weekend open thread – October 22-23, 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: Lucy By the Sea, by Elizabeth Strout. As Covid lockdowns begin, a woman and her ex-husband isolate together in Maine. It’s beautifully written.

I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 1,007 comments… read them below }

  1. nnn*

    I would love some advice on turning my brain off so that I can fall asleep. I used to be a ‘hit the pillow and be out in 30 seconds’ sleeper but the last few months I have been lying awake for up to an hour before I can fall asleep. I think the problem is my brain keeps running through whatever has been on my mind that day. Any advice on how to turn my brain off and get to sleep faster? I do know to stop screens an hour before bed, have tried melatonin, and am good about not using the bed for anything other than sleeping.

      1. Argyle*

        Also recommend this. I have the same problem of my brain not turning off, but with NMH I usually fall asleep within the 5-10 minutes.

      2. Cookie*

        Similarly, the older podcast “History of Rome” is excellent for this, and I also love “Boring Books for Bedtime.” My routine is: shower (so my body cools off while I’m drying, being cooler helps me sleep), work on a crossword or read a non-action book for a few minutes in dim-ish light (I bought smart bulbs for this), start the podcast, turn off the lights (from my phone). And I have a white noise machine…I think the sameness of the sound every night helps. I live alone but when I’m staying with family I recreate this and use earbuds so as not to disturb them.

        I had sleep therapy a couple of years ago because I woke up so frequently during the night. The solution involved changes to my waking routine, not my nights…bedtime routine was solid, I just had to shift it a lot later.

        1. Sparkle llama*

          I had the same experience in sleep therapy. If it is an option for you I highly recommend it. My doctor (in psychiatry dept) would look at my sleep logs and tell me what time I was supposed to go to sleep the next week until we got a routine that worked for me. Going to sleep later was very helpful for making me actually fall asleep.

          I would also recommend getting a sleep headphone headband thing. Way more comfy than earbuds and doesn’t disturb my partner.

          1. Cookie*

            It’s a YMMV thing…the sleep headband was so itchy for me!

            I was amazed that the sleep therapist wanted me to stay up later. I was skeptical. But it improved my sleep.

      3. Lady Alys*

        If you happen to be a baseball fan, you could try Northwoods Baseball Sleep Radio – completely fake games, about two hours long each. Described in a New Yorker article as “minor-league elevator music, honeyed with a small-town nostalgia.”

        1. Westsidestory*

          Thank you! I had no idea this existed!

          I have no problems sleeping but adore falling asleep to baseball, which I do frequently during the season. Now I will have something to comfort me during the hot stove lull.

    1. Yet Another Unemployed Librarian*

      There is a free(? Or has a free mode anyway) app I use called Portal that basically just plays nice nature sounds and you can set a timer. I don’t know what it is about it, but I am always asleep before the 15 minutes thunderstorm sounds is up.

      One idea I have seen but not tried myself is doing a brain dump onto paper shortly before bed; write down everything you are thinking of and it’s supposed to help your brain let go of it all – it’s still there on paper if you need it tomorrow. I’d be interested to hear from people who find this helpful; I’d like to try it too!

      1. CanadaGoose*

        Yes to brain dumps. Right before turning off the light is fine, if that’s when your brain is still too busy. But also consider doing brain dumps at the end of your work day (which can include thoughts about upcoming personal evening activities, too).
        Also, are you as active as you used to be? I personally find that complex exercises are good for getting me physically exhausted as well as requiring all of my concentration – crowding out other thoughts. And the effects can last a while – you don’t need to work out right before bed (which is usually not recommended!)

      2. blue giraffe*

        I once tried listening to nature sounds. One of the sounds was rain on a tent. That caused me to immediately want to pee. At least I didn’t have to put on wet boots.

    2. CTT*

      I listen to old podcasts. Having something to listen to but that I don’t need to retain (like a recap from a weekend of Premier League games in 2016) helps shut off my thoughts.

    3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      For me, audiobooks really help. If I try to listen to an audiobook while lying in bed, 9 times out of 10 I’m asleep within 15 minutes. This is extremely annoying if I’m actually trying to consume the content from the book, but I’ve been listening to The Secret Garden (which is free from Apple Books as an audiobook, and which I read in paperback at least 10 times as a kid so I definitely already know what happens) over and over for about 6 months now. I set it to play for 15 minutes in the Apple Books app, and I’m almost always asleep before it stops.

      This probably works less well for people who have brains that are good at focusing on auditory processing, but this has worked for me for years with various audio books, radio plays, and podcasts.

    4. Wannabe Woman in STEM*

      Journal or call someone to talk through your thoughts. If you have no one to talk to, call a warm line that your state offers. It can be good to get your thoughts out of your head.

      1. JSPA*

        There’s a sweet spot for melatonin. Go light on it.

        Evening walk, then no blue light / green light / screens, afterwards.

        Cool the room slightly more than what you’re used to.

        Notepad and pen by the bed, so if you do have an important (or “seems important at the time” thought, you can scribble it down, and go back to sleep.

        Adjusted expectations; many / most people sleep less well with age.

    5. Hello sunshine*

      I love yoga nidra when I’m struggling. You can find it on you tube or insight timer. I rarely make it halfway before I fall asleep

    6. Play Fighting*

      I do a variant of those body inventory relaxation things, but keep it outside of myself. I imagine being in a cozy situation (in my case, camping alone in the woods), and take an inventory of all the things that protect me from the elements and make it cozy. Every night I go through the same list, in the same order, with the same explanations, and it puts me right to sleep.

    7. marvin the paranoid android*

      I always read before bed, but at times when I’m especially anxious, I try to pick something dry or complicated. In general I find that being able to focus on a book helps take me out of my head, but if I’m having a lot of trouble sleeping, sometimes an interesting book will just keep me reading late into the night. There is great soporific power in re-reading the same dense paragraph describing something tedious about seven times and not retaining any of it.

    8. Frankie Bergstein*

      Here are a few things that work for me:
      -yoga nidra
      -body scan
      -progressive muscle relaxation
      -tapping — read Lauren Parnell’s _Tapping In_ for a description about it

    9. Autumn*

      I’m another fan of audiobooks to distract my brain just enough to relax into sleep. I can’t even guess how many times I’ve listened to like the first 5 minutes of Librivox’s Alice in Wonderland, slowed down a couple of clicks. I have a flat little pillow speaker connected to my phone that goes under my pillow directly under my ear which my spouse can’t hear at all. I have white noise going too, an air purifier, which also cues my brain that it’s time to turn off.

    10. EdgarAllenCat*

      I list out loud all the things I accomplished that day to take care of myself. Getting up on time, eating lunch, feeding the cat, etc.

      I call it talking to my anxiety and it helps me get some good solid hours of sleep. Otherwise I may wake up in a blind panic that I didn’t get the mail. Be half way down the stairs before I realize what’s happening.

    11. Sleep, precious sleep*

      I listen to sleep hypnosis videos on YouTube on my phone. I set a white noise app to run all night and the video will play over the top. That way, when the video is over, the sudden silence doesn’t wake me up. I put the phone on dark mode, set the brightness all the way down and leave it face down so the fact the screen has to remain on doesn’t bother me. I prefer videos by Michael Sealey.

      I also take L-Theanine, GABA and Calcium/Magnesium/Zinc along with melatonin and I find the combo works better than any one thing alone.

    12. ASMR*

      I watch ASMR sleep videos. It’s not for everyone, but helps me get sleepy. I also “give myself permission” to stop worrying. I tell myself it’s ok to not solve problems right now. It’s ok to rest now. Both things together help.

      1. Venus McFlytrap*

        I like ASMR roleplay videos because they hit that spot in my brain that feels like it would be rude to have my mind wandering while someone’s talking to me while also feeling like it’s okay to fall asleep because the person WANTS me to fall asleep!
        Sometimes I need something more like white noise though which is where videos where the person isn’t speaking English or “no-talking” videos are useful. I had the absolute worst pregnancy insomnia (less than 2 or 3 hours a night at the end) and ASMRTwix’ videos were the only thing that even slightly worked for me, her videos feature her visiting Japanese spas/salons getting various treatments like having her scalp deep cleaned (it was so nice to be softly spoken to in Japanese, which I don’t speak, while someone washed “my” hair). What’s interesting is that the sounds in ASMR videos don’t affect my misophonia the way they would IRL. No idea why.

        Also agree with permission to put things aside. “No one expects you to solve your problems or the world’s problems at 11 o’clock at night”. You can try making a decisive plan like “tomorrow I will tackle that laundry pile” or “I’ll look up who to call about that leak I think I have” or even just “I’ll think about this tomorrow”. Then gently but firmly remind yourself that the issue is on hold for now. Parent yourself if you must: “I already said it’s time for sleep. No more thinking about that.” Basically the same as if a kid wanted another story or to keep playing. No, we can do that tomorrow.
        Also be kind to yourself: it’s ok if you don’t fall asleep or keep thinking. As long as you’re resting, you’re doing your best. Studies have shown rest is almost as good as sleep!
        I have OCD/ADHD/anxiety/depression and chronic insomnia and these techniques really do work, I promise.

    13. Anonymous Koala*

      Body Scans work for me, or if that fails, listening to an audiobook while playing a calming silent game (I like water sort) with the brightness turned way down low usually works.

    14. RagingADHD*

      I count my breaths backwards.

      If I just want to do a “down the staircase” relaxation routine, I’ll count backwards from 20, telling myself each step down is making me more relaxed (my imaginary staircase is a lovely happy place, of course).

      If my brain needs a job, I’ll count backwards from 100.

      If it needs a harder job, I’ll count backwards from 100 by 7s. Each one being a nice slow, deep breath. If I get distracted by other thoughts I start over.

      Not foolproof, but pretty good. And the more you do it, the more effective it is.

    15. AcademiaNut*

      I find certain types of music are good at quieting the hamster wheel in my brain when I’m trying to wind down at night, typically intricate, mathematical instrumental music (Bach is good). Oddly enough, listening to change ringing (a type of church bell music) works really well; I think it engages my brain enough to distract it from thinking about stuff, without winding it up further.

      FWIW, I’m normally slow to fall asleep, but usually it’s a relaxing mental wind-down with drifting thoughts. It’s the trying to fall asleep with my mind running in circles while simultaneously experiencing ear worms version that I occasionally need to deal with.

      1. MozartBookNerd*

        Wonderful — can you please recommend a couple of good sources of change ringing CDs (or YouTube and so on would be OK too)? On Amazon I see a CD called “Change Ringing from St Mary Redcliffe Bristol” and would be much obliged for other recommendations!

    16. Large and in charge*

      I use almost all of the tricks already mentioned here in my normal life and usually they work, especially yoga nidra type meditations. Now I am super pregnant and suffering from a combination of insomnia and anxiety. I’m working with a doctor who has me getting out of the bed and bedroom after no more than 10 minutes of tossing and turning, and has given me permission to watch comfort TV (i.e. do something that distracts me from the brain spiral). Not allowed to get back in bed until I am hungry for it. And you know what… It’s starting to work, and make it easier to fall asleep when I do get in bed. So, just a thought – don’t lie there stewing for too long because it creates some backwards associations.

      1. Ranon*

        Pregnancy insomnia is a whole beast in itself! I used to just have a migratory sleep pattern, get up and crash on the couch or recliner or wherever I hadn’t tried to sleep yet. Actually worked pretty well!

          1. allathian*

            Oh yes. Mine was from having to get up every hour, on the hour, to pee. Then I’d take 30 minutes or so to fall asleep again, only to wake up 30 minutes later. I was so exhausted that I actually slept for two hours during labor, when my epidural started to work.

    17. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I’ve also found reading a book while sitting in bed works. I just need to avoid anything that will give me an adrenaline rush (thrillers I’m very invested in absolutely don’t work, I’ll get the temptation to stay awake and finish them).

      If after a few pages I realise I’m feeling relaxed, but not yet sleepy, I continue reading while lying down. Out of a combination of more relaxing, and awkward body position (reading with my head turned sideways, or bearing the weight of the book if I try to hold it above my head). I rarely make it to the end of the page, and wake up with the book still on the bed next to me.

    18. English Rose*

      Same sort of advice as others, especially the brain dump onto paper. I use an app called Slumber which I think has a free version, which has a choice between story telling, music and white noise.
      It’s interesting what you say though about your change from hit the pillow and be out in 30 seconds. That was me too. Perhaps the underlying state of the world is affecting those of us who used to be quick and easy sleepers.

    19. Still*

      A podcast in a language I don’t know very well puts me right to sleep! And if it doesn’t at least I’ve learnt something. Usually I’m out within minutes.

    20. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I like the audiobook option, I need something for my brain to focus on to keep myself from thinking. Re-reading books does the same for me and either one are my routine so I’m training myself that the signal for sleep is here.

      I also learned as a teen a technique to relax each body part from my head to my toes. Scalp, forehead, eyebrows, eyes, cheeks, etc. Very specific and small body parts. Focus on each one and relaxing it. When I started this technique I had to repeat the whole body but with practice, I seldom get past my neck before I’m out.

    21. Vio*

      I find reading a few chapters of a book in bed is a great help, but it carries the danger of losing track of time and still being reading at 4am…

      1. AG*

        I’ve had the same issue (problems of an avid reader). My solution was to choose a Children’s/Middle Grade book (somewhere between 100-150 pages). That way I can reach the end if I get too invested, but I’m not up all night long.

    22. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      What helps me an hasn’t been mentioned yet, I think, is: continuing stories of books/films/series in my mind. That really get’s me asleep.
      The fact that I don’t invent a whole new story but can rely on characters, character traits, and surroundings that I am already familiar with, means I don’t have to concentrate very hard, and can just imagine the characters talking to eachother or experiencing something. I also tend to go to the same situation as a starting point for quite a long time, slowly progressing in my continuation of the story.
      Sometimes I forget that this really helps me fall asleep and I toss and turn for ages before I remember, and than I’m fast asleep in less thab five minutes xD

        1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

          Basically, yes! :D
          I don’t have a good enough imagination to write actual fanfics but this slow pace is perfect for me. 10/10 can recommend!

        1. allathian*

          If that fails, I play Tetris in my head. It’s a great way to shut down all the brain weasels.

    23. Sam I Am*

      This is essentially”counting sheep,” but I slow my breathing, close my eyes, and imagine a big, Sesame Street-esque colorful #1, for the duration of the breath. Then the same for two, really focusing on the colors and patterns that I imagine the numbers being colored in. I’ve only made it tp 100 once in my life that I can recall.

    24. J.B.*

      It took me a long time to realize that my insomnia was connected to pain. So do check in with how your body feels and if there’s any pain dealing with that along with the other techniques may help.

    25. Not So NewReader*

      I had to take a hard look at what I was eating. Proteins. We need energy to sleep. Minerals, nothing like a shortage of minerals in our bodies to keep our minds running and running. It helps me to make sure I eat a salad each day more often than not.

      Lately, I have noticed the importance of my bedtime routine. This can be whatever it means to you. I like to make sure my dishes are done. I have several personal care tasks that I “could” skip but it’s better for me if I do them. I have noticed all these little routines send a message to my brain- “Hey the day is winding down here!”.

      Lists are helpful because it’s a place for my brain to dump TO. I use lists at work but I also use them at home often. Lining things up for the next day, seems to help “unload” my mind.

      Make sure your feet aren’t too hot or too cold. Feet at the wrong temp will keep some folks awake.
      If you have some aches going on, consider taking something for them or using a muscle rub or bringing a hot or cold pack to bed with you or whatever idea is appropriate for the concern.

      Life seems to snowball. With age I have felt more concerns about more things. It’s harder and harder to turn the brain off at bed time. I make more of an effort during waking hours to address little concerns quicker. There is some peace in knowing at least I tried to do something where I could.

    26. Llama Llama*

      When I am having trouble falling asleep, I tell myself a story. It’s the same silly story so I don’t really have to think about it. It helps get rid of the stupid thing I was focused on.
      If that doesn’t work, getting a drink helps me as well.

    27. Richard Hershberger*

      Boring music. I am a classical music person. A good classical station can be dangerous, as they might put on something that grabs my attention. But there are entire genres of mood music. I find that anything that might be described as a “soundscape” works great as benign background noise.

    28. Ranon*

      In podcasts I like the Sleep With Me podcast- he’s deliberately rambling and nonsensical and my brain just straight up gives up trying to follow and falls asleep out of self defense.

      Timing of exercise might be another thing to look at, my evening exercise days are always later bedtime days

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        There is a podcast out there of fake baseball games played by fake teams, reported in a calm manner, intended as a sleep aid for fans who find baseball radio broadcasts comforting, but might get too into a real game to fall asleep.

    29. Tib*

      I used to read a particular book every night and when I finished it I would start at the beginning again. It was science for the average person and we’ll written. Just enough good writing to keep me lightly entertained, just enough science to be interesting but not intimidating and I wasn’t reading to learn so it wasn’t boring on the next read.

      Lately I’ve been doing the abcs of tech. I think of as many tech-y things for one letter before moving on to the next. I’m rarely awake for G. I’ve done other alphabet lists but I like this one because I can come up with a lot more words. I think it helps to try and find more than one thing, but don’t spend too much time on each letter. Move on when you’re drawing a blank.

    30. Sloanicota*

      I have a lot of experience with this, after a scary incident I kept replaying and worrying about it at night, so I came up with a whole series of boring-but-distracting mental games to play. I go through the alphabet backwards, name all 50 states, list the months alphabetically, and try to list ten animals that start with a certain letter, then ten birds, then ten fish or reptiles. Anything you can recite from memory is also good. Also, there’s a visualization people swear by, where you picture heat and light coming up from your toes to your shoulders. I had to come up with a little mantra for when I woke up at night (“you are safe and warm and don’t need to do anything right now.”). Good luck.

    31. Camelid coordinator*

      I tell myself, brain, we are going to tackle that first thing in the morning. Somehow that acknowledgment of the problem and tiny action step can get me to stop worrying. Not all the time, but with some frequency.

      Unlike the commenter who likes to read dense things I like to read escapist books or, when I am really having trouble, reread old favorites.

      And here is something very particular to me so it may not work for anyone else. If it is clear I won’t be able to fall asleep or go back to sleep I like to run through my prayer list one by one. I didn’t realize until you asked your question that this takes the focus off me/my worries and may be helping me get back to sleep.

    32. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

      I feel like a short gentle walk outside helps sometimes, especially if you’re already tired. If you live somewhere you don’t feel comfortable walking at night, even just going right out the door and standing outside for a few minutes, looking up at the sky and feeling the night air can be a good way of letting your body know, “ok, the sun is gone, I’m about to go into my warm little burrow and go to sleep”.

      I also like writing (on paper!) before bed, either journaling, or sometimes I’ll do “dream requests” which is where I’ll make a little request of my brain, like, “tonight I would like to dream of swimming in the ocean” or “tonight I would like a dream of living in a treehouse” and then you start imagining all the lovely visual details or people you would like in your dream. For me, that one is nice because even if I don’t fall asleep right away, it still feels restful-but-productive, like, I don’t just get mad at myself for lying in bed doing nothing while I should be sleeping, if that makes sense.

      I also like the podcast Phoebe Reads a Mystery, though I have to use the timer on my podcast app to shut it off before the ads, because otherwise those will wake me up

    33. Qwerty*

      I find sleep meditations podcasts helpful – specifically body scans and sleep talk downs. My brain focuses on the soothing voice and my breathing until all the other stuff goes away, and then I ignore the podcast and drift off.

    34. Mia*

      I used to design my dress for the Oscars, or walk slowly through my grandparents house in my mind. I’m also a fan of warm milk and a book

    35. Mephyle*

      Like many others have mentioned, I listen to a novel I know well, or my favourite podcasts that I have listened to over and over again. Just to show that we are all different, my go-to story is Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I alternate between the audiobook and the radio drama versions. My no-fail sleep podcasts are the In Our Time episodes that are about geology or cosmology.

    36. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      What works for me are “dream voyages” – I have some on my phone and some in an Alexa skill published by some health insurance company.
      They place you on a beach or somewhere and a soothing, calm voice tells you what happens (not much). I rarely make it through more than 5 minutes.
      Some audio books or podcasts work as well. For a book, I favor Marcel Proust’s Remembrances of Things Past. Not only is it long (7 books of 20 hours each) but especially the Simon Vance reading is very appealing on voice and diction.

    37. MindoverMoneyChick*

      The Quiet Adventures of Professor Atwood is a great podcast for winding down in order to go to sleep, I’ve been using it for the past couple of months to break the habit of random surfing on my ipad, and it’s been really helpful.

    38. Laura Petrie*

      I play games in my head. Something like ‘I went shopping and I bought’, one word films, musical artists, world cities etc working my way through the alphabet

    39. Eyes Kiwami*

      ASMR and guided meditations–I recommend searching on YouTube for keywords like “stop overthinking” “brain pause” “anxiety stopper” “remove worries”.

      There is also a subcategory of “people quietly talking about something you can zone out to”. This can be a guided meditation like a body scan or visualization, or an audiobook, or even just an explanation of something–I recommend the French Whisperer, he has a whole selection on all kinds of topics from science to history, and it’s on YouTube/music streaming/podcast services so very convenient and you don’t have to watch visuals. The idea is content that is compelling enough to distract you from your thoughts, but boring enough that you can sleep through it and not miss anything.

    40. Some Bunny Once Told Me*

      This is going to run totally counter to what everyone else has said, but when I started having a very similar issue of being completely unable to turn my brain off, my psych prescribed me a 100 mg dose of gabapentin to be used as needed. It takes a good hour to kick in, so I’ll turn off my laptop at 9:30, take my meds, get ready for bed, and by the time I’m slipping between the sheets the drugs have started working and I’m able to fall asleep pretty quickly.

      I just wanted to throw it out there! Any form of audio keeps me awake, reading before bed just keeps me up and turning pages, and meditation has never, ever, worked for me. Drugs, on the other hand, do.

      Also, if you live in a state where recreational marijuana is legal, a 5 mg indica strain edible can also work wonders. I’ve used that in the past, but I currently live in an area where that’s not an option.

    41. Cedrus Libani*

      I also listen to inane chatter, and take a low dose of melatonin – most brands give way more than you need, I order the 300 mg capsules from Nootropics Depot and it’s plenty to send my 200 lb self to sleep.

  2. Dark Macadamia*

    Inspired by Alison’s book rec, has anyone read other Covid novels? How did you like them?

    I listened to “Joan is Okay” on audiobook this year because I really liked Weike Wang’s other book “Chemistry” but found it underwhelming. Just never really connected with the characters and then the Covid part felt almost like an afterthought, to the point I wondered if it was added into a story that had been planned pre-pandemic.

    On the other hand, in 2020 I read “Year of Wonders” which is actually about the plague (inspired by the real village that chose to quarantine themselves) and found it surprisingly uplifting even though it’s a pretty bleak story. The audiobook narrator gave such a lovely performance.

    1. Not A Manager*

      I’m in the middle of Our Country Friends, by Gary Shetyngart. It’s about a group of friends and acquaintances who gather at a country estate during the early stages of COVID lockdown. I can’t remember if it was recommended by Alison or if I found it somewhere else.

