told that I should be more diplomatic. (But if it’s ugly, isn’t it better to know that before you buy it?)

        1. They Don’t Make Sunday*

          Omg. I don’t have your color jujitsu, but I do know when something is the wrong color. When I was 12 I tagged along with my best friend and her older sister while the sister went shopping for a formal dance. She had very fair skin (freckle prone), and she picked out this deep royal blue dress. The color totally overwhelmed her. I tried to point this out, but the shop employee and everyone else just sort of said, “Oh, it’s a lovely color,” and they bought it. Grrr. You can know this stuff and not be able to help being a 12-year-old girl.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            I’m eternally grateful to my rather outspoken friend of 30+ years who told me outright that I must never ever try to wear yellow or orange again. She was right – my skin tone is a weird hybrid of black/yellow and I can look jaundiced very easily.

      3. allathian*

        I’m wondering if you have super color vision and see colors the rest of us can’t, and because of that don’t have the words to describe? Tetrachromacy happens because some people, most of whom are women, have four types of cones to see colors rather than the normal three.

    2. Exif*

      Circular whistling. I can whistle with the same tone quality during both exhaling and inhaling, so I can do it indefinitely.

      My dad is a very skilled trumpet player, so I like to think it’s an inherited talent.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Any amount is impressive frankly, I tried with two – one went out the window, the other hit the cat…

      2. KristinaL*

        I can juggle, too! I was in a juggling club in college and learned a lot.

        There are techniques for learning to juggle. You can probably find them on youtube.

        1. Clisby*

          I learned it in high school PE. Our PE class went through 6-week rotations during a school year, so one unit was basketball, one was softball, one was volleyball, etc. Then we had this free-for-all 6-weeks where you could do ping-pong, tumbling, juggling, shuffleboard, and I forget what else. It’s also how I learned to stand on my head.

    3. Expiring Cat Memes*

      I have an uncanny ability to put on a husky old lady voice at any time and add grossly sexual overtones to everyday innocuous conversation. I reserve that skill for grossing out my husband though.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        (Do cat memes expire?)

        That made me laugh – what an image! I’m thinking Nanny Ogg from the Discworld books?

        1. Expiring Cat Memes*

          It’s truly amazing how dirty the same sentence about household chores can become just by saying it in that voice.

          I haven’t read any Terry Pratchett, but I’m thinking maybe I need to start. Your comment made me look up Nanny Ogg quotes, and I feel like she might be my spirit animal.

          (I miss the OG premise of the cat meme universe and all the backstory: ceiling and basement cat, the hunt for cheezburgers, cats can’t spell. The internet has long moved on but I’m still here for it.)

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Nanny Ogg is the dirty minded old lady I wanna be one day :)

            I’m with you on the cheezeburger memes, and all the silly flash songs of cats. Keyboard cat, ceiling cat, long cat….

            1. Expiring Cat Memes*

              Omg yes, keyboard cat! He has been the soundtrack to my life lately. When I saw Alison’s cat pic this week I instantly thought of monorail cat too.

              Now if you’ll excuse me… it’s getting wet out… so I have to get that load in, if you know what I’m saying…

              (I’m saying it just started raining here and the laundry’s still out)

    4. Buni*

      I can do the voice thing too! It’s super useful in code-switching when I speak to a wide variety of the public at work – I have about three different accents I can flick through as needed too.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        It’s fun! I can easily do my native (rural West Country UK) accent, my work (RP) one and for some bizarre reason a Ukrainian, a German and a Johannesburg one. Cannot do any US ones – although I’ve never actually met anyone in person from the US!

        (Got loads of US online friends but we’ve only talked by text).

        1. Buni*

          I’ve got RP, casual London, and my semi-native N. Ireland, but I can pick up and reproduce most accents after about a half hour of listening (I was at school in Gloucestershire for a number of years, that one’s easy) – musical training!

          When I pick up the phone at work it could be anyone from an MP or Archbishop – we had the Queen in a few years back – to a local Eastender who needs £50 to keep their heating on. I mix ‘n’ match…

    5. Girasol*

      My coworker could whistle a cricket sound so real you’d be looking for the actual bug. He’d do it when a question was asked and no one answered. It was perfect. I’m still jealous that I can’t do that.

      1. Old Woman in Purple*

        My husband can do that! He has stories of him and a buddy taking turns surreptitiously doing it during classes in high school (eons ago!) and causing the teachers to run laps in the classrooms.

    6. Useless "talent"*

      This has absolutely no use in anyone’s life, but I can bend my thumb to my wrist/forearm using my other hand. I’d be interested to know how many others can do this.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        *raises hand* me! I can also bend my thumb over the back of my hand. And curl my little finger up without moving any other fingers.

        Query, because I once read about this – when you clench your fist are there two tendons that appear on your inside wrist or one?

        1. Useless "talent"*

          Over the back of your hand? Now, that’s something I definitely can’t do. As for the tendons, it appears there are 3 on my left wrist and 2 on the right. Hmmm.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            It’s apparently a new genetic thing in the human race – we used to have two but there’s a steadily growing population of having only one, or having more. Can’t find any studies of how it affects joint mobility but have wondered if it contributes.

            Fwiw I have one.

        2. Useless "talent"*

          Over the back of your hand? Now, that’s something I definitely can’t do. Ouch! As for the tendons, it appears there are 3 on my left wrist and 2 on the right. Hmmm.

      2. OyHiOh*

        I have hyper mobility in my fingers and wrists also. Until recently, it’s been kind of a party trick, “look what my hands can do,” but it’s starting to cause some chronic pain, especially in my thumbs, and I can’t play violin anymore because my hyper flexible left pinky finger locks in place every time I stretch it to hit a 4th finger note. Have been retooling my piano and recorder technique to try and retain ability to play some of my favorite instruments.

    7. Albeira Dawn*

      I can balance a pencil on my nose. And given a screenshot of almost any scene from almost any Scooby-Doo series, I can tell you which series/era it’s from and usually the plot of the episode.

    8. OyHiOh*

      I have focused hearing and perfect pitch.

      Focused hearing means that I can identify something – a specific voice in a choir, or a particular section of an orchestra – and focus on that one sound to the exclusion of all else. Everything else drops into a background blur of sound. I have to actively identify the thing – as precisely as “the third tenor in, second row”, or more generally “the flute section” but once I have something fixed I can focus in and out at will.

        1. OyHiOh*

          That was never ever presented as an option. Despite practically growing up on stages with conductors and directors, it literally never occurred to me that I – AFAB, geeky, socially awkward – could be a conductor. Conductors were old men with a flair for the dramatic and ability to be stern taskmasters.

