weekend open thread – February 18-19, 2023

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: A Quiet Life, by Ethan Joella. Three people in a small town figure out how to move forward after loss. It’s quiet and at times sad but also beautiful and affirming.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 1,027 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A reminder that the weekend posts are for relatively light discussion — think dinner party or office break room — and comments should ask questions and/or seek to discuss ideas. Recommendations or one to two updates on things you received advice about in the past are fine, but “here’s an update on my life” personal-blog-style posts are not. The full rules are here.

  2. Elle*

    I had a great variation of baked oatmeal this week. Check out Slender Kitchen’s Blueberry Oat Bars. You roast the blueberries in balsamic and brown sugar before adding the oat topping. It was amazing.

    1. Zephy*

      Ooh, brown-sugar balsamic glazed blueberries sound like a really good twist – I make baked oatmeal all the time, my favorite blueberry flavor was a blueberry-lemon-poppyseed one I did last summer, but I may need to give this one a try soon.

      1. Elle*

        This is the second oatmeal recipe where I’ve roasted the fruit first. Skinny taste has a banana pear one that is very good. Not as fast to make as other baked oatmeal’s but tastes great.

    2. Joie De Vivre*

      I used to think that baked oatmeal sounded nasty (eggs in my oatmeal? Yuck). But I tried some. Love it. Looking forward to trying some of these recipes.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      Budget Bytes has a great chocolate peanut butter baked oatmeal. I slice it like a brownie and eat it cold. It’s deadly.

  3. QuilterGirl*

    I have been invited to a baby shower, though at my advanced age funerals are more common.

    In lieu of cards, she’s requested children’s books. I’m already making a quilt, and I’m literally a little old lady on a fixed income (and I’ve waited all my life to be able to say that!). I’d prefer a $5 book but I realize that’s unlikely.

    Gross is good…on my short list is “Gary the Goose and His Gas On the Loose”. But any recommendations are greatly appreciated!

    1. But Not the Armadillo*

      Sandra Boynton’s board books are the best for little ones. Favorites include “Moo Baa La La La” (which I can still recite from memory) and “But Not the Hippopotamus.” Those and a number of her other titles can be found on Amazon for $5 or less.

      1. Anona*

        Boynton is the best, our personal favorite is The Barnyard Dance – maybe $7, but definitely under $10.

      2. QuilterGirl*

        See, what I can recite from memory is Disney’s Bambi “the new prince is born”….

        Gosh I’m so old! And super pumped to have made it to here! YEAH

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        Sandra Boynton and Mo Willems are the best of the current generation of writers of kids books.

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

        Yes! You can’t really go wrong with Boynton — they’re all great!

        I have been fond of giving *Go Dog, Go* (admittedly sexist but otherwise adorable and good for learning about concepts of size, space, etc.), any of the Richard Scarry books where everything is labeled (also admittedly sexist in terms of gender roles/careers, but maybe there are updated versions now? Great for learning all sorts of words), *Ada Twist, Scientist* (young Black girl scientist, not sexist at all), *Goodnight, Lab* (also featuring young Black girl scientist, a twist on *Goodnight, Moon*), *The Monster at the End of This Book* (spoiler: is Grover himself, who is the very one who has been telling you not to keep turning the pages).

    2. OtterB*

      My favorite kid’s books for baby presents are:
      Goodnight Gorilla, Peggy Rathmann
      Jamberry, Bruce Degen
      We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury (board book on this one currently on sale for $5 on Amazon)
      Sheep in a Jeep, Nancy Shaw & Margot Apple
      My Very First Mother Goose, Iona Opie and Rosemary Wells
      any number of Sandra Boynton books

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        Goodnight Gorilla is fabulous!! Just the right amount of anarchy before everyone settles down for a good night’s sleep.
        Jamberry is also very, very, very good.
        Ditto anything by Sandra Boynton.
        Thanks for stirring up fond memories of reading these aloud to my (long ago) small son.

        1. The OG Sleepless*

          One berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry! I’m going to be rhyming this all day in my head now. I found our 20+ year old copy of Jamberry recently and showed it to my 20+ year old son, and he didn’t even remember it. Hmph. Well, I remember reading it to you 10,000 times even if you don’t.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Authors, with sample book in parentheses:

        Sandra Boynton (Hippos Go Berserk), Peggy Rathmann (Ten Minutes ‘Til Bedtime), Helen Oxenbury (I Can), Alexandra Day (Good Dog Carl).

        Amazon suggests several of these would be $5.

        Since we’ve brought up Oxenbury, for slightly older kids I want to toss in a recommendation for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with illustrations by Helen Oxenbury. The classic story, with illustrations that could have been made yesterday or 25 years ago (actual time) or 70 years ago–it gently brings it forward in time without changing a word.

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Gross but useful would be a potty training book like “Oh Crap!” or “Everybody Poops” or “Once Upon a Potty.”

    4. Hazel*

      Each Peach Pear Plum $6.99 or Bear Snores On $7.99 (we give this a lot as it’s a more recent classic so less likely to get duplicates).

    5. Bluebell*

      Snoozers is a fantastic collection of seven Sandra Boynton stories in one board book, including “I’m not tired”
      which was a favorite of my daughter. It’s $10. Also seconding Good Night Gorilla.

    6. Yet Another Unemployed Librarian*

      My kids really loved this cloth book made by Lamaze called “Peek-a-boo Forest”. It has crinkly flaps and cute animals with big eyes and it’s washable. So it’s a book but kinda a toy also and is something they enjoy at a little bit younger age than other books, in my experience.

    7. Dark Macadamia*

      Lots of board books are in the $5 vicinity!

      Seconding (thirding?) Goodnight Gorilla, it’s so cute. Dinosaur Kisses is hilarious. Dear Zoo (lift a flap). Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?

      For gross, someone gifted my kids a book just called “Poop!” by Beatriz Giménez de Ory. It’s one of those ones with like the slats that slide open when you turn the page to reveal a new image? Anyway I absolutely hate it but my kids love it and it would be perfect if you’re looking for a yucky board book lol. It’s educational about different kinds of animal poop and just detailed enough to be super disgusting while still having cute pictures.

      1. Lozi*

        Oh, Dear Zoo! I forgot about that one! Like everyone else, we loved Goodnight Gorilla and Moo Baa La La La. Another Boynton favorite is Doggies: a Counting and Barking Book.

    8. Emma*

      On the Target website you can narrow a search by price, and there are a ton $5 or less. Seconding Sandra Boynton. Also the Spot books, and Pout Pout fish.

    9. Double A*

      As a bonus, I have not minded reading the following books over and over:

      “My Friends” by Taro Gomi has been beloved by both my kids (it’s not gross itself, but he is the author of “Everyone Poops,” a classic).

      “Baby Goes to Market” by Atinuke. My son (1.5 years) has been so-so on books so far but he LOVES this one. Probably because it’s his fantasy that someone would just hand him 6 bananas.

      “Room on the Broom” by Julia Donaldson.

      You can get most of these in the $7-10 range and maybe $5 used.

    10. Children's Librarian*

      The two books I get for baby showers are “Global Babies” (5.49 on Amazon) because babies love looking at babies, and Tana Hoban’s “Black & White” (4.59 on Amazon) because high contrast colors are good for developing eye sight. Plus, these aren’t the standard books that people usually give so I don’t usually have to worry that they’ve already been given a copy.

    11. Anono-me*

      ‘Snowy Day’, ‘There’s a Monster at the End of this Book” and Blue Truck.

      If you have a used bookstore nearby, you may want to check to see if they have any new books. (Sometimes the one near me has new ones. I’m guessing overstock or people selling duplicate gifts, but I don’t know why for sure.)

    12. The teapots are on fire*

      Here’s another way to look at it: You know what? You are making a quilt. What a lovely gift! You do not have to cough up a book.

      1. Just Another Cog*

        My thought, too. The quilt is plenty. Books are great, too, but you are making a treasure. That’s a lucky baby!

      2. QuilterGirl*

        She has requested books instead of cards. I wasn’t planning on a card tbh but I’m trying to just go with it.

        This new thing of organizing your own baby shower I’m told is A Thing Now but deep down I’m horrified.

        1. MassChick*

          It is a request plus you hadn’t planned on a card. So just (!!) your handmade quilt is great. Others will give books.

        2. eeeek*

          My inner Miss Manners is also deep down horrified when I hear of anyone hosting their own wedding / baby shower. It seems very “gimme gifts,” which is unseemly.
          But then I think about modern constellations of friends and wonder if people just don’t offer to host such parties for their friends any more?

          1. Emma*

            Exactly! I’m currently pregnant, and there are definitely plenty of other pregnant people who have talked about how they would like/find helpful a baby shower, but have no one to organize! So I’m fine with self organizing. Babies are expensive!

          2. allathian*

            Yes, this. People move around so much now. I feel like I’m a dinosaur because I went to college in my home city and haven’t left it since, and my best friends are people who’ve known me for decades.

            That said, I’m in Finland and baby showers are a fairly new thing. I got married and had my son in 2009 and didn’t have a baby shower or a hen night. Stag nights have been celebrated for centuries and hen nights for almost as long, but baby showers are a recent import from the US.

      3. eeeek*

        My view as well. My standard sewist baby gift is to make a flannel baby blanket – there are lovely, fun, gender neutral, joyful flannel prints that aren’t available in ready-made anything. I add a matching set of burp cloths. All are very durable, and though I’ve probably violated a “theme” to give these, they’re always welcome. After all, if one is going to develop the habit of reading under the covers, one needs covers to read under. ;)

      1. Em*

        Dear Zoo is the BEST.

        I also highly recommend Indestructibles — there are a wide range of them, they feature a wide range of people in their illustrations, and they are tear-proof, waterproof, and chew-proof. My nephew LOVES them.

        1. Helewise*

          Indestructibles are my go-to baby shower gift, even though I do love all the recommendations above as well! They’re great for when the baby is into devouring books. Literally.

    13. Irish Teacher*

      Any of Julia Donaldson’s. They are around €6-€10, so I guess you’d get one for about $10.

      “The Scarecrow’s Wedding,” “Tiddler, the story telling fish,” and “Zog” are all especially good. I really like the sequel to “Zog,” “Zog and the Flying Doctors,” because the princess basically saves herself.

    14. Sunshine*

      I had this at mine with the reasoning that most greeting cards at $5 nowadays. And there are a couple that people wrote really thoughtful messages in the cover. It was so nice to read those messages even with the second round baby.

    15. Jamie Starr*

      Go, Dog, Go! (It’s very Dr. Seuss-like with the rhymes, but the author is PD Eastman.)

      Dogs in search of a dog party. And a sub plot about whether one dog likes another dog’s hat.

    16. I take tea*

      I don’t really know books for very small children, but when they are a little bit older and can follow a story, if you want gross, I can recommend the German book The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business or alternativly The Story of the Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunit by Werner Holzwarth (author) and Wolf Erlbruch (illustrator). It’s ideal for the age when poop is the best thing ever.

    17. Llama Llama*

      Mo Willem Elephant and Piggy are my go books. I generally can find the cheapest one on Amazon for $6.

    18. Jackalope*

      I love Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel. It’s fun, whimsical, and playful, and is also an alphabet book but in a discreet way instead of focusing on nothing but the alphabet (there’s an actual story). And my nephews loved it when they were little!

    19. Mephyle*

      A general observation: the four stages of literacy are: I) eats books; II) tears books; III) looks at pictures; IV) reads.

      A cloth book or board book is essential for stages I and II; or you may want to choose a book for a later stage that can be put away until the child is ready.

    20. Clisby*

      Do you mean you’re making a quilt for the coming baby? If so, I wouldn’t even worry about getting a book. A quilt is such a lovely present. If I had asked for books at a baby shower, my thinking would have been, “PLEASE, for the love of all that is unholy, no toys!” Not that I’d have been dismayed at getting a handmade quilt.

      1. Lozi*

        Or just, “no clothes!” I had hand-me-downs coming out of my ears. But you’re absolutely right, a handmade quilt is so lovely, you really don’t need to worry about a book.

    21. Blythe*

      I LOVE children’s books and I appreciate the goal of building the child’s library. AND ALSO, a quilt is SUCH a generous gift in terms of time, money, brain-power, everything. If you WANT to give a book too, there are great options on this thread— but if you just want to stick with the quilt, that is already an extremely generous gift!

    22. Princess unicorn*

      Every baby shower I go to gets the same basic gift, a stuffed classic Eeyore and a copy of The Poky Little Puppy. The book was my favorite as a kid and pretty cheap to find and the parents always love it.

    23. Gray Lady*

      How much time do you have? Amazon Marketplace has some great finds on children’s books in Very Good condition or better, for just a few dollars.

      The last time I was invited to a shower that requested “book instead of card” I just didn’t comply. A $15 book and a $.50 card from the dollar store don’t have the same effect on my budget, on top of the substantial present it accompanies.

      1. QuilterGirl*

        I think, deep down, I was waiting for this comment. The quilt is costing me $80+ in materials, never mind time and my Serious Quilter Equipment. (Yes I have a long-arm, his name is Steve!). I kinda feel like that’s enough? But I’m seriously out of touch with what’s the norm today.

        1. Solokid*

          “The norm” is more and more doing what you feel like as long as it’s not a burden on the recipient. (e.g. it would be worse to say “you know what, I felt like giving this loud toy instead of a book”)

          But just giving the quilt (and a card if you feel like it’s necessary) is a huge enough gift.

      2. marvin*

        I can see asking for a book in place of a gift, but asking for a book in addition to a gift seems pretty cheeky to me. The “in place of a card” is a bit of a fig leaf here because cards are cheap and easy. I say bring a book only if you want to. Gifts should be freely given, not demanded, and any reasonable person would be thrilled to receive a handmade quilt.

    24. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Not sure about very very young children, but for slightly older childrens’ books I love anything illustrated by Jan Brett. The stories themselves are very sweet and you can have a lot of fun finding all the little easter eggs in the illustrations.

    25. ReaderAnon*

      Slightly older level, but excellent read aloud books:
      The Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo
      The Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak

    26. Ithappens*

      Can you combine the two? Take a look at some baby’s first books- they’re essentially quilted books with only two pieces sewn together (to make eight panels including front and back cover.) They are bright and soft and chewable and usually on some sort of tether to put on a stroller. More than one new mom has told me it is baby’s favorite stroller toy. (I do not make them, I buy them.)

    27. mreasy*

      I used to work at a nonprofit used book store. We got pristine condition children’s books in all the time, because they were either duplicate gifts or the kid was not interested. If you have a used bookstore around, it’s worth a look.

    28. Clarbar*

      Tumble Bumble. Can’t remember the author, but can still recite it from memory (and my youngest is almost 12!) Very cute, sing-songy rhyme and rhythm.

      “A tiny bug went for a walk. He met a cat and stopped to talk…”

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

      Yes! It reminds me of the “Bonded Pairs” subreddit on Reddit — picture after picture of animals (mostly cats) cuddling. Very soothing.

    2. Aphrodite*

      I too love it when cats cuddle. It seems like they do it less as adults even if they are close siblings so I guess it makes it all the more special when they do.

  4. Anonymous reader*

    Happy weekend!
    Kind of an existential question I’ve been trying to figure out: why do I have less day-to-day time in my 40s than I did in my 20s?

    Longer version: When I was in my 20s, I had a lot of free time, especially after work in the evenings. Now it seems like I have hardly any before it’s time to sleep.

    I don’t have children and I don’t have a second job anymore. I watch a LOT less tv now than I used to, and I haven’t taken up any time-consuming hobbies. I go to bed somewhat earlier but not enough for this question.
    And on weekends, it seems like I used to get a lot more done, but now hardly anything gets done. I can’t figure out where the time went.

    Does anyone experience something similar?

    P.S. This was happening before Covid and life went sideways. So while Covid didn’t help, it didn’t cause this.

    1. QuilterGirl*

      Because you are older and move slower. I *know* it seems like you are moving faster. But you are not. It just gets slower from here, my friend. Even your thoughts will be slower. It’s awesome but eventually you won’t care, so chin up. Outliving your enemies is the best revenge.

    2. WellRed*

      I think it’s more your perception of time changes.Just 10 or 15 years ago a weekend I it’s no plans could seem unbearably long to me. Like climbing the walls long. Now: flies by and I’m convinced they all need to be three days.

      1. Bizhiki*

        Or as a co-worker once told me, life is like a roll of toilet paper, the closer to the end you get, the faster it goes!

      1. Bazzalikeschasingbirds*

        Yes, it can be a time waster if you’re not conscious of the time. I’ve just deactivated temporarily, Instagram for this very reason.

      2. marvin*

        The Internet can be a very insidious time waster. I’m currently dog sitting and don’t have my laptop, and I’ve noticed a huge difference in how much free time I suddenly have.

    3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I feel the same way. I suspect that the internet is part of it, since there’s always one more thing to read somewhere. One thing leads to another, and somehow I’m watching a YouTube video about a rollercoaster that no longer exists in a country I’ve never visited, and there went the time I was going to spend reading an actual book.

      Back when I had dial-up and discovery of things online was a little more intentional rather than “you may also like”, all I really kept up with daily online were a few webjournals, some mailing lists I was on, and, later, my LiveJournal friends page. I would get a sense of being “done” once I’d read the daily accumulation in those defined places. This left me more time to play video games, mostly. I somehow used to have time to sink hours into games like The Sims or Freeciv, and now I never load up a game more complicated than solitaire because I know I don’t have a big enough chunk of time available.

      I also just have a lot more life-maintenance stuff to tackle now. More bills to keep track of, home maintenance stuff now that I own rather than rent, more junk mail to sort for some awful reason, grocery shopping is more complicated now that I don’t eat out as much, and just every little lifestyle upgrade seems to also add ongoing tasks.

      In my case, my job is also ridiculously draining and stressful, particularly the past few years since my field was heavily impacted by covid, but that was also true for a few years when I was in my 20s for unrelated reasons and I still had time for nonsense in the evenings and on weekends then.

      1. Giant Kitty*

        “One thing leads to another, and somehow I’m watching a YouTube video about a rollercoaster that no longer exists in a country I’ve never visited”

        You too? LMAO

        My husband & I both love going down these kinds of YouTube rabbit holes.

    4. old and slow*

      As a mid-50’s person, this is totally true for me. I need a lot more down time, I’ve slowed down some. In my 20’s & 30’s I could stay out late, come home brush teeth & go to bed. So I could arrive home about 20 minutes before bedtime. Whereas now it takes me an hour or more to unwind after going out. and I move slower. I have less energy, and everything takes longer. So, yeah. it’s a thing.

    5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I think I often perceive time as the things that fill it rather than a thing itself. So the fewer things I do, the less time I feel happened.

    6. I'm Done*

      Same here. In my 20s and 30s, besides working full time, I also had a part time job for several years and I was going to school part time and I still managed to go out to see my friends and date. I recently retired and thought that after working 60 hours a week, I would have plenty time to do everything I want to, but that’s not happening. I think not having the pressure any more, I just tend to do things a lot slower, taking a lot of breaks in between whatever it is I don’t really want to be doing, like housework.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I can definitely say “puttering” seems to take up vaster and vaster amounts of my time now. (Also I got a dog, which – wow – I did not anticipate how much of my time would be taken up by that, holy hannah).

      2. allathian*

        When I was in college, I nearly always worked at least 20 hours per week, except during exam periods. I also went out and partied whenever I could afford it (drinking age 18 here). Now I work about 40 hours per week, see my extended family about every other weekend and my friends once every 6 weeks if I’m lucky.

        The internet is a big time suck, definitely.

    7. Person from the Resume*

      The internet on your cell phone? Scrolling mindlessly eating up time here and there in tiny (or not so tiny) minutes?

    8. carcinization*

      It’s probably because time goes by faster when you’re older. This is a proven phenomena, but there are various theories about why, such as time being proportionate to the amount of memories one has, or the time it takes to process information/stimuli slowing down as we get older, etc. I experience this in real time (haha!) all the time as a middle-aged person who works with preteens… to me, Spring Break (middle of March) is very close, to them, very far away.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I remember each year of school when I was a kid, it seemed like the summer would never come, and then the summers seemed so luxuriantly long, and as if each one were an entire era of my life. Now in my mid-fifties anything within the current year doesn’t seem so far away, and the eras of my life are measured in decades, not in weeks.

    9. Squidhead*

      For me, I think I spend more time making decisions now (mid-40s) than I did mid-20s because I have more options now. We have more income and more knowledge than we used to, so there’s more than one choice, whether it’s “what restaurant to eat at” or “which furnace to buy.” We also have more stuff, so “clean up the spare room” offers multiple options of where to put things, what to keep or toss, etc. I think this means that weighing the pros and cons (on bad days, this just turns into dithering!) has become more of a habit for me, even if I’m just standing in the kitchen trying to decide on a snack. Like everything, it’s probably valuable sometimes and a waste of time sometimes!

      1. Person from the Resume*

        In some ways we do more than we used to because of the internet and it’s made our lives busier.

        Purchase your own flight and hotels or AirB&B and spent time finding the best and cheapest. People used to go to travel agents for trips. The internet and direct to customer sales really killed the travel agent industry.

        Paying bills … the bills used to be mailed to your house and now you have to log into each site and to view the statement (and remember to do it on a schedule). For me a bill arriving at my home is easier.

        Shopping online sticks us with the paradox of choice that overwhelms us searching for the “perfect” item versus shopping in person locally and settling for the best you can find.

        1. Tiny clay insects*

          That all makes sense!

          (Except as a travel agent, I need to say we still exist! Some of us are doing quite well! :-) )

    10. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      For me, it’s “more house and less tolerance for it to look like a dorm room”, i.e. more time needed for housekeeping chores (plus doctors’ appointments, investments, rest periods after any projects involving heavy lifting…)

    11. NaoNao*

      I attribute it to the quality and amount of my things and the need to take care of them. For example, I have down pillows I want to wash once a month, silk and wool clothing to be altered and dry cleaned, a collection of clothing to rotate seasonally. Dishes and decor to take out seasonally and/or organize and put back. Sometimes we get a large new piece of furniture and then wind up rearranging the house as it has a cascade effect. I understand that more maintenance is needed–things like running a cleaning cycle on my washing machine and coffee maker, running a Roomba once a week, washing curtains once a year, washing throw rugs once a week, and so on.

      When I was in my 20’s everything was hand me down, thrifted, in terrible shape, not worth maintaining or not mine–or didn’t exist! I didn’t have a coffee maker in my 20s or throw rugs.

  5. Jackalope*

    Reading thread! Everyone share what you’ve been reading this week! Recs and/or requests for recs also welcome!

    I’ve got to run soon so will come back later to share my reading of the week.

    1. Teapot Translator*

      This week I read The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (recommendation from here) and Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. Can recommend both (for different reasons)!

    2. VLookupsAreMyLife*

      Toggling between 2 right now: “Of Women & Salt” Gabriela Garcia &
      “Desert Star” Michael Connelly

      Totally different reads, so it just depends on what mood I’m in.

    3. Children's Librarian*

      Listening to Rogues by Patrick Radden Keefe and enjoying so far. Reading North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell for my book club and All Thirteen by Christina Soontornvat about the rescue of the Thai soccer team. All Thirteen is really gripping reading, so good before bed, whereas North and South is really good, but requires more concentration and is definitely a daytime read.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        I started Rogues just last night! Felt sleepy after the intro, because it’s been a hell of a long week, but looking forward to more bedtime reading today.

    4. germank106*

      “Chloe Cates is missing” by Mandy McHugh. It’s about a Mom who starts a blog, get’s addicted to the “fame” and pushes her young daughter to become an influencer. The resulting craziness in everyone’s head does not even stop for murder.
      This one has a few skippable parts but it never becomes predictable. Just when I thought I had it figured out the author threw me another curveball.

      1. Pumpkinhead*

        I read this book last year and feel somewhat similarly…very wild read, and I can’t say I predicted the ending at all!! I would love to know what you considered skippable–not because I thought it was an amazing read from start to finish, but I read it so quickly I don’t think I had even a moment to think about which parts I could have done without haha!

    5. Melody Pond*

      I’m currently tearing through Book Lovers by Emily Henry and loving it. This is unusual for me! I usually get irritated with romances and don’t finish them, but this one pokes fun at several cheesy tropes and the witty dialogue between characters reminds me of Gilmore Girls.

      On a totally different (nonfiction) wavelength, I’m reading a book called Intuitive Eating by a couple of registered dietitians, and it’s pretty game changing. Wish I’d found it years ago.

    6. Ally*

      Just finishing Belly Woman by Benjamin Black (about maternity care in Ebola), which I mentioned the other week, remained as intense and good throughout!

      About to start Yemen – Travels in Dictionary Land

    7. Not A Manager*

      Reading The Once And Future Witches on the advice of a relative. It’s good so far, but it leans in very hard on the “all men are horrid” trope. Also I find some of the witch stories within the book to be morally ambiguous at best, which may be part of the point but so far none of the characters seem to question them at all.

      1. Jenny*

        I didn’t finish that one on the first attempt. I may go back for another try (I was given the book).

    8. BlueKat*

      I just started Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert! It’s the author’s first YA book, and while I don’t usually read YA, I will read everything Talia writes. I’m enjoying it so far! I’m also just enjoying finally having some brainspace for reading.