      1. Overeducated*

        I’m reading this too! Long term Shteyngart fan. It’s making me think I should reread Chekhov as a middle aged person who’s actually experienced disappointment – doesn’t hit the same way for a college student….

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Have seen this observation re The Odyssey: It’s about someone in middle age who really wants to go home and sit quietly by the fire with his dog and his wife and never see the damn ocean again. A theme that doesn’t hit so hard with high school students reading it.

    2. Becky S.*

      Year of Wonders is excellent! Imagine living at that time, during the plague, not understandingwhat’s causing it ot what to do about it.
      Company of Liars (Karen Maitland) is vaguely similar and also excellent.

      1. AY*

        Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell is also a great historical novel about the plague. There is an absolute showstopper sequence about how a plague-infected flea traveled from the Mediterranean coast to Stratford and infected Shakespeare’s son. It was breathtaking.

    3. English Rose*

      I recently read a series of books by Katherine Genet starting with The Gathering, which is set in an English village during Covid time and has some interesting reflections on the effect on people – local businesses being closed and slowly reopening, a young couple falling in love and not able to touch and so on. But that’s not the primary focus – they are a series exploring aspects of the old pagan religions in modern day, veil between the worlds shredding etc. Not for everyone but I found them interesting.

    4. Atheist Nun*

      The Sentence by Louise Erdrich is brilliant, and I highly recommend it. It is set in Minneapolis in 2020 and so, in addition to COVID-19, it also discusses George Floyd’s murder and the protests that followed. It is really heavy and emotional but also (surprisingly) infused with wry humor. Erdrich is such a great writer! As a bonus, because the book’s narrator owns a bookshop specializing in works by Indigenous writers (as does Erdrich), it includes a lot of great book recommendations.

      I read Joan Is Okay and liked it (but not as much as Chemistry). It was hard for me to read because I work (non clinically) at a hospital in NYC, and I felt my dread building as she described the beginnings of the pandemic.

      1. SSC*

        Yes! I was just going to recommend The Sentence. A wonderful book. I texted several passages from it to some friends – the lines about motherhood and not feeling competent at it all the time!

      2. Patty Mayonnaise*

        I loved The Sentence but the COVID section honestly annoyed me. COVID was not the focus of the book, so I can see the author not wanting to dwell on it, but it also made it sound like the pandemic ended after two months. That might have been realistic in that part of the country but it just reminded me how irresponsible some people acted during that time and took me out of the story. I’d recommend it as a good book but not a “COVID book.”

    5. Ranon*

      The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi uses the Covid setting to get things going in a clever way that feels grounded in what it was actually like for some folks, and the rest of the book is great fun in a very Scalzi way.

    6. Hiring Mgr*

      This isn’t exactly a Covid book, but there’s a horror novel by Paul Tremblay called Survivor’s Song which is a story about a new virus that causes panic, quarantines, etc.. It was written pre-Covid which makes it even odder.

      1. Cookie*

        Adding it to my reading list. Oddly enough, I love pandemic novels. Blindness by José Saramago, translated by Simon Stephens, was a little too horrifying to read at bedtime, but a great book nonetheless.

    7. isolation activities?*

      Not COVID, but Spanish Flu, with a lot of uncanny parallels: “The Pull of the Stars,” by Emma Donoghue.

      A nurse in a maternity ward in Dublin struggles to care for her patients amid a staffing shortage, while meeting several people who make her reconsider her worldview. It’s beautiful and sad and engrossing.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        My book club’s March 2020 read was “The Murmur of Bees” about Spanish flu. It was very weird reading it while debating whether we should still meet in a restaurant – then like a few days before the meeting everything shut down.

    8. the cat's ass*

      Year of Wonders is an amazing book, and i reread it in 2021. I did a lot of other pandemic related/adjacent reading, and my list included The Stand by Stephen King; The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue; Sea of Tranquility AND Station 11 by Emily St John Mandel.

    9. Rara+Avis*

      Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult. A woman goes on vacation without her fiancé (a NY doctor) and gets stranded. I enjoyed it.

      1. Kate*

        I enjoyed that one way more than I expected!

        Not COVID but general plague-y, The Fireman by Joe Hill was one of my favourite books for a long time.

    10. Imtheone*

      The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny takes place after a vaccine removes the worries about a pandemic-like disease. The author discusses life during the pandemic when people were isolated in their homes.

    11. ThatGirl*

      I read “Wish You Were Here” this year which brought back a lot of early covid anxiety but it was well written.

      It’s not a covid novel but “Severance” was quite harrowing and well written.

    12. Mephyle*

      Bad Actors by Mick Herron, the 8th novel in the Slough House (Slow Horses) series takes place when covid has been around for a while (maybe 2021–2022). Covid isn’t a main feature of the story, but as in any well-written book, the scenery, setting, and things that have happened to the characters (in this case including covid) aren’t thrown in randomly, but are relevant to the themes, the unfolding of the plot, and the relationships between the characters.

    13. HannahS*

      I read The Kaiju Preservation Society (someone on this site recommended it) and I liked it! The pandemic was mainly part of the setup in the first few chapters and after that wasn’t really relevant due to alternate-dimension stuff.

    14. Imtheone*

      I also listened to Joan is Okay, which I liked. It’s slow, and less about Covid than about Joan, for whom work is almost everything.

    15. Falling Diphthong*

      A short story about living in isolation: Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrows in the collection How Long Til Black Future Month, by N.K. Jemisin, has haunted me ever since I read it. One day a person living alone wakes up in a little bubble–part of the apartment she lived in before, with a minimally rendered landscape outside. She can spottily connect to people in similar bubbles through the internet. The whole thing resets to the starting point at short intervals–a bit under a day. It’s a completely new spin on purgatory that really gripped me.

      The whole book is very good, with several stories that play off old classics.

    16. As Per Elaine*

      I’ve forgotten the title, but I read something about teenagers in NYC during lockdown. There was a lot of sitting on balconies. Somehow it didn’t quite do it for me — I’m struggling to remember details, but I think it didn’t really capture any of the things the early pandemic was for me. (Which isn’t to say that it wasn’t a valid representation of COVID life, just that it hit some sort of uncanny valley for me.)

  3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

    What gadgets are helpful when someone is temporarily without the use of their dominant hand?

    My dad is having surgery on his right (dominant) hand soon, and we’re trying to figure out the recovery period. He’ll have either limited or minimal use of his hand for a bit while things heal, so we’re looking for gadgets that will make it easier to fumble through his daily routine at home with only one hand, and his non-dominant one at that.

    Any favorite gadgets? He’s retired, so we’re looking for daily home life stuff that will make it easier to do things like put on shoes or open packaging rather than stuff to adapt a computer setup. Bonus if it also makes it easier to do stuff without bending over (he’s still wearing a back brace and on a no more than 15 pounds lifting restriction from a recent back surgery, but we’ve got systems for that pretty much figured out at this point), but doing stuff with only one hand is the priority right now.

    1. Hello Dahlia*

      Oxo brand tools are the best! It’s like the big pencils we used when we were learning to write. My aunt lost her dominant hand, and learned to do everything with the other. I know it sounds weird, but she learned to write by using children’s penmanship books. If he’s determined, he will be fine. Wishing him a speedy recovery!

    2. Weekend Warrior*

      I’m a dedicated flosser so I was happy to discover dental picks after I had surgery on my right (dominant) wrist. Not as good as regular floss but a good stop gap. :)
      I switched to pull on shoes and boots and learned to do up jeans and buttons with my left hand. Everything just took longer.
      I learned to print/write quite well with my left hand but oh the relief when I could use my right again. People are more or less “handed” and I was definitely on the more side.

      1. Weekend Warrior*

        In case I wasn’t clear – simplified pull on clothing as well as footwear was really helpful. I could do buttons but sweaters and sweat pants were my friend.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I switched to the flossers with little handles a few years back because regular floss would cut into my fingers and leave little wounds on the sides when my hands got bad each winter. They’ve solved that problem for me, and would also make flossing a one-handed task. I think dad uses a Waterpik, but I’ll check with him to make sure.

    3. Squidhead*

      Plates with tall rims can help provide a backstop for, say, buttering a piece of bread (especially if he can trap the plate or put it on a scrap of non-slip foam so the plate can’t slide away). They make adaptive plates with a backstop on one side, too, but if he only needs it for a few weeks that could be overkill.

      Depending on which hand he uses for bathroom cleanliness, he might want to practice that ahead of time! In general, try searching for occupational therapy resources for specific tasks to get ideas.

      1. Clawdeen Wolf*

        Definitely practice! One of the reasons we struggle with non-dominant hand tasks is simply because that hand is just not quite as strong as the other while we expect it to be. Practicing ahead of time can get you used to this!

        1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          I had a Japanese style commode installed last year, with built-in bidet shower and dryer. Very comfortable.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Ooh, hadn’t thought about plates. That’s a good point. I have a set of kids plates from IKEA with high rims, so I can certainly loan him those if he doesn’t want to pick up adaptive ones.

    4. Jackalope*

      If he has to wash dishes by hand, then some sort of non-slip mat to put in the bottom of the sink can be helpful. Also, a can opener that can be used one-handed (there are some). And honestly, I’d recommend (since he knows that this is happening ahead of time) spending a day or two trying to go around doing things w/ his nondominant hand to see what is unexpectedly hard and then looking that up online. One thing to note is that most of the time when you’re doing things with two hands, either you have one hand steadying the item you’re working with and making it accessible to the dominant hand (think the dishes example above, or opening a glass jar), or both hands are doing roughly the same thing (think touch typing). There aren’t a ton of activities beyond, say, ASL, that I can think of that involve both hands doing something with complex separate actions. So figuring out ways to do that one-handed are going to get you the most bang for your buck, metaphorically speaking.

      One tiny thing to note: make sure right before the surgery (the night before or morning of if possible) that he trims his fingernails as short as he can make them; tiny nubs with no white left if he can handle it. I have in fact somewhat mastered the skill of trimming my nonfunctioning hand (when I had a broken finger) by holding the nail clippers in my feet, but that sounds like it would be tough for him to manage with the back issues. If he can get them as short as possible, then he’ll have as much time as possible between surgery and either having to figure out a way to manage nail trimming with a low-functioning hand or having someone else take care of it for him. (If he has other periodic things like that which he needs to do regularly, then do the same thing, but for me it was the nail trimming that was impossible.)

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Nail trimming is another good one that I hadn’t thought of! I’ll definitely pass that along. I’ll suggest that he do beard trimming as well. That should be do-able one handed, but tricky with the “wrong” hand.

    5. UsuallyALurker*

      Not a gadget but I’ve noticed that my non-dominant hand began to have more strength and easier movement after I started practicing ASL fingerspelling with that hand. Perhaps it would help him to “train” his left hand some before he has to rely on it.

      1. Sam I Am*

        I’m a musician and was told to do this years ago. I regularly do things like put the key in the keyhole with my left. Practicing is a great idea, as it starts off clumsily but gets better pretty quick.

    6. Hotdog not dog*

      I’m ambidextrous, so my challenge was getting used to using only one hand instead of two on the occasions when one was injured. Rubber mats, clothespins, and extra large binder clips were helpful to hold things steady. (A binder clip holds a toothbrush while you squeeze the toothpaste, for example.)
      I hope he has a full and fast recovery!

    7. Meh*

      Occupational Therapy!! My mom was a hand specialist/OT rehab and made lots of assistance devices for people recovering. Even if you don’t visit one, you can look up adaptive tools.

    8. Meh*

      Occupational Therapy can help! My mom was an OT (specializing in hands post surgery) and made many adaptive tools. Even if he doesn’t rehab with one you can still get tool ideas if you search with rehab/OT.

    9. Seal*

      No recommendations for gadgets, just seconding what others have said about slip-on shoes and shirts. I had rotator cuff surgery on my dominant shoulder a few years back and had the whole arm mostly immobilized for 6 weeks. While I could use my hand I couldn’t use my arm at all for a few weeks, so I couldn’t do things like tie my shoes or button shirts because I couldn’t reach them. It was early summer, so I didn’t need to wear socks, which helped. On that note, you might consider a sock aid that lets your dad put on his socks without using his hands or bending over. There’s also long shoehorns that can help with putting on shoes without bending over. Best of luck to your dad with his surgery!

    10. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      Maybe a book holder/stand so he can read without holding up the book? Levenger has some.

      Also, he might want to take a bath before surgery and figure out how much he uses his dominant hand/arm getting in and out of the tub and whether baths are really going to be possible after surgery, even when the surgeon gives the okay (I think surgeons generally don’t want you to soak whatever parts you’ve had surgery on because of the risk of infection, so this issue might not come up until quite a while after surgery). When I fractured my elbow, I realized *while* finishing up a bath how I usually used the injured arm to push up from the bathtub, but I couldn’t really do that — I thought for a while I was going to be trapped in there!

      If a bath won’t work for your dad, maybe install some extra grab bars in the shower wherever his non-dominant hand could grab them easily? Or maybe try one of those bath transfer chairs where the feet are both inside and outside the tub, and you can kind of scootch yourself over the rim of the bathtub and then turn the shower on?

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Luckily, he remodeled his bathroom to have a walk-in shower a few years back. Simplified a lot of this.

        Those transfer bath chairs were incredibly helpful for my grandma, though. I highly recommend them if you need to maneuver in and out of a bath shower combo with any kind of mobility challenge.

    11. Emma2*

      You can get gadgets for opening the lids on jars that you attach the the bottom side of a shelf – you then can slide the jar in & turn it with one hand (opening a tight jar lid with just one hand is quite difficult).
      What does your father normally make to eat? Managing large hot things with one hand can be difficult & dangerous. If he cooks a lot of pasta, one of those wire baskets you put the pasta in in the water (so you just lift the basket out rather than trying to lift and drain a heavy pot) could be helpful.
      Again, if he cooks for himself, one of those mini processors you can use to chop onions, etc, could be useful. It might also be worth making sure he has pans or things that are easy to lift with one hand.
      Will he need to protect the injured hand while bathing? You can purchase large silicone glove type things that are designed to go over a cast and keep the water out in the shower.
      Does he know how to use “talk to text” on his phone (or computer)? It can be very helpful when trying to message or email people with one hand.
      Soaps, shampoo, etc in jars with pumps are likely to be easier to use than jars that he needs to turn upside down & squeeze the product into his hand.
      I don’t know what the solution is, but if he lives in an apartment block with large lidded waste bins, trying to lift the lid and toss a bag of garbage into the bin at the same time is also hard with one hand (possibly just something to keep in mind & offer to do when visiting him).

    12. anonagain*

      Maybe prep a bunch of stuff? In my world that would be taking frozen dinners out of their cardboard packaging, putting shampoo in a pump dispenser, and putting meds in easy open pill boxes.

    13. Firebird*

      A wheeled table or cart to carry things around saves a lot of trips. Prior to that I lined up TV trays and slid things across.

      A wired mouse I could use on my lap with my dominant (injured) hand helped when I got tired of using my non dominant hand. The wire made it easy to haul back up when I dropped it.

      You can get a mouse that is operated with your thumb rather than having to use your arm. How much that would help depends on exactly what the injury is.

    14. Bluebell*

      Amputee here, and here are a few of my tricks: there are spiral elastic shoelaces that make wearing sneakers easier, you can also use the clips they sell in shoe stores or outdoor gear places. Zippers are tough, so coats with snaps or buttons are preferable. There are catalogs with OT supplies that can have useful stuff. I have a one handed pepper grinder I like. Some people use a cutting board with spikes in it to anchor food, but I’ve never used one.

    15. Anono-me*

      It has been a while since I hurt my dominant hand and most ideas have been covered.

      But here are a few more ideas: (Some of which may not be practical. But since you have the luxury of knowing this is coming; you can borrow, jury rig, buy off of cl, and consider then decide what works for your family. )

      Hand muff in lieu of gloves (most outdoor stores carry them).

      Baby wipes (please don’t flush), especially if his back is painful, as twisting the other way can be difficult.

      New batteries in everything.

      Tote bags, lots of Tote bags scattered all over the house, garage and car. So much stuff gets carried with both hands.

      If he drinks pop; a Pop can tab grabber and someplace to wedge the can, (Most cars have can holders that work well.) Otherwise get the bottles and have someone open then then screw the cap back on.

      Motion sensor soap and toothpaste dispensers. (Also good for hair gel or lotion etc. )

      Shower chair. (It is not at all pleasant to loose your balance and try to steady yourself with your injured hand out of habit, then recoil in pain, then fall on your already injured hand.)

      Electric razor; (This one is a guess; but manual face shaving apparently involves making funny faces while pulling on a cheek or nose with one hand and wielding a razor with the other.)

      Roomba or shark. Vacuuming one handed is possible but hard to remember to do and a literal pain with back issues.

      Regular computer mouse if he has a roller ball or other specialty mouse for the dominant hand .

      Automatic car, if he has a stick or motorcycle. (I didn’t have anyone close that I could trade/borrow from an automatic from and wound up off work a little longer as I couldn’t shift.)

      Good luck.

    16. As Per Elaine*

      I don’t think anyone has mentioned an electric toothbrush — manual brushing with your non-dominant hand can be really challenging if you aren’t used to it.

    17. Choggy*

      How about a grabber reach tool so he doesn’t need to bend over or extend himself reaching for something. My hubby has one of these and he loves it.

  4. sulky-anne*

    Hairstylist etiquette question! I’ve started seeing the same hairstylist regularly for the first time ever and I’m wondering if I should give them something for Christmas (I have an appointment in December and I like to get a head start on my fretting). My uncle was a hairstylist too and used to get gifts and cash at Christmas, but that years ago and I’m wondering if it’s a generational thing (the stylist is about my age, I think, mid-thirties).

    The wrinkle is that I don’t celebrate Christmas and don’t know if my stylist does either, but I don’t want to accidentally give the impression that I don’t appreciate them! They’re the best stylist I’ve ever had, so I don’t mind doing something nice for them, I just feel weird about Christmas-oriented giving as a non-Christian. What does everyone else do?

    1. AnonyMouse*

      I don’t have specific experience with a stylist but have given a Happy New Year card & gift card as a non-Christmas end of year gift, and it was well received.

    2. California Dreamin’*

      My husband and I both give a cash gift to our hairstylists at Christmas. The guidance used to be the amount of one haircut, but our haircuts are pretty expensive, so that would be extravagant. You could think of it as a year-end bonus maybe. It could be in a thank you card or happy new year instead of a Christmas card. I could be wrong, but I think folks in service jobs do get a lot of holiday gift money, not that they’d hold it against you if you didn’t do it.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        I do this. I give a generic holiday card and cash that is about one cut or as close as the can afford.

    3. English Rose*

      Hmm… I get a card but now I’m wondering if I should give cash too. Interested to follow this discussion.
      Does the country make a difference I wonder – I’m in the UK.
      (I remember the days when refuse collectors used to come knocking on the door the collection before Christmas and they were given envelopes of cash by all their ‘customers’ but that has long since died off.)

      1. UKDancer*

        I’m in the UK and I don’t do anything at Christmas because I don’t have a close relationship with them. I used to tip my stylist a little but now I have the owner and I don’t because she sets the prices for the salon.

        My father always gives his salon a bottle of pink prosecco at Christmas because he’s got a good relationship with his stylist and the owner (after he had a fairly major operation, they used to let him sit down there if he got tired after doing the shopping (even when he didn’t have an appointment and occasionally drove him home). He knows they like it for the Christmas party so it goes down well.

        I think in the UK it depends how well you get on with them and what the relationship is.

    4. Still*

      I’m not in the US so take this with a grain of salt but the idea of giving someone you don’t have a personal relationship with a gift for a holiday you don’t celebrate seems a bit weird to me. How about you just tip them more than you usually would but not make it specifically about Christmas?

      1. Courageous cat*

        I’m in the US and this would have never in a million years occurred to me to do. I wouldn’t overthink this because I doubt she expects anything at all.

    5. djc*

      I’ve been seeing the same stylist for over 10 years. If I have an appointment with her around the holidays, I will tip extra. But if I’m not seeing her at all in December, I don’t go out of my way to drop off a gift at the salon.

        1. Russian in Texas*

          I also pay about $150 for the cut and color, no way I would top an extra of that, simply because it’s holidays.

    6. Buona Forchetta*

      US here. Stylist and clientele are 30s to mid-40s age range. I give my stylist a year-end thank you tip on top of the tip for that visit. No card, but I do say thank you for a great year.

    7. Russian in Texas*

      I am in the US, and maybe I would leave a larger tip if I had a haircut close to Christmas, but that’s about it.
      But I don’t tip/give gifts/cards to people that I don’t have a personal relationship with, so no to the hairstylist, mailman, maintenance workers (when I rented), etc. I don’t understand Christmas gifts in thus situation, they are just doing their job, and I am already a paying customer.

    8. Nitpicker*

      It’s about “the holidays” rather than Christmas per se so I’m already tipping the building staff and my housekeeper. I only see my hair stylist every two months (I tip him even though he’s the owner) so I give him the same amount that I tip. All these tips go in envelopes with a Season’s Greetings with maybe a line saying “Thanks for all the help this year”. My hair stylist posts the cards he gets around the edge of his mirror. I don’t think that’s meant as a hint – a lot of people display their cards.

    9. Camelid coordinator*

      I usually give my stylist an extra large tip and some homemade Christmas cookies. I make gingerbread just because it is her favorite, actually. (It is nice to have an appreciative audience for baked goods these days.)

    10. the cat's ass*

      I’ve always done a card and cash equivalent to one cut; I only go in about 4 times a year and sometimes my appointment syncs with the holiday and sometimes not, but card and cash go to her at the appointment closest to the holiday, so i can express my gratitude to her for keeping me less feral looking than I’d be otherwise! (I do the same thing with my mail person who is a sweetheart, and the trash pick up folks if i can catch them.)

    11. Bubblewrap*

      When I get a haircut close to Christmas, I double the tip I usually give. It’s not much, but she spends less than half an hour trimming my hair her every 6 weeks so I don’t have a special relationship with her or anything.

    12. Westsidestory*

      A bottle of champagne is what I always give. Something around $20-30 USD. Not too cheap, but not so expensive it won’t be used at holiday time. And everybody celebrates New Years, right? For the assistants (if someone else washes your hair) double the usual tip.

    13. Kay*

      I’ve worked with the owner of the salon for many years – so while I should have been giving a gift, after a few years of just doing a nice bottle of wine I asked if she wanted a gift/tip being as I don’t know her that well. She didn’t care – so I broke etiquette protocol and just tipped what I would any other stylist year round.

      This year I will have a new stylist and I expect to give at least double my usual tip. Guess I best start figuring out what I want to do now that its come up!

      1. Kay*

        Also – I don’t do Christmas either – but any vendor I use gets a year end bonus, which is how I look at this. If I do a card it always references the new year/thanks for all your work this year/and if I do reference holidays it is in reference to the season.

    14. sulky-anne*

      Thanks so much for the input, everyone! If it helps, I should say that I really like my stylist, we have a pretty warm relationship, and I would like to show my appreciation if it’s appropriate to do that. I just don’t want to make it awkward for them if either this isn’t a thing that anyone does anymore or if it seems weird to make the gift less holiday-ish. I’m a little awkward about handing people cash in general. So the intel is much appreciated!