          This is an excellent example of how young people form their ideas about who and what they could be from what they see. Also, it’s an excellent example of the downward limiting pressure a small town environment places on students – even a fairly progressive one like the university town I grew up in.

          However, all is not lost! I’ve said for decades that I couldn’t/wouldn’t produce and/or direct one of my own scripts but I just did that thing at the beginning of the month so who knows what I’ll do next!

          1. allathian*

            Good luck. My MIL’s husband started composing when he retired and he composed the wedding march they used when they walked up the aisle.

    9. RussianInTexas*

      I can name all kings of France in a row from about the year 1000 and on.
      Never ever covers up, not even at a pub quiz

    10. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I can raise and lower both of my eyebrows independently of each other.

    11. Llama face!*

      I can wiggle my ears. Also I can easily spot four leaf clovers just by walking past a lawn and glancing at it.

      1. Janet Pinkerton*

        Oh man I had a coworker once who could solve a word search instantly. Even if you gave him like, long strings of numbers when everyone had simple words, he’d still be faster than anyone else. I imagine this sort of pattern-recognition is related.

    12. Squirrel Nutkin*

      Even though my sense of smell is generally lousy, I have a freakish ability to smell subtle, tiny gas leaks (like when the pilot light goes out), which is a superpower that is more annoying than useful. I try to be a good citizen by calling the leaks in, but sometimes that irritates people, like my poor neighbor whose pilot light kept going out when he wasn’t home and who got kind of irked that I had called the gas company. These days, since I know it’s not a major gas leak, I just slip a note under his door, and we are on less frosty terms.

    13. Dr.KMnO4*

      I can move my eyebrows independently of each other. I can read and write upside down. I can also write backwards, nearly as quickly as I can write normally (printing, obviously). I tend to absorb regional accents just by listening to people talk for a bit. This is especially true with Spanish (my second language) – when speaking Spanish in Mexico I have a Mexican accent, but when I’m in Spain I have a Spanish accent.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I can also write mirrored! It’s been useful twice exactly – once in eighth grade science, I got extra credit in the mirror unit by writing my lab reports mirrored, and in high school history class, I got the class bully to stop demanding my notes when he couldn’t read them :-P

      2. Really?*

        A man walked into my grandfather’s bank, pulled out a checkbook and wrote out a check. The teller told him she didn’t think she could cash it. So he wrote another. In the end there were four checks. One right hand right side up, one right side up, and then again with the left hand. They all looked as alike as any checks normally would. When he had gone the the teller he had written the check out while it was facing her (upside down to him).
        When I was in college I knew a girl who would sound like a native within 3 days of moving anywhere.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I can do the eyebrow thing, read upside down and backward, and pick up accents too! I like to do the Spock eyebrow raise at people.

    14. WoodswomanWrites*

      I can touch my nose with my tongue. I can also flare my nostrils as well as move them up and down on my face. Thanks for the fun thread.

    15. Pocket Mouse*

      When I was a kid, I decided to be as prepared as possible if I ended up losing an arm or hand. So I learned to tie my shoes one-handed.

    16. allathian*

      I’m the opposite of dyslexic. When I’m learning a new language, it’s enough for me to see a word spelled once, and I’ll never misspell it. This includes diacritics when I’ve been studying the language long enough to understand how they work. Dictation tests were always a waste of time for me, because I always pulled straight As, even when we were living in the UK and I was learning English; I may not have known what a word meant, but I could spell it!

      That said, I’ve never attempted to learn a language that doesn’t use the Latin alphabet. It’s a weird skill and I probably use it unconsciously all the time. It’s also fun to be able to boast that I never misspell a word. All my “misspellings” are typos.

    17. Meep*

      I have hyperlexia and the ability to spot typos and spelling errors at a glance. In the age of spell-check, this is a less useful ability than it used to be.

      1. allathian*

        Check! Granted, I didn’t learn to read until preschool/kindergarten. Unlike my dad, who was in hospital for a month with scarlet fever when he was four years old in the late 1940s, when parents were allowed one half-hour visit per week. Most of the time he was bored, and he amused himself by teaching himself to read. It’s still useful to be able to spot syntax errors and misplaced homonyms. Spell-checkers are notoriously bad at catching those.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Also hyperlexic, but just manifested in a very early reading age and speed reading (and delayed talking ability).

    18. FD*

      This one does get some use, but I can read freakishly fast, around the thousand words per minute mark for casual fiction reading. It’s not speed reading, and I weirdly can’t do it if I think about it too hard, kind of like you can’t touch type if you think about where the keys are.

      I think part of the way I do it is that my brain encodes words directly by taking the first and last consonants and a vowel in the middle, sometimes another consonant in the middle if it’s a longer word. This has the unfortunate effect of making similar names be very hard to distinguish. I got quite far in Lord of the Rings before I realized that Sauron and Saruman were not actually the same people.

      (it also means I tend to have a large vocabulary but have a number of stories of completely mispronouncing words I’ve never heard anyone say out loud before.)

      1. allathian*

        I’m also a fast reader. I’ve never measured my word rate, but for a standard fiction paperback, I read about 80-100 pages an hour, depending on how easily the text flows across the page and on the size of the typeface.

        My high reading speed is one reason why I absolutely detest video trainings, I could absorb the same information so much faster if I could just read it.

        1. BelleMorte*

          if it’s a browser based pre-recorded video there are chrome add-ins that allow you toggle the speed of the video (including the captions). I usually watch videos at 4x-6x speed for this exact reason.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Also do this – it’s…almost like I see a paragraph of text and the brain instantly processes it. But yeah, I was 40 before I learnt how ‘auspicious’ is meant to be pronounced ;p

      3. Owler*

        Oh my. I think you just explained to me my issues with LOTW. I totally had problems with telling apart Sauron and Saruman. Thank you!

      4. Llama face!*

        Also a speed reader! When I was a preteen/teen, my parents limited me to reading two books a day because I got very absorbed in them and they claimed I got moody if I read too much. I had already finished reading through the entire stock of child and teen books in the library by the time I was 11 or 12. My written/read vocabulary was extremely advanced for my age but I also mispronounced words since I’d never heard them spoken out loud.

