{ 696 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A reminder that comments in the weekend open thread should ask questions and/or seek to discuss ideas, rather than be “here’s an update on my life”-style posts. Thank you!

    1. fposte*

      It’s the tenth anniversary! I think I found it in the second or third year. This year people are palpably happy to see family again for the holidays, murder dolls and drum kits notwithstanding.

    2. Coenobita*

      Oh my goodness, somehow I’d never heard of this before. I am laughing so hard that I’m crying and scaring the dog.

    1. It’s a Wonderful Life*

      I watched that at the beginning of the month! My fiancé and I went to a movie theater nearby and it was showing – we were surprised it was showing but we loved seeing it on the big screen. My fiancé had never seen it (or heard of it) before and he really enjoyed it!

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I watched it all the way through for the first time yesterday. In the past, there was always some interruption when it was on. I didn’t realise how much of the film is the flashback, with Clarence being briefed about George.

    2. allathian*

      Happy Holidays! We celebrated Christmas Eve yesterday with a late lunch that my parents hosted, and later at home by watching Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. A good way to kick off the holidays.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        OMG are you me? This was literally my last night, like all Christmas eves for the last 7 years or so.
        Thankfully my partner forgot to buy eggnog. I hate it and only drink on Christmas Eve.

      2. Artemesia*

        Ours is Galaxy Quest after dinner. We watched it in the theater years ago and so it is firmly attached to Christmas. And hilarious.

        1. David*

          An unconventional choice of a Christmas movie to be sure, but it’s a great idea, Galaxy Quest is amazing. I should watch it again. It’s been almost a year since I last saw it, I need to fix that.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I love It’s a Wonderful Life. My favorite part is when they all fall in the pool, lol.

      I’m starting a new film tradition borrowed from my European friends. There’s a cheeseball movie from the 1970s called Tři oříšky pro Popelku, or “Three Nuts for Cinderella” (in Czech). In German, the title is Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel. According to my friends, this plays on TV every year. The movie score website where we all meet has the soundtrack.

      I found it on YouTube with subtitles and watched it last year and epically tweeted it. It was actually not bad—I would have LOVED it as a kid. As long as I can find it online, I’m going to watch it every year. I’d love to find an all-region DVD, but I’m not sure that exists. Tragically, the actress who played Cinderella, Libuše Šafránková, died this year. :(

      If you don’t want to watch it or you can’t, here’s the thread.
      https://twitter.com/DameWritesalot/status/1342541410537533440

      1. CaliUKexpat*

        I don’t know about all region dvds, but my first Christmas after moving to the UK seven years ago, husband got me a region-free dvd player. Was a it pricier, but they are out there!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I thought there was a way to hack players but I don’t know if that would mess them up. My home theater system (currently in storage) has a Blu-ray player. I don’t know if a region-free Blu-ray player exists. Or if this movie is even on DVD.

          The version on YouTube is a remaster from the Czech National Film Archive so perhaps it will stay up indefinitely.

  2. tangerineRose*

    Suggestions for insoles? Sometimes my feet feel tired. Also, do you think Krazy glue or superglue works better to hold in the insoles?

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

        I have green and orange Superfeet. Both work really well. I like all the options for different shoes and arch support. They’re pricey for insoles but stay in place very well.

      2. tangerineRose*

        Good to know. The ones that I got keep coming out of my shoes when I take my feet out of them.

    1. Decidedly Me*

      I have custom ones currently, but used Superfeet before and really liked those. Try the different colors to find what supports your feet the best. Each of my feet liked a different one (of course…), but I bought the one that both feet were most comfy with.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Mine have always fit snuggly so no need for glue. Plus glue adds lumps- think like having small pebbles in your shoe.
      I don’t remember brands but I usually aim for ones priced about $20 as those seem to have some quality to them.
      I cut them to size by removing the current insole (shoe liner type thing) and tracing it on to the new insole. I toss the old insole because the shoe is too tight with both insoles in the shoe.
      It’s worth spending a few bucks because how you stand/walk impacts your hold structure- your back, your hips everything which in turn means your overall health. Good investment, I’d say.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Another vote for Superfeet. Do not use glue– an insole is supposed to fit snugly but it also requires some movement, especially as you’re adjusting to it. I have never heard of glue used for insoles.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Because our youngest dog went through a lengthy period of eating my husband’s insoles, I can report that neither the original insoles nor any extra/replacement insoles need glue.

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

        How oddly specific for your pup to go after only the insoles and not the whole shoe…lol; but yes, you need to be able to change out insoles as they lose their support — but maybe I’m strange for keeping shoes for a decade if I can and changing the insoles every 2ish years.

    5. Artemesia*

      Those blue jell things are the difference between having plantar fascitis and comfortable feet. They can be trimmed and I don’t glue them in.

    6. Jasmine Tea*

      I use small square of Velcro to keep my orthotics in place. This makes it easy to take them out to clean them and the shoe if they get dirty when I wear them in a rainstorm. (Or sand at the beach)

    7. The OG Sleepless*

      The Profoot insoles from Walmart keep me 100% from having plantar fasciitis issues.

      Whatever kind you get, don’t glue them in place, because you will almost certainly have to move them from one pair of shoes to another. They don’t slide around under your feet.

    8. Public Sector Manager*

      I just got a pair of FORM insoles. The jury is still out for me. I like that you can heat them up and mold them to your feet. I got them for running but then tweaked my knee right when I got them, so I don’t know how much of a difference they will make for my runs because I haven’t been able to go out lately. They’re great for walking, but so are my shoes in general. I’ve had no problem with the insole moving around.

  3. Aggretsuko*

    I just feel whiny and sad for many reasons. I have had a year with one friend of mine I had a crush on. I asked him out, had to point out it was romantic interest, he said no. We have continued to be friends since and things hadn’t been weird/went back to normal, or so I thought, on his end. But normally he is into giving gifts and makes a kind of big deal about it and this year he gave me…nothing. Meanwhile I’d made him something and was all “now what do I do with this? It’s not something I’d ever use.” I finally dropped it off at his work before he got there (I figured keeping a sad unwanted gift was suck and I might as well get rid of it) and he hasn’t responded. I feel like shit, but at this point I was going to feel like shit either way, I suppose. And unfortunately I have to see him again circa Monday and now I don’t ever feel like talking to him again. I guess it’s been that kind of year, as most of the people I made/got gifts for didn’t reciprocate, and that’s awkward anyway and I hate it. He’s never getting another one again, of course.

    Anyway, been sending whiny texts to my therapist about this and feeling bummed out. Y’know, in addition to everything else. I thought we were okay, but I guess not.

    1. Mangofan*

      That sucks, man :-/. It’s really cool you made him something, and I’m sorry to hear he hasn’t responded. Perhaps he feels awkward too and doesn’t want to send mixed signals but doesn’t know how to navigate the whole thing? But I know it still doesn’t feel good to put time and energy into making a gift for someone you like and not like they appreciate it at all.

      Just wanted to say that it’s really sweet that you made / got gifts for a bunch of people, and send you virtual hugs.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Aw, thank you.

        Yeah, I don’t know why he’s suddenly doing “mixed signals” now after over a month of being fine, but there you go.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Ummm… do you know for a fact that he is okay? Do mutual friends/acquaintances see him out and around doing things? Not to wish ill on your friend, but is it possible that there could be another explanation? It doesn’t sound like he would just ghost you like that.
      I am looking at life through my own lens, of course. Right now I know of someone who has had to go into hiding because of a situation. That’s an extreme example of what can go on, but the fact remains that the holidays can bring out some weirdnesses in people.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Guys ghost people all the time. He’s probably fine. Also I literally dropped the gift off with his mother, so she should know if he wasn’t fine.

    3. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      Ouch…it sucks, I know. I agree with Mangofan…he may be feeling really awkward about it and doesn’t want to send ‘maybe signals. It’s kind of one of those things where once it’s out, it can’t be undone. Hopefully, time will dull the weirdness that you both are probably feeling, and things can get back to normal for y’all. Give the guy a bit of time and space to sort his mind out. Also,and this is the hard part…you might want to look deep inside yourself and determine if you can be “just friends” with him. Be honest with yourself on that. Because if that flame is always going to be there, that rejection is going to be hard to heal and could subconsciously color your interactions with him. So do some soul searching, let him do some sorting as well and things follow the path they have been set on.
      In the meantime, all the internet hugs you want. I remember that bitter flavor of rejection, and its painful indeed.

      1. Penguin*

        I think you’re spot on with this explanation. I’ve been in a similar situation and navigating friendship-only while being in love with him hasn’t been easy.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, I don’t know how I feel these days myself. I do plan on avoiding him (perhaps forevermore) after our mutual obligation activity ends at the end of next month, though. I hate that I had to ask directly, though it’s probably good that it’s out in the open that nope, he never felt like that either even though frankly, it seemed like he did.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      This sounds to me like he’s trying not to send mixed signals. He might be thinking that putting a lot of effort into a gift has given you the wrong idea in the past or would come across that way this year, and depending on what you made or how it compares to gifts you’ve given him in the past he might feel awkward about receiving something too. It sucks to be in your position and I’m not at all saying you’ve done anything wrong, but it’s not uncommon for people with crushes on friends to, uh, “hover” there hoping the crush will change their mind. Even if you’re not doing that he might be filtering the friendship through that lens now and being extra careful about boundaries when you two interact.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Yes, I’ve been on both sides of this, and being friends with someone who professed their romantic feelings towards you that you don’t reciprocate is very awkward.
        When I was on the other side of this, it was still very awkward for me to be around someone who did not return my feeling.
        In both situations the friendship cooled off significantly forever.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          Yeah, when it’s happened to me I have literally bailed out of the guy’s life forever and ever so I didn’t continue to lead him on, and that was my plan here, except this dude seemed fine with it, so I didn’t. I think I will end up bailing in the end, though.

        2. lissajous*

          Yep, I’ve been on the not-return feeling side, and receiving gifts from the other person after that was super awkward.
          Largely because the level of thought put into the gifts was a lot, so my spidey senses were getting a hefty dose of hopes-of-romance vibes. Which, as it turned out a few years later when I juuuuust started to be a little more relaxed around them, spidey senses were 100% correct.
          I no longer have contact with them.

          In that case we had never been at that level of gift-giving before, but I can definitely see why the non-return-feelings person would choose to opt out of the gift giving, especially only a month after confessions.

      2. Artemesia*

        The gift thing needed a conversation along the lines of ‘I love our gift exchange and it is just about continuing our friendship, nothing more’. Otherwise he is wisely avoiding getting your hopes up. I would not have left the gift for him but I wouldn’t worry about it — give it a little space. (and don’t ask others about him or if he is ok or whatever — cool the jets here)

        1. Aggretsuko*

          I debated not doing it, but having a handmade gift you can’t ever give someone (and it wasn’t stuff I’d want for myself or could give to anyone else who’d want that) around the house is even more depressing, so fuck it, I got rid of it.

      3. Aggretsuko*

        He’s acted pretty normal, actually, until this. I figured he’d forgotten about it actually since he went back to normal so fast. That said, like he’d give me a gift certificate and a little gift, it wasn’t elaborate on his end. (Probably more elaborate on mine since I make things.)

        I’m not even bothering with the idea of him changing his mind. He’s known me for years, if he was never ever interested (though frankly, he gave off enough signals to make me think so), which apparently was the case, he won’t ever be.

    5. WellRed*

      I get why this sucks and I feel for you. But also, “never want to talk to him again & never getting another gift again” it is kind of extreme. Maybe that’s how you need to move on from disappointment but I echo others who say to consider where this friendship can go from here. Be kind to yourself.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        I’ll put it this way: I’m going to have to see him pretty regularly until the end of January, so actually not talking to him again isn’t an option. But the no gifts again seems pretty clear to me, at least. That said, I think I’ll probably just avoid him as much as possible. What I needed to do was to take some time apart entirely, but that’s not how the holiday season ended up going.

      2. fueled by coffee*

        I’ll also add here that this is all still fresh. Give some space for now, obviously, so that you can move on emotionally and he can see that you’re moving on. But I think that people can fit into the “person I see in group settings among mutual friends sometimes and send the occasional ‘Happy Birthday’ text to” for a while, rather than going cold turkey. With enough time, if things start to feel less awkward, you can start to go back to more of an exchanging Christmas gifts and regularly hanging out friendship.

      3. Aggretsuko*

        Hm, you know, I didn’t really explain why avoiding him was a thing: I don’t want to make him uncomfortable knowing I care more than he does. I guess I am making him uncomfortable after all though.

    6. Aggretsuko*

      He did finally text back a Merry Christmas and a photo of the gift, so there you go. I feel less mad now.

    7. Silver*

      You have been very brave! You told someone you are interested in them! That’s bravery! Something you should be proud of having done. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. And then you gave your friend a nice and thoughtful gift. You have been brave and a good friend. I’m just emphasizing this because I think how you feel now may be less about how this person is acting and more… uncertainty about if you did something wrong or embarrassing? I get that you can’t cut him off, but may I suggest mentally recategorizing him as a person you care about and were honest with? The ball is in his court now, which is scary, but you can also take steps to mentally extricate yourself from here. First, regard your actions as normal and brave and healthy. Second, distract yourself! Focus on things or people who aren’t this guy as much as possible.

    8. *daha**

      I didn’t know that texting your therapist is a thing. It feels like a boss sending extra work to an employee outside of working hours. (Emergencies excepted.)

      1. Mami21*

        I thought this too, but then I thought it’s likely to be set up so the therapist is compensated for their availability.

    9. Lucy Skywalker*

      Yeah, it always sucks to be rejected. My advice to you is to recognize that he’s just not into you, and move forward without him as much as you are able to. Obviously, if you work with him, go to school with him, have mutual friends, etc. you won’t be able to completely avoid him. If that is the case, then I say that you should be friendly and civil to him whenever you cross paths and/or need to interact with him, but otherwise don’t contact him or make plans to hang out with him, unless he is the one to reach out to you first.
      Oh, and don’t assume that he will reach out to you. Don’t stare at your phone waiting for a call or text from him, don’t “accidentally” run in to him by going to places that he frequents but you don’t, don’t stalk him on social media, and especially don’t stalk him in real life.

    10. Rose*

      First major solidarity on just feeling so whiny and sad rn. A LOT of people do! It’s not a personality flaw to feel sad. Reminding myself and anyone else reading of that!

      As far as the gift stuff, I would recommend reading The Four Agreements or just a summary of the book; it’s excellent. One of the “agreements” that every person is advised to make is “Don’t take anything personally; nothing others do is because of you.” and another is “Don’t make assumptions.” I have been in endless situations similar to yours where I’m convinced person did X thing (i.e. not give gift) because they’re feeling XYZ way after something that happened, and then I’m TOTALLY wrong.

      Your friend might have pulled way back on gifting this year because they’re seeing fewer people and emotionally exhausted due to Covid; I know a ton of people who are. He might be having financial or emotional hardships making gifting harder that he hasn’t shared. He might feel guilty or upset and think he accidentally led you on and not have given you a gift because he’s really upset with himself for having done that, or just is worried about muddying the waters.

      It sounds like an honest conversation with him might help, esp if you’re at the point where you are thinking of slow fading the friendship.

      It’s also totally fine to just admit to yourself that this friendship isn’t making you happy anymore. I’ve felt weird about that in the past bc when men have done that to me it can feel like “if I can’t touch your boobs I’m no longer interested in you as a person,” but if your interactions are just leaving you feeling sad I hope you feel freedom to either talk it out or disengage, and you’re not a “bad person” for any (nonviolent/sane) choice you make.

      Sending lots of good wishes; this is so tough!!

  4. river*

    Gel nail poilish vs regular. I love regular nail polish. Recently an online order of regular sent me the gel version by mistake ( i paid regular price, it was their mistake). I have spoken to them about it, still pending, but in the meantime, I have gel polish.
    Should I bother getting a light? I was perfectly happy never using gel. Can they be mixed and matched, for example a gel topper over regular?

    1. Squirrel Nutkin*

      Not a gel user, but my understanding is that gels are a bit more difficult to take off one’s nails than regular polishes are.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Something about scrunching up remover soaked cotton balls inside tin foil wrapped over your nails. (Per the pedicurist, at which point I was like “Yeah, let’s stick with the ones I can undo myself.”)

      2. A bystander*

        I don’t think it’s recommended per se but I’ve definitely been able to take off gel polish with normal remover. But I get every last day out of it so it’s normally ~2w since it was applied.

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

      Some gels don’t need the UV light but you definitely shouldn’t mix regular with gel polish. I’ve had gel and it does last longer than regular but it takes soaking for a long time in acetone to get it off; no just wiping with a cotton ball. If you immediately reapply polish, no problem, but if you like to go natural between mani’s you’ll probably still have stained nails.

      1. river*

        This is a really good point. I can’t stand polish that’s difficult to remove. I use peel off basecoat whenever I use glitter for instance. Ok. I will pass on the gel, and hope the company comes thru on sending me the regular I was trying to buy.
        Thanks for the info, man behind the curtain and Squirrel Nutkin.

    3. FalafalBella*

      I converted to gel polish about a year ago and love it. It lasts about three weeks to a month. I then leave my nails bare for a few days. I do have it professionally done. It is difficult to remove and I do not think you can mix gel and regular polish/topcoats.

    4. Crylo Ren*

      I got into doing my own gel manicures during the pandemic. Was the gel polish you got just a topper, or was it like a color? There is a technique to use both gel and regular polish, but it’s a huge time suck as you need to layer a gel base coat, cure it with a light, apply regular polish, let the regular polish dry COMPLETELY (so like…24 hours), then finally top with your gel and cure that. Search “Gelly Sandwich” for the full technique.

      In any case, yes, if you want to use the gel polish you’ll need a light regardless.

    5. awesome3*

      So I really like gel polish, in terms of the look and how long it lasts, same with the other one which is called something else but it looks like dust. But they are so hard to remove, I just stick with regular (quick dry for my hyperactive self is the easiest to not mess up!)

    6. Calamity Janine*

      honestly i’m very fond of gel nail polish with the light and all, but i also admit i’m sort of a weird case. regular nail polish slides right off my nails – just flakes off wholesale! – no matter what i do. gel nail polish will stick around for a week or so, but it’s really the only way i can get it to stay at all lol!

      i quite like it because it works for me, but i will say that you should also consider the condition of your nails. for gel to grip at all, you have to rough up the nail bed a tiny bit to get it something to cling to. my nails are relatively thin, so i don’t keep gel nail polish on all the time for this reason. if you have pretty robust nails and can have regular nail polish stay around, this probably won’t be a concern for you at all – it’s just something you want to do to your nails maybe once a month, not once a week.

      i actually haven’t seen much in terms of staining – after all, gel kind of requires that base coat and that is fairly good at protecting nails from picking up some of that pigment. it can be a little rough on cuticles to soak off the polish, but honestly if you use a nicer nail polish remover, that’s something that can be fixed with a bit of nail oil anyway. (and tbh… nail oil is the real recommendation here lmao)

      there are some effects you can do with gel nail polishes you can’t do with regular – things like chroming powders and color-shift iridescence powders, and ‘cats-eye’ or ‘galaxy’ nail polishes that you can make patterns on using a magnet.

      to me the other big draw is that using the lamp to set it means… you set it! thanks to being disabled, i tend to move pretty slow doing my nails. and also end up getting very scatterbrained. i’ve tried many quick-dry types of regular nail polish, but inevitably i’ll end up having to go to the bathroom and botching some work as it smudges. (probably doesn’t help that i live in the very humid south.) meanwhile with gel nail polish… when it’s set under the light, it’s PROPERLY set. you can’t smudge it. you can even take a little break between layers and be totally fine. this is something i sincerely appreciate lol!

      there’s no real easy way to mix the two, so if you do get into gel nails, go in whole hog and get a kit with the light, top coat, base coat, and so on as well as some colors. fortunately they aren’t terribly expensive in sets from amazon. i’ve gotten a few sets of colors from i believe Beetles brand, which tend to be about 20 colors for about 25 dollars, plus glossy and matte top coats as well as base coat. the light was about ten dollars as well, but i feel taken all together that’s not so bad in terms of cost.

      tbh my dad has also become a fan… because a bit of color enamel paint you can put somewhere and instantly have it hard set is actually pretty useful to mark gadgets with, lol!

      if you’re the type of person who keeps peel-off base coat in stock though, you’re probably on a different wavelength entirely. and that’s totally fine! but you likely won’t enjoy gel much. unless i’ve totally sold you on it with reasons i like it, in which case why not really :D

      1. river*

        I get your reasons, but I think I’ll stick with regular.
        You can get magnetic multichrome regular polish, I have some. I haven’t tried chrome.
        I like the idea of setting it instantly, but I do pretty well with ‘liquid quick dry’ and quick dry top coat. It is super annoying when you need to go to the bathroom just after doing your nails!

        1. Calamity Janine*

          oh definitely. if you should ever find yourself in different circumstances where gel might suddenly appeal, though, there’s some things to look out for!

          (i keep being somewhat tempted to paint my toenails with gel polish, but that combined with the regular longevity of toenail polish just brings me visions of several millennia from now, alien archaeologists digging up my grave… “quick Zubglar, bring the camera! this one’s got intact ornamentation on the lower phalanges!” “oooh wow you’re right Xibgurb, she must have been of high status… royalty, or a priestess maybe?” “why hot pink, though…” “why, indeed…”)

    7. Wishing You Well*

      Don’t get a UV light for nails without researching the incidence of skin damage from the UV devices. The UV exposure causes age spots, wrinkling and, rarely, skin cancer on hands.
      If you get a UV light, use it exactly as directed.

    8. Rose*

      I love gel but it’s so hard to get off and getting it off fucks up my nails. I was on a gel train for a long time and now I’m back to regular.

  5. bunniferous*

    Anybody making Alison Roman’s turkey recipe for Christmas dinner? I’m sick and cancelled Christmas at my house (NOT covid thankfully) but the turkey was already in the thawing process. I haven’t made a turkey in ages but I had a sheet pan so thought I would give it a go.

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      I have not made it, but have cooked many turkeys. I think the recipe looks really good and I’ve had good success stuffing it with onions and sage etc. The thing I worry about with her methodology is the sheet pan. When I cook a turkey, the drippings would overflow out of a shallow sheet pan. I use a regular roasting pan. Also, I would be afraid that things would really spatter all over the oven in just a sheet pan.
      That being said, I am SO trying her dry rub/brine recipe next time I cook a turkey!

      1. bunniferous*

        I have about 15 minutes left before the bird comes out of the oven but I can happily report the drippings stay right on the pan (It’s the kind that has a small lip around in any case. ) The key is the dry brine before I guess. I poured off the liquid that came out of the bird just like she did before it went into the oven.

        Assuming it tastes as good as it looks, this is gonna turn into my go-to method!

    2. Dino*

      I typically do Ina Garten’s turkey recipe after dry-brining for 24-48 hours, but Alison Roman’s looks good too! Thank you for sharing it. I’m cooking a bird for my apartment complex neighbors next week so I might give this recipe a whirl.

  6. Laura H.*

    Little Joys Thread

    What brought you joy this week.

    I’m looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow!!

    Happiest of Holidays to you and yours! Please share your joys!

    1. RagingADHD*

      Candlelight service tonight. Just beautiful.

      And for tomorrow, I made a buche de noel with orange zest in the filling, so it will be chocolate-orange cake. Yum!