    15. Ellis Bell*

      Box of chocolates and a card. I aim to make it more about appreciation and the only reason I give it in December is because it’s a good time to thank someone for the year. December is also a hellishly busy period for stylists, so I think a bit of acknowledgement doesn’t go amiss.

  5. Frankie Bergstein*

    Last week, there was a really helpful (for me) thread about what you do when you know you need to end a friendship. How do you prep for that type of conversation? What type of conversation do you have? I can post the link in a response to this comment.

    I wanted to follow-up on that to ask: how do you get over the pain of ending a friendship? As the pandemic started, then things opened back up, I made new friends each time. I lost friends each time. (Many friends just stayed the same. Some of the new friends are still friends). The losses are really painful. I do think that the friends I lost were ultimately not healthy, functional relationships that I wanted to keep — they were definitely ones that needed to end, but it’s still immensely painful.

    I think what’s painful isn’t losing these particular folks – the friendships weren’t rewarding – I found myself in a position where I felt like I was serving vs. being in a reciprocal relationship. I think I miss feeling like I had close friends. I think the space (mostly mental) that they left is still bothering me, even as I fill it with new things (running club, organizing activities, hanging out with new folks/maybe potential friends).

    Do you all have any advice on getting through the pain of friendship dissolutions? (I’m the type of person who tends to take things pretty hard, fwiw). Is it odd to be grieving the loss of unhealthy relationships this much? I think they’re triggering a lot of self-doubt for me – like why did these go wrong? Do I just have a broken picker?

    1. anxious*

      It is not odd at all to grieve even the most dysfunctional relationships. Yes, there was a lot that was unhealthy, but you were attached to them, and now they aren’t a part of your life any more. Endings trigger grief, and that is totally normal.

      1. anxious*

        Oops, accidentally hit submit.
        No advice on how to deal with this, but you’re definitely not alone in trying to figure out what went wrong.

        What helps me is planning for the future. Think about how to set boundaries next time you find yourself in similar situations like finding yourself in a non reciprocal relationship. Or even on how you can be a better friend yourself. I’ve lost people, and after all this over thinking, realised that I can be rather critical of things ( like music that other people love, to give an example). Can’t change the past, but next time, I’ll be more mindful of others.

        1. allathian*

          I’m glad you’re doing some introspection here. It can be really difficult to realize that you’re the bad guy for someone else. I mean, sure, some things are dealbreakers for me, too. I could never be friends with a proselytizing member of any religion, or someone with extreme right-wing views, or a person who’s constantly late to everything (because I’m one of those “early is on time and on time is late” people, and I know from experience that I can’t deal with the frustration of them always being late, I’ve ended friendships for that reason alone).

          Matters of taste are just that, I can deal with a friend liking different music than I do, or hating my favorites, as long as they respect my right to like what I like, and don’t insist on playing music that I strongly dislike when we hang out.

    2. Not A Manager*

      I was talking to someone today about romantic relationships. He said something like, “I wanted the relationship more than I wanted the person.” I thought about that when I read your line about missing feeling like you had close friends. If you were “serving vs. being in a reciprocal relationship,” maybe you didn’t actually have the close friendship you wanted. I think it’s quite understandable to feel grief, but it sounds like the grief is for something that this particular relationship didn’t actually provide for you.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Broken picker. Get some boundaries books and read them. This can help you to reframe what friendship should look like. The key is in knowing when it is starting to be too much giving and not enough getting. If you have boundaries that you can articulate, you are more apt to notice when a relationship is running lop-sided.

      Friendship-dissolution. I’d recommend grief books. Learn the causes for grief and the symptoms of grief. Grief is for a lot of things- lost friends, lost jobs, a good car gone bad, or just about anything you can think of. As far as symptoms, using myself as an example, I know that I can dig right into junk food. So one thing I can do is make sure I have healthy snacks laying around the house. The junk food will only make me feel worse and in turn can exasperate my upset because my body does not have enough fuel to cope. Another symptom I have is problems with sleep. For me, the best thing I can do is put myself on a sleep schedule and stick to it like glue. It’s amazing how coping skills can come back the next day if I have adequate rest the night before.

      I think the hardest thing I had to process was that the person was not the person I thought they were. Reality is that not too many people are living up to their fullest potential, myself included. While they were taking too much from me and that was not fair to me, I also was probably not fair in my expectations from them. They could not give what I expected. So the unfairness goes both ways.

      One response to this is to have MORE friends, a wider variety of people. They do not have to be close friends but they should be interesting to you in some way. When I find myself admiring a person less and less, I know to stop and ask why that is happening. It’s usually because they are taking to much from me or the way they speak to me has degraded or some other thing is going on.

      My fav thing to do is to ask myself what lesson I have learned for a given situation. If I can extract any sort of a lesson, I can begin to feel that all is not lost. I can keep the lesson learned and in the future position myself so that this happens less and less.

    4. Expiring Cat Memes*

      I think it’s normal for it to sting and to be caught up in processing it for a little while. Even if you logically know you’re better off without them in your life, on some level it can also feel a bit like it’s your fault somehow and trigger a fountain of self-doubt (you judged them wrong! you’re actually a horrible person and you never knew!). Particularly if they were nasty or manipulative towards you during the friendship breakdown, those feelings can cut deep and stick.

      I cut things off with a long time friend during COVID and he went through the whole DARVO/gaslighting routine. I could see exactly what he was doing, but that still didn’t make me immune to the effects of it. I still felt like I was the arsehole.

      But OTOH I didn’t realise how much I had grown to dread maintaining the relationship, and I felt huge relief when it was over. So for me, focussing the post mortem on all the reasons I was happy to have him out of my life helped me get past the insecurity. And now that I accept the trade-off I am totally cool with being the arsehole.

      What might help too is to remind yourself that very few friendships are destined to last a lifetime or even a long time. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or with them – that’s just often how it is and that’s ok! You didn’t fail at anything and there’s no reason to be hard on yourself.

    5. Colette*

      I think I define friends differently than you do.

      To me, part of friendship is a longer-term thing. So if I meet someone and we click, that’s great! But I wouldn’t consider them a close friend unless I’d go to them for help (which I don’t do easily/often). And losing them would be sad but fleeting.

      But part of that is that I don’t define myself by how many friends I have. I’m ok on my own, and friends are a lovely bonus.

      It might help to remind yourself that, although you want friends, these people weren’t friends you want.

      I’m wondering whether it would be worth a few counselling sessions, if this persists.

    6. grocery store pootler*

      Sometimes it just takes time. I lost a couple of friends when they moved somewhat further away and did an abrupt fade. I had been feeling like we weren’t getting along great for a bit, so it wasn’t astounding that things fell apart, but it still really hurt, and off-and-on, the hurt lasted for quite a while. It didn’t help that every so often spouse or I would hear from them (very casually, not returning to the level of friendship we had had), and each time it would stir up my emotions about it again. Eventually I took some steps so they couldn’t inadvertently trigger all my feelings about it any more, and I think that helped in a couple ways: on the practical side, not getting an irregular drip of unpredictable and painful reminders, and also just recognizing in my own mind that though I wished them well, and I missed them a lot for a time, I no longer wanted to be friends (and so was prepared to block, etc.). That was how I made some closure for myself about it.

  6. anxious*

    Can you share scripts to shut down well-intentioned talk about my body, when I can’t afford to offend the other? It’ll be nice to have scripts that I can use in a cheerful, matter of fact, let’s move on now tone.

    I’m underweight and extremely conscious that this isn’t good for my health (my GP agrees). This comes with a lot of complicated feelings as skipping meals is an unhealthy coping mechanism against anxiety that I’m trying to manage, so I really don’t want to discuss this topic with others.

    I’ve got some extended family that I see every few months for lunch, and occasionally get “oh, you’ve grown thinner” in a concerned tone when they first see me. I also occasionally get a little teasing on how I should eat more. They are nice people and overall the positives from these lunches easily outweighs the annoyance of occasional comments on my weight.

    The worst offence happened to be at a dental checkup). The nurse and dentist were extremely complimentary about how thin I am, and asked my secret. I tried to divert the conversation but they kept returning to the topic, and I couldn’t figure out how to directly ask them to stop without the frustration and anger showing in my tone.

    1. AnonyMouse*

      For extended family, is there anyone within the family who you could talk to one-on-one and ask to spread the word to the extended fam, giving a heads up that you’ve grown thinner (so they don’t exclaim in surprise), but that it makes you uncomfortable and you really don’t want to discuss it?

      1. anxious*

        I feel like asking someone else to bring this up makes it a bigger deal than it is. I just want to say something (in a nice, cheerful tone) in the moment the next time they say something about my weight. No more exclaiming about my weight, no more asking if I’ve grown thinner, and no more joking about how I can afford to take another serve of food at lunch.

    2. Workerbee*

      It doesn’t sound like these folks are worried about how their words and beliefs affect or offend you. I think it’s perfectly okay to let some of your frustration seep into your voice!

      Or be the Grey Rock and tonelessly make it so boring for them that they’ll go broken-record at something else. Deflect, redirect, escape.

      I think my following examples aren’t entirely Grey enough, but I am irate on your behalf.

      “Yes, so you’ve said before. Hasn’t the weather been interesting lately?”

      “Oh, I’m trying to make it a practice never to talk about people’s bodies. You never know what’s going on with someone or how your words can do damage! So, about that casserole Aunt Lydia brought…”

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        Thank you for this! I’ve been in the same situation recently and frustration was the only thing that worked with my family (cheerful subject change is perfect with everyone else).

        Longer story for OP: I try not to snap in front of my family, because that only reinforces to them that I’m a child that needs disciplining (I’m in my 30s and the best expert on my own body). But with this, I couldn’t help it, because it took me a whole decade to deal with painful eating and body image issues and every comment takes me back there.

        My relatives are very persistent, out of, I suspect, the same predisposition to extreme worry I have. “My GP and I have got this” didn’t work, “I feel healthy and strong” didn’t work, demonstrating healthy appetite didn’t work, changing subject didn’t work, and politely saying “let’s not talk about this” didn’t work either. So I went the short temper way. I think what eventually worked was escalating my tone of voice to extreme frustration and telling my mother some variation of “I’m not going to discuss this with you any further”. The last few times I’ve seen my parents, I’ve barely heard any comments, and it was such a relief.

        OP, here’s a virtual hug, if you want it. Whatever feeling healthy and comfortable means to you, I hope you have all the help you need to get there.

      2. anxious*

        Workerbee, those are good scripts to follow when people are being pushy, thank you!

        Cookies for breakfast, , dealing with pushy parents sounds incredibly frustrating. Virtual hugs to you too, and best wishes for your health journey :)

        With my cousin, it almost feels like small talk. “Hi, how are you, have you grown thinner?” in a very cheerful tone tinged with a bit of concern. And I say “no, I’m just the same”, and they thankfully always leave it alone and are never pushy about it.

        Also, we’re immigrants from a culture where it’s “traditional” to press food on guests, and so while it’s a bit annoying to be asked to eat more, and not be shy, I can deal with that. What I find annoying is the comments that I can “afford to eat more”.

        Conversations sometimes get to the topic of what they’re doing to loose weight… Refusing dessert, going vegetarian, buying fitbits, etc. So they just think talking about weight is as acceptable as talking about weather. I don’t mind one bit when they talk about their weight (that’s their prerogative). I just want to tell them to never talk about mine, and then keep reminding them as needed.

    3. marvin the paranoid android*

      I really appreciate the phrase “What a question!” when asked something inappropriate. Depending on tone it can sound fairly warm and even a bit funny, so I like to have it in my pocket for situations where I want to make nice with the other person. You do have to keep the conversation rolling after, though. For a slightly more pointed version, I will sometimes use “Oh, that’s really personal,” although it kind of depends on the situation and whether the other person has any boundaries.

      1. English Rose*

        Oh I really like “What a question!” Thank you for the idea, this could work in all kinds of circumstances.

      2. anxious*

        Thanks for this, both sound really useful. I don’t think I can pull it off in the warm cheerful tone right now, but I’m going to practice.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      With family I’d probably just go with a “yep” + subject change, and then “I’d rather not talk about my body” or “I really only discuss this with my doctor” if they push (especially with a worry/health focus). Also, depending on how this fits with your health plan and personal preferences, can you make a point of eating something that signals “healthy appetite” to your family? Like if you’re always having a salad and a water that could invite more assumptions or comments than a big sandwich or a milkshake would.

      With the dentist, that’s so unprofessional and inappropriate that I think it’s good for them to get a negative response! I wouldn’t return to a dentist who made non-dental comments about my body.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Oh, or to soften the pushback with family a little more, something like “I know you’re concerned but my doctor and I have this handled” or “I appreciate that but you don’t need to worry” (you can appreciate that they care even if they’re showing it in a crappy way)

    5. RagingADHD*

      “Yep, my doctor’s working on it. Can we talk about something else, please?”

      As with many things, it’s all in the delivery. That could potentially come across snarky, but a firm, cheerful tone should go a long way.

      1. Qwerty*

        Maybe insert “but it’s not something to worry about” at the end of the first sentence? I could see my relatives combining “losing weight” + “doctor” = “scary medical thing causing weight loss”

        I like RagingADHD’s script because you can do breezy blowoffs to the inevitable follow up questions and imply this is a temporary side effect something without getting into details (medication changes, elimination diets for getting diagnosis, etc, if you want to have some of those in your mind as mystery possibilities)

    6. Not A Manager*

      I think there’s a difference between people who are concerned and people who are complimentary. For people who are concerned, as you are, a good response is something like “yes, I’m working on it.” For people like your dentist, who are complimenting you/asking your secret, I think it’s appropriate to hint that this is not a desired result. “My secret is extreme stress.” “My secret is unmanageable anxiety.” Something like that should indicate that this is not a topic to pursue.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. With professionals who say inappropriate things when they’re supposed to provide a service to you, it’s also perfectly reasonable to make it clear to them that their behavior is inappropriate.

        1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          “I’m working on this with my endocrinologist (GP, …). Now can we focus on my teeth so my nutrition is as good as it gets from that end?”

      2. KoiFeeder*

        I once did “my secret is intestinal ulcers” and got “oh, wow, so is there a pill for that?”. I think I should have been lauded for not punching them.

      3. anxious*

        Just thinking about responding with snark makes me feel so empowered!

        I’m going to practice these and remember to use them in situations where I can afford to snark and walk away. So delicious.

        1. anxious*

          So tempted to turn this on cousin.

          Cousin, cheerfully: “Hi, nice to see you! Have you lost weight?” / “you’ve grown even thinner than last time!”
          Me, extra cheerfully: “nice to see you too! not really, what about you?”

    7. KoiFeeder*

      Can’t speak as to the extended family, but as for the dental checkup- been there, done that, got the novelty t-shirt. There isn’t a lot you can tell them to make them stop because they’re so fixated on thin = virtuous and healthy that they genuinely are not hearing what you’re saying, and probably only partially hearing how you say it. I find it… at least amusing enough to be tolerable to grey rock, but that doesn’t actually stop them, they just start filling in what they think your half of the conversation should be in their heads and responding to that.

    8. Stunt Apple Breeder*

      I can’t speak to your experience, but when I pushed back at my own dental hygenist’s questions, she told me that dentists and hygenists are often the first people to see evidence of eating disorders (acid erosion of the tooth enamel).

        1. Stunt Apple Breeder*

          True, I was put off by the question immediately. She followed it up with an explanation about seeing the effects of stomach acid on the soft tissues and getting reflux under control ASAP to avoid ruining my teeth.

          I was in my 20s and laughed it off it then. The past few years proved her right when I had several fillings put in :(

      1. anonagain*

        I think the nature of the questions matters a lot. It’s tedious to answer health questions but health care professionals should keep asking them. “What is your secret?” is not a health question and is every kind of not okay.

    9. JSPA*

      For the solicitous: “yes, my doctor and I have it on our radar. But let’s not go into that here.”

      For the misguided praise at the dentist: “please, can we not? It’s a health problem, not a desired outcome.”

    10. Esmeralda*

      Dental office: shut that down right away, if they do it again. Immediately respond, in a calm tone, “please don’t talk about my body, it makes me uncomfortable.” Then cheerfully “let’s talk about my teeth instead!”

      It’s completely inappropriate and unprofessional.

      BTW if they’re doing it while they’re working in your mouth and you can’t reply, hold up your hand so they stopping working, then say, “please don’t talk about my body, it makes me uncomfortable.” Then cheerfully say, ok, you can start back on my cleaning!

      1. anxious*

        I’d love to say something snarky, but in that situation, I was stuck in that dentists chair for 30 minutes. If they’re so unprofessional as to complement me on my “thinness” and not pick up on my discomfort in my polite responses “no, I don’t have a secret”, “I don’t follow any specific diet”, “actually I’m trying to gain weight” (I wish I didn’t say this, tbh), return to the topic twice more. I was afraid that if I say something rude, they would get offended and that would compromise the care I’m going to get. Or just be unpleasant to be around even if the quality of care is unaffected.

        I left them a bad review, and am never going back to them. But I need something in my arsenal to say next time I’m in such a situation. This is really helpful, thanks! I’m going to try variants of “let’s not talk about my weight, and talk about teeth instead!” and keep repeating this instead of trying to give responses to their actual questions.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, I can understand that it’s difficult to push back in that situation, and I’m glad you left a bad review. It’s one thing if a dental hygienist or dentist notices erosion on your teeth and asks if you’re vomiting regularly for any reason, including bulimia, and quite another to assign a positive value to something that is a health problem for you.

          1. Anon for this*

            It’s actually really upsetting to be a person who isn’t bulemic, yet has dentists repeatedly insist on going there due to tooth erosion (starting in early childhood, before you have even heard of bulemia, and are nevertheless subject to intense, probing questions from your freaking DENTIST about your body image and voluntary vomiting).

            Wrong in so many ways.

            First, there’s the “I came in for a cavity, not a life / behavioral evaluation.”

            Then, there’s the clearly-telegraphed “refusal to believe the patient,” upon denial. Intrinsically shitty.

            Thirdly, there’s “talking about vomit is unsettling, and even more so when people are putting their fingers, tools, photo plates and liquids in your mouth.”

            Fourth, there is the implied, “you present kinda female and hefty, why wouldn’t you be bulemic?” Which…no. Just, no.

            It’s deeply messed up that I have to lead out by announcing that I have erosion, but am not bulemic, and that I don’t welcome further discussion of the topic, if I don’t want to go through this fuckery each and every time.

            Any dentistry people reading:

            1. There are all kinds of reasons for erosion (and for accretions).

            2. You’re not eating disorder specialists–no more than the random person at work who has opinions on other people’s diets.

            YES, eating disorders are common, but so’s emetophobia. This topic is important, but it nevertheless ALWAYS needs to be opt-in, not the default (and certainly not an insistent default).

            1. allathian*

              I’m sorry my comment was so insensitive, you’re so right. Dentists should focus on teeth and gums and leave the other parts of the body alone.

    11. Turingtested*

      “It’s actually a well managed medical condition I’d prefer not to discuss.”

      “Ha, I’m sure no one wants to hear me talk about how hard it is to gain weight!”

      As a formerly super thin person I’ve used both of these and the second one got the best results.

      1. Cj*

        I’m not sure if the OP of this thread cares if what they say is accurate or not, but I don’t think the first statement you suggested is true in their case.

  7. Cataract surgery recovery tips*

    I’d posted last round or so inquiring about cataract lenses. My surgery is coming up in a few days!

    What tips do you have for a smart recovery?
    Also, if you had both eyes done (as I will have, a week apart), how did you manage with your new eye and your original eye?

    1. RLC*

      A few points I recall from my cataract surgery around 10 years ago:
      1) You may be given a lifting limit during your recovery. Check before surgery that items you carry regularly such as handbag, backpack, lunchbox, etc., are not too heavy, as you may have to find lighter alternatives for a while. I was fortunate to have colleagues who willingly lifted tools and equipment for me at work, and spouse who carried all the Costco purchases (and our 21 pound cat….)
      2) I experienced extreme light sensitivity and dry eyes for a few years after my cataract surgery. As I worked outdoors I had to switch from regular sunglasses to the darkest lenses legally permitted for driving. The best option I found was online direct from Oakley, to find a style with good coverage from wind and sun, very dark lenses, and durable materials.
      3) To fit my work schedule and my surgeon’s schedule, my surgeries were about 6 weeks apart. During the period with one new and one original eye my near vision depth perception was “off” somehow; much eyestrain using computer monitors. I also had great difficulty correctly interpreting facial expressions during the between-surgeries period; possibly the oddest part of the whole experience.
      4) If possible, try to line up someone to help administer the eye drops which are usually prescribed for a few days after cataract surgery.
      Good luck and hope your surgery goes well!

      1. Cataract surgery recovery tips*

        Thank you so much for sharing your experience!

        I had been wondering how well I’d aim with those eye drops…

    2. Forrest Rhodes*

      Both eyes done, 2 weeks apart, in May 2022. A few random thoughts that might help:

      – The 2 weeks of “one eye done, one eye not” wasn’t nearly as difficult as I’d feared. I did minimal reading/TV/screen for the first couple of days; and once I stopped using the eyepatch, I guess my brain adjusted for the differing vision. It was never a problem.

      – My instructions were to wear the eyepatch for 24 hours after the surgery, then wear it only at night. Attaching and detaching it was a minor nuisance, but not that bad. At my 7-days-postsurgery followup, the doc said wearing it at night was no longer necessary.

      – I was back to reading comfortably without glasses within 48 hours of the first surgery, and driving (with the sunglasses) within about 3 days.

      – I agree with RLC, the eyedrops are important. I didn’t have another person around to help me, so created a time schedule and did them myself; no difficulties. (After a day or so, your aim improves and you get really good at not ending up with eyedrops all over your face!)

      – Also agree with RLC about the not lifting stuff or bending over. This too wasn’t as much of a problem as I’d thought it would be.

      – Had to remind myself to avoid sleeping on the surgeried side for a few days.

      The best thing is when you do away with the patch and start using the surgeried eye normally—it’s wonderful. I found myself spending hours just gazing out the window at the trees (each individual leaf!) and the mountains across the arroyo.

      Hope some of this is helpful. Congratulations to you, and I’m sure you’re going to love the difference!

    3. slashgirl*

      I had cataract surgery in 2017, both eyes, six weeks apart. The second one for my left, wasn’t what they called “ripe” but they did because the difference in prescription between my right eye (post surgery) and left eye was so huge. Also, by the time they did the cataract in my right eye, I was legally blind in that eye–I couldn’t read the top letter on the eye chart. Now? I have 20/10 vision–I can read the bottom line on the eye chart; I couldn’t do that with my glasses!

      What the other posters have said wrt recovery seems to be pretty much average.

      Both times post surgery, when I did the eye drops, I could taste them–and they don’t taste good. What helped, sometimes, was after doing the drops, closing my eye and gently pressing in the corner. Also, the gel I had to use bothered my left eye but not my right; doc said it was a common reaction, but one of the drops worked to soothe that feeling, mostly.

