weekend open thread – November 27-28, 2021

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand.

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week:  The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave. A woman’s husband disappears under mysterious circumstances, leaving her alone with her stepdaughter and a series of emerging clues that he wasn’t who he said he was.

 I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 817 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Update season starts on Monday! It’s starting two days early this year because of the number of updates we have. For new readers: every December I run updates from past letters, and that’s most of the content for the month.

    Because of the number of updates, there will be at least six posts a day most days (midnight, 11 am, 12:30 pm, 2 pm, 3:30 pm, and 5 pm — all times Eastern), plus additional ones for things like Worst Boss of the Year voting.

    Also, if you had a letter answered here in the past and haven’t sent an update in but would like to, now is a good time to submit it!

    1. Lizy*

      “It starts two days early” and “because of the number of updates” are the most amazing words ever.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I truly appreciate these as a nearly unique feature of AaM. Including the boring ones! Very often real life has boring solutions. If every situation led to spelling out a resignation letter in cod, then the cod wouldn’t be a special delight.

    3. awesome3*

      What a thrill that you have that many updates! Thanks to everyone who sent them in! I’m so looking forward to this. And with the new feature of updates being linked to the post, what a great time for updates

    4. Foreign Octopus*

      Alison, be still my heart</it!

      Update season is my favourite time of year on AAM as there are always extra posts and juicy gossip from the updates so I'm thrilled.

  2. Going Anon For This One*

    My dad has early-onset Alzheimer’s and it’s getting bad. He’s still home and I know my stepmom wants to keep him home as long as possible but she needs respite and the rest of us can’t do a whole lot because he gets aggressive and argumentative. What are sources I can start looking into? Do we do hospice or palliative care? Money is an issue so I don’t know what our options are. I can’t believe how fast he’s going down, and it’s killing me to watch it happen. I think I’m in a huge amount of denial emotionally but mentally I know it’s only getting worse from here. The meds helped slow it at first but now he’s gone into a new stage.

    1. Time Bomb of Petulance*

      Can you try calling Adult Protective Services or the equivalent in your area? They might have some resources. Also, his doctor(s) might be able to connect you with a hospital social worker. This is tough situation. Wishing you and your family the best. <3

      1. Observer*

        No, don’t call Adult Protective Services. That;s for a fairly specific set of issues that don’t apply here, and if they do get involved it could do more harm than good.

        If you are in the US, most cities and / or states have some local agency for Aging (eg in NYC you could call the Department For The Aging, abbreviated as DFTA.) If there is a 311 or 211 system in your area, call them and tell them that you are looking for some help with your father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s but you would like to keep him at home as long as possible. They should be able to point you in the correct direction for government / government funded resources.

        If there is a United Way, Catholic Charities, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies or UJA Federation in your city, contact them and see if they have any resources of can point you in that direction.

    2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      Does his Alzheimer’s doctor’s office have a social worker? Because you’ll need a social worker who specializes in Alzheimer’s and dementia to guide you through the options. Good luck, and I’m sorry you and your family are going through this.

    3. Hugs to you*

      Oh this must be so hard. I’m so sorry about your dad. There are many resources to support families. Some cost and some are free. If you are in the US see if there is an Alzheimers Association branch in your area, that’s one place to start. I would also simply google “alzheimers family support.” The first few hits are ads, but later there are links to the NIH which has many links to different types of resources. You will also see other hits that link to online support groups, etc. These groups may be able to point you to respite and other services. Yes respite usually costs money but there may be volunteers too, i don’t know. Also you may find other types of help you didn’t know existed. I have not gone through this myself but have in the past had friends who did, and I feel for you. Warm thoughts winging your way.

    4. allathian*

      I’m so sorry. We’re facing something similar with my FIL, although because he’s 80, it’s hardly early onset. Three years ago he lost his license because he could no longer drive safely. After that, he’s deteriorated rapidly. His current wife is about the same age herself, so they need help. His wife has always been a bit resentful of the fact that he had a life before her, in spite of having kids (and grandkids) from a previous marriage herself. She was successful in siphoning off most of his wealth. I refuse to have anything to do with her (my husband and I have been in a relationship for 16 years, married for 12, I’ve met her 3 times during all this time). I have no personal relationship with him, I don’t think I’ve spent 5 minutes alone with him when my husband wasn’t there. She’s making it difficult for my husband to maintain a relationship with his father, and has done so for as long as I’ve known them. I just want to support my husband, whatever he decides to do.

      For now, my FIL is staying at a care home for people with dementia one week a month, to give his wife some respite. She’s giving my husband a hard time for “not caring about his father” but doesn’t seem to realize that she’s making it harder than it needs to be, because she’s so nasty about it.

      I’m in Finland, and there are no legal consequences for refusing to care for your aging parents, the state is supposed to be responsible for that with the high taxes we’re paying.

      1. Artemesia*

        Interesting factoid — we pay just as high taxes in the US we just don’t get health care, elder care, child care, parental leave etc etc for our money.

        My father had diagnosed AD from his retirement at 65 until his death at 80 (and of course onset is long before diagnosis. ). There are few resources to support the spouse struggling with this in the US and certainly no respite care easily available. My mother kept him at home for 11 years until a broken femur and surgical repair left him in a wheelchair and her physically unable to cope with his care. At that point all their wealth went to keeping him in a nursing home memory care unit until his death. Medicare pays not sou for this sort of care; Medicaid is available when the couple is impoverished which is a treat for the unaffected spouse. It was a nightmare. She couldn’t take a shower without him getting out of the house and heading for his childhood home on foot 300 miles away. The one respite care home she found so she could have surgery, ended up being abusive as well as not secure so he would get out and run. Luckily he didn’t encounter whackos with guns as he entered people’s yards confused and looking for his parents. People who found him were kind and called my mother (he had an ID bracelet).

        If the OP can find some respite care for the stepmother including finding people to hire that can come in some days so she has a break this would be great. People are really on their own to struggle with this. Adult protective services and other agencies are pretty much a joke when it comes to real help. There might be medication to tone down the hostility which would allow husband to be more helpful. And maybe he just needs to visit and put up with the combativeness. There is a period in the decline where even mild mannered people become hostile and aggressive as they are so confused, and ‘people don’t tell the anything’ and they don’t understand what is happening. This eventually passes when they become more disabled but then physical care becomes more demanding for the caregiver.

        The hardest thing to face I think because the demands for care are so high but the affected individual also cannot provide companionship to the caregiver.

    5. Anono-me*

      Sending virtual hugs in your general direction if you want to catch them.

      Have you looked into hospice care? If you are in the USA, often there are several providers to choose from and some offer in home support.

      See if you can find somewhere to get some training on dealing with combative people with dementia so that you can spell your stepmom. Your local hospital,or alzheimer’s support group or county nurse or hospice center may be able to help you find resources. Long ago, I worked as an aide and had a little bit of training on how to interact with patients with combative dementia. It worked, but about all I remember was to speak clearly, in short sentences, and to narrate the care that I was about to provide (Miss June, we are going to walk together down that hallway. We are going to the room with the blue door. Does that sound good? ) Also to try not to argue if they said something outlandish, unless it was unsafe.

      Make a list of all the other crappie things your stepmom has to deal with. Cleaning the house, yardwork, laundry, oil change on the car, disputing a bill with the insurance company, taking the car to the vet. Figure out what you and any other family members can take over, what you can hire out and what you can ask for help with. Neighbors will help. (See if someone can take the trash down to the curb and bring it back up. See if someone will trade snowblowing/mowing for use of your folks’ equipment.)

      See if there is an alzheimer’s support group nearby or onlinethat clicks for you, bonus if they have subgroups for children of people with the disease and/or for people with loved ones with early onset.

      If your family is religious, see if the parish nurse (or your faith equivalent) can visit you father and if the local priest (or equivalent) can visit both.
      See if there is a country nurse that will visit.

      Get the ginormous pill box with 4 spots per day. Better yet see if your Dad’s pills can be blister packed by day and time.

      Get a bidet, heated if possible.

      Get contigo no spill insulated mugs. (The kind where you have to be pushing in a button to drink from. )

      Automate delivery of as much as is possible; grocery, personal care items, laundry detergent etc.

      Have a medical care journal, with notes from every medical appointment and you Dad’s day to day significant medical information.

      Have one big paper callander for everything. All the appointments, personal, medical and paraprofessional go here.

      Get medical furniture and equipment as it seems like it might be useful (Craigslist has has good deals when insurance was frustrating. ) Don’t wait until it is absolutely necessary.

      See if your dad will wear jewelry with an emergency phone number engraved on it.

      Take care of yourself also.

      1. Cat named Brian*

        All this! My Dad has PSP (degenerative disease) only adding, get medical decisions now. He has DNR, and I have medical and financial POA if something happens to my step mother. Just moved both of them in with me because his care was too much for her. He has been on pallative care first and now hospice for about 8 months.

      2. Artemesia*

        Hospice care is available for people terminally ill with a 6 mos or less prognosis. Alzheimers does not qualify. Many people are ill with it for 15 or 20 years. My own father lived 15 from diagnosis and at the time of his death, his doctor thought another 10 years was very possible.

        1. Washi*

          I am a hospice social worker and it is not the case that Alzheimer’s is not a qualifying diagnosis. However, yes dementia lasts a long time without qualifying as the person typically has to have fairly severe symptoms like losing weight, and often are not very verbal, mobile, or continent by this point. Also with dementia more than most diagnoses, the course is hard to predict so someone can have hospice and get used to having all the services and then not be recertified to continue because the decline has plateaued, then come back on service when they decline again, etc. I’m not sure what palliative care would be able to do but it’s worth making sure your stepmother has talked to his PCP about the behavioral issues to see if some med changes might help. And I don’t want to discourage hospice! It can be helpful but it’s also not significant respite, probably the home health aide would come max 3-5 times per week for an hour ish.

          Every area is different for resources so I would recommend contacting whatever the equivalent is of your state’s area on aging is as they will know what the local respite program is called, etc. You can try APS too, if there is some sort of safety threat they will likely (eventually) return your call and maybe open a case but they will probably just direct you to the agency on aging. There are geriatrics social workers who specialize in this but I would say try the free resources first.

          There are no good answers in a situation like this, especially if family is not able to help with care. The other thing to keep in mind is that some memory care facilities won’t take a resident with “behaviors” or will take him for a while but then say he has to leave if his behavior gets worse. Your stepmother may end up choosing between her health/sanity and her financial stability to pay for care or do Medicaid spend down at a nursing home.

          This all sucks, and I’m so sorry you are dealing with it.

          1. allathian*

            My paternal grandmother was in hospice care for the last year or so of her life. In the last few months she was very far gone, she didn’t recognize herself in the mirror, or any of her relatives, although she did recognize herself in her wedding photo, taken in her late 20s. She also wondered why her husband never visited her, and just couldn’t understand that he’d been dead for 7 years by then. At some point she stopped eating and drinking, and basically starved to death (she weighed less than 40 kilos/90 lbs when she died, she was about 160 centimeters/5 ft 3 in tall). Dementia is a cruel disease.

    6. Also Anon*

      I’m so sorry about your dad’s diagnosis! My mother was recently diagnosed as well, but she’s in her 80s so it was less of a surprise. Internet hugs if you want them!

      Call your county’s Social Services office; they can connect you with local resources and also provide advice on applying for Medicaid for when your dad needs to go into a nursing home. (And btw, each state sets its own rules but your stepmother shouldn’t have to live in poverty in order for your dad to qualify. I was pleasantly surprised to find that out when my father needed to go to a nursing home.)

      Hospice is only available for people who are not expected to live more than 6 months. Palliative care is to make the patient more comfortable. For my dad, that meant more frequent doses of painkillers. I’m not sure what that would look like for someone with dementia but Social Services, or your father’s doctor, could make recommendations.

      It’s so hard to watch your parents’ health decline. :(

    7. Ontariariatio*

      I think the term you want is respite care. Our local nursing homes offer respite care per night, for about $20 (2010 cost) which is specifically aimed at situations like yours. My grandmother would leave my grandfather in their care when she went to visit family for a week. But not sure how much that would cost in the US, as nursing homes are mostly free here. The suggestion to find a socialworker in your area with experience in eldercare is the best one, as all of these programs are specific to your area.

    8. Jay*

      I’m so sorry. I went through this with my mother and it’s excruciating.

      I’m a palliative care doc. If you’re in the US, getting someone with Alzheimer’s qualified for hospice is difficult and usually not possible until they’re completely dependent for all their care and essentially unable to talk. If he has has other medical problems, that changes things. A palliative care consult is a good place to start if you have a program in your area.

      If you haven’t already connected with the Alzheimer’s Association, take a look the Caregiver Resources section on their website. I didn’t read all the responses below so apologies if any of this is a duplication. You can also call the Area Agency on Aging – there is one in every county – to find out if he’s eligible for any publicly funded services and to get resources for private pay help. This is the black hole of the American medical system – there’s no funding available for care unless he happens to have long-term care insurance.

      You can pay for respite care at a nursing home or assisted living/memory care (depending on how much care he needs) to give you all a break, which you undoubtedly need.

      If you can afford a geriatric care manager, they are worth their weight in gold (which is pretty much what they cost) and they can help guide you through all of this.

      If he hasn’t yet had a complete geriatric assessment by a geriatrics team, that can also be very helpful medically. The assessment team will have a social worker who can also help you navigate.

      If you want to talk offline, my Email is linked in my handle. I’ll be thinking of you.

    9. coffee is my friend*

      Hugs to all of you. If you are in the US, see if you have an office on aging. We’ve had some luck with them in our area.

      1. Jackalope*

        To follow up on this, if you are in the US every state has a center for aging and disability which may have options. I would encourage her to consider in-home care. If she could get somebody to come for a couple of hours a day a few days a week that would a) give her a break and b) give her a chance to offload difficult chores (for example they could give him a bath three days a week and then she doesn’t have to on other days unless he has an accident).

    10. beach read*

      So sorry Anon. Did your Dad serve in the military? If he did, your local Veterans Administration may be able to assist. Is he receiving Social Security/Medi-care? He may qualify for some hours every week for home health care. If he has independent health insurance, contact them and find out what might be covered. Your Dads doctor may be a resource too. If the meds aren’t working, talk to the doctor about alternative options. The doctors office may also be able to point you in the direction of a social worker for help. If you haven’t already, you might also want to contact an attorney to put in place a Power of Attorney as well as a living will. Do your parents belong to a religious organization? Gather those troops. Your step-Mom does need respite and the rest of you can help. I will tell you from experience that you will be surprised by what you are capable of. I hope your family gets the help you need. This is a very rough road. Take care of each other as well as yourselves. I hope that you and your family find some peace during this time.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        If he served in the military at certain times, there is up to $1000+/month potentially available for long-term care. The following link is to a service we were referred to by the local assisted living coordinator: if you qualify, they take on the paperwork for you. The initial consults are free, and their business model seems to be to keep their success rate high by only taking on those who definitely will qualify. My mom passed away before we needed this, but I would have been filing with them in January if not.

        https://ltainfo.com

      2. Washi*

        I just want to more that based on this description, the dad likely does not jave decision making capacity and therefore cannot sign power of attorney paperwork. His wife will have some decision-making rights as the healthcare surrogate but may need to apply for guardianship if there is no power of attorney/healthcare proxy in place.

    11. Falling Diphthong*

      Hospice is limited to those expected to die within 6 months, in the US at least. When that gets to be the case, I will say when it came time for my dad the advice my parents got all around from those who had been there before was that they wished they had started hospice as soon as possible.

      I would contact a social worker near your parents, in the hopes that they can hook you up with the following:
      • A volunteer service of folk who provide respite, often having been there themselves caring for relatives.
      • Someone who can offer a guide to future options. When my mom needed to move to assisted living after a stroke–and we had less than a week to find a place with an opening–the rehab center social worker put my sister in contact with a wonderful service who knew all the local places, including which ones had openings right now.

      1. Kuododi*

        Following up on the US Hospice question with a bit more detail. Hospice does require a Dr to be willing to certify 6month or less life expectancy. The 6months are not set in stone. (Patient will need to be recertified every 6 months).
        *Standard disclaimer. I can only speak for my experience as a former Hospice volunteer in the US. I also checked with DH who is an oncology chaplain and Medical ethicist. Anyone with more current info please jump in!!!!
        Best regards
        Kuododi

        1. Washi*

          It’s actually two 90-day benefit periods, then 60 day periods after that. Also it is really 2 doctors to certify, but one is the hospice’s own provider, so no extra legwork to get a second opinion. So great you were a volunteer!

      2. WoodswomanWrites*

        Based on the experience of a friend, I’m echoing the suggestion about seeking a referral to a service that can help with placement at facilities. My friend who needed help for his stepmother with Alzheimer’s was able to locate a facility through such a service. He had been struggling to find something on his own, and the professional he worked with found an excellent place for his stepmother within a few weeks.

    12. pancakes*

      As others have pointed out, hospice care and palliative care are things people seek out in very particular circumstances. They’re not just different options for anyone who is elderly and ill. It’s well worth familiarizing yourself with these terms before going any further because otherwise you’re going to have some very confusing conversations with his doctors. Also, if you’re in the US, have a look at the Alzheimer’s Association website. There’s a feature where you can find a local chapter by state or zip code.

    13. Fiction Reader*

      I am an occupational therapist who has worked with a lot of people with dementia. As others have said, hospice is for people with a life expectancy of 6 months, and the life expectancy after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is more like 6 years. Obviously I am biased, but I would recommend asking his doctor for a referral to be evaluated by therapy. Speech therapists can work on communication, occupational therapists can work on self-care like safe feeding, toileting, dressing and transfers, and physical therapists can create an exercise program to prevent falls and keep your dad independent as long as possible. Physical activity can be especially helpful for people with dementia who get agitated. Since the person with dementia is limited in their new learning, it is really helpful to have family members there during therapy, to train the family in how to deal with behaviors and to keep up the treatment plan after therapy ends. If your dad is at the point where it is difficult or unsafe for your stepmom to get him to a clinic, he may be eligible for therapy through a home care agency. Ask the agency if they provide all three services; some have laid off their occupational and speech therapists due to changes in reimbursement. Depending on where your dad lives, he may be able to attend an adult day care program. A medical model program will provide therapy and should be covered by insurance for a few months. A social model program is paid for by the family.
      I strongly recommend attending a support group for families for both the emotional support and practical tips and recommendations. You and your stepmom should attend different groups because there are probably going to be some disagreements about his care.
      I love working with people with dementia, but that’s partly because I just met them. I can work with them just as they are at their current stage of disease. I don’t have the memories and previous relationship that make it so much harder for their families. So be patient with yourself and your stepmom — this is hard!

      1. beentheredonethat*

        Me too. My Mom has dementia and has been going down hill. I hired someone to come in 3 afternoons a week. I can’t afford more. I am trying to fill out all the paperwork to get more in homecare. (A full time job in itself) I have Nest cameras on the doors and the main living areas and her bedroom (sounds creepy I know). But it means I can keep an eye on her constantly.

        1. Observer*

          Get one of their smoke detectors for the kitchen area (and a camera as well), if she has access. It’s SOOO easy to accidentally set a fire, and these kinds of alarms will alert you on your phone. And if you have a camera that it knows is in the same room, it will take you to it right away so you can see what’s happening.

    14. Retired Prof*

      Lots of good ideas here about medical social workers and respite care. I would add that you can call a nursing home with a memory center for respite care specifically for dementia patients.

      I also recommend talking to an elder care lawyer. Medicare pays for nursing home care for 20 days after hospitalization. If there is some reason your father might be hospitalized, that could get you some respite. If not, Medicaid pays for long term care if you meet the financial tests, which depend on the state. That’s where the lawyer comes in. We were surprised to learn that my in-laws qualified for Medicaid even though they had some assets. An elder care lawyer can also help assess whether your parent’s affairs are set up most appropriately. Our lawyer dissolved my in-law’s family trust and instead set up a testamentary special needs trust for my MIL to receive when my FIL died and it all worked exactly as it was supposed to. Make sure that their current trust/will/whatever best match their current needs.

      Also, find an Alzheimer’s caretakers support group for your stepmom. Almost everyone keeps their Alzheimer’s patient at home too long, putting both patient and caretaker at risk. Your dad may be happier in a facility if the finances can be arranged. An elder care lawyer can really help there.

      Just remembered one more thing. In California every county has a senior resource office. Maybe this is true where you are as well. That’s where we got info on local nursing homes, in-home caretakers, and elder care lawyers.

      Hang in there. You all will get through this. Just take good care of yourselves as well as him.

    15. I don’t post often*

      Thank you for asking this. I was actually coming to ask a similar question for the care of my grandmother.

    16. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

      Book recommendation: “Contented Dementia”.

      Strategies for communication with someone who can no longer fully make sense of what’s going on around them, & forgets previous conversations.

    17. SeenItAll...MoreThanOnce*

      Did either of your parents serve in the military during war time? Even if they didn’t serve IN a war, if they served during, they could be eligible for VA benefits. MY FIL gets $1800 a month in benefits, which helps a lot with his assisted living fees.

    18. Barry*

      Get an accountant and a lawyer, and make sure that his finances are in order.
      You do not want scammers to bleed him dry, or insurance/mortgage/tax bills to go unpaid.

  3. Lady Lynn Waterton of Bellashire*

    Feel kind of weird asking here but I know you’re all a friendly bunch. Do any of you have a recommendation for easily accessible virtual psychiatry? My current depression meds are not doing it for me right now but everyone in my area is booked months out. Couldn’t figure out how to get a psychiatrist on teladoc and I’m skeptical of subscription type services. Thank you ♥️

      1. Cranky lady*

        This. Also be aware that a lot of the laws around telehealth in the US were loosened during COVID but are now being put back into place as loosening expires. It’s hugely problematic but I know some people who have been driving across the state line to sit in a parking lot so they can continue telehealth with their provider in the next state. (I live 15 minutes from the state line.)

        1. Cranky lady*

          But getting back to your original question, see if your work has a employee assistance program. Mine connects you with docs, lawyers, psychiatrists, etc who have immediate availability. Check with your insurance provider and see who is taking new patients or if they have a telehealth program. Try calling your general practitioner and see if they know someone who can fit you in. I know how hard it is to find someone quickly when needed. You may have tried all these and I just wish you the best of luck.

    1. Also anon*

      I actually had a psychiatrist on Teladoc back in December before my insurance changed; my therapist on teladoc was able to encourage me to see someone, but not recommend anyone specifically, thoughI think she did mention a few sites/places to look. If you have access to a therapist, it could be a good idea to check with them for options as well.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I went through my insurance; their site allowed me to filter for telehealth and I got matched with a psychiatrist through Happier Living. It was hard to find her, though! If I hadn’t gone through insurance I would have just started with Google.

      Do you have a primary care doc? They may be able to help, especially if you’re just looking for an adjustment in meds.

      I will give a rec for talk therapy through a subscription service– I found a therapist on Better Help who is awesome. He’s retired but maintains his license where I live (DC) even though he’s on the west coast. I’m really lucky to have found him.

    3. Regular commenter, anon for privacy*

      Short answer: there is no easily accessible virtual psychiatry. Everyone is booked. It really sucks and I’m sorry.

      I need my bipolar meds looked at as it’s been almost 10 years since I’ve seen a psychiatrist (my GPs have been writing my RXs) and the absolute soonest I could be seen is July 2022. I’ve literally thought about inpatient because that’s the fastest way for someone with training can tinker with my meds.

      I’m also skeptical of the apps/subscriptions but if you need someone sooner and don’t trust your regular doctor to adjust and monitor, trying out a subscription is probably your best bet.

    4. Rosy Smile*

      Depending on where you are, a psychiatric nurse practitioner may be an option and can prescribe meds.

    5. Primary care rules*

      Do you have a family doc? They may be able to do a quick consult or e-consult to get you started on something while you wait to see the psychiatrist for a med review.

      1. Pool Lounger*

        If you have anything beyond basic depression or anxiety I don’t recommend this. If it turns out you have a personality disorder, bipolar, a bunch of other things, the meds your regular, not-psychiatry-trained doc could give you something that can make you worse. If all you need is an SSRI a normal doc is fine, anything beyond that, go to a professional. I speak from personal experience.

        1. Primary care rules*

          That’s the point of the consult though? So they’re not prescribing just based on their own knowledge, but getting advice from the specialist.

    6. Generic Name*

      Do you have health insurance? I think most health insurances offer telehealth these days. I have United, and it’s prominently displayed on their member homepage. You might ask HR as well. My company offers teledocservoces separate from health insurance.

      1. Dino*

        Psychiatry is a whole different ballgame than regular telehealth, and is WAY harder to find. And you definitely don’t want to ask HR about accessing psychiatry services. It’d be better to call one’s health insurance member services line to ask about it.

    7. ten four*

      I had to find a pediatric psychiatrist with minimal notice for my daughter when hers quit and I missed the earlier notifications. I had a new doc within two weeks with these steps:
      1. Asked her pediatrician for recommendations
      2. Asked her therapist for recommendations
      3. Got a list of covered pediatric psychologists from my health insurance
      4. Put the recommendations at the top of the list, and then just started making calls until I got an appointment. All the options were virtual and this was a few months ago; I think it’s likely that you’ll still have majority virtual options.

      For what it is worth, I got started again on SSRIs a month ago; my GP was able to prescribe. GPs aren’t pros at the adjustments you need, but it might still be worth a try – he was pretty knowledgeable and between us we got to a prescription that’s working pretty well.