      Currently sitting with a nice warm cat on my lap.

    2. PollyQ*

      My Xmas gift from my nieblings (aged 20 & 17) was them feeding me pizza & taking me to see Spider-Man. I absolutely loved the movie and was delighted to see it in the company of my 2 favorite people in the world. And while I sometimes miss how cute & adorable they were as little children, the fact that they’ve grown into such cool, amazing people also thrills me.

    3. Llama face!*

      Last year the fireplace channel wasn’t included on the cable tv package I get with my rent but I just found out tonight that they have a nice crackly fireplace channel playing this winter that I can put on my tv while I dim the lights and drink amaretto under a cosy blanket on the couch. It is making me feel a bit better despite being far apart from family again this year.

      1. Llama face!*

        Also the present I got for my best friend’s son (my honorary nephew) was a hit and I was pumped about that. :D

    4. StellaBella*

      Happy holidays to you too Laura H and all here. My 2 joys were swimming for an hour 3 days this week, and talking to my brother every couple of days. He has been sick with Covid since 13th, then infected his girlfriend on 20th, and both are anti vax polar opposites of me but still alive so that is a joy.

    5. fposte*

      I have promising closet organization, and Igot labels onto some of my wall art so that people (maybe including me down the line) have an easy way to tell what it us and where it came from. That gas been on to to-do list for a long time, so I’m pleased.

    6. allathian*

      Celebrating Christmas with family. Having a White Christmas this year after several black or gray ones in a row. I’m on vacation next week, and I’m really looking forward to that, too.

    7. Lady Whistledown*

      I received mindfulness cards as a gift and I actually love them! My favorite mantra from this week was “Just This”. A reminder to focus on just this (whatever “this” is that you’re doing) in order to stay in the moment. Holidays can be a bit emotionally fraught here but I’ve loved staying in the moment to create joyful new family memories.

      1. Katie*

        Would you share what brand of mindfulness cards? I love picking a daily affirmation card and would like more options!

    8. Blue Eagle*

      Received a present on Tuesday from my volunteer organization.
      Put together a snow globe puzzle of carolers and Christmas grizzly bears on Wednesday.
      Made holiday cookies with red and green M&Ms on Thursday.
      Hopped in the car after dusk on Friday and drove by all the amazing light displays in the nearby neighborhoods.
      So often JOY doesn’t just come to you, you have to make an effort to go out and find it – – and when you do your reward is definitely a feeling of JOY!

      Wishing JOY to all AAM readers!

    9. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My doggo sleeps on my bed and this morning, I woke up with her laying on her side, her back snuggled up against my side, and the edge of my husband’s blanket pulled up to her chin with her head on the edge of my pillow and one ear pointing straight up to the ceiling. This happens a few times a week and it always makes me smile, partly because my dog is adorable and partly because he always makes sure to tuck her in. (She has fairly thin coat and not a lot of body fat due to her body shape, think half sized greyhound, and he keeps a fan running all night so she and I both get cold :-P )

      1. Mannequin*

        Aawwww!

        My roommate went out of town to visit family for Xmas, so her dog played slumber party with me and *my* dog, and I got to wake up to TWO wiggly bundles of warmth & kisses.

    10. Hotdog not dog*

      Best Good Dog loves snow (he is a husky) and we got about an inch yesterday. He had the best time on his walk yesterday, and made me laugh with his antics.

    11. Just a Guy in a Cube*

      Middle child got a new chapter book and just straight up read it yesterday. Which is the culmination of becoming a much more confident reader in the last 6-8 weeks.
      Toddler has picked up jokes, and yesterday when I made a dad joke and asked if she was going to laugh at it, she just looked at me with a big grin and said “No. I no laugh at that.”
      So both are little joys, in many sense of the words.

    12. Falling Diphthong*

      Last night we all watched “The Mitchells vs the Machines” and it was a ton of fun and the mom didn’t die.

      We had narrowed it down to two movies and I was like “Well if you want a deciding vote, I know Mom dies in the other movie, in a dramatic way that provides much character motivation for everyone else.” Also we are watching Attack on Titan with son this week and dead moms abound.

      “The lavender one has found us!”

    13. Falling Diphthong*

      I decided I could make my old cinnamon rolls recipe, with butter, because dairy allergic child would be happy to sleep through the morning and the rest of us could wipe out the cinnamon rolls in that time. (College student; this week there has been a question of whether he would be up by sunset.)

    14. Mimmy*

      With school finished for the semester, I was finally able to start my Jigsaw puzzles on Monday!! Right now, I’m doing one of A Christmas Story

      1. GoryDetails*

        I have a jigsaw puzzle waiting – one of the “solve the puzzle and then find the clues to a mystery” kind, with an Egyptian theme. Only problem is I haven’t tried a puzzle since acquiring my current clowder of three young and lively cats, and I don’t know if they’ll let me work on it without trying to eat the pieces!

        1. Mimmy*

          I can imagine! We used to have two cats, and I think one of them tended to climb up on the counters, so I could imagine her interfering with my masterpiece lol.

        2. tangerineRose*

          They can. If you can get some foam boards or thick/wide papers to cover the puzzle when you’re not working on it, that usually helps.

    15. Kathenus*

      Three things. My neighbors put out luminaries all along the sidewalks on my street on Christmas Eve every year – and they really looked beautiful. Second, I happened across a family that had a bunch of presents stolen, got in touch with the mother and bought each person in the family a gift and delivered them yesterday. Third, I just found and ordered myself six jars of Bernaise sauce, a big delicacy for me, this morning. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year everyone!

    16. RussianInTexas*

      Step-daughter, after having COVID while heavily pregnant, her toddler having COVID at the same time, then her husband catching it a week before her due, had a healthy baby, and everyone is doing well.

      1. allathian*

        I’m so glad the family’s doing well. Covid can be really dangerous for pregnant, otherwise healthy people.

    17. WellRed*

      I enjoyed just poking around a few local stores for last minute stocking stuffers knowing that I didn’t have to get anything. I even bought paper, tape and gift bags rather than trying to dig through mom’s supply. I got up early and made breakfast for everyone and am also in charge of lunch (I am not a “cook” person so this is all very new.

    18. Jacey*

      My family is Jewish, but my sister has always loved Christmas. This year she’s getting to celebrate it with her partner’s family, and we’re getting tons of happy updates from her! It’s bringing me a lot of holiday cheer.

      I’m also anticipating moving from email to real snail mail with my online pen pal, something I’ve wanted for a long time! Can’t wait to use my cute stationary :)

    19. DarthVelma*

      We got the cat a window cat hammock for Christmas. I was not quite prepared for the joy that was going to bring to my cat. She’s lazing in the sunshine in the window next to my desk and we are all very happy at my house.

      Also, homemade cocoa bombs turned out to be fairly easy and absolutely delicious.

    20. Katrianah (UK)*

      My sneaky MIL picked up a limited edition pair of tights (IN THE PERFECT SIZE) for me for Christmas BACK IN APRIL and KEPT THEM SECRET SOMEHOW.

      I am amazed, impressed, and may have cried a little over them.

      1. GoryDetails*

        That’s delightful! I’ve had a hummingbird get in my face in impatience as I was refilling the feeder, but never had a head-perching nuthatch!

  7. Rebecca*

    What planner do you use?

    I used to LOVE planners. I am a very organized, goal-setting list maker at heart so planners make me happy. The search continues for the perfect one though…

    1. Bethlam*

      I use a Daytimer, but I now make my own customized pages on the computer because none of the pre-printed ones suited exactly what I needed. I bought their hole punch, so I print my pages, punch, and I’m ready to go.

      1. Siege*

        I do something similar to this for work. I bought a planner on Etsy and got some Etsy planner pages, which I’m customizing because I don’t have the patience to fully make my own and don’t plan to resell. The planner fits a standard six-hole punch; I got one at Michaels and cut up some pretty folders to make section dividers.

        For my personal planner, I do a bullet journal, which I have learned needs to be fully set up by the start of the year because I don’t make time to actually make a weekly or whatever. I use a separate journal for collections and that’s multi-year, but anything tied to the year (for example, my books-read list) goes in the year journal.

    2. Aphrodite*

      I use Filofax and have for many years. What attracted me to it was some of the “fun” inserts and colors. But it works well if I remember to check it. Which doesn’t always happen.

      I may be going for a calendar this year where I can see it all the time (perhaps hung on the inside pantry door).

    3. river*

      I never did find the perfect planner, so I make my own custom pages and put them in an A5 ringbinder.
      Each year I assess how well the pages served me, and adjust the design as needed.

      1. Jacey*

        I’ve been trying to make my own planner as well! Do you mind telling me what tools you use to make it? I was going to bind mine like a book but that doesn’t let me add extra memo pages so I’ve settled on a little binder instead.

        1. river*

          A pen and a ruler on dot paper, lol. Sorry I don’t know any shortcuts. I enjoy the process, but I admit it takes a couple of weeks to get it done.

    4. Llama face!*

      I got a Clever Fox brand planner this past year and am hoping a replacement for it is one of the presents I’ll be opening in the morning. It was pretty versatile!

      It is a hardcover planner that is about the size of a regular book and has an elastic loop to keep it closed and a pen holder. It has 4 main parts: First themed pages for gratitude/self awareness, daily rituals, vision board, goal setting, focus goals, and mind map at the start, then monthly calendar pages, then (undated) weekly pages with the left page having a lined section for each day and the right page having 7 sections to fill in (main goal, priorities, notes, to-do list, habits/skills, wins, and how I’ll improve). The last part of the planner has several pages of dot graph paper for your own notes. It comes with a little built-in folder inside the back cover and some simple category stickers.

      1. Llama face!*

        And yay! I got a new one for Xmas and they’ve definitely upgraded the stickers :D
        (Everything else looks the same). I forgot to mention it has 3 attached ribbon bookmarks so you can keep your place in different sections at once.

    5. Audiophile*

      I just splurged on an Appointed planner back in September. It’s one of the few I’ve come across that starts outside of January (bought mine in September; planner is August-August).

      So far, I’ve really enjoyed it, but haven’t had a ton of use for it this year.

    6. Invisible Fish*

      Agendio – customized planners. Look them up online to see what you can design for yourself!

    7. Ana Gram*

      I usually use a Moleskine planner but for 2022, I got a Papier planner and it’s soooo pretty. I like blank areas to scribble in but they have all kinds.

    8. Grilledcheeser*

      I know many people who are enjoying the Bright Beta planner (brought to you by the lovely person behind SubPar Parks!): https://www.brightbeta.co/

      I am more of a “print out what pages I need” kind of planner person, so just use a combination of free pages available on the internet,

      1. comityoferrors*

        I got the Bright Beta planner for 2022 and I already adore it. It is very good for list-making and goal-setting.

    9. Kage*

      I use Commit30. It’s a smaller, woman-owned business. The planner is set up around focusing on a big goal/habit for 30 days and tracking that (in addition to normal tracking). It’s super adaptable to meet lots of different users. This will be my third year with it.

    10. Chauncy Gardener*

      I started to use a Passion Planner this year. Undated, the medium size, with a forest green cover that I love. What I really like about this planner is that it has a little exercise you do at the beginning to figure out your goals and then the steps to achieve them. Then you do a monthly plan and then your weekly plans. I love the fact that it gives equal weight/space to personal and professional to do’s. My goal has been to focus on my wellness after decades of only focusing on my work. So while I still use Outlook calendar at work (because that’s what my company uses), I love having my paper Passion Planner to keep everything balanced. I also really like that the planner has an end of the month recap where you evaluate how your month went

      1. I❤️Spreadsheets*

        I have a Passion Planner as well and I love all the space in it for lists and planning (space on the weekly page and loads of notes pages in the back).

    11. Rainy*

      I use a Passion Planner. I don’t do the “roadmap” parts of it usually but I really like how it’s laid out and that it’s a tidy book I can carry around without it getting damaged or crumpled.

    12. Batgirl*

      I printed my own, because I like to choose and amend my pages, using onestopteachershop planner inserts (they sell life planners as well as teacher planners). Then bought rosegold discs and clear plastic covers from Etsy, and the heavy-duty Arc holepunch which is compatible with my disc system. I am finding I much prefer discs to spiral bound. I printed out a picture of a lighthouse at dusk for the cover and I use the holepunch on general stationery like sticker sheets or to do lists, or post its on backing as my inserts.

    13. Autumn*

      I use the MochiThings Brilliant Weekly Planner at work. A favorite author (Elizabeth McCracken) mentioned it on twitter a couple years ago and I was influenced, lol. What I like about it: Monday start. Super important to me and weirdly difficult to find! My workweek intermittently includes weekends, and the weekend “belongs” to the week it follows, so the Monday start lets me see the actual layout of the week ahead. I also love the size, satisfyingly heavy paper weight, and how it keeps me focused on the current needs. I keep it below my monitor, fully in view at all times, since I can drift off task, both due to the nature of my job and my own nature. I also love the little to-do list area on the left, where I park ongoing projects that I can break out into tasks on the individual days, and then every week I review and transfer them to the next week’s to-do if uncompleted. I incorporate some bullet journal techniques, but I am never going to maintain a full-on bullet journal. Also, if I have a week off, I just – don’t fill in the dates and don’t waste a page. It’s undated. I am going on but I really love it! I use a boring old monthly planner at home for medical appointments, house maintenance, etc. It’s a House of Doolittle 5-year month-per-spread (it’s actually pretty nice too, good quality, the MochiThings is just cuter).

      1. Anonymous4*

        I got one so I’d look cool in meetings, and turns out I never used it.

        It looked pretty cool though, until I got tired of lugging it around . . .

    14. Elle Woods*

      I love planners too. I found one from Russell & Hazel last year and loved it so much I got the same style for 2022. There’s a monthly spread plus each week has a 2-page spread. On one side is the days of week with plenty of space for activities, notes, etc. The other side is a page that includes space to write your goal for the week, notes, priorities, a to do list, and note what’s coming up the next week. I also really like that before each quarter of the year, there’s space to note your quarterly goals (personal, career, and financial) plus the next steps toward those goals as well as your big ideas, successes, and growth opportunities.

      https://www.russellandhazel.com/collections/dated-planners/products/2022-weekly-planner-dew-vegan-leather

    15. ReluctantConvert*

      I’ve used paper planners for years and finally had to admit it was no longer working (too easy to lose track of long-term projects and repeated meetings with weird schedules, like second-thursday-of-every-month). Now I use a combo of Trello (the free version) for keeping track of tasks and Google Calendar for actual scheduling. I highly recommend Trello for anyone who likes the “cross it off” feeling but needs to go digital! Although I have to say I hope someday life settles down enough to go back to paper.

    16. PT*

      I used to use the Staples brand weekly/monthly planner because it had a calendar of the full month, followed by a layout of each week with more lines on it to write stuff from each day. Then when that stopped working for me, mainly because it was too big and flimsy, I switched to Moleskein weekly horizontal planner (which puts the days on two pages) or the Moleskein weekly planner (which puts the days on one page, and gives you a blank notes page on the opposite page to take notes for the week.) Both worked well for the jobs I had at the time I was buying them.

    17. Intermittent Introvert*

      I use an Agendio. Custom pages I put in my small binder. They keep my order info so I can just pick the same again or make tweaks each year. So many customizable features. I need full size Saturday and Sunday boxes because my weekends are just as busy as week days. (One of my pet peeves is smaller weekend pages in calendars which assume the entire working world only works Monday to Friday and that nobody volunteers or does anything else on the weekends!)

  8. Countering Everyday Ageism*

    Suggestions for countering ageism in day to day encounters. FYI – I’ve used hearing aids since I was young. Now with my gray hair, if I ask someone to repeat a sentence people treat me like I’m old and stupid. Same thing with say, a pay screen at a new grocery store that I don’t know how to use immediately. Sometimes it’s, “ You. Need. To. Push. THAT. Button.” Or just an attitude change or a shake of the head. Mostly I ignore it but I’d like to bring more awareness of everyday ageism. I’ve thought of saying, “I have a hearing disability not a cognitive one.” But nobody likes being corrected and I don’t want a bunch of adversarial conversations. People sometimes mean well and might be shocked or defensive if it’s pointed out. What do you all suggest to bring more awareness to everyday ageism?

      1. Jacey*

        I don’t know… I think it’s a snappy line but it throws people with cognitive disabilities under the bus.

        1. Crop Tiger*

          How, exactly? This person would be stating that they’re not senile. How does that possibly affect anyone else?

          1. Jacey*

            I didn’t mean the line about senility—though I’ll explain why that one isn’t my favorite either. I may have nested wrong. I was referring to OP’s line “I have a hearing disability not a cognitive one.” That basically means, “hey, the rude, condescending way you’re speaking to me should be reserved for people with cognitive disabilities.” Except speaking rudely to those with cognitive disabilities ISN’T okay. Same with the senility line: it’s not polite or okay to speak to a senile person that way either. And the particular LOUD. SLOW. way of talking that OP describes isn’t actually helpful to people with cognitive impairment in any way.

    1. Lady Whistledown*

      For casual encounters I would try to ignore it as best possible – when I’m checking out at the grocery store I don’t have the time or energy for the emotional labor of correcting/educating folks. If it’s happening enough that it’s impacting your quality of life (and it sounds like it is – I’m so sorry!) you might also consider getting ahead of it.

      “Have had hearing damage since I was a kid, could you say that again?” Friendly this-is-normal-not-to-worry tone
      “Bad ears but the brain this just fine. Could you say that again?” Said with a chuckle

      I hope others have even better scripts about Disabilty/Ageism microaggressions since this sounds deeply frustrating.

    2. Ana Gram*

      Well, my grandmother used to reply equally loudly and slowly and then, to me, say in a whisper that wasn’t really a whisper how nice it was that the store employed special needs people. I mean, it was rude, but damn it was funny!

        1. Ana Gram*

          Lol she cracked me up! When she heard a distant cousin had been arrested for fraud, she just shook her head sadly and said “well, that’s unfortunate…orange never was her color”. She was the queen of one liners!

      1. Jacey*

        I understand that your grandmother was frustrated with the ageism, but… that’s a pretty ableist reply.

        1. Ana Gram*

          Oh yeah, it was definitely not a suggestion of how to respond. My grandmother was really embraced the idea that little old ladies could say anything they wanted. Most of time it was funny and sometimes it was just rude as hell.

    3. Jacey*

      No good suggestions, but sending sympathy! Ageism is so frickin pervasive in our society that even pointing it out can be fraught.

      1. Wishing You Well*

        Exactly. Don’t start something in public in these difficult times. An angry glance might be fine, given your mask will hide most of your expression. Be selective with your time and energy.
        I have no visible disabilities but, Holy Cow!, the ageism and ableism! From people trying to walk THROUGH me (I’m invisible!) to being handed an “Advance Directive” to fill out when I went in for a simple medical test, I often feel discounted. I’m not even retirement age. *sigh*
        People are so triggered and stressed and some are so ready to film the next viral video that, except for the most egregious ageist and ableist behavior, now is not the time to educate anyone on their failings in public.
        Wishing everyone a much better 2022!

    4. OxfordBlue*

      I’ve encountered a few similar situations over the last couple of years now that I have reached my late fifties as well as acquiring some hearing loss.
      I can tell you that I have noticed that my appearance overall and particularly my level of grooming as well as making eye contact and speaking assertively all seem to prevent this happening when I’m encountering someone for the first time.
      I should say that I actively considered my appearance a while ago and came to the conclusion that I was going to dress as though I belonged to the cohort of older, professionally successful women local to this area and that this approach is working for me. Obviously I cannot tell you what this would look like in your area nor what changes you might consider making if you decided to adopt this approach yourself.
      One way of helping you think about this is to observe others in your local area and consider what assumptions you make about them based on their appearance; doing this myself was very illuminating and prompted me to stop procrastinating.
      Best of luck and a very happy New Year to you.

    5. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      Given the aging population, and increasing noise levels everywhere affecting young folks, particularly with the constant use of earphones, I think it is time that hearing aid manufacturers started making hearing aids as fashion items – in titanium blue, with diamanté’s, whatever.
      I remember when people were mocked for wearing glasses. Glasses are a billion dollar industry now. Hearing aids could do the same.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        That is a GREAT idea. Then maybe my friends with hearing loss would get them. They won’t (and drive everyone crazy with “what? what?” in addition to being a bit socially isolated with other people because they just can’t hear what folks are saying) because they don’t want to look “old.” Even the way the aids are now, you can hardly see them and life is so much better when you can hear.

        1. the cat's ass*

          I got my hearing aids 6 years ago and they have improved my life and relationships immeasurably. However, with masks i can’t lip read or see facial expressions much and masks muffle vocalization, and plexi barriers mute people even more so I feel like i’m back where i was before heating aids. I’m really comfortable asking people to speak up because I’m deaf. I’ve actually pulled a hearing aid out of my ear and waved it at people who were being particularly obtuse.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Search for ‘hearing aid bling’–there are charms & press-on colors, and gold-plated hearing aids even.
        I’m thinking of making mine glitter-blue if I can ever get used to wearing them.

    6. VI Guy*

      People are really ignorant about disability. They think that closed captioning or yelling louder at a blind person will help them. Like, “Wrong disability! Try again but maybe think about it for two seconds this time?!”

      I don’t have a good suggestion, but have a lot of sympathy. Although you might look for a community online. I know the one I joined likes to share responses.
      “You should get glasses!”
      “Oh, how thoughtful. Funny how in 30 years my specialist optometrist hasn’t thought to mention it.”

    7. anonymous73*

      Are you sure it’s ageism or just cashiers who have no patience for anything? I’ve encountered many cashiers with major attitude, am always asking people to repeat themselves (masks), and every store has a different credit card machine. I’m not trying to minimize your encounters, but I have noticed a general lack of customer service and general friendliness in the last decade (way before the pandemic). Unless they’re openly rude, I just ignore it. It’s not worth the brain space.

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

    Silly question…i have a motion activated nightlight in the kitchen. Lately i’ve noticed it’s activating itself for no reason i can find. I unplugged and wiped it off, thinking dust or hair might be on the sensor, and that’ll solve the issue for maybe a day/night, but it’s back at it the next. It’s 5-6 years old now…is it just wearing out? Other scientifically plausible things it might be…not supernatural?

    1. fhqwhgads*

      Do you have forced-air heat and is it possible it’s blowing hard enough to make the sensor thing there is movement?

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

        Yes on forced air heat…it’s close enough to the vent for the air to hit it. But would just air trigger the light? Doesn’t it need to be some thing in motion?

        1. PollyQ*

          Different temperatures of air let light pass through them differently. You can’t easily see it with the naked eye, but it’s more apparent as shadows, e.g., when you open your car door on a hot day, you can see the waves from the hot air leaving the car as shadows on the pavement. It’s called the Shlieren effect. IDK exactly how the sensor in your nightlight works, but it’s at least possible that this is the cause.

        2. Bibliothecarial*

          The wind triggers my outdoor motion activated light allllllll the tiiiiime. Not things moving in the wind, just wind.

    2. RagingADHD*

      Any chance the unit itself is jiggling in the socket? Bouncy floor, vibration from another part of the house, etc. If the prongs are a bit looser or have bent slightly over time, it might not fit as snug.

    3. Becky S.*

      I have a motion detector light in my closet. A year after I got it it started going on, when the door was shut, in the middle of the night, looking very ‘Twilight Zon-ish’ Then I went away for over a week, and for that time there was no motion in the closet. That seemed to reset it. It still goes on by itself once in a while, but rarely.