    9. word nerd*

      Whoever mentioned Wordslut a couple weeks ago, thank you! I really enjoyed it, much more than her Cultish book. Someone else recommended Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue the same day–while entertainingly writen, there were so many inaccuracies in it it was puzzling how it got published in that form! But Bryson recommended Mary Dohan’s Our Own Words, which I am in the middle of enjoying right now. Also, I need to figure out how to use italics in comments…

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Before and after the text you want, you use pointy brackets () around an i before, and around a backslash i after. Demonstration with curved brackets, then the pointy ones:

        To make a word (i)italic(/i).
        To make a word italic.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          In that first set of parens there was a pair of pointy brackets. They don’t show up here because the interface thought I was trying to encode something. I’ll try a lone one below:

          3 2

      2. PhyllisB*

        That brings me to a book related question: how many of you read books mentioned in other context? For instance, you’re reading an article in Reader’s Digest and a book is mentioned, or like word nerd says, mentioned by other authors? I have found the most interesting things this way. For instance, I used to occasionally read writings of Lewis Grizzard. (For those not familiar, he was a Southern writer/comedian.) He talked about Tom Boden a lot. I was only familiar with him from his Motel Six commercials (“We’ll leave the light on for you. “) I finally decided to check him out and thoroughly enjoyed his writings. Especially his audio books, which he narrated himself. If you ever liked Garrison Keller, you will like these.
        Anyway, paying attention to other mentioned books/authors is a great way to expand your reading style. I tend to read cozy mysteries and “chick lit” mostly, so this has helped me explore something new.

        1. GoryDetails*

          Re reading books mentioned in other places – I have a nicely obscure one:

          Manly Wade Wellman is one of my favorite authors, largely for his Appalachian-setting fantasy-with-touches-of-horror stories featuring a roving guitar-player who collects songs and battles supernatural foes. In his tale “Sin’s Doorway,” the protagonist stumbles upon a funeral and finds that the mourners need a sin-eater. “Sin-eating,” he remarks to himself. “The old English had believed in it. There was something about it in ‘Precious Bane,’ a delightful novel I hoped to read again if ever I came among books, and had money to buy them.”

          At the time I assumed that Wellman had made up the book, but later on I found it: “Precious Bane,” by Mary Webb. I figured if Wellman liked it, that was good enough for me. I did enjoy the book, and other Webb novels and stories; her style and settings are somewhat like Thomas Hardy’s [remote, insular farming communities, with rebellious characters trying to make better lives for themselves than their places in society permit], although I think she’s a bit less gloomy. And I’d never have heard of her without that little mention!

        2. word nerd*

          I always have my antenna up for new books that sound good. The most recommendations I’ve ever gotten from a book is The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, which mentions over 100 other books. Because of the recs from that book, I enjoyed lots of other lovely books, including The Painted Veil (Somerset Maugham), The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a collection of Alice Munro stories (ok, I don’t know that “lovely” is the right word, but her writing is incredible), and On Chesil Beach (where I developed a new appreciation for Ian McEwan).

          I am a little afraid to open up Great Short Books by Kenneth Davis on my Kindle, though, because of what it’s likely going to do to my TBR list.

        3. E. Chauvelin*

          A year ago in Dara Horn’s book People Love Dead Jews I read an essay about the limited narratives that are considered “acceptable” in literature from Holocaust survivors and a Yiddish book called Tree of Life by Chava Rosenfarb. I’ve been having to get the translation via interlibrary loan from academic libraries, so when I finally managed to be able to track down an available copy of volume one during the off season for book award committee reading, I’ve been reading that. (About to turn part two back in, waiting for the third and final volume to be sent.)

        4. PhyllisB*

          Ugh!! I hate autocorrect!! I meant Tom Bodett!! I posted then got called away so didn’t realize. The stories he wrote were set in End of the Road, Alaska.

        5. Clara Bowe*

          Honestly, this is how I mostly find books. I generally use my GR account to keep track of things that sound interesting when mentioned in podcasts (Stuff You Missed is responsible for a good 50% of my want to read list) or in a YT video or in an article.

          I’m also a giant food history nerd, so reading sources or similar work is my absolute jam.

        6. Giant Kitty*

          I discovered the Gormenghast series by Mervyn Peake when I read an interview with an artist or musician who talked about enjoying them.

    10. Lifelong student*

      I finished American Midnight. It is non-fiction about the domestic situation in the US during WWI and the early 20’s. Red scare, anti-immigration, the Palmer raids, class warfare. Not a story but a history. Puts some of today’s politics into a perspective. Fear and hatred of the “Other” has been around for a long time.

    11. Falling Diphthong*

      Short story on my new Kindle: Emergency Skin by NK Jemisin. About an operative sent back to Earth to find the cell lines needed by the people who escaped our dying planet hundreds of years ago. Only to find that Earth didn’t die, and the insoluble problems were soluble. Title is because on the distant planet only the upper echelon have normal skin; servant castes have a fake skin, like an environmental suit you can’t take off. (And the promise that if you are very good and excel, you can move into that upper echelon.)

      Two things I’ve become more attuned to in the past decade:
      The ecosystem is incredibly complicated–see the fungal networks connecting trees in forests. There are so many subtle, complex relationships we’re only starting to scrape the surface of, like gut biomes. I don’t think it’s a case of “toss out some organics, an attractive ecosystem will build itself in a generation or so” which is what terraforming often seems like in fiction. Trees, for example, evolved well before fungi that could break down the lignin that lets trees grow tall. So dead trees piled up, becoming many of our coal deposits.

      Who gets a ride off the dying planet? In Interstellar, at the end I noticed uncomfortably that the people living on the space station were very white, and it seemed like “people who work at secret NASA and their family members” was the group who got off the dying planet, so… I can see why everyone else was not excited to fund NASA in this fictional world. (The Lady Astronaut series by Knowles does explicitly address this.) Also I do not get why Earth was helpless against the corn killer, but if they just moved the corn to a space station the pathogens wouldn’t be able to follow–it seems to embody a blank slate fantasy, and you’re always going to learn the slate wasn’t really blank.

    12. RussianInTexas*

      Just started The Rebels of Ireland by Edward Rutherford.
      Around the hour 10 in to the book I’ll hate myself, as I always do with the Rutherford’s books, but I’ll power through.
      Just finished the new Jane Harper’s Exiles. I really like her writing style.
      And blown through the Scholomance trilogy, thank you AAM folks for keeping recommending it.

    13. GoryDetails*

      Several in progress, as usual, including:

      A MAP IS ONLY ONE STORY, subtitled “Twenty writers on immigration, family, and the meaning of home” – some intriguing essays here.

      TO NIGHT OWL BY DOGFISH by Holly Goldberg Sloan is a pre-teen epistolary novel, in which a California girl and a New York girl start an email correspondence when they find that their respective fathers have fallen in love. At first they want to prevent the match as it’ll upset their comfortable lives, but they gradually decide to promote it – just as the guys are having difficulties under the stress of a (very ill-planned) vacation… Lots of twists, very sweet overall, and quite entertaining.

      THE SIDEKICKS INITIATIVE by Barry J. Hutchison – I first read this one via audiobook and re-read a print copy recently. It’s a nod to the tradition of comic-book superheroes adopting orphans as sidekicks – and putting them in harm’s way in a manner that really should have involved child protective services of some kind {wry grin}. In the book, three former child-sidekicks are now in their mid-30s, trying to lead mundane lives for the most part, but are dragged back into the supervillain-fighting world when some mysterious power takes out all the premier superheroes in one fell swoop. Allergy Girl (Woman), Kid Random, and Butterfly Kid (King) are… maybe not up to this, but what choice is there when the bad guys threaten loved ones? It’s often over-the-top violent, but also very, very funny.

    14. E. Chauvelin*

      I’m reading Less is Lost by Andrew Sean Greer. It manages to include more of Less’s unknowingly horrible German in spite of his travels being throughout the U.S. this time around, which is really all I wanted from the sequel, so thusfar I’m happy.

    15. Bluebell*

      I read Providence by Caroline Kepnes, and enjoyed the love story/horror/detective work mashup. Today I expect to finish Paris Daillancourt is About to Crumble, and I’ve been off and on reading Excuse Me While I Disappear, Laurie Notaro’s latest. I think she’s hilarious, but I’m the demographic it is meant for.

    16. PastorJen*

      Right now I’m reading Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone: A Novel by Benjamin Stevenson. It’s described on Amazon as “Knives Out and Clue meet Agatha Christie and The Thursday Murder Club. I love all of those so I suspected I would enjoy this and I really am. It’s actually very funny and is wittier than some of the mysteries I typically enjoy.

      1. Children's Librarian*

        I finished that last week for one of my book clubs! It was a rare read that everyone in our book club liked (we have WILDLY divergent likes). I’d definitely read more by him.

    17. carcinization*

      Just a chapter or so into Gladstone’s Last Exit. I hope I’ll like it; I can’t tell so far.

    18. RedinSC*

      I am about 2/3 of the way through The Dictionary of Lost Words. Am enjoying is, but it’s also (at least right now) a bit sad.

    19. PseudoMona*

      I finished The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides. I thought it wasn’t as good as Middlesex, but was still a decent read.

      This week I started and finished The Bullet that Missed by Richard Osman. Good read, I like that I’m not able to guess the outcome of his mysteries. It did take me a bit longer to get into this one compared to the last two though. The tone/voice seemed somewhat inconsistent compared to his previous works.

      All the books I have on my To Read shelf are non-fiction, and I’m not sure what’s next. Maybe SPQR by Mary Beard or continuing Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir.

    20. Rosyglasses*

      I finished off a couple of books in the Lockwood & Co series (which is now on Netflix), and started The Maid, but haven’t really found the hook yet. So of course I bought a new fun light read (The Paris Connection) which has kickstarted my reading habit again.

      A few chapters in to The Chinese Question by Mae Ngai, which explores the gold rush, Chinese emigration around the world, the intertwining of capitalism and racism, and anti-Chinese tropes that have persisted to this day. Super light reading :-) /s

      Also picked up The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune, which I read a few years ago upon recommendation from Alison and is still delightful.

    21. Ghostlight*

      Just finished Killers of a Certain Age and I loved it! It was a quick read (too quick based on how good it is.)

    22. The Rat-Catcher*

      I read The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrick Backman, which for something so short, was powerful.
      I just started Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan. I’ve had to do a ton of Googling because I’m not familiar with things like native Asian plants, but I love learning while reading, so that works out.

    23. Pumpkinhead*

      I finished The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, recommended by someone here. It was a really fun read! I can see why it would be lovely for its intended audience but adult readers will absolutely enjoy it as well.

  6. Jackalope*

    Gaming thread! Everyone share what they’ve been playing this week. As always, all games are welcome, not just video games.

    I’m still plugging away on Fire Emblem Engage. Anyone else out there playing (or played) it?

    1. Leigh*

      Catan and Azul. We also found a new game called Happy Little Dinosaurs. It’s by the same people who developed Exploding Kittens.

      1. I take tea*

        Oh, we like Azul a lot and actually stood and looked at Happy Little Dinosaurs some time ago, but went with a game called Boop instead. You “boop” kittens or cats off the bed. I lost every time we played it, but maybe I’ll learn…

    2. Porch Screens*

      Still working on Wrath of the Righteous but I did finish Spiritfarer the other day after putting in about 40-45 hours and completing 100% of tasks. Might have gotten choked up a bit there on the ending. Dang onion-cutting ninjas. I’m looking forward to eventually replaying it on Steam to get the achievements! Even bought a fan-made sweatshirt off Etsy with the character constellations on it, and I normally don’t buy much in the way of game merch.

      Now to figure out what to play next. RPGs/sRPGs are my normal jam and I’ve got options: Fire Emblem Three Houses, Octopath Traveler, Tactics Ogre: Reborn, Bravely Default 2. There’s also Yakuza: Like a Dragon but DH has been on a big PS5 kick and I’m in no big hurry.

      1. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

        I am 120+ hours into Like a Dragon and I’ve loved every second of it. The main story is mostly Serious Crime Drama (or as serious as it can be with the protag being… the way he is). The side stuff is all deep fried 24k comedy gold dusted with powdered sugar. I do not use “lol what kind of drugs were they on when they made this” lightly but there was definitely a substance involved in the design process of the movie theater minigame and it was probably Ambien.

    3. SparklingBlue*

      Got me a Switch Online card this week just to check out the new Game Boy and Game Boy Color stuff (Game Boy Advance stuff costs extra). There’s not much in the Game Boy department yet, but it was nostalgic doing the Secret Sambo trick on the original version of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (which you can still do in the remake) and whiling away many an hour with good old Tetris.

    4. The Dude Abides*

      Casually following the Pioneer results at MCPhilly.

      The PT metagame seems hostile to my deck of choice (Wizard burn), but I’m just happy to see paper magic coming back.

      The side conversations on Twitter regarding players bringing accessories (dice, tokens, etc) is hilarious. IMO, tokens should either be supplied by the tournament organizer or required within the tournament rules at higher levels.

    5. Ella Kate (UK)*

      I’m being hit with Emotional Tankbusters in stupid follow-up sidequests to sidequests in Dragonflight. The one with the two orcs by the Ruby Lifeshrine, IYKYK and oh my god my heaaaaaaaaaart. THE WHELP. If you find him after the last quest, asleep on the bench, you can hear them snoring…

      Took the week off raiding in Wrath Classic because of some RL responsibilities, but Ulduar continues to go well!

      And… Midgar (Final Fantasy flavour) pack coming to Power Wash Simulator (yes it sounds ridiculous but its actually a really relaxing game?) March 1st has me hyped up! The Tomb Raider one was excellent.

    6. Namenlos*

      Beer and Bread (or Bread and Beer???). Two player board game in which you brew beer and bake bread. Interesting twist: You need to do both evenly as your lower score of bread or beer will count for your final score.

    7. LimeRoos*

      Super late to the party, but for any Metroid fans they released Metroid Prime Remastered for the Switch and it is awesome, nostalgia is hitting me hard. Enjoy!

      Also replaying Chicory for some chill time. Coloring is super cathartic even if it’s with a joystick. And all the characters are adorable animals with food names and different quirks & personalities. It’s great.

  7. Furnace user*

    Question for those of you who’ve had to deal with furnaces. We had a basic maintenance done on ours today and the guy who was doing it said we should consider replacing it, specifically because after he ran it hot for half an hour it was putting out more carbon monoxide than it should (25 ppm, for those who know anything about this; I do want to add that we at least have CO detectors throughout the house). I checked and the furnace is less than 10 years old. That, along with the fact that this is a worse time than usual for a huge house expense, makes me loathe to do it now if we don’t have to, esp since we don’t usually run it that long at a stretch. On the other hand, I don’t want low levels of CO poisoning either, and we could swing it if we had to.

    Any recommendations from people who have dealt with this before? Questions we should ask? Things to take into consideration? Thoughts?

    1. Missb*

      did he measure it outside or inside?

      Our last furnace lasted about 17 years. It was failing, and we knew it was. It was measuring 1000 ppm at the outside vent (so outside of the house). I can’t remember what part in the furnace was failing, but it was only marginally replaceable at that point because designs had changed in the past 17 years.

      If you do end up replacing it and have a gas furnace, then I’d recommend a multi-stage instead of a two-stage furnace. Two-stage start off loud and then shift down to a quieter mode. A multi-stage can run at any speed along the spectrum, so it’d be loud when you crank up the furnace by 20 degrees and put a serious demand on it.

      But the rest of the time? Super quiet, as quiet as the quietest dishwasher. I used to hate sitting in our living room in the evenings, because the furnace is in the basement right underneath and one of the vents in that room seemed to be the noisiest. Now, I don’t hear a thing. The fan runs constantly, but is so quiet as to be the most background of background noises. The only time I actually notice the fan is when the furnace kicks on after an extended power outage, and then only for as long as it takes to warm the house back to normal.

      I think the price difference (couple years pre-Covid) was about 3k, so not small potatoes. But the house is better balanced overall in terms of warmth. We did nothing else to the heating system other than put a new furnace in, and suddenly the super hots spots are not super hot, but perfectly warm. It was worth the cost in terms of overall comfort, let alone noise.

      And running the fan constantly doesn’t eat up $. It’s a negligible amount of money per year. We’re also not seeing a skyrocketing gas bill because of the overall efficiency.

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      He’s trying to scare you into a big purchase. Those “annual tuneups” are used by HVAC companies as sales leads. I’ve never, ever had an annual tuneup where they didn’t try to tell me I had some big scary thing looming and needed some big expense.

      1. fposte*

        I know the wisdom is against annual checks, but I’ve been much luckier with it. I get an “all fine” every year except for the one year where I had a visibly cracked heat shield, which I was glad was detected.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Yeah, same. I got “all fine” every year except one when they said some part was nearing the end of its expected useful life, and we might consider replacing it before it failed, but also it was fine to wait it out. They mostly wanted us to not be surprised/think they missed something if that part failed soon. It failed 4 months later. We replaced it then. NBD.

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Same – mine are regularly all clear. (That said, my maintenance is done by the folks who installed my heat pump four years ago and I have a maintenance package through them anyway.) In fact, they actually replaced my smart thermostat for me at no charge a couple years ago.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            My new HVAC system was installed last year and the annual check ups are required to maintain the warranty.
            Everything is still under warranty, there is no reason for them to “find”anything.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        While I think that’s what’s happening here, I want to note that our oil company have never tried to do this on our annual summer tuneups. So it’s not inevitable, and if you can get word of mouth recommendations it’s a reason to choose a company you trust to be straight. (Same with car mechanics.)

      3. RussianInTexas*

        See, I had an opposite experience. The guy marked some minor stuff, but said our 20 years old A/C was still fine. Don’t worry about it. And it died completely and fully 2 months later.
        Of course the tech was sent by the home warranty company, and they’ll do anything and everything to get out of paying a dime. After their tech didn’t find anything with the A/C at the inspection, they refused to spend any money on the replacement, because “it was fine 2 months ago, you just have too high grass around the unit, so it overheated and died”.
        It did not overheat. It was 20 years old.

      4. Observer*

        That happens. But the good guys know better than to do that – a lot of their business comes from the day to day repeat stuff. On the other hand, the one guy who always told us everything was fine, or that problems could be fixed by patchwork when that wasn’t adequate wound up costing us the most – and he WAS legitimately trying to help us out and save us money!

    3. germank106*

      Unless you can get a tax break for a more efficient furnace, I would wait until you have some real problems. We replaced ours after 15 years because getting the part we needed to fix it was near impossible. At the end of its life it put out about 40 ppm and that was just fine. The carbon monoxide detectors never went off and we also did not have any health issues because of the higher carbon monoxide levels. At least none that we could detect.

    4. Sloanicota*

      My personal take is that big, boring expenses like furnace, hot water heater, roof are going to wait until the items don’t meet *my* needs anymore. As in, don’t turn on, are leaking, water not hot. I’m unlikely to do anything with them until I have to. My theory is that unless you’re selling your house in the next year, they don’t add much value, as a five-year-old water heater is just as suspicious to a buyer as a ten year old one.

      1. Venus*

        It’s a reasonable theory, but I worry that they are more likely to break on the coldest day of winter or the a/c on the hottest day of summer. I’d rather replace a furnace a year early than spend a lot of extra money for an emergency replacement. I’m less worried about the a/c because I can open windows in summer and am letting mine go until it dies.

    5. SofiaDeo*

      Before replacing major purchases, I like to look at their common “useful expected life” and the availability/expense of replacement parts and the labor needed to replace the parts. If something is way overdue, and it would be a huge inconvenience to suddenly have emergency repairs, I plan the replacement. I would also get a second opinion, as others have noted, some folk just want to push a new sale on you.

      Re:the carbon monoxide worries….if there is adequate fresh air, a number of other gas appliances, if any “leak” is potentially close to a bedroom/commonly used room, if there are fans/air exchange in that room, all can play in whether or not carbon monoxide may be a health hazard. If I were especially worried, I would place a few more CO detectors in/near the suspect area, to see “if” there is a problem. For instance, gas stoves can transiently rise CO when you use them, and very few set off CO detectors, especially if there is an outside vented fan running. Your furnace may be putting out “more” than it did when new, but if it’s being vented outside immediately I wonder how much of a health risk it is. Like, we decided on a house with gas furnace and hot water heater in a room downstairs, under the kitchen (not under bedrooms), the air vents are not blocked, and I took the (slatted so some airflow but still impeded air somewhat) doors off that room. There’s a small personal fan in there too, since it is also the laundry room. We rejected the house where the furnace was built into a closet off the master bedroom, and our heads would be within 10 feet of the furnace at night.

      My understanding is that health problems generally are a result of defective or improperly vented appliances, in addition to little or zero air exchange in the room. Many US codes somewhat regulate this by requiring any furnace or appliance in a closet not have a solid door, it must have vents of some sort.Also in the US, newer, really energy efficient “tightly sealed” places may have more CO potential problems when striving for “better insulation” properties when most all air leaks/inflow is sealed off. So if your vents aren’t blocked, and fresh air exchange occurs regularly, the expected transient rise in CO when a gas appliance turns on/is in use is not generally considered a health hazard.

      That being said, I was happy to plan a replacement to a newer one, multi stage, with 4 timers I could set. I can have the fan running when I choose, at a speed of my choosing. No more stale air, no waiting for AC or heat to kick in before air starts circulating. And it was interesting to see the huge crack in the furnace when they removed it; our CO detectors near the bedrooms (per code) never went off even with the huge crack. I guess most of it went up the vent, or got diluted by all the fans I had around the house before we got the new furnace!

      FWIW I cut our AC bill in summer a bit by getting one of those large but inexpensive (mine was like $30-40) “air mover” fans and placing it at the bottom of the lower level steps pointed up the stairs. I have another fan near the top to blow that cooler lower level air around into the main level.

      Good Luck with whatever you decide to do, I hope the “expected life” of your furnace is 20+ years and you really don’t need to replace it soon unless you want to!

    6. Observer*

      Get some air sensors in your house and log what you see for a couple of weeks.

      Make sure that all of the related piping / ductwork is clean, as well as well as your chimney.

      If you are seeing higher than expected rates over time and nothing is clogged have a good furnace repairman come in tell you whether there is something repairable or not going on here.

  8. Bibliovore*

    Adulting 101. Financial help for widows? Help please.
    In my time of grief and grieving I have dropped the ball on my financial stuff.
    I have a lot of shame about this and now that my marbles are coming back it feels so overwhelming.
    I had met with the financial advisor (a college buddy of the husband) last year a few times and have zero memory of the meetings from last year except that despite following up, filling out form after form and meeting with the bankers on the phone AND in person, my husband’s bank retirement accounts (I am sure there is a name for them IRA?) are still not in my name- Wells Fargo and Chase.
    For the last couple of months, I have been kicking the can down the road and canceling appointments.
    I have an appointment Saturday afternoon at 1:00.
    I know that I have to make an appointment with the accountant and am dreading that too.
    Any advice on how to organize the papers and what information I should have for these meetings?
    The financial advisor suggested I update a spreadsheet- Mr. Bibliovore created named Worth that listed every account and how much was in there. I dread this as when I open the mail there seems to be huge losses in the retirement accounts (401 k)and somehow I feel responsible (and ashamed)
    Any good orderly direction would be appreciated.

    1. Missb*

      Well, I think you can try to view it with as little emotion as possible, but I know that is hard. It’s not something you’re used to doing, so there is a lot of emotion built into that.

      I think the spreadsheet is a good idea.

      When you say mail, do you mean you’re getting updates on the 401k in the mail? That is probably pretty outdated at this point. Dh’s 401k loses a shocking amount when the market sneezes but regains it quickly. The market has been doing some nice fluctuations lately, and by nice, I mean I just don’t like looking day-to-day. Overall, the account balance has been going up, and that’s likely the case with yours as well.

      I’d say the only updating you should do to the spreadsheet is figuring out whether you have access to the accounts electronically, and if you have the time and bandwidth, access the accounts and view the balances.

      The financial advisor can give you any sort of guidance you want, but for now, maybe the first meeting should be reviewing what the last few meetings were about, since you weren’t quite in the right frame of mind at the time. You don’t have to conquer it all at once, and you don’t have to do serious prep for the meeting tomorrow (with the financial advisor?)

    2. IGoOnAnonAnonAnon*

      You did not cause any losses – everyone’s 401(k)s and IRAs are down! I suggest rejecting the shame — you did NOTHING to cause this (and I write as one who carries LOADS of financial shame issues that I’ve been working on in therapy for 15+ years) — and just go in and treat this as matter-of-factly as you can. Update the spreadsheet, go in and confront where you are in reality, and move forward. You have done nothing wrong, and all you can do is make choices going forward. Sending you massive vibes for courage and fortitude.

        1. Just here for the scripts*

          Yep — because for the first time ever, there was simultaneous losses in both bonds and stocks in the last year, everybody has lost money in 2022. I believe the average is 11 to 15%. If your statements are arriving in the postal mail, it may help to remember that they’re at least 1 to 3 months old by the time you get them. So you may have heard in the morning news that the stock market is up, but the mail you get in the afternoon is for the end of 2022 or the end of last month.

        2. Prospect Gone Bad*

          And one of the first years bonds did horrible. Granted, if they never really read the statements to begin with, so much stuff has basically recovered (unless if you invested at the top of the sp500 which only lasted a few month) so it’s very likely everything in an account > 2 years old is all green again and so they will never actually see the losses that has occurred. Which is a perfect opportunity to rebalance if needed

    3. Oysters and Gender Freedom*

      First I want to say this is very hard. My mother died nearly three years ago and there are still a couple of accounts that I have not managed to collect on behalf of the estate. There are many many layers of complexity and paperwork, all of it slowed down by staffing issues and so on during Covid. Also, everyone’s 401k accounts have lost significant value in the past year, it has nothing to do with choices you did or did not make. There was not something miraculous you could have done to prevent this even if you had been on top of things.

      There are online tools like Mint or Personal Capital that can aggregate your information from all your accounts automatically for you and give you your net worth. They can also be used for budgeting but you can use them for your investments instead. You give them limited access to pull the information from your accounts and they can do the updating for you automatically. This is easier than typing it in especially in times of market turmoil. The accounts that are not yet in your name could be added manually if you cannot pull them in.