      Before surgery, I was very near-sighted and had worn glasses since age 10–but I didn’t wear my glasses between the surgeries as my right eye basically dominated and I could see fine without my glasses. Which was AWESOME. However, I now have to wear glasses for reading and using the computer–but I was headed towards bifocals anyways. I’m lucky, I’m still able to use the dollar store reading glasses (aka cheap ones) and not prescription. My sister, who had her cataract surgery a couple years before me, needs prescription glasses–she has trifocals–top is no scrip, middle is for computer screen and bottom is for reading, but that happened a few years after her surgery.

      Good luck with everything!

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yes, not the same but when I did LASIK the eyedrops had a “taste” which was weird – the doctor suggested that people sucked on a strong flavored candy when they put the drops in if it really bothered them, cinnamon, peppermint, ginger or lemon.

      2. Cataract surgery recovery tips*

        Wow, from legally blind to no glasses! I understand about having to use readers/computer glasses.

        The eyedrops having a taste was not something I would ever have expected.

    4. Chauncy Gardener*

      Mine were two years apart, but here are some thoughts about the post op in general.
      Agree with the weight limit thoughts. Check out how much your usual stuff weighs. For me, things were much heavier than I thought.
      Use the drops and follow post op instructions to the letter. I still use my moisturizing eye drops every morning, 5 and 7 years post op. Maybe I need to because I’m getting older or maybe it’s the surgeries? Either way, my eyes feel great when I use them and feel dry if I don’t.
      Good luck!!

      1. Cataract surgery recovery tips*

        I will do some weighing and pay attention to my ordinary routine (reaching for dishes, poking around inside the fridge, where I keep certain supplies, etc.).

        Thank you!

  8. Frally*

    I’m looking for a book I once read and enjoyed, but can’t remember the title or author. It’s about a police officer who realizes that many people in the area are dying for no reason. They seem to just stop eating until they’re gone.

    SPOILER ALERT

    Turns out there’s a man who finds people who are depressed and hypnotizes them into letting go- they stop eating and sort of fall into a trance under his control until they die. He eventually comes across the police officer who linked all the deaths (she is now depressed after her mother’s death) and tries it on her.

    Sounds kooky, but it was actually very good. I’d like to read it again, but all I can remember is that the authors name was a pseudonym. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

    1. Libra10*

      I’ve read this book!, it’s really good, but sorry cannot remember the title. I thought it was something like Human Beings, but it’s not.

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      I just gave the search a shot and couldn’t find it, but I’m not very good at the search thing. It sounds like a super book and would love to read it!

    3. Lcsa99*

      Let’s see if my Google fu worked: could it be A Famished Heart by Nicola White?

      Gonna keep looking just in case

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      Google suggested “The Hypnotist” by Lars Kepler. It doesn’t sound super close to what you described but the author name is notable because it’s a pseudonym for a couple who writes together?

    5. PhyllisB*

      I know what you mean. I was wanting to recommend a book to someone that I read years ago
      It was about an attorney who prosecuted a man who was given the death sentence. Well, the prisoner kept maintaining his innocence and kept asking for his help in proving it. Turns out the man is telling the truth so attorney then fights to have man released. This is not a spoiler, it was all on the book jacket. The only problem is, I can’t remember title or author. I kept thinking it was Clive Cussler. And yes, I know that’s not the kind of books he writes, but I do remember that whoever did write this was not writing their usual style. I asked my friend, but she didn’t remember, either. If this rings a bell with anyone, let me know.

      1. ECHM*

        I just heard about a story like this … I thought it was being made into a movie but I couldn’t find any information.

  9. isolation activities?*

    I have COVID, unfortunately, and I’m isolating from my housemates in the office (large closet). Trying to figure out what to do this weekend so as not to die of boredom!

    I’m thinking movies and puzzles. Other ideas for activities that can happen in a room that’s no larger than a twin air mattress?

    1. Frankie Bergstein*

      Is TV an option for you? I’d probably read, watch TV, do gentle yoga, and video call or chat people I hadn’t talked with. And catch up on computer-based life admin.

    2. AnonyMouse*

      Audiobooks and podcasts plus puzzles and snacks! I would maybe do some time consuming life stuff that feels productive, like:
      – Organize all my digital photos (make space on my phone, back everything up) and then order prints and physical photo albums – I love making photobooks but it takes a long time to set them up
      – Organize my holiday gift giving plans for this year and do some online shopping
      – Plan end of year donations

    3. Anonymous Koala*

      For productive things, I like the idea of computer based admin, maybe alongside a movie. Things like cleaning up files, deleting duplicates, updating software, etc. Otherwise audiobooks and body weight exercises (if you feel up to it) might be good options.

    4. Liminality*

      I fell in love with cardgames.io during my covid recovery. It has SO Many Games! You can play against a computer, against other people, and if you are on the phone with someone you can “invite” them to play with you and talk while you play. I taught my Mom how to play backgammon on that site. :)
      Also Drawasaurus.org same concept of playing against strangers or people you know. We actually do that one in work meetings when we have extra time!
      Good Luck!

    5. Richard Hershberger*

      I take it you aren’t a sports fan? Because this is a fantastic weekend for (American) sports consumers.

      1. isolation activities?*

        Haha, this is the first I’m hearing of any sports this weekend! I’m not a sports person myself, but I hope you enjoy!

    6. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      If you feel up to it: handicrafts, especially hand-stitching, knitting, crotcheting but also paper-based stuff like origami
      I made a little stuffed animal from felt the other day and tried to learn how to fold some origami animals. Was relatively successful and occupied quite a bit of time.

    7. Pucci*

      Mend clothing – sew on buttons, fix seams, etc. If you have the energy, try on everything in your closet and dresser and sort for donation, etc. Polish shoes.

      Paint like you are a child. Flowers, landscapes, it doesn’t matter, just engage a different part of your brain. See the effects of blending colors.

    8. Anono-me*

      To piggyback on a couple of ideas already posted, chair yoga and organizing and labeling actual paper photos, and maybe scanning them.

    9. looking for a new name*

      Clean out your emails. Write letters (use the computer and print and mail them when you are better). Give yourself a mani=pedi. Plan a trip.

    10. Hey nonnie nonnie*

      If you celebrate Christmas, this is the year to do your shopping ahead of time and be completely relaxed come December. I was in the same situation as you last week (isolating in a small room), so I researched and ordered a bunch of gifts for family and close friends.

      Also did some clothes shopping for myself because, after two years of WFH, I noticed I didn’t have many clothes that are nice enough for the office any more. Plus, like someone said above, mending clothes was something I had put off for a while and now am completely caught up on.

      Hope you feel better soon!

    11. VegetarianRaccoon*

      If you do that sort of thing and feel up to it, I think you could start on holiday greeting card/letters. Don’t send them out yet of course, but you could have them all written, addressed, stamped and ready to go!

    12. RandomBiter*

      I play the heck out of the acrostics and crosswords on Puzzle Baron. They also have logic problems and bunch of other stuff.

  10. Jackalope*

    Reading thread! Feel free to share anything that you’re reading right now, and ask for or give recommendations!

    I’m currently reading The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. I’m about 2/3 of the way through and have been enjoying it, although I just got to a tense bit and I’m not sure how it’s going to go from here to the end.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      I recently read “The Foundling” by Ann Leary, which I’m pretty sure was an Alison recommendation awhile back. It was really good! Thought-provoking and infuriating (about the history it’s based on). For a lot of the book I felt like the main character was duuuuumb so that made her kind of unsympathetic for me but the story was great!

    2. The cat's pajamas*

      Thank to to the person who recommended Flying Solo by Linda Holmes. I decided to read Evvie Drake Starts Over first, even though it didn’t seem like 100% my kind of book. I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed 90% of it, which is great for me. I have Flying Solo on hold from the library and looking forward to when my turn comes up to try that one, too.

    3. TheraputicSarcasm*

      My Imaginary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. I read it in one day, laughing frequently.
      Young Mary Shelley befriends Ada Lovelace, and soon afterwards the two young women find out they have the power to make the things they imagine real. Chaos, hijinks, shenanigans, and anachronistic references to things like Jaws, Clue, and Blade Runner ensue.

    4. bright as yellow*

      I’m reading (er, falling asleep to the audio book of) the Enchanted places, an autobiography of Christopher Robin Milne. I’ve previously used the Pooh books as bedtime stories, and I’m enjoying listening to the people behind the stories

    5. Vio*

      I just finished reading The Secrets Of Lost Stones by Melissa Payne. It’s a really touching story about two grieving people brought together by a strange but friendly old woman.
      There’s also just about anything by Shirley Jackson but especially We Have Always Lived In The Castle or The Summer People. She had an amazing talent for building atmosphere.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        I often read either We Have Always Lived in the Castle or Haunting of Hill House around Halloween, I’m not big on horror usually but I love Shirley Jackson. My favorite of her short stories is “What a Thought”

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        The Haunting of Hill House is one of my all time favorite books. The part where Nell is driving to Hill House and you slowly realize that she is –quite off is fantastic.

    6. Teapot Translator*

      I read Redshirts by John Scalzi. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected. :-/ Then, I tried to read Foundation by Isaac Asimov (I read Asimov as a teenager but not the Foundation series). I was disappointed by the writing itself, the naiveté of the story and also how much, as a woman, Asimov didn’t imagine a place for me in this future. I’m roughly one third through, but I’m not sure I’ll finish it.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, the early Asimov and Clarke novels are troublesome in this regard. Both learned as they got older, though. My favorite Foundation novels are the prequels Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation, about the life of Hari Seldon as he developed the theory of psychohistory. Both feature interesting female characters who are crucial to the story. I’m stuck about halfway through Foundation and Empire.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        Ditto.

        Redshirts had so much potential, but the direction Scalzi went with it didn’t tickle me as much as I’d hoped.

        Foundation was a series of short stories published in 1951. I tried reading it as an adult and found it it so boring because as I recall it was mostly people talking with little/zero action. I never read any more of the series but I suppose that whatever popularity the series has comes from later, better books.

      3. CharlieBrown*

        I tried reading Redshirts at the beginning of the pandemic and had to put it down. It just didn’t connect with me at all.

        I read the Foundation trilogy when I was a teenager, and even then I noticed that Asimove has a style all his own, and it’s something you either love or hate. I never noticed the lack of female characters (as a geeky teenager pre-internet, I’m not surprised) but have read a lot of criticism about that lately. Apparently, the television series based on Foundation does a lot to remedy this, thankfully. I haven’t really read him since high school, but now I don’t think I would. He belongs to a different age.

        1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

          Yes, the series addresses it. For example, Gaal Dornick and Salvor Hardin are both women in the series. The first series ends at about the time of the revolt on Anacreon.

    7. IT Manager*

      I’m looking for recommendations – have run out of books on my list and waiting for more Libby holds. Just finished Josephine Tey and Did Not Enjoy. The low-grade racism running throughout was just too much and it wasn’t much of a “mystery”, more like a character novel where I just didn’t care about the characters. I had heard Tey was similar to Agatha Christie novels but did not find this so.

      Right before that, I read Mira Grant – Parasite and Feed. Good books, mostly enjoyed … the author does that thing where everything has to be explained – like… I walked through the door, slowly because sometimes the door sticks and so I always slow down at that door. Could have been 1/3 shorter but the other 2/3 was good!

      Still basking in the glow of the Richard Osmond latest, may just re-read the whole Thursday Murder Club series for now!!

      1. Alyn*

        From Mira Grant, Into the Drowning Deep is fantastic IMO.

        Along the same lines, T. Kingfisher’s The Hollow Places and The Twisted Ones (both stand-alone novels) are very good. She also has a new one out, What Moves the Dead, which is a retelling of the fall of the house of usher.

        Cherie Priest’s The Family Plot is a good read; a lot of people also like her book The Toll, although personally I struggled with that a bit more because I didn’t like any of the characters.

        The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb and The Broken Girls by Simone St James were also good.

        1. IT Manager*

          Thank you! I will check these out – love T Kingfisher but didn’t know there was a new book out, that’s lovely.

          Thanks!!

    8. No Name Yet*

      I wanted to say thank you to this list for book recs!

      I just finished the Scholomance trilogy by Naomi Novik, after seeing folks here talk about how excited they were for the 3rd book to come out. I LOVED the series, and after the twists in the third book, am seriously thinking about re-reading the first one.

      I also grabbed the first Hamster Princess book (by Ursula Vernon) after someone here mentioned it, and my 7 year old, wife, and I have all loved it! While I’m happy for my kid to read whatever he likes, it’s always a treat when he’s reading books that my wife and I genuinely enjoy as well. We’re all at different points in the series, but have found them all fun. It’s also neat, because earlier this year I read another book by her that was rec’d here (A Wizard’s Guide to Defense Baking, also A+++ would recommend), which my wife and I enjoyed, but is definitely too old for my kid – he was kind of upset that we were laughing at a book that he couldn’t read, and now he likes being part of the joke!

      1. GoryDetails*

        So glad to see new fans of “Hamster Princess”! Do check out the “Danny Dragonbreath” books, also by Vernon – they feature more typical-kids-at-school settings, but veer into magical travel and wild adventures.

        1. No name yet*

          Yes, we saw that series and thought it looked promising – glad to know it’s also a good one!

      2. Jackalope*

        Thanks for the reminder! I too read the third Scholomance book this week but it was at the beginning of the week so I’d forgotten. I went back and reread bits of the first two after I finished book three, and she was clearly setting up the twists in book three from the beginning. That was a lot of fun, although I’d forgotten just how stressful the first book was with the characters being in such constant danger. I like the book a lot but it was still stressful!

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        On finishing the third book I immediately picked the first one back up to reread with events of the third in mind. Highly worth it. Incredible both how many little details in the first two books uphold the revelations in the third, and that I did not see them coming. (It’s hard to pull off a big reveal in an ongoing series people love enough to come together and analyze–much more workable in a single movie or book.)

      1. M&M Mom*

        I loved Mystic River. I saw the movie first which the led me to read all of Dennis Lehane’s books.

        1. the cat's ass*

          YES! to Dennis Lehane. My fave of his is “The Drop.” A tight, shocking little novella involving puppy rescue, dirty dealings and Boston weather. Hope he drifts back to writing when he’s done with TV shows.

    9. GoryDetails*

      On the lighter side:

      REVENGE OF THE LIBRARIANS by Tom Gauld, a collection of his cartoons with a variety of bookish themes.

      FIVE GO ON A STRATEGY AWAY DAY by Bruno Vincent, from his humorous series of riffs on Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” characters, now grown up but still hanging out together. In this one they’ve all started jobs at a new company, with Julian struggling as their nominal boss – and then they all get dragged to a corporate retreat for team-building. Much snark is had as to the ineffectiveness of most such exercises, and the whole thing could have come from the AAM comment section.

    10. DrKMnO4*

      I just read Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune. Amazing. Not quite as good as The House in the Cerulean Sea, but still a very good book.

      It is a heavy book – the main themes are about death and how we deal with it – but not depressing, imo. I cried a LOT, but it felt…good? Hard to describe the feeling. If you cry at the end of movies like Coco, that’s what it felt like.

    11. Squeebird*

      Roughly halfway through Nona the Ninth. I find Tamsyn Muir’s writing fascinating in that I can have no clue what the hell is going on, but I’m still entertained and want to know what happens next…

    12. Lilo*

      I read Ink Black Heart (I got it from the library, because of ethical concerns with the author).

      JKR is in desperate need of an editor. There was absolutely no reason for the book to be that long. It really dragged and the mystery solution honestly could have been anyone. I like solvable mysteries.

      1. Lilo*

        I also recently read The Woman in the Library. I liked the gimmick but ultimately I found the base story irritating enough that I skimmed it to read the frame story. The whole “I know he’s not guilty because I loooove him” is so tired I was actually hoping he was the murderer because the main character was being a complete idiot.

    13. CharlieBrown*

      I just finished reading The Man Who Fell to Earth, which left me feeling….I can’t even think of a good word to describe it. Melancholy, maybe? Anyway, it was a good read and now I wish I could see the movie version with David Bowie.

      I picked up Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke from the library. I read it years ago, but don’t remember any of it, apart from the plot twist. (I also picked up a book on programming in python, but I think I know how that one ends–the butler did it.)

    14. goddessoftransitory*

      Doing my Halloween reading: just finished Frankenstein, got Dracula lined up, tons of short stories, and always finish with The Halloween Tree!

    15. Alyn*

      Just finished The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal; it was okay, but left me feeling dissatisfied. The ending felt rushed, and at least to my mind there were too many questions left unanswered. I’ll probably give it a re-read at some point to see if there was anything I missed, but definitely not my favorite work from her.

    16. RandomBiter*

      Righteous Prey by John Sandford. I’m a total addict of his Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers novels, so with both of them in this book it’s win win!

  11. Grief Sucks*

    My mother recently passed. My father is, of course, struggling.

    1) What’s your advice for supporting a surviving parent/spouse?

    2) What’s your wisdom for detaching when there’s not much you can do? (Dad is a difficult person, but it’s mostly him and me for the long haul.)

    1. Just another commenter's name*

      No great wisdom! Try to be a sympathetic listener some of the time. Also encourage your dad to take good care of himself (regular nutrition, adequate sleep, some exercise…). Other times, make neutral comments. If the conversation seems to be getting stuck, try to gracefully remove yourself.

      Grief takes time to resolve. Every person grieves differently. Try to find a balance that includes a lot of kindness and assuming of good intentions.Even a difficult person can have heartache after someone dies.

    2. Limnaity*

      Best advice I have is to create routines. Avoiding repeated negotiations will help diminish friction. When possible, just Do Things and let them be done without comment. (e.g. laundry, routine maintenance, etc..)
      Try not to ask “Do you want…?” types of questions as the only thing he Wants he can’t have. Instead, try to aim for statements. (e.g. I’m making pancakes, if you’re hungry. Or I’m running X errand, I’d be happy to pick up something for you too.)
      It’s a common reaction, when grieving, to hold tight to that pain. Particularly when we feel like someone is trying to talk us out of it. Let him have his pain, listen with little comment when he wants to talk about it, try not to ask him “how are you” type questions.

      I’m sorry that he is not in a position to help you through your own grief. Losing a parent is a terrible thing. And the burdens of caregivers can lead to burnout faster than one might imagine. Remember to seek support where you can.

    3. English Rose*

      I’m sorry for your own loss and grief in this.

      1) Be aware of the thudding reality that comes in the period after the practical arrangements around funeral, managing your mother’s possessions and all of that are over. It’s often the lowest point. People deal with it differently – some want to talk, some don’t. Follow your Dad’s lead.
      2) As others have said, routines are good. And I would include in that regular days/evenings where you go out. Say you have a regular chess game on a Tuesday night or something. You need to maintain your own adult space. And look after your own nutrition etc.

    4. Sam I Am*

      Oh, I’m so sorry, my condolences to you.

      When Dad died I made a point of making frequent calls to Mom. I’m a few hours away by car. The calls were short-ish, and I didn’t ignore the fact that she just lost her husband, though I didn’t focus on it. Specific grieving questions like “what have you had to eat today, anything in the mail you want a hand with, have you -gotten the death certificates-has hospice taken the bed-closed his bank account- practical stuff. I would share how I was feeling, and we would talk,about how surreal it felt. But we would also talk about plans for the day, the week.

      It was a little bit emotional, a little bit administrative housekeeping.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      My mother died when I was 23. I had only been married for a few months and I was just so painfully aware of how I knew nothing about how it goes for surviving spouses.

      I recommended to my father that he call/talk with specific long term friends. That seemed to help as they were going through similar things. Finding a peer group or even one peer can be supportive.

      There are grief books and grief groups. If dad is really difficult then this might not fly. But sometimes serious loss can cause people to try things they never would have tried before.

      If dad has a church/religious affiliation you might be able to tap that somehow. Some church groups can be very supportive. And sometimes peers can say things and actually be heard, that you as an off-spring cannot say because you will not be heard.

      For yourself- try not to be his only connection to the world. This is a recipe for disaster. When he encounters a problem, it is okay to refer him to outsiders. My father needed help with his taxes and I had just taken a tax course. I softened my NO by pointing out to him that he had crazy high medical deductions and other things that I had not really learned that much about. He’d be better off talking to a pro.
      It’s not up to you to resolve every problem, it’s okay to point him in a different direction. And bringing in all these other people might tend to soften some of his difficult personality features that he has.

      I am now widowed myself. In my experience the second year was worse than the first year. The first year is full of busy-ness. There is a lot of paper work, bills to pay, and things to sort through. Even a simple estate can go 9 months. But you can start dealing with year number two as you go along. And one thing you can do is to suggest activities that he could attend. I suggested volunteer work to my father. He ended up getting much more enjoyment out of a hammered dulcimer concert or a hockey game. We also did a thing with a steam engine event. (Who’d thunk????)
      I found he would try new things if he had someone to go with. I could not have predicted that one. He was too tired and worn out to take on something long term like a volunteer commitment.

      If he has siblings with a positive relationship, drag those siblings in where you can. If this sounds like a patchwork quilt of suggestions, that is actually what is happening. It’s these unrelated ideas that just work together to help him weave the next chapter in his life. Likewise he may have a neighbor who seems to like him and won’t mind including him in random things. (Some times parents offer a gentler relationship to outsiders than they do their own off-spring. Ask me how I know…..smh.)

      But above everything here, start now, start today with working on the idea that you cannot be his entire world. He won’t manage and neither will you. It’s a bad plan. Starting today look for ways to draw other people, be it friends or professionals, into his life.

    6. Gatomon*

      Try to be kind and remember their grief experience and timeline is going to be different than yours.

      When my dad passed suddenly, my mom kind of fell apart. She probably would’ve benefited from a therapist, but she refused any help. My dad and I didn’t get along (I was mourning the last bits of hope for father I wanted, not the one I had), so while I felt mostly over it in a few months, I’d say it was almost 3 years before my mom was like my mom again. Part of her new stubborn streak was refusing any financial help from me after she was forced to sell their home, so she went through a bleak winter of extreme poverty. I was extremely frustrated by this, but she was an adult and sometimes people just choose to go through things the hard way and all we can do is be there for them. It took a lot of patience to listen to her talk about keeping warm in a sleeping bag and space heater when I could’ve just paid her heat bill.

      Having recently lost my mom now, I could barely figure out how to make a sandwich in the immediate aftermath. Things like autopay for bills if not set up already, grocery delivery and food delivery really help take some burden off. Most of the money, food, help and concern evaporates after a few weeks, but your dad may still be struggling, and that’s okay.

    7. looking for a new name*

      Highly recommend a grief support group. You are grieving a mother, but he is grieving a spouse and it’s good to talk with others who are in that same place. Also sometimes you don’t need to DO anything or SAY anything, just be there puttering around. Do you live close to him? If not, set up a regular calling time or times (and add appropriate others to the call schedule, like he will now call his brother every Wednesday). If he texts, brief texts once a day (if you are the only child). My dad was always a bit worried he would just drop dead and no one would know, so that’s a help. Something you can do together but long distance, like read the same book. Sorry for your loss.

      1. Deliciouschicken*

        Dump out not in. You support him in his grief but get someone else to talk to about your own grief and any frustrations about him. I second the getting him other supports so you are not the only support bearing the full weight of supporting him.