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

        I wonder if there was dust/clothing lint in the air that completely settled while you were away.

        I haven’t noticed it happening in the last several years, just the last few months, and it’s stayed in the same spot. I think my house is pretty clean but maybe dust has accumulated in the vents.

    4. RussianInTexas*

      This is slightly off topic – I have finally installed the Ring app for the camera we’ve had for couple years now (to catch UPS delivering an expensive piece of electronic while I was home by myself).
      Apparently 99% of my Ring is triggered by the neighborhood cats. My backyard is the hangout spot!

      1. WellRed*

        Haha. We had a neighbor post a description of her lost cat. Another neighbor posted a video grab showing said cat, saying is this her? It was.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          We have White Cat coming in literally every night. Comes in, leaves 10-15 minutes later. Every night.

      2. Salymander*

        We had to disable our motion sensor lights in the front of our house because they kept coming on to the point that we thought the neighbors might complain. I slept out in the front room and checked whenever the lights came on, and it was quite a show. We thought there were weird neighbors trespassing or stray cats looking for food, but nope! Instead, every raccoon, opossum, coyote, deer, vulture, wild turkey, squirrel and fox in the area seems to adore our yard. No idea why, they just seem to come through the gate or hop the fence and then just hang out. I keep waiting for a mountain lion so we can have the compete collection. I think it is only a matter of time. Good thing my cat is an indoor cat. The neighborhood cats visit, but they hang out in the backyard where it is a bit safer.

    5. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      I am writing from Australia so… a big spider kept tripping a sensor light my family had. Naturally when someone went to check, the spider would quickly hide. We figured it was attracted to the bit of warmth the light gave off when triggered. YMMV!
      Maybe in your kitchen it is a less perturbing, but still living little bug.

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

        Hor.ri.fy.ing.

        When it first started happening it was still warm enough to have mosquitoes buzzing about; I’m in Los Angeles and we had a bad invasive mosquito species just wreak havoc this summer. I was convinced there must be mosquitoes in the house. But it’s finally gotten cold here and it’s still happening. What’s the life-span of the average house spider? (Shudder)

        1. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

          Don’t know the average house spider but huntsman spiders here in Australia – about two years. But they do have babies, obviously. Ewwwwww

        2. allathian*

          Oh well, at least the spiders will leave your food alone and eat other vermin that might spoil it…

  10. Schmitt*

    I made the Baileys cheesecake from commenter “banoffee pie” last week. It is delicious. It also does not hold its shape. There’s no gelatin in the recipe – is the trick to whip the cream way more than I did?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Oo. I just got to making mine last night so I haven’t looked at it yet, but I’ve made similar ones with no problems (and no gelatin) before. But I’ve also always used premade whipped cream, this is the first time I did it from scratch. Will report my results when I crack into it here in a couple hours!

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I just got into mine — because if you can’t have boozy cheesecake for breakfast on Christmas morning, what’s even the point — and it’s a little softer (or maybe “looser” is the right word?) than my usual cheesecakes, but holding its shape relatively okay. Like, I was able to serve it with a pie server, it’s a little squdgy around the edges but still a distinct wedge shape, and the rest of the cheesecake is still staying in the shape it’s supposed to be, not expanding outward to fill the rest of the empty space as some previous failures have done. (Also, SUPER TASTY. And mine actually was enough filling to fill two pre-made graham cracker pie crusts, so housemate is taking a surprise boozy cheesecake to his family’s Christmas gathering today as well.)

      2. Calamity Janine*

        oh hey, i might actually know enough vaguely about cooking to answer this, even if it comes from threatening my international friends with green fluff…

        pre-whipped, uh, whipped cream, tends to have a stabilizer in there. if you just knock air into whipped cream, it’s pretty easy for that to deflate over time. (cool whip isn’t exactly whipped cream, but same idea. it’s favored in some recipes because it has that ability to stay whipped.) a touch of gelatin or even something like egg white can similarly stabilize homemade whipped cream. there are definitely tricks to try and get the just-cream stuff to not fall, but that requires a bit of a deft technique and often a higher fat content to act as that stabilizing force. temperature is also a big thing there too since i’m guessing this is more of a ‘no-bake cheesecake’ sort of recipe than one that depends on being baked. so if it gets popped back in the fridge, that will also probably help it set up a bit more.

        probably down to the difference between homemade and store-bought whipped cream, but sounds delicious either way!

        (if all else fails, just add in another layer of cookies and declare it to be a trifle…)

    2. banoffee pie*

      Yeah I don’t mess with gelatin haha. You need to whip the cream pretty well or just tell people it’s meant to be squidgy (that’s what I do). It firms up eventually in the fridge after like 2 days but it never usually lasts that long.

      Also I use double cream, google told me it’s a bit denser than your heavy cream (assuming you’re in the US)

  11. StellaBella*

    Advice please? Family and covid ‘varying ideas on vax’ warning for those who want to skip this.

    *****

    My brother and his GF are antivax, and way down a rabbit hole of q crap etc. He got covid and gave it to her, in the last 2 weeks. They are unvaxxed. Fairly ill. They are refusing to see docs after they get well to get checked. They are also still refusing any vax. Their employers will not mandate them either.

    How can I continue to speak to him about this? I begged for the last year that they get vaxxed. Politically we are polar opposites.

    Are there online resources on how to speak to family about this? I searched and found a few things, such as the Very Well Health, How to Talk to Anti-Vaxxers: Advice From the Experts. But the thing is, they are so brainwashed I cannot get thru to them. And I am trying to curb my anger but it has been hard.

    I have not been home since 2016, so 5 years already since I have seen my brother and i have never met his GF. I may be able to travel next year in September, covid permitting, but I do not want to spend time with people like this for fear about my own health, and theirs. If I travel and bring a new variant to them, (I have 3 vaxxes, in fact had my booster on the day he tested positive), it could be bad. Do I just resign myself to never seeing them again until maybe 2024 etc or whenever this is over?

    1. allathian*

      I get that they’re family, but why do you want to see them at all?

      You can continue talking until you’re blue in the face, but you won’t get through to them. Nothing will, if they’re as entrenched in all the q and conspiracy crap as it sounds like they are. All you can hope is that they won’t have any permanent bad consequences from their stupidity, but if they do, it’s on them.

      Maybe don’t plan on seeing them ever again…

      It will never be over. At some point we can hope that it’ll become just another flu that won’t shut everything down, but it’s never going away.

      1. StellaBella*

        All very valid points and questions. We lost our folks in 2007 and 2013, and I just am sad about all of this. All of my family lives in either Ohio, Wisconsin or NY, and I would like to visit. Just maybe keep masking. I do agree it is on them they are adults. Just wish I was related to people who were not like this. And I do agree that covid is here to stay for a long while and possibly forever. Thank you for hte comment.

        1. allathian*

          And thank you for the graceful reply. I’ve been blessed with family and friends who’re all on the same page as I am about covid and masking, etc. I can only imagine how frustrating it can be to watch someone you care about make what you consider are stupid choices…

    2. Lady Whistledown*

      My sister is like this (her roommate was at January 6th and honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if she was there somehow too. I… don’t want to know).

      With cults, you can’t logic someone out of a decision that wasn’t made logically. There’s an emotional need that is being filled for them. Whether it’s the need to feel heard or included or smart or better than others etc – it’s emotional, not logical.

      The (limited) research I have done indicates that people don’t get rescued from cults. They have to choose to leave and the more alienated they become from regular society, the harder it is to leave. The kindest thing you can do is dial everything back. Way back. Until you can stop being so angry, you won’t be able to make progress here. With my sister, we used to talk all the time. She was my best friend growing up. She lived in our house for a year. I can barely recognize her now. But we’ve been inching our way back from the brink with short phone calls focused on a very narrow set of topics:
      – Cooking
      – Gardening
      – Tv/Movies
      – Childhood nostalgia
      – Pets/Kids

      Some people who leave cults talk about the “shelf” in the back of their minds. Where they put all the cognitive dissonance and uncomfortable questions. If you’re very patient and very lucky, in between largely positive and loving engagement, you can ask questions and slip new things onto that shelf. It must be subtle and come from a place of love, not anger, but you can get through. Once the shelf breaks and they’re ready to leave the cult, you have to skip all the I-told-you-so and welcome them back with open arms and love.

      I wish I had better news or tales of my own wild success. I’m not there either. But I have been managing to have a relationship with my sister when many others can and have written her off. I don’t think she’s gone forever, just really different for right now. I have hope that the shelf will break, and I’m taking care of my own mental health along the long journey ahead.

      Best of luck to you and I’m so sorry.

      1. StellaBella*

        Thank you, this is an amazing comment, and I am so sorry about your sister, too. I agree that taking care of one’s own mental health and well being is needed. And I agree that there is a lack of being heard, too. Both he and GF are ex Army and feel that they need to be heard from that experience. I am sorry your sister’s roommate was involved in 6 January, have you reported this person? I will be honest I have looked for photos of my brother there but indeed he was not. Thanks for the kind comment.

        Alison, if this is getting too political please feel free to remove. I am trying to understand how to reach my brother before he dies of covid and all of this is complexly wrapped up together.

        1. Lady Whistledown*

          My sister is unvaccinated and according to my parents has no plans to ever get a COVID vaccine. She works for a small company that isn’t going to mandate it so no hope there. For my own mental health I’ve accepted that these are her choices to make. If she does get sick, honestly, I guess I started my grieving process a long time ago.

          As for the roommate, I don’t know if she was actually in the Capitol or stayed outside. My cousin found her photos on her public Facebook page and called me demanding to know if my sister had been there too.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Wow- some top notch comments today including this thread here. People are at their best with their writing today for sure.

            I love the idea about focusing on common stuff. I have a friend who is let’s just say different from me. We avoid talking about what we don’t agree on. It’s helpful in preserving the friendship. Another friend as similar differences with a sibling. She too is focusing on the shared interests and the shared life history in order to keep the relationship alive and working.

            For myself, I have had to take a hard look inside me in terms of thinking about life and death. If I am being realistic, every path that crosses into my life is a gift. EACH person is a gift. Key part: The problem comes in where I don’t like to think about how we are all temporary. I had an aunt live to 107 then she passed. A 107 years is temporary, yet her life spanned three centuries as she lived from the late 1800s to the early 2000s. What I like when I think of her is to marvel at all. the. changes. she saw in her life time. I wonder if she ever got scared. This brings me back to me. I know for a fact that I get scared and I am only 61 (modest compared to my aunt).

            I think there is no one magic answer. But I think a solid foundation for thinking about these types of questions is to aim for doing your best each day, so in old age, you can say, “I did the best I could each day.” Notice a few things here:
            — Doing YOUR best is not the same as doing MY best, or your BFFs best, or your favorite relative’s best. It’s unique to you. It’s the best you can do with your resources, your insight, and your constraints that you work under. (We all have constraints- limitations that we work with.)
            — Staying big picture focused can help pull us through some really hard situations. The big picture aspect here allows us to find compromise. Perhaps you can keep a sustainable relationship by phone or email. Or not, only you know for certain.
            —Keep yourself safe at all times. Failure to keep our own selves safe is one of the ways we can really undermine ourselves.
            —Another component of doing your best each day is to remain connected to all the changes going on. Stay on top of things so that if/when things change you can grab opportunities that you are not seeing right now. Decide to become an opportunist who grabs openings and leverages them for the better.

            Yeah. I don’t know what your gonna do here. Going one day at a time is not what we want to hear, but sometimes that’s the answer that carries us through. I would decide not to see them for now and then revisit that decision later on. This way I am not making foolish decisions that paint me into a corner I cannot ever get out of later. And no, don’t continue to argue with them. It’s only helping them to dig their heels in further. You’ve said all that you can say.

            1. StellaBella*

              Thank you for these insights. The answers are indeed difficult to find, and in the complex world we live in, they elude us even more, I think, than in simpler times. Your point on opportunities is a great one – applies in all areas of life. Thank you and have a good weekend.

        2. I heart Paul Buchman*

          “I am trying to understand how to reach my brother before he dies of covid”

          You obviously love your brother very much and want what’s best for him. It’s really hard to accept but I don’t think you can save him from himself. I have watched my lovely younger brother slide into alcoholism and I’m pretty sure it will be what kills him but I can’t rescue him. I think this is the same thing. There aren’t any magic words that will make him wake up and see things your way. I’m sorry. All you can do is keep the lines of communication open and hope that when/if he has a change of heart he is empowered to come to you. With my brother, I phone him every few months and talk about surface stuff, buy him a birthday and Christmas gift and tell him I love him whenever we talk. One day I hope he’ll have room for something more.
          One thing that doesn’t ever work is being Right at a person. That never results in change and can make people dig in deeper to their positions. Best wishes to you, you are coming from a good place.

      2. Dear liza dear liza*

        This aligns with all the research I’ve done, too. Steven Hassan has written extensively about cult behavior and how the ant-vax (and Big Lie) movements use the same techniques. He also gives advice on how to talk to those in the clutches. He actually was part of a cult in the 1970s, so he comes at it from a place of empathy. I’ll link to one of his articles in the next post, but you can find a lot on Google and he’s very good on Twitter.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I think all of this is excellent: Maintain a bridge if you can, focused on neutral topics. Try to create a space where, if they are ready to change, the barriers to that with you are low (because you won’t then need to rehash how wrong they were).

        I remembered seeing a piece about this recently. *googles* People believe conspiracies because 1) Something is new and strange and not much is known; 2) Something provokes anxiety and the conspiracy feels like you’re addressing the threat by understanding it; 3) Group loyalty; 4) They think they’re in a special group of independent thinkers who have done their own research and found the truth.

        Only the first is susceptible to giving people more facts.

          1. Not a cat*

            I work with a guy who’s firmly at #4. For him, not only does he think he’s independent, he lauds his superiority. I feel for his poor wife.

    3. Blue Eagle*

      The only thing I can think of that might be effective is testimonials from strong anti-vaxxers that had a really bad bout with covid and have gotten vax’d afterward.

      Just read a story about a fellow from Jackson, Michigan who refused to close his diner when the state mandated closures over a year ago, and also refused to get the shot. He ended up getting covid a couple of months ago and said it was worse than anything he experienced as a marine and he was going to get the shot. But before he was able to, he had a covid relapse and died. It was very sad to read.

      I guess the takeaway is that unfortunately it doesn’t work for you to care more about another person’s life if they don’t care about their own.

      1. StellaBella*

        That is a horrible story, so sad. I read the HCA page on reddit too and those are also super sad stories. Your point tho, “I guess the takeaway is that unfortunately it doesn’t work for you to care more about another person’s life if they don’t care about their own.” is a good one. I just do not understand this. And I am grieving this.

      2. Lady Whistledown*

        Speaking just from my own experience attempting to talk to my sister about these stories – there’s a slippery counter narrative that they must have had underlying medical conditions. There’s no way to refute it and so you’re back to square one. My sister has already had COVID and it was exceptionally mild for her. She knows people who have died. It’s all hand waved away as they must have had underlying issues. Worse, whenever “the Libs” mock the deaths of certain COVID deniers, it makes us look evil and untrustworthy all over again. It’s a vicious cycle.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Everything done by “The Libs” is part of the conspiracy, though. A conservative talking head tried to argue that the liberals were embracing getting vaxxed as a conspiracy to try and prevent conservatives from doing so–but his argument didn’t convince any liberals to denounce vaccination and refuse to get vaxxed to save the conservatives, nor conservatives to get vaxxed because they were on to the liberal conspiracy.

          I think it’s a genuine dangerous thing to have so many people wound up in conspiracy theories, with new ones to replace any that start to strain. But haven’t heard of anyone hitting on even a mildly successful “How to convince other people to do stuff when those people believe in Jewish Space Lasers.”

      3. WellRed*

        Even a certain former, ahem, president has told his followers (fans? Acolytes?) to get backed and they still won’t m. The One time they don’t pay attention.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Something that struck me during his presidency was that the people who said “Well you can’t listen to Trump” were always his ardent supporters. Waving away 98% of what he’d said was built into being part of his supporters. And everyone chose a different 2% to take literally.

            1. Ditto*

              Yeah, remember “take him seriously but not literally”? He was always a figure people could project whatever their pre-existing superstitions and goals onto. Even when he actually was being literal.

              Some future historian is going to have a field day figuring out how we got to this place – just hope it’s not as part of their thesis “The Collapse Of American Democracy”

            2. Batgirl*

              I always felt some people enjoyed the fact that it was easy to feel superior to him. They wanted to feel smarter and more in control than the guy at the top. He wasn’t elected for his advice giving capabilities. How naive I was when I laughed at the notion of his even running.

        1. RagingADHD*

          He’s finally realized that he can take credit for Operation Warp Speed, and that there aren’t enough hardcore antivaxxers to get him elected in ’24, so he’s trying to play the other side now.

          1. Lucy Skywalker*

            That’s what I think, too. Either that, or he realized that his base would all be dead by 2024, so he encouraged him to get vaxxed.
            The whole thing is so messed up because he was never anti-vax himself.

            1. Anonymous4*

              No, but he would shout anything that revved up his base. ANYTHING. He’d go to those rallies and throw out test phrases to see what made them cheer, and if they responded loudly enough, he’d add that to the Greatest Hits list. And since The Libs were beating the drum for nationwide vaccination, naturally his base was fiercely opposed to it. You notice that when TFG finally spoke in favor of vaccinations, they booed him?? I doubt he’ll repeat that mistake — the point of those rallies is for him to get applause. He’s an attention addict and he’ll do/say anything for applause.

    4. Cat named Brian*

      Theoretically you should be fine if you’ve had the boosters and they develop natural immunity; however, seems like your value systems are very different. Learning to love our family members who think differently make us better people and better leaders. Its way easier to cut people out of your life than to work to build bridges…Hopefully you two can find common values somewhere else. And maybe you could facetime or zoom until the antivirals are more readily available?

      1. StellaBella*

        Thanks, I suggested a zoom call when I last rang, and his computer is not working, but I hope soon we can do this, I know we can Zoom over the phone too but not sure his phone will work with it. I would rather not cut him out but as you said it takes a lot of work otherwise.

      2. Mannequin*

        “Its way easier to cut people out of your life than to work to build bridges”

        And it’s 100% acceptable for any person to decide that they don’t have the spoons or want to invest the effort to do this. It doesn’t make them worse people or worse leaders than those that do, FFS, what a toxic take.

        1. RagingADHD*

          OP said they are sad about being estranged from their sibling and miss them.

          It’s not toxic to support the OP in what they said they want, which is to find a reasonable and workable way to keep in contact & encourage healthier choices without either enabling or blowing up the relationship.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      Buckets of sympathy, as I think a theme for many this past year is that some friends and family–who five years ago were perfectly sane and reasonable and just a bit different from you politically but many threads make a beautiful tapestry etc–are now way down the Q rabbit hole and the posters have not found a way to have a reality-based conversation with them. I haven’t heard of anyone hitting on even a promising approach to untangling them from the web–I think it just takes time.

      (Like, now it’s unusual to hear about how everything that happened this year is part of The Plan. But they seem to have looked for new conspiracy theories to fill the gap as the first set frayed.)

    6. WellRed*

      If it wasn’t Covid, you probably wouldn’t be pressing them to see their doctor etc. they are adults. It sucks and I get it but it’s their life.

    7. Doctor is In*

      I am a physician who spends lots of time trying to convince patients to get the vax with limited success. 2 of my brothers are firm anti vaxxers. I chose not to organize our traditional Christmas family get together this year so it did not happen. There are no magic words that will change their minds. I talk to them on the phone occasionally and we don’t discuss it. Sorry.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        To the extent that you can keep contact (over the phone) and talk about other things, it preserves a bridge for later. Best I have heard of as measures go.

      2. StellaBella*

        I am so sorry for you! Thank you also for your work in this pandemic as a doctor. I hope you stay safe and can take some rest and not burn out.

    8. Kathenus*

      I have one wing of the family that is anti-vaxxed. Some relatives keep trying to convince them but it’s never going to work. Since I rarely see them in person I’ve chosen to just keep our relationship separate from that topic, since I’d rather maintain it on topics of interest than not. I would not and will not visit them or see them indoors unless/until they are vaxxed or the covid situation changes – but since that’s not planned anyway and since as others mention it’s very hard to change someone this far on that spectrum of thought – I see little good in making it a focal part of our infrequent conversations.

    9. RagingADHD*

      There is a subreddit called QAnonCasualties where people give support and (mostly good) advice about gradually getting through to family members who have fallen down the black hole of conspiracy.

      There are a lot of folks who have made progress in helping their loved ones step back toward reality.

    10. Kathenus*

      Not really an answer to your question, I posted my situation earlier, but this thread reminded me of a quote that went around on our Nextdoor app last week: “Those who believe that taking the vaccine will mess with your genes should welcome the opportunity.”

    11. Pennyworth*

      If they have both had Covid they might now have the same sort of immunity they would get from the vaccine. My nephew is double vaxxed and due for the booster, but says he actually wants to get Omicron for better immunity.

        1. Former Hominid*

          It has been debunked. Unfortunately “natural immunity” is nowhere near sufficient. Some illness does convey natural immunity- get it once, your immune system will forever recognize the pathogen. But Covid-19 is not one of these viruses. Get it once, and maybe you’re protected for a few months… but even mild cases mess with your immune system in such a way that the proverbial door is left open just enough for the next infection. And each case damages the body more. So sure, maybe the first case in a healthy person is no worse then a bad flu. Or maybe you’re very lucky and asymptomatic. But the next case, or the case after that… Metaphorically speaking the vaccines work by showing your immune system the little key that the virus uses to unlock your system and wreck havok, and therefore change the metaphorical locks. Unfortunately, “natural” infection just boards the door up for a while, but months later… it’s the same door- with the same covid vulnerable lock…

          1. VI Guy*

            Viruses are so diverse. If you get a flu then it tends to help you for life (the people who got flu before 1946 were better off against H1N1) and in the past few years I read that measles resets your immune system and makes you vulnerable to everything. I’ll stick with the vaccines and hope that they and a mask are enough.

        2. ‍♀️*

          All I’ve read says that, while the jab does give fantastic immunity, getting COVID gives the best immunity.

            1. Not a cat*

              Alison, the comment you are responding to is really dangerous mis-information. Should it be removed?

              1. Anonymous4*

                It was debunked with an array of good, factual information. It’s likely she decided that having the good, factual information readily available was worth the nonsense post.

        3. RagingADHD*

          The CDC published advice in October of this year that vaccination and infection both give some immunity for about 6 months, but immunity from vaccination tends to be more reliable and last longer. Also that vaccination after infection appears to give stronger immunity than either vaccination or infection alone.

          I haven’t seen anything about the immune effects of breakthrough infections after vaccination.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Family member had this, talked to a friend who’s a doc, and apparently it should give them really great immunity for a few months–like the vaccine and infection are covering a wider array of variants than either alone.

            Underscore “a few months.”

    12. Choggy*

      Yeah, my sister had Covid and did not get vaccinated, she gets her antibodies checked and I guess they are fine, so good for her? She is a Crossfit fanatic, but rarely does she see a doctor (had her first mammogram in her 50s, and doesn’t get a physical too often). She is into eating healthy, and natural remedies, but drinks (to me) a lot of alcohol. I will never understand her, and don’t strive to, we don’t see each other too often, and while I love her, I definitely don’t agree with what she’s doing, but it’s ultimately her choice. Just doing what I need to do to stay safe, and to keep others safe, which is the extent of my control over the situation.

