weekend open thread – February 26-27, 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: Fall or Fly: The Strangely Hopeful Story of Foster Care and Adoption in Appalachia, by Wendy Welch. Fascinating and heart-breaking and frustrating and important.

 I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 915 comments… read them below }

  1. Television*

    I just purchased a property that I plan to have family rent. For those of you who have done this, what things do you wish you had known when you got started?

    1. Ashkela*

      I haven’t done it, but I have watched it happen around me, both good and bad. Take what you will from the following advice, as I’m aware YMMV.

      1. Put it in writing. Best to have a formal lease, but at least have the agreed upon terms written and agreed to in an email or something like it. NEVER do everything verbally.
      2. Plan for the worst. Don’t assume it’s going to happen, but thinking ahead of time of the potential pitfalls of what if someone loses a job or gets injured or just stops trying or a million things.
      3. Set boundaries and stick to them. Just because you’re their landlord doesn’t mean you get to walk in whenever you want. In fact, it becomes stricter about that kind of thing because if you’re walking in as a landlord, you almost always by law have to give them advance notice.

      Those are the biggest things I’ve seen cause problems. Good luck!

      1. TinaTurner*

        YES. The reason to keep this very “official” is because when you’re a “landlord” people automatically see you in that role, separate from your personality. It’s a “role” and they can’t help but interact w/you that way. So if you act “easier” than a landlord would, they automatically look for advantages. We’re just used to a distant landlord w/laws and rules.

        If you check their previous rental references you may even find they weren’t good renters.

        1. Felis alwayshungryis*

          Yeah, my SIL rents from her mum and stepdad, and she’s never quite sure when they visit if they’re side-eying the messy bathroom and unmowed lawn. I mean, it works okay and they’ve lived there for several years, but it for sure blurs the lines between social visit and informal inspection.

        2. allathian*

          When my husband and I first moved in together, our landlady was my MIL. I never got the feeling she visited to check in on our cleaning, or anything like that. That said, when we bought our lot and started to build our house, she put some pressure on us, or to be fair, mainly on my husband, to get the house finished quickly. This meant that we made some decisions about the house that we would’ve done differently if we’d had more time. In the end, she didn’t need the apartment for anything after all. We’ve lived in this house for almost 10 years now, and my husband’s still sore about the rush occasionally, when something about our house irritates him that he knows we would’ve done differently if we’d had the time. It’s mainly things like the placement of light switches and electricity outlets that bug us sometimes.

          1. Salymander*

            We had the same experience. We ended up moving to a very cheap motel for about 2 months because my mom’s pressure on us was so bad, and because apartments in our area are so expensive. We had been paying on time and doing all the upkeep on our place. We also did the upkeep (including gardening) on my mom’s place since they were right next to each other. We had arranged to stay there for 3 months when finishing the renovations on our very tiny cottage. Weirdly, the best solution budget wise and for our mental health was a really bare bones but reasonably clean motel just off the freeway/train tracks about 2 hours away. We were pouring a new concrete floor in our little cottage and doing all the many other renovations ourselves, so pushing us out early meant that we had nowhere to go. Things got very nasty. I think because of that I would always want to be very careful to have everything writing and to maintain strict boundaries. Oh, and I would never want to rent to or rent from friends or family. This is especially true if your family has trouble with boundaries in other areas. The chances are high that your relationship will be ruined, or at least made very difficult for long afterward. My family of origin is particularly difficult though, so maybe others would have a better time. Because of this experience, we later decided to turn down a chance to buy a duplex with our very dear friends. We would have bought it together and each lived in half, which seemed like a lovely idea except for the screaming in the back of my mind telling me that heading this way would lead to nothing good. It took us another 10 years of saving, but we did buy a small house eventually. We might build a mother in law apartment on the back, because after the tiny cottage renovations we know enough to do most of it ourselves, but that might mean moving my mother in law in, so we shall see how that goes.

    2. Dodubln*

      Much like lending money to family members, renting to to family members can potentially have issues. IMHO, the thing to follow above all else is that you handle the situation as you would with someone who is not a member of your family. Otherwise, you can get seriously burned:
      1. Have a written rental agreement/contract. Make sure it includes what happens if rent is late, what happens if the property is damaged by your tenants, how deposits are handled, pet policy, eviction proceedings, what is on the renters to deal with, and what is on you to deal with. Make sure you have a VERY solid agreement/contract in place. Don’t skimp on this, cover everything. As an example: some landlords pay for waste/recycling for their tenants. The tenant repeatedly puts things into the recycling bin that aren’t recyclable, and the landlord is the one who gets fined by the waste management company because of this. Is it in your contract with the tenant that you pay for this, or they pay for this?
      2. Make sure your property is up to code, and cleared by inspectors, before renting. Get all of those reports in writing.
      3. Do a walk through with written check list before the move in date with tenants, and as they are moving out.
      4. Be prepared to “be a landlord”. Meaning you will get called at all hours for all things, potentially. Some tenants can handle things that may go wrong on the property, others immediately call you, and will expect you to show up to fix whatever may be wrong…immediately. Even if it is something that is completely out of your control, like a city-wide power outage.
      5. Have an attorney at the ready to help deal with tenant issues. You just never know.
      6. Join local groups on social media who are also landlords in your area, for advice/help.

    3. Virginia Plain*

      I don’t have experience but I reckon the best thing to do is to act exactly as though you were renting to strangers. Have all the paperwork done officially, no verbal agreements, assure them that you will act just as professionally as with any tenant (no letting yourself in without notice, type thing). It’s a good idea for both them and you as neither side will feel over a barrel, or taken advantage of.
      If they are surprised or say anything, you can present it, truthfully I think, as being respectful to them (as well as protecting yourself) and so they know you’re dealing with them fairly.

      1. TinaTurner*

        True. Renters may not know, e.g., that if their roommate neglects to pay their rent, the other roommates are liable to cover it. It’s the law. They have to be informed in advance what the law is, or they may be surprised and blame you.

    4. Janet Pinkerton*

      There’s a difference between knowing and doing. My grandmother did this for my aunt’s family despite knowing it was a bad idea. Shock of shocks, my aunt doesn’t consistently pay rent (or property taxes!). There’s no lease, even though my grandmother knows she should have had one. There’s been no consequences, either, so it’s just a source of ongoing stress for my grandmother. (She bought the house outright so there are few external consequences that can be imposed so long as the taxes get paid.)

      So, things we wish she’d done differently:
      (1) Had an actual written lease that included terms of “if rent is not paid by x date y times the lease will terminate” or something like that
      (2) Include the property tax and HOA and homeowners insurance costs in the rent itself rather than expect someone bad with money to pay those separately
      (3) Before purchasing, make peace with the fact that you may have to evict the family member. Or else make peace that they live in the house and don’t pay rent. Either is okay if you’re okay with it. But decide ahead of time.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yes, as a former renter, I think including all costs in the rent is smoother than expecting the renter to handle them – because what are you willing to do if those extras are late or don’t get paid? Especially if this is someone you’re trying to help, and you’re good with money and they’re not, giving them one bill per month is a kindness.

        1. Clisby*

          Absolutely. Plus, I’ve never heard of a landlord expecting a tenant to pay property taxes or homeowners insurance – those are the landlord’s responsibility (and of course the rent should be high enough to cover those bills.) It sounds like a terrible idea to me – if a tenant doesn’t pay the property taxes, what can the landlord do about it, other than start eviction proceedings? Legally, the landlord is on the hook for the taxes and insurance.

          1. Janet Pinkerton*

            Oh let me be clear, it was/is definitely a terrible idea. But maybe I can save someone else from that terrible idea.

            1. WellRed*

              If the electrify and WiFi are the tenants name, the tenant is responsible. Bills are in tenants name. No impact to LL. Where I live water is LL and taxes are paid by same. Can’t imagine a situation where tenant would EVER be responsible for taxes nor the LL willing to trust that.

              1. Clisby*

                Yes – if the tenant has put their name on the electricity service, they definitely are responsible. But the landlord can’t shift their responsibility for taxes onto a tenant. Even if the lease says the tenant pays the property tax, that’s not enforceable. If it isn’t paid, the county (at least, where I live, the county collects property taxes) is coming after the property owner, not the tenant.

                1. All the words*

                  In MN the tax assessors assume a portion of the rent is going toward the property tax and the landlord issues a “credit of rent paid” or CRP form to renters every year. The renter can file to receive a property tax refund if they qualify. Of course our household always seems to earn just over the qualifying limit.

    5. Ontariariario*

      My province, Ontario, has a lease form that everyone must use. I suggest using it as a guide and signing something between you and the family member or look to see if your city or state has recommended wording from a tenant and landlord board. I rented out and it went well because the family has always been very reliable. I didn’t need the form at first but used it when moving cities and buying a home elsewhere.

    6. The Other Dawn*

      Back when my husband and I bought a new house, we rented our old one to friends–twice. Honestly, it was a huge mistake. We should have sold it and just taken the loss rather than have to deal with being a landlord. Instead we spent eight years worrying about that house, having to pay both mortgages at certain points, tax returns were a nightmare and we usually had to pay, and we had to evict both sets of friends for non-payment. Obviously, we are no longer friends.

      1. Make sure you have a lease. A real one. Not just a piece of blank paper with some informal words written on it. You want something that spells out who pays for what, how much rent is, when it’s due, how many people are allowed to love there (this is important), are pets allowed, etc.
      2. If you need to evict due to non-payment or any other reason, move quickly. Doesn’t matter if it’s your family. I know that sounds harsh, but the longer you wait (“I’ll give them one more chance”), the longer you’ll be paying that mortgage, upkeep, and anything else by yourself. Not to mention, eviction can take a long time.
      3. Make sure you have someone who can do repairs and such at a moment’s notice. If the furnace dies in the middle of winter on Saturday night at 11pm, someone needs to deal with that ASAP. You can’t just tell the tenants to put more blankets and sweaters on and you’ll call someone Monday like you might in your own house.
      4. Treat them as real tenants who walked in off the street. You don’t want them taking advantage of you and you don’t want to take advantage of them.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Oh, and make sure the amount of rent you charge covers the mortgage, taxes, insurance, and anything else, like future repairs.

        The last thing I’ll say is, think long and hard about whether you really want to do this. Can you afford two mortgages if you had to? Or your rent and a mortgage? All the upkeep? And what do you know about the family members you plan to rent to? Do they pay their bills? Are they honest and trustworthy?

      2. Quiet Liberal*

        Excellent advice, The Other Dawn. Especially “……. how many people are allowed to love there (this is important)…..”

        I know you meant LIVE there, but this made my day!

    7. mcl*

      I have a few rental homes dirctly around me and it is likely that the landlords (sole owners, not a corporation) don’t know/care about ordinances such as fire pit rules or allowing banned/invasive noxious weeds to grow unchecked, spreading aggressively into my yard. Or their tenant has a dog they never clean up after or they never shovel their walks. I’ve had to get the city involved (only with the weed situation) but there’s no way for me to contact the landlords as a neighbor. They have never even introduced themselves. I don’t mind rentals in the neighborhood, but a little effort from the landlords to introduce themselves would have been appreciated. I do talk to tenants occasionally too, like the guy who let his barky huge dog out at 3am every night. Anyway if your property is in a neighborhood please be proactive about learning about the place and meet your property’s direct neighbors at least.

    8. Hanani*

      Set up an LLC. Keep this rental house separate from your personal finances.

      Get to know the neighbors. People don’t like renters in their neighborhoods for a number of reasons, but if the property owner is accessible, the tenants are reasonable, and there’s not a revolving door of tenants, that takes care of 95%+ of the reasons the neighbors might get grumpy.

      Have arrangements for taking care of the yard and driveway. Are the tenants going to do that? How quickly? What happens if they haven’t raked all autumn and snow is forecasted tomorrow? Often easier just to have a service and roll the cost into the rent.

      Have a formal lease. It’ll be long. It’s worth it.

      Plan for what you’ll do if things go south. Hopefully they won’t! But just in case.

      You have to be a landlord first with these relatives now – don’t call them at late hours or walk into their home uninvited, etc. Follow the rules meant to protect them too.

    9. Not A Manager*

      All of the advice above is to keep things as professional and arms-length as possible. But if you wanted to have an arms-length lease at market rent, you’d rent to strangers. And if your family wanted to pay market rent to a professional landlord, they’d rent elsewhere. There’s SOME reason that both of you want this particular arrangement with each other, and not just some arms-length transaction with anyone at all.

      I suggest that you both articulate what those reasons are, and be sure that they are encompassed by whatever agreement you make. Do you want to be a passive landlord, and you figure that as family they are good and responsible so they will do most of the upkeep of the property? Do they have shaky finances and figure that as family you will be understanding if they can’t always make rent on time? Are you offering them a below-market rent as an inducement to remain in the area when otherwise they would move away?

      There’s nothing wrong with having non-monetary reasons to want to rent to someone, or for them to agree to non-standard lease terms. But those things can make it harder to set up a standard arms-length lease, or to maintain completely professional distance. (For example, the advice about giving notice before showing up is fine advice, unless your grandchildren live on the property and you’re also their babysitter.) So be aware *and explicit* about what makes this arrangement preferable to you renting to strangers and them renting from strangers. Be explicit about what the trade-offs are, or the risks, and why it’s worth incurring those risks.

      I once rented to family at below-market rent, but it was a property that I wouldn’t have rented at all if it weren’t to family. Sure, I didn’t maximize my income stream, but if I wasn’t renting to them I wouldn’t have had any income from the property at all. When they moved out, there was some damage and wear and tear. I was a little irked, but I also remembered that I had very much wanted them in that property and that I got a lot out of them being there that wasn’t money. I put their rent-that-I-wouldn’t-have-gotten-otherwise toward fixing that damage-that-I-wouldn’t-have-incurred-otherwise and called it a wash. But if I’d lost sight of why I’d entered into that agreement in the first place, I would have been bitter and the relationship would have suffered.

    10. fposte*

      I would only rent to people if I were willing to either evict them or forgive rent forever. A lot of family falls into uncomfortable territory between the two. I would also keep my expectations low–it’s tempting to think they’d take better care of the property than strangers, but I don’t think that’s realistic.

      That doesn’t mean it can’t work–it’s just that you have more angst and fewer options if it doesn’t.

      1. Lady Glittersparkles*

        This was my thought. My family situation influences how I think about this for sure, but as someone with a lot of family living in chronic poverty, I don’t ever lend money to family. If I can afford to give it without ever getting it back I’ll gift it with no expectations and if I can’t I won’t part with it in the first place.
        Even if your family is in much better financial shape than mine, it’s still worth carefully considering what you’d do if they lose their ability to pay due to job loss, health problems or other unforeseen circumstances. Are you willing to evict, are you willing and able to absorb losses if you aren’t? What are your relationships with them now and how could they be affected in this scenario? All things to think about!

    11. Seeking Second Childhood*

      When you define costs, formalize a way to acknowledge the incidental things that may change or pop up in both directions.
      Water & electric bill & heating oil charges directly to them?
      Service charge for something they did wrong (like let the heating oil run empty so the furnace goes out and pipes freeze, or the town sends a fine for never mowing lawn?
      Town issues a new tax?
      If they see maintenance that needs to be done or an improvement that could make a big difference, will you pay the materials cost for work they are doing? And if yes, do you want to provide the supplies yourself so you can make the balance of long-term investment vs. short-term cost? Or so you can be sure that you agree with the look of the property? (My father-in-law paid for some Renovations when he was renting our property, and we didn’t know the details until it was too late. Yes he paid for the new bathroom, but he replace the bathtub with shower. Big difference that we should have had the chance to comment on.)
      General maintenance requirements. He thought he was doing a good thing by “removing scrap metal” … but that was the chicken wire we had installed to keep woodchucks from burrowing under the shed.
      That said, it was wonderful to know that when he died we had been able to see him frequently during his last few years.

    12. Rara Avis*

      There’s lots of great advice already, but I just wanted to add that in my husband’s family a family property was rented to cousins and everything went really well — it can work if everyone acts like adults and communicates clearly. It was a great option for a young family for a few years while they saved money to buy a house.

    13. HBJ*

      Tbh, it’s no different than renting to non family. You need to be a good, honest person, and the renter needs to be a good, honest person. If either of you aren’t, it’s gonna be bad, and being family just makes it harder. I’ve never rented to family, but I’ve rented from family twice. Neither time did we have a lease. It was fine. We’ve had a lot of this in my family, and it’s always been pretty fine. Some were minorly worse than others, from what I hear, but none were relationship-ending, lawyer-involving, eviction level stuff. It was more on the lines of, oh, they left a very small piece of furniture we have to deal with now or, oh, they cleaned it when they left but not quite as well as I would have liked.

    14. Wombats and Tequila*

      This advice assumes you are in the U.S.

      Even if you don’t have a lease and they don’t pay rent, you are still beholden to the landlord/tenant laws in your jurisdiction. You would have to go through a formal eviction process according to the law in your area to get them out.

      If you have *any* doubts about *any* of the tenants and you are ignoring them because guilt or family pressure, don’t do it to begin with.

      There are certain things you can put into a lease and certain things you can’t. Find out what those are. Better yet, find yourself a boilerplate lease for your area and use that.

      If your tenants do not pay the rent or fulfill whatever promises they swore up and down they would do, you are stuck with them until the lease expires. Therefore, even if you trust them entirely, make it a 6 month instead of 1 year lease. Whenever the lease ends, it usually goes month-to-month until either party decides to terminate, and gives appropriate notice, of course. That way, if they are being miserable and trashing the house, at least you can get them out slightly faster.

      If you have a partner, make damn aure they are on the same page as you. If one of you is dying to help your relative out, and the other needs to be convinced or cajoled into agreeing, then this will end badly. If, for example, your mom is the would be renter and they drive your partner nuts but you can’t leave your dear momma out on the street despite her lifetime of mistreatment of people or terrible spending habits, then be ready to end your relationship over this because that may likely happen. Same thing if it’s your sibling who can’t seem to stop doing drugs or having kids they’re not prepared to raise or losing jobs for some reason that’s always someone else’s fault.

      Always remember: a person’s past behavior is the best predictor or their future behavior. People will promise the sun, the moon, and the skies in order to get into your place. Once they’re in there, what’s their incentive to actually fulfill those promises? People who are hoarders, have poorly managed mental illnesses or addictions, are untidy, can’t or won’t manage their money responsibly, or have anger management issues are going to keep being that way.

      If you are only taking these people in because your family is guilty tripping you into this, then they can take them in themselves. Ask yourself, are you ignoring that little voice in your head because you are a people pleaser? Then go to a little website called Out of the FOG or go to therapy or do whatever it is you need to do to learn how to say No to people. Then tell them NO and let them hate you.

      I am a huge wimpy people pleaser myself. After one bad experience, I made it a rule not to offer my roof to anyone unless everybody else in the house agreed enthusiastically and with no question or hesitation on their part. Anyone who meets that bar has a place in my home. Anyone else, even if they are a decent person who is down on their luck, I don’t even make the offer.

      There are thousands of unhoused people in my city and I thoroughly believe that they all deserve homes and that housing is a human right. I cant save them all myself. The number one priority is that I and my family are OK.

      I hope this helps.

    15. retired3*

      Been there; done that. My kids lost their house in the 2008 recession. No matter how businesslike you try to be, it’s family. Rent was missed; you have to be able to afford that. Be aware it will be family dynamics, not stranger dynamics. Although they did not pay all the rent, they took good care of it and made improvements (their labor, my $ for materials). It’s just different.

    16. Janeric*

      A written lease is also protective for your tenants — in case you get hit by a bus, while your estate gets sorted out they’ll be protected. Also if they’re ever going to rent elsewhere/get a mortgage, it can streamline paperwork for both of you.

    17. LZ*

      I’ll offer a different perspective – consider using a property management company. Family or strangers, lots of people who buy investment properties are actually not cut out to be landlords. I own a condo that I rent out and all of the services that my management company offers are more than worth the cost. Among many other things: I get my homeowners insurance through their broker, at a better (group) rate than I could ever swing on my own. They screen tenants for me, and they market my unit aggressively when it comes up for rent. They inspect the unit on my behalf every year and arrange for repairs. I enjoy the benefits of being an absentee owner without the hassles of being a landlord! As it happens, for the first 4 years I rented my unit to a friend and TBH we both had more peace of mind knowing that there was a professional company managing things, so that I didn’t have to be The Landlord to my friend.

    18. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Either you let them live there for free (or paying a rent but it doesn’t put you in any kind of bind if they don’t actually pay), or you rent to a stranger who can’t play the “but family” card.

  2. Ashkela*

    I’ve learned this week that I am likely moving from Oregon to Arkansas sometime in April or May. While I’ve lived all over the country (California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Texas, Washington, Colorado, Oregon), this will be a new state and if anyone has any knowledge they want to share, I’d appreciate it. I’m moving into a college town where a dear friend already lives so I don’t need help finding housing, but everything else I’d love any info on.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I have a family member who is faculty at what I suspect is the same college town you are moving to. My understanding is that it is an oasis in a great wasteland, as is pretty typical of these places. I don’t have any specifics beyond that.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Erm, “a great wasteland” is a pretty horrible thing to call a place. It’s a bad idea to think of folks that way in the first place, but especially when they will be your new neighbors. I can’t think of a faster way to make yourself unwelcome.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I am a white, hetero, cis male. I can fit fight in, if I want to. I have friends and family members who don’t have that luxury.

          1. Ashkela*

            As a white, pansexual (mostly leaning toward women) cis woman, I appreciate the recognition on the not being able to fit in necessarily.

          2. A Feast of Fools*

            I worked [remotely] for Walmart Corporate for a year. I went to Bentonville probably a half dozen times, staying a week or two at a time, and did as much local exploring as I could. My takeaways:

            The landscape is pretty and there are a ton of fun outdoor things to do.
            The Mexican food is bland.
            The Asian food is bland.
            The BBQ is bland.
            The majority of the people in the state are white and very MAGA.
            Keep an eye on the sidewalks and parking lots when you walk; there was spat-out chewing tobacco *everywhere*.

            FWIW – I’m a white, cis-het, middle-aged woman from Texas and everyone assumed I was “one of them” so I heard some truly awful things said by people when they thought no one from any minority group was around.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              A few years back my barber retired, so I started making the rounds of the others in town. I would introduce myself as a former customer of the retired guy, which I took to be like walking into a church on Sunday morning and announcing that I had just moved into town. I didn’t expect or desire to be fawned over, but I did expect that they would put their best foot forward, given the prospect of a steady addition to their revenue stream. The first place I tried, the barber chit-chat consisted of complaining about how many Mexican restaurants there were in town. No, I did not go back.

              I would have guessed they could do barbeque well. Go figure

          3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            I’ve been trying to think how to reply to this and I don’t think I can get it quite right, but here goes anyway. Also, I did want to say I’ve always enjoyed your comments, you often have something interesting to add and it’s fun having some obscure but relevant baseball story to add spice to the comment section. I guess I’m trying to say that I’m not trying to attack you, I’m trying to explain the problem I see with your statement in a way that makes sense.

            From Ashkela’s response, I can tell that this is some sort of commonly understoood way of saying, “You are moving to a blue dot in a sea of red,” with a strong implication that the blue dot will be cool about things like race and sexuality, while the red sea will not.

            But that’s not what you actually said. Calling Arkansas a wasteland is perilously close to calling the inhabitants trash. I mean, you aren’t refering to the scenery, which is lovely and green. You are talking about the people. And that’s not a cool way to talk about 3 million people. Wasteland. That’s kind of a nasty thing to say, really.

            It’s also very, very close to calling them white trash, so you aren’t even punching up.

            Sorry if this is too blunt, but I can’t think of a better way to say it and I did want to say something.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              If we are talking “It’s all country music, and you can’t get dim sum” type of stuff, then you are right. If we are talking “Recognizing everyone as fully human regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual identity” then I have to disagree. I have lived in places like this, before I married and had kids. I do just fine in them, but I wouldn’t want to raise kids in such an environment. This was true even before my son came out as trans, and vastly more true since. I would worry about far worse than his hearing harsh words.

            2. Anon for a sec*

              I was born in Arkansas, went to a few years of school there, and my father’s family is all there. I love my family, but I would never, ever live in Arkansas, not even in Fayetteville. I think you have a good general point here, and that you were right to add it to the discussion. But I wanted to say that the flip side of “boy am I tired of Yankees sneering at southerners” is “people who’ve experienced a problematic place get to call it as they see it.” I have some sympathy for people who’ve lived in Arkansas and similar places stressing its drawbacks with shorthand like “wasteland.” Not always justified, and can certainly be elitist. But Richard’s shown himself to be fair minded and not given to casual sneers, so when he called my home state a wasteland, I thought “yeah, I don’t really disagree.” For whatever that’s worth.

            3. Ashkela*

              I recognize why this resonated wrong with you, but just so you know, between the dear friend I’m moving in with and recognizing Richard’s posts from the past, I read it exactly as ‘fair warning, being anything other than Christian, white, monogamous, and heterosexual can be dangerous’. Which, having lived in Louisiana and Texas before (Florida was a very short stint, so I learned nothing), I fully understood it as such.

    2. Lizy*

      If it’s Fayetteville, it’s beautiful. SW Missouri and northern Arkansas have some of the nicest people, IMO, and you just can’t beat the Ozarks landscape. Cost of living is good – $15 an hour is really incredibly decent. (Although like everything, that’s changing.) Politics down here are pretty red, but honestly, by and large people are respectful of different opinions as long as you are. I’ve had some people want to talk politics and I’ve just responded with “I don’t talk politics” and they’re like “yeah me neither. So what about that other thing”. Pace of life is generally a lot slower. Be prepared to answer the question of what church you go to, and if you say you don’t go to church, be prepared to be invited. There was an episode of “mysteries of the abandoned” and they were talking about some abandoned zoo in NW Arkansas and they didn’t want the building to go to waste so they made a church, and the narrator said it with such surprise and I’m just like “well what else are you going to do with a perfectly good building???” God, family, football, in that order. Although the Arkansas gymnastics team has been doing well, too! Their coach is Jordyn Weiber – ya know – the Olympic medalist from a few years ago.

      Oh – and be sure to visit Silver Dollar City! It’s in Branson, MO, but so worth it!!!

      1. Cohort 1*

        Can one have any social life at all outside, like, a dive bar if you say you don’t “do” church or, dog forbid, are atheist? Dive bars would be hard for me since I don’t drink, smoke, or use the F word, ever.

    3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      As someone just a bit north of AR, learn what a float trip is and have fun doing them. We have some gorgeous rivers around here.

    4. AC*

      I recommend following Feed the Malik on Instagram – she just moved to the area and has been highlighting lots of local food options that make me want to visit!

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Former SW Missourian here, hoping to be gone forever soon.

      Weather can be pretty violent; spring thunderstorms are fierce. Make sure you have a plan for tornadoes. The region has severe weather in winter sometimes too, in December and January. As for winter, it tends more toward ice and cold rather than snow. Summers are hot and humid. Sometimes it can run the gamut in one day! There’s an old saying: “If you don’t like the weather (in Missouri and by extension, AR), stick around, it’ll change.”

      Don’t plant anything before May. It will get warm and then cold again before then. I found that out the hard way when I planted a clematis in April and it froze. >_<

      I hope you'll be happy. There are some really nice people. Also, the Buffalo River area in Arkansas is gorgeous if you like the outdoors.

      1. Lizy*

        Ooohhh yeah the weather. Joplin, MO wasn’t in the news for no reason, and it’s minutes away from Arkansas. On the 10th anniversary of the big Joplin tornado, we had another big storm system come through. Tornado in Joplin – thankfully no one killed, and another one in my tiny town killed 3. One lived in a brick house. They’re no joke.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          A younger relative of mine survived the Joplin tornado. We were watching that storm in Springfield too. It was headed straight at us, but it deviated a bit after it tore through Joplin.

      2. RagingADHD*

        From a different part of Tornado Alley – identify your safest space immediately on moving in (maybe ask about it when touring properties) and store your kit there: weather radio, bike helmet, tough-soled shoes, whistle, and so forth. You can find lists of what to pack from your state emergency services.