      And if I’m reading right, you got stuck on the teledoc? You can call for support on booking; they are very used to that.

      Good luck! It’s so smart to stay on top of your meds like this and it can be really hard!

      1. Jinni*

        I had a similar situation late last year/early 2021. For the doctors who were booked out, several (all women) offered to pull together referral lists for me. I would usually say no to women professionals doing this kind of labor for me, but in this instance, I let them and they were extremely helpful in emailing me lists of possible referrals who they knew were practicing telehealth and were available. We were able to get my son seen for a kind of acute situation.

    8. Foreign Octopus*

      Try Therapy in Barcelona.

      It was set up for immigrants to Spain to deal with anxiety and the like of being an immigrant but the therapists are from everywhere. Mine is currently based in the Antipodes while I’m in Spain. Send them an email, explain your situation, and see what happens. My session are €70 a pop and I’ve had great success with them.

      The only problem might be if you need a prescription as I don’t know if they offer that and also any time differences between your timezone and Spain.

    9. Retired Prof*

      My primary care doc referred me to my online therapist. If you have a PCP, you could ask there.

  4. Time Bomb of Petulance*

    To make a long story short, my in-laws are very much anti-vax and have now become anti-testing and masking as well. Spouse and I are very much in favor of vaccines and our kid is about to be fully vaxxed against the ‘rona. Is it wrong if I don’t want my kid around these people, even after being fully vaxxed? I feel like their stupidity is not something I want my kid around, but I am trying to not overreact.

    1. Kitties*

      It is not wrong. Your kid’s wellbeing and safety come first. Full stop. So sorry for the conflicts this must cause, but if you keep that principle in mind, it might be easier to deal with all the arguing that may ensue. Take care of your family. Good luck.

      1. BC Lower Mainlander*

        Second!! As a parent, your child is your responsibility and that comes first. You are not responsible for what other people think or do, though you are responsible for how you react. Be civil, be kind, but also be firm with your boundaries. If they get butthurt, that’s on them, not you.

      2. Kitties*

        Ps. I only addressed the safety part above. No vaccine is 100% so it’s reasonable to keep these relatives away even after kid is vaxxed. But it is also reasonable to keep them away if they are going to spout vitriol and misinformation to your kid. If they were strangers you wouldn’t let them around; for something this serious even (or especially) relatives shouldn’t get a pass either. If you decide to let them around I would consider talking to your kid ahead of time (if old enough to understand) about either this subject and the science or more generally about how to critically evaluate things folks say on any subject. That might help if they are faced with conflicting info or opinions on this or other subjects. There must be resources on the web about how to do this. Good luck!

        1. Time Bomb of Petulance*

          That’s kind of where I’m at right now… before, we would have let my in-laws watch our kid while we went for a long weekend or something, but now, I don’t trust them. I find myself wondering what would they say to our kid while we’re not around? I guess I’m trying to figure out if I’m being paranoid or not.

          1. Malarkey01*

            If it were me, I’d absolutely draw the line at no weekend long visits because you have no idea where they would be taking him and obviously they wouldn’t be masking in public. If I needed a compromise I might be okay with a few hours in their home and especially if I was there (but that really depends on if you want to preserve the relationship and how off the deep end they seem).

            However heading into the cold winter holiday months I expect another wave and think it would be a good idea to pull back on a lot.

          2. the cat's ass*

            you are absolutely NOT being paranoid. With all the unvaxxed traveling over the holidays, we are on the verge of another post holiday wave, and add in the SA variant-well, nobody unvaxxed is getting close to my family if i can help it.

            The only good thing is at least they are not lying about their lunacy.

          3. Loredena Frisealach*

            Judging by some of my relatives you are not being paranoid. Depending on the age of your kid they might be old enough to recognize the misinfo for what it is and ignore it whilst loving their grandparents – but if not, it’s not unreasonable to want to minimize contact, especially contact when you aren’t there!

          4. Squirrel Nutkin*

            You are being perfectly rational. My parents intentionally limited the amount of time I spent (esp alone) with my grandparents, as both sets of grandparents had been rather toxic parents and my parents didn’t want me to have to deal with any of that. It was 100% the right decision. Protect your kid first — when they are older and can protect themselves better/disengage more easily, they can craft whatever relationship with their grandparents they want.

        2. tangerineRose*

          “No vaccine is 100% so it’s reasonable to keep these relatives away even after kid is vaxxed. But it is also reasonable to keep them away if they are going to spout vitriol and misinformation to your kid. ” All of this!

    2. allathian*

      No, it’s not wrong. But it’s very important that your husband has your back in this. Have him communicate all the restrictions to his family, if at all possible. He has to show them that he agrees with and supports you, not them.

      1. Time Bomb of Petulance*

        Spouse and I are on the same page. However, he is struggling with accepting how far his parents have fallen into Q’dom/Conspiracy Land. Originally, our thought was that once Kid was fully vaxxed, it might be OK to see them. But right now, we are both questioning that plan.

        1. It's Growing!*

          If the grandparents have swallowed the Flavor Aid, you may need to supervise any future visitation involving your child. The whole Q thing is so toxic that your child shouldn’t be exposed without a saner voice on hand; however, it may be a while before that becomes an issue.

          If the in-laws refuse vaccination, they won’t have any sort of protection from either the original virus or the variants coming down the line. That means that if they are carrying the virus at some point, they will be breathing the most infectious form into your air if they come to visit. Your vaccines should protect you from serious illness, but “serious” in this context means the ICU. Non-serious just means it’s unlikely to kill you, but you may well feel terrible for a week or so. It is not paranoid to choose to opt out of that scenario. Unfortunately, it appears that we are going to be dealing with this pandemic for at least another year based on how things are going. I would recommend video visits.

          1. It's Growing!*

            Also, it would be a good thing if your husband could talk to his parents about their estate planning, especially if he is an only child. It’s a great help to know where the bank accounts are, any investments, retirement accounts, insurance policies, etc. Is there a trust and/or will and where? Is there an off-site storage unit/units? I assume you’re young, as you have a young child, but I assure you these things aren’t morbid. Having been through the deaths of my parents and in-laws, I can say absolutely that at least one surviving family member needs to know all that or it is going to be a legal nightmare in addition to the grief. Death comes to us all, but likely sooner to those who defy medical advice.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Also get your own done & filed, including child’s future guardianship. A common court designation for guardian is the grandparents.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              This is a good idea, seeing as how reports are coming out now about Q-ers talking about “releasing from the body.” Even if it’s not a Heaven’s Gate thing (yet), many of them are obviously past the awareness of self-preservation.

              I mean, it’s good anyway even if there weren’t a pandemic since life is unpredictable and a rogue bus could strike out of nowhere. But especially with all this unhinged stuff going on.

                1. It's Growing!*

                  It’s the prophesied return of JFK and John-John folks who are headed in that direction. There was a video of their leader proclaiming he was Jesus Christ this morning, along with complaints of domestic violence in his past.

                2. pancakes*

                  I replied with a link but I see Alison is on vacation, so it probably won’t get through moderation for a while. There have been numerous incidents of violence connected with that group, well before they started talking about leaving this plane of existence. Lois Beckett at the Guardian wrote a timeline, published 16 October 2020. Note that it doesn’t include Matthew Taylor Coleman, who killed his two children earlier this year.

            3. Time Bomb of Petulance*

              We have tried talking to them about it. They have no wills, trusts, advance directives — nothing and refuse to do so. My FIL’s retirement plan is to work until he dies. We have our wills and medical directives done and update them as needed to reflect changes as necessary. They most definitely will NOT have custody of our child if anything happens to us.

        2. Oh dear*

          Going by what I have seen at Reddit (especially the Herman Cain Award subreddit), it appears that many anti-vaxxers’ toxic beliefs aren’t limited only to COVID. The sources they are getting the anti-vax information from tend to spout many toxic beliefs. As a result, there seems to be a significant overlap among anti-vaxxers with other toxic beliefs, including racism, homophobia, and other forms of science denial such as flat earthers and climate change deniers. People with these beliefs are not good role models for children.

    3. StellaBella*

      To be blunt, you are not overreacting, you are protecting your child. There is a chance if the unvaxxed pass it to your child that he/she will get sick but possibly only mildly so once they are fully vaxxed (2 weeks after 2nd dose) – so many factors affect this, however. Will you need to work from home if your child is ill? Will this endanger your work? Also you, too, are vulnerable from the unvaxxed. There is new info out that unvaxxed people can transmit virus to others 3x more often than vaxxed people who are carriers. As we were all saying last Thanksgiving, “we isolate now so that next year when we gather again no one is missing” and well, isolating from the unvaxxed anti mask people is OK and prudent. In my case I wear masks all day if I am in my office, keep distance, and I am fully vaxxed. But I have a few unvaxxed colleagues, so I go in on days they are not there or actively avoid them.

    4. Asenath*

      If your child is fully vaccinated, it’s probably reasonably safe to be around them, and it’s valuable for even young children to learn that some people do/say things that we don’t, in our home, and to learn to deal with such situations.

      1. Ontariariatio*

        Yeah, “probably reasonably” is right, but that’s not great for a potentially deadly disease. The vaccines protect something like 80 or 90% against getting the virus (so if the in-laws have it, then there’s a reasonable chance that at least someone in the family will get it), and so far 99+% chance protection against serious illness and hospitalization, but that number isn’t 100%.

        Plus the latest variant has an unknown reaction to the vaccines (they always worry about a spike mutation), and it is apparently easily spread, so until we get data on that one I’ll be wearing my mask everywhere again.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        I think QAnon is beyond a reasonable level of “people aren’t all the same” for a kid, though.

        1. Stitch*

          Yes. I’d be just as worried about what they’d say/do as I would about the vaccine. One of those Qanon types (the one eating that bizarre Texas JFK thing) is starting to echo pre-Waco statements and that is really scary.

      3. unpleased*

        My own parents have fallen down the Q-Hole, and I could not disagree with you more here. My kids are grown and have their own beliefs, but if they were younger, I would not let them around my kids, especially unsupervised. And it’s not just about their response to covid–the Q phenomenon also entails larger conspiracy theories and deadly traitorous behavior. There are going to be a LOT of opportunities for kids to hear crazy shite and have conversations about it in this current climate. You don’t need to invite it into your home, and you don’t need to travel to get to it.

        These are not disagreements about school vouchers or something. It is entirely responsible parenting to keep children away from this when able.

        1. unpleased*

          I note I am making assumptions here about how pervasively rotten the OP’s in-laws’ politics might be. Even if they are not Q types, it’s worth thinking about whether the coronavirus issue is a stand-alone problem.

        2. Time Bomb of Petulance*

          That’s my concern. I feel like there is an escalation of lack of logic and it’s scary. What else will they do or say when we aren’t around??

        3. Lucy Skywalker*

          So strange that the Q-ers are anti-vax, because they support the previous president, and he:
          -is fully vaccinated himself, even though he already had COVID (that is to say, natural immunity isn’t good enough)
          -was always pro-vax
          -came up with the name “Operation Warp Speed” and signed it
          -considers OWS the greatest accomplishment of his presidency, so much so that he wants the vaccine to be named after him
          -encouraged his supporters on more than one occasion to get vaxxed
          -was anxious to get the vaccines approved before the election, so he could use it as one of his talking points on the campaign trail

          1. pancakes*

            If they were open to being reasoned with they wouldn’t be insisting JFK Jr. is still alive, for starters.

      4. tangerineRose*

        “probably reasonably safe to be around them” Maybe, but I wouldn’t want to risk the health problem, not to mention what they say.

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      Nope! If they’re not willing to take ANY precautions they are not in a state where they’re able to prioritize your kid’s safety right now. I hope they get past it eventually but think of it as the same as if they believed like, drunk driving is acceptable and seatbelts are an oppressive government agenda – you obviously wouldn’t put your kids in a car with someone like that, and would be wary of letting them listen to those comments! You’re not mean or unreasonable for protecting your family from people who don’t have their best interests at heart.

    6. DrunkAtAWedding*

      No, it’s not wrong. It’s very consistent. You know that the corona virus is dangerous and that vaccines work, which is why you want your child vaccinated. Knowing that the corona virus is dangerous and that vaccines work, of course you don’t want your kid around people who aren’t vaccinated during an ongoing pandemic.

      The knottier issue is how to handle it politely, especially since, I assume, you want to retain a cordial and loving relationship with your child’s grandparents. I don’t know the solution to that, I think that’s something everyone struggles with. :(

    7. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      I have decided I am no longer willing to call folks like that anything but Nurgle Cultists, because that’s what they really are.

      And not wanting your kids around Nurgle Cultists is entirely as reasonable as not wanting your kids around evangelicals, fundamentalists, and flat-earthers.

    8. RagingADHD*

      To me it all depends how far gone they are.

      If they were the quiet type of anti vaxxers who are all about “It’s nobody’s business what I choose to do,” then it would just be about figuring out ways to minimize practical safety risk. There are still a lot of those out there.

      If they are the hectoring type, or deep in the Q hole, I would be just as leery as you. I have seen some truly frightening stuff being recommended as supposed treatments to counteract the “toxins” or “tech” from vaccines. I would worry that they might try to do stuff to my child to “rescue” them.

      If they are somewhere in the middle, or they promise not to talk about it, we might try a visit and just be prepared to leave early. A child isn’t going to be warped by overhearing a couple of minutes of wierd conversation while we say, “Welp, time to go.”

    9. Wishing You Well*

      You’re not wrong. You’re not overreacting.
      There’s a new variant now – omicron – so don’t assume being around non-vaccinated people is “probably okay”. No one knows yet if the current vaccines work against omicron. This pandemic has been a long haul, people are getting tired of restrictions but I hope you keep protecting yourself and your kids from deadly diseases and destructive ideology.
      Sending supportive thoughts your way.

    10. MissGirl*

      Are they kind, generous, and loving outside of this? Are they willing to keep quiet around you? Can they respect your beliefs?

      I can understand not wanting to leave your kid alone. I’m navigating this with my own relatives and I’m not willing to cut them off as long as the above are met. This is your husband’s parents so tread lightly on their relationship.

      As for COVID, the fast majority of kids are unvaccinated so if your kid is in school, play groups, sports, they’re already exposed.

      1. Jennifer*

        I feel like the last sentence is akin to medical advice. Please pay attention to the experts, OP. A random commenter here has no way of knowing whether the “fast” majority of children are unvaccinated, and whether your son is already exposed.

        1. Malarkey01*

          I mean I agree talk to medical community but in the US, no 5-11 year old has completed the 2 shot regime yet so none are vaccinated, and I do think it’s a valid point to consider that all school age children under 12 are exposed on a daily basis as part of your risk analysis.

          (My county and state government also provides totals for vaccines and only 12% of eligible kids have started getting shots in my state so uptick is starting very very slowly here).

        2. Moxie*

          i like that the one response that isn’t wholeheartedly encouraging a visitation ban is the only one called out for giving “medical advice” as if 98% of the other comments aren’t sharing transmission statistics or sharing prevention tactics.

          the OP asked for advice. exposure to different perspectives isn’t dangerous to a discerning adult.

    11. marvin the paranoid android*

      Ugh, this is really hard. I think it’s totally reasonable not to want to expose your kid or yourself to this, but conspiracy theorists are often driven by fear and loneliness, and lack of real-world social connection often will drive people further into it.

      If I were you, I think I’d say that they can spend supervised time with your kid if they get vaccinated and refrain from saying any disturbing stuff around them. I doubt they’ll comply with that, but at least it gives them the option to do the right thing. And if I were your spouse, I’d try to keep some kind of line of communication open with them, even if it’s just making small talk about neutral subjects every once in a while. (Obviously this depends on whether they’re able to be civil for short amounts of time.)

    12. *daha**

      I think it is smart to keep your kid away from them (if you can get backup from your spouse.) Vaccine protection isn’t 100%, as we all know. We add to the protection by avoiding likely sources of the virus, and that’s them.

    13. Lucy Skywalker*

      I have no patience for anti-vaxxers and I would not feel at all bad about refusing to let my kids near them.

    14. Guin*

      Absolutely not. No one, let alone your child, you, and your spouse, should be around them anywhere, even masked. Breakthrough covid is no joke. My spouse got it after being fully-pfizered and was sick for two weeks unable to move from the couch. If he hadn’t been vaccinated, he would have been in the hospital.
      Do NOT let those people anywhere near you. Outside, six-foot distance, for a walk around the block is the only thing that’s remotely safe. And remember – you’re not the one being unreasonable, they are.

      1. Analyst Editor*

        This is excessive. I’m sorry for your spouse; it’s unclear where your spouse got it, but if OP is at all willing to expose her child to the ambient level of risk inherent in e.g. playing with other unvaccinated kids, or going into Walmart and standing in line there for half an hour with groceries while he’s masked…. she’s not raising his risk level that much more by allowing at least some interaction with the in-laws, certainly in a public place and if her son is masked.

    15. Anon and on*

      Yes it’s wrong. Your child will run into lots and lots of people who have different views and opinions from themselves. You should want to teach them how to appropriately handle differences. Not retreat into some manufactured echo-chamber bubble.

      1. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

        @Anon and on – Yet these are people whom the child may love, and believe in, and not question – not strangers who might tell the child that vaxxed people are zombies etc. Hearing conspiracy theories from people you love, that your parents are going to have awful things happen to them, etc, because they have been vaccinated – I think it is worth protecting your child from the risk of that.
        Although I agree we all benefit from learning some critical thinking – that does have to be age appropriate.

      2. Retired Prof*

        Grandparents who refuse to protect their grandchildren by getting vaccinated have forfeited the right to see those kids unsupervised. @Anon and on – this is not about “different views and opinions”. These grandparents have chosen conspiracy theories over their family. I would not trust them not to subject the kids to something harmful.

      3. Dark Macadamia*

        There’s “your grandparent’s food/church/interests/rules are different from ours” and then there’s “your grandparent’s beliefs/actions are detached from reality and actively harmful to themselves and others, including you.”

      4. fhqwhgads*

        There’s a huge difference between “we’re Jewish and they’re Catholic/Muslim/Lutheran/Buddhist/Atheist/YouNameIt and different people are different” vs “we’re Jewish and they’re antisemitic conspiracy theorists”. The first is important that your kids are exposed to so they’re not in an echo chamber. The second is important to protect your kids from as those people mean them harm and have lost touch with reality.

    1. Zona the Great*

      Yes. It’s terrible. Though I’m a daily smoker of the real stuff. I find D-8 to be overly chemically, heavily processed, and a waste of lung damage for little reward. What are you hoping to get out of it? Maybe I can help you fine the right product.

    2. Dwight Schrute*

      My boyfriend uses it on occasion and he enjoys it though he much prefers the real stuff. He uses the delta 8 if he just wants a low level high

    3. Not a cat*

      Yep. I used the real stuff for anxiety and migraine nausea. The DELTA-8 has a crazy bad smell to the smoke and makes me feel low-level weird. Depending on what you want it for, have you considered majority CBD weed?

    4. ATX*

      My husband and I take it, tinture form only. We love it! Him so more than me, the edibles last too long for me.

      It’s a great option for those who don’t have access to legal weed.

  5. Pam Adams*

    Ha! I missed Laurie on first view; I had to go back and look for him when I saw his name on the photo. Great kitty camouflage;

    1. Blue*

      Same here :)
      It’s happened a couple of other times on cat pictures – they’re very good at hiding in plain sight.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In that photo, Sophie is biting Hank’s neck but he doesn’t care because she has no teeth (they all had to be removed because of stomatitis but she doesn’t seem to know).

  6. Snacks*

    Secret Santa gifts.

    Hi folks, I want to check my thoughts on a secret Santa gift with you, and hear about the best secret Santa gifts you’ve received!

    Gift dilemma: I’m secret Santa for someone at work. I have never spoken to this person, and don’t have buddies I can ask on their side of the office (blah blah, I just deleted a long reason why. Take it on trust that it’s valid).

    Their “welcome to the team” email says they like anime. Would a bunch of snacks from the Japanese shop be a good/interesting gift? Any other suggestions? (We’re in Europe so I can’t just Amazon-anything.)

    Best secret Santa gift: I once got a kilo of kiwifruit! (I’m a New Zealander; we’re called kiwis.) I put some on a pavlova and made a bunch of jam.

    1. acmx*

      How about a book about anime? The history or a cookbook? ‘Superfight the Anime deck’?

      I think snacks in general would be good.

    2. misspiggy*

      I love the snacks idea. Or does Taschen do any books about the art history of anime, as acmx suggested?

    3. Freelance Anything*

      I think snacks is good. And some of the book suggestions could be a fun shout too.

      Some Secret Santas have rules against gift vouchers but if they’re okay at yours, a voucher for a specific Japanese-themed shop for snacks or books etc. might be good?

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      An “anime-adjacent” point in its favor: My kpop kid loved a gift box of Korean snacks received last year.
      (Standard caveats about checking for food allergies–for the Korean pack, fish showed up in unexpected places.)

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Your idea about the alarm is intriguing. I grew up in a house with a grandfather’s clock. Mom & I knew if we woke at night, we’d know the time within the hour so we needn’t turn on a lamp to look at the clock.
        (Unfortunately, my husband and child feel like they woke up *because* of the quarter hour chimes…so no chiming clock for me as an adult!)

    5. DrunkAtAWedding*

      I think snacks are good. I quite like anime and JRPGs and various Japanese media, and I’d also be interesting in trying the snacks, just to, you know, to get a slightly more immersive experience, understand a bit more about the context these stories came from. That wording isn’t quite right because lots of stories aren’t actually set in Japan, and are sci-fi or futuristic or don’t focus on food, but I can’t think of how to phrase it better.

      Basically, I’m trying to say that, in my experience, being a fan of media from a place does translate to an interest in that place more generally, like trying the snacks. Especially Japanese snacks, which are both fun and adorable. I really want to try a macha kitkat.

    6. the cat's ass*

      Secret Santa at my job actually asks you to put 3 things you like on the slip with your name, which is then drawn out of a box. That way everyone’s happy!

      Barring that, I think the snacks (sooooo many different kinds of Kit Kats-my fave is the raspberry) are a great idea, as are anime themed socks. good luck!

      1. Random Biter*

        At OldJob if you wanted to participate (and it was by no means mandatory) you filled out a very brief form regarding what you liked, things you collected, food allergies or dislikes, then it went into a box and everyone drew a slip. Then once a day for a week (4 days) you ninja-placed a gift on your recipient’s desk. Price was restricted to $2-$5 a gift so you had to be pretty inventive. The fifth day we did the final exchange and you couldn’t open your gift until lunch when you would try to guess who your Secret Santa was. The final gift was supposed to be around the $5 mark, but it started getting so people were spending ridiculous amounts on what was supposed to be just a little something and the office finally decided Secret Santa had gotten out of control and ended it.

    7. Pam*

      Snacks sound great. Consumables or gift cards are always popular for our Secret Santa/gift swaps.

      Books or specific things for the hobby are hard- they either already have it, or it’s something that they know about, but don’t want.

    8. beach read*

      Best secret Santa I got was a box of expensive chocolates. Something I wouldn’t splurge on for myself.

    9. Skeeder Jones*

      I can’t remember the best gifts but here are a few that went awry:

      Freshman year of high school we did secret santas in my homeroom. Everyday I watched my friends get little gifts or notes while I got nothing. Turned out the girl who had my name transferred out after we exchanged names but before we exchanged gifts. My teacher didn’t have the foresight to make sure this didn’t get lost in the shuffle.

      Second one was work related. In the list of things I collect, I mentioned I collect Woodstock (from Peanuts). For my final gift, I got some cute dollhouse furniture. Turned out the woman who got my name thought I asked for “wood stuff” and didn’t know what to get me. Some of my old coworkers and I still get some laughs about this 25 year old snafu.

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I had another idea — an anime cookbook. No idea what it’s like, but one exists!
      “Cook Anime: Eat Like Your Favorite Character—From Bento to Yakisoba (A Cookbook)” by Diana Ault

  7. Zooey*

    Random Thanksgiving inspired question. When I was a kid, growing up in the U.K. and reading about pumpkin pie, I imagined it as being like apple pie – i.e. chunks of pumpkin under a crust. I was pretty disappointed to discover it’s more like a flan as I don’t really like that flavour / texture. But wondering – does anyone make pumpkin pie the way I imagined it? Could you? I don’t see why not but maybe there is some moisture/ texture issue that would make it not work.

    1. LittleBabyDamien*

      Pumpkin isn’t naturally sweet the way that apple is, so I am not sure if it would taste like a dessert. It also isn’t very juicy. Perhaps if it was diced small enough. I am now wondering if it was finely diced, tossed with brown sugar and a bit of melted butter and spices, and then roasted first to caramelize the surface, if it would be a nice pie filling? Hm. I have a lot of squash that I stocked up on from a local farm, so maybe I need to experiment!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Done like sweet potato casserole but in a crust? Sounds like a good one for a cream cheese crust.

      2. DrunkAtAWedding*

        Honestly, from my experience being a Brit visiting the US, American food is generally a lot sweeter than British food, so that’s not necessarily a barrier. Plus, I would definitely put custard on it anyway.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I’ve had very good roast pumpkin (as a savory side in an Afghani restaurant) and it took on a texture like custard.

      4. Sam I Am*

        Now that you ention it, I prepared butternut squash for T-day almost exactly like I would prepare apple pie filling, and it was delish. I bet you could do it for a pie!

