weekend open thread – February 19-20, 2022

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

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: The Christie Affair, by Nina de Gramont. This is the second novel I’m recommending about the time in 1926 when Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days, claiming on her return to her faithless husband that she didn’t know where she had been. This one is better than the first, although they are both good and apparently I will read an endless quantity of novels about her disappearance.

 I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 1,012 comments… read them below }

  1. rhonda d*

    I could use some cooking suggestions. We have a young relative coming to stay with us who likes “make your own” type meals like tacos where you can choose what to put in them, make your own baked potato bar, chili where you choose your own toppings and spice level. What other meals are there where we can set out a lot of ingredients and let every one make their own?

    1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Pizzas definitely-buy or make personal size crusts, top to taste, and throw in the oven.

      Pancakes sort of. We always add nuts, chocolate chips and fruit to the top of the pancakes after the batter is poured on the griddle, so easy to customize. If you have a couple different syrup options, that also adds variety. (And definitely use the leftovers to make peanut butter and honey sandwiches BTW.) But you can only fit so many pancakes on the pan at one time, so it can take a while to feed a larger crowd.

      1. Dobby is a Free Elf!*

        I use Taste of Home’s baked blueberry pancake recipe (with or without the blueberries) to make pancakes for a crowd fast and easy.

      2. Clisby*

        Re pizzas: I don’t know if any stores are doing salad bars nowadays, but that’s a good way to buy a big variety of pizza toppings relatively cheaply, since they typically charge by the pound.

    2. louvella*

      Sandwiches, grain bowls, nachos (take turns with the microwave or stick everyone’s pans in the oven), sushi burritos

    3. Lurker*

      Some ideas from years of family dinners. Rice bowls. You make a pot of rice, a protein of some kind, teriyaki chicken is a favorite in my house, and different vegetables which you keep separate from each other, like carrots, green beans, onions, sweet peppers, some cooked some raw and then everyone makes up there bowl they way they like it.
      We have also done pasta bowls. You cook a big pot of pasta and then a warm up couple different sauces, and cook a protein or two, and then everyone makes there own bowl the way they like it, a salad usually accompanies this dinner.
      Make your own salad, put out all the stuff for salad, a couple kinds of dressing, lettuce and lots of vegetables, plus a protein or two and let them make there own.

    4. LDN Layabout*

      Breakfast buffet would work, if your family like the components similar to a full English breakfast (and you could switch a lot of those up to breakfast items your family prefers).

      Burgers with a mix of toppings (and lettuce or bun options).

      Salads or salad wraps, instead of pre-mixing ingredients have them all chopped in separate bowls. A few choices of dressing as well. You can extend this to pasta/noodle salads etc.

      Quesadillas can also work.

    5. Green great dragon*

      “Indoor picnic”- set out breads, cheeses, cold meat, sliced raw veg, pork pie, salad. Could also do a hot version with pies, potato wedges, pizza slices.

      Kebabs (the sort on a stick) might work too.

    6. Jen*

      I went to a party where we did make your own sushi once. Now for safety reasons it was mostly precooked ingredients and so not true sushi, but it was still a lot of fun.

    7. Blue Bear*

      Pita sandwiches! Different kinds of hummus and veggies with falafel or a meat as the central ingredient.

    8. Lady Danbury*

      Rice or buddha bowls are my go to for make your own meal prep. They can be done with so many flavor profiles, from Asian to shawarma to Mexican. For Buddha bowls, I’ll sub roasted potatoes (regular or sweet) for the rice, but otherwise the concept is the same. I like to lightly flavor the veggies when I cook them (saute with garlic, roast with light seasoning blend, etc) so that they enhance the flavor but don’t overpower or conflict with other flavors. You can also use a mix of cooked, raw and pickled veggies (for example, pickled onions or banh mi style radish/carrots). Other potential mix ins include cheese (cotija, feta, etc), hummus and nuts. You can also choose to make/buy a complementary sauce or make a saucy protein such as chicken tinga.

    9. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      Look up Danish sandwiches (Smørrebrød, I think). They’re open face with a large variety of toppings. You could do a non-Danish version with more readily-available (and kid or teen friendly) ingredients. We do a lot of open-face sandwich meals, in fact, had a Reuben-ish one last night with Lithuanian rye, a mustard sauce, sauerkraut, good polish sausage slices, and shredded Swiss, baked in the oven to melt the Swiss. As long as you have a sturdy bread (sourdough is a good beginner’s option, or pita bread), you can go as plain or complicated as you like, with any combination that suits your tastes and budget. If it’s cold where you are, I’d recommend the baked melty versions. If it’s warmer, crumbled or finely shredded cheese works.

    10. Kathenus*

      Nachos! I just did this for some friends who came over for the Super Bowl. I make mine with tons of veggies – so I chopped up tomato, carrot, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, olives, sugar snap peas, then had cans of black beans and corn. I have Corelle dishes which can go in the oven. Everyone takes a dish, puts on however many tortillas they want, add toppings, shredded cheese to taste on top – in the oven at 300 for 7 minutes. Serve with salsa, sour cream, guacomole. So good! You can also do meats, I was just hosting vegetarians so didn’t this time. These are based on a ‘kitchen sink nachos’ that a pub I used to live near served – give it a try, all the veggies on nachos are really good.

    11. Llellayena*

      Check out “hot pot.” I think it’s a Chinese meal type based on the fact that my Chinese-heritage friend introduced me to it. A large pot of simmering broth with a bunch of short cook-time, small piece foods like veggies, fish balls, dumplings, etc. Everyone picks what they want, drops it in the pot until it’s cooked the fishes it out again with a slotted spoon to eat.

      1. Indigo a la mode*

        Seconding hot pot, which is popular all over Asia and a great way to get the family together on chilly nights.

        For breakfast, I love crepes for a crowd. Super easy to churn out and customize. Bananas, Nutella, cream cheese, a heated berry mix, sausage, cheddar, and chives – mix and match! (Although…I would not recommend matching sausage and Nutella, but you do you.)

      2. Chili pepper Attitude*

        I came here to say hot pot too!
        If it is made with any raw meats, they should be sliced paper thin.

        1. Jasmine Tea*

          Yes, very thin. Also the meat is kept frozen up til you put it in the pot. Because it is so thin it goes straight from frozen to cooked. Also much more appealing to the people eating. The first time I did this at home I didn’t know this. The raw meat was limp and dripping red juice juice. Kinda icky. So keep it frozen.

    12. Falling Diphthong*

      Soups: Our grocery store has a really good chicken tortilla soup, on which one can put avocados, herbs, crushed chips, cheese, and hot stuff. Black bean soup is also good as a base.

      Bruschetta: This is a regular in our family, though I make the toasts closer to Texas toasts (still some give in the middle). You can look up a ton of bruschetta toppings online. Serve as a pile of toasts with the toppings in bowls. (This is particularly good if you have varying amounts of meat preference.)

    13. Cruciatus*

      Maybe Cincinnati Chili. You can buy cans or packets of the sauce, or make your own (which is basically ground beef cooked in tomato sauce for a while with various spices), but you have spaghetti (or whatever pasta), the sauce, then the add-ons everyone can choose themselves: grated cheese, chopped onions, kidney beans, and at our house: soup crackers. You could probably add other things to add-on as wanted, like chopped garlic, black olives, or sour cream.

      1. Anono-me*

        The Joy of Cooking has a great Cincinnati Chili recipe, that I as a non expert cook don’t find too difficult.

        Additional add ons , hot dogs, buns and/or sourkrout.

    14. moonstone*

      Korean bbq – it’s a bunch of sides (bulgogi, kimchi, veggies etc) and I usually like putting them in lettuce wraps. You can also make rice bowls.

    15. TinaTurner*

      As a former nanny, I’d suggest you also get the child involved in the “cooking” or “creating.” Being involved in it means having an emotional investment in it.

      1. Generic Name*

        +1

        One of the most fun new years eve’s I’ve had in recent memory was making fondue for just me and my son. He was in charge of the slicing and arranging for the dessert course. He had a good time and took a lot of pride in making the presentation look nice.

        1. TinaTurner*

          Yes! That was my point. It’s like getting a child to help WRITE a book and then they can READ it later too. It’s engaging of the emotions and gets them invested. Plus, have you seen those kids on “Chopped” cooking? OMG. I was always aware of how much you can get kids involved in something; they don’t just have to be taught or told stuff, they can be creative and do more than we expect.

    16. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Stir fry ingredients separately and build to taste.
      Hawaiian poké bowls
      Spanish tapas might also go over well.
      Sounds like you’re my kind of host–what fun.
      (Also, just volunteering that mushrooms are an easy thing to cut, for little kids to practice their food-prep skills.)

    17. workswitholdstuff*

      We like a nice ‘ploughmans’ as a family for an easy, tasty dinner. Nice crusty bread(s), a selection of cheeses, maybe some pate for the meat-eaters – ditto some bits of pork pies/scotch eggs

      The vegetarian might have a veggie version of a scotch egg.

      Sometimes we’ll have salad bits, coleslaw etc and some nice crisps. Nice chutneys or relishes to go with too

      Tasty, but quick to pull together.

      1. Ariaflame*

        If it’s not vegan there’s a version which involves the egg being covered in a cheese with some spices mixture before the crumbs that I always liked for scotch eggs.

    18. *daha**

      (I haven’t read the replies, so these might be dupes.)
      –meat fondue
      –oatmeal bar
      –sundae bar
      –kebabs

    19. Pickey Eater*

      Baggie Omelets!
      I put out every possible topping and let everyone pick thier own.
      Eggs
      Toppings (ham, bacon bits, cheese, veggies)
      FREEZER Baggies

      Step 1
      Crack the eggs into a large resealable freezer bag. Press out most of the air, and seal. Shake or squeeze to beat the eggs. Open the bag, and add toppings Squeeze out as much of the air as you can, and seal the bag. Mark outside of the bag with your initial.

      Step 2
      Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place up to 8 bags at a time into the boiling water. Cook for exactly 13 minutes. Open the bag, and let the omelet roll out onto a plate. The omelet should roll out easily.

    20. Artemesia*

      hot pots or raclette grills or other table top grills where you can grill shrimp or meats or veggies — melt cheese etc.

      fondue

      Back in the 70s we used to do hot pots with broth a lot, cooking veggies and meats in broth at the table.

    21. ghost_cat*

      Along with other excellent suggestions, others include Pozole or San Choy Bow. Both pork recipes (although you could substitute chicken or turkey), but lend themselves very well to a base recipe for which the toppings make it a star.

    22. smirkpretty*

      I love these suggestions! Adding crepes to the list. We did a really fun NYE crepe bar this year with my teen son, his dad. and my parents. My son and I took turns at the stove working through a triple batch of simple crepe batter. We put out tons of filling options. Turkey bacon, ham, different cheeses, spinach, mascarpone, sliced berries, Nutella, whipped cream…

    23. Maxie's Mommy*

      Rijstafel, a Danish–Indonesian buffet. Rice with a protein, then veggies. A great way to clean out the fridge. And a great excuse for banana fritters!! Any leftover rice can be made into fried rice.

    24. Admin of Sys*

      (belated response, but maybe folks re-read posts later on)
      I’ve made build your own soup bar to great effect – make a good base vegan tomato soup with beans and seasoning, then have bowls of pasta (gf and other), sauteed peppers, sauteed onions, chicken, and cheese. Folks could mix and match their perfect soup, and I could make one thing instead of having to account for gf, meat free, dairy free, etc.

  2. Aphrodite*

    Tax season! It may not be fun but we can have some fun with it.

    Do you have your paperwork organized so you can toss it into a manila envelope and present it to your tax preparer, or do you frantically search-and-curse for the necessary paperwork? (Or are you compulsively neat and keep a database all year long with each deductible expense categorized, ready to print out when needed?)

    When do you like to file? Are you an early February filer (who wishes it could be done in January) or a “midnight on April 14th” one? Or do you declare your intent to file a few months later, putting it off until you can no longer do so?

    And every year this same thing surprises me: I see stories in the press about all the late filers and especially, those lined up in cars at the post office boxes outside with a postal employee accepting envelopes before midnight. And it gives me a huge laugh.

    Tax preparers and accountants: please regale us with your stories of tax craziness, not the rules and regulations but the clients. Ever had someone dump a brown paper bag of receipts on your desk? Ever had a client audited? Ever been embarrassed at what someone wants you to declare deductible? And how does your tax filing go? Are you early or late with your own; what tax prep habit would you be embarrassed to tell your clients? (Don’t be afraid to tell us, though.) Tell all—because YOU do have stories and we want to hear them.

    For me, I am a really early bird; if I could do it on January 2 I would do so. I like to get it over and done with because then I don’t have to think about it again for eleven months, an almost better benefit than the tax refund itself. This year like past ones, I made the appointment back in November and met with John this past Friday, January 11. He had it ready over the weekend. I went into his office and signed it Monday (January 14) afternoon around 4:00 pm. Yesterday, Thursday, January 17, I got my federal refund directly deposited into my account and the state one was also directly deposited later that day. Immediately after each deposit I transferred the refunds out of checking into my account of choice. So I am ALL DONE!

    How about you?

    1. Eh*

      I’m up in Canada. So The timeline is a bit different. I file the second week in March every year on the dot. Our deadline is April 30.
      We have the option to contribute to our Registered Retirement Saving Plans up to March 1 on 2022 (the first 60 days of the year) and claim it on our 2021 taxes.
      I will do a dry run of my taxes in February with all my data and then evaluate if any additional contributions I can make will have an impact (which help with deductions). If they do, which they usually do for me, I then have to wait for that official receipt to file, which doesn’t come until first week of March. So even at filing in the second week of March I’m the first person I ever know to file, I usually have my money within 4 days of filing too, which I why I keep doing it.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      We wander over to the tax office in the week before the deadline, with our passports, IDs and bank books. We show our IDs, they print out the relevant information for the form, we fill it out (one long form, double sided), and either pay by bank card, or arrange for a direct transfer of a refund. It takes under an hour, including waiting time.

      I will note that I’m not in the US (or American), and the tax system for individual couples or singles is extremely straightforward, with very little need for an expert. There’s one office in town that handles all the foreigners, so that’s where we go. We had an itemized deduction one year, due to several rounds of IVF, and even that wasn’t much more complicated, as all the receipts were already in the system.

      1. Janet Pinkerton*

        This makes me so envious, I’m in the US and the documentation for itemizing (also for IVF) was such a pain like SUCH a pain. There was a spreadsheet, about five different data sources, it was awful.

    3. Dodubln*

      I am a “file as soon as possible” person. My husband and I always get a refund (not a huge amount, we have our withholding set well for federal/state, but refunds are refunds!), so I am on our taxes immediately. I get my W-2 very early in January, and we also get our mortgage interest statement early in January, so all that is left is my husband’s W-2 . Around about Jan. 15th, I am all: “Did you get your W-2? Did you get your W-2?” While I know employers have until 1/31 to get the W-2’s sent out, I am THAT cracked about looking for it way beforehand. Some years it is there early, some years, it is not. As soon as it shows up, I am filing. I also do my brother’s tax return, and I am even faster with that then my mine, his is super simple. I filed his this past year by the first week of January, and when I saw that the IRS wasn’t accepting returns until a few weeks later, I was all bent out of shape. So yeah. I have issues when it comes to taxes. :)

    4. Undine*

      I just got another tax form this week, so no, not a chance I’d be all filed.

      Lately I’ve been in many levels of tax hell. My mother died in 2020 and I had to file her 2019 taxes. I couldn’t find her 2018 taxes in time to get a pin from the IRS so I got a letter saying I had to authenticate myself. It was nearly impossible to get through, and when I did get through the call would drop, and then I found out I had to file a form so they would talk to me and then even once I’d found 2018 tax form they asked a question I couldn’t answer (what were the estimated payments in 2019?). I did finally get authenticated a year after I started trying — and I recently got a letter saying I never filed! I did, but I think it’s been so long that they forgot. So I had to refile. I am still waiting for them to process it.

      For my 2020 taxes, I did find a tax preparer for my mother’s tax returns (one as an individual and one as an estate) but I was so slammed with other paperwork that I filed my own taxes directly. (I think there was something that I could pull together for myself that I couldn’t organize for a tax preparer.) And, as a result of being slammed, I put the amount I’d paid from my W2 on the wrong line and ended up with a 23,000$ tax bill. (Which was taken out of my wages, and was attached to my tax form, but they can’t figure it out.) Again I couldn’t get through to the number, so I wrote a letter to the address on the notice the IRS sent me, saying I disputed the amount. I did get through a few days later, and it sounded like it was under control. Until I got a letter from the IRS threatening me with a lien. Silly me, that address was closed down. The endless trying to get through did finally get me to someone who told me to go ahead and start a payment plan to keep myself out of trouble, and file an amended tax form. Which I have done, but I am still paying on my payment plan while the IRS takes its six months to get to my amended return.

      I also forgot to check the box that said I had health insurance on my state return and got a nastygram from them, but that has been sorted out.

      None of this has been at all funny. The IRS has been so swamped that it has been doing something I have never encountered before. After about four button presses, included the recorded message about the economic stimulus payment, you will get to a point where they will say, “we’re sorry, but due to unusually high call volume, we are unable to take your call.” Click.

      This in the middle of sending out endless death certificates to endless institutions and filling out medallion guarantees and affidavits of personal property and the nightmare that is trying to close an estate during Covid. It was not the IRS where I was crying so hard with frustration and exhaustion that the representative couldn’t understand me, but it could have been.

      Filing US taxes is far more complicated than it needs to be. Many countries figure your tax for you, but the big tax preparers have successfully lobbied to make sure that they will get business. Taxes are the way the government gets paid; a country that makes the process onerous and punitive is a country that is destroying itself.

    5. Five after Midnight*

      PSA – If your income is under $58k and you don’t want/can’t/need help with filing your own Federal and State taxes, find a local VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) office. VITA is an IRS-sponsored program and there is absolutely no cost to the taxpayer. Some offices may help you even if your income is slightly higher than the official limit. You make an appointment or drop your paperwork off and you have your taxes prepared by a tax-knowledgeable volunteer, filed electronically, with refund direct-deposited to your bank account. Did I mention no cost, not a penny?
      There are limits to the complexity they will do, but many people who go to the big chain tax shops (HRBlock, JacksonHewitt) or a local cut-rate dude/dudette with a seasonal shingle will qualify.

      1. ronda*

        I am volunteering in this program thru AARP and had not heard income limits… so I double checked:
        “There are no upper or lower income or age limits for Tax-Aide assistance and there is no requirement to be an AARP member. Each site is staffed by volunteers who are certified by the IRS. They will prepare any federal return that falls within the scope of our volunteer training which includes most items on Form 1040”

        So it is really if you have situations that they dont train us on (own rental properties comes to mind, but there are many)

        other organizations do vita, so may not apply in your area, but if AARP is doing it, the income is not the limiting factor.
        We are mostly scanning peoples documents, but some of our locations are keeping documents while they work on returns… this is a local decision.

      2. Miel*

        Yes! I am volunteering at a local org that does free taxes through VITA. Our limits are $35k individual or $55k family.

        It’s tough because our appointments fill up SUPER fast – you have to go in on the day they open up. I wish we could help more people, because the demand is clearly there!

        There are several other high quality free tax prep options out there, including Free File, which is free access to many different tax prep software packages. (It is a well kept secret by Big Tax, but it’s real and legit!)

    6. The Other Dawn*

      I was always an early filer and did my own taxes, whether it was paper or tax software. I loved getting it done and then getting a nice refund. When we bought another house and rented out the old one in 2014, we started doing a combo of the tax software with tax expert review. I found the rental property items, like depreciation, to be really confusing and just couldn’t deal with it. During those years we put it off as long as possible because we didn’t want to deal with it, knowing we’d be paying yet again. Now that the old house is sold–thankfully we were able to get the non-paying tenants out and the house sold before the pandemic hit (closing was two weeks prior) and the moratorium on evictions–we’re back to filing our own taxes. I was thrilled this year to do just a plain old 1040 with itemized deductions all by myself, file it by February 1, and have the small refund in our account a week later.

      As for organization, I usually toss receipts for donations of purchased items into a desk drawer. I track my volunteering mileage in a spreadsheet. I keep any email receipts from monetary donations in a Donations folder within my email program, labeled by year. All the other stuff, like payment of car taxes, 1098s, and other things I download when available and save to my Taxes folder (by year) on my computer. Then I save my taxes to that same folder once they’re done. Any paper forms or documentation I have goes into my filing cabinet. I don’t print anything out–that’s just stuff I get by mail, paper receipts, etc.

      I have to say, it was a wonderful feeling to do my own taxes and actually get money back this year. It was only a few hundred dollars, but it sure beat having to pay (usually a lot) every year for eight years!

    7. Batgirl*

      Seriously, what is tax season? In my country only certain people would do taxes, but Americans seem to use this term like it affects everybody? Am I getting that right and is there money to be made that way or something? Google is not much help!

      1. Jules the First*

        Yep. Everyone in America files taxes. Heck, if you’re an American living and working overseas, you *still* have to file American taxes. The IRS is hands down the scariest government institution (though if you can get through to a human being they can be surprisingly warm and helpful!)

        1. Golden*

          Do they have humans there though? I still haven’t gotten my 2020 return and cannot get ahold of anyone (either at the national or my local office level) for anything.

      2. IT Manager*

        We Americans have a ridiculously complicated, required tax filing requirement each year. And yes, almost everyone has to file, the threshold is ridiculously low – $12,000, far below poverty level (or just $1,000 on “unearned income”).

        You don’t make money on it, the question is whether you can avoid paying a service or an accountant to do the paperwork. And whether you can avoid losing money in penalties or failing to get back taxes you overpaid. Note that the law is you must pay the taxes at the time you earn the income, so this is not a *payment* of taxes, but paperwork to prove you did/did not pay the required taxes.

        The challenge is, it’s complicated and the penalties if you get it wrong are very severe. So, many people just pay someone else or an online service to do the actual paperwork forms so they have less likelihood of getting in trouble. And even then just getting the paperwork together is complicated.

        Accountants call it tax season because workers get all the paperwork in January and by April, taxes must be all filed. So that is their busy season.

        The rest of us call it tax season because that’s the time of year we spend stressing about taxes, and filing taxes, and getting all the right forms, and whether we’re going to have an unexpected tax bill etc.

        As others point out up thread – it’s all so unnecessary …. The government gets all the same forms we do, so they can tell what we owe….. so WHY ARE WE MAILING IT ALL BACK IN AGAIN? There’s only downside: You owe what you owe no matter what your own calculations say, but if you get it wrong (or late), now you owe quite high penalties too.

        (Yes I know deductions and things make it required for some people to mail things in but we could just let THOSE people choose to submit extra proof to lower their tax bill)

        1. 653-CXK*

          The tax system is complicated and captive by design to discourage unscrupulous tax filers from underreporting their gains/wealth to avoid a huge tax bite.

          Back in the 1940s and 1950s, where the highest tax rate was 94% for the highest earners, the wealthy turned to tax shelters and other dodges to attempt to avoid a huge tax bill. That got squelched with the Alternative Minimum Tax act of 1969, where a few of the wealthy had a zero tax liability. With the AMT, you have to calculate taxes twice (ordinary, then AMT), and whichever tax amount is higher is the amount you must pay.

          1. IT Manager*

            Agree that anyone who is trying to lower their tax burden should show proof, and I don’t care if it’s complicated for them.

            But for most Americans, we have 1 paycheck, taxes are withheld, all we are doing is adding up the same numbers the IRS already knows (income, withholding, the 2 dollars I earned on my savings account) and sending that *back* in with enormous effort.

            Those folks shouldn’t have to do anything! Even folks with a simple mortgage deduction could easily have that calculated by the irs, they get the mortgage records too. (Although don’t get me started on the impact to generations of Black Americans that all our government subsidies have gone to mortgages that Black Americans have been redlined or defrauded or literally excluded from.)

            1. 653-CXK*

              They’ve been trying to get tax simplification on the books for eons – with the possibility of the IRS sending a post card or letter (“Here’s what you owe/here’s what we’re refunding”) to settle annual taxes. That great simplification would render tax preparation (itself a multi-billion dollar business) unnecessary, and the tax prep lobby isn’t going to give up on that business easily.

              1. IT Manager*

                Yep. Frustrating.

                For all I *really* hated all the policy parts of Herman Cain’s proposed 999 tax plan which shifted most of the tax burden to the middle and lower classes … he did have the right message about simplifying taxes.

      3. londonedit*

        I’m so glad I’m not self-employed anymore, doing a bloody tax return every year was the worst bit! Luckily it’s all online now but it’s a pain in the arse. In the UK most people pay taxes directly out of their gross salary every month (it’s deducted as what’s called PAYE or Pay As You Earn, so you never see the money except for the breakdown on your pay slip – National Insurance is also deducted at source which is what pays for social security things like benefits and state pension and goes towards funding the NHS). You only have to do a tax return if you’re self-employed, a company director or in other situations like if you have incomes from various sources etc. Thankfully!

        1. Buni*

          When I started earning a little self-employed income on top of my ‘regular’ (PAYE) job I faithfully filed a self-employed return three years in a row. Every single time it was under the taxable threshhold, and eventually they wrote to me basically saying we’re happy for you, now can you please stop wasting all our time…

      4. fposte*

        In the US, most people have income taxes withheld from their paycheck throughout the year. The general concept is that you owe tax as you earn the money.

        The annual tax filing is the literal and figurative accounting–did you withhold more than you earned? Did you not withhold enough and still owe some tax? Because, as IT Manager notes, the tax system is Byzantine in its complexity (we’re just talking federal here, but there’s also state income tax–which varies wildly by state), so the full reckoning of what you might be able to deduct only happens at the end of the tax year. While there’s at least one practical thing (buying I-Bonds) you can do with your refund, mostly it’s a psychological bump, so a lot of people get excited about getting refunds–whereas a lot of other people get excited that they’re not trying to claw money they overpaid back.