        Also, find out when they test the sirens so it doesn’t freak you out. It’s usually something like the nth weekday every month, at a set time. First Wednesday at 10am, for example.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          In OldCity, it was EVERY Wednesday at 10 am starting in spring. It was like–*wooooooooooo* “What—oh, it’s 10 o’clock.”

          The only time they didn’t test it was when it was actually raining/storming. No need to get people all freaked out. Oh, and they will blow it for sustained high winds too, anything over 70+ mph. That’s meant to make your ass stay inside. Straight-line winds can do a whole lot of damage.

    6. small town*

      I finished high school in central Arkansas and then spent a year at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Then off to another state U. Conway also has Hendrix, a really great liberal arts school. When I lived there is was gorgeous and very friendly. The folks who have said that preparing to be asked where you go to church are accurate. Also in a dry county with issues about the “morality” of MTV. I’m an Anglican and was asked if I was a christian. Now, if something bad happens you will have more casseroles than you know what to do with. The academic centers are an oasis in the middle.

    7. NWA Transplant*

      If it’s Northwest Arkansas you’re talking about moving to, I live here and it’s great. Everyone can find their people and I’ve never seen tobacco spit on the sidewalk. It’s actually booming and housing is through the roof. Don’t worry. You’ll be fine! Lots of outdoor things to do and some great food and breweries, especially in Bentonville. And surprisingly or not, very diverse.

    8. tenfour*

      Extremely late to the party, but I used to travel for business to Bentonville all the time and I am here to tell you that the best ribs I have ever eaten in my life (and I am from Tennessee) are at Fred’s Hickory Inn.

      The hiking in that part of the world is truly gorgeous too.

  3. Question*

    Question for people of color, especially Black women. (Note: This is not a work question or school question, it’s broader than that, but I mention school for context.) I am a white woman and had a phone call this week with a Black woman whom I have never met. I was connected to her through a grad school I want to attend — she’s an alum, and I was asking her questions about her experience with this specific grad program. (We’ve seen photos of each other on bios so we know each other’s race, which is relevant to my question.)
    Her use of language on the call, and her choice of words, was incredibly eloquent. She was also just a very interesting and intelligent woman, and left a hugely positive impression on me. I’m a English major, from a family of writers and editors, so I take particular notice (and particular appreciation) of people’s use of words, and I was just incredibly impressed with this woman.
    After one particular statement of hers that expressed a complex idea really beautifully and concisely, I said, “You’re so articulate!” without thinking of the fact that the “you’re so articulate” comment comes with a history of racism, especially aimed at Black people.
    People have always called me articulate, and I always considered it a compliment, and I’ve only recently learned about the racist undertone of this word. I am now mortified that I said this to her. I also said toward the end of the call, “You’re such an impressive person,” and awkwardly gushed a little just because I was wowed by her.
    I can honestly say that race played no factor in why I said these things to her, but if she perceived that to be the case on any level, then it really doesn’t matter what I did or didn’t intend.
    So I don’t know if it’s best to leave it alone, or whether I should acknowledge the comment I made and/or apologize (via email). We’ve had a brief email exchange since the call, starting with a thank you note from me and brief follow-up question.
    Now that this has happened, I’m so angry with myself and mortified; I definitely won’t let it happen again, but should I just move on, or should I say something? What would you want if you were on the receiving end of that from me, as a Black person? Should I just let it go at the risk of making things more uncomfortable for her (which is the last thing I would want to do)?
    (Please be gentle with me — I am trying to grow from this so would appreciate if people respond with compassion and kind, constructive feedback.)

    1. Television*

      Hi Question,
      As a Black woman myself, I also have gotten comments about my speech and I think it’s very helpful to describe specifically what you found so pleasant when you give the compliment.

      Sometimes, just hearing someone exclaim “wow, you’re so articulate!” feels like pandering, even when the person meant it genuinely. However, hearing someone say “I love how you explained the connection between these two ideas” or “I love how you paint a picture with your words” makes it less likely for me to believe that you were surprised that I could speak a complete sentence (with the racist connotation that Black people are inherently unintelligent), and more likely for me to believe that you were genuinely impressed with my intellect.

      I wouldn’t necessarily bring it up again out of the blue, and you don’t have to be angry with yourself and mortified about something you did not know, but I would give her credit that if she’s willing to continue to communicate with you, she likely believes you are genuine. If she believes you are genuine, she is more likely to gently correct you if you say something inappropriate, rather than excoriate you.

      1. Television*

        I just re-read this letter and I realized that I did not see anything that indicates that she found your comments problematic. I think you might be unnecessarily bringing shame on yourself. I wouldn’t mention this episode to her at all; simply find more articulate ways to express to her how she impresses you.

      2. IT Manager*

        The advice from Television to say “wow I love …..” instead of just using an adjective like articulate/well-spoken etc is great. There’s just too much complexity to try and explain why you don’t mean it like the racists.

        And, I think you can clarify this now without an apology by sending a thank you note that says something like “Thank you so much for your time, it was so helpful to me to hear about Topic X! I just love how you expressed Complex Idea really beautifully and concisely, and our conversation was such an inspiration to me. Thank you!”

        1. Cj*

          Are often thought to myself when I heard President Obama speak how articulate he is. And then it would cross my mind how some people might take that if I mentioned it to them.

          But it has nothing to do with his race! He is just a genuinely awesome speaker.

          1. IT Manager*

            Just take Television’s advice and say exactly what you said here – “he’s such an awesome speaker!” All good.

          2. Bob-White of the Glen*

            I too find him a very good public speaker. Maybe enhanced because of the lack of articulation of his predecessor and successor?

    2. PX*

      Oof. I’ve found myself getting more sensitive to things like this over time, and I have to say, a gentle correction/clarification *with no expectation of response* is the way I would go. Dont make it about yourself and your feelings (ie dont say how bad you feel or embarrased you are which puts her in a position of having to “comfort” you), but rather along the lines of a simple “I realised later that this thing I said may have come across the wrong way, please know thats not how I intended it” is fine.

      Although having said all that, if you’ve had several interactions since then, it might be a bit weird to bring it up – so maybe just keep it in mind for future reference?

    3. LGC*

      …so, disclaimer: I am Black, I’m a man and not a woman, but I don’t think this depends on gender anyway.

      I’m almost inclined to say just leave it for now. I mean, yeah, there is a deep history of Black people being patronized for speaking in Standard American English (see: our “clean and articulate” 44th president, my entire existence growing up in a predominantly white suburb), but it sounds like she is genuinely well-spoken. If it comes up, then address it. And use this as a learning experience. That’s what I’d want, personally.

      Also: I’m going to be extremely online in this criticism (and yeah, a bit mean), but it reads to me a little like you’re looking for forgiveness from Black people. And…I’ll use this as an example from The Place We Don’t Talk About On Weekends, but one of the things I’ve been saying there lately is, “Thanks, but just make sure to do X going forward.” (Or, if you’re a chronic offender…”I don’t need an apology, I need you to do X.”) The forgiveness isn’t the important part and it isn’t owed from the person or group you’ve “offended.” (And that’s presuming she is offended – she may well not be!) What matters in the long run is that you’ve learned from the mistake – which I assume you have.

    4. Wildcat*

      So while I definitely think your statement was a little cringey, I think an apology may make the situation more awkward and put some onus on her to address it. My advice is learn, but move on and just be normal in your interactions with her. Best way to demonstrate growth is to live it.

      For what it’s worth, I think “articulate” is appropriate when grading a paper or a speech tournament, but will generally been seen as patronizing when addressed in less formal situations. So maybe excise it as a compliment when not in those specific situations.

    5. Lady Danbury*

      Black woman here. She may or may not have been offended (both based on the historical use of the phrase and some people’s current expectation that articulate Black ppl are the exception, not the rule), but it would I think that it would make it more awkward if you go back and apologize now. As others have mentioned, it’s a lot more helpful to give specific compliments. For example, you could have said something like “Wow, I love the way you broke that concept down.”

    6. Fluffiest Fluff*

      I’m glad someone else has the same issue as me- I clue in to eloquence and am enchanted by it and want to gush about it …. Then later I think “Oh my gosh!!!! What did I do?!?!? Did I sound like a patronizing idiot?!?!”

    7. matcha123*

      Might I suggest dropping “You’re so articulate!” from your speech and in the future specifying what exactly you found impressive? It’s a phrase that sounds like you’re pandering and using it without much thought.
      If she, or someone else, explains a particularly tricky concept with easy to understand language, I’d strongly suggest articulating that yourself.
      Following up with an apology to the woman or anything aside from never using that phrase with her again, would be over the top in my opinion as someone with a black parent who is often on the receiving end of such “compliments.”

      1. Ampersand*

        Agreed. I think “don’t call anyone articulate unless they literally just asked you if they sound articulate” is a good rule to live by.

    8. [Improved User Name Wanted]*

      Black woman here. For context, I’ve worked in communications and theater and have a radio voice. I have gotten the articulate compliment before, and even when it’s meant as an objective statement, it still makes me cringe. When it’s happened, it’s not something I make a big deal out of – if my biggest problem of the day is dealing with a possible microagression, then I’m doing pretty well – but it goes in the “hmm, I wonder if this is a thing with this person” file.

      As others have said, I’d find a specific outreach to apologize more awkward, not less. I’d suggest focusing on future interactions if you continue to stay in touch with this person. If you do wind up having a closer relationship*, and it still bothers you, then there may come an appropriate time to say “hey, I did this and I know better now” but the real proof will be in increasing your awareness and changing the behavior, which you’re working on.

      *side note, because you seem to be in a growth space around these topics… make sure that she agrees that you’re closer as well before thinking about doing this! YMMV, but I’ve spent most of my life in primarily white communities, and I find that my non-melaninated social network tends to be quicker to assume a deeper relationship than my BIPOC one.

      1. Felis alwayshungryis*

        Do you think tone of voice matters? As a white non-American I’m imagining that you must be able to hear when someone’s being patronising (‘oh, bless you, you’re so articulate’) vs. someone being genuinely impressed by your ideas. But I’m super happy to be corrected/educated on that.

        I have to say, as someone with a young child, I’m pretty well trained to be specific with praise/admiration, but this is the kind of semi-gaffe I could see myself making before then. We all have foot-in-mouth moments and I’m sure you’ll take it forward into future interactions.

        1. IT Manager*

          I’ll only speak for myself, but there would be very few situations where being praised for my normal speech as “articulate” wouldn’t be an insult of low expectations, no matter the tone of voice.

          I suppose if it was clearly spelled out as non-racial – Eg the most articulate manager I’ve worked with, or the most articulate presentation we’ve seen or something. But even then, just say it was great or creative or whatever. “Articulate” to an adult just feels like you’re expressing shock that I can put 2 sentences together.

          Although ”articulate” isn’t *quite* as bad as when I’ve been complimented on how well I speak English. Um, thanks? It’s the only language I speak?

          1. IT Manager*

            Actually, thinking about it now, this basically just happened to me, in a good way. My boss is leaving the company after more than 20 years, and in calling to tell me, he also took the time to tell me that he enjoyed working with me so much – and that I had an amazing grasp of all the details but was able to explain them to non-technical people at all levels.

            Well, that compliment will probably stick with me forever, but if he’d just said “you’re so articulate”? Nope.

        2. [Improved User Name Wanted]*

          Sure, tone of voice matters, but I think overall context matters more. Think of being told “you’re so articulate” after a giving a talk on BIPOC history in the USA, compared to hearing the same after a live performance of I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General (it’s a five minute musical tongue-twister if you don’t know it or feel like looking it up on Youtube :) ).

          The first situation I’d question more than the second (because that performance really *does* require a lot of articulation). But then, if in the first situation, “you’re so articulate” was followed with salient points about the presentation and otherwise respectful interaction, I’d more likely think it was a foot-in-mouth situation and not intended to give offense. And if the second situation was followed by a “I’ve never seen a BIPOC do so well in that role before”, then, as the kids say, that’s definitely sus.

          It’s all still assumptions on my part – some days all I hear is tone, and some folks just rub me the wrong way no matter what, and that’s my problem – which is why, for me, if it’s an isolated comment, it’s a data point for future consideration.

    9. moonstone*

      There is not much you can do at this point. Sometimes we don’t realize how what we say sounded until after the fact, it happens. It would actually be worse if you reached out to her afterwards because it would put her in an awkward position. And if she didn’t actually interpret your comment as racist (which is possible), bringing up that she might have will make things even MORE awkward! This is definitely a good thing to keep in mind going forward, but move on from this incident.

  4. Laura H.*

    Little Joys Thread

    What brought you joy this week?

    I’m super excited for a spaghetti dinner from a local Boy Scout troop this weekend. Yummy.

    Please share your joys big or little!

    1. Lizabeth*

      A purple finch singing their heart out earlier this week. I think it thought it was spring…it certainly was warm enough!

    2. Marion Ravenwood*

      I had a day off work yesterday as I have a bunch of annual leave to use up before the end of next month. I went to a museum, treated myself to a fancy pastry and then came home and did some more work on the skirt I’m making (which is now almost done except for the waistband, which I can hopefully work on next week when I can get some more interfacing after I get paid). It was really nice to have a free day and get to do lots of fun stuff I’d been wanting to do for a while but just hadn’t been able to get round to.

    3. Virginia Plain*

      Well after a week which has pretty much convinced me that my new role at the place-of-which-we-do-not-speak is going to turn me into Malcolm Tucker, this will be a lovely thread to read!
      My small joy is that I am making a special birthday dinner for my OH tonight and busting out my beautiful new Joseph Joseph set of mixing bowls, sieve, measuring cups etc. to make his cake. As a Brit I usually measure by weight when cooking but it’s nice to have the option of cups should one come across an American recipe, which I have in this case. As per his request I’m making a banana cake.
      There is an important rugby match on later so we’ll be watching that maybe with a beer or two then have a nice dinner. Right I better go and get on with it!

    4. Jay*

      We had new neighbors over and they’re delightful! Such interesting and lovely people and we have lots in common. I look forward to getting to know them better!

    5. The Other Dawn*

      I’m on vacation in Las Vegas this week:

      1. Death Valley…wow! We went maybe 12 years ago. I don’t know what road we took back then, but we didn’t see any of the places we saw this week. Death Valley is really awe-inspiring. I captured probably one of the best pictures ever. We were driving back from the Badwater salt flats and the sun was behind a huge cloud, the rays shooting out in all directions. They came down right in front of the mountains and it was just gorgeous.
      2. I discovered the Great-Tail Grackle. We heard an unusual bird song we’ve never heard before, like they were having a conversation. I took a picture and Googled it to find out what it was. I love hearing them chatter back and forth.
      3. I’m not yet broke from gambling. :)

      1. Tortally HareBrained*

        Your delight in great-tailed grackles has become my little joy for the week. Here they overrun parking lots in the winter, and are mostly background noise to many people. They entertain me greatly, especially when the males fluff up and try to get the attention of females. It’s nice to see them appreciated.

      2. WoodswomanWrites*

        So great you made it to Death Valley, an incredible place! February is an ideal time to be there. And how cool you got to see the great-tail grackle.

      3. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

        Waves to a stranger on the internet. Currently in LV and heading to Death Valley tomorrow.

        (And to answer the original question: it’s itty bitty connections like this that bring me joy)

    6. SlingGeek*

      Being able to express milk to donate to my local milk bank. When my older son was born he had donor milk in NICU, and now it’s time to pay it back.

      1. allathian*

        Thank you! My son also had donor milk in NICU, unfortunately my supply was never enough to cover his needs, let alone donate.

    7. fposte*

      I’ve got an out of town appointment next week and I’m going to meet up with friends I haven’t seen for awhile, so I’m really excited to be going.

    8. A Girl Named Fred*

      I had a really stressful week at my new Place-We-Don’t-Talk-About-On-Weekends because it was my transition week from training to doing and it was horribly overwhelming. I just felt like I was failing. Without me asking and without saying a word, my boyfriend took care of literally everything around our apartment for the past few days so I didn’t have to think about it. He even got dinner ready in the crockpot yesterday despite knowing he wouldn’t be home for it, just so I’d have a hot meal ready when I finished.

      He makes me very, very happy. :)

      1. insufficient coffee*

        I misread that as: I went for a walk and got *two* pet horses.
        I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to live near you or not….

    9. E. Chauvelin*

      On a whim I looked up Girl Scout cookie booth locations this morning and discovered that there was a booth today at a thrift store where I’d been meaning to drop off some donations anyway, so now I have three more boxes of cookies.

      1. Squirrel Nutkin*

        Ooh, thank you for the reminder — I think I am going to look for some online girl scout cookie sales, and that will be my small joy for this week!

        1. the cat's ass*

          As a (completely exhausted) Girl Scout leader, thank you for supporting GS! This is the first booth season since 2000 because panini and people have been delightful. And buying SO. MANY. COOKIES. We’ve had to reorder more cookies four times (hence the exhaustion).

          1. Colette*

            Yeah Girl Guide leader here. Our previous best was 3 cartons (36 boxes ) in an hour. Last fall we had one day that averaged out to double that. It was great!

            1. Squirrel Nutkin*

              Yay! Thank you, Girl Guide and Girl Scout leaders! : ) I was thrilled to find out that my local troop also has an option where you can donate boxes to local food banks so that people who are down on their luck can enjoy Girl Scout cookie season a bit as well.

          2. never mind where I work*

            I bought a box yesterday–the mints, of course. :-) I hear that the Girl Scouts are getting a smaller share of the price this year, 75 cents for each $5 box of cookies. If I were to accidentally drop a few dollars on the table, would the scouts be allowed to keep the money?

            1. the cat's ass*

              I live in CA, where they are 6$ a box, and the breakdown is: $1 for the troop selling; 1$ for the bakery; 1 $ to GSUSA, and 3$ to GSNorcal. I’ve discussed this with the troop annually, and this year, post fires where GS lost at least 2 separate campsites that need to be rebuilt, as well as their continued desire to provide scholarships to any girl wishing to attend camp, we’re all okay with it.

              Re donations: if you wish to give a specific troop a donation, it’s okay! We don’t submit that $ until after cookie season is over so it stays in that troop’s particular treasury. We do document it on our troop’s annual financial form, though.

              1. never mind who I am*

                Aah, thanks. I was under the impression that 75 cents went to the GS in general and everything else was “overhead” that went to procuring and distributing the cookies, similar to phone solicitors who give a minuscule amount to the police or children in need or injured kittens and keep the other 90% or more for their fundraising organization. I’m glad to hear I was misinformed and the breakdown is better than that.

                I read the original on the Internet. How could it have been wrong? :-)

        2. IT Manager*

          May i suggest – Troop 6000? They are a troop for homeless girls in NYC. I don’t think I can post a link but google gets there directly.

          They have a lovely mission supporting girls in the shelter system and I am so happy each year to help them participate in Scouts and the yearly cookie ritual. Plus, cookies of course!

    10. I take tea*

      The restrictions are eased, as the situation is better, and I got to dance. It felt wonderful. I have missed dancing so much!

      1. UKDancer*

        Dancing is the best thing and always makes me feel better. I’ve been doing zoom classes but nothing feels as good as being back in a studio.

        I did a lovely ballet class today and a bellydance class both of which made me feel really good.

      2. allathian*

        I got to go to the movies yesterday. Before the pandemic my husband and I used to go on movie dates about every six weeks or so, when our son would sleep over at either my parents’ or my MIL’s apartment. I’m so glad we got to go back to that. We went to see Death on the Nile.

    11. Katie*

      I have two handicapped kids who are in wheelchairs. Up until this point, when we go anywhere, the wheelchairs have been just out in the back of our minivan. A while back my husband found an actual wheelchair van that needed looooots of love but was incredibly cheap. Basically the only thing that worked was the lift. He has been fixing it ever since.
      Well yesterday, we went on the first adventure in it and it was a success!!!

    12. Another_scientist*

      Hubby went out with some friends yesterday and I did an errand and then got drive thru food and ate in the car! Hubby does not enjoy doing that at all, so this was special.

    13. Voluptuousfire*

      I’m going to a convention in April for those in the goth and dark alternative scenes and I decided to buy myself some new clothes and accessories for it. I found a really great Hecate necklace on Etsy that looks really good and is of great quality for the price. I used to go to goth nights back 2004-2010 and adored it but hadn’t been to anything in years so I am beside myself excited at attending.

    14. WoodswomanWrites*

      A fellow student from grad school found me online after decades and offered to send photos of me that she has. It’s good to reconnect with her and I’m looking forward to seeing her photos.

    15. Dark Macadamia*

      Big kid is finally going to school in person, which means little kid can finally do fun stuff like tumbling classes and going to the park on a whim. I got them both signed up for summer camps and I’m already planning how to spend my kid-free week!

    16. Quiet Liberal*

      Retired this week. Feels weird to think come Monday, I won’t be logging into work. I am looking forward to spending more time on what I want to do.

    17. Jacey*

      I waved at a bay who was clearly delighted by the attention! Seeing that little face light up was a great moment.

      1. Jacey*

        *baby not bay, lol! If I ever wave at a body of water and get a delighted response, I’ll be terrified that I’ve somehow gotten trapped in a magical realist novel or something

      2. Voluptuousfire*

        I know! My neighbors has a 6 month old and I had to knock on their door to ask them a question and the neighbor answered with the baby in her arms. I got a gurgle and a smile from the baby and I was delighted by it.

    18. wingmaster*

      Went snowshoeing with my partner, using the snowshoes I bought. I told myself that this would be my big purchase/investment for this winter. I’m glad that be using it!

    19. RagingADHD*

      I have been making an effort to follow the DASH protocol for my blood pressure, and my little joy today was that I didn’t have to struggle at all to zip up my boots. So my legs are apparently much less swollen.

      Hooray!

  5. NYC CNA*

    Does anyone have advice on managing mutual funds, especially as concerns tax implications?

    I was left a mutual fund by my grandmother before she passed away a few years ago — but have been separated from my extended family for most of my life (and was never wealthy outside of this), and so I have almost zero financial literacy in this area.

    Every year, I receive a 1099 for the mutual fund, and I report on the capital gains from the fund. This usually results in me owing taxes; I have never had a tax refund. However, this year… the capital gains from the fund were enough to actually push me into a higher tax bracket — and the taxes I owe are now enormous: all of my savings from the past 6 years are now… gone.

    Since then, I’ve looked into cashing out some of the fund in order to pay the taxes on it. I’m not really sure how this works but managed to fumble my way through a conversation with the customer service rep at the firm. But my rudimentary understanding is that I may have to pay taxes again for the amount that I cash out (assuming there were gains during the cashout).

    Just wondering if anyone has advice on how this kind of thing is managed long-term? For people that have investment funds like this, how do you manage the tax implications? Do you withdraw from the fund on a regular basis? Do you just pay out of pocket each year (as I’ve been doing)? If I should be withdrawing from the fund regularly, what is the best timing in the year to do so?

    Sorry if these questions don’t make sense! I’m really trying to figure out a way to learn more about this without paying another person a hefty fee (see above: no savings) for information that’s potentially really basic.

    1. rubble*

      maybe I’ve completely misunderstood how american taxes work, but, shouldn’t you only be paying the higher tax rate for the portion of your income that falls into the higher tax bracket? obviously your tax payment will go up but I’m not sure why it would suddenly be enormous

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah to be honest I’m not sure how the taxes on investments could wipe out your savings; it should only be like a third of the amount of the *increase* at most, and it should be possible to pay the taxes with the profit from the investment. This might be worth exploring with a tax professional. That said, as a very ignorant investor, I will say the investment money feels “locked up” compared to my checking account, and it would presumably be laborious to get that money out, so it can feel like I’m spending my liquid cash and am now poor.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          You are correct; unless NYC CNA makes more than $445K/year, their capital gains should be taxed at 15%. Of course, it’s more complicated than that, as it can affect your income tax rate, but rubble is correct that income tax rates are marginal, so (making this up for simplicity’s sake): If the first $50K/yr is taxed at 10%, but the next $50K is taxed at 20%, and you make $80K (taxable income) in a year, you’d owe (or have to withhold) (50,000*0.10)+(30,000*0.20), or $5K + $6K = $11K.

          This is why I advise people who inherit money to take advantage of the stepped up cost basis by cashing out any taxable investments and putting the money where it makes sense for them.

          NYC CNA, are you maxing out your retirement investments? If not, you can reduce your taxable income by contributing as much as possible to a 401(k), then supplementing your budget by withdrawing more of the money from the mutual fund. You can’t put the mutual fund directly into your 401(k), but this is the next best thing, and it should help your tax burden. You should run your taxes first with one of the filing services, to see how that would affect them, or get advice from an accountant, but I did it myself years ago and it worked for us.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, the indirect contribution approach can be really effective; even if you just do it by cashing out dividends and capital gain distributions that’s still a bump for the retirement accounts.

            I think in general the advice would have been to cash out what I’m pretty sure is a target date fund upon inheriting it and then put it in total stock market, but also most people didn’t see 2021’s freakish capital gains distribution coming so it wouldn’t have been something people would have planned to avoid.

            1. Cj*

              Yes, she should have cashed out the mutual funds as soon as she inherited them, and invested in stocks or mutual funds that rely on growth in the value of the stocks to generate the increase in your net worth, rather than stocks or mutual funds that pay large dividends, or mutual funds that buy and sell stocks that frequently generate taxable capital gains.

              But if she does need to cash out some of the mutual funds now, the tax still might not be that bad. She’ll get the stepped-up basis to the value in 2017 when she inherited them, and of course the capital gain distributions that she has been paying tax on will also be added to her basis. The actual taxable gain might not be all that great.

              When she says it will wipe out her savings, I’m assuming she means her liquid savings she has easy access to, liking a savings account or a money market account.

              The capital gains distributions would not have pushed her other income into a higher tax bracket. The worst that would have happened if she went from paying 0% on some or all of the capital gains distributions (plus state income tax), and now had to pay 15%. If it pushed up her income to the point that she is paying 20% on the capital gains, that is a problem I would like to have.

              1. NYC CNA*

                Most of your message is honestly really above my head, but I appreciate it! I’ll keep looking into this stuff until I’m able to understand what your advice here fully.

                And yes, “that is a problem I would like to have” is something I have now heard multiple times by now. :) It still doesn’t automatically mean access to financial literacy that’s normally passed down institutionally or generationally that I haven’t had access to — but I do appreciate that I’m not actually in financial straits; I just need to sit down and sort out this situation by educating myself.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  Based on this I’m going to echo FPoste’s suggestion to hire a by-the-hour financial advisor to explain options to you, including things you should perhaps look at that no one here guessed. (Someone who earns the exact same fee no matter what you choose to do with the money, so there’s no incentive to push you into something.)

                  You can’t time travel back to sell and re-invest at the time of the inheritance. (And the only reason I know that this is likely the reasonable advice is that I entered this space myself in the past 6 months, and the relative who is executor had to figure this out a few years earlier so advised that to the current heirs.) Figuring out how to better invest the money and check that anything around taxes and such is correct is a worthwhile investment of a few hundred dollars. You don’t have to do it this week, but I’d suggest trying to set something up within the next few months.

          2. NYC CNA*

            Thank you for the calculation, as it actually very accurately reflected my situation! My real number was coming out owning around $8k — and that is indeed all the savings I have in the bank.

            That’s an interesting idea about maxing out my 401k and then supplementing it with the mutual fund! Right now, my issue is I don’t fully understand the withdrawal process from the mutual fund and how to understand / calculate for myself the pros and cons of the tax owed on any cash outs, how to time withdrawals, etc. I’ll definitely keep this in mind as I look into it though.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Well, you’ll have to set aside money for taxes, maybe in a savings account, unless you normally get a big refund, in which case you can just stop doing that, because it’s basically a year-long, interest-free loan to the IRS! ;) (A small refund isn’t an issue, but if you use it for big purchases, IMO most people are better off putting money in a savings account every paycheck to wind up with the same “windfall” of their own money.)