      This meeting is for you. The advisor should be educating you on what you need to bring in.
      You do not have to keep the same financial advisor. A financial advisor that is right for you is someone who doesn’t trigger feelings of being judged, and who feels like they are on your side. Obviously that would mean more effort in finding a financial advisor, but if you don’t even feel comfortable asking what you should bring to the meeting, then you are not getting what you need from the advisor. This does not necessarily mean they are a bad advisor, but that they are not for you.

      I will say that I didn’t really have the bandwidth to figure out investing and so on until I had done most of the work for settling the estate. There’s only so much you can do at a time.

      For the accountant, if it’s taxes, then you need all the estate-related tax forms which will be mailed or made electronically available, and information about expenses — lawyer, medical, notary services, etc. — the accountant should be able to help you determine what you need. All the paperwork can be scanned and uploaded to an online portal, you don’t have to meet face-to-face. I had a separate estate account and went through and looked at every transaction and listed it in a spreadsheet. If you did not need to do that then it may be harder to pick out all the expenses. You do need an accountant who is knowledgeable about estates.

      Take it slow. Make sure you get the spousal IRAs transferred properly at some point, and make sure you get taxes filed. Everything else will happen as it needs to.

    4. Just here for the scripts*

      It’s not you—it’s the system. I have a friend who’s been after Wells Fargo for three years to move her deceased husband’s accounts into one for herself—3 years! It finally happened last week. So do not shame yourself about this. It’s not you—it’s them.

      The cynic in me wants to say that that’s because there’s no benefit to them once you move the accounts into ones for yourself — especially if you move them out of Wells Fargo and into another bank.

      In my friends case, the only thing that worked was persistence… Some days she had more energy, someday she had less — and on the days with less she just let it go, until she had more and could start up again. Her theory was that the money was safe as long as it was in one of the accounts — it wasn’t like she was at risk of losing the money. If she wasn’t up for working on the project for a week (or three) she didn’t, and gave herself permission to take that time off. I will say we celebrated when the accounts finally transferred last week.

      Like with other projects that need persistence and practice—like starting an exercise regimen, or making other lifestyle changes — you may find partnering with a friend helps. Having someone who could help her set up a schedule for follow up calls, visits to the bank, etc. — and encourage her to keep to such a schedule (and gave her some grace when it was more than she could deal with.) definitely helped my friend.

      1. Girasol*

        Yes, this! Some banks, investment companies, and life insurance companies act like no one ever died before and your claim that someone did is suspicious. Expect that you might be told what the process is and what forms to fill out, and then find out after you’ve done exactly what you were told that you’ve done completely the wrong thing and those are the wrong forms. Don’t give up; keep calling customer service, keep mailing forms, keep nagging and wear them down. They’ll give in. If you come absolutely to the end of your tether, it won’t require much time from a probate lawyer to give them a harder shove than you can. It’s not always so difficult. Sometimes the process goes very smoothly even if it’s waited a long time. When Mom died Dad threw everything in the drawer and ignored it for two years. For two different banks it took me one call and one letter each, with a death certificate, to get retirement accounts transferred properly in just a couple weeks. So don’t worry if you’ve let the task sit for awhile and don’t feel foolish if you haven’t badgered a reluctant bank into action on the first try (or fourth.) You’re in good company. Just take your time.

      2. Jack Russell Terrier*

        A business attorney friend of mine calls Well’s Fargo ‘the devil’ bank. It’s not you

    5. Behalf*

      It’s a paradoxical thing of getting this done will probably make you feel ‘better’ (in so far as it’s one less thing to worry about) but doing it feels overwhelming and possibly like you’re moving further away from your husband. This can all be done when you are ready, but you will feel better if you get it done as soon as you feel able to. I found the institutions were gentle with me (but still woefully difficult to resolve things with!) and the process was stressful, protracted and confusing. Can you cherry pick which ones to deal with first and create a roster to run down? Or are some time sensitive? I can’t offer too much on the technical front but I will say I did feel so much better after, because I could focus on other things rather than all the stuff I hadn’t done yet. Much love to you following the passing of your husband.

    6. Not A Manager*

      Hire a secretary or an assistant.

      I find that certain tasks push both my “procrastination” buttons AND my “fear/shame” buttons, and having someone who ostensibly helps me out but really babysits me is a game-changer. You can off-load tasks like calling Chase and sitting on the phone while they escalate the issue up the chain of command, or physically entering info into the spreadsheet, but what the assistant really does for me is force me to sit down for a few hours a week and confront this stuff.

    7. Anonosaurus*

      Widow and financial procrastinator here. Please try to let go of the shame. You did what you could cope with at the time and that was ok. Now you are able to review this and maybe make some changes so that’s ok too. I very much doubt that there’s anything you have done to cause the fall in value. The markets have been seriously choppy of late and there’s only so much, if anything, you can do as an individual to escape those effects.

      I’d focus here on the relationship with the advisor, now you’re a little bit further on and feeling more alert. Do you trust them? Can you communicate with each other and do you feel heard? Are they trying to bamboozle or patronise you? You don’t have to continue working with them if they’re not right for you just because your late husband chose them. The relationship is different and you may need different skills or someone with a different approach.

      I feel a different kind of shame as I spent some of his money on crap that I didn’t really need to try to make myself feel better and I wish I’d been more frugal. My husband earned more than me and I was used to him covering treats like dinners out and holidays plus we split household expenses pro rata whereas now they are all mine. I’ve largely curved this expenditure now (and got a better paying job) but I feel like I squandered his money. Money issues have emotional ramifications and are linked to how we feel about ourselves and others. The guilt is a normal aspect of grief, I’d say, but try to let yourself off the hook if you can. You coped – that’s all any of us can do in the thick of grief and shock. The situation is probably not as bad as you fear. I hope the meeting goes well.

      1. Bibliovore*

        Thank you for sharing. Your words have really helped me.The loss of his income was a bit of a shock but I was the major wage earner so I bounce between panic miserliness (I can’t spend ANY money!) To feeling like throwing money at everything. Right now the dog has been super sick and thousands of dollars later still no clue what is causing her illness. Endoscopy and Colonoscopy this coming Wed. Grateful that I can afford that and I am less then a mile from a major vet medical center.

        1. Anonosaurus*

          I’m so glad that my comment was helpful. I hope you get answers from the vet soon and that doggo is on the road to recovery – I too am grateful that I could afford my kitty cat’s vet bills recently.

    8. The Cosmic Avenger*

      When my parents passed, I made spreadsheets of accounts, and notes on their status. If I looked at it and saw that I had contacted one recently, I felt better. If there were a lot of open issues, I’d pick one and do one more step on that one, then let myself ignore it for a while.

    9. Texan In Exile*

      I am so sorry. This sounds awful. But you’ve just lost your husband and of course that’s overwhelming. Of course it’s taking time to deal with these things.

      And as far as the losses – as everyone else is noting, those are not your fault! I have very few takeaways from grad school, but one of the key things I remember from my finance class was the professor saying – this was in the time of Ivan Boesky and Mike Milken – that the only way to beat the market was to cheat.

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

      This is all so relatable and I’m so sorry for both your loss and the fact that you have to do anything stressful beyond just grieving and healing. I don’t have much practical financial advice, but I will say that in my experience folks at big financial institutions are trained to be really kind and patient when helping bereaved folks transfer accounts into their name.
      In general, do whatever you can to reach out and remind yourself that you are not alone in this.

      -If you already have a trusted tax prep person, make sure to ask them if they have any helpful advice or recommend any colleagues with relevant experience.

      -Another commenter mentioned working on the shame in therapy, and I know I have heard that there are therapists who specialize in finance-related emotional difficulties, so if that’s something you can afford a few sessions of, definitely look into it.

      -If you haven’t already, reach out to friends and family to let them know you’re struggling and see if any of them are able to help– even if they’re feeling just as clueless as you (or I!) about what to do, having another person there to go through papers and update the spreadsheet with you can help turn it into a shared experience full of love instead of just another grueling, miserable chore.

      Sending you all my sympathy and strength. You’re going to get through this, I promise.

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

      I’m so very sorry for your loss.

      For the upcoming appointments with the accountant, maybe grab and bring the latest statement for each account as it comes in through the mail? (Depending on the size of the account, that could be every month or every three months.) Bonus points for you for as many tax documents (W-2s, 1099-R, 1099-DIV, 1099-INT, basically 1099-anything) as you can find and bring to the accountant. Also, bring copies of the death certificate and executor certificate (if you are executor) everywhere you go, just in case they are needed.

      You are NOT to blame for the retirement accounts taking a dive — that’s generally the market’s fault, and even experienced investors can guess wrong about strategy. No shame needed on that front — you’ve done nothing wrong.

      I can totally relate to the (also unnecessary but persistent) shame of not having things together financially. I am finally digging out of the paperwork mess since my dad died some years ago, but it has taken me YEARS to make a dent in taxes, getting stuff transferred to my name, etc.

      Things that helped were dealing with financial professionals in person or via telephone when possible, being honest, and throwing myself on their mercy — like admitting that I cannot find document X and asking if they have an idea about how I might get another copy. I am terrible with finding papers and paperwork, so I have to do this a fair bit.

      Maybe buy a scanner if you don’t have one? My accountant has an online portal for tax documents, etc. I am now trying to upload a scan of any document that I find onto that portal as soon as possible, just so I don’t lose it. In simpler times, I used the “put all tax documents on this chair” or “put all tax documents in this box” method to keep stuff together.

      Sending you strength and courage as you navigate this difficult path. You can do this!

    12. CatCat*

      I’m so sorry. Dealing with all of this is so hard. This might be a situation where you hire some help to support you through this. A financial coach could be a good option to help you navigate this.

    13. Warrior Princess Xena*

      First, my deepest sympathies. This is a hard process at the best of times and while grieving makes it so much harder.

      Can you reach out to the financial advisor and the accountant and ask what papers they will want to see? I work in audit, rather than personal finance or tax, but we have a standard list of requests that we send to a client before beginning any engagement so that they have time to get papers prepped. The spreadsheet sounds like a really good start.

      1. Bibliovore*

        that is a good idea. reading these replies have helped me calm down and lift some of the anxiety.

      2. Jack Russell Terrier*

        I came here to say that too.

        Also – your attorney should be able to help you with what you need to do too and what you should bring and say when dealing with estate stuff. My mother died recently and my attorney was brilliant at talking me through all that stuff.

    14. marvin*

      Do you have an organized friend who would be willing to come over and just help you get everything in order? I get very stressed out by trying to navigate bureaucratic systems like this and I find that it really helps to just have someone there, even if all they do is listen to you complain about it. When my dad died, I remember that all the logistics were so overwhelming and it can feel like you’re being processed through some big faceless machine. I think everyone struggles with this. Having a friendly face around can at least help a little.

    15. Loredena*

      “I dread this as when I open the mail there seems to be huge losses in the retirement accounts (401 k)and somehow I feel responsible (and ashamed)”

      Don’t feel ashamed! 2022 was a significant bear market, stocks peaked at the end of 2021. Your accounts are being managed and will recover as the market does. Just work with your advisor on withdrawals to avoid too large a hit.

  9. bruh*

    Just a small vent, I went to a Superbowl party and the host asked me literally 8 hours beforehand if I planned to bring anything after we spoke on the phone a week ago and she said she’d let me know what to bring if anything. She asked me to bring chips, dip, and ice, and when I got there they had a ton of chips and dip, way too much food, and nobody touched the ice or drinks that the other half was chilled in. We’re all in our 30’s and 40’s and the person who coordinated this was literally a Navy SEAL. Maybe it’s just the way things are done now but the lack of organization I see at potlucks is kind of annoying these days.

          1. Angel Remedy*

            Agreed. Also, it makes the comment section really cliquey and “well, I guess you had to be there” and I don’t feel like that’s what the site should be going for.

            1. YNWA*

              This is an excellent point. A professional workplace blog shouldn’t be openly mocking people and cultivating cliques.

        1. Madame Arcati*

          Me too. I have never been to a potluck (not really a thing where I live but I have learnt a lot about them from AAM) but if one should ever arise, you bet I will be doing whatever it takes to order Hawaiian rolls, likely at vast expense via the internet, so I can proudly take them along and declare I would never buy cheap-ass rolls…this, and quacking, will be how I smoke out the AAM readers…

    1. PollyQ*

      I’m pretty sure that organizing potlucks isn’t in the Navy SEAL job description.

      Seriously though, I’ve been to a million potlucks over the decades where there was vastly too much food. It’s pretty much the norm.

      1. Madame Arcati*

        Agree with your first thought for sure. From what I know of the military, if commandos or similar were in charge of bringing items for a shared meal, everything would be in foil packets, and the host would have provided mess tins of simmering water to heat them up. Beverages would be mugs of tea or 500ml water bottles with powdered fruit drink sachets au choix, and you’d be expected to have brought your own spoon.

      2. bruh*

        Basic organization, preparedness, and thinking of other people are a universal skills though. I got a last-minute text and then spent $40 bringing redundant stuff nobody touched because he didn’t care enough to be organized, just told people to spend money.

    2. Bluebell*

      Different people have different talents. I have some friends who are superb at meal and potluck planning, and other friends who host events where I’m pretty sure I need to bring something I’m excited about eating, plus I should have a snack ready for when I get home. I try to remind myself it’s mostly about the socializing, and not the meal.

      1. bruh*

        For me it was about me spending $40 on stuff she specifically asked me to bring last minute like I was doing her a favor, and then showing up and realizing they had too much of everything.

        1. WellRed*

          $40! I think your friend has a different idea if hosting then I. I’ve learned that I can show up to gatherings without bringing anything and no one will notice or care because there’s Too. Much.

            1. Sloanicota*

              Agree. It sounds like OP maybe took on more than was required. If someone asks me to bring something to a potluck, I bring what I’m happy to bring; I would have brought one or two bags of chips on sale. I have been asked last-minute to stop for ice, which I will do. I would forget the dip if I did the two other things, on the assumption that someone will bring that – I feel like dip never gets used up.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          That sounds like way too much to ask for! I think she definitely did not work out cost and she’s just categorised “chips, dip, and ice” as small extras in her mind. Or perhaps she did not mean for you to get enough for everyone since other people clearly brought some too. For this kind of thing I like group messaging with people saying what they’re bringing, so you can fill in actual gaps instead of duplicating efforts. Hosts pretty much always get overwhelmed or forget who’s doing what.

          1. Clisby*

            That’s what I suspect. She probably thought chips, dip, and ice would be around $10-$15 – which is about what I’d have spent if I were given that assignment.

        3. KatEnigma*

          But did she ask you to spend $40 on that specific stuff, or did you go above and beyond what most people would consider normal?

          Too much food is normal.

          $40 on a bag of ice and some chips and dip? That’s excessive. It should have cost you $20, max.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Removed personal sniping here. (And a note to everyone that if you ask a bunch of strangers for input, you might get input that isn’t in line with what you were looking for! If that happens, please just ignore it rather than sniping at people, which makes this a far less pleasant place. Thank you.)

    3. Forensic13*

      I’d bet good money the host told everyone what to bring and people forgot/decided to do their own thing anyways. I’ve had that happen!

    4. Maggie*

      I’ll admit your last line made my laugh because it’s such a specific complaint lol. You’re BEC with potlucks!

    5. Green Goose*

      Oh man, I have two little kids and if someone asked me last minute to pick something up that ended up not being needed I’d be pretty annoyed. I have to plan store trips days in advance.

      This vent also reminds me of frustration I had on pretty much a yearly basis with my mom around thanksgiving planning. I do not want to go to the store on Wednesday or Thursday of thanksgiving week and my mom knows this. I plan with her every year and ask what I need to bring, multiple times, and like clockwork she needs something last minute and I would summer in a rage.
      I’ve decided to just accept it and my husband goes to the store because I realized it would t change but verrrry annoying.

        1. KatEnigma*

          My husband ended up needing emergency gallbladder surgery the morning of Christmas Eve, and we’d just gotten back from a cruise the day before, and had nothing to eat in the house, as we were supposed to go to my inlaws. Our local store (HEB is truly as awesome as the hype) not only had delivery slots open on the morning of December 24th- from only notice being the night before- but everything I ordered was in stock.

    6. Person from the Resume*

      It doesn’t sound like your friend was being particularly organized.

      I’m betting when she said chips, dips, and ice she didn’t think she particularly needed any of it, but that’s a safe bet for party.

      You sound like me in that I plan possibly overplan whereas this person was like “I need to tell Bruh something to bring because they’re asking now the morning of the party . I’m telling them stuff you can’t have too much of.” Where you were thinking “they must need more chips, dips, and ice.” Where you went wrong is that it shouldn’t have cost you $40. Bag of ice, a bag of chips, and a dip should be under $15. Sounds like you bought more than 1 of each.

      Potluck planning is hard. I often make things/desserts (time consuming) and others just bring a bag of chip or a drink or paper plates and feel like they’re good. If you’re not hosting, not your problem. Do what you want and bring what you want. In the future just tell the potluck host what you want to bring and do it.

      1. Indolent Libertine*

        OP might have interpreted the request as “OMG, I’ve just realized we have nobody bringing chips or dip or ice, can you please bring enough for everyone for the duration of the game/party?” In that case, one of each wouldn’t be remotely enough, hence spending $40. Would have been good for the host to clarify, and/or for OP to ask, of course.

  10. The Dude Abides*

    Anyone here have experience with a personal trainer?

    Within the next two months, I need to drop about 10lbs in my midsection and improve my sprinting. I’ve been doing work on my own, but need to take my training to the next level, and know that I need outside help to do it.

    While I do have fairly short-term goals, I do want to hit a long-term higher level of fitness, but the short-term goals are my main focus – I’ve been invited to a major televised sporting event at the end of April, and want to make sure my performance is up to snuff.

    1. fposte*

      I sort of do. My physical therapist has an extended private pay training program, focusing not on athletes but on former PT clients who’d still like support in working toward health and fitness goals. It’s awesome and it’s the best luxury I have.

      I got lucky in finding him; Dawn may have more useful info as to how about people usually find trainers (via gyms, maybe?).

        1. fposte*

          He’s got different programs but currently I’m paying $600 for 12 weeks with a lot of ongoing communication and a Zoom or in person visit every week or two; he’s also coordinating with an in-town PT. I don’t know how this maps onto regular training since I’m definitely using a lot of specialized PT expertise; I suspect the trainers at the Y are more economical.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Hmm, ten pounds in two months is a little more than the healthy goals according to what I was taught? I think no more than one pound in a week is considered healthy weight loss? Not my area of expertise so I defer to others.

      1. Alex*

        Depends on your starting weight, age, and how your deficit is created (eating too little vs. burning it). While “1 pound a week” is a decent guide, it’s not one size fits all. Plus, 10 pounds in 8 weeks is 1.25 pounds a week, which works out to a deficit of 4375 calories a week instead of 3500, which is just a 625 calorie daily deficit instead of 500.

        1. The Dude Abides*

          I’ve changed my eating habits over time and stabilized at 170, but I need that extra oomph with my exercise to take the next step.

          For me, it’s not just about weight – carrying less will help me sprint faster, but I also need some work on my explosiveness from a standing/slow start.

      2. My Experience with a PT*

        As a woman who was overweight, an initial loss of 2 pounds per week for the first couple of months was healthy for me. I lost 25 pounds in 3 months in a healthy way, primarily from changing my eating habits (that’s probably about 90% of the reason) while working out a couple of times per week.

        1. My Experience with a PT*

          I should clarify that I lost the weight as a post-menopausal woman in her 60s with a low thyroid condition — so had to deal with several strikes against losing weight quickly — however, I was on medication to have a normal thyroid level.

          The worst part about losing weight as an older woman is accepting the fact that I must eat about 300 fewer calories per day to maintain the same weight I had in my 20s. (If I ate and moved exactly the same now as I did when I was 25, I would gain about 5 pounds per year, ugh.)

    3. Alex*

      When we got that tax rebate for Covid during the pandemic, this is what I spent mine on! My goals were slightly different, but I found my trainer through my gym. I signed up for 10 sessions and got a lot out of it! I would have continued if I could afford it regularly but it’s so expensive and unfortunately I had to let her know it was a time-limited thing. She totally understood. But I don’t regret spending my rebate on it (and felt good I was actually helping the local economy rather than buying TVs or whatever).

      Different trainers have different specialties, so I would try to find one who has experience in your sport.

      1. The Dude Abides*

        What were the costs? I still have most of my refund and am a member at the local Y, so I am willing to spend some money.

        1. PoolLounger*

          Your Y should have rates for their trainers posted on their website or available at the gym. They usually have a bulletin board with each trainer’s specializations too.

    4. BeesRule*

      I’ve been working with one lately and it makes all the difference in the world. I was a skeptic but pleasantly surprised. In addition to motivation, their advanced knowledge of anatomy, correct way of exercising to target specific smaller muscles gets results I couldn’t have achieved on my own.

    5. Pam Adams*

      I’ve used them several times over the years. I like them for being able to push me beyond what think I can do.

      All have been sensitive to my disabilities and willing to listen when I said no to something.

    6. SofiaDeo*

      I loved a personal trainer to insure I was doing the exercises correctly. I wished I had gotten one when I started weight training, then I probably would not have gotten hemorrhoids from improper lifting (this was noticed and corrected by the trainer). Some stretching exercises I could not have done easily/well without my trainer adding the “extra help.” Plus keep me on track; knowing I had a financial penalty (I had to cancel >24 hours or pay for the session anyway) got me out to the gym. And I purchased a package of 20, to make sure I did more than random sessions here and there!

    7. My Experience with a PT*

      I have been seeing my personal trainer about twice weekly at the gym for over 10 years (we did walks outside together when gyms were locked down during the pandemic).

      He has helped me stay strong and fit as well as keeping my balance. He manages my weight training with free weights and weight machines for about 30 minutes, then I use the treadmill on my own for 40 minutes. I know I would never push myself as hard as he pushes me on weights (plus I wouldn’t even know how to keep the right position — even after 10 years he still reminds when I need to keep my knees straight, etc. to get the full value from the workout). Plus, he’s supportive, not pushing me beyond the limits of my aging body. I live with MS and sometimes I need to do gentler exercise, and he’s right there with me, adjusting as we go.

      I’m a 60 something woman who has been able to maneuver multiple 70+ pound boxes from my front door into my garage on my own when two (presumably) strong young delivery men from FedEx wouldn’t do it. I’ve managed to catch myself when tripping and feel stronger now than I did in my 20s when I was a couch potato (I’m a nerd whose lowest mark in high school was gym class).

      Plus — and I may get flamed for this, but I imagine it’s something you may want to know — my body is in fantastic shape and I’m able to fit into the clothes I want and happy when I see myself in the mirror.

    8. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I work out once a week with a trainer. Started sometime in 2018 through the gym and continue now on Zoom – I’m not comfortable going back to the gym and still pay the membership because he’s worth it. My goals were entirely about fitness and strength. I had bariatric surgery in 2017 and we don’t discuss weight. If I include the gym membership fee plus the extra charge for the sessions with him, I pay about $100.00 for each and it is well worth it for me. We’re not in a HCOL area. It’s the most expensive gym in town by a bit and I chose it for proximity and the fact that they have three pools, including one heated to therapy pool temp, which was a huge help to me when I was rehabbing from knee replacement.

      I like the trainer because he listens to me and pushes me just the right amount – enough so that I actually progress, not so much that I overdo it or will injure myself. He figured out pretty quickly that I hate to admit I can’t do something and will keep at it even if it’s really too much. After our last session I was frustrated because I feel the same way after we work out that I did in 2018 – and then I realized how much more I was doing. Heavier weights. Longer and more challenging blanks. More complex balance exercises that I could never have done four years ago. Totally worth it. I’m 62 and I know that there’s evidence showing that weight and strength training reduce the risk of falls and fractures in women my age. I will keep up with him as long as he’s available.

    9. Person from the Resume*

      I’d also recommend doing an internet search for a sport specific (sprinting / track ??) trainer. There’s a good chance these sport specific trainers mostly work kids / teenagers, but they’d have the knowledge and experience to train athletes for your sport.

      I bet any gym has info / message board on personal trainers that train clients there, but those that focus on adults are likely more experienced with weight loss, fitness, and weightlifting training versus training for an explosive start in your sport.

      You can also find trainers that come to your house versus meeting you in a gym but that costs more usually.

      The married owners of my CrossFit gym do personal training and one is a nutrition coach too. I just lost 10 lbs in 6 weeks with his nutrition plan and just going to the gym like normal.

      I think if you seek, you will find what you’re looking for.

  11. Green Goose*

    Jane and Alice are sisters and their paternal grandmother Beatrice died before they were born. Beatrice had a lot of beautiful clothes and jewelry that was lost, sold, given away before Jane and Alice were teens.
    Their mom was able to hold onto about 10-15 pieces of jewelry (all roughly equal in worth) to give to them when they were teens. There was some arguing over who got what but both sisters picked a few pieces and then the rest were left with their mother while both sisters moved abroad.
    When they were in their early twenties, living in separate countries, Janes home was robbed while she was gone and all the grandmothers jewelry (and other things) was stolen. When Jane and Alice were talking about it, it was revealed that Jane had taken additional pieces from their mothers home and those were stolen as well.
    Alice was extremely upset, and felt that Jane had basically stolen the jewelry. Jane was very upset about being robbed and thought it was heartless of Alice to make the incident about herself.
    There are now only about 4-5 pieces left, including a ring and pin that Alice had originally chosen. Alice feels that she should be able to have all the remaining jewelry because Jane took stuff that was meant for both of them. Jane feels that the remaining 4-5 pieces should be split evenly because she doesn’t feel it’s fair that she won’t have anything of her grandmothers.