  12. Lady Whistledown*

    Santa! What’s been your favorite gift you received today (/this year for those who don’t celebrate Christmas)? I’m always on the hunt for good ideas for next year.

    1. Katrianah (UK)*

      My sister found me a set of six tiny plant pots that are all owls with little bamboo coasters to sit on, they are AMAZING. She said they had various animals. Perfect size for nursing cuttings/seedlings. About the size of an egg cup, just short, fat owls, I love them SO MUCH.

      Sadly due to my cats insistence on murdering anything living and plant shaped they will either have placti or candles in them.

        1. Katrianah (UK)*

          I tested one with a battery-powered tealight candle and it looked cute as heck so I’m using them for that!

    2. allathian*

      Far too much chocolate… We had to put a lot of it on a top shelf that neither of us can reach without a ladder.

        1. I got a Robe*

          Definitely a thing. I love chocolate, don’t get me wrong, but my family has gotten kind of lazy with presents for me and the past couple years have bought me every costco enormous chocolate package.

          I am struggling with feeling ungrateful. But I pretty much get only chocolate for Christmas now, most of which the family eats.

        2. allathian*

          If we ate all the chocolate we got without imposing any limits on ourselves, I wouldn’t be able to fit into any of my current clothes by Epiphany. That’s not what I want for myself… But it will all get eaten, eventually. And at least I won’t have to buy any candy for a few months, at least.

          We don’t do official gift exchanges any more with my family. We used to get each other books off our favorite books lists, but it started to feel pointless to go to a bookstore, or buy online, something for someone else, who’d then do the same for you. Giving that up wasn’t hard, because none of us were all that set on giving and receiving gifts as a means of showing love, at least not as adults. When the effort of finding gifts, or even buying them off a list, becomes a burden, and you no longer get enough pleasure from receiving gifts, or from watching other people enjoy the gifts you give them, to compensate for that burden, the rational thing to do is to stop the gift exchanges, especially when everyone else seems to be on the same page. In our case, my sister suggested it. Sadly, we haven’t been able to convince my MIL to stop buying gifts for us. They got flowers and some coffee. It helps that we all live within a 15-minute drive from each other.

          But that said, this year my parents were hosting Christmas (we did that in 2012-2019, last year we didn’t celebrate together), so I got them some candy and coffee, as a thank you for the luxury of sitting down to a dinner I or my husband didn’t have to cook, and they reciprocated… We also did our usual Christmas flower exchange, which is a tradition I really don’t want to give up.

    3. Liz H*

      A pendant necklace that’s five miniature tea cups stacked on a saucer. (I love tea and pendant necklaces.)

    4. Granger Chase*

      My dad got me a candle making kit, along with some dye bars that go with it. I’ve always loved candles and wanted to try making them, but never thought to ask for a kit!

      1. Lady Whistledown*

        A rainbow bagel baking kit was the hot item at a recent Yankee Swap – a candle making kit sounds super fun!

    5. Dino*

      A moon light with remote: a sphere with the moon’s topography that has a bunch of different lighting options. My bestie got it for me and it’s now my wind-down nightlight. It has a timer so when the moon goes dark it’s my cue to put down my phone and go to bed. Super pretty and functional.

        1. Dino*

          The box is in Japanese so no clue on the brand, but Google “moon lamp” and it’s one of the ones with a wooden triangle base!

    6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      So far I’m most excited about the R2-D2 Tamagotchi (throwback to my high school days, haha) and a big stack of Star Wars, Star Trek and Babylon-5 books, mostly art books but also at least one encyclopedia. My boys did really well this year. :)

      Santa Paws also brought my dog, who has recently gotten HUGE into walkies (before she was a backyard dog, and now even with the backyard she still demands 2-3 walkies a day), a FitBark, which is entertaining me. (Our joke has been that she wants walkies so she can get her steps in.)

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          The B5 section of the pile has a DVD of The Lost Tales and the Babylon-5 Encyclopedia. :)

          1. allathian*

            That’s fun! We have the whole set, every episode including all of Crusade, the TV movies, and Legend of the Rangers, and we also have The Lost Tales as a separate DVD. It was a really expesive set way back when, easily the most expensive DVD set we’ve ever bought. We introduced our son to the show(s) this year, and he seemed to enjoy it. Currently watching TNG, although sadly not the remastered version…

    7. CJM*

      My younger daughter gave me a scarf in sea blue and florals that is so cheerful that I feel happy when I look at it. As a close friend said of my daughter, she really gets me.

    8. RussianInTexas*

      A set of casual plates and bowls.
      I cheated a bit, they were on my wish list, but I love them nonetheless. Got rid of my old scratched up ones.

      1. Lady Whistledown*

        I am amazed at how much joy you can get from removing small yet frequent irritations like this (Ex. Finally putting up some hooks to hang things that end up on the floor, investing in a charming basket for laundry, using the “good” china every day, replacing a frustrating faucet/towel rack/soap dispenser even if it technically still “works”). Enjoy the new plates and bowls!

    9. RussianInTexas*

      And I gifted myself an expensive vacuum cleaner that seems to hold itself against all the cat fur I have ingrained in to my house.

    10. Dark Macadamia*

      My husband gave me roller skates! A couple months ago I was wishing I could find my old rollerblades in my childhood home and mentioned that if I were to buy new ones I might go quad instead of inline. Between getting cute quad skates and Sakura gelly roll pens that were popular around 5th grade I feel like a kid in the most Christmassy way!

      In general I love hobby gifts. I’ve gotten kits in the past that were really fun but not something I’d think to buy for myself, or nice accessories that were out of my budget/hard to justify.

    11. Pippa K*

      A kit with lock picks and a transparent plastic lock to learn on. Always good to pick up a new skill, in case I decide to turn to a life of crime in my old age.

    12. DarthVelma*

      My partner got me the hardback copy of the full set of Lord of the Rings books with illustrations by JRR Tolkien himself.

      He also got me a bottle of Habanero Margarita mix.

      So it’s a very very close contest for best present. :-)

      1. Bibliothecarial*

        I got that same edition of LOTR from my partner :). Doesn’t the gilding just glow on the bookshelf?

        My mom got me bookends shaped like the Argonath so there was a definite theme this year…

        1. allathian*

          My husband also has the set of the Argonath bookends.

          It’s been 20 years since the release of LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring…

    13. Falling Diphthong*

      My husband gave me a necklace with a big turtle and two little turtles. Emblematic of the rings I stopped wearing when needing lots of medical tests/treatments. I plan to get the rings resized and wear them again, but not quite yet.

    14. Sled dog mama*

      My husband and I gifted ourselves a new computer, it was needed as the old one is pretty much on it’s last leg but as a Christmas present we splurged a little and upgraded from the base model.
      We got out daughter a robot dog and watching her play with it has taken most of my afternoon.
      My husband also got me a new grow light for starting seeds indoors. Can’t wait to use that one.

    15. Calamity Janine*

      at our pretty small christmas, my parents and i managed to – all independently of each other, without any coordination – do a round-robin of giving each other blankets. it’s real cozy hours at casa de janine! though i am starting to suspect that these gifts are truly best appreciated by my comfort-loving dog, who has been going from person to person in order to carefully evaluate which blanket is best… (winner so far? the one i got my mom from threadless, in a very cute print of planets-but-they’re-also-christmas-ornaments.)

      my top recommendation to others though is advent calendars. they’re still rarities in america, but getting more and more popular. my birthday is in late november and that’s the perfect time to ask for one. i ended up getting one where you get a charm bracelet, and then a new charm every day – the round ones sort of like a pandora bracelet instead of links. i now have a bracelet absolutely replete with holiday charms, plus it came with a necklace that i can put all the charms on as well. monkey brain found it absolutely delightful to open a new door for new shiny every single day! it was just some thing of brand-name-i-didn’t-recognize off amazon for about 20 bucks, and thoroughly worth it.

    16. IGoOnAnonAnonAnon*

      A gift upgrade from the-already-a-treat Business Class to First Class on a recent London-San Francisco flight! It was a couple of weeks ago, but given that I’m not likely to fly Business, let alone First, Class again I am taking it as a Christmas gift.

    17. My Brain Is Exploding*

      One of the kiddos brought back olives from when he was in Greece! And books from another kiddo!!

    18. Deanna Troi*

      My husband got me Paul McCartney’s new book, Lyrics, which is amazing and will keep me entertained for weeks!

    19. the cat's ass*

      a hand-beaded and embroidered portrait pin of my cat Mochi’s face. It’s awesome (and took 6+months-hubs ordered it in May).

    20. overeducated*

      None of the gifts I received were great (but it’s sweet that people tried, and I can say this anonymously!), but my sister in law gave my husband a thick sweater that’s lined with soft fleece. It’s a little snug on him and I’ve basically already stolen it. I am wearing it right now and it feels like a blanket.

    21. All Monkeys are French*

      My best gift was a Thermapen thermometer. I kept telling myself I didn’t need one because I had the same company’s smaller, cheaper thermometer and it worked fine, but the Thermapen is so fast and convenient! I love it! Now I can leave the small cheap one in the bathroom, since I like to test my bath water before I get in, and use the good one for food only.

    22. Anonymous4*

      The Metropolitan Museum of Art has an amazing gift shop, and I got a gorgeous scarf from there, with a rainbow of colors on it. I’ll be able to wear it with all sorts of different outfits! And it’s silk so it feels luscious.

  13. Virginia Plain*

    Merry Christmas to all who like to celebrate it, and hope anyone who doesn’t is just having a relaxing day.
    I was thinking, many of us may be with family today and conversation can dry up or get awkward so here’s a little bit of seasonal trivia to change the subject – why not share something yourself and we can be fascinating all day!

    Here’s mine: In the south of England very near where I live, there is a tiny village called Christmas Pie. It dates back to at least the early 16th century and was named after a local family whose surname was Christmas – the pie bit is a corruption of a Saxon word for a small area of arable land.

    1. StellaBella*

      That is so cool I just looked it up on google maps! So interesting to look at maps. Also try Atlas Obscura for some great info on weird places. Where I live in Europe there is a bar inside a deep freezer for example, and a lot of other odd things.

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

        There are bars like that in the US called Minus5°. I’ve been to the one in Las Vegas.

    2. Katrianah (UK)*

      This year marks Elton John’s first Christmas number one in the UK. I did not know that til it came up on the news this morning.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        The video cracks me up so much. I’ve been following “behind the scenes” from Ed Sheeran’s accounts. (huge fan of his)

    3. 653-CXK*

      My father was a huge family-tree researcher until his passing in 2005. He discovered my original ancestor had emigrated from Lincolnshire (East Anglia) in England what is now Amesbury, MA in 1630; other relatives moved north to what is now Stanstead, Quebec.

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

        My mom is really into genealogy too and traced her family line back to a ship called the Mayflower, but not THE Mayflower US children learn about in school. There were several Mayflowers.

    4. AGD*

      Mick Jagger has a little kid who is younger than his oldest great-grandchild. In other words, Jagger’s great-grandchild acquired a new great-uncle partway through childhood.

      (I say this not out of some kind of gossipy disapproval, but just because I think the fact is interesting.)

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        That is fascinating.

        I have cousins who are grandparents. I think this is where the second/third/fourth cousin, once/twice removed bit comes in but not sure tbh.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Parents are siblings –> first cousins
          Grandparents are siblings –> second cousins
          Great grandparents are siblings –> third cousins

          And so on. Your cousins’ grandkids would be your first cousins twice removed.

          Because my kids have one famous ancestor (through their dad) and someone a couple generations back had done a complete family tree, daughter found out that she and a friend were like eighth cousins once removed.

          And of course, there are other cousin classification systems out there so mastering this one is not sufficient.

      2. allathian*

        That’s definitely interesting. My youngest uncle’s 7 years older than I am, and my youngest cousins are 25 years younger than I am, but that’s as interesting as my family gets. One of my classmates became an uncle in 4th grade, his oldest sister was 10 years older than he was.

        1. bratsche*

          Several generations back in my family, Joe married Jane and Joe’s brother married Jane’s sister. From then on, *everyone* is *everyone’s* cousin and it’s just completely hopeless to unravel.

    5. Jacey*

      Just learned from a Belgian pen pal that there are two separate “Santa” figures there: Sint Maarten, who comes at the end of November, and Sinterklaas, who comes on Dec 6.

    6. Pennyworth*

      In Australia there is a town called 1770 – after the year Captain Cook was the first non-indigenous person to ‘discover’ the east coast. They claim it is the only town to have a number for a name.

    7. Princess Deviant*

      A few years ago, I went on holiday to the south of Wales and discovered a tiny village there called Bethlehem. The story goes that Mary traveled by boat and settled there after Jesus was crucified.
      Btw, the coastline there is spectacular.

      1. The OG Sleepless*

        There is a town near me called Bethlehem, but the origin isn’t anything more interesting than that that’s what they felt like naming it. The streets all have names like Star and Santa Claus. People used to mail their Christmas cards from there, though I don’t know if postmarks are as much of a thing people pay attention to any more.

  14. another_scientist*

    Wondering if anyone has advice for supporting a grieving, recently widowed father-in-law. He and my spouse don’t very much see eye-to-eye, due to myriad generational, philosophical, political differences in world view. Mom used to be the glue in the relationship. The grief is powerful and fresh, and manifests in angry outbursts and rehashing old arguments, criticizing my spouse’s life choices. I admit that it’s hard for me not to take offense on behalf of my spouse, but I can give a pass to a widower who is deeply in a fog of grief.
    I am at a loss how to comfort my father in law while steering clear of topics of potential disagreement. It’s turning into walking on eggshells and mostly silence, which is probably the wrong thing. I might need an attitude adjustment and more helpful framing of how my presence can be more useful, if possible without lying through my teeth and pretending to enthusiastically agree with everything that is said.

    1. Blue Eagle*

      This post made me sad. I get that your father-in-law is grieving, but if I were in your shoes I would first be asking how to best support my spouse and not how to support the father-in-law. Maybe ask yourself – do you really want to take on the job of being the glue between the two of them? It sounds like the split has been there for a long, long time before the death of your mother-in-law and being the glue would be a difficult, thankless job.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I think OP is trying to get FIL off of Spouse’s case so Spouse can grieve.

        Anger is an interesting thing in grief. Anger is actually a stage of grief and it can run/coincide with other stages of grief.
        What makes anger interesting is that it can be a crutch to avoid actual pain. Sounds like FIL has some avoidance behavior going on there.

        I was surprised to read that death actually causes some relationships among the living to end. This surprised me, because I thought I was the only one seeing this in my family. Nope. It happens all over, some relationships dissolve once a bridging type person passes. Sadly, it’s actually pretty normal and is a well recognized event. Some relationships end and new ones begin. Groups reconfigure with the loss of a group member.

        I think you are very generous in wanting to save your FIL. But Blue Eagle is correct, your first loyalty is to your spouse. Get your spouse a book on grief, it’s symptoms, it’s stages and general processes. There are many well recognized patterns and it’s good to know what this stuff is. Fortify your spouse, so your spouse can figure out how they want to handle their parent. Let them decide if they want to rise above the anger and vitriol or if they want to just shut it down.

        Don’t be afraid of Spouse stepping back. Sometimes we need to get out of the way, so real help can get into a situation. It does not sound like FIL is going to let Spouse be of real help. But maybe FIL will let someone else in enough to actually help him. If Spouse steps back, then so be it, maybe FILs real process will begin.

        This is hard stuff. In part because we can feel a huge sense of obligation to our parents. But just as our parents can’t protect us from all the dangers in life, likewise we cannot protect them from all the dangers in life.

        I think you are a very loving and kind person. Pour it all on to your spouse. They need you.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Yep — my dad felt a bit of guilt when my gran passed, because mixed up in all of his emotional response was relief that now he didn’t have to keep in contact with his awful awful sister if he didn’t want to, just to keep the peace for Gran. (Though he also found that his tolerance for her crap behavior increased slightly once he didn’t feel like putting up with her was a requirement anymore, so he hasn’t cut her off completely. I have, with his blessing.)

        2. Chauncy Gardener*

          I have found that in my family too. When my grandmother passed away, I realized that she was the one buffering me from all the crazy toxic-ness from my mother and sisters. Things spiraled out of control so fast once she wasn’t there to say “uh no, actually Chauncy didn’t say that at all. I was there and you’re making that up” At least it made it abundantly clear who was toxic and what was really happening. I ended up going NC, mostly to protect my kids, and it’s been such a relief.

          1. Anonymous4*

            When my MIL died, the weak bond between the siblings dissolved. I regretted it, but it wasn’t my family and I couldn’t do much.

    2. allathian*

      Support your spouse first and foremost. Grieving is not an excuse to be a jerk, and if your FIL acts like a jerk, you and your spouse have the right to limit contact with him. Whatever you do, don’t try and step into your MIL’s shoes, if your FIL’s behavior means your spouse wants to limit contact, or possibly go no contact, that decision is theirs to make.

      I don’t think there’s anything you can do to comfort your FIL.

    3. Camelid coordinator*

      Since old arguments are being rehashed this does not sound like new behavior brought on by grief. If you want to support the widower my instinct is that it might work to spend time together without your spouse present. I’d still want to shut down any hurtful or judgmental comments about my spouse’s choices, since I am one of them. Silence may not be so bad. As other commenters have pointed out, I’d suggest making sure that your spouse’s needs come before the father in law’s and that your spouse feels supported.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      There’s an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” after Marshall’s father dies, where Lily hits on what she can do to help: She can let Marshall’s mom pour out her venom on this least-favorite daughter-in-law. Mom is unreasonable, drawing hard boundaries would be a fair response–but Lily was able to let it slide completely off her (in a way normal-times barbs didn’t) and view it as the raging at a safe target (unlike, say, God) and this was something she could do for her. Mom would rage and then finally eat. Rage and then finally nap.

      It’s not a long-range plan, but in the first surge of grief and anger and bargaining, if you’re able to emotionally detach and just absorb the rage, it can burn itself out. (But you don’t have to do that if you’re not emotionally able to, and if he doesn’t get sick of it on his own (how many people have described the emotion when they decided to change course) then it’s okay to draw those lines later.)

    5. fposte*

      People have made really good points. I’ll also offer the possibility of distraction–what does he like to tell people how to do? Can you ask for advice on that, or work on it with him?

    6. Angstrom*

      Are there things you can do together? Maybe help him reconnect with hobbies or friends he used to enjoy? Volunteer together for something? I know you can’t “cheer him up”, but being the nudge that gets him out the door might be a positive step. Frame it as helping you or someone else, not helping him.
      Men often find it’s easier to talk while doing something else, especially something that involves physical activity. If I wanted to have a good talk with a male friend I’d invite him over to help with a task, or volunteer to help him with a project.
      Good for you for knowing the anger isn’t about you.

    7. Batgirl*

      I don’t know that I would give him a pass (as in I genuinely don’t know, I’m not criticising the choice to do so). Anger is an avoidable part of grief but angry outbursts are not feelings, they’re behaviours and they can be abusive ones at that. It might be a case by case thing. I’d let your spouse be the guide since they are the person who truly needs your support. They’ve lost a parent and are being subject to angry outbursts from the other one. I’d let them dictate how they want that handled, whether it’s to ignore them, calmly call it out in the moment, leave, stay and soothe, or sympathize. Maybe they just want someone to vent to about it. My partner has a difficult parent and I well know the temptation to take it off their plate for them with my third party objectiveness somehow pouring oil on troubled waters. Not to mention the difficulty in biting your tongue. However I have to remind myself that it’s his relationship and he’s the expert on how it goes, and on what he wants to do with it/about it.

    8. Public Sector Manager*

      Some of the issues your spouse has with your father-in-law are the same issues that I’m having with my dad. Every year the two of us seem to grow farther apart–I’m 51 and he’s 84. Anger usually comes from pain. And the older my dad gets, the more our relationship seems to cause him pain simply because we no longer see eye to eye on some issues. When we don’t see eye to eye, I think he takes it personally, like he feels I’m criticizing his opinion if I have a different one.

      Honestly I would step back. Whatever relationship your spouse is going to have with their father, it’s up to the two of them to have one. If you spouse doesn’t want a relationship, there is nothing you can do. And if your spouse does want to connect with their father, they need to find their own way there.

      1. Anonymous4*

        I dunno. I think it’s rather cruel to abandon an old man who just lost his wife. He should lose more of his family at the same time? There have got to be ways to deal with his grief and his bereavement that don’t involve slamming the door in his face.

        For instance, if a child has a different opinion on something than a parent does, that doesn’t require them to argue about it. “Agreeing to disagree” is a great gift to both of you and opens the way to meeting on common ground. When my beloved MIL started failing, and started saying the appalling things she’d learned back in her early childhood, I didn’t scold her for bigotry — I just changed the subject. Get her right off the topic of race and on to something else. “Tell me about such-a-thing,” I’d say. Who did you vote for in such-an-election? You were still in school during WWII, right? I was thinking of that good soup you make; your mom taught you to cook, didn’t she?

        1. anonymous73*

          Grief doesn’t give you an unlimited pass to treat your family like crap. OP needs to support her husband in whatever decisions he makes. If he’s willing to try and repair the relationship, that’s great, but ultimately it’s his decision.

  15. Chilly Tonight*

    Query for Alison:

    If I recall correctly, your Ask a Manager avatar used to have a winter outfit, come wintertime, but not so in the last few years…

    I kinda miss the change with the seasons, is there a possibility the bundled – up version will make an appearance this year?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Probably not — at this point I’m waiting on the redesign to be ready (my designer had a bunch of life stuff intervene, so timeline is up in the air)!

  16. Anne Kaffeekanne*

    I’m in quarantine this Christmas – my symptoms are mild so far, thankfully (thanks to 2 shots of Pfizer, I’m sure) but I have a splitting headache most days and can’t look at screens. I’ve been burning through podcasts as a result and wanted to ask for recs. I most enjoy non fiction mini series focusing on a specific topic. Can be almost anything! I’ve listened to and enjoyed:

    Dolly Parton’s America
    This Land
    Toxic
    Nice White Parents
    A History of Reality TV
    You Must Remember This
    The Dropout
    You’re Wrong About
    Escaping NXVIM
    Slow Burn

    I’d prefer less true crime and more like Dolly Parton’s America – or if it is about crime then not about murders. Would love to hear if anyone has any recommendations based on this!

    1. mreasy*

      Swindled, Maintenance Phase, Reply All, Criminal, Decoder Ring. I’m also listening to NY Mag Cover Story pod about corruption and sexual coercion within the psychedelics movement. Subtitle is I think Power Trip.

    2. Dwight Schrute*

      I hope you feel better soon! I suggest Detours, atlas obscura, stuff you should know, ridiculous history, and my dad wrote a porno

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      The Vanishing of Harry Pace is by the creators of Dolly Parton’s America, and it is excellent. They even have audio of interviews with WEB DuBois and Ethel Waters and that blew me away.

      1. Sled dog mama*

        I loved the vanishing of Harry Pace!
        I’ve been listening to “Throughline”, “Rough Translation” and “Levar Burton reads” a lot recently. The most recent Levar Burton reads was a short story called “The Usual Santas” by Mick Herron, I highly recommend looking up the story for anyone not into podcasts.