              You can plan for paying all the taxes by withdrawing the tax payment, too. Say you need another $10K for expenses if you max out your 401(k). You’ll need to withdraw $11.5K or so, because 15% of that ($1.5K) should be put in a separate savings account just for taxes, and then the rest should go in your checking account. It would probably be safer to withdraw $1,000 per month from the fund, though, since prices fluctuate, then put $125 of that in the tax fund.

              Now, yes, you’re paying more in taxes, but you’ll need to pay capital gains eventually, and we’re getting into tax arbitrage territory, which is where my eyes start to cross. But, basically, unless you think you’ll have so much money in retirement that your taxes will actually be HIGHER, you should be putting money in retirement accounts now. It gets much more complicated when you actually are in that position, since you have to figure out amounts of taxes owed and potentially owed to compare different forms of tax-deferred savings vs. taxable, but like you’ve said, it’s a good problem to have. But the good news is that with my example, you’ll probably be saving $2,200-$2,400 on income taxes! (Assuming you’re in the 22% or 24% bracket, the most common ones.) So you’re paying an extra $1,500 on the capital gains, but paying $2,200-2,400 less in taxes.

              1. Cj*

                You have a really good idea about maxing out her 401k, but I do want to mention a couple things I noticed in your comment for clarification for when she talks to her tax person or a financial advisor. Then I’ll add another reason why your idea is a good one at the end of my comment.

                If she took sold $11,500 worth of her mutual fund shares, she would be paying way less than $1,500 in tax on it, because she only has to pay tax on the gain, not the entire amount of the sales proceeds. If she did have to pay tax on the entire amount, the tax would be $1725, not $1500, as it would be 15% of $11500, not 15% of $10000. Plus state tax, and from her user name it looks like she lives in New York City, so I suppose local tax also.

                It becomes a circular calculation when you need to sell additional shares to cover the tax, then you owe tax and that additional amount, and if you need money to cover that, you need to sell even more shares, and so on and so on. The calculation will be different than in The Cosmic Avenger’s comment since you only need to pay tax on the gain,, but I wanted to mention the circular calculation, especially since for many taxpayers, the gain can be a huge percentage of the sale proceeds.

                She would not save $2,200 to $2,400 in income taxes by putting an additional $10,000 into her 401k. She would only save the difference between that and what she would pay on the gain from the mutual fund sale. It would still be a significant savings, especially since she only has to pay tax on the gain, so it won’t be $1500. She’s eventually going to have to pay tax on both the gains and 401k distributions, so its not a permanent tax savings. Although if she’s in a lower tax bracket when she retires, it will help.

                Terminology clarification: The tax on the gain is a part of your income tax, not a separate type of tax. Long term capital gains are taxed at a lower rates, but still income tax. So saying you will have to pay $1500 in capital gains tax but will save $2200 income tax isn’t technically correct.

                I realize there is a lot of “picky” stuff in this comment, especially my last sentence. The OP and others that have commented on this thread have said they’d like to use what they’ve read here as a starting point for when they speak to a professional, so I felt it was important to clarify even pretty minor stuff.

                Now for the other reason your idea is a good one: there have already been discussion in Congress about getting rid of the lower rates on capital gains. It doesn’t look like its going to happen now, but it probably will eventually. So that would be a good reason to realize the gain now before that happens.

          3. Bob-White of the Glen*

            Not exactly. Capital gains in MFs can be short term or long term. If short term, they will have to pay their full rate. Also, the 15% rate sits below all your other income and can raise it into a higher rate.

            OP – contact a financial planner and see about selling it and moving the money into something that will not have a tax hit each each. (And maybe maxing out your ROTH each year with the money.) Be sure to keep track of the amounts that you paid tax on, as those amounts plus the value of the investment the day your grandmother died, are now your basis. Be aware you may have another tax hit if you sell, but at least you’ll have the money available. Garrett is good if you just want financial planning by the hour by someone not trying to sell you a junky investment. Others have mentioned them on here too.

            1. Cj*

              Well, not exactly to what you said either.

              When you sell mutual fund shares, they can be either long-term or short-term, and short-term gains will be taxed at your ordinary rate. But capital gain distributions from mutual funds are all taxed at the lower capital gain rate.

              Capital gains distributions and long term capital gains do not push your other income into a higher bracket. Your other income can increase the rate on the gains from 0% to 15%, or from 15% to 20%. But the rates on your other income will be the same as if you didn’t have any gains at all.

              Sure, if she sells all her shares and invests in something that will have fewer tax consequences, she will have the cash available to pay the taxes on the sale. And it’s probably a good idea so she doesn’t have a large amount of tax due every year. But it’s not like she can’t so enough of her shares now to pay what she owes.

      2. Clisby*

        I (in US) don’t understand that either, unless this mutual fund is huge and there were a LOT of capital gains.

        You are correct about our tax rates – it’s not a flat tax, it’s marginal rates, so even if your income puts you in the top tax bracket, you don’t pay that amount of tax on all your income.

        If I had a situation like the LW describes, I’d be making a beeline to a CPA (certified public accountant – not sure what it’s called in other countries) to find out how to handle it.

    2. Asenath*

      You really need to find and consult a local tax expert. I’m no expert and am not even in the US, but based on my experiences with my own, um, inexpert attempts at money management when it comes to investments (1) never cash in anything that’s protected from taxes because the government will take a surprisingly large chunk of the proceeds (yes, I did that, back in the day, and learned the hard way) and (2) someone who knows something about taxes and finances can often find some way to shelter some of your money – in Canada, the obvious ways, well, obvious to me now, are to put any money you take out into a registered retirement savings plane (if you’re still working) or into a tax-free savings plan. If I understand it correctly, you can even put mutual funds into a TFSP, and any payouts are protected. Maybe the US has something similar – and remember, I am NOT an expert, even in my own country.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I have mutual funds and other investments and I have a financial planner/advisor. Is someone managing the fund for you? Ask to be connected to the local branch of the firm that manages the fund (you mentioned a customer service rep– you need to go beyond that) and speak to either the branch manager or a financial planner. You need professional advice for something like this. I pay quarterly fees but they’re a small percentage of what’s in my accounts and one of their jobs is to guide me through situations like this.

      1. NYC CNA*

        Ironically, my account statements do come with a designated representative. I did call that person — finally got a hold of him, only for him to tell me that he’s actually retired, his license is expired, and that he advises me to call the general customer service line for the firm instead.

        So that still leaves me without any type of financial advisor who can help look at my specific accounts with me, but I’ll try to explore getting someone new instead.

    4. Lifelong student*

      Mutual funds can often not be tax efficient. They are required to distribute capital gains each year which will result in tax if they are not held in a tax-deferred account. However, the good news is that means the fund did well that year- that is why there are capital gains! To avoid owing taxes at the end of the year, you could have more withheld from other income sources such as wages or pensions. Or you could make estimated payments through the years.
      If you sell some of the mutual funds to raise cash, there will be tax if there are gains on the sale. If there are losses on the sale, those losses will offset gains- so you could sell some losers if there are any.
      Talk to a tax professional if the account is sizable about structuring your investments for tax efficiency as well as total return.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yes, when you have investments like this it can be irritating because the people who manage the accounts (in my experience) are not involved in taxes at all – I have been threatened with penalties for not with holding more during the year to cover the bill, which doesn’t quite seem fair to me, but as others say it’s also good to pay taxes because that means you’re making a lot of money. You can always withhold more yourself as stated above to cover this.

      2. Cj*

        A lot of capital gain distributions doesn’t necessarily mean the fund did well. It means they sold shares that the mutual fund owned for more than they paid for them, and you are the one paying the tax on that gain. But if the money from the sale of those shares were then invested in stocks that went down in value, you could still have lost market value in the mutual fund even though you are paying tax on the capital gain distributions.

    5. Not A Manager*

      It sounds to me like CNA is letting the gains accrue in the mutual fund, and has been paying the taxes out of her own separate earnings or savings. If the fund did very well this year, it could indeed be a struggle to pay taxes without recourse to the mutual fund itself.

      Consult with a tax advisor and an investment advisor. Both of these consults should take less than an hour and might be free of charge. All you really want to know is (a) should you continue to invest most of this money in the mutual fund, or are there more tax-efficient places for it, and (b) what is the best way to get money out of the fund when you need it? Whether you’re liquidating the fund or just using it to pay its own taxes, make a plan for the best way to do that.

      The fund should absolutely be paying its own taxes. At a bare minimum, find out how to pull out an amount to cover the tax liability each year.

      1. fposte*

        I’m going to disagree–an investment advisor wants to handle your investments. That’s really going to be inappropriate here, and it puts the OP at risk of an Edward Jones-type place that will happily churn the stuff to make the advisor the most money.

        If the OP can find an hourly fee-only financial advisor, like somebody with the Garrett Network, that might be useful.

        1. fposte*

          That sounds more dismissive than I meant to sound–sorry. Let me expand a little.

          For a lot of us, “see a trusted professional” is an automatic go-to, and I understand why people recommend a professional for investments. But most of them aren’t trusted professionals, IMHO. The nomenclature in the industry is incredibly confusing, and most of the people who handle investments aren’t legally required to make decisions in the client’s best interests. Which is to my mind appalling and mind-blowing.

          1. NYC CNA*

            Your last paragraph is a big part of why I’ve been so hesitant / haven’t known how to find someone, since I don’t have anyone that can refer me directly.

            I’ll look into the Garrett Network! It would be really nice if they had someone near me.

      2. NYC CNA*

        Thank you for understanding my situation with so much more clarity than I could articulate!

        Where do you find a tax advisor that “might be free of charge”? This is exactly what I’d love to have. :/ And thank you for articulating my options so clearly; I’ll definitely keep this in mind when I do finally find someone who can help.

        1. Not A Manager*

          No one is “free of charge” in general. But a lot of professionals will have a short (less than an hour, usually) consult with you before you establish your professional relationship. Fpost is right that they are generally trying to sell you their services, but good ones are also trying to determine whether you need their service and whether they are the best fit for you.

          During the consult, they will ask you for specifics about your situation, and they will respond to those specifics with some general advice or short education. In a lot of cases that’s all you need, and you don’t need to pay for an ongoing relationship with them. In other cases, they might refer you to someone who is less costly and better able to help you.

          If this were me, I would first try to get as general an education as I could. Get familiar with the terms and concepts. You could start by googling “mutual fund” “[name] of mutual fund” “tax implications of mutual funds” “withdrawal from mutual fund” “inheritance of mutual fund” etc. As you read up on that stuff, you’ll start googling other things like “what is a marginal tax rate,” “what is step up in basis,” “what is a tax basis,” etc. Then when you meet with your tax advisor or investment person, you won’t need them to give you a complete primer and you’ll have more targeted questions for them.

          I’ve always found professionals though referrals. If you have a boss or a relative that might utilize an accountant or an investment professional, ask them for a referral. Someone contacted you when your relative died to pass on the mutual fund – was this an estates and trusts attorney? A bank executive? Ask that person what they recommend. If you can’t get a recommendation closer to home, make an appointment with private banking at the main branch of the best bank in your town, and talk to the banker about your situation.

    6. fposte*

      Oh, was this a Vanguard Target Retirement Fund? A lot of people are unhappy about this, as it’s not expected that kind of fund would have the turnover that would create those significant gains. Sorry, this will be long.

      As noted in another comment, it doesn’t change the rate you pay on *all* your earnings, at least not federally; the progressive nature of the tax code means that each higher tax rate only affects the income over a certain level. It’s a bit of complex math, because the capital gains rate is a different rate but it still counts toward your Adjusted Gross Income. But capital gains get counted after your earned income when your tax rate is being calculated.

      Most people manage this situation with tax-efficient fund placement–you put funds that are likelier to have dividends and capital gains in tax-advantaged accounts like IRAs or 401ks where you don’t have to pay on gains within the year, and they instead use funds like a total stock market index in taxable since they throw off much less in the way of dividends and capital gains just by their design (anything with bonds has more dividends). But a lot of people in lower tax brackets wouldn’t have much tax impact from a target date fund either; I have friends with one who’d usually be in a 0% gains bracket, for instance, so the usual amount such a fund usually throws off wouldn’t make any difference to them. But people like that were reckoning without this year’s fund payout, and that’s why a lot of people are unhappy.

      However, you also don’t want to let the tail wag the dog here–you want to plan for taxes but not choose to have less money over all in order to earn less tax. What you’re planning is a reasonable way to move forward (especially since this is an outlier year); sell a little of the fund to cover its costs. Make sure that you and Vanguard have the right date for the cost basis–the starting cost of the fund–since as an inherited fund the starting value would be the value when your grandmother died, not when she bought the fund, and that date should appear in the cost basis listing on Vanguard. Otherwise your gains when selling shares will be higher than they need to be.

      Another thing to consider going forward: when a fund throws off dividends or capital gains, you have a choice whether to reinvest those in the fund or not. I suspect the setting defaults to reinvestment. You may not want to do that–you may want to put that money into a more tax-efficient fund in future or just use that money for something else. Those dividends and capital gains are going to be taxed whichever you do, so you might as well do what you want to do with them.

      I hope this helps some! I love this stuff so am happy to keep talking if you want.

      1. Lore*

        Oh! I was literally just this morning thinking I should email my accountant or my financial advisor about a similar question and then thought, maybe I should wait till after tax season since I’ve already dealt with it for this year… I have a couple of different investment accounts, and generally my practice is to overwithhold from my paycheck to offset the capital gains and let the money be reinvested, and then pay the difference, if there is any, out of pocket at tax time. (Generally, I about break even; sometimes I end up with enough of a refund to pay my accountant.) For one account in particular, it’s all shares in a particular mutual fund that I’ve had for many, many years, paying capital gains taxes all along the way. It was something like $5,000 when I bought them and at the end of last year it was something like $60,000. How do I figure out how much new tax I would owe if I sold some or all of the shares? (For another investment portfolio I suspect this is even more complicated, so let’s start with the simple one!) I realized in my head I’ve always been imagining that I’d need to pay capital gains on the whole, but that can’t be right, can it, because I’ve already paid taxes on a lot of it?

        1. fposte*

          Buckle up, because we’re really getting into the weeds now.

          The information you’re looking for is called “unrealized gains”–IOW, how much money the shares have theoretically made to date. Depending on the custodian, that information may be in various places, but if you search on “unrealized gains” or “cost basis” (how much the shares were valued when you bought them) that’s likely to get you to them.

          However: you have a choice as to how your shares are valued in order to figure out taxes upon sale–usually it’s average, FIFO (first in, first out–IOW, oldest shares get sold first), or SpecID–the shares are valued differently based on when you bought them, and you pick and choose which ones to sell. (These settings only matter for taxable accounts, not IRAs or 401ks.) SpecID is the most granular; that doesn’t mean it’s best for everybody, but it has advantages. With some custodians, you’re locked in to one method in the account based on what you initially set, because of how complicated it is to redo the accounting.

          If you look into the unrealized gains details, it should have different lines for different purchase dates, which will have different cost basis (price on the day, basically). If you’ve been reinvesting capital gains and dividends, those reinvestment dates will be separately listed from the initial fund purchase. If you want to sell only the more recent purchases with the smaller unrealized gains (which isn’t automatically the best, but it might be, depending on a bunch of factors), you want to set to SpecID and pick those lots.

          It’s not really the same thing as double taxation, even though it might feel like it; you’re being taxed only on the gains, so the gain since reinvestment starts from the date of reinvestment, thus being all new money from the money you paid taxes on prior to reinvestment. It’s the same as if you cashed out some of the fund and then bought more shares with the tax. With an account like the one you describe, most of the value is in gains, and there’s only so much you can do to minimize the tax effects on your good fortune. Console yourself with the lower capital gains tax rate.

          FWIW, I have reinvestment turned off on everything taxable; it’s a PITA to have a bunch of little lots, so even if I do want to buy more of the fund I’d rather wait up and do it once a year or when there’s enough to seem worth it.

          1. fposte*

            Ugh, in the second to last paragraph “bought more shares with the tax” should be “bought more shares with the money.”

            1. Lore*

              Thanks! But just so I’m clear—let’s just say that i invested 50,000 at the beginning of 2021 and I had 5,000 worth of dividends and capital gains, plus 5,000 worth of market gains, and everything is reinvested. I pay my 2021 capital gains taxes. So the portfolio was worth 50,000 at start of 2021 and 60,000 at start of 2022, and I’ve paid capital gains tax on 5,000 of that. If I sold it in June 2022 and there were no gains or losses in 2022, am I paying capital gains on the whole 10k or just the 5k?

              1. fposte*

                You’ll be paying capital gains tax on the 10k, but the gains on the reinvestments will be different than the gains on the shares purchased at the beginning of 2021. To put in a way that seems closer to what you have, the gains on the shares from when you purchased the fund 20whatever years ago are maybe 95% of their value; the gains from reinvested distributions last year are going to be a much smaller percentage of their value, like you’ll be lucky if they’re over 5%. Reinvested distributions from 2021 operate the same as any other new shares you’d have bought in the fund in 2021–they have an all new, much higher cost basis and a completely independent calculation of gains.

                Maybe an overstretched analogy here, but let’s see. You love the housing development you bought a house in for $50k 20 years ago; it was worth $200k at the start of 2021 and it’s now worth $250k. At the beginning of last year you bought another house in the development at $200k; it too is now worth $250k. You’ve got two houses in the same development at the same value, but your gain is much larger on the house you bought earlier. That’s true no matter where the money came from to buy the second house.

                1. fposte*

                  Or, another way of looking at it: when you paid tax on the dividends/capital gains in 2021, you paid tax on their earnings from 2000 (or whenever) to 2021; when you cashed the reinvested shares out yesterday, you incurred tax earned from 2021-2022.

                2. Bob-White of the Glen*

                  NO NO NO NO NO. The amount you pay taxes on is added to your basis. They would be paying taxes on $5k, not $10k. Added to basis regardless of whether they are LTCG or STCG.

              2. Cj*

                fposte is replying to this question as if it is tied to your question above regarding shares you purchased for $5,000 years ago. I am reading it as a new, less complicated situation.

                If the only shares you own are the ones you purchased at the beginning of 2021 for $50,000 and you paid tax on $5,000 of dividends and capital gain distributions on your 2021 return, your basis in those shares is $55,000.

                Assuming no additional dividends or capital gains distributions before you sell them in 2022 for $60,000, you will have $5,000 in capital gains that you will pay tax on.

                As fposte says, the basis in the shares you purchased with reinvested dividends and capital gains distributions will be different from the original shares that you purchased. But if you are selling all of the shares, that doesn’t really matter, because your total basis is still $55,000.

                1. fposte*

                  Ah, you could be right in the reading (avoiding such math is another reason why I don’t reinvest dividends). That’s also an example of when average cost basis can be easier; if you’re selling everything, it doesn’t matter when you bought what.

                2. Cj*

                  Yes, reinvested amounts can be complicated. Fortuneately, brokerage firms now usually have your basis on the 1099 they send you, even if you don’t sell all of your shares. However, if they are transferred in from a different brokerage firm, they don’t always have the basis. Last tax season I had to go through annual statements from 1991 forward, and had to find the FMV for the stepped up basis in 1/2 of the shares as of the date the husband died (it was a jointly held account). That took a LONG time, and is costly to the client.

                  Lore’s example specifically says they reinvested the dividends and capital gains, so the $5,000 she paid tax on adds to her basis, as I mentioned. Had they been taken in cash, the only shares she would own would be the ones originally purchased for $50,000, and the capital gain if she sold them for $60,000 would be $10,000.

      2. NYC CNA*

        Thank you for all your comments!! I’m reading and rereading your message (and the accompanying subthread with all the nuance) and I really want to get to the point where I understand it all fully. Yes, you’re correct that the setting right now is defaulted at reinvestment. I’ve hesitated to mess around with that because I feel I don’t know enough yet about the situation I’m in to know what the best choice is — but in the least, you all are helping me realize how many other options there are out there. Hoping I can find a professional somewhere who can help me sort through all of this.

    7. beach read*

      If there isn’t anyone among your friends and family who can refer you to a trusted expert, you could inquire at your Bank about their investment services. If it were me, I would look for a very experienced advisor. Also, you could maybe have a tax expert review your past taxes for error.

    8. Doctors Whom*

      NYC CNA, grab a copy of the Boglehead’s Guide to Investing so you can get familiar with the vocabulary around investments. You really need a basic understanding of how mutual funds work and how they throw off capital gains and dividends, and then you need to understand this SPECIFIC fund AND where it is held.

      Then take your mutual fund statements over to the forums at bogleheads.com and start asking questions.

      I agree with others – the gains on this fund are not making your taxes skyrocket. Even if you are getting short-term gains (which are taxed at your regular rate, and not the long term rate) you only wind up in the next bracket on any income that falls into that bracket.

      Also: Your savings are NOT gone – you clearly have a pretty hefty investment asset here if paying the taxes on either gains or dividends wiped out your cash holdings in just a couple years. Once you have an understanding of what you are actually holding, what kind of income/gains it is throwing off, what kind of fees & expenses re involved, you can revise your investment, savings, & tax strategies so that you are holding a comfortable level of cash savings while also managing your taxable investments effectively. This *could* be as simple as setting your brokerage account to not reinvest dividends & gains, but to pay them out instead. Or, the smartest thing could be that you move your investments into a different fund. It’s really going to vary based on what you actually are holding, and you want a financial forum to discuss that with folks.

      Stay far far away from anyone like an Edward Jones office.

      Good luck!

      1. fposte*

        Definitely good to be aware of both short term and long term gains; however, distributions from a fund (as opposed to the consumer choosing to liquidate) are automatically taxed at the long-term rate.

        And bogleheads are why I was able to take early retirement. The wiki alone is fabulous.

      2. NYC CNA*

        Thank you so much for this resource!! So much better than all the frantic googling and random articles I was reading, not fully knowing what to trust. I’ll definitely be buying that book and hopefully making use of the forums/wiki.

    9. RagingADHD*

      You need a good family CPA who can sit down with you and walk you through all this. Ask your work EAP or ask around for referrals. If you know anyone self-employed, any lawyers, or maybe a realtor that you have a social relationship with, those kind of folks usually know at least one good CPA that they use.

      CPAs don’t just do tax returns, and you don’t have to be rich to work with one. I’ve gotten really good advice over the years from ours, and their hourly fees are very reasonable and good value for money. They have no incentive to sell you anything, because you pay them for their time.

      They are accustomed to doing financial education for heirs and beneficiaries just like you.

    10. NYC CNA*

      Thanks everyone! I was out all day and just got the chance to read these messages. I’ll be honest, a LOT of these replies are totally above my head, so I’ll need to take a lot of time to read and absorb and look through some of the suggested resources. But to answer some initial questions:

      1) Not A Manager had it exactly correct. Thank you for articulating my situation so much more succinctly than I could!

      2) I think I didn’t do a good enough job of making clear the fact that — yes, part of the exact problem is that I have not been able to understand how to withdraw money from the mutual fund. Yes, I really was struggling with something that basic. I really have never had any exposure to financial literacy in this area at all, including even how to find + vet a professional who can help me with this; this is generational knowledge that I don’t have access to due to my family separation.

      3) It occurred to me that perhaps a lot of you may be overestimating the amount of savings I have. The Cosmic Avenger’s calculation was correct: this year was my first tax year with a gross income over $85k (the capital gains + my normal salary + some freelance work I did). “Only $11k” in taxes is… not marginal to me. I support multiple people on a $68k salary right now — so my total tax owed this year was $8k, and that’s all I have in the bank. It took me quite awhile to save that up, too.

      4) I haven’t had the capacity to dig into this and gain the literacy I need for the past few years as I spent those years trying to extricate myself from a couple abusive situations alongside other more pressing family responsibilities. As Sloan Kittering described, I’ve just been treating that money as “locked up,” letting it reinvest into itself, and have just been trying to save it for when/if me and my siblings need to go to grad school. I have no desire to rely on that money for day to day expenses.

      But yes, it’s clear to me now that I need to buckle down and learn about this — and maybe try to find a professional who can help me think through what the actual best use of this fund is, and in the meantime get the fund to pay its own taxes. Thank you for the resounding affirmation that that should be possible!

      I don’t have any family or friends who can refer me to a CPA or tax professional directly, which has been part of my hesitation in finding someone. But I guess I’ll look around!

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I have a response above in moderation, but the mechanics of withdrawals SHOULD be simple. Any brokerage should let you link another bank account with any bank and transfer funds there. You will have to sell shares of the mutual fund first, which is a bit of a pain because prices fluctuate, but most brokerages will sell $X worth of the fund regardless of price, not just X shares. Then you will have cash at the brokerage in a “core” or “sweep” account, and you can transfer that, or at worst, have them mail you a check made out to you.

        If you have a problem with any of that, and they won’t fix it, or they feel kind of sketchy, you should call and ask about making an “in-kind” transfer to Fidelity or another big name, well reputed brokerage. (In kind means you’d have the same mutual fund at Fidelity or wherever, and so you wouldn’t have to cash it out and pay all the capital gains at once.) That should scare them enough to help. Although if you really wanted to move your funds elsewhere, your best bet is to call another brokerage (Fidelity, Vanguard, Charles Schwab, and T. Rowe Price all have pretty good reputations) and ask THEM to help you transfer funds from Chuck’s Boiler Room Investments.

        Oh! One big thing: turn off automatic reinvestment of dividends and capital gains! You already have to pay taxes on those distributions, so there’s no point in reinvesting them. You could reinvest them yourself later if you don’t need the money now, but 1) it sounds like you do, and 2) it sounds like this mutual fund isn’t where you want the money anyway.

        Good luck! You got this.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Oh, and I’m so sorry, I totally glossed over one part of your reply: please don’t think that “marginal” means “trivial”! It’s a very specific tax term. Here’s a better example: under $100K, the rate is 10%, but over that the marginal rate is 50%. If you make $105K in a year, you pay $10K for the first $100K of income, and then 50% on the next $5K ($2.5K), for a total of $12.5K. So yes, your taxes are higher over $100K, but you still take home 50% of everything over that, and more importantly, going over just a little doesn’t really affect anything under that, so it’s not a “cliff”, which is where you suddenly and completely lose a credit or deduction if you make one dollar over $XX,XXX per year. (We had an ACA premium tax credit cliff, where over a certain amount you lost all credits for ACA plan premiums, but it was removed last year.) If rates were not marginal, you’d owe 50% in taxes if you made $105K, but 10% if you made $99K, which would be kind of ridiculous, but that’s how we usually think of percentages in most other situations.

      2. Christmas cookie*

        The good news is that if you are owing $8k if taxes on the fund, it must be fairly large.

        If the account is with vanguard, Fidelity, etc, you may want to call them up and simply ask: “how do I take money out of this?” They will explain the mechanics.

        Separately, as others have said, you’ll want to talk to a CPA to understand tax strategies if indeed it’s a fairly large asset. Yes, you will have to pay taxes but if you are sitting on a $100k account and pull out $20k, you’ll still net more than you withdraw after taxes. Note that I am not suggesting you do this until after you consult with someone!

        I do also think that while people are correct in steering you away from Edward Jones type advisors, if you are interested in simply absorbing information, there is no harm in a conversation. Just don’t make decisions/moves until you’ve spoken with a CPA.

        Check your local library and/or local small business group for recs on a CPA. If you don’t have personal recs available, you could try posting on next door or similar to see if your neighbors can recommend someone. Or ask around work. I do my own taxes but know a couple of very good CPAs in town.

      3. Cj*

        This doesn’t make since. If your total income is around $85000, and your wages are $68000, that leaves $17000 that is either investment income or freelance income.

        Even if it was all from capital gains distributions, based on the info you gave, it would be in the 15% bracket on your federal return, so federal tax on it of $2550. I’m not familiar with NY taxes, but from a quick google search it appears that you would be in a slightly less than 6% state bracket, and between 3% and 4% city tax bracket. So I’ll go with a combined NY tax bracket of 10%, for $1,700 state tax.

        That would be a total of $4250, and it wouldnt even be that much on your investment income because you said part of that is from freelance work.

        If quite a bit of it is freelance work, the taxes on that are going to add up on a hurry at 22% federal and 10% state income tax, and roughly 15% self employment tax.