    19. Virginia Plain*

      I can list in chronological order all English (and later, british) monarchs starting from William the Conqueror to date, including their spouses and if they had a common soubriquet, that too. Maybe a mini-fact about them for context, if they are not the really “famous” ones like henry 8 with all his wives. Eg henry 1 – white ship disaster, or Richard 2 – Wat Tyler’s rebellion, or Edward 7 – liked fast cars, dreadful shagger, nearly got cited in a divorce case. In most cases i can say how one was related to the next although they wars of the roses made this a mess so that’s slightly shaky!

      This was my version of counting sheep when I was having a bit of trouble sleeping after a close family member passed away,

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I’d love to hang out with you – that is a seriously fascinating area of knowledge.

    20. Ancient Llama*

      I can recite the (English) alphabet backwards in under 5 seconds. My grandfather did it and i was amused so i learned to do it to.
      In 7th grade choir we learned a song where the US states in alphabetical order was the chorus. I still can do it, which comes in handy time to time: need to know how many states start with N? I can in my head get quickly to the part that starts Maryland and sing forward thru the N states (8). If i know you well, i’ll sing softly so you hear it, otherwise i do it in my head.
      I don’t think i ever use the backwards alphabet. If i need to know what came before X i just imagine the alphabet (like the grade school banner above the 1st grade class chalkboard) and pick it out.

    21. Might Be Spam*

      I can move my eyebrows independently of each other and curl my tongue. I like to do it for fussy babies to distract them. They either think it’s funny or they look confused, when I move my eyebrows. When I curl my tongue, they try to do it, too.

    22. Mimmy*

      I have really odd memory skills, for example:
      -I can tell you the name of each of the American Idol winners in order (well, maybe not the last few seasons…)
      -I can remember specific dates, for example, the date I went to my very first concert, the date certain celebrities pass away
      -I can tell you when many songs from the 1980s were popular on the radio

    23. PhyllisB*

      I’m great at finding other people’s lost items, but hopeless at finding my own. Kinda like the psychic who can’t predict her own future.

    24. Ursula*

      I can imitate accents pretty much immediately upon hearing them. The problem is that it’s mostly involuntary – if I start talking to someone with an accent, I have to make a conscious effort to not imitate their accent, because I don’t want them to think I’m making fun of them!

      I’m also really good at recognizing voices, but not very good at remembering names. So I’ll be watching TV, hear someone’s voice and think “oh, that’s the woman who also voiced x and y characters” but I won’t know her name at all.

  31. Llellayena*

    I think this is about shopping, but if it skims too close to work feel free to ignore or block. I didn’t think to ask yesterday.

    I need a recommendation on phone headsets with attached microphone. My current setup picks up a lot of background noise now that I’m around people again and it’s noticeable and annoying. I’m headed to Best Buy later today, any suggestions?

    1. A Girl Named Fred*

      I have a HyperX Cloud Flight S (gaming headset) that I love! It’s kinda pricey, but it’s wireless, the battery lasts a long time, and the mic is pretty good at picking up just my voice. (For context, my boyfriend and I sit in the same room when gaming on Discord with friends. You can hear me through his mic, but you can’t hear him through my mic even though he’s the louder of us two.)

      My old workplace bought Jabra headsets when they moved to an open office plan (after much campaigning by our IT Director) and those were also exceptional. Even more pricey if I remember right, but they were super light, the mic ONLY picked up your voice, you could choose which ear the mic was on, and the range of their wireless was super long (like, ‘could go down the hall to the bathroom while on a webinar and still hear the webinar’ long.)

      I hope you find something that works for you!

    2. heckofabecca*

      I’d also like recommendations for this, but I have a small head! Any sets that you know of that fit a particularly small head?

  32. Nerdybird*

    So I have a few things to get crossed off Ye Olde To-Do List in the next few months if Covid numbers start declining at all, and it would be ideal to start looking into details now. Does anyone have suggestions or experience with finding repairpersons that take vaccination and masking seriously? I noticed that Home Depot’s website states that their employees and contractors are required to mask, and I considered going that route. As much as I need new trim and tile, it’s not worth getting sick.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have family or friends to lend a hand. My friends and I are equally useless/dangerous with tools and family here is sadly uninterested in the vaccine. We don’t really speak these days.

    Any/all suggestions welcome! Thank you!

    1. fposte*

      It’s worth trying local channels first, I’d say, like any local Facebook or Nextdoor for recommendations. Also be aware that pretty much all levels of contractor are massively backed up and small jobs tend to fall to the bottom of the priority list, so you may not have much control over timing, especially if you narrow your selection.

      I’d reiterate that your household has a mask-wearing policy (I like to blame the house rather than making it personal) when you’re scheduling and be prepared to cheerfully remind if they’re not masking up at the door. For my cleaners, the policy is I’m in a room with a closed door while they’re working; I don’t know if you can sustain that for the duration of a contractor visit, but I’m throwing that out there.

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      I have a relative who is a subcontractor for Home Depot, and failure to follow mask policy is a fireable offense. (He’s also a cancer survivor, so he takes it pretty seriously anyway.)

    3. Girasol*

      We need a doctor, so we took the list from the insurance company and called each one to ask, “What’s your mask and vaccination policy?” and then said “Thanks! Bye!” to each without getting into any discussion or making an appointment, just to get a short list. I imagine you could do that with repair people too.

  33. Elle Woods*

    A belated thank you to all those who offered suggestions a couple of weeks back re: my FIL’s desire to keep all his old business records from his now-shuttered company. About a week and a half ago, My SIL found and rented a small (10×10) storage space for him to store the records. FIL began moving stuff over there and has already started to realize he doesn’t need all of the records. Last weekend he went through three giant banker’s boxes of stuff (which represents three business quarters) and got rid of all but a 3″ stack of papers! Baby steps but at least they’re in the right direction.

    1. fposte*

      That sounds like a victory to me; the stuff is not only getting out of the house but is getting winnowed out. (There’s nothing like having to move a bunch of stuff to make you want less of it.)

  34. Looking for a gas cooktop*

    I’m looking for recommendations on gas cooktops. I need to replace a KitchenAid that is about 22 years old. I have just started looking and am intrigued by the Thermador star pedestal cooktops. Does anyone have personal experience with any of their line? Especially if you have had it for a while, has it been reliable?

    Recommendations for other brands also welcome!

    1. newbie*

      Before you go down the luxury appliance rabbit hole, make sure there is someone in your town who can service the things. They occupy a weird space between mainstream consumer and commercial that not very many folks are equipped and willing to deal with. The ones who will charge a premium for the service.
      I’ve cooked on every manner of systems and don’t see any real advantage in going into the luxury brands. My food doesn’t turn out any better or worse, nor do the cooktops clean up more easily.