        A couple of crime podcasts I found on Audible “Shootout” about a bank robbery and “After the fall” this one is a hard listen, it’s about 9/11 told through the experience of FBI agents (some very close by and some who responded from further away).
        I can also recommend a few audiobooks about non-murder true crime. “Flawless” by Scott Selby and Greg Campbell about the 2003 Antwerp Diamond Heist. “Heist” by Jeff Diamant about the (I think) 1997 Loomis Fargo heist in Charlotte, NC.
        “The Lufthansa Heist” by Henry Hill and David Simone (I’m starting this one this week) about the 1978 robbery at JFK (this one is not about a murder but one of the perpetrators does murder several of the accomplices)

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      You’re Dead to Me, a history pod run by a historian with one expert and one comedian. Wide range of topics. I turned my daughter onto it since she came home, since she likes history but found some of the podcasts very dire–they touch on the serious stuff, too, but it’s mostly “Cool things happened in the past, cool people did stuff that you didn’t hear about.”

    5. Voluptuousfire*

      Mob Queens—about Anna Genovese, the wife of Vito Genovese, the Mafia crime boss. Highly recommend it.

    6. Florida Woman*

      I loved many of the same ones you listed! Here are a few more: The Missing Cryptoqueen, Bad Blood (about Theranos), The Lazarus Heist, Have You Seen This Man (true crime, but it’s white collar crime and mostly about the criminal being on the lam).

    7. June First*

      Unfinished: Short Creek was fascinating. I also enjoy Were You Raised By Wolves, which may be up your alley if you’re an AAM regular.

    8. Cher Horowitz*

      The History Chicks!
      They cover women from history and they have really expanded my horizons. I used to think history was dull but that’s just the way I was taught it. They make it fascinating and interesting.
      I loved the Wonder Woman, Lucille Ball, and Marie Curie episodes the most!

    9. Calamity Janine*

      i feel like just about anyone who listens to podcasts has already been recommended them to the point of tears, but… i am a sucker for My Brother My Brother And Me and related podcasts. the original is there to be silly and not at all informative, mind you, and you’re into nonfiction so you’re likely to not be interested in the associated podcast where the three brothers and their dad play dungeons and dragons.

      i think you might quite enjoy Sawbones, however! that’s the eldest brother from the trio, along with his wife who is a doctor, talking about medical history. they’ve settled into a fun dynamic of Justin being “the silly layperson one” and Dr. Sydnee being “the knowledgeable one”. while it’s not diving too deeply into every subject – usually it’s one subject per episode, and usually with a bit more of a lighthearted tone – there’s a lot of fun stuff to learn about in there. they occasionally tackle more modern subjects, and i truly believe they did an amazing bit of public service talking about covid-19… but it’s way more fun to listen to old bad ideas, and they clearly have a lot more fun doing that too. where else can you learn about things like “that time dolly parton got roped into singing jingles for laxatives in a medicine show” or “the failures of the bessmer seasickness-proof saloon, which actually helped seasickness but would also make the boat crash”?

      if you want something a little less informative but just a friendly, gentle delight, there’s also Wonderful!, which the youngest brother from MBMBAM does with his wife as well. it’s far more freeform, and the topics vary wildly, because it’s really just a podcast of “tell us about what made you happy recently”. but if you ever find your other podcasts getting too heavy, it could be a great palate cleanser.

      oh, and if you just want pure absurdity that’s gonna end up nsfw, the brothers have… entered into a death pact for a perpetual podcast that will be done once a year forever, as the only way to get out of doing it is death and upon your death you have to nominate someone else to keep it going in your stead. they do this with two new zealand comedians. what is the podcast about? …watching the bad movie Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 every thanksgiving. if you want to hear a pile of people voice their yearly suffering in humorous ways, ‘Til Death Do Us Blart is there for you. (you may be saying “why on earth would i want that”, which is entirely valid, but just in case you want it for some reason…)

    10. Emma2*

      I have not listened to Dolly Parton’s America, so not sure if this is totally in line, but I found the first season of the Threshold podcast fascinating. It is all about bison/buffalo in North America, from an environmental and historical perspective- they talk about the role of the bison in the landscape, their importance to various indigenous cultures, the effort to eliminate them and reintroduction projects. I thought it was very well done and I was completely drawn into it.

    11. Weegie*

      If you like You Must Remember This, try The Plot Thickens, another quality Hollywood podcast which covers one topic per series.

    12. Wink the Book*

      I’m having a surprisingly good time with “Haileywood”. It is fairly ad-heavy, but an interesting look at a town Bruce Willis kind of took over a bit?

      I’ll also always talk up Stuff You Missed in History Class. There is just SO MUCH of it, it is pretty simple to find a few things you would enjoy.

    13. Cedrus Libani*

      Revolutions, by Mike Duncan? It covers great political revolutions through history. Is currently 80 episodes into the Russian czar-ectomy, though that’s the longest series by a good margin. The episodes are half-hour chunks and are told with wry humor; plot-relevant bloodshed is acknowledged but not dwelled on.

    14. Windchime*

      How about “Something Was Wrong”. True crime but not murders. The seasons can be hit or miss but I’ve enjoyed the most recent season. Also I recently enjoyed “Hooked”, because most of the events happened in an area where I used to live. Also crime, but just stuff like bank robberies and drugs.

    15. Frankie Bergstein*

      Another sort of light, cheerful one (in the category of humor) is “By the Book”. In it, Kristen Meinzer and Jolenta Greenberg (a stand-up comedian) live by a self-help book for 2 weeks and report back. Their husbands and Jolenta’s dog sometimes make an appearance on the show. It’s funny, light, relatable, and a bit wise. I find that I sometimes relate more to one host than the other because they have pretty different takes on issues. I think that it might be a good fit for AAM readers — folks who want fairness in general, try to solve problems, enjoy advice columns, don’t mind a smidgen of snark, and love humor.

    16. Anne Kaffeekanne*

      Thank you SO MUCH everyone!! What an excellent and long list of recommendations. I’ve added almost all of them to my list and will now make my way through them. Thanks for saving me from boredom. (I also got my sense of smell and taste back yesterday so I can listen while finally eating some Christmas cookies, yay!!)

    17. Sunshine*

      The New York Times podcast club on Facebook is a great resource
      Just the gist
      Stuff you should know
      You’re wrong about
      This American life
      Fresh air
      To the best of our knowledge

    18. nectarinelemon*

      Try Ologies by Alie Ward. She interviews different experts who are all so enthusiastic about what they do. You learn loads and it is so easy to end up finding something completely fascinating by the end of an episode even if you didn’t think you’d find it all at interesting at the start.

    19. LizB*

      (Commenting late, but I can’t resist giving podcast recs.) Futility Closet – one of my very favorite podcasts that just ended its run after eight years, so there’s an extensive back catalog. Each episode has a deep dive into some strange and interesting bit of history, discussion of listener letters about past topics, and a lateral thinking puzzle. Start from the beginning and work forward so you don’t get spoiled for the puzzles by any of the letters!

      I also enjoy American Scandal – they do in-depth looks and dramatic recreations of big scandals in American history. Usually about 6-8 episodes focusing on each event, with the last one of each series usually being an interview with an expert whose work they relied on heavily in their research.

  17. Granger Chase*

    I know a lot of people, including myself, are having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year. I love this time of year, but the energy I normally feel in the air in the weeks leading up to the holidays has been gone for me this year. My boyfriend and I are having our gift exchange tomorrow, but were talking about possibly doing a “makeup Christmas” some time in January. Not exchanging gifts, but making hot cocoa, watching Christmas movies, keeping the tree up and maybe adding a couple more ornaments, etc. Does anyone have any suggestions of Christmas traditions that always get you in the holiday spirit that are not centric on gift giving/receiving? I would love to be able to incorporate them into Christmas Part 2, and even see if I can do them today for my family pod Christmas to see if they help make my spirits bright! I hope everyone here has a lovely Christmas or, if you don’t celebrate, you have a wonderful Saturday doing things you love to do!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Special food or beverages? Mulled wine/cider, Christmas-themed cocktails. I have a recipe for spiced cider cheesecake, if that appeals. For some reason spinach-artichoke dip always makes me think Christmas/New Years, I don’t know why. :)

    2. Ali G*

      Hubs and I don’t do gifts. We are more “if we need this or want that throughout the year, we just do it.” So our Christmas is more about spending time together. We both work a lot, so having this time to ourselves is special. We try new recipes, watch movies, and just basically do whatever want! We might drive around looking at lights, or walk the neighborhood.
      This year we are smoking salmon today, will zoom with my family later (we are seeing his family next week, fingers crossed), and chill. I’m all for making your own traditions. It doesn’t have to be full on Christmas – just time off with loved ones.

      1. allathian*

        We don’t do gifts either, except for our son. With family it’s flowers and candy. This year we got far too much chocolate…

    3. RagingADHD*

      You could maybe celebrate Twelfth Night (aka Epiphany, Three Kings Day, etc). Lots of relevant traditions from around the world.

      Our faith tradition makes a distinction between the Advent season, which runs up to Christmas Eve, and the Christmas season, which runs from Christmas day to Epiphany, so we always leave the tree up till then.

      Candles, carols, and the smell of ginger and cinnamon always get my Christmas vibes flowing.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Oh, we just introduced some friends to one of our favorite Christmas traditions: crackers! They aren’t always easy to find in the US (of that’swhere you are), but if you have a seasonal specialty shop or an import shop like World Market, that’s where we usually get them. A paper crown, a prize, and a terrible joke – what’s not to like?

    4. Another_scientist*

      Making time to play board games, watch old fairy tale movies, and make elaborate or indulgent foods gets me into a festive mood!

    5. Camelid coordinator*

      This is another vote for making the 12 days of Christmas your thing! You could do little Christmassy things every day, perhaps even a different one each day provided it felt fun and relaxing, and then do whatever was most fun on Jan 6, Epiphany/Three Kings Day. I like to have a special breakfast and another present on that day.

      For me, today I am going to work on some Christmas cards/thank you notes. I might cook special food all week. I am also going to read some books I intended to read during Advent but didn’t have time.

  18. Teapot Translator*

    I enjoy watching clips from QI and The Graham Norton Show on YouTube. What other funny shows would you recommend? Preferably with an official channel on YouTube. Nothing rude or mean (no punching down). I don’t want to watch whole episodes, just clips.

    1. Janne*

      I like the channel “Game Changer Shorts” with very (very!) short clips from the comedy show Game Changer. It’s not a very high level of humor though. (Lot of people trying to make funny noises.)

    2. GraceC*

      Would I Lie To You is a panel show in the same vein as QI; Taskmaster also includes many of the same comedians and is absolutely hilarious IMO

    3. Never Nicky*

      Taskmaster. And its worldwide variants. There’s sometimes some swearing (although there’s bleeped versions, at least in the UK) but it’s so very funny.

      1. Pennyworth*

        Seconding Taskmaster. I just love that the contestants are totally up for making complete fools of themselves.

      2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        I love Taskmaster. There were people on it I totally thought I’d hate, but I wound up loving just about all of them across several seasons. Such a fun show!

    4. Katrianah (UK)*

      Mock the Week, there’s official clips aplenty and while the early series didn’t age well the more recent ones are much better with regards to punching up not down. I BELIEVE the official clips are censored/bleeped but I can’t be sure.

      Also, I think there are clips from the Last Leg which is also brilliant, especially when Adam Hills goes on a rant – funny but with a very definite point. Again, I can’t remember if they’re censored for language or not.

      1. Nessun*

        There’s a Canadian podcast similar to Mock the Week that you can also find – Because News. Very funny stuff, and not too long.

    5. Blinx*

      I really enjoy Michael McIntyre. His channel is full of clips from standup, interviews, and his variety show. Very funny and family friendly.

  19. Ali G*

    HI All,
    I hope this isn’t too medically-slanted, but I am not looking for medical advice, just experiences. To keep it short, this past Tuesday, seemingly out of nowhere, I had a panic attack. Luckily I was in a quasi-medical place and was able to receive assistance from trained medics/doctors.
    I couldn’t sleep Tuesday night as I was still feeling anxious/panicky so I went to urgent care in the morning. They were awesome and assured me there wasn’t something more sinister going on. They gave me some Xanax to use acutely if needed. I took one and felt instantly better. So I made a follow up appointment with my PCP for Friday 1/7 to discuss actually managing my anxiety going forward. I thought that would be the end of it until then.
    Yesterday, again out of nowhere, I felt another attack coming. I took a Xanax and held it off.
    So this is my question – for those of you that have suffered with acute anxiety like this, should I be prepared for this to keep happening until I can get into see my doc and start some sort of long-term anxiety management? It keeps seemingly coming out of nowhere, which is probably not true, but I haven’t had the experience with this to ID triggers. We are supposed to visit my in-laws next week, and I worry about ruining our visit, or something happening worse when I am not home.
    Like I said, I am not asking for advice on how to manage this or anything, I just want to hear your experiences (if you are willing to share), so maybe I can figure this out and have an informed conversation with my doctor in 2 weeks.
    Thank you! And Merry Christmas to those that celebrate!

    1. Not a doctor. Just anxious*

      Look up deep breathing for anxiety. There’s some techniques that help prompt a physical vagal response that really help. It’s non invasive and not a medicine so it’s worth a try. It’s something you can do to add some control to your anxiety backed by science. It’s not just woo woo. I find knowing that helps too.

    2. ATX*

      I had the same thing happen to me about 10 years ago! My panic attacks were brought on from a bad shroom trip (lol) but nonetheless, I started having random panic attacks in places. The first time was in a chic-fil-a, the second at my parents house while I was cooking dinner. I had a random one at work in a big department meeting. I got a prescription for Xanax at that time to start taking it if I had one.

      I had to take it when I flew, and random times when I started to feel panicky. I never wanted to take anything daily to manage it because I’m a big believer in mind over matter, plus my mom is a big pill pusher and on a ton of mental meds, and I’ve seen how it has affected her throughout her life so I never have wanted to take anything for anxiety/depression/mood stabilizing. Within a few years, it started to get better and I was able to control it myself. I researched some breathing techniques and other techniques to help me in the moment. One time, I was in a candy store and started to feel anxious (wtf, in a candy store!) and I basically told myself this was not a reason to feel like this and while it didn’t go away 100%, it was the first time I was able to prevent it from happening. I believe that was about 5 or 6 years ago!

      I used to have to bring my Xanax with me everywhere I went, and now I don’t need to. I don’t even need to take it flying anymore! I haven’t had a panic attack in about 4 or 5 years.

      1. Not a cat*

        “I’m a big believer in mind over matter, plus my mom is a big pill pusher and on a ton of mental meds, and I’ve seen how it has affected her throughout her life so I never have wanted to take anything for anxiety/depression/mood stabilizing.”

        This is really, really offensive and judgemental to those of us who are on meds and they are controlled and work. Sorry, not everyone can suffer for five years and deep breath their way to a non-anxious state.

    3. Jerseys mom*

      After the panic attack is over and you feel confident and calm, write down what you were doing the previous couple of hours, including date and time of the start of the anxiety.

      If you were watching tv/listening to podcsst, etc, spwcifically, what was it about. We’re you working, cleaning, shopping, what were you specifically doing.
      An activity journal like this might help you and your future therapist start to tease out any possible triggers.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I went in a different direction with my panic attacks. I started having them after my father died, something with sleeping only 1-2 hours a night plus eating a bunch of crap foods….
      I weened myself off the crap foods with the help of a doc/nutritionist. The number one most helpful things was I got away from was fake sugar. I had been using it for years with no problems, then all of the sudden lotsa problems. So I stopped using sugar substitutes. That reduced my panic attacks by at least 40 %. That was close to 30 years ago, and I still do not use fake sugars to this day.
      The next thing I learned was to look up and look around. This one is so hard because it feels awful- like I would have a heart attack or my body would just blow up or something if I looked up. So I got myself to a chair and very slowly and gently prompted myself to look up and look around. And the panic went out slowly. I kept doing this- making myself get to a safe place then gently prompting myself to look up. I think I did this at least two more times. It was very hard. The last time I did it- the panic went out immediately. It just stopped.

      I have not had a serious attack in probably close to 20 years. I did have problems with dizziness which I thought was part of the panic. But the dizzy episodes took a bit longer and that I eventually figured out was gluten.

      Sadly from what I read I fit the bill totally: Women who feel their mothers left them/neglected them are prone to panic attacks around their 30s. Grocery stores are the most likely places to trigger a panic attack. In my case I hit all these points. I remember crying at the very thought of grocery shopping. One day was especially bad and I had to fight with myself in the car. I finally went into the store. Looking back, it was a small turning point for the better in my story.

      On the plus side, things that used to appear hard to me no longer appear hard, as getting through these panic attacks sort of became a benchmark for comparison.

    5. Burnt eggs*

      I haven’t had one in years, but before I really understood what they were and that there were ways to effectively manage, there were a coule things I found worked. 1. Bend over the tub or sink with cool-childish water running from my neck up to and over top of my head and face. Strange position, literal cooling down, and focus on deep breathing helped the worst of it pass. I have also filled the kitchen sink and dunked my head under water, coming up to take deep calming breaths. Note- I wouldn’t get in the tub or shower in this state as you could lose balence easily. 2. Cut all noise except some acoustic my go to is ‘Classical Gas’ and stare at one inert object and slow the breathing. 3. Lean into it. Make your was to your bed and hold onto your pillow to ride it out. You’ll have to figure out what works for you. Good luck next week and at your appointment!

      1. Burnt eggs*

        Also, find a reputable hypnotist. They can teach you techniques to literally focus and calm yourself focusing on your scalp moving down to your toes. The woman who worked with me and taught me this was amazing and it works in so many stressful situations!

    6. Squirrel Nutkin*

      So very sorry you’re dealing with this! I had a long history of panic attacks that bottomed out when I was getting an attack or two every day about 10 years ago due to work stress and social stress. The Xanax and Klonopin prescribed by urgent care weren’t quite enough to stop the attacks. Finally got to a social worker for therapy and psychiatrist for longer-term meds. I was put on Lexapro (long-term management) for a year and did not particularly like it (I gained like 50 lbs.) but it DID (after a few weeks) chill me out enough so that I could actually function and do things like take public transit and get through the work day. So, yay, I guess?

      The interesting thing the psychiatrist told me was that after a year on the long-term anxiety management pills, about 80% of his patients never had another panic attack, as the part of their brains that shot out adrenaline too readily had gotten kind of re-wired. I’m not part of that 80%, unfortunately, but my panic attacks did go way down.

      I eventually tapered off the hated long-term meds and while I do still have the occasional panic attack, I am a lot better at dealing with them now. If I’m home when I have an attack now, I try to do a little Qi Gong to relax. This is my fave: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyINAjEoTIs

      Also, pro tip: do NOT mix Xanax or Klonopin with Benadryl — I had an allergy attack and a panic attack on the same night and took a Klonopin and a Benadryl together without thinking about how that might be a bad idea. I felt like it made my breathing way too slow and was utterly terrified of falling asleep.

      Anyway, good luck on your journey to greater peace and less anxiety!

      1. SamanthaStonesXI*

        I went through the same thing a few years ago. In the end, it turned out my panic attacks were caused by undiagnosed and repressed PTSD. For me, the panic attacks kept coming at seemingly random moments, until after I was diagnosed and found out what was causing them. After that, it made a lot more sense and I eventually got better. It helped a bit to reduce stress and sensory stimuli as much as possible and practice self-care (go to bed early, eat healthy, no alcohol or drugs). I used Xanax as well, which worked amazingly well and got me through work, but it was also quite addictive.

    7. Ali G*

      Wow thanks everyone! This makes me feel less alone and like I will eventually feel better. I already figured out that keeping my hands and mind busy help prevent another onslaught. It’s also good to hear that long-term meds aren’t the only answer. I hope you all continue to do better and that I didn’t trigger you too much (on Christmas no less!).

    8. mreasy*

      I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. Having the option of taking the medication when you feel an attack coming on can in itself prevent them or lessen the severity, since panic attacks can be self-sustaining (ie fear of having one can make them more likely to happen and the panic symptoms themselves can escalate attacks). I have had GAD and panic disorder for ages and am luckily able to manage it now mostly without benzos (other meds & ongoing treatment) but I always have a Klonopin on me.

    9. Wishing You Well*

      Therapy, outdoor exercise, DBT classes and going no-contact with triggering people helped me. There’s no quick fix but learning to recognize and act on rising anxiety before it becomes a panic attack is worth the effort.
      I hope 2022 is a much better year for you!

  20. RussianInTexas*

    I don’t know if this qualifies under Alison’s rules, but I have a crazy story!
    TW: pregnancy and birth.
    My step-daughter just gave birth to a baby. That is not crazy, since she was pregnant, and due.
    The crazy is, she had contractions at 3:09pm, grabbed the hospital bag, her and her husband picked up their toddler from the daycare, and by the time they got to the hospital, at 4:30pm, the baby was COMING. She could not get to the doors anymore. So the baby was born in their car, on the ER parking lot, with the help of only the husband and a security guard, with their toddler daughter in the car. They are all fine, thankfully. step-daughter called her father, my partner, at 2:30, they talked about grocery shopping, and then she called at 5:30 with “the baby is here”.
    I’ve always heard that nowadays everyone gets to the hospital, but apparently not!
    Does anyone else has a crazy story in the similar vein?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve heard this happens to lots of people. The first one takes a while and after that, it can happen very quickly. According to her, my mom had all three of us three weeks early after only three hours of labor. Of course, now that’s moot (and I am not happy about it). I have no idea if this is truly how it went, but at the time she said it, I was like, “Thanks for the warning, Mom,” lol.

      And congratulations!

      1. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just good at it*

        My story is not quite as dramatic, but my wife had her water break, we rushed to the hospital (3 minutes away), she was admitted quickly. The nurse called the doctor and I heard her say, I know you like to get coffee and donuts on the way, but this baby is coming now! He walked in the door and was greeted by the baby popping into our life. Start to finish, 20 minutes.

        1. Fellow Traveller*

          Hah! You don’t realize how much fluid is involved in birthing a baby until you do it!

          My friend’s baby was born in car on side of road and it made the evening news and Nissan paid for them to get their car detailed.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Long ago at NonProfit Job, a coworker’s water broke while she was sitting in the extra chair in our boss’s cubicle talking to her. They threw the chair out.

      2. RussianInTexas*

        My mom tels me if the hospital was not 2 minutes walk from our apartment, I might have been born on the bus.

      3. GermanGirl*

        Yeah no, they say that because on average it’s true, but sometimes the first one takes almost no time – not because it doesn’t actually take time, but because you might not know you’re in active labour until you’re ready to push.

        How’s a first time mom supposed to tell the difference between the contractions you just happen to have every now and then in the last weeks of pregnancy and full on labour contractions?
        You’ll feel it, you’ll know it, they said in the prenatal class …

        My friend had her first one in 45 minutes from the time she called the ambulance – she made it to the hospital but only just in time. I had mine after eight hours from the time I presented myself at the hospital. So those are the numbers that entered the statistics for us.

        Guess what: We later compared details on what happened when and how it felt when and all that … and our real timelines from start to finish were almost exactly the same and about 12 hours long.