    What do you all think? We’d love an outside opinion!

    1. WellRed*

      First of all, did they check local pawn shops? Frankly, I think this is a lot of fuss for some old jewelry from a woman neither knew but since you ask: Jane seems to have had more than her fair share already (not clear what is meant by “taking” from her mother’s house? Did she steal it? Karma’s a bitch then). However, if there’s a piece Alice wouldn’t mind parting with, she should be the bigger person and share.

    2. Maggie*

      Alice should give 1 piece that’s her least favorite to Jane as a memento/family heirloom and keep the rest, but if she’s unwilling to do that I think she’s not in the wrong. Jane did take extra and it’s really sad it was stolen, but the extra is gone because of her actions.

    3. E*

      I have a variation on this in my family minus the drama around the extra pieces, and involving loss rather than theft. Grandmother brought 3 nice pieces of jewelry from the old country. There are 3 adult grandchildren. 1 went to grandchild 1 for wedding ring. 2 went to grandchild 2, whose parent lost it. There is one piece left still in grandmother’s possession. Does it go to grandchild 2 or 3?
      Not yet resolved but I (one of the grandchildren ) am trying to think about it more like, if this thing didn’t exist in the first place, I’d be happy with my life. So if it doesn’t end up with me I should still be happy with my life. There being a limited # of valuable things from a relative can engender feelings of scarcity / competition but I’m trying to keep the focus on my relationship with the other grandchildren, not the item.

      1. Emma*

        Definitely to grandchild 3! They shouldn’t be punished because the other piece was lost. But it sounds like you have a good attitude about it.

      2. Bearly Containing Myself*

        Grandchild #3 should get it, and I can’t imagine anyone impartial thinking otherwise. The piece for grandchild #2 was lost by their parents, who would be responsible for making it up to their child in some way.

      3. Clisby*

        Grandchild 3. What could possibly be the logic behind giving it to one of the others? They already received their pieces of jewelry.

        1. Lexi Vipond*

          That if there had only been two in the first place, they would have gone to grandchildren 1 and 2?

          I don’t think there’s any ideal solution, and I think grandchild 3 probably has the stronger claim, but I don’t like the idea that grandchild 2 is being held responsible now for their parents’ behaviour when they were younger.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      Sounds like Jane took it upon herself to divvy up the remaining items without Alice’s knowledge or input, so she’s already had her share. Alice should get to claim an equal number or value of the remaining items and then if there’s anything left the two of them can split that more fairly. It sucks that Jane was robbed but some of those items would’ve still been available to her now if she hadn’t stolen them in the first place.

    5. Double A*

      Hmmm… I think Jane should get at least 1 piece, and Alice should get at least 3. So if there are 4 pieces remaining, that’s the split; if there are 5, then it’s Jane 2, Alice 3.

      That’s just the gut response of non-invested stranger on the internet. I think Jane should get slightly less because she took things that weren’t designated for her (though it’s not her fault she was robbed). But I don’t think she should have nothing.

    6. RagingADHD*

      Where is the mom in all this, and why is her agency being entirely erased?

      Who inherited the jewelry under the will, or received it as a gift from one of Beatrice’s heirs? It can’t have been Jane or Alice, because Beatrice didn’t psychically know they were going to exist.

      The jewelry in the mom’s possession belongs to the mom. Even if she felt a duty to keep it for the girls, it is hers. It isn’t Beatrice’s or Alice’s or Jane’s. It’s Mom’s.

      Mom promised to divide the jewelry between them, but what she considers a fair division of her own belongings is up to her. Neither of the daughters is entitled to anything.

      When Jane has had time to deal with the shock of being robbed (which is incredibly invasive and upsetting), Mom can take some time to think about why she gave Jane more jewelry when she knew it would upset Alice. Because that’s what this was – a gift of Mom’s jewelry, not an inheritance from the woman they never met and who never knew they existed.

      Or did Jane take the additional pieces without mom’s knowledge? That’s stealing.

      Mom should also consider whether the real issue is that Jane & Alice want to feel connected to their dad’s family. Is the jewelry a proxy for something else? Or is it just about money value?

      Is it actually about the daughter’s relationship with mom? Are there other chronic issues where one sister feels like the other is favored? Is there an imbalance in the way they are treated?

      Mom should take all this into consideration when she decides what to do, and anyone who is not Mom doesn’t get a say in divvying up *her* jewelry.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Where is the mom in all this, and why is her agency being entirely erased?
        It read to me like the question is coming from the mom’s perspective (if not necessarily the mom herself) and trying to remain neutral. Or put another way, subtext of the question is “were you the mom with this info, what’d you do?”

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yeah, that was my assumption too. That Alice originally chose two pieces both of which remain in her possession, Jane chose 5-10, possibly unknown to the mother, all of which were stolen and the mum now retains two or three pieces and is unsure should she give them to Jane as Alice currently has two and Jane none or to Alice as she only got two originally while Jane got 5-10 or should she split them evenly.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Ooh, interesting take.

          GG, if you’re the mom, I am detecting a lot of “Jane is unreasonable so I can’t ask her to be reasonable…. Alice, you need to do the peacekeeping.”

          I join the general “Alice’s least favorite piece goes to Jane, the rest to Alice” if Alice is fed up with being asked to make do with less because Poor Jane. There are families where this wouldn’t be the case.

        3. RagingADHD*

          If it is from the mom’s perspective, all the more reason to think very hard about whether Jane stole the extra pieces, or whether she herself colluded with Jane in giving them and keeping it a secret from Alice.

          At least one person in this scenario has behaved very badly in ways that can seriously and foreseeably harm the family relationship. Over shiny objects.

          Whether it’s one person behaving badly, or two people, the only person who hasn’t behaved badly is Alice.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Another erasure of agency: Beatrice had a lot of beautiful clothes and jewelry that was lost, sold, given away … Their mom was able to hold onto about 10-15 pieces of jewelry.

        If one family member was thinking “These clothes are lovely… if we wait 20-30 years I bet someone would want them” and another family member was thinking “Take anything with sentimental value that YOU will store going forward; the rest is going to Goodwill next week” my sympathies are really with the second person.

      3. Jamie Starr*

        I’m confused about why the Mom is involved if Beatrice was the paternal grandmother. That would make mom the daughter-in-law. I mean, I guess, she could have inherited the items rather than the son…

        1. RagingADHD*

          Or Beatrice’s children divvied up the clothes and jewelry, and the son gave them to his wife, or there was a general informal agreement that the daughters and daughters in law would share them, or whoever got them originally gave them to Mom (DIL) after the girls were born, with the understanding that they would be passed to the granddaughters.

          There are a lot of different ways these things often play out, but in all of them, any jewelry given to Mom is Mom’s jewelry. People gloss over or ignore that for emotional reasons, but it’s the plain truth.

      4. New Mom*

        This is a great perspective, and I think this will help is resolving it. It makes sense that their mom should decide. Jane and Alice’s mom specifically kept the jewelry for the girls. Her husband, Beatrice’s son, sold or gave away almost all of his moms things and she wanted to make sure some stuff stayed around but not really for herself. I think she wanted either her husband to have them or for children she hoped to one day have.
        They are not big ticket items, just sentimental. I doubt any of them are insured and there was no will. Beatrice unfortunately passed away when she was young, early 50s I believe but she apparently always wanted grandchildren.
        Both daughters seem to want the jewelry in a sentimental way even though they never met Beatrice.

    7. Not A Manager*

      “Jane had taken additional pieces from their mothers home”!

      Way to bury the lede. Jane should be ashamed of herself, and Jane owes a huge apology to her sister and to her mother. Until Jane apologizes and makes real amends, I don’t think she has any standing to talk about fairness. And frankly, even after she apologizes and makes amends, she can hope that her sister will extend some grace and share the remaining jewelry, but acting entitled is a really bad look from a thief.

    8. Ellis Bell*

      It seems like they feel the amount left is too scarce to make both of them happy; I would consider having a few copied pieces made to honour their grandmother’s style; if it’s about loving the actual lost items themselves. If that’s not desirable or in the budget, I think Jane has to take some kind of hit for the advance loan of the jewelry without Alice’s agreement, and their loss (were they at all insured? They can’t be replaced but they still had value) I can see why Alice is annoyed; the agreement was for some of pieces to stay with their mother and Jane went behind her back, while she followed the rules and showed patience. That would piss me off too, but not so much I’d leave her with nothing. Under normal circumstances losing heirloom jewelry on a burglary is a shared grief with other relatives but Jane can’t really expect that to be the reaction from Alice when she’s only just revealed she had the jewelry surreptitiously (after previously agreeing how it was to be shared out). Still I wouldn’t be very harshly over a situation that was probably not intended to permanently deprive Alice, not would I really have any joy over keeping the rest for myself. Surely the whole point of reminiscing over a grandmother’s jewelry is to do so with your sister? Jane (and their mother?) should apologize to Alice for taking the jewelry without her knowledge, or offering the same opportunity to her. Alice should be given the lion’s share of the jewelry and first pick of the items (I’m not sure how there can be both 4and 5 items left but I would split it either 3-1 or 2-3). The sisters should then visit a jewelry designer with the insurance money to do something creative with this shared love instead of squabbling over it.

    9. Irish Teacher*

      The ones Alice picked out are Alice’s. Even if Jane had done nothing wrong, she has no obligation to give away her property because Alice’s was stolen. Where she got them originally isn’t really relevant now; they are hers.

      The remaining two or three pieces…well, what was the mother planning to do with them before all this happened? I would be inclined to split those equally between Alice and Jane. (Though if there were 15 pieces and Jane originally took 10 or 11 and Alice only 2, then if there are three left over, I’d be inclined to give Alice two of those and Jane only one.)

    10. fposte*

      What I think is that this is about the sibling relationship, not the jewelry, because nobody’s closer to their grandmother for having four pieces of jewelry rather than three. And I totally agree with Raging ADHD–this is the mom’s jewelry, and they should both back tf off of squabbling over Mom’s stuff as if it were a basket of chocolate eggs that they were convinced their sibling was getting more of.

      I have had a intensely competitive relationship with a sibling so I do understand how this happens. But focus on why the family is like this and what’s the best way to move it forward and stop focusing on who gets Nana’s 1960s brooch.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I’m definitely working to cultivate this attitude about my parents’ assets. My sister is the executor and I know she’s going to favor her kids (I am childless). My parents’ will has left a gap for her to do this. She basically thinks we should all get a share, me, her, and her two kids. I don’t think this is particularly fair but I’m reminding myself: a) if that wasn’t my parents’ wishes, they had the opportunity to state so in their will, and they didn’t, nor did they talk to her about this despite knowing that’s her position. b) I would rather maintain a pleasant relationship with my sister than have this money.

        1. WellRed*

          I had to develop this mindset when my mom kept giving money to my black hole of a brother with addiction issues. He’s gone and hopefully there’s enough left when she passes that I don’t go into debt closing out her estate. It really helps to adopt thus mindset.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Thirding on the mindset.

            It makes it easier when the black hole relative comes to you for money (now that parent is gone).

          2. PollyQ*

            You personally should never be at risk of going into debt for your mother’s estate. If there isn’t enough money left to cover the bills, then the debt-holders are the ones who lose out. Unless you cosigned a loan or something similar, you have zero responsibility.

        2. fposte*

          Yeah, there was a period when my dad seemed to be handing over all one grandparent’s stuff to one sibling, and it bugged me a lot at the time but I mostly just swallowed it. And now I don’t care about where the heirloom shoehorn lives and I’m glad to have less stuff.

      2. fposte*

        I see somebody has offered the possibility this is Mom’s perspective. It makes me realize how exhausting my competitive sibling and I must have been :-).

        I think it’s reasonable, since there are still grandmother pieces, that Jane get to have another keepsake despite her having taken extra, since the goal is the keepsake, not the consumption, and there’s enough for her to have one. The rest can go to Alice, if I’m understanding the math right.

        But also there’s definitely stuff going on here about sibling roles, and since I’ve apparently been roped in to all this as the parent, I’m going to take the moment to nudge them to consider finding ways to sort that out and offering to go with them to counseling.

    11. KatEnigma*

      It’s not Alice’s responsibility to make sure Jane has something, especially given the fact that Jane had already taken more than was agreed, without notice. I’d advice Jane to drop the “It’s not fair” but assuming her jewelry was insured, offer some of the insurance money to Alice to buy one of the pieces from her.

      Because the loss of items is sad, but presumably she’s been compensated for their loss. She just wants to take from Alice…

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Spoiler alert: Jane will never be convinced to drop “It’s not fair.” And not just about the jewelry.

    12. Qwerty*

      Context on my perspective: My sister’s place was robbed and hierloom jewelry stolen. And after one set of grandparents died, we discovered one aunt had taken most of the jewelry after my grandmother died but while my grandfather was still alive.

      So I feel like I have standing to say that Alice is being punitive and unkind. In the aftermath of Jane being robbed, Alice was “extremely upset” while Jane was “very upset” – when you are more bothered than the person who just went through the violating experience of a home invasion and realizing where they sleep is not safe, you are out of line. That was not the time to have the discussion about how the extra jewelry ended up at Jane’s. Calling someone a thief when they were literally just robbed shows an intent to wound.

      The math also isn’t adding up for me on Alice getting all 5 remaining pieces. If there were 10-15 to start, each sibling would end up with 5-7 pieces. Alice already has “a few”, so receiving all 5 remaining pieces would Alice using this robbery to get more than her share.

      Even it out based on what they should have had, not what is remaining. When we split up valuable/sentimental items in an estate, we do rounds of “picks”. The extra items that Jane took count as her picks. If Jane took X pieces, than Alice gets to pick X from the remaining 5. Split the remainder evenly.

      I’m also suprised the mom doesn’t want to hold onto any of these pieces for herself. Beatrice didn’t leave the jewelry to the girls, the mom received it. So anything Jane/Alice get is actually an item of Mom’s, who is welcome to hold onto the jewelry until the end of her life. And if Mom was ok with Jane taking any of that extra jewelry, than that was Mom’s decision about what to do with her own belongings, not something to keep score over.

      These sisters need to deal with their own sibling issues before tackling the jewelry one. It’s been a fight from the initial selection process despite neither of them meeting Beatrice. I’ve been part of dividing up plenty of estates (lots of grandparents + great aunts) and nobody fought – there was a lot of being conscientious of each other.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Is there ever a good time to call Jane a thief? Or a good time to talk about how the jewelry happened to leave Mom’s house and go to her house apparently with Mom not knowing about it?

        Life is a grand panoply etc, but I think “I didn’t tell you that I made off with the thing you were supposed to inherit, which is how it was at my house to get stolen, I’m a victim” is something where I can see Alice being extremely upset (if she cared a lot about that thing) or moderately upset (if she didn’t care that much about the thing, but is beyond done with poor Jane and nothing is ever Jane’s fault and Alice you need to give Jane half of yours to make it fair).

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yeah, who are these people who just walk into other people’s bedrooms and come out again with dead people’s jewelry?! I completely know it’s not on the same level as being burgled and feeling unsafe (having experienced that myself), but I still think you need quite the brass neck to hold your head up after pinching relatives’property and claim you need compensating.

      2. the cat's pajamas*

        Yeah, I was thinking she could put it in a safe deposit box or somewhere the daughters can’t get it. Neither of them is entitled to anything. It sucks that Jane was robbed, it doesn’t excuse the stealing, but without knowing them it could be an opportunity for her to use the robbery as a distraction from that. No matter what, family drama is awful. I wonder what Captain Awkward would say about this one.

        1. Jane is a Thief!*

          Yup, I had a family member who was a thief. He once stole several hundred dollars worth of rolled coins (prepared to deposit at the bank) from my home. When confronted, he just cried about how hurt he was that his girlfriend was breaking up with him. I see Jane’s treatment of Alice the same way. “How dare you complain about my thievery when I’m dealing with this awful thing?”

      3. Ginger Cat Lady*

        If Jane is a thief and did take the stuff from their mom without permission, then she deserves to be called a thief NO MATTER WHAT. If the truth hurts Jane, that is the consequence of having stolen and been found out.
        There’s no “ranking” of who deserves to be more upset. Alice has been doubly impacted. She’s found that something meaningful to her was taken by the burglar. AND she’s learning that they were previously taken by *her sister* and finding out that a sibling is a thief is pretty violating, too. Both sisters are impacted. Both sisters are upset. But one is a thief and one is not.
        And if hearing the truth wounds, so be it. I don’t think Alice should be expected to coddle Jane’s feelings when Jane did her (and her mom) wrong by stealing the jewelry.

    13. Despachito*

      Did Jane take the jewelry with or without the consent of their mother?

      Because if she took it by herself she basically stole it, and has no moral right to be upset that Alice is “heartless”.

      I think the fair division would be to mentally split the entire original amount (if there were 14 pieces altogether, 7 should go to Jane, 7 to Alice. If 7 items were stolen from Jane’s home, Jane should be entitled to nothing of the rest (she already got her part, and if it was stolen, tough luck). If 5 items were stolen (3 Jane was given and 2 she took herself), she should receive 2 pieces of the rest (because she already took 2 of her share).

      I’d consider anything else unfair to Alice. Alice could, if she wanted to be generous, let Jane have a piece or two but it would be Alice’s good will, not Jane’s right, and by stealing Jane lessened her chance that Alice would WANT to be generous.

    14. marvin*

      This is presented kind of like a math problem, but I don’t think the solution really lies in finding the perfect ratio of jewelry for each person. There is no way to divide it up that both Jane and Alice will be happy with. I’m assuming that this isn’t really about maintaining a connection with their great grandmother or about financial need, and they’re mostly bickering about the jewelry as a proxy for unresolved issues between them. I don’t know how deep this runs, but depending on the mother’s relationship with both of them, she could try asking them why there is so much tension over this and see if they’re able to gain a bit of perspective.

  12. Emma*

    If Jane took 2/3 of the pieces, some without asking, it sounds be fair that she not receive anything else (if she keeps receiving additional jewelry and keeps losing it, is Alice expected to keep giving up jewelry, in perpetuity?).

    If Alice wants to, it would be a kindness if she chose 1 piece to give to Jane. But only if she wanted to be the bigger person. It’s pretty messed up that Jane took extra jewelry.

    1. Emma*

      And the fact that this is being asked (vs Alice automatically being given the remaining jewelry) makes me wonder how many other times Jane has gotten her way because she’s complained the most. Is this a pattern, or just a one off? Like is Alice always expected to capitulate and be reasonable, while some drama is expected from Jane so people just give in? Pretty unfair dynamic for Alice if that’s the case.

      But who knows, it’s just 1 scenario on the internet, maybe it’s just a one off! But something to examine.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Is Alice always expected to capitulate and be reasonable, while some drama is expected from Jane so people just give in?
        My own dirty lens on the situation has certainly inscribed this take in four-foot-tall letters of fire.

            1. KatEnigma*

              Don’t think that I promote the thinking. I’ve fought against it. Vehemently in my own family. But you have to name it to fight it, and realizing how common it is makes me, at least, feel a little less “other.”

              I was a teenager when I was yelled at by my parents after a visit to my grandparents’ for upsetting my grandfather by arguing with him about something I was NOT WRONG about, because he’d “take it out on his wife” after we left. They knew he was beating my Dad’s stepmother, but their only action was to yell at me for winning an argument… and in everything, try not to do anything to upset him, ever. Which is impossible and doesn’t work anyway. I wish that was even the worst example of it!

              So I fight the good fight and don’t back down from calling out bad behavior in most instances. Luckily, my husband loves that about me. Too many people just want to give in to truly abusive behavior because they think it’s easier, or because they aren’t ready to go no contact, or whatever. Their choice to make. Right until they start coming at me for refusing to do the same, at least.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                What helped is the reminder that the pattern is so common; nothing rare or original about having a difficult family member combined with a bunch of other family members telling you to coddle them to keep the peace.

                Plays out in offices too, where “Dare to be the most unreasonable person in the room!” is a strategy many difficult people seem to have ridden into a job where they can’t be fired.

  13. Sustainable Schustainable?*

    Starting with the caveat that we can’t purchase our way to sustainability… I want to know how and to what extent, if any, you vet your purchases for sustainability and ethics? Are there any guidelines you use or or certifications that you know to be trustworthy?

    There are some obvious things, like buying less, buying used, but there are lots of things you have to buy and that you can’t find everything secondhand. Not to mention…it’s can be a pleasure to buy things! Many people make lovely things that aren’t strictly necessary, and sometimes I like to buy them. It’s pretty simple when it’s local artisan stuff, but when it goes beyond that I get kind of lost.

    Often, I feel like I’m probably just being ripped off when I try to shop more ethically. On the one hand, quality, sustainable, ethical products will probably cost more to produce. On the other hand, companies know some people will pay more if they think they’re getting more ethical products. So how can you vet products for actual sustainability type claims? Are there any certifications that actually mean anything? There are lot of them, but who’s even enforcing what they mean?

    Or should I just throw my hands up and mash that Amazon buy button muttering, “There’s not ethical consumption under capitalism (so why even bother trying)”?

    1. MissElizaTudor*

      Don’t give up! “There’s no ethical consumption under capitalism” isn’t meant to be permission to not even try. It’s pointing out that the whole system is broken, and that the blame isn’t really on individual consumers, it’s on corporations and governments.

      The certification thing gets me, too. What I’ve arrived at is that all certifications are going to be highly imperfect because many of our supply chains are too long and complicated, but if I’m buying a product that has a high likelihood of being made unethically or unsustainably, then I’ll aim for ones with certifications. At best it means the product isn’t as bad and at worst it communicates there’s a market for that kind of thing, which could be beneficial to companies that actually want to do things more ethically.

      Trying to figure out if something is the ethical version of a product is really hard. I think it’s actually less of a burden to just cut out or heavily reduce consumption of at least some products that have a high likelihood to be produced unethically, such as coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar , tuna and other ocean-caught fish, meat, eggs, and milk. That’s especially true if you’re eating out, since it’s harder to find out the origins of things if you’re not directly buying them.

      It’s a lot simpler to just get a mint tea at a coffee shop instead of trying to figure out if this place gets their coffee from a supply chain that includes child or slave labor.

      1. MissElizaTudor*

        To clarify, it’s real tea that has really bad labor practices, so herbal tea doesn’t qualify.

      2. Jackalope*

        With food (which is the main area where I feel that I’ve been able to do enough research to make decent choices), I try to get as much that’s local as I can. I buy meat and eggs from a couple of local farms (including for awhile before the farmers retired from some farms that I’d visited personally), and so I know the animals are treated humanely. I get as much produce as possible from our farmers market (thankfully I live in an area with a moderate climate so I can get a decent variety), and try to cook seasonally as much as possible. Things like that. It doesn’t work for all of my food, but I feel like it at least helps. And while the prices are a bit higher, I’ve also been protected from some of the swings in cost over the last couple of years when certain large farms had to raise their prices by a lot but my small local farmers didn’t.

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          Same here. I’m very careful about where my food comes from. I also live near the ocean, so can get local fish pretty much year round. And I try to grow and preserve a lot of stuff myself

      3. Sloanicota*

        Fish is the perfect example of a way I went astray. I had read about cows and pick being the worst things you can eat on many metrics – methane, forest clearing, waste streams, animal cruelty and even your own health – so I committed to cutting red meat out of my diet and started only ordering fish out. This was actually a big sacrifice to me. But … it turns out fish may actually be way more complicated (like there’s literally a conspiracy of lying about the type and source) and it’s unclear I’m helping anything the way I’d hoped.

        1. Pippa K*

          Even beef is more complicated, it seems. Feed lots and grain-based feeding are bad in several ways, but fully pasture-based practices have some up sides in carbon sequestration and other ways (at least from what I understand, although I know it’s still a subject of debate.) These methods are more expensive, though, so for me a reasonable trade off has been to eat less beef in order to pay more for the “good stuff.” But as thread-OP points out, both getting information and balancing competing concerns are difficult sometimes.

      4. Double A*

        Definitely my line about ethical consumption under capitalism is tongue in cheek! I often see it used as a way to criticize without offering any solutions, or with the “don’t bother” as the subtext.

        I try to limit meat consumption; I would strongly prefer to be vegetarian and was for years but I feed a family of 4 with young kids and a picky husband. We rarely eat red meat and don’t eat seafood. But I know there’s a ton of problems with chickens and pigs, and the dairy we eat comes from cows so. I dunno.

        I also struggle with how time consuming this can be.

        But we live in a place with a lot of great local produce. Maybe if I focus on adding that into my routine more right now and kind of give myself permission to let other stuff go. I do find if I work in phases it can help me feel like I have somewhat of a handle on the situation. And food is such a huge part of our consumption.

        Also so much for an alter ego, I’m the op.

      5. Observer*

        At best it means the product isn’t as bad and at worst it communicates there’s a market for that kind of thing, which could be beneficial to companies that actually want to do things more ethically.

        This is an excellent point.

    2. RagingADHD*

      I am not trying to be snarky, but if you have enough discretionary income that you can buy things just because you enjoy the feeling of spending money, then I think you can probably afford the time & energy to research those purchases and pay extra for a less destructive/exploitive supply chain.

      You aren’t ever going to know for sure, no. But you can research the organizations that do the auditing / vetting, and find ones you trust.

      The thing I found difficult the last time I did brand research was finding vetting bodies that were focused on the issues I care about. Often, you’ll see an overall rating that takes a laundry list of problems and gives each of them equal weight. So you could have a company that uses child slaves but gets a decent rating overall because its products are vegan and they don’t pollute the water supply.

      Those things are not all equal in my book.

      It takes work, and you cannot do the work without examining your own values in relation to it. There is no handy substitute.