        I don’t doubt that you owe $8000, but it looks likes its more from the freelance work and/or being underwithheld at your job than it is from your investment income.

        I wanted to note that I assumed you file as single. You mention supporting several people, but if you file as head of household, something is really, really wrong because you shouldn’t have had to pay any federal tax on most or all of your capital gains distributions.

        Do any of the people you support live with you and make you qualified to file as head of household? There are a number of requirements that need to be met, but they don’t need to be your minor children.

        1. NYC CNA*

          Thank you for this! I went back and pulled up my turbotax summary (I haven’t looked at it for a couple weeks since trying to sort all this out).

          My total gross income was more to the tune of $93k, of which $64k was my salary (last year’s gross salary was lower), and $7k was the freelance work. Does that make the numbers make more sense?

          And yes, I file as single — none of the people I support qualify for me to put them down as dependents (unless I’m missing something, which is totally possible).

          1. Cj*

            It makes a little more sense, it means that roughly $5,500 is the income tax on your capital gains distributions.

            Taxes on $7,000 of freelance work at the rate I mentioned above would be to be $3,290.

            The total of those two very close two the amount you said you owe, so that would totally make sense.

    11. Katiekins*

      Ed Slott’s book “The New Retirement Savings Time Bomb: How to Take Financial Control, Avoid Unnecessary Taxes, And Combat the Latest Threats to Your Retirement Savings” might help. The newest edition was released in 2021. (Make sure you get the newest edition because you want to know the most up-to-date rules.)

      I think he focuses a lot on IRAs but may also talk about other retirement savings. And if you want to move your money from your inherited mutual fund into an IRA, then this book might help you understand a lot of the ins and outs of retirement plans and how to keep more of the money. (In a previous edition he talks about inherited plans.)

  6. Anon Today*

    I’ve always wanted children, and for a long time naively assumed that this would just happen organically. When I found myself in a relationship with a person who I adored and thought I’d spend the rest of my life with, we talked about having children together a few years down the line. But then he got doubts, we never started to try for kids, and when, several years later, he ended the relationship, my biological window had all but closed. The failed relationship did not leave me in a good place, and I’ve struggled since.
    This week, I received an email announcing the birth of my ex-partner’s first child. I know that I need to focus on my own life (which, obviously, would be no different if he were also still single and childless), and best wishes to him and the little one — but the grief is real. Any helpful thoughts?

    1. Jules the First*

      If children are still important to you, there are many ways to become a mother and nowhere near all of them begin with biology. And while it can be nice to have a co-parent, it is by no means necessary.

      That said, the grief is reminding you that the life you have is not the one you’d planned, so often it helps to remind yourself of the things your life has in it that were not in the plan but are very welcome. Other things that may help include finding ways to nurture (yourself, others, or animals), leaning into something you love that would be much harder if you had a kid, or sending a beautiful and thoughtful gift to your ex’s little one (I recommend a fun teething toy, or a slightly splurgey baby blanket, or, at the other end of the scale, something like a little cup or spoon that’s engraved and intended to become an heirloom).

    2. Batgirl*

      I had almost the exact same thing happen to me, except when he was claiming he wasn’t ready for children he meant “while I am having an affair throughout your most fertile years”. I did my grieving in seclusion of news about him, because each bit of news, however minor, is genuinely enraging. I don’t think you ever get over being defrauded of your time and choices. You cannot get those things back. I never expect to be in a place where I can shrug off news of him and be cool with hearing it. I got very serious about this, blocked everything that could be blocked and let people in my circle know it was a cardinal sin to mention him. This was a while back and I don’t know if he is alive or dead; I’m pretty peaceful about the idea of him as a result. I actually hope he’s doing better, even if I don’t want to hear about it. While I’m sad I don’t have a child, I’m usually very thankful we don’t have children together, because this peace, this silence where he’s ceased to be important would be impossible if we had a child. We’d have to have at least some, second hand contact with a child. I would make this the last piece of news you ever hear about him, if possible. Grieve it. Do the work of grieving this last bit of information without trying to dodge it. For me that meant crying in the shower and venting at friends. If you see it as work, you’ll be sure to put it down periodically and care for yourself and just be with yourself. It will pass if you give it room and time to pass by you.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah I think you’re asking too much of yourself to be pleased and happy for your ex, or even appear so via email or whatever. This seems like a person you could probably get out of your life in order to move on yourself. You’re not obliged to be friends with this guy (or his new partner) even if he would like you to.

        1. Batgirl*

          It’s even more fundamental than that; not only do I not expect to be happy, I don’t expect to be even mildly neutral. A friendship or email correspondence is quite literally unthinkable since even a third hand rumoured report of what country he’s living in is going to take up more headspace than in happy to give him, if that makes sense.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            Oh sorry I was agreeing with Batgirl’s take on the relationship with the ex, but “you” refers to OP.

      2. Vicky Austin*

        “ I never expect to be in a place where I can shrug off news of him and be cool with hearing it.”

        That’s exactly how I feel about my ex. Every time I hear his name or see a picture of him, it always makes me uncomfortable because all those feelings of heartbreak and betrayal come back again. He wasn’t a bad guy, just bad for me, and there’s no place for him in my life anymore.

    3. 867-5309*

      I, too, always wanted and expected to have children and that window is nearly closed for me. The grief is heart-wrenching on good days when I talk about, so the added layer of what you are experiencing is even more.

      Most people respond tell me all the ways I can become a mother but I know those things! (And, wanting children doesn’t mean you feel equipped to do it without a partner!) I just want someone to say it sucks. So, Anon Today, it sucks. Be gentle with yourself. Meditate, take a yoga class, something that is self-care vs. just comfortable (e.g., eating a whole pizza). Don’t feel you need to respond to that email right away – or at all.

      Hang in there.

    4. Chaordic One*

      You don’t need to respond to the announcement and it is O.K. not to. If you do respond, a perfunctory “best wishes” is more than adequate. Follow the good advice about grieving and practicing self-care. Especially the advice offered by “867-5309.” It does take a bit of effort on your part, but you’re worth it.

    5. RagingADHD*

      Nothing helpful, but your ex is a massive glassbowl to send you that, under the circumstances. God help his child and their mother to have to deal with someone that insensitive and self absorbed for the rest of their lives.

      1. Starstruck*

        ??? Maybe it was being polite to tell her first-hand & in a way where she could process that information by herself without having to respond in the moment.

          1. Starstruck*

            Maybe they belong to the same pinochle group or he’s her third cousin’s best friend or they shop at the same grocery store? I don’t see any reason to think it’s deliberately malicious do you?

            1. RagingADHD*

              I didnt say “deliberately malicious”.

              I think – as I said in my comment- that it’s *insensitive and self-involved* to string a SO along for years knowing they want kids, refuse to have kids, dump them when they are no longer able to have kids, and then send them a baby announcement out of the blue, which is what this sounds like.

              Particularly if it was a mass announcement, which socially is usually read as a request for gifts and congratulations.

              I suppose it’s possible that they are still in touch or move in the same circle, or that this was supposed to be a private heads up, but the way the OP is phrased does not sound like that to me.

              Particularly since, if they were still in touch or had lots of mutual friends, the OP would have seen or heard about the pregnancy long before the birth.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Something I think happens pretty often is that one partner realizes they don’t want marriage or kids *with this person* and, because this partner is a good person they like and it makes sense on paper to do this with them, they figure the problem must be in them: They’re just not a marrying/parenting person. Eventually the relationship ends, they start dating someone else, and suddenly marrying/having a baby seems like a great idea.

                The effect is of stringing along, and oftentimes the impact of actions outweighs the thoughts people claim to have had while carrying out those actions. But it can be nonmalicious, someone having feelings and trying to construct logical reasons for those feelings and then discovering they were wrong.

                My generic life advice: If it feels like someone is stringing you along, be willing to move on. (End the relationship, find a new job, etc.) Don’t spend a lot of time on trying to parse whether they really want the thing but just not now, or really don’t want the thing and will always have an excuse–what matters is that they are not willing to shift on giving you this thing within a time frame that preserves your options. (Thinking of a past letter where someone was promised a promotion into boss’s shoes if he stayed around, so he did for a few years, and the promisers retired and then the promotion went to someone else. At which point he realized he didn’t have a future that included a promotion here, and started looking outside–something he would have done years earlier had he known.)

                1. Batgirl*

                  Sometimes this is absolutely true, and sometimes it’s more someone who likes a lot of people on their backburners and puts a lot of effort into relationship showmanship and getting people to remain on the backburner, rather than just be honest. It’s almost never what you would call malicious, just thoughtless and selfish and there’s a sliding scale on how much you can describe them as that. Sometimes the “stringer alonger” genuinely was honest because they had no idea what they wanted, and sometimes they are very dishonest. Only the person who was affected gets to write that particular review.

                2. Turnip Soup*

                  Yeah hard to know what’s happening but I’m pretty sure this exact scenario is happening to a friend of mine. Partner doesn’t really seem to want to progress the relationship with her, so they’ve been stuck in literal years of discussions with zero progress – because he’s pretty happy with the relationship right where it is. But she is not.

                  I wouldn’t be surprised if in a different relationship, he would be happy to move towards marriage and kids, so I could see this exact scenario happening (although he is at least being honest about the fact that it may be this particular relationship that is the block.)

                3. Budgie Buddy*

                  I subscribe to Kat Blaque on YouTube and this dynamic reminds me a lot of her videos discussing polyamory. In that she wants to be understanding of people still figuring themselves out, but also she can’t overlook it’s the ones with the most privilege and options who string partners along and then are ready to do anything (commitment, monogamy, moving in) when they meet a person they’re really into.

                  Her response basically what you say – not to waste her time or energy on people who aren’t willing to give her what she desires in a relationship.

    6. Squirrel Nutkin*

      I feel for you, Anon Today, and yes, the grief is real and sometimes very raw, no matter how happy and supportive we may also be for our friends, loved ones, and exes who get to have kids while our dreams of having kids have never come true I’m right there with ya — would have loved to have kids, and I think I would have been a very kind mom, but the stars did not align that way, and now it is way too late.

      The grief does bubble up again at various points, but I do think that I am overall more okay with this than I was at first.

      I don’t have any nieces or nephews to spoil, I don’t see my cousins’ kids very often, and my closest friends live far away, so it is hard to have close relationships with their kids too, and so feeling like I get to nurture people is hard. I do try to fill the “cool aunt” role with younger people in some measure, though, albeit usually from a distance.

      Something I do to help feel like I’m doing something positive for other people’s kids is sending them books that I think will be joyful or affirming or helpful. I’ll send the avid reader whose mom will only get him library books a few fancy editions of books he’ll like that he can have for his very own. I’ll send the kid whose mom is out of the picture a copy of *Our Bodies, Ourselves* when she turns 18 and remind her to get her Gardasil shots. I’ll send the kid who’s about to get a driver’s license a book on car care. (I’ve sent a whole bunch of my little cousins who are about to enter the job market Alison’s book!) I’ll also give parents resources that might be good for their kids: I’ll tell the parents of the bi kid about the resources of the Trevor project (resources for LGBTQ+ kids, including free 24/7 counseling if they hit a rough spot) or the parents of the tween/teen about Scarleteen (age-appropriate, non-judgemental, and accurate sex education resources for young people).

      Anyway, I guess my advice boils down to finding a way to nurture others anyway, even if the way we wanted didn’t work out.

      1. Squirrel Nutkin*

        P.S. I haven’t done it yet, but I have also thought about becoming one of the internet “moms” on the “MomForAMinute” subreddit on reddit someday. Basically, people who have lost a mom (to narcisissm, death, narrow-mindedness, whatever) but need some mom love post, and then the internet moms write words of support and love in the comments. It’s a very uplifting sub.

    7. Double A*

      I think you should be massively angry at him if you want to. Few things make me angrier than men who waste a woman’s fertile years with their indecision about children, stringing their partner along with “maybe someday”. It’s cowardly and cruel. I’m furious at him on your behalf. I’d mute and block him. You can send general good wishes into the universe for the health and wellbeing of babies and children everywhere, and his baby is included under that umbrella, but I don’t think you need to expose yourself to him and his family in any way ever if you don’t want to.

      1. WellRed*

        I’m sympathetic to OP but sometimes you are ambivalent until you meet the ONE. It sucks and I immediately thought “ouch” how painful, upon reading this post. But we are ultimately in charge of our bodies and to say that someone else “wasted” those years for us?

        1. rr*

          I take your point, and I don’t think you intended it this way, but the idea of us being ultimately “in charge of our bodies” is exactly the problem – we aren’t. We have only so many years to have children biologically. If you’re lucky. So it is really beyond the pale for somebody you’re in a relationship with (and presumably trust on important things) to essentially lie about things when they know you even might want children. Or even to be less than completely open and honest about how they feel about the relationship and kids. Even if they don’t know how they feel, they should say so. So, yes, I agree with the “wasted” comment to a large extent.

          I’m not in that position, but I’m probably not going to be able to have kids anyway -biologically or otherwise. I’m angry and sad about it a lot, so I can’t even imagine how I’d feel in this situation. And the primary reason that I probably won’t have kids biologically at least is because, no, I’m not in charge of my body and what it does. Which is also another reason (out of many) I probably won’t pursue other avenues either. So, no, I don’t really love that idea, or at least that phrase. However it was intended.

        2. Double A*

          To be with someone who to know wants kids and to waffle on that decision for years until you break up and it’s too late for them is indeed wasting their time. Yes, they could have broken up with you, and they should have, but if you won’t give them the information they need to do that and string them along saying, “Oh, maybe some day,” then I think that’s a crummy thing to do. We have some responsibility to be reflective about our own goals and desires so that we can be honest with our partners about how we feel about crucial life choices, even if your answer (“I want kids but not with you”) would be hurtful in the short run.

          I’m just saying the OP doesn’t need to smile and be glad for her ex. She can be mad, if she wants to, and she doesn’t need to acknowledge his news or maintain a relationship with him if it’s painful.

          I guess on the whole I think men are fully capable of being kind and honest and having hard conversations and OP’s ex didn’t and his equivocation and cowardice ultimately did her irreparable damage. I’m not saying he’s a terrible person who should be cast out of society; I’m saying he did a selfish thing that caused someone else harm. Whatever his reasons, the impact is profound and I, random internet commenter who doesn’t know him or the whole situation, am inclined to think poorly of him.

          1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

            Ooof! I’m sorry, OP. You absolutely do not have to respond or be happy. In fact, don’t pretend to for your own sake; this is painful for you and that’s valid as hell!

            In general and not directed to OP, if the person’s answer truly is “I don’t know”, and you urgently want children — don’t hang around hoping to change their mind, because you’re letting yourself in for this, and it sucks to be in this position, it really does.

            You’re wasting your own time, doing that. You can’t say they’re doing it for you — you have to take ambivalence as a no when it comes to having kids; anything short of an enthusiastic yes is a no. You can’t rewind the decision to have kids, you’re committed forever once they’re made, and does anyone really want to coparent with someone who had to be pressured into it? I wouldn’t.

    8. allathian*

      I’m so sorry. You don’t have to acknowledge the email in any way, and you’re allowed to grieve the life you hoped for and never got.

      For what it’s worth, I never wanted kids until I met my husband in my early 30s. I was 37 when our son was born, and I count myself very lucky that I was able to get pregnant at 36.

      I’m sorry that things turned out the way they did for you. Your ex may have been a louse who strung you along on purpose, but it’s also entirely possible that he didn’t realize he wanted kids until he met his current partner.

    9. Michigan mom*

      I have seen really amazing transformations working through The Grief Recovery Handbook. There are guides who you can meet with weekly to go through the book (8 weeks I think). My husband made more progress during that 8 weeks than years of counseling (with. Very good therapist, actually she recommended the program).

    10. Anon Today*

      Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts and their own experiences! I did not respond to individual comments because I did not want to bias and narrow down further responses, and I am very grateful that the comments sketch such a large spectrum of possible positions to take. Reading through the comments several times has taught me a lot about my reactions, about what they are, what I’d thought they should be and what I’d like them to be.

      In my case, my ex-partner was not, as far as I can tell, malicious; and I’m pretty sure he felt that telling me of his child’s birth would do less harm than not telling me (and that he was well aware that there was no painless option). And yet, 867-5309 is right: it sucks. Thank you for just saying it, that helps. I’ll hang in there, grieve some more and try to relearn my world as it is. All the best to you, 867-5309, and to everyone else in a similar situation.

  7. A.N. O'Nyme*

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

    I’ve made some headway in getting some random scenes for my big fantasy project to connect, which is good. I definitely fall into that “okay this is cool but how does it fit in with the rest?” camp ^^’ .

    1. New writer*

      I’m just getting back into writing my book after a few months of hiatus when life and work got hectic. As a result, I’m looking at it with fresh eyes, which has me now changing the format. Writing a book has been challenging, but I’m enjoying the journey. I’ve learned a lot thanks to the many free resources out there. I never planned to write a book. I had zero interest in it. Yet, here I am!! You never know where life will take you. I’m hoping to finish it this year.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Difficult to impossible. Bits and pieces are starting to come to me, and those get written down. But I wouldn’t say I’ve made any progress. I doubt that will happen until my circumstances change.

      I have gone back to my world compendium to address some loose ends and inconsistencies in its politics. They aren’t the sole focus of the continuing saga, but they do form an important backstory. So they do need to be worked out.

    3. Maryn B.*

      I finished a short story–not what I usually write, in length or genre–for the local library’s writing contest. It was fun to turn my thoughts to a different place than the trilogy I’m revising per my beta’s input. (The first book was pretty easy, but the second is apparently a mess and I’m going to need a spreadsheet to straighten out who is where and when. Sigh…)

    4. RagingADHD*

      I am rejoicing that I got one manuscript delivered to the editor, and another to the client this week! They were both supposed to be off my plate by mid Feb, but we had a lot of family chaos in Jan and I wound up in a cascade of shifting deadlines that was giving me the heebie jeebies.

      Something like 30 hours of just AIC writing time (ass-in-chair) this week, including 7.5 hours per day for 2 days straight. That’s just the writing, not everything else.

      I gotta get a treadmill desk. I am stove up.

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I’ve barely had the energy and mindset to write anything more than a work email in the last few years, with the world being the way it is and some family complications added on top. But this week I decided to try. I don’t really have a plan or a deadline or any of the things I usually give myself to make the writing productive, I’m just sitting down for 10-15 minutes at a time to do it. I wrote a chapter this week, for the first time in so long I can’t exactly remember. And it feels really, really good.

  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 including phone games and board games. Also feel free to ask for recommendations or help identifying a vaguely remembered game.

    Well…I died in Don’t Starve. To an angry herd of beefalo. I forgot about mating season…woops.

    1. Claire (Scotland)*

      Been playing a lot of Spiritfarer this week, as well as keeping up my ACNH island stuff daily. Went from around 40% completed in Spiritfarer last weekend to 87% by today. Just have Buck and Elena on the ship at present, and am working on the Jackie and Daria questline currently.

      1. MEH Squared*

        Spiritfarer is one of my favorite games of all time! Such a gentle, uplifting game that deals with sensitive issues. And fun to build the boat!

      2. Smol Book Wizard*

        Yay for Spiritfarer! I played it through but didn’t complete all the quests. Unhappily Elena was triggering for me in regards to some past experiences, so when she turned up I was like, “Ah, maybe I am ready for the endgame.” Which is a pity, because I would have loved to hang out with Buck some more. A kindred spirit.

      3. Holly the spa pro*

        Spiritfarer is one of my favorite games as well and I learned about it on one of these threads last year so you guys are the best. I haven’t played through the DLC yet so I’m thinking of starting a new game.

    2. Bobina*

      I dont know if Beefalo is a typo or some kind of fun creation in this game, but I find the name hilarious.

      The only game I play with some regularity at the moment is Candy Crush, and now I’ve reached a level with a new kind of blocker (the liquorice covered candy bomb) and I realised I really hate this kind of blocker. You have to spend so much effort getting the right kind of combo to break it that there’s often much more luck (depending on your board) than any kind of skill/strategy required that its just annoying.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Beefalo are an actual thing! They’re a hybrid of domestic cattle and American bison, apparently. But yeah, they’re a group of cow-like creatures in-game that you can shave for their wool and their droppings function as fertiliser. They can also be killed for their meat, but that also increases your naughtiness meter and risks attracting the attention of Krampus. They’re usually chill unless you attack them, but during mating season they’ll attack everything that moves and uh…I forgot about that while returning to my base camp and lost track of my health so…Yeah.

        Oof, yeah, that sounds very annoying. I haven’t played Candy Crush but I do know match 3 games and that kind of more luck-based blocker always annoys me too.

      2. LimePiranha*

        Still making my way through Pokémon Arceaus. I’m a more casual gamer so the Noble fights raise my anxiety compared to the original games. Working my way up to Electrode currently .

    3. DarthVelma*

      The new Witch Queen expansion for Destiny 2 is simply amazing. The partner and I finished the Witch Queen campaign on legendary difficulty over the course of about 3 days this week. It was hard but so worth it. Several of the fights took real thought and planning. The music and visuals were both stunning. The storyline was interesting and I have many thoughts/questions about it and what it all means going forward.

      I just started on all of the “what comes after” content yesterday. I now have a grenade launcher that fires worms. *snort* It was in the trailer for the expansion and it’s just as ridiculous and hilarious as advertised. :-)

      1. Dr. KMnO4*

        I’ve been playing the Witch Queen, too, and was super impressed with it. I thought the grenade launcher quest was pretty funny at times, though kind of annoying when you had to hop through the Hive obstacle course. I’m so impressed with what Bungie has done with the story over the past year.

    4. Elden Ring Anyone?*

      I had planned to purchase yesterday, but am holding off on getting Elden Ring until they address the PC issues. My CPU, an AMD FX-9370, is powerful but quite old, and technically below minimum requirements, so I decided to see how things play out. My husband got it for Xbox, and it looks pretty fun, but he can’t access the servers for online play which is another known issue I guess.

      Did anyone here get it for PC and have any issues (or not)?

      1. MEH Squared*

        Hello! I have Elden Ring on the PC and have put 12 hours into it over two days. I have a high-end graphics card and have experienced micro-stuttering, one hard crash, and slow downs while traversing the open areas (all settings on high). No problems against bosses (except dying). They are working on fixes, but sadly, I would say to hold off on getting it for the PC if your specs don’t meet the minimum.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’m not much to partake myself, but my husband’s Playstation is in the living room and not his office, so I’ve been “stuck” watching him play Horizon Zero Dawn (the new one) for the last week and change. It’s pretty, even if the story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. :)

      (Air quotes intentional. He’d stop and let me have a turn on the big TV if I asked him to, but I don’t mind watching as long as he’s playing something with a story and not Sim-Pocalypse I mean Fallout.)

    6. SparklingBlue*

      Been exploring and evolving Pokemon in Pokemon Legends: Arceus. I was lucky enough to finally spot and then catch an Eevee while exploring the fieldlands. I’m told Eevees also spawn on the coast, but I haven’t spotted them there.

      1. LGC*

        Go into the space-time distortions! That’s where I’ve gotten basically all my Eevees from. It works better if you use Braviary or Wyrdeer to run off and hopefully lose targeting.

        (Speaking of Braviary: please explain how Pokemon manage to hit me with ground attacks while I’m flying that is so unfair)

        1. LimePiranha*

          Yes, those are where mine came from as well! I now have leafeon (I evolved), vaporeon and flareon (caught in distortion).

          1. LGC*

            I have everyone but Espeon and Umbreon. (I had stones for the other five, and then evolved a male Eevee into a Sylveon. I think I’m going to call him Bede.) I think I have one female Eevee, but I’m not sure what I want to turn her into now.

    7. E. Chauvelin*

      Played a Pathfinder Society game on Monday for the first time in forever. I’ve got a couple of ongoing campaigns, but the only regular society games where they offer first edition start when I’m clocking out of work. I got my husband to GM one for the long weekend, though. It was good to be able to play a character I hadn’t for a while. One of those campaigns is also playing tonight.

    8. Jackalope*

      Our usual D&D game was canceled this week because the DM got sick but the rest of us met anyway to try and strategize around a huge mess we got ourselves into. The week before we accidentally stumbled across a whole bunch of enemies that are almost certainly too much for our measly level 2 selves (as a side note, I hate playing levels 1 & 2 so much! All of the good stuff starts coming at level 3…). So we did a bunch of strategizing and have a basic plan and a whole bunch of alternate options if that doesn’t work (they’re all more or less variations on a theme, but it gives us some different ideas if the first one doesn’t work). We are hoping to avoid a TPK if at all possible. Also, most of us have been playing for awhile (our lovely DM started a newbie game for us at the beginning of the pandemic and then we’ve kept going) but we have one new person who’s never played before, so he’s getting caught up to what in the heck we’re talking about and what the game is like.

    9. Nessun*

      Playing some alts through early story while I wait for Monday and the GW2 expac to drop!! Super excited to head to Cantha. And a fun excuse to use up some vacation time and hang out with my guild – we’re gonna grab the new guild hall and get building it up!

    10. The Dude Abides*

      Sticking with Rielle cycling/time warp abuse in Historic Brawl, and still stalking eBay for signed foils of cards I have/need.

      Need to put together the cards I want to have signed in Indy next month, and get the cash to pay the artists.

    11. Spessartine*

      I took this week off work to binge-play Horizon: Forbidden West and holy moly, what a game. Took me 86 hours to get through and left me speechless on more than one occasion. I loved the first game but this one blows it away (despite some sizable irritation with changes made to combat–I have some hope they’ll patch it later). Can’t wait for the next installation, whether it’s DLC or game number3!

    12. RagingADHD*

      We tried the TT collaborative game “Adventures of Robin Hood.”

      Big thumbs up.

      Cool game mechanics, lots of similarities to D&D but more concrete/predetermined because of the way the game board is laid out. And about 8 (maybe more) hours of stories to play. We will either wind up paying hefty library fines, or just buy a copy ourselves.

    13. cityMouse*

      I’m playing Cozy Grove on my Switch, and I find this game oddly comforting. I rarely play ACNH anymore. I keep trying to play Monster Hunter but I’m terrible lol. I have several platforms but don’t play on my computer.

      Do players here prefer computers over gaming consoles? Just curious!

      1. Jackalope*

        I personally prefer consoles because I find it’s a pain remembering what the keys do. It’s much easier on a specific controller made for gaming. Plus then I can play using the tv screen which is much bigger than the computer monitors that we have.

      2. MEH Squared*

        I am a PC gamer! I love Cozy Grove; it’s such a comforting game, but still deals with sensitive issues in a thoughtful way. I have a PS4, but never use it. I vastly prefer to play on my PC.

      3. A.N. O'Nyme*

        For me it depends on the game – some I prefer on PC, others on console. For example, I most definitely prefer my long RPGs on portable devices so I’m not chained in one spot (in that regard, I am heavily eyeing the Steam Deck. While I do have some concerns regarding ergonomics, it definitely looks like a neat device – even if it does heavily resemble an Atari Lynx!)

    14. MEH Squared*

      Elden Ring!!!

      I’ve put in 12 hours over two days and can’t stop thinking about it when I’m not playing it. I’m a huge FromSoft fan and Dark Souls III is my favorite game of all times.

      This game is visually amazing and there is so much to find in every nook and every cranny. I am still in the first area and just entered the first legacy dungeon (storyline, main quest). I beat the first storyline boss–after 12 hours!

      It’s everything I ever wanted in this game and so much more. Unfortunately, the PC port is not great, but I have a high-end desktop that is handling it fairly well. I am experiencing micro-stuttering, one hard crash, and some slow-downs. All of this is in the open world. I have not had issues with the bosses, thankfully. They are working on fixing the issues, but for now, unless you have a really high-end PC, I would not recommend getting the game on PC.

      I’m a bit overwhelmed with everything there is to do in this game, but that’s a me-issue. I’m not good with having too many choices. This game is amazing. It’s gorgeous and absorbing and it’s all I want to do with my life right now.

    15. Smol Book Wizard*

      (Condolences from a fellow beefalo flee-er.)