    2. Thermador*

      I would agree with newbie on both points. We have Thermador fridge, oven, cooktop, and while the cooktop is nice, I can’t really say it’s extra. We do use the center griddle/grill part, especially for re-heating something like pizza, but I imagine other brands would have something similar? Otherwise, it works as I would expect it to.

      We did need service on the refrigerator once, had a guy come out, and he said he doesn’t service anything Thermador. So, it only took just a little longer to get a repair person out, and maybe it helps we live in a major city, too, but it is something to think about.

    3. NoLongerYoung*

      I highly recommend investing in the consumer reports membership (I do the online one). It gives you a good starting point. I got it when I was needing to buy a refrigerator, and given the minor cost of the subscription vs the huge cost of obtaining (and setting in place!) that behemoth… it was well worth the spend. I then was able to use it when I bought my window ACs.
      The hive mind tells me what to watch for – the “check out repairperson availability…” The consumer reports gave me the starter list.

      1. fposte*

        Good point! It’s also worth checking with your local library as sometimes you can get access to online CR through it.

    4. Call me St. Vincent*

      I have a thermador 36″ range and I love it! Highly recommend! It’s extremely responsive.

      1. Call me St. Vincent*

        Sorry I have the RangeTOP not a full range. I have the 36″ rangetop with a separate double oven (also thermador in the commercial style).

    5. Aly_b*

      I don’t know if induction is something you would consider, but I know a lot of folks are moving in that direction these days since apparently some of the byproducts of gas are… not great to be breathing in on the regular. Which makes some sense, once it had even occurred to me as a possible concern. Plus the ghg impact of electric (especially induction) is lower. But might necessitate a new cookware shopping spree to get compatible pans etc.

  35. Hulu*

    Is anyone else having weird problems with Hulu?

    It no longer autoplays a series, but keeps switching to This Is Us, a show I actively loathe and would never voluntarily watch. Online troubleshooting shows this is a known problem, and even “dislike”-ing the show doesn’t help. The usual IT troubleshooting ideas (rebooting the wifi, deleting and reinstalling the app) don’t help.

    I’ve gone through all the known attempts for fixing this, so I’m looking for first-hand experience rather than theoretical suggestions.

    1. Windchime*

      I’m in the middle of binging Boston Legal right now, and it has been working correctly for me (that is, it’s playing the next episode automatically). But for awhile (and it was a few years ago), it would automatically start playing Saved By The Bell. I’ve never, ever watched that show and I don’t know why Hulu would think I would want to.

      I wonder if your Hulu app needs to be updated? Does it do it on all your devices?

    2. Pettiwhisker*

      Are you using the Hulu app on your TV? I had that problem and I did a hard reset on my TV, similar to what you would do on your phone. After that it started working just fine. It was something to do with the app’s cache being full.

      If you’re not using the TV app, Reddit is a great place to find out answers for things like this.

      I’m also glad that I’m not the only one who doesn’t like This Is Us. :D

    3. allathian*

      Reboot your TV by pulling the plug and leaving it unplugged for at least 10 seconds. We don’t have Hulu, but we do this every time our TV starts acting weird, and it helps.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      I don’t know if this would work, but I believe Hulu is an app on the TV, correct? So I’m guessing it couldn’t hurt to try. I’ve done it with HBO Max.

      Every once in a while I have a somewhat similar issue: I select something to watch and it keeps bumping me back to the Home screen and won’t play. I figured out that if I log out of the app on the TV, then go to my computer and open the app and log out, then back to my TV to login again, it somehow magically fixes it. It seems like it just needs a refresh, for lack of a better word.

  36. Washi*

    House before baby or baby before house? My husband and I are about to start trying to have a baby, and are also thinking about buying a house. Our current apartment is a large, above a dentist so super quiet nights/weekends, walking distance from my husband’s office, a little on the expensive side, no yard/outdoor space, but overall would be a totally fine place for a baby. If we bought a house, it would probably be one town over, about a 25 min commute for him, no real change for me.

    We’re kind of torn because we know buying, possibly doing minor renovations (lots of old houses in our area) and then moving are really time consuming and it would be good to do that in a non-sleep deprived state. But our apartment is in a very convenient downtown (and nonresidential) location and there’s basically no maintenance. Plus I have no reason to think we would have trouble conceiving, but it’s always a possibility, and the idea of buying a 3ish bedroom house and then coming home to all those empty bedrooms sounds sad, though maybe it wouldn’t bother me as much as I think. Financially we don’t see a big difference – renting is more expensive but also the real estate market in our area is really hot right now and may cool off in a year or two.

    Anyone been in a similar situation or have advice on the timing?

    1. RagingADHD*

      Moving house is a pain in the butt but not worth putting major life events on hold for.

      We moved twice and did renovations before my daughter was a year old. It was a hassle, but not some kind of overwhelming awfulness.

      If you’re ready for a baby otherwise, go for it. It makes sense to get a home for the family you actually have, not the family you might have someday.

    2. Daffodilly*

      I work with families having their first baby. A surprising number of them decide baby before house, then PANIC and decide to get a house in the third trimester. Or remodel/add on to their existing house. Or at least rent a bigger place.
      I think it’s a form of nesting.

    3. ronda*

      it sounds to me like you really like your apartment.
      If I like where I am living I want to stay as long as possible.

      But, after you have a baby, you might find that it does not have the space your want anymore…. that is the point I would start looking. (but maybe it will have enough space and is the life style you want for the 1st few years/months of parenthood)

      But it also does not hurt to keep an eye on the real estate listings and if something you really love comes up…. take a shot at getting it.

    4. J.B.*

      I think what you’ve described sounds fine for a baby, even a toddler doesn’t need that much space. I would especially recommend finding out where playgrounds are. If you want to move though do it before baby arrives or after the newborn stage. I wish we had moved before second kid was born because it was suddenly too little space for two and the bulkier stuff that a preschooler had.

    5. Tib*

      We had a baby in a similar situation as you. We were renting in this fantastic location with great landlords and so we had the baby first and then moved for a grad school opportunity when he was 2. We didn’t really miss having a house with an infant-toddler and we would have stayed there longer if we could have.

    6. Aurora Leigh*

      We moved when I was in the first trimester and it was rough, but I love this place!

      If you like where you live, stay put. If you’re ready to move keep looking for the right place and go ahead and start trying. There’s never a perfect time for moving or babies! :)

    7. Anona*

      I’d wait to see if you can get pregnant easily before making a decision. It’s not always easy and it would suck to make a big change solely because of pregnancy timing that ends up not happening. We dealt with infertility for 1.5 years before having a kid.