    2. The Dogman*

      It wouldnt work like apple pie.

      Too starchy and not sweet enough, I suppose you could do small chunks and add loads of sugar but I doubt it would combine correctly.

      Also, why would you want it? Pumpkin pie is awful usually and even a really good one is basically just cos of all the sugar.

      Pumpkins should not really be in sweet dishes, they are basically just a type of marrow or squah anyway!

    3. Freelance Anything*

      It cooks more like butternut squash so if there’s a squash recipe you like the look of, you can probably substitute it for pumpkin.

      1. PT*

        A lot of the canned pumpkin puree we use to make pumpkin pie actually is butternut-adjacent squash, not pumpkin. The only way you’d get a real pumpkin pie is buying a sugar pumpkin and making the puree yourself (or finding a bakery who prepares their pies that way, but honestly, I bet they are wildly expensive.)

        1. All the words*

          Pumpkin pie filling generally has squash in it, but one can buy canned pumpkin, which is pureed pumpkin. No spicing and no squash. Just read the labels.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I am not sure if you could cut pumpkin into chunks or slices and have it soften yet remain in some type of its original form the way apples do. But I have never tried. I agree the texture does nothing for me- it’s like pudding or custard or something, but it’s in a pie crust and why-why. I am not a big pie person to begin with so there’s my bias.

      1. Freelance Anything*

        Oh you absolutely can do that. I roast pumpkin chunks in honey before pureeing and they’re soft but hold their shape.

        You would have to liberally flavour and sweeten (but you do that with pumpkin anyway so)

      2. PostalMixup*

        I agree with pumpkin pie being gross – I just don’t like the flavor. But custard pies can be fantastic. My husband makes a great chocolate custard pie!

      3. Jackalope*

        I’m a pie person and I find that the nice part about a custard pie is that the crust provides a non sugary grounding to the pie. Super sweet dessert tends to make me sick but I can handle a lot more sugar if there’s some sort of crust.

    5. Susan Calvin*

      I have GREAT news for you, because: SAME

      So some years ago I decided to experiment a bit, the most successful version included diced (like, 0.5-1 cm), put in a pot/saucepan and just covered in apple juice, boiled on low heat for maybe an hour, adding juice as needed, until appropriate consistency is achieved (partial pureeing is also an option). Add cinnamon and clove liberally, and brown sugar to taste (personally I found it plenty sweet without).

      I made muffin sized mini-pies with it, and the (New England born and raised) professor I was sharing on office with at the time was confused, but reasonably appreciative. :)

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        That sounds really good, sort of like a pumpkin chutney. I wonder if there are any more sugar pumpkins left in the stores near me. (Farmstands are closed for winter.)

        1. Pippa K*

          Ooh, pumpkin chutney, interesting idea. I just saw a spicy squash and apple chutney recipe (BBC Good Food – I won’t add a link bc it’s easy to google) and now I’m thinking about making it with pumpkin, putting it in little tartlet crusts and serving it on a cheese board….

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Yep! This. I made pumpion pie this year for the second Thanksgiving. It actually not that great IMO. I made some changes this year to improve it, but I’m still not wild about it. It isn’t bad in the least, but not amazing.

        On the other hand, it would make an amazing entree with a pound of sausage in it.

      2. Glomarization, Esq.*

        I made that last year and loved it. It was a really fun experiment to try, and once you get over the “wait, isn’t pumpkin pie supposed to be a custard” reaction, we found that it was tasty.

    6. RagingADHD*

      I’ll take the folks who have tried it at their word, but I’d think some pureeinh would be needed because squash/pumpkin tends to be stringy. Not a nice texture in pie.

      Lots of people use canned pumpkin instead of fresh, and that comes already pureed. We keep it on hand year-round for pumpkin muffins.

    7. Girasol*

      Never tried it, but if I were to do it, I think I’d chunk up the pumpkin in an herb gravy with some other veggies and make a savory pie of it. I can’t imagine a chunky sweet pumpkin pie working. Pumpkin lacks the juiciness and acid tang of apples or other fruits.

    8. marvin the paranoid android*

      I think it could work if you roasted the pumpkin and added some caramel sauce or something to keep it from going too dry. I think the larger issue is probably that working with fresh pumpkin is quite annoying. I’ve made a pumpkin pie from scratch only once and I’m not sure it was worth the trouble.

    9. Stephanie*

      This isn’t exactly an answer to your question, but I’m American and I don’t particularly like pumpkin pie, either. I like some custard pies, but not pumpkin. I like the flavor of pumpkin in baked goods, like pumpkin bread, but something about pumpkin pie is just…off to me. I found a recipe for a pumpkin cobbler several years ago and decided to give it a try. It was such a hit with my husband’s family that they ask me to make it every year for Thanksgiving. It’s got similar flavor to pumpkin pie, but a completely different texture, and I really like it. (Plus, it’s much, much easier to make than a pie!)

    10. Retired Prof*

      Every year I cook down the Halloween pumpkins and throw it in the freezer, some puréed and some in chunks. I have made pie with partially-puréed pumpkin and it has more texture. It’s a bit stringy, so I’m not sure that’s what you’re thinking of.

      1. Girasol*

        I did that once as a kid. Mom and I cooked the leftover jack-o-lantern, and cooked and cooked… We might as well have been stewing wood blocks. Neither of us knew that the pumpkins sold specifically for carving have thin, extra-woody shells to make them suitable for the purpose, instead of being thick and tender like pumpkins meant for pie. We put the chunks in the blender but when the blender had been going so long we had to stop for fear of burning out the motor, it was still so stringy and chunky that we gave up on the pie idea. Trivia: if you buy a can of prepared pumpkin, it’s probably hubbard squash anyway, since that’s tenderer and more prolific.

    11. matcha123*

      I work in Japan and there are a number of bakeries that will make it like chunky mashed potatoes in a pie crust and I am not a fan. The taste is pure pumpkin, not the sweetness I get with American pumpkin pies.
      I’m not a huge fan of apple pie for the same reason. I don’t like fruit chunks in my hot foods. I always preferred the jam-like filling in apple pies to the apple chunks themselves…

    12. Cambridge Comma*

      I’m not at all American but I think the appeal of pumpkin pie is about the combination of spices with the pumpkin. However, I did eat a dessert that was like sweet preserved pumpkin in Istanbul once — perhaps that would appeal?

    13. Olive Hornby*

      My wife is American but grew up in London, and she once was served a pie like this at a Thanksgiving dinner held at a restaurant by a lot of Americans. The (British) chef made a pumpkin pie like the one you describe (chunks of pumpkin in a spiced syrup), and it didn’t work—the pumpkin didn’t cook all the way through. The poor chef was a little upset, but the Americans thankfully thought it was funny.

  8. Kitten advice*

    Looking for advice on getting a 5 month old kitten to stop biting. It’s mostly either gentle play biting or what seems to be grooming (she licks me then nips me). I’ve always adopted adult cats (this is my first kitten) and if they’ve used claws or teeth I’ve either done an exaggerated ouch or hissed at them and that’s sorted it out, but kitten doesn’t seem to recognise those sounds as hurting. Her bites are gentle and inhibited, she’s not trying to hurt, and I’ve let older cats do gentle love bites on me before. But I want to teach her that humans aren’t for biting, I’m just not sure how – especially as I’m often half asleep when she does it. My other cat is a year older than her and they’ve bonded well, groom each other, cuddle up together, play together. She also has lots of toys and things to climb. My other cat seems to have had a lot more success in teaching her boundaries than I have though!

    1. Taking the long way round*

      Shriek ‘no’ when she nips you and withdraw your hand away to stop play. She’ll quickly learn that a) human skin is suuuuuuper sensitive to cat teeth ;) and b) nice things stop when she bites.
      Also, pay attention to her body language. I can tell now when my cat has had enough petting and is going to bite. A kitten will get over stimulated more easily and nip, so try to stop before that point.

      1. Taking the long way round*

        Ugh, I’ve just read that you used to do the shrieking thing with other cats, sorry I don’t know how I missed that!

        1. Kitten advice*

          She’s the only cat I’ve known it hasn’t worked on, I thought it was a foolproof method till now!

          I don’t think it’s being over sensitised (I’ve had a couple of cats who were prone to that), it’s more that she’s looking for attention or to play. She quite often does the licking then nipping thing when she’s snuggled up to me in bed and I’m falling asleep or waking up and not interacting with her at all. I try to say ouch and not give her any attention in response to it…but then sometimes I’m half asleep and she’s biting so gently I don’t really notice until it’s been going on for a while.

      2. sswj*

        Some of it is probably teething, if she’s not getting too ferocious and overstimulated. It will abate as she gets older.

        But as a general thing to teach her that hands are not for biting, she gets put on the floor and contact stops , instantly. If she comes back immediately you can ignore for a minute and then go back to petting. If she doesn’t come back up you can pick her up and try again. If she’s persistent in biting (though it doesn’t sound like it’s anything terrible), get up and walk away.

        In a nutshell; Incorrect behavior = she’s ignored, no contact.

        Cats don’t react as openly about this as dogs do, but it will sink in. Some hyper teenage-ish cats I’ve had to relocate to the floor several times in a row, decreasing the gentleness at each repetition. They don’t get thrown or anything horrible, but sometimes it ends up as a pretty firm shove or drop, instantly followed by a foot stomp. Really bad behavior = unpleasant reaction from me.

        The flip side of course is that good behavior brings lots of good things. Skritchies, snuggles if they like them, occasional treats. Make it very black and white for her.

        Kittens are a PITA and just the best :D

        1. Kitten advice*

          There’s definitely some teething involved, I keep finding her gnawing things like my phone case (she does have some kitty teething toys but prefers to play with them with her paws rather than her mouth). You’re right that I need to be fully consistent on the response to the behaviour, I need to work on that.

          PITA and just the best is exactly right! I spent a long time adopting elderly or sick kitties that desperately needed a home and when I lost my last one in lockdown just couldn’t face losing another again so soon. Hence adopting an adolescent cat last year, and a kitten this year. It’s been very fun and a real joy, but also quite the learning curve!

    2. The Dogman*

      Your other cat probably has “bopped” the kitten a bunch of times on the head for being too rough.

      I would watch the other cat to see how and when it is diciplining the kit and emulate that, your kit might might be a touch “hard of learning” as we say… Sometimes they need more natural catty ways to realise they are hurting someone.

    3. Gas stoves*

      I need a new stove! Or are they called ranges now? Anyway, mine is super old and needs an update. I’ve never bought a stove before. It has to be gas. I cook a fair amount, but it’s just me. What to look for? What do you like in your stove? What’s a deal breaker?

        1. Taking the long way round*

          This made me giggle for quite a long time reading this question in amongst the other answers!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Our best buy of the pandemic was a new Samsung gas range, replacing an increasingly quirky one. Questions:

        • What size and layout of burners do you need?
        This particular model has two large front burners, and the back are medium and small (for simmering). I have always thought large on the back would make more sense, to be right under the exhaust fan, but stove designers disagree. The middle has a long griddle burner that we don’t often use (my husband prefers making pancakes on the front burners in a round pan), but would be excellent for making gravy in a roasting pan. I have appreciated having a fifth burner for rare feast preparation; that might be something you value or never use.

        • Oven–electric or gas? (I have heard electric is more even, but wasn’t offered that combo when we shopped.)

        • Oven–do you want convection? I have decided I quite like this feature.

        • Broiler–check the size. It really annoyed me on our last stove that the broiler was only one element wide. Current is about two elements wide and involves less jiggling to “run under a broiler” in a skillet.

    4. Freelance Anything*

      Full withdrawal of attention is good, as is a firm bop on the nose. ‘Bops’ should never be hard or aggressive, the point isn’t to hurt, it’s about providing an unwanted, unpleasant response to the behaviour.

      A consistent combination of bops, ‘no’ and withdrawing attention has worked for us on all cats. With the added bonus of our most recent cat responding well to just verbal ‘no’ commands.

      Additionally our most recent cat playfights really well (claws in, soft teeth) with people, but when she’s hungry, she’s a little rougher. So could be teething and/or poorly expressing an additional need? (our current cat sometimes just forgets she has food, so a ‘no’ *pause* *redirect to food* happens occasionally)

      1. Kitten advice*

        She has definitely got so excited about it being feeding time before that she’s not actually noticed when her food is down and I’ve had to put her right in front of her dish :)

        I’ve never tried a bop before, but she definitely doesn’t understand what ‘no’ means so it looks like it’s the next step.

        1. Freelance Anything*

          She’ll only learn ‘no’ (or any other command) if it’s consistently accompanied by a reward or annoyance (I don’t use ‘punishment’ as I think it’s too harsh a concept).

          So a ‘no’ with a bop with a withdrawal of affection/attention will make an association between all three things. Eventually just a ‘no’ should suffice.

      2. Dancing Otter*

        Seconding the bop on the nose.

        I was the only person my aunt and uncle’s Siamese didn’t bite or scratch. The first time we met, he reached out to bite me (He was on the breakfast bar, so level with my face.), and I put up my hand so that he basically bopped himself on the nose. He never forgot.

        My poor aunt cooked him all sorts of special treats, and never spoke harshly to him, and her legs were always covered in scabs.

    5. Generic Name*

      It’s definitely a kitten phase, but you don’t want an adult cat constantly biting you, so it’s good to teach them to stop. I’ve always yelled “ow!” and stopped playing when my kittens bit. Also, don’t play with them with just your hands. Use a toy instead. Wand toys are super fun. My adult cats (and dog, ha) love playing with them.

    6. Sam I Am*

      For my kitten we would just withdraw completely. Not just stop play, but get up and walk away. He’s 5 now and will give a love nip here and there but he’s not rough with the family. Unless we put on the welding gloves; he knows that means SHRED TIME

      1. Freelance Anything*

        Haha same!

        Our young cat is really good at playfighting (soft teeth, no claws) but when the thick jumper sleeve comes over the hand… it’s time to do a murder.

    7. cat socks*

      Kitten Lady has a video about this on YouTube. The title is “How to STOP Kittens From Biting You (6 Tips!)”.

    8. Anne Kaffeekanne*

      Maybe a bit weird but with our last bite-happy cat what worked was grabbing one of her canine teeth and just holding onto it when she was chomping down on my hands. She’d get very confused and let go almost immediately. After doing that whenever the opportunity presented itself, play-biting went down markedly and at 2 years old she rarely does it anymore.
      Caveat: Know your cat when doing this – I was 110% sure my cat was not going to bite down in earnest when I did this, or become aggressive – but from what you’ve written, yours sounds like a very similar situation.

  9. Taking the long way round*

    What things, good or bad, has Covid seen to this last year?
    In December last year my dad, in Spain, died before I could get to go and see him. Then the borders locked down and I didn’t get to go to the funeral.
    This year, my brother and I were meant to go to Spain to bury his ashes, next week in fact. My brother got Covid a week ago and so we couldn’t go! Now this new variant looks like it might be closing borders again in Europe.
    It’d be good if anyone has any positive stories to share re Covid ‘s impact on their life?
    For me, it’s brought me closer to two of my female friends!

    1. misspiggy*

      As a disabled person, it has meant that more work, medical and social activity has gone online. I can access things I couldn’t in the past.

      (The only exception has been my political party, which I’ve left because of their refusal to use the same methods as they used during lockdown. So much for participatory democracy.)

      1. Kitten advice*

        I second this. I was able to see my medical specialist team remotely for the first time instead of dragging myself into the office. Working from home became much easier when everyone started doing it. I’m doing a weekly live online yoga class and so happy to be back into that – recorded classes just aren’t the same.

    2. Isashani*

      There has been grief on my side, but also joy.

      I had a baby late 2020. My husband had way more time at home thanks to Covid. That’s been priceless for our family. Cherry on top : he now does all the cooking (he already did the dishes), and pretty darn well at that. Considering he left his mother’s to live with me and literally couldn’t peel potatoes back then, it’s been a thrilling development^^.

    3. Asenath*

      I’ve had a lot of access to online activities that either didn’t exist or I wouldn’t have bothered with before. Some of them – things like free talks – I probably wouldn’t have gotten out to once I was settled in for the evening, particularly if the weather was a little bad or the location inconvenient for me. I also started an exercise program as soon as the gyms re-opened in a limited fashion that I hadn’t done in a long time and thought I couldn’t handle, but the pools, where I prefer to exercise, were slower to re-open. I’m still doing the new program, and noticing many benefits.

      1. Taking the long way round*

        Oh yes, I agree that the online accessibility of things now has made it easier to attend.

      2. UKDancer*

        Definitely. I’ve done a lot more online activity due to Covid, whether it’s online dance festivals or lectures and talks. I do online dance classes 3-4 times per week and in person about once. I would prefer to be doing things in person but I can’t do what I want to do so I enjoy what there is as much as possible.

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      My garden was spectacular in 2020 (less so in 2021, as I went back to work, but still better than in a “normal” year). I found myself spending more time outside weeding and watering because the news cycle and social media wore me out. Best Good Dog and I also established a daily walking schedule with our neighbors. Initially with one family on each side of the road, so we remained socially distant, but now that everyone is vaxxed we walk together. It’s really improved our health and well-being.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      For the last 2 years of my fatherinlaw’s life, he was playing with food research. He was a retired, classical European style chef whose hobby became learning to cook meals from other cuisines. Spring 2020 my family bought a popup tent with walls and he served us his experiments every weekend for 2 years. We bundled up with a heater under the table in the winter, we set up a fan in the summer.
      We only skipped 3 for weather–the weekend with temp below 0°F/-18°C, a blizzard, a hurricane. We all missed it when he had to take off a few weeks last spring after a fall, and he made it a physical therapy goal.
      Google Earth updated over the last 18 months and the tent is clearly visible.
      I just wish I knew all the little mom&pop shops who taught him their recipes during their ‘seniors only’ hours, to let them know how much joy they helped him bring.

      1. Taking the long way round*

        Oh wow that’s so cool, and it’s great that you have a pictorial reminder of it too :)

    6. Jay*

      My husband hit bottom with an addiction in early April of 2020 – and we both had immediate access to the 12-step programs we needed. I mean “immediate” as in “two hours later.” Since the nearest appropriate meeting for me is over an hour away, having every meeting in the world (literally) available on my computer was – well, not life-saving, but dang close. That wouldn’t have happened without the pandemic. And without the pandemic, I might well have thrown him out of the house that day. Being stuck inside together while we started recovery was incredibly difficult and also incredibly healing. Our marriage is stronger and I am happier than I’ve ever been (when I don’t think about the pandemic or US politics).

      And I’m sorry about your dad.

    7. Healthcare Worker*

      My daughter and now bonus son have spent multiple wonderful weeks with us since the pandemic started. Having them here has been an immense joy thst would not have happened without covid allowing them to WFH.

    8. UKDancer*

      Covid has been stressful in some ways. I’ve been worried about friends and family who are vulnerable. We’ve also been adjusting to remote working which has been problematic.

      The main positive is that I’ve been really enjoying cooking different things. I always used to work in the office and go out to dance classes, theatres etc. So I tended to eat a lot of ready meals. Being stuck at home and not having dance classes and theatres in lockdown I did a lot more online dance classes (which were mostly quite fun) but I also really enjoyed cooking interesting and different meals.

      I discovered I am quite good at it. I’ve learnt a lot of Thai recipes which are really good and enjoyed exploring the BBC good food website. Not everything worked perfectly but deciding what I want to cook, walking over to the butcher to buy the meat for it and then coming back and enjoying my efforts have been surprisingly pleasant. Now we’re back in the office some of the time working in a hybrid manner, I am still enjoying cooking for myself on the days I’m working from home.

        1. UKDancer*

          I think probably the marmalade pork fillet on the BBC Good Food website (which was so good my mother’s asked me to cook it for her twice) although the chicken with cashew nuts recipe that I got from a Thai cookery book is pretty good too.

          I must say the food radically improved when I go to the butcher and get good quality meat from him. The taste is so much better. I never bothered when I was in the office all the time but being at home I’ve enjoyed walking over and picking it myself.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      Negative: I spent 2020 undergoing cancer treatment. At the start of the year, my husband or daughter would come with me to any appointments expected to be stressful, or benefit from a second pair of ears. Retaining information while being physically battered by treatment is hard. Medical appointments are now alone and that has definitely been more confusing and isolating.

      Positive: Normalizing remote work has allowed my spouse and kids more flexibility. (I already freelanced from home.) Kids could come for a long visit and work remotely. Spouse could do a trip with his brother and work part-time remotely.

      1. Taking the long way round*

        I’m sorry for the difficulties of cancer treatment, I hope you’re well now. And yes spending time with family has been a nice outcome of the lockdown for lots of people!

    10. Dr. Anonymous*

      I’m so sorry about your father. The best thing for me has been video medical appointments. I’ve seen a lot of people with minor complaints and I’m getting a lot of better follow up with patients with depression or anxiety. I’m able to give them better care.

    11. Malarkey01*

      Although the negative and loss had outweighed everything there have been some silver linings for us.

      1) we got time with our kids- especially our toddler (when it started, preschooler now) that we would have never gotten. With work, we have about 3 waking hours a day with the kids and while working and caregiving was insane we are a much closer family now.
      2) we took up cooking and went 17 months without eating out (which was a daily habit for us before) and have become much healthier.
      3) our jobs will remain fully remote (which is a bonus for us and people who wanted to go back can too)

      1. Taking the long way round*

        Sorry that there’s been so much that’s difficult this year. I’m glad you’ve found some light in amidst the bad stuff.

    12. Generic Name*

      My son’s therapist went 100% virtual during lockdown, and he responded to sessions so much better than in-person sessions. I have a couple of theories why, but not having to drive 45 mins in traffic to the sessions has been a godsend as well.

    13. GermanGirl*

      Honestly it’s mostly stuff we don’t talk about on weekends like WFH options and flextime.

      But I’ve also gotten closer to a friend and to my in-laws as we supported eachother through the more difficult phases.

    14. Elizabeth West*

      I guess a few things. Sorry, a couple are about That-Of-Which-We-Do-Not-Speak-On-Weekends.
      1. I was here (stuck) when my mom had her stroke. This enabled me to act quickly and her outcome has been really good. She’s cleared to drive now so no one has to take her to the store or the doctor.
      2. Because of the pandemic, the state workforce development agency offered CompTIA certifications. I got the Project+ cert for free. It’s at least a toe in the door to better jobs.
      3. The push to remote work has left some companies open to a wider candidate pool, which gives me a glimmer of hope that I might be able to leave the state. Although I’m starting to see more listings saying “Onsite.” :\
      4. My Buddhist sangha in OldCity went remote. In fact, they invested in some conferencing software and equipment (Owl, I think) and are now fully hybrid, and AFAIK will stay that way. So I still get to sit with them and attend the discussions even if post-group coffee is off the table.

      1. Taking the long way round*

        So glad you were there for your mom and that she’s making a good recovery.
        I forgot that I’ve also had the opportunity to get a free diploma qualification from my employers – and it’s online which means no travelling for hours once a week to get to the middle of the country (England) just to do the same work we can do over Teams. Win win, thanks for the reminder and good luck with your training!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Thank you, you too! I already got it; I took the exam in June. Now for someone to hire me before I forget it all!

    15. the cat's ass*

      -We got two kittens,one on 2020 (that was kinda hair raising-we had to drive to another not very good with COVID part of CA, the a/c in our car died and we had to stay in a hotel overnite but they were fantastic w/precautions) and another in 2021. They are delightful, and almost as cute as Alison’s kitties!
      -DH will NEVER go back to in-person work if he can help it.
      -I have really enjoyed managing my patients on Zoom; it reminds me a teeny bit of being a visiting nurse where you got to see people in their natural habitat. And i got to care for them while keeping them safe.

    16. allathian*

      I think that I value my family more than I ever did before. I suspect that I was beginning to take them a bit too much for granted, but now I tell them how precious they are to me. And they usually respond in kind. ;)

      I’m so glad that I’ve got off relatively lightly. Nobody I know has been sick or worse with covid, everyone I care about most have been vaxxed, our house is big enough to make WFH easy, our jobs make WFH relatively easy. I’ve thrived in my job and I haven’t suffered too much from the isolation. I’m basically an introvert and get most of the social contact I need from my own family. Sure, I’ve missed my friends, but during the summer and fall we’ve been able to meet in person a few times, and we had an advent meal with my MIL, her husband, and my SIL today. It was wonderful.

      1. Taking the long way round*

        That’s nice that you’re closer to your family :) Things like this can really make you see what’s important and give you perspective!

      2. allathian*

        WFH also made it possible for me to finally grow out my bangs. I used to get a haircut every 5 to 6 weeks, and I’d been toying with the idea of growing out my bangs for a while, but always chickened out in the salon. But with WFH and everyone having covid hair, it was easy. Now my hair’s longer than it’s ever been since I was 10 and became primarily responsible for its care. It took months to convice my parents, especially my mom, that I really wanted shorter hair. I finally managed it by chewing hair and gum at the same time, when she’d cut the tangles a few times, she asked me if I was doing it on purpose, and I said yes, because I really wanted short hair, and I got what I wanted.

        1. Taking the long way round*

          That’s funny!
          I’ve coloured my hair this pandemic and I’m getting a tattoo.
          Partly its because my dad died and I just think life too short to worry what others think, but also it’s made me realise that I’m at home most of the time so why not?
          So far my hair has been green and blue, then turquoise, now it’s a witchy greeny black, and I’m getting it done pillar box red for the holidays soon.