      I’ve exhausted Rune Factory 4 (I need storyline to keep me going, sorry endless farming fans) and am holding back on another Fire Emblem: 3 Houses route because I know it will eat me joyously whole… the fellow bought me Hades on Steam though! So that should keep me busy in the meantime, until I’m ready to throw my lot in with Claude and his ragtag band of outliers.

    16. GrilledCheezer*

      Sky: Children of the Light! Really loving the current season, exploring an underwater area. Normal game play still charming – meeting friends, flying about, having fun, dancing to music in a field of flowers …

    17. Holly the spa pro*

      I’m trying to get through as much of pokemon legends as possible before rune factory 5 comes out in a few weeks. I have a hard time progressing through 2 games at once since my gaming time is so limited. Rune factory 4 is one of my all time favorite games so I’m excited for a new installment!

    18. Jacey*

      I’m experiencing some GM burnout as my campaign limps towards an ending. I have wonderful players, and I love their creativity and intelligence, but I am super frustrated that they somehow came up with the least efficient way possible of concluding this plot. I’m so tired.

    19. RowanUK*

      After going on a 2 year(?) journey of “nope, not for me”, I finally decided to give CyberPunk 2077 a go (it being 50% off on xbox helped!) and I’m having a brilliant time with it. I’m only in act 2, but I’m already looking forward to future playthroughs.

      I know it had a very rough launch, but it plays beautifully on the Series X now and I hope more people take a chance on it.

    20. Laure001*

      Ah, I just stopped playing Don’t Starve, but I had a great time. I generally got killed by pingouins in the “five worlds in a row” mode.
      Now I’m playing Frostpunk, it’s hard!

    21. Free Meerkats*

      I started a new toon in WoW retail after having been playing Classic for a while. Levelling is SO fast now (I’ve been playing since Vanilla, way back when.)

      I’d love to play some Diablo II: Resurrected, but Blizzard, in their infinite wisdom, didn’t release it for Mac.

    22. kat*

      I’ve been aggressively playing Stardew Valley because I really wanna go outside and garden but my last frost date isn’t until MAY so I need to plant plants virtually to prevent myself from planting them in real life because they will die and I will be sad. But all of these people that are already getting spring weather make me YEARN.

      I also got my old Super Nintendo to work on the big screen! So I have been replaying Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars after work for the past week. The nostalgia is fantastic but I also feel old because I’m like. See, games used to be BETTER! You couldn’t beat them in a day! It used to take WEEKS!

      I’m also excited that they announced the new Pokemon over the weekend but I hope they’ve gone back to the older games with the difficulty of the plot and not made it so easy like how Sword/Shield was. When Leon is like, ‘no, leave it to the adults, go finish your gym challenge!’ I was like… child… I AM the adult. The last game, y’all sent a child to space on the back of a Rayquaza to fight a Deoxys! Move aside, and for the love of Arceus, the shorts over the tights is not working for you.

  9. Bobina*

    Gardening Thread: How are your green things doing?

    Spring is springing in my part of the world, and so bulbs are making an appearance! And apparently I bought purple flowering bulbs? I think I actually forgot about this. And also they seem to be in planters which I thought only had hyacinths? I’m so confused. Anyway, the scilla and some kind of yellow crocus are out and about and its nice having things to look at again.

    I also know now from last years experience that my sugar plum ajuga often looks absolutely terrible right before it starts to come back to life so I’m not too worried, but wow does it look straggly and a bit dying.

    Sadly I think the ranunculus started growing way too early and were all killed off by frost/winter rain. However it looks like most of the anemones did okay with their head start, so hoping for a very colourful next few months!

    1. Never Nicky*

      Despite frost this morning, it feels like a lovely spring day and my bulbs have really put on a spurt. Sadly the snowdrops were a failure – one bloom! – but maybe next year?

      Because I have plenty of South facing windowsill space, I’m going to sow chilli and tomato seeds this afternoon. It may be early, but I grow them outdoors so they need the longest possible season (I’m in the UK).

      Given the news, I need to believe in the future, and these seeds represent that.

    2. Expiring Cat Memes*

      Well my veggie beds were going really well… beans almost ready to harvest and finally outsmarted the cutworms to get my tomatoes established (plant collars were the ticket!). But we’re currently in an extreme weather event with non-stop heavy rain for several days and many areas are now flooded. Our property is ok and my veggie beds are raised, but from experience I know I will still lose plants over the next few weeks from too much water or fungal infections. C’est la vie.

      1. beep75*

        Last year I was annoyed that the anemone bulbs I planted in front of my house didn’t come up. I was standing there getting over it when I looked across the street. And in the parkway of the kind of empty lot was a bunch of blue flowers. I walked across and looked, yep, those are my anemones. Guess the squirrels thought I planted them in the wrong place. Good thing the squirrels are fun to watch cause otherwise I might start to hate them.

    3. Missb*

      I did a bunch of winter sowing this year, and it’s so fun to see various flowers, herbs and veggies pop up with no fussing from me.

      I still have to set up my tomato and pepper seeds in the basement – today!- but otherwise everything is growing outside. I’ll start some tomatoes and peppers outside too in the next week but I would be super sad if I failed to actually plant tomatoes and peppers this year, so the inside seed starting is going to still happen.

      I bought a few herb plants right before our freeze hit last week so I hope to be planting those out this weekend. I’ve kept them on my inside (not heated) back porch so they wouldn’t freeze.

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      I was inspired by Sara Dykman’s book, “Bicycling With Butterflies” and am planning a monarch garden. I have 2 flats of native milkweed seeds chilling in the basement fridge and am working on the layout for a new bed.

    5. bratschegirl*

      I’m growing tomatoes from seeds for the first time! We had a really fabulous heirloom tomato last summer, I saved a bunch of seeds from it, and about 10 days ago planted them in potting soil in an egg carton. They ALL sprouted, and the little 2-leaflet sprouts are growing visibly by the hour, it seems. Very exciting.

    6. fposte*

      What do your mystery purple flowers look like? I agree that in my yard this would absolutely be the work of squirrels, but I still want to figure out what they gave you.

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

      SoCal winter!!! I’m getting so frustrated with the weather the last few months, it’s hot (85+), then it’s cold (frost!) then it’s windy (gusts up to 60-80 mph in my area)…I’m glad my garden is all in pots, but I’m tired of running to save them because I wasn’t keeping vigil on the weather changes. It’s also confusing my succulents — to be dormant or not to be dormant! Alas! Sorry for the drama…

      All that aside, I just potted 2 large pups that appeared seeming overnight from my Kalanchoe flapjacks, and bought 3 new succulents through my favorite online plant store, and now I need more pots…

      1. Bobina*

        I feel you on always needing more pots. I also need new pots and I feel like its a never ending battle.

        Although having just looked up kalanchoe flapjacks…those are cute!

    8. Overeducated*

      I did zero winter prep, but I would maybe like to grow some stuff this year, in a small scale way. I don’t have space inside to start seeds because my place is small and there is nowhere to keep them safe from toddlers. Where do I even start? Is there a “gardening for dummies” book anyone recommends?

      1. Bobina*

        I generally rely on Reddit and places like Gardeners World for all my plant stuff. It was originally a lockdown, “stop myself from going a bit feral” distraction but it seems to have stuck!

    9. Jackalope*

      Last year I bought a whole bunch of bulbs (150?) in the spring that arrived mid-October. I had started planting them and was making good progress but then we had a huge capital C Crisis in our household that has been ongoing and I didn’t get the chance to deal with the rest because everything else was such a mess. I left the other bulbs on the back porch so they would at least get the chance to experience the cold of winter and then finally in the beginning of January things had quieted down enough that I could plant them. It was pretty miserable work (planting in 35 degrees and raining in the dark is NOT my idea of a good time!), but most of them had sprouted at that point so I was cautiously hopeful. Not all of them made it, and of course the ones I got planted in October before the Crisis were up first, but I’ve got a LOT of bulbs pushing their way up around the yard and the snowdrops have mostly already bloomed. So I’m looking forward to seeing how many come up and what they look like, as well as what comes up where (since I planted them in the dark and rain, there are some places where I was just planting bulbs blindly and don’t know which went where).

    10. allathian*

      My Christmas plants indoors are dying, and the garden is under 2 meters (6 ft and change) of snow, mostly shoveled there by my husband. I vastly prefer a snowy winter to a black one, but enough’s enough. I can’t wait for spring.

      1. Venus*

        Yes, I read the updates this time of year and look forward to the layer of ice on my walkway melting enough so that I don’t worry about a bad slip and fall. Spring feels far off.

        I am planning to start my peppers this weekend or next. They take forever to grow, and will be ready to go out in mid-May. Tomatoes grow a bit faster and get started in mid-March. They are my little efforts at gardening until the ground thaws.

    11. Bobina*

      @fpose and mcl – no squirrels around here!

      So after a bit more pondering (and digging through some old messages with my plant buddy), I realised these were the first bulbs I bought in autumn and planted immediately so I basically forgot about them real quick! Also, they are scilla siberica which the packet called “the bluest of blues” but now that they are up they definitely look purple to me! Hence why I was confused :D

    12. BlueWolf*

      The daffodils have started poking up here. Clearly a past owner had planted some daffodils at some point, but now they just kind of show up in random spots around the yard (the squirrels’ work I assume) which is fun. I started some vegetable and herb seeds indoors a couple weeks ago and they are doing pretty well, except the orange bell peppers. This is the second year in a row those particular seeds haven’t sprouted even though the yellow and red peppers from the same pack did. Must’ve just been dud seeds.

  10. Nora without an h*

    We have the first two weeks of June off and have been thinking of traveling to Vietnam. We are eyeing this Intrepid tour: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/eu/vietnam/vietnam-express-northbound-138668
    I’ve never traveled with them but have seen excellent reviews. Does anyone have experience with Intrepid?
    We’re also wondering about the weather. June is the beginning of the rainy season and we’re concerned that might affect the itinerary and how much we can enjoy the trip. What should we expect?

    1. Homebound tourist*

      I did that exact trip – except the southbound version – in 2019, and I’ve done one other trip with Intrepid. I’ve found them to be a very good tour company, and I’d recommend them. I did have different feelings about each trip because the guide and my fellow travellers were different (obviously!), but that’s not really something you can plan for or control.
      I went in May, and it was blazing, suffocatingly hot the entire time. The day we toured around Hue, I drank about 4 litres of water and didn’t have to go to the bathroom once because I sweated it all out. We had pretty good weather other than the heat, but I don’t know what June would be like. The food was amazing the entire time :)
      I would definitely recommend going – have a wonderful time!!

    2. wingmaster*

      I’ve never done this tour, but I have been to Vietnam many times to visit family and fun and loved it every time!

      The weather really depends on region, and with this itinerary you’ve shared with us, you’re going to have different changes in weather in each part. So, in my opinion, there’s not really a good or bad time to visit Vietnam.

      Generally, f you’re going in June:
      Hanoi (north) – hot and humid, with rainfall – but gets cooler in November
      Saigon (south) – warm/humid, with rainfall – but gets dry and hot in November
      Hue/Hoi An (central) – just HOTTT and dry – but gets rain mostly in the fall season

      When you’re in Hoi An, be sure to get the White Rose dumpling! (Bánh hoa hồng trắng) – this dish is unique to this and cannot be found anywhere else! Plus it’s delicious :)

  11. Loopy*

    I am overwhelmed by the world of planners! I thought I could do without one but I definitely need one ASAP. I like decent quality paper where the pen wont show through (it’s actually a weirdly huge pet peeve) I actually think I prefer larger (up to 8×10) and I absolutely need ample space for daily to do lists.

    I’m finding a lot that bring in life vision, gratitude, life goals but I’m really looking for just straight forward quality weekly/daily organization!

    Any recommendations? Looking to spend around $30 bucks so not very high end. Finding a lot of 10-15 dollar ones on Amazon that I think might feel too cheap for my liking but soon get overwhelmed.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I’ve been using Quo Vadis planners for about 10 years now. I prefer the weekly layout but they offer a page-a-day format as well. I forget how much I paid for the first one, which included the cover. Every year I get a refill that runs $20-$30.

    2. Meh*

      No particular suggestion buy have you tried a physical bookstore? B&N usually have a huge assortment of planners with different features. I find it more helpful to flip through and see if the layout is useful.

    3. PastorJen*

      I am a planner junkie and after years of tinkering with different versions, my two favorite versions are the weekly Simplified planner by Emily Ley and a bullet journal. The weekly Simplified planner is wonderful because it really is streamlined (as the Simplified name suggests) and doesn’t get overly bogged down in details that I don’t care about. On the other hand, I also really love a bullet journal because I can customize it however I’d like and when I use one, I’m no longer drowning in sticky notes with items I want to remember. With the bullet journal you can choose any notebook you like, though I strongly prefer dot grid notebooks for that. I’ve previously used Moleskine notebooks, but the Leuchtturm1917 notebooks are very popular for bullet journaling. I tend to write with Pilot precise V5 pens and they don’t bleed through either my Simplified planner or my bujo.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I get a store brand called “mintgreen” at Walmart. Recycled paper, soy inks. It has enough blank pages that I can add in what I want. I have tried bigger, more complex setups. I actually need simple and uncluttered.

    5. Reba*

      I really like the Leuchtturm planner. Comes in A5 size, lays flat. The paper is thin but smooth and a pleasure to write on. A bold fountain or gel pen will ghost through, however fine pens are…fine. (I usually use a .5 or smaller so this works for me) The spreads have days on the left page and just a lined note page on the right page. This is my preferred layout with lots of space for list making etc. I find the Leuchtturm a little more elegant than the Moleskine planner, but the latter are also worth a look. The “Pro” ones go up to letter paper size!

    6. Not A Grouse*

      Based on a response to a similar question in the Open thread last year, I have an Agendio. I love it! I’m a big planner person to start with, and having it be EXACTLY what I want/need (all monthly pages, no weekly or daily stuff, extra note-taking and music pages), is absolutely wonderful! Just thought I’d pass it on.

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        I remember that thread! I ended up with a Paperian planner, but had apparently set a reminder in my phone that popped up *today* about Agendio. Thank you to the user who asked the question last year, and the commenters who replied!

    7. Elle Woods*

      I’m on my second year of using a weekly planner from Russell + Hazel. It’s larger (8.5×11), has good quality paper, spots for daily to-do lists as well as weekly to-do lists & notes, and a folder. It was about $20.

    8. Flower necklace*

      I was a planner person for years before I got tired of trying to find one that I liked. This year, I’m using a Rocketbook (reusable notebook) to make my own. I divide it up into a weekly overview the weekend before, which allows me to see what meetings/appointments I have each day and also gives me enough space to jot down what I need to do as the week progresses. It also takes up less space in my bag than a traditional planner. I’m not sure if that will work for you, but it’s a thought.

    9. Chauncy Gardener*

      I am in love with my Passion Planner. They come in a bunch of different sizes and colors, dated and undated. It does have goals, but I only use that part for one. I just love how it’s divided into personal and work to do’s so I won’t give myself short shrift.

      1. Gabriela*

        Another vote for Passion Planner! I’ve been using it since 2015, and it has helped me finish my forsaken dissertation. As a person who was recently diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, I find PP to be super helpful in dividing bigger projects and things-that-must-be-done into smaller chunks and keeping myself on track.

    10. Tex*

      On the slightly more expensive side – but I really love Appointed planners. I’m on my third one already. It’s as simple as I can go while still having the structure I need. Made in the USA and founded by a POC woman.

  12. Binge-watcher*

    Binge-watch suggestions: I’m in the mood to binge-watch something on Netflix this weekend. I like all genres except horror. Any suggestions?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My two favorite shows on Netflix are Travelers (3 seasons, I think 10 eps each) and Sense8 (2 seasons of 12 eps) – both are sort of action thrillers, Travelers is a novel twist on time travel and Sense8 is about an extremely diverse group of people around the world learning to work together because they’re psychically connected and don’t have any choice about it, and a different group of people is trying to track them all down and kill them. (Sense8 is amazing, seriously, it’s done by the Wachowskis and J Michael Straczynski, and they insisted on doing almost all the shooting on location, so the India scenes are shot in India, the Iceland scenes shot in Iceland, etc – it’s very immersive and visually impressive and I love it. It is also a very sex-positive show, including straight folks and LGBT folks (and the trans characters are portrayed by trans actors), so that does land on screen at times.)

      1. eisa*

        Seconding Sense8, it is a fantastic .. TV show is the wrong word, it is a truly unique experience. Do yourself a favour and watch it.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Lupin! If you haven’t seen this, it is a fantastic French heist series where the gentleman thief models himself on the fictional classic Arsene Lupin.

      Avatar the Last Airbender: Ostensibly a kids’ show, but the story is well done and I love that they have a fight choreographer who worked out the different elemental fighting styles and the moves for each fight.

      Dead to Me: Two women form a very unlikely friendship in bereavement support group. Chaos gradually ramps up.

      Dark Matter: The crew of a spaceship wake up with no memory of who they are. Combines zippy space opera with some interesting open-ended questions about identity.

      Into the Badlands: Post-apocalyptic world with barons and knight-equivalents. Owes a lot to wuxia.

      I also liked Travelers and Sense8.

      1. GoryDetails*

        Avatar: the Last Airbender is an AWESOME series – I love it madly and re-watch often!

        I think Netflix also has the older anime series Ouran High School Host Club, very funny and charming.

    3. Introverted Dog Lover*

      Don’t know what you’ve already seen, but I just finished binging Inventing Anna. The newest season of Ozark is also out.

      1. La Donna*

        I couldn’t handle Inventing Anna. I love the actress that Anna portrays but she did such a terrible job imitating an accent that I couldn’t even watch more than 5 minutes.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          I have got to episode 4 of Investing Anna, and apparently there are another 5 to go! Surely it could have been done in 6.

          Apparently, it is an accurate portrayal of Anna’s accent, as the “real” accent would move as she spoke. The only other example I know of is Sheena Easton, who goes from Scottish to Texan, with a few places in between.

    4. PostalMixup*

      We just started watching the Netflix Lost in Space remake, and are finding it very entertaining! We’re calling it “space fluff.” It’s exciting, and it’s not terribly heavy (at least, as of three episodes in). Caveat that we have not seen the original, so ymmv.

      1. Filosofickle*

        What a great idea! I’ve been rewatching fun favorites and that would be a great one. Although it might be on Hulu which I don’t have? In the last year my rewatches included Community, Good Place, White Collar, Leverage, and am currently on Eureka and Legends of Tomorrow.

        1. Tv fan*

          Have you tried the new season of leverage? I admit to being a total sucker for Noah Wylie, but it was great fun.

          1. Filosofickle*

            I did! I enjoyed it but was pretty distracted with a lot of personal stuff going on, so plan to rewatch that too now that I finished with OG Leverage last week :)

      2. FisherCat*

        I am too! I forgot how charming some of the characters are. Makes for good while-doing-other-stuff tv for me

    5. the cat's ass*

      The Expanse! Space opera that will keep you busy for a while.
      Ted Lasso! Funny sad and heartwarming. I love footie so it’s all good but you don’t HAVE to.
      Ewan MacGregor’s “Long Way” series. It’s a documentary.
      The Mandalorian/The Book of Boba Fett
      Enjoy!

    6. GoryDetails*

      I’m currently enjoying THE CHESTNUT MAN, a Nordic-noir mini-series based on a novel; it does have some pretty horrifying things in it, though it’s not “horror” proper, so I’m not sure if it’s in your wheelhouse or not.

      There’s a slow-apocalypse series, JAPAN SINKS: PEOPLE OF HOPE, based on a novel in which (surprise!) Japan actually does sink – again, not sure of “apocalypse” would be considered too creepy, but in this case the series is almost entirely set inside board rooms {wry grin}, where the main characters debate the believability of the scientist who’s warning them of the disaster, the pros and cons of risking nationwide panic vs. waiting too long and costing lives, and eventually the global-diplomacy aspects of how to deal with such an unimaginable situation. It’s… actually very slow, even tranquil in places, with some lovely – and madly-subtle – performances by most of the leads (and a delightfully over-the-top quirky performance by the scientist). Oh, and one of the “future of Japan” board members is a delightfully emotional young man whose eagerness and, later, emotional upset contrasts nicely with the usual stoicism of the primary characters.

      On the milder side, series like THE REPAIR SHOP or THE BIG FLOWER FIGHT are fun – the former is one of my favorite series, showing artisans of different types working to repair and restore cherished heirlooms. The latter is a one-season competition to design huge plant-and-flower-based artworks, also quite entertaining.

        1. GoryDetails*

          Bummer! I know that they have a YouTube channel that airs small sections from various episodes, but I did enjoy being able to binge an entire season…

    7. I take tea*

      The Good Place. Fun and interesting and sparked a lot of discussion about what makes a good person. (It’s not a Netflix series, but on Netflix here at least)

    8. Lady Alys*

      Currently watching BEFOREIGNERS, a Norwegian show on HBO Max in the US. Prehistoric, 11th-century, and 19-century people begin randomly bobbing up from underwater in Oslo’s harbor. Show is set several years after this starts happening, showing how the new arrivals are integrating (…or not) into Norwegian society. Two seasons, six eps each. Learned about it when the show’s two creators were interviewed on the “Imaginary Worlds” podcast.

          1. PostalMixup*

            Oh, we watched Game of Thrones and Witcher, I’m not too concerned about that. It’s more that I’m not sure how he’ll feel about subtitles. We only get like 2-3 episodes of TV a week and sometimes the last thing we want is extra brain effort!

    9. Swisa*

      Never have I ever is a cute high school comedy by Mindy Kaling.
      The Good Place is a comedy about the afterlife.
      To All the Boys I have loved is a movie trilogy about high school love.
      Cheer is a fascinating documentary about a junior college cheerleading team.
      Shameless is a comedy about a working class family in Chicago, and has about a million episodes. I guess it’s more of a dramedy?
      How to get away with murder is a series by I think Shonda Rhimes that follows some college kids trying to get away with murder
      I’ve liked all of those series! I hope you find something that works for you.

      1. Swisa*

        And queer eye!!! I can’t believe I forgot it. It’s a feel good makeover style show, with several gay men who each handle a different aspect of the week, from clothes, to the house/space, to food, grooming, and feelings. It’s truly a heartwarming show, and one of my favorites on Netflix. I cannot say enough good things about it.

      2. Not a cat*

        Perhaps a warning for Cheer would be appropriate. I wouldn’t just recommend a show where one of Part 1 major characters is now in jail allegedly (he did confess) of a terrible crime.

    10. Binge-watcher*

      Thank you for the great suggestions! I ended up watching Inventing Anna and enjoyed it. I’m going to save this thread for future binge-watching urges.

  13. Sandy*

    The weather is making both my partner and I’s health conditions miserable, and it feels like the world is on fire… help me drown myself in online real estate listings?

    I am fantasizing about where we could retire (admittedly, it’ll be a while…)

    Has to be warm (at least 20C every day of the year), ideally dry as well, somewhere with good to great healthcare, and *not* in the US. Neither of us speak Spanish, although I think we could make it work in a Spanish-speaking country with a robust expat/retiree set-up.

    I don’t see us realistically looking at Asia (despite people raving about Thailand) because we have kids who will likely base themselves in North America.

    I fantasize about Southern Europe sometimes but I think one of us would have to be entitled to EU citizenship (maybe?) which neither of us is (and the 20C rule is remarkably hard to find in Europe)

    Where would you suggest? Where do you fantasize about retiring to?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I absolutely loved Costa Rica when we visited. Beautiful country with lovely people. Wet and dry regions, coast and mountains. I would consider retiring there despite not speaking Spanish.

      1. Sandy*

        I really enjoyed Costa Rica when I visited! I have definitely closed my eyes and relived a lot of that trip many times during this pandemic…

    2. Purple potatoes*

      I think Portugal has a ‘rich person visa’ – you can get a visa to stay if you buy a new house, and probably not access services, and not work of course. However, by your comment about only making it work in a Spanish-speaking country if there’s a rich ex-pat culture, I’m not sure Portugal would work for you. Portuguese has a steeper learning curve than Spanish, IME.

      However, to answer your question: I fantasize about moving to an island in the PNW. Cool, damp, near water, deep dark forests, sunny, but doesn’t get too hot in the summers.

      1. UKDancer*

        Portugal is lovely. I’ve just come back from a week there and it was 20 degrees every day. It’s got a nice culture, lovely people and warm winters. Madeira is also very nice and warmer. I usually go for a week in winter to either Portugal or Madeira to escape the grey English weather. If I were retired I would go for longer (3 weeks perhaps) to soak up the sun. I’m not sure I’d want to live there because there’s not quite enough to do in terms of culture and dance classes for my taste. That said there is a reasonably good level of spoken English in Portugal so it’s probably viable.

        I think there is some way you can get a visa as Purple Potatoes said but you’d need to look into what.

        1. Weegie*

          Seconding Madeira – lovely place and ideal climate. There’s a small but reasonably robust expat community there, and thanks to its history and its tourist trade English is widely spoken. I’d think you would have to acquire a reasonable level of Portuguese over time, though, if you planned to settle there. It’s certainly on my list of retirement places!

    3. Figgie*

      We now spend 6 months of the year in Mexico and 6 months back in the frozen north. We started planning for this almost 20 years ago after our first trip to Mexico. This is our second full winter season here and we love everything about it from the weather to the mountains to the ocean to the culture. When we get back in the late spring, we will be applying for permanent residency and then be able to stay longer than just 6 months.

      My spouse is fluent in Spanish and I can just barely get by. So, we chose an area with a large expat community and a popular tourist destination. That means that most of the time there is someone that understands or speaks at least a bit of English. We don’t live in the tourist area of town, as that is way too expensive for us. We rent a small apartment in a Mexican neighborhood.

      Costs are very reasonable, especially if you eat like a local and cook at home. Because our house back in the US is paid for, our costs are very minimal when we aren’t there. The mass transit (buses) is very accessible and we now have the time to trade time for money since retirement. :-)

      Find a place that you love way before you retire and connect with the people who live there. We couldn’t have done this without the friends we made in the expat community who helped us out when we first arrived. Culture shock is real and knowing that helped make it easier to accept that in the grocery stores where we live, powdered sugar is next to the beans, not in the pretty much non-existent baking aisle. :-)

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Obtaining citizenship varies by EU country, there isn’t a single set of requirements.

        Normally though, you will need to reside in the country for a certain amount time, however there might be other factors such as parent or grandparent of that nationality. I would recommend checking the details for your country of choice.

        1. Sandy*

          Yeah our EU ties are LESS than non-existent.

          HOWEVER, I was inspired by my own post, and did some digging. A few EU countries (including France) have long term visas you can get if you aren’t planning on trying to earn money when you’re there.

          That’s really exciting! Although Costa Rica, man…

    4. K*

      If you’re thinking about Southern Europe, look at Montenegro. Not in the EU yet, beautiful seaside, easy to get a long-term residence permit. Although not always 20 degrees C. Sometimes it can be 20C even in January, but more typical temperatures are 10-15 at the coast.

  14. Blue Eagle*

    What fiction is everyone reading this week?

    I’m reading Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian. It is interesting for me to read a book with many Indian-American cultural references and the plot was quirky and interesting too.

    1. Jay*

      A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. Never read it when it came out and I’m really enjoying it.

      1. Lore*

        Egan’s new book, due out in I think April, will revisit some of the characters from GOON SQUAD, so you’ve got good timing if you’re enjoying this one!

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My current book is nonfiction (Anderson Cooper’s “Vanderbilt”), but I mostly picked that up as a filler book until Seanan McGuire’s next Incryptid book (“Spelunking Through Hell”) comes out on Tuesday.

      1. Blue Eagle*

        Anderson Cooper’s book was a huge disappointment for me, especially after the teaser inside the book jacket “By 2018, when the last Vanderbilt was forced out of The Breakers—the seventy-room summer estate in Newport, Rhode Island, that Cornelius’s grandson and namesake had built—the family would have been unrecognizable to the tycoon who started it all.” The book doesn’t tell anything about the last Vanderbilt forced out of the breakers. And further, it doesn’t tell anything about the descendents of the Vanderbilt family after the 1940s except for Cooper’s mother Gloria.