      1. Double A*

        Well this is a weird assumption. I’m a teacher, I work full time and have two kids under 5 and a mentally ill husband so…my time is actually quite limited and my bandwidth quite spent by my obligations. And I actually do spend a long time researching and in the end I feel more frustrated and lost and also like I just spent a lot of time on something that wasn’t worth the time. The whole problem with putting the burden on the consumer to buy ethically is there’s no clear framework and you can spent hours down a rabbit hole that just makes it worse.

        My whole point in asking this question is to understand how I can spend my time doing this research efficiently, because I have tried and in the end feel like it’s pointless. So maybe that’s my answer?

        This is actually why I’m frustrated by this al

        1. Double A*

          Whoops! Posted before I finished editing, meant to delete that last line

          But literally if you live in America or any rich nation you probably spend money for pleasure sometimes.

        2. RagingADHD*

          I only have your own words to go on.

          Of course I buy things that are not absolute necessities, but no, I do not have enough money to derive pleasure from the act of spending it. Perhaps that is less about how much money you or I have, and more about our respective feelings about it.

          Yes, it is overwhelming. I do not research every purchase. I have spent time in the past identifying stores, brands, or signifiers that I believe are more likely to be more ethical than the alternative. From time to time, when I have the bandwidth, I re-check a few things and update the list.

          When I can afford them, I choose those items over the alternative.

          When I can’t, I don’t.

          My points are that 1) if ethical spending is something you care about, don’t completely abdicate that. Doing something is better than doing nothing, and spending patterns drive business choices, even if it happens slowly.

          2) There is no magic list or website that can do the thinking for you, because everyone’s priorities are individual.

    3. They Don’t Make Sunday*

      For clothes and shoes when I need to buy new, I find the ratings website Good On You helpful. Nothing is perfect but this helps me make an informed decision. I’ve also discovered some small, more sustainable labels through them that I would not have run across otherwise.

    4. Madame Arcati*

      For food, if we are talking ethical, the Fair Trade stamp is a thing here in the UK, might there be something like that where you are? It is an assurance that the growers/farmers (coffee and bananas spring to mind) get a fair deal and aren’t paid a pittance while the exporter or whoever rolls in cash.
      For clothes I could probably try harder but I do look at the labels to try to avoid sweatshops and I don’t shop in Primark (when clothes are that cheap somebody has to be getting oppressed).
      For other non-food I try to buy in a local shop if I can, or if via the internet, from an independent British shop whenever possible. That local gift shop or fabric shop needs my money more than Jeff Bezos does.
      One sustainability thing I do do, is to try to look after and mend clothes so they last, and buy good quality shoes etc. However I can sew, which not everyone does, and I recognise a certain privilege in being able to avoid “buy cheap buy twice” (search Wikipedia for Boots Theory)
      The last thing I can think of is that I buy dishwasher tablets and laundry capsules from a company who posts them to me (agreed and adjustable regularity and quantity) in a small recyclable box. No plastic at all, no big cartons. They also do a multipurpose cleaning spray where you have one spray bottle that you reuse and they send you a tablet to dissolve in water in said bottle, thereby not shipping water when you have already got it coming out of the tap.
      Oh and loo roll from a company that uses no plastic (they send you a big box and each roll is just protected in recyclable paper) and contributes to worldwide clean water charity efforts.

      1. Madame Arcati*

        For any UK readers the cleaning products company is called Smolensk and they will send you free trial stuff. The loo roll company is called Who Gives A Crap.

    5. Emma*

      Buying things secondhand helps a lot. I feel less concerned about vetting that. I like Thredup (you do have to pay like $2 per item + shipping for returns, but I’ll typically buy a big haul, with the idea I’ll be returning at least half after actually seeing them/trying them on, and I still come out ahead).

      I also try to avoid Amazon as much as possible, both because they treat workers horribly, and a lot of the made overseas stuff is likely made with questionable labor/environmental practices. Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean there’s not a cost. Instead, I use Amazon for reviews, but then try to buy directly from the retailer’s site, or elsewhere (I do sometimes have to pay for shipping on other sites, but not always, and it’s worth it to me.

      I also generally avoid buying chocolate because most of the popular brands use child slaves in their production. I still buy chocolate, but from lists of slave free companies. It means the chocolate is more expensive and I have less of it. I will eat chocolate if someone else gives it to me. And the child slavery thing isn’t just an internet rumor, unfortunately. If you look it up, there are reputable news articles. It was one of those things so awful that I couldn’t unhear it after a friend shared that info.

      But I realize I can only do some things. I don’t have the capacity to vet everything. As our income has gone up, it’s definitely easier to do some of this stuff, and it does become habit.

      1. Pippa K*

        I agree about recognising we can’t do everything, but are in a position to do some things. I’ve found a few things where one choice ticks several concerns, and that gives me some fixed practices and reduces the cognitive burden of always trying to make new and correct choices. For example, we can get humanely raised local beef from a small-ish farm with good environmental practices. This addresses some of my ethical concerns about animal treatment, land use and ownership, transport, pollution, supporting local employment, etc. And having found them as an ethical source of beef, we now buy their cheeses and other products, so we’re getting more ethically produced products and supporting them as a sustainable producer. So now these food items are a settled issue – I don’t buy beef elsewhere so don’t have to keep evaluating those options. On the other hand, I still buy Diet Coke and paper towels at Target, even though I *could* give those up and make more sustainable choices there. I’m ok with the imperfection, though.

    6. engineer*

      I’m skeptical of a lot of sustainability claims. My employer (US manufacturer of consumer products) makes some claims around sustainability but in my opinion the majority of them are marketing BS. :/

      That being said I’m sure there are some designations/ certifications that actually mean something.

      Energy Star, in my experience, is fairly rigorous (although also massively complicated on the manufacturer’s side)

    7. Sloanicota*

      I’m glad you brought this up, I too have had the feeling that “environmental” things have a cost premium and then it turns out they’re not better for the planet after all (supply chain lies, PFAS in waterproof material, some complicated disposal issue that the average consumer wouldn’t understand without more knowledge). Also, I don’t have time to do a deep-dive on every type of product I buy. It’s really tough. There’s different dynamics of what is ethical for the people involved in production vs the environment vs your own health in consuming – think of “organic” versus “local” versus “fair trade” for example.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        From the perspective of someone who has tried to vet ‘environmentalism’ claims, the biggest challenge is using the right metrics for the right claims. Does the company treat workers well? Under whose standards? Do they only have 5 workers? Alternatively do they have really good anti-pollution standards but are crap at doing anything for minority groups?

        For me the best solution I’ve found is to focus in on some specific issues and shape my choices around that.

        1. Sloanicota*

          See, as an average non-expert consumer, this isn’t really good enough for me. I don’t want to pay more for avocados that protect butterflies if they use slave labor to pick the avocados. I don’t want to skip chocolate to protect child laborers if it means the sugarcane I buy instead was cleared from former rainforest. I’m willing to pay a premium for products that are truly ethical, but … maybe that doesn’t exist?

          1. Observer*

            So what’s the alternative? All or nothing approaches tend to be un-useful at best and actively harmful at worst.

            Of course, the more of a luxury an item is for you, the more flexibility you have, and the more ability you have to decide to refuse to purchase a product that doesn’t meet a longer list of standards. But for things where people don’t have the level of flexibility, it’s far more useful to pick a small number of priorities to push on and be grateful that other people are going to push on those other issues.

            Sure, the results are not going to be instantaneous, but these problems didn’t happen overnight, either.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      FWIW, I’ve come to view “There is no ethical (noun) under capitalism” as something people say before screwing you over, while absolving themselves of all responsibility for the action they’re just about to take. It’s where I find the variations on “act locally” useful because no, most of us as individuals are not going to overturn the system, and this has been true for millennia. So focus most of your energy on making the little space around you better.

      (Also, I have found that “If we just had an apocalypse, survivors crawling from the rubble would be clutching MY manifesto as the guide to rebuilding society!” is felt across the political spectrum.)

      On a personal shopping level, I am very put off by “Buy this granola bar to Do Good,” much as I was put off 25 years ago by “Buy this toy to make your child into a genius.” I do care that a company is trying to do some good with the money they make, but it needs to be background.

    9. AGD*

      A lot of environmental organizations and NGOs have buying guides. Some of the advice is pretty self-evident, but it’s worth a try!

    10. Felis alwayshungryis*

      I think you do the very best you can in a highly imperfect system. So many certifications are little more than greenwashing. In terms of buying ‘stuff’, I definitely try to make sure it’s a really considered purchase, and look after the item well so it serves me for a long time.

      Clothes are a sticky one: they may be ‘made in [wherever with good labour laws] but there’s no way to check their full supply chain. Even sewing for yourself – what about your fabrics and notions? And shopping with a sustainability focus is absolutely a privilege for the well-off. My feeling is you do your best, but if you have to buy that clothing from KMart because you have no other options, then look after it and ensure it’s going to live out its life in your wardrobe.

      It’s always worth trying, but not beating yourself up for not being perfect. Remember, you didn’t cause this: the system did.

      1. OyHiOh*

        Oh goodness, the part about making your goods extend as far as possible is something I’ve been teaching my kids, especially the girls, who both really like expressing personality through fashion.

        They’re young experts at shopping 2nd hand, and handling their laundry in ways that extend the life of their favorite pieces as much as possible.

        I do think that origin is important, but how we care for objects at home is important too.

    11. Girasol*

      I focus on the wastebasket. Is whatever I’m about to drop in something I should have avoided getting in the first place? Could it be used longer or reused in a way that would prevent another purchase? Could I have chosen a product that would have taken fewer resources or lasted longer before going to the dump or could have been recycled? Could I have organized my cooking better so it wouldn’t have gone to waste? That seems to work more effectively for me than all the advice I see about buying sustainable bamboo toothbrushes and metal bento boxes or how to recycle a soda bottle into a bird feeder that we don’t need using just a few more things bought at the craft store.

    12. Courageous cat*

      Frankly it’s not something I focus on much particularly with fashion/clothes, and I hate that society has gotten to the point of shaming people for using Amazon. Like, it’s not the individual who’s struggling financially’s fault that the cost there makes it an easier/cheaper buy. Let’s work on holding corporations accountable first. But that’s just a rant.

      I try to buy secondhand a lot and that’s about it. I can’t afford most slow fashion.

    13. Hazel*

      Years ago I read the advice to pick one thing. So if it’s coffee or tea or chocolate, buy fair trade organic. Resist buying non-ethical drinks while eating out or on the run. Once you do that, you might expand to pastured meat etc., but you have done something, and it’s not overwhelming.

    14. Observer*

      “There’s not ethical consumption under capitalism (so why even bother trying)”

      This is a line that I have zero patience for. It’s neither true nor ethical.

      Whatever your beliefs about capitalism, and whether it’s possible to have perfectly ethical consumption within that system vs other systems, the last part of the line is simply pernicious. And flamingly unethical.

      What would you think of a doctor who said “we can’t bring the chance of infection in the OR down to zero, so we’re not even going to bother with any sort of infection control?” Same for food safety, financial crimes, etc. We all know the answer to that. So why is this different.

      I haven’t read all of the answers, but it’s pretty clear that you are in a position to make some choices and have the ability, at least sometimes, to allow ethical concerns to influence those choices.

      Here is a way to start that process that might work.

      Make two lists – one for things you NEED and one for things you WANT / Find Useful

      On list one put your highest priorities – you can’t cover everything, but 3-5 things should be doable. And use that list to decide between items. Not just “all other things being equal”, but with a willingness to compromise on other factors. Perhaps you’ll pay a bit more, perhaps you might give up a feature.

      For useful stuff that you could manage without, your list should be similar, but should have 1-3 deal breakers on them. Whether is slave labor, unsustainable farming practices, ethical treatment of employees / suppliers, petroleum production, whatever it is. Make sure you understand the parameters of your deal breakers and then apply them on a regular basis.

      In the sort term, it just means one less item being problematic in X way. In the long term, when a lot of people do this stuff, it does tend to move the needle. Whether it’s because it’s hitting the businesses bottom line enough to make a difference or in indirect ways, it does tend to make a difference in the long term.

    15. Spearmint*

      My approach is to pick a few things I care about and do really well on that, and then not really worry too much about my consumption in other areas. It’s just too much time required to research everything, and as you say even extensive research is often inconclusive.

      For me, I’m 95% vegetarian now, as I think meat production and consumption are pretty bad across the board on many dimensions, and I don’t necessarily have to do any research to do it.

  14. Aphrodite*

    I am one of those people who would do her taxes on. January 2 if I could. I can’t of course so I do the next best thing which is “ASAP.” This year, they were done on Friday, February 2, and submitted electronically about 4:00pm that day. By Wednesday early morning I had my federal and state refunds in my bank account. That is wonderful, but even more wonderful is that I don’t have to think about taxes for an entire year!

    Are you an early or late filer or even one of those who drive to the post office just before midnight on April 15? Why do you choose that?

    1. PollyQ*

      Speaking as a life-long procrastinator, “choose” is not exactly the right word. Obviously, no one’s holding a gun to my head and forcing me to put things off until the very last minute (or later), but it’s not like I calmly sit down and make the decision to do it that way.

    2. just a random teacher*

      I tend to wait for spring break, which is generally in March, just because that’s when I have a week off from work so I can get personal chores done on weekdays.

      Being an adult is so boring. I seem to remember that spring break was more an actual vacation when I was a kid, but as an adult with very limited chances to take personal days during the school year, it always becomes “personal chore week” between taxes and spring house/yard tasks. Maybe I carve out one weekday for something fun, but it’s just not a long enough break to both go on vacation and get caught up on chores.

    3. Missb*

      I’ve completed our taxes already but usually I wait until March. This year I knew I’d overpaid two local taxes so I wanted to file those asap. They want a copy of my fed taxes so I had to complete those.

      I’ll probably e-file our state and fed taxes this weekend but I won’t mail off the checks until April 18th. I always take the envelopes into the post office around midday on the due date and have them hand stamp them. It’s just my little annual “I hate paying these” routine. (I estimate as much as possible, and usually I am within about $1k. Last year, across fed, state and two local taxing entities I ended up with a $40 refund.)

    4. germank106*

      As early as possible. I call the accountant in November to make an appointment for early to mid January. I just want things out of the way and off my plate. Our refund took about two weeks before they hit the bank.

    5. KR*

      I always mean to be an early filer and I always end up being a late filer. The W2s either get lost in the mail or wherever I’m working is super late in sending them out or I put it off or something. This year I was ready to go early January and I realized I needed my spouses from their online work portal…. And they were literally unreachable except by snail mail with no internet access until last weekend. So I have all the documents now and I can finally do taxes in the coming week.

    6. Madame Arcati*

      Where I live you only have to do a tax return if, broadly speaking, you are self employed or similar, if you have another income outside your job, or if you earn over £100k, which, as a government worker, I don’t suspect I ever will. So my income tax just comes out of my pay every month, as does my national insurance (which goes to state pension, statutory maternity pay, and the NHS). I get a piece of paper (ok online these days) in April getting my figures for the year but I don’t actually have to do anything nor indeed to I get any rebates or bills.
      But to answer your question if our system was like yours I’d be just like you – from my own personality, plus because I expect my father would have done it that way and taught me thus. And my boyfriend is an accountant.
      If you don’t mind a tangent can I ask a question about American tax just for my curiosity? Online I see property taxes mentioned as though it is something ongoing, as opposed to my country where there is a tax payable upon purchase if the property is over a certain amount, then that’s it (I’m not saying this is better; 5% of the price of a house in the south east of England isn’t peanuts and you can’t borrow it on the mortgage, you have to have the cash). In the US I get the impression as a property owner one has to pay some kind of proportionate tax on a regular basis, is that right?

      1. Lexi Vipond*

        I have the impression that it must overlap to some extent with UK council tax (which is charged for each property but generally* paid by the occupants whether they’re owners or tenants, and goes towards local services). But I am also interested to know more.

        *If a flat is being let to different people, maybe as rooms, then the landlord will pay originally and then set the rent so it includes the cost.

      2. VLookupsAreMyLife*

        Yes, you are taxed on the assessed value of your property annually by your local municipality. Property taxes are the main source of income for schools & other public programs. These tax rates can vary widely, depending on where you live. For example, we couldn’t afford to buy a $250K home in Washington State because the property taxes on that home would have been $600/month. We moved to a state in the Southern US & the taxes on our home are $285/month for a $325K home. This is one reason you see such disparities in quality of education & other public services throughout the US.

        1. Felis alwayshungryis*

          I just learned something! Where I live we pay rates (if you rent your landlord does), which cover things like refuse collection, street lighting, local public services etc., but things like schools are funded at a goverment level so (at least in theory) there isn’t that ‘school district’ disparity. I always wondered about that ‘underfunded school district’ ‘inner city schools’ thing.

          1. Ella Kate (UK)*

            God I wish my landlord was paying my council tax. Its pretty common outside of lodger/HMO situations for the *tenant* to be paying the rates these days!

            1. Clisby*

              Even here in the US, tenants effectively pay the property tax – just not directly. You can be sure landlords will do their best to get a rent that covers the property tax.

      3. Missb*

        yes, property taxes are an ongoing expense.

        In our state, the tax is based on the assessed value of the home, which is different (and lower) than the real market value of the home. Maybe 2 decades ago, our state voted in a property tax limiting measure that keeps the increase in the assessed value at a maximum of 3% per year. That percentage does not include any bond measures/other taxes – so if voters decide to vote for a school bond that increases property taxes by 0.75%, then that doesn’t count against the 3% maximum.

        Also, if you substantially increase the value of your property through home improvements under permits, then the local assessor will come to your home and decided what the new assessed value is of your house. (I’ve had him come to our door before after we added on a wraparound porch; my architect told me I didn’t have to let him in. I waved my hand to the new 36 square feet (~3.3 sq meters) of entryway and that’s as far as he went.)

        I live in a nice neighborhood. I have what I used to refer to as a high-priced hovel (100 year old home that once needed major renovations). I’ve been held mostly harmless by whatever work we’ve done – all under permits- and I think most of that is because the comparable houses around me are just so much more expensive. Some years, they’ll adjust my home value down and increase the land value. That’s probably a better measure anyway, because the value truly is in the land rather than the structure. I love my little 2400 sq ft home in the woods, but a developer can come in and split my lot and build two more homes on the split portion.

        I’ve looked at a nearby state and even a nearby county in the same state, but I truly love all the things that I can access with a short drive from my current home. I don’t see the point of moving to get a lower property tax. It’ll continue to go up, and at some point it may take a chuck of my future pension to cover, but that income is just one retirement stream so I’m not terribly worried about it. Some states have an elder exemption on property taxes but your income must be low and the taxes get settled out of the sale of the property eventually.

      4. Random Bystander*

        Yes, there are regular property taxes. If you have a mortgage, the taxes (and homeowners’ insurance) are added into your monthly payment–it goes into an escrow account and the mortgage holder makes the payments. If you own outright (I inherited the house I live in), the taxes are a local thing (county that I live in) and are due annually. The house has an ‘assessed value’ which is what the taxes are based on, but anyone who is 65+ can apply for a program that cuts the taxes in half (so if you previously paid $400 annually, you pay $200 annually thereafter).

        Since I own outright, I do what I call my “DIY escrow”–I have a savings account with my bank, and since I get paid every two weeks, I divide my prior year tax bill into 26, add a little (generally, round up to an amount ending in a 5 or a 0), and have an auto-transfer set up so that when my paycheck hits my checking account, that portion goes over into the savings account. Then when the taxes come due, I pay out of that savings account.

    7. 653-CXK*

      I like to file as soon as I get my W-2 and health insurance confirmation. I’ve already gotten my refund from the federal government, but I also paid my state a small sum of money (under $40).

    8. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I used to be an early filer. Now I have documents to wait for from investments and such, plus the IRS has something stupid going on with my husband’s records for the last three years and we can’t get them to answer the phone to sort it out. So I can’t efile and have to mail our taxes in, so I won’t get any refund til July or August anyway, so now I just get to it somewhere in March.

      1. A Taxing Person*

        It’s not that the won’t answer the phone, it’s just that they don’t have enough people to answer all the phone calls they receive. Years of under-funding, under-investment and under-hiring have taken a toll on the IRS and they don’t have the tools or enough trained people to do their job as well as they should. (COVID and the related shutdowns, as well as being responsible for issuing COVID-relief checks have put them even farther behind schedule and made things much worse.)

        If your husbands calls them on one of the customer lines, their hours are 7:00am to 7:00pm in each of the 4 major time zones in the continental U.S. (If you’re in Alaska or Hawaii, adjust your time to the Pacific Time zone hours). If you’re calling from the Eastern or Central time zones, usually the earlier in the day you call in, the shorter the wait times. If you’re calling from the Mountain or Pacific tie zones, usually the later in the day you call in, the shorter the wait times.

        He might be able to make an appointment to visit at a Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TAC). You can find the TAC office locator tool on the IRS-dot-gov website. Some large cities will more than one office, but in some of the more rural states there might only be one office for the entire state and those can be hard to get to.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Yeah, I know there’s reasons we can’t get them on the phone, that’s why we just keep working around it.

          The issue is that for whatever reason, HIS last year’s AGI never matches (which is what you have to match up to e-file), but MINE is always fine, and we file jointly so they should be the same, but for whatever reason, every year for the last three years this happens so our e-file is rejected. Our tax transcripts look fine every year, we can’t see any indication that like, someone else is reporting income under his SSN or something, just for whatever reason, I put in last year’s AGI off his tax transcript that we got from the IRS and they go “Nope, doesn’t match,” even though I’m putting it in off THEIR DOCUMENTATION.

        2. A Taxing Person*

          One more thing. The IRS phone system is terrible and it will disturbingly and frequently disconnect you when you’re speaking with a CSR. I would avoid using their “call back feature.” It sounds like a good option and it will call you back and connect you to a CSR, but then when you’re talking to them, more often than not, it will disconnect you. The odds of being disconnected are much much higher if you use the call back feature. Also, the longer you’re on the phone, the more likely you’re going to get disconnected. Maybe they’ll get around to fixing their phone system some time. Or maybe not. I’m not holding my breath.

    9. The Other Dawn*

      As early as possible if I’m confident I’m getting a refund. As late as possible if I know I’ll have to pay, like this year. I started them in January, but I won’t hit the File button until sometime in March probably. Maybe even later.

      1. ronda*

        I also wait cause I have things set up so I usually have to pay. when you efile, you set the date you want $ taken from your account…. so no need to wait so the payment goes later…. but not a problem if you want to wait.

    10. Emma*

      We have to wait on a tax form that often isn’t given to use until late March or something.

      But also, when I was younger and single, no kids, I had less demands on my time, and could get things done quicker, even when doing them taxes on my own. Now, using an accountant, I’m still much slower to even gather the documents for the accountant, because there are always a million other things demanding my time.

    11. becky s.*

      Taxes – I could do mine myself but I hate doing them. In January I make an appointment with a CPA for early to mid February since I know everything I need will have arrived … except the night before my appointment I realized I didn’t have my property tax statement. Turns out, at least in NJ, property taxes are a matter of public record and it took the CPA 20 seconds to get the info. It’s worth the reasonable price to have this finished. As for refunds – I don’t like loaning the government my money interest free so I try to plan my finances so I owe them a small amount. Technically I could wait until 4/15 to pay, I usually do it right away and don’t have to think about it until the following January.

    12. Just here for the scripts*

      Both DH and I prefer getting $$ back to owing—but we don’t want the government to keep it longer than it needs to, so I start us going as soon as I can get my W2s—DH’s job is later in supplying than my city gov job, so that holds us up a bit—and get the tax deduction documents from our co-op’s management company (they are always later than DH’s job, and often need reminders to send them before April!).

      This year it meant we started compiling at the end of January, and had everything for the accountant by Feb 8. We set up time to go over the initial returns on Valentine’s Day with the accountant, signed everything for him to do an e-file the next day, and everything was submitted by him by this Thursday. DH owes the feds a bit of money, so we’ll mail that check this weekend.

      When I’ve owed one (feds / state), I have been known to wait until I got my refund from the one and use part of it to pay the other. But that was because I didn’t have the cash to do otherwise.

      Last years checks started to arrive within a week of our filing. Last year my cousin waited until early April to file her taxes, and she didn’t get her refunds until October.

    13. fposte*

      I’m an early filer who sometimes annoyingly has corrected 1099s arrive after I’ve already filed. So I should really wait, but it’s not been enough of a difference to matter so far (fingers crossed–I’m hearing of a few significant early 1099 errors from some firms this year).

      1. VLookupsAreMyLife*

        As someone who sends out 1099s each year, I’m sorry for the inconvenience this creates. Is there anything that would be helpful to you if/when a correction has to be issued?

    14. fhqwhgads*

      I am normally an early filer and aim for first two weeks of February, but there were were not-yet-decided things re: inflation relief funds and whether they’re taxable income that mean it would not have made sense to file yet at that point this year.
      It actually really annoys me that the rules and the forms can change after Jan 31, and that’s not special to this year, but it’s also not something as likely to effect most people most years. It’s like…if it’s time to submit, all this stuff should be decided already! Then again, the US tax code is a monster I shall never fully understand.

    15. BlueWolf*

      I am an early filer. In the past I generally always got a refund, so I would try to file asap. I have been trying to reduce or eliminate the refund in recent years, so I did actually owe a bit for federal this year, but still got a state refund. My taxes have started getting a bit more complicated now that I’m a homeowner and such, so I don’t get to file as soon as it opens anymore because I usually have to wait for all my forms to come in. Still, I think I filed January 31.

    16. Sloanicota*

      I have financial accounts that don’t send their final statement until late February, so it’s not up to me. They often send an earlier one that is “preliminary” but then a revised one later, so there’s little point in starting my taxes until I get the final one.