        Throwing in for free–the “return” is the accounting document you file and the “refund” is when the IRS pays you back your overage, but people will sometimes use them interchangeably because they’re so similar.

      5. Girasol*

        In the US, in January and February, banks and employers send pages of information about how much you made last year. You get two stacks of blank tax forms from the government, federal and state, and two thick instruction books. You enter the income numbers into the forms and add this here and subtract that there and do this other worksheet to see if you need to multiply by 0.12 or fill out Schedule X or Form 4532, and did you or did you not have any income resulting from ? It’s sort of like your final exam after the last several semesters of adulting. An accountant or software will make it only slightly easier. At the end of all the calculation is a number that is plus – you’ll get a check, yay! Or it’s minus – you’ll send a check! boo! – by April 15, a date more familiar to Americans than the date of Christmas. That’s tax season. (Trivia: a few years back a San Francisco newspaper took the tax forms for an average family to 50 local accountants to calculate the tax. They got 50 different results. They took the forms to the federal tax office and got the 51st different answer.)

    8. Asenath*

      I’m in Canada, so things might be slightly different from in the US. I tend to be a bit obsessive both about keeping records and filing as early as I can, which is never as early as I would like because this is a task I want done and out of the way NOW. For most of my tax-paying years, I did my taxes myself, and they were usually very straightforward. Collect the forms, fill in the tax return, submit (online when that became an option), done. And then apply for a reassessment because I’d filed before one or two tardy forms arrived, as often as not. One year I hired a tax accountant when things were a bit more complicated than usual. I decided that was a luxury worth paying for. Most of my forms are mailed, or, more often, downloaded around this time of year or a bit later, but there are always some I get throughout the year. They all get listed on a spreadsheet and put in a drawer as soon as they arrive, and when I think they’re all in – as I said, there’s usually one or two that comes in late – I sort them by type and source and send them in to the accountant. He calls me to come in and go over the result and sign everything; then it’s submitted electronically.

      1. Yay, I’m a Llama Again!*

        I’m so glad my tax is taken automatically and I don’t have to do anything! American system sounds so complicated.

        1. Asenath*

          You get used to it, an familiarity helps. And it does give you your own personal check that your employer did the deductions correctly, and that the things the employer knows nothing about are entered correctly, like dependents, charity, education, allowances for living in remote areas, eligibility for other subsidies. Canadian, not American, although I think there are a lot of similarities. If all your income is from your salary (or social assistance), the returns are very straightforward in my experience, and if for some reason you are confused, there are places you can go for help. I only stopped doing my own when my life and finances got a bit complicated, and I didn’t want to put the effort into learning how to do the new stuff I needed.

    9. Hotdog not dog*

      I’m on Team Early, but my husband is Last Minute Larry, so we are currently enjoying Bickering Season. After almost 30 years, you would think we could get this coordinated! The end result is that we usually end up filing in late March or early April. It’s a true compromise in that neither of us is quite happy but at least it’s done.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        #EveryIssueInMyHouse
        #AllSeasonsAreBickeringSeason

        Taxes?
        Leaving for the airport?
        Getting rid of the boxes of receipts from stepdaughter’s paid-off college loans – stepdaughter who graduated from college 22 years ago?
        Donating Mom Jeans from the 90s?

        Everything.

        1. VegetarianRaccoon*

          hey, the young people are all over mom jeans from the 90s, they’re vintage now. If you do donate them you’ll probably make some young thrifters very happy!

      2. the cat's ass*

        this made me laugh SO hard, because it’s the same thing at my house! We actually got sacked by our tax person a couple of years back for a habit of extensions. At this point, late larry is in charge (I do a lot of other things so i’m not taking this on, but if we’re filed by July instead of October, i count that as a win.

    10. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I’m an early bird when it comes to taxes; I’m dropping everything off this morning. I use a tax preparer for peace of mind because I get stocks from my company and occasionally sell them, and don’t want to deal with it. Otherwise my taxes are straightforward, only my mortgage, standard deductions, no additional income, etc. My tax preparer sends a helpful packet each January that includes a checklist of all the documents I need, so I put items in a folder as I receive them and check them off the list. I usually get a couple thousand for a refund, but I changed jobs with a substantial raise last January, so I’m not sure if I will get a refund this year (I am having more taxes taken out, but who knows if it’s enough).

    11. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I file my own (and by association my husband’s; we keep our finances separate but file jointly and decide together what to do with any refund, it usually goes into household projects). I used to be an early bird, but now I have more stuff I have to account for so I wait until March to make sure all the various forms have come in. And I keep having to file on paper, because every year for the last three years when I try to e-file, our return is rejected because my husband’s AGI “doesn’t match” last year’s even though we’re putting it in off last year’s tax transcript we get FROM THE IRS. (And they never have any issue with MY AGI, and as mentioned, we file jointly so they should be the same number. He’s called the IRS about it and they basically blame the e-filers, they “can’t see any discrepancies anywhere,” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )

      So I e-file mid-March, it fails, I print it all and send off the everything in a certified mailing in the second half of March, and our refunds have been getting direct-deposited as a total surprise somewhere in like, July.

      My only “entertaining” tax story is many many years ago, I got my refund in mid January and (unrelated) happened to be going to Vegas the following weekend. While there, I won a $2500 jackpot in a penny slot machine … only by the time the next year’s tax season rolled around, I had totally forgotten about/lost the tax form they gave me about my jackpot, so I didn’t report it as income on my taxes. Ladies and gents, the IRS DOES pay attention to that stuff, because they sent me a dunning letter two years later reminding me that my jackpot was taxable and calling the tax due with interest. (Totally deserved.)

    12. Angstrom*

      We stuff documents in a big envelope all year, use TurboTax online, file as early as possible. The standard deduction is always better for us than itemizing so the process is fairly painless.

    13. E. Chauvelin*

      I generally error on the side of earlier, but it always takes a little bit for various forms to trickle in from banks and such. Plus my husband is the professional IT person in the house so I let him take care of getting our tax prep software updated for the year. I think we’ve gotten everything we need on my side so I’ll probably ask him at the beginning of March when he thinks we can do taxes if he hasn’t brought it up first.

    14. Sloanicota*

      My taxes are a nightmare (multiple W2 and 1099 jobs throughout the year, quarterly estimates to reconcile, multiple different types of deductions and credits) and I do them myself. I wish I could do them in January but I don’t get statements on some of my investments until February, so I tackle it then and still sometimes end up scrambling. I tend to do them a few times over in different platforms before free filing; if the answers come out pretty close, I feel confident. It’s amazing what an undertaking it is, considering the government already has most of this information anyway.

    15. Loves libraries*

      I know there’s a time lag between Australia and the US, but you do mean February right? “Yesterday, Thursday, January 17” is meant to be February 17? Just checking I haven’t entered a COVID-19 induced wormhole…

    16. Ontariariario*

      I’m Canadian. I used to do it all on paper before the pandemic because it was relatively easy. I didn’t always file by the end of April deadline because I am always owed a little bit of money, and we can file whenever we want in Canada if we get a refund.

      I don’t have a printer at home or easy access to my T4 form on my work network due to a technical problem, so I finally set up my account with CRA. Large employers send in the T4s and banks submit their RRSP and TFSA and all other tax-related forms. I have a simple life, with a salary from a large employer so all my paperwork is filed with CRA, and the lead tax form company doesn’t charge any fee if my taxes are easy. I can do my taxes quickly, anytime. I try to be early, but if life is busy then I don’t stress about it and I file later

    17. Love to WFH*

      I think that part of the reason that US taxes are so complicated is because we enact economic policy through individual taxes.

      For example, instead of providing supplemental income to people who need it, we make them file taxes to get a credit.

      To promote good energy policy, we don’t just support things directly, but instead individuals have to file taxes and get deductions or credits for what they paid for solar panels or an electric car.

    18. Falling Diphthong*

      I shall post my freelance tax rant here:

      A company I worked for last year sent me an email this week that my 1099 was available by clicking a link. (Rather than mailed in a paper envelope like a normal business, but fine–email, secure web link, whatever.) Even though I have other records of what I’ve earned, I figured I’d print it out and stick it in the envelope of tax documents to be thorough. I spent an annoying period of time setting up a password and security on my new unwanted Intuit account they made for me (linked to my landline phone) and then hunting through all of the menus (I think I finally found the form under “clients”) while knocking down offers for 30 day free trials and managing my expenses and a ton of other stuff. Eventually unveiled a page that looks nothing like an official 1099 and has just had two numbers on a white background–the amount this company paid me and a wild stab at what I might owe in federal tax on it, when they know nothing about my finances.

      I was inclined not to work for this company again, and this newest iteration of “We’ve got a cool new system, so efficient… oh, it isn’t working? Huh. Well” just underscores that.

      1. pandq*

        yeah, turning over all that info about myself is irritating – there are a few places that do this but I think Intuit is the worse. I get 1099’s from most of my clients. One year I decided I wasn’t going to do the online version and I got paper forms from whatever system they were using instead.

    19. fposte*

      I find it so much easier now that nearly everything’s gone digital; even the things that haven’t can just be photographed on my phone. I’ve been using an accountant for a few years, mostly out of laziness, so it’s just uploading documents to his fileserver. When he retires I’ll switch to TurboTax, since mine aren’t that complicated these days. I like to get things in early but I just got the last major 1099. Last I heard the IRS hadn’t even finalized some of the forms for this year yet, so while I like to cross it off the list they’re obviously not waiting with bated breath.

      I overpaid federally, but I will probably apply the overage to future years rather than requesting a refund, given how backed up the IRS is. OTOH, my state return is going to be very different this year, since the state doesn’t tax my pension–I have always owed in the past but may have overpaid this year.

    20. RagingADHD*

      I always think I have everything together, but wind up doing search and curse.

      On the flip side, I always think it will take forever to run my self-employment reports, but I set them up pretty well a few years ago, and its now much quicker than I expect.

    21. Texan In Exile*

      Related: TurboTax 2001 – what on earth about me and my modest income made you think that a question like, “Do you own a racehorse?” was necessary?

      No. I did not and do not own a racehorse.

    22. DistantAudacity*

      In Norway, so different timelime. I get a text message, and an email, from the Tax Authority in early April saying my tax statement is ready and to please check it carefully.

      If I need to make any amendments or fill out additional forms I have until the end of April to do so, if not, I don’t have to do anything. I usually don’t. This is all online; no paper needed.

      Even though the Tax Authority collects all the data (banks, employers, stock trading entities, charitities etc submit all relevant end of year information) and there is very little to do for the average citizen, it is still my responsibiliy in case of errors.

    23. Clisby*

      Each year, I put a big manila envelope on the table where we sort the mail. Throughout the year, anything related to taxes (charitable donations, property tax records, and of course eventually W2 forms and 1099 forms) goes there. We just got what I think is the last of the 1099s so I’m about to go through it and see if I’m missing anything. We use a CPA – it’s one of our luxuries.

    24. GoryDetails*

      I’m in the US, and have relied on Turbotax for many years now – aside from a couple of years when I was wrapping up my late parents’ estate and had to get an accountant. Now that I’m retired, my taxes are pretty simple, and I always intend to do them as soon as the tax documents pop up on my accounts – but I do procrastinate a bit… The documents are stashed in their own special place on my desk (the paper copies) or downloaded into the “this-year-tax-docs” folder on my computer (the online ones), and once I get started it usually takes me less than an hour, including finding the passwords from last year {wry grin}.

    25. Cj*

      As a tax preparer, I absolutely can’t understand the delay of some people. They might just have wages in a few investments, they get the forms by the end of January, and all they have to do is put them in an envelope and bring them iin. But no. They wait until the last day, and apparently think they are the only ones that do that and theirs is the only return we have to do. Most of the times I get refunds, which makes this even more of a head-scratcher.

      I did used to have a client brought us a paper bag of all his receipts for the year. He paid for it big time. He was older, and when he got remarried, his wife put a stop to that and was way more organized.

      1. pandq*

        I’m an enrolled agent tax preparer and also wonder why people wait. I now only prepare non-profit returns and folks have 10 months to file – why not file 4, 5 or 6 months after the close of your year? But no……. let’s wait until the last month!

      2. Clisby*

        We just got what I think are the last of our 1099s yesterday. It doesn’t all come in by the end of January. On the other hand, we don’t wait until the last minute, either.

      3. HBJ*

        Our accountant doesn’t really care if you just give them a big box of receipts. The first year we used them, we were asking how they wanted data, what we needed to give them. I think we asked if we just give them our receipts, and they said, “you can, but it’s going to be expensive because it’ll take us more time to go through it all.”

        1. Cj*

          If people are going to do that, and are willing to pay for it, fine. But why can’t they bring in the jan – nov receipts at the beginning of December when we have time to do it ? Then we’d only have to go through the December receipts during the busy season. And yes, we ask them to do this, but they never do.

      4. jtr*

        OMG, Cj, one year I had a business owner client who brought me all his receipts in a 25 pound DOG FOOD BAG!! Reduce, reuse, I guess…..

    26. RussianInTexas*

      I get all documents downloaded once the various financial institutions tell me they are ready. This year one of the brokerage firms was rather late with one of the accounts, February 12. My W2 have never came as early as January 2, they always wait for as late as they are allowed!
      I normally get a return, so I file once I get everything. I do my own taxes via one of the major software, my taxes are fairly simple. W-2, few 1099s from the bank, 401k, IRA, HSA form, done. Take half an hour to an hour. No state taxes, no mortgage, no itemizing, no dependants, etc.

    27. Albertinian*

      Me filing my taxes is a boring story. Better ones: the millionaire who used to drop off his receipts in a USED KFC CONTAINER! Or the clients who use chocolate boxes and get your hopes up that they have a gift for the office? The ones who showed up on April 30 (Canadian filing deadline, we’re nit allowed extensions) at 5 pm and asked for an accountant, and I’d have to run around funding one who wasn’t already “celebrating the end of tax season” in the staff cafeteria and was capable of running it through the system…or the lawyers who’d show up with a case of beer and a box of wine bottles when they picked up their returns? I was a receptionist- tax season was wild and I loved it.

    28. Enough*

      For the forms – When all the paperwork comes in I do the initial draft. My husband takes that and checks it and when we are both agreed on the numbers he fills out the final. We still mail and did that this past Thursday. (I also do my daughter’s and sent hers out at the same time).
      As for supporting documents. Have a manila envelope marked Taxes (year). 2022 is a ready and already has it’s first item. We place documents in it as the year goes on (tax receipts, charitable contribution acknowledgements, etc). When we are finished copies of all the tax return forms (state, local, federal), tax instructions, supporting documents are put in the envelope and it’s filed away. My husband also puts in his budget records for the year in there. While you don’t need to keep this forever we have records going back to before we got married.

    29. Rara Avis*

      For the past few years I’ve still been waiting on tax documents well past January 31 (my husband’s former employer had our address wrong) so early hasn’t been an option. There have been frantic searches for documents some years, but we don’t itemize deductions anymore which makes it much simpler.

    30. Lady Alys*

      I too would file on January 2 if I could, but we don’t get some documents until February, alas. I used to file them myself, but started hiring it out when we had to deal with my mother’s estate, and just kept going back.

      The preparer made a mistake in 2018, and we’ve been going back and forth with the IRS since then (even though we filed an amended return after the first IRS letter and paid a boatload of penalty $$). I am *so* bitter about them right now – I get that there is a pandemic, and the IRS people are all working from home just like the rest of us, but seriously could we be allowed to leave a message?

      And the absolute icing on the s**t cake is the deliberate slowdown in service times of the US Postal Service, which allows the IRS to ignore my calls and then send me a dire warning letter with action required 4 weeks after date on the letter, that I don’t even receive for 3 weeks.

      I should be allowed a special deduction to account for the stress this has caused me for the past two years.

    31. Girasol*

      I get the worky part over with as soon as I can. I used to do it all myself until the IRS sent me a letter saying, “Your taxes from several years ago were figured wrong. You owe $20,000. Pay up.” How could I possibly owe such a huge part of a year’s salary?? Their reasoning was obscure so I panicked and got an accountant. He proved that they were wrong and they owed me $500. I owed him $500 for doing it, and in the end I had enough left over for coffee to celebrate. Now he sends a 20 page worksheet to remind me of all the forms I need to find and all the deductions I might have forgotten. Filling that out and hunting down all the forms is nasty enough, so I aim to get it over with February 15. The accountant costs but he’ll handle any letters from the IRS, and the peace of mind is priceless. If I owe I send the check at the last minute, so as to get the interest on that money for a few more months.

      1. Generic Name*

        That’s terrible! Last year my husband received a letter from the IRS saying he miscalculated his independent contractor taxes from 3 years prior and owed them money. The amount? $41. We just wrote a check, but come on!

    32. University Schlep*

      I do my own, and I used to do it the day I got everything, but now February is my busiest work month.

      So now I tend to squeeze in a little bit at a time until I have a weekend or weeknight I just plow through the rest. I tend to keep things pretty simple. I was going to do it this weekend, but I am still waiting on one brokerage statement.

    33. Chaordic One*

      The hassle for me is locating the pathetically low amount of interest that I earn on my savings and checking accounts. It’s not enough that the bank will send me any documentation (so it must be under $20.00 or so). But I worry about getting penalized if I don’t report it. I might have some interest from a couple of accounts that I closed earlier this hear when I moved. I did everything online and now, since my accounts are closed, I can’t access any info on them. I’m going to try to call the bank and see if they can send me anything or tell me anything over the phone. After I actually get the information I need, I find it fairly easy to fill out the actual return.

    34. Generic Name*

      I’m an early filer. I’m trying to get all my info to the accountant now, but my 1098 from my brokerage account isn’t available, for some reason. Kind of annoying.

    35. Dancing Otter*

      I run the calculations in early February, as soon as I have all the information. I could have filed last week. If I owe money, I’ll wait to submit until the due date; but if they owe me, sooner is better. Free File on the IRS website, easy peasy.
      Then I go to the state department of revenue website and rediscover words I never use any other time of year.
      You are required to attach schedule B from your federal return. Click this link. Crash!
      You must input all the data from every 1099 and W-2. Click this link. Crash!
      And every time it crashes, it wipes out everything you already input, because the SAVE DRAFT button also crashes the page.
      I hate, loathe and despise the state tax website with the fire of a thousand suns. (Which is where their servers should be launched.) I suspect it’s optimized for a discontinued version of Internet Explorer, probably DOS-based. Or maybe they have mouse droppings in the tape drive. Grrrrr…
      But the amended state return I filed on paper for 2019, for which I received my refund last July, still isn’t showing on my account record. So while it would be so much easier to just print the forms, fill them out, and attach paper copies, I am steeling my nerves for another assault on the website soon.
      Maybe it won’t have as much traffic at 2:00 in the morning, and will be less likely to crash?

    36. HBJ*

      We were always late filers, oftentimes midnight on April 14, including since we started using an accountant about three years ago. But it’s so stressful (they oftentimes had to file an extension for us). This year, we had everything to the accountant by late Jan., and I’m so glad we did. They’re already done with us, and we’re just waiting for the refund.

    37. Sundial*

      I am unable to request an amended W-2 until March and it is making me crazy! My company is so slow and dysfunctional, yet they sell cutting-edge tech. Sigh.

    38. Piano Girl*

      We always file an extension based on a preliminary estimate that I send to our accountant. There are a series of returns that he needs to file before he can prepare our return, based on the numbers I put together hopefully sometime during the summer. Even though I am an accountant, it is difficult for me to follow everything through to the actual return because it is so complicated. I try to make my husband go through our return with me every year before we file, which is always entertaining.
      My dad passed away during tax season a couple of years ago, do I flew up to stay with my mom. While there, I suggested that we get her return started. It was so nice to find my dad’s tax files he always put together, and find he had carefully filed away all the forms he had received before he passed. Just another example of how organized and thoughtful he was.

  3. All Hail Queen Sally*

    A friend and I are putting together a display about the color red for an upcoming fiber art (needlework) festival and thought we would include expressions that use the word red in them such as “red flags” (warning signs), “red tape” (government bureaucracy), “in the red” (to be in debt), “red faced” (to be embarrassed), and “red handed” (to be caught in the act of something), etc. I am wondering if people know of other expressions and especially if people in other (non US) countries use similar expressions.

      1. Angstrom*

        “Red-eye” cheap alcohol
        “Red-eye special” or “red-eye express” early flight
        “Seeing red” angry
        “Redlined” or “at redline” as fast as it will go
        “Red hot”
        “Red ripe”

        1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          I think of “red-eye” as a flight in the middle of the night…ie. she took a red-eye from Los Angeles to New York and arrived at 6:00 am. Never heard it used with “express” or “special” but I would still know what was meant. Haven’t run across it used to describe cheap alcohol.

          1. Anono-me*

            ‘Red Eye’ is a drink made from everclear, sugar, cherry flavoring and few other ingredients. You may have also heard it called ‘wedding whiskey’ (because it and ‘apple pie’ are shots traditionally served at Miderstern USA weddings.) The wedding versions are usually not cheap, although they are cheap ways to get drunk due to the potency; but if you aren’t making it for guests, I suppose you could get cheap ingredients.

            Red Shirt. Either a high school or college sports expression referring to deferred eligibility or a Star Trek originating reference to a character (usuually unnamed) whose purpose is to have a tragic plot advancing death.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      Hmmm. American here, and native English speaker. How about “red ink” (signifying either lots of editing, or lots of financial trouble); “red diaper baby” (child of Communist parents, born circa 1930-1960 [?]); Nature “red in tooth and claw” (European or English poet, 18th or 19th century); “Red-light district” (place where sex workers meet customers); “like waving a red flag in front of a bull” (provoking someone to anger); “red-faced” or “Wow, was my face red!” (embarassed, or caught in the act of misbehaving); “red-hot” to indicate spiciness or extreme physical attractiveness; or “redbirds” (another way to refer to sports teams named Cardinals)?

      If any of your needlework pieces show, say, rebellion, you could have some fun with puns such as “read them the riot act.” Ditto references to “reddit” if any needlework items might elicit a lot of discussion. Ditto references to having read something, if any needlework items refer to books or other printed material.

      Other random thoughts:
      – Mid-century American advertisements for the electric company sometimes featured a character called Reddy Kilowatt.
      – History includes several red-headed kings and explorers who were known as Erik (or whomever) the Red.
      – Stendahl wrote a novel titled “The Red and the Black.”
      – American musicians, politicians, editorial writers, and cultural critics like to refer to “the red, white, and blue” when trying to evoke or examine patriotic fervor.

      That’s all I got! I’m sure that other commenters will think of additional items. Good luck with the display.

        1. Jean (just Jean)*

          Verry early 60s here. My knowledge of Reddy Kilowatt is from some secondary source(s) rather than from direct experience/memory.
          I’ve never heard of Freddy Flame. Did he work for the local gas company? Note to self: File for next after-midnight web search (instead of, you know, going to bed like an intelligent human being) :-P

    2. Pennyworth*

      roll out the red carpet, red herring, red letter day, give something a red-hot go, in the red (in debt), red rag to a bull

    3. A.N. O'Nyme*

      I don’t know if this exists in English, but in Dutch we also have the expression “a story’s red thread” (“de rode draad van het verhaal”), which refers to the central theme/recurring element of a story which ties together all the elements. It can be something physical like a certain items or person (say, for example, a collection of stories about people visiting a certain museum and all the stuff that happens to them there), but also something intangible like the goal the characters try to achieve or their way of looking at life.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        So for example, in Allison’s book recommendation this week the red thread would be Agatha Christie’s disappearance.

      2. All Hail Queen Sally*

        Thank you! This is exactly what I was looking for. (I lived in the Netherlands for three years in the early 1980’s but never heard this expression.)

      3. Janne*

        I also wonder if “rode oortjes” (red ears) is also used for excitement in English. In Dutch we mostly use it for things that are erotic. Bit of a combination of excitement and shame, I think. I always assumed it’s used in English too because Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter books often gets red ears when he’s angry or embarrassed.

        1. Janne*

          Another Dutch expression that comes to mind is “Rood en groen is boerenfatsoen” (red and green is farmer’s fashion, liberally translated) which my dad always says when someone is wearing both red and green. It’s not a compliment.

      4. K*

        Same in Russian, “[story”s] read thread means the same. I’m now wondering if this idiom was borrowed from Western European literature.

        1. Imtheone*

          In English, we talk about the thread of the story, as the main points or plot development, but this thread doesn’t have a color.

    4. I take tea*

      It’s probably too gory for this purpose, but a Swedish slang expression for menstruation is red river.

      1. All Hail Queen Sally*

        Since women are the primary visitors to this exhibit, I plan to include this! Could you give me the Swedish words for this expression and also your other expressions below? Thanks!

        1. Rekha3.14*

          We say “red and green should never be seen” (the together is implied). Unless it’s Christmas, of course! I’ve never heard of it being in reference to farmers in English before, but maybe it has the same origins?

        2. Virginia Plain*

          If you are expecting any British guests, a phrase occasionally used here is “Arsenal are playing at home” – Arsenal being a popular football team whose strip is red.

          Other Brit-specific ones – Manchester United (another popular football team) are nicknamed the Red Devils.

          Tabloid newspapers are often referred to as the red-tops (their title banner is often red).

          Less Brit specific – has anyone mentioned seeing red, or the red mist? Or like a red rag to a bull?

          Slight tangent: I only recently found out that some British people, if they hear the tune Oh Christmas Tree (o tannenbaum) they think of the anthem of the Labour Party…

    5. I take tea*

      Also in Swedish:

      Some expressions connected to hurry, for example “I’ll be there in two red seconds”.

      If you are broke, you don’t have a red cent (or a red sausage cent, don’t know why)

      German measels are called Red dog.

      1. Kirsten*

        In Danish it is “not having a red shrimp”. “Har ikke en rød reje.” But I think it is the appeal of the two r’s in a row.

        1. I take tea*

          Fun, in Swedish it’s actually ett rött öre, so it’s the similar vowel instead. You have the double r’s in “i rödaste rappet”, which means immidiately. (Impossible to translate, it means something like in the reddest of quick).