    8. Ranon*

      We didn’t buy until our kid was 4.5 (plan was 3.5 but, well, pandemic). Some people rent for their kids entire lives, a house is not remotely a prereq to kids. And we have the brain space now for renovations!

      1. Dancing Otter*

        Lots of families live in apartments for entire generations. Not necessarily the same apartment for all that time, but still… Suburbs and long commutes weren’t really a big thing until after WWII, the Eisenhower expressway system and VA mortgages.
        If you like where you live, and have a bedroom for your as-yet-hypothetical offspring; then look for parks, daycare and pediatricians in the area. Not having those convenient would be more of an issue than home ownership or otherwise.
        I grew up in a new suburb, one of the so-called “GI towns”, and a surprising number of families were house poor, even in small starter houses. House poor as in, no savings after the down payment, and no money for furniture for some rooms. And that was in a prosperous decade and region. In this economy??
        House prices are booming right now, but that goes in cycles. Houses may be more affordable in a few years, when Washi junior approaches school age.

    9. Valancy Snaith*

      We also didn’t think we’d have any trouble conceiving and bought our four-bedroom house with that in mind. 6 1/2 years childless. It’s not like we come home and cry over the size of our house or anything, but likely we wouldn’t buy such a large house again.

      Houses aren’t going anywhere. It’s a pain to move, but it’s going to be a pain to move whether you have kids or not, so I wouldn’t stake anything big on that. Ask yourself if you really truly want to move, or if you feel like you “should” move–if you don’t really want to do it for yourself, don’t do it.

    10. Meep*

      We had the baby before the house – in fact, we only bought a house when our daughter was 4. Small children are very portable and don’t really need all that much space. Our daughter did just fine in an apartment.

    11. allathian*

      We built a house when our son was 2 and moved in after his 3rd birthday. It did mean that I spent long days alone with our kid while my husband was both working and supervising the construction/cleaning up. During this, I also went back to work after maternity leave. I wouldn’t necessarily want to do it again, but I’m very happy to live in our current house…

    12. Blackcat*

      It sounds like you are happy where you are. You could definitely buy once pregnant or once a baby is here, particularly if you outsource the renovation (DIY is hard with a baby, and a bad idea if there’s lead paint).
      Personally, I have found it hard to have a tiny yard (and tiny is better than nothing!) as my kid has gotten bigger, but that really wasn’t an issue until age 2ish.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, the yard will be the limiting factor in how long we will stay in this apartment, since we are lucky enough to be able to afford a house. Being able to easily step outside and let a toddler run and shriek in the yard is a huge plus, since we live a 10 min walk from the nearest green space, which is actually a church’s property, and a brisk 20 min walk from the nearest playground.

    13. Anono-me*

      Something to consider if you are in the US; I suspect there will be a correction (dip) in the US housing market soon when the eviction moratorium ends and all of the homes that would have been foreclosed upon hit the market as short sales or bank sales at about the same time.

      Maybe start trying for the baby now and find a real estate agent and mortgage broker now with the idea that you want to see where you are and what is out there now, but mostly just want to make sure that you are ready when the time (or the perfect house) comes.

  37. Nessun*

    Anyone have any suggestions on what to look for/at when considering a gym? Covid ended mine (closure, bankruptcy, etc.) and I really want s new one! I’ve got two options based on location, which is key as I want somewhere I can walk to. (I know myself well enough to know that the longer the journey the less I’ll go.) I’m considering cost, and size, and equipment, but what else should I keep in mind? It’s been a while since I’ve been in a gym, and I want to choose something that will work long term, but even going to a place on a trial basis is going to be an adjustment so I’d like some help on what to keep an eye out for. What makes you like a gym? What annoys you about a gym? How do you decide where to get fit, if you’re paying for it?

    1. acmx*

      Hours. Classes.

      Cleanliness! I went to a gym where it seemed no one wiped off the machines or used a towel on the benches. Or left used paper towels in the cup holder (cardio machines).

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Is that an issue with the patrons or the cleaning staff? I ask b/c at the gym I was going to, the cupholders always had used tissues in them, yet cleaning staff was always walking around cleaning and wiping down the machines when people were still on them. I did eventually complain to the front staff but I don’t think it was taken seriously. Otherwise, ppl always seemed to carry the spray and paper towels with them.

        To answer OP’s question – I always choose a membership where I can go to multiple locations whenever, wherever. I like that freedom.

    2. WellRed*

      Honestly, location is my big one. If it’s not convenient, I won’t go no matter how ideal it is in all other ways.

    3. Batgirl*

      I recently just spent a little bit more money than usual on my gym because it offers more relaxation classes/spaces. I’m thrilled. I usually stop going when I hit a stressful patch but I know that this will now be my first port of call when that happens.

    4. Girasol*

      What do you like to do in a gym? If it’s weights, you want to see the machines and free weights and how busy they are when you’d be there. Check out how much of the equipment is out of service for repairs. Do you like battle ropes, medicine ball, exercise balls, yoga mats, and/or balance equipment, and do they have that? If you do stationary bike, how many do they have free during your favorite hours? Are there spin classes? If you do other classes, the class schedule. Do classes come with the package or is there an additional charge? Do you want a trainer and how much additional charge would there be to have one? If you shower and dress in the locker room, is it clean? Do you want a sauna? A pool? How busy are they when you’d be there? Is the place well ventilated or stinky and stale?

    5. Zephy*

      Location/convenience is huge. Right now I’m part of the 6-7 AM crowd, and I go to a gym that’s about 2 miles from my house (basically close enough to walk to, if I could spare an hour and a half to do that in addition to the hour or so I spend in there). In the Before Times I would usually go in the evenings after work, usually on the way home, so I wanted a place that didn’t add significant distance to my existing commute. For a while I was at a gym that really wasn’t convenient to get to from home or work – it was, strictly speaking, between those two places, but not along a route I would otherwise take to get to one or the other.

      Equipment and budget are kind of tied for second place in my hierarchy of needs vis-a-vis gyms. The gym I go to now is a Planet Fitness, which is not well equipped for certain kinds of training (they don’t have standard barbells anymore, just preloaded short ones that only go up to 60lbs and Smith machines with plates). Before that, I was going to a gym that was originally a Gold’s; I happened to wander in about five minutes after a local boutique chain bought it and started converting it, so I was able to get a membership at the Gold’s price (~$25-30/mo IIRC?). They still had real barbells and an actual squat rack and deadlifting platforms, which I do miss at PF. I left there when a PF opened closer to my house, for mostly budgetary reasons, and then a pandemic happened. I have a bad feeling they’ve replaced all that equipment by now; the few months I was a member, it looked like they were aiming to convert a lot of the space to a Crossfit box, which I’m definitely not interested in.