          1. Might Be Spam*

            I grew out my dyed dark brown hair and went to natural gray. I like long hair so there’s been an obvious demarcation line. French braiding helped blend the colors for quite a while and every couple of months I cut off a handwidth of hair using the ponytail method.

            On the day after Thanksgiving I had it cut to shoulder length and all of the dyed hair is gone. It’s quite a change from long hair and I feel very strange looking at myself in the mirror. It’s like looking at a stranger. The cut is fine, I just don’t recognize myself.

    17. Might Be Spam*

      Covid has made it easier to stay away from my siblings. It’s giving me a chance to see how peaceful life can be and how necessary boundaries are. I’m in an online family support group and learning how to set boundaries and recognize abusive behavior.

      I’m able to spend more time with my adult children because we’re using Skype. I don’t know why we never thought of it before. My son lives out of state and we’ve been having family holidays and random family dinners online and it’s been so nice.

      I discovered so many online dance groups. It’s been fun learning the local favorites and I could dance with someone every day of the week if I wanted. There are many dance festivals that went online and now I have an excuse to travel when things get back to normal. Now that I know some of the people running them, I feel braver about going alone.

      1. Taking the long way round*

        That’s brilliant!
        I never do online exercise but it could be a good way to connect to people. I never want to go out after work, especially when it’s cold and dark.

    18. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’ve been inspired to pick up my musical instruments again after not playing for a while. One is the mountain dulcimer, and most players and festivals are in the eastern US and not where I live on the West Coast. I’ve been able to attend lots of dulcimer workshops online with professional musicians and watch their concerts as well. It’s been wonderful to have access to all these instructors and performers. The sessions are all affordable, my playing is improving, and it’s a way to support artists whose touring schedules have been disrupted.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        I bought a mountain dulcimer early in the pandemic. The luthier is a local relative-of-a-relative, and was clearing out his unsold stock before starting new projects, so I got a gorgeous one for a song. I’m not good enough to perform, but I’ve sure enjoyed learning and playing, and it kept me sane last year when my husband and adult son were home all the time for several months.

        1. WoodswomanWrites*

          That sounds great. If you’re interested, there’s a wonderful series of online workshops and concerts called QuaranTUNE Dulcimer Festival, offered a few times a year. They haven’t announced the 2022 schedule yet (they’re doing Christmas concerts in December but that’s not my interest.)

        1. WoodswomanWrites*

          Aw shucks, that’s very kind of you. This site is full of such interesting, thoughtful, and kind people. It’s the only site I post on that isn’t my own.

      2. Taking the long way round*

        Not really related as instruments other than they’re both kind of folksy, but I considered taking up the ukulele recently. I’m just hesitant because I generally have a crappy history with starting hobbies and not continuing them.

    19. Overeducated*

      I am so sorry about your dad. I think I remember you posting about the dilemma of how to get to him last year. It’s awful that you didn’t get to see him.

      I think the last calendar year has colored my experience by getting tougher over time in different ways (e.g. virtual school, returning back to “normal” but with a lot of disruption to childcare, etc), but for me the first six month or so had some positives. I had had a baby in late 2019, and he was supposed to go to day care at 4 months, but we were able to keep him home with us until he was almost a year old, which was really nice. My job also went temporarily remote, but my manager took the position early on that we were being so productive that she’d be willing to approve more telework when we returned (our org’s policy was generous but culturally people weren’t allowed to take advantage), so I was able to move further away to a city my spouse and I had daydreamed about living in for a long time. Not looking forward to returning to the office with my 2 hour commute now, but it will only be once a week. So those are both really positive things.

      1. Taking the long way round*

        Thank you so much! Yes I did write about it here. It’s been a tough year.
        Congrats on your baby and I’m glad that you got to spend more time with him.

    20. Lucy Skywalker*

      The only silver lining that I’ve been able to find from COVID was last January and February, when I could stay home and not go out into the bitter cold. I’m from Boston, and the winters here are gross.

    21. beentheredonethat*

      Good, I started spending time with cousins I hadn’t before. The sad part, hearing people I cared about say hurtful mean things about others. Difficult, my Mom has dementia and LOVES to talk to people and I kept her at a distance. I drove her around and she had an opinion about every house, yard, dog, cat, person, and sidewalk (some of ours aren’t straight they do curvy ones) They make her laugh. The VERY BEST part… you could let go of everything that wasn’t important.

      1. Taking the long way round*

        I like how the last couple of years have meant people get to re-evaluate what’s important to them and reconnect with people they might not otherwise have connected with. Sorry about your mom, that’s hard.

    22. Lucien Nova*

      I’ve learnt to sew and people have convinced me to sell the things I sew! Plus I’ve started streaming and that’s helped me to build a wider circle of close friends.

    23. Alexis Rosay*

      Not me personally, but I have two friends whom covid gave the time and space to pursue their dreams. One friend started a gender transition, and another has successfully pursued single motherhood by choice. It makes me happy to see both of these friends really blossoming as they both get things they’ve wanted for a long time.

    24. WoodswomanWrites*

      I remember now when you posted about losing your dad. So sorry to hear that the pandemic continues to complicate this sad event further.

      1. Taking the long way round*

        Thank you. Yes, it might be another couple of years before I bury him but I hope not.

    25. Retired Prof*

      I saw the last year of my father’s life on Zoom, which never worked well with his hearing aids. I hate that.

      I got to avoid the exhausting extended family holidays two years running! I love my family but seeing them weekly on Zoom for an hour has been much much better for relationships than a few intense days of bringing out the worst in each other several times a year.

    26. Anon for now*

      Well my marriage might not be on (probably) its last legs without the trauma and stress, sigh. Hard to consider the good for me right now.

  10. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How is everyone’s writing going?
    As usual, this is not limited to fiction writing, any writing goes.
    For the NaNoWriMo participants, how are you feeling about now that the month is almost over? Think you’ll reach your goal (whatever it was and regardless of whether or not is adheres to the “official” rules)?
    Meanwhile I have gotten very little done due to being very busy, so I’m still on my little fanfic for busy times project. It is going very well though, and may actually end up becoming a bit more significant than I intended.

    1. DrunkAtAWedding*

      I started writing a NaNoWriMo project, but life got in the way so now it’s just a project. It started off as an alien romance story, but now it’s a full on political coup/empire paradigm shifting kind of thing.

      My problem with writing is, I’m good at coming up with stories and figuring out how things connect and building up why people are doing things…but actually getting it all down and tell it as a coherent plot is hard. Since I last tried to write down a long story, I’ve completed two degrees and gotten ADHD medication, so I’m now having more ideas about how to get my ideas down and plan what to write, and I have more focus to actually sit down and get it done. Hopefully, it will go well. If it does, I can go back to the stories that have lived in my head for decades. They’ve grown so big in there that they might be quite hard to get out, harder than a brand new story which can grow as it’s written.

      One thing I’m struggling with is figuring out my ‘writing voice.’ I don’t know why, but it feels hard, even though I can just sit here and write loads to you. From the two dissertations, I’ve gotten better at recognising that a first draft isn’t going to be perfect. It’s just important to get it down, because editing is so much easier than writing. So that’s removed a barrier. My ‘writing voice’ doesn’t have to be the final version right away. Plus, just accepting that I can write a story like I would write it to tell it to a friend. It’s not ideal, because all of the ‘zooming in’ on dialogue and imagery disappears, but I can draft it like that and then go back and fill it in later.

      I’ve always found that mimicking a voice is easier than trying to do my own. If I decide “okay, I’m going to write a story in the style of Stephen King”, then I can, somehow, just sit down and write it. It might not actually end up reading anything like Stephen King, but that feeling of mimickry also removes some barriers. I’m trying to use that in this story by ‘casting’ my characters. For example, one character is a lot like Rosa Diaz from Brooklynn 99, so if I’m stuck on how she would phrase something or what she might do or say, imagining what Rosa might do or say is a good starting point.

    2. beep beep*

      Postings for the ficfest I wrote for keep getting pushed back so they’re finally supposed to be 9PM tonight and I’m so nervous QwQ I don’t even actually know if mine will be today- they haven’t said if there will be several days with postings in rounds- but I just want this thing to be out in the world already!

    3. Maryn B*

      I heard back from a beta reader who READ MY ENTIRE NOVEL OUT LOUD (!) and caught so many small things I didn’t see on the page, like a word too near itself or another word that rhymed. She also noted a few major issues with a character who’s supposed to be likable but isn’t, for her anyway (also an issue with the first novel I ever sold) and with characters who occasionally break the fourth wall in writing journal entries. But overall she loved it and said she’d beta read anything I wrote, and to please send her the sequel even if it wasn’t as polished. Which I did, and again, she read it out loud. I’m blown away.

      1. Girasol*

        I find that I can do this myself: read my writing aloud and see where “the” is repeated or left out, or it says “the” where it should be “that,” and such other mistakes that I completely miss when reading silently.

        1. EnigineeringFUN*

          I use the “Read out loud” function in Word on the Review tab. I can hear the tone of the words. In undergrad I minored in creative writing, mostly short stories. But then getting my PhD, my advisor told me I was a terrible writer and sent me to a course for Academic writing. The instructor told me that I needed to remove my voice and narrative from my writing. Switching styles has made my writing much stronger!

    4. Chaordic One*

      No, I won’t reach my goal. I usually have a hard time creating and sustaining conflict when I attempt to write fiction. I recall reading about the author Grace Paley, that her books didn’t really much conflict and she just told stories about people and things happening to them without conflict. I love her books, so I initially kind of tried to write like her in that I just let things happen and wrote about things they way they were in this imaginary world.
      However, I think I’ve come up with something decent, conflict-wise, and I was inspired by certain political events not to0 long ago.

      OTOH, my novel is sort of turning into an alternative future/sci-fi caper, dependent on a possible scientific/medical “break-through” and I find myself going down a rabbit hole having to read up on science to figure out how I can explain the future technology (but not too much explanation) that will allow this life-changing break-through. Then just the hard work of fleshing out the characters, events and coming to satisfactory conclusions.

    5. Girasol*

      I seem to be learning a tough lesson. I get pages and pages of a short story done, then it gets stuck because the plot isn’t right or isn’t started in the right place, so I need to throw out a week’s work and start over. It’s really hard to scrap all that work, but I’ve gotten some good results by forcing myself to give it all up and restart from scratch. I still fight a tendency to start the old fashioned way, at the beginning, when the story really needs to start with the crisis in the middle, move back to explain how the characters got into this mess, and then go on to how it ends. That’s where I am today: throwing out everything from week before last. I spent last week trying to convince myself that it could be rescued when it really just needed scrapping.

    6. HBJ*

      I’m at a little over 46k, so I’m feeling good. Very busy couple days coming up, so I’m probably going to have to cram the last day, though. :(

  11. 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 games you wish including board games and phone games. Also feel free to ask for recommendations or help identifying a vague-remembered game.
    I’ve not been playing much this week, but whatever gaming time I did have went to Stardew Valley. Almost got enough resources to fix up that boat (this better be worth it, Willy!).

    1. CherryScary*

      I’ve been trying to pace myself through the Animal Crossing dlc,. BUt I still feel like spending a ton of time in it. I also started Pokemon Shining Pearl this week, and while I’m enjoying myself, something about the art style of that game just feels off. It’s kinda bland? I really don’t like the overworld models.

      1. beep beep*

        I also really dislike the overworld models, so I haven’t picked it up yet, though the revamped Underground is tempting me. Instead I dug out my original copy of Pearl (2008! I was in elementary school!) and I’ve been playing through it again, such a nostalgia trip.

        How do you like the story/mechanics/how does the level curve feel? You may also like it better with mods- apparently it’s supposed to be easier than normal since the game was built in Unity.

        1. CherryScary*

          I never played the original, (or if I did, it was barely getting far because I was playing on a borrowed system while hanging out with a friend). I’m through 2 gyms, and the last one was a bit more of a challenge. I haven’t had to do much grinding yet.

    2. Camelid coordinator*

      We convinced the teenager to play a game with us after dinner last night, and I got trounced in Las Vegas. We hadn’t played it in a while, and we enjoyed how you have to continually adjust yet bank on chance. (It is a casino/gambling type of game, as you might guess from the title.)

    3. Professor Plum*

      Had Thanksgiving with a small group of fully vaccinated friends. Finally settled in for a couple rounds of Dominion with new-to-us expansion Menagerie. Really just enough to experience the new features—but it was so fun to play in person again! Did anybody else play games in person for the first time in a long time?

    4. DarthVelma*

      I got a little tipsy last night and decided to go back to Fortnite for a night. Went in on my alt account so none of my friends would bug me. Had a pretty good run in solos. (For the record, I was once highly rated a squads player.) Not going to pick the game back up as a regular thing, but it was nice for nostalgia’s sake.

    5. The teapots are on fire*

      My fiancé and I played Hungry Higgs by Gravity Games, a board game played on a tipping board. Once we figured out the rather badly written rules, it was fun, a mix of strategy and luck.

    6. Nicki Name*

      Grinding my way through Hades and contemplating turning on God Mode. I don’t like using cheat codes generally, but I’ve unlocked a ton of stuff and still can’t quite make it through that final fight.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Honestly I find that the God mode is really well done – it doesn’t make you invincible by any means, just a little tougher. I believe it starts out at reducing your damage taking by 20% and it increases by two percent every time you die, though I don’t remember what the cap is (doesn’t go to 100% though). Also the developers themselves give you the option and I believe in an interview on the Nintendo Power Podcast they stated that they included it specifically so people who needed it could still enjoy the game, so I’d hardly call it “cheating”.

      2. Lucien Nova*

        Absolutely do turn it on. I was also unable to beat the final boss without it and it has opened up so much more of the game for me ability-wise. It felt awful at first, like I was just cheesing my way through, but I’ve ended up quite liking it! Supergiant designed that feature very well.

      3. Your local password resetter*

        Definitely put it on.
        Beating that fight will unlock a bunch of extra mechanics and story too, so give yourself the edge you need.

    7. ecnaseener*

      My family loves the Exit games, and last night we tried one of their jigsaw puzzle line for the first time. Some very clever riddles using the puzzle pieces!

    8. Also Cute and Fluffy!*

      This week I my husband and I have been playing Simon’s Cat: Story Time on the big screen tv. One of us plays and the other one advises. We like the fact that it is untuned and that there is a story that goes with it.

    9. DrKMnO4*

      The boat is worth it, I promise.

      I have also been playing a lot of Stardew Valley to escape from work stress. I love starting new farms and marrying new people. Have you married anyone yet?

    10. Clumsy Ninja*

      I play Farm Heroes Saga on my phone. It’s a cheesy matching game with fruits and vegetables, and I’ve gotten far enough in the levels to be dealing with sheep and lightning bugs now, too. I love the “whee!” sound the lightning bugs make when they fly away.

      This is how I stay patient when people are taking too long at work or I’m waiting too long in line at the store. ;)

    11. LimeRoos*

      Still spending way too much time in the ACNH update. The DJ KK Rave is pretty amazing. Also picked up Villainous and two expansions this weekend. Hubby wanted to try the main game since it has good reviews and was also on super sale at Target. We grabbed it and I ordered the expansions about 30 minutes into it lol. It was so much fun!! You get to play as a villain in the Disney world, and they each have different objectives to win. So you’re playing a game against the other villains, but also within your own deck. Highly recommend.

  12. Laura H.*

    Little Joys Thread

    What brought you joy this week?

    It’s not currently so but hopefully this course of action brings. me joy in the long run. I realized/was rather painfully reminded that my sense of time when I’m unoccupied by external forces is absolutely awful- and exacerbated by my depression.

    Not sure how to fix it, but hoping an alarm on the hour nearly every waking hour will start helping.

    Also I got the cutest keychain a few weeks ago and finally can mail out the other two I bought to my friends this week.

    Please share your joys!

    1. StellaBella*

      I spoke to two good friends this week and a cousin, and made a good pumpkin pie, am single and do not live near family so the pie is all mine too. :)

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      This was actually a very difficult week for our family, but there were a series of unusual events that were oddly comforting. Mostly finding small objects that reminded us of someone we recently lost, and being able to see some distant relatives and hear their stories made it feel like they were still with us.

    3. Ins mom*

      Many thanks to Red Reader for the chocolate cherry cake recipe! I made three desserts and skipped homemade buns for thanksgiving; granddaughters said chocolate cherry should be the new tradition…

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My Thanksgiving desserts were tasty, and tassies are easy enough that I will be making them more often (now that the fear factor is gone LOL). Without complaining, my teenager went grocery shopping with me. Without prompting, cooked two things from culinary arts class for the holiday meal….and set an extra place at the table in memory of grandpa.
      (Yes my eyes are leaking, but I’m very proud of my child.)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I made chocolate mousse for the first time since youngest realized he had a dairy allergy at the start of the pandemic. (Thanksgiving dinner was dairy free, so he felt he could take the risk of a mousse cup.)

        Chocolate mousse is good.

    5. Voluptuousfire*

      Spent Wed and Thur with my two elderly aunts. I’ll stay over to give my cousin who usually spends nights there a break. We didn’t have our usual family Thanksgiving, but we still had our chocolate cream pie. It’s a family tradition that most of my extended family does and has to be done with a graham cracker crust, a particular brand of store bought pudding (we won’t make it if we can’t get the particular brand) and hand whipped whipped cream. My cousin made the pie itself and I made the whipped cream and it was just so good. It’s reassuring to know that some family traditions are still around. My dad was one of ten and there’s only 4 of them left, so it’s comforting to know we’re keeping this tradition alive.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      When I exercise in the pool I have no sense of time. It can feel super long and be 4 minutes. It can feel like 20 and be 50. The clock really helps since my sense of fatigue and time passing offer no cues. So I’m optimistic about your alarm idea.

      My husband planned a second trip without me (first was a couple of weeks ago; both business trips which then extended to a personal trip), which is a sign I am recovering enough to look after myself and the house and all the pets. Right now I do not want to climb onto another airplane for at least two months, after several trips to see my dying mother followed by the funeral. My limits not being the gravitational force warping my family into my orbit is very important to me, and I welcome all signs that they are getting out there and doing cool stuff and sending me photos.

    7. the cat's ass*

      Thanksgiving was lovely; due to various medical things, it was an alcohol free meal and that made it a lot quieter. Definitely something I’m going forward with.
      The creamed spinach was AWESOME!!!
      We’re putting up the tree today!

    8. ecnaseener*

      Seeing family for thanksgiving has been lovely! Lots of excellent food and good times, but the biggest little joy by default is our little dog :) [she lives with my parents and I’m staying with them this week]

    9. allathian*

      We had a lovely 1st advent meal with my MIL, her husband, and my SIL. It was lovely to see them again and share a meal.

    10. Might Be Spam*

      Best Thanksgiving Ever! It was my daughter’s first time hosting and she, her long-distance boyfriend and I had a great time.

      OK, there was an oven fire, my chocolate cream pie was dropped on the sidewalk (right side up!) and a cat was discovered to be locked in the kitchen with the cooked turkey for 30 minutes.

      We had lots of fun conversation, prepared food together, watched a fake fireplace and petted the cats.

      Afterwards, I went home to get on my computer so we could all Skype my son and that was great. Until my daughter said something funny and I choked on my tea and while coughing, some turkey came back up and lodged in my wind pipe and I couldn’t inhale. They were about to call 911 when I was able start breathing again. So I’m not dead which is great.
      I’m still alive, we had good food, good company, and a great story for next year. Best Thanksgiving Ever!

      1. allathian*

        Sounds like the sort of holiday that memories are made of. Glad you made it through safely. Getting to pet the cats is always good.

    11. Anon for this*

      I accidentally found some important-looking old possessions (documents and small objects) in a carefully hidden box at the back of the storage room at Weekday Locale. Quietly arranged to have them returned to their owner, who was an employee here years ago that I sort of knew in my early days. I know the feeling of having misplaced something like that so I keep thinking about the reunion and it’s making me happy.

    12. WoodswomanWrites*

      On my overnight trip to check out birds at wildlife refuges, I was able to watch a rarely spotted golden eagle. I stayed in my car and the eagle and didn’t move from the tree next to me. I’ve never been so close to a golden eagle. Amazing experience.

      1. I take tea*

        That’s so cool! I read about your Thanksgiving tradition and thought that it sounded very nice, and I’m glad you got rewarded with a rare sight.

      2. allathian*

        Oh wow, that’s amazing.

        My husband and son went for a walk last weekend and saw a black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) eating rowan berries. Like all woodpeckers, they mainly eat insects and larvae that burrow in trees, but they do eat berries as well, especially when there’s lots of them. They’re very distinctive, black with a red crown (males) or a red hindcrown (females), so you’re unlikely to mistake them for any other bird. Luckily my husband got it on video.

        1. WoodswomanWrites*

          That’s great. Having not heard of a black woodpecker, I just looked it up. What a cool bird.

          I managed to get a photo of the eagle, which I’ll post on my blog in coming days. It’s amazing what contortions I can put my body through to aim a camera upward at a weird angle out the passenger side window when I’m motivated to get a picture of a rare bird.

    13. GermanGirl*

      When I got back into ballet a few years ago there was this dancer in our adult intermediate class, who I thought was amazing – a swan among us ugly ducklings – but she was really nice, too, and clearly there to learn just like the rest of us. I loved watching her dance and really wanted to be as good as her one day. She moved away a while ago.

      This week was very tough for me personally, with life-altering events and I’m still struggling with some of it.

      But we had a new student try our class and she later asked me how long I’d been dancing … and the wheels started turning in my head and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve become a swan now – wow, I kinda didn’t expect that to happen, ever, but it did. I still have a lot to learn, of course, but to know that others are watching me dance and thinking “I wanna dance like that one day” is an amazing feeling.

    14. The Other Dawn*

      –I got two huge turkeys for 39 cents a pound yesterday. If I’m not cooking for Thanksgiving, I normally buy turkeys afterwards and freeze them for the Christmas or Easter.
      –I made homemade pudding for chocolate cream pie for Thanksgiving and the pudding set perfectly. It can be hit or miss for me sometimes.
      –I got my vaccine booster Friday and the only side effect was a sore arm yesterday.

    15. Chauncy Gardener*

      Hosted Thanksgiving (very small, family only) and all the food came out really well and everyone was relaxed and enjoyed themselves! No political arguments and everyone showed up on time. Woot!

    16. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I had a crazy nesting fail yesterday and I’m copying it here now:
      @ Laura H —
      Your idea about the alarm is intriguing. I grew up in a house with a grandfather’s clock. Mom & I knew if we woke at night, we’d know the time within the hour so we needn’t turn on a lamp to look at the clock.
      (Unfortunately, my husband and child feel like they woke up *because* of the quarter hour chimes…so no chiming clock for me as an adult!)

    17. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I spent time with my sister in law and nieces and nephews. They are all a joy to be around and I value the relationship I have with SIL (she’s actually my husbands brothers wife)

  13. Gas stoves*

    I need a new stove! Or are they called ranges now? Anyway, mine is super old and needs an update. I’ve never bought a stove before. It has to be gas. I cook a fair amount, but it’s just me. What to look for? What do you like in your stove? What’s a deal breaker?

    1. Meh*

      I had to look up the difference :/ a range is a cook top paired with an oven and a stove is a heating device you cook on.

      I like a completely flat top with the knobs on the front instead of against the wall (it looks cleaner to me). I really like the look of the French doors for the oven, or the door that slides in, like on Bake -off. My parents got the burner that you can flip over to use a wok – if that’s your thing. I want one that has a long grill or section for a griddle insert.

      1. Wishing You Well*

        One thought: if you have small children (or klutzes) in your household, you might want the knobs on the top of the range to prevent them from being turned on accidentally. Otherwise, your choice!
        And I love my self-cleaning oven!

        1. allathian*

          Many ranges have child safe knobs that you can push in, and lock in place. Our IKEA-labeled range has that, and it was good to have when our son was a toddler. I would hate to have the knobs at the back, the idea of having to reach them through a cloud of steam feels unsafe to me.

      2. Chaordic One*

        OTOH, with the knobs in the front, you lessen the chance of accidentally brushing against and being burned by a hot pan or the flame when you are reaching over them to turn them off or on.

        Not a fan of self-cleaning ovens, although I only have experience with electric self-cleaning ovens. They typically use a lot of energy to clean themselves and they get so hot that they damage and shorten the life of the appliance. Not really sure if they have self-cleaning gas ovens.

        1. ThatGirl*

          My gas oven has a cleaning cycle, yes. It basically burns the gunk off. I have no idea if it shortens the appliance’s lifespan?

        2. Observer*

          Most gas ovens have a self-clean option, except at the VERY low end.

          Unless you use the self-clean quite frequently, it shouldn’t shorten the life of the oven. It certainly didn’t create any problems for me.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      In talking to an appliance repair person he said that his advice was to buy appliances with the fewest features. The more features the more that can go wrong and it does. Keep it simple.
      I just picked up my first stove ever. The one I had came with the house. I got a used one at a great price. This one is self-cleaning supposedly. I guess it cleans when it feels like it. Since it’s older I am having trouble finding replacement parts for it. It’s electric and I need one of the smaller coils (elements on top of the stove). The ones they say should fit do not fit. sigh. For now I am working with three burners not four.