          1. Kirsten*

            Ooh, you saying “öre” reminds me of another, similar expression in Danish. “Har ikke en flad femøre”. “Not having a flat five cent”. It means exactly the same but here it is two f’s instead. Very old expression as the five cent/øre disappeared years ago; the 50 øre is the smallest coin nowadays.

            Interesting play of words!

            Danish also has “at ryge op i det røde felt” – to get very angry very quickly. I don’t know if English has something similar, basically “to enter the red part of a meter/on a blood pressure monitor”.

      2. I take tea*

        “I’ll be there in two red seconds”
        “Jag är där om två röda sekunder”

        Also “i rödaste rappet” = immidiately

        I’m broke=
        Jag har inte ett rött öre / ett rött korvöre

        German measels or Rubella =Röda hund

    6. Jen Erik*

      I’m now wistfully remembering that my dad used to sing “We’ll keep the red flag flying here…” on the rare occasions he got mildly tiddly.

      No local expressions I can think off: we do talk about redding things out e.g. “I’m going to redd out that cupboard” – like spring cleaning, but not just in spring – but I don’t think that’s colour related.

      It sounds like a really interesting idea for a display.

      1. Bethlam*

        Ahh, if you use “redd up/redd out, we might be neighbors! I remember the first time I got the “you’re going to what?” after using that term.

        1. Jen Erik*

          I’m from N. Ireland – it’s always interesting to see where words in common pop up. (I worked with two girls from New Zealand, and we shared ‘slater’ which the English would call ‘woodlouse’ and ‘scallions’ rather than ‘spring onions’.)

      2. fposte*

        Oh, my mother would say “redd up”–she got that from a college friend and loved it. I think it’s from “ready.”

        1. All Hail Queen Sally*

          I grew up in the Midwest and we would say this to mean clearing off the table after dinner. I had forgotten–thanks!

            1. fposte*

              I believe that’s where my mother’s friend was from, but she herself was a Midwesterner–maybe that’s been a dissemination for other people as well.

    7. Emma2*

      The political symbolism of red and blue changes between countries- while I understand red is more right-wing and blue is more left-wing in the US, this is the opposite in countries like Canada and the UK. In the UK, the “red wall” is a traditional stronghold of the left-leaning Labour Party. Similarly, references to things like a “red wave” or “blue wave” would mean something different in a political context in many places outside the US.
      Obviously “red scare”, but I think that is also American, meaning “promotion of a widespread fear of communism or other leftist ideologies”.
      “Red thread”, which A N O’Nyme mentions below has the same meaning in English (at least in Europe), but I have most commonly heard it used by management consultant types.
      I know red has symbolic importance in the celebration of Juneteenth in the US, but I am not American so was not sure if there might be any expressions common to the occasion.

      1. Queer Earthling*

        Fun fact: apparently the red vs blue in the US is relatively recent; they used to swap the colors in broadcasts of the election results just for visual reference, but the 2000 election was so weird and dragged on so long that it cemented the color associations as red = right, blue = left.

        Also OP, you might find some amusement (though not much help) if you google tumblr color theory hospital, which I confess was the first thing I thought of.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      Red shift: Objects moving away from us at astronomical speeds have their color shifted toward the redder end of the spectrum. (Lower frequency, longer wavelength.)

      Red sun at sunrise and sunset: Short wavelength (bluer) light scatters in the atmosphere more than long wavelength (redder) light. So when the white light passes through more air, it loses more of the blue tones and appears redder. At midday, coming straight down through less air, the sun’s apparent color shifts back toward yellow.

      (Both of these are a ROYGBIV thing–low energy: red orange yellow green blue purple: high energy.)

      1. All Hail Queen Sally*

        Oooo! This reminds me of the saying “Red sky in morning sailors take warning. Red sky at night sailors delight.” Thanks!

        1. I take tea*

          There is a similar saying in Swedish, but without sailors, just saying that a red evening sky makes a beautiful night, but a red morning sky means that your hat will get wet.
          Aftonrodnad vacker natt, morgonrodnad slaskig hatt.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Weather tends to move west to east in the mid-latitudes. So red sky at night = lots of dust in the air to the west = high pressure coming in. Red sky in the morning = lots of dust in the air to the east = the high pressure system already went through and a low pressure system may be coming in.

    9. RagingADHD*

      The U of Alabama football team is the Crimson Tide.

      Which is interesting, because a “red tide” is a toxic algae bloom that kills fish. I don’t think they were supposed to be related.

      How about the fairy tale of The Red Shoes?

      Or pop culture references like 99 Red Balloons or the movie Red Dawn?

    10. K*

      “Red ocean strategy” ?
      It was interesting to read comment though, as a non-native english speaker, I’ve learned a few new expressions!

    11. Cocafonix*

      There is also the red handprint that represents missing and murdered women and girls in Canada and the US. But I’d caution that you and your friend consider any unintended consequences or associations of any of your red themed display, especially for indigenous peoples. Not to dissuade you but just to be thoughtful and prepared.

      1. All Hail Queen Sally*

        Good advice. My state has a very high Native American population. I had heard of (but had forgotten) about the red hand print. I have seen documentaries on this issue. We have a public television station FNX (First Nation Experience). I would like to include this if I can figure out how to do it right.

    12. Chaordic One*

      “Arrest Me Red,” a favorite color choice for sports cars whose owners can’t get enough attention.

      I wonder if maybe you might include something about having red hair. The term, “red-headed stepchild” comes to mind.

    13. Chili pepper Attitude*

      Redlining is denying services to POC, the practice of not allowing African Americans to purchase homes in white areas. A huge thing through the 50s, 60s, 70s or so.

      1. Lilith*

        The novel The Red Tent is about menstruation. The book is maybe 20 years old.
        Chaotic One’s post about sports cars reminds me of a friend who bought a ‘ticket me red Miata’ a few years ago!

        1. All Hail Queen Sally*

          Yes, there is the book and mini series. There is also another earlier book and movie titled The Red Tent that refers to the search for survivors of the airship Italia.

    14. I take tea*

      I’ll add some Finnish as well:

      Vain yksi punainen minuutti
      Just a moment (literally just one red minute, which still is more than the Swedish two seconds)
      Huutaa pää punaisena = to shout one’s head red, rage shouting until you’re red in the face
      Punainen kukko = Red cock (as in male hen) = fire or bonfire (I think this one is very archaic, though)
      Also in Finland you talk about the Red and the White when talking about the sides in the Civil war in 1918. The red being the communists.

      This has been a very interesting thread, thank you! I love languages and language questions.

  4. Raboot*

    What have been your Olympics highlights/lowlights?

    That USA vs Canada game… Oof. As an American, can’t even be mad at Canada, they played so much better. Alas.

    1. Eh*

      I was really enjoying watching a hockey game before bed, and then watching another one right when I woke up. It was the perfect timing setup for me at least.

      1. Raboot*

        Nice! Time zones are so fickle. I could really just watch the one set of games live since the others were 5am local and I don’t love sports THAT much… At least they made sure to have the gold medal game during North America primetime.

    2. Marion Ravenwood*

      Highlights: Team GB being guaranteed curling medals, and Jamaica being back in the bobsleigh.

      Lowlights: The whole Russian figure skating incident.

      1. Sloanicota*

        My God, it was so terrible I think I’m permanently off the sport. I have always been dubious about the claims that young gymnasts and ice skaters love to compete but this year the curtain was totally ripped away for me. I couldn’t even watch the ladies’ free skate, it was miserable for everyone, winners and losers.

      2. Observer*

        The Russians should be banned from the sport (at least in international competitions) for good. And perhaps from competing in the Olympics as well.

        The girl is 15, for crying out loud. She did not dope herself. Her “entourage” (more like jailers, I would say!) did this to her. As for the Doping Agency allowing her to compete? Someone should find out who has been paying off whom. Because that was an utterly insane thing to do.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) is an absolute joke. The country of Russia has a history of being caught filing their athletes. But Russian athletes compete for the ROC instead of Russia with their flag and anthem and it’s okay. Everyone know they’re Russian and they’re systematically still doping their athletes. I think that is the biggest joke of the Olympics.

        2. Sloan Kittering*

          I came away thinking, okay, we can’t allow girls this young to compete. I don’t care if only adolescents can do the hot tricks at the moment; the minimum age needs to be 18, and there should be restrictions on how much younger people can train. And the same thing in gymnastics.

          1. Observer*

            That’s not going to solve the problem – the other girls are old enough that this rule wouldn’t help them. But it’s quite clear that they are being abused too. The winner – it’s heartbreaking. Can you imagine actually winning and STILL not being able to be the winner? Or the one who won the Silver? That’s just soo not good enough – she’s still a loser! Which, that’s insane, because anyone who made it to the Olympics is already someone with incredible skill.

        3. Chauncy Gardener*

          Agree totally! And I’m also feeling quite worried about what awaits these two young gals when they get home. It can’t be good that they “embarrassed their country,” forget the whole backstory, right?

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      The women’s figure skating was definitely a lowlight, but I’ve thought for a while that the sport was corrupt and abusive anyway (it’s the women’s gymnastics of the Winter Olympics), so it wasn’t a big surprise.

      Combined highlight and lowlight (depending on your POV) was Michaela Shiffrin. As a non-American who lived in the US for a long time, I’d get so sick of most of the American Olympians who were over-hyped by NBC that I’d actually root for them to lose. Shiffrin falls into this category, so the first time she didn’t finish, I thought it was hilarious. Then I started to feel bad for her and since she seems to have a sense of humour about the whole fiasco, now I kind of like her. So apparently, people have to lose for me to like them… very British of me.

      1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        Hello fellow figure skating fan, do you need a care package too?
        Jokes aside, I only watched the team event and the Men’s. Maaaaaybe the gala, but even there there’s controversy (more men than women invited, some that deserved it based on the final results are not there, etc). Fingers crossed that World’s is less bad.

    4. LDN Layabout*

      Highlight: getting a bit of love for figure skating back with the pairs event, because the last group of the short programme was amazing.

      Lowlight: seeing a lot of commentators who praised Eteri’s abusive methods for years suddenly jump off the bandwagon because of doping. Abusing young girls is fine apparently, just getting drugs involved is too far. Similarly, a lot of those same folks were eulogising/defending John Coughlin or ignoring the huge abuse issue in their own figure skating community.

    5. Bobina*

      Lowlights definitely the whole figure skating saga. I generally dont care much for it anyway, but this year has just reminded me why I dislike it even more.

      Highlights – definitely ski-cross (so fun to watch!) and the ice-hockey has generally been pretty good (Slovakia in the mens and Switzerland in the womens have been the standouts for me).

    6. ecnaseener*

      Last night’s half-pipe skiing was a mixed bag, with the wind getting worse and more skiers taking really nasty falls. The very last guy landed right on his head, somehow didn’t break his neck.

    7. Camelid coordinator*

      I just read an interesting article about how Team USA didn’t really use its young talent in that game. Because I love hockey and work at the college where 2 of the young Canadian players compete I did notice that they were able to play and contribute quite a bit.

      1. Windchime*

        Me too. I wanted to watch the opening ceremonies but it aired here at like 5 AM so that wasn’t going to happen. Then I just kinda forgot about it.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My highlight was the sheer joy that Donovan Carillo shows when performing. If he’s that good training in public sessions at an undersized shopping mall rink, what would we see if he had dedicated ice time on a competition grade rink?

      1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        I’m a bit upset he wasn’t invited to the gala! Vincent Zhou is, and he didn’t even compete…

    9. Wandering*

      Jackie Wong of RockerSkating (.com & twitter) for his knowledgeable, thoughtful & compassionate coverage of figure skating.

    10. allathian*

      Highlights: Team Finland winning medals in both men’s and women’s hockey. The men’s team won the gold, and the women’s team won the bronze. Sadly, I don’t really think women’s hockey deserves to be an Olympic sport yet, because the US and Canada are so far ahead of everyone else.

      Lowlights: Women’s figure skating.

    11. Blue Eagle*

      The mass start speed skating is my favorite. And it is fun to watch both the semi-finals and the finals because the strategies used by the speed skaters in the two events can be so different (i.e. the objective of the semi is to get in the final via points {and scoring interim points even if you are last in your semi can get you in the final} vs the objective of the final is to be in front at the end).

  5. PollyQ*

    FYI to Alison and other Agatha Christie fans — there’s also a movie about her disappearance, 1979’s Agatha, starring Vanessa Redgrave, Dustin Hoffman, and Timothy Dalton. I haven’t seen it though, so can’t say how good it is.

    1. Marion Ravenwood*

      There’s a Doctor Who episode based around the disappearance as well – The Unicorn and the Wasp (in one of the David Tennant series). Obviously much more fanciful but still a fun way to spend 45 minutes.

    2. allathian*

      There’s also Agatha and the Truth of Murder (2018), also about the disappearance. That said, Christie disappeared in 1926, not 1962 (by then she was 72 years old).

    3. fposte*

      I remember it and thought it was quite interesting then, though of course I don’t know what it would look like to modern eyes.

    4. Chaordic One*

      There’s also an episode of the Frankie Drake Mysteries, “No Friends like Old Friends,” where Frankie goes to England and is hired by Agatha Christie to track down a missing mutual friend.

  6. Blomma*

    Do you have a favorite iOS app for tracking your “to-read” list? Right now I’m keeping track of books in a bunch of different places (Audible wishlist, saved links to a local bookstore, screenshots, etc.) and I’d like to consolidate them. Thanks!

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        I currently use both! I’ve been on Goodreads for years and just started StoryGraph. I like the data on StoryGraph about things like mood and genre trends in my reading but overall prefer Goodreads for the social aspect and controls/functionality (possibly biased due to familiarity though!)

      2. PhyllisB*

        Also a GOODREADS fan. Not only is it fun to track my books, it’s saved me from buying/checking out books I’ve already read. Plus I can channel my inner Book Reviewer when I feel like it.

    1. Bazza7*

      I’m old school. I write my wishlist to borrow from the library and to buy, on small lined cards. I read a lot of cozy mysteries which have series of books. I use Goodreads website to find out when new titles are coming out from the author. May have to check out these apps.

      1. Onwards and Upwards*

        Can you recommend some cozy crime series? I have exhausted Agatha Christie (and she has exhausted me, to be honest), dabble in Agatha Raisin, Father Brown doesn’t work for me. And more contemporary crime is often too violent/bleak for me. I’m on the hunt for cosy crime…

        1. Jules the First*

          Mrs Pollifax! She’s a little old lady who becomes a spy. Fun stories, good action, a wholesome, clever lady at the heart of them.

          1. PhyllisB*

            Jenn McKinlay has several cozy mystery series out. My favorite is her Library mysteries.
            This topic is right up my alley, so I will go look up some of the ones I enjoy and report back.
            Will also be interested in seeing what other people mention. I might find a new favorite.

            1. PhyllisB*

              Hope you see this, it’s kind of late. I had company all weekend and no time to post. The Alphabet series by Sue Grafton is good, but sadly she passed away before she could write Z. She left explicit instructions that no one else was to write any books on her behalf, so… if you like zany, you might enjoy Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. Suggestion: don’t plan to just read one after the other, they will get monotonous.
              I am reading a series right now I’m enjoying. It’s not exactly cozy, but interesting. It’s by Amy Stewart. The first book in the series is Girl Waits with Gun. It’s about Constance Kopp who was the first female deputy in the state of New Jersey. This is set in 1914 (so far, I’m sure as it progresses it will cover later years.) One of the things that’s interesting about this series is that it is based on a real person and there’s lots of references if you want to follow up.
              If you like cats, you might like Rita Mae Brown’s Sneaky Pie series, or Lillian Jackson Braun’s the Cat Who series. Hope these suggestions help!!

              1. PhyllisB*

                Just thought of another one if you like Irish books. The Death in… series by Carleen O’Connor are very good. In the first one, Death in an Irish Village she has a glossary at the beginning showing name pronunciations and definitions of some of the Irish slang. I found it very helpful!!

              2. Blomma*

                I’m rereading The Cat Who mysteries for the second time right now :-) They’re fairly dated, but my late grandmother introduced me to them as a teen so they are dear to my heart.

        2. Teapot Translator*

          Maybe Richard Osman’s books? He’s published two and the main characters are over 70 years old.

        3. Introverted Dog Lover*

          Have you read Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series? Not sure it’s exactly cozy, but the village of Three Pines and many of the recurring characters are.

        4. TradeMark*

          Not exactly cozy, but I second the recommendation of Louise Penny added below. I also really like Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series. I listen to the audiobooks.

        5. Owler*

          Try Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness mysteries. I’m enjoying one right now—I just had to pause my reading to look up Floating Islands dessert and to ask Google what makes Scottish Brogues good outdoor shoes. I also second the recs for Louise Penny.

        6. Margaretmary*

          Francis Duncan’s “Mordecai Tremayne” series, Anthony Horowitz’s absolutely brilliant Magpie Murders and its sequel, Moonflower Murders. He also has an interesting series where he is the Watson figure and he has some Sherlock Holmes stories, The House of Silk and Moriarty, but those are more bleak. Magpie Murders is amazng. Sherlock Holmes himself is a pretty awesome series. Also Dorothy Simpson’s Inspector Thanet Series and Josephine Tey’s Miss Pim Disposes.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I do it all on Goodreads and it works well since I do only electronic books. When I first started using it I went through and tagged every book I could think of that I’d read over the years. Although I’ve missed some, Goodreads has mostly saved me from buying/borrowing something I’ve already read; I have a terrible memory for the books I’ve read and it takes me a while to figure out I’ve read it before. I also tag anything I want to read, though I usually forget about that feature and don’t check the list when I’m looking for something new.

    3. Lady Danbury*

      I have a “To Read” amazon list. You can save links from any website, so it’s not limited to Amazon’s products. If I discover a book that I’d like to read outside of the internet, I simply google the book and link it from any website, with a comment on where I actually found the book (e.g. Sue’s Bookstore).

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Almost pure old school: I have a doc on my computer called “Notes” with things I want to remember. One of those is a list of books to read, which I add to and remove from. Also shows to watch and podcasts to consider.

      I tend to find “helpful” features of electronic methods really annoying.

    5. Formerly in HR*

      Reading List. It allows adding new books by manuallyin entering them, scanning their barcode, or searching online for the ISBN. It allows keeping track on when I started reading a book and when I finished reading it and data can be exported to email.

    6. Sunflower*

      Goodreads is the best place. You can also keep track of books you’ve already read, let friends know what you’re reading and keep up with what your friends are reading as well. Plus follow authors or celebrities on their reads

    7. University Schlep*

      I don’t, but I put everything in a wishlist from my library – I am allowed to save up to 5000 items to the wish list. It has been great except for the few books they don’t have, but I can also place those in the “please acquire” list and keep track of them that way.

      I am trying to keep clutter down in my house so not buying as many books as I used to. I honestly would rather donate $$ to the library than have to store them anymore.

    8. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

      Late entry: Speaking for myself, I keep it all on a spreadsheet (and me being me, it’s organized by what library has it and in which format.)
      I also realize that it’s an unpopular opinion, but I avoid GoodReads for several reasons, but mainly because it’s owned by Amazon and I avoid giving them any more data.

      1. Five after Midnight*

        To unblock Twitter without having an account:
        Step 1: Install uBlock Origin add-on (I only use Firefox, don’t know if this extension exists for Chrome/Edge)
        Step 2: Add the following lines to “My filters”:
        twitter.com##div[role=’dialog’]
        twitter.com##html->body:style(overflow:visible !important;)
        twitter.com##html:style(overflow:visible !important;)
        Step 3: Scroll with impunity

        1. JustForThis*

          Thank you so much! I followed your instructions and I’m so glad I’m no longer excluded from Twitter.

    1. Five after Midnight*

      I think Teacher refers to this:
      We did it! We made it through months of training and background checks and education on trauma and questions about our marriage and childhoods, and as of today we are licensed foster parents for teenagers!

        1. beentheredonethat*

          So excited for you. My brother & sister-in-law were foster parents for about 10 years to mostly teens. I was the foster aunt. Depending on their circumstances, some have stayed in our lives and family, for which I am grateful.

        2. Sabine the Very Mean*

          They are so so lucky to have the two of you in their lives even if for a short time. I’m so glad you’re sharing your values and gifts with those in need.

        3. Observer*

          The whole background check must have felt so alienating and invasive. I know that it really can’t be helped. which is not a comforting thought.

          Congratulations and thanks for doing this.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Yeah I completely understand that these are vulnerable children and the caretakers need to be on the up and up, and the state needs to ensure that, but I have also watched friends who were called to adoption or fostering really struggle with the invasiveness during the process and they are always reminded that there is NO vetting to have biological children of your own. (And Alison, congratulations, so happy for you and your husband – good luck!).

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              We actually didn’t find it that bad! (For example, I had read that some people get asked questions about their sex lives so we were prepared for that level of invasiveness but they didn’t go there at all.) It could be because we are using a private agency that did one-on-one training where our case worker would come to us for training (so no big classes, just us, and we could have long conversations about whatever we or she wanted to talk about) and so she got to know us really well over time and when it came time to write our home study she said she’d already gathered a lot of what she needed to know from all those meetings. I was actually a little skeptical that she could have … but then when I read our home study, it was incredibly detailed and personal so she clearly was gleaning a ton during those meetings (and must have been going out to her car after each meeting and writing down everything we said because I couldn’t believe some of the small details she remembered — and also had read into correctly). It helps that we really like her a lot and were able to talk with her comfortably; I think if we didn’t have good rapport with her, the whole thing would have felt a lot weirder.

              I would say the most invasive-feeling stuff was about our own childhoods and family relationships, but I totally understand the need for that since it’s directly connected to things that can/will impact kids in our care. We’re comfortable talking about family of origin stuff (thank you, years of therapy!) but that was definitely the most intrusive/personal part.

  7. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going? As usual, this is not limited to fiction writing.

    Wrote some cute fluffy stuff as a palate cleanser after doing some serious plotting that involved a lot of characters dying. Sometimes a light fluffy story is just what you need to keep the mood up.

    1. Maryn B.*

      I finished the revisions of the first novel in a series, based on extensive beta reader feedback, and re-typed The End because I like to.

      The revisions involved rewriting the beginning, incorporating new facts and changing some others to make a character more likeable, so I had to reread the parts that didn’t need changing to make sure I was not contradicting the new facts established. (Which I was, several times, so the reread was worth it.)

      By the time this is published, I will be heartily sick of it. I’m nearly there already.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Ha, I did SEVENTEEN revisions to Tunerville and I felt the same way. Like “I am so tired of reading this book!” The only one I enjoyed past twelve or so was the last one where extensive rewriting took place.

        I’m afraid to read it now in case I see typos or something.

    2. Girasol*

      Going so slowly! I hope my low productivity is because I’m being more critical of what I’ve written. I throw out or rewrite a lot more than I ever used to do. I’m getting a little better at the proper writer’s practice of doing some writing or plotting every day, whether in the mood or not, instead of letting myself off with writer’s block as an excuse. Finished one more pretty good short story for the collection and started a new one.

    3. Ashkela*

      I’m a fan fic writer in addition to the novel I’m working on. Published a series of 5 short fan fics post a recent episode of the show (Batwoman) and one despite being only 365 words long has blown up as a result of it being named after a comment made by two different reactors independent of one another and it has given me so much inspiration and validation that if I can affect folx enough to cry in that small a space, I can sufficiently terrify them in my novel with so many more words. (The story is called I’m the Lamp, Tag Yourself if anyone wants to find it on AO3)

    4. Forensic13*

      Joined one of those “shut up and write in the same zoom chat” groups and that helped me FINALLY finish a particularly annoying chapter (first draft, of course.). Now I’m stuck on some impending plot holes, though :(

  8. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gaming thread! What’s everyone been playing this week?
    As usual, this is not limited to video games so feel free to talk about any kind of game you want to including phone games and board games. Also feel free to ask for recommendations or help identifying a vaguely remembered game.

    Still on Don’t Starve – I survived the winter (yay)! Now to prep for the next one…

    1. Marion Ravenwood*

      I went to one of my board game meetups again last week and had a ton of fun! I’ve really missed board games since breaking up with my ex last spring, and it’s been a great way to scratch that itch and meet some new people. We played Saboteur, Secret Hitler, Avalon and a bit of Codenames – essentially all pretty similar, in that one or more people are villainous characters who will be trying to get their team to win, and the ‘good guys’ have to uncover them through various means. I can’t go this week due to other plans but will definitely be back soon!

    2. Ambilextrous*

      My father got me into Scrabble Go on the phone. I’ve been enjoying it a lot, from the cute tiles to collect to the challenging single-player modes. I’ve beaten Dad 5 of 7 games, but playing with strangers is also really fun.

    3. Golden*

      Getting ready for the Elden Ring release next week! Although the security issues recently identified and spec requirements have me a little wary (my PC should still be able to run it on lower settings I guess). I hope it’s a smooth rollout.

      1. MEH Squared*

        Thirded. I am so pumped for this game and probably will be playing it for the rest of the year (big FromSoft fan here). I will say they should have dropped the specs for the PC earlier because I had to scramble to get ready to play it, but all will be forgiven once I set foot into the gorgeous open world.

    4. DarthVelma*

      The partner and I have been trying to finish up some last minute stuff in Destiny 2 before the big Witch Queen update drops on Tuesday and a lot of old content gets vaulted. I’ve carved out quite a bit of time next week to really dig into the new season.

      I just upgraded to a much higher end gaming computer and upgraded one of my monitors and I cannot quite believe the difference. I knew it had been too long since my last upgrade, but you get used to things after a while and stop noticing the slow load time and lag and terrible frame rate. Moral of the story – treat yourself when you can. :-)

    5. wingmaster*

      I have been playing The Minish Cap on the Gameboy Advance my partner just gifted me for Valentine’s day!

      1. The Dude Abides*

        If you’re into challenges, I highly recommend trying out the Randomizer version once you’ve played through a few times.