  12. Jackalope*

    Gaming thread! Please share what games you’ve been playing; as always, all games are welcome and not just video games.

    For those of you who enjoy D&D, I wanted to share a recent discovery that made me think of the blog. Apparently there’s a 5e (and possibly earlier editions as well) deity called Waukeen. The many “Wakeen” discussions here immediately sprang to mind. I kind of want to create a character who worships Waukeen now just so I can laugh to myself every time she comes up in-game.

    1. TheraputicSarcasm*

      We’re in the middle of Mice And Mystics: Downwood Tales. There’s something comforting about being grown-ass adults pretending to be mice who are actually shrunken humans on an epic squeaky adventure.

    2. LimeRoos*

      Lol that’s fantastic, makes me wanna try D&D again.

      Games though! Diablo (D2R) is still going strong. Mr. Roos and I are playing season 2 ladder (my first ladder! wee!) and I love it. I’m running a Nova/Hydra Sorceress and she is destroying things. Mr. Roos is running a Hydra/Orb Sorc until we get through Hell and start doing Terror Zones for sunder charms, then comes the re-spec with whatever element we get first. Aaaaand since we’re ridiculous we’re already level 74 & 80, with a Bowazon and a Barb ready to go gear wise :-D

      And I technically ‘beat’ Cozy Grove! So adorable, so weird, and so sad & uplifting. Still need to get a few bears complete, but I got to do the fun end thing and whatnot. Also the Halloween event is super cool! The whole game is filling my Animal Crossing void without the urge to play constantly, which is great.

      1. MEH Squared*

        Thank you for reminding me that Cozy Grove does seasonal festivities! I love, love, love Cozy Grove and it’s one game I 100%ed because I loved it so much. It’s both comforting and surprisingly touching, and I cannot wait for the sequel to come out.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      I got that rare Facebook ad that interests me: A kickstarter for Monty Python’s Curricular Mediaeval Reenactment Programme, which the ad assures is totally is not a role playing game. I forwarded the ad to my fourteen year old.

    4. Alyn*

      I’ve been playing Banished lately. I like the focus on building, and the fact that once I’ve got a little town set up, I can let the sim run without a lot of interaction/micromanagement, so I can read a book while keeping half an eye on it, for example.

    5. CharlieBrown*

      Honestly, I think it would be great to create a D&D game based on AAM. Instead of getting through a dungeon, you have to get through a cubicle maze, and instead of monsters, it’s all the bad managers and coworkers we’ve seen on this site. Instead of treasure, you want to get to the copy room so that you can make copies of your resume.

      I’m pretty sure Gelatinous Cube is the Coworker Who Microwaves Fish, but I could be wrong!

    6. MEH Squared*

      I’m still playing Elden Ring (FromSoft) on my third character. I’m trying to do a dex build because I’ve never done one, but I find myself straying into magicks. It’s who I am. I can’t help it! Definitely my GOTY and it’s not even close.

      1. MEH Squared*

        Technically my fourth time through the game, but my third character. I did NG+ on the last character for the plat.

  13. Incognito for this question*

    Does anyone have ideas about finding another partner? Living without without intimacy is tiresome but the idea of dating is overwhelming. I’m decades out of practice and torn between what I do want (someone with similar values and some overlapping interests, who shares my religion–or at least does not practice another religion) and what I don’t want (certain political and professional affiliations). I don’t think that sex outside of marriage is morally wrong but I’m also not sure that it’s a good idea for me, personally. My approach to life is probably too serious for me to be comfortable with a light-hearted physical fling.

    It doesn’t help that at present I don’t have a lot of free time to search online or in person. It also doesn’t help that I’m still grieving for my spouse who died after a long illness.

    I don’t feel incomplete or inadequate as a single person but damn, sometimes it gets lonely.

    Suggestions and discussion welcome. Thanks in advance.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I’m sorry for your loss.

      I think it’s good to take it in stages. You’ve said here that you are looking for someone like minded and compatible in a few significant ways. You aren’t looking for a purely physical fling but you’re still grieving. So probably not great for either you or a potential partner to pursue a new relationship directly right away.

      How about just looking for ways to expand your social circle generally? The best way to find a like-minded partner is in a network of like-minded people. Getting more non -romantic connections and support can take a little of the edge off the loneliness. And when you do come across someone you’re interested in, having a richer circle of support can help shield you from rushing into emotional intimacy/dependency before you really know the person well enough.

      Hope things work out well for you!

    2. Rage*

      Oh, I get you, friend. I’m in the same boat, frankly. Well, not all of it, but:
      1. I don’t do casual sex. FWB situations are not for me. End of story. I know my limits.
      2. I’ve been single for well over a decade, but my last 2 BFs just sort of “fell” into my lap. And pushing 50…it’s not easy. (I’ve started to say that I’m not single but actually feral LOL)
      3. I’m pretty happy as a single person, but – as you said – the lack of intimacy (and I don’t mean “sex”) can get very…I don’t know if lonely is the word, but yeah.
      4. I work full time, I am in grad school part time, and I have some volunteer things that I refuse to give up. So, yeah, not a lot of time for me, either.

      But earlier this year I just threw a bunch of my money at Zoosk, Match, and eHarmony and decided to let them do most of the work for me. There are professional match-making services (if you want to pay a couple grand) who can do the same, but with a more personalized touch. I think that the apps (which will often provide some much-needed comedic relief due to some of the truly bizarre people out there) are honestly the most time- and cost-effective options out there. Get a good profile, hold to your boundaries, and let them just do what they do.

      It’s not going to happen overnight. Or even in a week, and probably not within a month. But it works behind the scenes for you while you focus on other things.

      If you had a bit of extra time, I’d suggest a local singles group (we have one here that’s run by a professional matchmaker, she’s awesome). But if not, honestly, it’s gonna be the apps.

      And maybe even start doing some guided meditation specific to inviting love into your life. As a colleague of mine said, “If you don’t have your light shining, nobody else will see it.”

      And – mental health practitioner in training here – you’re still grieving, are you in therapy? If not, figure out a way to make that happen. Because nothing will bork a budding relationship faster than the other person feeling they are being compared to your late spouse. (And I am so very sorry for your loss. Please accept my virtual hugs and healing vibes sent your way.)

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      Get out and socialize, as in with groups and in person. The trend nowadays seems to be to see apps as the source of romantic partners. This is combined with frustration about how poorly they serve this purpose. Color me unsurprised. Join a group centered around an interest of yours and you are guaranteed to have at least one thing in common with the other members.

      1. Sloanicota*

        OP sounds like someone who would be well served looking to date within their church or a wider religious gatherings?

        1. HBJ*

          I agree. I don’t think online dating is a horrible idea, and I do know a couple people who’ve had long successful marriages from that, but I think getting to know someone through a shared interest group is a much better way if possible. Especially since religion is fairly important to OP, I think trying to meet someone through church would be good. Many churches have groups specifically for older people or even a griefshare group that might be helpful.

          1. Person from the Resume*

            Finding someone to date through a shared interest group is not easy.

            I haven’t had much success with online dating, and I haven’t been trying for several years now. I haven’t met anyone to date at in person activities even though I am quite active in them. At least online dating get me someone of the right gender and sexuality for me, available (I’m clear about looking for monogamy). Maybe I lack in person skills flirting skills but really I just don’t encounter many people in person activities that are potential dates.

            That said, I’m not religious and maybe church would work for the OP.

            1. allathian*

              Yeah, my MIL met her husband when they were in their early 60s at her church’s singles club. Both of them had been divorced and mostly single for about 20 years before that.

    4. Fastest Thumb in the West*

      My sister-in-law just got remarried in her mid-sixties. She met her husband when a friend invited her to attend a monthly social gathering at the friend’s neighborhood clubhouse. I agree that finding clubs or groups whose events you enjoy is the best way to meet someone, either directly or through your friend network.

    5. Generic+Name*

      Well, my first suggestion is to honor that you’re grieving, and of course you miss the intimacy of a long term partner. You unfortunately can’t skip past the meeting and then getting to know you parts of dating and relationships and go right to intimacy. Those things all take time. So my suggestion for now is to focus on yourself. Focus on your friendships. I highly highly recommend getting a dog. If it’s sex that you’re missing, there are battery powered solutions to that. :)

      After I got divorced, I did all the things for myself that I had neglected for years. I got back into exercising regularly, I went out with friends, I cooked my favorite foods that my ex didn’t like. At the time, my ex and I had 50/50 custody, and the weeks without my son were very quiet. But I had gotten a pair of kittens who were great company. I joke to my now husband that if I had gotten our dog before I met him I might not have started dating at all. :) She’s a great companion and the 3 pets together mean I’m never lonely.

    6. Incognito for this question*

      Thank you all! I appreciate your human warmth and many good suggestions. No surprises, which amuses my inner Highly Sensible Person (LOL). I’ll keep on keeping on. Will also check back later this weekend to see if anyone else has posted.

    7. JSPA*

      Maybe be intentional about making a couple of close(r) friends? Whether or not you find romance or sex, you’ll have human connection, and someone who puts a sparkle in your eye when they walk into the room. And that’s a healthier way to live (and to make dating / partnering choices) than “lonely but overwhelmed by the idea of dating.”

    8. Angstrom*

      When I was single something I enjoyed was structured social dance, such as ballroom dance lessons and contradancing. It got me out and interacting with a lot of friendly people in a safe environment. If you want, it can also be a safe venue to practice flirting — rotating partners is normal, so you can have a romantic affair for three minutes and move on with no hard feelings when the song ends. :-)

    9. marvin the paranoid android*

      I’m also in a place where I’m starting to seriously think about dating and finding it pretty overwhelming, so I have more solidarity than advice! One thing that clicked for me recently was realizing that what I secretly really want is to passively meet someone and have them do all the work, but that approach has never worked out well for me in the past. So I’m coming to terms with the fact that if this is really a priority for me, the main thing is to invest some time and energy in trying to meet people and accepting that some level of rejection, frustration, and wasted time is probably inevitable. Best of luck to you!

      1. Incognito for this question*

        >…the main thing is to invest some time and energy in trying to meet people and accepting that some level of rejection, frustration, and wasted time is probably inevitable.
        Yup. These are my other hesitations about dating, whether introductions occur online or in real life. Most single-but-looking people probably would agree. Best of luck to you, too!

    10. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

      I’m in a similar position, except for the sex outside of marriage thing. My wife died about 10 years ago, and I met someone and we were together about five. We broke up soon after the Jan 6 fiasco due to political differences.

      I’ve read the responses in this thread, and my problem is that
      1. I’m not involved with a religious entity (I gave up on religion after my wife died from a horrible disease)
      2. I’m socially awkward, so going out to social events pretty much ends up with me just hanging out alone and not being able to meet new people.

      1. Jessica*

        To address #2, you might look for social events that are a bit more structured. I’m a wallflower at a party, but a fun and capable mixer at a boardgames night (and while I have not found love that way, I have made a few good friends and a bunch of more casual friends). Think about whether there’s any interest of yours that would lend itself to more structured socializing.

  14. TheraputicSarcasm*

    Sending internet support Allison’s way while she’s dealing with whatever has happened. I don’t even know if I believe in vibes, but I’m imagining giving her my super-soothing neck-and-shoulder heating pad from afar.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Oh dear. I have totally missed this. TS, can you link a reference for us?

      Alison, warm thoughts of hope and good wishes for whatever is going on!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thank you, I appreciate it. Short version so as not to be mysterious is that my mom’s prognosis got significantly worse (she has only months). I am grateful for the well wishes but I am also locking this thread because any reference to it right now is painful. Thank you though.

  15. Confused and stressed*

    This is very off topic for what usually gets posted here. I got divorced last December. We filed our paperwork on December 1st, 2021 and it became finalized on march 8th, 2022. In our divorce decree it stated in the maintenance section that I would continue paying for her car since it was in both our names and for car insurance. She got married this week on October 18th and in my state maintenance ends when the receiving spouse gets remarried. I tried to be nice and have the conversation with her. I wanted to do it in person with a voice recording but she refused so we did it through text.
    she said she refuses to believe she is now responsible for the car and its my responsibility. so today i filed a motion in court to have a judge look over our case based on this new information. I will also be scraping together some money to afford to put an attorney on retainer in case i need some extra oomph in court.
    for context: i have been working two full time jobs, 80 hours a week since April of this year to afford her car and the debt she left me with from the marriage. it took her less than 12 months to marry the guy she left me for. that I don’t care about, it just hurts that I’m buried so deep in debt with ruined credit and she doesn’t care to be even a little bit reasonable. do any of you have similar stories or words of advice?

    1. StellaBella*

      Definitely see a lawyer and file a motion to reduce or revise or eliminate the maintenance payments if she has remarried. In this time I assume the title of the car has been moved to solely her name? If not get that fixed. Also take into context the debt burden and talk to the lawyer about this and options to also reduce the debut burden if she is now remarried. Good luck.

      1. confused and stressed*

        the title of the car is still with the finance company because i am making payments. the car is in both of our names. at the time of our divorce she worked a commission only job which she got denied for a refinance. which is why i am suggesting it now using her new husbands income so they can refinance in their names and remove me from the loan.
        I consulted an attorney already who said i was in the right here, and will most likely go back to that same attorney to hire her.
        I filed the motion to terminate maintenance today. she was not thrilled. but it will sit in review for 21 days to give her time to file a response before a judge decides to approve, deny, or schedule a hearing.

        1. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

          My first thought upon reading your post was “get started now!” so I was glad to see this update. Call me cynical, but if she got remarried that soon, there may be a limited window of time to clear this up before her status changes again (sorry, was that unkind?). Keep pressing forward with it. It sounds like it may be painful financially right now, but it will be worth it in the long term. Good luck!

        2. Generic+Name*

          It sounds like you’re taking all the right steps to get this fixed. Of course your ex isn’t happy, but come on.

    2. Anon Today*

      I had this exact situation (with a little more drama! I found out he was married when my child’s kindergarten teacher asked if she was having any adjustment issues to a new stepparent) where he expected me to keep paying the mortgage on MY house so he and his new wife could keep living there (I had agreed to this and moved in with my parents just to done with fighting about custody). So I get it.

      I researched the case law and first sent a registered letter with the citation and an indication I planned to rent out the house on X date. He of course responded angrily and got his lawyer to write a threatening letter. I wrote a motion and asked my lawyer to file it – apparently that was enough to get his lawyer to explain why he would lose and we ended up negotiating a move out date about 4 months later than I wanted, but sooner than the court case would have taken.

      In your case I think you have an issue with the car being in your name – you need to contact the lender if you have a car note and see what options you have to get off the loan. For insurance I would think you could just stop paying – but I would check w a lawyer and see what your liability is if she crashes YOUR car while uninsured.

      So sorry – I really have been there. 15 years out, I’ve rebuilt my life and my finances- I hope the same for you!!

      1. Sloanicota*

        It seems like if you’re still basically the owner of the car, and that she’s no longer owed your maintenance due to having a new spouse, perhaps you can sell the car (together?) if she won’t take on the cost. Of course, it doesn’t matter what I think, it’s what a lawyer says. Good luck OP.

    3. Generic+Name*

      Okay, here’s my advice borne out of experience from my divorce and the myriad of legal proceedings since.

      You can’t reason with unreasonable people.

      Follow court orders exactly as they are written, even if the other person isn’t.

      If you want to make a change to court orders, do so through the court (as you are doing).

      Lawyers are very very expensive. Do the math and a cost benefit analysis of how much a lawyer costs versus the savings of not making a car payment and insurance. Are there other issues at play like parenting time? I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers and other professionals over a period of 4 years, but it was worth it because the safety of my child was at stake. If you’re looking at a couple of hundred dollars a month for a couple of years, you can easily spend double or triple that on lawyers.

      How do you plan to pay for your lawyer? I’m paying for mine with a home equity line of credit. I know my ex is paying for his by taking money out of his 401k. Ask your lawyer their hourly rate and also ask what their retainer is. I pay my lawyer monthly, and some months when there are a lot of motions or a hearing, I’ve paid $7,000 in that one month. Yes, it’s utterly outrageous. I would really like to just opt out of all this, but I’m not the one filing most of the motions, and the way the court system is set up means I am legally compelled to respond to motions (even if they’re bullshit and have no legal basis).

      Another option is a lawyer acting in an advisory capacity rather than full representation. You do most of the legwork of writing and filing the motions, but the lawyer looks over your stuff and gives you legal advice.

      1. WellRed*

        It’s a car payment not a child so unlikely to require thousands of dollars. It may be that simply filing the paperwork does the trick.

    4. Confused and stressed*

      I just want to say thank you for everyone who has commented with advice and their own experiences. I appreciate all of you and it helps me feel not so alone. I will be mailing her the papers to serve her on monday and the lawyer that i will be hiring quoted me 2k to start. i owe 24k on the car plus the insurance payments so at least right now it seems like i will come out on top. in the coming months when everything is resolved i will work on an update to let everyone know how it went.

    5. E*

      just wanted to send solidarity. Sorry you had to go through this and are still dealing with her but it sounds like money well spent to get a difficult, selfish person out of your life. Hope you can start working less soon, sounds stressful. Onwards and upwards!

  16. Llama face!*

    I have been waiting all week to share this. It’s a silly thing but I think at least some of you will get a chuckle out of it like I did:

    I was browsing ebooks online and I came across a book where the title is the main character’s name. The titular character, who is supposed to be a hot alien dude, is named… Jo’Aquin!

    You have no idea how desperately I want there to be a second alien character in the book named Wa’Keen.

    P.S. (If this book was written by an AAM commenter I’m giving you props for the inside joke.)

    1. Llama face!*

      For anyone who doesn’t know this classic AAM reference, the post with that story is from 2013 and is titled, “What was your most cringe worthy career mistake”. Just search the comments for “Wakeen” and you’ll find it.

    2. Jackalope*

      I posted this in the gaming thread up top but I was looking through the D&D 5e Player’s Handbook and discovered a deity named Waukeen. I’ve been laughing to myself about that all week.

    3. Crystal with a c*

      Joaquin is a real name of Spanish orgin. Everytime I see “Wakeen” written here I cringe at how disrespectful and clueless it sounds. It’s not the funny joke everyone makes it out to be.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        It’s a reference to someone who did not know that “Joaquin” is pronounced “Wakeen” and thought they were two different people. That’s the joke. It’s mocking someone who didn’t already know what your first sentence says.

      2. Jackalope*

        The funny part was the OP getting confused because they didn’t know that Joaquin was pronounced “Wakeen” because of their cultural ignorance and they had an embarrassing moment when they learned the truth. It’s not making fun of the person named Joaquin, it’s the person who made the mistake laughing at themselves and inviting us to laugh with them at their original ignorance.

      3. Llama face!*

        Okay, I can see how the name and the “Wakeen” spelling used apart from the original context could just sound like people mocking a non-English ethnic name. I’m sorry I caused you offence.

    4. sascha*

      but Joaquin is a real name? Wakeen would maybe possibly be an AAM inside joke but why would just Joaquin be?

      1. thecharioteer*

        Yeah I didn’t really get this either. How is the name Joaquin (or Jo’Aquin) an AAM reference at all?

      2. Llama face!*

        The way I read it, the apostrophe between the Jo and Aquin shows it is being pronounced the same incorrect way that caused the confusion in the original AAM story I mentioned above (where the AAM commenter didn’t realize that Joaquin is not pronounced Jo-a-quin and thought the person they heard called Wakeen was someone else entirely). If the author didn’t add the apostrophe I would have assumed standard pronunciation and not even noticed it.

  17. Be the Change*

    Librarians of AAM, how does e-books collections work? I ask because I’m so disappointed that the Libby e-books available from a favorite author keep dwindling. There used to be about 15 books, including audio and text versions, and now there are only 5. Womp womp. I figure there is a good reason though.

    1. BunnyWatsonToo*

      Short answer is that libraries have to deal with publisher restrictions on ebooks. Many cost much more than if sold to an individual and can only circulate for a limited period or number of checkouts. If a library wants to retain one of those titles after that point, they have to buy it again.

    2. Forensic13*

      My husband actually works at the company that makes Libby and I’ve asked (complained) about this. (He refuses to sneak books in there just for me. Very rude, heh!)

      From what I understand, this is probably some kind of publisher nonsense. A lot of publishers still want to treat e-books like digital ones. So they might have copies that expire after a certain number of reads, or that have other random limitations. If that’s the case, your library may not want to spend money on them again.

      It also could be that your library is buying Libby books in collections and some of these books aren’t in those collections for some reason. You might be able to email your library and request things (I’m not sure if the request feature is back in Libby yet.)

      1. Be the Change*

        Oh my gosh, I’ve probably used the e-books to death myself! >_<

        I still read books 3000 times like I did as a kid. Maybe I reached the reader limit! Sorry, all other readers, I did not know!!!

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I agree it’s probably just that the books have reached their use limit and the people who select ebooks for your library aren’t aware that they expired.

          But there’s an easy way to request a new copy! If you pull up your library’s Overdrive site through a web browser instead of using the Libby app and search for the author you want, you’ll get the list of all the books your library carries, and then if you scroll down to the bottom there’s an additional section that says “Didn’t find what you were looking for?” That will show titles that Overdrive has access to that your library doesn’t have in its collection right now. Find the ones you want and click “recommend.” This sends a message to the person who’s in charge of purchasing the ebooks for your library, and it puts you at the top of the holds list. So when staff sees it, if they decide to re-order it, you’ll get a notification to check it out right away.

      2. djc*

        Before Libby, I used Overdrive. It’s been a while since I’ve checked, but I think that app had a request feature.

        1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

          It does. Unfortunately, early next year, my local library is dropping Overdrive in favor of Libby. I’ve tried Libby, I hate it. Heck, my daughter who works for the library hates it, and says most of the library staff she knows (multiple branches) hate it.

    3. Double A*

      I love ebooks because it is almost an hour drive round trip to my library since I live in a kind of rural area. They’re very popular in my area for that reason. But I know they probably are draining my library’s resources. Publisher shenanigans make me sad.

    4. Squeebird*

      Publisher shenanigans as mentioned, and also most of the titles we purchase are licenses that “expire” after a certain period of time so stuff disappears quite often unless we buy it again.

      If the request feature isn’t in Libby yet, contact your library directly to request titles you’re interested in; most libraries will have a way for you to do that. At our library at least, we take suggestions for ebooks as well as print materials. If we know our license expired on something and someone really wants it, we will do our best to buy it again!

    5. TLC*

      Check with your local library to see if they have a Libby alternative. Our library uses CloudLibrary, which has some limitations (won’t work with Kindle eReaders) but also has more availability and shorter hold waits.

  18. lam*

    What’s your favorite one pot/pan fall/winter recipe?

    As the temps cool down I’m looking to switch from salads and sandwiches to something hardier. Bonus points if it is easy to eat on the go and high in protein.

    My go-to is a pound of (spicy) sausage, half a box of (elbow) noodles, and 2 regular cans of cream of tomato soup. Brown the sausage. Season with your heart. Add the cans of tomato soup with 2 cans water/milk (usually do one can each). Season again. Add noodles. Cook til noodles are done (or very much al dented if meal prep). Top with Italian blend Kraft cheese.