    17. KatEnigma*

      I did them as soon as we got all the forms, at the end of January.

      But we owe about $200, so I won’t be filing/paying until April 18th (this year’s due date)

    18. Falling Diphthong*

      My husband does the taxes (he is patient with long forms) while I pay the bills (I am organized day-to-day). I think if he had all the pieces then late January would be appealing, but bits are trickling in over February. He usually files sometime in early April.

    19. RussianInTexas*

      As early as I can, once I get all the documents.
      My IRA brokerage waits until the last allowed date, February 15th.

    20. Decidedly Me*

      I can’t file early, as all my forms aren’t in until mid to late February at the earliest. I’m typically doing them in bits and pieces throughout the beginning of the year as forms come in and then sit down to do a file review close to the deadline. I tend to owe at least a little, but that’s fine by me; better that I got to make interest on that money through the year rather than giving the IRS a interest free loan and getting a refund.

    21. Oysters and Gender Freedoms*

      I’m another that’s blocked by investment forms that don’t come out. In addition I have a form with a mistake & I have to go into the bank to get it corrected so although it won’t make any difference on the taxes I want to wait until that is done to file.

      On the other hand I filed my mother’s taxes for the year before she died (2019) in late 2020 and I am still waiting for a refund. Every six months the IRS sends out a demand for another form or something and I respond and wait another 6 months.

    22. Can't Sit Still*

      I used to file immediately. And then life got complicated, so now I send all my stuff to the accounting firm as soon I have all of my personal documents in hand. The firm has prepare multiple other returns before my return can be done, and since I have no say in how or when those returns are prepared, I just have to wait for them to be done.

      I miss being able to file in February, though.

    23. Filosofickle*

      You missed my favorite option — file an extension on April 15 then do it at the eleventh hour on October 15 :D

    24. Clisby*

      Our CPA files our taxes, so no driving to the PO. Getting the information to him varies based on what else is happening in life, but this year I should have it to him by the end of February. I label a manila folder TAXES (whatever year) and add things to it all year (receipt for property taxes, receipt for charitable donations, etc.) I know what to expect in the way of tax documents (plus, they helpfully put “TAX DOCUMENT” on the envelope), so starting Jan. 1 I’m on the lookout.

      Yes, we could do our own taxes, but we’re not going to. We both hate doing it. We first used a CPA when, in the same year, we bought a house; I went to work as a contractor; and my husband quit his job to look after our daughter but did some contract work on the side. I went so smoothly we decided this was a luxury we were NOT going to give up.

    25. Princess unicorn*

      Early! I filled last Thursday and refund showed up yesterday. I’ve only had to file an extension once and the anxiety I had was crazy.

    26. Rick Tq*

      I will start on my taxes early, just to get a handle on things. If I owe money I file as late as possible, if I get a refund I will file much sooner. Like you I wish I could finalize my return Jan 2 but I have to wait until ALL the 1099s from everywhere are in my hands.

      I made the mistake of filing before I had the final tax forms from an inheritance account and got a double whammy: I had to file a paper amended return and owed money too.

    27. Double A*

      I’m ready to file on Jan 2 (I do a lot of end of year cleaning, organizing, etc). Then the beginning of the year is always super hectic and I actually file in like March.

    28. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I like to get them done as soon as I receive my W2, but I learned a few years ago that I have to wait– I have some investments and I don’t get the documents until early March. A couple of years ago I had to file an amended return and it sucked. I usually start entering info into TurboTax as I get it, so my taxes aren’t that arduous, it’s just a matter of waiting until every piece of info is available.

    29. waffles*

      I am usually a late filer. I tend to do some IRA and other contributions that you can count towards the previous tax year after the calendar year closes, and then I have to wait for all the paperwork to get updated. By the time I have all the updated paperwork it is close to the deadline.

    30. Rara Avis*

      We couldn’t file until this week because the IRS hadn’t decided if state Covid payments were taxable. Also it seems like every year at least one document we need isn’t sent until after the January 31 deadline.

    31. MissCoco*

      My husband turned ours in in early February. On my own I’d do mine in the last week of March, but he used to work in taxes, so he always starts in January. This year he was genuinely excited because we’re newlyweds and he got to do a joint return. There are many reasons I married him, and I won’t pretend that not having to do my own taxes wasn’t one of them!

    32. Flowers*

      I wait until the last possible moment without going on extension.

      Fun story, in 2020 when the deadline was extended to July, I had had my C section on 7/11. Deadline was 7/15. On 7/13 husband and I were discussing the taxes and making payment arrangements while I was laying in the hospital bed.

      I’m a tax accountant and I’ve done hundreds of returns each season that I just can’t be bothered to do my own until the last moment.

    33. Random Bystander*

      I tend to do mine as soon as I have all my documents (in 2022, I had two employers, even though it was the same job throughout–Company A sold my department to Company B). Then, when I have finished them, I look to see how I did. If I did poorly (ie, I am due a refund), I’ll go ahead and file then. If I did well (ie owe a little bit more), I wait until the last day, but not a midnight post office run, just on the last day.

      Strongly influenced by my accountant father who is of the opinion that a tax refund just means that you gave the government an interest-free loan of your money, and the ideal point is to come out as close to even (over/under by $50) as possible. But if I am getting a refund, there’s no need for me to extend the loan any longer than necessary; if I have to pay that extra little bit, I’m in no hurry.

    34. The OG Sleepless*

      We almost always file ours late, for reasons that are beyond my control. I could turn this into a rant about a number of people spanning 20 years, but the gist is that my husband owns a business, so we have to submit the materials for a profit and loss statement, so we have to give the accountant a copy of the general ledger from his business software. Every single year, somebody who isn’t me takes their sweet time getting this ready, whether it was my late MIL who insisted on “getting the books ready” by handwriting everything into her own paper copy of the tax tables, to later on DH’s office assistant who hated recording credit card transactions so much she just didn’t do it until forced, to DH himself procrastinating on calculating his business mileage. This issue is the main reason I started doing his business bookkeeping myself.

  15. Festooned*

    I guess the housing market is taking off as I have many many friends who are moving and buying their own homes. What would your recommendations be regarding housewarming gifts? I’d love to hear what was the best/worst one you received yourself (because someone people have truly bizarre and wonderful taste in gifts!). My budget would be under $100 and I’m always so conscious that taste is a personal thing.

    1. Wormentude*

      Probably the most useful housewarming gift we (and my sister when she bought a house) recieved was a gift card to a DIY store chain. There are loads of unexpected expenses when buying/moving, and this helped towards the cost of painting supplies and the like.

      1. Madame Arcati*

        Yes, my sibling got me a generous one for my birthday within months of buying a house and my garage now has lovely shelving for tools, gardening stuff, paint etc.

      2. Alex*

        Nthing this. I am actually in the process of buying a home and thinking “Wow I’m going to be spending a lot of time at the home improvement store!”

        Unless you know that they need/want a specific household item, I’d go with that.

      3. Clisby*

        This is the best idea. I can’t remember ever receiving any housewarming gifts, but a Home Depot, Lowes, or hardware store card would have been much appreciated. (If you want to support a local business, maybe go the hardware store route. The local ones I’ve patronized carry a lot of things you might not think of as “hardware” – kitchenware, plants, bird feeders and bird feed, hurricane supplies (OK, I’m in coastal SC so that might be irrelevant), paint, craft supplies …

    2. AcademiaNut*

      What about a fire extinguisher? It’s practical, but the sort of thing that’s not on the immediately buy list, fits in the price range, and comes in a very standard style.

      1. Leia83*

        As a recent first time homebuyer I’m going to second this! It took me way too long after I moved in to realize I didn’t have a fire extinguisher (or plunger!). Luckily I bought both but haven’t needed them (knock on wood)

    3. Madame Arcati*

      I read somewhere, might even be on here, of someone that always buys people a stepladder to warm their first home. SO useful.

    4. Llellayena*

      Please do NOT get dish towels! I received about three sets of them, all in colors I don’t plan on using. And that was on top of the two separate sets that were already in the house as we were combining two households…

      I agree with the gift card. We got multiple Home Depot gift cards and they ALL came in handy in the first 6 months.

    5. Texan In Exile*

      A friend in Chicago gave us a snow shovel when we bought our house in Milwaukee. My husband had been in an apartment and I had moved from Memphis, so neither of us had one. It has been very useful, unfortunately.

    6. VLookupsAreMyLife*

      I always do a plastic basket / storage bin with stuff you need that first few days before you fully unpack (basic cleaning supplies, trash bags, TP, etc.). I also include a few gift cards to local, small businesses in their new neighborhood (usually restaurants).

      I aim for practicality in gift giving and ALWAYS include gift receipts so they can return what they do not want.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      The succulent pizza. A shallow planter with succulents that is pretty, low effort, and easier to move than a deep planter. Check your garden center.

      For a first house, it’s hard to go wrong with a gift card to Home Depot or Loews. As people discover they need a garbage can, a tool, some spackle, etc.

    8. Warrior Princess Xena*

      My go-to ‘just moved into my first dorm room’ gift and housewarming gift is an electric tea kettle. They are relatively inexpensive, extremely useful, and small – and can be regifted very easily if someone end up with more than one.

      For a more established household food is always good. Moving is a PITA and often leaves people without the spoons to go out and get groceries.

    9. Jackalope*

      I find it helpful to ask and get someone the thing on their list. I’m also in fan of gift cards. But my favorite gift was this: I have a family member who loved to garden and who talked about her garden to me for ages. I listened politely but wasn’t crazy about it until I moved into a place where I finally had a garden to play with. She was super excited that I was getting into it and we’ve had many lovely conversations about our plants, mailing photos to each other and so on. When I finally bought a house she gave me some bulbs to plant. It was thoughtful and relevant to our relationship.

    10. QuilterGirl*

      Best thing I ever got was a $25 gift certificate to a local non-chain hardware store, in 1997. I used it to buy a set of tools and at the register the owner welcomed me to the neighborhood and gave me 50% off, thereby earning my loyalty to this very day.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I was under the impression most places in the US now require either hard-wired smoke alarms or smoke alarms whose batteries last 15 years, and that if it’s the latter, it has to be new upon sale. So I wouldn’t get smoke alarms as a housewarming since the house should’ve come with them.

    11. Radar’s Glasses*

      When my daughter moved into her first apartment, we gave her a 3 step folding stepstool and a tool kit. Other goodies included hurricane lantern style flashlight and batteries. She loved everything. She told us she could now stop asking for help from the downstairs neighbors!

  16. The Prettiest Curse*

    Do you have any ongoing low-stakes neighbourhood intrigue and/or unsolved mysteries?
    My spare room/home office overlooks a car park for residents and there has been a red Mini parked in the same space for the whole time we’ve been living here. I always assumed that it was owned by someone who worked nights and just liked to park it in the same space, but part of a fence fell on it during a recent storm and it stayed like that for weeks. This week, several people gathered around the Mini with tools, but it has yet to move. I realised that I’ll actually miss it if they ever do take it away! So what are your local mini-mysteries?

    1. Cormorannt*

      This was about a decade ago, but the town I lived in at the time had a very well-run park district (parks and recreation department) with an elected board. There were several parks that included playing fields. The largest ones had public restrooms, but some of the smaller ones had porta-potties. They built nice little wooden lean-tos to house them so they weren’t too much of an eyesore. At one particular park, they kept getting vandalized. Someone would pour a lot of water into the vault, which dilutes the anti-freeze property of the blue liquid that’s normally in there. That meant the liquid would freeze in the cold and crack the whole darn porta-potty. This happened repeatedly. At the next park district board election, someone ran on a strident anti-porta-potty platform. He lived next to a park with playing fields and hated the porta-potties with a passion. Yes, it *was* the park where the porta-potties kept getting vandalized. He lost the election. Then he got arrested for the vandalism.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        In this case, it really was the person with the strongest motive! I would have guessed it was bored teenagers, since that’s often the explanation for that type of shenanigans. I bet Mr Board Member was also hoping it would get blamed on bored teenagers.

      2. Warrior Princess Xena*

        That sort of vandalism should get you community service cleaning public restrooms, so you can see WHY places switch to portapotties.

        I’m not a fan of them either but I’ll take a portapotty over the dubious cover of a friendly bush!

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Oddly enough, mine involves a Mini! Our building’s garage has assigned spots and the one next to mine has been occupied by a Mini that rarely moves. It’s so odd– our building is small and I recognize just about everyone, but the Mini is a mystery, as is its owner. I think I’ve seen the space empty three times in 2 years. We work from home (well, I did before my layoff) and our driving patterns are a bit erratic, so I would think there would be times when the Mini is out. Nope.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Wow, there’s another one! Maybe some Mini owners have them as second cars and therefore don’t move them as much.

      2. londonedit*

        I have a Mini and I sometimes leave it in a parking space outside my flat for a couple of weeks at a time, but neither of these sound like my Mini (and I’m pretty sure my neighbours all know that I own said Mini – one of my neighbours once asked if I’d consider selling it to him because he really liked it!)

    3. Texan In Exile*

      When my husband was still in his apartment, the couple above him did laundry twice a day, every day. We knew because we could hear the washer running.

      They used to do the morning load at 5:30 a.m. or so and the afternoon load at 4:00. They switched to 8 a.m. when Mr T, who had a lot of midnight work calls with India and China, complained to the apartment manager about the noise from the early load and the manager asked the couple to comply with the quiet hours, which were 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.

      One day, we went upstairs with a plate of warm out of the oven cookies to ask them to wait just a wee bit longer on the weekends to start, explaining that the sound of the washer woke us up and we would like to sleep past 8.


      When we asked why they did so much laundry, they snapped that YOU HAVE TO STAY ON TOP OF IT, took the cookies, and slammed the door.

      And continued to start the weekend laundry at 8 a.m.

      We never did figure out what they were washing.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        What the actual hell?

        I love this story so much. But how do two people generate that much dirty laundry? They’d have to be changing clothes several times a day!

        Now I’m going to hear “This is WISCONSIN!” in my head all day in the tone of “This is SPARTA!”

      2. Enough*

        Probably their sheets and towels. I knew a guy in college who wanted fresh sheets every night. Was not surprised to learn he was divorced.

      3. Fala*

        Did they return the cookie plate?

        Also: an apartment complex with enforced quiet hours? Is there climate change on your planet, too?

      4. Clisby*

        Well, I’d have been pretty annoyed if you asked me not to do laundry at 8 a.m. also. If I lived there, I’d think I was fulfilling my good-citizen obligation in abiding by the quiet hours, since otherwise I’d likely have been starting the laundry at 6 a.m.

        1. Roland*

          Every single day at 8am is different though! And in any case it’s ok to nicely ask neighbors for a favor, it’s not a demand.

      5. Bibliovore*

        Sadly this is me. Good thing I live in a house with my very own speed queen.
        Incontinent dog.
        Many urine soaked towels and pads and sheets and today a blanket.
        And right now very disgusting wet #2 towels and pads.
        This is Minnesota and the first load was in by 6:30 am.

      6. MissCoco*

        My downstairs neighbor just got a washing machine, and this guy produces a ridiculous amount of laundry. I actually suspect this is his first in-unit laundry situation and he’s reveling in special washing instructions/doing color-specific loads, but he does 2-4 loads 2-3 times a week. It’s completely fine, except our entire kitchen vibrates during his spin cycle. It’s made me more courteous about late-night loads, because I imagine ours is even more annoying for him.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          I’m not sure if the people with tools were the owners! I’ve actually never seen anyone do anything with that car before, but then I’m generally only in that room during work hours. It definitely could be abandoned, but doesn’t seem to be visibly rusting or even (in spite of the fence part) visibly damaged. There are always plenty of spare spaces in the car park, so I don’t think it’s really bothering anyone.

    4. RussianInTexas*

      The house with the rotating assembly of older BMWs. And the one empty lot that’s been empty for the last 8 years (since I lived here). It’s a fully built up older neighborhood, pretty popular, no logical reason for the lot to just sit empty.

      1. Felis alwayshungryis*

        Either fighting planning regulations about what they want to build on it, or it’s part of a bitter estate feud would be my guess.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          I imagine it’s the estate, I’ve seen houses in the neighborhood rebuilt and expanded on various ways.

      2. Wannessa*

        There was an empty lot down the street from my family home for the ~25 years that I lived there (and beyond). It went through a slow but constant cycle of being bought, surveyed, left empty and overgrown for months or years, then put back up for sale… It was a staple of my childhood in a lot of ways.

        It was bought (again) a few years ago and a sign was posted announcing that it would be turned into apartments. My mom and I shrugged it off, because when has it *not* been announced that it would turn into apartments? But it is now actively being built and it’s so jarring every time I visit my mom.

        Not really a mystery so sorry for being off-topic — you just reminded me of it, and it’s neat to think about how even the absence of a building can define a neighborhood so much. It feels totally different without our silly, pointless, empty space.

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

      I live in a row house with walls so thin I can easily hear my neighbors talking, coughing, etc. For the past 6 months or so, one neighbor has developed a bizarre habit. Every day after he gets back from work, around 3pm, there will be an enormously loud, constant, mechanical sound from his place, as if he were sanding the floors. It goes on for about 40 minutes to an hour, and often at about the halfway point he begins to sing in a style that I can only describe as prog rock crossed with sea shanty– very loud and unmelodious, but he’s clearly really enjoying himself. At first because it sounded so much like construction noise, I thought they were just doing work on their house, but it’s been going on so long and so regularly that I have to assume it’s some sort of exercise equipment? It’s so awful, whatever it is, and I’m deeply curious what it could possibly be, but I can’t bear to ask the neighbor about it and reveal that I’ve been listening to his awful singing and wishing laryngitis upon him for nearly a year.

      1. Mighty midget*

        Indoor bike turbo? (the type where you fix an actual outdoor bike to rollers, not a spinning bike)

        Doesn’t explain the singing though!

      2. Bearly Containing Myself*

        If you are not a professional writer, please consider becoming one. Your story is exquisite. I feel I am there with you, wondering what is going on with your unmelodious neighbor and his afternoon cacophony.

      3. Firebird*

        My neighbor across the hall from me would sing when he got off the bus until he got to the front door of our building. He was a member of a church praise group and was so loud that I could hear him a block and a half away.

        Volume-wise, I was grateful that he didn’t sing inside and also, that he was happy enough to sing. When I heard his voice I knew he was home safe and sound and it became part of my own routine. I never told him because I didn’t want him to become self-conscious about it.

    6. OyHiOh*

      The house across the street from me, where cars pull into the driveway, and someone keeps the driveway shoveled, but the house appears utterly unlived in. I never see lights on in the evening, carrying in groceries (or having food delivered) and similar.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        There is a house like that on my street too! Never seen the curtains open, never seen anyone go in or out, but I did once see a well-fed cat sitting in a window, so it’s not totally uninhabited.

        1. Cookies For Breakfast*

          Same with a house down the road from me! The cat is a very expensive breed, but only appears very rarely (I saw it once after two years of walking past every day, my partner saw it months before I did and I used to tease him saying I didn’t really believe it existed). The house looks unkempt from the outside: peeling paint, overgrown weeds, and some rubbish left on the front. Someone must live there, because the windows are lit in the evenings, and one upstairs window is often open, sometimes for the whole day. I only ever saw a scruffy teenager enter the house on one occasion, though.

        1. OyHiOh*

          Considering some of the other odd behavior I see there, a version of this is the most likely explanation. We’re in a fully legal MJ state so my suspicious run to distribution of other substances and/or cooking meth.

    7. Missb*

      Our neighborhood has a Facebook group. The boundaries of the neighborhood are also the boundaries of the school district, so it’s pretty well defined. Folks move here for the school, but as a bonus they get tons of privacy and peace/quiet/low crime rate.

      A neighbor randomly sets off illegal fireworks. After over a year of these events, the neighborhood has finally narrowed down and possibly identified the house responsible for setting these off. In our state, you can’t have anything set off that leaves the ground unless you’re an approved, permitted official event. In our county, there are only a few days a year that fireworks are even legal. The person setting these off has fireworks that go above the tree canopy (think: old growth fir trees).

      As soon as the first one goes off, I can head to the FB page and see the crankiness starting. I mean, most folks live here because of the school district so folks have little kids. And at 9 pm, the loud barrage of illegal fireworks on a random weeknight in December, January, May, etc are just not welcome.

      We are also outside of city limits, so calling the sheriff’s department means calling in a deputy from some part of the county to come out and look. So far, the calls have to resulted in the guy stopping the fireworks. Sometimes it takes the deputy over 45 minutes to get here, because they are at the other end of the county. I do wonder how many nasty letters the fireworks guy has received. He’s not well liked.

    8. Firebird*

      The apartment building across from me is midway down the block, so I assume when the school bus drops off a kid, he actually lives there.
      He gets off the bus and immediately goes behind the (very sparse) bushes and pushes up a window. Instead of climbing in, he then shuts the window and goes in through the front door. It doesn’t happen often, but I would like to know what he is thinking when he does that.

        1. Firebird*

          Maybe, though it didn’t seem like he took anything. I’ll have to start watching again when it gets warm enough to sit outside again.

    9. the cat's ass*

      When i moved to my current neighborhood in 1996, there was a small store down the street selling “Hawaiian memoribilia, Dis and Dat.” That’s the exact signage. It has never, ever been open in close to 30 years.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Well, there are two options.

        1) it used to be a small store and no one has wanted to rent it since so no one has bothered to take down the signage.

        2) someone is running a money laundering operation through there.

        I’m personally guessing option 2 but I’ve seen some old signage around so who knows.

    10. anonforthis*

      I have two. The neighbor I share a wall with is a super friendly person who has a distinctive-sounding voice and talks a lot (which is fine – extraverts need homes too, heh). There are also sometimes sounds of frantic animal scuffling from over there. I assumed for a while that the neighbor had a pet. But it occurred to me at some point these two things never overlap. There are never neighbor-sounds and animal-sounds at the same time – most days there are a lot of the former and none of the latter, but other days there are some of the latter and none of the former. I don’t think the neighbor actually has an animal at all. My first hypothesis was about rodents in the walls, but those wouldn’t make this much noise, and wouldn’t be mutually exclusive with the neighbor being around. My second guess was that the neighbor sometimes goes out of town and always leaves their place with a particular friend who has a pet that comes along. But I also haven’t ruled out the possibility that the neighbor is a shape-shifter.

      And then there’s the small empty office building. When I moved to the neighborhood, it was supposedly a credit union or something and all it had in the way of signage was a cryptic acronym on the front. No one seemed to have heard of it or used it, and in spite of how busy the general area is, I never saw people going in or coming out of this structure. I Googled the address and got only something generic like “this site has an office building with a parking lot and a gate.” Recently, all the signage has been stripped, presumably because someone wants to replace the building with an apartment tower. I’m thinking that before then, it was a front for something.

    11. Elle Woods*

      My favorite one involves a couple who moved into our old neighborhood. (We moved about 18 months ago.)

      All the houses in our development had mailboxes that had a spot for newspapers, sales flyers, political ads, etc. underneath the regular mailbox. I got the mail one day and there was a flyer in the newspaper box for a housewarming party. The flyer talked about how excited they were to be moving into such a great neighborhood and looked forward to meeting everyone.

      So excited, in fact, that they were having a housewarming party and they invited everyone in the neighborhood. The invites included a date, time, and address. It also included a note that they were registered for gifts at a couple of local big box stores. The trouble was that they only included their first names and they were not unusual at all (think “Michael” and “Amanda”), so it was impossible to even view their registries.

      Hubs and I were out of town that weekend, so we didn’t go but from what I was told, Michael and Amanda were displeased that very few people showed up and that no one brought gifts off their registry. They followed up by putting “we’re disappointed in you” flyers in the boxes of those of us who didn’t attend. They moved about two years later and no one was sad to see them leave.

    12. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I have a car mystery too, but not in my neighbourhood.

      This was a car with UK plates that stayed parked at the Italian airport near my partner’s hometown for what must have been six or seven years, possibly more. Every time we flew there, we’d see it. It became a running joke with both our families: anyone coming to pick us up would make sure to park in the same area so we could check in on it. The various lockdowns and closures in 2020 passed, and for all of 2021, it was still in its spot.

      The car was clearly in disrepair (broken rearview mirror, one flat tire too if I remember well). It puzzled us to no end that it was there for years and never damaged any further or towed away. We never tried guessing how much it must have racked up in parking fines, because that airport is very expensive (something like 6 or 7 euros every 30 minutes), we’d have lost count early on. But we’ve kept making up increasingly elaborate stories about what kept it there, and my pet theory is international espionage.

      We tried googling it. Nothing came up. No news stories, not even from local websites. Nothing on social media. Just one post on a forum for photos of driving offences, from someone as puzzled as we were, with no replies that shed any light. We got as far as looking up the plate number online and finding out where it was likely registered, which was more out of idle curiosity than being able to find out anything useful.

      Last year, we got word from a family member that it was no longer there. So this is the end, I guess. We’ll never know.

      1. Laura Petrie*

        When I was still working, I had a permit for a staff car park that was also open to the public. A lot of cars rarely moved, so I think staff who lived in the city centre parked there rather than shelling out loads of money for parking in their flats.

        Anyway, one day an oldish car arrived in one of the spaces and just never moved. People wrote offensive messages in the dust and sometimes they’d get cleaned off. The tyres deflated, the bonnet wasn’t closed properly and the mirrors were damaged.