    6. PassThePeasPlease*

      I’ve been loving the single player video game Lake! It’s a cozy game and you play as a career woman in they 80s (I think?) who goes back to her home town to fill in as a mail carrier while her dad is on vacation. The scenery is beautiful and the storyline is engaging (if a little slow which I don’t mind).

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I can’t… not when I’m playing the master! This was THE big-kid game at aftercare for years, and I haven’t played much for decades.

          1. The Dude Abides*

            Google “connect 4 solved.”

            As long as you follow the right strategy, you can guarantee a win.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Thanks but I’ll continue to let my child feel the thrill of being better than me. If I figure out the strategy on my own, all bets are off of course. ;)

    7. Smol Book Wizard*

      Best wishes on Don’t Starve! To be honest, I always found the summers the hardest. But this could be my projection from real-life summers and how dreadful they feel.

      I played through the adorable and beautiful Carto this week – a puzzle-based adventure that is kind of like Carcassonne as an RPG, according to my husband who looked over my shoulder at it. I very much enjoyed it. It was a great balance of puzzling and fun. I had to google a few hints, but by and large managed it myself.

    8. The Dude Abides*

      Been playing more Historic Brawl now that I’ve found a sweet Rielle deck.

      Some people from my area are headed to SCG CON in Indy, might have to pull the trigger on some foils so that they can get signed.

    9. LimeRoos*

      Still playing Animal Crossing, Diablo 2, and Minecraft. But downloaded Wytchwood after reading last weekends open thread and am really excited to get into it. It’s been a busy week so I haven’t been able to play yet, but I can’t wait!

    10. SparklingBlue*

      Still enjoying Pokemon Legends: Arceus–been trying to do as many sidequests as possible and get Pokemon I don’t have before trying Hisuian Electrode again.

    11. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

      Background: Spouse is a huge game nerd. I am not. We have several we can agree on but we’re always on the look for more. She introduced me to “Fox in the Forest Duet” this weekend. I was… unimpressed. But tried that and also played our faithful standby, Jaipur.

  9. Marion Ravenwood*

    How did you know when you were ready to start dating again after a major breakup? And what approach did you take (especially if you’re mid-30s or older and haven’t had much dating experience)?

    Background: I (34F) split up with a man I really saw a long-term future with in April 2021. It has been a bumpy ten months, but I feel like I’m increasingly coming out the other side and in the week or so I’ve felt more like I’m ready to start dating again. However I hear all my friends’ horror stories about online dating and it puts me off going back on the apps (I still have Hinge and Bumble profiles I used for a few weeks in summer 2019 but then ended up meeting my last partner ‘in the wild’). I’m also currently trying to focus on resolving a significant financial situation and am not quite sure if I’m in a position to cover the expenses of dating right now, so between both of those I’m not sure if I should be ‘going back out there’ just yet, or at least to that level.

    I should say that I absolutely do not need a partner – I’m very content with my life as it is and don’t feel like I need another person to ‘complete’ me or anything like that. And I do go to lots of different social things, try and meet new people etc (although it has never been with the intention of meeting someone – I go to have fun and if I meet interesting folks and/or someone I find attractive then that’s a bonus). But I’m still not sure if I’m handling that right or giving people the wrong impression by doing so, especially as I have been chatted up by guys at these things before and don’t want to come across as leading people on. So any advice or thoughts on this are very much appreciated!

    1. Expiring Cat Memes*

      I think it helps to consider “ready” as a spectrum rather than a binary. You may feel ready for some kind of dates, or with some kind of people, and not others. There’s nothing wrong with that.

      Let go of your worry about “leading people on”. You’re allowed to flirt. You’re allowed to change your mind. You’re allowed to decide you just want it to be something casual if it’s This Person, but that you’re open to something more serious if it That Person. You don’t owe anyone anything simply by being open to meeting people and dating. Anyone who tries to make you feel otherwise is waving a gigantic red flag at you.

      My advice about re-entering the dating scene after a major break-up: don’t feel like you have to go along with dating someone you’re lukewarm about just because they’re super into you and there’s nothing “wrong” with them. You’re not obligated to find a “good” reason to stop seeing them/not meet their family/not agree to be exclusive/not move in/not want to be called their partner. Feeling meh about them is a perfectly good reason for any of those things. The pressure to get into a relationship when someone is into you can be intense, and denying them that can feel so awkward that it’s often just easier in the moment to keep going along with it. Don’t! Before you know it, years will tick by, your lives will be well and truly enmeshed and you will be wondering how the hell you ended up there with someone you were never that into and how the hell to untangle yourself and get out.

      Also, remember that bad dates often make for excellent stories to share with friends and wine. Be safe and have fun :)

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        This is really helpful, thank you so much! I have previously fallen into the trap of going on a date (or 2-3 dates) with someone because there wasn’t anything ‘wrong’ with them and I felt guilty not giving them a chance, even when my gut instinct was ‘I like talking to you but I don’t feel romantically attracted to you’, so that is definitely something to bear in mind. But I also worry that just being out and talking to people as a single woman can and is being taken the wrong way, and whilst I don’t want to stop doing things I enjoy because of that or come across as cold or unfriendly I also don’t want to give people the wrong impression.

        I like the idea of seeing ‘ready’ as a spectrum as well. I will admit that there is still a part of me that’s a bit nervous about getting into anything serious again because of how bad the breakup was (even though equally I don’t want to shut myself off from the possibility of something like that down the line) and I’m not looking for random hookups either (which seems to be the issue a lot of my friends are finding with the apps). But I am open to the happy medium of something casual with somebody I like spending time with, so will try and keep that in mind.

        1. Expiring Cat Memes*

          I want to ask you more about this:

          I also worry that just being out and talking to people as a single woman can and is being taken the wrong way, and whilst I don’t want to stop doing things I enjoy because of that or come across as cold or unfriendly I also don’t want to give people the wrong impression.

          What’s the “wrong way” and what “impression” are you worried about giving exactly? That you’re a cool, friendly woman who also happens to be single?

          It’s reading very much like you’re trying to preemptively manage poor behaviour from others, and I’m wondering if that’s a case of being warranted in your particular context, or whether you maybe need to develop your confidence in shutting down unwanted attention? If it’s the latter, a simple “I’m not interested, thanks” can work remarkably well in most situations. I highly recommend reading the Captain Awkward archives on dating for advice on this though.

          1. Marion Ravenwood*

            So as an example, a few weeks ago I went to an indie music club night meetup and talked to a few people, including a guy who I found out lives not far from me. It was small talk and he was nice to talk to, but that was it – zero romantic interest on my end, although I did mention I was there looking to meet new people. I then had to leave early to get home and he messaged me (having got my number from the WhatsApp group for the event which felt off to me, but as I said I don’t have much dating experience so not sure if that’s how things work these days) asking if I got home all right and asking if I wanted to go for a drink sometime. I said yes (seeing it as an opportunity to get to know him better as a friend), we met and it was fine, but it hasn’t gone anywhere and I haven’t heard from him since or been back to that group.

            I know it’s my fault for not shutting him down from the off, and I do think it is a confidence thing – I had really terrible romantic luck most of my teen and young adult life and have only had two long-term relationships, so there’s always been a bit of an underlying ‘be grateful for what you can get’ feeling and not wanting to be mean to people because I know what getting rejected is like. I should also add that this is something I’ve been working on in therapy, both in romantic relationships and more generally, and feel like I’m improving (though I’m obviously not fully there yet).

            1. TheMonkey*

              “I said yes (seeing it as an opportunity to get to know him better as a friend), we met and it was fine, but it hasn’t gone anywhere and I haven’t heard from him since or been back to that group.

              I know it’s my fault for not shutting him down from the off, and I do think it is a confidence thing”

              Sorry to jump in here, but what’s your fault exactly? You went and had a drink with a dude and nothing happened. This is a normal thing, not something to be at-fault for.

              1. Marion Ravenwood*

                Because I feel like I should either have said something straight away or not gone out with him when I knew I wasn’t interested in him like that. I just feel like I haven’t acted in the best character – and again I’m aware that’s something I need to address myself – but I’m also not sure if I’m doing something earlier on that’s perhaps coming off as flirtatious rather than just friendly and polite.

                1. Batgirl*

                  Oh dear no! In fact, every woman I know who has a) had a break up, b) been known as single and c) leaves the house occasionally has this happen because guys are still socialised to make opportunities and ask us out first. Sometimes it really is just a friendship thing too! What else can you do but go when you want to go and see what it is? This sounds so harmless and totally expected on both sides (I’m assuming his behaviour was cool). You’re not under any obligation to hermit yourself so as to avoid leading men on.

                2. Sunflower*

                  I think you’re overthinking this a bit! It’s not uncommon for interest to be one-sided so it’s very likely you weren’t flirting or doing anything intentional and this person decided to ask you out anyway. Hell sometimes I literally will turn away from a man to avoid conversation and he still tries to keep talking to me. Some people are gonna shoot their shot no matter what.

                  I think maybe your past heartbreak is amping up your concern about other people’s feelings. People who are dating are getting rejected on a somewhat regular basis so they are pretty used to not getting called back or being told that a connection just isn’t there.

                3. Marion Ravenwood*

                  @Sunflower – I can’t reply directly but wanted thank you for your kind words. I don’t think I did anything overly flirtatious (other than maybe talking to this guy for a bit longer than other people, but it wasn’t like I talked to him all night or anything like that) but I feel like my main worry is that I wasn’t true to myself or didn’t listen to my gut. Oh well, lessons learned for the future I guess.

              2. Expiring Cat Memes*

                Yeah exactly. He asked you out, you said yes, neither of you were into it, nothing more happened, The End. That sounds like an entirely normal dating story and nothing to feel guilty about?

                1. UKDancer*

                  YeS. I mean you met somewhere, he asked for a date. You had the date and neither of you were feeling great feels about it so he didn’t follow up and neither did you. That sounds pretty normal to me. Sometimes you have a date and it doesn’t much go anywhere.

                  I think it would have been fine to say no to the date but I don’t think he or anyone else would think badly of you for saying yes.

        2. Squirrel Nutkin*

          Maybe come up with some scripts for gracefully letting the other person know that you’re not heading in a romantic direction with them? A useful phrase someone taught me when I had a work acquaintance who was asking me out on dates that were causing me to panic because I didn’t like him like that but was too awkward to say so was this:

          “I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I don’t really see this going in a romantic direction.”

          Worked like a charm. We actually wound up getting along quite well together and kept going out on “just friends” non-romantic outings once or twice a year till he died, but the pressure to go into a romantic mode was off, so I could just relax and enjoy the company.

      2. Sloanicota*

        This is what I finally realized – I needed to stop going on repeat dates with people I was lukewarm on but felt like I should keep seeing because there was nothing wrong with them. Yes, the right person might not impress you right away but if you’re low-key dreading the date, please just give yourself a pass! That’s not how it’s supposed to feel and nothing good is going to come of that!

        1. Sloanicota*

          Thinking more about this, I’d be interested to hear from others if they ever had a genuine relationship develop from a meh first date – and was it just a “blah” date or was it truly like you were NOT looking forward to date three? I would like to give every decent prospect at least 2, maybe 3 chances before quitting (assuming there’s not an active NO feeling) … but I also realize in the world of online dating it’s setting up more expectations to go on multiple dates. This is a tough balance because I think some really good partners might not shine right away – like, you might like them but not have a good sense of them at all after the first date due to shyness/awkwardness/other circumstances – right? A lot of people fade or ghost after one date, but three dates and then “nah, I was actually meh about you the whole time” feels a bit cold.

          1. Squirrel Nutkin*

            I am not really an online dater, so not this situation exactly, but I did have a genuine relationship or two develop from people I met in my daily life and originally just felt “meh” or slightly positive about. It took a while for the thunderbolt to hit where I was like “I must date this person.” My longest-lasting relationship was with someone who I thought was kind of a wacko the first two times I met him in the course of a shared hobby. (He WAS kind of a wacko, but turned out he had lots of excellent qualities as well.) Time number three, I saw how sweet and kind he was, and I was like “Hellloooooooo . . . “

          2. Sunflower*

            For me, I think it’s very hard and unlikely for this to happen from something like an online date. I do think attraction can grow when you’re talking about someone in a social circle or work where you see them regularly in a non-romantic setting but with dating (esp online dates), you know what the purpose is of you hanging out is and by the time you get to a 4th date, I think conversation starts to happen around your feelings and if you see it going anywhere.

            I’m 33 and just starting to date purposefully (meaning I only ever dated before based on my initial attraction and never thought long term) and I’m def struggling with the ‘when to throw in the towel’ time. I’m someone who attraction and the clicking is a big thing for so this is constantly on my mind.

            Something that has been really helpful is listening to dating podcasts and realizing everyone has different values and that doesn’t always look the way you’d expect. A big startler for me- a decent number of questions from people who are in long-term relationships with partners they aren’t attracted to and wondering if they should break up. Meanwhile, it’s hard for me to even get to date 2 if I don’t feel it right away. So it’s important to remember that everyone’s idea of a successful and happy relationship is going to different.

          3. Filosofickle*

            If I am meh on them at the end of the first date, I’ve never had that change. Online dating in my 20s and 30s I subscribed to the idea that as long as I had a pretty good conversation with them, that was enough to go on a 2nd and 3rd date regardless of any “chemistry”. None of those ever converted. Not once. My friends felt the same. Now I follow the advice to only go on a 2nd date if they’re a Fuck Yeah. Anything other than total enthusiasm is a No. From prior comment threads about chemistry and dating, it’s clear that loads of people don’t feel sparks right away and it’s important for them to go on multiple dates to see where it goes. So I’d say know yourself. For me, either I feel a pull or I don’t and that’s not going to change by going on a 2nd/3rd/4th date. I have to trust myself and not put myself through the wringer trying to give everyone a “fair chance.”

            Knowing someone in a non-dating situation, like Squirrel Nutkin mentions, is totally different scenario. I have absolutely discovered feelings over time for a coworker or friend or acquaintance. One day you see them differently. But in my experience that doesn’t work when you’re trying to make it work.

            1. Sloanicota*

              Yeah I think that’s a good rule: if you’re not actively *excited* to go on date two, it’s a no. I’m okay if there’s not an immediate Lust Connection – maybe just that the conversation is great or we have so much in common etc etc – but I have also never managed to turn completely lackluster into yes.

              I do think this is a real failure of online dating, for me. It’s possible the *exact same guy,* if I worked with him, could end up having a different outcome, which seems pretty weird.

        2. Squirrel Nutkin*

          Agree. Low-key dread is a sign to bail. And if the person freaks out and gets manipulative, mean, angry, or disproportionately sad when you tell them? A sign that you definitely have made the right choice to bail. I was in this situation once with a woman from a shared hobby group, and I was forcing myself to take a chance on dating her even though I wasn’t really feeling it. She saw something in my face when we were on our first date and called me on it, and when I said I didn’t really think things would work out romantically, she…freaked…out. I had started out feeling bad for telling her that I wasn’t interested in that way, but she was so manipulative and so disproportionately upset (it was our first !@#$@Q#$ing date, and the only physical intimacy we had shared to that point was a chaste, awkward hug) that when I finally got away, I knew that I had dodged a bullet.

    2. Bobina*

      If you want tips on dating in general, I follow matchmakermaria on Instagram (she’s also on TikTok I believe and maybe a few other places) and generally like her very no-nonsense, sensible approach to it all (with a strong focus on good communication and being open to seeing how things go).

      Expiring Cat Memes also gave some very good advice!

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve just started following her and will have a proper dig into her stuff later :)

    3. Anon for this*

      Following, because I am the same age and have a very very similar story and want to resume online dating but I have no idea how to try it out without getting overwhelmed.

    4. Batgirl*

      I got back out there after a ten year marriage where I was very suddenly hurt; these are my thoughts.
      1) Go out there strong. I didn’t want to go out there when I was navigating a divorce, dating is tough with some minefields, and I didn’t want even a hint of vulnerability.
      2) Go out there impatient. Because I waited for my divorce to be finalized and was strict with myself, by the time it was finalized, I was really looking forward to dating, even the horrible parts of dating. I was going to put the worst stories on a blog!
      3) Go out there selfish. I’m not saying you should go out of the door without basic decency and kindness, but just to remember you mainly owe that to yourself first. I think women can be too socialised to care about men’s feelings and to never disappoint anyone, and that’s a dangerous priority in an activity where some men can be pushy sometimes. Go out there caring firstly about your own wishlist and happiness. I was looking for a long term partner, and it’s the most important role I was ever going to interview for. I noticed men had no problem passing on me very quickly if they weren’t completely socks-knocked-off enthused or if they see even a teeny deal-breaker and they are so right!
      4) Have a high bar. I wrote out a wishlist before dating that I thought was so exacting, but my fiance overtook every point by such a wide margin, I think I was too pessimistic about what could be.

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        Thank you so much for taking the time for such a detailed reply! Definitely lots to think about moving forward. I did also write a wishlist many moons ago but think it may be time to revisit it.

        1. Sloanicota*

          FWIW, on the topic of wishlists, I’ve definitely heard to focus more on values than activities. It’s great to prioritize someone who, say, is interested in learning new things – less so someone who likes the same books/TV that you do. It’s easy to think of activities you want to do together (we’ll go hiking! Oh, this guy’s not outdoorsy. Pass.) but it should be more about how they make you feel about yourself, I think.

          1. Marion Ravenwood*

            Oh I should say it’s very much more about personal qualities rather than having exactly matching interests. I’ve never believed in ‘must like all the same things’ in a relationship but there are certain things I’ve learnt are important to me from past experiences (mainly around reliability/communication/respecting what the other person is into etc), and I’m looking to find more of that next time round.

  10. Bethlam*

    Any phone/computer/technology/security wizards out there? I have a computer with no Internet connection (I live in the boonies). This computer was previously owned by my mother, who did have Internet, so the only security installed is a very outdated McAfee. However, I have an Android smart phone that I can use to get connected via a hot spot by USB tethering. What do I need to protect my computer and its contents while connected through my phone? My phone has a program called Lookout, but I don’t know if that’s enough to ensure the safety of my computer.

    I don’t spend a lot of time connected through my phone, but I don’t want to risk a virus or hack when I am connected. Any thoughts, suggestions, or advice?

    1. Teatime is Goodtime*

      How old is your computer? It sounds potentially really old, which makes me worry that your options are going to be limited.

      Any specific advice will require more detail as to the specs–what operating system you are running, is it up to date, what kind of hardware so you have and what, specifically, are you interested in doing with it?

    2. IT Manager*

      The phone is a red herring – it is just the method by which you are accessing the internet. After that, everything is the same (except speed) as if you were on a home connection.

      Eg, the phone tethering provides no protection. You need up to date operating system (windows or Mac OS) with auto-install for system patches and security updates, and if you don’t have the very latest of those (which do have a lot of security built in) then you need an anti-virus tool also at a minimum.

      If your laptop is too old for those, your best bet is to treat it like it was a public computer at the library or an Internet cafe …. Eg only use it for the most basic browsing – no email, no shopping, don’t store any personal data or address books or photos on it. Assume everything you do is viewable by a hacker/government/criminal. Try to use the security settings on your browser or something like DuckDuckGo as a browser – not sure if an older system will support this but if so it would limit exposure to the nastier ads and spyware while browsing. Untether and turn it off when you’re not using it.

      1. Bethlam*

        Yeah, I was afraid of that. It’s an old desktop (probably 10 years?) but works perfectly well for my purposes, except no internet. That still isn’t a big deal, I browse on my phone, mainly use the computer when I need to print forms or type out longer emails (or this reply) because it’s too painful to do it on the phone. Also do some (read very little) shopping so I can have multiple tabs open for comparison. I do disconnect it when I’m done.

        I’m thinking I should quit using it at all as my whole life is on my computer.

        1. Pool Lounger*

          Make sure you’re backing up your files to an external drive. If you’re worried because your whole life is on the computer you need to make sure that if anything does happen you won’t lose everything.

          1. Bethlam*

            Yes, I learned my lesson when I had a hard drive corruption incident. Amazingly, the IT guru where I worked salvaged all my data and I now back up to an external hard drive.

            I’m retired, so don’t have access to him anymore. But, luckily, my husband’s friend just texted that he’s stopping by this afternoon and he has some serious computer skills,
            so maybe he can take a look at my system. I really don’t want to be locking the barn door after the fact.

      2. allathian*

        Sounds sensible.

        Bethlam, update your computer software as much as you can.

        FYI, we’ve been using Windows Defender that’s built into the OS, and we’ve never had any problems, at least not so far. I don’t even open emails that I suspect are spam, even if they seem to come from my friends or family. Instead I’ll text them to ask them if they sent the email, before opening it.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Maybe unpopular opinion, but I’ve never seen antivirus to offer any real, practical security.

      Educate yourself on social engineering attacks, keep all your software (and the operating system itself—macOS, Windows, etc.) up to date with security patches, and make regular backups of files that matter to you.

      There’s nothing less secure about a tethered connection versus another kind of connection.

      1. Observer*

        Maybe unpopular opinion, but I’ve never seen antivirus to offer any real, practical security

        Either you have been extraordinarily lucky, or the stuff has done its job well enough that you just don’t see it.

        Anti-virus is generally not ENOUGH, but it sure does block stuff- even for people who are sensible and careful about how they use computers.

        The rest is good advice, but really insufficient.

      2. Generic Name*

        I’m very savvy. I never click on weird links, I don’t peruse certain types of websites that seem to have malicious content lurking in them, etc. And yet the anti-malware software on my work laptop found a Trojan horse. No idea where it originated.

    4. Observer*

      I’m going to agree with the others. Any security on your phone is irrelevant to the computer. Also, BACKUP. Even if you stop putting that computer on the internet at all.

      Disconnecting when you are done is useful to save bandwidth, but it doesn’t do much to actually protect you.

      The things that are generally the most helpful, besides just being really careful and educated, with the least impact on your day to day use and workflow are a decent spam filter, decent web filtering, and a good anti-virus / anti-malware.

      People tend to be surprised when I mention filters, but I’ve found that there is a large overlap between certain types of sites and sites with significant security issues. Since any decent filter is going to let you allow anything you specifically want in most cases, you should not be kept from anything that you decide you want to visit.

  11. Not my usual name*

    Sorry if this is too heavy a topic for a weekend thread, but does anyone have suggestions for good books or articles on the topic of anger management?

    1. Onwards and Upwards*

      I’ve used a couple of books (about other issues) from the “Overcoming…” series and they were good. I’m sure the series would have one or two books about anger management. If you google “overcoming books” I think you’d find them.

    2. Chaordic One*

      Dear Abby has a booklet called “The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It.” I’m sure you can google it.

    3. SG*

      The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron
      And this second one is not an anger management book per se, but it has changed my life by helping learn to manage and regulate reactions and emotions in general, and not take things personally: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

  12. Editor A*

    I’ve got a new puppy at home and I’m feeling so overwhelmed. He is adorable and doing so well – almost housetrained, will play with himself if we are busy, etc – but for some reason I am still struggling.

    I have always had dogs around/at home, but this is the first one that has been ‘mine’ and the feels so different.

    Can anyone share stories of the first few weeks with their puppy and how you were feeling?

    1. Puppies are great but...*

      I ‘joke’ that a puppy is nearly as much work as an infant but without any of the bonding hormones that make taking care of a baby tolerable. Plus, infants don’t usually pee all over the floor.

      I got my first puppy (we’d always adopted grown dogs in the past) a few years ago. The first few months were very difficult. She’s a great dog and was lovely, but it was still a lot of work. She had a lot of energy and also housetraining took way longer than I expected. I’d say it took about six months before the work load became more manageable but then she kept pestering our 6 year old son to play with her. So my husband’s solution was to get a second dog, which we did. I am NOT recommending that as a course of action – it mostly worked out okay although the new dog was nearly 2 and not neutered, so he peed in the house a lot until we got him neutered. I really felt for a while like I was just going to be living in a dog toilet for the rest of my life, but that thankfully was not true.

      Having a puppy is hard work. Be gentle with yourself.

      1. Yay, I’m a Llama again!*

        Oh, so much work! We brought home our first puppy at the beginning of December and I’ve been doing most of the pup care as I WFH and hubby doesn’t.

        He’s now 4 months old and I think we’ve turned a corner, but I’ve been in tears so many times. It’s ironic how trapped I felt – I used to walk an hour or more every day but can’t whilst he’s little, and he can’t be left alone.

        He didn’t play by himself, if he was awake he had to be with me… but this week he’s finally started going, ‘you’re boring, I’m going to play in the other room.’

        It surprised me how overwhelming it is! But we’re getting there. And being able to take him on walks makes such a difference, even though he’s not up to doing my 7k walks yet!

        1. Sloanicota*

          I have to be honest, I thought I understood that dogs are a lot of work (lifelong cat person) but I had *no idea* how much work they really are. Having recently adopted a dog – not even a puppy! – I find that he is angling for something 23/7 (more food, more walks, more playing, more pets), with the one hour he’s asleep not counted. They truly are like toddlers that never grow up. In the beginning I kept thinking “wait, people do this, right?? People have dogs!! This can’t be *this* hard!! But it has gotten a little better. Mostly I just adjusted in the same way I assume parents do.