        The only difference was that she originally went to the hospital two hours earlier than I did and they told her “not dilated, just Braxton Hicks, go home and relax” so she did everything at home alone until her water broke – just because those nurses didn’t believe her when she told them she was in labour for real … So much for you’ll know when it’s real. Doesn’t help much when they’re not listening to you.

        1. overeducated*

          I found that nurses/doctors were very reluctant to tell me to come in when contractions didn’t exactly fit the pattern they watched for – e.g. they hadn’t been less than two minutes apart consistently for a full hour. Can’t remember the exact numbers since it’s been a few years, but the fact that a couple were *three* minutes apart within the last hour meant it was “too early,” even if the rest were getting closer together. I went in to the hospital early against their recommendations both times, and was quite far along and had faster than average labors both times. So yes, I agree that not everyone fits the “average” patterns!

      4. HBJ*

        Your first one taking “a while” is both not always true and is relative. My first was actually my shortest labor (of three). And even if your first is your longest, that can mean that the first one takes five hours and subsequent ones are three or something like that.

    2. ATX*

      An actress had a very similar story (baby born in the car in the hospital parking garage!), she tells her story on a podcast! Her name is Troian Bellisario and the podcast is named Katie’s Crib. Super interesting story!!

    3. Ali G*

      My sister’s first was not quite as dramatic, but she basically gave birth within 90 mins of her first real contraction. She had been feeling some contractions the day before, but wasn’t dilated to be admitted. About 18 hours later she was like OMG it’s now and they got to the hospital, admitted (thankfully) and gave birth about an hour later.
      We didn’t even know until the baby was born because it happened so fast.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      We looked after the older siblings of friends when their third was born. Kids were elementary age, dropped off around 2 a.m., and the baby was born about half an hour after they got to the hospital. Had they delayed at all it would have been in the car.

      (One of my favorite anecdotes, from when I was pregnant with mine: A woman who called her mom and told her that she really, really wanted to go to the mall. Her mom explained that, no, she needed to go the hospital, and she did, and she was 10 cm and it was time to push. She was expecting baby 2 and worried that her only sign of oncoming labor the first time was the urge to go get more little socks and hats. Don’t know how it landed.)

    5. Lizy*

      One of my best friends had her youngest in the van on the way to the hospital. They couldn’t pull over because it is literally one of the busiest highways in the city. Got to the birthing center and “oh hey there’s the baby. Let’s get you cleaned up”

    6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      In the “someone who didn’t realize they were pregnant because they were already overweight and had irregular menses etc” category: Person called the ambulance because surprise, she could see the head. Baby was born on the bathroom floor before the ambulance arrived to take mom and surprise baby in.

      …. Twin #2 was born in the ambulance bay before they actually made it in the door to the ER.

        1. twin B*

          As a surprise twin, dad was very surprised to get a second phone call from Maternity ward some 5 minutes after the first one. It went something like this according to him:
          Hospital : Mr X, we’re calling to let you know your wife delivered a baby girl.
          Dad: You called me twice, I know already.
          Hospital: You don’t understand, your wife delivered a second baby girl.
          Dad:… (already drunk by then)

      1. PostalMixup*

        My older child was born on April 1st. After it was all done, one of the nurses got called to the ER because a woman had come it for “stomach pain” – she was in labor and didn’t know she was pregnant. On April Fool’s Day. How do you make that announcement to friends and family???

    7. fposte*

      Seth Meyers has a whole standup called Lobby Baby, based on the fact that his second child was born in the lobby of his apartment building.

    8. Carson*

      Some friends of ours had a super fast labor like that. They jumped in the car and drove 5 min to the hospital. Husband ran inside to grab a wheelchair because it was so intense she didn’t think she could walk. He went just inside the door, saw an unattended wheelchair, grabbed it and went back out to the car to find her sitting in the front seat holding the baby!
      They gave their son the name they intended to use all along, without even realizing it, but now everyone thinks they did it for a joke.
      It’s the name I used as my user name.

    9. June First*

      My second baby came so quickly they didn’t have time to admit me before baby arrived. It was something like 9 minutes from the time I arrived in the room til baby was born, and that was including some complications with the little chunker getting stuck.

    10. Deanna Troi*

      My mother had my sister at home 45 minutes after she went into labor. I was 5 years old and was the only one home. My mom figured she had plenty of time because she was in labor for longer with me. I remember my mom lying down and my sister…just kind of popped out. I ran and got a neighbor, who called for a doctor. This was in the 70s, which was not a time during which people gave birth at home.

    11. HBJ*

      Yea, I know someone who gave birth in her car just a few weeks ago. It absolutely still happens. I don’t think it happens any less than it ever did. Whether it happens or not (assuming you are having a pretty standard pregnancy) is a matter of how long your labor is and/or how early you recognize that you’re in labor.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. It also depends on where you live. In less populated areas, if your nearest maternity hospital is a 5-hour drive away, it happens frequently.

  21. mella*

    Alison, I hope your niece and husband are doing better and you are getting to enjoy some of your vacation!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thank you! They’re both doing well. My niece who had heart surgery is out of the hospital now and recovering in her own bed (will take many weeks but she’s doing well) and my husband is up and about again (more than he should be, in my opinion). And I do not appear to have cancer, which was the other big scare for part of the month. So now I am just trying to destress from the month, which has not been as stress-free as intended.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Oh jeez, I’ve just been dipping in and out and did not know about all this. I’m glad everyone is doing okay.

        1. Ali G*

          Yes I also missed all this! Glad things are looking up. I empathize with the cancer stuff. I still remember the day I was told “well you either have lymphoma or this other, annoying but never cancerous thing.” Thanks.
          Luckily I have the “annoying but not cancerous thing.”

      2. Pippa K*

        Woo hoo! “You do not have cancer” is one of the most relieving, freeing things to be told. Congrats on all the good medical news.

      3. Princess Deviant*

        Oh my goodness I did not know about any of this, I’m so glad that you are all well and recovering. All the best!

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Oh gosh. And here I was hoping that all the updates were giving you some kind of break. And now I see, no breaks. I hope all involved get some restful sleep and have some calming even enjoyable times.

      5. IGoOnAnonAnonAnon*

        May your celebrations be peaceful and your new year full of good health for all! What a bunch of scary stuff to deal with.

      6. Grateful for Alison and AAM*

        Much to be thankful for! Hope you can relax, cuddle the cats, have large amounts of chocolate, and enjoy the rest of your time off. Sending hugs, prayers, and wishes for a happy, healthy new year.

      7. Observer*

        Oh, wow! You’d mentioned some of this, and each one is a biggie by itself. The combination sounds like “not as stress free as intended” is in the running for understatement of the century.

        I am glad that things are looking up, though!

      8. WoodswomanWrites*

        I missed all of this news. I’m so glad to hear that things are looking up for you and your family!

      9. Windchime*

        Oh my gosh, I am so sorry you have gone through all of this. Thank goodness everyone is looking like they will recover nicely. Take care!

      10. Camelid coordinator*

        I am glad this is all good news. It does not sound like December was very restful for you, and I hope you can take more of a break.

      11. HannahS*

        I’m so sorry to hear of your troubles! I’m glad to hear that people are headed in the right direction. My goodness, what a month for you. I hope you get some well-deserved rest.

      12. Emma2*

        Wow, that’s a lot to deal with. I am glad to hear everyone seems to be on the mend and that your test results were good. I hope you do get to relax and de-stress over the next while, and are able to take off as much time as you need.

      13. the cat's ass*

        Glad to hear the news that everyone is improving! I went thru the i do not appear to have cancer thing just before the panini hit and the profound relief had me crying in the doctors office, with the doctor and the rad tech awkwardly hugging me. Hope the rest of your vacay is actually relaxing!

      14. Mimmy*

        I too had no idea about any of this! Alison, I am so glad you are all doing better. Take whatever time you need to relax and destress. Sending positive vibes to you and the family.

  22. Bibliovore*

    Dodged that bullet!
    Cancelled my travel plans due to Omicron on Wednesday. (Sat. flight, refundable ticket) The idea was to do something completely different my first Christmas without Mr. Bibliovore.
    Was on the fence for days and then a neighbor who is a health provider ran into me on the street and was appalled that I was still thinking of going to “be brave.”
    Spent last night watching Don’t Look up (big mistake, too dark, not funny to me)
    then A Castle for Christmas (perfect light romantic comedy, just what I needed)
    If you are stuck at home alone for the holiday what are you doing for fun and distraction?
    More light TV recommendations would be welcome.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Light movies:
      Mixtape on Netflix. As Y2K looms, a tween girl finds the damaged mixtape her parents made before they died (when she was a toddler). She goes on a mission to find the songs. Light and pleasant, and for a movie set at the end of the year actually not about Christmas.
      Always be my Maybe was fun. Old friends debate becoming something more.

      Neither of these was great or epic, but were nice to watch by myself curled up under a blanket.

      Crazy Rich Asians is fun light escapism.
      Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for a nostalgia hit.

      1. the cat's ass*

        Love ALL of these, especially Always Be My Maybe.
        would add in Ted Lasso, especially the Christmas episode.
        I’m sorry you didn’t get to come out to California, but i think you did the right thing.

    2. sagewhiz*

      The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (amazon) is a great rom-com, worthy of annual repeats because of Henry Winkler.

      A new one on Netflix is Single All the Way, which I watched because a good friend’s grandsons play the young brothers, but was hooked the minute I saw the guy in the lead, who played my fave character in the Ugly Betty series. And now all my gay friends can be subjected to the schmaltzy holiday rom-coms we cis women have been fed for decades, ha!

    3. Coenobita*

      Last night we watched His Girl Friday. The social/political context hits a little interestingly in 2021, but I do love that kind of fast-talking classic movie. They don’t make em like they used to!

      1. Nessun*

        Love some Cary Grant!! Bringing Up Baby is also tons of fun. If stuff from that era is good for you, I’d also suggest some Marilyn – How to Marry a Millionaire is a favourite. Or some Danny Kate – Court Jester (with Angela Lansbury!!) is a great fast-talking romp.

        For slightly more current tastes, I recommend Yesterday (especially if you like The Beatles). Lovely movie, and a great soundtrack.

        1. Coenobita*

          The Court Jester is a big favorite in our household! The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true :)

    4. Princess Deviant*

      I loved Don’t Look Up but it most definitely isn’t, as billed, a “sparkling comedy”. Sometimes I laughed out loud, but you know… not often.
      In fact, I bawled my eyes out at the last scene before the credits and I haven’t done that at a film for ages.

    5. PollyQ*

      Do you have Disney+? I love Gravity Falls! It’s more or less _X-Files_ remade as a children’s cartoon, and it’s smart and funny and sweet.

    6. RussianInTexas*

      Lower Decks on Paramount Plus if you like the original Star Trek and the spin off series.
      Very lighthearted animation about the lower Decks ensigns.

    7. Calamity Janine*

      i’m someone with a deep love of domestic history, so it’s become a little personal tradition that i rewatch A Victorian Farm Christmas every year. (love, love, LOVE the historical farm series!)

      as for light and silly movies, here’s some ideas to toss out –

      -sure, Follow That Bird may be a sesame street movie, but the gags like “i’ll have the tossed salad” are classic no matter the age. (plus there’s the other muppet movies of course. Muppet Christmas Carol is even thematic!)

      -the Clue movie may be a (silly and exceedingly campy) murder mystery, but sometimes it just does a heart good to see Tim Curry chew the scenery like his life depends on it.

      -UHF, the old movie starring Weird Al, is also a delightful cult comedy. it is emphatically silly and a good time. (plus i seem to remember it being free-to-watch-with-ads on youtube in my region!)

      -as long as i’m in the realm of beloved funny movies that are vaguely before my time but endure nonetheless, while the disaster movie craze has largely stopped, Airplane! is still *funny*. occasionally a joke won’t have aged terribly well, but since the movie takes a maximalist approach to jokes (any free moments? it’s free real estate for another goof!), the good easily outweigh the bad. the litmus test of scenes taken out of context and easily looked up here is “excuse me, stewardess, i speak jive!”. if you look that up on youtube and the 2 minutes or so of that scene makes you chuckle, you’ll have a great time with the rest of the movie. and, well, it’s not about a pandemic, but given travel plans also being thwarted in your life, perhaps there will be a sort of catharsis that comes from people making comedy out of another travel disaster.

      i admit those last three are cult classics for those that have a bit of a weird sense of humor, but it’s just weird and not offensive or distressing. if you aren’t inclined to have a sensible chuckle at puns, you’ll probably not like them, but if you give an internal chuckle at the idea of “conan the librarian”, you’re in for a good time. it may not be very seasonal, but it IS silly, and what better excuse to simply treat yourself kindly by having a good time? we can eat, drink, and be merry, emphasis on the being merry. :)

        1. Nessun*

          Yes!! Love Noises Off – what a wonderful cast, and such a laugh riot!! And of course Clue is great. I also think of Oscar (Sylvester Stallone period gangster comedy) in a similar vein.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            There’s something available I guess that looks really similar to Noises Off in style — “Peter Pan Goes Wrong”? I haven’t seen it yet in its entirety, but my husband showed me a super brief clip of it the other day so now I’m keeping an eye out for it.

    8. Ali G*

      Last year we watched Enola Holmes and it was a delight.
      While it seems dark, another great one was Knives Out. It’s actually a lot of fun, even if a bit darker. It has a happy ending.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        YESSS Knives Out! Haha, I can’t find a single thing wrong with it. I made both my parents watch it and they really liked it.

    9. Swisa*

      The “to all the boys I have loved” trilogy on Netflix is very light and enjoyable! It’s a high school romance, but it’s cute.

      I also cosign Crazy Rich Asians on HBO Max. It’s such a nice escape.

      Dash and Lily is a Christmas movie from last year on Netflix that was cute. It’s a collegeish age romance.

      Grace and Frankie is a light comedy series with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, on Netflix if you haven’t seen it.

      There’s a new season of queer eye coming in Netflix on I think new year’s eve, which is always heartwarming.

      Selling Sunset on Netflix is super fluffy reality tv.

      And Bridgerton on Netflix is another good escape.

      I also love the Mindy Project on Hulu, short funny episodes (comedy following a fictional obgyn). And also her show Never Have I Ever on Netflix (high school comedy and romance), and the Four Weddings and a Funeral (Hulu) tv series, also produced by Mindy Kaling.

      I hope something in that list appeals to you! Those are all the equivalent of a nice, warm hug of TV viewership. They make me smile just thinking about them.

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        I have the week off work and am binge watching old episodes of Queer Eye ahead of the new series. So good!

        I would also recommend the Paddington films for light, heartwarming viewing (and vaguely Christmassy to boot, but not so much you can’t watch then any other time of year).

    10. Bluebell*

      If you liked Castle for Christmas, give Love Hard a try. And if you have Peacock, Baking It is a sweet and funny cooking competition show.

      1. beach read*

        I highly recommend the show it spun off from, “Making It”, which is craft-y and hosted with the amazing chemistry and sweet light humor of Amy Pohler and Nick Offerman.

    11. A Reader*

      Ballykissangel from the 1990s is, up until the end of season three, and then probably starting midway through season four, a fairly light hearted enjoyable Irish comedy.

  23. GoryDetails*

    Book thread: have you read and/or listened to any good books lately?

    Mine:

    Recently-acquired humor: I AM “WHY DO I NEED VENMO?” YEARS OLD by Janine Annett, a collection of cartoons showing some of those little “wait, I’m *that* old?” realizations.

    WHEN THINGS GET DARK, a collection of short stories by acclaimed authors, inspired by the works of Shirley Jackson. Some of the tales get that “Jackson” tone dead on; others, while very good, were more remotely “inspired by”. Definitely creepy on the whole, which I liked.

    Non-fiction: BRUNELLESCHI’S DOME by Ross King, about the architect who designed and built the dome of the cathedral in Florence in the mid-1400s; fascinating historical and technical detail.

    On audiobook, EVERGREEN TIDINGS FROM THE BAUMGARTNERS by Evelyn Anthony, a funny/touching tale of a somewhat-dysfunctional but loving family, threaded with the annual family Christmas letters that reveal unexpected glimpses of the main character’s past.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        [gently slides the other books in that world to you like the inverse of a cat stealing a piece of ham]

        you should read all of the books

        they’re good

        [returns to the swamp]

    1. Jacey*

      I just started reading The Wrong Dead Guy by Richard Kadrey and am enjoying it heartily! Fantasy/mystery/heist involving a careless security guard and an ancient, cursed mummy.

    2. Girasol*

      I’m crazy about Finder by Emma Bull and have just stumbled on Welcome to Bordertown and am enjoying the trip back.

    3. Sled dog mama*

      I have not read any books to recommend but I had a I’m “Why do I need Venmo?” Years old moment last week. I had to explain to a colleague that I had Chicken Pox before there was a vaccine. This colleague had no idea that this vaccine wasn’t widely available in the US until the mid 90’s.

    4. AY*

      I knew I would love Colson Whitehead’s new book (Harlem Shuffle), so I purposely saved it for the holidays. I’m about two thirds done, and it’s great. So many beautiful or meaningful or straight hilarious sentences to savor. If anyone was scared off by the subject matter of his last few books (Underground Railroad and the Nickel Boys), I would urge you to reconsider for this book. It reads like a total romp so far.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Thank you for this! I received this book as a gift from a friend and it’s now next on my list to read. I was feeling unsure if I was ready for something of “Nickel Boys” magnitude. A romp is exactly what I’m in the mood for!

    5. Librarian Emergency*

      In the same vein as Brunelleschi’s Dome, which I also enjoyed, you might look for the book Longitude, about John Harrison, who invented a clock that kept time on a sailing ship with enough precision to tell where around the world the ship was (ie, what longitude). Until then finding latitude was simple enough, but longitude was basically a guess. It was a big deal at the time!

      1. GoryDetails*

        Oh, yes, Longitude was amazing! I love that sort of book anyway – examining history and society through the lens of a single invention/concept – and that one was quite fascinating.

    6. JustForThis*

      I want to boost two signals from a previous weekend threads:
      I read Richard Osman’s _Thursday Murder Club_ and _The Man Who Died Twice_ after it was recommended here. Four people living in an upscale senior residence band together to solve murders, and they are depicted as competent and slightly forgetful and perceptive and sweet, and I laughed out loud many times. _The Man Who Died Twice_ has an especially cozy feel to it, but it is definitely worth it reading them both in order. A definite recommendation for anyone who likes light-hearted detective novels.

      Today I finished the fourth volume in Rosemary Kirstein’s truly excellent fantasy/SF_Steerswoman_ series which I’ve enjoyed immensely. Available in various ebook formats on Smashword for very little money. These novels are more than worth it — some of the best genre novels I’ve ever read. I’ve gifted the first volume to several friends already, just so I have other people with whom to talk about it and share my thoughts and joy about this discovery. A huge, huge thank you to whoever recommended it in an open weekend thread!

      1. June First*

        The Richard Osman books are the only books universally liked by my book club, despite some eye-rolling plot holes. And I just learned Joyce’s Instagram is REAL which makes me so happy. I love when authors/publishers connect the dots like that.

  24. Jacey*

    Non-Christmas tradition thread! My family doesn’t celebrate, but we have our own quirky traditions for this weekend and I’d love to hear about others’.

    Here’s mine: we drive through a mostly empty town looking at Christmas lights and “rating” them. The big finale is going to the ultra-rich suburb near us and guessing how many people were hired to do the elaborate decorations and how many rooms each mansion has.

    1. Princess Deviant*

      I’m not sure this counts as non-Christmassy but I’ve just started Julabokaflođ – Christmas book flood, which is the Icelandic tradition of exchanging books on xmas eve – with my mum. I bought her Ella Minnow Pea from one of Alison’s recommendations here and she got me The Correct Order Of Biscuits by Adam Sharp. His twitter account is very funny too.

    2. Olivia Oil*

      When I was growing up, my Muslim and Jewish friends and I would go for a movie and Chinese food. Since I’ve moved to my current city, Chinese food has been changed to Turkish food since there are a few places around here. Usually followed by a walk in a park or neighborhood to see the lights.

      1. Unwrapped*

        Yep, for my Jewish partner, it was always going out for Chinese food. They aren’t closed on Christmas.

    3. Chauncy Gardener*

      We usually make chicken korma on Christmas Day. It’s a very involved, and delicious, recipe. Perfect for a quiet day!

    4. TPS reporter*

      My friends/family are a mixture of Jewish/atheist/don’t do traditional Christmas because of family issues. We always have Mexican food on Christmas Eve and Chinese on Christmas day. Make your own margarita bar is becoming quite the amusing tradition.

  25. Cringing*

    Curious what other people think – am I overthinking or making a problem where one doesn’t exist? Or would you be bothered too?

    I finished graduate school a few months ago. I’m a first-generation college graduate, college just really hasn’t been on the radar for anyone in my family. Everyone in my family was nice about it and offered congratulations of course, but nobody made a big deal about it, nor did I expect them to.

    A few weeks ago my husband told me that he had confronted his parents about not getting me a big graduation gift. I was pretty embarrassed when he told me – I expected no such thing from them. Working in my chosen field is all the reward I need! He saw it as a major infraction though, which I guess makes sense given the way his family does things. I hoped they knew that this was his complaint and not mine and let it pass.

    Today they unexpectedly gave me a rather large graduation gift during our Christmas present exchange. I’m so grateful of course, but I can’t help that worry that they think I was complaining about the lack of gift which makes me cringe. Even if that’s the case, I’m guessing if I say anything to them it’ll just make it more awkward. Should I just let it go?

    1. Alex*

      That would bother me too! I guess if I were you I’d tell husband to make sure his parents knew that HE was the one complaining, not you.

        1. Cringing*

          I phrase it in that way because there have been times when he absolutely has agreed to say something to them, and then goes and says something completely different without even realizing how different what he actually said was from what he had agreed to say. It’s worth a try though!

    2. Calamity Janine*

      i have no firm advice other than Oh No!, lol.

      i’d suggest making sure your husband knows he’s the one who gets to clean up any mess, and offering his apologies in order to make it clear he was the one pushing and not you. as for what *you* do next, i think it’s very hard to go wrong with a nice thank-you note. sure, that’s a reaction where it serves one well in many situations, kind of like a startled squid going with an ink cloud no matter what’s startled it, but as far as instincts go it’s a pretty good one!

      possibly throw in a bit of a sheepish tone for a few sentences of “i hope that i didn’t give the impression of being pushy – you have raised a wonderful son who was ready to go to bat for me, even when i wasn’t expecting a gift. he is truly a joy to look out for me like that, even if he might have been a tad enthusiastic here, and you did a wonderful job raising such a man. i’m so blessed to be part of this family. your support through graduate school has meant so much to me.” a heartfelt and gushing thank-you letter will be appropriate at basically every turn. (plus you can then distract the in-laws with how polite you are, and oh what a pretty card and lovely stationary you found, isn’t it such a rarity that you get a handwritten letter in the mail these days…)

    3. Sled dog mama*

      Oh wow. I’m not a first generation college graduate and graduation gifts are just NOT a thing in my family, not even small ones, a card maybe but usually just a heartfelt congratulations. Gifts are huge in Husband’s family, gifts for everything, you came over here’s a gift. You made straight A’s? Here’s a gift. They also tend to choose really cheap low quality items that we don’t need or want.
      It took me a long time to learn to navigate this. The conclusion I’ve reached after 15 years is that someone in husband’s family (MIL probably) had either giving or receiving gifts as a Love language and has drilled it into the rest of the family. Because of this I just accept with a smile and regift when I can. It’s more about them than about me.
      I don’t have much to offer for your husband complaining about them not getting a gift. Maybe if you approach it from the perspective that your husband sees how hard you worked and wants everyone to recognize that. Or perhaps he equates a gift with an expression of love or congratulations from his parents.

