weekend open thread – July 2-3, 2022

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

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: The Golden Couple, by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. A woman confesses her infidelity to her husband and tries to repair her marriage with the help of an unorthodox therapist, but all is not as it seems. I picked this up intending to read for 10 minutes before bed and was still reading hours later. Not all of it is entirely plausible, but you’ll find yourself not caring about that because it’s so riveting.

I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 958 comments… read them below }

  1. HannahS*

    Advice for transitioning a child (about a year old) to day care? Both for her and for her parents.

    1. Lilo*

      When my son started daycare the policy was that we started him at 2 hours the first day, 4 the second, then 6, then 8. Doing a gentle ramp up definitely helps.

      Make sure she has a blanket or other comfort object for naps.

      Separation anxiety absolutely happens, even with a kid who has been at care the whole time. It’s worst, IMO between one and a half and two is.

      It also might be harder on you than on her and that’s okay. I used to schedule the occasional day off to have solo time with him and take him to the zoo or other activities.

      1. Swisa*

        Yes for the special time together! At the beginning it felt like we didn’t have any time together anymore, so scheduling special stuff together was helpful.

      2. HannahS*

        Thanks, the ramp-up is a great idea. We’ll have a buffer of at least a week before my partner (who is on leave) goes back to work.

    2. Cheezmouser*

      Be prepared for lots of unexpected feelings, either for you or the child. My first kid screamed like I was abandoning her to certain death every time I dropped her off. She would claw at the classroom door in desperation to get back to me. It did not get better even after a few months (yes, months). I felt so guilty, but I reminded myself that parents did this all the time, my own mother took me to daycare and I turned out fine. I also wondered what I was doing wrong, especially as I watched other parents dropping off their kids without a hitch. But my kid was always smiling and excitedly telling me about her day when I picked her up. (She was 2 when she started daycare; the teacher said that it’s often easier if you start kids earlier, like 6-9 months, so they get used to it before they become toddlers.) Now my first one is 6 and no problem with school drop off. She doesn’t even remember screaming for me.

      My second kid started daycare without so much as a backward glance at me on day one.

      It goes to show:
      1. Every kid is different
      2. Whatever feelings you or your kid has, it will pass
      3. Per the teachers advice, if your kid has trouble separating from you, develop a brief routine (we did a hug and a high five) and then leave immediately. Do not turn back, do not linger, or else that confirms that you’ll come back if they scream loud enough or long enough. Most kids (including my first kid) settle down within a minute of you leaving, so you gotta do it like a bandaid.

      1. Cheshire Cat*

        As someone who ran a small daycare for a few years, I want to emphasize that #3 is key. Don’t show your child that you have any qualms about leaving them, or it makes the transition that much harder for both of you (and the teacher) Cry in the car after you drop them off if you have to. It will take at least a few daysbut soon enough it becomes routine.

    3. Wormentude*

      Talk about it! We had some books about nursery that we read a lot. Recently had some issues with transition to next room at same time as new baby, so we’ve been reading a book called The Invisible String which has really helped our 3yo.
      For parents, try to be really chilled at drop off, don’t cling as it makes it worse. Ring if you need reassurance they have settled the first few days. It’s horrid the first few days but my little one really enjoys it and it’s been great to see how much he learns.

    4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      More advice for after a few months in, but IMO it’s worth seeing if you can get to know some of the other parents or arrange some ‘play dates’ with other kids. It feels a bit silly for such small kids, but honestly watching my daughter interact so happily with the other kids from her nursery was very reassuring.

    5. Invisible today*

      Be prepared for them to catch every single bug going around. All babies need to build their immunity, and daycare is a crash course in that. And of course they will pass it to you.

      1. Juneybug*

        Yes to this!! I was in the military for 20 years and figured my immune system was pretty tough from travel, long hours, bad food, stress, etc. Started working at an elementary school and the first year, I was out so often that if I was a student, they would have not let pass to the next grade due to my absences. :) The following year, my immune system was much, much stronger.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        For kids, this happens whenever they first start being around a lot of other kids. Start of daycare, start of preschool, start of elementary school, start of college for remote-living home schoolers. Apparently the one work around is to have at least two older siblings in school who bring home all the germs for you to catch in the comfort of your own home.

      3. Phryne*

        And everybody else in the family… All my life I’ve been sick very rarely, I’ve only had the flu twice max, and I work in higher education and so run into my fair share of bug I recon.
        But the first couple of years of life of my sister’s kids, I got sick so often. I could literally count the days: I would see the nieces, three days later the sniffles and throat ache. Every. Time. until the youngest was about 6.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      Trust the teachers if they say he is playing happily 5 minutes after your tearful departure. I recall a family where the drop-offs were hard for the little girl: Mom would say bye-bye and leave, the child would cry on the teacher’s lap for 5 minutes then pop up and play with her friends; Dad would lurk in the coatroom, occasionally poking his head around whenever she had calmed herself and reminding her he was there so the tears started over.

      One of my kids was like “great, more people!” and one “ack, more people!”–you can do the right things, the center can do the right things, and your kid’s personality will make a big difference.

    7. Swisa*

      Cosign. We also found the gentle ramp up helpful.

      And be prepared for the influx of colds & illness. I think she was sick constantly (and we were too) for the first few months. But then it got better!

      Seconding the advice for talking about the transition. Every day, I’d talk through the routine (we’re going to have breakfast now, and then you’ll go play at daycare with your teachers and will have snack and nap, and then I come back to get you!

      Doggie Gets Scared by Leslie Patricelli is a great board book that talks about getting scared, including one part about going to daycare.

      If you do screen time, the “grownups come back” episode of Daniel Tiger is gold. And if you don’t, there’s a song (“grownups come back”) that I’m sure is on YouTube.

      I had big feelings about daycare. So be kind to yourself if you do. I tried to do special things, like get myself a nice coffee when I was having a hard time.

      Oh, and talk to the daycare teachers about transition tips!

      And from the other side, daycare has been soooo great for our family. My kid has learned so much from her teachers. It’s been really great having her learn how to adapt to new environments (and new ways of doing things, because that’s the world!), and also being around others kids for socialization. 100% recommend daycare, even though the transition was hard for me.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, to all of these. I’m not in the US, and I was on maternity/parental leave until our son was 2 years and a few months old. He had a gentle ramp up period of two weeks. The first day, I was there with him for a few hours, and then I left him there for a few more hours. I was working 6-hour days for the first 9 months or so, to make sure he didn’t have to spend 10 hours at daycare.

        The first few months, the transition was hard on both of us, although undoubtedly harder on me than him. I absolutely concur that ripping the band-aid off is the way to go. He got on with his day as soon as I left. It got easier when I started working full-time and he was almost always the first kid to arrive in his group. This meant that he got some 1:1 time with one of the teachers/carers before the other kids arrived, and he loved this. My husband and I are both introverts, so it was no surprise to realize that he was one, too. He needed a bit of quiet time to adjust before all the other kids arrived. My son had delays in his speech development, and on the days when he arrived later because of his speech therapy appointment, the drop-off was harder on him.

        The first year or so, my son was sick all the time. He had ear infections all the time, and I rarely had the time to take him to the post-infection checkup before he had another infection, in spite of the ear tubes that he had. That said, I’m pretty sure that some of his speech development delays were caused by the continuous ear infections making it difficult for him to distinguish some consonants. I’m grateful that we have basically unlimited sick time (paid for by social services/taxes after a certain period), although I did feel sorry for my then-coworker who had to cover for me. When I went back to full-time work, my husband started taking more time off work to care for our son, although I did it more often than he did, because he traveled a lot for work at the time.

        My son also learned a lot of things that he wouldn’t necessarily have done at such an early age at home. The most important thing was learning to socialize with other kids, although kids don’t really benefit that much from the company of others until they’re about 3 years old. My son’s an only child, and the closest relatives of his age he has are second cousins (kids of my or my husband’s cousins), and he doesn’t really have a personal relationship with any of them, because we spend so little time with our cousins. Daycare and preschool/kindergarten were essential in ensuring that he spent some time with other kids before school started.

        His daycare was great, and once he got used to going there every day, he mostly enjoyed it. He learned a lot, including things that I wouldn’t expect him to learn in daycare, like folding laundry!

      1. Fellow Traveller*

        + 1 to this. Trust that your daycare providers have the expertise and experience to care for your child and don’t make their job harder by lingering.
        If you can take baby to daycare for a few days to give yourself a baby-free day to do something nice for yourself, I highly encourage it.

    8. Unkempt Flatware*

      HannahS, it is so wild to see this post hearing that bebe is one year old! We all heard you telling about your pregnancy and before. Wow. All I can say is wow!

      1. HannahS*

        Haha the time flies, no? I think I may have even excitedly noted that I’d met a fella a few years ago.

    9. Janeric*

      We absolutely lingered at drop-off our first week — in our cars, around the corner. A couple of times he cried so long that they asked us to come back after only a half hour — but after two-three “oh they WILL come back!” experiences he calmed down a LOT.

    10. COBOL Dinosaur*

      Be prepared for crazy things to happen. My son ended up with ‘hand, foot and mouth disease’. It was pretty much just a bad rash but once 1 kid gets it at that age it really spreads. Also things like finding out that your kid got bit by another kid or that your kid is the biter. Thankfully it was my kid that got bit as I’d rather have that then find out that it was my kid that did the biting!

      1. allathian*

        My son’s 13 now, and he met his best friend at daycare. They became friends after the other boy bit my son.

    11. Jess*

      Someone told me it would take two weeks for baby to settle, and that was true!
      (Also a lot of the other advice here is a gentle ramp-up. Both times we jumped in to nearly full-time after the inital settling visits, where I would stay with baby and play for an hour or so. The logic is that it’s easier for baby to adjust to a new routine when it’s, well, ROUTINE and not one day on, one day off etc.)

      I remember we had two weeks of unsettled naps, not eating the daycare food etc etc. And then at two weeks to the day it just CLICKED and baby was fine.
      That was baby #1, btw. Baby #2 took all of about four or five days, and she was happy and having better naps at daycare (and SETTLING HERSELF, WTF) than she had at home. The daycare staff are amazing, they know more about babies than I do!
      Send something like one of your old worn t-shirts for baby to snuggle at naptime, if baby doesn’t have a blankie or something like that already. If the daycare has their own food, and you know baby has a favourite jar or pouch food, send some of that along in case they’re not sure about trying something different yet. And don’t be afraid to ask for some photos of your baby enjoying their day, it’s enormously reassuring :-)

    1. Lilo*

      I think the show has gotten more violent/gory as the seasons have progressed and I wish it hadn’t. I preferred the more suspense model.

      1. Lemonwhirl*

        Completely agree with Lilo. Definitely felt like the show took a hard turn into straight-up horror. We’d watched the first three seasons over the last year with our 11-year old and he loved it and was so looking forward to this season. But it was too intense and he decided to stop watching after the first episode.

      2. Lcsa99*

        I think that’s intentional. The cast has gotten older so they’re doing more adult themes.

        We have one more episode. I’ve liked the stuff in Hawkins immensely but feel like they sorta could have done without some of the rest.

        1. Lilo*

          I guess but as a full grown adult I don’t want to see people melt or have their bones snapped. It’s just too much for me. There was some gore in the earlier seasons but it was much briefer and less graphic.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I’m a horror fan so I’m used to it. I’ve seen worse.

        There’s a cool video on YouTube about how they made Vecna; he’s almost all practical effects and prosthetics. Google “How Stranger Things’ SFX Artists Created Vecna – Vanity Fair.” I recommend waiting until you finish the season so thinking about it doesn’t distract you.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I stayed up WAY TOO LATE last night to finish the season.

      1. I love Argyle. :’D
      2. Damn it. >:'(
      3. I can’t WAIT for season 5.

    3. br*

      I thought it was great. The horror was legitimately horrific. Felt like a summer blockbuster movie to me, which is my favorite kind of movie.

      1. the cat's pajamas*

        I wish they had made different choices with some of the character arcs. There are characters I really liked whom I felt were ruined. On the flip side, there were a couple I liked less who got better but still a bummer for me, personally.

        It felt a bit too much like we were imposing current culture on the 1980s, there’s a lot of stuff that would not have worked back then and it’s very noticeable if you were alive in the 80s.

        The ending kinda dragged on, it felt like we were getting close and then, just kidding, here’s another ending! I still wanted to know all the information that was covered but it could have flowed better from the sorrytelling perspective.

        The villian’s appearance was less scary to me than other seasons and felt more like a cheesy horror movie to me, ymmv.

        Overall I enjoyed it but not as much as the previous seasons.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I agree on the ending but I’m glad Nancy got to give him a smack—a bit of justice for Barb.

        2. Abhorsen*

          It’s funny that you say that, I have found myself kind of pulled out of it because I think there’s a lot of hugging and affection between male characters that certainly would not have happened back in the 80s. I think if it didn’t happen though I would be distracted being all GIVE HIM A HUG so maybe they just can’t win?!

    4. Well...*

      It was a little too much violence for me, one character in particular I think deserved better. Others had amazing endings.

      The love triangle is really wearing on me. At this point the back and forth feels like back tracking for all three characters involved (except maybe the one who has become completely sidelined). I get that one is a fan favorite but it’s just not believable to me at this point given previous season plotlines.

      The music and vibes continue to be amazing.

  2. California Dreamin'*

    Cat question! We are on the verge of adopting two young adult cats (going to meet some candidates this weekend.) Our adult son and his cat lived with us for a year during the pandemic, and though son has now moved into his own place with his cat, the cat is comfortable with us and our home and sometimes visits us for a few days when son is away or has a busy weekend or whatnot. All of us have a fond wish that son’s cat could be friendly with our incoming resident cats and continue to come over sometimes. Is this realistic? I can find lots of info online for gradually introducing new cats to resident cats, but this isn’t (and never will be) that situation. It would be more like bring son’s cat over sometime and see how he gets along with new resident cats on the fly. If all goes according to plan, the new cats will arrive just after son’s cat leaves from a week of us babysitting him, so his scent will be all over the house. Is there a way we might be able to introduce everyone that could work out? FWIW, son’s cat is not very brave… he needs a little time to adjust to new settings and new people. We don’t know if he’s ever been around other cats. New cats are being chosen for outgoing and affectionate personalities. Advice?

    1. Catcatcat*

      If you reserve a small section of the house where the new cats are not allowed to go your your son’s cat will have a safe place to hide that only smells like him. With that as a confidence booster, the cats may be able to adjust better- or maybe not. Cats aren’t always predictable

    2. Sarah in CA*

      One option is getting new cats first and then having them meet your sons cat but I wonder about territory problems. One, your sons, while not living there anymore, feels it’s “his” house. Or, alternately, the new cats get comfortable and feel it’s “their” house and he’s an intruder. If he’s not that brave, he may just always hide and that’s not fun :-(

      Introduction periods between new and existing cats can take weeks and might have to be done almost each time since your sons cat is not there for very long each time.

      One option would be to get small kittens at a time your sons cat is there for an extended time, existing adult cats tend to tolerate new kittens more than new adults.

      In the end, it might be that he has to be separated in a room when he’s there for the first few times and almost do introductions each time until you determine if he would ever acclimate to other cats. If that doesn’t seem possible, he would need to be separated each time he comes over.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      Can you just keep your son’s cat for the introduction period? So the new cats arrive when the old cat is there, and you do the introduction, getting used to part, and then the old cat goes back home, and hopefully when he visits again they will remember all remember it.

      1. Pyjamas*

        Kittens are much easier to integrate into a household w/ pets BUT it also works to have separate rooms for the cats, at least ar first. We took in a stray and kept him isolated from the other cats for a couple years, then let him out for walkabouts and finally let him into main areas where he gets along with the others. His case is special, as he was/is a biter and needs elavil to stay calm & non-aggressive but even he was able to join the household. We spent a lot of time with him when he was isolated, especially during pandemic, as his special room was the study. (He really liked being on zoom)

        1. Pyjamas*

          Speaking as one who has had 4-7 cats for the past 15 years, cat drama looks alarming but rarely results in physical harm. Some cases work best if you let the cats work it out. Others (like the aggressive biter I mentioned in previous comment) need to be treated with care. FWIW I find 3 cars ideal bc if/when one cat dies, the other two have a companion. (Seven is way too many lol, but once a cat joins our family, it’s his/her forever home. No more new cats for us though!)

          1. Rage*

            Agreeing with Pyjamas here. Hissing, growling, swatting, chasing, brief wrestling (that results in both cats fleeing to opposite sides of the room/house) is all completely normal and you should just let the cats figure it out. They need to establish their own hierarchy and interfering just starts the entire process over again. My rule was: unless you see blood, let it be.

            My suggestion would be to have the 2 new ones come in while son’s cat is there, in a separate room (but they can sniff/interact under the door for a few days). Then it will be like “home” for son’s cat and these 2 new ones are coming in, but it will be “new” for the new ones and they may accept son’s cat as “already resident”. Then son’s cat can come and go as needed and it may only take a few days to “reacquaint” themselves with the established order.

            I used to foster cats, plus had 2 of my own, so I generally had around 7-10 cats running around all together. And they were used to coming, going, leaving, new arrivals, everything, so the biggest issue was getting the new cats to be OK with the generalized chaos LOL. A few days acclimating in a large condo was usually all it took.

    4. nobadcats*

      I would recommend using Anitra Fraser’s technique for integrating cats, “The New Natural Cat.” But it sounds like you don’t have time for that. In that case, get some baby gates so you can keep shy older cat in his own room (stack them on top of each other in case any of them are climbers), that way, they can smell and talk to each other. Every feeding time, feed them directly across from each other on either side of the gates gradually moving new cats’ dishes closer and closer to the gate. Cats that eat together tend to get along better. A Fraser technique.

      Get some Feliway. Use the diffusers in every room, and the spray when the cats are going to be interacting in any way. I was skeptical at first, but Feliway really does work. Obviously, don’t spray it ON the cats. I spray it on the inside of the Petulant Princess’s carrier to go to the v-e-t. Makes the whole trip that much easier.

      Do not pet your cat(s) to try to calm or comfort them if they hiss at each other, you’re only interfering and reinforcing that hissing is an appropriate response to something new. But if they’re making what sound like “growling” noises whilst eating, that’s not a thing to fuss about unless they’re being aggressive. Some cats just like to make “nummy” noises whilst eating.

      Play with new cats in front of the barrier so shy cat can see they are having fun and are nice, eventually shy cat will want to join in and new cats will be like, “Hey, can shy cat come out to play too?” Another a Fraser technique, the cats on the outside will beg to have shy cat come out. Also, trade toys between the cats. Play with shy cat with toys his new roomies have played with and spit on and vice versa.

      I am NOT a fan of spray bottles for correction. I had one cat who was like, “Okay, so now I’m wet. And your point was?” Instead, I talk to my cats the way their mom would, with a short “sst” or “tsk” (not a complete hiss, just a warning), or say “chupchupchup” when they should get out of whatever mess they want to get into, or when I was bringing them in from the deck.

      I hope this helps!

      1. nobadcats*

        Also, Brian Kilcommons is another great resource. His book, “Good Owners, Great Cats” gives you a lot of techniques for training your cats (and yourself).

    5. Sloanicota*

      I foster cats and have my own resident cat so she’s used to animals coming and going out of the home. It’s definitely worth a try! It may work out or it may not. As others have said, give the resident animals their own space that the visitor isn’t allowed in, and try to let them keep their own litter box, food bowl, bed, toys separate (I have a different communal set of cat stuff for visitors). Your resident cats may just go sulk in their own space – that’s fine. They may lurk around glaring at the new kitty without really interacting – that’s fine. Actual violence is where I’d cut it off. Or if the visitor cat immediately hides and is sad (under the couch the whole time) I’d say it’s not really working for them as a fun outing.

      1. Pyjamas*


        Admiring you for fostering. The one time I tried it, the kitty gave me ringworm & stole my heart. So I became a foster fail and she’s the little princess in our household

        1. nobadcats*

          I would be a constant foster fail.

          And ringworm is awful!! My former roomie and I adopted Maxie and he got ringworm whilst in the shelter. Months of washing and washing and washing every dang thing in the house. I rate as #2 behind bedbugs, which are THE WORST.

        2. Sloanicota*

          I admit every kitten I’ve ever fostered has various illnesses. That’s just how it goes when you’re getting kittens off the street; they all have *something* from drinking dirty water and living with parasites. I keep them in a separate room from my resident pets for the first two weeks at least. As for foster failing, it’s not really an issue when you’re getting whole litters one after another. You can’t possibly keep all five or six of them! It makes it easier not to get attached to any one individual I think.

          1. nobadcats*

            Fortunately, my building limits me to one cat. Otherwise, I’d be standing on the streetcorner picking up stray cats at random.

            Also, the Tiny Tyrant would pitch a fit and fall in it since she’s finally achieved her goal of being an only child.

    6. Mother of Cats*

      Yay for you for adopting two cats! But honestly, I don’t think this plan has a high likelihood of success. Probably the best thing you can do is keep them separate when your son’s cat visits. Maybe try to introduce them like you would if the visiting cat was joining your household permanently, but it’s not likely to be worth the trouble for short visits and will have to be repeated each time. There are exceptions, of course, but cats generally aren’t like dogs who recognize friends from outside their household (our cats don’t even recognize each other when one comes home from the vet!). They’re highly territorial – your resident cats will know an interloper is in their house, and the visiting cat will know he’s on someone else’s turf. You can increase your chances of success by making sure all the cats are confident and territorially secure, generally – for your new cats, having lots of perches, scratching posts, play time (and enough litter boxes) will help. And what Catcatcat said is true – cats aren’t predictable. Maybe yours will take to this arrangement, which would be great! But be prepared with an alternate plan. :) Good luck!

    7. Willow*

      I foster cats and sometimes catsit one of my former fosters in my home, so I have experience with “visiting” cats. This is possible depending on the personality of the cats. Start them in separate rooms and do the standard cat introduction. If the cats are able to tolerate each other within a few days then this plan is viable. You can prepare for visits by regularly exchanging items like cat beds, blankets, or plush toys so they are used to each other’s scent. You will have to repeat the introduction each time. If the cats remain hostile after a few days you may have to keep them separated.

    8. California Dreamin'*

      Thanks for all the advice! We selected two cats to apply to adopt today (one of them definitely selected us… I never would have gravitated to her, but within ten minutes of getting there she was sitting on my teenaged son’s lap, LOL, and she was super cuddly, which was one of the attributes we were looking for.) If the adoption process goes quickly, we may be able to bring them home with a few days’ overlap with babysitting my son’s cat and try a careful introduction, see how it goes. If not, then I guess they’ll just become the resident cats and maybe we’ll try to bring son’s cat in at some point in the future as a visitor. We’d all love it so much if the three of them can work it out, but honestly I’d be most worried about son’s cat feeling distressed, and if that’s the case, he can always just go home. There’s no pressure that we must make this work, although it would be great for many reasons. But if son’s cat needed to be isolated or hides during visits, then we just wouldn’t bother doing it. Now I’m just so excited to welcome our own cats!

    9. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Realistically, this probably won’t work. Cats are territorial. Dogs are pack animals. It makes a difference. You MIGHT find individual cats that would be ok with this, but its very unlikely.

    10. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      My cat is not very brave, and a dog arrived unbidden at our place just as covid hit. The cat scooted upstairs and observed extreme lockdown until just a few months ago. She spent two full years lurking upstairs (food and litter were obviously moved for her) and has only just plucked up the courage to come down and enjoy being part of the family again.

      She has always considered the flat at the bottom of the garden to be an extension of her territory and was really mean to the kitten our last tenants had (she wouldn’t let him play in the garden, she went in and ate all his food etc.).

      Cats are mostly territorial, so I don’t know that having your son’s cat over is a really good idea. It’s not like they’re kids wanting play dates. If you are going to cat sit for your son, I’m not sure that it’s a good idea to bring him over to a place that he used to have to himself, if he now has to share.
      I remember my ex looked after my cat, at the place we used to share, when he’d already got himself another cat. The other cat was mean to my cat, and shat on my ex’s bed to let him know exactly what he thought of that.

  3. crookedglasses*

    Foster dog question! This is my first time fostering. I don’t currently have any pets but have previously had dogs with varied behavioral issues largely stemming from the combination of high intelligence and high energy. I feel reasonably well equipped to work through common behavioral issues.

    My dog passed a few weeks ago and today I brought home my first ever foster dog. He’s a lab mix, super high energy, and has been in the shelter since December. Already I’m seeing that at some point along the way somebody did some really good foundational training with him and flickers of that are coming back. I’m also seeing a ton of residual kennel stress – near constant panting, super vigilant, and generally just has no idea how to calm his nervous system.

    For those who have also fostered long term shelter dogs, how long does it take that kennel stress to start dissipating? Is there anything I can do to help that beyond finding the right balance of activity and calm stability in routine?

    1. HQB*

      I’ve both fostered and adopted from shelters. If you brought your foster dog home *today* it isn’t even reasonable to call his reaction “residual kennel stress” – he’s in a completely new place with a new person! Of course he’s vigilant! Of course you aren’t seeing his foundational training fully! He’s uncertain of what’s going on, and trying to figure out how much he likes it, and not sure whether it’s permanent! Your instinct about “finding the right balance of activity and calm stability in routine” is spot on, but please avoid drawing any conclusions about whether any of this is kennel stress (i.e., about his having been in the shelter for a while, as opposed to have just undergone a major change), or will present long-term, or needs special handling.

      I have had a long-term shelter resident who took a few days to settle in to how, essentially, she would continue for a decade+ (she’s still here), except that she did pant a lot the first two days. I am sure internally she was still figuring things out for a while after that, but outwardly, it was a very straightforward transition. And I have had one who was very shy for several weeks, and then decided this was the real deal, and opened up. Others can take much longer to adjust to their long-term new home behaviors. A lot of people find the “3-3-3 rule” a helpful guideline, but I think it is too reductive.

      Being reliable and giving him the exercise and routine he needs will help, as will giving him a spot of his own, but please don’t think there is a single answer to the question of how long it will take for him to feel like he can be himself.

      1. Sloanicota*

        The 3-3-3 rule was pretty useful for the first two threes (adopting), but my older male rescue continued to evolve in his comfort for a solid six months! And honestly I’m still not sure he’s entirely comfortable here – he was with his foster family for about six months (treatment for a tricky medical problem) so it makes sense that he’s still a bit braced for the rug to come out from under him! Honestly I don’t know how foster dogs do it.

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      I’m sorry about the loss of your old dog.
      If you’re on day one, I’d say you’re both right on track! You should see the adjustment stress diminish over the next month or two, depending on his history and how he handles it. When we brought our SEVERELY abused and abandoned rescue dog home two years ago, the rescue referred us to a trainer who was amazing. With our dog, because of the abuse, we needed to always set him up to win so we didn’t have to discipline him. Just lots of positive reinforcement. We kept him on a leash all the time, even in the house (protecting the cat was key!). Made sure he had awesome toys and his own bed. Your idea of calm stability and routine are absolutely on target IMHO. Treats for predictable things are great too

      And we didn’t take him out of our yard for six weeks. Granted, we have a big yard, but the trainer said they need to feel ownership of their space. So no car, no adventures, nothing. Just house and yard. And he liked to sit in the back of our cars if we were working in the yard. But we had previous shelter dogs who loved all of that pretty soon, so in my guy’s case it might be the abuse and the breed (Mountain Cur). He is SO sensitive.
      He’s really come around and is now a wonderful, open, loving dog. He will actually ask for affection now, which is so awesome!
      Good luck!!

    3. crookedglasses*

      Thank you everybody who replied! I wasn’t previously familiar with the 3-3-3 rule but that is a helpful framework to set broad strokes expectations.

      We’re just into Day 3 now and he is indeed starting to settle nicely. Excited to continue getting to know this sweet goofy boy.

  4. Cheezmouser*

    I made the mistake of telling my sister that my husband and I were thinking about going for kid number 3. I sometimes complain to her about the travails of being a working parent, but now anytime I so much as say “argh, forgot to drop off the library books, I don’t have time for this,” she’ll reply with something like “then why are you considering having another baby?” I didn’t tell her this to solicit her opinion, it just slipped out. How can I tell politely but firmly explain that I’m not looking for her commentary? Or should I just ignore these comments and hope she gets the hint?

    1. Hazel Eyes*

      Honestly, I’d love some thoughts from your sister and how to break out of mindset. A friend who has very high anxiety just had a baby; one that she and her husband planned for. The baby is three months old and she texts our friend chat text message about how stressed she is constantly every darn day. Part or me, the part that is happily childless and doesn’t want kids, thinks you picked having a kid, it’s on your to sort it out.

      I know this is my pessimistic hopeless side, in the face of everything against us in modern life, thinking ‘why bother having kids when we’re destroying the planet anyway’, but I can’t shake these thought, no matter how much I love my friend and her kid.

      Now I would never voice any of this to my friend, which is where me and your sister different. But I actually totally understand her point of view.

      1. RagingADHD*

        It doesn’t sound like the sister could help you break out if the mindset, since she’s worse than you and can’t even keep her judgments to herself.

      2. Double A*

        I’d give someone with an infant a ton of grace. I am a pretty even keeled person who went into having kids with pretty open eyes, and postpartum is rough. I didn’t complain about it, but it was not easy. Having pre-existing mental health issue makes it even harder.

        However, I think you can say things like, “It really sounds like you’re struggling. Could you use some help with (dinners, cleaning, whatever you can help with).” You could even share the observation that she seems to be struggling and you’re concerned and ask if she’s talked to her doctor about postpartum anxiety or depression.

        It is really stressful to have someone dump their stress on you even when they have a good reason for it.

        1. Melody Pond*

          Not a parent, but my sister went straight from having one young kid to three kids about a year ago, and it does indeed sound like postpartum is rough. Hearing all the details about how hard it is with three kids under the age of four, even with an equally involved co-parent, is mind-boggling to me.

          The more I hear about the struggles with having infants and very young children – the more I am convinced that humans did NOT evolve to take care of kids in such small groups. Having two adults seems barely sufficient to take care of and raise one child, let alone two or more kids.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            No, human beings were never meant to struggle as much they do now, with no access to childcare or respite. I think it’s always been tough raising humans but “eh, the parents made their choice” attitudes, rather than communal ones, have made it exponentially worse.

            1. Feminista*

              I feel it’s very much the parents’ responsibility to build their appropriate community, including finding other parents to commiserate with, services to assist them, willing family if they have the option.

              I do not work in child care, and do not volunteer child-rearing services as I have my own life to manage. It is OK for people to opt out of caring for children.

              Also with 7.96 BILLION of us humans on the planet already, it’s hard to make logical arguments supporting people continuing to have so many children, in my humble opinion.

              1. Mannequin*

                Considering the recent SCOTUS decision, it’s going to be MUCH more difficult for millions of people to “opt out” of having children, so again, show a little grace.

              2. Ellis Bell*

                Hah, I’m not suggesting you personally pitch in! Or that the responsibility gets foisted onto volunteers (which invariably means the nearest women get pressured to see themselves as free childcarers). I was referring to systemic social thoughtfulness to allow properly paid, professional help which is above the above the ability of one person (or one couple) to arrange. By that, I mean access to adequate schooling (surprisingly rare and subject to area lotteries), free or affordable after school activities, available and trustworthy daycare, accessible screening for educational or behavioural issues like dyslexia or ADHD. It is absolutely a parent’s responsibility to find and access these services, but parents cannot magic them up if they don’t exist! My country was doing a decent job of this, with the Sure Start Centres, (which also improved the spotting and safeguarding of child welfare where we have irresponsible parents) but that got rolled back by the next government. If you don’t have non educational, early years support for parents, then the burden for helping overwhelmed, unprivileged families usually falls on schools, and upon teachers like me. Or, the kids themselves obviously.

        2. Cheezmouser*


          As someone who thought maternity leave would be a great chance to catch up on my reading (LOL), I now know that the challenges of caring for an infant is something you can’t fully understand or explain to others unless you actually experience it for yourself. I particularly agree with the suggestion of offering help like bringing food, tidying the house, etc. As new parents, any help is a godsend. Sometimes you just need someone to hold the baby so you can lie on the floor and not do anything for 20 minutes.

      3. Quercus*

        Lots of things that are important and rewarding to people are also stressful and anxiety-inducing but the answer isn’t to just not do them. I chose not to have kids but I do have a highly stressful job that I sometimes complain about and that often takes me out of my comfort zone and exacerbates my naturally anxious tendencies. It’s challenging and rewarding, and no matter how much the bad days make me fantasize about doing something easier, that’s not really what I want. Maybe it would help to recognize that your friend is going through a period of intense challenge and growth because she’s chosen to do something important to her despite how hard it is – that deserves respect regardless of what the “something” is.

      4. Irish Teacher*

        Would it help to think of it in relation to something you’ve complained about like your job or your degree or something? Something you picked and are glad you did but still has stressful aspects. I mean, I am currently correcting the state exams here. I’ve been doing it since 2007 (except when the exams were cancelled due to covid) and honestly, I don’t even need the money; I do it largely for professional development and something to do, but I still got a moment yesterday when two papers in a row were right on the border between two grades and both took forever and was like “ahh, these are driving me insane!!” Just giving that as an example of how many things have stressful aspects and maybe if you think of something in your own life, it might help with understanding.

        I will say your view sounds quite different to the previous poster’s sister’s though. There’s a difference between “why are you having a child if everything in your life isn’t currently 100% perfect?” and “do you have to constantly complain about how stressed one aspect of your life is making you?”

      5. HBJ*

        Maybe think about what you complain about. Do you ever complain about something that’s your choice, and would you like it if someone threw it back in your face (I realize you’re not saying it out loud, this is just a thought exercise).

        Do you ever complain about your job? What if every time you did your friend said, “well, you chose that job. Get another one”? Complain about your car’s poor gas mileage? “Well, why you’d buy an x? That’s what you get. You should have bought a y.” Groan about having nothing in the fridge for dinner when you get home? “You should meal plan and do regular shopping. It’s your own fault if you don’t keep your fridge full.” Complain about the wind tangling your long hair that day? “Well, you could chop it off. You chose to grow it out.” Sigh that your contacts are itchy today? “Wear glasses then. You chose to wear contacts.” Grunt about how sore you are today? “You knew that yoga class was advanced. Why’d you go then?”

        Everyone complains about things from time to time. And a lot of them are things they choose. Kids are hard no matter how wanted, desired, planned for, etc. they are.

        You don’t say the friend in question is asking you to take care of her child or run errands for her or whatnot, so it sounds to me like she *is* sorting it out herself.

        1. Vanellope*

          Thank you for this, those are really good examples. The subject of having children seems to reliably bring out the all-or-nothing thinking and make people judgy!

        2. matcha123*

          This is interesting to me, because the examples you gave don’t really sound like complaints to me. If the wind was tangling my hair, then that’s a fact. And if I said, “The wind is tangling my hair, so I’ll have to pull it back in a ponytail,” that, imo, is not complaining. Especially if there were no way for me to know that I was going to be windy and if I only voiced my annoyance once.

          In my mind a complaint is something along the lines of, “Ugh, it’s Sooo windy! My hair is ruined! WHY didn’t ANYONE tell me it was going to be windy today? Now I look AWFUL. I HATE this. I can’t even enjoy this outing because the wind messed up my hair.” on repeat multiple times throughout the day.