    I also made today a bunch of pancake mix, poured into a pan, topped with cooked sausage and bacon bits. Baked til brown and toasty and served with syrup. That was also delish.

    1. Large and in charge*

      Sweet potato peanut stew. So delicious, so nutritious. Diced onions and garlic in olive oil -> diced bell pepper and sweet potato or 2 -> 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes + 4c veg broth whisked with 1/3c peanut butter + 2 tsp chili powder. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in a bag of spinach and a can of chickpeas at the very end.

    2. Rosyglasses*

      Ooh I am intrigued by the baked pancake! How long and at what temp? I need this tomorrow!!

      Your first dish sounds like what my mom often made growing up – so yum!

    3. UKDancer*

      I make a beef Bourguignon that is very pleasing. Sometimes I make it with venison if the butcher has it in. I begin by frying onion and mushroom in the roasting tin and then set them aside. Fry some bacon cubes / lardons / pancetta in the tin. Then dip cubed stewing steak or venison in flour and add to the tin. I add root vegetables, sometimes potatoes if I’m feeling lazy, about a third of a bottle of wine, a good amount of stock, garlic and bouquet garni. I cook it for about 90 minutes at about 180 degrees (less time if it’s venison). Then I add in the onion and mushroom and see if the sauce needs to be thicker. I then stir it up and taste and add more of anything needed.

      I cook for another 20-30 minutes and then serve either with bread or rice and a green salad. If I’ve included potatoes, then I just serve on its own. It’s really good.

    4. Still*

      I always recommend Roberto The Soup. Google “The Many Lives of Roberto, a Soup” in The New Yorker.

    5. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Turkey chili. We have a recipe that goes in a slow cooker but could also be done in a pot on the stove or in the oven on low. Don’t use 99% lean turkey – anything else will do. Brown the turkey first and cook the aromatics. Add whatever chili spices you like – we include some chipotles in adobo. Put in cooker with a couple of slices of white bread (for thickening), beans, and broth – we use just over a cup of broth for 2 lbs of turkey. For extra fun, stir in a couple of tablespoons of tequila and squeeze fresh lime juice over it when it’s done. So good.

    6. Cookie*

      Kabocha squash congee. I have an onion and garlic intolerance, so it’s hard to find soup that agrees with me and also hard to replicate former favorite soups without those ingredients.

      I cook rice (I use jasmine) in about 3-4 times the amount of chicken stock that I’d normally use for rice, along with big hunks of kabocha squash. I’m cooking for one, so this amounts to perhaps a quart of stock, a couple cups of rice, and the smallest kabocha I can find at the store. It’s reasonably easy to peel with a sharp cleaver, just lay it down and slice the peel off it. Add salt to taste.

      For serving I usually add sliced chives or scallion tops, toasted sesame oil, and either a couple of easy-over eggs or some other protein (marinated & sauteed tofu, lightly fried white fish, tiny chicken meatballs).

      When my Chinese friend makes congee it involves pork neck bones, fish balls to serve, and a lot of other ingredients I can’t eat, but I’m happy with my gut-friendly adaptation.

    7. the cat's ass*

      Lemon chicken arugula risotto! Saute the chicken and shallots in a Dutch Oven, throw in arborio rice and grated lemon with juice and chicken broth to cover and fling it in the oven at 350 for 45 mins. Take out and throw in a bag or spinach or arugula with a knob of better and a fistful of parm cheese. So easy and yummy.

        1. the cat's ass*

          the EXACT recipe is on Blogspot Under Sebia Cooks and can sometimes be found on SF gate where it appeared a decade ago. Enjoy!

      1. Alyn*

        Oooh interesting! I do a sausage risotto (1 lb ground sausage) instead of chicken, but I’ve always done it on the stove top and hadn’t really considered using the oven. That would make it a much easier meal! Thank you!

    8. Bubblewrap*

      Loaded Potato Soup

      I don’t have my personal recipe handy, but basically it’s potatoes, bacon, onions, broth, milk, butter, sour cream, and cheddar cheese. Do it in a crockpot. I think I use more potatoes, bacon and cheese than online recipes recommend. End up getting a couple nights’ dinner out of it and is very filling.

      1. Alyn*

        I do a version of this on the stove, but to make it low effort, I use 1 can of whole potatoes, frozen diced onion, a can of evaporated milk, shredded cheese, and bacon crumbles. Empty the can of potatoes into the pot, add an extra half can of water. Smash up the potatoes so you have chunks the size you prefer. Add the onion & bacon crumbles. Simmer for a few minutes (it’s forgiving if you get distracted, just add more water). Add the evaporated milk, bring back up to simmer. Add the shredded cheese, stir until melted in. Remove from heat, pour into bowl, enjoy.

        Spice wise, I’ll add whatever is on hand; celery flakes, parsley, black pepper, garlic, etc.

      2. Cj*

        There is a recipe for hash brown casserole on amandascookin.com that has very similar ingredients. I suppose it’s actually more of a side dish than a meal, but I’ve been known to eat it all by itself.

        It doesn’t have bacon in it, but it has cream of chicken soup, so it does contain some protein.

        1. UKDancer*

          This is the recipe I use and it works really well. I would definitely recommend and it makes great leftovers.

    9. Dark Macadamia*

      HelloFresh has a recipe called “One Pan Toscana Couscous Skillet” that I love for fall. It’s couscous, kale, and Italian sausage. Probably one of their best recipes I’ve had in terms of effort vs outcome (you can find it online, don’t have to subscribe to get it)

    10. Girasol*

      Beef stew with root veggies and wine. Or else a fry-up of bulk breakfast sausage with onions and apples (which is also great stuffed into a baked acorn squash but then it’s not technically one-pot anymore.)

    11. Anono-me*

      Favorite can of chili,
      Jiff corn muffin mix (& listed ingredients)
      Shredded cheese.

      Mix corn muffins as directed on box. Turn on oven as directed on box

      Spray oven safe 9×9 pan with oil.
      Spread chili over bottom of pan.
      Sprinkle with cheese.
      Spread corn mix over the chili.

      Bake as directed for corn mix.

      1. VegetarianRaccoon*

        I’ve always kind of low-key wished I could make something like that, but had no idea it could be that simple, thank you!

        1. Anono-me*

          This is a Trader Joe’s Recipe.

          I love it because it seems like a sturdy stick to your ribs time consuming to make meal, but actually the prep time is less than 5 minutes.

    12. There's a leek under the sink*

      My favorite is leek and spring greens gratin. The recipe is from epicurious–you’ll find it if you google (don’t want to get caught in moderation). It’s easy and sooooooooooo good. It calls for arugula and spinach but you can really use any greens you have or enjoy–kale, chard, etc.–to make it any season. Make sure to use lemon zest and not juice though (made that mistake and it wasn’t as good).

    13. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

      Chili. Can be either a red or a verde. It’s about an hour start to finish, and most of that is letting it simmer.

    14. Book The Wink*

      I love the Budget Bytes smoked sausage sheet pan meal.

      Basically chop and toss the following in some steak seasoning mix and olive oil and bake on 400F for 40 min, stirring twice:

      1 medium yellow onion
      1 smoked sausage
      1lb frozen or fresh trimmed green beans
      1lb potatoes sliced small, or tiny new potatoes

      I make a honey mustard vinegarette for topping. Super easy and fast. If you want extra fiber, roast off some cabbage with it.

    15. o_gal*

      Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

      Cut either 1 really large or 2 small spaghetti squash in half, scoop out and discard the seeds. In a large baking dish, place the squash cut side down and roast at 400 degrees F for about 40 to 50 minutes until they are done – a sharp knife should go through the flesh easily. Use a fork and scoop out the insides into strands so you have shells left.

      Dice 1 small onion and saute until soft and translucent. Then add 6 to 8 oz of baby spinach and 1 tablespoon of water, cover, and let the spinach wilt. Mix in 4 oz of cream cheese and 8 oz of chopped artichoke hearts, stirring until the cheese melts. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Then stir in the squash strands. Scoop them back into the shells, top each with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, as much as you like (we like a lot.) Turn oven up to broil, then broil the shells until the cheese on top is melty and/or browned.

      Made these last night and they are so good. Very filling too.

  19. Jessen*

    Is there any way to sort of replicate the benefits of a meal delivery service without actually getting a meal delivery service? I admit I absolutely love the idea and it would do wonders for my stress levels. But I have a lot of dietary issues and I haven’t seen any that really work with those outside of the top 10 or so. Especially not that are actually in my area. I’m trying to figure out how to make food prep not such an incredible amount of time and energy (especially planning time, that’s actually worse than fixing the food) while also dealing with food restrictions.

    1. English Rose*

      How about doing one big cook and saving individual freezer portions for defrosting. I admit I’ve never been organised enough to do this but it would mean the ingredients were under your control.

      1. Jessen*

        See whenever I’ve done that I always end up wasting a lot of food. Usually by the time I’m halfway to 2/3 of the way through trying to do one big cook, I’m far too exhausted to actually finish the job. The planning and organization that goes into making sure you have the time and energy and setup to cook a bunch of food and freeze it and have it ready and don’t run out of energy halfway through the process just seems to be more than I can handle. At this point I almost feel like just trying to eat is practically a full time job that I’m somehow expected to handle on top of already working a full time job.

        1. Cookie*

          I live alone and on weekends I usually cook enough for 2-3 people and freeze what’s left. I’m not trying to cook a month’s worth of food, just one entree (usually not the whole meal). It goes right into the freezer. Some weekdays I have the energy to cook, but if not, there’s food in the freezer that I don’t have to think about. If I grill some chicken, I make enough for two dinners. If I roast a whole chicken, I break it down and freeze some of the meat to add to a rice bowl or pasta (I cook enough pasta for 2 meals and freeze half). Etc.

          I’ve also been known to live on beans, rice, and salsa. When I open the beans I just freeze 2/3 of the can (in two separate freezer containers), and I also freeze rice in dinner-for-one portions. If I haven’t got anything for dinner, I can microwave those two components, add some salsa and maybe some shredded cheese, and I have dinner.

      2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        I do this all the time!
        Some dishes like Chili and Irish Stew work mu h better in large pots. I bought a 20 Liter (5+ gallons) pot just for that. Maki g 4 gallons of Chili or stew does not take much mor work than a single portion. I eat two and freeze the rest. Works best when thawed overnight in the fridge. Then dinner takes just 3 or 4 minutes in the microwave.
        I know exactly what’s in there, make it as spicy as I like it, snd there are no preservatives or artificial flavorings in my meal. And it saves quite a bit of money as well.

      3. MacGillicuddy*

        Instead of one big cooking session for many meals, start smaller, with one recipe that can be made in bulk, like chili. Cook a big batch, eat some for a meal, then divide the leftovers and freeze. It takes a while to build up your supply this way.
        Most one-pot stew-like dishes can work with this method.
        Meanwhile, rethink your definition of supper. Soup and sandwiches are supper. Chicken tenders, if you put in a bag and pound flat, cook very fast. Serve with frozen vegetables and a nuked potato. Scrambled eggs and toast. Pizza with a prefab crust and add your own toppings.

    2. Ranon*

      Private chef? Some will basically do a meal prep style service, and obviously more customizable around dietary needs.

      There are also meal planning services out there in the world but not sure of their usefulness with dietary restrictions. Some of the meal planning apps might help? I tried mealime for a bit and it seemed promising

    3. Gyne*

      Not sure if this is exactly what you are looking for but I have used the CookSmarts and the Forks Over Knives meal planning services. They have a weekly menu with recipes, prep instructions, and grocery lists, and you buy your own foods. CookSmarts can be modified for different diets, but FoK is exclusively plant-based.

    4. Pharmgirl*

      Have you looking into meal plan services? It takes away the guesswork and planning, makes it easier to make substitutions of you need them, and is cheaper since you are doing the shopping.

      I started with cooksmarts (I think someone here recommended it) and thought it was a great starting point. You can swap out meals, change serving sizes, and each meal has different versions too (vegetarian gluten free or paleo). They have lots of videos as well about cooking and food prep.

      I’ve also done sweetpeasmeals but I don’t know if they are still around. But there’s different services out there you can try.

    5. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

      For meal planning, I have found that a good place to start is repetition. It is okay to have the same meals on the same days week after week. That means your grocery list and meal prep becomes routine. I realize it might be difficult initially to come up with a week’s worth of meals that meet your dietary restrictions but after that, the “boredom” of the same weekly menu is outweighed by the ease of shopping and prep. After a while (a few weeks? Months? YMMV), adding a new recipe to the mix is easier because you are only changing one thing, rather than the whole menu.

    6. Emma*

      At the beginning of covid, I got in the habit of planning for 2 weeks of meals at a time instead of 1. I also do grocery pickup. I meal plan in a Google document, and then have a separate one, where I copy and paste that week’s meal plans, so then I have a huge list of the previous weeks’ plans for future inspiration.

      I’ve thought about making a grocery list for the 2 weeks of meal plans and saving that too (and just copying and pasting and deleting ingredients I don’t need that week), but that’s beyond what I want to do.

      The meal planning and pickup does still take time, but it’s less than when I was going every week.

    7. Redhaired runner*

      It might just come down to repetition. I meal prep for the week and honestly it only takes me 5-10 minutes to plan the meals while I assemble my grocery list. I usually just think about what I already have and what flavors I want that week. Then I cook everything all at once on Sunday. I do keep a list of recipes I like the looks of on my phone as inspiration.

      1. Jessen*

        Honestly a lot of the planning part for me isn’t just planning what the meals are. It’s planning to have time to prepare food and fix ingredients and planning ahead so you still have time and energy when things are ready to pack and freeze food and planning so there’s a time when the dishes can still get done while they’re not too bad – all that sort of thing. And it’s just Too Much to keep doing constantly.

        1. Julia*

          I have limited energy for meal preparation and shopping & cleaning, especially since the start of the pandemic. What’s worked best for me is having two quick standby meals and limiting the equipment needed to cook & prepare.

          I have to be diligent about avoiding many ingredients for medical reasons so I can’t buy pre-cooked meals.

          My reliable meals are; chicken + pre-cut vegies + baby spinach + rice noodles, with soy sauce & ginger, or rice with same vegies + fish (usually tinned mackerel).

          If I can’t manage these I make toasted sandwiches.

          Good luck with finding something that works for you – I hope some ideas from today will suit you.

          1. Julia*

            Sorry! Forgot to include in meal description that I buy microwave rice & very often use rotisserie chicken, and
            I mostly cook in a wok.

          2. Jessen*

            That actually sounds really helpful, honestly! A lot of my problem has been that I know many people find making a big batch ahead of time easy and simpler. I have not found it to be so for me – the extra work of packaging and labelling food and making sure it’s thawed out later means it’s very common for it to just end up getting thrown out. If a recipe takes too long (even if that’s not hands on time) there’s a risk that at the end of it I can be exhausted enough that just managing to eat is extremely difficult, let alone dealing with the rest. And it can be hard to know how to explain these things to people who don’t deal with them.

            I think things that I can eat that don’t require much prep time do help. Frozen stuff is ok but I’ve found shelf-stable is usually better.

        2. Person from the Resume*

          Yes. If you want to prepare meals for for yourself you got to plan time for the food prep. I recommend the weekends and eat the leftovers during the work.

          Being single and having to do all the household cooking and chores means a single person has double the chores a couple can split.

          The other option is buy prepared food from restaurants or personal chefs or meal device. There’s local meal services where I live. Those local private company/small business may be able to accommodate your dietary restrictions.

        3. Esmeralda*

          Every time you cook dinner or make lunch, make extra. Like, even just enough for one more meal. As soon as you finish cooking and BEFORE you sit down to eat, divide everything in half or thirds or quarters, depending on how much more you made, stick it in tupperwares, stick in the fridge. Eat your meal, then label all those fridge containers, then stick them in the freezer. Because if you put off portioning and freezing til after you eat, you are going to be tired and you will just stand in front of the stove mindlessly slurping up the extras…ok, maybe that’s just me, but you want to be able to enjoy dinner and not have to mess with that chore after you’ve eaten and want to relax.

          Don’t make giant batches of anything if it’s tiring to do so. Don’t plan to spend a couple of hours on sunday cooking for the week if the thought of it makes you want to give up. I love to cook, but I have BTDT. It doesn’t take any more time to cook four chicken thighs than to cook one or two, 8 oz of pasta cooks in the same amount of time as 2 oz of pasta, etc.

          I also use things like: canned clam sauce for pasta (cook pasta, drain, dump in clam sauce, toss), frozen tortellini (throw in boiling water for about 7 minutes, don’t even thaw them, toss with jarred pasta sauce), rotisserie chicken, etc. It is ok to eat breakfast for dinner — bowl of cereal with some fruit, scrambled eggs and toast. It is ok to eat leftovers for lunch. Cold pizza is always acceptable for breakfast or lunch…

    8. Chauncy Gardener*

      I have had good luck with making those freezer “dump” crockpot recipes. You basically place all the raw ingredients in a large ziploc bag and freeze it. Then the night before you want to cook it, take it out of the freezer and put in the fridge. In the morning, plop into the crockpot and cook all day. It’s magically ready and delicious by dinner time. If you want to get fancy you can sprinkle some fresh herbs on top, but it’s not necessary. I have also frozen small portions of the leftovers.
      You do have to root through the recipes online to get ones to fit your dietary requirements, but they are there! Soup is also super easy to make and then freeze in small containers
      Also, I have found it helpful to realize that dinner doesn’t HAVE to be “dinner,” if you know what I mean. It can be a bowl of oatmeal or cereal or a couple of eggs scrambled with spinach and cheese or a sandwich. Just get some reasonably nutritious food into your body with a minimal output of energy.
      Good luck!

      1. IT Manager*

        Thanks for this tip from a lazy person who spends way too much on take out .., googling this now!

    9. Person from the Resume*

      Repetition – I probably have about 10ish favorite easy meals that make regularly.

      Crockpot – it’s easy to double the recipe and I save 1 container to eat throughout the week 4-5 meals and have 2-4 containers I freeze to pull out in a few weeks or a month.

      Easy cooking with cans – lots of my crockpot recipes call for diced tomatoes and beans that I get out of the can.

      It’s best to plan to shop and cook a meal over the weekend. It takes time, but if you put in the time it’s worth it to have meals throughout the week.

    10. MJ*

      If you have a decent sized freezer, lots of stuff can be frozen if it’s going to be used for cooking. You can prep individual elements and freeze in small portions that can then be pulled out when you’re ready to cook.

      So you can, for example, chop/purée a whole bag of onions and freeze in 1/2 or 1 cup portions. Or if you are chopping an onion for a dish, do a second one at the same time to freeze for later use.

      We freeze: grated cheese (multiple types), chopped chilli peppers, 1/2 cup portions of sour cream / creme fresh / yoghurt, sliced fruit, chopped herbs / garlic / ginger, sliced bread, and more that I can’t remember.

      Sometimes we’ll do a shop then come home and chop/shred/purée everything. And get take away for dinner that night since we are too exhausted to cook!

      Many of the meal services let you see their recipes online without joining. Find some that fit with your dietary requirements, test them and print out copies of the ones you love. When you can, prep and freeze the individual ingredients, then when you don’t have the spoons for planning, simply grab a recipe and the frozen ingredients and throw it together.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I agree about chopping more than you need and freezing onions and bell peppers. They often go in my meals and it’s so fast to open cans and pull onion and bell peppers out from the freezer and cook. You’re not eliminating prep time in this case but you’re moving it to another time.

        But I’m totally into buying pre-cut butternut squash. It comes in chunks larger than I prefer but it’s so much easier to cut those chunks into 4 smaller pieces than cutting up a whole butternut squash. And salad kits too!

    11. Rosyglasses*

      For me I’ve been in that exact space (minus a lot of dietary needs). What has worked for me is to buy faster items to prep. For example, if the meals I want to prep that week include chicken, instead of raw chicken, I will buy grilled chicken breast from the deli or Trader Joe’s.

      I will also buy the pre chopped veg or the Costco individually packed frozen broccoli that takes 6 min to heat, or precooked rice that takes a few minutes. Eventually I will morph back into spending less and using less packaging; but it is what helps me eat more healthfully and prep takes 15 min or less.

      I get used to meat, carb/starch, veg on my plate and the variety is just in what types I prep and put together. And then it gets you in the routine of making your own food and takes the stress out of deciding and prepping and “I should do this or that” and then I notice I have more inclination to try a longer meal or more time for cooking one or two days.

      1. Cookie*

        This is such a good idea. I described making and freezing my own meal components, but if someone’s not into that, buying it already prepped is genius!

    12. TeaFiend*

      I’ve tried some of the suggestions mentioned and found that what works for me is prepping just one day ahead, and do a double prep on weekends. So for example:
      Sunday: cook big batch of curry and a soup. Eat a serve of curry, freeze a serve of curry, soup goes into the fridge for tomorrow.
      Monday: eat the soup, prep a salad for tomorrow.
      Tuesday: eat the salad, prep a pasta for tomorrow.

      This makes it so I never have to worry about what I’m going to eat *that day*, I just get home and heat it up. And then I have the energy to do the food prep for the following day.
      Additional advantages:
      – I have much less food waste
      – I have much more food variety (I dislike food repetition. If you don’t mind it, this system may work even better)
      – If I make more than expected, I can freeze the excess
      – If something happens and I can’t do the meal prep for the next day, I always have food in the freezer

      1. Brrrrr*

        This is an amazing idea! So much of my frustration about weekday suppers happens because I’m just getting home from work about 5:30, later if I run errands, and I’m hungry NOW, and I want to eat NOW, not in an hour when supper will be ready. That’s how my poor food decisions happen (chips for supper anyone?).

        I have the time to make supper, it’s just not at the right time! So I love your idea and will be trying it out a few days a week (I always make extra, love leftovers, and don’t mind repetition). Plus I like the idea of looking forward to a tasty ready-to-eat meal waiting for me at home.

    13. Meal planning ideas*

      When I meal prep, I try to do about 2-3 days worth of meals.

      Here’s an example prep evening for me making two portions of soup and four bases for dinner – main ingredient a pound of minced beef.

      I put two pots going on slow heat, a big one (3-5 litres) and a smaller one (1.5-2 liters).
      Some butter and olive oil in each pan.

      While the fat slowly heat, I chop two-three onions, slightly smaller for the big pot, rougher bits for the smaller pot, a bigger part in the bigger pot. I put the onions in each pot and let them saute on low heat.

      I put my minced beef in the bigger pot (wash my hands), and use a spatula to stir/hack occasionally to separate the meat.

      The smaller pot will be for soup, and I chop and add whatever vegetables I have that can make a soup. Maybe some carrots and celery first (which keep very well), maybe I have leek, or broccoli, or cauliflower, or mushroooms that needs to be used up, or some spinach or peas in the freezer. Some of these work well with potato to bulk up, some can have red lentils (carrot, ginger and red lentil), and some can have a tin of white beans or chick peas, whatever’s in the pantry. I add at least two things, some spice and a stock cube and about a litre of water. Lid on, slow boil, around 30 minutes after adding something like potato or lentils.

      While the soup is doing it’s thing, I keep on separating and slowly cooking the beef. At some point I will take half and put in a third pot/pan (or to cool for the fridge – if so, I want the beef fully cooked), so that I can have a least two different flavors.