        What I want to know is
        – who was the last Vanderbilts to live in the Breakers and why were forced out?
        – what happened to Cooper’s brothers by Stokowski and to his cousins and all of the other Vanderbilts either with the surname of Vanderbilt or other surnames.
        – what happened to all of the Vanderbilt money? Supposedly all of the fortune is gone – – but is this really true?

        Maybe there is another Vanderbilt book that covers those things and if there is I would like to know what the title is.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Huh. I just started it last night, and the prologue explained at least a bit about the last one to live there (her name was Gladys) and why they turfed her — I’m sure there was more to the story than they included, but it was at least touched on. The preservation society running the museum parts of the house wanted to add some additional amenities nearby – an actual visitor center building for ticket sales, with a cafe and toilets, instead of tents and portajohns outside – and she was attempting to stop them from doing so because she felt that it would interfere with the “feeling” of the grounds. So after fighting with her about it for a while, they finally said “oops, the third floor of the house [where she lived] isn’t up to code for human habitation, get out.”

          As far as the money — they also pointed out that the Vanderbilts had a tendency to spend lots of money on big showy material things that were expensive to build/acquire (like, say, The Breakers) and then have to spend a lot more money on upkeep, maintenance, and taxes, and that that’s where the money seems to have mostly gone. I think they pointed out that in 77 years, maintenance and taxes and such on The Breakers cost in excess of $210 million dollars?

    3. Teapot Translator*

      I’ve read Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao and I’m now reading Mrs. Mohr Goes Missing by Maryla Szymiczkowa.

        1. Teapot Translator*

          I found the main character’s rage very cathartic, but I would say I enjoyed the book while seeing its flaws. I haven’t watched the video. All I know about the author is their blurb.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I just finished Dava Shastri’s Last Day, which Alison featured a few weeks ago. About a billionaire philanthropist who announces her death early so she can enjoy the tributes to her legacy, and then the media focuses on secrets she thought were long buried.

      The part of the book that really lingers with me is the money, almost a powerful character in its own right. A black hole that warps the characters around it. For example, I thought the kids’ trust funds seemed stingy. Even though it’s more money than I will ever have. Very weird head space to find myself in. Enough to live off of in comfort, but low enough that “I’ll give you 6 figures if you do X,” especially coming from a loving family member who does care about you, and about something you might do on your own without the incentive–well, it warps things.

      Also I really loved the role of the house, which is beautiful in some ways and badly designed in other ways. It was designed to be a refuge but doesn’t fulfill that goal very well.

      1. Atheist Nun*

        What I loved best about that book was the shoutouts on the Replacements, my favorite band. The rest of it–plot, characters, other music references–did not impress me much. I do not have a lot of interest in the “troubles” of filthy rich people.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          In contrast with the other fiction book I was re-reading (Murderbot Diaries), I didn’t love any of the characters and no one was having pitched battles with pirates. But I try to go outside my easy pleasure choices and try some new things, and this fit that–I wanted to find out what happened. (And really expected one last reveal, which seemed thoroughly set up and then no one ever pulled that trigger.)

          I felt like the money was some black hole in the middle of the family, warping everything around it, and I liked the book exploring how that might affect people. Also liked that no one was cartoon evil–people could be annoying in the way regular people are annoying, their intentions boobytrapped with pools of money.

    5. PastorJen*

      I’m reading The Verifiers by Jane Pen and I’m loving it! It was billed as an option for people who loved Veronica Mars, which is definitely me. It actually doesn’t seem that much like VM to me, but I like it anyway.

    6. Come On Eileen*

      Project Hail Mary. Has been recommended by several friends and I’m loving it. Perfect book to get me out of a reading slump.

      1. GoryDetails*

        Project Hail Mary was fun! Definitely did not expect the turns it took along the way. (I still like The Martian best of Weir’s work, but I did enjoy Project Hail Mary.)

          1. Wildcat*

            You might like an Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green, which is another first contact mystery box type story.

            1. GoryDetails*

              Re Absolutely Remarkable Thing – I did enjoy that one, and its follow-on novel, though the story went in directions I wasn’t always crazy about. (I think I read the first book via audiobook, which worked out well when switching between the character viewpoints.)

        1. Come On Eileen*

          I’ve already downloaded a sample of The Martian to check out when I finish PHM. This is my first introduction to Weir so good to learn he has a few other books for me to dive into.

    7. E. Chauvelin*

      Today I’m planning to finish up Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian, a thriller about a girl who is participating in a study on diagnosed psychopaths in college so that she’ll get the chance to get revenge on another student there for something he did years before, but then it turns out that somebody else is hunting students in the study. So far it’s pretty decent, but it seems like it needs another big twist in the last quarter to be as great as I’ve heard and I’m not sure if it’s coming.

      Tomorrow I’m planning on starting The Swift and Savage Tide by Chloe O’Neill, the second in the Kit Brightling series, which reminds me of a fantasy Aubrey-Maturin series so far. (Naval adventure, main characters are a captain and somebody else who’s an expert in another area but has zero naval experience as things start out, personal struggles on land in addition to the naval adventures, etc.)

    8. Dark Macadamia*

      I recently finished “Malibu Rising” which was great. Now I’m listening to “The Devil and the Dark Water” and finding it soooo slow. I might try switching to print instead of audio so at least I can skim/skip ahead!

    9. Overeducated*

      I’m reading “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett. It’s not one of those gripping reads you can’t put down for me, but interesting so far!

      1. Jamie Starr*

        While I wouldn’t describe it as “gripping,” for me, it was one I couldn’t put down. I finished it in a few days – which is fast for me (since I don’t have a lot of time for reading).

        I just started “Fiona and Jane” by Jean Chen Ho. I’ve only read the first chapter, but like it so far. Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” is next on my to-read list.

      2. Ali + Nino*

        Literally finished this today after starting it last night – so, in about 12 hours. I don’t know if I would call the end super-satisfying but I was definitely hooked!

    10. GoryDetails*

      THE MAGPIE LORD by KJ Charles, in which a young lord with a very bad reputation (thanks to his heinous family – he himself turns out to be roguish but not evil) and a diminutive magic-user who’s the judge-and-jury of magic-based crimes in this alternate-reality Victorian England meet, strike romantic sparks, and have to struggle to keep some unknown foe from murdering the lord with magic. Quite fun, with witty banter, steamy sex, some pretty horrific crimes, and a fast-moving story. Oh, and a secondary character who’s the utterly-loyal and hyper-competent manservant/sidekick – a favorite story element of mine, and well-handled here.

      THE SAVIOR’S BOOK CAFE IN ANOTHER WORLD, Vol. 1 by Kyouka Izumi, a manga based on a light-novel series in which the usual “call to adventure” is given to – not a high school student, but (gasp!) a 30-something woman who loves books and has no interest at all in dashing off to fight magical foes in another world. But when she’s pressed by the glowing-orb being to take up the mission, she pushes back with questions about what abilities she’ll get, what duties she’ll have, etc. – and she winds up settling in to a stunning bookshop/cafe that she designed and stocked with help from the several magical abilities and items she got in exchange for signing up. It’s an amusing twist on the usual setup, and for most of this volume she stays in the cafe, happily reading the books – she can summon out-of-print copies of anything she wants! The books are preserved from stains or damage even if she’s reading them while eating! I mean, wow! – and dishing up tasty snacks for the sole customer, a handsome officer who also loves books. [This can’t last, of course, and it seems she’ll have to face off with the previous “savior”, who is wildly abusing her powers for selfish reasons and with no attempt to actually defend her people. But for now it’s a book-lover’s fantasy writ large!]

    11. Jackalope*

      One of my favorite series is the Twelve Houses series by Sharon Shinn. I’ve read them all before but it’s been awhile so I just restarted the series. I finished Mystic & Rider last night and loved it as much as I remembered. The six members of the group become a loving, tight-knit group of friends whose love for each other lasts through the end of the series. It’s not that often that you have a series where the friendship between the characters is such a focus, but this one is, which is why I love it so much.

    12. Bluebell*

      A friend recommended Manhattan Beach, and I’m really enjoying it, especially since I visited Brooklyn Navy Yard a few years ago. Finished Dava Shastri’s Last Day, and the prominence of music reminded me a bit of The Final Revival of Opal and Nev. I enjoyed Opal and Nev a lot more. Matrix is next on my list, and I have Burntcoat, but not sure I’ll get to it before the library due date.

    13. Wildcat*

      I’m reading A Desolation Called Peace. So far it’s okay but it had been a while since I read A Memory Called Empire and I struggle to remember where we were in the story.l and who everyone is (they have this naming system that makes characters hard to remember). The book doesn’t help too much with that.

  15. Dog Thread*

    I realize the Weekend Open Thread is often the purr-view of cats, but I frequently see some dog content too. Dog people: what is your current challenge with your pup? Mine has recently discovered the upstairs room where the cat’s set up is and now we have no peace in the house. I think what I didn’t realize about dogs is how much their behavior continues to evolve over time; he has lived peacefully ignoring the upstairs for most of the year despite knowing the cat goes up there.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Context: We currently have Dogs 3 and 4. Got Dog 1 after we bought our house. Dogs 2 (older ) and 3 (puppy) after 1 passed. After 2 passed we got 4 because 3 was lonely.

      I have realized that dogs 1 and 2 were naturally inclined to focus on us. We trained them, but it wasn’t difficult–they wanted to cooperate. Dog 3 we realized at the time was just doing what Dog 2 did, and was not so much well-trained as super chill, but that was fine. Then we got Dog 4, who has really backslid on coming when called. When we had 2 and 3 they might run off to chase a squirrel, and then 2 would be like “We should go back and see if the humans have snacks!” And 3 was like “Sure.” Dogs 3 and 4 chase a squirrel and then 4 is like “Want to run off and find more stuff to bark at?” and 3 is like “Sure.”

      1. Cj*

        My current challenge is finding another german shepherd to adopt! We have three cats, and it is so hard to find an adult German Shepherd that doesn’t say “no cats”.

        We really don’t want a puppy, because we don’t want to deal with the house training, chewing stage, etc. Plus our current dogs are 11, 15, and 16 years old, and I don’t think they could deal with puppy energy, even though the eleven-year-old does love to play with other dogs.

        We have applied to adopt one, and they were to talk to our references today. I spoke to one of our references afterwards, and she’s said she told them that any dog would be lucky to live here, so cross your fingers for us.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Good luck! I love German Shepherds and grew up with a few. The dogs we had were fine with cats – usually I think there was some mutual tolerance mixed with ignoring each other.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      We also have an upstairs “kitten room” (aka, my husband’s office) and my dog had a ruff time with it when we first brought the cats home, but at this point, she actually behaves differently in there — on the main level of the house, she’ll chase the cat (which the cat encourages), but when the cat hits the landing at the bottom of the stairs, that’s “safe zone” and the chasing stops, and if the dog goes upstairs and into the office (which is allowed), she doesn’t pester the cats at all, and in fact will hop up on the couch and lay there peaceably with one or both of them. (One of the cats is a big chicken who pretty much never leaves the office, the other one who plays chase with the dog is fearless and roams the whole house.)

      I’m not having any major doggy issues currently, but anticipate bringing a new puppy home in a couple of months, and I’m expecting that transition to potentially be a little bumpy. Junior Ambassador (who will be getting a promotion in title :) ) will be 7 years old and puppy will be 8-9 weeks – which matches the age gap when we brought the Junior Ambassador home, my Elder Statesdog Gone Beyond was 7 and Junior Ambassador was 8 weeks, and their integration was completely painless – like, they were snuggling the very first night. But Elder Statesdog Gone Beyond was the epitome of chill and Junior Ambassador is still a little high-strung and energetic and a bit of a velcro dog, plus she’s been an only dog since Elder Statesdog went beyond back in September. So I am a little concerned about how well she’ll adjust, but I have some training resources online bookmarked and am totally willing to bring in a professional to help. (Junior Ambassador is also relatively small, and the incoming puppy will be the same size as she is by 5-6 months old, so that might make things interesting as well.)

      1. Dog Thread*

        Aww cute! Mine doesn’t pester the cat much – thank God, as that would be a crisis around here – but is very, very interested in getting into the cat food, water bowl, even the litter box – and dragged down a bag of cat food today off a shelf I didn’t think he’d be able to reach, even if he *did* get around the stair gate and the closed door. My kitty is senior and already had to deal with all her stuff being moved from the ground floor to this upstairs room, so I hesitate to try to put all her things up in some impenetrable fortress to keep the frelling dog out. I think I’ll have to redouble the security around the stairs and door, and keep the food bag in sealed containers.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          The cat’s food bowl is up on top of a bookshelf, and the food bag itself is in the closet (it’s one of the upstairs bedrooms). This dog has never expressed any interest in the litter boxes, though Elder Statesdog really wanted cleaning them to be her chore :P so that part isn’t an issue. (When Elder Statesdog was alive and allowed upstairs, we had an old dog crate that the cats could access from the top that the litter box was kept in, though that was a bit of a pain to get to for cleaning.)

          I actually bought him a bigger water bowl for his office, because – this cracks me up — Elder Statesdog was a bloodhound mix, very jowly and slobber everywhere. So the doggy water bowl downstairs was hard to keep clean. Junior Ambassador would go upstairs (where Elder Statesdog was not allowed, for mobility reasons) and slurp all the water out of the cats’ small water bowl, because that one didn’t have anyone actively drooling in it. All that to say, in our house, all the water bowls are communal :)

      2. GoryDetails*

        Re dogs and cats and a “safe zone”: that reminded me of the house I shared during my last year of college! I had a cat, my three roommates had dogs, and – luckily for all concerned – the dogs were amenable to training re the areas they were allowed in and were not allowed in. And the cat immediately figured it out, and proceeded to amuse himself by playing tag with the dogs and then darting across the “safe line” and pausing to casually wash a paw while the Very Good Dogs lurked on the other side of the line – possibly muttering imprecations, but perhaps it was more “Oh, come on, we want to play some more!”

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          That’s awesome. We have to gate no-dog zones, but they’ve established among themselves that downstairs is for playing and upstairs is available but no chasing. The basement is gated, cats and reptiles only. Heh.

    3. Sunshine*

      Not a problem as much as a quirk. My dog is slim and delicate and refuses to sit directly on hard floors. Thankfully our three children are always strewing things around. Yesterday he was sitting on my fav throw pillow. He’ll nest up kids clothes or backpacks. I have a whole photo folder called ‘dog’ sits on soft.

      1. Generic Name*

        My dog has a blanket she drags around the house and lays on. It’s an old Thomas the Tank Engine blanket she stole from my teenager.

      2. Yay, I’m a Llama again!*

        My sister’s dog does this. Anything remotely squishy on the floor, and she will leave her basket to go and sit on it. Her favourite seem to be shopping bags.

    4. Southern Girl*

      We have 2 cats (now 14 years old) and 2 dogs now 6 years old. They are big dogs (60 and 80 pounds). All was well till the dogs were 6 months old and decided the cats were prey when one ran away from them. We could NOT train the dogs not to chase. We have had to keep them separated in different parts of the house ever since.

      1. Dog Thread*

        Yes, my kitty does a great job of holding her ground and the dog therefore doesn’t chase, but if her behavior changes (perhaps with her health and age) I expect things will get dicey around here. I was prepared to keep them permanently separated on different floors and we may still end up that way.

    5. Hotdog not dog*

      Best Good Dog is an old man who was diagnosed with cancer several months ago. He has already exceeded the vet’s estimated time, and we are so thankful for every extra day. Our current challenge is one we created intentionally. Upon receiving the diagnosis from the vet, we decided that the treatment plan would be pain relief and excessive spoiling, so we now have a dog who expects (and gets) custom cooked meals, including dessert, carte blanche on furniture access, as many walks as he cares to take, car rides, and a literal ton of extra attention, treats, and toys. Since he’s always had separation anxiety, we’ve reworked our schedules so that he’s never alone. It’s kind of exhausting to keep up with, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
      He’s a very sweet dog who apparently has as little awareness of his condition as he does his size. He’s pretty sure he’ll fit in your lap, even though he’s a full grown husky. You didn’t really need to be on that laptop or reading that book anyway!

      1. Cj*

        One of our dogs had bladder cancer. We also went for pain relief, and she was on one pill a day that was supposed to help slow down the cancer and didn’t seem to have any side effects. We did also have to give her antibiotics sometimes because the cancer made her prone to UTIs.

        The life expectancy for dogs with bladder cancer is 6 months. She lived three more years. I hope the same is true for Best Good Dog.

    6. The Dogman*

      Have you tried standing in front of the stairs and backing him away from them?

      Claim your (and the cats) space and you can reestablish the upstairs as off limits!

      I currently have no personal dog problems, but since I rescue the most difficult dogs as my pets it will only be a matter of time til I have another badly behaved pup to sort out!

      1. Dog Thread*

        Yeah, for months he seemed to completely understand that the upstairs was Off Limits and to have no problem with that. Then today I found him upstairs – on top of the guest bed – in order to reach the bag of cat food on a shelf, which he had dragged down and scattered everywhere. I was mad enough to spit. I only adopted him within the year so he’s still evolving new behaviors I guess. Now that he’s had food up there he’s going to be Locked In to getting back to it – this is one of those “self-reinforcing” behaviors because the reward is so great. Unfortunately eating medicated cat food is not good for him and not good for the cat so we’re gearing up for a pitched battle over the next few weeks.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, there’s little risk to him in hanging out upstairs and a considerable reward. I’m curious about the closed door–do you know how he managed that? Is it a door that doesn’t latch properly and he just tested it and got lucky? I’m wondering if you might be in for some door testing in general if so.

          I’m trying to figure out of there’s a way to reward him for staying downstairs that doesn’t just end up with him racing between up and down. I wonder if you could randomly jackpot him occasionally downstairs, preferably in a way that wasn’t obviously human connected, so that he’d start hopefully being downstairs rather than hopefully messing with the cat’s room.

          1. Hotdog not dog*

            Best Good Dog learned how to open the lever style doorknobs on his 3rd day with us. We had to switch them out to round ones, which despite years of trying he is not able to turn. He can still open cabinets, though, so those all have child safety latches.

            1. fposte*

              Ugh, I know the lever ones are much easier for humans as we age, but they’re easier for a lot of other critters, too.

            2. Anono-me*

              We had a GSD that figured out how to open round doorknobs too. Bit hard on both the knob and the teeth, but sometimes what was on the otherside was worth it apparently.

        2. Dog and cat fosterer*

          I’m a big believer in baby gates. Humans can step over them, and cats can go over / under, but they limit dogs. I put them on doorways to limit access.

          I have also learned with years of experience to put food in plastic containers that are tightly shut. Hungry dogs can get creative!

    7. Generic Name*

      Honestly, I think my pup is wonderfully behaved. Her worst habit is she destroys and de-fluffs dog toys. But in the grand scheme of things, I just pick up the fluff and buy her new toys because she gets so much joy out of the toys. She is in search of the squeaker. My husband moved the couch and found half a dozen chewed squeakers hidden under there.

      I have 2 cats as well, and watching the 3 pets interact is a riot. They all have their distinct personalities. One cat and the dog have a very much Garfield and Odie relationship. They will chase each other around sometimes. The cat’s favorite toy is a 16 inch length of ribbon, and the dog has discovered if she picks up one end in her mouth and runs around with it, the cat will chase the ribbon. Hysterical.

    8. Smol Book Wizard*

      My pretty-boy Lancer has just cleared 7 months, and his baby black fur is giving way by the moment to the auburn/gold undertones expected for his particular dynasty of long-haired German Shepherds. We still have trouble with pulling on leash when excited and also jumping on recognized people whom he wants attention from, but it’s getting better and the mouthiness is almost gone (and very gentle when it happens).

      We took care of a friend’s Borzoi last weekend – he’s back home now – and Lancer just sort of worshiped him the whole time. I think the size kind of didn’t work for us, though. Legitimately difficult to get around the house :D.

      I’d love to add another dog to the household sometime this summer and am currently leaning towards a mini Aussie, since we love them at the park and they are zippy but physically small. But I have promised the fellow and myself that it would NOT be a puppy, and between that and the need to have them bird-safe, I’m not sure we could find such a particular friend. We will see.

    1. Isobel*

      I’m looking forward to In Place of Fear by Catriona MacPherson. It’s a standalone crime novel about a medical social worker in Edinburgh in 1948. It sounds like a really interesting setting and time period – the start of the NHS and the time when social work was moving away from “lady almoners” towards being a profession. And I’ve enjoyed Catriona Macpherson’s Dandy Gilver series, so I’ve got high hopes for this one.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, that’s going to be a perfect gift for a Scottish social worker I know (assuming she hasn’t already pre-ordered it), so thanks for the mention!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      The third Scholomance book, due out in the fall. I really, really loved the first two, about trying to survive in a highly lethal magical high school. Works as adrenaline packed adventure–in the first book I completely channeled the heroine’s stress about always expecting a literal monster to jump out and literally try to eat you. On another level, it’s about privilege, and how it can be easy to not see that when you happen to be benefitting from it just now.

      One aspect I like is that she grows her team. She’s a loner starting out, makes a couple of friends–but also finds ways to work with other people, including some who’ve tried to kill her. Because enacting change means pulling people to your side, not just being right while alone in a closet.

      1. marvin the paranoid android*

        I agree that these books describe privilege with a lot more nuance than you often find in fantasy–not a knock on fantasy as a genre, but I think that the further a system of power/privilege is removed from our own experience, the harder it is to understand how it feels to be caught up in it. I’m not typically a big fan of books that revolve around fictionalized systems of oppression for that reason, but I think these do a lot better than most.

    3. GoryDetails*

      John Scalzi’s THE KAIJU PRESERVATION SOCIETY, due out in mid-March; a COVID-era character who’s stuck doing food-delivery stumbles upon an alternate-world where gigantic monsters, kaiju, are being protected. Supposedly, anyway…

      WHAT MOVES THE DEAD by T. Kingfisher, due out in July, the third in her series of modern-horror-influenced-by-classic-works books; I really loved The Hollow Places (inspired by Blackwood’s “The Willows”) and The Twisted Ones (with themes from Machen’s “The White People”), and look forward to the new one – which is inspired by Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher”!

      ANGEL FALLS by Julia Rust and David Surface, due later this year from Haverhill House Publishing’s young-adult imprint; it’s set in Cape Ann, Massachusetts, mixing modern-day characters with hauntings from the region’s historic past. (I admit to some prejudice on this one – I know the authors and got to read the early drafts of their novel!)

      1. E. Chauvelin*

        I read an ARC of Kaiju Preservation Society and your excitement is extremely justified. (Not surprisingly; it is John Scalzi after all.)

        1. the cat's ass*

          Oh goody! I’m v happy to hear that! Also waiting for the next in the “Rivers of London” series by Ben Aaronovich. It’s untitled as yet and out in the fall.

      2. SarahKay*

        Seconding “What Moves the Dead”, and adding “Nettle and Bone” by the same author, which is out in April.

      3. Person from the Resume*

        I am also looking forward to John Scalzi’s THE KAIJU PRESERVATION SOCIETY. I expect it’ll be fun. He doesn’t write deep, but I usually enjoy his work.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      Not upcoming because it was just released, but I’m looking forward to “How to Be Perfect” by Michael Schur. The audiobook is read by him AND the Good Place cast which seems really fun!

      1. Ampersand*

        I’m reading this now and LOVE it! I bought it because it sounded interesting and The Good Place is one of my favorite shows, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this entertaining. The book is more or less the prequel to how the show came about (I didn’t know that until I started reading), so it ties everything together nicely. I also didn’t know that he and the cast read the audiobook—now I’m wishing I had that instead!

    5. GoryDetails*

      Another one: What If? 2 by Randall Munroe (of the xkcd comics), a new collection of his hilarious AND scientific explanations of wildly-bizarre questions like “can we cool the atmosphere by opening everybody’s freezer doors at the same time?”. It’s due in September – see Munroe’s web page for more info: https://xkcd.com/what-if-2/

    6. Marion Ravenwood*

      Taylor Jenkins Reid’s next novel, Carrie Soto Is Back, which is due to come out this summer. (For those who don’t know, Carrie Soto is a secondary character in Reid’s last book, Malibu Rising, which in turn is based on the family of a secondary character in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.) I love that 70s/80s SoCal world she’s created so much and how she’s building this universe, as well as how vivid her characters are, even the minor ones. For me Daisy Jones and The Six is still her peak but Carrie was definitely one of the characters in Malibu Rising I felt I wanted to know more about, so I’m excited to see what’s going to happen next.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        I had no idea there was a connection between Evelyn Hugo and Malibu Rising, lol. Loved them both though!

    7. AY*

      Maggie O’Farrell (author of Hamnet) has a new book out this fall about the Medici family. Hamnet is one of the best historical novels I’ve ever read (like up there with Lonesome Dove, True Grit, and Wolf Hall) so to say I’m excited is quite the understatement!

    8. HHD*

      I’m really excited about two loooong awaited sequels
      Jasper Fforde’s Red Side Story – set in the Shades of Grey world where people can only see certain colours
      Daniel O’Malley’s Blitz – the 3rd of the Rook Files which are about a secret branch of the UK civil service which manages supernatural occurrences, and has a hierarchy based on chess.

    9. *daha**

      The Last Dangerous Visions. Third in the series. Harlan Ellison edited Dangerous Visions, an anthology of ground-breaking never-before-published speculative fiction stories. It was published in 1967 and turned the world of science fiction and fantasy on its head. The sequel was published in 1972 and extremely well-received. It was called Again, Dangerous Visions. Ellison announced the forthcoming publication of a third volume, The Last Dangerous Visions, and purchased stories for it. Ellison died in 2018 with the anthology still unpublished.
      In 2021 Ellison’s literary executor, J. Michael Straczynski, has announced that he will finish the book and auction it for publication. Some of the stories Ellison bought for it are no longer available or no longer suitable, and Straczynski is bringing in some new stories.

    10. Lemonwhirl*

      Sarah Gailey’s “Just Like Home”. It’s about a woman who returns home to reckon with the legacy of her serial killer father. Gailey is my favorite author because of their ability to create a full-realized world and drop you in the middle of it. Also, the themes and the characters are always so well-developed. It’s just really lovely stuff – and the book is coming out at the start of my summer holiday.

    11. Aussie Reader*

      Wake, by Shelley Burr. It’s rural noir, set 19 years after the mysterious disappearance of a 9 year old girl from her bed.
      It won several awards and is being launched in April, I believe.

    12. Bluey Christine Heeler*

      A bit late to this thread, but I’m looking forward to Breathe and Count Back from Ten by Natalia Sylvester. The protagonist is a teen with hip dysplasia, which I also have, and I feel kind of excited about seeing representation of my condition.

  16. Excuse Me, Is This Username Taken?*

    Has anyone worked with a lighting designer before? What was your experience and how expensive? Our family lives in a very poorly-lit home. Good natural light but once the sun sets you can hardly see a thing, even when the lights are on. We would like to put in better lighting options, but the idea of trying to do this for our whole house is a little overwhelming, and we’re not confident that any decisions made solely by ourselves will truly improve the situation, hence the idea of hiring someone.

    1. Not A Manager*

      I’d try to have a few walk-throughs with different professionals if possible – an architect and a general contractor, for example, and hear their thoughts. It’s a good way to get a general education and figure out how you want to proceed. Either or both of them might have recommendations for a professional to make a more detailed plan.

      If there’s a high-end residential lighting retailer in your area, they will sometimes provide a professional consultation or even make a detailed lighting plan for you as part of their service. But I’d try to get that more general education first so that you’re not held hostage by whatever they come up with.

    2. The Dogman*

      Buy a few lamps for approx $/£5/10 each…

      Then get some led colour changeable and power selectable bulbs, a lot come with remotes.

      You can then just go around the various rooms in the house trying different colour combinations and power levels yourself and save a lot of otherwise wasted money.

      You also get the colours and tones *you* want, not what some other person feels you might like.