      1. Cringing*

        Yes to considering that gifts can be a love language! It’s just so different from how my family operates, but like you said it’s more about them than me.

    4. RagingADHD*

      I would also be embarrassed, but I understand that it might be important to your husband to make sure that his family is treating you equitably to how they treat other siblings’ SOs.

      My husband and I have been together 19 Christmasses now, and I’ve learned that sometimes stuff that goes on around me isn’t really about me. It’s about his own relationships with his people, so I let him handle it.

      Congratulations on your graduation!

      1. Cringing*

        “It’s about his own relationships with people” – that rings true here although I hadn’t thought of it like that. I do think it was, for him, in some way more about their feelings about his/our values. They couldn’t understand why someone would pursue a graduate degree in something that is often underpaid/overworked, and they would like him to be more focused on material wealth in his own career.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Thank them profusely and let it go.

      At a later point, ask your husband although he means well, don’t do stuff like that again. Like if you guys get a house, a kiddo, a dog, whatever, let your hubby know that their warm wishes are enough. You can explain that you’re not comfy with other people getting large presents or whatever your concern is.

    6. Lucy Skywalker*

      First of all, congratulations on finishing grad school! I, too, just finished grad school, and I already made it clear to my family (including in-laws) that I do not want any presents. I am in my 40’s and I don’t need any more stuff to clutter up my house. It’s not the same as when you graduate high school and you need a bunch of stuff for your college dorm; or when you finish undergrad and need a bunch of stuff for your new apartment.
      I really don’t have any advice except to reiterate what others have said about making sure that your husband doesn’t again confront his parents about something that involves you without checking with you first to see how you feel about it.

      1. Cringing*

        Congrats to you as well! I am also in my 40’s but fortunately the gift was cash ;). I definitely. need to have that talk with him though.

    7. Owler*

      I would second the idea of writing them a thank you note. Maybe you can say something similar to what you wrote here…something like “thank you for the wonderful gift to celebrate my grad school graduation. My family doesn’t make a big deal of these things, so it was so kind of you to make me feel special. I didn’t expect it, but I really appreciate the acknowledgement.” Or something where you aren’t throwing your husband under the bus, but you are letting them know that their gesture was appreciated.

  26. L. Ron Jeremy*

    Has anyone given thanks to the pagans and their rituals for our Christmas holiday? Nothing that is celebrated during this time of year is based upon religious beliefs; I really enjoy reminding folks that we owe our gratitude for our time off work to our wonderful pagan ancestors.

    Thank you Pagans!

    1. Voluptuousfire*

      Yes! I really prefer to think of Christmas and it’s season as a celebration of winter and a return of the light. I love the holiday markets and lights and greenery.

      I’m also a Yule baby, so it helps. :)

      1. Dwight Schrute*

        Christmas was just a co-opted pagan holiday though. It was created to compete with Saturnalia, and there is no evidence that Jesus was born in December. I think OP is trying to say that without pagan holidays and traditions, we wouldn’t have Christmas at all

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Yeah, I was going to say, “you mean except for the obvious, right?”

        And also the traditions made up by the Victorians, who really loved fancy stuff for holidays.

      3. RagingADHD*

        Don’t bother trying to correct them. Folks who assert that “paganism” invented everything, as if there were a universal and cohesive faith tradition shared by every culture that predated Christianity, aren’t interested in actually discussing history or religion. It’s not worth the trouble.

        1. Dwight Schrute*

          Yikes that’s a fairly aggressive stance to take. Any links to share that Christmas wasn’t created to compete with other existing pagan traditions? For the record, I was raised in a Christian household although am no longer practicing. I don’t think paganism invented every holiday but the research I’ve done says that Christmas was essentially created to compete with pagan traditions.

          1. RagingADHD*

            The incredibly aggressive statement in question is that “Nothing that is celebrated during this time of year is based upon religious beliefs.”

            I’m certainly not going to dispute that the early church used convenient existing festivals to build the liturgical calendar. Martin Luther used the existing tunes of drinking songs to set hymns to, too.

            Putting something into a convenient box doesn’t mean the contents were invented for the sole purpose of occupying the box.

            1. Zona the Great*

              I really think you’re taking something way too personally here. Christ’s birth exists with or without religion and man invented the day of his birth. We simply don’t know when he was born. In the meantime, this OP wanted to honor their beliefs. Don’t agree about the bit about religion? Okay. But no one said anything to challenge your beliefs.

    2. Calamity Janine*

      you know, if we’re being pedantic here…

      “nothing is based upon religious beliefs, it’s all pagans” is an interesting sentiment when wanting to express gratitude towards those pagan beliefs, isn’t it? after all, isn’t the point that these other religions aren’t lesser than the dominant ones? i’m sure many an ancient roman would clutch their toga in horror at the idea they were giving up only ‘rituals’ and not basing Saturnalia on their ‘religious beliefs’, after all.

      of course then you have to look at things on a far more granular level as well. if the intent is honoring the source, surely you must take into account how romans very emphatically thought their faith to be distinct and different from whatever those barbarian tribes were doing. sure, they were very good at pasting new names over old gods in order to incorporate these religions into the roman standard, but they still came at it from a place of not really respecting those other traditions as equals. (far more a case of “no, no, you’re doing it wrong… here, egypt, we’ll fix it for you. put away those silly animal-headed things just like the greeks taught you, that’s not osiris-apis in combined form, that’s one perfectly normal looking fellow that seems fresh out of mt. olympus called serapis now. see, isn’t that better?”) the barbarian religions were only respected as far as they could line up with (and syncretically fuse with) the greco-roman pantheon. there’s perhaps a surprising amount of wiggle room there, given how keen they were to do this sort of cultural assimilation, but it’s still a key part of rome’s strategy for conquering and colonializing new lands. pax romana depended on everyone deciding they were more roman than any local affiliation, after all.

      it isn’t as if the transition was fully smooth on the end of the native tribes, either. there’s plenty of resistance recorded there – people understandably upset that the roman empire rolls in and tells them “no no no, he’s not Thor, he’s ZEUS. and he looks like THIS. i guess you can keep him having an axe if you insist.” on top of occupying their lands and expecting them to pay up to be good roman citizens, of course. that’s the more obvious source of friction that you can spot in Comentarii De Bello Gallico, helped along by julius caesar reporting from his military perspective instead of a social-cultural one.

      so what do we really owe the romans? well, we’re not doing saturnalia up properly these days, if we’re being honest. there’s no phrygian caps about, and in modern day we’ve really lost the “and now everyone is kind-of-equal” spirit (that equalization or even inversion of social roles pops up far more as a holdover into modern mardi gras, and it flourished in the middle ages with feudalism to become more explicitly about the inversion of those roles, bringing in medieval philosophical concepts like the rota fortunae, etc). we don’t really mention Saturn, and he’s a far cry from how the wee baby Jesus is pictured; there wasn’t much of a tradition of gift-giving either… so, big feast around winter solstice?

      and when you look for commonalities there… it turns out a winter solstice feast is very common!

      so were all the religions we’re unfairly bundling together here as “pagans” copying each other, or what? because, well, again, there’s significant friction between all of these disparate and different religions! who gets the honor of being “the original” that we should remember? and how does that factor in to historical frictions between them all? after all, one of the points of friction introduced by the earliest viking invasions is a cultural one. sure, christianity was kicking about at that time to be offended by the wacky vikings and their thor and all that jazz, but it’s not as if there was a totally blank slate in terms of earlier religions as well. and that’s after saxons had already swept through to be the vaguely dominant pantheon, helped by the roman invasion of britain and – oh no we’re back at the romans complicating things with their expansionism depending on some level of cultural homogeneity!

      that’s all assuming that modern descriptions of “pagan” belief are completely accurate, as well, so that we can draw clear parallels and give proper credit. one can very easily argue that the entire identity of “pagan” is far more about hastily reconstructions that popped up in the 1970s than about anything historically practiced. people’s modern best guesses tend to let these disparate and separate religions mush all into one singular idea. by equating thor with perun and zeus, the ‘pure true source’ that deserves credit ends up diluted by… well, modern people doing the exact same thing the romans did. creating a syncretic religion that isn’t what those ancient peoples were actually worshipping, and would probably be offended by us giving them all not just equal footing but saying it’s basically the same so don’t sweat the details.

      and when we look at these reconstructions… well, you only have to look at other areas of archaeology to see how the old “assumptions make an ass out of you and me” adage rings true. a lot of archaeology is guesswork, and a lot of that guesswork is prone to modern perspectives and biases being brought to the table. (for a clear-cut example, think about how many viking burial sites are having to be quietly revised with new information as to who was buried there – an antiquarian digging up a site rather destructively in 1846 or whatever will bring his own ideas of sex, gender, and class to the party. his own sexism can easily lead him to declare anyone buried with a shield or “manly” implement must be a man, and therefore the entire burial site is a distinctly male-only affair. then in modern times, someone with a bit more feminist leaning comes along, starts measuring pelvic bone angles and realizes that it’s a diverse community and the assumption that it was male warriors only has been wrong… and this also calls into question all of the assumptions made in those many decades between about what the site is about…) which is to say – i think we can easily get into a chicken-and-egg problem here. someone who grows up with modern trappings of christmas will be already familiar with those patterns, and perhaps more likely to spot them or simply feel they must be included…

      not to mention this is a bit of a grim view of culture, isn’t it? the idea that all syncretic religions are wrong (because ultimately, borrowing the big winter feast day for a christian celebration IS that same synchronicity) means you have to chuck out the very notion of “pagan” religions being equivalent or dangerously samey. it is just as invalid to call Perun “Thor” as it is to hold this christian feast day on saturnalia’s schedule, right?

      it presents culture and belief as this thing that must remain immutable, and if there is any change, that change is bad, wrong, incorrect, and should not be respected as legitimate. so not only do you then have to chase your tail figuring out which of these very different religions slung together as “paganism” is the OG, every single person changing and modifying their traditions in modernity is equally wrong and invalid. that’s quite a can of worms to pop open.

      especially because this view of “pagans are responsible for it all” is… let’s be honest… unfortunately *extremely* limited in recognizing the world existing beyond europe. and it claims that european heritage to be the most valid over all. from a culture that doesn’t have a big winter solstice feast because it’s somewhere that is more historically interested in the lunar calendar? or from a culture whose native religion doesn’t include that because it’s simply far closer to the equator, and there’s not going to ever be snow on the ground because there isn’t “winter season” as much as there is “rainy season”? guess those get tossed straight in the bin as well. and heaven forfend someone incorporate those parts of their cultures into the modern celebration – it’s just as evil and bad as all other additions.

      so the only people doing this celebration “correctly” are the inevitably very white, very european folks. all others need not apply. if your ancestors were doing something different, or BEING something different? screw ’em, no gratitude will be forthcoming, just scorn for not doing it right.

      jinkies, scoob!

      that’s quite an end point to this logic, eh?

      (but, again, not enough gratitude to the ancestors to figure out and explicitly name what religion they were following – nah they just get all equated as basically similar under the heading of “pagan”. kind of like how there’s no such thing as different religions and cultures among native americans, everybody’s just “injun” and sleeps in tee-pees with totem poles out front, right….?) (the previous concept was pure sarcasm, that is not how it actually works, that is what native folks emphatically want people to stop doing.) (same sort of homogeneity is happening, though.)

      it’s a far more stickier prospect to wade into than you perhaps thought of for a snarky quip.

      real life is like that. it’s always messier. and to keep that mess from becoming bloody, sometimes you have to accept that times are changing and it’s more important to let people determine their own values and meaning in the here and now, instead of clinging to the past as most pure and correct.

      so in the holiday spirit, i’ll call out a very merry io saturnalia, and you can wish me a happy christmas, and we can both thumb our noses at the modern incarnation of santa claus arising not so much from religious belief but from marketing campaigns, yeah? ;)

    3. Lucy Skywalker*

      “Nothing that is celebrated during this time of year is based upon religious beliefs.”

      Paganism is a religion in every definition of the word. “Religous” doesn’t just mean Christian.

  27. Crochet Blanket*

    There’s a lot of crochet fans here, right? I’m a novice quilter but don’t know much about crochet. We received a gorgeous, large handmade blanket for Christmas from a family member and I’d like to know how to best display and/or store it. It’s truly amazing and I’m hoping to pass it to a future child. Can you hang them on a wall or will they stretch? Google informed me that you can keep it on the bed, but our cats’ nails would damage it. It has wording and a definite top and bottom, so a blanket rack would hide most of the design. Our couch blankets get pretty heavy use with us wadding them up, eating over them, etc. so I’m thinking that isn’t an option either.

    I have an antique blanket chest from my grandma so it will have a lovely home if it’s best to just keep it away and protected, but it’d be a shame to not see it much.

    1. RagingADHD*

      It will stretch if you suspend it from the top, but it can also be “blocked” back into shape with steam or by washing it.

      If you want to make a semi-permanent display, you could mount it with pegs or thumbtacks behind it – something to hook through the holes- so that the weight is supported in the middle.

    2. Blinx*

      If it’s difficult to display the real thing, take a nice photo of it that shows the design on a contrasting blanket, wall, or carpet. Then display the photo and store the gift in the blanket chest.

    3. Snarky Snarkerson*

      Whenever I give a crocheted blanket, the biggest thanks I can receive is for the recipient to USE it. I personally would be distressed that you were keeping it “for good.” Someday is now.

      1. crocheter*

        Fellow crocheter and I agree. Please use it! I would be so sad to find out it was being stored in a box for a future child who might not even want it years from now. I made it for the person I gave it to and I would want them to keep it out and use it, not store it away for its own protection, even if the use meant shortening its life span.

    4. Dancing Otter*

      A) Ask the person who gave it to you for care instructions. Some yarn is machine washable; some is hand wash, dry flat; some is look but don’t touch.
      B) Use it. Don’t put it away because it’s too nice to use. When my mother died, we found so many hand-made gifts put away in acid-free tissue, that she had never used. I’m sure the giver meant for you to use and enjoy the blanket.

  28. Ali G*

    Cooking thread?
    What was a hit at your Holiday table? We smoked salmon today and I make a Nicoise type salad with it. The salmon is like a 30 hour affair, but so worth it. We will take some to my SIL next week to have with bagels and cream cheese (which my Jewish side got her Catholic husband hooked on).

    1. RagingADHD*

      Sounds delicious!

      We made slow-cooker garlic mashed potatoes with buttermilk. It was a new recipe to me, and I thought it was too soupy, but everyone else loved it.

    2. Wink the Book*

      My dad asked me to make mashed potatoes with garlic-infused olive oil and rosemary this year instead of the regular dairy bomb (butter, milk, cream cheese, and sour cream). The flavor turned out really well, and it paired nicely with the brisket he slow roasted. However, we all agreed that they would have been a bit better with half a stick of butter whipped in. Whomp, whomp.

      Also, the forever star of the meal was the Jiffy Box mixed corn pudding.

    3. Double A*

      I use the holidays as an excuse to bake since I’m a much better baker than cook, and I enjoy it much more. However, I don’t need to eat the quantity of sweets that I could bake, so I don’t bake all that often.

      So this year I made my first cheese cake. I often don’t like cheese cake because it’s too sweet, but I made a mascapone cheese cake with a shortbread crust and a cranberry blood orange glaze and it came out perfectly. The recipe is for a rhubarb glaze, but rhubarb is super not in season so I improvised the glaze and it was excellent. Overall it was a big hit and I was pleased with myself.

      Let’s not, however, talk about how my attempt to make macarons went, other than to say it did not.

    4. Cedrus Libani*

      The Jalapeno Popper Dip Of Every Occasion

      16 oz cream cheese, softened
      1 cup mayonnaise
      1/4 cup diced green onion
      4-6 jalapenos, de-seeded and chopped
      EITHER 1.5 cups quesadilla cheese mix
      OR 1 cup shredded cheddar + 1/2 cup mozzarella
      EITHER 6-8 slices of bacon, cooked crispy and chopped
      OR generous pinch of salt
      1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

      Because of all the cheesy goodness, it’s not as spicy as you think. Four jalapenos is enough to taste the flavor, but is mild enough that even young children will eat it.

      Instructions:

      Preheat oven to 350F. Combine all ingredients except the parmesan cheese; stir well. Put the dip into a shallow oven-proof dish. Top with parmesan. Bake for 20-30 minutes until melty and bubbly.

    5. GoryDetails*

      Made some Christmas Lima Beans (thanks, Rancho Gordo!) in my Instant Pot – very basic recipe so I could see what the beans tasted like by themselves, so just an onion and some thyme for flavor. I hated lima beans as a kid, but these were lovely – and very different from the overcooked beans of my memory.

    6. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I made Smitten Kitchen’s Short Ribs Bourgignon, rustic buttermilk mashed potatoes, and roasted carrots. The short ribs were amazing, especially the sauce. Fortunately there are leftovers for tonight!

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      Yorkshire pudding: This was an impulse late addition realizing that we didn’t have any rolls, and even using soy milk it turned out buoyant and gorgeous.

      Sweet potatoes: I use Smitten Kitchen’s slow-roast recipe (skipping the oil rub and broiling parts since we were going to mash them; I’ve done this recipe with those steps when that’s a main course) and we all agreed that the long and low technique is really good for breaking down sweet potatoes. My favorite part of the meal wound up being a scoop of mashed sweet potatoes (just sweet potatoes and a small amount of chicken broth–kid is allergic to dairy) with gravy on top.

    8. Charlotte Lucas*

      We skipped the family gatherings this year. (The infection rates in our area are way up, & we didn’t want to risk anyone’s health.) So my Christmas dinner was pretty low-key.

      However, I did make a ridiculous number of cookies & confections this year. (Mailed out earlier in the week.) I made America’s Test Kitchen’s eggnog snicker doodles for the first time. They taste exactly like eggnog in cookie form.

    9. Choggy*

      We had way too much food for Christmas Eve (Italian family, Feast of the 7 Fishes), and the best fish was the stuffed shrimp my hubby made, it’s always a hit, and this year was no exception. My niece is a vegetarian, so her mother made hummus and some “sausage” bombs both of which were a welcome change of pace, and light in comparison to everything else on the table. I made some flourless chocolate brownies and used 1/4 cup less sugar and the dark chocolate cocoa powder really held up its end in the flavor profile, along with walnuts (toasted, and food processed to make a walnut “flour). I’m definitely coming down from a food hangover, and we were sent home with a number of leftovers so I think next week will be the start of getting back to normal, and yes, we are going to be joining a gym too! Ah, the joys of getting older.

      1. Not a cat*

        Years ago I dated a guy whose mother was a caterer (very Italian). For Christmas Eve one year, she did the Feast plus starters, intermezzo, and cheese, and two dessert courses. Bless her, but man, it was a lot!

    10. Lizabeth*

      I second Smitten Kitchen! Did her dry brine turkey EXCEPT I chose not to deal with the gravy yesterday. Opened a box of Trader Joe’s turkey gravy instead. Will be dealing with making gravy later today for when I start making individual suppers to freeze and finish carving up the turkey. YUM!

    11. The OG Sleepless*

      I made beef Wellington that came out AMAZING! It cooked perfectly and sliced beautifully. Even my daughter who does not always like red meat was a fan.

    12. Sled dog mama*

      I make cinnamon rolls from scratch for Christmas breakfast each year. This year I made them with Puff Pastry and they were amazing. Unfortunately Hubby and I made ourselves sick eating them for breakfast yesterday. Nothing today (family get together) was very good at all, mainly because MIL insists on doing all the cooking and refuses to use any salt, or really any seasoning.
      Direct quote from the MIL today at the table “I hardly use salt any more, even when a recipe calls for it I leave it out.”
      So making ourselves sick on cinnamon rolls was the food highlight.

    13. Loopy*

      I’m no cook but I did my first Smitten Kitchen recipe: braised chickpeas (also featured Portobello mushrooms, carrots and onions). We put it over mashed potatoes and it was delicious.

    14. Lady Glittersparkles*

      Yum! We did fajitas. Usually we do something a lot more time consuming but we just didn’t have it in us this year. It was a hit and refreshing to not be in the kitchen half the day, although sometimes that’s fun too.

    15. Filosofickle*

      My dad smoked a prime rib this year, first time on that, and it was great! I keep wondering when he’ll run out of new ideas for the smoker but that hasn’t happened yet. Served with a potato and fennel gratin (credit to Ina) and broccoli niçois (credit to Julia) for an overall fantastic meal.

  29. Heffalump*

    Today I was on a gearhead blog that I’ve been following for several years. As with AAM, the moderators do a good job of enforcing civility. One post consisted of a couple of paragraphs of innocuous content, followed by the following, presumably courtesy of one of the moderators, in bold italic:

    [Baiting and personal attacks redacted. We don’t do that here.]

    I’ve never seen only part of a post moderated, but presumably it was appropriate.

  30. Princess Deviant*

    I usually dislike Christmas, a lot, and this year had been hard so I wasn’t looking forward to it. But now it’s over I feel kind of blue.
    I’m not planning anything major for NYE. If we’re permitted, I’ll probably go into Wales and walk up Moel Famau to the summit for midnight. Its always very busy so I won’t even need a light. My ex died this year. I walked up there with him one year, so maybe I won’t feel like it. Or maybe I’ll stay in all warm and cosy!

    Anyway – what are your plans for NYE?
    Do you make ‘resolutions’? I like Danielle LaPorte’s desire mapping to set intentions because I break resolutions.

    Wishing you peaceful holidays.

    1. allathian*

      I’m wishing you peaceful holidays as well.

      I quit making ‘resolutions’ years ago, because like you, I break them very quickly. I can achieve goals, when I want to and need to, but I think it’s okay to just coast along sometimes, too. I have to perform at work, and I don’t want to do that in my personal life as well, at least not all the time. I do know that some (most?) people find setting personal goals meaningful, and more power to them, but I’m currently actually quite content with my life, and I deeply disagree with the idea that contentment is bad and that you should always be striving to do ‘better,’ whatever that means.

    2. 653-CXK*

      It’s funny – when I was a kid, I always looked forward to Christmas because it was an exciting time of year. Now at 50, I think Christmas in modern times is overhyped. Wall to wall Christmas songs and ads should be at the last two weeks of December, not the day after Halloween, when the kids count their candy. (Not helping matters any was the rain (first freezing, then regular), which was very welcome last year as it melted the 12+ inches of snow. This year, it only highlighted the gloom.)

      What I do look forward to is the day after Christmas, because the stress and strain of preparing for Christmas vanishes and everything goes back to normal. The radio stations playing Christmas songs from Veteran’s Day onwards go back to regular programming. The Christmas ads, movies and decorations go into storage for another year, and post-Christmas sales (which IMHO are better than Christmas itself) begin.

      I have no idea what I’ll be doing for NYE (except taking down Christmas decorations – something I look forward to as opposed to putting them up), but I look forward to the New Year being much better than the old one. This year was not necessarily annum horribilis but me getting COVID certainly put a twist into it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        So agree.
        The hype drives me nuts. Christmas used to be special. No decorations went up until December 1. People did not shop all year for gifts, we went out and got a few things in early December. Christmas music was special because you only heard it in December.
        Comparatively, Christmas today has become a money-grab on the part of corporate America.
        It’s disappointing to say the least.
        I see more and more people giving up with it all.