    6. Exif*

      I search hashtags on social media. If people are all over Twitter or Insta posting selfies in the gym, I won’t go there. I can’t relax and concentrate with weights if I have to be constantly scanning my sight line for invasions of privacy.

    7. EBennett*

      This may seem negative but check out their cancellation policy. A lot of gyms make money by making it impossible to leave.

      Do they play loud music and if so, what type?

      Take a look at who else is working out – are you comfortable with the age groups? clothing choices? workout styles? Are you intimidated by grunting hardcore lifters or women in coordinated workout clothes? At first I was annoyed when my gym started filling up with teens in the afternoon, but have come to enjoy their silliness.

    8. CatCat*

      Class schedule, cleanliness, and compliance with COVID protocols. I used ClassPass to check out a local gym a couple weeks ago and they were flagrantly ignoring local public health COVID requirements. So that gym’s off the list.

  38. Perpetua*

    I posted a couple of weeks ago about my 18-month-old daughter having a blood transfusion and a bone marrow aspiration, and your good wishes and thoughts warmed my heart in those difficult moments – so once again, a big big thank you to all of you who shared a moment of support with me.

    I am very happy to share that the results of the bone marrow aspiration came back fine, and all the other lab results were fine as well (after the transfusion), so the doctors hypothesize that it was some sort of viral infection that temporarily influenced the bone marrow’s production. She’ll be under observation for some time, going in for bloodwork in two weeks, then a month, etc, but things will hopefully stay good as expected.

    We are quite relieved, as you can probably imagine. :)

    1. Double A*

      So happy to hear about those results!! Bodies do the weirdest things sometimes. Sending you wishes for continued health.

    2. WellRed*

      Ugh, I’m so glad for the outcome but wish they hadn’t had go to the bone marrow aspiration and all the fear.

    3. Kiss Baby for Us*

      Oh my gosh, this is wonderful. Thank you so much for posting. I’m a glass half person so when we didn’t hear back from you I assumed it was bad news. Go baby! :-)

      1. Kiss baby for us*

        Ps apologies if it sounded like i thought you owed us an update. Of course not! But thanks for giving one.

    4. Jean (just Jean)*

      From one of the onlookers who read with sympathy but did not pull herself together to post encouragement:
      Thank you, it’s always good to hear good news but especially amidst world-wide hard times.
      No offense taken that you did not update this blog sooner. I’m sure you were busy! Even good news can take time and energy to absorb, and you probably had some anxious days before you learned this positive medical information.

    5. allathian*

      Thanks for posting the update. I’m so glad it was just a scare rather than something really serious.

  39. Girasol*

    Any writers out there who know about publishing? How do you begin when you’re trying to sell a fiction book?

    1. fposte*

      Are you looking to self-publish or go the traditional route? Generally the latter starts with a query letter to an agent; you’d want to identify an agent that works in the genre of your manuscript, and to follow the format that’s recommended in several online sources.

    2. Maryn B.*

      There’s a whole lot to learn, more than I have space here to share. I strongly recommend AbsoluteWrite.com/Forums, where you can get a complete education on the publishing industry as well as lots of ways to polish your novel into the very best it can be.

      If you want commercial publication, with physical books in stores, you want a literary agent. To get one, you identify agents who sold books similar to yours to publishers. (Take subtle pictures at a bookstore where your book would be shelved, then go home to ID agents that brokered the deals.) Writing a good query is not easy, but in general you include title, word count to the closest 5,000, a simple overview of the main plot (who is the main character, what does s/he need, what keeps her from getting it, what does s/he do about it), and any particular qualifications you have to write it, if there are any. (“I am a teapot designer with an inside track on the business…”) If you have other fiction published, mention it, but it’s fine if this will be your first. You send queries out via email, with only attachments or additions each agent’s website specifies they want (usually no more than a bio or short synopsis), in small batches, and if you get no replies, you redo the query. FYI, no reply at all is common. Don’t expect polite rejections, although you may get a few form letters.

      If you are unable to get an agent, you can approach some small presses without one. These are the true indies, not pay-to-publish, which is a scam. Small press indies cannot offer you the same quality cover art, three rounds of edits, or national distribution and marketing the big publishers can, and your sales will be the worse for it. But it’s still valid, real publication that sells books to people you’ll never meet. How cool is that?

      You may find self-publishing as an e-book is a viable option. You would be wise to pay for professional edits and cover art. You will have to do all the promotion yourself, and even if you spend a good bit and work hard to make sales, you may not earn back what you spent on edits and art. If you have not yet had beta readers who are not friends or family and who read in the genre of your novel, that’s probably step one before self publishing.

      Again, I recommend AbsoluteWrite.com/Forums. You can read without joining if you prefer. They won’t steer you wrong. (Full disclosure: I moderate a board for my genre at AbsoluteWrite.)

      1. RagingADHD*

        You can self publish physical books, too, and get distribution to stores. It’s a whole other project.

        I’d also add that there are legitimate author-services businesses that can help with the logistics of self-publishing. They don’t purport to be publishers. They are usually fee based. Whether or not their work is worth the price depends on your situation, but places like that aren’t scams as long as they are honest about what they do and don’t make wild promises.

        No matter what road you take to publication, it is a lot of work, a big learning curve, and you will need to promote and sell your books. Every living author who makes any sales at all, is promoting themselves – they are just doing it in different ways. The smaller ones are doing email newsletters and social media. The bigger ones are doing TV appearances. It’s all promotion.

        The main difference between self pub and traditional pub is which type of work you’d rather do – learning to query, network, and market to the industry, or learning how to hire a team and do things yourself.

      2. WoodswomanWrites*

        A friend of mine was successful last year when she approached a small press without an agent. She sent a query and a sample chapter based on their guidelines and was accepted.The caveat is that her book is nonfiction, so I’m not sure if that translates directly to fiction. She identified the publisher as a good fit for her topic in advance. She described her publisher to me as a “hybrid” meaning that they do some of the marketing, design, etc. and she has to do a some of that herself. Her book is coming out this fall and she’s thrilled.

      3. Girasol*

        That is great advice! Thank you. Now I have an idea where to start. It’s great motivation to finish the book!