        Eventually, the car park office placed a notice on the car saying it would be towed away on DATE. We speculated how they’d do it, since the car park was built in the 60s when cars were smaller, so there was hardly any space in there. The date came and went and the car remained. I haven’t been in the car park since March 2020, but I go past on the train fairly regularly and it’s still there. Very strange

    13. carcinization*

      Similarly, my cul-de-sac has a very fancy new-ish red Mercedes with leather interior that’s parallel parked… but it’s been in the same place for over a year, has the windows partially rolled down (a couple of inches each), and has no license plates. Around Halloween, apparently a neighborhood child went around putting a few pieces of candy on each parked car, and the candies on that car just sat until rain eventually washed them off. So no idea what’s up with that vehicle.

      1. ronda*

        when I had a car in front of my house for too long, I called the police. they asked for the license plate number… turned out to be a stolen car that was dumped there. they came and dusted for finger prints and had it towed away.

    14. Blythe*

      No mystery, but the house across the street from me is for sale and it has turned me into a regular Gladys Kravitz!

    15. Cookies For Breakfast*

      Another one just came to my mind! This is from my old neighbourhood.

      My partner and I often walked past a seemingly empty building, just a couple of minutes down the road, on a well-off residential street. There was old signage suggesting it used to be a local police station, closed years earlier. The front door and mail slot were completely shut at all times. We never saw anyone enter or leave, no vehicles going through the side gate. And we never thought anything of it until years down the line, when we realised the building was being used. Lights were on at the top floor, even on some weekends, and there were street cameras, hard to spot but not that hidden. The gate made looking in quite challenging, but there definitely were parked cars.

      We got curious but had no idea what even to look up online. Eventually, I spotted a tiny buzzer with an even tinier acronym next to the gate. The acronym led to the name of a police unit for the investigation of cyber crimes…and a website stating it had long been dismantled.

      Once again, I guess we’ll never know. We definitely didn’t amuse ourselves calling the building “the MI5”, or speaking in hushed tones when walking by, because we are mature and serious adults.

    16. California Dreamin’*

      This isn’t so much a true mystery but a mystery as to just… why??? When we moved into our house 18 years ago, an elderly widow lived next door. She and her husband had been the original owners of their house and had raised their kids there. She passed away a couple years later, and we assumed her kids would sell the house. It’s a very high-value neighborhood, so even though the house needs updating, it would sell for A Lot of Money. At one point one of the kids who still lives locally (these aren’t kids, they’re middle-aged adults) told my husband that they were going through a lengthy probate. Okay, makes sense. But that probate finished at some point, and they just… aren’t selling the house. It’s now been unoccupied for 16 years. The local son comes by every weekend and keeps things in order. It looks inhabited because he’s left his dad’s car parked in the driveway all these years. He decorates for Christmas and Halloween (elaborately!) and actually hands out Halloween candy there. But he does not live there. Very nice guy and we’re friendly with him in a hi, how’s it going kind of way but can’t bring ourselves to ask what the heck is the plan. I used to be irritated that it was a vacant house but eventually realized that because the land is valuable but the house is unremarkable and needs work, whoever buys it will likely tear it down and build something larger that overlooks our backyard. So he’s more than welcome to leave it unoccupied and put up his Christmas lights every year!

    17. WoodswomanWrites*

      There’s a house on the next block that hasn’t been lived in for more than 30 years according to my neighbor who lives adjacent to it and said it was vacant when he moved in. The exterior paint is all peeling and I’m guessing the interior could have been taken over by rodents. The word is that there’s been a feud between family members who inherited it.

      The weird thing is that someone periodically comes by and weeds and trims the shrubs. After many years, I happened to walk by when she was there and made small talk. She was friendly enough. But the whole time all I wanted to do was ask what the story is with this house that no one lives in, that looks like hell except for the plants around it.

    18. Anon. Scientist*

      This is a solved mystery but kind of funny. We lived in a big apartment building that was “luxury” when it was built in the early 1980s but 30 years later was decidedly average. It shared a 5 story parking garage with some other apartment buildings. We all had regular cars but there was one Maserati. We always assumed that it was just someone who was saving all their money for their car by living in a mediocre apartment. And then a federal agency raided our building! No more Maserati.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        This just proves that if you want to go under the radar, you should spend your ill-gotten gains on something expensive that is less flashy than a sports car.

      2. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

        Just out of pure morbid curiosity, was this somewhere in DC? And did the Maserati have a Vespa ice-cream scooter next to it?

  17. Reverse Dieting*

    I lost 40 lbs in the past ten months through intermittent fasting (IF) and walking. I made a lot of lifestyle changes to support a healthier existence, and I enjoyed the journey to wellness. I love my new lifestyle and am grateful to have achieved my goal of improved health (bye-bye blood pressure medication!). When I reached my ideal weight, I needed to move to a maintenance phase to stop losing weight. This meant eating more calories each day. I was scared to change anything because I loved what I was doing, and it worked for me. And I certainly didn’t want to gain the weight back as I did in the past after weight loss. In figuring out how to prevent this, I came across the concept of reverse dieting, where you slowly introduce more calories back into your diet instead of all at once. I’m three weeks in, and it’s working for me so far! I just wanted to share this with anyone who may be in the same boat after weight loss. A simple internet search will bring up more information about reverse dieting, and there are some great YouTube videos.

    1. Lynn*

      Hello! I’d be interested in more details, if you’re willing to share them! How quickly/slowly are you increasing calories, and by how much? Are you still doing IF while you increase calories?

      I’m losing weight with the same method (started 230, down to 185, eventual goal 150), and I’ve also read about reverse dieting and wanted to do that at the end. It’s nice to hear of success with this!

      1. Reverse Dieting*

        Hi Lynn, while I’m no expert and still new to the concept, I’m happy to share what I’m doing. First, some background, I am over 50 and 5’2 and was eating 1,200 calories a day and fasting on an 18/6 schedule. I ate a balanced lunch and dinner to ensure my body was well nourished. I didn’t snack in between. My meals were a nice size, and I was satisfied and never hungry. I exercised four times per week with a combination of cardio (walking only for the first seven months, and then I discovered Hiit workouts, which I enjoy and are good cardio workouts), balance exercises, and strength training (I wish I did this from the beginning because it feels great to be building muscle and muscles burn calories even when you’re at rest).

        I’ve extended my IF eating window to 8 hours for reverse dieting to get the extra calories in, so I now do 16/8. This allows me to add healthy snacks to my daily diet. I’ve also reduced my exercise to two days per week, which I’ll increase again when I reach my 1,600 daily food calorie goal. This may or may not be the number of calories I’ll end up consuming daily, but it’s a starting goal. Because we’re all different, this is trial and error to find the proper daily calorie intake for me and my desired activity level.

        I enjoy exercising (I never thought I would say that!), and it has tremendous health benefits, so I plan to do 150 minutes of moderate cardio a week as part of my new lifestyle. I’ll also pay close attention to my body and adjust my calorie intake to support this exercise without weight loss or gain. I’m confident I’ll figure it out, and you will, too!

        I will IF for life because of the health benefits of fasting, and I’ve never felt better.

        Congratulations on your weight loss so far. I bet you feel great!

        1. Lynn*

          Thank you! That is encouraging. Yes, I don’t plan to stop IF – for me it has benefits beyond weight loss. I don’t get an afternoon slump anymore (sooo nice), and fewer meals means less time spent in the kitchen so it saves me time too! Also I just hit 40 this year and figure that the best way to help myself out in the next couple decades is to get into healthy habits now so it’s just normal.

          Congratulations to you too, and thanks for the details!

    2. Prospect gone bad*

      I’ve done this too! I feel like we are a minority! I absolutely killed my metabolism by under eating for years, mainly when I was moving around expensive areas and living in small “luxury” apartments and not cooking, and getting caught up in my image. Then I hit a point in my 30s where my thyroid wasn’t working and I was malnutritioned that I had to start adding in calories even though I wasn’t underweight, my body just have gotten used to surviving on less calories. Fortunately or unfortunately my body doesn’t seem to react to over eating or under eating anymore.

      The one thing about the process that bothered me is that basically everyone assumes you’re doing secret eating or lying about your calorie counts if you’re not very skinny when you say you’re doing this. That’s why I kept it to myself.

  18. Reluctant but Willing*

    Anyone done jury service in the UK? What was it like? How likely are they to insist that you do more than 2 weeks,e.g. because a trial takes longer than expected? Any advice for my first day?

    1. Bagpuss*

      There will be a lot of waiting around so take a book/kindle/games on your phone. You may find yourself hanging around then getting sent home part way through the day.

      I think for longer trials they will warn you before it starts so anyone for whom it would create real hardship can say so.

      Check in advance where the court is, and think about snacks etc. Most will have vending machines but not necessarily anything else.

      If you do end up dealing with a trial, you can take notes, (but do take VERY seriously the rules against googling or discussing the case!)

      1. Buni*

        I spent more time in the canteen reading or doing the jigsaws they provided than I did in any actual courtroom, so x10 the advice to take something to do.

        But yes, they did check in with people before assigning anything over the statutory 2 weeks.

    2. Madame Arcati*

      I’ve not done it myself but I have been involved in the system as it were (on the side of Good I promise!) I think how likely you are to have to serve a long time because of a long trial is largely luck but firstly they set the duration at the beginning, (estimated I grant you but it’s their job so…) so if they say, right chaps this is a murder trial listed for six weeks you have an opportunity to say, actually for [good reason] I can’t do that. That’s why they pick from a pool. And you might not get picked at all; that is not rare.
      Also, plenty of trials, probably the majority, do not last a huge amount of time. Loads of them are less than a week.
      In any case do take a book, knitting etc because whatever you end up doing there is a lot of waiting around.

      Just in the interests of justice, a PSA (and the judge will tell you this): if you are selected, at no point be tempted to even think about looking the slightest thing up on the internet. Nothing about the defendant, or any witness or victim or organisation. And if you don’t understand something about the law, the jury can send a note to the judge that is part of their job.

      1. Manders*

        We were not allowed to bring knitting needles into the building for jury duty, since they can also be considered weapons. But that was in the US…

    3. Lexi Vipond*

      Well, UK, but Scotland with its 15 person juries and not proven verdict and so on, which might not be exactly what you’re looking for!

      Up here they warn you in the original letter if they’re expecting it to go over a certain length.

      Do you have to call a number the night before to see if anything has changed? I’ve done it once where I went but wasn’t chosen and was sent away after an hour or so with instructions to call again on Wednesday night in case we were needed on Thursday (which we weren’t), once where I turned up and the court was closed (and then the same time but the next day I was finally chosen), and possibly once ages where the message told me not to come at all and that was the end of it!

      1. Clisby*

        Is the “not proven” verdict different from the US “not guilty” verdict? I mean, if a jury says someone is not guilty, that doesn’t mean the jury thinks the defendant is innocent. It means the prosecution hasn’t proven guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. I’ve served on a couple of US juries, and I can easily imagine circumstances where I would believe the defendant was guilty as hell but be ethically required to vote “not guilty” because the prosecution hadn’t proven it.

        1. Lexi Vipond*

          It’s a nasty in between verdict, which is why it’s controversial – there are three options, guilty, not guilty, and not proven, so ‘not proven’ usually means that there’s some evidence of guilt, or no real evidence which would cause doubt, but not enough corroborated evidence for a conviction.

          There’s quite a bit of history at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_proven

    4. Ellis Bell*

      My partner says it was the most boring fortnight of his life. He was just waiting around for a case but didn’t get picked until near the end. It was a four week case and there was a good reason that he couldn’t commit to something as long as that, and then he didn’t get picked for anything else. He was usually there between 10am and 4pm, with a break to go out for lunch, in a common area with seats and televisions; do bring a book. There was a canteen for refreshments. When I was a court reporter I saw a lot of interesting court cases, but that’s probably because they were newsworthy! Even that still involved a lot of waiting around for more boring stuff to be dealt with. Whenever I had a really good jury trial to cover, I used to feel sorry for how often the jury would get sent out so they could deal with something the jury might find prejudicial or decide if something could be presented to them. I didn’t have to leave while they hashed that stuff out, but I couldn’t print anything that was said while the jury was out.

      1. Lexi Vipond*

        I found it quite interesting, both being balloted and not chosen and the week I actually spent on jury duty, but as I said above we were never really kept hanging around – there was the recorded message in the evening to say if the group of jurors was needed the next day or not, and at one point before a ballot they said ‘look, we’re not going to be ready for you for a while, go and get a coffee or something and come back at 11:30’.

        But I have no idea if that’s a Scottish Court Service thing, or a local court thing which might vary between different English towns as well.

        Once on the jury we weren’t allowed out at lunchtime, except for a supervised smoking break, but you got a sheet every morning to tick what kind of sandwich etc you wanted for lunch, and it was all pretty tasty.

  19. Rainy Day*

    My friends and I are trying to be more money conscious and spend less money on outings. It’s not like we did a lot of very expensive activities but we’ve realized recently how much it can all add up. Other than gathering at someone’s house to hang out or the free museums in our area, what can we do together for little to no cost?

    1. Bagpuss*

      Walking – visit a local park or river, maybe bring food for a mini picnic or just a thermos of coffee and some cookies?

      Hang out with a purpose, such as taking turns to cook, playing board or card games, book club or something similar.

    2. SpeckledBeagle*

      This is kind of random and availability will depend on your area, but if you live in the US you should see if you have a local line dancing bar. They’re all over the place in the south and exist in big cities like Boston too. They normally have little to no cover fee, so if you don’t buy the overpriced drinks you can spend very little. It’s also a great group activity. Many places have “beginner” nights where they’ll have a dj teaching steps.

    3. Well...*

      Hiking, dnd/board game night, BBQs (involved grocery money but can be carefully and equitably planned on a budget), crafts like painting or knitting, play video games together.

      Basically all the stuff we did in grad school when we were dirt poor.

    4. HannahS*

      Skating in the winter if there are public rinks. Cook together. Craft together. Board games, movie night. Everyone bring a cheese and do a cheese tasting. Get a book on bird watching and go for a birding walk in a park. Short car trips to visit nearby small towns. Find all the free festivals near you. I used to go to all the local agricultural fairs. Pick fruit in season.

    5. Sparkle llama*

      I enjoy going to parks with friends. Depending on the weather there are a variety of options.

      Winter- many parks have rinks, some with free or very cheap skate rental, some parks have cheap snowshoe rental

      Summer- just about every city in my area has a summer concert in the park series which can be really fun.

      Check the website for the park system on see what special events they have. Otherwise just going to a new park and walking around gives you a change of scenery.

    6. Just a Name*

      Check your local library for free events. Ours has a book club, a knitting group, they host several free speakers each month. Some events are just for kids, but others are geared for adults.

    7. Elle*

      Volunteer as a group. I worked in a Meals on Wheels type org and we often had groups of friends volunteer together on a weekly basis. Some of them drove and some of them worked in the kitchen.

    8. MaxKitty*

      Our library system has passes to several museums that usually cost to enter. And many attractions here have free days throughout the year. Maybe your area has similar opportunities?

      Book club.

      Scavenger hunt.

      Does a local college have events open to the public?

      Volunteer. Our local food bank hosts groups with no experience all the time and is thankful for the help.

    9. CatCat*

      Geocaching is a fun outdoor activity. It’s basically a treasure hunt. The app has free caches you can find and the premium version to unlock more caches is fairly inexpensive.

    10. Alex*

      In nice weather, picnics!

      Libraries are also great resources for this kind of thing–they often have discount passes to things that you can sign up for.

      Start a reading/crafting/themed movie parties.

      Volunteer someplace together, like for Habitat for Humanity, local shelter, etc.

      Go geocaching. You can get the app and have adventures completely free.

    11. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Book clubs. Our local independent bookstore has a ton of themed clubs, some virtual and some in-person. No cost, though you do have to get the book! If you’re fast readers, you can share a copy or two.

      My former city had a really cheap cinema club, which was awesome– I think we paid $12 for 9 movies/year. One Sunday a month.

      Bar trivia is always a ton of fun, and if you find places where the drinks are inexpensive, it’s a really fun evening for not a lot of cash. We used to play weekly at a local brewery.

      Self-guided walking tours can be really interesting, especially if you live in a place with a lot of historic areas.

    12. Aphrodite*

      What about an educational meeting either in someone’s home, the library or outdoors? The host for the weekly (bi-weeekly or monthly) meetings picks a topic ahead of time and researches the heck out of it. It can and probably should be their choice alone as that will allow the other attendees the opportunity to learn about something new.

      Topics could range from funny to odd (Atlas Obscura is good for these) to scary local / state / regional mystery or weirdness (the Youtube channels Lucy Worsley, Mr Ballen, Disaster Stories, Mr Deified and more have lots of ideas), educational (more on the discoveries of the James Webb telescope or the elaborate table settings of rich Victorian households), how-tos such as setting a formal table today or showing and explaining the differences between various types of nails and screws. Really, anything that is educational but not formally educational.

    13. Girasol*

      A photo trip where you go somewhere and compete with photos that meet certain qualifications (close-up, sunset, animal, something purple) and vote on winners (or not). Depending on the area, berry picking. Canning tomatoes or making jam with friends. If you’re into shows, you might have fun at the local high school, where tickets are cheap and some of the young actors and teen bands or orchestras are surprisingly talented.

    14. Anne Kaffeekanne*

      Another vote for geocaching! It gives walks a purpose and leads you to interesting places you would otherwise never check out. And you get to feel accomplished seeing all those smileys on the map. Also some caches are so cleverly done – I love the surprise when someone hid a box in an unexpected way.

  20. Merp*

    Seeking a polite script to tell a friend she’s annoying.

    My friend loves gifting. I receive gifts from her throughout the year, not just birthday/xmas.

    Friend gets overly excited and makes multiple references to a gift in the days leading up to when I receive it. She messages me frequently (I got five yesterday morning) to update on delivery status and talk about the gift. Upon receipt she asks me to take a photo and send it to our friend group chat “so everyone can see!” For several weeks afterwards she will ask whether I used Gift, what I honestly thought of Gift, how Gift could be improved, and so on.

    She mostly sends small items. From the way she gets so excited she acts as though she sent me a magical llama that’s been trained to clean my house and sort out my tax returns. Thank you for thinking of me, but I personally don’t need to hear over and over how excited you are that I get to eat this packet of chips you thought I’d enjoy.

    Over time I’ve come to resent her gifts and the emotional labor expected of me each time she gives me something. How do I communicate this in a diplomatic way?

    1. fposte*

      As you probably know, there is no genuinely “You’re annoying” script that isn’t likely to do serious damage to a friendship. What I’d focus on is validating how much fun this is for her but stating what you’ll do going forward. With some friends this could be a short “Dude, I said thank you–I’m kind of out of gift excitement at that point. See you at thing!” With others it might be longer: “I know you get super excited about giving things–it can be really fun process–and I appreciate you think of me. But I can’t put the energy in that you like, so in future I’m happy to thank you but then I’m done with the topic.” Then maybe you give one callback to that conversation if nudged for a future packet of chips but otherwise ignore prompts.

      My other thought is that Friend needs a small child in her life. I mean, I think she’s maybe unhealthily invested in gift-giving, but when you’re five an unexpected packet of chips is the best.

      1. NeonFireworks*

        I laughed at the part about the small child! It’s reminding me of that video where a dad pranks his 2 year old by hyping up a wrapped present that turns out to be a banana…but the kid is OVER THE MOON EXCITED to have a banana.

    2. kina lillet*

      Yeah these aren’t really gifts if you’re paying so dearly for them, are they? :p

      I have a few thoughts. One, I think you can ask her to limit it to a birthday gift. “Friend, it’s really lovely that you enjoy sending me gifts, but as weird as it sounds to say ‘be less generous’ can you only send me stuff on my birthday? I’m trying to do less ‘stuff’.”

      Two—while I was in college my very dear friend was into poking me in the arm and saying “poke!” and it was so. so. so. annoying. I talked to her about it and figured that what she wanted was some kind attention; I asked her that we replace the poke thing with a hug. After that it was a huge relief, she’d say something like “hug” and I’d give her a hug and she wouldn’t poke me anymore.

      Anyway, what I mean is, if there’s some way you can redirect this impulse of hers to feel generous and get positive attention etc to something that’s less annoying to you, it’ll be really helpful. It’ll probably feel tough for her to Just Stop and easier to replace it.

      Finally, you don’t actually have to be friends with her. I noticed you said that she IS annoying and not “this thing she does” is annoying. It’s really okay to just step back if you don’t really like her.

    3. Sloanicota*

      Ooh boy I would struggle with this too. I’m bad at Mandatory Gratitude. It reminds me of my friend who loves to throw parties, except the act of her hosting seems to require a constant flow of appreciation and compliments and gratitude, and I don’t actually enjoy dinner parties very much. Too much danged work!

    4. Alex*

      Wow I got annoyed just reading that and I DO enjoy gifts most of the time (both giving and receiving).

      I think some of this depends on your friendship. Is it the kind of friendship that can withstand a few hurt feelings? Some friendships can, some can’t. Because you probably WILL hurt her feelings, but also, something needs to be done!

      I would say something like, Friend, I do appreciate all the thought you put into gifts and that you want to do things for me. But all this gifting is way too much and it makes me uncomfortable (you don’t have to go into why, because it seems the reason why is because she get so needy about gratitude). Can we agree to limit gifts to one birthday gift per year? If you want to show friendship, I appreciate [greeting cards, invites to go to the movies, hugs, high fives, funny texts, whatever would make sense for you].

      This way it is about how you want to be treated, not how she is annoying, and you are showing her a different path for her enthusiastic friendship overtures, not rejecting them outright.

    5. RagingADHD*

      Gifting is her love language, and it’s not yours. Part of the reason she’s so desperate for validation is that she is not getting reassurance that you feel loved & love her back.

      Maybe talk to her about what really gives you the warm fuzzies in a friendship. Is it kind words? Hugs? Spending time together? When someone goes out of their way to do you a favor?

      See if you can find a balance where maybe you give her a small gift sometimes and make much over it, and maybe she can make the effort to speak your love language more often.

    6. WellRed*

      I’m exhausted reading this. Why is it that some people need to talk and talk up the coming gift. Kind of anticlimactic at the end. Then carrying on fir weeks. I’m cringing!

    7. Dark Macadamia*

      I would focus it on yourself rather than her, along the lines of “You’re so sweet to think of me, but I sometimes feel pressured to match your energy in a way that feels really uncomfortable for me, I’m sorry but I’m just not that exuberant and I don’t want you to feel bad if I just say thank you once.” Maybe even tell her the gifts end up having the opposite of the intended impact because you just feel guilty or worried that you’re not living up to her expectations? Mostly though I would just want the gifts to stop. That’s tough when it’s something like a snack where it doesn’t really cause clutter or anything but you can try!

      Also, does she do this to everyone or just you? The part about bragging in the group chat feels so weird to me, like either everyone is constantly posting pictures of snacks, or just you are doing it and it seems like it would really alienate everyone???

      1. Merp*

        She does this with everyone in our friend circle. She is VERY VERY VERY ENTHUSIASTIC about delivery updates when a gift is on its way, to the extent that it feels rude and out of place to respond with a mere “thanks for letting me know”. She definitely expects a certain level of follow up; as she complains when a gift recipient hasn’t provided details of how they’ve used the gift.

        1. Dark Macadamia*

          This is so obnoxious and honestly, selfish! She’s so blatantly using gifts to invite praise and validation. I would straight up just say “ok cool” or something really bland with the first update and then ignore the rest. So rude and awkward

        2. fposte*

          Then I would go with the longer script. You get that she enjoys this, and you’re sorry to disappoint her, but you’re not going to do it anymore, as it takes all the enjoyment of the gift away for you and makes you genuinely uncomfortable. And then don’t do it anymore.

          This is clearly really ingrained for her at this point, but at least putting on the record as “you’re actually making me unhappy, not happy” might give her a little nudge back to sanity, and you’ve staked your “Nope, sorry” ground out.

    8. LG*

      How hard, if at all, do you push back on her demands for gratitude? That’s where I would start. Refuse to take pictures and share with friends, for example. If she doesn’t get the feedback she’s looking for, maybe that will dim her enthusiasm? My sympathies, she sounds exhausting!

      1. Merp*

        She will persist. If I say I’m too busy to post pics, she will ask me to do it at a later time. If I simply ignore her request, she will ask me again at a later time.

        Whether I ignore or indulge in her over enthusiasm, she will repeatedly bring up the gift and want to refer to it again and again.

        1. LG*

          Honestly, I would block her! Having a friend shouldn’t involve this much work. I had a coworker that kept giving me unwanted gifts, even when I told her to stop, and she eventually gave up when she called me (when I was out of town, on vacation!) to ask if I’d gotten it. I told her I wasn’t going to thank her when I’d specifically told her to stop giving me gifts. But we weren’t close friends, and I didn’t care if she was pissed off, so not quite the same as your situation. Aside from this, is she a good enough friend that you don’t want to lose her?

        2. Samwise*

          When you ignore her requests, do you eventually comply? If so, that’s just taught her that she can get a response if she asks enough times

        3. Ampersand*

          Do you genuinely like her, otherwise? Or is she someone you have to tolerate because shared friends (or other reasons)?

          I really wouldn’t like someone who was this persistently needy. Just reading everything you’ve said has put me on edge! It made me wonder if you want to preserve the friendship—and if there’s a deeper friendship to preserve.