    2. And so it goes*

      With our first puppy, I mostly felt like running away, lol. It was overwhelming and I desperately craved getting time to myself again. When she was about 5 months old, things got much better. For second puppy, I made sure we crate trained and followed a very structured routine (Google AKC puppy schedule for example) and once she had the shots, put her in doggy daycare a few times a week. Those really helped. Remember that all the time you spend now will pay off with a well behaved dog who takes a lot less effort! And give the pup lots of cuddles- it’s good for you. :)

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        YES. I am getting a(nother) puppy in a couple of months, and I already have a crate and the AKC puppy schedule bookmarked, haha. My current dog was 8 weeks old when I brought her home (7.5 years old now), but I made some mistakes (she’s definitely a velcro dog who doesn’t do well without people around) and also we were amazingly lucky with her (she chewed something that wasn’t hers to chew on exactly once, EVER, well twice if you count the time my housemate left his plate of tacos on the coffee table and lost them, which was five years ago and he still brings it up :P ). This puppy is going to be rather larger than my current dog, so I have a lot of reasons I need to be super structured and intentional about training early and often. (But also yes, cuddles. :) )

        1. Hotdog not dog*

          Congratulations! And the taco incident is clearly your housemate’s fault. Any food left unsupervised at snout level should be fair game!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Pups are a lot of work to get them launch in their life with us.
      It can feel difficult to bond with this needy little being that seems to take much and give little. Of course that shifts and it does not take too long where the cute loving gestures flow toward us.
      One thing I have done with my pups is to take naps with them. The current dog I have came into my life when I was working all sorts of crazy, odd hours. So I taught him that life with me sometimes meant we nap together. The peace and stillness are very enjoyable- but I see that the pup gets something out of it also. It’s a quiet comfort.
      It’s okay to teach them to fit your life.
      With my previous dog, I gave him a spot in the kitchen where he could lay down while I cooked, did dishes etc. It was his space to be with me and also out of the way so I did not constantly fall over him.
      Spring and fall usually bring a lot of yard work. So that means the dog goes outside with me on a long leash and hangs out while I rake or weed or whatever.

      Dogs do vary in personality. My previous dog was Mr. Lovey. He’d follow me all through the house. If I was working in one room for a bit, he’d want to be in the room with me. My current dog is Mr. Independent. He will follow me IF I am doing something that is interesting TO HIM. hahaha. Other times he just sleeps on his dog bed or plays with his toys. There are advantages to both personality types.

      Bonding is not an instant thing. The relationship grows as the pup matures. Pups also grow to communicate with us more so interaction feels more like it is two-way, as opposed to us initiating each interaction.

      With my previous dog, for some reason I became painfully aware of just how much I corrected the dog. It was not fun for me to keep correcting. I started working with redirects. For example, I came home from work and the dog was over joyed to see me. (Wonderful, I am happy to see him.) I’d get into the house with my arms filled with a tote bag, purse, keys, mail, packages, groceries and he would jump on me. (Not wonderful.) I’d start correcting behavior. (Peach. I waited all day to see this little guy and the first thing I have to do is scold him??? NOooooo. This sucked for the both of us.)
      Enter redirection. I hit upon the idea of telling him to get his toy. (Did not matter which toy.) Once he had something in his mouth he acted like he had “done” something. The jumping stopped. He paraded around proudly with this toy he had picked up because I told him to pick up a toy. I was praising him instead of correcting him. This was such an improvement. I expanded out with using redirection for many of his behaviors.

      Punchline: I think in the beginning we have to deliberately create positive moments. And there is a waiting period to get a “return” on our “investment” of time and training. They never forget our patience with them and they never forget the care we gave (and continue to give) them.

      1. Dog Walking Schedule?*

        This is a great illustration. It is always easier to teach someone – not just dogs! – what to *do* versus what *not to do* (and dogs often don’t seem to generalize very well, so you have to correct something you don’t want them to do in sooo many circumstances).

      2. Angstrom*

        That worked well with our latest young rescue. For example, being pushy in the kitchen got him ignored, but as soon as he lay down good things would fall from the sky. He got the idea very quickly. :-)

      3. Nicole76*

        Something similar happened with my dog, except she would get so excited to see us she’d urinate on the floor. We tried ignoring her but that didn’t work every time. I don’t remember how it started, but eventually we learned if she had a toy in her mouth it helped. Now we keep a toy right by the door so when we get home she grabs that in her excitement and prances around with it. By the time we’ve offloaded our belongings she’s calmed down enough that we can give her attention without her having any accidents.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Kind of like mortgages–as much as I in-the-abstract had concluded that this puppy/kitten was something I wanted, once the reality is there and I cannot turn it off or back out, I have always had some “Oh no, was this the right move? Maybe I should have done something else” feelings after a few days.

      Being the one in charge of remembering all the things and taking care of everything is definitely different from being a fellow household member who gets to hang with the dog when it suits you. (I still remember my teenage daughter turning down a request to walk the new dogs because it wouldn’t work with her friends’ schedules today, but she might have time on Thursday. Yes, prior to the dogs arriving she had sworn that she understood they needed to be walked and such and of course would help with that.)

    5. Chauncy Gardener*

      Ugh! Puppies are SO hard! I so much prefer to adopt adult dogs. Our last dog we adopted as a puppy because I wasn’t working much then, but it was BRUTAL. The off leash training was especially hard. I remember being in tears on numerous occasions

    6. Smol Book Wizard*

      New puppies are hard. My six-month-old German Shepherd named Lancer is currently wandering the living room as I write this. I managed the first few weeks with a very structured schedule including lots of crate/nap time; when I felt bad for it and like I should be letting him out more, I reminded myself that I wanted to give him the best of me when we were together, and that included taking care of myself and getting a break.
      Also, teaching fun tricks is a good way to bond and enjoy each other’s company. My Lancer and I did a lot of basic heelwork to music (look up videos, it’s so cool!) while he was small and too young to go on walks in the parks.
      Maybe not while they are an absolute baby, but once they get a little older, I recommend teaching them to “go to their place” on a mat or a bed in the living room, so they can get used to stowing themselves somewhere by default and chilling. This took a lot of treats early on, dispensed about every 20-30 seconds in exchange for lying down politely on the mat while I sat next to them in a chair reading or playing a video game, but it’s paying off nicely.
      All the best to you and your little friend.

    7. Puppy Mum*

      The puppy blues are real! I’ve had my puppy for about a year and it was an incredibly hard, exhausting year. But it does get better, and I love having him in my life! Hang in there, and be kind to yourself. The reddit puppy 101 forum can be helpful for commiseration and venting!

    8. Julia*

      I had a major case of the puppy blues! My pup was so freaking adorable, but since I was the one working from home a lot of the pressure was on me during the day. I thought it was a mistake for several months! I even resented my partner for talking me into it. The good news is—there’s hope! They learn potty training, the puppy biting stops, and they calm down as they get older. My dog is now well over a year old and it’s hard for me to remember how stressed out I was! What helped me was giving myself breaks when I needed to by putting her in doggy daycare for an occasional day here and there, and finding things that we both enjoyed doing together. Decompression walks at our local park have been the best thing!

      1. Sloanicota*

        Ok I have to know: was a year of this kind of angst worth it to end up with a presumably better trained (for you and your life I mean) dog for the rest of it’s life – which I assume is 10-12 years, thus about 10% of its life was very difficult for you? Or having had the experience once, would you go for an older dog next time? I’m so conflicted – I’ve never gotten a dog as a puppy, always at least a year or two old, and I wonder if I’m missing out or if that’s probably a wiser choice for me, as I’m totally intimidated by the amount of work involved.

        1. IT Manager*

          I have a slightly different perspective – I raise puppies for a non profit (guide dogs) from about 3-4 months to about 18-24 months. So the % of puppy time is almost 50%!

          I think some people enjoy the puppy phase specifically. It’s like children – some people like babies, some people love the toddler phase, some don’t truly love parenting until their kid matures into a real personality of their own.

          We are between puppies right now and while I love, love, love my older pet dog, I really miss having a goofy, floppy, energetic puppy around. Even though it’s kinda nice not to have to watch the trashcans and shoes all the time, I still miss it and think it’s worth the trade off. But YMMV.

  13. The Other Dawn*

    In less than 12 hours I’ll be on a plane to Las Vegas for the first time in eight years. I cannot wait to get the hell out of here (away from work, mostly) for 10 days. Aside from the pandemic, the last two years have sucked both health-wise and work-wise. I was super lucky to be able to get one of the techs at my vet to be my cat sitter. I feel so much better not having to worry my friend won’t scoop the litter enough (she has ONE cat and I swear that box gets scooped like once a month…). I’m also happy I didn’t have to beg friends or family to come since they’re all 30+ minutes away and mostly are not cat owners.

    OK, now that I got that out of my system: has anyone here done any of the helicopter tours they offer in LV? We want to book something, but have no idea what. One tour was a reasonable price, but it was only 15 minutes in the air over the Strip. The rest of the time was travel to the helipad, fly to the strip and then back again, then travel back to the hotel. Seems like a waste to me. And a lot of the Grand Canyon tours were pretty expensive; however, for the right experience I’m willing to pay since we’re celebrating our 26th wedding anniversary and we’re pretty much going all out on this trip.

    We haven’t really booked anything to do other than our anniversary dinner tomorrow night (steakhouse) and the Bacchanal buffet at Caesar’s. On the one hand we definitely want to do things other than be in the casinos all day. On the other, we don’t want to be married to an itinerary. We want a mix of planning and just waking up and being spontaneous. We’ve been to Vegas five times over the years, so we’ve been to the usual places, like the Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Valley or Fire, and Red Rock Canyon. We plan to revisit at least a few of those.

    1. Ready for spring*

      We did the airplane tour over the Grand Canyon and absolutely loved it. It was about 45 minutes. I will say from that perspective the vastness is hard to comprehend. And funny- I’ve been to Vegas several times and have yet to see it on the ground. Someday…

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I don’t do helicopters because flying and me are not friends :) but for other options: I really enjoy the Mob Museum, and I have friends who go to the Pinball Museum and the Neon Museum every time they’re in Vegas. (One of them also does one of the “drive a specialty race car” type experiences every time he goes.) Shows: If you’re amenable to burlesque, Absinthe at Caesars and Atomic at the Venetian are great. I’ve seen a bunch of Cirque du Soleil shows both in Vegas and elsewhere, and Ka at the MGM Grand is my favorite of all of them.

      Speaking of Cirque — a lot of the Cirque theaters have free events one or two days a week during the afternoon, where you can get a sort of presentation about the troupe, about the show, and about some of the special features of that particular theater. (Or at least, they did pre-pandemic.) Most of the time these will also include a discount for tickets and/or the gift shop. I don’t like the Beatles at all, but the behind-the-scenes for the Cirque Beatles show was fascinating, even though I don’t have any interest in the show itself. They’ll usually have signs with the free tour times up around the ticket booth and theater areas, I’m not sure if they list them online anywhere.

      1. Accidental Itenerate Teacher*

        I second the Mob museum and the Pinball museum- I’ve done both and had a blast.

        If you’re into more interactive experiences I heartily reccomend Omega Mart. Its hard to describe but its kind of like a children’s museum but for adults, or an acid trip. There are portals and slides and a bar and a mystery to solve. Last time I was in Vegas my best friend and I spent hours there exploring and loved it.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Yes, we’ve been to the Pinball museum and the Mob museum and we plan to go again. Both were great. I was looking at Omega Mart. A YouTuber did an in-depth review and walk-through and it looks like fun.

          1. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

            We’re doing Lost Spirits (which shares space with Omega Mart). If we’re up to it, we may do OM the next day.

    3. Masked Bandit*

      Are you a spa person? I used to go to Vegas a lot for work and would treat myself to a different spa every time. The best one is the one at Caesar’s—it has a room where it snows inside! But the ones at Venetian, Encore, and Aria are all world-class too. With most of them, you don’t even have to be getting a service, you can just buy a pass for the day and use the facilities.

    4. Texan In Exile*

      The catsitter conundrum. :(

      My friend has been in a rehab center for a few months. Her apartment manager has been taking care of her cat, but the manager wants to go on vacation. I’m willing to take care of cat for a short while, but we will be out of town as well. And our own catsitter is a neighbor with MS who is reluctant to drive, so he’s not really an option.

    5. River Otter*

      Check out the Shelby Heritage Center and the Las Vegas Distillery (in Henderson, if you like whiskey)

      I love the Pinball Museum. It’s not really a museum, though, it’s an arcade. The games are not on display, they are there to be played.

    6. NYCRedhead*

      I second the suggestion of the Neon Museum- I did a “after dark” tour and the neon really popped. The Smith Center has actual cultural events. There’s also a modest sized aquarium at Mandalay Bay that I enjoyed.

    7. The OG Sleepless*

      The last time I had a few hours to kill in Vegas, I went to a park called the Springs Preserve and went walking. I live in a woodsy area so a walking trail in the desert was a wonderful novelty. My taxi driver said I was the first non-local he had ever taken there.

    8. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

      Have a great trip! We’ll be there this Friday.
      We mainly go to get sunshine in the eyeballs. (Winter where we live is a very dark grey place)
      But I always make time to walk the Strip (monorail north and walk to MGM).
      This year, we are also seeing Absinthe at Caesars and doing the Lost Spirits Distillery Tour.

    9. Rainy*

      If the Meow Wolf exhibit is still there definitely go, we had a LOT of fun. I love the National Atomic Testing Museum and I really enjoyed the aquarium in the Mandalay Bay the time I went–I guess check and make sure it’s still getting good reviews.

  14. Expiring Cat Memes*

    Any tried and true advice for easily getting rid of weeds between pavers? I’ve been pulling them out by hand but I can’t keep up with how fast they’re appearing. I’m keen to avoid chemicals because the worst of it is right next to my veggie patch. Also, we back onto a protected strip of bushland and I don’t want any nasty chemicals washing down our property and into the local creek.

    1. Kirsten*

      Salt? Or planting small threadbare plants you actually like so that there’s not room for the weeds?

    2. bratschegirl*

      A strong solution of vinegar and water, sprayed on the foliage of the weeds, will dry them out and kill them. Once they’re desiccated it’s a lot easier to pull them out.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        You can get a stronger vinegar meant for weed control at most garden centers (although not at the big box stores). Mix it with salt, water, and a dash of dish soap (makes it stick to the leaves) and spray the cracks any time you see weeds popping through.
        Plain boiling water will also work on some weeds, but they’ll grow right back.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This is what I do.

          And you can use a spritzer or a pump sprayer for application. I bought a small sprayer with a pump to pump up air pressure. But you can also use a spritzer bottle. If you are doing a larger area, the repetitive motion of squeezing the trigger might be bothersome for your hands.

          When I worked in a nursery we had to label sprayers as “weed killer only”. Sprayers can be used for other things. But I thought it was wise to have a designated weed killer sprayer here, even though I am using homemade weed killers.

          In order to get the most result out of labor and materials, I wait until a morning where the weeds are relatively dry. Morning dew can dilute the mix in the sprayer and reduce my results. I also prefer to spray when the weather forecast calls for no rain for about 48 hours. Again, this is to get the most benefit of the weed killer.
          Usually I see dead, dying weeds by late afternoon on the same day I sprayed.

          There are various tools you can use to get the dead weeds out. Ace Hardware has a couple of nice weeders for in between sidewalk cracks. They work well. I thought they were decent quality and probably would last me a very long time.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          That’s what my yard guy used to use, the vinegar/dish soap/salt thing. It worked pretty well.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        My dad used to boil the kettle, pour for his tea, then dump the rest out on the patio bricks. Does a nice bit of work.

        I do that, and also water and vinegar.

    3. Veggie farmer*

      Flame weeder? If there isn’t danger of starting a brushfire, obviously. At least on the farm it’s great for just-emerged tiny weeds, not anything over about an inch, and not as good on grasses since their growth point where the leaves come out can be nearly underground or, in your case, protected by the crack. It doesn’t burn them, it boils the water in the cells and bursts the cell walls, then the leaves die and the plant along with it, if the plant is tiny enough.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Just font repeat my mistake and overheat the area that has weed-block plastic under it :(
        And keep a hose handy.

    4. Ready for spring*

      This isn’t removing the weeds but seems to make easier- a couple times a year we pour paver sand back over it and sweep it into the cracks and make sure they’re really full. Seems like pulling the weeds is easier and establishment is reduced in the sand.

    5. Texas Rose*

      Boiling water. (Also works somewhat on fire ant mounds, but on those you have to apply and run.) My gran used this around old cement 2’x2′ pavers, which had no problem with boiling water straight out of the tea kettle; YMMV with the newer pavers.

      Alternately, my Aunt Nettie would pen her guinea pigs in the area she wanted “weeded” – but this technique assumes some piggies available for weeding duty.

    6. GlowCloud*

      Salt and vinegar will harm surrounding plants and cause soil toxicity just like any other weedkiller (and possibly worse, because it’s not formulated properly) so I don’t recommend home-made herbicides. Physical methods are the way to go when you’re growing veggies.

      The trick with any perennial weed is to get them early – and damage the crown (not the foliage, the part where the foliage emerges from the roots) before the leaves fully emerge and they have a chance to photosynthesize. Then keep hitting them often. Small weeds will go at the stroke of a wire paving brush. Dandelion roots will require a paving hook.
      If it’s a larger area, you could buzz the tops down with a strimmer, then I strongly recommend a weed burner, which will save your back. You’d have to be super careful with it if you have wooden garden edging, or live in a wildfire zone, though.

      The most essential part is cutting weeds back before they have a chance to set seed. Sounds like you’re talking flagstones on bare soil rather than block paving, otherwise I might suggest using a driveway sealant. You could perhaps lift the pavers and lay some Mypex-type weed suppressant fabric underneath them?

    7. Girasol*

      You can pull up the pavers and put weed-proof cloth under them. It won’t last but a few years before it gets dirt and new weed seeds on top, or it breaks down under the onslaught of weeds from below, but it might give you the head start that you need to be able to keep up by hand weeding. My farmer neighbor would second the advice on the salt, but she warns that you have to be sure that you won’t change your mind and want to plant there, and that runoff doesn’t move the salt to where you have plants, like that veggie garden.

  15. Crackerjack*

    GAH, wrote a long question and think my phone ate it.

    In a nutshell, I’m looking for advice on how you parent two children of opposite sexes, without accidentally reinforcing sexism. My daughter is older and my son younger (5 and 2) and so obviously expectations of her behaviour are different than his right now, but I really want to avoid that insidiously becoming that expectations for her are ALWAYS higher, and he’s allowed to get away with stuff/coast.

    1. Hotdog not dog*

      That’s the same age difference as my younger brother and I, so you could ask my parents how not to do it! (To be fair, we’re in our 50s now, so things were very different.)
      Looking back, it was frustrating to both of us to be held to different standards once the obvious age or developmental hurdles had been cleared.
      I think the fact that you are consciously trying to avoid gender bias will go a long way. My mom and I had an interesting discussion one Thanksgiving when I enlisted her grandchildren to help clean up. I had my niece take out the garbage (a “boy job” to mom) while my son washed the glassware (totally a “girl job”). But it made more sense that way, since my son is pretty dexterous and there is a 99 percent chance of my niece dropping whatever she picks up. (Both are teens, so are fully capable of most household chores.) She hadn’t even considered that it would be more sensible to assign chores by aptitude. I think that as long as your expectations of each child are aligned with their abilities, which should even out as they grow, you’ll put them on a good path.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Interesting! I’m about the same age & my parents went for as gender neutral of an upbringing as possible with my sister & me. We did typical “girl” things but had similar chores to both the boys & girls of our neighborhood. Our only limitations were physical (severe allergies meant my sister didn’t do yardwork). Or interest.

        But I was always hyper aware of the kids who were treated differently in their families based on their gender. And I think that awareness makes sense.

        1. cleo*

          Yes, so interesting! My brother and I are in our early 50s and our parents were pretty gender neutral in raising us, especially in terms of chores like mowing the lawn and doing dishes. And we both learned basic skills like how to replace a button and hang a picture on the wall.

          My mother was a feminist and she and my dad consciously were trying to raise us without imposing gender biases. They did pretty well.

          My mom had really hated that she wasn’t allowed to play sports in school when she was as naturally athletic as her brothers were and tried to get me interested in sports (but it didn’t take with me)

      2. Dancing Otter*

        I’m a bit older, child of the 50s and 60s. My friends and neighbors definitely had chores based on gender. I resented the h—- out of having to mow, rake, shovel and deal with garbage AND help with dishes, laundry and house-cleaning. (Female, only child of older parents.)
        I also had my mother wanting me to be pretty and popular, while my father wanted straight As including math and science. I never did figure out how I was supposed to set the curve on every test while making the boys think they were smarter than I was.

        While it was certainly not my parents’ intention, it did turn out pretty gender-neutral. Just exhausting.

    2. Marylynne7*

      This is a great question. The fact that you were thinking about it and aware of it means you were mostly there. Be aware of emotional labor, and respecting autonomy and boundaries. I teach a toddler class, and we say things like “she has that right now, I’m going to help you respect her space. You want to give him a hug, but look at his face he does not want one. You will have to wait.” Make sure the girl doesn’t always have to put up with the boy messing with her or her things, because “boys are like that, or he’s younger than you.“

      1. Crackerjack*

        This is exactly what I’m worried about. I find myself often saying when I’m busy and she’s complaining that he’s snatched something off her or similar, ‘well, just move away from him! Go in the other room!’ That seems like the solution at this age because he’s little and can’t catch her if she leaves, but she gets frustrated… And normal sibling bickering is normal and fine, but I don’t want to make her think her needs aren’t important or it’s always on her to solve a problem caused by him… It just kind of is while he’s 2!!!

        1. Crackerjack*

          Although I would certainly never say ‘boys are like that’ but I’m sure I’ve said ‘babies are like that’.

          1. Observer*

            Well, that’s the difference. BABIES are like that, and thus it behooves her to be the one to move in these kinds of situations. If her brother were past the toddler stage, that would be a different conversation.

            You need to maintain awareness. So, don’t just keep on doing this as he gets old enough to learn how to handle a firm “No.” But it’s also ok for her to learn that sometimes you have to be the adult in the room.

            A major key of course, is when does that actually apply. And the thing you want her to know is that it never applies when two actual functional adults are involved.

        2. Ampersand*

          Can you tell her that it won’t always be like this? That’s something my husband and I remind ourselves of during the more stressful parts of raising our three year old—it’s a helpful reminder (it’s so easy to fall into the ‘OMG this is my life now isn’t it?!’ trap when you’re in the thick of things).

          When your daughter is frustrated by the situation, maybe it could help to explain in an age-appropriate way that you’re asking her to move away from her brother (for example) because that’s the best solution right now at his age. Reassurance that this isn’t forever might ease some frustration.

        3. HBJ*

          This doesn’t seem like a girl/boy thing, though. Would you do the same thing if they were both boys or both girls? Because I say that same thing, and both children in question are the same gender.

        4. Batgirl*

          I think it’s reasonable that you teach her to do whatever anyone of any gender would do with any baby, which is move away. It might be more affirming to her if you phrase it like you’re teaching him to be more like her. “It takes a long time for babies to learn not to snatch. I say “no” and take my thing away so he learns that snatching doesn’t work”. I don’t think what you’re describing is sexism confused with “he’s litter than you”, which I’ve seen. In that scenario the little girl was told to give up her things if her brother wanted them.

    3. Dog Walking Schedule?*

      Others are offering great suggestions on the gender/emotional labor part. Specific to the ages, I think it would be very difficult to always hold younger children to the same standard as older children, unless there were extra adults around, so one thing to consider is the tradeoffs. Younger children often get a bit of an easier go of it, because the older child “breaks in” the parents – as a younger, I always had later bedtime/curfew and fewer restrictions than my older sibling and she was always expected to be patient with me. At the same time, almost anything we did, she could do better/faster/longer, which gives the younger child a different perspective. I also wasted y-e-a-r-s of my life being dragged around to her events, while she was off at college by the time my activities were similarly time consuming. Her preferences set the tone of the family and I “went along” as the younger. She generally got to do age appropriate things because you don’t take your oldest child to something they’re too young for (an amusement park when they can’t really enjoy the rides, theater that they can’t really understand, hikes they can’t really keep up on, etc) while this is par for the course for the younger. So it wasn’t equal, but it probably shook out as pretty fair when considering all the tradeoffs.

    4. BookMom*

      I’d agree that being intentional and aware is half the battle. My children are the same gender but have wildly different personalities. I don’t have the the same approach/expectation to parenting them because they’re different people. Sometimes they chafe a bit when they think the other one’s getting more attention/getting away with something/etc, but I do try to be transparent when appropriate to the situation and their age.

    5. Janet Pinkerton*

      I have read both Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue and How to Raise a Feminist Son, and while they’re not focused on your precise issue, they would likely get you some good ideas going.

      1. Crackerjack*

        Thanks for the book recommendations, and thanks everyone for the comments! I agree all children are different, and there’s more than gender to consider – and it’s certainly nothing as transparent as me recommending ‘girls activities’ to one and ‘boys activities’ to the other. I’m the second of four myself, and I know each sibling gets a different experience.

        I think part of my worry is that because my son is younger, my daughter feels like I’m cutting him slack she’s not getting – in terms of tidying up toys, expressing emotions appropriately, for example – of course she doesn’t remember the slack she got at the same age. He is much less precocious than her in terms of speech, and because he was a pandemic baby (born Jan 2020) much less well socialised. I think the way I’m treating them both now is appropriate for where they’re at – I just worry that as they grow, it would be easy to keep him in the role of ‘baby’ who’s more indulged, and that that could play directly into structural patriarchy!

        Maybe all I need to do is have a third child, then he’ll have to grow up quick smart…

        1. Observer*

          I think part of my worry is that because my son is younger, my daughter feels like I’m cutting him slack she’s not getting – in terms of tidying up toys, expressing emotions appropriately, for example –

          Well, OF COURSE you are! It’s not just “hard”, it is simply impossible to hold children with this kind of age gap to the same standards. And you need to just keep on telling her that. Don’t try to “remind” her of how you handled her when she was younger. It’s not all that relevant, and she won’t remember anyway.

          She’s pretty little herself, so a lot of explaining is not going to be useful. So it might be more useful to have some milestones that she can recognize. So, maybe he’s not toilet trained and she is. Or she goes to BIG girl school and he goes to BABY school. Or whatever it is that makes sense in the context. Or even just something that she can recognize as a major milestone.

          They are only 3 years apart, so the differences will diminish pretty quickly, although not entirely till they hit near college age. But right now, those three years are huge.

    6. RagingADHD*

      I think you are overthinking it, but if you need a strategy that you can start right now, I’d make sure you are encouraging your daughter to play hard, try risky things, be brave, compete, and speak up about her feelings. Give her plenty of room to get wild, make noise, and make messes. Think more about meeting her needs than about enforcing expectations.