          I have an acquaintance who complains incessantly about anything and everything, but will turn and snap if I so much as mention not being able to do something.
          “I broke my leg, so I can’t go swimming this week. But can’t wait to swim after it’s healed.”
          “Why do you complain so much? You could swim if you wanted to, you CHOOSE not to swim! Stop holding yourself back!”

          Anyways, just thought it was interesting the examples you gave. Since I’ve always considered “complaints” to be “excessive annoyance x frequency”.

          1. HBJ*

            I don’t know what the point of this comment is as it doesn’t apply at all to what I said. I never described the phrasing of the complaint, only the potential responses. I literally said “do you ever COMPLAIN about …” and said it was a thought exercise. So whatever you consider a complaint is what you’re supposed to insert as the complaint there.

          2. allathian*

            Ugh, I understand why the complainer/snapper is an acquaintance and not a friend… I’m as capable of complaining as the next person, but I do try to ensure that I spread the load. But I have zero tolerance for people who vent to me and never let me vent back, those get the African violet.

      6. anonymath*

        I sure have a pessimistic hopeless side, and also have a kid, but…

        …can’t you turn this attitude on anything? Single person no kids forgets to take out the trash and also complains about work: “Are you sure you can handle your job? Maybe you shouldn’t go for that promotion.” Person with spouse vents they are stressed about keeping the toilet clean and also that spouse has busy schedule: “You sure you can deal with marriage? Maybe it’s too much for you.”

        Kids are, um, not that different than any other commitment in life. You have a puppy? It’s on you to sort that out. You have a garden? On you to sort that out. Home renovation? Depression? Goats? Broken leg? We’re all going to have problems, we’re all going to need support sometimes, we’ll all need attitude resets, and we’re all going to annoy someone with our complaining. And we’re all destroying the planet. And we all have a responsibility to do something about it.

      7. Mannequin*

        One of the reasons I am happily childless is BECAUSE raising children is one of the most stressful & challenging things a person can do, and I know that I am in NO WAY cut out for that task.

        Your friend’s *anxiety issues* are hers to sort out, but the stress of having a kid? Nah, she can complain about that all she needs to.

      8. Well...*

        Maybe something to keep in mind is that it doesn’t have to be like this? This isn’t innately difficult, our society is set up so that parents have no help. The spillover into their social networks is also a symptom of there not being enough resources in place to make parenting tenable.

        I recently found out in the Netherlands, the government pays for two weeks of full-time help. That’s help taking care of the baby + house cleaning + cooking.

        Maybe funnel some of that “your choice, your problem” energy into how we can fix things. All of us were babies at some point and someone cared for us, so I don’t think us child-free folks can shirk responsibility here so easily.

    2. Auntie Anti*

      “Are you seriously suggesting I shouldn’t have a child because it’s momentarily aggravating to forget to run an errand?”

    3. RagingADHD*

      You could try, “I’m not looking for advice, I’m just unpacking my head. Would you rather I didn’t?” And then see what she says.

      Her comment was really pretty obnoxious. So it’s entirely possible that she is passive-aggressively trying to discourage you from venting to her. If that’s the case, better to get it out in the open so you can reset expectations for what kind of conversations are on or off the table with her.

      To put it another way, when someone is habitually snarky to you, it’s probably better to just back the friendship up than to try to make them be nice. If she wanted to be nice she wouldn’t say crap like that in the first place.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Sorry, in my head this transposed from sister to sister in law. A closer relationship can (or should be able to) bear more directness about the dynamic between you. Pulling back should be a last resort if things are good otherwise.

      2. Sloanicota*

        Yep! It’s completely not up to her how many kids you have. But it may be up to her how much of your venting she is up for. I’d take this unkind comment from her as a sign that I might need to pull back a bit and give that relationship a little more space, and perhaps find a mom’s group or something where people are going to get what I’m going through.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Reading through the rest of your comments, I’m changing my vote here. Your sister complains that you’re not open enough with her and also spends a lot of time venting to you, but now she’s using what you’ve told her against you in a hurtful way? I’d probably try to be very direct with her and also set some boundaries around our relationship.

    4. Double A*

      Well…if you’re really honest with yourself, how much do you complain to your sister? Even if it’s about what you perceive as the normal travails of life? Especially if it’s complaints about the logistics of your life that you indeed set yourself up to deal with? I say this because I know complaining is basically some people’s love language, but I haaaaate complaining because I go into problem solving mode and most people don’t appreciate that. If I am voicing a complaint, it’s because I’m actively looking for a solution and the fact that this is not how most people treat complaining is… deeply irritating to me. My solution is that I don’t hang out with complainers.

      I don’t know if you’re a complainer since you only gave one example. But if that’s indicative of a common type of thing you talk about with your sister…maybe really reflect on that. Basically, my suggestion would be to rarely complain to your sister. Really about anything unless it’s something you’re actively looking to address. You may be doing it more than you think and it may be annoying her more than you think.

      I’m a working mom with two kids and a husband with a lot of mental and physical health issues and we live in a rural area so like…I’ve set myself up for a lot of logistics that are challenging to deal with. But I try not to complain about them. And also I know that having a third child would destroy the delicate balance we have managed to set up.

      1. Cheezmouser*

        Hmmm good point. I took a quick glance at our text history. We both vent to each other. I’d say it’s about 60:40 her complaints vs my complaints. She actually says that she feels I don’t open up to her, I pretend like my life is perfect and I hold her at arms distance. I think that’s when I started venting to her, to show that my life isn’t perfect and I face challenges like anyone. I’m like you, I’m the problem solver in my family, so I tend to listen and try to solve other peoples problems instead of sharing my own. Maybe I should vent about work problems instead of parenting challenges so she still feels like we have a connection and I’m not sitting pretty on my pedestal.

        1. A.N. O'Nyme*

          Out of curiosity, does your sister have any children? If she does, how often does she vent about them? And if not, how often are you venting about yours to her?

          1. Cheezmouser*

            She has 2 stepchildren now, ages 10 and 12; she got married about a year ago after dating for 2 years. Most of her venting is about the ex-wife’s unreasonable & erratic behavior or the stepkids (one of them has special needs with related behavioral and dietary issues). I’ll get a text rant of 4-6 texts about once a week or every other week, in between texts about her garden projects, interesting articles, etc.

            I vent about being a working parent also about once a week or every other week. It’s usually a single text. My latest vent was, “Sigh, our dad asked if we have a DVD player because he wants to buy a DVD for the kids. I asked him which one, and he said Jurassic Park, because they like dinosaurs. I had to explain to him that watching people screaming and running in terror from vicious dinosaurs might not be appropriate for a 3 year old or 6 year old. I don’t want to deal with the trauma, I’m busy enough already.” (My dad was also the parent who, when I was 10, got me the movie Chucky because little girls like dolls right? He doesn’t do it on purpose; he’s an immigrant who doesn’t keep up with American culture. I’m still traumatized though, lol.)

            I don’t text about much else, most of my other texts are responses to her texts, so maybe I need to start texting about other things to dilute my vents.

        2. RagingADHD*

          Well, maybe that’s the right thing to tell her:

          “Hey, these kind of comments come off really judgy and hurtful. You used to say that I didn’t open up to you, and now that I do, you come back at me with some pretty aggressive pushback. So what’s going on?”

          You can’t really fix an intimate relationship dynamic like siblings or nuclear family by gamesmanship or guesswork. You need to name the pattern and invite them to fix it together.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Oh so much this.

            Tired people complain, that is what they do. It doesn’t sound like either one of you get that much rest. And the complaints get more and more tiring to listen to. This is why I am not a fan of venting. I prefer to focus on things looking for solutions.

            You have an added layer here because she’s your family. Just an observation but sometimes family carries expectations of each other that they would never ask from friends. One expectation can be “You are family so therefore you HAVE to listen to my vents.” uh. no. that’s not how that works.

            It might be that you go back to the conversation about how she thinks you pretend your life is perfect.
            I know plenty of people who have stuff going on and they never, ever mention it. That’s actually pretty normal. They aren’t pretending, rather they are coping. Tell your sis that there are plenty of people out there coping with burdens that they never mention. That is not the same as pretending life is perfect.

            I think where this is going is Sis thinks her life is lacking in some serious ways. She kind of tipped her hand on that one when she said that you pretend life is perfect. Since you aren’t doing that, then I am wondering if this goes back to how she views the world. Is everyone else pretending to have a perfect life while she is so not?

            It might be time to tell her to get real. Tell her that some how you don’t think this is about library books. Ask her what’s up.

            1. Cheezmouser*

              Yep, you are spot on. She has a valid point, I don’t tend to share my real problems or reach out for help in a real way. My husband and I both believe that any real problems we have in our lives should be discussed and handled by the two of us as a unified team, not by involving others to weigh in. So I don’t discuss my real problems with her (or anyone else), not because I’m pretending to be perfect, but because of the way I prefer to handle my relationship, problems, and privacy.

              I also don’t share much of the joys and highlights of my life, for reasons I mention further down this thread. My sister already perceives my life to be perfect, so texts about how my husband is so awesome or my kids are so cute feels kinda like I’m rubbing something in her face.

              So that leaves me with sharing the mundane details of my life, the daily trials or hiccups (which are numerous when you have small children), new recipes I found, and what not. Then she says I don’t open up to her. But if I do mention something personal, I don’t actually want her commentary, for the reasons above. I’m not quite sure what to do.

        3. Irish Teacher*

          Hmm, I’m now wondering if maybe she resents something about your life. Complaining that you don’t complain enough/open up, then responding to any complaints with “then why are you having another child” sounds like maybe she thinks your life is a bit too perfect. I could be completely off-base here though.

          1. Cheezmouser*

            Nope, I think you got it right on the nose. This goes back to when we were kids. She once drew a picture of our family where she depicted me with a halo and herself with a pitchfork. I think that’s how she feels about herself; I don’t ever recall belittling her or trying to make her feel inferior to me. But I can see where those feelings might come from when your older sister is identified as gifted, gets straight As, is considered conventionally attractive, goes to a top college, marries her high school sweetheart who is her best friend, and lives happily ever after with her two beautiful children. This is of course what it looks like on the outside; the reality is that of course my life isn’t perfect, I struggle with things just like everyone, but I’m also very aware that I’m very lucky to have the life I have. I try to be discreet and not to rub it in people’s faces. Meanwhile my sister gets good grades but not as good (As and Bs), had less luck in her romantic relationships, has more of a temper, etc. So I understand why she may feel that I live a fairytale life

            1. RagingADHD*

              Yeesh, I wonder if there was some parental imbalances in validation / approval as well? Not your fault, of course, but maybe something y’all could talk about sometime.

              The more you write about y’all’s dynamics, the more it sounds like there are a lot of unspoken conflicts or hurts being fought by proxy.

              1. Cheezmouser*

                Wow, y’all are right on the money, it’s like you know my family or something. Yes, my sister feels that our parents liked me more, because I did well academically (we come from a culture that highly values education), I was obedient and patient and responsible (also valued traits), I had potential to get into a prestigious college (parental bragging is a sport in my culture), and I appeared to be on a traditional career path (i.e. business, law, medicine), thus vicariously fulfilling my parents’ lifelong dreams. Meanwhile my sister did well academically but not as well as me, was tempermental and prickly (probably as a defense/coping mechanism), and was on a non-traditional career path (art).

                She always felt that our parents valued me more, but I don’t recall them treating us differently, and my parents don’t either. Our mom says she made an intentional effort to treat us equally. I’m not saying my sister’s wrong, I’m not her so I can’t truly know what her experience was like, but if there was a difference in the way my parents valued her, it was not intentional on their part.

                I also think part of it is because my sister has a glass-half-full disposition. I remember arguing with her about how she believed our parents never supported her career as an artist and she had to fight them every step of the way. While it’s true that they expressed strong reservations about how viable a career as an artist was–they feared she wouldn’t be able to support herself and went so far as to suggest that she pick a backup career in case it didn’t work out–but when the chips were down, they paid for her art lessons, bought her art supplies, converted our garage into an art studio for her, put her through 4 years of art & design college, and proudly hang her artwork in their house. When I pointed that out, she dismissed all of that and focused instead on all of the times they expressed doubt and tried to advise her to take a different path. So I think we just have a different perspective/disposition, where I tend to focus on the positive and she tends to focus on the negative. I suspect that this may play into why she feels our parents did not validate/support her and why I was perceived to be the crown princess.

                Dang, you guys are good.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  In leadership studies show that when employees have trouble with their bosses that cannot be resolved, they turn on each other.

                  I see similar things happening in families.

                  It sounds like she is lashing out at you for her difficulties with your parents. It’s safer than say, talking directly to them.

                  At some point she needs to talk to your parents and/or perhaps seek counseling. It’s okay to be angry. It’s what we do with that anger that can be a problem. She’s showing a destructive use of anger.

                  I love your explanation about how you and your hubby go to each other and do not drag others into problems. My husband and I did that also. It comes with a price. People thought we had a great marriage. Uh, we were a pretty normal couple actually. People also thought that we had space/time/money to take on their problems. Whoops, NO!

                  If you have already explained to her how you and your hubby handle things then it maybe time to explain it again. Tell her that won’t change, so she can stop looking for that. Add that not only do you not share private things with her but you treat everyone the same, in other words you don’t share much private stuff with anyone. (I actually find I solve problems quicker if I do not tell people until it’s over. Getting others involved makes everything take longer.)

                  For your side of the story, please do watch what you say. I am sure that the question about a third child really hit hard, if she feels she is constantly criticized. Notice the reality does not matter, all that matters is that SHE feels she is criticized too much. Start letting go more, keep working with the thought, “I need to let her live her life.” Here’s the deal, you’re right and it’s annoying. This means that you are not going to be able to reach her, she is tuning you out like your parents. You feel more like another parent.

                  Sometimes we have to step to one side so other people can get in. Perhaps someone who is not family will say something to her that will be helpful to her– or that she will allow it to be helpful to her. To get this process underway, we have to step to one side.

                  This doesn’t mean ignore her, rather this means just not getting too emotionally invested in her choices and how life goes for her. You can still be kind and be sisterly. Spend a little more time thinking about what it’s like to be her and a little less time thinking about what she “should do”. (She’s gonna do whatever she wants anyway, so this will save you a lot of frustration if you reset your thinking.)

                2. RagingADHD*

                  I think maybe neither you nor your parents understand what listening and validation actually are. This is a whole lot of justification about why your parents were right to shit on her dreams “for her own good”, and why she should be grateful that they eventually came around.

                  You acknowledge that you parents valued everything you did, and devalued everything about her from an early age, but you question why she might have long-term issues with self esteem?

                  Because they bought her stuff, and now she has a cool life?

                  Yeah, this isn’t about babies or library books or any of that stuff. It’s about being the afterthought, looking at the Golden Child. Your parents may be loving and well meaning, but that doesn’t make them immune to screwing up.

                  It’s great that you want to be closer and have a good relationship, but texting surface updates about your day to day life isn’t going to fix anything. I think y’all need to take some time where you can really listen and demonstrate that you want to understand and be closer.

                3. Cheezmouser*

                  @RagingADHD, thanks for your reply. You’ve given me much to think about.

                  You’re right, my parents could have been more validating, both to her dreams and toward her in general. In their defense, they didn’t do it intentionally. They didn’t try to compare us to each other; my mom never said anything like “why don’t you get straight As like your sister?” But in hindsight, I can see how as a kid, when you hear your parents bragging to relatives about your sibling’s report card and nothing about yours, you would feel devalued and have low self esteem. This may make you feel upset and defensive, which comes off as being prickly. It’s a defense/coping strategy. This is compounded when your parents don’t understand why you’re upset and criticize your poor attitude. It’s easier to praise the “well behaved” child and show frustration with the child who shirks chores, yells “go away,” sulks, etc. Was her low self esteem caused by our parents? Yes, very likely. Were they doing it on purpose? No. They loved both of us and were trying the best they knew how. But they were human and they failed in some places and succeeded in others. This is probably true for most parents.

                  I can see where I overstepped in trying to excuse/explain away their failures instead of trying to listen sympathetically to my sister. I’ll keep this in mind moving forward.

                  Another thing to clarify: they didn’t actively shit on her dreams, they had praised and supported her art since she was 7. Money was tight, but they spent hundreds each year on classes, supplies, etc. They didn’t have to do that, but they chose to because in the end, despite their fears that she would become a starving artist, they supported her. It was the viability of art as a career that they doubted, not her abilities. Did they try to dissuade her? Yes, they expressed their fear for her future financial stability and suggested she consider a backup plan. But they never tried to stop her. So to assert that they never supported her dreams and only came around after she proved them wrong would be unfair. They put their money where their mouth was, every single step of the way, from age 7 until my sister graduated from art school at age 22.

                4. Irish Teacher*

                  I think the “intentionally” might be part of the problem. I’m not saying your parents did anything wrong, but…is it possible that she felt they were TRYING to treat her as if she was as good as you? I’m not saying that is what they were doing, but if they praised her for a B, then pushed you to do better, that might look to a child like “oh, they don’t expect any more from me.” Sometimes being tactful be interpreted as “they think I’m so stupid/unsuccessful that they have to go out of their way to cover it up.”

                  Perhaps an example is the best way to explain what I mean, ’cause I think I’m explaining it badly. When I was a kid, I had a distant cousin I was friends with who had a pretty messed up family situation. When we got to about 12, I started feeling guilty about how perfect my family must seem by comparison and made a point of dropping comments complaining about them, but looking back now, yikes, that probably drew even more attention to the differences than anything else, because I was complaining about stuff like “gosh, my father is SO EMBARRASSING. He insisting on walking me up to my first day in secondary school.”

                  I am sure you and your parents aren’t doing it like an oblivious 12 year old! But…maybe it feels a bit that way to her. Like that she feels you are playing down your good fortune because you think your life is better than hers? And that your parents are going out of their way to be nice to her to hide the fact they prefer you?

            2. Cheezmouser*

              I should add that it’s not like her life is terrible. She is a very talented artist, lives in a trendy neighborhood, has a great group of friends, is financially secure, etc. I think she has much to be proud of and grateful for, but I think she can’t help but compare certain aspects of her life to mine and find hers lacking.

            3. Irish Teacher*

              Yeah, it sounds like it’s not really about your having another child, so, but rather a “what have YOU got to complain about?”

            4. Despachito*

              First of all, I want to appreciate your honesty. But from this wording I got a strong impression – and I may be totally wrong – that deep down in your heart, you believe that you indeed are the better one of you two – all the characteristics you named are ones in which you score better than your sister, and therefore seem to support the theory that you are objectively more successful on all important fronts.

              If I am right, it would be very difficult for me, if I were your sister, to deal with you from this position where I am perceived and perceive myself as inferior. I frankly do not know what would help – perhaps a family therapy, but I think either this collective point of view (ie that of you and perhaps the parents and your sister herself) can be shifted as more positive and less comparing towards your sister, and genuinely valuing her for her own specific qualities (I assume she has some), or it would be perhaps more useful for all of you to loosen the ties and limit the contacts.

        4. Well...*

          Honestly her response to your venting (attacking your choices) I would say justifies a little more distance. If she wants people to open up to her, she shouldn’t use those openings as opportunities to criticize.

    5. A.N. O'Nyme*

      How often is “I sometimes complain to her”, exactly? It’s possible you’re doing it more often than than you think and your sister might be very passive-aggressive in telling you to cut it out.

      Alternatively, does your sister have a track record of being more solutions-focused? I tend to be solution-focused so when people complain to me I quickly have to ask if they’re just venting or if they actually want help finding a solution.

      At any rate, it might be worth it to just firmly shut down any comment on your reproductive choices with something like “my choices regarding children are not up for debate”, but it may also be that you need to adjust how often you gripe to your sister about how busy your life is.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      I would probably ask if that’s a genuine question or if she was making a rhetorical point that she’s against the idea of baby number three. You’ve said she’s complained about you being closed off, so perhaps it was a genuine question aimed at understanding you better; into why the new baby plan is so important! Or maybe she’s Judgy McJudgerson and she wanted your non-perfect life details simply to criticize them and that’s why you never felt like being forthcoming before. I think this is a longer discussion, and one you probably can’t have in your own head. Going into that discussion I would probably want to say something like “I’ve enjoyed sharing more of my problems with you; you were so right about that. However I didn’t enjoy being criticized for taking too much on and I felt blindsided. I already know that being ambitious with my plans comes with problems.”

      1. Jean Pargetter Hardcastle*

        This was my thought, too. I would respond with something like, “Do you truly want to know why? I’d be happy to tell you if you’re curious, but I’m not asking for your thoughts on whether it makes sense, just answering your question” (if that last part is true).

    7. Rage*

      I have zero kids and *I* even say things like “argh, I forgot to [insert necessary obligation here], I don’t have time for this.” We’re all busy, just in a variety of ways.

      Honestly, I would just tell her firmly, yet politely, that you will no longer accept commentary like that and, if she continues, you will reduce your contact with her. Because you know what nobody has time for? An attitude like hers.

    8. no clever name*

      “Because if people only had the babies they have time for the population no one would ever have a baby. We’ve managed to figure it out twice already I’m sure we’ll do it again”. then if she keeps bringing it up “It’s so odd that you keep saying that to me when I’ve told you we’ll be fine” And change the subject.

      1. the cat's pajamas*

        In addition to the above comments, I’m wondering if there is a dynamic with your parents about grandkids?

        Were your parents the type to pressure and or wistfully talk about “someday when you have grandkids for us…”? That was pounded into our heads since we were toddlers. No matter what I achieve in my life, my siblings with kids are “worth more” in my parents’ eyes simply because they have kids. It sucks.

        There is one stepkid in the gaggle of grandchildren, and the biological grandkids are seen as more valuable, too. It’s really unfortunate. Is it possible something, maybe unspoken, like this is going on because your sister has stepkids?

    9. Esmeralda*

      Sis. I can’t believe you just said something so cruel. Never say anything like that again. Ever.

      Hang up or walk away when she does it again.

      And never tell her anything important ever again.

  5. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

    Been a little down-in-the-dumps recently — any recommendations for engaging or easy reads that will pull me out of my head?

    All genres and topics welcome, except politics.

    1. RagingADHD*

      When I was really fried and struggling to get back into reading, a friend recommended 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith, and it was exactly right – lightly humorous but not too fluffy, sincere but not too fraught, intelligent but not pretentious, and all-around comforting and satisfying. The episodic / serial structure made it an easy read, too.

      I lost interest in the series after the second or third book, but the first one was lovely.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I’m very fond of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, so will definitely check these out!

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, I had the same experience with the 44 Scotland Street books. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books are a fun read, too.

      3. Big Tex*

        Love those, and I also cherish the Sunday Philosophy Club books by McCall Smith.

    2. Inkhorn*

      My first thought was To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. If Oscar Wilde had written about time travel it might have turned out something like that.

      On the non-fiction side, I recently enjoyed The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth – English etymology meets freewheeling free association exercise. One word or phrase’s origin story links to the next, and the next, and the next….

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        If Oscar Wilde had written about time travel it might have turned out something like that

        That sounds AMAZING.

        1. Seeking second childhood*

          Then roll on to Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, which Willis pays tribute to in her book.

          1. Squirrel Nutkin*

            Seconding *Three Men in a Boat*. It’s gentle humor, easy to pick up and put down. I generally find P.G. Wodehouse’s short stories cheering too (though content warning for occasional racism, not being alarmed enough about fascists) — lovable protagonist faces minor problem; amusing complications ensue; problem gets solved; no one dies or is injured.

        2. Janeric*

          Great book, exactly what you have requested, other books in that series are also great but are absolutely not uplifting.

      2. Ariaflame*

        Be aware that while she does have some nice fairly fluffy ones, some of Connie’s material is a bit darker, but To Say Nothing of the Dog is pretty safe. Crosstalk is also good.

        1. Inkhorn*

          Yup. Doomsday Book, while a fabulous read, really does NOT fall into pick-me-up territory. Especially during a pandemic.

      3. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        Oh, yes!
        And the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett. Some dark moments (Death is the only character who’s in every one of them) but always weirdly comforting. I’d start anywhere from the third book in the seties, i.e. with Equal Rites or Mort, as in the first two (The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic) he was still finding his voice a bit.
        It’s fantasy, but with more twists than a deranged corkscrew.

        1. small town*

          Love this series!! Small Gods is amazing, Vetinari and Moist von Lipwig are some of my favorite characters. And Death. There is no justice. There is only me. The whole construction of the universe is remarkable. The turtle moves!

      4. Mephyle*

        I wholly endorse To Say Nothing of the Dog. It’s a book that has to be read twice. Even to hint at why this is would be too much of a spoiler. Just trust me!

        It will also be enjoyed more deeply by readers who have read Dorothy L. Sayers’ mysteries and maybe a bunch of Agatha Christies and/or some other classic Golden Age mysteries too.

    3. Princess Deviant*

      Well I love a romance, especially paranormal romance. Romancelandia always has a happy ending. Either happy ever after (HEA) or happy for now (HFN). Good authors in this genre imo are T. S. Joyce, and Zoe Chant. For Zoe I recommend starting with the Fire and Rescue Shifter series, but the Shifting Sands Resort series is great too.
      For T. S. Joyce you could start with Damon’s Mountains Universe series but I think pretty much all of her books are similar so look for her reading order and just pick 1 series you like the look of.
      I also like Kitt Rocha and K. J. Charles (no shifters, but romance).
      Happy reading :)

        1. Princess Deviant*

          Oh my goodness I’ve just had a quick look at her book list and it looks AMAZING! Thanks for the recommendation.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Thanks for this! These are really different to my usual fare, which actually might be exactly the jolt of distraction I’m looking for.

    4. Cookies For Breakfast*

      The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman! It’s a delightfully whimsical mystery with funny lovable characters (no gore, graphic violence or dark moods). I found it very welcome escape from being caught in my own head too much. If you enjoy it, there is also a sequel (The Man Who Died Twice) to keep you busy.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I have read that first one and enjoyed it — didn’t realise there was a sequel! Thank you!

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          The sequel was excellent.

          The Bullet That Missed, book 3, is out in September.

    5. Liz in the Midwest*

      I’m also really struggling lately, and last night I bought The Book Lovers by Emily Henry for this exact purpose. It’s a romcom about an agent and an editor who don’t get along falling in love while out of town, and it’s also about the relationship between the agent and her sister. So farm very much enjoying it.

      1. M&M Mom*

        Just started this one as well. I really like her other boo, too, The People We Meet on Vacation

      2. fueled by coffee*

        Loved Book People!! And that it satirizes a lot of small-town romance tropes without being rude to people who live in small towns – just acknowledging that some people *like* busy jobs in big cities.

      3. one of the meg murrys*

        I enjoyed Book Lovers even more than People We Meet on Vacation! Henry’s books are light and fun overall, but usually some grief/depression in the back story. The characters tend to have a quirky/misunderstood vibe I relate to (I’d even say neurodivergent-coded). I also liked her book Beach Read, though a few grief and trauma elements were a little heavier. Julia Whelan narrates the audiobooks awesomely!

      1. SpellingBee*

        Yes! Love all of DE Stevenson in fact. Nice stories but not saccharine, and well-written. One of my favorite authors of all time.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I liked Chicken Soup books. I was going through a bad spot years ago. The stories were short which was perfect, I could pick the book up and put it down then return later. And the stories were true, I kind of wanted to tap what the creative mind does in times of troubles. This let me “see” inside people’s minds and what they thought of to do with their own stuff.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Yes!! I love Chicken Soup books!! I usually have one on my nightstand because it’s the perfect thing to read right before sleep. Right now I’m reading the Chicken Soup cookbook. It’s stories with a recipe at the end (and no, they aren’t all chicken soup recipes!!) Not only good stories, but some recipes that I can’t wait to try.

    7. Chauncy Gardener*

      The Blue Castle
      My Family and Other Animals
      Bird by Bird
      The Good Good Pig

      And when I’m feeling down, I watch the first Shrek movie. It always cheers me up!!

      1. Inkhorn*

        My Family and Other Animals – there’s another one for my list of books I must reread. (Not while commuting though, don’t want to make a spectacle of myself by howling with laughter on the train.)

        1. allathian*

          I also recommend the sequels Birds, Beasts and Relatives, and The Garden of the Gods. These are available in an omnibus edition called The Corfu Trilogy.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. Time-traveling Oxford historians try to find a truly atrocious Victorian vase for reasons of funding. Madcap hijinks ensue as we boat down the Thames.

      The Meg Langsley mysteries by Donna Andrews; check your library. The first is Murder with Peacocks about murders combined with a bunch of summer weddings. Meg is a blacksmith with a large and wacky and very involved family. Fine to read out of order– it’s one of those series with a large cast of beloved recurring characters.

    9. Mary S*

      The Princess Bride by William Goldman. The book is just as good if not better than the movie imo.

    10. the cat's ass*

      Laurie Colwin’s novels and short stories. She’s getting a bit dated, but these are romances and a real pleasure.

    11. pancakes*

      I recommended her books to someone here recently, but it was late in the weekend – Angela Thirkell. Her characters sometimes have conflicts and obstacles, but they’re relatively minor, and there’s generally a lot of humor and warmth. I went through a number of her books during part of the pandemic. I’ll link to a couple articles about her separately.

      Another direction to go in might be juicy, fascinating, or funny memoirs (or, ideally, all of the above). Grace Jones, Diane di Prima, You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again by Julia Philips is wild. These generally aren’t always easy-going, but the difficult bits tend to be safely in the past. In my to-read pile right now I have memoirs from Nancy Spain (Why I’m Not a Millionaire) and Coral Browne (This Effing Lady).

      1. fposte*

        Coral Browne memoir! With the title referring to one of my favorite anecdotes! I did not know this was a thing and am now getting ahold of this–thanks for the tip.

    12. Swisa*

      Anything Jasmine Guillory. She’s a modern romance writer, with a feminist, inclusive take on things. She’s black, and many of her characters are non white.
      It’s nothing like the romance I read as a teen. Great, uplifting escapism.

      1. anonymath*

        Yep! I just finished Jasmine Guillory’s “By the Book”, an adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. It was lovely. (Also finished Book Lovers by Emily Henry, which was really good, and The Stand-In by Lily Chu, which really grew on me and I ended up liking much more than I initially thought I would.)

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          Oh, that sounds amazing! I love re-worked fairy tales. Putting it on the list for sure!

    13. The OG Sleepless*

      My go-to for light, cheerful reading is Sophie Kinsella, the Shopaholic books and her other ones. The protagonist of the Shopaholic books can be incredibly foolish, but she has a kind heart, and her circle all really cares about her. Her other books are always fun too.

    14. Girasol*

      If I’m feeling down I go for my childhood favorites: Alcott, Tolkein, L’Engle, McCaffrey, Andre Norton or modern youth fiction like the Harry Potter books or Lemony Snicket.

    15. Elizabeth West*

      Not a book, but if you haven’t watched Only Murders in the Building yet (it’s a Hulu show), I HIGHLY recommend it. The show is so much fun it can’t help but cheer you up.

      I came to it late enough to binge season 1 and it was an excellent distraction from gloom and doom. Season 2 has just started.

      1. RosyGlasses*

        It was a fantastic show – I didn’t realize season 2 was out – thank you!!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I’m loving it so far! Hulu always starts with two episodes and then it’s weekly after that.

    16. Rage*

      The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells. The first 4 books are novellas, then there is a full-length novel.

      The title character, “Murderbot”, is so hilariously sarcastic and dry and cynical, I quote it all the time. (To be fair, there is sort of “politics” in it, but it’s not United States politics. Imagine if capitalism took over the universe and called it “The Corporation Rim”.)

      1. MysteryFan*

        I second Murderbot Diaries! Murderbot is such a great character, and he makes some interesting friends along his travels.

    17. Squirrel Nutkin*

      Helen Fielding’s *Bridget Jones’s Diary* (a loose re-telling of *Pride and Prejudice* set in 1990s London) and *Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason* are very funny and re-readable and easy to read in small chunks. (Content warning for a bit of an obsession with charting weight.)

    18. PhyllisB*

      Had to go look at my Goodreads list to check titles, but I have a few suggestions from this year’s reading.
      If you like books with a Southern flavor, I just finished Watermelon Days & Firefly Nights by Annette Smith. It’s short stories set in the little town of Ella’s Louise, Texas. They’re slightly humorous and a couple are slightly sad (not boo hood sad, just bring a tear to your eye.) If that appeals to you, Philip Gulley has a series of Front Porch Tales set in Indiana. Also The Mitford Tales by Jan Karon. (Can you tell I like series?) Also anything by Fannie Flagg. Okay, that covers the South pretty good; also read Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. I’m a sucker for British novels. Ten Beach Road by Wendy Wax was good, and Without a Hitch by Mary Hollis and Ashley Fogel Paul. It’s about a wedding planner who works with high end/celebrities weddings. You would think with a million plus dollars budget nothing would go wrong. You would be incorrect. I’ve never laughed so much!! It’s fiction, but I imagine real wedding planners would be nodding their heads. Hope this helps a bit!!

      1. PhyllisB*

        Just came back to this and realized autocorrect made an unauthorized change. The town is Ella Louise, not Ella’s Louise. Not a big deal maybe, I I hate seeing errors that I didn’t even make!! :-)

    19. My comfort books*

      My comfort books in hopes they help… they’re all over the map. Some of them are a little obscure, some are written for young readers, and some are darkish. One is for readers 18+.
      Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. Merry Hall by Beverly Nichols. To say nothing of the dog by Connie Willis. Three men in a boat by Jerome K. Jerome. Mirabile by Janet Kagan. Hellspark by Janet Kagan. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. Q’s Legacy by Helene Hanff. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. Austenlandia by Shannon Hale. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman. Someplace to Be Flying by Charles de Lint. Sabriel by Garth Nix. Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan. LOTR by Tolkien. Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. Queen’s Wings by Jamie K. Schmidt.

    20. OtterB*

      I think I’ve recommended this before, but I’ve been rereading the Comfortable Courtesan series by LA Hall because I find them comfort reading / popcorn books. The title character is a courtesan in London in the Regency era at the beginning of the series but moves up in the world. It’s something of an ensemble with some of her friends / patrons and her household staff and their family connections. Some romance subplots but no big romance.

      1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        Seconding! I decided on a re-read in early 2020, given what a year it was shaping up to be, and it was a very good decision. The kindness of the main cast to each other, and the respect for each other’s lives and autonomy, are a beautiful thing.

        I will quibble just a very little bit with the romance — there is a non-traditional happily-as-long-as– that winds through, but once it’s established, it largely stays as an accompaniment to all the rest of what’s going on, and there’s a lot going on.

    21. no clever name*

      American Heiress, The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory, The Secret Lives of Baba Segis Wives ( this one’s not political but may touch on touchy topics), High Achiever by Tiffany Jenkins, Artimis by Andy Weir, or The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. Also if you like YA The Selection or the graphic novel Squirrel Girl

    22. Reader's Advisory*

      Sarah Addison Allen. She is my go to for when I’m down. She as 3 or 4 books out and another, Other Birds, coming soon.