  40. General Organa*

    (Warning: body/weight talk)

    I’m in my 30s, and I feel like my metabolism is changing. I’m a small-ish woman who eats small-ish portions (although I’m not on any sort of diet and I enjoy a good cocktail/beer), and I exercise 4-5 times a week in addition to a short morning walk on weekday mornings. My routine and habits haven’t really changed since I finished grad school about a decade ago—if anything, I’ve gotten healthier exercise-wise—and yet I find myself steadily creeping up on the scale. Has anyone else dealt with this, and what did you do? I find that during the pandemic good food and good drinks have been key to happiness, but I would also prefer to, if not lose weight, at least stop gaining.

    1. RagingADHD*

      Have you had a physical lately? It’s very common for metabolism to slow down after age 30. A healthy way to compensate is to add more muscle mass through resistance training.

      There are also a number of health things that can start to come on at that age (like thyroid issues or hormone changes), so a checkup with bloodwork is a good idea.

    2. Junior Dev*

      I have been losing weight for the last 3 weeks. I read the FAQ on the LoseIt subreddit and ask them when I need advice or encouragement. What I do is count calories using the free app MyFitnessPal. I know a lot of people associate calorie counting with deprivation, but I have figured out a modest deficit (MyFitnessPal says it’ll result in a loss of one pound a week, though all this is inexact) and it actually is prompting me to eat foods I enjoy more. The nice thing about counting calories is you can eat whatever you want, you just have to measure it and fit the amounts into your daily goals. It also makes it easy to identify things that aren’t much of a sacrifice—i measure oil when cooking now, I don’t use any of that spray on oil stuff, but I think that it leads to me using anything from a quarter to half as much oil in cooking as I would when just pouring it in, and really it makes little to no noticeable difference in taste.

      I’m eating more salads and fresh fruits, and shopping for them at a local produce stand, and doing things like washing and cutting them on weekends to have during the week. Prep time and effort is one of the biggest hurdles to me eating healthier.

      I don’t count calories for stuff like lettuce and herbs and hot sauce, the amount in those is pretty trivial and it’s a waste of effort from my perspective. Also, I try to get excited about fruits and veggies—I’ve eaten exciting salad greens like romanesco and escarole, and watermelon radishes, and rainbow carrots, and all kinds of fruits.

      If you want to try this but don’t want to calorie count for whatever reason, I’d say the effective strategy I’ve landed on is to 1) look at the actual serving size of things and only have one serving to start, and then keep in mind if it felt like too much or too little next time you eat them 2) try to make at least half of your plate fruits or veggies with minimal added sugars or oils. But calorie counting has turned out easier than I thought. I think it’s easy to overeat a lot of things simply because portion sizes are so big.

      Finally—good foods don’t have to stop being part of what brings you joy! I’ve had a lot of fun trying new recipes, I’ve taken advantage of the fresh fruits that are in season now, and because I often come in a couple hundred calories under my goal for the day, I can feel good about ending my day with a few squares of ice chocolate or a snack pack of cookies or whatever.

      1. Flower necklace*

        I use MyFitnessPal to count calories, too. I started it around 8 years ago to lose weight, and now it’s a maintenance tool. It can be a pain, but it’s helpful for me to have a sense of how much I’m eating. Once you figure that out, you might be surprised. I’m 34 years old, female, fairly active, and can easily maintain on 2100 calories.

    3. WellRed*

      There’s a big difference between 31 and 39. If you are over 35, expect your metabolism to start declining along with fertility. Add in “good food and good drinks” and you’ve got the seeds for weight gain. Do see about a physical if you haven’t had one and go from there. Luckily, you already are mindful of eating and exercise. It only gets harder.

      1. banoffee pie*

        I saw in the paper recently some studies are starting to question this ‘slowing metabolism after 35’ thing. Don’t just give up and think it’s inevitable! :) I’m 35 and have lost about 16lb in the last few years. I’ll try to add the link

        1. Workerbee*

          This. Used to be we were told our metabolism would slow down at age 25. And do they still say that women “peak” at age 35? All a load of claptrap in my unscientific (but lived) opinion,

          About the only thing I find all advice coming back to that makes sense to me is to eat in moderation and keep yourself moving. If you have difficulty knowing when you’re full or stopping when you’re full, that would be worth the effort to dig into versus thinking you might as well get measured for a coffin and give up.

    4. Exif*

      I quit alcohol and added sugars, increased protein while decreasing carbs, and increased strength training. I also do a 16:8 IF schedule.

      I’m early 40s, made this change in my mid-thirties. I maintain my weight as long as I stay on track.

    5. Nicki Name*

      Discuss it with your doctor. Unexplainable weight gain can be an early sign of all sorts of things. In my case it turned out to be PCOS.

      1. Susan*

        Yes, go get blood tests. And check thyroid.
        I had gained weight. It turned out I had low thyroid. After getting thyroid medication the weight came off. (My itchy, dry skin cleared up too.)

    6. Expiring Cat Memes*

      Someone else mentioned intermittent fasting, that helps me too for maintenance. I also find it helps me feel more evened out emotionally – I almost never get hangry. It’s not for everyone though.

      For weight loss (or specifically, fat loss) calorie and macro counting against calories burned (tracked using a smart watch) is the only thing that’s worked for me past mid 30’s. High calorie foods aren’t always obvious and it’s amazing how quickly “just one glass” or “a little taste” or “an extra scoop” or “only 20 minutes walk today” can add up to be the difference between a net negative/neutral or positive caloric intake. It’s a total pain in the butt, you have to be consistent and the results are slow to see. But it works when I can muster the patience and willpower for it.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I had to cut some carbs when I was 34. I had a very physical job but the carbs were still causing me problems.

      Lots of things that have nothing to do with food can cause weight gain. For example, lack of sleep. Energy comes from food and sleep. If we don’t sleep each night we can be more inclined to munch/graze. Another example is thirst can feel like hunger. Early dehydration can seem to be hunger pains. Loading up on water regularly each day helps the organs (and MIND!) to function better and can help keep the weight under a bit better control.

      I do go by clothing size. I know how my clothes fit me, it doesn’t matter what size they were labeled with initially. I know that if my favorite pair of jeans get a little snug it’s time to stop indulging so much. Most of my things are a 10. I got up to a 12 a couple years ago and made myself stop. I know me and I know I can get to size 20 or more tomorrow if I do not rope it in. I have found it easier to eat practically in the summer- the heat really puts limits on my appetite. Winter is a different story.