      1. Clisby*

        The self-cleaning ovens I’ve had didn’t just clean when they felt like it. I had to set it to self-cleaning mode and then leave it alone until it was done.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I think accurately stated it’s a continuous clean. You don’t set it, in other words. Yeah, I have had the ones where you set them to clean- lock the door and all that. This isn’t one of those.

          1. All the words*

            Continuous self cleaning sounds like false advertising. The self clean function requires extremely high heat to essentially cremate all the accumulated grease, spills & spatters.

    3. Jay*

      We just switched from gas to induction and we love it. We really cook (I mean REALLY cook) and it’s been great.

      That said, I will never again buy a stove without continuous burners – so much easier to move things around and so much more room for bigger pots and pans. If you have enough money for a dual-fuel range with a gas cooktop and an electric oven, that gives you more precise control of the oven temp and sometimes more room depending on the make and model.

      Dealbreakers: our last gas stove had knobs on the front (as opposed to the top) and it was possible to accidentally turn on the gas without lighting the burner if you leaned on it or bumped it in passing. If I ever buy another gas range, it will have the knobs on top.

      Not worth the money: warming drawers.

      1. Clisby*

        I can see the advantages of dual-fuel, but wouldn’t be willing to pay much more for it. I would if I did much baking, but I don’t. Cooktop has to be gas – not having a gas cooktop would be a deal-breaker for me. I have had very little problem with knobs on the front, but I’m also thinking my next stove will have them on the top. We’re planning a complete kitchen remodel so are looking into what we really want.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      We do a lot of timed cooking…won’t get an oven without it.
      (On the off chance a manufacturer finds this thread some day: I REALLY miss my old-school oven with the analog clock because the time-bake schedule would survive our frequent 1-second power outages! I’d pay extra for that option –it means dinner is not ruined.)

    5. Merle Grey*

      At my last place, I had a new gas range that had a small simmer burner and a big one that got pasta water boiling quickly or would work with a wok or large griddle. Those got a lot of use. The top surface was easy to clean – it had sealed burners and the rest was ceramic. The oven had a convection setting so it baked evenly and I could use all three racks at once. I’ve cooked on some high-end gas stoves at relative’s homes and they felt nicer to use, but this one was plenty good enough.

      Current one is old (1980-ish?), does not have sealed burners, the electric start is slow, the oven knob is weird (there’s no obvious OFF setting, which freaks me out a little), and the oven is so small I doubt I could roast a turkey in it. The oven temperature is merely a suggestion, but I don’t know where there would be room for an oven thermometer, and so have had to get good at guessing. The top is stainless steel and looks decent despite its age, though. It’s on my list of things to replace when I have the $$.

    6. Chauncy Gardener*

      Supposedly gas burners and an electric oven are the best, but I have both burners and oven gas and it’s really nice. A really low setting for the burners is a huge plus. Mine has High, Medium, Low and Simmer. Simmer is awesome for those long, slow cooked things.
      A friend has one of those stoves with five burners on top. Four the usual way (2 in front, 2 in back) with one smack in the middle. She says it’s totally useless because if the usual four are occupied, you can’t fit anything on the middle one. So she said she paid extra for something she never uses.

      1. Clisby*

        Thanks for the input – we were thinking about whether to get a stove with 5 burners on top. What size stove do you have? We’re going to be doing a complete gut-it-and-start-over kitchen renovation, so we’re thinking about going from a 32″ at least to a 36″.

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          Goodness! I could have sworn mine was a 32″ but it’s only 29″. I have a very small kitchen, not NYC apartment small, but small. We redid our kitchen over about 7 years ago and I tried like anything to fit double ovens, but just couldn’t do it. But the range we have (it’s a Wolfe) can fit a huge turkey in the oven and all sorts of things on the stove. I found when looking at ranges that some were large, but didn’t have a lot of room inside the oven due to stupid design. Bring your biggest roasting pan and try to fit it in the oven before you buy. I was amazed and it was well worth the awkwardness (and other people in the store were really taking note!).
          If you’re re-doing the whole kitchen, I will put in a plug for a Fisher & Paykel dishwasher, although with the supply chain issues it may be tough to get one (it’s an Australian brand) . It fits in the space a regular dishwasher takes, but it’s TWO drawers. I can fit the Thanksgiving dishes into one and it can run (very quietly) while we eat dessert and the rest can fit into the other drawer.

          1. Chauncy Gardener*

            If you’re going for a 36″, you could easily have six burners, right? That would be awesome!

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              We’re eyeing the ones with a built-in pancake griddle down the middle. :)
              It won’t be for a couple of years because we don’t currently have gas — but I want gas some day because there’s just no substitute for it when using a wok. And there are days I don’t want to go outside in the rain to use the grill. :)

          2. Sc@rlettNZ*

            Ahem, Fisher & Paykel is actually a New Zealand brand lol.

            But the dishdrawers are great. If you have limited space (or only 1-2 people) you can buy a single one and I’ve also seen them installed on either side of the sink so that you don’t need to bend down to fill/empty them.

        2. Observer*

          If you are going to a 36″ you should be able to use the middle burner even when the other burners are in use. But also, the middle burner can be useful, even in a smaller unit, depending on the kind of burner and the kind of cooking you do. I have one cook top with a standard 5th middle burner. It’s a high temperature burner, and I find it very useful for really big pots because it can be hard to properly center the pot on one of the corner burners. My current stove has a middle burner that is a long oval shape. I’m not likely to actually cook anything normal on it, but it’s really designed to be used as a griddle (and it actually come with a griddle pan.)

          I don’t do the same level of cooking that I used to. But there was a time where having that 5th burner really was useful to me.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’ll bet that one in the middle is for those of us who use a muckin’ great stockpot. When we were doing a lot of home brewing, we had a very small stovetop and the brew kettle couldn’t be fully on the stove and centered at the same time.

    7. allathian*

      I wouldn’t want to do without an induction stove and convenction oven anymore. Induction does require steel or iron cookware, but it combines the speed and adjustability of gas with the safety factor of electricity. The downside is that you can’t use one if you have a pacemaker.

      1. LPUK*

        My parents have an induction hob and I hate it. If water gets spilt on the surface , everything goes off and sometimes you don’t notice ( say you’re boiling potatoes on one burner and cooking other stuff). Also it doesn’t like other dishes on the other burners that aren’t onesay a plate to are transferring cooked pancakes on cos you don’t have enough counter space… hate it. But I will have to get used to it because over here in UK they are phasing gas appliances out!

    8. *daha**

      I went shopping for a range last year – didn’t buy one, but that’s a different story. I paid the $40 for a membership to Consumer Reports online so I could access their reviews in full. It helped narrow things down a lot, and showed me that they thought some ranges with wildly different prices were very similar in performance. I also found out that lots of the specific models they tested aren’t available. A big part of it is COVID supply-chain issues, and another part is that some of the manufacturers give different model numbers to the same item when they place them in different chains. Pricing also went up while I was in my hunting period – one range that they recommended and designated as a best buy jumped from $750 to $900 – and I still couldn’t find it in stock anywhere. Also, you will pay more for fancy finishes and colors on the same item. Note that some will be sold as “stand-alone” and others as “slide-in”. The stand-alone range will have finish on the two sides as well as the front, but since the slide-in is meant to bracketed by cabinetry on either side, they don’t bother getting pretty on the sides you won’t see.

      1. Sovawanea*

        Local libraries sometimes have the subscriptions to services like Consumer Reports or Ancestry.com. Worth checking before you shell out again just to access a few articles.

    9. acmx*

      Minor thing but if you get the glass top, I prefer that the “hot surface” indicator be on the cook surface as opposed to the control panel.

    10. Some Old Goat*

      If you have children, or asthma, you might want to read about the potential health effects of gas stoves.

      1. Missb*

        It’s a fair point! I’m currently back east visiting my oldest child. In the past five years, he’s been in 3 different rental houses (undergrad, now grad student) and not a single one has had any venting for the gas stove. Not even an over the stove microwave.

        I am a diehard gas user, but I also make sure my venting is up to the task. At my previous house, the venting could’ve removed a stovetop kitchen fire. Folks don’t really pay attention to the CFM requirements for gas stoves, and that’s where you need to spend some $ to be safe.

        (I just can’t make the switch to induction. I use cast iron pans every single day and I’m just not that careful. I know I’d be breaking the top the first month.)

    11. Missb*

      I’m remodeling my whole kitchen, top to bottom and everything in-between. I cook with gas on the stovetop, but prefer an electric oven so I go for dual-fuel which is more expensive than just all-gas.

      My must-haves include: as few electronics as possible and reliability. I lean towards pro-style looks and am not afraid to spend some $. My last range/hood setup cost me about $5k back in 1997, and that was really steep for a range back then. The same range now costs about $6500 alone (delivered to my door from across the country), minus the hood/vent setup. But, my old range is *still* a selling feature for my old house, which has been sold and resold about 4 times since we sold it in 2003 including with a complete (really bad, imho) remodel of kitchen where they only thing they kept was that range. So it’s 24 years old at this point, and still going strong and still a selling feature. It has very little in the way of electronics, not even a timer. Still made in America.

      I’ve decided to put the same unit in my new kitchen remodel. It’s almost half as much as a comparable Viking dual fuel 36″ range. It still doesn’t have the fancy electronics that most have now. Not even a timer, lol. It does have a convection fan and a light and an internal thermostat. But these are things that can be easily replaced and do not require a circuitboard that will certainly fail at some point. I’ve read enough about the higher end dual fuel ranges to be concerned about adding the electronics to my kitchen. I just don’t want to spend that much on something that will be likely to fail sooner than a cheaper unit.

      If you go that route, you do need to be aware that your venting may need to be increased, depending on how high of BTUs you get for burners. Since I’m ripping things out, that isn’t a problem for me. But I expect to have to put in 10″ diameter ductwork for the CFM that will be required. (I’m also putting in an exterior unit on the roof so that I minimize the fan noise in the kitchen).

      I’ve checked with my installer to make sure they can install the unit. They can. It’s pretty simple – just a gas line and an electrical connection that are both appropriately sized already.

      I am sacrificing a bit of oven space by going with this unit but it’ll still be more oven space than I currently have so I’m okay with it. They build them with double walls on the inside which takes away a lot of the space. The comparable Viking range has about 6″ wide of oven space, but again, it’s more than I currently have so I’m okay with it. I had to pull out all of my casserole dishes and line two up side-by-side to convince myself that I’m okay with it). I’m also not choosing to have the standard grill/griddle section in the middle and going with 6 burners instead. Since they’re built to order, I can choose that option. They use Lodge cast iron for the grates.

      (The unit I’m putting in is a Five Star Range, not to be confused with Blue Star. They’re made in Tennessee.)

    12. SeenItAll...MoreThanOnce*

      My 5 year old Samsung gas range, that I paid $1600 for, stopped working a few months ago (just the oven part). It was the igniter, a $25 piece that cost $400 and one month to get installed. Repairman said that was a pretty standard life for that piece. My advice is to get the most basic oven, because you’ll likely have to replace it in 5-7 years anyway. I kinda feel that way about all appliances anymore.

  14. Lirael*

    UK peeps: hope storm Arwen hasn’t left you with too much damage. I’m in the amber area, fairly close to red, and it was absolutely terrifying last night. Really feel for my friends and family who are nearer the coast. Amazingly I have no damage, but loads of people around me have lost fences and roof tiles :(

      1. Lirael*

        It really was, wasn’t it?

        I didn’t get much sleep either, but somehow managed to miss roof tiles falling off and hitting the ground pretty close to my bedroom :-o

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Yellow area here, wind was pretty noisy, few branches down. A Christmas fayre about 20 miles from me got cancelled because of the storm.

  15. Potatoes gonna potate*

    Guesting & hosting! I thought this would be a fitting topic as this is the holiday season now and people are visiting and traveling….or for years past yanno

    – As a guest how far do you go to make your stay comfortable if you have to stay at someone’s house? (Lets say staying at a hotel is not an option)

    – As a host how much can a guest do before you get offended? (For sake of argument, assume the guest is polite, not making any snide comments etc)

    Finally, what’s the funniest/silliest/strangest thing you’ve seen as a guest/host? For me it’s finding ground black pepper in a Tylenol bottle-MIL doesn’t have any salt & pepper shakers.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      As a guest how far do you go to make your stay comfortable

      As a guest (I started to write “as a ghost,” hahaha), I’m pretty flexible, but I need the room I sleep in to be dark and I need white noise. A fan works fine.

      As a host how much can a guest do before you get offended?

      If you don’t pick up after yourself, damage anything without even a hint of contrition, or mess with my personal stuff, you won’t be invited back.

      what’s the funniest/silliest/strangest thing you’ve seen as a guest/host?

      I don’t know if this is all that silly, but a college friend’s family had a graffiti wall in their finished basement where friends and family could draw or write things. I thought it was pretty cool.

      Also, why does your MIL not have any salt and pepper shakers?!

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        The graffiti wall is pretty cool! I had a hard time deciding what word to use, something interesting/funny etc without judging.

        Idk why she doesn’t have them. She said she doesn’t need htem, she doesn’t add extra salt and pepper in her food. (she prides herself on being a great cook!)

        I’ve never really had any guests stay over. I did have my cousins stay a few nights to help me out when I recovered from surgery and I made sure the room was clean, proper blankets and pillows and towels etc.

        Where I’m staying, the guest bedroom has a queen size bed and a chair. Flat sheet on the bed, a thin sheet as a comforter and a flat seat cushion for a pillow. I….went to Walmart the next morning and bought all those things.

        1. Morning reader*

          I can’t tell which of the things you bought, but, you are saying that you are a guest and did not get sheets or a blanket from your host? That is unusual.
          To answer your questions, I try to bring personal things that I don’t think a household would routinely have, like my lotion, shampoo, toothpaste. And things for my comfort like my own pillow. Otherwise, I would ask, in a polite way, to be directed to things I need. Where is an outlet so I may plug in? Where are your spare blankets? May I open a window? Is there something is can use for a side table, to put my glasses and phone? Where are your coffee mugs, and may I help myself quietly if I’m up before you?

          As a host, I don’t think I’ve ever been offended by a guest. Dismayed, slightly, about a broken dish, and another time finding a roaming child on my PC. Just lucky I guess.

          1. Potatoes gonna potate*

            I can’t tell which of the things you bought, but, you are saying that you are a guest and did not get sheets or a blanket from your host? That is unusual.

            Sorry I should have been more clear. The items in the guest room were a flat sheet on the bed, a thin sheet as a comforter and a thin chair cushion as a pillow. They weren’t very comfortable for me at all so I went to Walmart and bought a set of sheets, pillow + pillowcases, and comforter. I felt weird doing that but if I’m staying for 2+ weeks, I wanted to be comfortable.

      2. Clisby*

        My parents had a whole wall along the steps going down to our basement where all through the years, they’d measure us (and any friends or relatives who happened to be visiting), and mark the name, height, and date in pencil on the wall. It was really cool to watch the little kids growing up from 2′ tall to 6′ tall.

    2. RagingADHD*

      As a host, I would like guests to talk to me about what they need, to see if I can fix or provide something to help.

      If it’s a family member or close friend who has stayed before and knows where everything is, I’m happy for them to help themselves to towels, blankets, OTC meds, or whatever else they need. If it’s the first time they’re staying, I really would not want them to go rummaging or jerry-rigging anything.

      If we’re close enough to share my home, we’re close enough to have a conversation.

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Good tip for potential hosts is to try a night in your guest room. It’s easy not to know that there are no outlets or there’s a weird noise or the mattress is lumpy if you never use the space.

      1. ThatGirl*

        It’s funny, I’ve actually slept in our guest room a few times (most recently the dog was fussing and whining so I moved in there with him so my husband could sleep) and yeah, I find it pretty comfy. I have had awkward conversations with my parents and inlaws over rock hard mattresses before.

    4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      As a guest, I’ve only ever stayed a night or 2 in someone’s home…never like a week or more, so I tend to make do with whatever the host provides (or doesn’t), except I do travel with my own shelf-stable snacks and my own pillow…even when staying in a hotel. I do offer to take my hosts out to eat, but usually they are home cooks so I buy a few groceries, or a tank of gas if they are picking me up from the airport.

      As a host…this is an extreme event and probably too long…I had a vacation condo that my parents owned before me — my family went there every year while I was a kid. It was large…slept 8 in beds…and I hadn’t actually stayed there for 15 years or more. The last year before I sold it, I wanted to go back for nostalgia and I invited my best friend (just her at first)…and then ended up extending that to her husband and kids. I figured I would get time with my friend and there’s plenty for kids to do — it’s a vacation place. So ALL the issues happened: 1) starting with she couldn’t/wouldn’t give me a time window they were arriving — I wanted to plan my day and at least a meal; 2) they show up with an unbelievable amount of stuff/toys for the amount of time they’re supposed to stay. Despite me pointing out empty closets, it’s all just dumped in the living room; 3) they verbally indicate they think of this as X Family Vacation, rather than guests at my condo. I get that this was a “vacation condo” and not my everyday home but well… they rearranged the furniture, immediately hooked up a game console to the only TV, filled every common space with their stuff, used every pot/dish to cook their own meals…they didn’t want to plan a shared meal because the kids are all picky eaters so they all get different meals…one gets a quesadilla another gets ramen, the parents want chicken, etc. My friend ends up not really wanting to “ditch” her Family Vacation to hang out with me, so I do all my activities alone after all (so much for inviting a friend). I tried to be gracious while setting some boundaries, but the final straw was her trying to kick me out of my own kitchen when I was making myself dinner…that’s when I did remind her SHE’s the guest — i didn’t yell just said… “this is MY kitchen; YOU are the guest.” They ended up leaving in a huff 2 days early and I at least got to clean up the place, have meals in my own kitchen and watch TV at night in peace. I have no idea what I could have done better to prevent/stop it from going so wrong since giving preemptive basic rules of being a guest would be rude, right?

      1. Still*

        That sounds awful, I can’t even imagine thinking it’s okay to act like that!

        Re: preemptive basic rules, I think it’s completely fine to touch base on everybody’s expectations in advance! People who are considerate and want to be good guests will appreciate the clarity. And anyone who gets huffy about it is telling you that you probably shouldn’t invite them at all – if they can’t accept theoretical boundaries, they won’t respect them any more in the moment when there is an actual problem.

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          I left some details out so it wasn’t too long; I did preset some non-standard expectations. For example it was 2 floors with 2 bathrooms — I declared ahead of time kids stay downstairs, adults only upstairs. This was my way of keeping some privacy. She agreed to it and for the most part I was able to hold that boundary…if a child needed a bathroom and the downstairs was occupied, I certainly let them go upstairs. I wasn’t anticipating how “at home” they would make themselves and how third-wheel they would make me feel in my own place. Any single one of those issues would have been annoying but not a huge offense. The big offense was ordering me out of my kitchen.

      2. Potatoes gonna potate*

        my mouth dropped. that’s bad behavior.

        (I feel much less terrible now that I’m not a bad guest)

    5. allathian*

      I can only sleep properly in my own bed, so being a houseguest basically never happens. Hotels are usually okay, but I don’t really like sleeping in them, either. I also haven’t had a houseguest in something like 25 years…

      I don’t think I’ve been a houseguest as an adult, except when visiting summer cabins. Rules there are different, my sister’s summer cabin has no running water, so if we stay the night, we’ll bring a gallon or two of fresh water to drink and cook with. It’s by the lakeside, so washing water is easily accessible… We’ll also bring our own bedsheets and towels.

      The weirdest thing that’s happened to me as a host was when a friend who’d been traveling stayed at my apartment before heading home. We cooked and drank, and kept drinking. She’d brought a bottle of vodka with her, and the two of us drank most of it that night (!). When I woke up in the middle of the night, there was an almighty stench in my living room/kitchenette where she was sleeping. Turns out she’d continued drinking on her own after I’d gone to bed, and then she’d thrown up on the rug in my living room. I start dry heaving just thinking about the smell. She’d opened the balcony door (balconies are pretty common here, even in one-bedroom apartments, in the suburbs), so it was freezing as well, this was in January, but we just put the rug there in the middle of the night and closed the door. The next morning, I had to throw out the rug, I really didn’t want to attempt to clean it. I never invited her to stay at my place again, and somehow our friendship was never quite the same afterwards. Now I’ve lost touch with her, but last I heard she was in rehab for alcoholism.

    6. Potatoes gonna potate*

      yalls stories are making me feel better about myself haha that I’m not a terrible guest. I don’t cook beyond toasting bread, preparing baby’s meals and the microwave, but I do clean up after myself as much as possible. We pay for all the groceries when we visit. But I had to change the sleeping situation I couldnt’ compromise on that and MIL never offered anything so I had to buy new ones.

      We used to stay with another family member for a few years. Their home was smaller, and a lot more ppl (5 kids and a cat!) so a bit chaotic but I actually really enjoyed my time there way more. a lumpy soft pillow didn’t bother me as much when staying there…….

    7. Blackcat*

      We bought our current home in our late 20s. We had a guest room which was basically unheard of in our age bracket in our (expensive) city.
      This meant a ton of people invited themselves to stay with us. It was not great. Multiple sets of guests complained about the size of our guest room (9×9, small ish but typical second bedroom in a small city house). My mom ranted about our “narrow steep stairs” (our house was a gut Reno in 2001, so our stairs are actually to modern code and great for the area). Having people complain about things we could not change drove us bonkers. What were we supposed to do?!?
      The other big thing is people wanting to be chauffeured around. Yes, we had a car suitable for group outings, but people wanted us to drop them off when meeting with other people (and we were not invited). Three buses and a train stop within 3 blocks! Uber was new but super present here. And there are also taxis. And lots of places to walk to.
      Honestly, there was only one houseguest who wasn’t a huge amount of work to host—one of our former professors stayed with us when here for a conference and she totally took care of herself, bought us a nice meal, and was generally courteous.
      We did away with the guest room when we had a kid. People complained! But it’s been so nice to just refer people to the neighborhood airbnbs. I also suspect our friends have grown up a bit and wouldn’t pull the same stuff (though our parents are all just difficult guests).

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        That’s so weird, I can’t imagine complaining about the construction/size of someone’s home. My MIL had rented out her apartment for a few years and the tenants destroyed a lot of stuff, including holes in the wall from the doorknobs. She’s slowly having things repaired and ofc the guest room was last.

      2. marvin the paranoid android*

        My mother also enjoys complaining about things I have no way of fixing. When she visits me in my small apartment in a big city, she complains about the size of the building, the size of the apartment, the sound of people outside, the fact that other people on my floor cook meals occasionally, the layout of the city, and the lack of parking options. She will complain about these same things multiple times every time she visits. Apparently she thinks I am God and should really be taking care of things better.

      3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        My parents used to complain about the (lack of) handrail on our stairs. Our home is from the 1920s with a curving staircase and only had a decorative handrail for the bottom half then nothing. We eventually added one to the top when we redid some things through a creative solution by our GC. The inspector liked it so much he took a picture! I know it sucks if you are older but New England century old homes are almost all two story and not to modern code. It is what it is.

    8. Zona the Great*

      Great question and very timely as my father is visiting and he’s a horrendous houseguest. I make all the reasons very clearly known to him and have limited the number of times and duration he is welcome to visit as a result.

      He’s terrible for unusual reasons. He walks around my house asking how much everything cost me. He pulls things out of the trash and asks why I threw it away (because it’s trash). He asks for coffee to be made all day (coffee beyond breakfast reminds me of my abusive childhood growing up with him but I leave that bit out—he just thinks I’m a bitch who won’t make him coffee). He chews with his mouth open and sucks the food through his teeth. He offers me my own food (can I get you something to eat? No thanks this is my house). He follows me around the house asking me the same questions over and over (mostly about how much things cost). When I offer him food during meal times, he tells me he doesn’t want to eat up half my food rather than saying yes or no. Tells me stop “fussing” and then later will say he’s hungry and can I make him some coffee (No!!!!). He tramples boundaries and is just not a gracious guest.

      I hate hate hate when he comes but haven’t grown the backbone to tell him I’m not willing to host him anymore.

    9. Despachito*

      “As a guest how far do you go to make your stay comfortable if you have to stay at someone’s house? (Lets say staying at a hotel is not an option).”

      We usually stay just for one night, and are comfortable with whatever our host provides us.

      “As a host how much can a guest do before you get offended? (For sake of argument, assume the guest is polite, not making any snide comments etc)”

      We have always been lucky to have polite guests so this is only theory, but I’d have a problem if someone invited themselves, rummaged in the cupboards or criticized our home, but that never happened.

      Finally, what’s the funniest/silliest/strangest thing you’ve seen as a guest/host?

      A friend was staying with us overnight once, and she came to our room in the morning without knocking. We were not doing anything X-rated at the moment, but we were in bed and it was quite weird.

    10. The Other Dawn*

      As a guest, I bring my own pillow. I’ve learned I can’t always count on someone having extra pillows, or if they do, that they’re actually comfortable. Plus I prefer my own pillow these days. I’m no longer willing to tough it out and make do with whatever is laying around or buried in the back of a closet. The only time I don’t bring it is if I’m flying. I also bring my knee pillow, even when flying (it’s small), as it’s been a lifesaver for me with my back and hips problems. I also buy any “special” food, I might want while I’m visiting, like a specific milk I drink or a snack I like. I also bring my own shampoo and conditioner, something I never used to do.