    23. AH*

      Same here! And I went with the audiobook version of “Project Hail Mary” by Andy Weir (he also wrote “The Martian”). It is sci-fi, heavy on the sci, but it is super engaging. The audiobook is great- the narrator does multiple voices just wonderfully. Don’t read too much about it, just jump in!

  6. Migraine Month*

    I’ve been watching the Jan 6th hearings, and I can’t help but imagine all the Ask A Manager letters that should have been written!

    For example, “One of my reports keeps bypassing me and going to the head of my company and telling him inaccurate information. Now the report is saying that he is going to replace me, but offered to let me be his deputy. What’s the best way for me and my colleagues to push back on this idea as a group?”

    What are the greatest letters never written, real life or fiction, that Alison should get a chance to answer?

    1. Certaintroublemaker*

      All I could think of during this week’s surprise hearing was, “This workplace is full of bees! Get out!!”
      “My boss is very confrontational with his boss, even when Legal told us that grandboss’s plan would get us all arrested.”
      “Grandboss pitched a fit when an ex-employee said he was wrong and threw his lunch at the wall.”
      “My workplace has extremely high security standards, but grandboss wanted the metal detectors at our big event removed so that attendees with weapons could enter.”
      “I tried to get direction during a crisis event but my boss just buried his nose in his phone and barely responded.”

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, the entire part about Meadows paying no attention to the literal riot reminded me of a lot of “my boss is about to retire and doesn’t care about anything anymore” letters. Just all the WTF.

    2. Vio*

      Dear Alison
      While my job title suggests leadership, I am actually more of a figurehead with little actual power. The actual leadership are incompetent and blatantly corrupt. While every move I and my family make is scrutinised, they are able to enjoy ludicrous freedoms and suffer no consequences for their actions despite any apologies being obviously hollow and given grudgingly. I am approaching retirement and everyone expects my son to take over my position. I feel that my job is more scapegoat than anything else and have never felt more powerless than having to shake hands with a buffoon while pretending that his leadership is anything short of atrocious. How should I warn my son about all of the bees he is to inherit?
      With love, your number one fan
      Queen Elizabeth “Lizzy”

      1. pancakes*

        Ha! Some of those bees are his own, to be fair, like the suitcase full of cash from Qatar.

      2. Pippa K*

        To solve any workplace problem, you must consider the resources you have on hand. In your case, (1) an extensive historical tower facility purpose-built for the detention and chastisement of those who vex you, (2) a large staff that is oath-bound to obey you, and (3) no real risk of criminal prosecution or civil action against you. Clearly the solution here is to publicly incarcerate the blond buffoon, quietly disappear your eldest son to a comfortable but remote exile, and make your grandson your heir. (If you really want to improve the world, you’ll dump your second son in a deep hole in the tower as well.)

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Severance would lead to some intriguing letters.

      Dear Alison, My coworker who is always dissing the company is obsessed with the program to earn erasers and finger traps as rewards. I recently won an eraser and there’s a lot of tension now.

      Dear Alison, I want to quit my job, but every time I try to leave the door spits me back into the same maze of corridors. And now there are goats.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      Anglo-Irish. “Our bank is on the verge of going bankrupt and we need a bailout from the government, but if we tell them how much we need, they ‘might think they’ve a choice’ (actual quote from the Anglo tapes) and refuse us, so we are planning to tell them we need less, so that they will invest taxpayers money and then hopefully keep investing to protect what they’ve already put in. How much should we claim to need and can you suggest a script to convince the government they really need to invest and keep us afloat? Oh, and does it look bad to spend huge amounts of money on a staff party while doing this? That isn’t bad optics, right?”

      I’m honestly not kidding. This all happened. The Anglo tapes are like the denoument to a thriller, except in a thriller somebody would have found them in time and there’d have been a mad rush to get them to the Minister for Finance before he signed off on the deal.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Anglo-Irish in this case is the name of a bank (well, used to be), not a reference to international relations!

    5. Elle Woods*

      From the show Ted Lasso:

      Dear Alison,

      Like Rodney Dangerfield, I get no respect. When my boss (who is the head coach) was first hired to lead the organization he promoted me in short order so I’m his assistant. I’ve drawn up many successful plays for our team but when it comes time for press conference, I don’t get any credit for our success. My boss had a panic attack and had to leave an important match early then blamed it on food poisoning. He later admitted the truth to me and other members of our staff. I finally got so fed up with his behavior that I ratted him out a member of the news media who wrote an article about his panic attack. I was hoping it would lead to his downfall. Instead, it seems to have made people like him even more.

      How do I go about getting people to respect me?
      Nate Shelley

      P.S. I also kissed a co-worker’s girlfriend. My co-worker didn’t even get mad–and he’s mad all the time!

    6. Irish Teacher*

      As the first shots were fire 100 years ago this week, I think, from the lead up to the Irish Civil War.

      Dear Alison,
      My boss recently asked me to be one of the team leaders in a delegation to negotiate a big contract with one of our main rival firms. I must admit I was reluctant from the start, feeling I hadn’t the experience. Our rivals are one of the most powerful companies in our field and their negotiating team is noted for playing hardball. In contrast, our company is something of a start-up and the only member of our team with anything like comparable experience or skill would be my boss himself. I told him so, saying he should go himself, but he insisted that sending our strongest negotiator would make us look weak and that remaining behind would allow him to look at the offers with a cooler head, so reluctantly, I agreed.

      Our orders were somewhat confused. He told us we had carte blance to make decisions but also said we should call him before signing anything. We fully intented to do so, but like I said, our rivals are noted for their skill at hardball and they basically gave us an ultimatum, saying sign now or lose the deal and implying an intent to drive us right out of business if we refused. We signed.

      My boss was furious. He said we had conceeded far too much and accused me of betraying the company. He says he cannot in conscience preside over this deal and will walk if it is ratified. About a third of the company agree with him and are also threatening to leave over this. The rest are just relieved we’ve finally got a deal on this issue as we’ve been trying to get one for a number of years and are lauding me as a hero.

      I’d be the first to admit this deal is far from perfect. It isn’t what I wanted; it isn’t what any of us wanting. But I think it gives us the chance to build on it and that really, given the respective positions of our companies, it was the best we were ever going to do. I will add that my boss has been abroad in America, negotiating other deals, for much of the past year and a half and as a result, I think he doesn’t quite realise just how badly we needed this deal.

      To make things worse, my boss has always been a good friend and mentor to me – his kids call me “uncle”! I don’t want to fall out with him but I also don’t want us to lose this opportunity. I really think this deal could give us the opportunity to really establish ourselves in the industry, but…right now it looks as if we’re going to tear ourselves apart first!

      What should I do? Should I “tear up the deal” as some of my colleagues are encouraging me to do? Should I attempt to go back to the negotiating table as my boss wants? There is a real risk if we do so that our rivals will just pull out of the whole thing. Or should we try and make the best of the deal we’ve got and just hope the whole company will come with me on this?

    7. Seeking second childhood*

      Dear Alison,
      I contracted with a family run company to acquire a remote piece of property. I know family businesses have their issues, but I was picked by an unrelated member of the company because I have some critical skills.  I was promised a 1/14 share of the profits and got it in writing. Benefits too.
      Unfortunately after we were committed we learned there was a hostile tenant who had damaged the facility and needed to be evicted. It got messy. Some parts of the premises had been gutted, and the neighbors were angry with all of us because of damage that tenant had done to the local environment.
      When the CEO failed to honor an agreement with a transportation vendor, I  paid them myself. Now the CEO is threatening me and there are rumors our competitors are planning a hostile takeover.
      Did I really do something illegal when I paid the contractor myself? Have I taken on liability by doing so?
      Bilbo Baggins

      1. Seeking second childhood*

        It was a family collaboration, and I’m glad you share our mirth.

  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.

    Not much for me this week, but now that my weekends will actually be weekends again I hope to achieve some more.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo again. I’d like to be able to manage my own writing output, but I feel extremely scattered right now and I need the structure of having a clear goal and clear progress.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I wrote something for Medium about art as resistance. That’s all I’ve managed this week.

      This is more about the business side rather than writing itself, but a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned going to a nerdcon in OldCity with a strong writer’s track. I learned a lot. Some stuff I already knew, but it was reassuring to know I’m on the right track even if my current progress is tiny.

      I feel like I know enough now to venture out with a table at a small con—I am in NO WAY ready for a big one. That will have to wait until I find work, however. I can’t afford to buy stock yet. I need to make more content, too. One of the writers I met who is from here said she only had two things on her first table. I have three if you count the story collection, but having a full trilogy on offer is better than just having the first two books. One of the panelists, a full-timer, said he doesn’t release a series until the entire thing is finished. But he’s a juggernaut and I’m a much slower writer who doesn’t have a working spouse.

      As far as that particular event, I think if I ever hit it big (it could happen!), I would like to put it in my regular list of cons to attend because it was fun, I know people who regularly show up at the local ones, and I still have friends and family in the area.

    3. Girasol*

      Another short story completed! Working on a theme-based collection and now there are eleven. Back to the hard part again: plotting for the next one.

    4. Maryn*

      I hit 50K on the novel yesterday afternoon. The end is nearly done. Now just to fill in the great gaping middle.

    5. Nom de beurre*

      Probably only peripherally related, but an excellent comment here on AAM to a business owner about what does winning look like made me realise that for me, winning among other things looks like having the time, energy, attention, and lack of stress needed to start seriously writing.

      I’m interviewing next week for a job that will get me most and maybe all of those things, so it may soon finally be time to stop wanting to be a writer and instead time to write. :)

  8. A.N. O'Nyme*

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

    Not much for me this week, but I have been wondering if anyone here has a Steam Deck (that handheld thing that looks like an updated Atari Lynx) and what you think of it if you do?

    1. Rosie*

      I just downloaded Portal and Portal 2 for Switch and I’m having so much fun thinking in portals again!

        1. curly sue*

          It dropped on Thursday – Portal Companion Collection, which has both 1 and 2! We’d never played it before, so we’re having a blast with it with the kids. It’s very clever!

      1. Laura Petrie*

        I just bought this too. I’m excited to play it, my husband is a huge fan and I’ve heard a lot about it!

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Not entirely sure what “in depth” means, but if you want a game that packs an emotional punch, I haven’t found better than “This War of Mine”. You try to help a group of civilians survive in a besieged city until a ceasefire is declared.

      2. Medusa*

        I really enjoyed state of survival for awhile. Once you join a team, the game totally opens up. If you have a good team, it can be a ton of fun. I was 100% free to play and it was still very engaging, though there are certainly people who spend $1,000s on it.

    2. MEH Squared*

      I’m still replaying Dark Souls II (Scholar of the First Sin) by FromSoft, but I can’t help but notice more of the negatives after playing Elden Ring. I was in the minority who thought DS II was a good game (if not a good Souls game) when it came out, time has not been kind to it.

    3. beep beep*

      Not playing exactly, but I’ve been watching the charity speedrun marathon Summer Games Done Quick, which benefits Doctors Without Borders. I really enjoyed the Slime Rancher run, it was so cute and I had no idea the game had much of a plot from the couple hours I’ve spent messing around in it before :P As of right now they’ve raised $1.8 million and I’m excited to see if they’ll hit 2.5 or 3 million by early Sunday when the marathon ends.

    4. Jackalope*

      More Fire Emblem: Three Hopes going on here. When I first started playing Fire Emblem Three Houses, it was 2 years after the original was released and so there was a lot already out there on the web. It’s kind of fun trying to play this new game and NOT being able to find much out (although there are people who had already made it through the whole game, all three houses, by Monday – 4 days after it was released!). I tend to go slowly because I like grinding to build my characters up, so I’m a long way from finishing. But I just got to recruit two of my favorite out of house characters, which made me happy. And when giving gifts, I’m able to remember who likes what gifts in many cases. So there’s that. I may have played the first game a bit too much!

    5. Finny*

      Now that I’ve got a Switch Lite again, I’m once again playing Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World, one of my favourite non-Shantae games. Still gotta finish Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom–I’m stuck on the ghost house boss and the magic safe in that one. And looking forward to trying out Untitled Goose Game–seems like it might be a good one to work out frustrations in an amusing way.

  9. The Prettiest Curse*

    Inspired by this week’s pregnancy question – what are some good responses to incredibly rude or annoying questions?

    As a British person who moved to the US on a fiance visa, I would get asked all the time if my marriage was fake or real. (I’m sure that peope who move to other countries on similar visas get the same question.) Unless you work for Homeland Security, this is an extremely rude question because you’re asking if someone has committed immigration fraud.

    My usual response was to say that I’ve been married for 10 (or however many) years, so if I’m an immigration fraudster, I’m a very bad one. (You are also a bad immigration fraudster if you openly admit said fraud to people who are making small talk, something which never seemed to occur to these people.) The response I was really tempted to use, but never did: “Oh, don’t worry, I don’t like your country enough to commit immigration fraud to live here!”

    (For anyone wondering: I’ve now been married for 19 years and to get my original US visa, I had to submit a pile of paperwork and photos several inches high to prove I was in a genuine relationship, as well as attend multiple immigration interviews.)

    And don’t get me started on the “amusing” questions about the 4th of July – though I hope any commenters who celebrate have a great holiday weekend!

    1. Yet Another Unemployed Librarian*

      My husband is non-USian and we applied for his green card as soon as we were married – we always thought it was funny how one of the forms had a question along the lines of “have you ever plotted to blow up a train?”. Like, I guess maybe they catch a few really clueless terrorists with that…?

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I actually had an inappropriately-timed giggling fit when they asked me in my US immigration interview whether I was planning to violently overthrow the government. (My brain just thought “what, single-handedly?” – even though I knew I’d be asked that question.) They also asked me if I was a Nazi war criminal.

        The reason they ask those questions is not because they think you’re stupid enough to lie if you actually are a Nazi war criminal or whatever. It’s so that they can charge and deport you if it later emerges that you lied about it in your immigration interview. It still felt very weird to be asked those questions – and I also felt sorry for the immigration officer who had to ask them with a totally straight face!

        1. WellRed*

          If one ever wondered how outdated government functions can be, asking a younger person at this point in time if they are a nazi war criminal certainly answers that.

          1. UKDancer*

            I got asked this when I went to the US and I did wonder as I was in my 30s so I didn’t think it likely. I also was asked to declare any crimes of moral turpitude. I didn’t know what those were.

            I got asked if I was planning to violently overthrow the Government as well but the moral turpitude made me laugh more because it sounded so old fashioned and vaguely naughty.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              It bewilders me that (last I checked) immigration asks about marijuana use and prostitution, both of which are legal in some states. The US is so backward in many ways.

          2. The Prettiest Curse*

            Yeah, it was definitely surreal, as a person born in the 1970s in a country that fought the Nazis in WWII, to be asked that question.
            But there definitely have been cases in the last 10 years or so where they have prosecuted now-elderly Nazis who moved to the US years ago, so I suppose they still have to ask. They also asked me if I had ever participated in committing genocide, so this will probably replace the Nazi question in the future.

        2. Squirrel Nutkin*

          Giggling fits can set you free! In the Before Times, ex and I were taking a short cut across part of Canada to get from New York State to Michigan, and we got Canada’s sternest border guard, quizzing us closely about whether we had this or that kind of contraband in our car. I was getting more and more nervous, even though we didn’t have anything problematic. When he asked about whether we had any hand grenades, though, I started laughing my head off, and he let us go.

        3. London Calling*

          *They also asked me if I was a Nazi war criminal.*

          My response would be ‘I really look 100 years old? damn, gotta change that moisturiser right now and get myself some glow facials.’

      2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        My sister works in that field, and my general understanding is that those questions exist in part so that the gov’t can say they’ve done their due diligence….and also, yes, they do catch a few clueless criminals like that (although I think it’s more commonly people admitting to tax fraud and smuggling rather than violent acts).

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I would imagine members of terrorist organisations would be more careful. They are surely prepared for the possibility of being interrogated for information and so on. That said, some of the ex-IRA people in Ireland are now quite open about their involvement.

          OH! That reminds me. One of them was running for president a few years back and was asked in an interview, “did you ever kill anybody when you were in the IRA?” “No.” “Did you ever shoot anybody?” “No.” “Did you ever shoot AT anybody?” “Well…I’m not getting into details here.” So…he missed, I guess?

      3. Russian in Texas*

        My favorite US citizenship application question is “have you ever committed a crime that you haven’t be charged with?”. Oh yeah. I got away with it, but NOW I tell you.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Sometimes, I think they throw in questions like that just to trip you up!

    2. Anonymous Cat*

      Hi! I hope you don’t think this is an annoying question but what kind of proof do they require to show you’re in a real relationship?

      Photos of the two of you attending a wedding? Joint membership on Netflix?
      I just wondered how proving it worked!

      1. So not using my regular name here*

        Our lawyer said the photos we had of us with our extended family especially ones with kid relatives over the years were good. The immigration officer seemed most impressed with my parent’s Christmas card photos with all the kids, spouses, grands and fur critters. I guess most people committing green card fraud don’t involve 100s of relatives and their young niece’s cat.

        For the interview itself, we mostly had simple questions. Stuff about how we met, our summer vacation, what we had for supper a few days ago, who did this or that around the house. The interviews were separate. I was a nervous wreck, even though the interviewer was very kind.

        (Not everyone uses an immigration lawyer, we thought it was too important to risk derailing with an ignorant mistake. )

          1. Girasol*

            That sounds like the intrusive stuff that the bank’s customer service line asks as proof that I am who I say I am. I want to say, “How dare you!” but I also want them to unfreeze my account.

            1. The Other Dawn*

              I work at a bank. We ask questions to verify your identity. Not only does it protect us, it protects you. If we didn’t verify a caller’s identity, we could potentially give your banking information to a fraudster who can then sell it or clean out your accounts.

            2. MigraineMonth*

              At least they’ve mostly stopped asking me about my mother’s maiden name. Which she never changed, and is part of my name, so the “security question” is not even approaching secure.

              1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                When I was in college, my mother and I had a joint checking account with both of our names printed on the checks (I was still a minor when I went off to college). She used her maiden name. I pointed out to my bank that this information was literally printed on my checks, but at the time they had no way to replace that security question with a different one. (Hopefully this has changed in the last 20+ years.)

            3. Avocadon’t*

              What? It’s the bank’s job to make sure that you are who you say you are, they need something more complex than “how do you spell your name” to verify that. I can’t imagine that you’d genuinely prefer they be less thorough and leave your account vulnerable to scammers.

            4. Girasol*

              I don’t mean to say that it’s wrong. I’m glad they’re careful not to let anyone else into my account! But it sets off all my “Hey, you can’t ask that!” alarms anyway.

          2. RagingADHD*

            Genuine question – you do know what an investigation is, right?

            What kind of non-intrusive questions do you think would be useful to rule out fraud?

          3. The Other Dawn*

            Those are not intrusive questions. They’re trying to ensure people aren’t committing green card fraud.

          4. LilPinkSock*

            Nah. That’s part of how they determine that people aren’t just using each other for immigration purposes. You can coach each other on basic information of a biography, you can’t for all the details of a life lived together.

          5. Heather*

            …those are some of the most innocent/superficial examples I’ve heard of in a green card interview context, actually.

            1. So not using my regular name here*

              There were lots of other questions that were much more aggressive, but Anonymous Cat asked specifically about how the validity of the relationship was determined and for us that part was pretty straightforward. Plus we were fortunate to have a topnotch well respected immigration attorney.

          6. Glomarization, Esq.*

            I tell my clients that it’s a quid pro quo: you’re asking the government to grant you the privilege of moving to a new country permanently and enjoying the benefits of permanent residence or citizenship. In exchange for these privileges and benefits, you’re going to have to give the government quite a lot of personal information and details about yourself to justify it.

        1. So not using my regular name here*

          As I understand it they were looking to see if we had similar answers for questions about our life together.

          My spouse is from a very poor place in Latin America and I am from a affluent very white part of the US. Please believe me when I say that the immigration officer’s questions were very tame compared to what even the most causal acquaintances feel free to ask. I mostly just just ignore the question and markthee person in my head as a bigot and not someone to voluntarily to spend time with. If possible I take an individual aside and say something like “I know that YOU didn’t mean it that way, but people who don’t know you and hear you ask that type of question probably will assume that you are prejudiced and I would hate for anyone to think that about you.”
          As a PSA, please do not ask people in similar situations things like “How do you know they aren’t just marrying you for the green card? How many in laws are you going to be supporting? How many kids do they already have back home? What is their current status? Do they speak English? Do they work as a roofer/maid/farm worker? Do they have a driver’s license?” And I hate that experience tells me to add this, but it does: Questions about other people’s love lives are always rude.

          1. Mstr*

            I used to tell people I knew he wasn’t marrying me for a green card because I was marrying him for a green card — confusion ensued. But we were both Americans in the first place so the answer seemed perfectly sensible to me. Made just as much sense as their question, am I right?

          2. Irish Teacher*

            “I know that YOU didn’t mean it that way, but people who don’t know you and hear you ask that type of question probably will assume that you are prejudiced and I would hate for anyone to think that about you.”

            I LOVE that answer.

            And woah! Some of those questions are really shocking. Asking if they already have kids of if you will be supporting your in-laws?!

          3. The Prettiest Curse*

            Yeah, I think I got off very easy in the incredibly rude questions department on account of being a white, English-speaking person. (I did have a few people assume that I was basically a mail-order bride because I met my husband online, but that was as bad as it got.)
            I really admire your restraint. Some of those questions are just awful.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        I’m always happy to answer questions about the fiance visa process, because I think many people think it’s much easier to commit immigration fraud using this visa route than it actually is in reality.

        Disclaimer: this is based on my experiences almost 20 years ago. There have no doubt been changes in the process since then, and I may be misremembering minor details.
        Homeland Security primarily cares about 3 things in the application process:
        1. Is the relationship genuine?
        2. Do the US citizen or permanent resident (sponsor) and their fiance have a place to live together?
        3. Does the sponsor have sufficient financial resources to support their fiance after they enter the US and while they complete the visa process and get work authorisation and a Social Security number? (In my case, I couldn’t work for about 14 months after I entered the US and while I went through this process.)

        The evidence that I had to submit to prove #1 was: copies of love letters, printouts of emails we had written to each other where we discussed our relationship and plans to marry, photos of the two of us together and proof (plane tickets etc.) that we had visited each other multiple times. (I often wonder what happened to all this stuff and whether it’s just mouldering away in a basement somewhere )

        The other part of the process is in-person interviews. I did several of these, one on my own at the US Embassy in London, one with my husband after I was in the US and I thinkI also did another one on my own in the US. I also had to get a chest x-ray to prove I didn’t have TB and an HIV test. (The HIV test requirement was dropped back when Obama was president.) Finally, we had to get married within 90 days of my entering the US and then submit additional paperwork to prove we’d got married.
        Honestly, the whole process is so incredibly stressful that I think quite a few couples split up as a result.

        The process of getting my husband a spouse visa for the UK when we moved back here 2 years ago wasn’t nearly as bad in most ways. However, the UK immigration system has ridiculously inflexible income requirements for fiance visas, so I’m not sure how we would’ve coped if I’d been sponsoring him for a fiance visa instead of a spouse visa.

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          people think it’s much easier to commit immigration fraud using this visa route than it actually is in reality

          I think this is a key thing that many people forget when they get caught up in the “drama” of a visa-marriage. The gov’t is not in the buisness of trying to figure out whether two people are genuinelly in love and getting married for the right reasons….I think they’re mostly trying to prevent a market for businesses where citizens charge money for spousal visas, which can have lots of problematic knock-on effects.

          My sibling works in this field and she says that they see lots of “kinds” of marriages, from long-term relationships to arranged marriages where the individuals don’t know each other very well….and that’s fine! The people mostly need to show that they are pursuing the relationship in good faith, which is usually easy with electronic communication and interviews. She said people often volunteer to show their social media accounts or let the agents skim through their chat logs…not with the goal of analyzing the content to see if the relationship is “truly love” but just to verify that there is a pattern of communication that’s consistent with a non-business relationship (so for a love match you’d presumably see a couple years of regular commuication, with an arranged marriage you’d presumably see some family contact, IDK).

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            My opinion as someone who went through the process is that faking it would just be a lot of effort. You would either have to have a lot of money to pay a shady immigration lawyer and to fake your supporting evidence or you would have to really, really enjoy filling in forms. (Also, the application fees are expensive – even more so if you want to eventually get citizenship. ) So you could potentially waste a lot of money and get nowhere.

        2. Anonymous cat*

          Thank you! It’s interesting to learn how the details of these things really work.
          I knew someone who was getting her US citizenship and her American family went with her to the final oath swearing ceremony.
          They said it was really interesting to watch and were impressed how careful the judge (?) was as he swore people in. He even noticed that one man was not really reciting the oath and pulled him out to talk to him.

          (Don’t know how that turned out because the ceremony finished for everyone else and they all had to leave.)

      3. Kiwiapple*

        My experience – not emigrating to the US but New Zealand for a partnership visa – providing evidence of your relationship. For me, and the recommended advice on various online forums this included: pictures of us together and / or with others, evidence of events we attended (for my last visa submission I even included our plane tickets coming into the country), social media posts, letters from friends and family describing time together, future plans, holiday pictures, bills and finances we have together (rental agreement, bank accounts etc).

      4. Cambridge Comma*

        Friends at the US Embassy were asked in separate rooms what colour underwear the other was wearing that day. One of them did not answer with a colour and said ‘thong’ instead. I don’t know if the answer counted but they were granted the marriage licence.

        1. California Dreamin’*

          Well that’s bonkers… I’ve been married 29 years a I have no idea what color underwear my husband is wearing on any day. I could maybe take a stab at black and have a decent chance of being right, but it would be a guess. I’m sure the same is true for him!

      5. Chilipepper Attitude*

        We showed up to the interview to prove we were in an actual relationship with a 6 month old baby. I still felt they were rude and did not believe us! My husband thought it was pretty normal.

        None of it was about who sleeps on which side of the bed or favorite colors or anything like that. It was a long time ago but what I remember of it, it was mostly financial information.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          We didn’t have an immigration lawyer for our US visa process, but I think the immigration advice book we had instead (Nolo Law series – it was pretty useful) mentioned that you might want to consider having children so they will be even more convinced that it’s a genuine relationship. Neither of us wanted to do that, and it’s interesting to know that it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference!

        2. Observer*

          That kind of surprises me. When we went through the process, the fact that we had kids (not in the initial interviews, which were immediately after our marriage, but the follow up ones a few years later), made a huge difference. They were actually pretty explicit about it.

      6. An Australian in London*

        I went through this with my first spouse (American emigrating to Australia) and am currently going through it with my second spouse (American emigrating to the UK).

        I found a useful rule of thumb is to assume they’re looking for anything that has ever been used for fake immigration evidence in comedies and romcom movies. :) Or more seriously, evidence that could only be gathered over a long long time and require as much commitment as actually being in a committed relationship.

        I don’t tend to take or appear in many photos so both times we were low on photographs, but we included whatever we had. Travel together is a good one as two people traveling together to a third place seems like more work than most immigration fraud attempts will go to.

        Both times I submitted an inch thick pile of our phone bills with every call to each other highlighted. (Skype records for the more recent one). Ditto texts, ditto emails. Sure there was some curation of how much personal stuff we were willing to share but we figured that quantity has a quality of its own.

        Most of our effort though was for the finances. Governments like growing their populations – so long as it isn’t also increasing a burden on their welfare systems. Being able to show both savings and income was most of what we had to do in both marriages; most of the effort the more recent time was due to my being self-employed and running my own company. The file of company and personal financial information was over two inches thick.

        No immigration lawyer for the first marriage but for the second we definitely went there; it wasn’t anything we wanted to take risks on. And indeed the immigration lawyer sometimes told us to not include evidence we’d been thinking of, saying that “spam them with everything” has a hint of desperation to it that immigration officers are alert for, and that there is an art to answering every requirement well but stopping there and no further.

        For the record no questions about underwear, toothbrushes, sex positions, or any of the other nightmare questions we’d heard of. Perhaps also relevant: in both cases both people were White, English-speaking, from a first world country, with at least one degree. That shouldn’t matter but it probably does.

        1. Observer*

          in both cases both people were White, English-speaking, from a first world country, with at least one degree. That shouldn’t matter but it probably does.

          It almost certainly does. Having said that, my husband is from South America, and his accent shows it. And he’s also obviously Orthodox, which clearly riled up at least one interviewer.

          Nevertheless, we didn’t get any of the really nightmare questions. It could be that joint bank accounts made a large difference, though.

      7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        My BIL wanted to marry a Canadian and they were both asked about gifts they’d given each other, and places they’d been to on holiday, typical stuff that couples do.

        In France, if you are married to a French person and apply for French nationality, you get asked very similar questions. You need to show proof that you both live at the same address, and sometimes you even get a visit from a police officer, who is allowed to look in your bedroom and bathroom (to count pillows and toothbrushes, make sure that you are both living there).

    3. PollyQ*

      An indignant, “I beg your pardon?” followed by something topical as needed, “Did you seriously just ask me if my spouse & I committed a crime?” For people being asked rude questions by strangers, “Do I know you?” is another all-purpose STFU comeback. Carolyn Hax’s basic snapback is just an awed “Wow.” Some people recommend “Why do you need to know?” or “Why do you ask?” but I think too many of these questioners have no shame at all and would come back with some BS like, “I’m just being friendly!”

      I know all of these are pretty frosty, and the answers you give are probably much better if you’re trying to preserve some kind of friendly-ish relationship. I do find myself very tired of this kind of nonsense, though, and wish people who said crap like this weren’t given any kind of pass on in.

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        This – a well placed “sorry, what did you just say?” in a tone that implies you can’t quite believe they had the audacity to come out with that can do wonders. It’s the Captain Awkward approach of ‘return awkward to sender’.

    4. RagingADHD*

      I often give an appalled silence or an incredulous laugh in the face of outrageous rudeness, but that’s because it’s very difficult for me to have a poker face. They aren’t calculated responses, they just happen.

      They are usually very effective in alerting people that they have said something appalling, without me having to be rude in return. So sometimes a sincere nonverbal response can be much stronger than a script.

    5. AcademiaNut*

      If you can pull it off, a raised eyebrow and a puzzled but slightly frosty “What an odd thing to ask” can work wonders. A British accent would be a bonus here.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      Please get started on the July 4th. This is probably horrific (British) ignorance but I genuinely have no idea what they could say about that except to ask if you are doing anything for it?

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        I’m American and I have no idea either! It’s mostly “Are you going to watch fireworks, if so where?” and “are you hosting/going to a BBQ?”

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        Since I just can’t bring myself to get worked up about the result of the American War of Independence, so I mostly just found these questions mildly annoying. But I did get asked about 4th of July a lot while I was living in the US and it did get pretty tedious, though at least less frequent than the questions about whether I watched Downton Abbey. (I think Maggie Smith is a total genius, but you couldn’t pay me to watch that show, sorry.)

        1. Generic “what are you doing for the holiday weekend?” questions just got a generic answer.

        2. “What are you doing to celebrate the 4th of July?” questions – sometimes, people just said this without thinking and sometimes it was said in such a way that it was obvious that the person was hoping to get a reaction.
        In the first case, I’d jokingly say something like “okay, just think about that for a minute…” In the second case, I’d usually break our the British sarcasm. I once got away with saying “oh, that’s SUCH an original question, no American has ever asked me that before” in my most sarcastic tone to a colleague with whom I had a jokey phone relationship.

        3. “So, the 4th of July must be kind of a downer for you, huh?” – since you definitely want a reaction if you’re asking this one, I’d just stare at the person for a minute and then say “No. Why?”

      3. londonedit*

        I have seen/heard a bit of ‘Ha, you Brits must hate July 4th, we got our independence from you, ha ha haaaaa’ stuff. It’s like when Americans make jokes about throwing tea into the sea. Truth is most British people don’t care, and we aren’t really taught anything about the Boston Tea Party or American independence so a lot of people wouldn’t really have a clue what the sort of people who make comments like that and think it’s terribly insulting are talking about.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          That really interests me, since I’m in Ireland and woah, is the American Revolution well-known. We studied it in primary school, again for the Junior Cert. (our equivalent of GCSEs, sort of) and in college (uni), we had a whole module dedicated to the American War of Independence and the French Revolution. I think most 12 year olds here would at least have heard of the Boston Tea Party and by Junior Cert., they should have a pretty good general knowledge of it. It comes up VERY regularly on the Junior Cert. History paper.

          I mean, PART of it is that it influenced the French Revolution which in turn influenced 1798, but it still seems weird that a country who were actually taking part in the war learn less about it than we do. That said, if ye were going to get insulted by any country that got its independence from ye, ye’d be doing nothing else!

          1. UKDancer*

            I think it depends which history module you studied. In my school we did nothing about the US until GCSEs when we did about the Great Depression, Roosevelt and the New Deal. I opted for an A-Level module on “Enlightenment and Revolution” which covered the growth in the Enlightenment, the English civil war and the US and French revolutions. I was a civil war enthusiast and liked that part the best. If you did the module on the ancient world, you probably wouldn’t have covered any of the US history.

            History when I was growing up did a lot of time on the Romans, the Norman conquest, and the Tudors. Then quite a bit on the 2 World Wars. We tended to miss out quite a bit and I learnt a lot from reading historical novels on the other bits.

            1. londonedit*

              Yeah, I didn’t do GCSE History so I did the Romans, Norman Conquest, Tudors, World Wars etc but not much beyond that really.

              1. Laura Petrie*

                I did GCSE history and we did Britain 1816-61, history of medicine, Northern Ireland and the Troubles plus a local study of the development of the docks in our city.

                For A Level we did Russia under the Tsars, Russia after the revolution, Britain between the wars, the Cold War, early 20th century peace treaties, Spain from the Civil War to the death of Franco, Italy from unification to the end of WWII, the Weimar Republic plus a depth study of Nazi Germany.

                I have no idea why I remember this more than 20 years later!

          2. Ellis Bell*

            We did a lot in our history classes about Ghandi and India’s route to independence, but I have to concur with londonedit that I’ve worked in quite a few schools and the American Revolution is just never on the curriculum at all. Nor the French, come to think of it. It’s mostly Vikings/Normans/Tudors/gunpowder plot/civil war/Industrial revolution/world wars/holocaust. The role the country played in slavery and the triangle trade gets done a lot, complete with trips to museums. I know we did cover the Irish famine at one point because I remember reading a lot of source material, and it is in my own family history, so memorable in that way. I have an Irish colleague who is totally fascinated by the differences in our school from her own, particularly what she calls “a different take” on Cromwell, who in Ireland is straight out presented as a tyrant. That’s not all that focused on here as much as his role in setting up parliament.

            1. Irish Teacher.*

              Yep, Cromwell is…very much a villain here. By the way, Churchill isn’t exactly a good guy from the Irish perspective either.

              We have a new junior cycle now. Examined for the first time a couple of weeks back. The old system was 1st year: Stone Age, Bronze Age, the Celts and Early Christian Ireland, Ancient civilisation (usually Rome), the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. 2nd year: the Age of Exploration, the Reformation, the Plantation of Ireland, American War of Indepence, French Revolution, 1798 Rebellion, the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution and the Famine. 3rd year: the Treaty of Versailles, dictatorships in Russia, Italy and Germany, World War II, the Cold War, 1916, the War of Independence, the Civil War, Irish governments from 1923 to the early 90s, Northern Ireland and Social Change in the 20th century.