        1. 653-CXK*

          And therein lies the rub – when I was younger, businesses waited until Santa went down Fifth Avenue to release their Christmas ads, and radio stations waited until Christmas Eve before playing 24 hour Christmas music. And cable wasn’t even invented yet – no maudlin, formulaic Hallmark Christmas movies.

          In our family, we’ve toned it down considerably, in part due to people growing up and no longer being with us. This year, we had our Christmas the week before, gave out presents, had sandwiches and appetizers, and that was it. It was fun without being cloying. Yesterday was even more downscale – my mother and I had Chinese food for lunch and sandwiches for dinner. (She had cooked a turkey that we intended to have for dinner, but we were too full from the Chinese food we had for lunch, so we’re having that for tonight – Boxing Day dinner, if you like.)

          Although I miss the Christmas days of the past, I’m perfectly fine with the barebones, downscale editions too. It’ll be a quiet and short work week, fingers crossed.

      2. Princess Deviant*

        Yes, it’s overwhelming! In many places in the UK the Christmas music starts at the beginning of December, but the displays do start in November. There’s no getting away from the intense commercialisation of it, something that the planet can’t bear any more of.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      In a mystery development, my spouse’s employer gave everyone a ham. We intend to make it for NYE, along with the Best Ham Sauce one of his coworkers shared. (“The recipe is hand-written on an index card, so you know it’s good.”)

      1. Princess Deviant*

        I don’t know why this made me laugh, but it did! That’s a nice present if you eat ham. I hope you enjoy it.

    4. GoryDetails*

      I don’t do resolutions but I do like to try for a “clean start” – getting the house in order (something I always need to manufacture some incentive to do), cleaning out the fridge, etc. And then there’s a semi-formal “installing the new wall-calendars” (no longer used for actual date-determination, just for new monthly wall-art) moment on Jan. 1…

      1. Princess Deviant*

        Oh yes! I love doing that! I always take the tree down before NYE, starting the NY as I mean to go on.

    5. Gnome*

      I also dislike Christmas. A lot. And then some. No New Years plans really. Sorry you are feeling blue.

      1. Princess Deviant*

        Commiserations and solidarity.
        I slept in till 2pm today and have eaten chocolate as my main meals. Top adulting.

    6. TiredEmployee*

      I’m anticipating a lockdown to be announced any second that would scupper NYE (UK), but we’ve never been fussed for it. In large part because my partner’s family do “christmas dinner: round 2” on New Year’s Day, which is much more enjoyable when you’ve had a proper night’s sleep.

      I do make resolutions, though. Usually the same few every year in the hopes that I’ll actually stick to one, which has actually worked pretty well for the last few years. In 2019 I “got organised” after trying a boatload of apps. In 2020 I finally made a habit of tracking my finances. In 2021 I finally lost the weight I wanted to lose. Maybe 2022 will be the year I finally finish decluttering the house, or establish a housework routine, or get back into all the hobbies I used to do.

      1. Princess Deviant*

        Sadly I think you’re right about the 4th lockdown.
        Congrats – that’s some top resolutioning! What’s your tip for sticking to them? Is it just determination, or do you have a particular plan?

        1. TiredEmployee*

          Thanks! I wouldn’t recommend my approach, it’s basically the exact opposite of what you’re meant to do in that I try all the things at once with sheer determination but quickly drop the ones that are too hard. “Success” is simply not dropping all of them. But after a month or however long of trying to be perfect, keeping just one resolution feels quite manageable!

    7. HannahS*

      I would love to make social plans, but I don’t think COVID will permit, unfortunately. If we’re able to see my in-laws on the weekend at all, it would be great. Last year my husband and I made a cocktail/mocktail and watched the CBC NYE special, which involved Rick Mercer getting annoyed live on air with some call-in viewers who were very obviously ignoring the lockdown. Hah! I think we’ll stay home, dress up*, make a nice dinner with some fancy drinks, and…yeah I don’t know what else. Play a board game? Listen to some crooners?

      *…which means I have to make a dress since I had a baby 3 mos ago and neither of my two nice dresses fit. I impulse-bought the end of a bolt of silk on Black Friday, so I’m thinking to try the Kielo dress pattern from Named.

    8. BlueWolf*

      My fiancé and I will just be at home, which is how we usually spend it anyways because we’re not big party people. We like to do some sort of seafood-based meal for New Year’s because it feels fancy (probably scallops of some sort) and some bubbly wine.

    9. Dark Macadamia*

      I don’t really make resolutions but I reset my habit tracker app so if I haven’t been keeping up with things I can have a clean slate. It’s stuff that I want to be better about, like reading daily (tends to be pretty achievable) and going to bed at a consistent time (LOL no). Right now I’m at the “do I start eating healthier right now, or eat ALL the Christmas treats and leftovers to ‘remove temptation’ for starting to eat healthy next week?” stage and uh, you can probably guess which option is winning

    10. The OG Sleepless*

      I agree with you! I went through a 15 year spell of hating Christmas, and I’m finally coming out the other side and really kind of liked it this year. But really, it’s just a holiday. It should be confined to the last half of December. Especially because I love Thanksgiving, and I hate how it has turned into “Christmas kickoff.”

      I LOVE New Year’s from a purely mental standpoint. I don’t really do resolutions, but I set goals and make plans for the year. Along with that, I do a complete declutter of my entire house. I feel like I’m entering the new year with a plan and a clean start.

      Oh, and NYE itself. I haven’t been out at midnight in many, many years. We will see if any of the towns around us (we live between three of them) are doing outdoor NYE stuff and go to them early. I’m going hiking on NYE morning and should see the sun rise from a beautiful vantage point on the Appalachian Trail.

      1. Princess Deviant*

        That sounds like an absolutely beautiful way to start the NY. I love to clear things out too. There’s something very invigorating about that. Happy New Year!

    11. Lady Glittersparkles*

      I’m sorry about your ex. The feelings that can arise can be so complicated and unexpected, in my own experience anyway.
      Christmas season always finds me a little blue as well, although I really don’t like post-Christmas either when all the lights start coming down. If I had it my way they’d all stay up until March! I think we will stay home NYE and try to cultivate some enthusiasm for our kid’s sake. (If I had it my way I’d be in bed by 9:30 as usual)!

      1. Princess Deviant*

        Thank you. Yes, it’s very complicated.
        I have lights outside all winter and do in fact leave them until about mid-March. I enjoy looking at them and they aren’t particularly Christmassy! I don’t really like midnight on NYE either, and if I’m at home I will be in bed way before then.
        Whatever you do, I hope it’s a good one.

  31. Falling Diphthong*

    Beautiful moment: The sun came out just as it got warm enough to really melt the ice on the trees, and it’s like it’s simultaneously raining, frozen, and sun-sparkled.

  32. ThatGirl*

    It’s been a hell of a week. On Monday it became obvious that it was time to say goodbye to our sweet, wonderful dog of 8 years (he was a rescue and we will never know exactly how old he was but probably around 11 or 12). He’d been declining but was still hanging in there…until he wasn’t. We miss him very much.

    He was my first dog (never had one as a kid) and I’m considering a tattoo in his honor – a paw print, a small Triforce (his name was Link, after Legend of Zelda) and maybe his name. Current debate is where I should put it – calf? Inner arm? I want it somewhere I can see it but hopefully lower pain, because I’ve never had a tattoo before.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m sorry about Linc; I still miss First and Second Dogs years later.

      In a past thread people described temporary tattoos that you can order on Etsy, often with the intention being to test-drive the size and placement of a contemplated permanent tattoo.

    2. Dwight Schrute*

      Inner arm can be a fairly tender spot, so between calf and inner arm Id go calf for the first tattoo. Sorry for your loss!

    3. The OG Sleepless*

      FWIW, I’m still considering a tattoo memorializing my dog that died 5 years ago. She was named after a mythic figure, and I found a small woodcut design. If I do take the plunge, it will be on the back of my shoulder.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I’ve been thinking about this for a few years, on and off, so it’s not a rash decision – just made more concrete by his passing. If I still want to do it by late spring, I will. But I definitely want it somewhere I’ll be able to see it every day.

    4. TPS reporter*

      I got my first tattoo this year in honor of passed cats. The inner lower arm didn’t hurt much at all and I’m so intolerant to pain. I also like that I can look at it often but also cover it up easily as needed. I went fairly small and simple to make sure I like it. The idea is to add on over time.

      1. ThatGirl*

        That’s good to know, I don’t want anything too complex or large. An outline and a little color on the triforce I think.

        1. TPS reporter*

          Mine is similar, a black outline with few pops of color. I was nervous too and thought about it for years. I definitely don’t regret it.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I had my first dog 50 years ago. I can attest to the fact that we never, ever forget. I went on to have dogs whenever I could house and properly care for them. I am on number 5 now. But dog #1 created that. I learned so much and enjoyed her so much that I had to have a dog in my life as much as possible. We get to keep the memories.
      I am so sorry for your loss.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Thank you NSNR. I definitely would like to adopt again but it will take my husband some time to be ready.

    6. anonymous73*

      So sorry about your fur baby.

      I only have 1 tattoo, have a high tolerance for pain and it hurt…a lot. Mine is above my ankle. Not sure how true, but I’ve heard in places where there isn’t much meat between skin and bone it hurts more. But it was worth it, and I have zero regrets (I got a cardinal inside of a filigree heart to honor my mom). My only recommendation is to get something on the smaller side so it doesn’t take too long.

  33. Invisible Fish*

    My question is about the life portion of a work/life balance.

    People who were able to retrain themselves to leave work at work, were you lost when you left work each day? As in, you didn’t know what to do with yourself?

    I’m an educator, so stopping work is a struggle every day. On the days I manage it, I am adrift. What am I supposed to be doing, exactly? Intellectually, I know: connecting with people in my life, hobbies, time with my companion animals, self-care, etc. Unfortunately, this knowing doesn’t translate into feeling like *doing* these things . . .

    Once I manage the first part of this “balancing act,” how do I manage the next parts? I can’t just sit and stare at the television … My reading is up (121 books so far this year, not counting graphic novels), but I feel like I need more in order to truly be alive.

    Sorry for all the ennui that’s slipping through the lines here! You all seem to be a pretty well adjusted bunch, so I figure someone will have some ideas or food for thought! (Or maybe you know of support groups I can join- “I’m trying to be a well wounded human after 2 decades of living to work” seems like too long of a name, so maybe they’ve got an acronym I don’t know about?). Thanks, y’all! ;)

    1. fposte*

      I think your typo of “well-wounded” is kind of on target here for many of us, alas.

      You mention things that you think you’re supposed to do for work-life balance–is there anything you actually *want* to do? That’s a question that could be usefully informative, because if the answer is “nothing” that’s an indication that this may be getting into work burnout or other reasons for anhedonia, and you might want to check in with a doctor and a counselor. I think there’s a cumulative effect from the overexpectations of some fields, including education, so the mental tiredness stealthily expands. Then, of course, throw in a pandemic…

      For me, keeping things small is the best way of getting me started; it’s less likely to bump me up against that exhausted and anxious feeling of overcommitment. I’ll plan to go for a walk around the block, not a hike in the mountains. I’ll try one new recipe, not three in a week. I’ll pull weeds from a teeny area of the garden. Etc. Give it a minute to settle in, but then stop before it’s too much.

    2. AGD*

      Following because I have the same problem (I work in education and love it, but am not great at stepping away from it).

      1. Invisible Fish*

        Isn’t that the big problem?!?! Good ideas come at all times, and then I can’t shut them down! So I meant to be focusing on self care but then I found myself searching for the perfect story to round out a unit!

    3. Fionella*

      I’m a teacher and I empathise. It’s tough. This is what helped me figure out a better balance. I started by figuring out what I wanted to be doing more of. Not what I felt I SHOULD be doing (time with family, exercise, cooking etc) but what I felt I was missing. For me, that was reading, getting outside regularly, and creative writing. Then I set firm boundaries on my time – I didn’t have to do anything in particular, I just wasn’t allowed to do work outside of these set times. And then, I let myself get bored. I think I needed that. It took a while of not doing much to start feeling like I WANTED to do things again. I was so exhausted and burned out that literally couldn’t want to do things. I had to let myself recover from that first.

      Then when I started wanting to do things, I let myself do exactly what I wanted – I bought whatever book I felt like reading, without judging myself. I walked outside for as long or as short a time as I felt like, and refused to feel bad if that was “just” ten minutes. Sometimes I walked to the park, sat for an hour, then walked home. I was outside! That was all that mattered. I wrote until I didn’t want to, and then I stopped. I told myself multiple times a day that “you can do what you want, when you want, and if that’s nothing that’s fine”. It took time to believe it. After a while, I was reading regularly again, walking most days, and writing a few times a week. It became normal, and there were spaces in my day for other things to come in. I started wanting to do other things, so I did them. Gradually, new things became part of daily life too, and I found the balance I’d been missing.

      I’m a better teacher for it too.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think we don’t appreciate boredom enough. Like other negative emotions, it’s unpleasant to experience and so we are driven to change up what we’re doing.

        I think a problem with modern media is that it is so easy to click one more, scroll one more–we don’t let ourselves get bored, and then discover what we could come up with if bored enough.

        1. GermanGirl*

          The good news is you can get bored with modern media too … I’ll go through phases of happily playing a mobile game every free minute or reading every AAM comment or whatever modern media distraction I’m currently on … and after a couple of days or weeks I’ll get bored with it and play/read it less and less … and because I’ve trained myself to not immediately pick up some new online distraction, I’ll then enter that “so bored I’ll come up with something interesting” state.

          And that “something interesting” will mostly cure me of whatever online distraction I just had and I’ll plunge into the “something interesting” for a while until it’s either “done” or entered my daily routine or ended up in the “not that interesting after all” pile.

          And next time I get bored, I might pick up a new online distraction or return to one (like AAM, I keep coming back to this), or sometimes I skip that step and go straight to “something interesting”.

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

      I don’t think there’s anything you should be doing for work-life balance other than feeling well-rested and fulfilled, so if that’s your only reason — you feel like you have to because the internet has told you so — you are allowed to find fulfillment in work; many people do and that’s the balance. But if not, and your identity is largely based on being an educator (totally okay!) you could still cherry pick the aspects of teaching that you love and make that your outside fulfillment without the stress of answering to administrators and parents — so, if you’re creative, create downloadable plans/activites/displays for other educators, or write your own children’s book based on your experiences with the kids or as a teacher…

    5. Person from the Resume*

      I understand somewhat. I’m a planner and I’m not really spontaneous. If I don’t have something planned I’ll often do nothing and feel bad about it. I often end up filling the time listlessly with searching for something interesting on the internet which never leaves me feels good.

      If I know I’m tired and burned out and plan a lazy day or evening, I’ll usually enjoy and appreciate it. But if I was supposed to be doing something (even an undefined something) and don’t do anything I feel worse.

      I counter this by making plans. I have a regular social sports league, a book club, check the calendar and schedule a comedy show with friends. These commitments get me out of the house. Sometimes it’s as small as I didn’t shop or cook over the weekend so I need to do that. I didn’t do anything after work but make and eat the meal I planned on.

      My suggestion is simply to make plans in advance either with other people as a commitment device or just knowing in advance what you plan to do tonight/today so you don’t have to figure that out when you’re tired after work.

      1. TPS reporter*

        Yes to planning! I’m super planned in my work so why not life too? I’ve got my calendar and various notes in areas I want to explore and keep updating (books, movies, arts, travel, new words, recipes, volunteer ideas). A regular fitness regime helps me stay motivated as well, especially when I have
        classes on a schedule. I also schedule different activities ahead of time with friends and family. Actual activities too not just hanging out. Like apple picking, beer tasting, an art class, wildlife tour

      2. ThatGirl*

        Yes, I agree, I even plan to relax sometimes – if my husband is out if town for instance I’ll jot down movies I’ve been wanting to watch that he’s not as interested in and some favorite food I’m in the mood for.

        As for activities… I schedule exercise, massages, make lists on errands I need to run, plans with friends when feasible. The only way to build a routine is to start, but start simple and make sure you have time to rest and recharge too.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Turn it off by beefing up what is going on at home?

      I just watched a TED? talk about boredom. It was more about boredom in marriages but the same theme- not feeling alive.

      What makes us feel alive?
      Trying new things
      Taking trips
      Learning new skills
      Challenging ourselves
      Making new friends
      Volunteering

      A lot of us plan out our careers. That’s great. But we forget to develop a life plan. Where do you wanna be in five years? This isn’t tricky. You probably already know- it’s in those ideas you keep pushing aside and saying “some day”. Some day I will put in a garden, get a pet, repaint the kitchen, go to [far away place], learn [X] language etc. Pull out those Some Day Ideas and figure out which one you will start doing this year.

      If we get ideas and fail to at least try those ideas we can lose a part of ourselves. Hence, the “I want to feel alive again”. Try an idea. That doesn’t work for whatever reason bump to another idea. Go one idea at a time so you can actually see how it fits into your personal life. If the idea goes well, it becomes an established idea then you can pick another idea if you want.

    7. ATX*

      I think the key is finding hobbies so you don’t just sit and binge watch TV! Have any desires to learn a langauge or learn how to play an instrument? What about cleaning the house or organizing? Going to the gym or working out? Going on a walk?

      It’s also good to have routine. For example, Friday afternoons you clean, Monday after work you relax, Tuesday – Thursday you go on a walk after work.

  34. Gladiolus*

    I’m new to having an HSA. Does the administrator of the HSA ever come into play when you’re dealing with things like duplicate bills or bill errors, or do you still deal only with insurance and/or the biller? I’m not quite sure how this extra middleman falls in the process when there are problems.

    1. cat socks*

      In my experience, I’ve used am HSA as a separate account from which to pay health bills. I have money automatically deducted from my paycheck that gets deposited into the HSA. I have a debit card linked to the account. I usually pay my health bills online, so I’ll use the HSA debit card to pay bills. For any issues, I deal directly with insurance or the biller.

    2. Zona the Great*

      Hmm I’m not sure if I’ve understood totally but I’ve had to deal with the HSA card company who rejected a billing because not enough information was present for them, in this case, I dealt with the HSA admin and the care provider/biller. As far as I know, my HSA card company knows nothing of my insurance policy. Now, some HSAs are provided to supplement high cost insurance plans. In those cases, I think you have to show you are in a high cost plan but I think that’s pretty rare or you would know if you’re in that boat.

      1. anonymous73*

        That’s interesting. When I had an HSA it was offered due to my high deductible insurance plan. But it was a separate entity from my health insurance. I determined how much from my paycheck went to it, and my employer added a certain amount each month. I was given a card to use to pay for medical bills and items allowed through the plan. There was never any proof needed. And it wasn’t a “use or lose” each year. In fact, I was able to use it until it was gone, after I no longer had health insurance through my company.

  35. Anonymosity*

    TW: transphobia, racism

    It’s really disheartening to find that someone in your family you loved and respected is actually a huge, defiant TERF. Yes, it’s my sibling. (For the record, I’m a white, cishet female and he’s a white cishet male.)

    All the talking points were there: the false feminism re female athletes being “marginalized,” “Live and let live” immediately countered with “Stay out of my bathroom,” and the refusal to understand why this is wrong, as in “I don’t care how [hormone therapy] works” and “I guess my opinion is bad because it’s different from yours.”

    He’s also described himself as a misanthrope and likes living in very rural areas. I found out the other day he left his family and has been living elsewhere (I’m usually the last to know everything in my family; also, could you make Christmas any more awkward?!). I don’t think this was the reason, as his wife thought her daughter’s racist Mexican couple costume with her boyfriend was “cute.” I don’t know the reason and at this point, I’m not sure I care.

    I have cut bigots who aren’t in my family completely out of my life. Whenever I look at them, I feel disgusted and I have no respect for them. I don’t really want to be around him anymore. You can’t even calmly explain anything because he doesn’t want to hear it. And he thinks white privilege doesn’t exist.

    I feel like throwing up right now. I’m thinking of moving anyway, quite far from where most of my family live, for my own personal reasons. He’s currently living further from where we are now, so I’m not likely to see much of him after the holiday is over. My other sibling is not a bigot, but her tendency to center herself in everything is exhausting. I don’t even want to HAVE a family anymore.

    How am I supposed to handle this in the meantime? How do I deal with it going forward?

    1. Zona the Great*

      Time and distance and lots of looking out for number one. The first things you’ll feel will likely be anger at the gross and hurtful things he said. My advice is dive deep into the other side. Feel-good inclusive movies and books. If there is someone who will let you spew anger into the void in their company, they can help get you through the need to get your feelings out.

      After that, if you want him out of your life in an active way or totally, begin meditating on the image of you launching his boat into the calm waters and watch as he sails into the sunset. Safe and fine but off to his own adventure that doesn’t involve you.

      1. Anonymosity*

        I would rather meditate on having my own adventure that doesn’t involve him.

        There really isn’t anyone in my sphere I can talk to except online. None of my family are informed enough to discuss this, and they’re dysfunctionally non-confrontational. In fact, I’m the outlier in many ways; it’s better for me to get away. I wish it could happen this minute.

        Thank you for your suggestions. I have several books I haven’t gotten to; perhaps I’ll start reading those later. I will also concentrate hard on relocating.

        1. Zona the Great*

          Good luck and stay strong. My suggestion for meditating on your brother exiting your life in that way is to provide you peace and not let the thought of him make you angry. It’s for when he occupies space in your head. Send him away each time.

          I’m trying this now with my dad. He’s a bigoted person unwelcome in my life. He used the N word the last time he was in my home. My partner and potential future children are black. I also have few to talk to about it so I instead say goodbye to him in this way each time an intrusive thought of him arises.

    2. retired2*

      My yoga teacher would say focus on the moment you are in. The past doesn’t exist any more and neither does the future. Just this breath, just this now. Breath. Meditating is often changing your brain wave state to a calmer one and to empty your mind of all the chatter and clutter. I thought this would be hard to do. Then I figured out that people have been doing this for thousands of years and they were not all rocket scientists.

      1. Anonymosity*

        I already meditate regularly; it helps me quite a bit with anxiety and insomnia. Perhaps I should dig out that beginning yoga DVD I have and do that too. Can’t hurt; might help. Or find a boxing gym and punch something!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Family is a launching pad. If we are lucky they get us to adulthood mostly intact.

      A good number of people I know have built their own family out of friends, respected elders, enjoyable younger people.

      And this happens for so many reasons. Bottom line family does not fill all our needs. Notice how I have not even gotten to talking about racism yet. Your setting is a solid example of family just out right failing us. They have become something we do not want to be associated with.

      Go out and find the people you do want to be with and who want to be with you. I am reading this here as you saying, “I have this huge whole in my life.” And you do. One by one collect up new friendships/new relationships and keep them. This is hard-hard stuff but you can work yourself over to a better space.

      My mother was my What Not To Do Guide Book For Life. I got really angry with her, all the while knowing that a) that much anger is not healthy and b) I was becoming yet another angry person just like HER. Her anger ate her insides, I swear. I have never met anyone so filled with anger/hate/bitterness. She was gone by age 62. I will be 62 next year and I have no plan of going anywhere.

      My suggestion is to take all this negative and turn it into po