      Don’t think about policing bad behavior equally. Think about encouraging positive, healthy behavior equally.

      1. Crackerjack*

        Thank you, I think this is a good perspective for me to consider. I’d been thinking of times when he does something I’d tell her off for and I don’t tell him off, because frankly he has no understanding of why it’s wrong so what’s the point, but I should try more positively making sure I give her what she needs. She is very risk averse and he is NOT, but there are things she needs I could do more of with her.

        1. RagingADHD*

          And go easy on yourself, too. You simply can’t treat two different individuals exactly the same. It would be terrible parenting to do so. I remember once working on a show about a dysfunctional family, and the costumer’s design was to have every child/adult child in the family wear the same outfit. Not matching outfits, but the exact same cut and the same size, in garments that were not stretchy or designed to be one-size-fits-all, regardless of age or body size. It was a great metaphor for how the parents didn’t see them as individuals, but as roles.

          Unfortunately, one of the difficult aspects of parenting is that children are hard-wired to complain that they aren’t being treated fairly, all the time, about everything. Good parents (like you) take stock regularly to see if that’s true. You can’t dismiss it across the board, but you also can’t take it at face value because — well, they’re children. They often don’t understand everything that’s going on, and they are (appropriately) immature. It can be exhausting, but it’s part of the work and deserves to be taken seriously.

          Hang in there, you’re doing great!

    7. Texan In Exile*

      Interesting question! I am thinking about my own childhood, where my brother, my sister, and I (I am a woman) had chores.

      We all had the same chores. There was a list on the fridge and every week, we were each responsible for different things: cleaning our bathroom, helping my mom wash the dishes, setting the the table, feeding the cat.

      We were also all expected to make our own beds every day (I have been shocked at how many adults I know whose moms made their beds), to put away our own laundry, and to take turns cutting the lawn and washing the car. And my dad taught us all basic auto maintenance before we were allowed to get a drivers license.

      I am kind of surprised now that I look at it that my small-town parents had the same expectations of all of us – that our responsibilities did not change by sex.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        We graduated chores when we were little. So I took out the recycling when I was quite small, then I moved up to taking out the bigger trash dumpster and my younger brother got the recycling. I forget what I did next, but my younger brother moved up to the dumpster and the next brother down did the recycling. Dinner chores moved from clearing the table, to rinsing the dishes, to washing the dishes. It always seemed fair to me. I had the toughest chores, but I was the oldest and biggest, and also in due course my brothers would take them over.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      It really helped that my kids are 5.5 years apart, and so exactly what we did with oldest (the girl) at the age youngest (the boy) just reached was blurry. I did try to be very even about it–the point at which you start doing your own laundry, getting an allowance, etc.

      Two age points that stick out to me in hindsight:
      Age four: No matter how much the parents had read about gender neutral parenting, the kids at this age became very concerned with fitting in with their peer group. I remember being at a birthday party and the girls were all cooperating in a group with the storyteller and the boys standing back and hitting each other with balloons. You are not going to be the only influence about gender roles, unless you live on a remote sheep station.
      Age seven: This is when opposite-sex friendships seemed to fade, and it really seemed like it was just that the girls were playing rescue the baby animals from the poachers, and the boys were web slinging through the city as SpiderMan, and they just couldn’t get the fantasies to work together. The other gender wasn’t icky, just hard to comprehend.

      I also have one high-strung perfectionist and one super-chill kid; one more open to trying new things and one much more stressed out by change. So there are things other than gender and age going into how it makes sense to treat them, since the things stressing them out in their elementary and then teen years were really different.

    9. Fellow Traveller*

      I don’t know if your family has parents of opposite sexes, but I think that having non-traditional gender roles modeled by the parents / grandparents/ friends/ etc. is also really important.

      1. Anon for this*

        This was what totally defused any pressure that might have been put on my siblings and me. My dad is the artist, my mom the household-repairs person.

      2. Crackerjack*

        Yeah, this is a problem – I am in a heterosexual marriage and my husband is the breadwinner while I work part time, at home, with the kids as my priority. We split day to day chores but my husband does most garden jobs, decorating and I do the deep cleaning. Plus my hobbies are the uber feminine sewing, baking, reading and dancing. Sigh. But at least I do all the finances!

        1. Fellow Traveller*

          Good for you and finances! And splitting day chores!
          I don’t think it’s necessarily problematic as long as you also have both kids help both of you out- like your daughter helps with the yard work and your son helps with the housecleaning. Also make sure your kids know that childcare and other unpaid labor is just as valuable as paid work, even though our society doesn’t say so. (I’m in the US- maybe it’s different in other places…) And have your husband be responsible for the kids and household work equally on weekends.
          I know your struggle, though. I have an older daughter (10 years old to a 5 year old brother) and I sometimes worry about the amount of pressure and responsibility she puts on herself.

    10. moonstone*

      Since you’re already conscious of this you’re probably good, but since your daughter is also the older sibling, resist the urge to parentify her, treat her like a mother-in-training, and have unrealistic expectations of her. I think the high expectations of first-borns happens to all genders, but girls in particular get an added burden of having to be nurturing, expend a bunch of emotional labor, and do most of the chores. Also, make sure chores are split evenly.

      1. moonstone*

        I also want to mention – don’t feel like you’ve failed if your kids prefer conventional things for their assigned gender. Like if your daughter ends up liking Barbies and your son likes action figures (or whatever). What matters is that they choose these things on their own (yes societal and peer influences are always a factor but the active choice should be theirs). People tend to confuse “gender-neutral” with “traditionally masculine”, so be aware of that bias. Feminine things aren’t inherently bad.

        1. Generic Name*

          +1 I (she/her) got a lot for praise for being into science and the outdoors and being more rough and tumble. It was to the point where in my teenage years that I rejected a lot of traditionally feminine things like the color pink or sparkly things. I avoided skirts/dresses in my early career, even though I like wearing them. Now that I’m older I enjoy these things for their own sake, but I see that I totally bought into the idea that “feminine things are less than”.

          1. AGD*

            Exactly the same. Tomboyish stuff got me praise, which is why I didn’t figure out until I was in my twenties that I actually love knitting and sewing! Messages like ‘pink stinks’ really miss the point, and are bad for people of any gender.

      2. Green great dragon*

        Lots of good advice and I agree being conscious is a great start. The thing I’d be wary of is defaulting to older child for the tiny things, and I’d actually write down occasionally what your children are capable of so you can compare directly. So if when your daughter is 10 you feel comfortable asking her to take something out the oven when the timer goes off, you remember to start asking your son half the time when he reaches 10, assuming they’re roughly equally capable. And make sure it’s not always the elder and more capable child you yell for when you need an extra hand suddenly, even if that feels like the easier thing to do at the time.

        It’s for both their sakes – my younger brother definitely had fewer (and gendered) tasks, so had a much steeper learning curve when he left home… or perhaps a steep learning curve once *I* left home :)

      3. SnappinTerrapin*

        It’s not uncommon for older siblings to be responsible for assisting with caretaking of younger siblings, and it’s not necessarily sexist.

        As a boy, I learned it’s better to change a diaper with my brothers being perpendicular to my line of sight, to avoid getting urinated on, and that it is easier to get a good fit on the diaper by pinning the far side first so I could pull the near side tight. I also learned to keep my other hand between the diaper and the baby while pinning.

        Both genders need to be trained as future parents, in case they choose to become parents when they grow up. Both genders need to learn at least the basics of housekeeping, yard work and maintenance of homes and machinery.

        You’ve already got plenty of advice about the difference between distinguishing developmental stages/maturity roles and gender roles. Odds are, both children will eventually feel like you favor the other at times. For example, the younger child may gain privileges at age 6 that the elder child didn’t get until age 8. The younger one will start whining about not being allowed to do it at 5, and the older one will resent it when you finally decide it’s not worth fighting about. Hey, you learn as you go and as they grow. They’ll survive.

        My grandparents also helped model and teach me, although we usually lived a long way off. My maternal grandparents actively shared a business. My grandfathers taught me many of the traditionally masculine skills, which I passed on to sons and daughters. My grandmothers taught me to cook and sew. Being able to clean, sew and mend were useful in the military, as well as in a long bachelorhood before I married. My grandfathers also modeled tenderness and attentiveness in childcare. Needless to say, my parents modeled what their parents had done as well.

        1. moonstone*

          There is a difference between occasionally helping out your parents with caretaking activities, and being parentified, usually at the expense of the child’s own development. The latter is when it becomes a problem. I don’t necessarily agree that kids should be trained as “future parents” – there are a lot of presumptions there.

    11. Alexis Rosay*

      Such an interesting question and I’m glad you’re thinking about it. I have a sister who is 3 years younger than me and a brother who is 5 years younger than me, and while I love my brother very dearly, he does have a tendency to fall into some entitled behavior patterns. The combination of him being the only boy, plus being the youngest who always had the least responsibilities, definitely seems to have had an impact. My sister and I are hyper-aware of doing our fair share while we’re visiting, while he tends to wait to be specifically asked and/or go take a nap while everyone else is frantically prepping dinner or cleaning together. On the good side, I never felt that he was allowed to misbehave more due to being a boy–I think my parents set high standards for good behavior for all of us.

      Over the long term, you could keep notes on what chores your daughter is expected to do at a certain age and check those when your son reaches that age to make sure you’re asking him to help out around the house in a way that’s equivalent to how she was helping at that age. The older they get, too, the more you’ll be able to set similar expectations for both.

    12. Suprisingly ADHD*

      There’s a 3 year gap between me (girl) and my youngest brother. Looking back, my greatest frustration was not being allowed to work on things. My brothers got hands-on with engines and tools, but I had to stand back safely and watch.

      Generally speaking, give them the same options! Crafts, sports, chores, toys, whatever. Especially toys seem to be really gendered still. Playsets always annoyed me, girls get the kitchen and boys get the workbench. But if they’re put together they make a full play home! The rule for my parents was that all of us had to get the same or comparable gifts. For instance, a relative got my brothers rc cars, and me decorative porcelain dolls that I couldn’t even play with. My dad went out and bought me a car so I could play with everyone else!

      Teach them both the same life skills. Cooking, laundry, home repairs, ask both of them for help. If the age difference means only one can do something, explain why and offer an alternative (at a later time is ok).

      Try not to put the oldest in charge of the younger one too much. Three years isn’t really enough for the younger one to think there’s any authority, it can make the oldest very frustrated and helpless. Don’t make one of them responsible for the other’s behavior. Teach them to protect each other, not babysit.

      Overall, it sounds like your attitude is in the right place, which will make a huge difference to them!

      1. Crackerjack*

        Thank you to everyone for your advice. I’m the second of four myself, with an older brother and two younger sisters. I know the dynamic of the youngest getting away with more, and that definitely happened with my sister. But as the oldest girl, I was very much responsible for the little ones. My brother did not have similar emotional labour. On the other hand, my brother had very severe depression and attempted suicide multiple times during adolescence. He’s still very ill but much more stable now. I’m sure that contributed to my role in the family being what it was.

        Maybe I just need to have a third child! That will fix my son being the baby… It’s really the combination of youngest+boy that worries me. I’m afraid I’ll never remember to give him the same responsibilities as her, because she’ll always seem more capable. But there’s some great advice here about how to be intentional about it, so thank you.

        1. Morning reader*

          You could have a third but maybe that one would turn out to be a boy too! I was a third in a very gendered-role type family and I believe it freed me, in a way, to be less constrained by gender myself. My sister already had the girl stuff locked up, and my brother did the boy stuff, so I did whichever (although constrained by the rules of the time… backyard baseball but no little league for girls back then.)

          I offer my take on the classic…
          “We will raise a family,
          A boy for you, a girl for me,
          And then we’ll have a third whose gender free!”

    13. University Schlep*

      For chores have them work on things together with age appropriate levels. e.g. she might be clearing or setting the table – but he might be able to do napkins or help with wiping the table – even if he does it badly. She might be learning to make a sandwich for her lunch, he might be learning to put things in the lunchboxes.

      My daughter learned to cook and loved making pancakes, her brother was still too young/short to handle the stove, but he would bring her the ingredients, and then when she started making the pancakes he would put the ingredients away and clean the table.

      Make privileges mirror expectations – yes, you have to do more or are expected to behave in a different way when you are 5 but you ALSO get to (stay up later, have a friend sleep over, etc)

      As they grow older and have more aptitude, assign a few chores generically and let them work out how to split them. Someone needs to prep dinner, someone needs to fold laundry. Someone needs to walk the dog, someone needs to unload the dishwasher and reload it. My kids actually gave this to me when they were in the fighting years and decided they did not want to be in the same room and would rather do laundry alone and cook alone. Now in high-school they manage to split chores to accommodate their complicated activity schedule and some aptitude/preferences.

      Keep track of a few milestones – if you are aware of gender bias you probably will naturally compensate, but age bias can be harder to remember. Letting the baby stay a baby longer, etc.

      1. Margaretmary*

        That part about privileges is exactly what I was thinking too. Yes, being older means more expectations but it should also mean more privilege and this should be clear to both children. “Yes, I expect you to do homework/chores/not hit back when he hits you, but that means you can stay up later/have less supervision/play with toys he can’t be trusted with.” “You have to go to bed earlier than your sister and can’t use those toys, but you don’t have to do homework yet.”

        I’d also say to take care you don’t expect her to put up with everything from him. That’s phrased badly, but I mean stuff like “let him go first, he’s only little,” “don’t get annoyed with him for hitting you, he doesn’t know any better,” “share your toys with him,” “aww, he couldn’t help breaking it. It’s your responsibility to keep things away from him,” that sort of thing. And don’t make her responsible for what he does or what happens to him. That sounds ridiculous, but I remember when my brother started school, a teacher telling me off when some kids picked on him because “you should have been looking after him.” There were 14 months between us! Or being told off when my brother and sister made a mess because I should have stopped them/should have given them a better example, etc.

        Depending on personality, etc, I would be careful of “somebody needs to” because in my own childhood, “somebody” automatically meant me. My sister even said recently that well, my mum had never said SHE had to tidy up after playing, just that the toys had to BE tidied up, so was justified in leaving me to do it all. She was joking now as an adult. It might well work in some families and it sounds like University Schlep’s kids divide it up pretty fairly, but I would keep an eye and ensure it doesn’t just become the eldest’s responsibility (or alternatively, that the older girl doesn’t just make her brother do it all).

        And of course, reinforce whatever their individual interests and aptitudes are.

    14. WS*

      I’m female and the older sister of two boys. My parents did put more responsibility on me, but it was much more personality-based than gender-based. All chores were gender neutral, and it really helped that my parents modelled this too: they both did the typically gendered chores, and they never did the “girls with mum, boys with dad” split in interests. It also helped that my next-oldest brother and I were very similar in interests.

  16. Keziah*

    Any snake people here?

    I have the derpiest ball python in the history of ball pythons and have decided I love derpy serpents (derpents, if you will). So I have been looking into the King Derpent–hognoses.

    What do you keep?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My housemate has a ball python named Charlie, a boa constrictor of some sort named Carlos, and milk and corn snakes named Charlize and Charlene (I can’t remember which one is which). Also a black-and-white tegu and a strawberry pac-man frog. He also occasionally ponders adding a hognose to his collection, but hasn’t gotten there yet. (I have joked that most people aren’t as calm as I am when they open their spare freezer and go “Huh. There weren’t this many rats in here yesterday.”)

      1. Anima*

        Oooh, a tegu! Husband and I dream of keeping a tegu, tell me everything!
        How does your housemate keep the tegu? (Big box enclosure? Is ist still small enough for a terrarium? Is the tegu target trained? Are you allowed to interact with the tegu?)

        To the OP: what about kenian sand boas? I feel they are way more goofier than hognoses; I tend to just find hognoses rather adorable than derpy.

        That said, we don’t keep reptiles yet, but are the weird couple in our friend group that keeps non-ordinary pets. We keep isopods and shrimp.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Of all weird things, the tegu actually lives in a 4×8 foot grow tent, like for plants. Heh. It’s way taller than she needs, the top half of it is mostly wasted space, but that was what worked best to get her an enclosure that gave her enough floor space and could also maintain heat and humidity. (He lives in the basement and we’re in the Midwest, so heat and humidity are his big bugaboos.) She’s been in brumation for most of the winter this year, but when she’s awake, she spends most of her time with him at his desk, pretty much the same way my dog does with me, haha. His plan for this summer is to do some target training, I think!

          She’s coming up on 2 years old, and last I saw her out and about, she was about three feet long, including her tail? She was in a terrarium when he first brought her home, but she did not feel it was big enough and interesting enough so she started busting out of it (like, she’d literally climb up on top of her hide, hang from the underside of the lid by her claws, and bounce until she tore out a section of the screened lid), hence the grow tent with more floor space :) she has a digging box in there, and a basking stone that’s right under one of the heat lamps, and an assortment of live plants that are safe for her to eat if she so chooses.

          1. Anima*

            Oooh, thank you! We won’t go the grow tent route, but I have heard about that. We imagined having a tegu is like having a scaley dog and it sounds like that is the case with her. Awww.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              My dad had a friend who used to walk his tegu on a leash when it was warm enough. They’re not particularly like dogs (they do not have any sense of shame or guilt, for instance), but I’ve heard nothing but good things about them if you have the right set up.

    2. GoryDetails*

      I love the idea of a derpy snake!

      I’m fond of snakes, but haven’t wanted to try keeping any at home – getting the proper setup sounds fairly intense, and my cats keep me busy enough. I admire snakes whenever I see them, usually when I startle a garter snake in my yard, or when I hit the reptile house at a zoo. (And Kaa was my favorite character in the “Jungle Book” stories; pity the film adaptations tend to get him wrong.)

    3. KoiFeeder*

      Hognoses are just so great. Never kept any as pets, but took care of a few easterns at the wildlife rehab (pet hognoses are westerns- eastern hognoses eat one thing and that is frogs). They’re great.

      Someday I want a giant hognose, and a black rat snake. But those require intensive set-ups, so it’s best if I start a little smaller, haha.

    4. Generic Name*

      My son has a corn snake. We have a DIY setup with a mesh top and a lamp for a heat source. The bulb we currently use is a red heat bulb, it my son was talking about a day/night cycle being important to snakes. Does anyone know if the heat bulb would mess with that? He (the snake) also has a under tank heating pad, but I keep the house very cold at night (like 60), so I worry that the pad isn’t enough.

      1. Keziah*

        You can swap the bulb for a CHE and that could help with ambient temps in the enclosure. (On a thermostat of course).

        1. Keziah*

          Red bulbs are now considered a no go for ball pythons in favor of natural light cycles, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it is bad for corn snakes.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Corns are diurnal, like ball pythons, so you’re right on the money there.

            (though the light can stress out a nocturnal snake too. red bulbs are best for crepuscular snakes)

        2. Generic Name*

          Ah, thank you! I’ll talk to kiddo about this (he’s 15, and cares for said snake on his own).

  17. Feeling Lost*

    How can I put up boundaries better? I am a pretty forgiving person, and that leads some to believe that I’m naïve or gullible.
    These are a few examples:

    Upon graduating high school, my “bff” since first grade asked to have my student number and name to login to use my university’s internet from her rural home. Reason being that it was free to me (it was not, this was in 2001) and her internet was slow. I refused and she acted like I was a terrible friend.

    I was in a foreign city for a work conference and made plans with some other colleagues to visit a famous site near the conference. A coworker friend who was a native of that country happened to have visited the same site a month earlier and kindly provided me with directions from the train station. I sent a message to my group members with the bus times and names the night before our excursion. The day of, they all panicked about how to get to the site and ignored me each time I reminded them of the message I sent. This was about the time the iPhone came out and I was told, “Jim has an iPhone! He’ll show us how to get there.” Our times were horribly delayed and later when I again pointed to my email from the previous night, I was told that I was whiny and needed to stop living in the past.

    Another time I joined an acquaintance in playing a weekly sport. I’d played that sport throughout elementary and middle school and told her that. She had never played this sport before, but took it upon herself to “teach” me how to do an essential part of the sport because, “You don’t know how to play.”

    I have many more similar instances that usually fall into the person insisting that I’m incompetent in some manner and telling shared colleagues and friends that I’m incompetent, OR, making outrageous and offensive statements in my presence and later telling me they never said anything like that when I call them out.

    I’m not sure what it is about me that causes those people to mark me as an easy target, although I can guess. I’d like to cut this behaviour out before it starts. Is that possible? The examples above came after months and years of similar behaviour. I never say anything in the moment because it catches me off guard, and in the few instances where I have responded immediately, I’m attacked as being “weird,” “obsessed with something that doesn’t matter,” “toxic,” etc.

    1. ecnaseener*

      It sounds like your boundaries are fine? At least in the first two examples, you stuck to your guns very well. The fact that other people reacted badly doesn’t mean you failed to adequately prepare them for you having self-respect or something. You’re not going to be able to prevent people from mistreating you if that’s what they decide to do.

      Captain Awkward has a ton of great writing on this type of thing!

      1. Feeling Lost*

        I’ve seen that site mentioned a lot but have never gotten around to checking them out.
        Hmm…not able to prevent someone from mistreating me if that’s what they decide to do is something for me to think on. I can only see myself, so I feel like I get more mistreatment than my peers, but maybe it’s in my imagination. Your first paragraph has given me some things to think over.

    2. Washi*

      Boundaries can’t make someone treat you better, it’s more about defining what’s not ok for you and then following through with walking away or disengaging.

      I wonder is maybe your issue is struggling to identify early on when someone is just not a nice person and then trying to figure out the magic way to make them be nicer to you. Maybe give more weight to any early signs that someone doesn’t really seem to listen to you or act considerately?

      1. Feeling Lost*

        I think I am actually pretty good at identifying people who are off and not so nice people. But, I also believe everyone deserves a chance and that friends are people you should be there for. The “bff” treated me badly pretty much since elementary school when we met. When we moved to middle school, I decided to start fresh and on the first day of school went to sit by myself in the cafeteria. And a few minutes later, a lunch supervisor came over with the bff, her face red from crying, and scolded me for leaving my friend behind. Middle school was her telling me I was too skinny; that teachers were telling other classes about my bad grades; I think she trashed my Sailor Moon book on a class trip; and her trying to make the moves on one of the boys I liked. I didn’t have any classes with her in high school and she just happened to work at my job when that last incident happened.

        The other person was a work “friend”. But I’ve had these kinds of incidents with someone at work or someone outside of work. Usually just one person at a time, rather than a bunch of people. I can quickly identify that they are trouble and keep to myself, but they come after me. I am fine being alone, but I will talk to anyone who is kind to me. Since getting into full-time work, I tend to meet people through work rather than from hobbies, too.

        I guess it’s more that the other person perhaps realizes I see through them and they, being more charismatic, work to make me look bad to others before others can befriend me. Since I keep to myself, I guess I make an easier target?

        1. fposte*

          I obviously wasn’t there, but I’d characterize these situations differently than you would, and I think your last sentence is overcomplicating it. People get defensive when they feel wrong or inadequate, and that’s not something you can control. I don’t see any boundaries issues in the work email or even in the sports situation.

          One thing I’ll add to the “boundaries are for you, not for other people”–it’s pretty common for people to get defensive when you assert your boundaries, so I’d say intermediate-level boundaries training is about shrugging off those responses. It sounds like your high school friend was, as is common for childhood/teen friendships, an imbalanced one with somebody you were friends with more by custom than by affection. So if you irk somebody like that, who cares?

          A thread I do hear in your narrative is a concern that people see you at fault in a situation where you’re not. While that’s more common in childhood, when we’re getting supervised and disciplined more often, it’s a pretty common part of life. One of the joys of a good adulthood is finding that you don’t have to care about other people’s misperceptions. If somebody in a supermarket gives me a dirty look because they don’t see the kid who knocked over the display and thinks it’s me, I can say, “Whoa, that little tyke sure took a header!” to clarify the situation but I don’t have to, and I don’t have to care if the other shopper changes their opinion of me or not. In the situation with the sports ‘splaining, you can say “Thanks, but I’m working on my own,” and then you accept that the other person may get huffy and that’s their problem. I’m less clear on the phone thing because I’m not clear how the morning worked and why you couldn’t go over in a group (you didn’t have to, but you didn’t rule it out).

          The unstated but impossible goal of a lot of letters to advice columnists is “How can I stop [thing] without making [person] unhappy with me?” And the answer is you can never control how another person feels about what you do; all you can do is handle the situation as kindly and fairly as possible.

          It might also be helpful to notice how often people negotiate these situations without anybody being particularly upset. “Hey, I think that’s my jacket you just grabbed”–“Oh, sorry, mine’s purple too. There it is!” “Sorry, I can’t answer your questions about the meeting now but I’ve got free time at noon”–“Noon’s fine, thanks” and so on. I suspect you have historical reasons why you think about people working to make you look bad in such situations, but honestly, most of us don’t have the energy to do that and most people treat these as a momentary misconnect without emotional baggage; even when people do get annoying, like your childhood friend, they’re usually thinking almost entirely about themselves rather than you.

          1. Sloanicote*

            Moving to a big city was a great masterclass for Living With Other People’s Discontent, for me. When people are more crowded in and everyone is Very Busy And Important, you are going to be pissing off half of the people half of the time no matter what you are doing (crossing the walk at a crosswalk during the walk signal? I’m trying to make a left in my car, how dare you! Taking an escalator too fast/too slow/standing/not standing?!! Walking around inside your own apartment – you monster!!). I now shrug off people becoming furious with me much more easily than I used to, whether I’m at fault or not.

            1. fposte*

              Ha, yes. I live in a small city/town, and I have to completely recalibrate things when I go to big cities. Driving especially comes to mind–if I waited for what constitutes a polite distance between cars in my town I’d never turn onto a street in the city!

              1. Sloan Kittering*

                I remember complaining once that people didn’t use their turn signal, and my passenger smugly informed me that of course you didn’t, because if you signaled your intention to get over, people would move to block you – you had to forcefully insert yourself before they knew what you were up to. I was … not prepared for that degree of Defensive Driving.