              The new course covers similar topics but isn’t so neatly laid out.

              That is from about Age 12 to 15. After that, history is optional. Only English, Irish and Maths are required for Leaving Cert.

              Oh, I had a Scottish boy a couple of years back who arrived in Ireland mid-way through 2nd year so I was catching him up on Irish history when his class had Irish and at one point the Spanish Armada was referenced and I said, “you probably studied this in Scotland, but you’re going to hear about it from the other side now.” The Armada were our allies. (All our allies ships sink; it’s a reccuring theme.)

              1. Irish Teacher*

                In case anybody is interested, this is this year’s History Junior Cert.: https://www.examinations.ie/archive/exampapers/2022/JC004CLP000EV.pdf The American War of Independence would come under a pre-20th century revolution.

                This is the Leaving Cert. (equivalent to A-Levels), but history is optional at that point, so only a minority will do it: https://www.examinations.ie/archive/exampapers/2022/LC004ALP000EV.pdf The Junior Cert. is what all Irish kids have to study (and primary school stuff, obviously, but the Junior is the last point where History is compulsory).

              2. Lexi Vipond*

                I think the only thing I ever learnt about the Armada in Scotland was about the ships which were wrecked on the west coast of Ireland and the Western Isles, and I don’t think that was at school!

                1. Irish Teacher*

                  Here it mostly comes up as an aside. The emphasis is on the rebellion, but there’s a mention of “they were hoping for help from Spain, but then the Spanish Armada was wrecked off the coast.” Or when studying the lead up to 1798 and the FRENCH fleet fails to arrive (like I said, reccurring theme), there’s sometimes the quote from I think it’s Wolfe Tone about how “this is the worst disappointment since the Spanish Armada was wrecked.”

            2. londonedit*

              Of course British people know the basics of American independence and whatnot, we know July 4th is Independence Day and what that means, but it’s not really a big deal on our cultural radar and I think you’d have a hard time insulting a Brit with jibes about it. Lots of people these days use it as an excuse for an American-themed party, a bit like Americans doing afternoon tea when there’s a royal wedding. Everyone else just treats it as an ordinary day.

              1. Irish Teacher*

                Yeah, I can’t imagine anybody in Britain being upset by it. For one thing, it’s over 200 years ago and for another…it’s not like Britain was invaded or anything. It…didn’t do any particular harm to Britain at all.

        2. Lexi Vipond*

          Oh, I see. I think I would actually find it quite funny to be celebrating independence from myself, so I wasn’t sure why other people couldn’t find it funny too!

    7. Kiwiapple*

      I don’t have any good or witty responses because my questions regarding my visa status has been whilst job hunting. I’ve definitely had instances where people have said to me that they are concerned about my visa status as it is dependent on my partner (he is a citizen) and whilst I understand their concern that we could split up, you a) wouldn’t ask that of citizens and b) people leave jobs all the time for different reasons, including break ups normally, with or without a visa!

    8. pancakes*

      Wow, that is a ridiculous question! I like your response and think it’s fine to stick with it. I might make a silly, sarcastic joke and say something along the lines of, “it’s totally fake, we hardly know one another, how about yours?”

      I don’t know what gets into people that they feel comfortable prying that way, and I don’t know what sort of answer they expect to hear! If they earnestly think that’s a possibility I don’t know why they’d expect someone they’ve just met to be candid about it, and if they think it’s funny or clever they’re misguided.

    9. the cat's ass*

      I enjoy the one-size fits all, ‘That’s an interesting question! Why do you ask?” And then watch them ‘errr, ummmm’. Return the awkward to sender!

    10. fposte*

      Another possibility is to illuminate the implications of the question for themselves: “It’s funny that when you hear ‘marriage’ your thoughts immediately turn to crime. Does your spouse know this?”

    11. Russian in Texas*

      “Why Vladimir Putin does (invades Georgia, Ukraine, interfere in the election, anything else)?
      Me: let me call him and I’ll get right back with you.
      People: so you like vodka?
      Me: yes, and I also ride a bear going to work.

  10. Disabled trans lesbian*

    This isn’t a discussion I’m able to moderate over the weekend, but please feel free to post it on next Friday’s open thread. – Alison

  11. Design and decor*

    I need to redesign my office, but I have a comically-bad sense of spatial awareness. I can’t pack luggage without clothes overflowing, I’ve quit even trying to parallel park because I can’t afford to replace the scraped-up tires constantly, not once have I correctly guesstimated the correct Tupperware for leftovers…anything that requires having a sense of volume/size/location is impossible for me. I am the person giving a laughable answer to those “how many jelly beans in the jar?” carnival games.

    I am completely overwhelmed by trying to visualize a new room layout with new differently-sized-and-shaped contents. I’ve tried dashing off some scaled models using notebook paper, but narrowing down the options when there’s a thousand furniture stores just gets me quickly overwhelmed and frustrated, and it’s just not the same as being in the physical space and interacting with the objects.

    If I were wealthy I’d just hire a decorator, but my bank balance says no. Any ideas from people who are good at room design?

    1. river*

      This may be not what you want, but my method involves paper with squares on it. You decided that each square represents a useful unit of measurement, eg 1 foot or 1/2 a foot. measure the room and draw the area on the paper, to scale. Then on a separate sheet, draw the area of each piece of furniture to scale, and cut them out. You may want to colour in the pieces with a highlighter or something to differentiate them. Write on each one what item of furniture it represents. Then you can put the cutouts on the paper that has the room, move them around, and see where they fit.
      (Don’t forget to allow for doors that swing open, windows, etc.)
      You can move them around, and decide on layouts etc. It’s basic but I find it effective.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        I do this too! I use graph paper and one square either equals one foot or half a foot.
        I am pretty close to spatially special needs and this works for me!

      2. The teapots are on fire*

        If you do this, make a 3-foot circle to represent you and slide it around the room and see if you can keep from bumping into things. We of the odd perceptions need elbow room.

      3. Girasol*

        That’s my favorite way: moving little cutouts of furniture footprints on a graph paper room. Don’t sit by an open window or that tiny end table will blow away.

    2. RagingADHD*

      I’m not great at room design, but there are a number of websites and apps that let you arrange a room and view it in 3-d as if you were inside it.

    3. Tex*

      Use painters tape on the room’s floor/wall where you want the furniture placed to outline their position and give you a sense of their size.

    4. Redhaired runner*

      If you can move things out of the room Try using painters tape or other materials to mock out where things would go in the actual room. I used a blanket on the floor to visualize how much space my couch would take up, it really helped me see it in the actual space.
      Also have you picked a color scheme/style? That will narrow down the furniture to pick from at least.

    5. Bibliovore*

      I am spatially relationship challenged. I can’t load a dishwasher without the chart that came with it.
      That said-
      Work from home office.
      two file cabinet drawers with CURRENT- working files labeled.
      Desk. Surface- one stack of working on right now paper. a desktop computer. a laptop computer. pencils/pens in a cup. supplies on top in an organizer.
      standee white board with things- to-do
      15 minutes before start of work- things in their place, review things to do.
      before lunch- things back in place review white board/post-its
      afternoon- repeat morning routine.
      4:00 review/file/whiteboard post-it tomorrow.

      1. Bibliovore*

        oh- I emptied the room. painters tape on the floor with measurements of a two seater couch. table. small chair. bookshelves.
        sat in the room to see where I was comfortable- couch under window. desk facing door etc. where will the electronic devices live when being charged?

    6. kina lillet*

      If you have folding chairs or dining chairs, you can bring those into your office and set them up like the furniture you want—for example, two chairs facing each other for a desk, and then you can see if you bump into it when you come in, or maybe you’d like to see what a smaller desk feels like so you push the chairs together a little. Then you can measure the results and look for a desk at that dimension.

      Does that make sense? I found it helpful to really see how big things feel in the real space.

    7. Red Sky*

      Agree with everyone recommending using painters tape to lay out where furniture would go using their specific measurements. I would also go a step further and use cardboard boxes to fill in the taped outlines so you can get a better 3-D feel of how pieces will fill out the space.

      There’s also a bunch of free ‘room design layout’ apps/programs which are useful for planning a layout but I like to go a step further with the painters tape and boxes after I’ve found a layout I think will work, just becasue seeing something on a screen is not the same as experiencing and interacting with it in real life.

    8. pancakes*

      IKEA has a new app or feature where you can upload a photo of a room and it will remove the furniture and let you move theirs around in it. I’ll link separately. I’m sure there are other apps where you can plug in the dimensions and try different things.

      In terms of trying to develop a sense of how things will scale in your own space, I think it’s worth buying a yardstick and a sturdy metal tape measure with a lock feature, if you don’t have those already. They’re not expensive, and paying close attention to the dimensions listed online and holding up something in your own space that shows how tall, wide, long it will be is essential. You can’t really mess it up if you measure instead of trying to guess.

    9. Tib*

      There are now online decorators who will decorate a single room for about $50. I saw this pre-pandemic, so it may be more expensive now. I’ll try and find some to list in a comment. You send measurements and they give you an arrangement with suggested furniture. You can even provide measurements of furniture you’re keeping. You could also ask a friend who has good taste and likes that sort of thing.

      1. Kw10*

        I used Havenly and really liked it! It’s an online design service where you tell a designer what you’re looking for and they’ll suggest design ideas and products. The basic package results in basically an idea board; if you need help with the floor plan/layout/furniture placement you can pick a plan that includes that.

        Separately, I’ve also used Floorplanber.com which lets you do your own layouts. Kind of like the idea from other commenters to make a graph paper mock up, but online. You put in dimensions of the room and then can select from a library of furniture (all of which can be customized to match the actual sizes of what you have). You can even do things like wall color to make it feel like the real space. Then when you’re done your can do a 3D view as if you’re in the space. I found it super helpful to try it different furniture layouts. Basically create your room with the basic layout, dimensions, doors and windows, etc, and then ‘copy’ it so you can have different versions to try out different furniture layouts. Super helpful – I’ve used it for multiple apartments now! And it’s all free.

    10. Missb*

      I like Houzz’s discussion forums. They have one for offices. You could post some pics and a floor plan and get lots of free advice!

    11. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      When moving/buying new furniture, I build the new layout with some cardboard boxes of about the right size, in the actual room. This way I can make sure I’m not creating too narrow passages, put a bookshelf halfway in front of a window, or hide essential power sockets or light switches.
      When I had my bathroom remodeled (including a rather drastic changevof kayout), I used an online 3D modeling tool from a tile company. That was obviously a higher-stakes adventure (it took three months overall even though the contractors had estimated four weeks).

  12. Liz*

    Anyone who has been through an ADHD assessment, I would really welcome your input on what to expect, what to mention, or ask for.

    After a year of battling my GP and mental health provider to refer me, I finally have an assessment pending with Psychiatry UK. Long story short, they offer an accelerated referral service, which means I should be seen in the next 6 to 12 months, as opposed to the usual wait to see a local provider. I realise this is a long way off, but I’m extremely anxious about this and keep going over and over what my symptoms are and what I should bring up.

    I’ve had mental health difficulties all my life and I’ve often had trouble telling what is a symptom of what. I was a depressed child, a school refuser, didn’t do homework, didn’t study, and yet somehow got straight As because as long as I was engaged in the class I absorbed knowledge like a sponge. For years I attributed my inability to just apply myself to things as a symptom of my depression (later diagnosed as bipolar II) but after years of feeling stable, rebuilding my life, and finding fulfilling work, hobbies and a social life, I still struggle immensely to motivate myself, focus, and remain on task, even though all of the things I am trying to do are things I want to do and care about. I reached this realisation that I don’t struggle with focus and motivation due to being anxious or depressed – I get anxious and depressed BECAUSE I can’t focus or motivate myself! Hence, the ADHD request.

    I’ve spent most of my life seeing psychiatrists and therapists – in fact, I now work in mental health myself because I had so many formative experiences with these professionals – so I’m not anxious about that. I just want to make sure I can parse out which aspects of my history would be relevant, order to make the most of the appointment.

    ADHD peeps, what did you bring to your appointment? What were your “eureka” moments when you reflected on your struggles? How did the assessment go?

    1. RagingADHD*

      Caveat: from what I hear, the UK is more specialized and rigid about ADHD assessment than here in the US, so YMMV to some extent.

      If it is a clinical interview, you don’t have to identify symptoms. That is the clinician’s job.

      In my assessment, they just asked questions about my experiences as a child and an adult, and I answered to the best of my recollection. They weren’t hard questions, stuff like, “Do you find that it’s like this or like that?” Or “How would you describe…” No documentation necessary, nothing to bring except myself. The doctor explained in the later part of our conversation that the assessment was as much about observing my thought process, speech patterns and body language as about the content of the answers. So don’t worry about answering “right.” Just be sincere.

      After all, you don’t want to game the appointment to try and get a particular DX (and a good practitioner won’t let you). If you sound coached or like you’re speaking by rote, it will derail getting an accurate picture and appropriate care.

      If it involves computer – based testing, the one I did was just set up like a very boring video game. I don’t know how you could influence it even if you wanted to. You just play the game.

      In pursuing DX, I didn’t have a “eureka” moment so much as a “wait, could that be…?” phase that took place over several weeks. I was looking up a book that my grief counselor had recommended some years prior about magical thinking. That led me to a whole slew of articles about the connections between magical thinking, disordered eating, and ADHD in women – which started to sound awfully familiar.

      So that led to a bunch of books, which led me to go see my GP and say, “Huh, ya think?” And she set everything up from there.

      From everything I’ve learned since then, it’s not often worth the trouble to try to parse out what is a symptom of what, because it’s all connected. Depression and anxiety are often comorbid with ADHD, and they exacerbate each other. Sleep disorders and autoimmune disease are often comorbid with ADHD, and they exacerbate each other, too.

      As a matter of fact, the magical thinking issue makes me want to caution you that, while getting the right diagnosis is a big relief, it’s possible that your other diagnoses are also true and may continue to affect you. I know a number of people who are dxed and treated for several conditions, and ADHD is just one. Getting the ADHD treated didn’t make everything else go away.
      Getting good care and getting on a good management plan is a holistic process because it encompasses meds, therapy, tools/systems for work, lifestyle, physical health, nutrition, sleep, all of it.

      I hope the time you have to wait passes quickly and you get on the right regimen soon. Best of luck to you!

      1. Liz in the Midwest*

        Liz, are you the British version of me? I went thru very similar stuff last year, and got diagnosed. I too have depression and anxiety, and it’s become clear that while the ADHD diagnosis (and medication) has helped me enormously, I do still need to deal with my issues with depression and anxiety, they were not completely magically cured. But it is a lot easier to work on them when my ADHD symptoms are managed, if that makes sense.

        Everything said in the comment above about the diagnosis procedure rang true for me. When I’d be asked to give an example of, say, issues with time management, or screwing up details, or whatever, I’d be like, buckle up, I have about a zillion. But yeah, it was just talking and answering questions. In my case, they also interviewed my mom, because they wanted to speak to someone who knew me as a child to discuss symptoms in my childhood. I thought that was weird, but it was easier than finding a different doctor to do the diagnosing and my mom didn’t mind.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I have been assessed in the US (as a child) and the UK (as an adult).

      I don’t really remember the details of the childhood assessment, tbh. But I think the main thing you’ll run into is that they’ll want to make sure your symptoms are best explained by ADHD.

      Lack of focus and motivation is pretty common with depression….so maybe one thing that could help would be to think about how you are and how your life is when things are going well or when you are excited or happy about stuff. Because with a condition like ADHD you would expect to see signs and indicators in all your areas and seasons of life, not just in the areas you struggle with.

      1. ecnaseener*

        That last part is important. Idk if it’s an official part of the diagnostic criteria in the ICD (it’s in the DSM) but for it to be ADHD the symptoms need to be present in two or more areas of your life (eg not just at work or just at home).

        So it’s helpful to go through the symptom list ahead of time and think of specific examples of how each symptom* has manifested for you, and make sure they’re not all from the same area.

        *each symptom that you actually have with some frequency, which will probably not be every single one on the list!

        1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

          I never thought that I was hyperactive, because I had no trouble sitting in a seat in class. I only realized after the interview that perhaps my hair-chewing, glasses-chewing, and later crocheting during lectures were my ways of channeling the hyperactive impulses into something that was less disruptive than bouncing off the walls.

    3. Cat named Brian*

      I got diagnosed when my son did (in US) probably 14 years ago. The instrument gave a list of behaviors – had to have a teacher, parent, other adult to indicate whether we had the symptoms or not.

      ADHD is more than just not concentrating. Hyperfocusing, organizational issues, hyperactivity, relational issues are our biggest struggles. I had us both of us on medication (constantly changing type and dose) but it started being a real headache having to go to doctors every 2 months for handwritten prescriptions to take to a pharmacy. And for him, every three years getting re-evaluated; its ridiculous here to be treated like a criminal trying to get medication relief.

      Both of us (he’s an adult now) have moved to vitamin supplements, regular exercise outdoors, and limiting trigger foods as well as behavior modifications like lists, calendar reminders. I personally recommend Journaling. We also are in careers that we can have alot of flexibility and autonomy. Neither of us function well in rigid work environments…check out ADDitudemag.com -has great resources.

    4. ampersand*

      My assessment was enlightening. For reference, I’m a woman in the US diagnosed as an adult. My therapist referred me to a psychiatrist for an assessment because I thought I could have ADHD based on symptoms I’ve had for a long time that had gotten worse. I didn’t take anything to the appointment; the psychiatrist asked me a bunch of questions about my history and gave me a questionnaire for my parents to fill out (which felt ridiculous given my age). I almost didn’t go through with the testing because it was costly and time consuming, I didn’t think I had ADHD, and even the psychiatrist said it sounded like I didn’t have it.

      I thought I performed extremely well on the 2-3 hours of tests–like aced them in a good way (“No way do I have ADHD!”). Meanwhile, back in reality, the assessment revealed that I have very pronounced ADHD (like scored off the charts for it). Turns out I’m excellent at masking symptoms around other people.

      I wasn’t mentally prepared for being diagnosed. I went from “eh, I don’t think I have this” to “OMG I do have it and it’s actually really bad” within a matter of a couple of weeks. My diagnosis led to several weeks of not quite depression but definitely mourning things about my entire life up until that point. Things could have been different, and presumably better or easier, if only I’d known. Pretty much all of my 20s can be summed up as: yep, that was ADHD.

      The upside is that having a diagnosis means I can manage it. As an example: I used to think I was a failure because I need multiple calendars/reminders/to do lists in order to get things done, and now I’m much kinder to myself because I know I need those things. I still have moments where I realize that something I’m doing/did/how I process information/etc. is reflective of ADHD. I’m continually learning how I function best and how my brain works. When I feel like I need to, I seek out info about ADHD and how to manage it, but I try not to overdo it– I don’t want to start feeling like there’s something wrong with me. It took some time to realize that I’m still me, just me with more context and a diagnosis.

      I think it’s a good idea to go into an assessment with an open mind, and just be as honest as possible and provide the information they ask of you to the best of your ability and recollection. If something seems relevant, share it. Hopefully that results in diagnosis and symptom management if you do in fact have it; if you don’t, then at least you don’t have to wonder if you do. I hope all goes well!

  13. Llama face!*

    Who else struggles with getting stuff done when you have no structure in your days?
    Anyone able to sympathize or have suggestions for improving on actually getting all the things done?

    A big part of it for me is getting enough hours of distance learning completed but it really involves everything I need to do in the day: Getting some kind of exercise done, eating meals at regular times, dishwashing, etc.

    I have struggled with some areas of executive function for years but, despite that, I did well at WFH when I was employed. However my current lack of structure is proving challenging.

    I’ve tried having shorter work periods and more breaks, varying tasks, to-do lists, reward activities, and none of it is working. I suspect part of it is that I just don’t have enough going on in my life- especially things that are set for certain times or days- to give me a framework. But for COVID-avoiding and financial (it has to be free) reasons it’s hard to find activities to add to my routine. And I don’t have friends on a similar schedule to mine that I could use as accountability partners or exercise buddies or whatnot.

    What do you all have to suggest?

    1. Melody Pond*

      I have similar problems – I do still WFH, but I have sooo much flexibility (and not quite enough to keep me busy all the time) that I feel like I wind up in a similar position.

      I don’t know if this is an option for you, but what has worked well for me recently: I go to the grocery store every single day and get only what I need for the next day-ish, maybe two days. Here’s the critical part – self-powered transportation. I’m able to walk to a large grocery store in about 20 minutes, but if I didn’t live close enough to walk, I think I’d bike. The point is – I don’t drive to get there.

      Because I’m carrying smaller loads, it hasn’t been a big deal bringing back groceries on my own power. Bonus – I’m somehow spending way less on groceries each month? Something about limiting myself only to what I need in the very short term, seems to have cut down on my overbuying (and then wasting) food. Each time I think, “Oh, maybe I need this pantry staple” I just stop and remember, “if I really need it, I can get it tomorrow.”

      And then I’m also combining an errand with getting daily exercise – which is essential for me, in order to stick to it. Finally – something about doing this every day seems to give me a boost that motivates me to keep going and take care of other chores and items on my to-do list. Whereas otherwise I’d laze about all day in front of my laptop or the TV, doing absolutely nothing.

      1. Llama face!*

        Thanks Melody Pond,
        I actually don’t have a vehicle so everything is foot power (or occasional public transport) for me. But because of COVID, I have less places I’m going regularly so my exercise is haphazard. I am trying to avoid unnecessary shopping trips atm since there’s a lot of COVID denial here and very few people mask up or follow any precautions (despite our death toll this year so far being even higher than last year) so I’d be uncomfortable with doing more frequent grocery shopping. But the idea of combining tasks so there’s always a purpose and some urgency in doing them regularly is a good principle I could try to incorporate in some other way. I’ll have to think on that!

    2. Ellis Bell*

      It sounds like you’re trying to form multiple habits at once. You can’t magic up a routine that does all things simultaneously if you have poor executive function. Choose one thing to focus on first; exercise, mealtimes, dishwashing or something else that’s bugging you, and make that one thing into a reliable habit before moving onto the next one. Habit forming involves a trigger (something that reminds you that it needs doing or makes you want to get up and do it) having the available tools/time and then preferably a reward, so you really have to do habits one at a time until they’re automatic. One example for me is I want to take vitamins more regularly so I keep them with my phone charger where I will see them when I’m already up. I’m now in the habit of taking them with a cold and delicious drink while thinking about the health benefits I want to see and feeling pleased that I’ve remembered for X days (the vitamins are in day of the week packs).

      1. Llama face!*

        Thanks Elis Bell,
        Yeah I am definitely trying to do it all at once! Good reminder. If I could get a habit started that let me begin my day on a better note (instead of losing half my day) I think that would be a really powerful first step. I do need to break this down and not try to revamp my entire life in one fell swoop!

        1. Ellis Bell*

          That’s exactly where I started; sleep routine then a morning routine. It totally worked for me to prioritize that.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I was married to a diabetic. This opened my eyes to a lot of things. I learned that even a healthy person benefits from following a schedule. For diabetics it starts with meals on time. And it also goes into getting the same amount of rest each day. Bonus points for being able to keep activity levels similar from one day to the next.

      I adopted this frame work myself. Bed time and meals all have set windows of time during the day. Since I am not a diabetic, I can afford to have some slack such as lunch at 11:30 one day and at 12:30 the next day is okay for my purposes. I stay with in my windows so that I keep moving through the day. After breakfast, x, y and z need to be completed before lunch. After lunch I will do a, b and c. Here’s a key part. I have to know that it will end, the day will wind down. I set the evening up so that after the dog is fed and the dishes are done, I can do something I want to do. This could be reading but sometimes I have a little project such as a small repair that I really want to do.

      Honestly, I had to scare the crap out of myself in order to get myself to set a schedule and follow it. Lack of direction, lack of purpose seems to lead to all kinds of health problems that there might be no returning from. I have a choice, I can take the bull by the horns now or pay the price later. So if nothing else is working give your self some stern warnings, basically I gave myself a kick in the butt.

      Once I set up a personal out line of what my day looks like, the outside activities presented themselves. My interests in plants and gardening led me to working at a fundraiser plant sale. My interest in community concerns led me to all kinds of meetings. Gradually, I had the opposite problem where I needed to pay more attention to home. But the point is get your schedule stabilized then look around and see what dovetails with things you are doing.

      1. Llama face!*

        Thanks Not So NewReader,
        I used to be better at that (keeping to a schedule for sleep, meals, etc). It just went off the rails a while ago and I’m struggling to get it all back. When I had more set-time demands on my day- where there were external consequences of not being ready/having something done by a certain time- it was easier to stay in the routine.
        I’m not so good at trying to incentivize myself (with either negative or positive pressure).
        I like the idea of looking at my routine (once it’s stable) and then building in more activities as they fit.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          What I found is that the further off a routine I went the more my thinking tanked and it was harder to get back on a routine. Lack of sleep, improper hydration and poor nutrition cause the brain to function less sharply. In a self-feeding down hill spiral, the stinkin’ thinkin’ drives more neglect and the thoughts get harder to cut through.

          I broke the cycle by just focusing on breakfast. I got up at a certain time. I ate a pre-planned and healthy breakfast according to my time frame. I did that much for a couple weeks. Then I started on lunch. I planned my lunch meals and planned the time frame I would eat them. It was almost two months by the time I got to handling dinners. In the course of picking out foods, I was able to identify things that I could snack on. Things fill out. It was the hardest work I have done in some ways because of all the crappy thinking I had to climb over to get there. Each time I added a meal in, things got a tad better.

          And the meal planning morphed into numerous side tasks involving food storage, cupboard organization and so on. There came a point where I could see that I was actually getting this turned around into something I would use. No regrets and lotsa learning.

    4. Sundial*

      People with ADHD (not diagnosing you, just speaking from personal experience) often benefit from body doubling, and there are multiple apps that let you schedule an accountability partner to help get things done. FocusMate is one I remember off the top of my head, but a search will bring up a bunch more.

      1. Llama face!*

        Thanks, Sundial. I have heard of body doubling and will take a look and see if that kind of app might be helpful for me.

    5. Wishing You Well*

      Yes, I struggle to get stuff done when I have the whole day to mess around. I hope you find a technique or two that work for you. To-do lists work for me but you need something different.
      Just sending you good wishes in finding a great solution.

    6. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      I definitely have ADHD, and I have benefited from a modified pomodoro method, a list of goals and accomplishments, and a hexagonal flip timer.

      The pomodoro method was originated with a tomato-shaped kitchen timer, and uses timed intervals with a short rest break to get things done.

      I set my timer for 15, 20, or 30 minutes and work on one of my goals. It goes off, and I set it for 5 minutes, get out of my chair, and do something like put away a few dishes or load a few dishes, refill my water, get a snack, or something else. Then I come back when it beeps and start working on something. (The short breaks can also be nonproductive, like a game or social media, but that’s when I’m trying to hit my personal activity goals.)

      My daily list (when I’m using one; right now I’m focusing on other things than productivity) has my goals for the day and little bubbles to color in when I’ve done one little increment of a long task. I also write down things that I did that weren’t scheduled, because it helps me stay accountable in productivity terms (putting away clean laundry is not a free activity! It takes time!) and helps give me perspective on what I actually did when it seems like I got nothing done. (it’s technically a bullet journal but I use quarter-sheets of recycle paper as a reminder to not get too precious about it.)

      I made myself an intentionally bad award from clip-art that celebrates me getting my morning meds before noon. Sometimes I will post it to Twitter when I’ve accomplished that. Do not underestimate the helpfulness of sticker charts.

    7. Might Be Spam*

      One thing I like to do is make a “Done It” list. I add the things (large and small) that I’ve done, even tiny parts of a larger task.

      It feels rewarding to add to the list instead of dreading the list. Depending on my mood, I sometimes break things down into as many tasks as possible so my list is longer and I feel like I accomplished more.

  14. London, Paris shopping*

    Summer vacation is coming up: any good thrift stores in London, Paris or Oxford? Looking for fashion and books.

    1. StellaBella*

      Yes here are a few in Paris, I went to these on my last trip (5 years ago so I hope they are still there):
      Fondation Auteuil 40 rue Jean de la Fontaine (Arr 16). Metro: Jasmin.
      Amnesty International Boutique. 76 boulevard de la Villette (Arr 19). Metro: Colonel Fabien.
      Emmaus and Salvation Army – many locations.
      Have fun, thrifting in Paris is so awesome. Also consider looking at the Paris Saint Ouen Flea Market (Puces De Saint-Ouen) at Porte De Clignancourt, Paris – antiques but also some books and clothes.
      Have fun!

    2. ivy*

      honestly, Oxford isn’t great for thrift stores for clothes
      there’s an Oxfam on St Giles that’s good for books. Don’t bother with the Oxfam on Broad st – it’s mostly a tourist-trap

    3. Cookies For Breakfast*

      In London, go to the book market on the South Bank (under Waterloo Bridge) for secondhand books.

      The book stall at Spitalfields Market on Sundays also used to have nice books in good condition (some new) at low prices. Post-pandemic, though, I noticed it started selling some at full price. You may still want to check out the area around Spitalfields and Brick Lane for fashion, I don’t know specific names but Brick Lane in particular has an entire basement market dedicated to vintage clothes and I believe there are some interesting shops too.

    4. Cordelia*

      Oxfam have a number of specialist second hand bookshops, there’s a big one by the British Museum but several others in more residential areas of the city, so it depends where you are staying. I go to the one in Crouch End (North London), which was refurbished a few years ago and is excellent.

    5. pancakes*

      Black Gull Books, London.

      Worlds End Bookshop, London.

      Boom Cat Books, London.

      Beyond Retro Soho, London (vintage clothes).

      Judd Books, London.

      Skoob Books, London.

      Any Amount of Books, London.

      Chinemachine, Paris (vintage clothes).

      Kiliwatch, Paris (same).

    6. Almost Academic*

      No suggestions but thank you for posting this! I’m going to be in Paris next week and looking for clothes, so it’s perfect timing.

    7. Nom de beurre*

      It’s a bit out of the way from Paris but there is a great flea market in Vanves. It can be reached by train. Not everyone takes cards so cash is essential – and carrying large amounts of cash through Paris needs its own special attention and precautions.

    8. OxfordBlue*

      I’m a keen customer of charity shops in Oxford and its suburbs.
      For clothes generally I find Headington worth looking at but for fashion and high value ones try Summertown especially the Helen & Douglas House Hospice shop. Don’t forget the Dog’s Trust shop in South Parade and also try the Mind shop in Jericho.
      For books the Oxfam shop in Summertown is especially good and so is the Sobell House Hospice shop on Little Clarendon Street and the Oxfam bookshop in Turl Street is very good for academic and special interest books.
      Since Covid the charity shops now allow customers to take items home to try on and then return them for a full refund provided you’ve left the labels on and still have the receipt which is handy. Watch out for the Sobell House shop who are the only place that don’t do this and do ask at the till to make sure this is still accurate information.
      There is a lovely vintage clothes shop on the Cowley Road https://reignvintage.com/stores/ that often has interesting clothes in the window and there is an intriguing one in Ship Street called Unicorn that has stuff piled high in the window that might be a bit offputting.
      My favourite charity shops are the BHF in St Ebbe’s and the Oxfam branch on the Cowley Road so pop your head round those doors if you’ve got time and cash to spare. Enjoy your vacation.

  15. Frustrated hobby crafter*

    Folks here who are into any art or craft form, have you ever dealt with someone trying to backseat-drive your work? My parent tends to do this with me. I got into embroidery a couple of years back (very casual, part-time hobby, definitely not going to monetize it) and mainly work off patterns because I can’t draw to save my life. They tend to pick apart my work – should have used x colour instead of y colour for the contrast/this design is boring – why are you embroidering flowers again/why don’t you add x element to this pattern (I can’t draw!!) They have praised my talent multiple times and in public, so I know they do appreciate my work. It’s frustrating because 1. they frequently don’t have the full vision of what I’m trying to achieve in terms of the finished work, and why a particular design choice is necessary, and 2. I should be able to do what I like! This is a form of creative expression for me.

    We live together so I can’t avoid them every time I’m working on a new project. Attempts to explain why I’m choosing to do something are met with, “I’m only trying to help you so that your work looks better, I hate to see all your effort go to waste”. It’s exhausting and I don’t want to have this discussion every time I start a new pattern. Suggestions on how to deal with this (other than moving out)?

    1. Emma2*

      Can you say something like “this is something I do because it gives me joy and helps me relax, I am not sure if you realise this, but every time I start a new project you criticise my choices – that takes a lot of the joy out of this for me and I need you to stop.”
      If they push on being helpful “I understand that is how you feel, but it is not helpful to me. I would rather have a finished piece with an imperfect colour in it that I enjoyed making than to keep having these conversations that are making something I used to enjoy less enjoyable so I really need to ask you to stop”
      Don’t keep re-litigating this, in future “mom, we talked about this, I need you to stop with the criticism and let me enjoy this” (and if possible either walk away or put the project away).

    2. Anima*

      Tell your parents ist your hobby, you only do it for yourself and also tell them, friendly but firm, that you don’t want their input. My mom was like this, she also pushed to monetize my sewing, but I once or twice (or thrice, my mom is like that) told her I flat out won’t and please stop. After some time it worked and we fell into appreciation for each others work and help each other with materials. It’s much nicer like that.
      If someone can make a skript, I would appreciate it, because I’m no good at that!

      1. Anima*

        “Help each other with materials” – not like your parents do with the colours, but my mom makes decorations for my work and I help out with machine stuff, that kind.

    3. PollyQ*

      Well, moving out is not a terrible idea, and although I understand it may be much easier said than done, you may find it pays off in other ways. A parent who constantly criticizes you with the excuse “I’m only trying to help!” may be dragging you down in other areas than this one hobby. Or maybe not, you know best.

      Since you’ve had this discussion multiple times, it may take you getting more blunt, e.g., “[Parent], I’m not asking for your help. This is my hobby, and I’m going to use my best judgment as to how to make the best piece. I don’t want to discuss it any further.” I would also stop responding to the arguments as if they had any merit, beyond “I’m choosing to do it this way because I think it’ll work the best.” You may need to set a physical boundary in order to enforce this, e.g., retreating to your room or even leaving the house if they won’t stop when you ask them to.

      This probably sounds pretty harsh, but I think what your parent is doing is pretty harsh itself. Even if you were a child, constantly criticizing like that would be cruel & demeaning. As always, Captain Awkward has great advice for these kinds of situations. Going to her site & checking the tag “boundaries” should be helpful.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Getting my own space was the only way to avoid my mother’s criticism.

    4. Squidhead*

      Take or leave the following ideas:

      “Oh, I wasn’t looking for input!” (But then don’t ask questions that invite input.)

      “I’ve already decided how I want to lay this one out but I can show you how to start your own pattern so you can do one if you like!”

      Talk about your work and the process positively, even if you wind up making a change “I like how these colors contrast here” but also “I re-did the red section because it needed a cooler element/ different texture/etc… I’m enjoying that my process is as important as the product here.”

      These might all be too subtle? You know your parent best! Happy stitching!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      “I’m only trying to help you so that your work looks better, I hate to see all your effort go to waste”.