      As a host, it’s people who don’t clean up after themselves I can’t stand. I can honestly say, the only person who was a problem is my best friend. She house- and cat-sat for me a couple years ago. I told her she can sleep at my house if she wants to, even though she lived close by at the time. She invited her friend over and they were drinking out on the patio. That’s fine, but they left all their half-used mixers and takeout food in the fridge (no big deal); threw food and other trash in the recycling bin (which was clearly marked recycling); left cigarette butts all over the patio and in the lawn (we don’t smoke, so that was annoying); and used up all my tiki torch fuel (like two half-gallon jugs–WTF??). And when we got home, we smelled gas very strongly. Apparently she’d bumped into the stove that morning before she left and one of the knobs was turned enough to release gas from the burner. I’m very glad we didn’t switch on a light or do anything to cause a spark!

      1. PT*

        I’ve learned to bring my own towels after several incidents in our early 20s with friends who didn’t have extra towels, or they only had enough towels for me and my husband to share 1 towel, or their clean towels were covered in dog fur such that you needed another shower after drying off.

        So I have two cheap, thin towels like you’d get at the gym that pack up nicely for traveling.

    11. Windchime*

      I usually bring my own toiletries, including shampoo, just because I like my stuff and don’t expect hosts to have it.

      I always provide plenty of pillows and blankets, and show guests where the extra towels and blankets are. My mom is my most frequent guest, and I make sure that the electric kettle and tea things are all set up so she can make herself a cup if she wakes up before me. I like overnight guests to feel comfortable when they are staying with me, so I encourage them to get snacks or drinks whenever they like.

    12. Random Biter*

      After one *very* uncomfortable night at a friend of the family’s house (“Oh we have *plenty* of room!” turned out to be a smaller than regulation pull-out sofa barely big enough for one much less my bed hogging husband) I don’t go unless there’s a hotel/B&B option.

  16. Rise of the Dragon*

    Hey, for anyone who self-published an ebook – fiction – what did y’all do about marketing, if anything? I have a fantasy series I’m currently working on and my editor recommended a specific marketing site, but it’s strictly consulting. They sell courses, books, and consulting time on how to market books. Which is great, except I already get up every day at 1 am to edit volumes before going to my paid 8-4 job. By the time I get home, I’m beat and I still need to carve out time to help my elderly parents (they live with me), not to mention seeing to my own mental and physical health. I’m not sure I really have the bandwidth to first learn about marketing and then somehow implement particular strategies. Is marketing even worth it? Do ads work? I haven’t published the first book in the series yet, although I’m close. Should I even attempt marketing or publish and build a reader-base first ? And if marketing worked for you, what was the most effective avenue?

    1. LQ*

      Why are you writing? How long did it take you to complete the first book?

      Marketing seems much more effective if you’ve got a back catalogue, but then you basically have to sign up for your first books may go darn near unread and are you ok with that and will you keep moving forward despite that? If no one reads this series and you don’t have space to go all in on marketing until the next, are you ok with this one being basically just for you and just for learning?

      What is your plan to ‘build a reader-base’ if not marketing? Do you a build in fan-base?

      1. Rise of the Dragon*

        I started the first book back in about 1992. I wrote mainly on weekends because I was 20 years old and had the rest of my life to finish it. When I turned 50 – 4 years ago – I realized the rest of my life was here, now. So, I finished books 2 and 3 and looked for an editor. At the moment, the series is complete, I’m simply editing based on my sensitivity reader before submitting each volume to be proofread. Right now, I probably have all of 2 future readers – and I’m largely okay with that. I’d love to have many people read the series, but I’m an unknown and there are lots of other books out there. I have no idea how to build a reader base and I’m wondering if marketing is even remotely effective for the ordinary author.

    2. MissGirl*

      I do newsletters, Amazon ads, group promos. This guy has helpful classes: sellingforauthors.com. If you’re planning a series, I wouldn’t put out book one until you have at least two books ready. Readers want to see you’re in it for the long haul before investing in a new writer.

      1. Rise of the Dragon*

        I have book 2 nearly ready to publish as well. Amazon ads and promos sounds interesting! I’ll absolutely be looking into those – thank you!

    3. sourdough*

      I haven’t self-published but I used to work in book publishing. If you can set up your own events (which can be virtual), that tends to be the most effective strategy for book marketing on a budget. If you can do anything creative to market your work, that tends to work out well too, and can get you some free publicity–for example, if you write a series of books about baking, you could try asking a bunch of bakeries if they would stock a few copies or host an event. I don’t know if this also works in the self-publishing world, but it’s often a good strategy for authors to develop a relationship with their local booksellers–offering to come in and sign books, coming in for readings, sending personalized thank-you cards, that kind of thing. I’d also ask around to see if anyone would be interested in interviewing you for a book podcast, or including you on a panel, or anything that could get readers interested in your work. If you write about a particularly niche subject, that could be a good hook, and if you have a decent-sized hometown, it’s often easier to get support from local organizations who want to support hometown authors. Of course, you can also build a lot of connections online–Twitter tends to be the go-to for writers. Good luck!

    4. RagingADHD*

      The best “bang” you can get for your buck in marketing indiepub books is first: editing, covers, and sales copy. Then your own email list and newsletter swaps, because they are practically free (only email/web hosting) and they work.

      If you have money to spend, invest in the quality of the book and sales copy first. You can advertise a book with a cheesy homemade cover or a boring blurb till kingdom come, and people will see the ad but not buy.

      Advertising strategy requires some fairly sophisticated knowhow in order to earn back more than you spent. I know lots of indies who blow all their money on ads and get little to show for it.

      I am bootstrapping my publishing business, so I don’t spend money on ads. I spend on good editing and great covers, and put sweat equity into assembling my advance reader team to post early reviews, and cultivating my email list.

      Remember: readers read faster than anyone can write. Your fellow authors are not in competition with you, because book lovers are insatiable. Collaboration and cross-marketing are powerful.

      Offer a sample, a short story or your first in series as an incentive to join your email list. Send out regular monthly or semimonthly newsletters with a blog post quasi-related to your topic, a book review in your genre,
      or any announcements. Include a space at the bottom to cross-promote other author’s books that your reader might like. They may be in your genre/subgenre, or in a related genre that appeals to the same market. You give them a slot in your newsletter, and they give you a slot in theirs. I grew my list from under 50 subscribers (mostly friends & family) to over 2K in less than 3 months using swaps and they were very good leads, no junk.

      The list sells every time I send, and the list grows every time I swap.

      There are a lot of swap groups on FB, and I’m sure you can find them on other social too. Bookfunnel has low cost options for collaboration as well.

      Tis the season for holiday themed short stories. Get one up on your blog and see how many subscribers you can get by New Year.

      TL:dr Advertising can work if you know what you’re doing, but it can also be a money pit if you don’t. The lowest-cost, most reliable sales come from your own email list.

    5. *daha**

      Take a look at the Writer Beware site and blog. It covers a lot of bad behavior and contract terms to watch out for when signing up for marketing, editing, publishing, etc.

  17. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Tech question for those of you who have both ipad and PC. Is there such a thing as a Bluetooth keyboard that can switch between the 2? What about a mouse (preferably not tiny)?
    This is a wishlist item from a teen with a school-issued ipad who often uses a family laptop for homework.

    1. Laura H.*

      Maybe not Bluetooth but I have one with a usb dongle and Bluetooth. I use the Bluetooth for my primary laptop, and plan to use the dongle for my secondary one if needed.

      Maybe something like that would work?

    2. Xenia*

      Yes there is! Not so sure about the mouse, but i can confirm that there is a keyboard version for this. I have a Logitech gaming keyboard — their lowest end mechanical model — and i know it has the ability to swap between things on bluetooth. Usually what i do is use the supplied dongle for my main computer (which has a different connection method) and then switch to bluetooth if i want to use a different computer.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Logitech MX Keys will switch, specifically, though they have other models as well.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Yes – I use the MX Keys and Ergo (trackball) on my desk to switch back and forth between my personal and work computers. Saves desk space :)

    4. Sam*

      I use a Logitech k600, which isn’t perfect on an iPad but usually works pretty well to control iPad, TV, laptop.

  18. Choggy*

    Hi all, I’m looking for new walking sneakers and need ones which are really cushioned and comfortable. I was looking into either Gravity Defyer or Hoka. Does anyone have either, or can you recommend any others? I am overweight and while I always start off well, without the right support, I end up shortening my walk. I also have some hip pain that I’d like to reduce.

    Thanks!

    1. Susan Calvin*

      Obligatory question: did you have a walk analysis done? Runners Point, and many of the better general sporting goods stores will do these, and finding something that’s not just good quality but also suited to your foot shape and movement makes a world of difference in my experience.

      1. Filosofickle*

        This. After visiting a shoe store and having them make recommendations based on my gait I learned that I don’t under or over pronate, but I need high stability/support on both sides of my foot. Saucony is my favorite brand, and I can choose models by the level of cushion and support + which kind of support. This knowledge has been very helpful. (Unfortunately most shoes that have enough of a supportive platform for my feet and legs to be happy aren’t the cutest. Very chunky. But I have some from Saucony that aren’t so bad.)

        1. AGD*

          I love my Saucony sneakers! I’m prone to back pain and various foot issues, and these have helped a lot.

      2. Public Sector Manager*

        Definitely do this. I had a 3-D scan of my foot done and found that on my right foot, my arch had fallen and changed my shoe size from a 12 to a 13.

    2. Jay*

      Hoka. I LOVE my Hokas. Not sure where I saw the recommendation. Amazing arch support, feather-light, not too hot. I love them so much I just bought Hoka hiking boots which look very weird but are also awesome.

      I went to our local running store and had them evaluate my stride and recommend a pair of sneakers. They were the heaviest shoes I’ve ever owned, or at least they felt that way. I kept thinking I’d get used to them but I never did. Switched to Hokas and have never looked back.

      1. allathian*

        My husband also loves his Hokas. I tend to switch between brands, usually Nike or Adidas, or Finnish brand Halti (I’m not sure of their international availability).

    3. Teapot Translator*

      I bought New Balance shoes this year. I like them. My feet have gotten wider as I’ve aged and they have different widths.

      1. The teapots are on fire*

        I love New Balance. If you get a paid you like, make a note of the last. NB uses several different lasts, or foot shapes, and if you get a fit you really like you may want to stick with the same last. The SL-2 is great for really wide feet, toe deformities, and orthotics.

      2. Wishing You Well*

        I wear New Balance black walking shoes everywhere! I have 2 pairs to switch between when one pair gets sweaty. The shoes last longer and my feet stay healthier that way.
        I also recommend a stride analysis – the sooner, the better. You might need orthotics to correct a problem. I did.

      3. The Other Dawn*

        I love New Balance. My foot is somewhere between a normal width and wide width, and I find them to be the most comfortable. I buy the same model for as long as they carry it. Unfortunately they discontinued the previous model I was buying, but thankfully I found another that’s just as comfortable so I bought three pair in different colors.

    4. Lady Lynn Waterton of Bellashire*

      I recently got Brooks Glycerins (female). They were around $150 which is more than I’ve ever spent on sneakers, but are super squishy and comfy! I have plantar fasciitis and they have been very nice to me. I used to walk a ton but think the PF was caused by being cheap and not replacing my shoes. Thankfully I’m starting to walk again. I did get a gait analysis done but my gait is pretty normal so I’m not sure how that would apply for you. Consider orthotic inserts – they don’t even necessarily need to be custom. I got mine from my podiatrist for ~$30.

      1. Public Sector Manager*

        I’ve been using Brooks Glycerin for years and they are my go-to shoe! Can’t recommend them enough.

    5. Fiction Reader*

      It really depends on the shape of your foot and how you move your foot when you walk – a brand that works for one person won’t work for everyone.
      Go in-person if possible and try on a lot of different brands and styles. If they feel good right away, walk around on a hard surface for several minutes to make sure they still feel good. And ideally, shop late in the day after you have been on your feet for a while.
      If you are a woman, the Barking Dog Shoes blog has a lot of shoe reviews.

    6. LGC*

      I’ve had Hokas! I’ve bought the Clifton (their neutral runner). I’ll preface this with saying that Hoka makes a ton of different shoes – from hiking boots to dedicated walking shoes – although their main focus is on running (trail and road). But…it most likely sounds like you’d be looking at the Bondi or something along those lines.

      Practically speaking – yeah, the brand has a reputation for being extra plush for a reason! And they’re surprisingly light for their size. The only concern I’ve had – and I’ve heard from others – is that the lasts (foot shape) tend to be a little narrow. Fortunately, they do offer wide sizes in a lot of their models.

      On their site, they describe the characteristics of the shoe – whether it’s plush or “responsive” (firm), and whether it provides stability or is neutral. In this case, it sounds like you’re looking for something that’s more plush and (hopefully) has at least some stability features. What’s also helpful is that they have a “shoe finder quiz” – so you can put in what you’re looking for and they’ll recommend their own shoes that are the closest fit.

    7. usernames are anonymous*

      I had a gait analysis done walking on the treadmill and they recommended Asics because I overpronate, which I am pretty sure is because I’m overweight.

      1. Choggy*

        Actually ASICS has been my go-to, along with Skechers, just looking for something that might be better.

        1. Retired Prof*

          Have you tried good insoles? I use Keens medium arch FIT insoles. I have had multiple ankle surgeries, and the Keen insoles keep my supinating foot in the right position for walking. I have found that good foot positioning is way way more important than cushioning. I have tried Hokas and did not get enough lateral support from them. But I agree with others here that the best thing to do is get a gait analysis at a running shoe store, and then get advice from an experienced sales person. And spend some money on your shoes – it is worth it to avoid foot problems later.

          My personal brands are Merrill for boots – I walk in the Moab 2 low rise boot — and Altra sneakers. Altra are zero rise, meaning the heel is not higher than the toe as in most shoes. They have a wide toe box so they are perfect for my feet and they help you avoid bunions – but lots of people don’t like how they look. They are great for lateral stability.

    8. OtterB*

      I have been wearing Brooks Beast for years at the recommendation of my podiatrist. I am female but get the men’s shoes. I recently switched to Brooks Adrenaline which I also like. I have custom orthotics through the podiatrist so am not sure how the shoes would be straight out of the box.

    9. Guin*

      I don’t have a brand recommendation because they’re all so different, but: if you find a pair you really like, go back and buy three or four more pairs to keep in your closet. Because two years from now when the new ones wear out, the kind you got won’t be available anymore, or, if they are, they will not fit the same. That’s what happened to me and Ryka. For six years, they fit, and then all of a sudden their “new” version narrowed the toe so much I got blisters. It is very hard to find a size 5.5 with a box-toe! I’ve recently switched to Merrill.

    10. Trawna*

      No cache or style whatsoever, but Vionics are GREAT (especially for over-pronation). Also, try to get advice on some simple hip-related stretches before and after walking.

    11. Public Sector Manager*

      If you can’t make it into a store with 3D imaging, a lot of the big manufacturers (Asics, Brooks, etc.) will have a quiz and some self tests to see if you need a neutral show or a stability shoe for overpronation. I use a max cushion neutral shoe for both walking and running due to my weight. Brooks Glycerin and New Balance 1080 Fresh Foam are two of my favorites. I’ve also had the Asics Gel Nimbus which works for me. I absolutely loved the fit and feel of the Hoka Clifton, until I walked in them at the store. If you don’t mind the way the Hoka’s feel when you walk, then it’s an amazing shoe! For me it felt like I was walking on the deck of a boat going up and down.

      I don’t have any experience with Gravity Defyer, but as long as they have a liberal exchange or return policy, it should be fine.

  19. Morning Dew*

    Hi,

    I am new to the world of edibles and need suggestions.

    My husband has an autoimmune disease and since the diagnosis, he has developed terrible insomnia (before this, he was a great, deep sleeper). He was prescribed so many different pills with various dosages but they become ineffective rather sooner than later. Anyway, his neurologist ok’d trying edibles to help him with sleep.

    I read about CBN (not the popular CBD) being helpful with sleep so we got gummies with 1:1 THC and CBN but it became ineffective after 2 nights and he went up in the gummy amount but still not helpful. So we bought two new different brands of gummies that supposedly will help him sleep (he is in the first of the two new brands), but still not giving him the sleep he desperately needs.

    Can anyone out there throw out suggestions for brands and/or dosage combo or anything else I am not thinking of? The first new pack is 1:1:1 THC CBD CBN and the second new pack is straight up THC alone. He’s taking the 1:1:1 packet right now.

    Thank you for anyone reading and commenting because I am really at a loss here. I just really want him to sleep.

    1. the cat's ass*

      If you’re close to a dispensary I’d ask them-many of the bud tenders have taken classes about cannabis to become as knowledgable as possible. When my oldest friend has suffering chemo side effects our local dispensary was a godsend. Not all THC is created equal-you want an indica based gummy because indica is sedating.
      There’s a company in CA called Pure that has indica strain-specific THC (granddaddy purple) that my friend still uses. You can suck on them instead of swallowing them and they work a little faster that way.

      I hope im allowed to say all this here!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I was going to propose this.

        Background: cancer support group. Pot is known to help with pain and with sleep, but it turns out that any institution that receives some federal funding cannot mention that. People had their nurses trying to recommend they look into pot without ever quite saying that, nor providing any helpful practical guidance. One elderly patient described how to do an internet search to find a nearby doctor willing to determine and prescribe what she needed.

        Because of our mess of state-federal drug laws, reliable info can be hard to find. (Apparently–before my time and the pandemic–this was one of the advice sessions run by my cancer center.) A dispensary can be a good place to find someone with some training, who has experience with what did and didn’t help a lot of customers.

    2. mreasy*

      My best sleep combo is 2:1 CBD:THC. CBD alone didn’t do anything for me. You’ll also want to try different dosages until you find a sweet spot. I recommend talking to the folks at your local shop/dispensary. Even if not medically trained, they will have anecdotal info and know a lot more than doctors about various strains and their effects.

      1. Not a cat*

        According to my favorite budtender, you need to have some THC for the CBD to really work. Like mreasy, 2:1 CBD:THC works for me–Jack Herrer is a great Indicas for sleep.

    3. Rainy*

      Go talk to the budtenders at your local dispensary. Tell them exactly what you want it to do. Answer their questions, and try their recommendations.

    4. Sam I Am*

      A quick search on Google “cannabis insomnia” will give you loads of results, I glanced through them. Talk to your budtender about it, but a few of the strains that came up over and again are
      Granddaddy Purple, Girl Scout Cookies, Afghani, Northern Lights, and Grape Ape.
      Afghani and Northern Lights are older strains, not sure how new the others are. If you do a deeper dive, try to find out what’s prescribed for insomnia in CO. I met a person there who had a prescription for insomnia and was happy with it. She smoked it, but if you find the strains, CO has a longer track record of the medical uses of cannabis. Why? Because upon medical use becoming legal, the state would subsidize prescription fills. Follow the money.
      These same strains could be considered less desirable for recreational use, so the state subsidy would encourage farmers to grow them knowing they had a medicinal market. There’s records out there, your budtender may know or be able to tell you a good place to consult for data.

    5. Joie De Vivre*

      Talk to his doctor to see if he can drink Tart Cherry Juice. I’ve been using it for a couple years – mainly for sore muscles. But I’ve noticed that I sleep better the nights after I drink it. I use a concentrate, dilute it, and add some sugar because of the tartness.

      I hope he finds something to give him some relief.

    6. Morning reader*

      As far as I’ve noticed, and other insomniac friends have occasionally observed, every time we find something that works, it stops working after awhile. I don’t know if that’s because of changes in the same brand (some batches being slightly different than others) or because of o brain chemistry adapting to whatever so it becomes less effective. I suggest trying a variety of indica gummies but keep them in rotation so that acclimatization doesn’t occur.

    7. Trawna*

      Insomnia tends to be related to liver disfunction. Milk thistle and methyl folate both worked wonders for me.

      I suggest consulting a naturopath before taking anything, though.

      In the meantime, just rest is good, too. What I mean is, instead of fretting about being awake, or watching TV or reading at 3am — he should just *rest* — snuggle in blankets, eyes-closed, relaxing. This “rest” so much better than worrying about “lack of sleep”.

      Been there : )

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Adding on to the last part:
        Struggling with this during medical treatment, I ran across the following unsourced claim: That if I could just relax–the way I do when I lie down on the couch under a blanket and close my eyes midafternoon, when I don’t necessarily expect to drift off–that would be about 90% as good as true sleep. I have not researched it because I decided that believing this would be really helpful–looking at the clock and calculating how long it had been since I last looked at the clock and how long was left until I had to get up and so on was not at all helpful.

        Since I currently have hot flashes (and so will be awake in the night, flinging the covers off so I can radiate heat), I’ve started putting my bedside clock face down when I turn out the light. Not doing the “Oh no it’s now been 47 minutes” is helpful.

    8. Sam*

      Brand availability depends heavily on your specific area. Have you used apps like Leafly or Weed Maps to find locally available products and recommendations?

    9. WS*

      An older relative has had similar problems with insomnia, with most things working for 2 or 3 nights then nope. He found that 2mg melatonin plus 2:1 CBD:THC was the right thing for him, but because he was so stressed out about sleep (from lack of sleep!) it took a very strict, concerted effort to get that routine down. He medicated at 8pm and then no screens, did bedtime preparation at 9:30pm and was in bed with the lights out at 10pm. He also slept apart from his wife for a few weeks, but they are now sharing the bed again.

    10. The Other Dawn*

      When I had my medical MJ card last year, one item I loved for sleep was Curaleaf’s lemon lavender cookies. I don’t know if they’re available on the recreational side. They are similar to a shortbread cookie and are delicious. They’re a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC. They have 25mg THC per cookie, so unless you have a high tolerance, the cookie should be divided into quarters at the most to start. I would eat a piece about a half hour before bed and they’d kick in maybe 15 minutes after going to bed (it varies from about 45 minutes to two hours with edibles). It kept me in a deep sleep for about five to six hours usually.

      As others have said, talk to the people at the dispensary and make sure you get something with Indica. That’s the one that will help with sleep and relaxation.

      1. Sleepy time searcher*

        My spouse wasn’t able to find a successful edible for sleep. There is a new sleep prescription called Dayvigo that works differently than all previous sleep meds. Findding this has been life changing for us. Good luck, hope you find something that works

  20. Burnt eggs*

    We helped my stepson move into his first no-roommate place yesterday. Nicer than anywhere I’ve lived! Eventually the plan is for his girlfriend will move in as they continue to build their life. As a super-organizer, who used to be the only decision maker/do-we in past relationships, it took all I had to not say how *I* would arrange things, but just say ‘imagine when you would use this, where seems right? ‘ So we made ourselves busy breaking down boxes, making the beds, doing the scut work. And ya know friends, it occurred to me that when I take a step back (which feels amazing) I was hearing some of your voices in my head with work or personal comments, rants, and issues that could have been avoided. So thanks friends! Happy weekend!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Genuine bonding moment: I was helping my college student move back into her dorm after knee surgery, and she showed me how she had organized everything. After a childhood in a sea of clothes and other items covering the floor.

    2. MissCoco*

      As an adult kid who got help from my parents with moving last year, I’m sending you a sincere thank you and appreciation for the stepping back!
      My mom is an amazing helper and gets EVERYTHING done, and when she helped me move last year, I could practically see her biting her tongue to keep from stepping in and “fixing” some things. It made the move so much easier and made it so much easier for me to be my best adult self and not slide into childhood roles. I took her out for a nice dinner the next time she visited as a thank you for the help, but especially for the not-help!

  21. Frenzy*

    Need dinner inspiration for tonight. My dad and his girlfriend are coming over for an early dinner before our kids’ dance recital. Dinner must be:

    – either quick to make or make-ahead so I can do it this AM
    – kid friendly- the kids (ages 3-9) need a good dinner before their recital
    – vaguely nice- I don’t want to serve noodles with butter.
    – not super heavy on carbs (no lasagna or other type food).

    Ideas? I’m also open to takeout but my kids are often pretty picky when it comes to takeout.

    1. Jay*

      Shakshuka? Light, low-carb, easy to make and quick. My kid loves it now but I don’t think she would have eaten it at that age – she was pretty picky.

      For make-ahead – chili? We make a turkey chili in the crockpot that is delicious and always better reheated. For the carb-eaters, you could make cornbread to go with.

    2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      do you have a slow cooker or dutch oven? Those can greatly expand the options.

      Immediate thoughts:
      -French Onion soup (do most of the work ahead of time, broil with cheese and croutons to finish for a quick thing to set out). Looks fancy, too, so it impresses.
      -Pulled pork
      -Chicken Kiev (again, prep and pre-cook early, then keep warm/reheat)
      -Chicken Provencal (looks fancy, tastes amazing. Get the chicken thin enough with a meat mallet, and a ripping hot pan, and you can cook it in 15 minutes or so) – Can be smokey, make sure you have a decent fan above your stove. Also, not always great for folks who have heartburn.
      -Turkey Pot Pie (if you have left over turkey from earlier this week still. Cook it just like a chicken pot pie, but swap the meat.

    3. There’s a lot of food out there*

      Chicken or steak fajitas are a big seller in my house – put meat and veggies on sheet pan with seasonings, cooks itself in the oven, heat up tortillas when ready to serve (or skip for the low carb people). Or tofu and veggie stir fry, skip the rice if you’re careful about carbs. Or a pork tenderloin roast with roasted veggies.

      It’s sort of hard to know what to suggest without knowing what kind of food your family usually likes.

    4. Anon for this*

      A taco bar? You could cook the meat ahead, and reheat. And chop any veggies in advance. Everyone loves getting to choose what to eat!