    8. German Girl*

      For me it happened in my mid twenties that I suddenly couldn’t eat whatever I wanted anymore without gaining weight.

      The key things for me were exercise (which you already have) and eating healthy six days of the week – chocolate and things like that are reserved for game night, but then I give myself the leeway to not count and just enjoy.

    9. PX*

      I definitely also found myself indulging a bit too much during the pandemic (its a pandemic! treat yourself!) and as others have said, I dont have a scale, but how my clothes fit/how my body looks in the mirror is what I go by.

      For me, it was definitely lack of exercise and snacks that were probably the culprit. I started paying a bit more attention to calories and realised that simply buying a large loaf of bread a week meant I was probably ending up eating almost an extra meal a day just by how much toast and butter I was consuming. Also watch for things like emotional eating/snacking (a big culprit for me is snacking when I’m bored).

      So I’m a fan of doing what I usually call re-sets – take a week or two to *really* look at what you are eating every day and how much you are moving, and if you find things you can easily cut (or add), try and do it! Someone else also mentioned thinking about what kind of exercise actually works for you to lose weight. For me, its cardio (much as I hate it) although I also get a lot of motivation from getting strong (so love a bit of body weight exercises too).

    10. Workerbee*

      Do you consider yourself toned to your liking? Favorite clothes still fit? You like what you see in the mirror?

      With all the exercising you’ve been doing, muscle is going to weigh more! Something to keep in mind when we circle the trap drain of numbers on a scale.

  41. Wedding cash question*

    What’s a typical wedding gift (cash) amount these days? Couple is late 30s established professionals. Wedding is a backyard celebration of vows (they were married in 2020). Groom is my cousin. Husband and I are established professionals as well.

    Boston suburbs.


    1. Katefish*

      Just gave some good friends of my husband’s $200 on Long Island, plus ~$120 in registry gifts for the shower (which I skipped due to not being fully vaccinated at that time). I’m still unsure whether that was appropriate since the norms here are off compared to the rest of the U.S., but hopefully it’s a start for you.

      1. Wedding cash question*

        I had been thinking $200, but that seemed like maybe not enough? We got married 15 years ago and the last wedding I was at was a young couple in NYC about 5 years ago and I think we did $200 then?

      2. New doctor -- no medical advice*

        I have an appointment coming up with a new doctor for a physical. I realized over the last year or so that I would prefer a female doctor (I am female). I have been spotty about going to my old GP. He’s very nice and knowledgeable, and maybe it won’t make any difference, but I felt instantly “better” (relieved?) when I decided to switch to a woman.

        (I do see my gynecologist every year, get a mammogram on schedule, see my dermatologist once a year, and follow the course of visits with my allergist and the allergy shots, I’m not due for a another colonoscopy for a couple of years . . . So, I haven’t blown off my health entirely, but this is definitely overdue.)

        At any rate, I would like to build a healthcare relationship with this new doctor and thought I would toss it out there if anyone has things to look for or questions to ask, especially with regard to a new GP. I understand this is a very personal thing, so I know some things won’t apply maybe to me, or to the new doctor, etc., but I feel like I need some help for how to think about/make the most of the visit and hopefully a long-term patient/doctor collaboration.

        As I’m finishing this post, I’m feeling like this is not a great ask for here, but feel free anyway, if you’d like to offer some thoughts or suggestions. Thank you!

    2. Ellie*

      We live on the West coast. Our friends/family who are getting married are early-to-mid 30s and established professionals. I typically send $100. However, if you feel like being more generous, I don’t think that’s ever a bad idea! I love going to a wedding with the gift already sent in advance. We appreciated all of the gifts that we received at our wedding, but we took our cash gifts and bought a buffet with it that we adore. So now I only give cash.

    3. Adle*

      I think this fully depends on your area. We do $100, but we’re in the south. I’ve heard that jersey/ny is higher. I wouldn’t be surprised if new England is similar.

    4. Expiring Cat Memes*

      I always thought the general rule of thumb was to roughly cover your per head cost of the meal/drinks package at the reception, plus a little extra.

    5. German Girl*

      50-200 it really depends on what fits in your budget comfortably.

      Honestly, I only cared that people came to my wedding. I planned it within my own budget and wouldn’t have wanted anyone to get stressed about money over it.

    6. Cherie*

      Yeah while I can see sticking with $200 I now give between 3-500 depending on the relationship [more business client relationships it’s 5 – different circle – purely personal relationship usually 300]. Also long island but for us it’s generally kids of people we have relationships with – another factor!

    7. Janet Pinkerton*

      Just asked my high-income early 40s friend who lives in Boston. $250 for someone close, $100-150 for a more distant friend.

      In Baltimore the standard is $100, at least in my experience.

  42. Double A*

    Is anyone else being affected by the wildfires? How are you doing? The Caldor Fire is in my county. We are thankfully in an area very unlikely at direct risk from the actual fire, but we know lots of people who have evacuated and my mother-in-law’s oldest friend lost her house. 25,000 people in our county are evacuated with no end in sight. The air quality has been terrible for days so we’re hunkered down, though thankfully we have air filters (that I bought during last year’s terrible fires). It’s truly apocalyptic feeling out here. Feeling helpless is so hard, but having an infant and toddler and navigating the coronavirus at the same time really adds to it because my ability to help feels very limited. Just layers of crisis…

    How have you coped with nearby disasters if you’ve experienced them? Doesn’t have to be fire. (Please no comments about how people shouldn’t live here or should move. That is just unhelpful).

    1. Katefish*

      There was a serious wildfire that evacuated the next neighborhood over when I was a kid. I’ll never forget going up on the hill at night and watching it burn toward us. The wind shifted so fortunately we were out of harm’s way later. No advice, but solidarity – didn’t have adult worries or a global pandemic on top of everything else!

    2. L. Ron Jeremy*

      I have a buddy who lives in Pioneer California and he said the AQI was 867 yesterday. That’s think enough to cut with a knife.

      My sympathies to you and yours.

      1. Double A*

        It’s gotten up to 1200 at some points in some places! Literally off the scale which tends to end at 1000.

        We’re in a river valley which helps push the smoke up in the morning and in general it doesn’t seem to get quite so bad a lot of days as just up the hill. But today it’s hovering at 300-400. But at least Tahoe is getting a bit of a reprieve.

        I just worry so much about folks in the evacuation centers, especially kids. Some people are outside and even inside the air is bad.

    3. Fire all around*

      We’re near there, too although not near enough to evacuate. But there are also closer smaller fires. I jump on the local news sites whenever I he