      I am sorry you think work done in a manner that *I* appreciate is a waste.
      Please stop telling me my work is a waste.
      It’s a hobby. It does not matter if it’s wasted or not. It’s. a. hobby.
      Please don’t help me unless I ask.
      You say that a lot. You know this is just a hobby and nothing else, right?

      I am mostly a fan of “please don’t help me unless I ask”. You can add in wording such as “this is just a hobby and you are trying to make it into something bigger than what it is.”

      I have done a lot of needle work myself. It’s average quality, not great. But I enjoyed seeing how things went together and figuring out materials and projects. I did it to suit me and not anyone else. I had very little interest in doing “professional grade work”. We all saw here how Alison progressed with her crocheting. She zoomed out beyond anything I have ever done and it’s gorgeous. I can truly admire that and at the same time know I’m not there.

    6. Jay*

      “Thanks, I’ll think about that.” Doesn’t matter if what you’re going to think is “nope.”

      I read someone quoting John Gottman a while ago. They mentioned “bids” in relationships – the way someone makes a comment on something you’re doing. The idea was (I will misrepresent this, I’m sure) that “bids” are an attempt at connection and involvement. My husband used to be a backseat driver for pretty much everything I did and it drove me bonkers. I felt like he was saying I didn’t know how to do whatever it was (scramble an egg, load the dishwasher, whatever). His whole family is like that and I realized it’s how they connect. Once I reframed those comments in my head as bids for connection, I found them far less aggravating.

      1. The OG Sleepless*

        I’m going to have to try that! My husband cannot watch me do ANYTHING without giving me advice on how I could do it better. He’s also kind of…I don’t want to say “clingy,” but he needs a lot of affirmation and connection. It’s very likely to be “bids” for attention. Thank you for this! You might have changed my life.

    7. Not A Manager*

      “Thanks! I like it the way it is.” Just keep repeating that. If it really starts to bug you, try just saying “thanks!” to whatever they remark or suggest.

    8. Red Sky*

      When someone uses the I’m only trying to help justification and are not, in fact. being helpful I usually respond like so –

      Mom: Well, I’m just trying to help
      Me: I understand and appreciate you wanting to help, but I’m telling you (insert non-helpful advice here) is not helpful for me, and I need you to stop with this type of helping. Can you do that?

      You may get pushback, don’t try to justifiy or explain, just keep repeating they’re being the opposite of helpful and hopefully they’ll get it.

      If they do it again after this conversation try exclaiming Not helpful! in a cheerful, somewhat loud voice each time to remind them. If they try to argue, leave the room, but remain cheerful

    9. MissCoco*

      This sounds exhausting!
      A couple thoughts:
      “I don’t really want any input on this piece.”
      “I’m just enjoying the process, it doesn’t have to be the best version for me to enjoy making it!”
      “For me, doing the embroidery is the whole point, and I’m happy with my choices for this piece, so don’t worry, it won’t be a waste, even if you don’t like [the colors/design]” – I might consider making this a separate discussion. It was really helpful to my own conception of my crafts when I realized that the time I take is the entertainment value, not the product I create! It’s ok if I take 300 hours to make a not very pretty crochet blanket because I enjoy the process, and my relaxation has worth aside from the creation/product.
      “I’m really enjoying this pattern. I find it very relaxing to embroider flowers”
      “Sometimes I like to pick a simple design”
      “I’m making this for [myself/aunt Linda/someone your family doesn’t know] and they love these colors/flowers”

    10. WellRed*

      My mom has different political views than me and like so many it’s gotten worse (she never cared about any if it before). When I’m visiting if she starts up or starts yelling at the TV I shut the conversation down immediately and matter of factly. “Mom, I’m not discussing this.” End. Of. But I suspect I’m older than you and have had more time to develop my adult capacity in the relationship ; )

    11. RagingADHD*

      I have cycled through varying degrees of niceness and rudeness on this type of thing, and the most effective responses I’ve found are to use obviously canned replies and repeat them by rote instead of engaging with the comments. Along the lines of:

      – Why are you doing it that way?
      – Because I like it.

      – You really should do this…
      – Sounds great! You should definitely do that with your piece. Can’t wait to see it.

      This is one of those situations where intentions don’t matter. You dont’ need their help. Presumably they are not experts you’d ask for advice anyway. They just need to knock it off.

      IME, flat replies like this take away the “fun” of nitpicking. Those who honestly can’t see how obnoxious it is get the message and stop because they didn’t mean to offend. Those who are habitually critical bullies don’t get the rise out of you they wanted.

    12. pancakes*

      “I hate to see all your efforts go to waste” is so condescending! Sorry, but moving out is the best way to deal with people like this. In the meantime, try not to give them openings to talk about your work at all, if you can. Certainly it’s fair to tell them you’re not interested in hearing relentless criticism whenever they catch site of your work.

      What would happen if you stunned-laughed or said something along the lines of “wow, that’s rude” when they make remarks like these? I’m not sure it would be for the best to start now if you’ve never tried that, but I think it’s fair for anyone to react to them that way. Someone not living with them would likely not take kindly to their behavior. Their remarks are really rude and misplaced. There’s hardly one right way for finished work to look, and they don’t seem to be speaking with any degree of expertise themselves. I mean, if they were considered titans in the world of embroidery and were offering to help you with technically tricky moves, that would be a different. They’re just picking at everything you do, for flimsy reasons.

    13. My mom too!*

      My mom does this too, but about my entire life. Fortunately I don’t see her often. My 2 approaches are both said in a cheery manner:
      1) “I’m only accepting compliments on X”. If they offer underhanded compliments “Like that looks nice but would look better in red”, I cheerily reply “Not a compliment, please try again.” Repeat as needed until they know how to compliment you. This works really well if they first ask to see your WIP. “You can see it if give me only compliments.”
      2) “You might be right”. This is good for ending most pleasant disagreements. You haven’t said they are right, but you haven’t said they are wrong either. Can’t argue with that.

      Funny story: A friend of my spouse dropped by and asked if he could have a brownie from the pan on the counter. I was having a down day and replied “only if you compliment them”. He started eating and started giving me his opinion. I stopped him with a smile: “You might have misunderstood. I don’t want your opinion. I want you to compliment them. I don’t actually care what you think.” He then gave me a gushing compliment. I felt great. He got is brownie. All was good with the world.

      Ok, back to the thoughts. The “I’m only trying to help” bit. When they whip that one out, you can respond with “What will help me most when I’m crafting is compliments! I want all the compliments!”

    14. IT Manager*

      Miss Manners and Carolyn Hax both have recommended the non sequitur where you answer what they SHOULD have said … “oh, thank you! I’m really enjoying it”. Repeat often, maybe switch it up with “I know, right? It’s hard work but worth it!”

      Takes dedication and willingness to ignore resulting pouts to pull this off, but often works.

    15. Tea and Symathy*

      My sister does a version of this. For example, if I’m helping her make a fruit salad for dinner, she’ll say “You slice the strawberries? I usually cut them in half”, in a tone that is clearly meant to point out and correct your grave error. She does this a lot. The only thing that I’ve found to help is to say some variation of “yes, people do things in different ways, and neither is right or wrong, they’re just different”, said in a condescending tone. In your case I would probably add something about art being subjective. This has led to her really cutting down on the frequency of these kinds of comments.

      My niece’s solution is to just say, in a sweet voice, “but you’re not doing it, I am. Would you like to finish it, so that you can do it your way, and I’ll start on another project?”

      We both agree that it’s maddening. Good luck!

  16. Art/craft thread*

    Let’s have an art/craft thread! What have you been upto recently?

    I’ll go first – I finally got out of an embroidery dry spell by doodling some lazy daisy flowers and leaves on a cushion cover. It looks like a toddler art project but it makes me happy to look at it, and I’m planning to start another project today! I also ordered some fabric paints to experiment with painting on canvas tote bags, any tips/advice welcome!

    1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Got a felted vessel I want to try, which is larger than the tiny one I made last year. However, working with felt and soap seems like such a fall activity so… we will see.

      I also have some rag rugging I would like to attend to!

    2. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I broke my photography dry spell (lasting since 2020) during the holiday I just returned to. I didn’t want to bring my bulky digital camera, so I bought a film roll for the vintage camera I have. When it’s developed, there will be shots from a few beaches, coastal towns, and a wedding. Fingers crossed anything is any good. But I still have 4 or 5 shots left, and I’m not sure where I’ll use them now I’m back to being mostly home, so it might take a while.

    3. Marion Ravenwood*

      The top I was attempting to make has gone horribly wrong (this is why you should make a toile and do the darn pattern adjustments rather than just trying to take lazy shortcuts!), so I’m unpicking it and repurposing the fabric for little bits like scrunchies and makeup bags.

      I’ve also just ordered a bunch of new patterns to try and get ahead on things for the autumn/winter – mainly trying to get more casual tops into my wardrobe, plus a few more attempts at a 60s-style A-line skirt I made last year and really loved so want to try and do a few different versions. I still have the hankering to make a zillion and one summer dresses, but I know full well I won’t get them done before I could actually wear them so they might have to be parked for a little while.

    4. HamlindigoBlue*

      I finished two summer tank tops this week (knit), and I started a knit summer cardigan with cotton/merino last night. I’m also working on a crochet throw, but that’s more of a long term project.

    5. HannahS*

      I’m knitting little copper-coloured tweedy shawl-collared cardigan for my baby girl’s first birthday in the fall (I am not a fast knitter lol.)

      I’ve tried to start a few things (blouses, a dress) and realized that I just can’t sew large projects right now. Knitting works because it’s so easy to pick up and put down.

    6. small town*

      I’m almost done with a pair of knitted socks for my dad. For someone in his upper 80s he picks out some wild colorways. These are oranges and reds.

    7. merp*

      I just dyed the lining for my next sewing project, which is the breakup robe from hbo’s Our Flag Means Death! Really excited to finally start.

      Also I looove free-handing embroidery. It sometimes looks a bit wonky but for some reason it really drives home the “there are no rules, I can do whatever I want” feeling for me.

    8. Wishing You Well*

      I’m knitting counterpane squares. (Victorian-style afghan blocks) I LOVE the geometric designs!

    9. Yet Another Unemployed Librarian*

      I am making My First Crochet Project – a washcloth – but I think I added a couple extra stitches in the first few rows. It’s too far back from where I am now to fix from here, but I’m wondering if I could unravel it from the start later. My plan is to finish the rest and then consider/research if that’s possible. Or it may stay a not entirely square washcloth!

      1. RagingADHD*

        I’d say finish it as is and then crochet a border that fills in next to the extra stitches to square it back up.

        1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

          Seconding this! It’s great to have a finished object and be able to go “Maybe it’s not perfect, but it’s useful and I had fun doing it.”

          The kite-shaped washcloth/dishcloth is a traditional First Knitting Project, and the ragged-edged crochet project is its counterpart.

      2. WFH with Cat*

        I don’t crochet … but can tell you that, in knitting, unraveling from the start doesn’t work AT ALL like unraveling backwards toward the start. I ended up with a hot mess!

        Personally, I’d go with finishing the washcloth as-is and putting it to use. You may find that washcloths/dishcloths don’t stay beautifully square, or anything else, when crafted in cotton yarn, but will very likely shrink and fade, so being off by two stitches on an early row may not even be noticeable after the cloth goes through the laundry a couple of times. (I knit kitchen dishcloths as gifts and tell everyone, “They’re supposed to shrink and fade. Please enjoy them, use them, and wear them out!”)

    10. Forensic13*

      I finally did my little experimental decoupage collage project I wanted to do months ago—letters to spell my child’s name, with each letter covered with plant pictures matching the name (eggplant, echinacea, etc for E, for example). It’s not fancy but it turned out cute and I’m also just pleased to have finished a languishing craft!

  17. Intermittent Fasting*

    I started intermittent fasting this week with an 18-hour fast and a 6-hour eating window. Since I already ate on a similar schedule most weekends, the transition to intermittent fasting was painless. I eat lunch and dinner only now and skip breakfast. With my two meals, I ensure I get in all/most of my nutrition and take a multivitamin daily. I was a bit hungry at work in the mornings for the first two days, but nothing terrible. I rarely feel hungry now, and my energy has increased. I also do not feel the least bit deprived or like I’m sacrificing anything. It was a pleasant surprise to lose five pounds in the first five days of intermittent fasting (with two 50-minute walks). I’ve been eating healthier and walking regularly since March 1st of this year and had an average weight loss of about 2 pounds per week. I’d like to hear about your experiences with intermittent fasting, particularly those of you who’ve been doing it for a long time. I can see doing this permanently. Am I naive to think it is sustainable? I just don’t see a downside to it (yet). I have more energy and feel amazing. It works with my life and health goals so far. What’s been your experience?

    1. Schwanli*

      I’ve been delaying breakfast till mid morning or sometimes till nearly noon (so fasting approximately 15-18 hours) and it is completely sustainable. I’ve been doing it about two years, and have lost over ten pounds (so I’m at the weight I am supposed to be). I also exercise daily with lots of walks and some higher intensity exercise. On the self-indulgent side, I eat sweets (like cake or pastries) twice a day ‘cuz I love ‘em. But I’m still maintaining that ideal weight . I think it’s a combination of the fasting and exercise. I am not depriving myself of any food that I feel like eating, which is good for my mental health.

    2. Lynn*

      I LOVE intermittent fasting. Similar results with you re: energy levels.

      Two things I love about it: energy boost and time savings/less time spent thinking about food. When I’ve tried “6 small meals a day” style diets, since I have to eat so often that’s all I think about and it backfires. Plus it takes up so much of my day.

      I’ve been doing it on and off for 3 years. Whenever I go back on after a short break, I wonder why I stopped.

    3. sagewhiz*

      It’s absolutely sustainable! I accidentally, I guess you could say, started years ago, before it was “a thing,” and I didn’t realize there was a name for it. Altho I don’t stick to that 6 hr window—putting that restriction in my head just makes it seem like a diet, instead of me doing me. No breakfast, as I’m not hungry. A light lunch is at noon. No matter how early I start cooking dinner, it just never hits the table until 7, 7:15 or so.

      After dropping 40 pounds (also years & years ago) on the Atkins Diet, my weight hasn’t fluctuated more than 3 or 4 pounds in either direction. (Well, maybe 5 or 6 when my otherwise-dormant Martha Stewart erupts in the annual Christmas baking frenzy ;-).

    4. Sundial*

      I do a 16:8, and it is the second greatest thing I ever did for my GERD. (The first was my cholecystectomy.) As long as I maintain a good diet, my reflux is almost nil.

      An unexpected additional benefit is that reducing my meals by 1/3 means fewer decisions to make, less meal prep, fewer dishes to clean, etc.

      I’ve been doing it for 8ish years now, and have no plans to change anything.

    5. Maggie*

      I basically do it by default because that’s when and how I feel hungry. I’m not losing any weight but I’m in a healthy range so I’m just going to continue eating this way because I don’t feel hungry in the mornings

      1. Clisby*

        Same with me. In general, I don’t eat between about 7 p.m. and 11 a.m. I’m not trying to lose weight; I just can’t stomach the thought of solid food in the morning. Exception #1: I always have a cup of coffee in the morning. Much more recent exception #2: I realized I am not eating nearly enough protein overall, so I also started drinking 16 oz. of whole milk in the morning. (Yes, I realize a protein shake would give me more than 16 grams of protein, but I have yet to find one that isn’t straight-up nasty.)

    6. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I’ve been doing it off and on for years. Some days I do get hungry in the morning but for the most part I’ll have my main meal around 12-1. Now one thing I’ve still not understood is how IF is different from “just skipping a meal.” Growing up in the 2000s allllll the diet magazines and advice said that that was a terrible thing to do and caused weight gain. Is there a true distinction or is it just diet advice ever evolving?

    7. Lady Alys*

      I started a few years ago, sort of intermittently (ha), and have added in longer fasts during the past year, usually 36 hours once or twice per week (dinner early Monday evening, breakfast late Wednesday morning after returning from the gym, ideally). I’ve lost 50 lbs in just over 2 years, and see no reason to stop (have another 30-50 lbs I’d love to ditch). I’ve read interesting claims that fasting is good for brain health, and as the daughter and grand-daughter of women who died from Alzheimer’s Disease I am willing to try just about anything to avoid that.

    8. Tara*

      I’ve just started this week too – my eating window is around 1pm-8pm. I’m amazed to find I’m not hungry outside that time at all, but I’m also finding it hard to resist putting milk in my coffee!

      Haven’t weighed myself again yet – need to get some scales as I don’t have any (last weighed myself at a friend’s house)

    9. Choggy*

      Just started 16/8 last week and lost 4 pounds the first week, and gained two this week though not sure why. Already I feel less bloated and more energetic. I have to be careful not to eat anything too sweet during the last hour of my eating window or I wake up hungry. My issue is that I’m really bad at meal planning, are there any good resources for healthy meals/foods to eat while doing IF? I have 80 pounds to lose.

    10. Esprit de l'escalier*

      I’ve been skipping breakfast for a few years to have a 17-18 hour fast. It didn’t take too long for me to not miss that morning meal. I’ve lost a few pounds, but my main motivation is to not gain weight which my body really would like to do. (Underactive thyroid; meds help but are not perfect.)

      Some days I get hungry (and start eating) before noon, other days it could be as late as 1:30 pm. As long as I don’t mindlessly stuff myself between lunch and dinner, my weight has stayed pretty stable. I try to not eat after 7 PM. That interval works for me.

      Downsides: It can be a bit awkward socially if you’re around people who are having coffee and a nosh in mid-morning and they want you to have some, in that strange way people have of not liking to be eating while someone else is not partaking — I don’t want to explain my diet but also don’t want to eat then. And sometimes there are weekend early-brunch occasions which I haven’t quite figured out how to navigate. That’s about it.

  18. Venus*

    How does your garden grow?

    I love my asparagus, but we’re done now until next year. The raspberries are starting up and it’s a big year for them! I’m working to remove invasive plants from my yard, and encourage more wild geranium, goldenrod, and milkweed.

    1. Bobina*

      Had to repot/relocate some tickseed that was being devoured by slugs. Glad that it seems to be taking in the new pot, although no flowers despite it being a year old!

      Some of my ajuga were struggling with powdery mildew I think before I left on holiday, came back to them looking extremely dead, but it seems a good chop and some rain mean that they are showing signs of life. Lesson there is I probably need to prune them more agressively as they get bigger, they are naturally creepers and so grow quite vigourously, but I think they got too cramped in the pots I have them in hence the issues.

      And looks like a couple of anemones are still making a go of it, and some of the cheap seed I bought and planted is actually flowering this year!

      I also need to prune some unwanted plants but have been feeling very lazy about it (requires getting the ladder out) so maybe that will be tomorrows job.

    2. Cookies For Breakfast*

      After encouraging growth of our brand new grass before going on holiday, we suffered a setback. The neighbours are redoing their garden, and for reasons too long to explain, the builders had to use our garden for access and storing their stuff. Part of our grass will need reseeding now, they trampled all over it. Also, because the works are carrying on longer than expected, we still can’t do some of the gardening we planned on, and won’t have the garden ready for a birthday we were hoping to host, which is a shame. But we may be able to progress with getting rid of the weeds that keep showing up, which right now are the ugly thing that disappoints me the most.

      On that note, any tips for keeping weeds at bay? If we spray weed killer, all is good for a few weeks, but then new weeds reappear in the cracks between tiles and grow at lightning speed. Is ripping them out by hand regularly really the only way to keep the garden looking tidy? Or is there anything more effective long term, short of repaving the entire garden which we can’t afford?

      1. Missb*

        either cage the garden or the groundhog. I don’t think that sharing works that well?

      2. Chauncy Gardener*

        I’ve been using Plantskydd with great success to repel deer. Maybe it will work with a groundhog?

    3. Missb*

      My potatoes are going gangbusters. I set them up in a deep raised bed this year.

      I have a mole in the yard and s/he seems intent on uprooting any vegetable that I’ve put in the ground. I mostly use raised beds, but the artichokes really do need to be in the ground. I’ve lost two plants (I have backup starts still), so I’m going to dig in a cage underground for the plants and then probably call the mole assassin.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I just put sonic spikes in my yard that purport to get rid of chipmunks, moles, gophers etc. (Stupid chipmunks dug up and spirited away two full washtubs worth of oxalis plants/bulbs. Assholes.) It’s too soon to know if they’re working, but might be worth a try?

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          You just made me snort laugh! I always call the deer and voles in my yard jerks and my friends make fun of me for it. And they ARE jerks! They are why we can’t have nice things. No sharing at all.

    4. Lizabeth*

      The deer found the day lilies – ARGH! This is the first year they’ve bloomed since I transplanted them. Sprayed with the rotten egg stuff and we’ll see if the rest survive. Planting basil this weekend in the barrel that the spinach didn’t even germinate. Shrug…and the weeds are multiplying overnight, I can’t keep up…

    5. The OG Sleepless*

      I had a pair of enormous (80′) trees taken down in my front yard a couple of years ago, so what used to be a deep shade spot has become a mostly sunny spot. I’m so used to shade gardening that I’ve been stumped about what to do in that spot. I finally got rid of the ferns and hellebores, and this week I planted some coneflowers. They are beautiful! I’m going to plant some more and maybe add some daisies over time.

    6. Girasol*

      Wonderfully! The peas came out last week as their season ended and the melons that were replanted in their bed are already sprouting. I usually have a problem with one veggie or another not germinating, or getting eaten to the ground by something as soon as it does, but this year everything is healthy and looking like a magazine picture instead of like my own garden.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      I’ve been removing some really invasive snowberry that I thought was so pretty when I moved in last autumn! Then spring came and…whoomph! Half the garden had been eaten by it; the half where the sun falls after work that I’ve been eyeing for a future patio. Now that I’ve got the snowberry down to stumps I’ve got to a) stop it growing back and also kill two huge tree stumps (neighbours tell me one was a 100 year old tree that interferes with TV aerials) that are alive judging by the little shoots. There’s also some small trees that need to be cut down and a huge pampas grass that looks very stumpy at the base and will clearly be a bugger to get rid of. In fact I may just put the patio to one side of it even though pampas grass is not really my thing. At least it gives height and movement.

    8. Filosofickle*

      I’m new to my home and know little about plants, so everything that blooms in my yard is a total surprise. This week, a black canna lily announced itself. I had no idea that plant was going to pop out a giant red flower! It’s beautiful.

    9. allathian*

      Our wild strawberries, raspberries, and blackcurrant bushes have finished flowering and are showing small unripe berries. Our potato plants are about a foot high, yay for baby potatoes in a few weeks! The begonias are still going strong, although the pansies have withered. Our crown imperial lilies are about to start blooming.

  19. Schwanli*

    Does anyone have experience with wearing contact lenses for myopia *and* reading glasses when reading? My optometrist seemed to think that wasn’t an option and instead wants me to buy bifocal contacts. But they’re really expensive and they gave me a headache when I tried them.

    1. Doctor is In*

      You absolutely can wear contacts for distance, and reading glasses. I have also worn bifocal contacts which are nice, I could go to the store and read labels without pulling out the reading glasses. I found bifocal contacts did not provide quite as good distance vision, so I only wore the bifocals in my non dominant eye and wore regular in the other eye.

      1. Doctor is In*

        They should be able to give you trial lenses of both. If not, go on line and look for coupons for a free trial.

    2. Sc@rlettNZ*

      Your optician is an idiot (and/or trying to make money off you by selling you something you don’t need).

      Of course you can wear reading glasses over contact lenses (and you don’t need to buy them from the optician either, just go to Walmart or Costco or wherever sells reading glasses and try out different strengths to find what suits you (I only needed +1.0 initially).

      1. londonedit*

        This! Until my mum had cataract surgery last year and got brand new lenses in her eyes, she wore extremely high-prescription contact lenses for distance vision (and had done for most of her life) and added in reading glasses in her late 50s/early 60s when her close vision started to go. It’s no problem at all! You can just buy reading glasses off the shelf at any pharmacy or wherever – they usually have ones you can test so you can see which strength you need. It’s really odd that your optician didn’t think it was an option.

        1. Seal*

          That’s what I did! It worked well and was far less expensive that getting prescription reading glasses.

        2. Wishing You Well*

          Just a note: I had to buy prescription readers due to astigmatism. The much cheaper store readers didn’t work for me. *sigh*

      2. Rosengilmom*

        Absolutely wear readers over your contacts. I do it all the time. Also your doctor should be able to suggest the correct power for the readers.

    3. Cordelia*

      I’m reading this, quite happily, with my contact lenses for myopia in, and a pair of reading glasses on top. It’s fine!

    4. Charlotte Lucas*

      Not only can you do it (I was doing it for about 3 years), but when I told my new optometrist that it was getting inconvenient (I needed reading glasses all the time), she was able to adjust my prescription to work better for reading & computer work. (I still use progressives for my regular glasses when not wearing contacts.)

      Most people I know with bifocal contacts seem to really struggle with them.

      1. ScarlettNZ*

        I know that bifocal contacts don’t suit everyone but I absolutely loved mine (as did several friends I recommended them to). The only reason I stopped was because I switched to daily lenses, owing to dry eyes.

        But sometimes opticians are very odd. My friend and I go to the same one – he ordered me a pair of sample bifocals to try out no problem but when my friend asked about trying them he told her that they didn’t work for most people and refused to order her a trial pair the first time she asked (she went back and insisted and ended up loving them).

        1. Mannequin*

          I love bifocal contacts but every brand I’ve tried end up making my eyes dry & irritated. So it’s back to regular lenses & reading glasses for me.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            To clarify: I wear gas permeable lenses, & that might make a difference. (And I have a really strong prescription.)

            I know some people like the bifocal contacts, but they aren’t for everyone.

    5. Pippa K*

      I agree with everyone here that you *can* definitely do this, and it might be the preferable solution for you. But I do it because my optometrist didn’t think multifocal contacts were the best option for me, and the distance correction in my contacts means I’m over corrected for near things. I find it annoying to have to use reading glasses whenever I wear my contacts. I also have multi focal glasses, and even with those I usually take them off for reading, since I don’t need correction for close work. So I feel like I’m always taking frames on and off. I’d prefer a one-and-done option, really.

    6. EmilyG*

      I also have done this for years and am mystified that you received this advice! I really prefer contacts for working out but I also do a lot of reading/computer/craft work that is close up and as I’ve gotten older, using the distance prescription for close-in stuff was aggravating my nearsightedness.

      I started with just a +1 prescription for readers that I’d pop on while reading but most recently I actually got a fairly expensive pair of progressive lenses that have no prescription at the top of the lens and +1.25 in the lower zone. And I wear these on top of -5.25 contacts. With the progressive lens I can just wear the glasses a lot of the day at work instead of taking my reading glasses on and off all day like I used to. This probably sounds terribly complicated but I prefer not to wear contacts that have to stay exactly in place on your eye (i used to wear astigmatism lenses and they’d move a lot which actually makes things MORE blurry).

    7. Girasol*

      I’ve had optometrists say that they couldn’t get the unusual prescription that I need when it was just that they didn’t want to do it or didn’t know how. Before you sink more money into solutions that don’t work for you, you might consider switching doctors. Unfortunately really awful optometrists appear to be as professional and knowledgeable as really terrific ones. You only know the difference when your head hurts and the doctor’s answer is “This is the best solution available. You just need to get used to it.”

    8. I'm Done*

      I’ve been wearing contacts and using cheap OTC reading glasses for the last 15 years. I just keep the reading glasses on top of my head like sunglasses. Works great. I’ve had zero issues. Sounds like he’s just trying to make some extra money off you.

    9. Choggy*

      I always use readers with my single focal contacts. I even have sunglasses that are readers for the beach. Never had an issue.

    10. Ampersand*

      Me! I have both and it works just fine. My optometrist who checks my vision and prescribes my contacts recommended it.

    11. The New Wanderer*

      My optometrist specifically recommended getting cheapo reading glasses when I was having some issues with reading (I have toric contacts for astigmatism), and my husband wears readers with his contacts in all the time.

      However, I’ve found that I can’t use store-bought readers because I don’t have the same need for correction in both eyes. It’s still such a slight problem that I don’t actually need them yet but when I finally do, I may have to get custom ones.

  20. StellaBella*

    I would like to know if anyone here has ever used Interail Train passes for Europe. Advice? Which pass did you use? Best experiences? Worst? Where did you go?

    1. Cormorannt*

      I’ve used Eurail passes twice, once in 2002 as a university student and once in 2008 as an adult. In 2002 I got a pass that covered most of Europe – I don’t remember all the countries specifically. It covered 14 total days of travel within a six month period iirc. Some of the students got unlimited passes, but they were quite expensive. We were in class 4 days a week so I wasn’t traveling every day. I was in Metz, France and went all over Northern Europe. The second time I was visiting a friend in Frankfurt and got a France and Germany unlimited two week pass. I found it very easy to use. Just get on a train, take any unreserved seat and show the conductor your pass and your passport when they pass through. When I went as an adult I did make reservations a couple of times to be sure I’d have a seat and not be standing for the longer rides. That’s was an additional fee of about 10€ iirc and they could be made at the service desk at any train station. I didn’t reserve particularly far ahead, a day or two at most. If you want to take the Chunnel to the UK, you have to reserve a seat and that’s a much more expensive reservation fee. Most of the students I knew who went to London chose to get a cheap flight instead.

      1. Cormorannt*

        I will warn that in general, a lot of track maintenance happens in the summer. I didn’t have any bad experiences with the pass per se, but general disruptions to schedules due to track maintenance can be confusing if you dont speak whatever language announcements are made in. We once ended up 45 minutes outside Berlin because we didn’t understand the announcement in German that said Berlin Zoo stop was closed and everyone who wanted to go to Berlin had to get off at Berlin Airport stop. Often announcements are in multiple languages but not always and often not in English.

        1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          Nowadays, all the train companies have websites and apps – I highly recommend getting the apps and also get a prepaid SIM card from any one EU member country. For less than 20 Euros, you’ll get 5GB or more of internet that works in all EU and EEA countries without roaming charges. That covers pretty much all of Europe except the UK and Switzerland (although some operators, e.g. Lycamobile, includes the UK, according to their website). Many phones now can work with two SIM cards so you’d still be reachable on your home number (but would incur rather hefty roaming fees, including for calls going to voice-mail-so you might want to turn voice-mail either completely off or direct all calls to voice-mail).

        2. StellaBella*

          Ah interesting and yes that does seem to be the case in terms of strikes and work on the tracks etc.

      2. DistantAudacity*

        Haven’t done Interrail, but the Deutsche Bahn website is great for planning trips (and whatever buying you need/would like to do). It covers large parts, if not all, of Europe.

    2. Laura Petrie*

      Have a look at seat61 online. He’s got so much advice on travelling by train, including internationally.

      I’ve never bought a pass as for the trips we wanted to do it was cheaper to buy tickets in advance directly from the relevant train company. In Italy, for example, there are some excellent advance deals on the high speed network. Other countries don’t have advance fares so you can turn upon the day.

    3. Raboot*

      I did Eurail last year (same as Interrail but for non-Europeans). The key question to ask yourself is do you value the absolute cheapest prices, or the ability to make up the plan as you go? If cost is the number one factor, buying all your long-distance tickets ahead of time is probably the way to go. If you like flexibility, Eurail/Interrail could be worth it. At that point you need to do some research and math. I had a spreadsheet open where I wrote an approximate itinerary of the places I was considering going. I looked up what they’d all cost if I booked a last-minute ticket for 2 days from now, and I looked up any extra reservation costs with Eurail/Interrail. The pass column was cheaper than the last-minute-ticket column so I bought the pass.

      I second looking at seat61 for more information about how things like reservations work and tips on which regions might end up more or less expensive due to that.

      I was traveling for 5 weeks with about 7 “main” destinations and various day trips and smaller stops in between. I got either the 10 in 2 months or 15 in 2 months and I don’t regret it. It was more expensive than buying everything long in advance, but the flexibility was great. I could and did choose to spend more or less time in a city depending on how much I liked it. I dropped one stop completely and added another later on. If I’d bought everything ahead of time it would have been harder to talk myself into abandoning the tickets and getting new ones. On one occasion, there were no Eurrail reservations available for a destination I decided on so I had to get a normal last-minute ticket for about 50 euros, but that only happened once in 5 weeks.

      1. Raboot*

        Oh, and they do have sales sometimes for the passes, so if you’re not going super soon you could keep an eye on it and see if you can get 10% off or something.

      2. StellaBella*

        Wow this is good to read thanks for all the details. Your trip sounds amazing. I wish I had 5 weeks off and a cat sitter to do a longer trip. I am not sure I will go via train but am weighing this as an option as it is similar to the price of one flight, to buy a 4 days pass for a month.

        1. Raboot*

          I have cats and found a great catsitter online! Depending on your place and the length of the trip, you might find that people will jump at the chance to sit for free in exchange for free extended lodging. Was definitely nerve-wracking but ultimately worth it.

          Trains are way more fun than flying imo. But whatever you end up doing, hope you have an awesome trip :)

  21. Queer/pregnant clothing recs*

    I’m headed to an outdoor summer wedding , and am looking for help figuring out how to dress myself and where to shop. It will be hot and very likely humid. I’m queer, I’ll be around 5 months pregnant at the time, and while I never dress particularly femininely, my attire gets more gender-neutral as the level of fancy rises. My requirements are…

    1. Pants that fit a pregnant body and have real pockets in both the front and back.
    2. A non-feminine top, preferably somewhat androgynous, preferably with some sort of collar and sleeves ending above the elbow. Maybe a button-up but not a button-down (could fasten in the front with buttons, but the corners of the collar do not get buttoned to the body of the shirt).
    3. Muted colors and solids or muted patterns/stripes/gingham for tops, and solid colors or very subtle stripes for pants. I tend toward blues and grays in general.
    4. Formality somewhere between garden party and regional awards ceremony (inclusive).

    I’d love to get some items that work right off the bat. However, I know this is kind of niche, and Butch Baby is sadly no longer with us. Other than the belly I’m on the slim end, so am considering buying a larger size than usual and having it tailored, so if anyone has experience with tailoring for pregnant bodies and can give pointers on timelines, adjusting measurements to anticipate growth, etc., I’d love to hear about that angle too!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      The first one sounds unlikely–I don’t think I’ve ever seen maternity pants with usable pockets. The legs can be done to look like various slack styles, but the part around your hips and belly is usually yoga pants–something uber stretchy and designed to be hidden under a top.

      A week or two back someone had a question re finding clothing and people recommended an online tailoring site (choose style, enter your measurements, then made to fit). That might work for the general idea of some or all of what you want; hopefully someone remembers the name.

      Practical advice from past pregnancies: Consider moving the pockets to a vest–something like dark pants, white dress shirt, grey vest. (Assuming the outdoor summer aspect makes a jacket undesirable.) I think it’s very hard to predict size change. Part of the reason maternity stuff has stretchy or loosely draped middles is that people don’t want to buy different outfits for 5, 7, and 9 months; part is that predicting your size 1-2 months from now is more an arcane art than a science.

      I had good luck getting a big coat from a store for larger women. Not everything maps over–your belly is expanding way more than your hips–but if you shop not long before the wedding date you might be able to get the tailored pants you’re envisioning.