          2. Feeling Lost*

            With the phone, I think one person was overly focused on Shiny New Technology rather than analogue. When we gathered to head to the site, I said, “We’re going to need to take train X to station Y, just like the email I sent you all last night,” and was told I didn’t know where we were going because I’d never gone before (true, it was the first time any of us were visiting that site) and therefore we should trust the iPhone. So, we spend 10-20 minutes waiting for iPhone guy to look up information on his phone and he says, “We need to take train X to station Y.” I reply, “Yes, I have the directions here. We don’t need to look up everything, don’t worry.” And again was met with, “You’ve never been here. He has an iPhone, it’s got GPS.”

            With other people, I can strike a good balance. Even in a group setting there will be lots of, “Oh, sorry, you were right, my bad!” or “Oops, I thought it was a right turn, we should have taken a left!” and it’s all fine and well.

            I don’t do well with people who are very assertive and aggressive with their statements. I don’t yell or anything like that, but it stays with me. Specifically from people who I would consider friends or colleagues. I wish I had gone ahead alone, but I dislike disrupting group dynamics and didn’t want to seem overly dramatic.

            1. Green great dragon*

              That feels very insightful to me – people want the new toy to work, they saw it (wrongly, but not unreasonably) as more reliable than a friend of a friend’s directions which could be out of date. And, from an internet commentator who wasn’t there, maybe both sides dug their heels in just a little bit? Though they seem rude and unpleasant people, while you do not.

              I also think your boundaries seem fine, and the only real issue here is the impact on you. I could recast this whole thing as you had good directions, they were too caught up in their new toy to listen, it made you all late, but trying to save them from this mistake was causing more upset than letting it play out so you went with it, and you realised they were not actually very nice people when put in trying circumstances. You did OK! You learnt something about them, you will have more reasonable expectations in future. It’s not something to stress about to this extent (I say blithely, knowing I myself would be stressing out about it).

            2. fposte*

              Yeah, that’s annoying. It can help me to understand in my head that I’m making a decision. Am I staying with the group even if it changes initial plans? Okay, then I’ve decided that–it’s not something people did to me. Or am I giving them five minutes and then saying “I’ll meet you at the Museum Café at noon”? When you say “we were horribly delayed,” I’m not sure what that means in that context. Did you miss anything, or did you just get there later than expected? I’ve got seething inclinations, so I totally get thinking to myself “We’re here at noon amid the crowd when my directions would have gotten us here at 10 when it opened,” but the best thing I can do for myself is remind myself honestly that I chose to stay with the group, it’s not going to make my day any better to seethe, and nobody else is really going to care. I’m also wondering what you mean by “later when I again pointed to my email from the previous night”–that could either be a relevant contribution or an “I told you so,” which isn’t going to improve the situation for you or for anybody else.

              Though I’m little more flexible as I’ve gotten older, I’m somebody who likes to keep to a schedule when traveling and to stick to the plans. But for some people the goofing off and fussing with the iPhone and getting lost trying to navigate on their own is a huge part of the value of the experience as well; they’re more interested in Ooh, we’re in New York and doing something Not Work! than in Getting to the Museum. So what seems to have felt to you like impairing the experience may to them have *been* the experience. They may not have realized how annoying this was to you, and you may not have realized how annoying the plan-priority approach was to them.

            3. The OG Sleepless*

              With the iPhone/direction thing, it can help a lot to frame stuff like this in your head as a funny story. Some of the best people in my life have been really good at this. Imagine telling this story again in a positive/humorous way to the imaginary rest of your friend group, as if it were a scene from a madcap movie. Suddenly you just see it as a foible of human nature that made the day a bit more chaotic. Nobody had malicious intent, and sh*t just happened. You feel happier and the others just come across as well intended but human. I’m easily annoyed, by nature, and this helped me a lot.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, learn more about picking people. Eh, we all have to go through this to some degree or more.

        I bet if you take these examples here and reflect you will be able to think of other times the person trampled over what you were saying or what someone else was saying. This type of behavior is not usually a one-off, but rather, part of a pattern.

        I do think that some people need an intro to a new idea. For example, with the foreign city story, maybe talk more about the coworker who had done the same thing. Thoroughly explain why you asked this person for advice. If people have more background sometimes it’s easier for them to pay attention to the advice giver.

        Groups can be tricky because groups will gravitate towards a decision making pattern. If the group’s pattern is to defer to whatever Bob says, then you’re probably out of luck since you are not Bob. In this situation, I’d present the idea to Bob and let him get group buy-in. (Yes, I do understand that is loaded with other problems, but it’s expedient for the immediate purpose. You can chose to deal with those other problems later and push through the current quandary.)

        In the bff example, this is a good example of a time to put energy into explaining why. I had a friend who wanted to borrow my credit card to go get gas for our project we were working on. I said NO. This is a trusted friend who I really respect and wish to continue to have an on-going friendship with. So I point blank said, “If something happens to the card then you and I will get stressed out for various reasons. Suppose it falls into a large mud puddle and you can’t find it. You’re worried, I’m worried and it’s not good. The fact is that I am responsible for the card, so it is up to me to shoulder that responsibility by keeping my card with me. I will go get the gas for us.” I softened the message by adding in another truth, “I don’t let anyone take my card, so it’s not personal. I would answer anyone the same way I answered you.” Our friendship survived. When people see our talk matches our walk, things are less of an issue.

        As you look at these situations you can ask yourself, “What could I do differently?”. In some cases the answer might be to hang out with different people. But in other cases it could be a matter of adding more explanation and taking a minute with the person so they have a clearer understanding of where things are at for you. Sometimes such as the bff example, maturing irons out the problem. In time the bff might realize that she should not have asked.
        There is no one magic bullet answer that fits all the scenarios. It is important that you do not beat yourself up over a perceived failure on your part. Just let it sharpen you to approach things differently when you see these type of situations unfolding or become aware that a similar thing may happen again.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Adding to the “learn more about picking people”: It sounds like you are concerned that you were logical and correct, and so they should have been logical and correct back at you. It would help to think of it more as people with whom your ideas about boundaries and expectations and responsibility did not align, and so you need to find some different people who are more attuned to your wavelength.

          A recurring theme here being that you can’t change other people, only your reaction to them.

    3. Expiring Cat Memes*

      I’ll second that it sounds like you have no problem asserting your boundaries.

      What I’m getting a much stronger sense of from what you’ve written is that you are struggling with people who don’t, won’t or can’t acknowledge when you’re in the right and they’re in the wrong.

      Gently, if you’re getting feedback about being weird, toxic, or obsessed with things that don’t matter, is it maybe worth taking a step back to reflect and consider why it’s so important to you to get that acknowledgment, and whether you’re extending an appropriate amount of grace to others in these situations?

      Your bff sounds appropriately immature for a high schooler. The situation with your colleagues reads like a confused gaggle of people all talking over each other who may or may not have received your message because you’re all in a different country. Your sporting acquaintance sounds like they could also have easily misheard, misunderstood or simply forgotten.

      This is how it reads to me from afar. Maybe these people really are all jerks who mistreat people, I don’t know! You’re the expert on your own situation so only you know for sure. But if you take a moment to rethink it all applying Hanlon’s Razor, would it change how you see things?

      1. Feeling Lost*

        I readily admit, I hate being wrong. If I make a mistake, I will apologize for it asap. An apology would have been nice, but acknowledging that they’d done something pretty out there would have been better. If it were a one-off incident, I would have forgotten it. Things happen, people are busy, people get flustered. People ask and get denied.
        But, with these people, I strongly feel that they were looking to make me feel stupid.

        1. anna*

          That last sentence is the part where it sounds like something is going on with you internally. It’s not typical for people to try to make someone else look stupid. Maybe one awful person might do that but most people go their whole lives without encountering that behavior. If you think you’re seeing it in multiple people it is probably not an accurate reflection of the external reality and something internal is making you think that. That kind of thing can be helpful to explore in therapy.

          1. Feeling Lost*

            Perhaps “stupid” wasn’t the best word choice. More that they wanted me to know my “place.”
            The weirdness of these interactions makes it hard for me to talk about them and get advice because they are so out there.
            I think that because I didn’t push back early on, these people felt emboldened in their actions and just kept pushing in a way they wouldn’t with other people. I would not be surprised if my race and socioeconomic background also played a part in this, too.

            Obviously every interaction with these people wasn’t terrible, but there was a pattern of behaviour. For example on day bff would comment that a necklace present from another friend was ugly and a week or so later make unsolicited comments on my body and then a few weeks later hard pinch me in class for not responding to her quickly enough. Because I was caught up in my own things, it was easier for me not to react.
            There’d be a similar pattern with others. It’s almost as if they were taking their stress out on me.

            I don’t tell others about these things when they happen because I don’t want to come off as overly dramatic, and with people at work, it seems better not to tell others about the strange behaviour.

    4. RagingADHD*

      The first story is exactly how boundaries are supposed to work-at first. She asked, you said no, she didn’t like it. The problem is that you took her aggressive, angry reaction personally instead of taking it as a reflection of her character and acting accordingly. She was not your friend. Okay, that’s hurtful, but it’s about her. You go make another friend with better character.

      With the bus trip again, you had step one. Step two would be you getting on the correct bus without them and enjoying the trip. Alternatively, you might decide that you enjoy their company more than you care about the schedule, so you wait for them and drop the subject.

      With the sport, you could laugh in her face. You could remind her how much longer you played. You could tease her about being the “coach”. Or you could tell her you didn’t come for lessons, you came to play. Or you could roll your eyes, leave the game early, and chalk that acquaintance up as “no fun for sports, maybe try movies instead.”

      Boundaries don’t stop other people from being upset or being jerks. Boundaries are not just words you say or telling someone what you want. Boundaries are actions. They are your choices about how you will behave.

      You have to fully accept the truth that you cannot control other people, and then act on your boundaries. They don’t prevent you from ever encountering a jerk, but they minimize the damage and cause jerks to self-select out of your life.

      You can’t stop jerks from being jerks, but you don’t have to hang around and let them be jerks at you.

      1. Sloanicote*

        Yeah, when I think of someone who needs help with boundaries, the story is like, “I didn’t really want to host my friend in my city but she ended up staying with me for three weeks and eating all my food and I had to miss a paycheck because I couldn’t go to work because she needed my car.” Or, “my coworker makes inappropriate comments to me but I laugh and don’t tell anyone and now they’ve asked me to keep a dangerous secret from my boss.”

        1. fposte*

          I’m in kind of an interesting boundaries situation at the moment, in that nobody’s being inappropriate! A friend needs all the help they can get (health situation) and that’s not going away any time soon; their requests have been reasonable and appropriate and they cheerfully accept a no. So I’m figuring out for myself what my limits of what I give are and finding ways to make peace with not giving more and understanding that no matter how much I give it won’t fix the situation.

          1. Onwards and Upwards*

            I’m ill and I need a lot of help from people, and I’m a bit like how your friend sounds – I will v cheerfully accept a “no” if I’ve asked a friend for a favour. My dream illness-friends are the people who can say no if they want to without getting caught up in guilt or resentment. My illness has taught me that it’s v important for people not to exhaust themselves! Hopefully your friends feels the same and values you for being so straightforward:)

            1. fposte*

              Thank you very much for this comment–it’s very useful to hear from the other perspective, and I really appreciate your reminder that it’s good for my friend as well as me if I help in a way that I’m happy to keep doing.

                1. fposte*

                  Thanks, and to you too. I really love spending time with my friend; I bet your friends feel the same way about you.

      2. Feeling Lost*

        From your reply and others, it looks like I need to re-adjust my understanding of “boundaries.” I have been thinking that people with strong boundaries don’t run into people who make inappropriate requests of them and so on. People as in long-term acquaintances, friends, colleagues and not people one knows casually or not at all.
        I have read that people will test your boundaries when they first meet you and use your response as the basis for how they will treat you in the future. I see myself as a pretty easy-going, go-with-the-flow type when I meet people and I have wondered if that gives others the impression that I’m someone to take advantage of. If I’m understanding what you all are saying, the boundary setting is more about my response to actions that I feel cross my line of comfort. Therefore in my examples, the people don’t see themselves as repeatedly crossing my boundaries because I didn’t push back immediately when I felt a line was crossed. But when I did push back, their responses were not untypical.

        In that case, I’m guessing it’s better for me to pushback as politely as I can when I feel my boundaries being crossed. Is there a good way of doing that when you’re still new to knowing someone?

        1. fposte*

          That’s a really perceptive summary of the conversation, I think.

          Obviously it’s dependent on its actually happening when you’re still new to knowing someone; I’m not a big fan of somebody deciding to take an action just to make a point, so you want it to be necessary. But a common one can be something like restaurant choice or social event start time. A new friend says “Hey, I’ve been meaning to try Delmonico’s; want to meet at 8 on Friday?” If you genuinely have no problem with that, a yes is great, but for me 8 is way too late for dinner, so I’d say “Oh, that’s too late for dinner for me; what about 6:30? If that doesn’t work, it looks like they do a weekend lunch–want to try that?” The goal for me here is to avoid the thing I don’t want but also to work toward finding something we both do want. If somebody is generally a “my way or the highway” person that’s good to know, and I’ll choose the highway; if they’re a “I can’t change my dinnertime but maybe we could do something else” person that’s also fair and we can see if we can find something else.

        2. RagingADHD*

          Sure, it’s actually much easier the earlier you do it, because it isn’t a big deal and you aren’t mad. You just politely say “no thanks” or “I’d rather do this other thing,” or “hey, could you hold off doing that, it’s bothering me.”

          Like, if you just met some new people and they’re all very excited about going to see a movie you just saw last week, and invite you to join them. Would you agonize over whether to go or try to change their minds? Nah, it’s not worth it, but you still want to spend some time with them. You’d say something like, “Hey I just saw that but how about I meet you for dessert afterward?” That’s kind of the sweet spot of how much energy early boundaries should take.

          A few years back, I arranged a meet-up with a new friend (or potential new friend). It had come up in discussion before that we both had ADHD and were on the same very common med. When she arrived to pick me up, she asked me to give her one of my pills because she forgot to take hers that morning.

          That kind of threw me for a loop, because who does that for crying out loud? I stammered a bit and said, “Er, no. I’m not comfortable handing out my meds. I need them.”

          The thing is, there are people who wouldn’t have a problem with that. I don’t think she was necessarily a bad person for asking, and if we knew each other better (and I was 100% sure she actually was legitimately on the same dose of the same med) I might have agreed. But not for someone I barely knew.

          Well, she wasn’t overtly pissy toward me, but we were kind of on the wrong foot the whole day. There were other things she said while we hung out that made me think, “WTF?” and I could tell there were things I also said that rubbed her the wrong way.

          We stayed friends on Facebook but didn’t get together again. So, nobody was mad but it was just clear that we didn’t gel. That’s okay.

          It’s fine to be easygoing, and if something doesn’t matter to you, then it doesn’t. Maybe you just need a bit more awareness of when something does matter, so you can speak up before it’s a big deal.

    5. moonstone*

      You’re not a target. Jerks come into our lives – it happens to everyone. I actually think you’ve done a good job of asserting boundaries with these people. It took me years to learn to do even the basics of what you described. The only thing you probably need to work on is getting rid of the emotional burden of dealing with these people. Stop interpreting their actions as a reflection of you in any way. Their behavior is a reflection of them – not you. They would behave the same way with anyone else.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Came here to say this. And also, once these people show you who they are, you can stop hanging out with them. Your childhood bff sounds horrible, honestly

    6. Cocafonix*

      This doesn’t sound like a boundary problem as much as a lack of confidence in yourself that others pick up on.

      1. Feeling Lost*

        I think this a big part of it. I lack confidence in myself and I don’t want people to think I am “mean.”
        For a long time, “mean” has meant saying no to unreasonable requests or speaking with confidence.

        1. Green great dragon*

          Ah yes, it is not mean to say no! It can be mean to say no in a mean way… This may be totally off base, but there are definitely people who try to go along, and go along, and find compromise, and get frustrated, and then by the time they actually say no, they’re upset inside and a) they’re upset, which is bad for them and b) they sound upset and others get defensive. Saying no earlier, before you’ve invested effort in trying to find a compromise (and felt others weren’t matching that effort) could get you out with a shrug and a never mind?

    7. Purt's Peas*

      It doesn’t sound like you’re naive or gullible, but it also doesn’t sound like you’re particularly forgiving!

      In several of these cases, it sounds like your self-image is sort of mismatched with how other people perceive you, and those kinds of clashes are understandably pretty disturbing. I wonder if a mix of adjustments are necessary.

      In some cases, you may need to recognize, “this person is right: I had an outsize response to them navigating via iPhone rather than using my earlier message.”

      In other cases, you may need to adjust your behavior: “I need to come in asserting my expertise more strongly.”

      In yet other cases, you might need to distance yourself from their response: “they didn’t recognize my expertise, which is annoying, but I am an expert and their misunderstanding doesn’t matter.”

      1. Feeling Lost*

        I am not forgiving a forgiving person after a certain number of times. We have bad days, and I don’t fault anyone for that. If they said they were stressed or distracted, I would let it go.

    8. Salymander*

      Your boundaries sound pretty good. The people who treat you badly seem quite rude, and some of them sound really oblivious/ridiculous. The folks ignoring your directions in favor of relying on someone’s iphone and then getting annoyed with you being right just seem obnoxious. Your friend who wanted for you to give over private I do so they could use your university internet “for free” because you would pay for it was being a huge jerk. It seems like you try to be a good friend and you just happen to have a number of people around you who are really annoying and selfish and not very kind to you. That doesn’t mean that you have done anything wrong. You can’t control how they behave. Wanting to shut them down when they behave badly doesn’t make you toxic or bad, either.

      Another commenter mentioned that you should check out Captain Awkward. This is a fabulous idea. Captain Awkward has excellent advice for situations like yours, and it is really well written and entertaining. The more recent stuff doesn’t have comments, but you might want to read the comments on the older stuff. They are full of great advice also, and tend to be really kind, supportive and funny.

    9. Turtle Dove*

      I really appreciate the many helpful and insightful comments on this subject. As a recovering people pleaser, I’ve encountered lots of pushback and often feel taken advantage of. Some of it is magnified in my head, I’m sure, because I lack confidence and skills. I’m working now on speaking up as early as possible when I feel a tickle of “no, I don’t like that” — but it’s important to speak calmly, no matter how intense my feelings are. It works like magic with a few family members I find challenging.

    10. SofiaDeo*

      Re: “I’m not sure what it is about me…” that potentially exposes you to this, I am wondering if your posture and facial expressions/language contributes at least a tiny bit. Given your examples as a child, like where you (inappropriately) were scolded for “leaving bff”. The coping mechanisms you developed then, especially with this inappropriate boundary friend, plus any “traditional” female vocal patterns, might contribute to people “pushing” you more than another person. I say this because I am the opposite, I am a single child but roughhoused with numerous male cousins growing up, PLUS my parents didn’t reinforce typical female stereotypes. So I have the opposite “problems”. I am the person people come up to in a group to ask questions. I “project authority.” I used to get the sexist flak because using the “okay when done by a man” speech patterns, it was perceived as “bitchy” or “pushy”. So I think I get it when you think there’s “something” that makes others think you are easier to try to push around, and ignore you in instances like the train station.

      Not sure exactly how to counter this, except perhaps by “role playing” either alone in front of a mirror or with others. Other people would need to be those whom you consider to have no problems either dealing with the numerous people who try to push boundaries, or manage “the look” to where they don’t experience it much in the first place. You should also record yourself in these “imaginary role playing” situations, and review afterwards. You might find, for example, when someone verbally pushes, you flick your eyes downward initially while thinking of a response, which might be interpreted as submission. Initially these recordings will be somewhat awkward, but once you manage to “forget” the camera you will get some great feedback. I first read about this technique in one of John Molloy’s “Live for Success” books, you can check that out if you like.

      I think posture is important. When I think of an admirable authority figure, that person generally stands straight. Not military rigid, but not hunched shoulders/leaning to the side. Consider checking out internet sources regarding “looking confident” and “speaking confident”. Depending on the situation, how you are dressed can add to this effect. For example, when I to to the doctors, I wear a blazer and dress slacks. I don’t think I have the same problems many women report with physicians’ ignoring symptoms (my traditionally masculine speech patterns also help with this I’m sure). Anyway, dressed “more expensively” like this will generally get panhandlers asking me for money if I stop at the grocery store on the way home from the doctors. Whereas, if I go to the store after doing yardwork and am dressed sloppily, I am more likely to be ignored.

      So IMO you can ward off some of this by how you are dressed/posture/facial expression. And when you respond back, you just have to ignore/not react angrily/stay firm when you get pushback.

  18. Teapot Translator*

    I have a weird bird question! There is the sound of a bird used in night scenes in British TV shows. I think I’ve heard it on Father Brown, Foyle’s War, Miss Marple and probably others (so not in a city). Does anyone know what the bird is?

      1. Teapot Translator*

        Hmm, yes, I realize my question lacked details. It’s more a cry than a song. It’s rough? Like a bird with a sore throat.

        1. Salymander*

          I thought the fox cry that Midsomer Murders uses repeatedly was a bird until I looked it up. It sounds creepy.

          The peacock calls are pretty weird too. Lots of those in British mysteries that take place in the countryside.

    1. RagingADHD*

      Are you sure it’s a bird? I went for years thinking the squawking sound they use for night scenes in the British countryside was some kind of wierd bird, like a crow but at night.

      Turns out it’s a fox barking. We even have foxes here, but I’ve never heard one before. Maybe American foxes don’t bark much.

      1. Pippa K*

        My husband speculates that it’s same fox in all the shows, like a British tv version of the Wilhelm scream.

        1. londonedit*

          Yes I think it’s probably a fox. Every fox mating season the police will get calls from people thinking someone’s being murdered, because the screaming is very alarming (and usually goes on in the middle of the night). It’s fairly rare to see a fox in the British countryside because they’re very wary (you’ll only usually notice them when they’ve been in and killed your chickens) but in cities they’re all over the place and very bold.

        2. fposte*

          It probably is! It’s likely to be stock audio footage. There was a period when I could definitely spot stock equine neighs in movies.

          1. Pippa K*

            I know this isn’t how it’s probably done, but I like the idea of horses and foxes out there getting work as voice actors :-)

            1. fposte*

              “Thunder, I liked the courage in your whinny but this character is more vulnerable–you’re genuinely afraid for your barn and your foal. Try again on three.”

        3. Teapot Translator*

          Yes, whatever it is, they use the same one from one show to the next. That’s why I want to know what it is! It’s so recognisable.
          I think it might be a fox. I found one video where the sound is very similar. I thought it was a bird because if I, a city girl, heard that sound and thought it was a fox, I would not stay out

          1. fposte*

            I called the police in my town once to report screaming that I’m now pretty sure was a fox. I do not think they arrested the fox.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              My teenager was woken up by a horrible noise, crept in & woke dad who identified it as a fox. (I slept through it all.)
              The song “What does the fox say?” now gets the response “

    2. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

      My dad complains that every time someone goes outside in the first several seasons of Midsomer Murders, they play the sound of a Eurasian Collared-Dove. So could be that one.

      1. Teapot Translator*

        Ah ha ha. I googled it. It’s not that but I’ll definitely watch out for it whenever I rewatch Midsomer Murders.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        Is that the weird scream I always hear on that show in the night scenes? I’ve been wondering about it!

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          English foxes must be noisier than American. I’ve seen foxes where I live & have never heard a noise like that.

    3. cleo*

      Not many birds sing at night so my first thought was nightingale. Googling “birds that sing at night in England” got me this list of 5 Common UK Birds That Sing at Night:

      Robins
      Nightingales
      Dunnock
      Corncrakes
      Nightjars

  19. Dog Walking Schedule?*

    Dog question: I have recently adopted a large, relatively lazy breed of dog (he’s an adult). I imagined that I would let him out in my fenced yard in the morning and afternoon, and then take him for a long walk at the time I finish my first shift, 3PM. We could walk for an hour at that time. However, reading about dogs, it seems he would prefer two shorter walks over one longer one, one in the morning. Do you think I have this right? I can’t really ask him because he’d be happy to go on as many walks as I offered. Does it vary by dog, or is this a general rule?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      How does he react to the hour long walk?

      For the most part dogs tend to act very happy with whatever we come up with. For me, a once a day walk is about all I can fit into my schedule. My dog does have a dog run where he can “go out” and take care of business. So the walk is not part of his “going out” needs.

      1. Dog Walking Schedule?*

        Now when the weather is cold he can go for an hour. I think when it gets hot he will not be as hardy.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yes, hot weather is a bummer for dogs. In warm weather, we’d adjust to early morning or after dinner walks. Then when the heat is at it’s worst we did not go at all. They can tend to cue us, but weather forecasters issue cautions also for pets. My rule of thumb is if I am not comfy he is probably close to feeling miserable.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      It does sort of vary by dog, but – does he seem to still be enjoying your longer walks on the second half, or is he starting to drag a little bit? My dog has about 30 minutes of energy at a time before she has to recharge :) so instead of an hour, she gets two or three 15-20 minute walks a day. (This is not unusual for sighthounds, they have two speeds: GO GO GO and sleeping. :) ) But she’ll also tell me when she wants to walk, which is every morning between 9-10am and then again around 2pm. She is Very Clear that NOW IS WALKIES TIME. So basically if one long walk in the afternoon is doing okay for your dog, then you don’t necessarily need to change it up, but if he’s getting tired or uninterested halfway through, then yeah, try breaking it up a little bit and see how that works :)

      1. Dog Walking Schedule?*

        He definitely drags a little in the second half, but not bad and he’s still having fun. Currently I’m trying to give him the two walks schedule that I think he prefers. He’s certainly outraged the times I have tried to cut a walk short so that it’s like a 15 minute trip around the block when he’s expecting better … if it was up to him, I think he’d want two forty minute walks, one as early as I was willing to take him (he’d love to be up and at em at like 8AM, I think). Unfortunately, that would be *extremely* hard on me trying to fit that into my schedule. Sorry dog, you don’t get to dictate the universe; we need to work together here.