      1. Camelid coordinator*

        I was thinking taco bowls. You could prep the fixings in advance and everyone could make their own, but without the mess of tacos. Our Best Bites has a chicken taco filling that goes in the slow cooker that is always a hit when I serve it.

      2. Clisby*

        Second tacos.

        Another possibility is custom pizzas. When my children were young, we used to do this occasionally as a weekend treat. I bought those ready-made single-person-pizza crusts, made some pizza sauce, and then put out little bowls of toppings and different cheeses. Everybody made their own personal pizza, and it took hardly any time to cook. I don’t know how easy this is to do during pandemic times, but back then, I’d hit up a grocery store salad bar for the toppings. They just charged by the pound, so I could get relatively small amounts of things like mushrooms, olives, artichokes, chopped peppers, etc. without having to spring for larger amounts.

    5. UKDancer*

      Look at the BBC Good Food website. They’ve got some really good ideas. The beef goulash is good for something to make ahead. Alternatively there’s a recipe for stuffed peppers bolognaise that I’m quite fond of.

      I also find the quickest thing to make on the spot is something like a Thai curry because you’re frying it quick and hot. I use chicken breasts, whatever veg I’ve got to stir fry, curry paste and coconut milk. I’ve got some fancier recipes using fish sauce, tamarind paste etc but the simple ones work too.

    6. Susan Calvin*

      I’m a fan of build-your-plate type meals when hosting multiple picky eaters, so maybe (hear me out) burgers? Can be easily fancied up with optional toppings (avocado, Camembert + leftover cranberry sauce, arugula + goat cheese, some kind of chutney…)

    7. Foreign Octopus*

      Tuscan Chicken.

      Go to YouTube, type “Tuscan Chicken, Kitchen Sanctuary” into the search bar, and have one of the best meals of your life. I do mine with asparagus and paprika potatoes but it goes with anything. Kids also like it.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Oh my goodness! Just looked it up and will be making that tomorrow night for sure. Thanks for the recommendation!

          1. Chauncy Gardener*

            It was awesome! I used my immersion blender to smooth out the sauce before I put the spinach in. What a great recipe! And the woman doing the show is great. So straightforward, no grandstanding, just good clear information from an enthusiastic person!

  22. Rosy Smile*

    I want to become a therapist but I’m terrified to tell my therapist this and it’s impacting our sessions (this is more personal vs work related I swear :) )

    I’ve been unhappy in my career for a while and those issues naturally come into therapy. I’ve done a lot of work and research and have a clear plan in my head- I am applying for jobs with a slightly different skill set, will try it out for a bit and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll go back to school. I have shared the first part with her but I’m terrified to share that I think being a therapist would be a great career for me. Because she is a therapist (and I guess I consider her an ‘expert’) and knows my biggest secrets, fears, insecurities etc(and the fact that I have them), I’m scared she will judge me or secretly be thinking internally that I wouldn’t be a good fit. I know therapists are not perfect people and many go to therapy themselves so why does this feel differently because it’s me?

    I’ve always had confidence issues when it comes to trusting my decisions and I doubt myself a lot (which she obviously knows about). It also seems when I tell people about careers I might be interested in, I get hit with walls of negativity about why that job sucks(incl when it’s careers the people I’m speaking to are in). I’m smart and informed- I have done research on careers and career selection. I understand no job is perfect, each has good and bad parts and it’s about finding the balance between wants, can deal withs and avoids.

    How do I get over my fear of her internally judging me or discouraging me? I have never been scared to tell her anything before so this is a new feeling for me. I know so much of the relationship is talking about the very premise that I’m scared to tell her this so do I just blurb all of this out at once? I’m coming up short on advice when I google it.

    1. Wishing You Well*

      You could start by edging into the subject. Ask her how to broach a subject you’re reluctant to talk about without telling her what the subject is – at first. Explore with her your feelings and concerns without mentioning what the subject is. If that goes well, then maybe tell her you have a career idea that you’re reluctant to discuss with her. See how that goes. It’s like starting at the shallow end of a pool, dipping your toe in first to test the water.
      Another idea is to write “I want to become a therapist.” on a piece of paper and hand it to her – either at the beginning or end of your session. Explain you’re not ready to say the sentence out loud and/or you’re not ready to discuss it. Having her know without immediately discussing it might be a relief for you.
      Best of Luck!

      1. Rosy Smile*

        Thank you for this. I really like this approach and think it might land where I feel most comfortable. I contemplated writing her an email a week before our next session and telling her there to give her time to ‘prepare’. I’m nervous about catching her off guard and I feel a little awkward and don’t want her to think I’m asking for career advice. I just hope I’m not her first patient she’s encountered with this!

    2. Undine*

      Could you ease into it? Tell her you have something on your mind you’re not ready to talk about because you’re afraid to be judged? And then talk about your fear of judgement and explore with her what might help you feel safe, etc.

    3. Jean Pargetter Hardcastle*

      Instead of jumping right into “I’m afraid you’ll judge me for wanting to be a therapist,” can you start with smaller steps? “Today I want to talk about some coping skills for being afraid to share big news, because I’m afraid of being discouraged or judged.” Then take however long you need to pick one or two of those coping skills to try when you tell her “Well, we talked about all these skills, and the person I’m afraid of sharing news with is you.” Then you talk through that, get some more skills for that, and then lead up to “I’m thinking of changing careers to therapist.” Maybe breaking it down into smaller steps will make it fell more manageable. Good luck!

    4. ecnaseener*

      I’m not sure how much specific advice she has, but I remember Allison Raskin (youtuber/podcaster) talking about her experiences with this – she’s working to become a therapist and has been in therapy herself the whole time.

      1. Rosy Smile*

        I’m not really looking for advice from her- which is what makes this a bit awkward as I don’t want her to think that’s what I’m looking for! It feels weird to come in and complain about my job over sessions and feeling a bit lost and not be able to be honest that I’m not actually as lost as she thinks I am.

        Thank you for the recommendation on Raskin. I think I would find her experiences super helpful!!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t think a person would get over a fear like this, I think they would find a way to forge ahead IN SPITE of it. I mean this is your life, part of your identity and your survival at the core here. Of course, it’s a bfd.

      So, options:
      1) Just blurt it out.
      2) Ask her what she thinks of the idea of you moving into a career as a therapist.
      3)Ask her if she knows anyone who had therapy and went on to become a therapist themselves. Ask how that went. What are some of the common pitfalls for people who do this?

      I kinda like number 3. This gives her the room to talk about third parties, NOT you. You can listen to the stories and see if anything applies to your setting.

      If you get asked if you are considering a career as a therapist, don’t lie. Just tell her the truth.

      Worst case scenario, she says it’s not a good idea for you. Then ask her why and truly listen to her reasons. I would hope she would give you Thinking Person’s Reasons. If the career is actually not right for you, it would be better to know now, before you spend all that money. There may be an adjacent field that would be perfect for you- so you can ask her if she has any ideas on that.

    6. I heart Paul Buchman*

      I’m a social worker not a therapist but here are my thoughts…
      This is actually super, super common. Lots of people want to be therapists, or psychologists or in some kind of helping profession. Many of these people have lived experience that makes them likely to have accessed these services themselves. In fact, many people credit their lived experience as the reason they want to enter the profession. I would be surprised if your therapist had never before heard a client express this wish.
      Maybe there is something about you specifically that might make this surprising (like you have been strongly attached to becoming an actuary and your sessions have focused on this for years or whatever) but in general I doubt she will be shocked.
      Have you tried saying this aloud to anyone else? (You said it here beautifully). Maybe just print this out and show her?

  23. PX*

    Crafty/Fun Failure Thread:
    In a similar vein to a previous post where I’ve been having fun trying and failing at things, I started trying to crochet a pair of socks a few weeks ago. I know the basics of how to crochet, but I’ve never had to try and follow a pattern, and realised I absolutely suck at keeping count of my stiches. So earlier this week after trying and failing to follow a pattern, I had done enough to kind of figure out what I was meant to be doing, so I just unravelled the whole thing and started eyeballing what I was doing and it seems to be going better.

    One question though: I lost track of where my rows started and ended, so I’m not slip-stitching anything, rather just continuously going round with single crochets, and adding some stiches to make it wider at two points as required (I’m still at the trying to grow it to make it fit the wide part of your foot stage). Whats the consequence of not having a single place where I’m joining rows? Is it just that I cant track the number of stiches I have? I can see that I dont have a “seam” where you would normally have one, but if anything thats a good thing no?

    1. Lifelong student*

      Stitch markers are your friends! You can buy them fairly cheaply – or use a loop of another color- or people use safety pins and bobby pins. You can mark the first stitch of the row- that way you know when you have come to the end of a row.

      1. PX*

        Hah. This is one of those super obvious things I hadnt thought about. Mainly because people only seem to use stitch markers for the complicated things and not the really basic elements like..tracking starts and ends of rows :D

        1. Clumsy Ninja*

          https://www.amazon.com/Clover-3109-Locking-Stitch-Markers/dp/B00AXA3KPE/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=clover+stitch+markers&qid=1638141660&sr=8-2

          My favorite stitch markers for crocheting. They come in multiple sizes – these big ones are great for the blankets I’ve been doing lately, but you might want the smaller ones for socks. Anyway, you can totally make it work without perfect row starts/ends, but you can also make your life easier with the stitch markers, and there’s no judgment for using them for the “basic” bits. (My most recent project was a poncho -the skirt part was worked in the round without clear joinings, and I used the markers to keep track of exactly where the row started.

    2. Teapot Translator*

      I don’t know how to explain it, but it means that the the last row won’t be straight. You’re building like a spiral instead of circles on top of one another?

      1. PX*

        Oh this makes sense. But I’m fine with that if its the only consequence! Mainly because this is more of a “can I actually do it” project rather than anything serious.

        I think I’ve figured out how a heel would (should) work, so this completely improvised project may actually go somewhere!

    3. k2tog*

      This doesn’t really answer your question but I just wanted to say I can identify with the frustration that is counting crochet stitches! I switched to knitting a while back, largely for that reason–the stitches hang out on the needle so it’s easier to keep count. That said, I second what’s been said about stitch markers and wish you the best of luck–good for you for crocheting something this complicated!

      1. PX*

        Hah, I dont know why I thought socks would be easy, but the idea came because I needed new house socks anyway, so I’m enjoying the challenge! Plus no pressure for any kind of perfect outcome, so free-wheeling it is fine by me. Although as I approach the heel, I may come to regret this carefree attitude :D

        You are making me think I should try knitting again though. Its been years since I’ve done any! Maybe once the socks are done ;)

    4. marvin the paranoid android*

      Personally I just gave up on joining the rows ages ago and nothing catastrophic has happened so far. I prefer the look of a continuous spiral.

      1. PX*

        Ahaha, I like your approach. I just watched a couple of videos and did some googling and it does seem like its not the end of the world, so I shall continue my adventure and see how it goes!

  24. Epsilon Delta*

    I’m looking for resources for someone transitioning from employer health insurance to Medicare while on an expensive medication.

    My mother in law takes Humira for a chronic condition. She’s in her mid-sixties and is still working, mainly for the health insurance. She believes that when she retires and switches to Medicare, she will have to pay something like $5,000 a month out of pocket to stay on Humira. She believes that supplemental insurance plans will not cover Humira either. She can’t switch to another medication, it specifically has to be Humira per her doctor.

    I am not at all an expert in this area, but it doesn’t seem correct that she will have no option but to pay $5k a month for medication. There must be other options for people on Medicare to cover expensive prescriptions like Humira, but every time I try to research this topic, I get about two paragraphs into an article and my head starts spinning with all the jargon or with nuances I don’t understand or have details about.

    Her plan is to keep working until there’s a generic available, which she thinks will be in 2023. I am highly skeptical that this will happen on schedule, and I’m concerned that with her and her husband’s health being not the best, she could be forced to retire before she’s ready.

    So: how do people on Medicare pay for Humira? Can someone point me to a resource that is easy to understand? And if Medicare does not cover Humira, what is the best way to find a supplemental insurance policy that does?

    1. Generic Name*

      Has your mom done any research at all, or does she just have this idea in her head? It reminds me of how my mom was convinced that (in 1998) a new vcr would cost $300 because that’s how much they paid for their first vcr in 1983. She finally was convinced that they were around 80 bucks when my sister showed her a Best Buy ad in the newspaper. I bet if you google “Medicare humors coverage” you’d be directed to all sorts of websites with information relating to coverage. I walked by a table that said “need help choosing a Medicare plan?” with flyers on it at my local Walmart. There are a ton of places to find help and information. I wonder of your mom if worried about other aspects of retirement, but has latched onto this one as a tangible thing to worry about?

    2. WellRed*

      Prescription drug coverage is under Medicare part D. Echoing Generic Name, has she actually done any research yet? You could start with Medicare.gov.

      1. Tuesday*

        Yes, medicare.gov allows you to check if specific drugs are covered under any of the part D drug plans. My Mom’s expensive drug was covered under some but not others. Open enrollment is going on now, so it’s a good time to check.

        1. pieforbreakfast*

          Patient assistance programs don’t work with people with government insurance plans- an RN who’s client population is mostly on medicaid.

          1. Jay*

            Depends on the med and the manufacturer – I’m an MD who has spent much of my career caring for folks on Medicaid and a lot of them were on patient assistance programs for various meds. It’s worth asking.

            Also worth asking the doc who is prescribing who undoubtedly has some patients on Medicare. Unless, of course, that doc is the source of the assertion that Humira isn’t covered in which case I would get a second opinion – at least about the coverage.

            1. Pharmgirl*

              It depends on the type of assistance. I think what pie for breakfast is thinking of is copay assistance via the medication manufacturer, which is my experience as well that they don’t work with government insurance plans. but other types of patient assistance programs may help.

    3. coffee is my friend*

      See if you can find a medicare broker (I think that’s what they are called – they are basically experts on Medicare). My parents met with one to review options because my dad is in a similar situation. She helped them find the best option. I also believe this service may have been free to them…my mom is very good at navigating complex things like medicare and still felt like working with this person was really helpful

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Yes! In my town’s senior center they have medicare “interpreters” to help you figure out which plans best suit your needs

    4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      You could also try contacting/researching directly with the manufacturer; they often have discount programs for patients unable to afford the medication.

      Medicare prescription coverage depends on which Part D plan she chooses. She should talk to a Pharmacist(?) about all her medications to find a Part D plan that covers her the best before she enrolls.

      She might be thinking the patent expires in 2023 at which point competitors are able to create generic or competing products and this brings prices down. IDK if this is true for Humira — i didn’t look it up.

      1. Enough*

        There are 6 medications ready to go. They roll out at different dates but start on Jan 1, 2023. It is a patent issue and the manufacturer has been very aggressive in pursuing any potential patent infringements and adding new patents to extend the timeline.

    5. small town*

      I agree with Dr Anonymous. My father needs to take an expensive medication. There are benefit plans through manufacturers and his cardiologist hooked him up with a local option so his med is free.

    6. Chaordic One*

      Our local senior citizen center was able to refer us our state’s “State Health Insurance Program (SHIP)” where they were able to help my parents find the plans that best suited them and which covered the medications they take. My parents take different medicines and ended up getting different plans. You should be able to find your state’s SHIP by googling it or looking under that medicare.gov website.

      1. Retired Prof*

        Seconding this. I believe SHIP is a free service.

        And have your mom check out some Medicare HMOs as well as straight Medicare. They vary tremendously in how these drugs are treated (one plan wanted to classify my SIL’s chemotherapy infusion under the prescription drug plan!). But the SHIP counselor should be able to help with that.

    7. OtterB*

      While researching Medicare prescription plans for my brother in Texas, his local Council on Aging agency had a benefits counselor on staff who was very helpful. She referred us to a website like others have mentioned that let me put in his prescription list and gave me options of plans sorted by ou-of-pocket costs.

    8. Anonymous_Admin*

      Talk to the dispensing pharmacy too. I work in pharmacy admininstration for one of the largest PBMs in the U.S., and Humira would be distributed by our specialty pharmacy because of the cost. Our pharmacy works with patients to find copay assistance/manufacturer discounts for high cost meds. These programs are available to Med D patients too, though the cost paid by the program may not be applied to the Medicare deductible/out of pocket amounts.

      As antecdata – my parents (not on one of the plans through my org) had a very high cost med, on Medicare, and had $0 out of pocket cost through a manufacturer program, not income or hardship based. So it can be done.

      Good luck!

    9. Epsilon Delta*

      Thanks everyone, these were exactly the kind of resources I was looking for. I was able to try out the calculator on the Medicare website and although Humira is expensive, it’s a fraction of the cost my MIL was thinking (currently looks to be about $6k *a year*, not $5k a month). I suppose there might be some weird nuance that I’m not aware of, but I will show MIL how to use this website so she can run the numbers herself. I might have landed on that page myself when I was researching but based on my experience with private/employer insurance I didn’t think it would be so specific and useful!

      The link to the AbbVie assistance program is also great. Based on income, she should be eligible to apply.

    10. Skeeder Jones*

      I work for a healthcare company with a medicare advantage plan. I just looked on our Medicare Part D formulary and Humira is covered. The actual cost for your mom would vary based on other factors as Medicare Part D plans have different levels of coverage depending on a few factors (such as out of pocket costs for all prescriptions, Medicare Part D coverage is hard to explain but there is a total out of pocket cost where they pay a copay, another level that they pay a percentage and then “catastrophic coverage”). Most likely, the health care company your mom is currently with will offer medicare plans so she should ask them about the coverage. Medicare is a national program (as opposed to insurance through an employer which follows state coverage regulations) so the formulary is the same nationwide.

    11. Random Biter*

      My diabetes medicine is pretty pricey at almost $600 a month. I didn’t even try to wade through the different plans and offerings all by myself. The person I went to didn’t charge for advice and even applying for me and I got the feeling that they’re paid by someone somewhere. As it turns out, my Part D (prescription) insurance has a yearly deductible that I hit in January because of the price of my Farxiga (which won’t go generic for quite some time), the price then goes down to about $32 a month until I hit that infamous donut hole in the fall whereupon it’s about $132 a month until January rolls around. Not cheap, no, but as long as Big Pharma owns politicians I don’t look for a change, either. Oh, and you won’t be able to participate in any of those programs where you may get your drugs free or really cheap through the manufacturer due to a law that says Medicare can’t dicker of drug prices. But for me, bottom line is get some professional help and don’t try to figure it all out yourself.

  25. Dr. Anonymous*

    I think the easiest to understand resource is your mother’s doctor. They probably have some Medicare patients on Humira and they’ve probably filled out a lot of prior authorizations and appeals and they know if it’s covered or not.

  26. HannahS*

    What is everyone doing for Chanukah? Any special plans? What are your typical Chanukah foods?

    After last year, when we had a stay-at-home order, we’re being very social! We’re having two family parties (first and seventh night; my extended family and then my in-laws and parents), and then are trying to fill the other nights with local friends–Jewish and non-Jewish alike.

    I don’t go hard on fried food, although I do think we’ll have “_____ with latkes on the side” whenever we have guests. Or maybe use crispy fried onions as a garnish on…oh, you know, everything. Yum.

    1. Might Be Spam*

      My online dance group is having a lighting ceremony for us to follow at home. We’ll talk about our family traditions and socialize and of course we will dance. Most of us only know each other online so it will feel normal and it’s a great way for us to keep in touch.

    2. I'd rather have chips*

      well, we usually do latkes because the teenager likes that. And doughnuts. But this year she’s on a no gluten/dairy/low oil diet. So ….grated potato lightly steamed in a latke shape? That’s making me sad. we will probably watch and dance to some Maccabeats, though. Always fun. I did give the teenager an early present today – cash, so she could take advantage of some black friday sales (and I don’t live in the USA, so it’s very weird to type that). I threw the cash at her. That was surprisingly fun – we turned it into a game of bad throwing/bad catching. So, I think I know what I’m doing with the rest of the cash …

      1. Eden*

        Yeah I’d definitely do baked and not steamed. Lots of no-bake recipes out there, they’re not oil free but definitely low oil compared to traditional. And I imagine any flour would be relatively easy to replace with another binding agent.

    3. New Bee*

      We threw a virtual Hanukkah party last year, so I think we’ll do it again! There’s an online dreidel game that folks loved (we put them in breakout rooms to play), plus we did 2020 bingo and Hanukkah trivia.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’m FINALLY doing my latke party again, but not until next week. Just friends in the building, some appetizers, and me at the stove. I have one neighbor who makes the most amazing desserts and I hope she comes (I also hope she comes because she’s a new friend, younger, also Jewish, new to the area, and eager for Jewish celebration– not just for her cakes!).

    5. Ali G*

      I am keeping it simple. A whole roast chicken with some mediteranean flavors and some latkes and maybe a salad or veg. For reasons I can’t do it until tomorrow, but we took the day off so I’ll have plenty of time.

    6. Random Biter*

      This brought up some very fond memories for me.

      My spousal equivalent was Jewish, I am nominally Christian. we *never* had the “whose family are we going to for the holidays?” dilemma!

      I was in charge of making sure there were candles for the menorah, and he had a fit the year I decided I didn’t want to fool around with putting up a Christmas tree. Where would he hang his dreidel and menorah ornaments?!

      Christmas dinner at my Mom’s was very like Chanukah at his brother’s…..way too much good stuff to eat (who knew I would love gefilte fish and horseradish?!), kids hyped up on sugar and excitement, and if you weren’t there you *will* be talked about. ::sigh:: good times, good times.

    1. Hornets*

      I just have to say that even though this comment is related to other comments, it made me laugh so hard and is worthy of being a standalone comment.

      Solidarity, my friend! Stay strong! We are with you.

    2. it's-a-me*

      I’ve been having this trouble. The ads reload, and it takes my cursor out of the text box, but because I keep typing and don’t realize it, my page jumps elsewhere.

  27. ecnaseener*

    TLDR: Hit me with your tips for small talk with strangers please!

    I’m considering going to a 20s/30s social event at a nearby synagogue. I haven’t done the “mingle in a group of complete strangers and try to make friends” thing since college — in fact I pretty much haven’t had occasion to meet new people at all since college, other than at work. (Pandemic has been my excuse to avoid new social environments, but I’m getting lonely enough to take the plunge and vaccination is required.)

    I don’t have anyone to go with (I have very few local friends, hence wanting to go meet some local people) so the stakes feel rather high, in that if I can’t strike up a conversation I’m going to be left standing alone awkwardly pretending to be very interested in the food. (And yes I know the stakes are in fact very low, I can leave whenever I want, I’m not going to be the only person at a freaking social mixer wanting to meet new people.)

    Just….aaghh, what do people SAY to other people besides “this food is good,” “it’s finally getting cold out huh,” “what do you do for work” ???? Whatever skills I once had (not much) are so, so rusty.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Books/shows! I sometimes start talking then realize I don’t remember the point/punchline/details like I thought I did, so I try to almost “study” to refresh my memory before socializing – like okay, the last two books I read, what were they about and what did I think? If someone asks, I’ve been watching (show) and I liked (movie).

    2. Susan Calvin*

      Un-creepy compliments are almost fail-safe; interesting accessory or piece of jewellery? Great outfit? Intricate hair-do? Ask about where they got it, how they learned to do it, or whatever applies. It’s virtually impossible to hit on anything fraught (important exception: avoid commenting on body parts, figure, etc at all costs, see un-creepy), and there’s a non-zero chance you’ll hit on something good like the story of the wedding they bought that dress for and almost came to blows over with someone wearing the same one, or the watch being a family heirloom, or their extremely strong opinions on the best thrift shops in a 10 mile radius.

      Also run through the last book/movie/show you liked so you have it on the top of your mind if someone asks, and if you’re an overachiever, spend some time watching trailers on netflix or youtube so you can credibly go “oh, I haven’t seen that but [aspect] looked interesting – what did you think?”

    3. CTT*

      Talking about local restaurants is always one of my go-tos! (Have you been to [new place], do you like getting takeout from anywhere in particular, etc.)

    4. Max Kitty*

      Are there any interesting exhibitions or events in your area? We recently went to an “Immersive Van Gogh” experience and to a Halloween lights event at the botanic gardens, and things like that can be nice to talk about. Even if you haven’t gone, asking if the other person has gone or plans to go can start a conversation.

    5. Chauncy Gardener*

      Ask what they do for fun, sports, hobbies, etc. Be interested in them and then you won’t feel so self conscious. That works for me, anyway and I am a solid introvert. Doesn’t help with the pre-event nervousness, though. Just sayin’

    6. I take tea*

      You could comment or ask questions about the actual place, if it’s a place that is familiar to them. As in “that painting is really interesting, do you know who made it” and then go from there to art or local artists. Or “what a delicious cake, I wonder who made it / where it’s bought” and go from there to favourite foods and local bakeries.

      You could ask about favourite places for a walk in the area, and if you hit off very well, you could go together for a walk (assuming you and the other part walk, of course, modify as needed). I thought of this, because it’s been a popular topic in many situations lately, now that going for a walk or maybe a hike in the woods is something many more do, when other exercise possibilities are off. This is something that can come pretty organically from commenting on the weather: “oh my, it’s becoming colder now, but I still try to go for a walk every day. I have this nice trail pretty near… Have you found any special spots during this trying time?”

      Pets are usually a safe topic: “one of the few positive things about all the Zoom meetings is to get to see my colleagues pets. One has the cutest rabbit! Do you have any pets?”