    2. HannahS*

      I’d suggest aiming for ultimately having pants that either have a stretchy band that goes fully over the bump (not ideal in the summer) or elastic side panels/waistband to allow it to sit under your bump and have a long shirt. A blazer can be worn open; most people don’t change that much in the shoulders.

      Tailoring–in the sense of traditional tailoring which does not involve elastic–is risky, because your body will change in unpredictable ways.

      You might have some luck checking out maternity workwear, for dress pants.

    3. wkfauna*

      I dressed similarly when I was pregnant. I wore (men’s) blazers/suit jackets and shirts in my usual size. For pants I found that there’s a certain conservative fit where as the waist size goes up the legs remain fairly straight but the room in the belly increases a lot. I got a fewr of those and then belted them appropriately as my pregnancy went along.

      If you sew or can afford custom made clothes, many indie pattern companies publish maternity add-ons to their patterns. One such company is Patterns for Pirates. The styles are pretty feminine, but a lot can be done with fabric choice to mitigate that.

      Good luck!

      1. wkfauna*

        I got those pants at a low-end Macy’s, JC Penney also has that same fit but with ickier fabrics.

    4. Currently pregnant*

      Depending on what you’re willing to spend, Storq or Hatch might have the kind of shirt you’re looking for. TBH maybe pants too, though as others say, those may be easier to find. I think the models on each site are styled in a relatively feminine way, but i don’t think that’s an inherent feature of all of the clothes themselves.

  22. Bumblebeee*

    I’m going on a long haul flight soon. Any recommendations for games to download on my phone?

    1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      As I spend way too much time on flights (my personal record is over 80 hours in one month), I use Words of Wonders a lot. But I also set my clock to the destination time zone right after boarding and force myself to adhere to that time, meaning I may sleep a lot or not.
      A neck pillow, sleeping mask, good earplugs (for sleeping) / noise canceling headphones and an audio book work well for me.
      For earplugs I use industrial strength ones from work, usually 3M brand.

    2. Business Narwhal*

      If you’re travelling with someone else, Two Player Games is a fun one (Though it also has a solo player mode). It has a bunch of small games to play and it works offline.

    3. Yet Another Unemployed Librarian*

      I think someone else asked a similar question in the last couple weeks, if you want to go back to the other threads :)

    4. Redhaired runner*

      Not a recommendation, but make sure that whatever games you do download can be played offline. Some games require and internet/data connection to load as I unfortunately learned on my last flight.

  23. Sleepless*

    Any recommendations for a no/low noise fan? I haven’t slept properly the last week because of the heat and I am so exhausted. I bought a good one on sale but it is too noisy and powerful even on the lowest setting for me to sleep at night. Any help appreciated!

    1. Denaranja*

      The Honeywell quiet tower fan is really nice. It has different settings for quietness, and I actually found myself to enjoy to white noise setting eventually. Also keeps you nice and cool!

    2. Sloanicota*

      Honestly what I have done lately is buy a white noise machine so that I am no longer disturbed by the overhead fan in my room (it squeaks). I found one on Amazon that has a variety of noise settings to mask different sounds, and you can turn the volume up or down.

    3. rr*

      Purchased this for my mother a few weeks ago:

      Vornado 6803DC Energy Smart Medium Pedestal Air Circulator Fan with Variable Speed Control, Ice White

      She seems to really like it and when I’ve been in her room it seemed pretty quiet to me, though of course, I haven’t been around it for long periods of time. She wanted one in particular with a remote, but that brand seems to have a lot of other options without remotes. We might’ve chosen something slightly different in the same brand if not for that aspect.

    4. it happens*

      Same issue here- I got a vornado 633DC medium air circulator. It was $99, so very pricy for a tiny fan, but it’s awesome. Because it’s DC instead of AC (something something electricity, motor I dunno) the speed is infinitely adjustable instead of lo/medium/high. And up to about 25% it is genuinely silent. I also put it on a smart plug so it turns on for about five minutes an hour overnight. Keeps the air moving, no sound, problem solved. It’s also supposed to use a lot less electricity.

    5. Lurker*

      I use a little Blizzard oscillating table fan. If you live near a Bed Bath and Beyond, I think they are about $20. I have it on my dresser and aim it so it blows directly on me. (You can stop it from oscillating.) It has two speeds – high and low. I keep it on low and it’s pretty quiet. I actually use it all year round because I like a cool sleeping environment, but also the sound on low is almost like white noise to me at this point. When/if I try to sleep without it, it’s too quiet for me to sleep!

    6. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      If possible, go for a ceiling fan. Physics comes into play here: The larger the fan, the slower it needs to run to move the same amount of air, and the quieter it will be.
      Not always an option when you rent; but I have also seen fans that screw into a light bulb socket so that could be installed easily and removed without trace when you move out.

    7. DistantAudacity*

      The Dyson fans are great! Costly, but very quiet as they are blade-less. There are standing and table models available.

  24. Bibliovore*

    A thank you to the streaming suggestions for shared streaming suggestions last week. I needed a distraction from a bout of the shingles and tried Justified. Not usually my cup-of-tea but it the perfect respite as I waited for the meds to kick in.
    Yes, I had the shots. My immune system is shot and grieving is a stressor.

    1. North Wind*

      I have just adored The Umbrella Academy. I typically have no interest in or patience for fantasy/super-hero/magical power shows, but there’s just something really beautiful about this series. Also, I usually get really annoyed by music montages in tv shows, but I absolutely love the music/random dance scenes in this show.

      Another good one – non-fantasy show with a great cast of characters – is The Outlaws.

    2. Decidedly Me*

      Sympathies on having shingles! I am one of the odd ones that had it in my late teens (stress triggered – my childhood was not a normal one) and really hope I never get it again.

    3. Sundial*

      That really sucks, I’m sorry. I’ve had shingles in my thirties and can’t get the shot, no one will let me have it until I turn fifty.

      1. Clisby*

        Is this in the US? If so, is having had shingles not considered qualifying you as having a weakened immune system?

        CDC: “Adults 50 years and older should get two doses of Shingrix, separated by 2 to 6 months. Adults 19 years and older who have or will have weakened immune systems because of disease or therapy should also get two doses of Shingrix.”

        1. Sundial*

          Yes, in the US. And I’m not sure about qualifying, I’ve never seen/heard that language used. All I know is that they don’t care that I’ve already had shingles, they say they won’t allow me the shot until I’m the right age. This is at multiple doctors and pharmacists.

      2. Lorraine*

        That’s so weird. My husband had it in his 20s, so as soon as we got out of grad school and got real jobs he got the vaccine. Our insurance paid for it because he’d had it before. I’m annoyed that I have to wait to 50.

    4. the cat's ass*

      I’m so sorry and hope you feel better quickly! Meds definitely help. It was mentioned above, but Only Murders in the Building is really fun.

  25. Seeking second childhood*

    Scooters & e-bikes… I’m looking at the options and would love to hear from enthusiastic owners.
    There are errands I would do without the car that are too far for me on a regular bike. One example: we’re 5 miles from the library on hilly country roads, and I never get out of there without the backpack full of books. I’m really keen on power assist to make me start moving again. I’ve been far too sedentary for this frozen shoulder since pandemic pool shutdown. I also need something where I’m mostly vertical because of that shoulder… the past year required to lean over raising bike would be torture.
    Obviously I’m thinking about a lot but I really do want to hear your thoughts too so I better stop writing.

    1. Library trips via bicycle are the BEST*

      Disclosure: My husband owns a bicycle shop.
      I recommend you find your local independent bicycle shop (not a Dick’s or Walmart or big box store) and go and tell them what you want to do with your bike and needing an upright posture. They will know what the best options are for you from the brands they sell. If they are good folk, they will get you in the bike you need. They will likely be the folks who service the bike when it has problems, so you want someone you are comfortable with. How do you tell if they are overselling you a bike you don’t need? Ask them to tell you about the next nicest suitable bike. They should be able to tell you why it is more bike than you need. Sales person: “this bike has higher end components” You: “Would that help me with my library trips?” The sales person’s correct answer is along the lines of “Not really.”

      Warning that ebikes are heavy! If you have to haul it up and down stairs to store it or need to move it via car, be sure to test how heavy it is to lift.

      Advice as a cyclist: If you find you love the bike and ride it all the time for errands, consider a rack and panniers to haul your goods. And always wear a helmet :)

      1. DistantAudacity*

        I agree with Library Trip. Disclosure: not an owner, but just did a day on a rented e-bike in Alsace!

        Anyway, a lot of what you pay for is a) battery capacity and 2) weight of the bike. Like Library Trip said, are higher end components worth it to you? Will they for instance help bring the weight down? And so forth. How long do you need or want to go on a battery pack? Also, amount of gearing that you really need for the hills and terrain that you have.

        My understanding is that often people start using the e-bike for longer trips than originally planned, because it is so easy :)

        Lots of e-bikes are uprights with a low instep, and should be adjustable to a high posture. Tell the bike shop!

      2. Chilipepper Attitude*

        Since your husband owns a bike shop, does he have advice for getting fitted on a bike properly? I’ve been to all the bike shops but it’s all men in their early 20s or 60s and they don’t seem to take my needs seriously. I’m 5’ tall and my legs are shorter and my torso longer.

        Is there a specialist credential I could look for? The bike stores all say they are trained fitters but they don’t seem to get it. I talked to someone in a store in Canada when I was on holiday and she seemed to get it. I regret not getting a bike there despite the cost of shipping!

        Right now I’m riding a stationary bike at our gym and when I get up, I have parts down there that are numb. I think I’m sitting on a nerve or something.

        On my regular bike, I’m really forward on my private area and it is painful. Trying not to be tmi!

        Any advice would be appreciated!

        1. Angstrom*

          Can you try adjusting the saddle tilt? Lowering the nose slightly may help relieve the pressure on your parts. Lowering the nose too much will put extra load on your arms to keep you sliding forward.
          If the seat is too high, you’ll rock your hips when you pedal which puts extra load and friction on your parts.
          If you feel like you’re leaning too far forward, can you bring the handlebars up or closer to you?

      3. Chilipepper Attitude*

        It looks like my longer reply got eaten.
        I’m 5’ tall, female, with a longer torso and shorter legs. Despite going to small shops where they say they are trained as fitters, I’m clearly not getting good advice and I am having numbness and pain in my lady parts and sometimes in my hands and arms.

        Is there a credential I could look for in someone who can help me with fit?


        1. Angstrom*

          There’s no national certification for bike fitters that I know of. The Retul system might be worth a look:
          5′ tall and short legs sounds like my partner. Shorter-than-standard crankarms made a big improvement in her riding comfort, both on her standard bike and now on her e-bike.
          Saddle choice is very personal. The Specialized women’s saddles with Mimic have been getting great reviews but may not work for a more upright position. https://www.specialized.com/us/en/stories/power-saddle-mimic
          Hand and arm numbness: can be caused by a position that puts too much weight on the hands, or one that forces you to ride with arms straight instead of slightly bent. Standard handlebars can be too wide for shorter riders. I’ve found that grips with more support work better for me. (this style:) https://www.ergonbike.com/en/product-details.html?anr=42410000&s=gptouring&a=griffe

        2. CyclingGal*

          No credentials that I’m aware of. And different bike types fit differently. You likely need a more upright posture, which is not available in all types of bikes. I will say that wearing thickly padded cycling shorts (without underwear, in case you didn’t know) and padded cycling gloves make a world of difference. It took me a while to find a seat/saddle that I liked. That varies from person to person. It also takes me a few rides each spring to get my lady parts used to riding again.

    2. Angstrom*

      50+ year-old partner got an e-bike last year and is delighted with it. Hills no longer intimidate her. We can ride together at speeds that are fun for both of us. She runs short errands on it instead of driving. It has a step-through frame so she can ride sitting upright wearing a dress. She’s working — heart rate doesn’t lie — but she’s going faster and farther than she would without the electric assist. We just did a 30+ mile ride with 3ooo’ of climbing and she wants to do more. :-)
      A good bike shop should be able to help you adjust or swap stems and handlebars for a more upright position.

    3. Melody Pond*

      Our situation is too new to give much great advice, but just to give you our perspective & experience…

      Very recently, Mr. Pond and I bought e-bikes. (I got sick shortly after and haven’t had as much opportunity to use mine!) Mr. Pond has been using his e-bike to commute to work two days a week, 9 miles each way. He’s also been using it for other errands and around-town trips. He’s very quick to do anything 5 miles or under, and one day, he actually rode to work and back (18 miles total) then to REI and back (20 miles total). He’s been using a Garmin fitness tracker for several years, and at this point has years’ worth of data on his overall activity levels. He’s been doing so much more riding on his e-bike that in the month of June 2022, he expended more calories on exercise than any other month in all of his recorded history with Garmin (except for one month back in 2017 when he participated in a 100-mile bike ride).

      I don’t commute to work, but as soon as I finally get over this ding-dang cold, I have visions of several different errands I could run with my e-bike. It really does smooth out/flatten the hills and just let you go much further. I’m not as fit as Mr. Pond – and I gotta say, the e-bike does make me much more confident in the idea of tackling longer distances with hills. It just removes that mental barrier of, “Oof, that’s too far, I don’t think I can do that ride.” It definitely encourages you to move more!

      Here’s an article discussing a study that found e-bike riders actually get MORE exercise on average than regular cyclists!


      Oh – I didn’t wind up going with this bike (decided I wanted a more forward-leaning riding profile), but if you’re in the US and happen to be within driving distance of an REI, I almost got an e-bike from the brand Electra – both their Townie Go! and Cruiser Go! styles allow for a completely vertical/upright riding profile. The saddle was more seat-like and very comfortable! And the bikes just look cute – very classic looking bikes.

  26. Falling Diphthong*

    Question about the design of spam email:

    Several years back I read that spam’s spelling and grammar failings are a deliberately added feature–the sort of target who notices these is also the sort of target who will kick up a fuss and cause problems halfway through the scam, so you want to eliminate them right off. I thought this sounded like ascribing to devious machinations that which can be explained by ineptitude.

    But about two months ago, a lot more spam started getting through my filters. Now a typical offering on my pop-up notification of from/re/first is:

    From: Lowe’s Hardware (but misspelled)
    Re: Your CVS prescription Is ready
    First line: Harness the power of prayer to burn fat…

    Even if I believed one of these approaches was legitimate, there’s no way I am believing them all combined in a single email. I am having a hard time picturing anyone who would. (And of that tiny number, the arrival of several variations on this email every day would clue them in.) I’m not asking for quality, hand-crafted, individualized spam–just an acknowledgement that while I might believe Lowe’s has a survey by which I can win a gift card, click here (and wouldn’t notice spelling, wrong actual “from” or “to” address, etc), I’m never going to believe that they have my prescription medications. I don’t get what this approach is trying to accomplish, because surely aligning the different fake stuff would work far better. Does anyone have an explanation? Wild theory?

    1. The teapots are on fire*

      I wonder if they do this on purpose to catch people who don’t think very critically or don’t notice details, especially in situations where they eventually need to have a real person talk to the prospective victims to get more money from them. But I could be wrong.

      1. Invisible today*

        Not human generated. A computer mixes and matches bits and pieces to create millions of emails in the hope that a few get through. It’s faster and cheaper than human designing them.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          So is there some sort of metric whereby the Evil Spammers determine that a program sending out random mixed bits gets more engagement than one that is consistent about “Your CVS order is here”? Or is it that because it’s free to send email it’s cost effective to create an endless hydra, where someone starts a program and it just produces mutating spam forever, even if the originator has passed on?

          A now-independent program to produce mutating spam regardless of whether anyone clicks the link would match what I’ve been getting.

          1. kina lillet*

            I think it’s much more like the hydra strategy. Spammers aren’t unsophisticated per se–they wouldn’t keep doing this unless it made them some money–but they’re also not evil geniuses. It’s easy to get a computer to create text and even if a tiny percentage of receivers make that click, it’s still a substantial enough raw number to work for them. 0.5% of 1000 receivers clicking is still 5 clicks; 0.005% of 10,000 receivers is 50. I think the percent of clicks is much lower and the number of receivers is much higher, but the math works out so that they don’t need to finesse the text that much.

              1. kina lillet*

                Oh my god ignore me. Apparently I don’t understand how numbers work on a Saturday :D

            1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

              Hydra strategy, but there are still bills to pay, so a completely unattended spam program would shut off fairly quickly.

              At spammer volume and with spammer tactics, email is no longer free. Any reputable email provider or data center looks for spammers and shuts them off as soon as they’re detected, so they’re either provider-hopping or have found a host of disrepute. Even if they’re using an army of virus-laden computers to send spam (theoretically free), those networks tend to need a command-and-control nexus of some kind, and that means money. Also the amount of active spam fighting measures out there means that a spammer that sits in one place for long enough gets shut off.

              It might be possible for an abandoned spam operation to keep going for a while if it had been carefully inserted into a large institution of some kind (there are IT horror stories about servers that people depend on where no one knows where the physical machine is located, and there are stories about websites that keep getting renewed because no one had audited for ownership & budget responsibility recently) but eventually the physical machine fails, the domain registration runs out, and the virus helps out gets caught by all the antiviral programs.

              (My IT knowledge is anywhere from 5-20 years old, but I worked at a domain registrar for a while.)

    2. Tib*

      Could they be trying to collect valid email addresses for something else? Especially since it’s getting past your spam screening. Their software recognizes you deleted the message and adds your address to a new list.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        The sender does not know what you do with their messages once it made it to your mail server (run in most cases “in the cloud” by Google, Microsoft etc., or by your school/employer). They know if it was delivered to the server, from there the only info they get back is if you opened it (because your mail client downloaded the pictures),you click on a link or reply.
        They don’t know if you printed and framed their missive, deleted it, or whatever.
        How I know that? I have been running my own mail server since the late 1980’s; that involves tracking the evolution of spam and phishing techniques to tune the filters so most spam is not accepted into the mailbox and boundary cases are hopefully labeled accordingly.

    3. kina lillet*

      If you’re clicking something, it’s probably just a phishing attempt. It’s easy to create a zillion of these in infinite variations and someone just needs to be kind of tired, or not a very good reader, or accidentally clicking, to get caught in the net and that’s pretty much what they need.

      1. Fit Farmer*

        Oh, weirdly that makes complete sense. The three mis-matched items are probably 3x MORE effective than 3 matched items!! I guess anybody who actually reads the email is going to figure out that it’s spam regardless, and they’ve figured out how to get 3 tries into one spam message…

  27. The Jobless Wonder*

    A couple of weeks ago I asked for some advice for my cat, who was digging at the doors to a closet that isn’t safe for him to explore. I ended up putting a box in front of the door, which he sat in a few times but now largely ignores, along with the closet itself. Thanks for the help!

    I’m working on a new problem, which is that he can be bitey. I suspect he wasn’t socialized properly or may have been an only kitten. I try ignoring him when he bites, so as not to reward him with attention when he’s not behaving. None of his bites have broken the skin, but they’re sometimes painful (and hard to ignore). I’m trying to step up his playtime to burn off some energy and give him positive attention. Can anyone recommend anything else to try? He’s a good cat otherwise and I won’t give up on him.

    1. kina lillet*

      I would try not just ignoring his bites but predicting them and avoiding them—does he bite when he gets pet to much? Learn the signal for him getting a little overstimulated and stop *before* he says “stop” via bite. Does he attack your leg as you walk downstairs and so forth? Distract him right then with a toy or some other stimulus so he doesn’t actually bite. It’s partly about removing the habit, but also about him learning that he doesn’t need to use that to communicate.

      1. Russian in Texas*

        Our old lady cat gives you The Look first to stop you from over petting. If you continue, that’s your own fault. She’ll bite.
        One of the Orange Floofs will gently grab you hand with his mouth if he is tired of belly rubs (both orange twins love belly rubs).

      2. Pocket Mouse*

        I disagree with offering a toy right after a bite/attack. My cat, when she gets rowdy and wants to play, will sometimes attack legs. Since I want the attacks to stop, I’m not about to reward her by giving her what she wants (play time) when she attacks me.

        I’ve had some luck with shouting “Hey! No!” or physically moving a cat away from me when it gets bitey, and sometimes actually closing it in a room no one else is in for a few minutes.

        Also, be sure to never, ever play with him using your hands. Always use a toy he can actually bite and scratch to his heart’s desire! If he can get used to ‘hands are for petting, toys are for attacking’ it becomes a lot easier to narrow down pre-bite behaviors to just those when he’s annoyed or scared.

        1. kina lillet*

          I also disagree with offering a toy after an attack, so we’re good! The idea would be to redirect the energy and attention before a bite.

          Physically moving a cat away is maybe ok, but shouting isn’t effective—cats are really bad at negative reinforcement, and don’t really understand consequences. If it’s possible to redirect, that’s always going to be best.

          1. Pocket Mouse*

            Ah, it wasn’t clear in your first comment about redirecting with a toy, so thanks for clarifying. But also- isn’t moving a cat away or separating it from humans negative reinforcement? The two cats I’ve done this with have both learned over time that 1) my pets and my response to their biting/biting tells are both gentle, which means they don’t actually have cause to start biting, and 2) if they bite me they will lose my company. So when I say I had success, I mean their biting went way down as a result.

            The “Hey! No!” is for when they actually bite, and it’s not so much about negative reinforcement as it is snapping their attention away from the body part they’re biting.

    2. The Jobless Wonder*

      I’ve learned his overpetting signals and stop before he gets upset enough to bite, so that’s less of an issue. Sometimes he does it to get attention, especially first thing in the morning. I thought maybe it was food-related but even when I’ve gotten up early to feed him he gets annoyed if I go back to bed.

      Once in awhile I get a claw-free ankle swat (less so if we’ve been playing). I’m also used to cats who give a gentle bite/”love nip”, so this is new to me.

      1. Squirrel Nutkin*

        Agree on the overpetting issue. Kitties’ boundaries count too! I’m used to the claw-free warning swat or bite-free warning nip — like I assume a mom cat would give to her kittens — and that means petting time is over for the moment.

        1. The Jobless Wonder*

          My guy has a tell, and if I back off immediately, we’re cool. Once I see that I take my hands away and give him a wider berth, and after that we’re friends again.

    3. Kittee*

      Our kitty would randomly bite. We eventually trained her out of it (mostly) by saying “no biting!” every time she did it. Over time she understood it so well that I didn’t even need to use a firm tone of voice, she knew the phrase itself. This was recommended by the shelter we adopted her from.

    4. Pyjamas*

      A 3 year old outdoor tomcat talked his way into my house, and we soon found out he was an aggressive biter. Sent me to ER with one bite. My vet prescribed elavil, an old school antidepressant with the side effect of drowsiness. He takes 10mg in a pill pocket every 24-36 hours (after 48 hours he starts biting again) and it turned him into a sleepy love bug. Everyone is content with the new arrangement, including the cat!

    5. WFH with Cat*

      My cat Vincent, who’s about 5 years old now, has always reacted quite strongly to any stimuli (lights, sound, touch) and is easily over-stimulated. He is also very particular about how and when he is touched/handled. It didn’t help that he came to me as a feral kitty and I had never raised a kitten … oooph! I made a lot of mistakes.

      Over time, I learned how to deal with over-stimulation/aggression. 1) I watch for signs that he is getting worked up and stop touching him/shift away from him. 2) If he bites, scratches, or shows signs that he is about to, I correct him sharply (“No! Stop that!”) with a VERY FIERCE EXPRESSION. 3) As soon as he stops and backs off I SOFTEN MY EYES and use that slow blink that means safety and affection for cats while speaking soothingly or in a sing-song to calm him down (“What’s up, Vinnie? What’s going on kitty-kitty? What’s all that about, huh?”). I use questions a lot because it’s part of how we play when he chases/fetches toys … It’s our thing. :D

      That 3rd step is very important with a cat that is easily over-stimulated because you have to be able to diffuse the situation and calm them down and then be friends again. Think of how cats that live well together operate: They may have really dramatic spats, but then they calm down and signal their peaceful intentions by washing each other, curling up together, etc. As humans, we sometimes think that cats are being intentionally aggressive/mean to us when, really, they are often just responding to whatever signals we send them and reacting according to their feline nature and individual personalities. It helps to figure out what you can do to specifically signal to your cat that you are angry and he needs to back off — and then signal that the fight is over, it’s time to calm down, and he is safe with you.

      Hope this is helpful!

  28. Ali G*

    Looking for recommendations for an oil mister. I had a Misto where you pump it and spray and it just doesn’t work anymore. I’ve tried cleaning it, pumping it more and more and it’s just done. All the ones I can find online have the same reviews: works great at first and then you get some one star reviews because they break or stop working. Also there are some that spray more of a stream instead of a mist, and I want a mist.
    Does anyone have an oil mister you would recommend to work well and work for a long while?

    1. BRR*

      As someone who does heavy research before buying items and is a huge cook/kitchen person, my takeaway from looking for an oil spray bottle is there is no great one. It looks like the evo bottle is the least worst.

      1. Ali G*

        Ugh, I was kind of thinking the same. I guess I should just understand that it’s cheap and I should expect to replace it more often than I would like.

    2. Tib*

      That’s just what happens to them. I suspect if you could refill an aerosolized can it would also clog after a while.

    3. MaryLoo*

      I tried one and it was ridiculously hard to clean.
      Now I pour a tiny puddle of oil in a custard cup and use a pastry brush to spread it on whatever.
      The brush is a lot easier to clean completely.

  29. Gym goer*

    So I’m at the gym working out after I got off of work. It’s at its peak so somewhat crowded but there is some room as long as you aren’t picky. I get the ab roller and I find an empty space on the floor where people usually do their own self directed calisthenics and get started.

    This woman in front of me is doing squats or something (idk I really wasn’t paying attention) turns around and starts staring at me. I keep going but it’s becoming disconcerting so I try to ignore it. After a bit she rudely taps me on the shoulder mid rep and is like “would you mind moving somewhere else, I would feel more comfortable if you weren’t behind me?”. Her tone wasn’t aggressive but it was somewhat annoyed. I stop and stand up more perplexed than anything ask why because even though it’s crowded, I left more than enough space for her to work out and I really don’t see any sort of safety issue. She kind of hems and haws about that she is uncomfortable and I shouldn’t be directly behind her like that without really answering the question. I’m annoyed now so I pause, look at her and say um no and I start working out again. She storms off and talks to the gym rep on the floor but I’m not approached by either of them again so I finish my workout.

    The person next to me says in passing that I think it would have been easier to move or switch spots with me as I’m putting the ab roller away. I think the whole thing is stupid but I just wanted to double check and make sure I didn’t breach some sort of unwritten gym etiquette.

    1. WellRed*

      Hmm, if you had switched with her so she was behind you would that have solved the problem? But otherwise, If a gym is crowded and there’s no place else to workout you didn’t breach any gym etiquette, though I hope you politely pointed this out to her and didn’t just say “no.” I want to add, if you’re a man, the fact that you “didn’t see a safety issue” is a whole other thing.

      1. Spicy in Seattle*

        I’m not sure I’m seeing a safety issue either especially one based on gender? Op said they left enough room. And I don’t foresee any assaults happening on a CROWDED gym floor.

        1. WellRed*

          It doesn’t have to be an actual safety issue for someone else to be uncomfortable. See Dinos comment.

          1. Spicy in Seattle*

            You made it in to a big thing about the OP missing the safety issue but then in your reply said there isn’t an actual safety issue. I just wanted to point this out.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          We’re not talking about assaults. We’re talking about leering and staring, which is intimidating and scary. Why I have to spell that out, I have no idea– and please do not say something stupid about “it’s just looking” or “you should be flattered” or anything like that.

          For what it’s worth, I think Gym Goer did nothing wrong and i think the woman should have switched places, but I can also imagine a scenario where a woman doing squats felt uncomfortable with someone so close to her.

          1. Spicy in Seattle*

            I see nothing in the OP about leering or staring. They clearly state they were in the middle of reps when she confronted the OP. I feel like you are projecting way too much in to this scenario just to grind some sort of ax against men simply existing.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              Um… I didn’t see anything about leering or staring either, which is why I said what I actually said. I’m projecting nothing, simply trying to explain to you that there are other things that concern women at the gym besides outright assaults, which is what YOU jumped to.

              Please don’t give me that MRA crap. Most of us are here saying we don’t think Gym goer was in the wrong, and newsflash, I don’t even know if Gym goer is a guy.

              1. RagingADHD*

                Bear in mind, this is the same person who commented above that immigration interviewers asking how a couple met when they apply for a fiancee visa is “intrusive”.

                So I’m not sure they are a good arbiter of what is or is not reasonable in the first place.

                1. MissElizaTudor*

                  On the other hand, considering the fact that immigration restrictions are inherently unjust and should not exist, that means anything asked as part of the process to prevent someone from moving from one place to another based solely on where they were born/lived before are, in many ways, “invasive.”

                  So I’m not sure people who don’t recognize the injustice and bigotry of immigration restrictions are good arbiters of what is reasonable, either.

      2. Fire and ice*

        I can’t reasonably believe that woman was feeling unsafe and I feel like concerns for her safety are being forced in to the discussion just because a man was behind her. Women that feel unsafe don’t tap on the shoulder and confront men in an adversarial manner and tell them to move. You could sell me on that she was offended (unreasonably I feel) that he was there. Trying to say she was feeling unsafe doesn’t add up.

    2. kina lillet*

      It sounds like it was a case of differently sized personal bubbles. Yours was a bit smaller, and she was in front of you, so that feels more in-control—you can see where she is, you know you’ve got enough space. Hers was a bit bigger, and she couldn’t see you, which can feel kind of itchy.

      Yes, I think you should have just moved. You weren’t necessarily wrong. But it probably would have been nice?

      1. Cordelia*

        Sounds like someone asked you to stop doing something that was making them uncomfortable, and that it would have been easy enough for you to stop doing it (by moving somewhere else), so I don’t really understand why you needed to carry on?

      1. Dino*

        This. I have PTSD and part of why I am too scared to try going to a gym is because of situations like this. I don’t think you did anything wrong, Gym goer. You have the right to work out wherever there is space. But I can understand her impulse of being uncomfortable. Granted I would be too timid to ask someone to move for me benefit, but I would definitely leave the area ASAP if someone was posted up right behind me.

        1. Spicy in Seattle*

          I think your approach isn’t unreasonable. Your feelings are yours but you don’t impose them on men just for simply existing.

          1. Dino*

            You actually don’t know anything about how I interact with men.

            Relatedly, my therapist wants me to work on being more assertive about prioritizing my need to feel safe over other people’s comfort. The thing you’re praising is actually deeply unhealthy and the result of what men have done to me. I hope you can see the irony in that.

            Good day.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Explaining why people’s reaction to a person close to their personal space, standing behind them, etc, might be gender dependent. Which could be general or tied to a specific past negative experience. I am unaware of anyone making a law to enforce this; it’s a social dynamic that varies with geography, group makeup, and individual preference.

          Framing: I don’t think Gym Goer did anything wrong, and I suspect GG is a man and the woman who asked GG to move was uncomfortable because a man was this close behind her. There are ends of the spectrum where most observers agree one person is clearly at fault, and middles where reasonable people can disagree as to what is or isn’t too close.

        2. Not A Manager*

          And then hashtag-not-all-men wonder why women don’t respond to their online messages or say hi in public. Because people like you go from “hello” to “thermonuclear” in the blink of an eye.

          Is it really mysterious why a woman doing squats in workout gear might be somewhat uncomfortable with a man directly behind her? And why that might actually be – *gasp* – gender-related?

          1. pancakes*

            It is mysterious to me why someone who is uncomfortable doing squats when men are around would go to a gym where men work out, rather than, say, a women’s only gym, or work out at home. Fwiw I wasn’t assuming that that’s what was definitely going on here – it seems just as likely to me that the woman has some particular social issues or some particular reason for hostility that’s anyone’s guess. Glaring at someone in hopes they’ll go away doesn’t seem like a a great way to handle unwanted attention, to me. It seems more likely to escalate things vs. moving away and/or avoiding eye contact.

            I am uncomfortable with the assumption that every woman’s behavior can generally be explained by gender-related fears. Sometimes that is key and sometimes it isn’t.

            1. ThatGirl*

              I work out in a coed gym, mostly the men ignore me which is exactly what I want. There’s a difference between “men being around” snow “men maybe staring at my ass”. I’m not obligated to go elsewhere based on one guy being creepy. And that may not have been happening here! I don’t know that gym goer did anything wrong, but she may still have been uncomfortable.

            2. Not A Manager*

              I was replying to the removed comment. Of course the woman could simply have been being weird – it sounds like that was the case. But it’s also possible for a woman to respond differently to the perception that a woman is intruding into her space bubble, vs. the perception that a man is intruding into her space bubble. That could be compounded when you’re doing squats in workout clothing. Someone pretending that anyone pointing this out has some male-bashing radical agenda is ridiculous (not you, the removed post).

            3. Maggie*

              If we never risked feeling uncomfortable around men, we’d literally never ever be able to leave the house. Some of us are just doing the best we can.

        3. ThatGirl*

          Lol no I did not say that. I was offering one potential or likely explanation for this scenario. If you don’t understand why women *might* feel uncomfortable in that situation, I can’t help you.

    3. RagingADHD*

      It might have helped if you just faced the other direction. If the ab roller is the equipment I’m picturing, where you are sort of inchworming back and forth, you can’t really see yourself in the mirror anyway, so it doesn’t matter which direction you orient your head and feet.

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable for someone to feel like their space is invaded by someone ooching up under their butt while they’re squatting.

      The whole thing could have been defused if you said something like, “Sorry, it’s really crowded. How about I turn around and go the other way?”

    4. Gym goer*

      Well, this blew up. I wanted to clarify a few things. Could I have moved, sure even though it’s really disruptive to my flow. I probably would have if she had asked me nicely out of kindness. I was bothered that she touched me and was abrupt with me from the get go so in the heat of the moment I decided to not move. Maybe not the kindest thing looking back, but I still wanted to make sure that I didn’t unknowingly violate some sort of etiquette to justify her attitude.

      In regards to space: it was crowded but my spacing was equidistant to what the other gym members were doing. I don’t feel that I was unusually close. For what it’s worth I am non-binary petite person but can be seen as somewhat masculine presenting. The last thing I want to do is make people feel threatened.

        1. BRR*

          You did nothing wrong. Gyms get crowded and not everyone will get the amount of space they’d like. As avonlady said, she shouldn’t have interrupted you mid set.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I think you were fine. I also think she shouldn’t have touched you, nor should she have done it mid-set, which was the biggest gym etiquette violation here. I think you encountered a weird situation at a gym. I wouldn’t sweat it (pun absolutely intended).

      2. ThatGirl*

        For the record I don’t necessarily think you were wrong. Just offering a potential explanation for her behavior.

      3. RagingADHD*

        I don’t think it’s a matter of gym etiquette as much as general etiquette.

        One of the fundamental principles of which is that you can’t control other people, but you can control yourself.

        Someone pointed out that you were doing something that bothered them in a shared space. You could have answered politely and found a compromise. You could have made a minor adjustment that cost you nothing, which would fix the problem for both of you. You had lots of choices.

        You chose not to be polite or compromise because you didn’t think she asked “nicely” enough. You could see that you were bothering her for some time before she spoke. So you expect her to be polite in the face of annoyance, but you don’t expect the same from yourself?