      The beef can be the basis of Bolognese (tin of tomato, some milk), chili (tin of tomato, tin of beans), Korean bbq, moussaka, cottage pie, sloppy joes – you can take the same start and make very different flavors, depending on your pantry items and spice collection. If you want some of them to be baked, put the oven on at the start, or do that one a different day and just make the basic sauce the first day. Bulk out the meat with lentils or beans if you want more protein.

      After the soup is cooked, taste for seasoning, add cream or coconut milk if that’s something you like, set to cool while you do some washing up and keep the meat sauce going. Blend it with an immersion blender if you want a smooth one. Put in fridge in portions.

      If you choose something like Bolognese or chili for the meat you can keep the sauce on a low heat for hours if you need a break, it’ll only get better. Season. When it’s done, cool quickly, then in the fridge in portions.

  20. Tiger Claw*

    I live with a roommate who has a pet cat, Mabel. She’s a six year old cat who has always been slender. My roomie gives her strictly dry food. Mabel does not scarf down all her food at once; instead she grazes through the day. She’ll take a few bites and then wander off for a few hours, then come take a few more bites before leaving again. We give her plenty of treats through the day so she’s not going hungry, she just doesn’t eat a lot.

    Lately my roomie keeps saying she’s worried that Mabel is underweight. Again, she’s always been slender but we’ve really been noticing her hip bones through her fur recently. She’s got her annual vet appointment in two weeks and my roommate will ask the vet then, but it’s been non-stop her worrying about the cat. I get it; I’m a little concerned too. But it’s frustrating because I don’t understand why she won’t give Mabel wet food. She has cans of wet food that she saves for the days she has to wrestle with Mabel to apply her monthly flea prevention and clip her claws, as an apology. When Mabel is presented with wet food, she doesn’t wander off like she does with the dry, but will stay and eat the whole thing.

    To me, if she was really worried about Mabel’s weight, she’d start giving her wet food more regularly because the cat clearly prefers it. But when I’ve suggested this, she says that dry food is better for dental health. I agree with this but, with my family dogs, we always mixed the two so they got the dental benefit of dry and the tastiness of wet. But she doesn’t like that suggestion, she just keeps worrying and complaining without trying something new (this is a common trait in my roomie but it’s especially frustrating when this seems like an easy fix).

    So my question is two-fold. 1) what do you do when you’re a cat is underweight, other than trying different food options which my roomie won’t do, and 2) any suggestions for dealing with a roomie who just wants to complain, not actually find a solution?

    1. Rowena*

      1. I would a) get the cat to the vet ASAP and not wait weeks, and b) try all food options to encourage the cat to eat. However, your roommate won’t do that. So there probably isn’t a good answer to this.

      2. “Mmmmhmm, you’ve said.” *walk away* “You should do something about that. Anyway, what about… (insert change of topic here).”. “What are you going to do about that? *listen* OK good, you’ve got a plan/well, seems like you need to make a plan.” *disengage* Or go full grey rock approach.

    2. English Rose*

      Weight loss at this sort of age can be a sign of hyper-thyroidism, which the vet would check for at the check-up. Your roomie needs to keep an eye on how much water Mabel is drinking because thirst can be another indicator.
      Using wet food seems like a no-brainer to me too, sigh. But in absence of that, would Mabel enjoy a different brand of dry food?
      I wonder though, if you both stopped giving Mabel treats throughout the day, maybe she would eat her proper food with more enthusiasm.
      As to suggestions for your roomie just wanting to complain… perhaps some kind of script along the lines of “I understand you’re concerned, the vet’s appointment is coming up soon. What do you suggest you do differently in the meantime?”
      Mabel is a fabulous name for a cat, by the way.

    3. Llama Llama*

      If you want to be agressive ‘Her dental health won’t matter if she doesn’t eat enough food to survive.’

      1. Slightly Above Average Bear*

        Mabel may already be having dental problems.
        I agree that she should be taken to the vet now, rather than in 2 weeks. A cat’s health can deteriorate rapidly once weight loss becomes noticeable.

    4. mreasy*

      Wet food is so much better for cats! For dental health, dental chewy or dry treats will help. I don’t know if there is much you can do, unless maybe sending an article from a good source online about why wet food is better for their kidney and thyroid health, among other things?

      1. KoiFeeder*

        I remember a previous thread someone was waxing lyrical about some kind of Virbank enzymatic chews. Maybe those might be worthwhile?

    5. Texan In Exile*

      Turns out that dry food is a factor in cats developing kidney disease. Ask me how I know.

      I don’t know if that’s enough to convince your roommate, but our 14 year old cat almost died from kidney disease. She went into this awful crisis where she vomited violently and horribly for a few days, stopped eating, lost about 25% of her weight, and became completely lethargic. I fed her pureed food and water with a syringe for five days until we could get her to the vet.

      A few days later, the vet diagnosed her with kidney disease. We had to give her subcutaneous fluids daily and medication that she did not like.

      We didn’t know if she was going to survive. And we thought we might have to give her the fluids for the rest of her life, which meant we might never be able to leave town because who can you ask to take care of your cat like that?

      Fortunately, she has recovered and is her loud eating and drinking (no subcutaneous fluids necessary) self again. She is on an (expensive) prescription wet diet, but I wish we had known about the dry food/kidney disease relationship ten years ago.

      Also – we had not been taking our cats to the vet during covid. Our vet had retired and we didn’t like the chain that bought his practice.

      But guess what? Senior cats have special needs! And you need get that senior cat panel because the bloodwork and urine analysis and fecal analysis might reveal kidney problems well before a crisis. Kidney disease cannot be cured but it can be managed. The sooner it is caught, the better.

    6. Qwerty*

      Roomie needs to hear the diet advice from the vet. If she can’t move up her appointment, then she can call them and tell them her concerns so they can give advice. You aren’t going to win the wet food battle but they can explain it to her or recommend higher calorie dry food.

      Cut down the number of treats. Right now Mabel doesn’t see a need to eat her food. She’d rather eat treats. Or mix the treats in with her dry food so that she’ll eat a bit more of it to get to them.

    7. Cookie*

      I agree with the advice to get Mabel to the vet ASAP. Also, wet food is lower in calories by volume than dry food, for what it’s worth.

      My cat hates wet food. He lost weight on it, because he wouldn’t eat it. I tried many different kinds, and he would either ignore it, or enthusiastically eat it for one meal, then refuse it, and many varieties gave him diarrhea. He will only eat dry food consistently. He also hates home-cooked food. My vet gave prescription kibble the okay as long as he’s drinking water, and he does…immediately after eating, he drinks as much as he needs, and then at random times. I know he’s at increased risk of kidney disease, but he was at risk of starving previously.

      That said, he vomits more often than other cats I’ve had; he has tests scheduled to make sure his organs are okay. It’s a journey with this one. I’m monitoring closely and working with the vet. Which I would recommend for anyone whose cat has a mysterious health problem!

      1. Cookie*

        Meant to add: I adopted this cat from a shelter at 7 years old. The previous owner established this dry food preference and it is tough to change a cat at this age. I tried.

      2. Claire*

        I have a cat who is the same way – he refuses any wet food, from the cheapest crap to the most expensive fancy custom stuff, and will only eat dry food. Every few months I get a notion to try him with something new but he just sniffs it, looks at me with disgust, and then ignores it. Every time. He had one episode of bad gastro health stuff a few years back and wound up on IV fluids in the vet clinic for a few days, so he’s been on single-protein dry food for sensitive stomachs at the vet’s recommendation ever since. We discussed the issue of trying to get him onto wet food and they attempted it while he was in the clinic, but it wasn’t successful, so in the end the vet said that consistently eating the dry food with plenty of water intake was the best option He does eat the yoghurt-style treats and drinks plenty of water, and I monitor that carefully, but so far he hasn’t had any further health issues from it.

    8. KatEnigma*

      Have you considered that wet food is more expensive than dry and your roommate can’t comfortably afford it as a twice a day thing, but doesn’t want to admit that?

      The reason dry food only is associated with kidney disease is because cats seldom drink enough water, and need the little fluids they get from wet food. A pet fountain instead of a water dish will sometimes coax a cat into drinking more.

      As with anything, the next time she wants to talk about it, sit her down and say that you’ve given her the only solution you can think of, so you’re done talking about the situation until she either tries your plan or the vet gives her a good reason not to. Then refuse to engage further about it.

      1. Cookie*

        My friend’s cat will only drink from the pet fountain, and he is getting enough water that way. Also he hates wet food and lives on dry…he’s like 14 years old now, so far healthy.

    9. Chauncy Gardener*

      My cat has always been small and slim (7 pounds). She’s now about 14 and at her last vet appointment she had lost half a pound!! She did not have a thyroid issue, but the vet said that canned cat food is now recommended for all cats. We had only been feeding her dry. So we immediately switched to canned and she has gained back her weight and is doing really well. She is still a grazer, so we feed her a bit several times per day.

    10. Gnome*

      Try adding a bit of water to a small amount of the cat food. It often makes it smell better to the cat. See if that changes the appetite. For Reasons, our cat is on mostly dry food, but sometimes stops eating as much (of his prescription food) because he wants the other cat’s food… The water helps.

      It doesn’t sound like hyperthyroidism to me, when my cats have gotten that, typically closer to age 10-15, they are ravenous and still dropping weight.

      Perhaps they can call the vet and ask if they should move the appointment up?

      Also, my cats never eat as much when they are getting a hairball. If you are in a place with seasons, the cat is probably shedding more now. Try brushing more and hairball treats

      1. Unum Hoc Scio*

        My pet store cat (yes, I know) is part Himalayan and they are prone to urinary crystals. This has a horrible symptom of blood in his pee. Feeding him wet food from smaller cans (which are rinsed out wit 1/4-1/3 of the can of water into his food) has helped a lot. And, yes, he is a grazer.
        Whether it is urinary crystals or something to do with his/her kidneys, the extra water helps.
        Be sneaky. Try to get the veterinarian visit closer. Snuggle the cat and spoil him/her. Whatever you do is better than ignoring the problem

        1. Gnome*

          That’s why my cat is on prescription food. But there are issues with the wet version. That’s why I sometimes add water to the dry. He also seems to like it better that way.

    11. Morning reader*

      Not a solution for your current problem, but I recommend regularly weighing your cat. That way you can catch sudden weight loss or gain. Can often be the first noticeable sign of trouble.
      As for the roommate, perhaps this would violate your friendship, but personally, I’d just feed the cat wet food myself. You live with her, right? If she was not feeding a child properly, I think it would be ok to sneak the kid some food. Same applies here. (Assuming you know enough about the kid/cat that you’re not giving them something they’re allergic to, for instance.)

  21. sewsandreads*

    Just feeling a little bit excited (and a little exhausted) because I’ve submitted my first assignment for my masters studies! I actually attempted this a year ago almost to the month, but health issues made that next to impossible.

    So here I go, assignment one down, and one more to go in this unit! Sending good vibes to the other AAM readers currently studying, whatever level that may be.

    1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

      Congrats! I had started my masters in Fall 2019 (just before Covid) and graduated this past May! It feels great when you finish, trust me!

  22. J.B.*

    Does anyone have fantasy book recommendations for a kid who’s an advanced reader but not ready for young adult yet? Someone turned my daughter on to the Wings of Fire series which will fortunately take a while, then she wants more things with dragons probably although gryphons might work too.

    1. Ildrummer*

      The Dragonriders of Pern is an enormous YA series by Anne McCaffrey and is very approachable for younger ages. I read them when I was 9 or 10. There are some very light adult themes (indications of sexual relationships beyond spouses) to consider in accordance with your parenting values, though.

      1. allathian*

        Mmm. There are also pretty explicit descriptions of sexual violence… The Pern books are essentially bodice-ripper romances in a light sci-fi setting (The easiest way to offend Anne McCaffrey when she was alive was to suggest that she wrote fantasy).

        The Harper Hall trilogy featuring Menolly the harper are an exception, because they’re written as YA.

        Granted, my parents never censored my reading when I was a kid, and I first read the Pern books when I was about 13. They gave me the first three “Earth’s Children” books by Jean M. Auel for my 15th birthday, so they were definitely not worried about me getting exposed to adult themes.

        1. KatEnigma*

          Yeah.. I was going to say there’s an awful lot of sex in Pern… Anne McCaffrey was a romance writer before she went to Fantasy.

          1. Lilo*

            The whole “forced to have sex during dragon mating” thing is somewhat used as a romantic trope which really, really hasn’t aged well.

            I read those as a teen and in hindsight, not the best idea. Some of her other books involve some pretty explicit child abuse as well.

            1. KatEnigma*

              And child abuse that isn’t necessarily tagged as child abuse, either.

              I actually like the series since her son completely took over, and specifically like the series he was writing on his own much better than the ones he collaborated with her.

              This led to my husband and I discussing when we’ll let our own son read them (with discussions as he does) and talking about what we might allow our own kid to read vs what we’d recommend for someone else’s kid.

            2. Ildrummer*

              Wow, I completely forgot about some of these themes. Sorry for the questionable suggestion and thanks for following up with more info.

          2. allathian*

            Not fantasy, light sci-fi. She makes it clear in the introduction of every book that the dragons were genetically engineered by humans, and like I said in an earlier post, she’d take offence if you called her a fantasy writer. I have no idea why, but it was a hang-up of hers.

        2. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

          Speaking of “Earth’s Children”, it’s pretty much not worth it after the fourth (“The Plains of Passage”). I was bitterly disappointed in the last three, thinking, “I waited so long for THIS?”

      2. Bagpuss*

        I wouldn’t class them as YA. Depending on the specific book there’s a lot of sex and violence and a lot of very problematic relationships, not to mention low-lower homophobia.
        I read them from a pretty young age but having reread as an adult I wouldn’t recommend them- definitely (re)read them yourself first

      3. KoiFeeder*

        It is NOT a YA series. I mean, I read them in third grade and skipped over the “kissy scenes,” and Ruth the white dragon is a load-bearing pillar of my mental health, but it is very much not a YA series.

        1. allathian*

          Good point about Ruth. The first time I read the book at 13, I *wanted to be* Ruth so badly I could taste it. The other dragons were uninteresting by comparison, but Ruth felt like a real person.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            I’m also asexual. No one (well, no one who isn’t textually wrong or unpleasant) considers Ruth broken for it. The White Dragon was very important for me while I was going through puberty because, hey, someone else has had the same experience! Yeah, they’re An Actual Dragon, but that just makes it even cooler.

            1. allathian*

              Yes, I can see why that’d be the case. I was a fairly late developer, and still saw boys more as potential friends than anything else at 13. I was rather tomboyish, and most of my friends were boys, until suddenly they didn’t want to have anything to do with me when I hit puberty in earnest.

              The first time or two that I read the Pern books, I skimmed past the kissy bits. It did hit me like a load of bricks when I was 16 or so and dealing with my first unrequited crushes, though.

      4. Lilo*

        Adding to the chorus of absolutely not. There is a lot of sexual content, including sexual violence, in that series.

      5. Dark Macadamia*

        I loved the Harper Hall trilogy as a 5th grader and tried ONE Dragonriders book as a teen which basically started with a rape scene. I found it incredibly disturbing and never even tried any of the others.

        JB, I definitely think Dragonsong and its sequels would be great for your kid (there is one implied sex scene in the second one but it’s the kind of thing a younger reader might not even pick up on. I didn’t the first couple times I read it as a tween) but the author’s other books are not YA.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      I honestly don’t know how to put together “advanced reader” with “not ready for young adult.” Do you mean not ready for chapter books without illustrations? What age are we talking about here? That being said, my kid on the spectrum who loves unicorns is very into the Phoebe and Her Unicorn graphic books. That might fit.

      1. allathian*

        A friend of mine in the US has a daughter who taught herself to read when she was 3 years old, just by watching her brother do his homework. She was fascinated by letters and words, and would read everything she got her hands on, regardless of whether she understood the content or not. When she was 6 years old, she was reading things like Scientific American and National Geographic cover to cover. Fiction never interested her, because age-appropriate content was presented in a format that was too simplistic for her taste. She only got interested in fiction when she went to middle school and was allowed to read adult books.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          My niece taught herself to read because my brother was reading The Lord of the Rings to her, but wasn’t going fast enough to suit her.

        2. Lilo*

          I have a 3 year old who can read and was an advanced reader myself and something that’s really crucial to remember is that being advanced in reading doesn’t necessarily mean being advanced socially or emotionally. So it’s important to pay attention to content.

      2. J.B.*

        Not interested in the type of themes that tend to be young adult – relationships and definitely not dystopia. More excited about pure magic and definitely icked by kissing.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I am out of touch with the conventions of modern YA. I was thinking reading level more than thematic content.

          So how about going all in? An advanced reader should be able to handle Tolkien.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              That is where I would start, though many young readers quickly move on to The Lord of the Rings.

            2. RandomBiter*

              The Hobbit was probably my intro to fantasy closely followed by The Lord of the Rings and The King of Elfland’s Daughter.

        2. I'm A Little Teapot*

          I’m not current on YA books, but Tamora Pierce might be a good option. Patricia C Wrede as well. Not all YA books are going to have romance and sex, you just have to find them.

          At some point, reading level no longer functionally limits reading, and at that point set the kid loose on the library. If a book isn’t enjoyed, then stop reading it.

      3. Mrs. Pommeroy*

        I presume j.b. means the kid reads quickly, has no problem with complicated sentence structure, and understands all she reads but is not yet (emotionally, psychologically) old enough for the topics that come up in YA books, like love, peer pressure, sex (in the widest sense), drugs, …
        My kid is definitely one of those and the only way I’ve found to work with this is have my kid read a LOT of books. Just yesterday in the afternoong we brought 20 books home from the library, and my kid has already read one of them – a novel that has 130+ pages…

    3. Ranon*

      Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C Wrede, categorized as YA but my six year old loves listening to them. Plenty of dragons and tongue in cheek use of fantasy tropes and some delightfully feminist lead characters, no adult themes.

      Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books starting with The Wee Free Men, no dragons but plenty of magic and a great use of advanced vocabulary with definitions baked into the narrative.

      The Phantom Tollbooth is a classic for a reason and has great wordplay for a kiddo who’s getting really into words.

      1. Lilo*

        +1 to the Enchanted Forest series. My mom and I made mousse together after reading that one.

        I don’t know the kid’s age here but I second chatting with the librarian.

      2. Wink the Book*

        +1 To all these woth a maybe on the Dragon Blood series by Jane Yolen.

        But the EnchNted Forest books are A DELIGHT.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      By young adult do you mean the love triangle stuff/relationship angst that tends to crop up? If so…

      Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books
      Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain books
      Nesbit’s Psammead book (on the old fashioned end)
      Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising Series

      1. Melanie Cavill*

        FYI on this, the fourth Tiffany Aching book gets quite dark. That’s probably the one I’d hold off on for a year or two, based off OP’s request.

      2. J.B.*

        All good ones I remember reading dark is rising. I don’t know that she’d like that because too many humans but Terry Pratchett YA might work well. He also has a book set in discworld something about Maurice (who is a cat) and his rodents, and the Carpet People. I also have some books she might get into if we read the first together.

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        +1 for Prydain.

        Has kiddo read any of the books in the Rick Riordan Presents line? It features mythological stories written by authors from a variety of cultural backgrounds, and a lot of them feature very cool mythological creatures.

        I also highly recommend Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston.

    5. Anon4now*

      Maybe the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini. I admit I haven’t read it since I was 11 or 12 myself but I remember lots of magic, very dragon oriented and not a crazy amount of romance but others might have a fresher memory.

      And if you’re open to one off books, is there a more iconic dragon than Smaug? Big fan of the Hobbit for young advanced readers.

      1. Rosyglasses*

        It’s a good series – I’d also recommend Jonathan stroud – his demon series is really fascinating and I’d peg it about 5th grade level. It’s been years since I’ve read it but I don’t remember there being any of the relationship/coming of age items.

    6. RagingADHD*

      Your friendly kid/teen section librarian at your local branch is dying for you to ask them.

      I make a point now to always take questions like “help me find this book I can’t remember the name of” and “can you recommend books that are this, not that” to my local library staff.

      They get really excited to have a good, interesting question.

    7. Lady Alys*

      Terry Pratchett? Tiffany Aching books for sure, but also just about any of the rest of them – Lady Sybil Vimes keeps a dragon sanctuary after all!

      “The Dark is Rising” series by Susan Cooper.

      And these aren’t fantasy (although there are dragons in the form of Lord Emsworth’s various sisters), but maybe PG Wodehouse? Very lighthearted and almost no kissing.

      1. Clisby*

        I love PG Wodehouse’s books, especially when Galahad Threepwood comes to the aid of a family young’un who’s been banished to Blandings Castle to get them away from an unsavory entanglement.

      1. Llellayena*

        Actually, most of Tamora Pierce’s books would be good. Wild Magic would be great for bringing in (eventually) griffons and dragons, though you might need to start with The Lioness Quartet first for background. While she does occasionally touch on romance/kissing, it’s never graphic and is easily skimmed through without missing the main storyline.

        1. AnonyMouse*

          I think Circle of Magic would be the best fit. Also I disagree that you need to read the Lioness Quartet before Wild Magic, they stand alone very well. The Alanna/Lioness books have the most focus on romance IMO.

          1. Tau*

            I agree with this comment! Circle of Magic has a big focus on found family/platonic relationships which was a breath of fresh air when I found them. IIRC, the first time we get any romance involving one of the MCs is Will of the Empress (so, nine books into the series). The second quartet is a little more adult but the first one would definitely work for a younger reader. I’m always a little sad that I didn’t discover this series until I was an adult because I think I would have adored it as a kid.

            Wild Magic can be read alone (you will miss out on some “omg look it’s X!” squee and also be spoiled for the Lioness quartet, but I read the first book of this and the first book of Lioness in parallel and it worked) and is great if you skip the last book, which introduces a romance with a significant age gap and prior mentor/student relationship that was squicky for a lot of people including me. The good news is that although there’s some overarching plot and some mysteries not answered until book 4, each book is fairly self-contained.

            Other Tortall series: I forget the details of Protector of the Small, but IIRC there’s relationship and crushes in books 3-4 although they’re less prominent than in Lioness. The Trickster series includes a romance although it’s not the main focus (also I just… don’t like those books very much). Provost’s Dog I would probably not recommend for a young reader because it gets pretty dark in a lot of places; the writing style is also not an easy one as it uses a lot of medieval slang.

        1. Hex Code*

          Yeah, I’m like, personally offended it took this far down in the thread for someone to mention Tamora Pierce! That should have been like #1.

    8. Not A Manager*

      Depending on her reading level, Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander is a fairly easy reader about a boy whose cat takes him on adventures to different historical time periods.

      A more sophisticated reader might like The Keys To The Kingdom series by Garth Nix.

      Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy doesn’t have any romance per se. It can get a bit scary in my opinion.

      If you can track it down (I think it’s out of print), a book by Gerald Durrell called The Talking Parcel is pure fun, almost no peril.