    3. DistantAudacity*

      Also make sure it’s easy to switch all the lights on and off! No sense in having atmospheric lighting provided in the corners, if it’s a hassle to turn things on…

      I’ve solved this by putting IKEA Trådfri wireless bulbs into as many things as possible, so that it is all turned on/off by a central switch (and also from an app). I find that they are reasonably priced, and work well.

    4. it happens*

      Oooh, this is one of my favorite things. The lighting in my place was terrible and I just knew that it could be better. Took a long time, but finally a search on a local real estate board yielded an actual, honest-to-goodness lighting designer. I sent photos, the she came and did a walk through, asked about what I did in each area that needed lighting, and showed me some fixtures, as well as the color temp of the units. We went back and forth a little, made the decisions, and she connected me with an electrician to do the installation. Her fee was nominal and she got a percentage from the lighting manufacturers. I did some research on my own and chose Lutron caseta controls so I have physical switches for everything as well as digital assistant/app control. All the new stuff is LED, so low energy use, and I have routines set up for a lot of things (ex: simulated sunrise in the bedroom to wake me up gently.)

      So, my suggestions, put a call in your local Facebook/Nextdoor/whatever groups for a lighting designer, ask for references. Then, over the next week, note what you do in each area and what about the lighting works or doesn’t. (For example, in the kitchen you prepare, cook, wash, and store food- is the lighting adequate for each of those? You don’t need a solution, just the need and the dissatisfaction.) Can you see everything in your pantry and closets? Is your entryway inviting and conducive to good organization when entering/leaving the house? Where do you read? Watch TV? Eat? Work? You get the idea.

      The electrician cost more than the fixtures, but very much worth it. (On the other hand, if you want to DIY with plug in fixtures, still map the task/need, look at some Pinterest stuff for ideas and buy some stuff to try. At any rate, seeing is better than squinting!)

      Have fun and enjoy your new lighting soon!

  17. Fire alarm going off for no reason*

    Hi – has anyone had trouble with house fire alarms going off for no reason. Mine went off this morning at 4 am, scared the living daylights out of me. Wasn’t the low battery beeping, it was full on “there’s a fire get out of the house” alarm. But there was no fire/smoke etc. I’m in company housing so they came and replaced the alarm. Then it went off 12 hrs later, again no reason for it to go off – I’m not cooking, there’s no smoke etc. I’ve been in my house for 5 years with no problems so I’m hoping it’s just a faulty one and will be fine again. I’m thinking of sleeping on the sofa so I’m right by it to disconnect it if it goes off again. I couldn’t get an answer from the technician – he just shrugged when he replaced it.

    1. Anon for this one*

      Is the fire alarm also a carbon monoxide detector? If it is, then it’s possibly detecting carbon monoxide that you haven’t noticed yet. In this case I would call the fire department and have them send someone over to check it out.

      If it’s not one of those dual fire/carbon monoxide detectors, then there’s probably something faulty in the alarm itself, or maybe it’s too powerful for your circuit. Keep calling maintenance to have them replace it or call the fire dept to ask for advice. It’s also worth checking to see what kind of fire alarm it is and doing some research to see if it’s defective or if others are having similar problems.

      [When I was in middle school all the smoke alarms in our house went off in the middle of the night a few times. The culprit was a new flashing smoke alarm my dad had just installed in my bedroom (I am deaf) being too powerful for the circuit and setting everything off. Replacing the new alarm fixed the problem. (Not that it bothered me…I slept through it every time, which is also when my parents realized a flashing smoke alarm isn’t going to wake me up so they got me a vibrating one instead.)]

      1. Fire alarm going off for no reason*

        Thanks – appreciate the info. If it goes off again I’m going to insist on an engineer coming out. As far I know they are just fire alarms but I’ll ask maintenance tomorrow. I thought the alarms might have some kind of timer on them which when I’m thinking calmly doesn’t make sense. I meant to add it as a reply but my post below ended up as another standalone – for some reason I have a really bad reaction to the noise – like an extreme startle response to it.

    2. fposte*

      I think they can get a little oversensitive as they get older. Replacement should take care of it; I’m impressed that somebody was on it that quickly.

      I think a lot of us have a similar reaction to those–they’re set to wake up the deeply sleeping, so anybody who’s a little more reactive can get overwhelmed.

      1. Dino*

        This. My smoke alarm kept going off when I showered, turns out old devices have a hard time telling if it’s smoke or steam or any other thing wafting in the air.

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

          I had the same problem with a humidifier setting off a smoke alarm in an old apartment…running a cool setting hair dryer at the alarm turned it off in the short term. I ended up having to stop using a humidifier while living there.

      2. Fire alarm going off for no reason*

        I’m very lucky – the company I work for is very safety conscious so for anything like this they have teams on call 24/7. And they turned up within 20 mins of my reporting the problem.

    3. Dimity Hubbub*

      Aaargh. Mine did that a few months ago at 5am (of course). I whined about it at work the next day and Maintenance said ‘oh yeah, you gotta check for spiders or spider webs on those, that’s what sets ours off in empty corridors here’! So try vacuuming and/or dusting them on the regular if there’s no actual fault detected.

      1. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

        I would be spider suspicious too! You could spray the ceiling around the detector with some fly spray to deter spiders just strolling past and seeing the detector as a nice new home.

    4. Suprisingly ADHD*

      If it’s been replaced, and the replacement also went off, it’s possible they are actually detecting something. Check whether they are also carbon monoxide detectors, combo alarms are common and CO is odorless! Also check if there’s a lot of dust or humidity in the air, particles and steam can both set off an oversensitive alarm. If the alarm is on a circuit, check whether the others are going off too, the trigger could be elsewhere.

    5. CTT*

      I wonder if yours is linked with another that’s having issues? I had a smoke detector in my garage (I lived in a carriage house apartment and it was a code requirement to have one there) and gravel dust from the driveway interfered with the sensor to the point that it thought it was smoke. Since that detector was linked to the one in the actual apartment, it went off a bunch. I had never really noticed the garage smoke detector so I hadn’t thought to look there until my landlord asked if it had also been going off.

    6. WellRed*

      Lots of great advice already. If it’s a duo detector it should say it on the device and if it’s detected CO it should alert to that specifically (happened to us recently with brand spanking new alarms). It was an actual-CO leak at 2am. False alarms within the entire system (like an apartment building) can include corroded batteries, air conditioners etc triggering another alarm.

    7. Alexis Rosay*

      This happened to us. It turned out to be a spider that had crawled inside and was messing with the wiring.

  18. Lizy*

    Tips on dealing with an aging parent? She’s going to fight the whole way because who knows why. The latest is that she is chronically dehydrated, but refuses to admit it or do anything about it. Whatever – if you want to die of dehydration I guess it’s on you. But there have been a couple of [way too TMI and gross] issues that have essentially made it my/our (my husband and me) problem, and that’s where I draw the line. We’ve just said she needs to see a doctor, and that caused a HUGE blowup that she’s not appreciated and that I’m hard to get along with… I know she doesn’t tell her doctor(s) the whole truth, but again – who knows why.
    I also happen to know who her doctors are. Should I call them?? My husband has suggested calling her priest (she’s in a position of somewhat authority with her church), but I don’t know how much to divulge to him. At what point do I step in and say “this is how it has to go and you can whine but you still have to do this”, and how much of it is none of my business?
    For what it’s worth, I’m essentially the only family that’s going to be handling this. She has 2 younger sisters but I’m not sure how much support I’d get from them.

    1. fposte*

      If there’s any dementia involved (whether you’ve spotted it or not) there’s a thing called anosognosia, which is the literal inability to recognize her own condition. Especially if people have always been stubborn it’s easy to consider that this is just the same resistance, but often it really isn’t a refusal to acknowledge, they’re genuinely incapable. If she’s having problems keeping up with basic hygiene, that’s quite possibly another sign. I also think it’s useful, even if it’s not true, to let go of the notion of somebody being willful and consider that it’s incapacity instead; there’s no point in getting annoyed at a short person for being unable to reach the highest shelf, so that can be a bit of an emotional break.

      I’m guessing that you don’t have medical POA and are just limited to what you can convince her of. While her doctor can’t tell you anything about her, you absolutely can tell her doctor things. (Obviously she has to see her doctor for that to work.) In general, being adamant that people are running their life incorrectly doesn’t go over well, and it especially doesn’t if you’re doing it to the people who used to change your diapers. Being right doesn’t automatically gain you any ground, and she has the legal right to ignore you completely. Think instead about what would work with her. The Alzheimer’s community refers to some of these tactics as “fiblets,” and I think they’re brilliant and absolutely approve of people using them on me in my own later life. So maybe you’ve heard that Medicare needs people to see their doctors, or the DMV if she’s still driving, that kind of thing, so that there’s a bad guy who’s not you and who can’t be argued with.

      1. Lizy*

        This is eye-opening – thanks. There’s a large history of dementia in the family and I’m almost certain she has it – or at least it’s starting to take hold.

        Getting her to the doctor isn’t the problem. It’s her telling them the whole truth.
        Dr: “Do you smoke cigarettes or pot?”
        Mom: “No I quit years ago.”
        Me: “uh… you had a cigarette yesterday. You have at least one every week. And you smoke pot.”
        Mom: “yes but that’s just one and I only smoke pot recreationally.”
        Me: …

        1. fposte*

          There are excellent reports on the Alzheimer’s Organization’s 24/7 helpline at 1.800.272.3900. Wouldn’t hurt to give them a call.

          You can do things like submit information to the doctor’s office in advance of the appointment; there’s no guarantee they’ll read it, but some do.

    2. Anonymous healthcare person*

      Sorry you are dealing with this, and assuming your mom is competent to make decisions for herself, there may not be much you can do to change things against her will. But this will depend on local laws and resources so more research will be needed. For example, if she is not safe at home for whatever reason, I think the options can vary quite a bit depending on where you are located.

      Your local senior’s society, Alzheimer’s Society, caregiver association, and healthcare organizations will have helpful resources and suggestions, and if you have 211 in your area (likely in Canada and the US), call them for all government, healthcare, nonprofit etc resource information. Otherwise, most places have some kind of info line or website with all non-business resources listed. In my area in Canada, there is a senior’s mental healthcare team that can come and do an assessment, for example.

      As for calling your mom’s doctor, due to confidentiality you can call and let them know your concerns but they will be unable to update you unless your mom gives permission. If you do that, it’s very helpful, if possible, to tell the doctor it’s OK to let your mom know that you called – otherwise the doctor may not be able to use the info to help your mom. Maybe talk to your own doctor about how to talk to your mom’s doctor? Again the Alzheimer’s Society, caregiver orgs will have info on this.

      I don’t know specifically about the priest but maybe calling him and describing the situation to see what could be offered is an option? Churches can be great sources of support but I really don’t know the specifics of how that could work.

      Also – get support for yourself, using the resources suggested above. This is awful to deal with, and a heck of a lot of work for you that your mom will probably not appreciate. Good luck!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Barring any other idea, you are probably waiting for what I call a precipitating event. This involves an ambulance ride to the hospital. Once there you can corner doctors and tell all.

      Does she have friends that she’d listen to?

      One thing that strikes me is you could say, “Mom the next time you tell me about X problem again, I am going to call the doctor and make an appointment for you. But I will not continue to beat a dead horse about Problem X if you are not going to do anything.”
      If you have to do Y task because of X problem, you can point out that if X is no problem then Y task should be no problem, either.

      We can’t inhale/exhale for our parents. And we cannot help someone who is not helping themselves.

      I could be misreading but it sounds like you and she have had a rocky road for awhile? That can make it harder to sort what is fair and what is not and where to draw that boundary line. As a childless person, I have to ask what would she do if she had no kid to lean on? She’d have to get a plan, pay someone to do tasks, and so on. Know for a fact that you can NOT be her only resource for help. If you try you can end up in the ER, ask me how I know this…. sigh.

      I think I might consider asking the younger sisters for some advice about how to get mom to the doc. See what they say, it might be a good test the waters type of question. You’ve got nothing to lose. You doubt that they will help and this will confirm your suspicions or not.

      Going in a different direction maybe the priest can suggest someone who might try to talk with her.

      Just guessing from her response to you, it sounds like several things could be going haywire at the same time, hence the attitude. (I base this what I saw dealing with my parents and inlaws.)

      1. Lizy*

        Oh we had that conversation a few years ago when she went to the ER. Without giving too many details, she mildly changed some things for a short amount of time. I decided then I wouldn’t try to beat a dead horse.
        And yes – rocky indeed. A really big part of me says “not my monkeys, not my circus”. Although she has friends, and I think she’d listen to them, I think she’s very selective in what she tells them, and me, and her doctors. So… what’s the point in me intervening?

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, this sounds so familiar. So basically you are waiting for that big event where the doc says she needs assisted living or other care. It’s super hard when we are working harder to preserve their quality of life, than they are working.

          My baseline is to try to keep them safe, such as preventing the house from burning down or whatever other externals could be a life-threatening hazard.
          With what you have here in mind, I would say the point of your intervention comes when she is figuratively breaking your back with her list of expectations. An intervention can look like, “I will come see you on Saturdays and whatever you need help with I will help then.” Here intervention is simply a hard boundary line.

          If you do have to talk to her about a long term plan, bring someone with you such as your aunts or a good friend of hers, hopefully that will curb some of the stubbornness and fighting.

          Dehydration works FAST and if you google pictures of a dehydrated brain (don’t -it’s depressing) the differences when compared with a healthy brain are stark and scary. Perhaps the best you can do here is figure out what you will do when that 911 call happens. I point blank told the social worker at the hospital that I could not take care of my mother and I would not be taking her into my home. (I was in my 20s and my home was a two room apartment. NO dice. But regardless- she needed 24 hr care and I could not provide that.) I guess we do have to say this out loud in order for them to be considered for other placement.

          Always remember you are her kid, not her indentured servant. She will try to tell you otherwise, “you owe me”. NO, we do not have to compensate for their unwillingness to take care of themselves or their home. The best we can do is find agencies who will help in their care.

    4. The Dogman*

      Sounds like you might be dealing with a bit of dementia there, perhaps have a chat with a specialist care nurse type of person, they should have some tips to navigate around this sort of thing.

      I am sorry, this part of being a child is terrible as the parent won’t always listen to their own children on these subjects!

    5. RagingADHD*

      Try calling her doctor and see if you can accompany her to her appointments because you don’t think she’s giving them the whole story. Since you mention the possibility of dementia in the comments, tell them that, too.

      Bring detailed notes.

      They may allow it, they may not, but it’s worth a try.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        This is a great suggestion. I accompany my mother in her 90s to all her appointments because her memory is unreliable. Then I can share what’s going on with the doctor.

        The way I pitched this with my mom was that I knew she might forget the details about the conversation with the doctor afterward, and I can be there to take notes for her about the appointment. Of course when I’m there, I can also add all the details that she wouldn’t otherwise share.

        Granted, my mother is much more cooperative than it sounds like yours is, but this was a way to get myself into the door when she was initially resistant. Then when I was at the doctor’s office, we had my mom fill out all the HIPAA paperwork so that her medical team can now freely talk to me.

    6. bratschegirl*

      My late MIL was also chronically dehydrated. Mainly for two reasons: first, she hated “having to go to the bathroom all the time” so she actively tried to avoid needing to do so; and second, because she had difficulty swallowing thin liquids like water – tended to cough and splutter, it would take her 5-10 micro sips to swallow something like a 10ml dose of cough syrup – and just didn’t enjoy drinking because of that. This is not unusual in older folks, as the muscles can get weaker and less coordinated. There are speech/language pathologists who do “swallowing therapy,” so you might mention to her doctor that you’d like her to be assessed for perhaps needing that.

      1. A313*

        For the swallowing, there are tasteless mix-ins for water that thicken the water some and can make it easier to swallow correctly.

        1. beentheredonethat*

          Ensure and hostess cupcakes have kept my Mom alive for the last 3 years. If I can get 1/2 cup of any other food for her to eat in a day.. I call it a win.
          She has always had issues with food. I found a letter from her teacher in 1944 to her mother telling her she needed better nutrition.

    7. Imtheone*

      It’s hard, but there comes a time when you have to parent your parents. There’s a tricky balance between respecting the person’s autonomy and stepping in.

      Do you think there’s a reason that your mother won’t drink enough? My mother had some urinary incontinence, so she didn’t drink enough. If there’s a way to help with that, maybe she will drink more. In addition, the sensation of thirst can diminish, making things worse. Would she drink more of a flavored or carbonated beverage?

      Someone should have a medical power of attorney for her. But even without, you can tell her doctor things. The doctor cannot tell you things without her permission (such as the medical power of attorney ). We had a doctor who was confused by this, so it’s possible you will need to share something.

      What to do: I would call her doctors, explaining what you see. Insist on her going to the doctor. When she gets so mad, remember that she is probably frightened. (Also think about if she really understands the consequences of refusing medical care. She’s at risk for a urinary tract infection which can mimic dementia, and then she might end up in a memory care facility.

      I don’t know about calling her priest. Would she listen if the priest told her that caring for her health was part of honoring God (from whom all blessings flow), as the Bible says? Perhaps that would nudge her.

      It’s a very hard time. We had similar issues with our parents. My mother and father were finally convinced to see a gerontologist who was the nephew of an old friend. We were lucky there.

      1. Imtheone*

        Also second seeing if swallowing liquids has become an issue. If she starts to choke on water, of course she won’t want to drink much.

        And in terms of dementia, she should have a urinalysis to spot infection. It’s quite common in older women, but can be hard for the patient to identify the specific symptoms that can be so obvious in younger women.

    8. M&M Mom*

      I feel your pain here. My sister and have been going thru this for a few years now. Luckily, a few years back, our mom had signed off on allowing us to have access to her medical info and attend appts with her. At times when there has been an issue, we have called her doctor, explained it to him and ask him to call her directly to say she needs to come in to have her blood pressure checked, flu shot etc. Not the real issue, but a way to get her in the door. And then, yes, I have to be the truth-sayer in the appointment.: Yes you are more anxious these days. Yes you are more confused these days. And my mom gets so mad!
      We are very fortunate that my sister’s good friend is a nurse who would often check in on her, tell her what she needed to do and she would listen to her more than she would listen to us.
      But she declined pretty rapidly and we had no choice but to move her to a healthcare facility. Wrenching. As mentioned above, we told her it was at the direction of her doctor and she needed to go for rehab to get stronger. I don’t think she would ever be able to handle the fact that she will not actually go home.

    9. Ewesername*

      Sorry to hear you’re going through this. It’s a tough thing to watch.
      I just went through something similar with my grandmother. With her, the dehydration was a symptom of a chronic urinary tract infection. (“It hurts to pee, so I’ll drink less” mentality). It turns out urinary tract infections can male older people loopy.
      Just something to keep in mind.

    10. Nopity Nope*

      Just focusing on the dehydration issue, as I experienced something similar with my mom, who was never hungry or thirsty, so didn’t eat or drink when left to her own devices. What worked best was to get someone to eat lunch with her several times a week. For us it was an aide who we specifically asked not just to fix lunch for Mom 4-5 times a week, but to actually sit there and eat/drink *with* her.

      Mom was sooo much more willing to do things *with* someone. (And it was also helpful when that “someone” wasn’t related to her.) That may be something the church can help with. Not to *tell* her what to do or scold or even encourage her, but to provide people who will do [whatever] with her. Maybe the church friends can set up a visitor rota to have coffee/tea/Coke/whatever visits to help increase liquid intake—a sit-and-sip model, not drop-and-go . Or play cards to improve manual dexterity, or [fill in the blank activity] to address [specific issue].

    11. Observer*

      Definitely talk to her doctor. Unless your mother has signed a form that permits them to talk to you, they won’t share anything with you. BUT that *are* allowed to hear you out and take what you say into consideration.

      What do you expect to accomplish by calling her priest? Is it realistic to expect advice? To get him to get your mother to actually make some necessary changes? Unless the answer is yes OR she’s presenting a danger to people she’s working with at the church, there is no good reason to call her priest.

  19. Fire alarm going off for no reason*

    It probably looks like I’m overthinking this but my reaction to fire alarms is along the lines of Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rainman. Not quite as bad – if his reaction is a 10 then my reaction is a 6 or 7. There is something about the noise that really causes me problems.

  20. Lady Glittersparkles*

    I’m in this transitional period where I suddenly have a lot more free time than I’ve had in years. For the past three years I’ve worked full-time while going to grad school on nights and weekends, while being a parent. Now I’m done with school. I’m still a parent of course and working, but my kid is at the age where they’re starting to spend more time with friends, having sleepovers, etc. I find that when my kid is gone I just feel..lost. It seems like this should be such a non-problem but I feel like I can’t figure out what I actually *like* to do with my free time at home.
    (I like the outdoors, but when I’m at home because the weather is bad or it’s evening I am just stumped, so I end up doom scrolling which makes me feel terrible).
    Any advice on finding out what I enjoy? It’s to the point where I look forward to the weekend all week long, but am then relieved when Monday morning comes back around.

    1. Dog Thread*

      Oh man I’ve lived that life where you are excited for the weekend, but then the weekend comes and you don’t really know what to do with yourself, so then you kind of end up hanging around waiting for the week to start. It’s a terrible feeling! For me, when I start to get a big blue I find myself retreating and wanting to stay home more, so I would naturally be seeking out a more solitary hobby like writing or reading – but I find that with my moods that’s the exact WRONG way to approach it; it starts this inward spiral where I just hole up more and more and more feeling worse. My suggestion would be to sign up for a class or an activity out in the world. Just one day a week but something you’ll feel committed enough to going to that you’ll push through that “hmm, it’d be nice to just stay at home in my PJs” resistance. When we weren’t living through a pandemic I took some art classes that were fun – water color, pottery – and my friend took a photography course. I’ve joined a social sports team in the past (kickball and skiball leagues!). Meetup has hiking and jogging clubs that would be good for social distancing. Another friend signed up with a training club to do triathalons!

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I second finding something that’s a scheduled weekly activity that you sign up for. For me it’s coed social sports, but there’s adult classes.

        Before COVID my local museums had lectures I’d attend regularly but they mostly are still online which is not as engaging. If you follow your local museums on FB you should see announcers of events.

    2. The Dogman*

      Time to get some hobbies going!

      Painting is a good one, my step father retired 3 years ago and it turns out he is quite the watercolourist!

      Or exercise, martial arts classes maybe, or perhaps a running/cycling thing?

      Take up video gaming is another good option, there are literally hundreds of amazing games to play in lots of genres.

      Reading is always an option… or writing if you feel you might have a book in there somewhere trying to get out!

      Just try things, and if it doesn’t grip you try something else…

      All the best.

    3. Fellow Traveller*

      My husband has this same issue and his therapist told suggested that he think of the things that he enjoyed doing as a child, or before he was an adult. For him it was model building and he’s been trying to pick that up again.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I’d suggest taking the doom scrolling off the list of acceptable things to do. It’s so easy to fall into as the lowest energy option.

      Probably it will take some time, but removing the low-energy scroll option helps. If it’s stuff that winds you into a negative headspace, that’s not good. If it’s more neutral but expands to fill all the time available, also worth setting time limits. (The Netflix series on design, Abstract, had a neat bit with the person who invented infinite scroll, and how he hadn’t realized how important reaching an end was to cueing you to stop this and do something else.)

      We don’t spend much time being bored now–we can always scroll. But boredom is a great prod to figuring out how to not be bored.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Ugh, I struggle so much with doomscrolling. I used to have zero social media presence, then was required to do it for my job, and now I’m checking all the social medial platforms multiple times a day. I hate them. I don’t want to check them. I put them on a separate device so they’re not on my phone or my work laptop – and still. I find myself getting antsy if I haven’t checked in a while just like a real addiction. It’s so sad.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          It can be a real addiction. It’s not just the physical one. It’s the same dopamine rush as gambling, which is a recognized addiction.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I read a book about brain chemistry that talked about the magic of erratic reenforcement–that if pushing the button might get you a pellet treat, but might not, then the dopamine centers fired much harder than they did when the pellet actually arrived. And it perfectly described our Australian shepherd, who practically levitated with joy when he thought he had done something that might result in a dog biscuit.

    5. GoryDetails*

      Have you looked into geocaching at all? GPS-based hunts for hidden containers, from tiny ones barely able to fit a signable piece of paper to huge ones that can contain all sorts of fun swag. It can take you to remote locations or to guardrails in busy parking lots – and when the weather’s too bad to go out, you can look for interesting-sounding puzzle caches that might require some challenging web-surfing or Sudoku-solving to find the coordinates, so you’ll be ready to go after the cache next time the weather cooperates. [Could be something to do with the kids or by yourself, depending on kids-interest-levels, your preferences, terrain, etc.]

    6. Girasol*

      I’d say to just embrace that uncomfortable feeling for a bit and let yourself be. A new inspiration will come to you in time.

    7. Generic Name*

      Congrats! It’s really lovely having free time. When I had 50:50 custody with my son’s dad, the weeks he was at his dad’s house had seemingly vast quantities of unallocated time. I went for walks, cooked food I loved, went out with friends, went to exercise classes. I’ve recently taken up embroidery as a hobby. I also love decorating, so I’ll re-paint a room. I enjoy browsing for ideas for our “dream cabin”. :)

      Because so many things are virtual now, I’ve found a ton of support groups/volunteer organizations have virtual meetings and presentations. I’m listening to a “how to get green laws passed” webinar right now. I have a virtual support group that meets evenings and weekends too.

        1. Generic Name*

          Both are for parents of kids in the spectrum. One I found through my son’s therapist. And the other is through a Facebook group. One is run through professionals, and th other is peer to peer support.

    8. Squirrel Nutkin*

      Wow, congratulations on finishing up grad school! That’s a HUGE accomplishment, especially while working and parenting full time! : )
      It’s okay to feel a bit lost when you’re not used to being home alone, but it’s also a great opportunity. Maybe put on some of YOUR favorite music as you bop around doing light chores (or just having a solo dance party)? Look up something you’ve always wanted to know how to cook and give it a try? Call an old friend and catch up? Run a nice warm bubble bath and enjoy it with a book? Is there a hobby you’ve put down that you’d like to pick back up? A craft you’ve never tried but are curious about? Maybe try crossword puzzles or sudoku or wordle?
      Good luck on your journey to finding fun!

    9. crookedglasses*

      This may or may not be applicable to you, but I find I can often come up with things that sound fun/satisfying/interesting at times when I can’t do them, and then when I do have more unstructured time it’s like staring into the void. I found having a highly visible list of prompts for myself to be really helpful. Currently it’s on my whiteboard but in the past it was a paper list sitting next to my computer. Anywhere that it will be in line of sight when I’m apt to start doom scrolling. That visual cue is usually enough to remind me, “oh yeah, I can do this other, better thing instead!”

      Items often on the list are things like movement classes (aerial fabric, pole and parkour are all periodically in the rotation), running, stretching, meditation, painting, printmaking, playing the accordion, scent training with my dog, home improvement projects, reading a book in hard copy, trying new recipes…

      Not sure if that quite speaks to the problem you’re having. But I’ve definitely found it’s helpful for me in short circuiting doom scrolling tendencies.

      Oh, and putting a daily timer on my phone for websites that I’m apt to get sucked into has also been really helpful. Fifteen minutes a day in Twitter, and then I’m cut off until tomorrow!

    10. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I would recommend visiting your nearest library and looking at their hobby section. If they use the Dewey Decimal System, you’re probably looking for the 700’s; if they use a different system, stop in at the service desk and ask. Just skim through the books and DVDs they have available and see if anything you see looks like something you’d like to try. For a lot of hobbies like arts and crafts or exercise or cooking or even learning a musical instrument, you can usually get some beginner level supplies at places like Walmart or Amazon for really reasonable prices just to test it out and see if you like it.

      Report back and let us know what you’ve tried!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m a big fan of posting a ‘wanted’ to BuyNothing, Freecycle, and local community chat groups for beginner level crafting supplies. :)

    11. Katiekins*

      Advice on finding out what you enjoy: Look back at what you’ve enjoyED and what elements you enjoy about them. Even going back so far as remembering what you did as a kid that you really loved to do.