        At that point, it doesn’t matter whether her request violated some rule or not. Choosing to deliberately continue doing something that was pointed out as bothersome/ annoying / uncomfortable when it was easy to stop doing it puts you at least 50 percent in the wrong.

        This is an “everybody sucks here” situation.

        1. Cheezmouser*


          Yeah, maybe she was rude. Maybe her feelings of discomfort with your proximity were not reasonable. Maybe she was overly sensitive and had unrealistic expectations of personal space in a crowded gym. Maybe she was uncomfortable with your non-binary appearance. Who knows, maybe all or none of the above.

          But you are responsible for your own actions and feelings. So you could’ve compromised or acquiesced but decided not to because you were angry/annoyed. That’s not a “you should rethink your attitude and consider therapy” breach of etiquette, but it probably wasn’t the best reaction either. There probably wasn’t a solution that would leave both of you happy and best friends, but there were definitely options for either one of you that would have de-escalated the situation, and neither one of you took them

        2. Wormwood*

          I disagree. The OP was using a shared space that they are paying for the way it was meant to be used. Someone approached you disrespectfully and you responded maybe a little coldly. Fault here is 100% on the woman. Full stop.

          “ You could see that you were bothering her for some time before she spoke.”

          For some time? They were in the middle of working out, which is what you do at a gym. Not accost people for using a space the way it’s meant to be used.

          OP please don’t let this or these poster deter you from using the gym.

          1. RagingADHD*

            Who is discouraging the OP from using the gym? I’m just encouraging them to think more comprehensively about manners and extend the same courtesy to others they want for themselves – as we should do everywhere.

            They said that the woman was already there when they started (was there first) and showed obvious signs of being bothered / distracted by what OP was doing, by stopping and staring for a noticeable period of time before she spoke.

            Why should the onus be on the person who was there first to move, or to be extra-nice when annoyed, if the OP thinks they are personally justified in being snippy because they were inconvenienced? The OP is applying a double standard.

            Sharing space is about *sharing*. Compromise. Courtesy.

            A grown up person should have the maturity, empathy, and self-control to be civil and look for a mutual solution instead of defaulting to “Nanna poo poo you can’t make me move, so there.”

            Telling someone they are too close for comfort isn’t trying to dominate the entire gym. You could just scoot over a little.

      4. Maggie*

        I think no one is really in the wrong here. She asked, and people are allowed to ask things. You didn’t want to and weren’t breaking any major rules, so you didn’t. If something is minor and easy to do, I’ll usually just do it (and probably would move at the gym if someone asked me to). But I also don’t think you’ve committed any kind of bad act or major etiquette breach.

        1. Maggie*

          What I think it boils down to is “why not do a super easy thing that would make someone feel safer and comfortable”. I would proactively move if a man or person who presented as male started working out behind me while I was doing squats. That’s a very uncomfortable position to be in, and I don’t feel safe in it, because I’m 30 years old and have had men creep on me and threaten me 373477493929636 times in my life, so I don’t bend over in front of them.

          1. RagingADHD*

            You included something I forgot – the woman doing squats was there first.

            That is actually an unspoken rule of gym etiquette – in a shared space or with shared equipment, the one who’s there first has dibs.

    5. Macaroni Penguin*

      Yeah, it would have been better to move. Maybe y’all could have switched places? I ld have felt uncomfortable in that situation because 1) unseen things behind me trigger a fear reaction (there’s a tiger and its going to pounce!) and 2) I’m self conscious that the other person might be looking at my butt. (I know they aren’t really)
      The other person isn’t doing anything wrong! But it’s a kindness to listen when someone says they’re not comfortable.

  30. Stuffies!*

    Stuffed animal donations!

    Just looking to hear from anyone who has donated stuff animals (or received donations of them at their organization). I had a pile of old Ty Pillow Pal stuffed animals in my bedroom closet that I donated to the local fire fighters a few years ago, and that went well. They were in like new condition (no damage or wear, and still had tags), and I felt good knowing they’d go to children who needed them (I initially felt guilty about donating them because they were so cute).

    I have a large collection of Ty Bean Babies and Beanie Buddies stored in big plastic Rubbermaid containers in the attic, so I’m going to inspect them and remove the like new ones for donation. I’m afraid they might smell musty from being stored that way. The best advice I’ve been able to find to deodorize them is to leave them outside in the sun for a few days.

    Does anyone have any other suggestions for how to remove possible odors? Where else have you guys donated stuffed animals?

      1. Stuffies!*

        Just got one tote of the plushies from the attic, and they actually don’t smell at all! Guess because they weren’t played with much if at all, so they weren’t dirty. Going to put them outside for a day anyway just to be safe.

    1. Christmas cookie*

      No leads for you but I wanted to say that my kids have been on the receiving end of those donations and it was amazing. Mine both had to go to the ER where they got a “care package” that included a new with tags TY beanie baby among many other items to help pass time/comfort kids. They still talk about their “Hospital goodie bag” and recommend visiting to all their friends ;).

      1. Stuffies!*

        Awesome! Thank you for sharing. :) Hospital care packages/goodie bags sound great. I didn’t know they did that for kids, and I can imagine how it’d be comforting and offer a good distraction.

        I e-mailed my local paramedics today, and was looking up the local firefighters and police. If those don’t work out, maybe I can find a hospital or pediatrician office that could take them.

        1. WellRed*

          Honestly I wouldn’t waste my time with medical settings. Womens and children shelter?

        2. fhqwhgads*

          Be aware that many hospitals explicitly won’t take anything plush, even if it’s new in package. Too difficult for them to sanitize stuffed animals is what I’ve been told in past. If you want to give them away to someone who’ll appreciate them, try your local freecycle group. Donating to an org with money rather than objects is generally more helpful to the org anyway.

    2. Miss Marple*

      Many places won’t take stuffed animals. I think they’re afraid of bugs and germs. My friends with the appropriate aged kids are overrun with their own menageries.

      Figuring I had nothing to lose, I put several in net laundry bags and ran them through the washer and dryer. They came out fine. They were then easier to give away to neighborhood parents of little kids, when I told them I’d washed and dried them.

      BTW I asked the parents out of earshot of the kids, because asking in front of the kid is just rude. (This is the same principle as a rule from my childhood, when my mother insisted that I first ask HER privately if Suzy can stay for supper, before I mention it to Suzy. )

  31. WellRed*

    I took a step toward … better things yesterday. After ignoring my $30 world gym membership for a few years I bit the bullet and signed up for a pricier $100 membership at the brand new gym closer to home because it offers aquatic fitness classes and I might actually like those. Hopefully don’t need swim caps (ouch!). Will any kind of tank or tanking work? What steps has anyone else taken toward being better ( however you define that).

    1. MissCoco*

      I’ve only done a few aqua fitness classes (but I loved them and they were super fun!).
      Unless the pool requires a swim cap (which isn’t common, at least where I am from), you won’t need one, but if you do need one, there are stretchy Lycra swim caps which are pretty painless and don’t snag your hair at all.

      Any poolwear (tank or tankini) will work. Some people find adding a fitness/sports bra style bikini top underneath their suit helpful if there is a need for a extra support, but in the classes I’ve attended, not many people go that route.

      I’ve made a return to a pilates practice, and taking 10,000 steps per day. Both of those help me feel better physically and mentally.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      At my pool aqua fitness is done with head out of the water, so no cap and any comfortable bathing suit. Usual look is a tank, sometimes under a swim shirt (I use these in summer so I don’t have to deal with applying sunscreen on my back and arms).

    3. ronda*

      at my pool you don’t have to wear a swim cap, but you do have to wet or cover your hair before getting in. I use those cheap clear shower caps for it cause I would rather not wet my hair.
      I wear a tankini swim suit most times (lands ends has lots) and a pair of mens trunks (the women’s bottoms are less sturdy). the lands ends suits dont hold up very well with the pool water, so I am trying a krinkle suit (only have in 1 piece) next cause many of the other women at the pool say those work well for them and hold up well. the leg wholes are very big on the one I bout so will still wear trunks over it.

  32. Chaotic Good*

    Thursday was the last day of summer school for the kids who come to our library, so we made Edible Aquifers (an ice cream party dressed up as a STEM program– check it out on YouTube). Then, in the last ten minutes before the bus arrived to pick them up, we had a bubble wrap blowout. I save that stuff up all year and it’s all gone in minutes. I wish I had taken video: laughing, screaming, stomping, running, using rolls of wrap as lightsabers, ganging up on our security guard (who is awesome and spends a lot of time with the kids), you name it. 10 minutes of complete and utter bedlam, and only a couple of minor injuries. Bubble wrap blowouts are by far the most popular program at the library.

      1. Chaotic Good*

        It made up for the fact that I had to bring the hammer down during our tie-dye program the day before!

    1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      Asking for a friend who is my librarian partner: what would you need to do besides collect bubble wrap for one of those programs?

  33. Sunflower*

    I seem to have acquired some mold or mildew in a bathing suit bottom I have and i can’t get it out.

    I’ve tried soaking (in this order)
    1. Detergent
    2. Baking soda
    3. White distilled vinegar
    4. Dawn

    What next? This suit has only been worn a few times so I’d love to try to save it. Help!

    1. Dino*

      Sunlight can kill mold spores, but if you’ve used the dryer already on the suit that might have “baked” the mold in. Either way I’d try leaving the suit out in bright strong sunlight for several hours to see what happens.

    2. GoryDetails*

      You could try an enzyme cleaner like Nature’s Miracle; I’ve mainly used it for pet stains (urine, etc.) but it could work on mold.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      After seeing what mold does to a human body, I can tell you that it is much, much cheaper to throw the item out than take a chance on it.

    4. MacGillicuddy*

      Even if you manage to kill all the mildew, the stains won’t come out. Sorry. I lost a favorite shirt that way.

    5. Wilde*

      You need bleach!

      A couple of capfuls in a bucket of cold water. Submerge fully by covering with a white towel to protect the colour.

      After half an hour, rinse and throw in the washing machine. If there are any marks after, those are stains but not live mould.

  34. Trip tips*

    My wife and I are fortunate enough to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Paris this winter for a milestone birthday celebration. Anyone who’s been there before: tips for a smooth trip, or any less-well-known sights we shouldn’t miss? We’ll be there for three weeks and are planning on staying local, with occasional day trips to major sights.

    We both know enough French to read signage and get by in very basic conversation, but not much more than that.

    1. Texan In Exile*

      The Sewer Museum is very interesting!

      Allow for strikes.

      At the airport, we waited half an hour after arriving to go through Immigration once because the people who staffed that area were on strike. It took much longer to go through security to leave another time because the security workers were on strike. We almost missed our plane home.

      Another time, the railroads were on strike, which meant getting back to the ferry at Calais was a challenge. (I think they finally provided a bus.)

      And another strike! The people who replenished the ATMs were on strike. At the time, many places did not take credit cards. The situation is better now re credit cards, but still make sure you have cash with you.

      1. Lurker*

        Oh man, that reminds me of when I spent a semester studying in the south of France. So many strikes. My friends and I got in the habit of calling the train station before trying to plan our weekend travels (this was before cell phones!): <> One time they told us Non, which was true…for the region we were in. So we hopped on the train to try to visit Madrid, only to discover that when we reached Montpellier, the trains going from there to the Spanish border were on strike.

      2. Trip tips*

        Sewer tour does sound interesting! I’m an engineer by profession, so that was already on my list – the trick will be convincing the better half to come along :D

        Would not have thought about strikes; thanks for the tip.

      3. FACS*

        If flying Air France then stash a toothbrush and clean underwear in your carry on. I have been to Paris a couple of times. Comice and La Scene are amazing restaurants. Please also consider visiting the cemetery at Normandy. It is powerful. The Catacombs are amazing and you might consider Musee de Orsay for the Van Gogh and Art Nouveau exhibits.

    2. Lurker*

      Rodin Museum and L’Orangerie are two smaller museums. The Rodin Museum has an outdoor garden, so it may not be the best place to visit in winter. L’Orangerie has a gallery with huge set of Monet’s Water Lilies.

      1. Venus*

        I think the first Sunday of every month is a free day for museums. We went to the Rodin museum and it wasn’t very busy in comparison to the big museums that would have been much too full with long lineups.

    3. YNWA*

      We were there in February of 2018 and the weather was pretty much the same as where we live in the Midwest (cooler, rainy, windy, a little snow) so plan for that weather. Because it was Feb, crowds were lower but still places like the Catacombs were hopping. We bought as many tickets in advance as possible to make things easier. I second the Sewer Tour.

      The Parthanon is a undervalued treasure so I’d check that out. Also not as crowded as other sights. We didn’t go through the Louvre because we only had a week. We did visit the Louvre and hang out in the areas where you don’t need a ticket and that was fun. If you have three, you might actually be able to make a go of it. Instead, we hired an ex-pat tour guide and visited the Musee d’Orsay. I highly recommend both that museum and that tour. Due to strikes on the Metro, we didn’t visit Notre Dame which might be the only thing I regret. Originally we weren’t going to visit the Eiffel Tower but the weather was kind of gnarly (windy) so the line was super short and we did it anyway. It was awesome hiking down when they turned on the disco lights. The third level was shut due to wind so we only hung on the second level. Lastly, a treat we didn’t plan on was the L’Arc du Triomphe which was a lot of fun and also not nearly as busy as other places. We walked the Champs d’Elysee but it’s just shops.

      1. Trip tips*

        I was a little worried about the weather; thanks. Also hadn’t considered Musée d’Orsay.

        Panthéon, Les Invalides, Arc du Triomphe are all on the list. Will have to see if they’re allowing people into Notre Dame; last I’d heard it was still closed for repairs.

        1. Kittee*

          Oh, the Musee d’Orsay is sooooo fabulous. Please do go.

          Also the Musee des Arts Decoratifs has outstanding antique jewelry (by Lalique and others), fashion, and other decorative arts. You can preview their collections online to see if you are interested in going.

          If you have time and it’s not too cold, rent a chair and hang out in the Luxembourg Gardens, very peaceful and beautiful.

          Make sure you find a good Moroccan restaurant for some couscous! Also the Vietnamese restaurants are often French/Vietnamese and the food can be fabulous.

          Paris is so wonderful! Can I go with you?

      2. Filosofickle*

        Yes on d’Orsay! I’d choose that over the Louvre any day. But I love the decorative arts :D

        I was there around New Year’s — the weather was cold, dreary, and drizzly and the sites were packed. If you don’t want to wait for Notre Dame, Saint-Séverin is nearby and it’s smaller bite that’s still awesome with it’s leaping gargoyles and imposing gothic architecture. Gotta respect a church that goes straight for the “be afraid, insignificant human” message.

        If it’s near Christmas, see if the big department stores downtown (ex. Printemps) have their gorgeous holiday window displays up.

    4. cat socks*

      Check out davidlebovitz dot com. He is an American chef and author living in Paris. He has travel tips and restaurant recommendations on his site.

      1. Trip tips*

        Thanks – will check it out. Half the reason we’re going is food, so restaurant info is critical.

        1. Cookies For Breakfast*

          Seconding David Lebovitz (his dessert recipes are also 10/10). If I were to go back to Paris, I would use his website twice as much as I did on my last visit. Back then, I hit it up for places to eat crepes and it recommended a place called Breizh, which I loved.

          My other food tips are:

          – Try the pastries at Du Pain Et Des Idées. It may be a bit of a walk depending on where you’re staying, but so worth it.
          – Challah bread from the Sacha Finkelsztajn deli. We bought one to munch on while walking. Had to go back for a second before leaving.
          – For a food souvenir to take home, get a jar of salted caramel from a Georges Larnicol shop. They also sell kouignettes (miniature kouign-amann) that are out of this world.
          – For a cheaper food souvenir to take home, get into a supermarket and buy biscuits, they make them so good in France. My favourites are the LU Petit Écolier and the Prince variants, both with chocolate. I’m pretty sure many countries have their own similar versions, but not even my home country (also very good at biscuits) could replicate those two.

          Hope all of these places are still open – my visit was way before the pandemic.

    5. StellaBella*

      Go to the Institute Arabe du Monde museum, and the rooftop for the view and a drink.

    6. merp*

      Not really too far off the beaten path I guess, but I loved the jardin des plantes. It’s got some more specific botanical garden type sections but a few wilder areas and is overall an incredible place to sit on a bench with a book or a coffee and feel far away from busy streets.

    7. EmilyG*

      I was there this past April. I had the most recent, 2021-ish Rick Steves book but one thing that it still had wrong was that a LOT of sights are now operating only on timed tickets. The guidebooks have advice like “for fewer crowds, try going right when they open or right before lunch.” Which is wrong because the only time you can go is whatever time you can get a ticket for. I found this kind of annoying because it requires you to guess how long you might want to spend at Museum A and having lunch in order to choose a time to visit Historic Site B. I would have preferred to do major stuff first thing in the morning and kind of play the afternoons by ear. But we didn’t buy tickets for sights until we were already there (we didn’t really decide if the trip was “on” or not until the last minute, due to covid) so we ended up with tickets for 3, 4pm for some of the places. I’ll keep thinking of other things but this is my top tip because otherwise reliable guidebooks are just wrong about it.

        1. Dreaming of Italy*

          For our trip to Italy in the spring, we used the books to identify where we wanted to go, and then used the official sites’ websites to confirm hours and tickets. I also joined a Facebook group explicitly for travelers to Italy and it was a wealth of on-the-ground details. Bon voyage!

    8. Autumn*

      What a wonderful long stay! If you will be going to more than a couple museums, the Paris Museum Pass is 100% worth it. It has 2, 4, and 6 day options. I was there pre-covid, so EmilyG’s comments about timed tickets are useful. The website references that need as well. It was great though, and I don’t know why more people didn’t have it. At some museums, there was a different (shorter) line for pass holders. I loved the D’Orsay and the Rodin, and since Brancusi is a favorite, we also went to the Brancusi atelier.

    9. GoryDetails*

      I’m fond of cemeteries, so for me the Catacombs and Pere Lachaise were among the highlights. (Also the Paris Dog Cemetery – not just for dogs – with some touching monuments to the various beloved animals buried there.) It was well before cell phones and GPS when I was there, so I’m wondering if nowadays there are location-keyed tours one could take – would be nice to have a gadget showing where the most interesting tombs or sculptures were as one was wandering by.

    10. Squirrel Nutkin*

      Build in some time to walk around the city and sit outdoors at a cafe people-watching if you enjoy that sort of thing.

    11. Kittee*

      Go to Fauchon and get some marrons glace (chestnuts glazed with sugar syrup). Very expensive and sooooooo0 worth it. On the rare occasions my family has managed to get some, no one will share! Fauchon’s are the best, accept no substitutes!

    12. Valancy Snaith*

      My husband and I just returned from Europe a couple weeks ago and spent some time in Paris. We very much enjoyed the Musee d’Orsay, although timed tickets were a must (the lineup was hour+, we walked right in at the appointed time), wandering around Montmartre, and if you drink, visiting Harry’s Bar.

    13. Seeking second childhood*

      My personal favorite — Museum of the Middle Ages (aka Hotel Cluny), to visit “La dame a la licorne.” And everyday objects galore.
      If you’re an airplane buff, look for the museum with the Concorde –it’s at an airport so we’re going to use that for our last day before traveling home, if we ever get to go again.

    14. MJ*

      Make sure you have comfortable shoes for all the walking! The Métro can be intimidating if you aren’t used to it, but they do have mobile signal so you can use you cell for apps to get around – I found CityMapper to be very helpful.

      I enjoyed visiting the Paris Opera House, the Sewer tour – gives a historical overview and we didn’t find it that smelly, any museums were interesting, the catacombs, the cemeteries – but definitely check if pre booking is required. But if you can’t get tickets keep checking – my sister was there last month and at 6pm one night found due to cancellations they were able to get tickets to for the tour Eiffel at 7.30am the next day.

      Something unusual that was recommended to me and we really enjoyed, was visiting the rue Mouffetard – one of the oldest streets in Paris. It’s fun to wander through the whole area and see all the old buildings. https://www.rue-mouffetard.com/market.html

      There is a sing-along on Sundays that we joined in. Hilarious since we didn’t know any of the French songs and had to have the locals point out which set of words we were “singing”. (They handed out photocopied pages of lyrics.) My friend and I got invited back to lunch at the apartment of the older couple that was helping us. She was amazed when they made three different mayonnaises from scratch for lunch.

      The street is a really steep pedestrian zone filled with all kinds of food shops. You can gorge on all kinds of cheese and fresh bread – probably meat too, but being veggie I didn’t look at that. Lots of fun to wander along and see what’s there – but they are only open mornings on the weekend, so go before lunch. The sing-along was in the square at the bottom of the hill. There’s lots of coffee shops around too if you want to people watch.

    15. Chicago Anon*

      Victor Hugo’s house, if you like house museums and are interested in 19th-c daily life. The Musee Marmottan if you like Impressionism and medieval miniatures; it’s near the Bois de Boulogne so you can combine it with some outside time.

  35. Russian in Texas*

    My favorite US citizenship application question is “have you ever committed a crime that you haven’t be charged with?”. Oh yeah. I got away with it, but NOW I tell you.

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      It’s so funny it deserves top level. I remember my cousins laughing so hard about that one.

    2. ecnaseener*

      I think it’s one of those things where if they ever find out about the crime later but it’s not major enough to deport you over, they can say you also lied on the citizenship form and deport you over that.

  36. Anonymous Cat*

    Has anyone experienced waking up with neck pain no matter what pillow situation you have? Any tips how to stop it?

    Note: not looking for medical advice!
    I’m sure this is somehow related to sleeping habits but I’m not sure how.

    I’ve tried one pillow, two pillows, and a new pillow, but I usually sleep with two pillows to elevate my head slightly. And I sleep on my back.

    The pain goes away a few minutes after I get up but I doubt it’s good to sleep this way.

    Anyone experience this or have a way to stop it?

    1. WellRed*

      You might need to check in with a doc at this point and rule out something else as it may not be the pillow at all.

      1. PollyQ*

        Yes, “I have chronic pain that lifestyle changes aren’t fixing” is always a good reason to see a doctor.

    2. Generic Name*

      Yeah, I had neck pain pretty badly for a while. Physical therapy is what ultimately helped me. Unfortunately I had already spent a small fortune on different types of pillows…..

    3. Just a name*

      The memory foam contour pillow helped my neck a lot. I’ve been using one for years. It’s hard to know what thickness will work. I had one that was thinner than I needed, so I added a regular pillow under that. Just had to get a new one because the old one had lost its firmness. This one is thicker, but I’m still using a regular pillow under it. Two nights in and feeling better already.

      I have some degeneration in my thoracic spine (MRI). I’ve been trying to get in with a surgeon for months, tho I am solidly against surgery. I have been going to PT and that has been helping as well. Dry needling found a spot where I was very tight so I’ve been working on getting that loose and some other stretches and strengthening. I’m definitely improving so I may cancel the surgery appointment. The new pillow has made the bigger difference and much faster than the PT. Going to set up monthly massages, I think, to keep things loose.

    4. Pocket Mouse*

      In my case, as primarily a back-sleeper, the pillow was too tall/thick. I got a super low-profile pillow (possibly memory foam? It’s definitely denser than typical fill) and it has been much better. Keeping my head and neck closer to healthy standing posture seemed to work for me.

      1. Sundial*

        I’m also a back sleeper, and often I sleep without a pillow at all. Having my head flat against the mattress feels really good, like everything is properly aligned.

    5. Corkey's Wife Bonnie*

      My neck pain in the morning improved a lot when I bought a shredded foam pillow. The brand I bought was Coop pillow. They even give you a bag of extra shredded foam if you want it fluffier. I will never buy another brand again. My morning neck pain was resolved in days.

  37. Cpap*

    I’ve been thinking about trying to reconnect with an old college friend for a while – it’s been about 20 years! We did argue about something that led to us parting ways all those years ago as we graduated – I can’t quite put my finger on what it was but knowing myself as I do I’d imagine there was an element of me being the one to cut contact. Since then our lives have gone in different directions and we don’t have any friends in common so our paths have never, and would never, cross again. They aren’t on social media or LinkedIn but a quick google recently showed up a new job appointment for them. I don’t think using that as an ‘in’ would be appropriate – all I have to go on other than that is their parents’ address from 20 years ago. I’ve often wondered what happened to them and hoped they were well, and I’d love to reach out somehow.

    1. Texan In Exile*

      Write a letter care of their parents. I would be so happy to hear from an old friend. (But definitely apologize if you are the one who ended things.)

      Also – you have probably already tried this, but does your college alumni association have a directory? That might be a way to get a current address.

      1. North Wind*

        This is a great idea!

        It also gives the friend some space and time to absorb the idea of being in touch again before making a decision/having to respond.

    2. RC Rascal*

      I have been in the process of contact college friends from 20 years ago. There is an ex I would like to talk to but it ended very very badly and it was all his doing.

      What I am finding about these old relationships is that it is very easy to pick up again but whatever underlying issues are still there. I’m also finding that a lot of their lives are determined by whatever was their worst quality.

      1. Anonymous Cat*

        That’s a really interesting observation!

        I’m now checking out my life and my worst qualities…

        1. RC+Rascal*

          Roommate #1 was always very dependent; she literally did not think it was her responsibility to take care of herself. She ran up $40k in debt on a studio art degree, married her high school boyfriend who is responsible and successful, his parents paid her student loans. She has 3 children and has never worked. She also does not create art. She was always putting herself in precarious positions, manipulating others to bail her out of it, and nothing has changed.

          Roommate #2 was hard working, practical, responsible, stable, didn’t smoke or drink, and very self sufficient. She also had a lot pride and didn’t like to ask for help; very much had an “I’ll fix it myself” attitude. She is married with a special needs child and her husband DOES NOT help her at all. It’s his second marriage and second family and he travels with his job all the time and leaves her with all the work. Just to be clear it’s their child together, but he doesn’t act like it. It’s very sad and her health is failing from the stress. She persists with the “I can do it” attitude but this is a situation she can’t solve by being hardworking, smart and capable.

    3. Stuffies!*

      I see nothing wrong with reaching out to an old friend, but I’d try to keep your expectations low about how they’ll respond.

      One of my friends from high school invited me to their wedding and bachelorette party after we hadn’t talked in 10 years. I made up excuses for not being able to attend either, and didn’t make an effort to make conversation when they e-mailed me. Nothing against them, I just didn’t feel compelled to “get caught up” or keep in contact. (I dunno–maybe I would have felt different if they’d just contacted me just for the sake of getting in touch rather than forcing me to decline a wedding invite. It was kind of awkward!)

      1. RC+Rascal*

        Your last statement is the key. When you look up old friends it needs to be done with no expectations and an honest explanation for your inquiry, which in my case was that I was going through old things at my parents house and found photos/letters/memories of them.

  38. Decidedly Me*

    Looking for book recommendations! I was thinking it would be nice to have a long series or set of books that I read only when traveling. I greatly prefer physical books at home, but now use a Kindle during travel after the trip where I took 4 books and ended up buying 3 more…. (my luggage was not happy!). Since I prefer physical books, it’s always a struggle for me to decide which books on my list I’m willing to have as an ebook, lol! So, I thought a specific series designated as my travel ebooks could be good.

    Since I’ll only be reading during travel, I’m ideally looking for something that is a series, but it’s fine to take large breaks in between books and not lose the storyline, so the books are connected, but each book is its own story, maybe like a series focusing on a detective and each book is a case or something like that? I typically read an entire series all at once.

    Something with a lot of books in it already, at least 10 ideally, even more is better.

    My typical reads fall into mystery, thriller, fantasy, horror, and scifi genres. Less commonly, but also enjoy historical fiction. Open to others, too!

    A set of books by a specific author could also work rather than a series (like Agatha Christie novels).

    Thanks all!

    1. cat socks*

      I like the Cork O’Connor mystery series from William Kent Kruger. I think there are 18 or 19 books in the series now.

      The Maisie Dobbs series from Jacqueline Winspear is also good. She is a PI in post WW1 London.

        1. cat socks*

          Very cool! I don’t remember how I found the series. I think I stumbled upon it while browsing e-books through my library. I just finished Red Knife, so still have more to look forward to!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Upthread I recommended Donna Andrews’s bird mysteries centered on blacksmith Meg Langslow. Meg is likeable, her large family is wacky and entertaining and you get how they can be lovely in small doses yet exhausting to live with all the time. I really enjoyed the romance when she met her husband–it seemed like how grown-up people date and make compromises. I also particularly like that the use of cell phones is accurate to the publication date–none of that nonsense about how you “just don’t like cell phones” even though every book you wind up in a potentially lethal situation where one would really have helped. First book is Murder with Peacocks. Book 30 (I think) is due out this summer.

      Sci fi: Lots of Murderbot fans here. A security cyborg hacks its governor module, then settles in to watch the entire Netflix back catalogue in between trying to rescue its hapless humans from lethal attacks.

      Mystery meets history: Lindsey Davis’s Didius Falco mysteries, starts with The Silver Pigs. A tough-talking PI transported to ancient Rome around the time of Vespatian. Blends mystery with “how did people in Ancient Rome do everyday stuff?” historical tourism.

      1. Might Be Spam*

        Thanks for the reminder about Didius Falco. I was trying to remember the series so I could read it again. Didn’t he accidentally get a gladiator as a gift from an emperor?

        1. Seeking second childhood*

          I missed that one but he & his siblings gave their father a hemorrhoid extraction for a Saturnalia gift…

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          He got an extremely large fish on one occasion; I don’t remember a gladiator.

    3. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      See my comment above about Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. The books are interconnected but each can stand on their own (only the first two are really two volumes of one story).

      1. Seeking second childhood*

        I’d add the Tiffany Aching books to the list of ones best read in chronological order. Thanks to Wikipedia here they are: Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, I Shall Wear Midnight and The Shepherd’s Crown.
        They show Pratchett at his best, with a full range of emotions without losing his whimsy.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      If you enjoy historical fiction and mystery, then Peter Tremayne’s Sister Fidelma series might interest you. Murder mysteries set in Ireland in the 7th century, under Brehon Law. The books are all their own stories, in each she and her partner solve a separate mystery.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Murder mysteries and Brehon law are two of my obsessions (heck, I’m an English and History teacher in Ireland), so I am absolutely delighted by their existence.

      1. Clumsy Ninja*

        I love these! And must work on getting caught up…..I’m probably eight books behind by now.

    5. Russian in Texas*

      Bakeshop Mystery series by Ellie Alexander: cozy murder mystery, set in Ashland, Oregon. You get small but quirky town, pastries, and murder.
      Adam Lapis series by Jonathan Dunski. Based around a private detective who lives and works in Tell Aviv few years after the end of WWII. This series is a lot more graphic and serious, so beware. But the first years of Israel as a country are fascinating.

    6. Jen Erik*

      I feel that anything with ten books has been out a while, so you’ve probably already read, or decided not to read all of these. That said –
      Bujold’s Vorkosigan series – space opera, and as I read them out of order initially, I can confirm they do work as standalones,
      Laurie R King’s Mary Russell series – there were a few dud books in the middle, but it’s picked up again nicely. They’re a furtherance of the Sherlock Holmes series – also good books for travelling if you somehow haven’t read them.
      Tana French’s Murder Squad series: don’t think there’s 10 of them – maybe 7? – but the protagonist shifts from book to book, which adds a real layer of interest, and I think they’d work as standalones.
      P.G. Wodehouse? I have an entire shelf of those, and they’re always good fun.

      1. ronda*

        Bujold is my favorite.
        Bujold also has a few other series, all are very good.
        sharing knife, 4 books and 1 or 2 novellas, fantasy setting resembling early North America/ settlers vs Indians vibe
        Challion series, 3 or 4 books, fantasy, swords and horses vibe
        Penric and Desdemona , novellas in same world but different time of Chalion series.

        vorkosigan series is something like 13 books and 3 novellas, but they were also packaged as groups of a couple of books and novella at different republications (so you might get duplicates if they published them both ways for ebooks). for people coming in late to the series, there is always the question of reading in publication order or internal series order :) Do know that the author says all of her novels can be read stand alone and to stop telling people they have to read all of them in order.

        1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

          Cordelia Vorkosigan used to be my favorite Bujold character, but I think Desdemona has edged her out. :)

    7. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      Also, look into ebooks you can borrow from your library. They are free so you can load up your kindle before you go and simply skip to the next book if you don’t enjoy the ne you are reading

    8. Stuffies!*

      Lisa Lutz’s Spellman Files series was good. It’s about a dysfunctional family of private investigators who spend more time investigating each other than doing their actual jobs. So kind of like detective novels, but more entertaining/humorous/ridiculous.

    9. Not A Manager*

      Just last night I was remembering the Hornblower series very fondly. It ticks most of your boxes, but it was written mid-20th century and set in early 19th century, so it does reflect some outdated values.

      1. Angstrom*

        The Patrick O’Brian Aubrey/Maturin series that starts with “Master and Commander”. 20 volumes. The first book is a straight sea story but with the second it really opens up into the wider world of Napoleonic-era England.

    10. CTT*

      The Tana French Dublin Murder Squad series and standalone mysteries are great. You don’t necessarily have to read the Dublin books in order, but some of the same characters show up and it’s good to have the chronological background.

    11. MaxKitty*

      The Mrs. Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman. A widow gets a new lease on life when she volunteers to work for the CIA. Written in the 1960s and 1970s so reflects that era.

      The Miss Fisher Mysteries by Kerry Greenwood. A rich, eccentric young woman in 1920s Australia sets up as a lady detective. Made into a TV show.

      1. Mephyle*

        Seconding Mrs. Pollifax. I was about to suggest them. They could be described as cozy spy adventures, with a good portion of travelogue. I am a too-fast skimmy reader, so I was skipping over the scenery when I read them – I’m finding now that when I listen to them I appreciate those parts a lot more.

    12. GoryDetails*

      Will second the Meg Langslow series, the Discworld books, Maisie Dobbs, and Tana French. If you like historical mysteries, I strongly recommend CJ Sansom’s “Matthew Shardlake” series – Tudor-era stories that mix personal issues with significant political or social ones. Less well-known: Alan Gordon’s “Fools Guild” series, historical mysteries featuring a roving professional fool/juggler/entertainer and his family – who are also highly skilled secret agents for the Fools Guild.

      Modern series: Louise Penny’s “Three Pines”/”Inspector Gamache” books – they can get quite intense, but I’ve enjoyed most of them very much.

      Naomi Novik’s “Temeraire” series is fun: think Napoleonic-War era, but with dragons serving as part of the armed forces of the respective countries. Sentient dragons at that…

      Most of the above have audiobook versions, some very good indeed, if you enjoy audio.

    13. Tara*

      The Rivers of London series is great! Police procedural meets urban fantasy – it’s basically about a secret branch of the police that deals with the supernatural.

    14. Forensic13*

      I love Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael series!

      If you prefer physical books, have you tried using the Libby app? You can get and audio books through your library for free.

    15. Squirrel Nutkin*

      The Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout are a long detective series — there are a ton of them — and they are generally very pleasant to read.

    16. RosyGlasses*

      I really have enjoyed the Bruno Chief of Police series (15 of them) by Martin Walker. Set in the French countryside, they are mysteries that are fairly short.

      I also love the Dresden Files – I think there are 15-20 of those? Wizard set in present day that is sometimes abrasive, always a bit funny, gets himself into predicaments with his big mouth.