    3. Hotdog not dog*

      It varies by dog, and may change as the dog ages. When I first adopted Best Good Dog he was about 7 and enjoyed as many walks as I could keep up with. We used to do a long (3-5 mile) and 2 short (about 1 mile) walks per day, depending on weather and my schedule. Now that he’s an old man, we do 1 or 2 short walks each day. He’ll still gladly do a long walk, but it leaves him completely exhausted.
      The dog will let you know if they need more exercise or if they’re completely wiped out.
      As Red Reader mentioned, the dog’s breed is also a factor. BGD is a husky, so he’s designed for endurance. His BFF is a lab, and it’s only recently that their energy levels are compatible.

      1. Admiral Thrawn Is Blue*

        My roommate’s dog, 65 lbs and 9 years old, just started refusing to go on her runs with her. Loves walks still, just not into the running anymore. They will let you know.

        1. Salymander*

          Ha! They will definitely let you know!!! My dog used to just lie down on the ground and go totally limp when he didn’t want to walk. This could happen anytime during the walk, so it wasn’t a too long walk that did it. He was 65 lbs., so that made carrying him home a real chore. I just started doing repeated loops around the block so we weren’t too far from home. He didn’t like the monotony too much, and wanted to go off our path, but too bad. He was way too big for me to carry home on the regular. Once he got past about 3 years old, he stopped doing this, thank goodness. He was otherwise the Best Good Dog, so I forgave him.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      If he is enjoying any walk schedule, I think it’s fine. (I recall a Bliss cartoon from early in the pandemic where the dogs were saying to each other “This is the fourth walk today; they’ve gone mad.”)

    5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Pretty sure this is one of the things that you can go with your preference. The dog will be “oooooh, walksies!” either way.

      1. HoundMom*

        We have a large mixed breed hound. Loves a good walk but the mix includes some very heavy coats (husky is one). The length of the walks vary A LOT by weather. She comes into her own in the 40’s and below. We change the walk around by the temperature (so please ask us about the weather — we are overly invested!).

    6. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

      Various dogs have different levels of energy even within the breeds — high energy pittie vs lazy pittie, cannot be still lab vs couch potato lab…

      Do 2 shorter walls am and pm and see how it goes!

  20. Laura H.*

    Little Joys Thread

    What brought you joy this week?

    Mine is that I got a pair of new casual shoes and they fit and are comfy.

    Big or small, please share your joys.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Stickers for my new water bottle. They make me happy. (Though I’m starting to run out of room for them.)

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Also, we got the last follow-up lab work results on my husband’s cat this morning from our vet — a little over a week ago, she found a stray ibuprofen and decided this, THIS was going to be the only thing other than kibble that she has ever eaten in her life, what do you MEAN it’s poison — and spent 48 hours in the kitty hospital. She’s 100% a-okay, all labs normal, eating and eliminating properly, and back to her normal self.

        1. Sloanicote*

          Wow, I knew ibuprofen was bad for cats but I don’t think I realized one pill would lead to hospitalization :( Glad your cat is okay!

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            My husband only caught her eating one, but he didn’t know for sure that it had only been the one – he tends to get them out in pairs, because that’s the people dose, and he was afraid that he’d set a pair down on his desk and forgotten about them and she’d gotten both. (As it turns out that’s almost exactly what had happened, except that he found the second one the next day knocked under his keyboard.)

    2. Lady Danbury*

      My partner and I made a huge tapas spread for Valentine’s Day (charcuterie, kale salad, croquettes, bacon wrapped dates, garlic mushrooms, patatas bravas, gambas al ajillo, sangria). The food came out so well and it was so much fun cooking together, eating good food, talking and laughing.

    3. I take tea*

      I got to swim again when the pool opened. I like moving my body in water and it is really good for flexibility.

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      My seed order from Hudson Valley Seed arrived! They have really cool artwork on the seed packets, so I don’t have to wait for the seeds to grow to enjoy something pretty.

      1. GoryDetails*

        I don’t think I’ve tried their seeds before – usually my go-to is Johnny’s Selected Seeds, a Maine outfit – but the Hudson Valley ones do look tempting!

    5. Voluptuousfire*

      The casual shoes being comfy and that fit, that’s a huge joy. For me that’s so rare. :)

      I took my cat to the vet yesterday for her annual and she was so good. She cried in her carrier for the driver over and we had to wait in the car since my vet reinstated Covid procedures where they take her in alone. I got her in the carrier early, so we had an hourish wait before she was taken in. Once she got her bearings, she was fine. I opened her carrier a little so I could pet her and gave her a few treats and she let me rub her belly, so she’s fine. :) She was so relaxed she started to doze and purr. When they told me she was good during the exam and is a sweet girl, I couldn’t help but be proud of her. LOL

      She’s a solid 12 lbs and a very happy kitty. That makes me happy.

      She’s healthy and weighs 12 lbs.

    6. wingmaster*

      I finally got my winter tires for my car (thank you to those who answered my previous weekend post about this topic!)

      And also just driving around town with some snow on the roads with the new tires :)

      1. fposte*

        Oh, I’ll have to check that–I’ve realized my new car isn’t winter-safe with its current tires, even in my not-super-snowy area.

    7. A Girl Named Fred*

      This was the last week of my training at a new place-that-shall-not-be-named-on-weekends, and we took our “can you do the job or not” tests. I got 100% on both, which my trainer said had never happened before and she thinks I’m going to “do AWESOME things here!” which was super reassuring and exciting.

      We’re having some friends over this weekend to play games and hang out and catch up.

      Finished watching “The Legend of Vox Machina,” which was really good!! (Even if I still prefer the actual campaign, lol!

    8. fposte*

      The family photo digitization project has been going surprisingly smoothly! I have done the contents of two old photograph albums and one pasted-in album (which is fewer photos than it probably sounds like, but still satisfying). There’s a lot more to go, but the key stuff for senior members of the family has been shared.

    9. the cat's ass*

      I got my hair cut and I’m thrilled with it! I’ve missed having shorter/more manageable hair and I also missed my stylist.

      Finished allllll the readoption paperwork and after THREE revisions/corrections, the packet was accepted!

      Social worker is coming today for the home visit and she’s not allergic to cats!

      Have a great weekend, y’all!

    10. GoryDetails*

      It’s Great Backyard Bird Count weekend (see birdcount.org for details if interested!), and I’ve been logging the birds visible in my front yard and at my feeders. Nothing wildly unusual yet, but I was very pleased to see several pairs of the Usual Suspects – including a pair of white-breasted nuthatches, tufted titmice, downy woodpeckers, and hairy woodpeckers.

    11. Buni*

      We have a contractor who comes in once a month, so in the week before he & I might email back ‘n’ forth 5-10 times just to make sure everything’s in place and then I see him on that one day. Last week he told me my emails were one of the highlights of his month, and he always looked forward to hearing from me.

      Of course his next sentence was “I never thought there was another person as bitterly sarcastic as I am, so it’s a joy to find one”.

    12. Rara Avis*

      I took my kid (13) and her friend to the zoo. We’re the only school in the area on vacation this week, so it was just us and the under-5 crowd. A good time was had by all.

    13. Windchime*

      I’m painting my guest bedroom. It was a sickly pinkish beige and I’m wondering why the previous owners actually painted it that color on purpose. I painted the ceiling white yesterday and today I am going to paint the walls a soft “greige” called Himalayan Trek. It should look amazing with the creamy white trim.

      I love painting. It’s hard work but the end result is always so nice.

    14. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I assembled the bluebird house kit and mounted it on one of the tree trunks we left standing for woodpeckers. If it gets picked, I’ll be able to sit on my front porch and watch them across the yard.

    15. Dark Macadamia*

      My family is going on a sledding staycation tomorrow! We did this last year too – we only live an hour away from the mountains but instead of just doing a day trip, we drive up for an afternoon and stay in an Airbnb near the snow park, then go sledding again before we head home the next day. Last year we stayed in a townhouse with a hot tub, this time will be a cabin (with bathrooms/kitchen/etc) in the woods :)

    16. small town*

      This has been a great week! I had a 2.5 hour lunch with my bestie of 30 years. It take a while to solve all the world’s problems. My husband laughs because about once a year he gets a call that says that I am “having lunch with a gentleman”. My older son has a cool summer internship doing commercial and white collar law, his article was accepted for law review. Younger son is doing an internship at the Library of Congress. I have no idea what they are talking about half the time but it as all pretty nifty! Our work is good, my parents are in their 80’s and still bopping around.

    17. StellaBella*

      Great on the shoes!

      My little joys this week were flying for the first time in 820 days for a work trip and visiting a place I had never been before, so I got to spend a few hours Friday and Sat walking around and sightseeing. 4 covid tests in 4 days (3 PCRs and 1 rapid) were worth it. Flying was super smooth, too, everyone wore masks, no issues, no turbulence, beautiful views.

      Also right now, my kitty is purring and laying next to me as I have morning coffee.

  21. Embroidery patch questions*

    Hello crafty folks! Anyone have experience with making an embroidered path for applique work? I’m currently embroidering on a cushion cover a design that has a background and a foreground – Jessica Long’s ‘fawn with wildflowers’ (I’ll link the pattern in a reply if it helps). I picked a terrible fabric to do it, it’s absolutely killing my fingers. So my thought was to just embroider the fawn (i.e. background) on the fabric, and do the wildflower/meadow part on a different fabric as a patch. I would then cut that out and somehow attach it to the main fabric, partly covering the fawn as intended in the original design.
    So my questions are:
    1. What fabric would be best suited for the patch? I was hoping for green felt but I can’t find it anywhere in my area (I’m not in the US), would something like cotton or poplin work? Any other suggestions of fabric and/or colour are welcome.
    2. How do I attach the patch on top of the main fabric? Currently I’m envisioning it like this – I finish my patch design, cut it out, satin stitch the edges to prevent the cloth from unraveling, and fabric glue it on top of the main fabric. Does this sound like a good idea? I was considering stitching the patch on just using a simple running or back stitch, but I think I’ll find it really difficult to stitch it where it overlaps on the fawn.
    If these options don’t work out, I guess I’ll take out all the stitches I’ve done so far (a good portion of the fawn) and create the entire design as a patch on a friendlier fabric. I’m really keen to avoid this though because I’ve already put in a lot of time :( any other general suggestions or advice also appreciated!
    Thank you so much for reading! Have a lovely weekend.

    1. Reba*

      I’m not an experienced embroiderer but based on other textile stuff, I would probably not consider fabric glue as a permanent solution for something that’s textured like an embroidery. I would think you would be able to stitch/applique it in a way that is hidden, so maybe a combo of glue and sewing for reinforcement?

      But, just my 2 cents, I looked at your pattern (lovely!) and just aesthetically speaking I would worry that making an applique of the green plants would diminish the artwork and the delicacy of the little blades of grass and so on — you would lose those in the satin stitch border. But, depending on your style that may not matter or have an impact.

    2. HannahS*

      I think a patch is do-able, but could change the look significantly and be fiddly to do. My suggestion for the most invisible possibility would be this:

      Get some green cotton woven fabric that’s easy to stitch through.
      Copy the design onto it and stitch it, but leave a perimeter unstitched–say half a centimeter all around.
      Cut the patch out without the perimeter and use a pin or tiny dab of glue in the middle to stick it on to the existing piece.
      Then stitch the perimeter. It will be half on the existing fabric and half onto the patch; the idea is that this will fully cover the edges of the patch and allow the delicate stitching around the fawn to still happen. It would also hide the patch fabric and keep it from fraying.

      1. Carolyn*

        This is about how I would do it! I’d recommend a quilting cotton in a medium green.

        To keep the perimeter of the applique from fraying so you can trim it closely, use a fusible interfacing on the back of the grass section before you cut it down to size.

        (I don’t comment here much, so if there’s another Carolyn, I’m not her.)

    3. Colette*

      I do a lot of sewn appliqués. The fabric doesn’t mattter too much, but I recommend using some iron-on interfacing on the back of it. That makes it stiffer and less likely to fray.

      You can then sew it on. Since you’re embroidering, there may be a way to use embroidery to make it blend it.

    4. Tea and Symathy*

      Since the flowers partly cover the fawn, I would cut the fawn out and appliqué it into the fabric you plan to appliqué the flowers onto. You could either leave a bit of a fabric border around the fawn and then tuck some material under and appliqué it, or you could leave a bit of a fabric border and then tuck that under so that only the fawn shows. That’s if you do it by hand. If you do it by machine you could choose to use a decorative stitch to highlight the fawn. Either way, there are lots of good instructional YouTube videos on how to appliqué.

      I think it’s easiest to embroider on (quilting) cotton.

  22. Sloanicota*

    Something I can’t tell anyone else in my life so I’m going to say it here: this week I started looking into a co-parenting website. I am single and getting to an age where I won’t be able to have kids much longer, but I never wanted to try and do it myself. I don’t know if anything will come of it, of course, but even the possibility of growing my life this way filled me with so much optimism and excitement this week.

    1. Jules the First*

      Good luck!

      As a solo mum by donor sperm, I can attest that it’s very doable with a little planning (and it is hands down the best thing I ever did)

    2. Squirrel Nutkin*

      That sounds really cool! As someone who never got it together to have kids but wanted them, I’m happy for you that you’re thinking of just going for it. : )

      1. Sloanicota*

        Thank you all! I don’t know that I will do it but I am pretty certain that the process of exploring it will make me more accepting even if I ultimately end up single and childfree, if that makes sense.

    3. Alexis Rosay*

      That’s fantastic! A good friend is pregnant as a single mother by choice, and it’s just so thrilling to see her pursuing her dreams. I’m happy to hear you may too :)

  23. GigglyPuff*

    Question: I’ve been looking at houses online recently, really shouldn’t super depressing at these prices. But anyway I’ve noticed some HVAC systems are actually physically attached to the house… Is that normal? No one I’ve asked has ever heard or seen of that. Tried looking online but guess I couldn’t find the right words or name to call it.

    Seems a little short-sighted but I am currently dealing with subtle vibrations in my apartment floor and furniture that I’m pretty certain are coming from my neighbors inside HVAC. Super fun, feel crazy especially maintenance looked at the system and “couldn’t find vibrations”.

    1. WellRed*

      I can’t answer the question but my new neighbor recently put in some sort of system that includes two giant fans attached to the outside of the building. We share a driveway so I’m concerned about noise vibrations this summer. It also looks weird and I’m curious how they fare in a blizzard or ice storm.

      1. CheerfulGinger*

        It might be the heart pumps for a mini split system. Got the Mitsubishi system for my house (in Colorado). So far, working great, even in really cold conditions. During the summer, I thought they were quieter than my neighbors traditional AC compressor .

        The heat pumps are mounted directly to the house, but we have vibration dampening pads the isolate the unit from the mounting hardware. No bug problems with vibrations, but I could see how it might be a problem without the isolation pads.

    2. HahaLala*

      I think this is super dependent on where you live, and if you’re talking about a furnace or an air conditioning unit (both are part of the HVAC system, but perform opposite functions)
      In my area, every house has a heater/furnace inside the house, either in the basement or in a utility room/closet. And most houses have air conditioning— some older homes only have window units, some homes have central units mounted to the exterior wall (high enough where parts can’t be easily stolen) and most homes have central units that sit on a concrete pad outside. No homes have the furnace outside, it wouldn’t be practical for heating the house when it’s cold out!

      I’m a structural engineer, and it’s common to describe vibrations in floors as a ‘phenomenon.’ It’s nearly impossible to put exact numbers too, but if the system is oscillating at a resonant frequency of the floor, you would feel the vibrations – and some people are more sensitive to it than others. It could also be cause by your neighbors walking around, or

      In your own house there are way to reduce the vibrations from the system. Either raising it up on a concrete pavers or ‘anti-vibration’ feet, like what they make for washing machines would help. And you could move the whole unit as well, either to a basement or outside, but that would also mean moving duct work and other items.

      1. GigglyPuff*

        Oh yeah it’s definitely not them walking. Totally used to that, their possessed washing machine, etc. But this is definitely something mechanical that’s on some kind of cycle. First time it started was last summer and was pretty much near constant (convinced the new girlfriend was leaving the system fan on all the time for air flow once I ruled most stuff out). Felt very insane, mostly due to the chronic lack of sleep cause I could feel it through my metal bed frame. I did end up buying anti vibration pads for my bed which cut down on it but still feel it in my feet. Also weighed the end of the bed down which helped.

        All I know is whenever I feel it, I can hear the neighbors outside standard platform unit going. Luckily it doesn’t seem that bad in my guest bedroom with the wooden bed frame so I’ve been sleeping in there lately. But definitely can’t handle it again if it turns constant. Thinking about actually talking to apartment complex in person instead of rotating through office staff in random emails. I lived here three years before it started with the same neighbors so pretty sure it must be some appliance problem.

        1. CTT*

          Maybe this is a regional thing, but those are super-normal to me. I’m an apartment-dweller and can’t speak to living with one, but it’s not an unheard of setup.

        2. Clisby*

          Maybe I’m missing something, but this just looks like a heat pump. That would be entirely normal for a house where I live. My house (Charleston, SC) has 2 heat pumps – one for the HVAC system in the basement, which services the first floor; and one for the HVAC system in the attic, which services the 2nd floor.

        3. GigglyPuff*

          Yeah I’m just used to the AC condenser outdoor units that sit on pads. My mom has lived in several states and never seen them attached either. It just seems like maybe there’d be problems with noise, vibrations, etc. really easily.

          Just generally curious why someone would opt for attachment vs a standalone.

        4. Idyllic Gulag*

          The unit in the link is a package unit. In residential settings, they’re reasonably common for smaller homes with limited attic/crawlspace room. Basically an all-in-one unit located outside the living space versus a unit indoors with refrigerant lines running to an outdoor condenser (split system).

          The unit in the linked photos appears to have been installed improperly, BTW. Should have been on a concrete pad, and that duct penetration in the wall looks like it’s trying to invite rainwater in for tea.

        5. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

          Late add: Totally normal in the areas I have lived.
          One thing to consider: It’s a brick house. If you’re getting vibrations through that, there are other problems at play.

    3. Just a name*

      I think you are talking about ductless split systems. The compressor is somewhere outside, and the air handler (fan unit) is through the wall. They are “ductless” in that you don’t have to run ductwork through the house, but you do have to put a hole through the wall to connect to the outside compressor. It’s often used in homes that don’t have ductwork already installed, for example an older home with radiators. When we added AC to our older townhouse that had radiators, contractors tried to sell us that system, I think in part, because they are easier to install. I didn’t like the look of the indoor unit, so we went with high velocity mini duct system. More expensive because they have to run ductwork, and because of our type of construction, I had to have drywall installed to cover the new ducts.

  24. AY*

    What are some places to look for home decorating ideas other than like pinterest? We are moving from about 750-800 square feet (a teeny tiny Cape cod) to about 2000, so we are going to have some empty rooms. Because we plan to stay here for decades, I want to be very deliberate and choosy about picking the decor.

    1. La Donna*

      I like Instagram for inspo more than Pinterest. I don’t follow many interior decor accounts but I do follow fashion ones and they’re always posting cool things and links to them. You could probably find one or two through a quick google search then once you follow them, more will be recommended to you!

    2. Embroidery patch questions*

      I like to look through photos of “dream homes” on Architectural Digest or such, and adapt as per my budget and space constraints. I hope your move goes well!

    3. LDN Layabout*

      Weirdly, instagram and the more you browse, the more the algorithm will do the work for you. I really like the lick paint and coat paint brand accounts and they link to accounts that have used their paint and I go down a tunnel of browsing from there.

    4. Let me be dark and twisty*

      I use interior design sites like Havenly – I follow them on Instagram where they post a lot of pictures of rooms they’ve done or a curated collection of new products in their stores and save the ones I like to refer to later.

      What I also enjoy about a site like Havenly is that their website is host to an enormous collection of room and style photographs that appeal to every design taste and trend so it’s easy to find something inspirational. They also will usually have a style quiz that you can take to find out what kind of designs appeal the most to you, which can help pull together a certain theme or look for the house, especially if you’re planning to be there for a very long time.

    5. Marion Ravenwood*

      I follow quite a lot of home decor accounts on Instagram, and also the r/homedecorating sub on Reddit.

    6. wingmaster*

      Facebook groups – I’m in two groups called “Handy Women” and “Why Didn’t I think of That Creative Idea”

      I see tons of awesome home decorating work posted everyday on those pages.

    7. Missb*

      Houzz. It is also a good site to post photos of rooms and ask for suggestions of what to do with the space.

    8. Aphrodite*

      Houzz: (“Get Ideas”): https://www.houzz.com/
      Apartment Therapy: https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/
      Laurel Bern blog (archives are great!): https://laurelberninteriors.com/interior-design-blog/
      Centsational Style: https://centsationalstyle.com/
      Maison de Cinq: https://maisondecinq.com/
      Ella Claire & Co.: https://www.ellaclaireinspired.com/category/decorate/
      Style at Home: https://www.styleathome.com/
      One King’s Lane blog: https://blog.onekingslane.com/live-love-home
      House Beautiful: https://www.housebeautiful.com/

      1. Turtle Dove*

        I second Apartment Therapy. I signed up for a few of their newsletters and tend to love the decor in their photos.

        Any appealing photo you trip over may provide a new lead. I’ve been shopping for carpet tiles and like many of the room ideas in ads from flor dot com that keep popping up. I generally ignore ads, but theirs grab me. I’ve saved my favorites photos for inspiration. (And I plan to buy some of their carpet tiles to create an area rug.)

    9. Windchime*

      I watch a lot of design channels on YouTube. A favorite is Alexadra Gater. She does a lot of apartment-friendly design, but she also does room makeovers in homes and she has a fun, kind of funky-boho style (but it’s not WAY out there). The Sorry Girls and Lone Fox are other design channels that I like.

    10. StellaBella*

      ZaraHome website is nice. Also Better Homes and Gardens site. Wayfair, Anthropoligie, Overstock.

    11. Observer*

      Something to think about, as well. Unless you are doing things that are structural or VERY hard to change, don’t get TOO hung up on getting it “just right”. If you are not sure but want to move ahead, go for a choice that’s not so expensive that it becomes a long term block for you.

      The layout of your kitchen and bathroom are probably going to be harder to change than the layout of the living room, for example, because the former almost certainly means changing plumbing whereas changing the living room probably means just changing the furniture. But changing the vanity on your bathroom, is also not likely to be that big of a deal.

    12. Ron McDon*

      Late to the party, but I love browsing the Laurel Bern Interiors website.

      She has some great tips for all sorts of different homes, and some amazing photos!

  25. Sloan Kittering*

    Question: Have you ever bought a book because of something you saw on social media? If so, can you describe what sold you (the recc of a someone you trust, an ad, a post by the author etc)?

    Why: there’s a lot of push for authors to be visible on social media but it’s all a bit slant, you’re supposed to be on there just to be seen and not push too much about selling your book … but it also implied that this will obliquely help your sales in some way.

    1. Maryn B.*

      Yes, I’ve bought books based on what I saw on social media. Usually it was someone I came to like or admire for their content, having no idea they were an author. They were not set on “Sell Books” and mentioned their new cover or latest novel in passing. I found that if it was someone I liked quite a bit, I usually liked their book, too. If it was someone I greatly admired, it was less certain.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        “it was someone I liked quite a bit, I usually liked their book, too. If it was someone I greatly admired, it was less certain” – fascinating!

    2. ecnaseener*

      I pre-ordered Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s new book right away when she tweeted the link to pre-order. She had been talking about the book (on Twitter and Substack) frequently — it’s non-fiction, so she was often talking about the topic and mentioning that she had a book in the works about it. Probably not as easy to tweet about a fiction WIP without spoiling the plot.

      And there are a lot of books I’ve borrowed from the library, which I get is not that relevant to the sales question, after seeing the authors post about them on social media. Usually it’s because I already like the author’s existing work. Once in awhile a recommendation from someone (like Alison!) will get me to borrow a book from the library if the description catches my interest. I pretty much only buy a book if I know I’ll want to keep it.

    3. Reba*

      The sales bit is that, if you are part of a community that knows you a bit and is interested in your posts, they would therefore be interested in your book. I think it works where it is organic — like, if a writer is not *already* active on whatever platform and they are not comfortable with it, I don’t think it makes a great promotional tool.

      I follow some writers whom I like on socials — it’s nice to find out when to pre-order their book, or see other things they are reading and whatnot. I have definitely learned about new titles this way. Like Maryn, I have also bought a book by someone I followed not “as” an author, but because I liked their posts I thought I would like their book.

      As far as salesmanship, I’m not turned off by authors promoting their books! In fact readers often ask for the order link if one is not provided. I don’t mind seeing the authors retweet other posts of people with their book or otherwise spreading the joy. Recommendations from these accounts also influence me (ha), akin to a blurb on the book.

      There are also AVID book reviewing communities online which is a whole other beast.

    4. E. Chauvelin*

      I bought Cat Sebastian’s first book because, during a conversation about authors discussing politics on social media, KJ Charles retweeted something from her saying that if you don’t like her politics you aren’t going to like her books either because they are “communist tracts with boning.” (Don’t take that too literally, the series she had in progress at that time were Regencies, the timing doesn’t work out for it to be literal.) As a librarian whenever I’m trying to describe Cat Sebastian all I can do is say nobody will ever sum up one of her books as well as her tweets and then quote her.

    5. Pop*

      I get most of my book recommendations from “bookstagram” aka book recommendations and reviews on Instagram. I have a few people I follow who I’ve found that have tastes and values that line up with mine. A lot of them do tag the authors in their reviews and there are a few authors who are very present.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        If I can ask – does it make you, an unconnected reader, more likely to buy/read the book if you see that the author is present? Would it make it more likely you would review yourself, hoping the author would interact with you?