      I heard about a “fun audit” on The Happiness Lab podcast. Host Laurie Santos recommends Catherine Price’s book The Power of Fun.

      From the Guardian: In order to discover fun, Santos suggests carrying out a “fun audit”, also from Price’s book, which involves taking a “non-judgmental look” at what you found truly fun in the past – not what you found relaxing – and what elements it involved. For Santos, she discovered it involved a lot of music-related moments, including “goofy singalongs” in the car with friends and being in a musical as a child, and found it often involved people she doesn’t necessarily prioritise seeing in day-to-day life.

      “You analyse ‘where are the spots where I’m experiencing the most fun? And can I reverse-engineer those to bring more of those into my life, to prioritise the things that allow me to experience more fun?’”

      Another book that may speak to finding what you enjoy: Eve Rodsky’s new book Find Your Unicorn Space.

      Enjoy! (if I may)

    12. Suprisingly ADHD*

      For the doom scrolling, I suggest setting up a site blocker on your phone/computer. Then when you habitually click on your everyday sites, you’ll get a reminder that you didn’t want to go there anymore, and a chance to click back.

    13. eisa*

      You did not mention whether you live in a city or a rural area.
      If it’s a city, you can find a website listing events / exhibitions etc. and spontaneously do something that is new to you and sounds interesting. (I do that sometimes and have had pretty great experiences.)
      Or catch a movie with a friend .

      Options that don’t depend on where you live :
      Look into computer gaming; with a game that captivates you, six hours can go by like it’s nothing (ask me how I know ;-) )
      Invite some people over for board games.
      Watch something with a friend on Disney group watch / Netflix Teleparty or similar.
      While taking a nice long bath, re-read a book you love, or a new book, or have a two-hour phone call with your BFF.

      Oh, and someone mentioned geocaching – seconding that !

    14. Chauncy Gardener*

      I’ve been painting some furniture with mineral paint. It’s been SO fun!! I’m using Melange ONE, but there’s a ton of other ones out there. No fumes, so I can do it indoors. And it’s upgrading my interior for short money during the winter! I know people of trash pick and thrift and paint furniture and sell it. They make decent money too!

    15. Dragonfly7*

      I’m lucky to have a public library system with a wide variety of programming, many of which are one-off or monthly topics rather than ongoing. I’m keeping an eye out for things that sounds interesting with the intention of attending and hopefully finding a new ongoing activity.

    1. HamlindigoBlue*

      I am working on a knit sweater that I’m hoping to finish up this weekend (The Montrealer). It’s a hoodie type sweater, but I am not doing the front pocket. I like this one because it’s just stockinette in the round, and I can do that while Netflixing.

      After the sweater is done, there’s a crochet blanket I want to make from a pattern I found on Hobbii’s website (Color Joy Blanket). I am trying to find projects that will use the supplies I already have.

      My portable project is Vanilla Socks (Crazy Sock Lady pattern).

        1. HamlindigoBlue*

          Isn’t it fantasatic? I found it on YouTube (Drowning in Yarn’s channel, video titled “3 Sweater Patterns You Have to See”). I am for sure going to be making another.

    2. HannahS*

      I have started the American Duchess Cape pattern! I noticed that despite the pattern being my size, it really only looks like the picture on people who are quite a bit slimmer with smaller busts, so I’ve started a mockup and will likely need to make the front pieces wider and adjust the darts. It’s a free pattern, so I’m inclined to forgive any faults. I also found that it takes WAY less fabric than they call for; they say 2-3 yards but I cut the whole thing out of 1.5 yards by opening the fabric and cutting it flat.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      I have several embroidery projects started/planned but haven’t had a lot of motivation to work on them. One of them I kind of intimidated myself out of because I’m using a lot of techniques I’ve never tried before, and it’s a much bigger and more detailed piece than I’ve done before! I might switch back to the smaller ones (a tiny Anne of Green Gables scene, and Yzma the Disney villain as a cat) to get some momentum going.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Posting this gave me the kick I needed! I got back to my big scary project and made a little progress on it last night :) finished the easy part and today I plan to tackle a new stitch.

    4. ecnaseener*

      I’m making progress on the skirt I’ve been sewing! Finishing a side seam now (by hand, since I messed up my chance to French seam it, but that’s ok because I like hand-sewing in front of the tv) and then I’ll need to figure out buttons and a placket, and then pockets!

    5. Admiral Thrawn Is Blue*

      I have a fairy garden, one piece made of plastic resin, I think, that I am very hard to get the right glow in the dark paint for. I’ve tried two so far, but the glow lasts a few minutes the first time and then fades completely. I want to have parts of it, like the steps, glow in the dark. I’m looking for the fantasy, mystical aspect. Any suggestions?

      1. Holly the spa pro*

        Art N Glow makes really good glow pigments that you can mix into a paint base (they sell the paint base as well) and it’s really nice because you can control the consistency and amount of pigment. Id recommend doing thin layers, letting it dry completely, and then re applying to get the best glow effect. You can also “charge” your glow effect with sun light or UV light so if your glow effect is fading quickly, it may not be getting enough sun exposure

    6. Dino*

      I’ve been trying my hand at watercolor over the last year or so. This week I discovered that doing paintings in the bath is way more fun than sitting at my table, and got a wonderful piece out of the experiment. I taped the paper to a clipboard, set up my TV tray to hold my paint and brushes and off I went. I ended up with a vivid and loose sunrise in the desert, almost like it just popped out fully formed. 10/10, will do again.

      Unexpected pro to painting in the bath: no need to stop painting to change my brush water since there’s water all around *grin*

      1. Bootstrap Paradox*

        This sounds like a brilliant idea!. I keep telling myself that I’m going to teach myself to watercolor, and this might be a fun way to jump (ha!) in.

        1. Dino*

          Do it! It’s become a balm during stressful times. There’s lots of great tutorials and inspiration on Reddit and YouTube.

          I did find out, after some frustration, that good paper is worth the extra expense. I cheaped out on pigments and just recently upgraded to better brushes, but good cold-press paper let’s you practice techniques without having to work against the paper. I cut the pages smaller and get a lot of practice out of one sheet!

    7. My Brain Is Exploding*

      Working on a quilt top made from scraps of fabrics with yellows and golds, with a black background. I have over half of the blocks completed!

    8. It's a Beautiful Day*

      Anyone else here do pottery? I don’t think I have seen it mentioned. I have a wheel at home and bring my stuff to a studio to fire it. I have a hard time motivating myself to do it, but when I do it brings a lot of satisfaction. I am going to try to get myself to do something pottery related every day for a month to see how that goes.

    9. LizB*

      Steadily working away on the corner-to-corner crochet throw blanket I’m making for my MIL! I’ve determined I need one more skein of yarn than I bought to get it to the size I want, so I need to get around to buying that. Fortunately it’s a variegated yarn so dye lot won’t particularly matter, since the colors shift as I go anyway. It’s going to be SO pretty, I might need to make a matching one for myself some day lol.

    10. Marion Ravenwood*

      I made 80 per cent of a circle skirt this week (just need to do the waistband but have to wait until I get paid on Monday to buy the interfacing for it) in a really pretty lightweight white cotton with a black abstract spot print, which I think will look really nice for the spring and summer.

      Also working on makeup bags for friends’ birthday gifts and my using up scraps projects of scrunchies and knickers. Next big thing is going to be more skirts (albeit 60s A-line style rather than circle shapes) and then a sweatshirt for my niece.

    11. All Hail Queen Sally*

      I am currently playing yarn chicken to finish a knitted cowl (Eyelet Cowl by Plymouth yarns) using as much of the yarn as I can without running out. I unraveled the last of the yarn and measured it and I am sure I have enough for one more repeat. We’ll see!

      1. AGD*

        I burst out laughing at “playing yarn chicken” – I always contend with the urge to knit faster to keep the yarn from running out.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I do that too!

          Me: “Almost to the end of the skein, must knit faster!”
          Husband: “Does it actually work that way?”
          Me: “It always works out in the end.”
          Him: “How?”
          Me: “I don’t know, it’s a mystery.”
          Housemate: “…. Did you just quote Jeff Goldblum and Geoffrey Rush in the same conversation?”
          Me: “Damn skippy.”

      2. Susie*

        Same! I just started a scarf with the left over yarn from a blanket. I’ve weighed the yarn after different portions to make sure I know when to stop to do the end border/if I can do another pattern repeat, etc…but I hope I have enough yarn to do a full scarf…
        If I don’t I’m going to unravel it and make a cowl. I don’t really mind unraveling it because the pattern is mindless to the point it becomes meditative. And I get a lot of joy of using up all the yarn from a project.
        It’s a fun puzzle

      3. All Hail Queen Sally*

        Finished the cowl with 30 feet to spare! It is sock yarn so the leftover makes a ball the size of a large marble. I will keep it in case I need to make a repair in the future. It feels so good to be finished!

    12. AGD*

      First time I’ve sewn a dress! I was a little apprehensive, but the pattern has been so easy to use that I keep second-guessing it. Bodice is almost done now; skirt will follow.

    13. Susie*

      I just finished knitting a baby blanket and am waiting for it to dry after blocking.
      Any tips for making this go faster? We are seeing the baby tomorrow but I doubt it will dry in time.
      Also, what do you do when you knit something larger than the space you have for your blocking boards? I’ve used a bed in the past but don’t have a spare bed at the moment and I’m planning on starting a coverlet for a full bed soon. No idea where I’m going to block it. Suggestions?

      1. Teatime is Goodtime*

        Dehumidifier and a fan (for better air circulation). Maybe a neighbor or friend has one or both they could lend you?

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Put it near your furnace (or forced-air heater or radiator) on something that will give it air glow. I dry sweaters across our ikea drying rack set up flat-open.

    14. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’m working on a 3-panel blanket (Burridge Lake) sporadically – I started it like nine years ago :P I also need to do a repair this week on the double-knit Star Wars scarf I knitted for my husband last year, because he snagged it on the tiny hook inside a coat hanger, and he’s been informed that if he ever hangs it on a hanger with tiny hooks again then he’s not getting it back, because I spent too long working on it for him to be mistreating it :P (This is the second repair I’ve had to do for the same reason in two weeks.)

      I’ve been jonesing for some more double-knitting, so I’m debating whether I want to do another Star Wars one or take a whack at an RPG themed one for a friend of mine :)

    15. Bootstrap Paradox*

      I’m working on a sheep to shawl project, and am about halfway through combing the fleece with a sample skein about half done on my wheel.

    16. Holly the spa pro*

      I love that so many of you are into knitting, sewing and crochet! Im so jealous of people who have that kind of patience and coordination.

      I have many resin projects in progress. I am queen of half-finished projects. I’ve also starting playing around with anime glass paintings and painting custom nintendo switch and Nintendo 3ds cases and that has been a relaxing change of pace.

    17. Clumsy Ninja*

      Long-term project: a cross stitch project of an ice hockey goaltender for my son. This is going to take f.o.r.e.v.e.r.
      Current short-term and very portable projects: crocheted kitty yurts (cat house/den/bed – but dubbed yurts by a friend who became a customer) and crocheted F-bombs. Both from free patterns. These are hilarious!

    18. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It may not sound very crafty, but I’m extremely delighted to have hemmed a new pair of pants. My hands have been so achy for so many months I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. It worked, so I dug out my crochet washcloth project. I’m still not confident enough to break out the knitting.

    19. Free Meerkats*

      Due to thumb tendonitis, I have to abandon the costume I was working on for Worldcon in Chicago this September. I was going to mash up King Arthur from MPaTHG and Arthur Dent from HHGTTG and was making the chin mail bits. But it wasn’t really inspiring me anyway, so my heart wasn’t in it.

      I just downloaded patterns for Boba Fett and The Mandalorian helmets, I have decided what I’m going to do for two costumes, will decide which I’ll use for competition later.

  21. HamlindigoBlue*

    I am working on a knit sweater that I’m hoping to finish up this weekend (The Montrealer). It’s a hoodie type sweater, but I am not doing the front pocket. I like this one because it’s just stockinette in the round, and I can do that while Netflixing.

    After the sweater is done, there’s a crochet blanket I want to make from a pattern I found on Hobbii’s website (Color Joy Blanket). I am trying to find projects that will use the supplies I already have.

    My portable project is Vanilla Socks (Crazy Sock Lady pattern).

  22. Sloan Kittering*

    Advice for home projects: I really need to hire professionals to come in and take care of some lingering issues in my kitchen. I have been putting things off during the pandemic and now I hear it’s a terrible time to hire contractors in my area (DC), but some of these things are just going to compound over time. I have tried breaking them down – calling a plumber to do what I thought was a plumbing task, only to find out that I would first need an electrician to come out and install a socket, and a contractor to open the wall. I guess I need to try and find a general contractor and add up all the small-ish tasks but I’m pretty intimidated. Has anyone done this? Do you just call around to general contractors and explain that you need a bunch of separate things all done together but you want one point-person to handle the plumbing, electrical, and structural issues?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Ask friends and coworkers for recommendations for general contractors. If your projects are smaller it might be more to the point to find a reliable handyperson with a good range of skills. This is a person who does not remodel entire rooms or put full additions on a house. They don’t do big, time consuming projects.

      Specifically to the plumbing task there are plumbers who do handle electrical issues too. Your solution could be as simple as finding someone who does both plumbing and electrical. People answer these questions differently, so I’d ask different people.

      When I first became a widow, I learned the quickest way though this learning curve was to ask others who had been on their own longer than me what they were doing and who they had good luck with. Thinking strategically I asked women who seemed to be managing their homes and properties with some success.

    2. SpellingBee*

      This sounds like something you could call a “handyman” service or company for. A general contractor usually is for larger projects (think kitchen or bathroom remodel, or putting on an addition). We don’t live in your area, but we’ve used a handyman company in the past and it’s worked out really well. They have all the trades (electrician, etc.) in-house and can provide whatever you need. Google it for your area and I’ll bet you find something. Good luck!

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Wow, I don’t think I realized “handyman” was a separate type of service company. Thank you, that is very helpful!

        1. A Feast of Fools*

          I have a detached garage that needs some TLC. I have had 7 companies come out and give me bids. The 5 handymen (who are sole proprietors or LLCs with their wives as their partners) are all between $2200 and $2800. The two general contractors are $4000 and $5100, for the exact same job the handymen quoted.

          The GCs normally work as the point person / coordinator for sub-contracted trades and expect a decent profit for doing so. On big jobs, this makes sense.

          Also, each state has different licensing requirements for “handymen” with some (like mine) not requiring licensing at all. So most of the people who advertise with Angi and Home Advisor as “handymen” in my state aren’t licensed plumbers and electricians. They could install a ceiling fan for you but wouldn’t be able to, say, replace the electrical box or the water heater.

          We do have companies who sell themselves as “handyman services” that either employ or subcontract out licensed tradespeople but, when I was calling around to ask people to come out and bid, those were the companies who wanted to charge me for the estimate.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Google your state for details. Now NY does not license electricians at the state level. Local municipalities may require a license from the municipality.

        2. KLS*

          So I’m also in DC and I just had a company called Hourly Husbands come out and handle a few things for me. They sound like they were somewhat more mild issues than yours, but according to their website they also handle plumbing/electrical/etc. I paid by the hour; it wasn’t super cheap but on the upside I was able to manage the entire thing without ever speaking to a person (other than the handyman) which is exactly what I look for in this type of situation.

    3. SofiaDeo*

      If you have the time, consider getting a book like Popular Mechanic’s “Home How To” and reading the sections relevant to your rooms. Knowing the lingo and being knowledgeable about basic concepts and issues will help prevent people from trying to rip you off/overcharge. If you can’t follow along with what they recommend as the problem & the solution, you are at a disadvantage. There are “bad apples” in even reputable companies who will, for various reasons, try to skimp or overcharge. I had an electrician try to charge me $90 for a replacement part that cost $20 at Home Depot. When I pointed this out, he backed down. I also had a problem just last year with foundation repair people. My knowledge base, and complaining up the chain in this national company, contributed to the local project manager/team getting fired. And when the replacement people came out & I once again explained my concerns over the repairs the others had done, their (correct) response was “oh yeah, I see what you mean, no problem, we will fix that.”
      And some repairs aren’t as difficult as one thinks, merely time consuming. If you have time and are good with your hands, there is a lot of satisfaction from, say, taking apart the sink trap to clear out a clog instead of paying a plumber. Or snaking out a clogged toilet instead of calling someone. Or opening the wall so the electrician can run a new line, before the plumber does his part. Places like Lowes and Home Depot as well as local community colleges offer classes on basic repairs, if you are in the US. Not sure about resources elsewhere.

  23. ecnaseener*

    How much of a time commitment is community theater? I haven’t had a regularly-scheduled hobby since college and I enjoyed theater, but I also enjoy being relatively well-rested. Any chance it’s like, 2 hours twice a week?

    1. Decidedly Me*

      As an actor?It depends on the company, production, timeline, etc. I’d say 2-3 rehearsals a week, each being around 2 hours is pretty common, increasing a bit as showtime is closer (and of course the time for the shows themselves).

    2. Disco Janet*

      Answers on this vary greatly, I think. My son is involved in our local community theater. Some of the plays he has done have been 4 days a week, 1.5 hours each. Others have been a couple times a week like you’re hoping for. Of course, tech week just before the show starts will always be a big time commitment.

      A good indication of how regularly they rehearse (here, at least) is to look at how much time there is between auditions and the play date. If they’re like 6 weeks apart from one another, you’re looking at a lot more practice time per week than if they’re a few months apart. Also depends on the length of the play, of course.

    3. RagingADHD*

      Time commitments will vary, and it’s not going to stay the same from week to week.

      Maybe start off ushering for some shows? That’s usually a short-term / low committment, and lets you see how the group is run.

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

      If you want a regular schedule with minimal time commitment, you could try a theater workshop, rather than production, or an improve group. Probably less time rehearsing and memorizing lines, no costume fittings, etc.

    5. Marion Ravenwood*

      My parents are in a musical theatre group, and that’s about the amount of time they commit to it in the weeks before a show. Outside that it’s more like three hours once a week, and then in the 7-10 days before a show it becomes almost every day with rehearsals etc. And then obviously practice time at home on top of that (I’d estimate about half an hour a day for about three or four months, but they usually had fairly minor parts with a few pages of dialogue and maybe one solo song, so it might be more if you had a bigger part).

    6. Wildcat*

      I’m a former tech and I’ve resisted getting too involved because it always ends up being way way too much. Now I’ll come in and coach someone on sound and do setup, but I 100% refuse to run the actual show.

    7. Fellow Traveller*

      If you want to be onstage, you might see if there is an opera company in your area, and you could ask if they need supernumeraries- they’re the opera version of extras. It’s often more than two hours a week, but for a typical American opera company, the whole process from first rehearsal to closing night is maybe only 3-6 weeks so it’s intense but short.

    1. SofiaDeo*

      If you are looking for comments on medical conditions from others having the same problems, there are Facebook groups, social media sites like HealthUnlocked, and support groups found through Major Disease websites, as well as through local hospitals.

  24. Hosiery*

    Are women wearing sheer stockings these days? I have a cocktail-attire wedding this evening. I’m wearing a flirty cocktail dress and gold lame wedges. Legs are decent so I don’t NEED to wear stockings, and frankly I’d prefer not to.

    When I was younger, no one would wear a skirt without stockings. More recently that rule seems to have disappeared, but IDK what’s current now in more formal occasions. If I wear hosiery it must be caucasian skin-toned and sheer weight; the outfit won’t support black stockings or thick tights.

    I’m in my mid-50’s if that matters.

      1. UKDancer*

        Up to you. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. It depends on the weather and the way I feel. If I’m going to a tango party I tend to wear tights with a bit of a shimmer or fishnets because they’re fun and make the shoes feel more comfortable. If it’s a warm day or a different occasion I might not.

        I’m in the UK and it’s never terribly warm so adjust for your setting. I don’t think there are so many rules any more.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      In 2010 I wore them for my first day of student teaching and one of the mentor teachers made fun of me lol. I’m not sure I’ve worn them since except maybe when I have a visible scrape or something on my leg that I’m trying to downplay. I like black tights with dresses when it’s cold but if it’s warm/hot I do bare legs. Mid-30s in a generally casual/not conservatively dressed region of the US

    2. Batgirl*

      People still wear them, but in a strictly optional sense. They can make your shoes more comfortable, cover up marks on your legs and keep you warm so I doubt they’ll ever disappear entirely. When you do wear them now they’re to be as invisible looking as possible; there’s nothing more invisible than actually bare legs! Plus you can go with an open toe shoe and show off a pedicure if you’re inclined to.

    3. fueled by coffee*

      I only ever wear stockings if I’m worried about my legs being cold. I’m in my 20s, and would not think twice if a mid-50s woman wore a skirt without stockings (and I don’t think I’ve seen my mother, nearly 60, wear stockings in quite a while).

    4. HHD*

      I’d wear sheer tights today (it’s cold here) and we call all legwear that isn’t stockings or hold ups tights, but only because it’s freezing!

    5. the cat's ass*

      I’m in my 60’s and stockings are gone FOREVER. I just moisturize, sometimes with a lotion with a little shine.

    6. Hotdog not dog*

      I find that one of the main benefits of being mid 50s is that I no longer care what everyone else is wearing. Whether I wear hosiery depends on the rest of my outfit, whether I have recently walked into the edge of the coffee table, and the weather. Oh, and also whether I can find a pair without any runs or snags!

      1. Mannequin*

        I feel the same way about hosiery these days, and if my skirts long enough, I don’t even bother with full tights- cute knee highs or trouser socks will do!

    7. moonstone*

      Millennial here – I don’t wear panty hose and don’t know anyone who does. I sometimes wear tights if it is cold, but if it’s warm I just keep my legs bare. I did have a brief period where I wore pantyhose with dresses and skirts because I had a random rash breakout on my legs and it left scars for a while.

      1. Law Student*

        Also a Millennial (34) and I also don’t know anyone who wears them besides my mother. I think they’re seen as slightly old fashioned these days. I’m also very pale and it’s obvious I’m wearing them no matter how “skin-toned” they’re supposed to be. If it weren’t so obvious, I’d probably wear them more often.

        1. Batgirl*

          I’m super pale, so when I do wear them, I wear ones with seams so it’s more “yes I know they show” than an inability to skin match. It depends on how a vintage style would sit with your normal look of course.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Fun idea for hitoric costuming: My mother was in college during WWII. Stockings were sometimes hard to come by, but it was improper to go out bare-legged. So my mother and her sorority sisters would paint lines down the back of each other’s legs to LOOK like they were wearing stockings. She had such a devilish grin when she told me this story.

    8. RussianInTexas*

      I do not like going bare legged during winter, so I normally wear tights. Obviously an evening wedding is not a tights event. I w not to an evening wedding in November and wore black sheer stockings that went with my overall “vintage-y” outfit.
      But if you don’t want to, and don’t think your outfit requires it – you are absolutely free to go bare legged.

    9. Vancouver Reader*

      I like wearing hosiery as an accessory to my outfit. So for example, I have some with a backseam which I like because of the retro look. I also have leggings with patterns which adds a pop of colour to an all back outfit.

    10. Captain Sweatpants*

      No one wears stockings or pantyhose anymore, unless you’re wearing opaque colored tights, it’s always bare legs at any level or formality. Skin-tone pantyhose are gone unless you personally enjoy wearing them.

      I too am old enough to remember that, as a young lady, I was taught to never have my bare legs out and always to wear pantyhose with a skirt. I remember my mother being aghast once at a woman who was selling some of her high-dollar shoes and posted photos modeling them online and wasn’t wearing pantyhose!! Mom was shocked to her very core. And now if you’re anything short of elderly and wear hose, people will be quite confused. Life comes at you fast.

    11. Marion Ravenwood*

      I’m in my mid-30s and I would wear sheer tights with a dress in this instance. But that’s because I live in London and, well, it’s February. In a warmer climate or the summer though, probably not.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes I think you have to allow for climate. Bare legs in London in February is a way to feel very cold very fast (especially given it’s been a cold February this year). To be honest I’d be more likely to wear my black evening trousers with black pop socks this time of year.

        I rarely wear dresses and skirts this time of year but if I were going to a cocktail or black tie event this time of year I would probably wear something on my legs. I like the ones with a shimmer or sparkle to them because I think they make my legs look good and pick out the colours or sequins in my dress. If I were wearing a plain little black dress I’d probably wear black ones with a sparkle to them or some form of decoration to tie in with my jewellery.

        In summer I wouldn’t bother at all. I went to Glyndebourne (black tie) and most of the audience wasn’t wearing legwear because it was a warm day.

    12. The Other Dawn*

      Wear what feels right for you. That’s all that matters. Who cares what others think?

      I’m 47 and wearing pantyhose was what was done growing up. I still wear them with a skirt or dress simply because I prefer it. I really care if someone else thinks it’s dated or old fashioned. I can’t stand the feeling of bare feet in dress shoes, and those little foot stockings always slide off no matter how good the brand is. Also, pantyhose minimize any imperfections on my legs.

    13. Hosiery*

      Thanks everyone! Per your advice and the advice of my DIL, I did not wear hose. The room was hot like a terrarium so I’m glad I didn’t!

    14. SofiaDeo*

      IMO “being fashionable” is a state of mind/attitude. Whatever you choose, if you are happy/confident, THAT is the most important. “You Do You!” Rock it!

    15. The Legs are the Last to Go*

      Of course, do whatever feels most comfortable to you. One thing that I’ve noticed is that as one grows older one might develop what could be called “elephant knees.” If you’re going to be wearing a shorter dress, and if you have “elephant knees,” and if their appearance bothers you you might, and mind you I said “might,” want to wear hosiery because it will hold the otherwise saggy knee skin close to the knee and make it a bit less noticeable. Just something to consider.

    16. kittymommy*

      I wear hose whenever I wear a skirt/dress (primarily for work or with an evening out), although I am an outlier at work and friends. I just simply prefer it and feel more comfortable. I live in FL and stick with silken type hose and never feel hot or uncomfortable. Most people can’t even tell I’m wearing them (which I only know because I get compliments on my legs and when I say it’s the hose they don’t believe me).

  25. Girasol*

    Ad thread: Do you ever look at the targeted ads you get and try to figure out who the data gathering machine thinks you are? I have a game site that no matter how hard I try to lock it down and refuse cookies, it knows my sex and age, so I get ads of “Lipstick for older women!” “Fashions for the over 50,” knee braces, hearing aids, the lot. But this week it’s “Join the Navy!” AARP advises that retirees should start an “encore career” for wealth and health, so I’m wondering: will I still be able to get Medicare when I’m a Navy Seal? I like to think that my hair is white enough that I could light up the undersea darkness. That’s me according to targeted ads. Who are you?

    1. fposte*

      My spam is almost entirely in German. I haven’t the foggiest idea of how that happened. I don’t speak German, but I’m learning some key saucy phrases from the subject headings.

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

      Buying online during the holidays is funny because I’m not buying things for ME, but now advertisers think I must be an 80 yr old, outdoor survivalist, with acrylic nails, and small children, who collects cars or something. The ads calm down by next year. Pinterest frustrates me; just because I saved a cute post on camping does not mean I want to be inundated with hard core survivalist posts.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      I aggressively hide/block/report everything FB gives me except local businesses so sometimes I feel like the algorithm just gets desperate. “What will you buy? Will you buy Jingle Balls, the Christmas Soap for Men?” For awhile it was really convinced that I’m a person who would want patriotic-themed survival kits (like the food you keep in a bomb shelter) and concealed-carry leggings. Today it’s several weight loss themed ads and one for Ben & Jerry’s, which means it’s finally figured out I’m a fat lady lol

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        … I’ve got to ask how the concealed-carry leggings work. Are you concealing a contact poison? Garrote?

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Hand gun. No idea how they work though-leggings are pretty bad at concealing the shape of your butt, much less a pound or two of distinctively shaped hardwear.

        2. Dark Macadamia*

          Based on the “sick of wearing jeans with your guns?” description I think they were like super sturdy leggings with belt loops and big pockets. I can’t imagine they’d be very subtle lol. “Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just… hideously deformed?”