      There is another fantasy series that I’m trying to remember the name of that I binged on a trip to Mexico – really amazing story of a woman that ended up being a channeling elf type – lots of battles and magic. I’ll see if I can dig up the name!

    17. AcademiaNut*

      If you’re in a life+50 copyright country (like Canada or Australia) the Faded Page website has a lot of golden age mysteries for download. Dorothy Sayers, Patricia Wentworth, Margery Allingham etc. (Christie is still in copyright). They’ve also got the Horatio Hornblower series and most of Thirkell’s Barsetshire books , both of which are long series of standalone books.

      On the hard sci-fi side, C.J. Cherryh’s Alliance-union books, Larry Niven’s known space series and Le Guin’s Ekumen books involve multiple books set in different periods in a shared history. Not all of the Cherryh is in eBook form yet. The Niven has a lot of short story collections, which are good for interrupted reading.

      1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        My favorite Cherryh is the Foreigner series: a colony ship goes far astray out of Alliance-Union space and arrives at a planet with a civilization without spacefaring capability. The colonists come in peace, accidentally start a war, lose badly. Our story takes back up with the new translator-diplomat who has arrived in the alien capital, the sole human allowed. His job is to communicate between the human island and the Atevi government, and slowly dispense human technological knowledge in a way that will not start a second war. Assassination plots, diplomatic crises, riding accidents, elderly grandmothers, and all sorts of shenanigans ensue.

        I believe the whole series is in e-format. The books come in groups of three, but recap enough that you can find your place again quickly in the new book.

        It’s hard science fiction, and the sciences are language and diplomacy.

        1. Mannequin*

          I haven’t read the entire series but what I have is SO GOOD! I’ll have to check on e-format for the ones I haven’t.

    18. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I like Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January mystery series. They’ve been going long enough that they have more than a bit of the “why is this one person involved in solving so very many mysteries?” and “don’t they ever get any downtime to just relax when nobody is being murdered?” problem inherent to the genre, but that’s a common issue with most long mystery series. It’s a historical mystery series set in pre-civil-war New Orleans. (The first book is set in 1833, and the newest book covers events leading up to the 1840 presidential election.)

      They should probably be read in order (first book is A Free Man of Color) since the personal lives of the characters advance as time passes throughout the series, but each plot is self-contained and important characters/events from previous books that come up again will be referenced enough in the new book to refresh your memory.

      1. Clisby*

        I like this series, too. Hambly has a couple of other series, but I’ve never read those.

        Occasionally the Benjamin January story wanders away from not just New Orleans, but Louisiana, and those are never as good.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          I originally got into reading Barbara Hambly through her fantasy books, and only read the mysteries when I ran out of those. I quite liked the Darwath books, but there are a lot of continuity issues between the original trilogy and the two books she wrote later, which I felt would have benefited from being in a new, different setting instead and were probably written in the existing setting for sales reasons.

          I feel similarly about most/all of the non-Louisiana January books, where it would have made more sense to write them as stand-alones with new characters, but that it’s more difficult to get that sort of thing picked up by a publisher so she had to handwave why that poor man gets dragged all over the place.

          I also liked her Windrose fantasy books, although there is a lot about computers in them that cannot be taken seriously by a modern reader and some things that have also not aged well in terms of word usage and portrayal of minorities (also not ok in the 80s when they were published, of course, but things that would not get published today). I have to like them with very specific filters on and cannot recommend them without those caveats.

          There are specific things I like and dislike about each of her other fantasy series, but on the whole I choose to re-read them less than those two. I think the only one of her fantasy series that is on-going (unless the last book was the end of it) is her James Asher vampire novels, which I’m less excited about just because vampires in our world is less interesting to me than books that take place in completely non-our-world settings. (They also have the “the longer this series goes the less plausible it is that all of these things would have happened to these few people” problem, but that’s again just part of the way a series this long with the same cast of characters in each book is going to work.)

    19. beach read*

      The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. I believe they are classified as fantasy.

    20. Gyne*

      I like the Anna Pigeon books by Nevada Barr. The main character is a park ranger and each mystery is set in a different National Park. They all make me want to travel to wherever they’re set.

      I also liked the Temperance Brennan books by Kathy Reichs. The TV series “Bones” is based on them – I have never watched the show, though, so have no idea how dis/similar it might be if you love it or hate it.

    21. Pyjamas*

      Kind of old school but John D MacDonald’s Travis McGee mysteries are on kindle, have about 20 books in series and are a time capsule to Florida in the 1960s-80s.

    22. Decidedly Me*

      Thanks everyone! These look great and my GoodReads list has a ton of new additions :D

    23. Amy*

      I got sucked into the Tales of the City series (9 books) by Armistead Maupin during covid. Light and delightfully retro.

  39. Frally*

    I keep getting these annoying tonsil stones. No matter what I do (coughing, gargling) they don’t come out. I have to wait a week for it to fall out on its on, but then another one takes its place just a few days or weeks later. Any good home remedies?

    1. Wishing You Well*

      If you Google “tonsil stones”, you’ll find the best course is prevention: keeping your mouth as bacteria-free as possible. First, have your doctor check for tonsilitis. If you don’t have tonsilitis, your dentist can tell you how to keep your mouth as clean as possible.
      Best of Luck

    2. Not A Manager*

      I get tonsil stones when I have something going on in the Eustachian tube. You might ask an ENT or your regular doctor if you have any ear or sinus issues.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        When I had more ear and nose focused sinus issues, I found that adding more turmeric to my diet helped clear them up. (My doctor wanted me to try turmeric supplements for inflammation, and it ended up clearing up my ongoing sinus crud.)

        At this point I just throw turmeric in to whatever I’m cooking unless that would be actively weird rather than buy supplements since it’s much cheaper that way and is compatible with a lot of the flavors I like. I don’t know if turmeric would help with tonsil stones, but depending on how you usually cook it’d be a cheap and tasty experiment to try.

    3. Stuffies!*

      I was getting these on a weekly basis for a couple months for no apparent reason. I coughed the first one up, which was gross. So I started pushing them out with the end of a manual toothbrush whenever they got big enough that I could feel them. (I think I’d shine a flashlight into my mouth, look in the mirror, and I pressed on an area next to the stone, and then they’d pop out. Usually took a few tries for each one though.)

      I got a tongue cleaner/scraper and started using mouthwash at night to try to lower bacteria numbers, but that didn’t seem to help. They just stopped forming eventually, so hopefully this is just temporary for you.

      1. Cat*

        I do a similar technique but I use my pinky finger instead of a toothbrush. I also dip it in mouthwash before touching my tonsils + gargle with mouthwash after to try to prevent irritation and I think it helps a bit. In my case I’ve noticed a correlation between allergy season+tonsil stones so I’m guessing it’s basically just the human equivalent of oyster pearls for me.

    4. Stuffies!*

      Thought I posted here, but don’t see my response. Sorry if I end up double posting.

      I kept getting tonsil stones for a couple of months for no apparent reason. I coughed up the first one night, and started removing the rest myself when they got big enough that I could feel them. (I’d aim a flashlight in my mouth, look in the bathroom mirror, and press on the tonsil gently with the end of a manual toothbrush until the stone popped out.) I tried using mouthwash and a tongue scrapper to reduce bacteria, but that didn’t help. Eventually I just stopped getting them and forgot about them. Hopefully they’ll be temporary for you too!

    5. MaryLoo*

      Neti pot has helped me. Be sure to use distilled water. Mix with NeilMed nasal rinse

    6. Feena*

      My sister got me a tonsil stone removal kit that comes with a selection of metal and plastic probes and a probe holder with a light. Works like a charm. I dont know the name specifically, but a quick google search reveals several options.

  40. MechanicalPencil*

    I’m looking for recommendations for workout pants. I’ve taken up strength training, so lots of squats and so forth. Does anyone have a recommendation for some sort of yoga pant situation that’s not see through and stay in place? I can wear straight sizes, but I’m in an awkward place between sometimes needing long inseams and the normal length being ok.

    1. fposte*

      I’m on the short side so I can’t speak to the inseams, but I’ve really liked Leggings Depot stuff from Amazon. My personal choice is less for gym than for gardening and I like colors, so I’ve mostly got the activeflex slim-fit joggers.

      1. TD*

        Lorna Jane has a line of “nothing 2 see here” leggings that would fit the bill. I own several pairs and can verify they stay in place. The tend to be on the pricier side, but mine are showing very few signs of wear after 2+ years.

      2. fposte*

        Oh, an added note if it makes a difference–the pants I’ve gotten from there have actual pockets. They won’t hold a ton, but they’ll hold my keys, which is what I’m really after.

    2. Sundial*

      I like Baleaf pants for lifting. You can buy them on Amazon, but I shop directly from the brand site to ensure I’m getting legit merchandise.

    3. Chauncy Gardener*

      LL Bean has great capri yoga pants that really stay put and aren thick enough, but not so thick they are hot.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Oh yes, and they have petite sizes if you think that inseam length would be better

    4. cat socks*

      A blogger I follow (Capitol Hill Style) has recommended Colorfulkoala. Haven’t tried them myself, but she has a post up with a review.

    5. Slightly Above Average Bear*

      American Eagle/ Aerie has “Offline” leggings in different lengths, not see through, and they hold up well (no stretching or sagging) through wearing and washing

    6. Ali G*

      Fabletics has high rise pants/leggings that won’t slip down. I’ve never had a problem with the weight and them being see through. They also have various lengths.

  41. lost no more*

    Thank you to everyone a few weeks ago who gave me advice on retrieving an engine from a deceased mechanic. I was able to contact the probate court, as several people suggested, and they directed me to the law office that was handling the estate. They contacted the widow, who called me, and arranged to meet me at the shop so I could get my engine. It’s in my garage now (after an 8 hour round trip drive) and it all worked out perfectly!

  42. Online design tool*

    Does anyone have a favorite one room design tool? The kind that lets you move see how a room would look like if you moved furniture or got different furniture and so on. The ones I’ve stumbled online seem way too hard, and I’d rather not have to become a designer for what are more thought exercises. I am getting some work done in my living room (patching things up, new paint, that kind of thing) and considering rearranging furniture/getting new furniture, but am not a visual person so I thought such a tool would be handy. Thanks!

    1. Kw10*

      Floorplanner.com! See my comment about it above, in the thread about redoing a home office.

  43. Potatoes gonna potate*

    Prayers/good wishes? I tested + for the vid last night and my almost-2 year old now has a fever. Ive been calling her dr office for hours but the on-call isn’t answering. I have a really bad cough. We’re all vaxxed and boosted except for the kid. I’m stressing TF out – how does one isolate when they have little kids to look after

    1. S*

      You don’t, not really. If you have other adults around you isolate as much as possible while they do the caretaking. If there’s no one to help you, you wear a mask and do your best. FWIW, little kids aren’t usually very sick when they test positive, so while it’s scary, your kid will likely be just fine if/when you pass it on.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        I’ve heard that very often. Unfortunately kid’s dad found a figure that said 400 kids her age have died from this. :( so it is terrifying although I try not to think that way. I was calling all pharmacies and pediatric centers etc to see if they have teh vaccine for her age group (this was before she got the fever) and no luck. So frustrating.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          To be fair, I checked and there are 19.4 million under 4s in the U.S. I don’t know how many of them have had covid, but probably a high percentage. Say even 5 million have or even if it’s only 1 million. 400 is a tiny percentage, well under 1%. And it is very probable that many of those 400 children had some medical condition that put them at higher risk.

          The odds are you are talking 400 deaths out of maybe 5 million or more cases. Which would be…1 death for every 10,000 cases or so.

    2. Squirrel Nutkin*

      You can get a pulse oximeter from Amazon sent to you pretty quickly. Maybe keeping an eye on O2 levels would help you feel calmer and more in control? And if you have any doubts about whether the little one is breathing okay, better safe than sorry — get emergency help if you have to. Is there a different doc who might have same-day appointments? An urgent care nearby? Know where the closest ER is, just in case. Sending you lots of good wishes and hopes for a speedy recovery for all.

    3. Yet Another Unemployed Librarian*

      Ugh, my sympathies. My whole family got it in February and actually the youngest was the sickest, although no doctor visit was needed. Isolating is just impossible with kids (even my older one). Good luck, I hope everyone feels better soon.

    4. Sloanicota*

      I think if my kid had a fever I probably wouldn’t try to isolate from them at that point (I assume you did a rapid test and it was negative? I’d still definitely take that with a grain of sand). I hear masking and having the windows open can make a huge difference. I do know many couples (both vaxxed) in which one member caught it and the other never did even though they didn’t isolate. It’s worth a try. But I think it’s more important that someone is looking after the little kid. Hang in there, it’s tough. Good wishes.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        I took a rapid test at home.

        Okay maybe I should rewind – mom (lives with us) went to ER last weekend for high BP & fever, and they tested her there and she came back positive. I went to urgent care the next day to test and to get evaluated for a cough that’s been lingering for weeks. That was negative. Thursday I felt like crap and I took my test last night and it was positive. I was masking and isolating last night but her dad had to work and kiddo was super clingy to me so here we are (Im not feeling too bad – just a stupid cough but perfectly capable of taking care of her).

    5. allathian*

      I’m sorry, it’s always scary when little kids get sick. Sure, the risk of an unvaccinated toddler dying from Covid may be something like 1/10,000, but that’s no consolation if your kid happens to be one of the unlucky ones. Fingers crossed for a speedy and uncomplicated recovery for all of you!

  44. Suprisingly ADHD*

    Any advice on not starting political arguments with family you live with?
    I live in the same house as my mom and brother, who have very similar political and social beliefs to each other. I’m 100% against nearly everything they believe. I managed to keep things civil for several years, but these last 2 weeks are approaching unbearable. I’m on the verge of starting screaming fights multiple times a day, but neither of them notice it (yet). Does anyone have advice on keeping my cool in the face of callous hatred and straight-up bigotry? I have to keep the peace for my own mental health.

    1. Not A Manager*

      Ask them in a neutral tone to please not discuss politics/current events in front of you. Don’t get into why or try to justify it. “I’m just taking a break from the news, thanks for understanding.” When they start in anyway, immediately leave the room without a fuss.

      I’m so sorry you have to deal with this, it sounds horrible.

      1. Suprisingly ADHD*

        My problem is, I can’t ask them not to talk to each other in the living room. My bedroom/office opens directly onto there so I still have to hear the absolute worst opinions I’ve heard in my life.
        I’m trying to find coping methods to keep myself quiet and sane since its unavoidable.

    2. Anima*

      Seconding this . I asked my mum not to discuss COVID anymore because I just couldn’t. (Dad has the same beliefs but isn’t as vocal.) She agreed and now we stop each other if one’s veering into that territory. That’s the only thing that helped keepy sanity.

    3. RagingADHD*

      Can we please change the subject? You know this is a hot button issue for me and I don’t want to get into it.

      Then proactively suggest a positive / soothing/ neutral topic or activity. Preferably one that shows interest or concern about them or personal things they care about, so it’s not just “don’t talk to me.”

      How’s that work / project going?
      How is your friend’s health doing?
      Have you heard any updates from distant relative about the baby/the wedding/the new house?
      Let’s play cards or this board game.
      Let’s make cookies.

      Nature abhors a vacuum, so trying to eliminate a negative is much harder if you don’t substitute something positive in its place. Demonstrating the kind of thoughtful and supportive relationship you want to have can help foster the same attitude in them towards you.

    4. Christmas cookie*

      This might not be a practical answer for you, but I just moved out. Annoying roommates were far more preferable.

    5. Laura H.*

      My family is congruent in our leanings but there are some days that I just can. not. listen to the stuff. I have an over ear noise protection that I use every now and then. It is a bit of a passive aggressive take but it works and keeps me from reacting.

    6. Smol Book Wizard*

      I am personally much more on the avoidant side of things, to be up front about it. In a similar situation (when I lived at home wi my parents in a small thin-walled house) I practiced a lot of specific self-talk and even wrote some stuff down a few times, advice to self as it were. “The parents are choosing to be upset about XYZ. They are making the choice to do this and I can make my own choices and do not have to be part of it if I don’t want to.” It felt funny but satisfying. YMMV.
      Also, not being afraid to retreat to my own space with headphones if whatever was going on in the living room was Not My Vibe. Or go for a walk, or to a store. Reinforcing the idea that I wasn’t trapped.
      Also, definitely not for everyone, but getting a pet (even a fish or a mouse or something little) has always been an amazing bulwark of stability for me. Having something that’s unequivocally Mine, and takes some looking after too. Maybe a houseplant or a terrarium could be similar if you’re not in a place for a pet.

      Best wishes!

      1. Squirrel Nutkin*

        Yeah, if I’m not going to scream at someone whose views I find sociopathic, then my go-to is exiting the situation. Having a noxious conversation in the dining room as dinner wraps up? I’ll be in the kitchen starting the dishes. Or I am going to take a really long bathroom break to the point where you’re going to ask whether I fell in.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I have friends who I love dearly, AGREE with, and I STILL don’t want to talk about politics.

      I tell them I have had my US RDA of news for the day. Of course they plow ahead. “Hey, nope, I really mean it. I luv ya, but I desperately need us to talk about other things.” I have even said, “For my own health, I can’t get involved in this conversation.”

  45. Wanna go Mobile*

    Good resources for learning mobile game development? I have this week off work and want to have to something to show at the end of it. There are almost TOO much resources on this regard so I’ve gotten bogged down on finding a good place to start. Plus a lot of articles/blogs turn out to just be fluff and the Udemy class I tried was a mess.

    Is there a good forum for newbies to this sort of thing? I know how to program in a few languages (job is software engineer, but for desktop applications and backend services so touchscreens and “sprites” are new to me). I’m in the stage of not knowing how to really even get started

  46. Ulf*

    A week or so ago there was a letter that used names from the Sweet Valley High franchise. Several commenters recognized the names (Amy, Bruce, Elizabeth…) and were both nostalgic and amused.

    About twenty-five years ago (!) I ghostwrote 16-18 books in the Sweet Valley Twins series (not Sweet Valley High…same characters, but in SVT the girls are twelve and in sixth grade, and the series deals with conflicts appropriate for that age and grade level) and a couple of allied series (notably the Unicorn Club, if that name rings any bells for anyone out there).

    Anyway, I thought some people might have an interest in the series, the characters, the process, so if there are questions along those lines I’ll do my best to answer them! I’m afraid I don’t know much specifically about Sweet Valley High (or SV University, when they’re in college, or SV Kids, when they’re in second grade), but I would imagine the general lay of the land is much the same.

    1. Can't think of a funny name*

      That’s interesting! I liked those books. How did the ghostwriting work…did someone give you a general outline of what they were looking for and then you wrote it?

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        This is what I’m curious about too! How much freedom do you have with the plot? Do they give you a full outline and you flesh it out, or is it more like “this one is about a talent show” and you create the story?

        1. Ulf*

          I started with a fairly detailed outline, which was written inhouse (in case it wasn’t clear, I was a freelancer). The series creator liked outlines to look like prose poems, spread across four or five pages, so that’s what I got. Sometimes the outline included a subplot (defined as “what you put into the book when you run out of plot”); sometimes that was left to my discretion.

          That being said, I realized fairly early on that the outline was not intended to be the Last Word. If I thought it would work better to emphasize certain parts of the plot at the expense of others, and if I did it well, my editor did not mind. In one of the first books I wrote there was a one-line directive in the outline that said something like “There is a party at the Wakefields at which Jessica learns x.” Then the outline went off in another direction. Clearly the intention was that the party be mentioned but not described in any particular detail. I decided to devote a whole chapter to the party, however, and nobody said boo. In general, if I had a good reason for replacing an outlined scene with another, that was usually okay. It helped that I had a very good relationship with my editor.

          For my first few books, they asked me to turn their outline into a much more detailed chapter-by-chapter outline before I started writing–I’m recalling three or four long paragraphs per chapter, for books that generally went on for about 12-13 chapters if I remember right. After I’d done a few we skipped that step.

          Thanks for the question!

    2. Voluptuousfire*

      I very much read the Sweet Valley series—Twins and High. I even downloaded the series update written by Francine Pascal a few years ago. Those stunk.

      Sweet Valley and The Babysitters Club were my entire childhood. I still love the SV High covers and how they were kinda airbrushed. Did they use models for the covers and airbrush them or something?

      1. Ulf*

        No idea what they did for SVHigh. For SVTwins, the art was paintings (I believe)–I am pretty sure there were no specific models.

        The cover art was done before the book was written, probably somewhere during the outline stage. For some reason or no reason I never actually saw the cover art till after I had written the first draft, though, which led to occasional correspondence such as–

        “Hi, Ulf. The cover art shows Todd and the twins at the top of a Ferris wheel–Todd looks alarmed, Jessica is glaring at Elizabeth, and Elizabeth is smiling at Todd. We forgot to tell you about this, so on your rewrite you’ll need to include a scene where they go up in a Ferris wheel…” Fun times! I got to the point where I’d try to ask what the cover art showed before I got going, just in case!

    3. fposte*

      A grad school friend of mine ghost-wrote a few Sweet Valley Highs, as well as a few paperback YA romances under her own name. Were they as super-strict with the series bible on SVT?

      1. Ulf*

        I have no idea how strict they were with the series bible for SVH, so it’s tough to answer the question. I received the bible very early in the process, of course–I remember it as a hundred-page heavily-photocopied document in a variety of fonts and somewhat repetitive–but I don’t recall consulting it very often after the first few books. Seems like there was one time when I got something wrong (non-canon) about a character, and I was gently corrected about that (“she actually doesn;t have a mother at home; her mother ran away when she was three”) but I don’t think my editor paid lots of attention to that kind of thing. I tended to throw in my own characters anyway!

        1. fposte*

          Oh, that’s funny. My friend got reproved for giving the Wakefields a marble coffee table. Presumably the issue was that if it got in there it would then be canon, but it seemed like a very granular level of management.

          1. Ulf*

            A marble coffee table! Well, Alice WAS an interior decorator… no, I never had an issue like that. But then I would’ve been very unlikely to specify the material of a coffee table in any of the books I wrote.

            1. fposte*

              She had Jessica checking out her reflection in it, which is actually a nice detail and very Jessica, but involved the introduction of alien furniture and was thus forbidden.

              1. Ulf*

                Huh! Today I learned that you can see your reflection in a marble coffee table. I agree, that’s very Jessica. No, I never ran into anything like that. Not sure whether the SVH editors were more focused on sticking to canon than the SVT folks were, or whether I just somehow never crossed that line.

          2. pancakes*

            Oh wow! I read a number of SVH books growing up and do not recall their coffee table.

    4. strawberry time!*

      I don’t know the series, but I’m curious if you’re a writer under your own name now.

      1. Ulf*

        I am, thanks for asking, and was before I did the ghostwriting, but I can just about guarantee that you have never heard of me. I specialize in nonfiction for young adults (sixth-twelfth grade) and most of my sales are to libraries. My bread and butter is actually educational publishing, textbooks, teacher guides, assessments, and the like. Ghostwriting was a bit of a departure.

        1. strawberry time!*

          Fun! One of my cousin’s has made a living out of writing practice guides – and presumably teacher guides – for the elementary levels. If I ever see her again, I’ll ask if she’s ghost written things. I did buy one of her books once – spelling practice or math practice, when my kid was of the appropriate grade level.

    5. Bumblebeee*

      They hired ghostwriters? How much of the series was actually written by the credited author?

      1. RagingADHD*

        None of them. She created the concept, story bible, and the early outlines, but never had any interest in writing the actual books, just in supervising the team.

        This is not unusual. Carolyn Keene (the author of Nancy Drew) never even existed. She was a pen name used by a group of writers.

        The contemporary Spanish thriller writer Carmen Mola is literally three guys in a trench coat. (Okay, the trench coat isn’t literal, but the 3 dudes are).

        1. Ulf*

          Francine Pascal certainly existed. I don’t know how many of the original books she wrote; I’ll defer to RagingADHD and accept that the answer is none. By the time I came along she was involved in approving outlines only. Unfortunately, she did not always read them as closely as she should have–there was a difficult moment when she did not like something that was scheduled to happen in a particular book, and raised holy hell about it; she had in effect already approved it in the previous outline, which made up part of a miniseries and for which the writing was already under way. There were some sharp left turns by the editorial staff to make it work, and–I was the author of the book she disapproved of–it didn’t really “work” all that well. But she evidently wielded great authority, and if she didn;t like something, even at that stage, it changed!

          1. Mephyle*

            I was mega-surprised to find that Francine Pascal wrote (or “wrote”, I don’t know which) the “Fearless” series, which is really quite different from the Sweet Valleys.

            I also have her Hanging out with Cici, which is entirely different again; it’s a time-warp-where-young-teen-meets-her-mother-when-her-mother-was-that-age story.

            1. Courageous cat*

              I never read these books but I loved Fearless and still remember so much of it. That was an intense series.

            2. AGD*

              I really liked ‘Hangin’ Out with Cici’ and read at least the first Fearless book (out of something like 40 in total eventually, wow).

            1. RagingADHD*

              It never occurred to me that comment could be read as snarky. I have restated below the information that seemed like an interesting aspect of the topic.

          2. RagingADHD*

            If you would like more information about FP’s ownership and direction of the series, rather than writing individual books, it is something she has spoken about quite publicly on many occasions. I am not making any kind of assertion of behind the scenes knowledge. It is not a secret.

            Her first career was in TV writing, where it is common for the head writer of a series to give direction rather than pen individual scripts.

            One of the reasons she didn’t write the texts was that she felt her own writing style tended to be more humorous and was unsuitable to the material.

            1. Ulf*

              Interesting about Francine and her excessively humorous writing style–Sweet Valley Twins, at least, had quite a few funny parts, not in all the books, but most of the ones I wrote had scenes that were designed to amuse the reader.

              My editor always appreciated those scenes when I put them in, and apparently readers did as well.

              It’s possible that Sweet Valley High was different and needed a more “serious” tone, but as I say I was encouraged to do funny sequences and entire chapters in SVT.

        2. Dreaming of daffodils*

          Re: Carolyn Keene, there is a great book titled something like “Nancy Drew and the Women That Created Her,” and it details the creation and evolution of the series! Read it years ago and really enjoyed it.

    6. Irish Teacher*

      Ooooh, yes, I remember the Unicorn Club series and honestly, I prefered Sweet Valley Twins to Sweet Valley High (possibly because I’m not a big fan of romance stuff). I was too old for Sweet Valley Kids by the time they were available in Ireland, but my little sister used to like them.

      I’m guessing the fact you don’t know much specifically about the other series helps to explain some of the plot holes between series, like age differences changing and stuff.

      Also very curious about how much freedom you had.

      1. Ulf*

        I don’t believe I’ve read more than one or two of any of the “other” series besides SVT, so I can’t speak for age differences and such. I think it’s fair to say that when SVT began, it was keyed to SVH, but over time it developed as its own universe and people stopped paying close attention to the consistencies between the various series. That would certainly explain any inconsistencies with one character having a little sister, say, in SVT (needed for the plot of one book) but not in SVH (never needed). Hope that makes sense! But again, I have no specific knowledge of any of this.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yeah, I mean things like that, having a sister in one series and not in another. It’s a long time ago, but I think a character actually died in the Sweet Valley High series and then turned up in Sweet Valley University.

          Did you like ghostwriting?

            1. Irish Teacher*

              Yes, they actually are, now that I think of it. You made me laugh with that one.

          1. Ulf*

            Hmm; I wrote a reply to this but it doesn’t seem to be here. I’ll try again.

            Yes, I enjoyed my years with the Sweet Valley characters. It helped that I had a really good connection with my editor; that improves any situation, good or bad. I liked “spending time” with the cast and developing dialogue and situations for the characters, some more so than others. I got to use my creativity in ways I don’t always get to in the rest of my writing life, and though there were times I was a bit constrained by the guidelines, everything generally worked out okay. I did ghostwriting for a couple of other series as well, series which I suspect no one here has heard of, and that was fun too.

            The most difficult part of the process for me was that the deadlines tended to be very tight. Though I write quickly I sometimes felt I was sacrificing quality for the larger goal of getting to chapter 13 as soon as possible!

    7. Potatoes gonna potate*

      OMG SVT was the first SV series that I read. I loved those books!!!!!

    8. justabot*

      That’s so cool! I loved Sweet Valley Twins. My favorite book was the one with the “secret language” in ithig! (I was going to write this whole post in that, but I don’t fulithigly remember it, ithigha ithigha!

    9. BadCultureFit*

      Oh my! Hello from a fellow ghostwriter for Alloy :) My books are still very much in the zeitgeist so I can’t say what I write but it’s a blast.

      I collect SVH for a fun Instagram account I run too! Live them so much!

    10. Lucy Skywalker*

      Did you write the one where they decide NOT to pretend to be each other on April Fool’s Day, because they knew everyone would expect them to?

  47. anon toady*

    Checking in with person who had a tubal ligation in last week’s thread. How are you? I had my bi-salp just under 2 weeks ago and recovery is slower than I expected. I know there was some advice/experience in the last thread, but I’m looking for input from stomach/side sleepers who’ve had this procedure. How long did it take for you to be able to sleep on your front again? Two weeks of (barely) sleeping on my back is feeling like torture. But rolling onto my side feels like it’s putting too much pressure on my surgery site. Any pillow arrangement tips? Hope for light at the end of the tunnel?
    (Alison, no hard feelings if this is too medical advice adjacent or bloggy)

    1. Janet Pinkerton*

      I never sleep on my front but when I had one tube out I kept sleeping on both sides with no issue. I believe I used a long body pillow between my knees and hugged.

    2. Valamaldoran*

      Hi, I am doing well. I’m only about 5 days post surgery, so not sure about how long it will take to resume normal sleeping positions. I’ve been trying to sleep on my back, but do end up on my side sometimes. It was uncomfortable at first. (And my left side was worse.) As for pillow position, you might try the first position in this video: https://youtu.be/rgYqqPfMyz4

      Sorry I’m not more help, and I hope you find a more comfortable sleeping position!

    3. Squidhead*

      Never had the procedure but I help a lot of post-op patients…can you try elevating your head/torso while sleeping on your back? I have apnea if I sleep flat on my back but being semi-reclined instead of fully flat helps a lot. Elevating your feet when on your back might take some pressure off your abdomen, too. Sleeping in a recliner or on a couch would be better than not sleeping!

      There’s probably no medical requirement (unless there is!) that you can’t try to sleep on your side at this point, and pressing a pillow up against your abdomen might give it more support and actually feel good. I’m not sure how to describe but you’d be lying on your hip with your top hip slightly in front of the lower one with the pillow supporting you from the front? You could adjust the pressure by changing your rotation. I put a pillow between my knees when I sleep on my side, too.

      Ask your doctor whether you can use a heating pad before bed (definitely helps me with cramps). And if you are taking any pain medicine, time it so you can take a dose before bedtime.

  48. Junk removal*

    Has anyone ever used a 1-800-Got-Junk type of service? Trying to decide if it’s worthwhile, or if we should explore other options. We have a lot of larger items to get rid of, most of it in the basement, and we’re older with bad backs.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      I spend my weekends scouring free Craigslist for good used things. So many people would be willing to haul away for you if it’s free. Depending on the quality of the item, churches and community organizations might want the chance to come clean house too.

      1. Kittee*

        This is true. But I would tend towards an organization rather than Craigs List or Freecycle, etc., if the items are IN the house. I would not want to let individual strangers into my house. Safety issue to me. At least if it’s an organization you know something about them — though they are still strangers. If I had to have people haul stuff away from inside the house I’d pay to have it done. YMMV.

    2. Forensic13*

      My friend did this with her mom’s hoarder rented house when the mom bolted and left all her stuff (long story.). The service was fine but expensive and unfortunately my friend underestimated how much space they would need to haul it. But they got the job done and quickly with no issues.

      We did gather as much as we could right by the door for the service, which I’m sure made things quicker.

    3. WellRed*

      We did it to clear out an office, my aunt did it to get rid of an old living room set. You may find some local who does similar but otherwise not sure What other options you’d consider if it’s junk.

    4. ronda*

      I used it. they were fast and efficient, but expensive. totally worth it to me.
      they would not take old paint, said it was hazardous. I get the feeling this may vary based on the experience level of the people sent to your house and local rules.
      This was after I had given away the stuff I could get other people to take away for me. But they did have to do 2 truck loads.

      You can try seeing if local charity will come pick up some of the stuff before going for the Junk haulers, as they say they may donate, but I think everything is going in the dump.

      They are franchises, so experiences can vary per franchise, so check if you think they have good reviews for your local one.

      1. BlueWolf*

        Slightly off topic, but if the old paint is still usable you may be able to donate to Habitat for Humanity Restore or similar type place (I’m not 100% sure if they take opened paint). Otherwise, our county trash pickup allows paint cans as long as the paint inside is dried.

        1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

          The random guy we got for hauling recommended opening, stirring with kitty litter, and leaving open somewhere dry. (I assume he meant clean absorbent litter.)

    5. Squirrel Nutkin*

      If the large stuff in the basement is in good condition and in demand and there’s enough of it, then maybe try an estate sale company, with the provision that buyers have to show up on a specific day and move the things themselves? We used a company for an online estate sale for the furniture and random crap left over from my late dad’s house, and it worked well. The estate sale company split the proceeds with us 50-50. Your stuff does have to be nice enough and numerous enough, though, that it’s worth the estate sale company’s time to take pictures and list stuff.

    6. CatCat*

      Yes, but a local one and not that one, which I’ve looked into in the past and was very expensive. We looked for local recommendations on Nextdoor and found a company that offered a good price, were easy to schedule, and showed up on time.

    7. RC+Rascal*

      When I was cleaning out my mom’s hoarder house, I used College Hunks Hauling Junk. They cost a little less than the others and they give you a coupon off the next service. Because I was dealing with a hoard I would clean out until I isolated a half truck or so, then call them. Get the coupon, rinse, repeat. They ended taking 5 trucks from me over the course of a summer. They were reliable, courteous, and usually could be booked on short notice. They also moved some donatable furniture to the garage for me so a charity could get it.

      I used them to haul old appliances, hide-a-beds, exercise equipment, etc. If something can be donated they will do that.

    8. Mannequin*

      We did, it was fast & efficient but very expensive.

      We rented x-large dumpsters & did most of it ourselves.

    9. The Other Dawn*

      Honestly, these days any service I can pay to haul away in a short amount of time the crap I don’t want anymore is worth it to me. We, too, have bad backs, among other body parts, and we’ve learned the value of paying people to do certain things for us. Saves us tons of time, physical effort, and hassle.

      I haven’t used the service myself yet, but I know several people who have and they thought it was worth it. It can be expensive, but what you spend in money is what you save in time and effort (and pain!) on your part.

      Other options would be having a non-profit come out to see if you can donate anything, although if it’s truly junk they might not want it. Estate auction places also come to mind.

      Another option would be to see if there are any people who scour for scrap metal. It would mean letting them into the basement, but it could be worth it. And they might take more than metal, since many items have metal in them but it might not be obvious. When we moved into our current house, the barn and garage were packed with junk from the sellers. We found out during the pre-closing walk-through that they hadn’t cleared it out as agreed, so they had to pay for a dumpster rental for us. While we were throwing junk into the