    9. Bagpuss*

      Stephanie Burgis’s’Dragon with a chocolate heart’ , Neil Gaiman’s ‘Coraline’ & ‘The Graveyard Book’ , some of Diana Wynne Jones (maybe Witch Week as a starter. ) (not many dragons except in the first of these but they are fantasy!)
      Maybe the Earthsea books?
      I would definitely not recommend Anne McCaffrey, a lot of her stuff has not aged at all well

    10. slashgirl*

      You don’t say your daughter’s age but based on Wings of Fire: The Last Dragon Chronicles by Chris d’Lacey; there are 7 books in the series and most are fairly long–my good grade 4 &5 readers enjoy them; he also has The Erth Dragons which has 3 so far. Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke.

      From your comments she prefers non human fantasy. Have you tried the Warrior series by Erin Hunter? It’s about cats and there 4 different sub-series. There’s a website, warriorcats(dot)com

    11. KoiFeeder*

      The Flight of Dragons by Peter Dickinson- it’s spec evo, not fiction, so it might be a little dense for your reader.

      A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan- this is a really good combination of spec evo and fiction, but it may be a little human-heavy.

      Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons by Dr. Ernest Drake- okay, technically not narrative fiction, still very delightful.

      The Dragon Chronicles by Malcolm Saunders- this may be a little more dystopian than requested, but everyone wins at the end.

      The Game of Rat and Dragon- I have gone through almost as many paperbacks of this one as I have of the Pern Omnibus. Just trust me.

      Pit Dragon Chronicles- Very human-centric, but still good.

      Star Dragon- Her mileage may vary; I wasn’t impressed with the POV humans very much.

      Pip and Flinx series- I started at Midflinx, which I have been enjoying, but I need to actually read the series in order to give you a better recommendation. Check for yourself?

      The Dragon Masters by Jack Vance- this might be a little much, and technically it’s not about dragons persay, but the irony is really, really delightful.

      The Dragonback series by Zahn- okay, I haven’t read this one, but I’ve been meaning to.

      The Last Dragonlord- stuck this one at the bottom of the list because it does have sex scenes and your mileage is going to vary here. I read it around the same time I was reading Pern, and I just skipped the kissy stuff.

      1. Lilo*

        A Natural History of Dragons, at least the first book, heavily involves a miscarriage as a plot point. I would not give that to a young kid.

      2. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

        Flinx is good. Alan Dean Foster seems to be pretty good at walking the line on content.

        Definitely start from the beginning, otherwise a lot of stuff will not make sense.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Yeah, starting at book seven… I mean, I think I get everything, but I need to get the first book because this is not the optimal way to be introduced to the series!

      3. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

        How about David Edding’s Pawn of Prophecy series? (His others tend to get a bit more explicit, but still discreet).

        1. Lilo*

          The but where the rabbit describes the warren being gassed. I read that at 14 and I can still remember being horrified. The cartoon is even worse.

          1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            There are definitely some tough parts, but I read it pretty young (I’m guessing 12 or 13?) and wasn’t scarred. Depends on the kid and how old they are I guess.

      1. EJ*

        That comment was for the dominant hand surgery above, oops

        For fantasy books for kids, my kids love Brandon Mull! Fablehaven series and Dragonwatch series are their favorites, the other series are OK but not quite as engrossing.

      2. EJ*

        I lost my real response to this thread! My kids (6, 9 and 11) all LOVE Brandon Mull! Fablehaven and Dragonwatch are their favorite series of his.

    12. Jackalope*

      Diana Wynne Jones wrote a duology of Dark Lord of Derkholm and The Year of the Gryphon. It’s a lot of fun, although the first book does rely on having something of a working knowledge about fantasy tropes. The second book (Year of the Gryphin) can be read separately though if needed.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        I loved her Dalemark Quartet. No dragons but some very cool magic and world building, plus time travel in the last book

        1. Hallowiener*

          I was going to recommend Chrestomanci. Charmed Life is still a comfort read for me, and as an adult, I have a massive book crush on Chrestomanci.

    13. fueled by coffee*

      These may be dated because they are books that I remember repeat-borrowing from my elementary and middle school libraries in the 2000s, but:

      -Dealing with Dragons (Patricia Wrede)
      -The Two Princesses of Bamarre (Gail Carson Levine)
      -Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Grace Lin)

    14. KatEnigma*

      Don Callander’s Mancer series would be fine. Various creatures come and go from that series and it’s not even as intense as YA. In fact, nothing truly bad ever happens in the series. Of which there are a zillion.

      Christopher Stasheff’s Wizard in Rhyme books are clean and appropriate. His Warlock of Gramarye series is also good, but doesn’t have the dragons and gryphons as prominently.

      After that, I second anything by Patricia Wrede, Tamora Pierce, E Nesbit or Dianne Wynne Jones.

      And if she gets into Fantasy but doesn’t need mystical creatures, David Eddings is my favorite. Start with the Belgariad. The little romance is all “Fade to Black”

    15. AnonyMouse*

      T.A. Barron’s Merlin series sounds like a good fit!

      Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins, middle reader level, but I read it as an adult and enjoyed it.

    16. Lilo*

      I think Percy Jackson might work. Riordan also has an Egyptian series that I’ve only read the first one of.

      A LOT has come out since we were kids (or my younger sister was little). So talking to teachers/librarians is a good idea.

      1. J.B.*

        Riordan’s Egyptian series has been made into graphic novels for anyone who is reading this and interested in reccs too. And Rick Riordan presents features maybe newer authors with stories fr lot of different cultures (like there’s one about Hindu gods).

    17. Yet Another Unemployed Librarian*

      You have probably already been through the Dragon Masters series, they are a little lower level but they’re fun and there’s like 21 books and counting. The Last Firehawk is another Scholastic Branches fantasy series that was similar, no dragons but lots of other creatures.

      I have the same issue with my son, he’s 7 and has been devouring the Percy Jackson series. I’ve been reading them too and I’ve been impressed with the quality. There is a tiny bit of romance as in, some characters slowly realize how much they like each other over the course of several books and they kiss once or twice near the end.

      Seconding NOT Pern for a kid these days. I personally love Tamora Pierce – those are also a bit more for older kids too as they do tackle things like girls getting their periods and stuff.

    18. Bookworm in Stitches*

      I hope it’s okay to recommend other fantasy series and authors that may not include dragons but are highly rated by student readers.

      Series:
      Aru Shah
      Inkheart
      Keeper of the Lost Cities
      Nevermoor
      Vega Jane
      Dragon Rider

      Authors:
      Rick Riordan
      Cornelia Funke

    19. KatEnigma*

      Also, I forgot until my husband and I were talking about it- Diane Duane’s Young Wizard series. It’s more urban fantasy than strict fantasy, but it’s extremely well written and I like the feel of Hope she maintains. Plus, she edited the early books and re-released them a couple years ago to keep them appealing to a modern kids’ sensibilities. In the first books, the kids are 11.

    20. Girasol*

      Andre Norton’s Moonsinger and Beastmaster books are good stories with magical animal friends but from so long ago that hardly anyone even said the word “sex” out loud then.

    21. 00ff00Claire*

      One of my niblings loves Wings of Fire! They also have some mis-match between their reading ability and their interests/maturity. I can’t think of any books with dragons off the top of my head, but here are some ideas I that come to mind:

      The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. I’m a little biased because the movie was one of my favorites as a kid. Definitely has some nuanced themes but kind of in the same sense that The Hobbit does, not in sense of romance/dystopia (although there is some romance, I think). Stuff that will probably go over her head but I think the story should be OK age-wise.

      Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM.

      Look into Philip Reeve. It’s been a while since I’ve read any of his books, so I won’t recommend them per se, but I think the Larklight trilogy is aimed at younger tweens and doesn’t have the typical YA themes. I had to google to remember the name of that series, and it looks like he has some newer books that I’m not familiar with. One is called No Such Thing as Dragons and Amazon says it is targeted for 8-12, so it might be a possibility.

      Good luck finding books for your daughter! I’m always on the look-out for books for my niblings and it’s tricky when there is a mismatch between their decoding/fluency/vocabulary skills and their maturity + interests. I try to look for older (as in published longer ago) fiction books aimed close to this nibling’s actual age, because I personally have found that many newer children’s books are written in plainer language. It makes books for older kids more accessible for this nibling but unless the theme/content is just right there’s still a mismatch. Nibling prefers nonfiction, and I suspect this is partly why.

    22. Chauncy Gardener*

      For “vintage” recommendations: A Wrinkle in Time, perhaps? The Phantom Tollbooth? The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? Alice in Wonderland?
      No dragons though. Sorry!

      1. EJ*

        I love the Nevermoor series! Perfect for kids, too. I had on my calendar to buy Silverborn, the 4th book on Oct 10th only to find it got pushed back a whole year! Sad!

    23. HannahS*

      Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrigley (and its sequels)
      The Magic Circle series by Tamora Pierce
      A Hat Full of Sky
      The Hobbit
      Midnight for Charlie Bone and its sequels (caveat–these may not have aged well; I dimly recall liking them when I was about 9)
      A Wrinkle in Time
      Coraline (though possibly not for a more sensitive child)
      Inkheart

    24. Jackalope*

      After thinking about it a bit more, I remembered the Forbidden Library series by Django Wexler. I read it a few years ago and enjoyed it; clever fantasy with random fantastical beings (don’t remember if there are dragons but there are several other magical creatures) and I enjoyed the world. I don’t think it had romance in it, so either it didn’t or it was mild enough to forget. And not dystopian.

    25. 2QS*

      B. B. Alston’s ‘Amari’ books
      Catherynne M. Valente’s ‘Fairyland’ series
      Francesca Gibbons’s ‘A Clock of Stars’
      And maybe Rachel Hartman’s ‘Seraphina’

    26. Anonymous Cat*

      I loved one called My Father’s Dragon and I can still remember the artwork.

      As I recall it, a boy sets out to save a dragon and takes along things like chewing gum for supplies.

    27. marvin the paranoid android*

      I really loved Jane Yolen’s Pit Dragon Trilogy when I was in this category, maybe around 10 or 11. The series is about basically dragon fighting rings, though, so quite a bit of it revolves around cruelty to (imaginary) animals and people fighting against that. I haven’t read the books in years, but I remember them being quite moving and empathetic, although sometimes pretty sad.

      More recently I’ve enjoyed V.E. Schwab’s City of Ghosts, which is definitely middle grade and has a couple of sequels. As the title implies, about ghosts rather than dragons, but very charming. Some kids might find parts of it a bit creepy, depending on general ghost tolerance level.

    28. Bookreader*

      Hello! Something to try might be either the Nevermoor series, by an Australian author, similar to the early Harry Potter books in terms of content. Also Carole Wilkinson ‘Dragonkeeper’ is young kid appropriate.

    29. SarahKay*

      What about the Dragon Storm series by Alastair Chisholm, assuming it’s available in the US? Amazon reckons they’re aimed at ages 7-9, so no romance / sex, but I’m finding them fairly gripping. (Stressed at work, so reading light material currently.) Fantasy, and dragons, so hopefully will fit the bill.
      He’s also written three stand-alone novels, which I seem to recall are specifically aimed at the age just before YA, although more sci-fi than fantasy. Orion Lost, in particular, has an incredibly satisfying scene near the end where all the lead characters suddenly pull together to great effect.

    30. Silence*

      No mythical creatures but the silver brumby series has no human characters
      Some early Mercedes Lackey had griffins
      The hobbit, terry pratchet, Patricia c wede

  23. Teapot Translator*

    I saw on the Inntravel website that there are winter holidays in Europe that don’t revolve around skiing (or snowshoeing). I don’t ski and I do not enjoy snowshoeing.
    Does anyone know if we have something similar in Canada or in the United States? I’m in Canada. Most of what I found online for Canada revolves around skiing, and no one among my friends knows of any hotel (or other type of accommodation) where you can like go out the front door and go walking in the forest (as in, not taking the car to get to the trail). I can drive, I have a car, but it’s not something I enjoy, so it’s not something I want to on vacation. Thanks everyone!

    1. CTT*

      Are you looking for something more organized or just a trip to yourself where you choose-your-own-walking-adventure? If it’s the latter and if you are comfortable with airbnbs, I bet if you dug into some of the categories on their website like “national forest” or “countryside” you could find something close to you. The past two winters I’ve stayed in a tiny-house vacation community in the mountains near me that have trails that start inside the community and gone on some great walks.

      1. Teapot Translator*

        At this point, I’d like to see what the options are and then decide if there’s anything that fits my needs and my budget. I’ll check Airbnb, thanks!

    2. Ranon*

      There are definitely accommodations in northern Minnesota that have that “walk out the door to the trail” adjacency you’re looking for, but in the winter you’re likely looking at snowshoeing or cross country skiing once you’re out the door because there’s, well, a lot of snow! Depending on your timing/ luck with the weather you might be able to find winter hiking that doesn’t take snowshoes if the trails get used enough to pack everything down and there’s not a ton of snow when you travel.

      Are you looking for a winter holiday in a winter environment or looking to get away from winter? What activities inside or outside do you enjoy or would you be looking to do?

      1. Teapot Translator*

        I like hiking (there are trails in my province for winter hiking/walking instead of snowshoeing) and I can ice skate somewhat. I’m trying to see if there’s somewhere I can go where in the morning I can go out for an activity and then in the afternoon rest and read a book. So mix of relaxation and activity. Preferably, I can just park my car at the accommodation and only need to drive to go home.

    3. cucumber and dill*

      There are definitely places in the gulf islands in BC that would be like that (you might be walking on the beach), but it might be airb’n’b. Try Cortes Island, the north part of Vancouver Island. Maybe Haida Gwaii. (Caveat: you won’t need snowshoes, but maybe good rain gear).

    4. KatEnigma*

      Rocky Mountain National Park doesn’t shut down in winter. Some trails are closed to snowmobiles and some are just closed if the roads or trails are unsafe to travel, but it’s still open and my husband’s aunt and uncle (retired park rangers) spend many a winter day hiking on the mountain.

    5. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I will caution that there are trails that are safe to just sort of wander down with no planning and there are trails where you should pack the stuff needed to survive for several days outside just in case something happens, even if you only plan to be gone a few hours. Knowing which is which is key, and people who aren’t from an area can have a hard time knowing what kind of trail they’re taking. If you’re going to an unfamiliar area, particularly for winter hiking, you definitely want to be sure which kind of trail you’re on before you get out of sight of your rental. Solo winter hiking is definitely a thing you can do, but you either need to be conservative in where you go or do a lot of contingency planning before you leave.

      I’m not familiar with winter hiking in Canada specifically, but as someone who has lived in the American parts of the PNW all of my life, under-prepared hiking is something I’ve seen play out badly here both in real life in minor ways and in a variety of tragic news stories in major ways. Most of the wilderness trails around here are at higher elevations, so would have snow in the winter and not be suitable for casual solo woods-wandering rather than planned hikes where you let someone know your route and when you’re expected back, and take supplies so you can overnight in the woods if something goes wrong. Many of them turn into ski trails rather than hiking trails in the winter anyway.

      I can certainly think of specific tamer areas to do an hour or three of winter walking in the woods that would probably not have snow in my area (unless we got a big snowstorm, of course), but those would be city parks with forested trails and I’d be surprised if a vacationer from out of the area organized a vacation around them or was aware of their existence. I guess you could look at cities in your proposed tourist roaming area and see if any of them have large, forested city parks? Maybe coastal B.C. would be a good place to look, since the ocean would moderate the temperatures a bit? I’ve only done urban B.C. trips in the winter rather than wilderness ones, though.

    6. Brrrrr*

      If your budget allows, it would definitely be worth a call or email to Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge to see how many walkable/groomed trails they have in the winter. They are on 700 acres of land so while of course their website mentions a lot of cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat-biking I would be very surprised if they don’t also have walking paths.

      We once spent Christmas at Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and it was surprisingly affordable. But the on-property outdoor activities there are more limited since they are located half-way up the mountain and don’t have the landmass that Jasper Park Lodge does.

  24. Rage*

    Today is my Stupid-a-versary: the date, 28 years ago, when I married the person who was probably the worst thing that ever happened to me.

    I won’t go into all of the (pretty awful) details, but when I got out 14 months later it was 15 months too late, if you know what I mean.

    Since I believe that we are doomed to repeat history if we don’t study it, I therefore also believe we will make the same stupid mistakes if we don’t make a mockery of them. So I celebrate every year: usually with cupcakes at work and snarky commentary.

    But today is a Saturday, so I’m headed up to Topeka, Kansas for an event called “Station 9 3/4” – obviously HP-themed but not breaking any copyrights. I’m going as Professor Harlan, Preceptor of Magizology at Plainsward Academy of Magic. My train just happens to be passing through the station so I’ll be pushing a large cart piled with cases and crates and one tiny (live) owl in a cage. Promoting wildlife rehabilitation, conservation, and the org I volunteer for (rehab for birds of prey).

    So if you’re in Topeka, and planning to attend the event, come find me today! Wish me a very happy stupid-a-versary and I’ll give you a special gift. :)

    1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      Oh that sounds absolutely AWESOME! (Your day in Topeka, not the 28-years gone “stupidity”)
      I hope you have a great day!
      And since I can’t just up and go to Topeka I’ll just Wish You A Very Happy Stupid-A-Versary from here!! (I’m glad you got out and are living your life well)

    2. Really*

      Happy stupaversary! You got out when you realized it was a mistake. There are many many people who take longer or don’t leave so — be proud of yourself!!

  25. Jazz and Manhattans*

    I am looking for recommendations for a new gas range/stove. We purchased a high end dual fuel (Dacor – gas for the range; electric for the oven) when we moved into our house and it was fine (perhaps one issue for the repairman to come out) but once the warranty ran out all bets were off and we had continued issues until here we are without an oven for months and we have to use the range by using a lighter to light it. I wouldn’t mind putting money into another high end stove but not if we are constantly going to have to fix it. Anyone have a gas appliance that has worked well for them *once it came out of warranty*? It doesn’t have to be dual fuel, I’m thinking that gas range/gas oven would be fine.

    1. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

      My Whirlpool builder’s package gas range/stove isn’t has been working like a charm for 12 years.

    2. mreasy*

      If it’s an issue with the pilot light, it should be a relatively easy fix – my crappy rental apartment Kenmore has the pilot go out once a year or so but it’s only once had to have been actually worked on (otherwise just relit). It keeps on trucking for who knows how many years.

      1. Jazz and Manhattans*

        Unfortunately not a pilot light issue but planned obsolescence by the manufacturer. The issue is with the panel that controls the stove. It can’t be fixed.

    3. Not A Manager*

      We got a Bertazzoni when we redid our kitchen about ten years ago. It falls between the standard brands and the luxury brands price-wise. I like the visual aesthetic, and we’ve had no problems with its performance out of warranty (unlike previous stoves by Viking and Decor). This is probably because it has *zero* bells and whistles. You get a gas stovetop and a gas oven, and that’s it. The model we got has a cubby at the bottom that we use for storage, but it looks like maybe a different model would use that space for a broiler or a warming oven. Our oven bakes from the bottom and broils from the top.

      1. Jazz and Manhattans*

        Thanks I will check them out! I’m not about the bells and whistles, I just want something that will last for the amount of money I spend on it! I’m thinking of moving away from the dual fuel as I *think* that concept is better if you do baking (breads and such) and we don’t. Just standard roasting of things.

      2. Rose*

        I also have a Bertazzoni that I will freely admit I got because it is pretty :) I also have a Miele combi steam oven, which I use when I need an oven; I have only used the Bertazzoni oven a handful of times.

    4. Maryn*

      The house we bought came with a high-end dual stove–gas for the burners, electric for the ovens. This Thermador is now nearly 24 years old and has needed zero service in the three years we’ve been here. It’s also by far the best stove I’ve ever used; I’ve had to adjust several recipes for faster cooking times. If something happened to it, I’d replace it with another Thermador in a heartbeat.

    5. Cookie*

      I have the GE Profile dual fuel and I’m pretty happy with it overall. Mine was an open box unit and I had to have a repair service make an adjustment to the convection fan (it was loud) but it’s otherwise been great for the 1.5 years I’ve had it. It has a steam clean oven, an actual iron (not painted) griddle that fits over the middle burners, and a warming drawer. My only issue is that it’s a slide-in, and my old house’s counters aren’t that deep, so it pokes out a couple of inches…which doesn’t affect the performance at all.

    6. Double A*

      Different perspective: We replaced our gas stove not long after we bought our house because it was on its last legs. In the years since, I’ve learned about how bad gas is for the environment both inside and outside and I regret not looking into how to transition to electric. Now we’ve got a perfectly fine stove and it will be another 15 years til I’m willing to make the transition.

      Just something to think about at a time that making such a transition could be feasible.

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        We recently switched from gas to induction. We are serious amateur cooks and had the gas line extended to the kitchen for the stove about 15 years ago. The range we installed at the time was fine but not great. I’m the baker in the family and I wanted to upgrade to a dual-fuel model, so I started looking around and was surprised to see the info on air quality. We have solar panels so the switch to electricity really cuts down on our fossil fuel use. A standard electric – even a high-end standard electric – would not have met our needs. We LOVE our induction range. It’s just as responsive as gas. It’s way easier to clean The oven is wonderful – it’s bigger, it has more racks, and it’s a convection oven. We had to replace all our cookware except the good ol’ cast-iron pans and it was totally, totally worth it (most of our cookware dates from our wedding in 1984, so it owed us nothing).

        1. CharlieBrown*

          I bought one of those induction hobs that sits on your countertop. The fan is somewhat loud, but other than that it’s great! You have so much more control over the temperature than you do with a gas or electric burner. If I were to buy another house, I would definitely go with an induction stove!

        2. Jazz and Manhattans*

          We’ve thought about induction as well especially as we get older and forget to turn things off! (I blame it on stress…)

        3. Cormorannt*

          Glad to hear this! We are replacing our gas range with an induction cooktop in our upcoming kitchen remodel. I’d read about indoor air quality issues but wasn’t overly concerned: We have a range hood that vents to the outside. I mentioned it in passing to my partner, who is the real cook in our family. He did a ton of research and got really excited about induction so we went for it. We have a lot of cast iron, but we will have to replace a few items. We will also have to upgrade our electrical panel, but we would have had to do that anyway if we ever wanted to get an electric car and put in a level 2 charger.

          1. Jay (no, the other one)*

            I agree about the outside vent. It’s nice not to need it every time I turn the stove on, though.

            We already had the electric car and level 2 charger – and a generator. We installed the generator after Sandy and upgraded the panel at the same time, and when we renovated the kitchen in 2016 we also had the electrician run the circuit for the charger, although we didn’t buy the car for another couple of years. My husband says the most expensive words in the English language are “might as well….”

        4. Unum Hoc Scio*

          TBH We were huge fans of gas stoves but moved to a place that has no gas available. When the electric stove we had died 10 years ago we looked into buying something new.

          We went induction.

          It’s faster to warm up than gas
          The cooktop cools faster than anything
          No humming
          No problem cleaning up.

          The only difference is that ALL your cookware must be magnetic (no aluminum) and that whatever cookware you have works best when it connects completely to the cooking surface. This means that you need to check any cookware with a magnet and, unfortunately, any cast iron needs to be as flat as possible (if it’s warped so that only 1/8 of it touches the cooking surface, it’s not great)

          Seriously, you might want to change your thinking on this