      You could ask “where do you come from and what’s the best thing about that place”. If this is an area where people move for work or study, it can be nice to talk about that.

      As Chauncy Gardener says: be interested in the people you meet, and it will help a lot.
      Good luck!

      1. Observer*

        You could ask “where do you come from and what’s the best thing about that place”. If this is an area where people move for work or study, it can be nice to talk about that.

        If this is not a place where lots of people are not originally from that place, you might want to ask something like “Are you originally from this town?” Because a surprising number of people seem to have encountered that question in a context that translates into “You’re a foreigner.” This is more local and makes no assumptions.

        1. I take tea*

          Such a good point, I didn’t think of that. I was thinking “I moved here from the north, miss the snow”, but your way of putting it is much better.

        2. Alexis Rosay*

          Yeah, I usually ask “Did you grow up here?”

          I used to ask people “Where are you from?” and that got misconstrued a few times. (I meant, Are you from this city? but people would tell me their family origin because they were tired of people asking that and wanted to cut to the chase.)

          1. fhqwhgads*

            For the same reason of potential misunderstanding, I’d probably swap “here” with “in name of city” in any type of question in this lane.

    7. Squirrel Nutkin*

      Maybe ask an opinion question? People love telling you what they think about ________ and why.

      Or if you haven’t had a chance to explore your new locale very much, maybe ask people for their tips on where to find the best _________ or what ________ they love the most nearby? And if you’re eventually hitting it off with a potential match, that gives them the chance to offer to show you ________ in person!

      As an introvert, I like having a couple of “this conversation is ending, at least temporarily, now” lines — “Oh hey, did you notice where the bathrooms are? Thanks! It was great getting to chat with you!”

    8. Purt’s Peas*

      Ask about the community: are they new to the synagogue too? Coming here long? How do you like x or y?

      There will be other people standing alone. Find em and say hi, or lead in with a compliment or point of relation. (I love your necklace! I’m ecnaseener; or Aren’t these sandwiches good? Hi I’m ecnaseener…)

      Welcome other people into your conversation and you’ll soon have a chatting group of your own!

      If you get the sense that many people know each other, it’s ok to also directly ask your conversation partner (usually you can catch someone on their own and start to chat), hey do you know many people here? I’m new, who’s who? Often they’ll bring you around a bit. Or, they’ll say that they don’t know people and you’ll realize you’re in a similar position!

      Have fun! And give yourself credit for going—it’s hard to do when it’s a source of anxiety and feels so fraught.

    9. Fellow Traveller*

      Three of my go-to conversation starters:
      1) what’s keeping you busy these days? (Which I like because it’s open ended enough so people don’t have to talk about work if they don’ t want to)
      2) follow up on “What do you do?” with “How did you get there?” I always find it interesting how people ended up where they are.
      3) “What brought you here tonight?”
      I think the trick for me is to genuinely be curious about the other person. I know some people don’t like to talk about themselves, so they might not be too forthcoming, but I find if you listen to what they say, there will be usually one or two tidbits that can grow a conversation. Also if I think someone is getting uncomfortable, i try to rephrase my question more generally. For example, if someone has just had surgery, instead of asking, “Were you in a lot of pain?” I will ask, “Do people generally find the procedure painful?”

    10. Silver*

      Just don’t get discouraged. Some people will probably act really awkward, like you’re weird for striking up convos even though this is a social event. Others may act like you’re interviewing them and not put any effort into maintaining the conversation / asking you things. Don’t get discouraged! Just be yourself. Your people are out there.

  28. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Crocheting question: I have finished a blanket and it’s stiffer than I’d like. I’ve read that washing it will help soften it, but I’m nervous about washing it. The yarn (Wool-Ease Thick & Quick) says it’s machine washable and dryable and yet I can’t shake the worry that it’s going to come out of the wash with the yarn fuzzy and ruined. Crocheters, is this really okay? Are there any tricks to keep it safe in the wash?

    1. Lifelong student*

      I never used that yarn- but I will post the question on one of the crochet forums I participate in to see if there is an answer. Stay tuned.

      1. Lifelong student*

        Okay- I have a response – someone has made several blankets with this yarn as well as slippers. Washed and dried as usual and did soften and came out fine. Will update if I get more answers. Again, this is not a personal observation- but I trust the members of this crochet group.

    2. Xenia*

      Not a crocheter, but i embroider and often have similar issues with fabric. Do you know if it’s the washing machine part that helps the yarn get less stiff or just getting the blanket really wet? Because if it’s the latter could you soak it well and then airdry without sticking it into a washing machine? Or handwash?

        1. Clisby*

          Do you have a bathtub? If not, disregard this, but that’s how my mother (a quilter) handwashed her quilts.

    3. Wishing You Well*

      Washing might not fix all the stiffness but it’s worth a try.
      I’ve used Wool-ease a lot for hats. It’s 80% acrylic/20% wool. I’d wash it on gentle/delicate with cool or warm water and air-dry it. Using a dryer doesn’t ruin the yarn or item but it will fuzz the yarn a bit and make the item look older.
      Congrats on finishing a blanket! A big project!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        When I don’t want to run something through a whole dryer cycle, I put it in on low for about ten or fifteen minutes with wool dryer balls to fluff it. Then I take it out and hang it up. That way it can air dry, but it doesn’t drip.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I was thinking about air-drying it. I think I’d have to have it lying flat somewhere since I assume hanging it to dry would stretch it out (it’s big and heavy). I may do that.

        1. Rainy*

          You will need a lot of towels for this, but wash it in a machine on gentle or in the tub, draining it in the tub as much as you can, and then roll it up in a towel or two and squeeze/step on it. After you’ve got all the easily soakable water out, cover the floor in a room you can shut the door on (because cats) in a layer of towels (put something waterproof down first if it’s carpeted) and then hand-block the blanket (just sort of put it in shape with your hands rather than using blocking pins etc) and let it dry flat on the towels. This is what I’ve always done to dry handmade afghans and throws that can’t handle being dried or hung.

            1. Rainy*

              Yay hats! I’m making a bunch of baby hats right now myself, as arthritis permits. The first one was a little wonky (I haven’t knitted in a few years) but the second one is going like gangbusters.

    4. HamlindigoBlue*

      Wool-Ease is only like 20% wool with the remaining 80% being acrylic, so it’s fine to wash it and dry it on low heat without worrying about any felting. Acrylic does soften after washing. That said, for most of my hand knit/crochet items, I do a gentle wash cycle with white vinegar as a fabric softener and then flat dry. I made a baby blanket using Kraemer Perfection (30% merino, 70% acrylic), and I dried it in the dryer on low before gifting it. It was fine with no pilling. It’s been a while since I’ve used Wool-Ease, but I do have some hats made from Wool-Ease that I know have been through the dryer and are ok.

    5. The teapots are on fire*

      In my opinion, the most comforting way to answer this question is to crochet a little swatch and throw that bad boy in the wash. Use a lingerie bag and make it tight around the swatch by tying it off. Then you can do the same to the blanket–fold it into a lingerie bag to minimize the agitation it gets in the washer and dryer.

      Anytime I have doubt about the care of me-made textiles, I take out my anxieties on the swatch.

      1. HamlindigoBlue*

        Yes, I agree on the swatch. I used to think swatches were a waste of time, but they have saved me a few times now.

    6. HamlindigoBlue*

      I just read the reviews on this yarn on Ravelry. People are saying that it has a tendency to pill after washing. So, with that bit of information, I would probably just do the flat dry and have a pilling remover handy.

      What you could also do is just crochet a swatch (just a small 4 in. X 4 in. is fine) and wash that to see how the fabric reacts before doing anything with the blanket.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Btw, where on Ravelry can I find reviews of a yarn? I see where you can find projects made using a yarn (like here) but not anywhere to read reviews of them and I would find that very useful!

        1. Emma2*

          Hi Alison – on the yarn page, you can click on “comments” at the top of the yarn page and that is where people will most often post something akin to a review of the yarn (it is usually quite short, but they might flag an issue with it, or say it is wonderful, etc). Some yarns have lots of comments, and some not so many – yours looks like it has 97 comments for the main set of colour ways (I can see there are sub-types of this yarn with different colour patterns that might have their own comments).
          If a yarn does not have many comments, you can try looking at the projects as some people will have said something about it on the project page so you can try looking there, although that is much less convenient.
          One last thought – if there is nothing there you can try searching the yarn name in the forums, or posting a question in the forum asking about it (people on Ravelry are incredibly generous – I am at a stage where I am far, far more likely to be asking than answering the question, and am always amazed at how quickly people will post very helpful responses to questions I ask about knitting techniques or problems).

    7. Koala dreams*

      Tricks for washing wool:
      Use a cold wash
      If your machine has a delicate or hand wash option, use that
      Dry horizontally, not hanging
      You can also use a towel to gently press out the water
      Reshape when wet if it’s a weird shape after the machine

    8. marvin the paranoid android*

      Since I usually make smaller stuff, I always hand-wash in cold water with baby shampoo and lay flat to dry on a few layers of towel. I’ve never had any issues. If you don’t want to try hand-washing it, the gentle cycle might be similar.

  29. Pierced Ears*

    Advice needed: Have you ever had to have your ears re-pierced? Where did you go to have it done? Did it work out okay?
    Earrings were once a happy and daily part of my life. Every pair I have makes me smile because they remind me of good people, times, and places.
    I stopped wearing them about 15 years ago—not for any medical/physical reason, life just wasn’t all that joyful. Long story; not worth going into here.
    Things have improved now and I’m ready to start wearing earrings again, but it seems like my earlobe holes have closed.
    Any suggestions? They’d be greatly appreciated.

    1. WellRed*

      I’ve had to have one ear repierced more than once and need it again. This time I plan on going to a piercing place rather than Claire’s at the mall.

    2. UKDancer*

      Go to a proper piercing place. I’m sure if you tell them what’s happened they can probably do a good job and give you advice.

    3. Meh*

      Third going to a piercer. Usually combined with a tattoo shop. Avoid the mall! And I had one hole done maybe 5 times as a kid – it’s finally permanently open.

    4. Pierced Ears*

      Many thanks, WellRed, UKDancer, and Meh. I appreciate your recommendations and encouragement. I’m excited! Will soon be earring-ed again—yay.

    5. Rainy*

      Go to a piercing studio. They may try to open the holes first with a taper, or they may just repierce. You definitely want them redone with a needle though, and not the rubber band gun. It’s so much better for healing.

    6. Rara Avis*

      My daughter had to have one ear repierced. Both the original and fix (a year later) were done at Claire’s. It closed because she had trouble managing the earring backs and wouldn’t let me help. No issues the second time — she was old enough then to cope.

    7. Pierced Ears*

      Thanks, Rainy and Rara Avis. Did some research, and I find there’s a well-regarded piercing studio practically in my neighborhood. Again, yay. I’ll be contacting them on Monday … the return to earrings is in the near future! (Silly to find myself so excited about something so small, I know, but oh, well.)

      1. anon24*

        Piercings are exciting! Good luck! Piercing studios/tattoo shops are the way to go. I go to a tattoo shop and the piercer is fanatic about keeping everything sterile and swapping gloves anytime she touches anything not related to piercing. I just had 6 (!) piercings done today (in one ear, it’s sore!)

      2. Rainy*

        Yay! I’m so happy for you! I’m actually thinking about going and getting a few of my older piercings re-pierced myself (I have 3 active lobe pierces right now)…it’s in the air :)

      3. Pierced Ears*

        Thanks for the encouragement, anon 24 and Rainy. I did a complete Memory Lane thing last night, sitting on the bed and sorting through the earring box, happily recalling the stories that go with each pair.
        Can’t wait to start the re-puncturing process!

    8. RagingADHD*

      Yes. I got my first piercing done at a dinky little beauty salon that looking back, didn’t really know what they were doing. The holes never healed properly because the earrings were too small and too tight. Eventually I took them out and let them close up.

      Had them redone at an accessory store at the mall (Claire’s) that had everything presterilized, prepacked and ready to go, and had a kit with everything you need for aftercare. Followed instructions and they were healed up in a couple of weeks. No problems.

    9. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      Another vote for going to a piercing shop. Alot of tattoo places will have piercers in house. Just make sure they are a reputable,clean shop. When I went to get my piercings, I was surprised to see on the pricing list “ears” along with every other thing folks get holes in.

    10. Invisible Fish*

      Took ‘em 15 yrs or so to close up? Mine did after a year of not going anywhere because of pandemic! I’m cackling because I can’t believe I’m a grown woman who couldn’t keep her ears pierced for a year… after them being pierced for over 30 years …

      1. Pierced Ears*

        LOL, Invisible Fish. No, it didn’t take them 15 years to close—I was so distracted by what a friend calls Genuine Life Toughies that it took me a decade and a half to realize that the holes had closed up because I’d simply forgotten about wearing earrings.
        Glad that time is past, and from now forward I’ll enjoy paying more attention to them!

    11. Tabby*

      I highly recommend having a piercer do it — they have experience with this, and use hollow needles, leaving you with a cleaner wound and much, MUCH less pain.. and it tends to heal better and more quickly.

  30. Fiction Reader*

    It really depends on the shape of your foot and how you move your foot when you walk – a brand that works for one person won’t work for everyone.
    Go in-person if possible and try on a lot of different brands and styles. If they feel good right away, walk around on a hard surface for several minutes to make sure they still feel good. And ideally, shop late in the day after you have been on your feet for a while.
    If you are a woman, the Barking Dog Shoes blog has a lot of shoe reviews.

  31. Anon for this*

    Looking for advice on coping with complex PTSD and depression/anxiety.
    I’ve been seeing an excellent psychiatrist for a few years and am on a good med dose that works well for me 99% of the time. However, the holiday season is a gigantic trigger (ptsd is related to my daughter’s serious medical issues and we have YEARS of major medical crises at the holidays) and this year I’m just not able to cope as well. It doesn’t help that a lot of my work is dealing with families of medically complex kids and a lot of my clients are currently having their own crises. I just feel so done right now and totally emotionally overwhelmed.
    I was raised in a household where the answer to “I feel sad/emotional/depressed” was always “there’s someone out there who has it worse so you should count your blessings”, and while intellectually I know everyone’s allowed to feel how they feel, emotionally I’m still in the “gotta suck it up” mode.
    I’ve wrote to my dr last night to get her thoughts but would love any wise words from people here.

    1. mreasy*

      Hello! If you are able to try EMDR, I recommend it as something that has been incredibly helpful with my C-PTSD. I also come from a family who aren’t particularly “good at feelings” and got the line about others had it worse growing up as a depressed kid. This is a great topic for therapy! Though I know finding a practitioner can be difficult, someone with a job like yours undoubtedly would benefit. Sending you good luck and wishes. I hope you can find a treatment that helps you.

      1. Lirael*

        Came here to suggest EMDR. I’ve had it twice in my life to deal with two different traumas and it’s honestly like magic. The first set in particular even cured a problem I wasn’t working on!

        But that doesn’t help you right now.

        Things I would try:
        Have you got any grounding exercises? If not, there’s always the “five things I can see, four things I can hear”, etc one. Although I’ve heard people say this is too complex and they just go with one thing for each of the senses!

        When the PTSD hits try to remember that Now Is Not Then – I know it’s hard and it feels like it is, but tell yourself (out loud if possible) that it’s November 2021 and you are here and safe and loved.

        Acknowledge to yourself that although there are people out there with worse problems that doesn’t invalidate your pain and suffering <3 This is something for when you're not PTSD-ing more than when you are, but hopefully it should be helpful.

        Other people will be along with other ideas too, I hope these help in the meantime! And if virtual hugs from an online stranger would help then I'm sending some in your general direction!

        1. Anon for this*

          Virtual hugs are always welcome, and I will definitely talk to my dr about getting a referral for EMDR.

    2. Laura H.*

      Be gentle with yourself. Acknowledge your issues, but take baby steps to address them- trying to put this in practice with my unoccupied time lack of awareness that I mentioned in my Little Joys post. Let yourself take the little steps, and give yourself a little wiggle room for this time of year.

      All the hugs!

    3. The teapots are on fire*

      If there is a support group for your daughter’s medical issues can you connect with people there? It would be so nice for you to have a place where you can have your feelings and people understand.

    4. Feeling for you!*

      Agreeing with others who said EMDR changed their lives. I’ve used it for PTSD and it worked very very well for me.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I love what people say here, “it’s not the Suffering Olympics”. Love that.

      Let’s say, fate forbid, that you broke your leg. You would not just ignore that and go about your day because SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE broke their leg in TWO places. “Well they have it worse, so I need to just get on with things”, is not something people think of to say. Most people would go get some medical attention.

      This goes for anyone, if something is causing a stumbling block in a person’s life then it needs to be addressed. This is called respecting one’s own self.

      I have had times where counting my blessing did help me in small ways. However, it’s one of many tools and most certainly not the only tool. Different tools work at different times. They could have ditched the part about other people having it worse and just said something about making a gratitude list, if that is what they wanted us to do. But, no, they had to frame it in the most berating way possible. Fortunately subsequent generations are a bit more refined and thoughtful.

      As for people who gave that advice to us, I have several comments:

      1) How well did that advice work out for them? Reflecting back, they did alcohol, excessive amounts of food and lots of denial.
      2) My opinion is that people who say this stuff don’t know what else to say. They don’t have multiple coping tools to draw on. They have one trick and this is it.
      3) We have tapes inside our heads and we replay them and replay them. It’s a good idea to have an action plan for when the tapes start up in our brains. I have told myself that *I* am the only one who truly needs to understand that I have a problem because I am the only one who can take action. Other times I have said, “I promise I will take care of me until these things calm down and I can have a calmer life. Sometimes all I could push through my head is “at some point in the future things will be better than now”.

      I’d like also encourage you to try to think of one tiny, tiny, small proactive change you can make this week that will be meaningful to you. Keep this really simple. Let’s say you need a bucket of sand by the front door for the ice on the steps. But somehow that never gets done. Go do it. Or let’s say the bathroom sink drips and drips and it’s so very annoying. Call a friend, call a plumber. See what you can do to fix the sink. Take something that IS under your control and fix it, tweak it so that it is easier or better for you. Pick something that is not terribly time consuming and not costly. It can be absolutely anything. Put yourself where you will have success, even if it is just for a moment.

      It’s in these small things that we can gain a sense of taking back our autonomy, our ability to have say in what is happening around us. What you are talking about are all things that you have no say or no control. It just makes sense that you feel gutted and out of resources, I think any normal person would feel this way in your shoes.

      Above all, I wish you and yours peace.

      1. Anon for this*

        This is all wonderful advice, and I appreciate you writing it all out here! I think the “one small thing” is something I will definitely try. I tend to make huge lists of things to get done and then when inevitably that doesn’t happen, I feel even worse. I also know from past experiences that focusing on being in the present can be so helpful, and I admit I’ve not been doing that.

  32. Health insurance questions (non-ACA)*

    (Long time lurker, first time caller, big fan :)

    I’m wondering if anyone here has experience with non-ACA compliant health insurance. Are there any plans that are legit? Can they be renewed year after year, or are they supposed to be short term (i.e., less that one year)? Do they deny care on a whim like the old days? They are clear about excluding pre-existing conditions, though there appears to be an exception to that for ongoing prescriptions. Is that exception really real?

    Long version in a follow up comment.

    1. Health insurance questions (non-ACA)*

      Long version:

      A friend of mine is unhappy with how expensive and mediocre insurance is on the exchange. They are retired, comfortable financially, but a few years away from Medicare eligibility. They do have some ongoing health problems (but nothing physical on the level of diabetes, autoimmune problems or cancer history).

      They’ve moved to a state where exchange options are limited and brokers hawk non-ACA plans. They have been paying out of pocket for mental heath care for a while. They have other minor ongoing care (think cortisone shots for joint pain) that will now be out of pocket. I don’t think they’ve figured out what that will cost. I’m also skeptical that the insurance will cover their expensive current meds (though the broker claims they will).

      The broker seems to imply that after 12 months preexisting conditions will be covered. I don’t see why the company couldn’t just refuse to renew the policy to avoid that.

      I know it’s my friend’s decision, but I’m both afraid for them and angry that plans like this are being sold at all. I know I’m reacting not just to the insurance question but to past issues like skipping routine PCP visits & to them tending to denial when their mental health is slipping (and to them always seeming to trust sales people more than seems warranted). I don’t see them having the spoons to fight the insurance company if care is denied. I don’t want to see them lose their entire nest egg if they have bad luck with health this year.

      The bizarre thing to me is that the premiums aren’t all that much less for the bad insurance. Everything in life would have to go perfectly to be ahead financially. Personally, I couldn’t stomach the gamble. I’ve lived in a blue state with robust and well regulated insurance for many years (hello Romney-care!) and so I don’t grasp how this other state works.

      BTW, I’ve lurked hear for several years. I’ve been impressed by the knowledge and touched by the compassion of this community. I’m not someone who can keep up with comment sections in general, but I’ll try to contribute in the future if I can be of service.

      1. Rainy*

        If these are faith-based health cost-sharing “plans”, there was a really good bit in a Last Week Tonight show that demonstrates exactly why they aren’t a good deal. I think these have come up on AAM in the last year as well, and there were some good resources offered in the comments iirc.

    2. Morning reader*

      I don’t have that experience but I’m in a similar situation to your friend. I find it helpful to think of health insurance as bankruptcy insurance instead. It doesn’t diminish your health costs by much but it keeps them (mostly) from costing more than X amount.
      Anyway I’d advise for this person 1) find an instate insurance advisor who can help select the best package. 2) buy supplemental insurance for dental etc, anything that the main one doesn’t cover 3) get a low end bronze plan if the exchange plans don’t cover much of the person’s costs, at least then they are in compliance and get the basics free, e.g. annual mammogram.

      1. Health insurance questions (non-ACA)*

        I appreciate the suggestions! Bankruptcy insurance is an excellent way of putting it – that really describes how my insurance feels to me but I hadn’t been able to articulate that so clearly. I’m personally used to a non-trivial amount of out-of-pocket costs, but with my plan there’s a limit to total out of pocket if catastrophe hits.

        Adding supplemental dental/etc. insurance is a good idea. How one determines if a insurance advisor/broker is looking out for the customer’s interest rather than making a quick sale… that I don’t know.

      2. Lifelong student*

        I never found dental insurance to be a wise economic decision. Unless you have reason to anticipate needing significant dental care- like crowns and root canals- the premiums for dental care are almost as much as the regular out of pocket costs for routine cleanings each year. I never even took it when I was employed once I crunched the numbers. Yes, it minimizes the risk of the potential large bill- but given the limits on coverage- like half the cost of a crown- it is not that valuable. It is not like health insurance- most dentists do not accept the insurance payment in full like docs and hospitals do with most insurance. Just another point of view- cost is one factor, coverage limitations need to be taken into account when evaluating cost.

        1. Retired Prof*

          Root canal and crown queen timidly raises her hand. My dental insurance company loses money on me (I got my teeth from the shallow end of the gene pool).

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I have a $18,000 mouth and my dental insurance covered $600 of it, after I fought with them for nine months. Total racket.

    3. PollyQ*

      I have a non-ACA Blue Shield plan, and aside from how expensive it is, it’s been fine. Pre-existing conditions are covered with my plan, so that hasn’t been a problem for me. It does auto-renew (or at least it’s had so far). Most of my meds are covered, although there are a couple where the co-pay was pretty steep.

      1. Health insurance questions (non-ACA)*

        That’s good to hear. The auto-renew is something that concerned me. I was picturing the bad old days of insurance companies purging the rolls of any not profitable customers. Hopefully my friend can find a policy that works like yours.

    4. Anon in IL*

      The law recently changed and she might qualify for a subsidy for an ACA plan even if she didn’t before. Has she checked recently?

      She can go to healthcare.gov and input her demographic and income information to see if she how much a subsidized exchange plan would cost. Open enrollment for ACA plans ends on December 15.

      1. Health insurance questions (non-ACA)*

        December 15 gives a bit of breathing room, thanks for reminding me.

        I don’t know how subsidized plans might work for them – it frankly hadn’t occurred to me. Their income has pretty minimal for the last year or two but they’ve got substantial (approaching 7 figure) savings. I don’t know if ACA subsidies take assets into account or if it’s solely based on income. Very much worth checking! Thanks :)

      2. Health insurance questions (non-ACA)*

        I just did a bit of poking around. Only income matters, not assets. Between that and the the new subsidy rules removing the income ceiling – wow, I’m thrilled. This may make a huge difference. Thank you!

  33. Italy bound! (hopefully)*

    When you travel to a big city with lots of restaurants, how do you keep track of all your options while you’re out wandering? Bonus points for ways you do it without data/wifi.
    Covid variant willing, we’ll be going to Rome soon. I have lists and lists of possible restaurants. Usually we wander and pop in to places as our hunger hits, but Rome has so many good options and I’m a bit terrified of wasting a meal on a mediocre place, lol.
    Our carrier does not have international data plans. We plan to use the hotel wifi but otherwise will be walking around like it’s 1999, ha, so I’m especially interested in old-school ways of keeping track of restaurants. Open to any cool apps you may know for future reference, though.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      You could always just take a quick picture of the restaurant name or use voice memo as in “Nice Restaurant, Calle Rey Pelayo” or something liek that.

    2. BRR*

      I downloaded an offline Google map and saved different places in the map that I looked up ahead of time.