    9. Ellis Bell*

      I’ve had a lot more success with “Can I ask you to do something for me?” rather than embarking upon a description of why my friend is being annoying and needs to stop. Yes, she is definitely being annoying, but I would argue that you don’t need to convince her of that, or get her to agree to her own annoyingness. You just need her to stop. Presumably she would love the same gift laden treatment that she’s giving out, so don’t try to convince her of the Wrongness of Enthusiastic Gifting. I would probably say: “Can I ask you to do something for me? I’m not enjoying quite so many gifts, and I’m going to opt out of the whole gifting thing for now. Thanks for understanding.” There will be follow up questions from her! Will it affect Christmas? Be honest what gifting arrangements would make you happy overall. Also, don’t give too much away, and try and keep the message as closely to “please no” as possible: “I’m just not enjoying all the discussion around it and I’m generally just not into it as much as you are, which feels awkward. The important thing to remember is I want your friendship and I don’t really have any need for gifts.” She may ignore or push the boundary so just rinse and repeat what you already told her: “I don’t have time to wait in for gifts because I’m not really into gift getting like I said.” Or “Yes I received it, but like I said I’m not as excited about gifts in general as you are, and I don’t really feel like taking a photo. (Then pivot to:) I would be a lot more excited to hang out with you! When do you next want to do something?”

    10. Rosengilmom*

      Explain to friend that since you’re decluttering/climate conscious/strapped for space, whatever, every gift she sends in means one existing item needs to go out.

    11. marvin*

      Okay this is exhausting. I’m already tired of your friend just from reading this. It sounds like gift giving may be a bit of a social crutch for her and she’s not able to see how it’s actually an imposition. It sounds like she will need a hard boundary and will probably not respond well to it. I would make it a blanket no gifts policy, because I can just see her saying, Oh, I know you said you didn’t want any gifts but I saw the most alluring can of Pringles and it made me think of you. You’ll have to be firm about not engaging and feeding her need for this kind of gratification.

      But also… Is she a good enough friend that it’s worth putting in all of this work? (Either the work of putting up the boundary or the work of dealing with her aggressive gifting.) I don’t know what your relationship is like outside of this but I’d be surprised if she wasn’t thoughtless or demanding in other ways.

      1. Merp*

        She’s actually someone who is really thoughtful most of the time. For some reason when it comes to gifting, she does not pick up the hint that what she’s doing is an imposition.

        One of the recent gifts was a small box of chocolates which I’m guessing was around $15. She mentioned this particular gift more than 10x on the various delivery updates, how much she’s looking forward to me receiving it, and when I had a bad day the first thing she said was that I could eat the chocolates and feel better. It’s…irritating.

    12. allathian*

      I’m not sure it *is* possible to communicate this in a diplomatic way.

      If you truly want this excessive gift giving and associated emotional labor it requires to stop, you have to say so clearly. Even if hearing it will hurt her and risk your friendship. Which honestly doesn’t sound like much of a friendship to me.

      The only way to get her to stop giving the gifts may be to offend her, but whether or not you want to risk that depends on your status in your friend group. If you stopped being friends with her, would that mean losing the entire friend group?

      Don’t ask, but tell her to stop giving you gifts. “I’ve decided to stop accepting any further gifts from you, because you demand that I should be excited about the gifts, and that’s just not my style, and you’ve proven often enough that you can’t take no for an answer. If you do send me something, don’t expect any thanks or validation on our group chat with posts of me happily using your gift.” This is the nuclear option, to be sure. Only use it if you’re willing to lose the friendship in the process. But sadly some people are so self-absorbed that they don’t understand anything except the nuclear option.

      If you don’t want to go there yet, try: “The biggest gift you could ever give me would be to never give me another gift. I simply can’t be as excited as you seem to want me to be over a packet of chips or a box of chocolates. Neither of us is happy with the situation as it is, so I’d really like you to stop giving me gifts for a while. Do you think you can do that?” Then if she complains that you’re still happy to receive gifts from other friends, you can say something like “Yes, but that’s because they only give me something for Christmas or my birthday, which I’m happy to reciprocate, and thanking them once is enough.”

  21. My Brain is Exploding*

    This is for Richard Hershberger: I am not a baseball fan (sorry) but I will watch on occasion. There was an article in our newspaper about the new rule to cut down on position players pitching. It was clearly written for baseball fans. So, in laymen’s terms…would you explain the old rule and the rationale for it and the new rule and the rationale for the change, please?

    1. Elle Woods*

      I’m not Richard, but I’m a huge baseball fan. (Go Twins!)

      Under the old rules, teams had to be ahead or behind by six runs or more OR be in extra innings before a position player could pitch. The rationale for it was to save wear & tear on pitchers’ arms.

      The new rules state that you can only use a position player at pitchers when you’re (a) ahead by 10 or more runs in the 9th inning, (b) losing by 8 or more runs in any inning, or (c) if the games is in extra innings.

      The rationale for the new rule is two-fold. One, it’s to prevent position players from getting injured playing a position they’re not accustomed to. And two, the players’ union is concerned that position players’ defensive stats could be diminished by having them pitch and thus hurt them when it comes to arbitration and free agency.

      I hope that makes sense.

      1. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

        I’ll add one more thing to this excellent reply: Before 2022, there were no restrictions at all on position players (catchers, first/second/third basemen, shortstops, outfielders) coming in to pitch. But in order to save wear and tear on pitchers’ arms, teams were more and more bringing position players in to pitch, and I guess the players’ union was starting to think it was getting out of hand, so they and the league are putting restrictions on the practice. Some were added in 2022, apparently more are going to be added this season.

        If you’ve never seen a non-pitcher pitch, it can be kind of ridiculous. A few actually really know what they’re doing but others are just embarrassing. It can even be a kind of comic relief to the fans, if your team is down by a lot of runs and has no chance of winning.

      2. My Brain is Exploding*

        Thank you! Although it seems like MLB teams carry a lot of pitchers, v. the troubles some NFL teams have had with multiple quarterback injuries!

    2. Just here for the scripts*

      Also bases are bigger this year—though I don’t know why.

      Also, there’s now a limited amount of time that a pitcher can take between pitches. Pitchers will have 15 seconds to throw a pitch with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a runner on base. Hitters will need to be in the batter’s box with eight seconds on the pitch clock. This is MLB’s effort to spread up the game as some pitchers earned the moniker “human rain delay” and almost all batters adjusted their gloves, walked around between pitches, etc.

      Also (though new last year, not this year), both leagues use a designated hitter—not just the American League.

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        I think the bases are bigger for safety reasons – reducing collisions – and also to encourage stolen bases. They’re trying to get away from the strikeout-or-hit-home-run offense of the past few years.

        None of the rule changes bug me except for the ban on shifts. Seems to me that if the players don’t like shifts they can learn to hit to all parts of the field.

        1. Just here for the scripts*

          Ah thank you for mentioning the ban on shifts—I forgot that one!

          So with the bigger bases, I assume the distance between bases is still the same—does that mean all teams have to recut their diamonds?

  22. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

    Car owners: Has anyone gone for the thing that some insurance companies offer where in order to get a discount on your rates, you install a small device in your car that monitors how–and how much–you drive (e.g. Progressive Snapshot; I think GEICO also offers something equivalent)? Did your rates go down significantly and stay down? Were there any unexpected consequences?

    I’m considering doing it because my premiums have been skyrocketing (a problem endemic to my area), and I am a pretty sedate driver who only drives 5-6K miles per year. But aside from having obvious qualms about installing a spying device in my car, I’m concerned this might be a trap: that if I ever hit the brakes hard, have to give the car full throttle to safely merge onto a highway, or accidentally go 65 mph in a 50 zone, my rates will go up even higher. My insurance company’s site does warn that it’s possible to install this device and then have your rates go up. Thoughts from those who have tried it? Thanks so much.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I hate this kind of thing. Hate it. Maybe I’ve watched too many spy/cop shows, but I just don’t want to live in a surveillance state. I won’t install a Ring camera for “home security”, I won’t install a keylogger for work, I won’t pay extra for the special airport screening, I don’t want “safety apps” on my phone or car that track/report location, and I won’t install the insurance device to help THEM judge my driving.

      1. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

        I have the exact same gut instinct as you, and that’s why I’ve resisted doing it for this long.

    2. Sparkle llama*

      I did it with progressive and my rates didn’t go down or up. I drive to work on a 55 mph road with stoplights and a fair amount of traffic, so I have to stop suddenly fairly often, which I am guessing didn’t help.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Is there a term period on that? Like, do you do it for a certain number of weeks and then you can remove the device? Or is it just like, they can track you forever and dangle maybe giving you a discount?

        1. Sparkle llama*

          It was for a period of time after it was up they said I did not qualify for a reduction and gave me instructions for returning the box.

    3. Squidhead*

      We did it when we switched to a new insurance company: put the chip in both vehicles for 90 days, then mail it back (it sends data throughout the 90 days, though). They promised a 10% discount for being willing to do it, so we figured we didn’t have a lot to lose. I drive much more than my spouse, and my work commute is residential streets with traffic lights/stop signs. It flagged a lot of “hard stops” that, honestly, I think are BS. If you drive a city block at 30mph and then stop at the intersection, your choices are to 1)use your brakes or 2)basically cruise at 15mph from block to block. I use the brakes, but I genuinely don’t think it’s a hard stop most of the time…the seat belt tensioner is a little over-sensitive and it doesn’t even go off when I stop! So, whatever…at least it didn’t find any aggressive take-offs (not our style). I think our total discount came to 20%. I’d probably do it again, but only if it was guaranteed not to make our rates go up.

      The chip definitely knew where we were and what time of day it was (late night driving = more dangerous). We speculated about whether it could flag that you were at, say, a bar before driving, but we don’t go to bars. Since our behavior is pretty benign and we figured our phones know where we are all the time anyway, we didn’t think we had a lot to lose on the privacy side (that we haven’t already lost anyway).

      If you’re trying to lower your premium, make sure to get a quote from a couple of places…we switch insurers every few years and always save money by doing so (or save money by getting the current insurer to match the offered rate). We also bundle in our home policy and avoid installment fees by paying annually instead of monthly…options that are worth looking at if you haven’t already.

      1. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

        Thank you. I’ve read enough from your comment, and the one below, to confirm that this is not for me. I’ll pay the higher premiums for as long as I can. (I did more or less confirm that competing insurance companies won’t save me any money, but I haven’t looked into bundling; I can try that next.)

    4. Llama Llama*

      My sister works in the insurance industry and she strongly advised against it. It is strongly skewed to give you a bad score.

    5. RussianInTexas*

      You don’t install a device in your car, you install an app on your phone. It seems to have the perfect rating differentiating when I am the driver and when I am not, because it takes to the Bluetooth on my car.
      I have it with Geico, and I got a 20% discount after a month of driving with the app. I have 100% rating in the distracted driving and handheld phone use – as in I haven’t even once in the last year. Once in a while I get a ding for hard brake or too fast cornering, but even with driving in the city this haven’t dragged my rating below 93/100. It does recommend that I drive in more consistent speed, and I’ll get right on it, once the city get rids of those pesky traffic lights and stop signs.
      I just renewed, and my rates started as low as after that initial discount.
      One more thing – if you work from home and don’t commute, tell this to the insurance company, it’ll take some percentage off.

      1. sagewhiz*

        No, do NOT install the phone app, go for the car device!

        A friend did the app. After two weeks he deleted it. Why? He discovered it “timed” and tracked him while biking, on long walks, everywhere he was going any way he was going. Way too intrusive!

        I’ve done the Progressive snapshot twice over the decade or so I’ve been with them. Each time it lowered my rate a fair amount…for a while. I happened to do it last year, after a huge rate spike and the fee dropped about $100 for both the Feb and Aug pay’ts, but this month my bill went up $50 with this renewal period. Only reason I can figure for the price hike is so they can cover the increased cost of their breakfast eggs.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          I’ve had the app for over the year now, it’s fine. I don’t really care about data tracking at this point, everyone tracks everything.

    6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      We did the thing on both our cars through Nationwide – I work from home and drive once a week, and mine gave me a 40% discount. My husband (at the time) worked onsite and is generally a less conservative driver than I am anyway, and his gave him a 10% discount. When we did ours, they guaranteed that rates would not go up and that using the doohickey would result in a 10-40% discount. And also, we did ours at least 3 years ago (pre-Covid) and the discounts have stuck through the renewals since then, without having to redo it. (In fact, I don’t think redoing it is actually an option, else I’d probably have my husband do it again now that he’s 100% WFH.) So it was worthwhile to me.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        (They guaranteed that rates would not go up *as a result of using the doohickey specifically*, I mean.)

    7. Ginger Cat Lady*

      My daughter did it. Was driving to work, realized someone was about to run a red and she would be T-boned, hit the brakes hard and skidded.
      Her rates were UP because of it, even though she had been driving defensively and had AVOIDED a collision.
      Those things cannot give the *context* of what they record and that alone makes me never want to do it.

    8. Yet Another Unemployed Librarian*

      I haven’t done the device thingy, but as an alternative way to lower rates, have you looked at if there is a driving safety class you could do? I did them several times; it was through my state’s driver license office and was the same online course that people have to take sometimes if they get lots of tickets, but you could also do it voluntarily and then I got a discount on the insurance for three years. It was worth a couple hours of my time.

    9. Everdene*

      I got one this year as the company gave the cheapest rates when comparing like for like and I could get up to 25% back each month for perfect driving days and no driving days. Half way through the policy I am yet to get 25% any month. There is a turn near my house and on my way to work that 50/50 will be recorded as a “sharp turn” and I lose my perfect day before 8am. I have lost points for “breaking” before when that breaking stopped an accident or the breaking was done by the car due to the cruise control settings. It is also very particular about speed, and I am perhaps not as particular as I could be. It’s great if you are just dotting about town but almost impossible to have a perfect driving day on any longer journeys.

      I was very reluctant to have any sort of monitoring device but was lured in by the discount. I don’t think I would choose it again.

    10. new year, new name*

      I did this ages ago (maybe 10 years?) with Progressive. My driving habits apparently qualified for whatever the maximum benefit was at the time, so my rates went down a lot and stayed down until I got rid of that car years later. In my case, I think the thing that really mattered was that I wasn’t driving very much. But if I remember correctly, you did get a certain number of hard brake incidents/whatever per month before it made any difference for your rates – there was definitely an understanding that sometimes you have to speed up a lot to safely merge etc. I saved a bunch of money and thought it was worthwhile (I absolutely understand the data privacy concerns but that is not a top priority for me personally).

      1. the cat's pajamas*

        A possible alternative might be talking to an insurance agent, I used to get discounts for being with a certain [place we don’t talk about] and having home and car with one company.

        Then I switched to a [different place we don’t talk about] and went with their insurance benefit deal instead which was cheaper at the time.

        Then, old insurance sent me an updated quote a few years later that was even cheaper, even without the extra discount. I met with them and reviewed my plans and coverage. I got a better deal and it ended up being cheaper to not have both insurances with the same company at the time.

        They reviewed my needs, too, to look for other cost saving areas. For example, I get a slight extra discount for having AAA for car and a fire extinguisher for home; if you have a family member who can reliably pick you up in an emergency/borrow a car from, you can skip car rental coverage after an accident, etc.

        This is the only agency I’ve worked with, a small, local, one. I assume some might be scammy, but I’ve had good experience with mine. It is literally like those cliche ads where I can contact my agent and they get back to me right away when I have questions or claims etc. My agent works with multiple insurance companies and isn’t tied to one, gives me more insider info when I need to make claims, or want to talk through them before submitting to the insurance company, etc.

        Even if you don’t go with an agent, it might be worth looking at your policies to see if adjustments can be made if you haven’t already.

        1. Please Exit Through the Rear Door*

          Thanks for this really excellent advice. I am going to review my policy carefully for anything extraneous and I’m definitely considering speaking to an agent. I meant to do both of these things last time I got an increase, six months ago, but life just got away from me.

          Really appreciate all of the comments here. What an interesting collection of feedback that raised a number of issues I never even considered. Based on this, I am going to pass on a “snapshot” device. I’ll acknowledge that there does seem to be a real chance I’ll save money, but at least an equal chance it’ll be a wash or even cost me money. I’m not a gambler by nature. That plus a device that’s going to beep at me and make me a nervous driver, when driving is one of the few things in life that relax me… I’ll let the possibility of a discount go. I’d be more inclined to give it a shot if I got a one-time discount just for trying it, but that’s not legal in my state, so there’s no incentive.

  23. Qwerty*

    Hey crafters – what are the charity projects you have that can be done on autopilot? I’m thinking stuff that can be done while still watching TV (rather than just listening to it). I’m finding on weekdays my eyes are just too tired to do the fun stuff like amigurumi so I’m switching over to simple patterns for a while (plus I’m loving the speed that I can move at when a row is all the same stitch!)

    I generally do baby blankets or scarves, though looking for new charities to give those to. Trying out Knitted Knockers on my more alert days. Open to any type of craft – knit, crochet, hand sew, etc, as long as it can be done while relaxing on my couch and doesn’t get too big!

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      There are a few charities that will take crocheted or knitted squares that they then assemble into blankets. There is a group at my work that knits and crochets squares that they then donate.

    2. KatEnigma*

      Our old church in Wisconsin donated lap blankets (throw size) to people in Hospice care. Obviously the pattern can be made however complicated or simple as you choose, and are of a reasonable size.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My go-to is the scarf pattern “Imagine When” – it’s a little more elaborate than a garter stitch scarf or whatnot, and the scarf has a little more shaping to it, so there’s enough going on to keep it moderately interesting but the pattern is still very easy to memorize (or at least, I found it so, but I also just donated 15 of them to a local church group, so I’ve done it more than a few times :) ). For me the key to making it a fairly brainless pattern was two safety-pin-style stitch markers – with those, I never have to count anything or whatnot. It also looks really snazzy in multi-color yarns – my local big box store sells Lion Brand Mandala yarn, and for me, one cake of Mandala (which costs usually $3-6, depending on whether it was on sale when I got it) will do one Imagine When.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      See if local animal shelters need blankets! There’s a cat one near me that takes donations of small fleece blankets to line the kennels (so they give volunteers specific dimensions to follow)

    5. HamlindigoBlue*

      Knots of Love provides hand knit and crochet hats and blankets to ICU and chemo patients. They have an approved list of yarn and patterns. They also have lots you can purchase, and those proceeds go to the charity.

      Also Hat Not Hate accepts blue hats for anti-bullying awareness.

      1. HamlindigoBlue*

        That should say “they also have KITS you can purchase.” Sorry, that was a weird Siri autocorrect.

    6. Nitpicker*

      I crochet and donate to Project Linus. They give handmade (knit; crocheted; quilted) blankets to sick and traumatized children (including babies) and teens. My chapter also takes scarves (which I mostly do to use up yarn left over from making the blankets.) Check the website for more information.

    7. ronda*

      I donate crochet time to at my local craft shop. We do it thru warm up America.
      the shop owner has lots of excess yarn, so that is donated from her.
      many people make 7×9 blocks.
      our leader arranges the blocks into blanket.
      I join the blocks.
      (we have someone who just weaves in the ends!)
      the leader finds local groups to donate the finished blankets to.

      We also use knitted items. but most of the group seems to crochet. warm up America requires using acrylic yarn, cause they have to be easily washable.

  24. VLookupsAreMyLife*

    This is a weird one, but I have a question about massage etiquette & communication. I’ve just received my 3rd massage and, each time, I’ve left without my major issue area being addressed. I think I might be at fault here & could use some input on how to improve future sessions.

    I am ridiculously private about my body & nudity squicks me out (yes, this is unhealthy, I know). I leave my underwear on for massages & grab that sheet TIGHT whenever I have to shift positions lest something be exposed. (Thank you Evangelical upbringing for that!)

    Unfortunately for me, that “major issue area” is right where the small of my back meets my not-so-small rear end. In my consultation, I referred to this as my “lower back” and the therapist did an excellent job on everything above my underwear line.

    By leaving my undergarments on & referring to my problem area as my “lower back,” I think I am misstating what I need. I know many/most folks are completely undressed during massage & some friends have said they get gluteal work done. But… HOW IN THE WORLD do you actually ask someone to do this? And, is there any option to keep on some kind of clothing? The anxiety & tension I’d feel being fully unclothed would counteract any benefit of the massage.

    1. Not A Manager*

      I think the therapist is seeing the underwear as a delineation of a private zone that they are not supposed to touch. It sounds to me like you don’t actually want them touching your glutes, you just want them to massage a bit below the elastic line on your undies. The easiest solution would be to find a pair of undies that are a cut a bit lower. That way you’ll still feel that your private areas are covered, but the therapist will be able to reach your sore spots.

      If that’s not possible, I think you can tell the therapist that your problem area is a bit inside your underwear line, and it’s okay to fold the elastic down to reach your lower back. The only reason I worry about this is I think it might make *you* feel uncomfortable to have someone messing with your undies. I’m pretty sure it will not make the therapist uncomfortable. Maybe you could even roll down the top of the underwear yourself?

      If you do for some reason want them to massage your glutes, I think the easiest way would be to ask them to do it through the underwear.

    2. fposte*

      I’m a huge massage fan, and I do find that experience helps. To be clear, you want to keep your underpants on, but you’d like the masseuse to work below the underwear line? Can they put their hand underneath the fabric or do they need to stay on top? They’re pretty used to working with client needs so I’d go ahead and ask. Do it when you’re first in while you’re still in your clothes; if you don’t think you can say it write it out and hand a note over. But you’re basically asking either “Could you please try some glute massage over my underpants?” or “Could you please do some glute massage? I’m okay with going underneath my underpants; I just want to keep them on anyway.”

      I think probably most masseuses would be fine with this; it would restrict their stroke a little but they work around clients’ needs all the time. So I’d talk to them up front while your clothes are still on and just ask if it’s possible for them to do some glu

    3. WellRed*

      I’m confused just reading this. Is it your lower back or your butt that needs work? I’ve never taken off my under pants and the MT tucks the sheet into top of them when working that area. Can you show them the area while clothed? Are you speaking up/is the MT asking if she’s in the right spot? Are you able to describe how it feels(tight, knit, twinge, cramp)? I’m also wondering if maybe the problem is the MT, not you.

        1. VLookupsAreMyLife*

          TY @wellread, I feel awkward asking, but I think you’re right that I just need to speak up. I did some Googling and the area I need help with is the Sacro-Iliac Joint area. I will use that terminology going forward to be sure I’m not miscommunicating by using the term “lower back.”

      1. Wannessa*

        I can see the confusion too, and it might be helpful to say you’d like work done on your sacrum (if that is the part that hurts – I would google some anatomy diagrams to confirm). The sciatic nerve root is also in that general area and that might be the cause of your pain, so you could mention that. But sciatica often runs through your glutes as well so I would want to be really specific if you don’t want your glutes or upper thighs touched.

        You can definitely roll the elastic down yourself, or you can let the MT know that you’re comfortable with her massaging over your underwear, or with moving/working under your clothes for that specific area. I know this is a looooong shot because of your (totally understandable) discomfort with nudity but you might try undies with less coverage too? I wear thongs and that gives the MT lots of access, but still reassures me that my sensitive bits are covered. I would feel really uncomfortable being 100% naked, and tbh I think that’s true for a lot of people.

        If it feels difficult to broach this conversation before the massage starts, you can absolutely bring it up during. It might feel easier to say something while she’s already working on your lower back: “Could you go a little lower, like on my sacrum/towards my tailbone/[gesture directly if you have enough mobility to do so]?” She’ll probably confirm what you’d like to do about your underwear, and then should start slowly and check in with you to ensure your comfort.

        Also, apologies for the unsolicited sidebar, but if this is a major issue it might be helpful to do some physical therapy too. Increasing your flexibility and doing regular stretches can significantly cut down on pain, and pain in the area you’re describing is really, really, really common for PT. I’ve met a lot of people who thought they just had to live with it and with the limitations from their pain, and it shouldn’t be that way. I hope you can find some relief either way!

        1. VLookupsAreMyLife*

          @Wanessa Yes, this is definitely a sacral joint issue. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to just call it that. I have been working on some gentle stretching as well, thank you so much!

    4. Bagpuss*

      Would it be possible to wear different underwear which covers less of you? Bikini briefs or similar.

      And maybe being clearer about exactly where the issue is?

      If the masseuse knows both where you want them to work and that you are not comfortable removing your underwear they will probably be able to work with those restrictions, and they are going to be best placed to make suggestions about what they can work around.

    5. PoolLounger*

      I’d just point to the exact spot I needed worked on before the massage started but after laying down.

    6. E. Chauvelin*

      I think you’re right about keeping your underwear on being part of the issue; I don’t typically get actual gluteal work as part of a massage, but if I’m understanding correctly that we’re talking about right before your rear end begins and not your actual rear end, I’d say the lower back work usually goes that far. I’m sometimes fully unclothed and sometimes not; if it’s close to that time of the month I keep my underpants on to play it safe, and if the local covid levels are up I keep a mask on, and in my experience massage therapists generally interpret any kind of covering as an instruction not to touch that area. I don’t know if any would be willing to massage through clothing, if that’s what you’re saying you need, if asked, but I think you’re going to have to ask pretty directly if that’s what you want.

    7. Dark Macadamia*

      Does your underwear cover the area you want massaged? Because I’ve had this exact situation and yeah, the clothing signals “don’t touch.” You could explain you don’t feel comfortable taking them off but would like that area massaged, and maybe they can suggest options. But they may not be allowed to move the fabric even if you’ve told them it’s okay.

    8. Qwerty*

      Would pointing help clarify the problem spot?

      I’m guessing the massage therapist is respecting the underwear as a do-not-touch boundary. So there may need to be a discussion if you are ok with her massaging clothed areas.

    9. LG*

      I think you should speak up while they are doing the massage. “The problem area is actually lower down from where you’re working right now.” That should make them ask “is this right?” as they move further down until they hit the right spot. They should still be making sure you’re appropriately covered up as they’re working on you.

    10. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I always keep my underwear on during massages AND I get gluteal work done, so I assure you both things are possible.

      Sounds like what you need to do is explicitly show the therapist where the problem is. Just point or rub it or whatever. You don’t need to know the correct terminology to get it worked on.

      Now, for the gluteal stuff… I have sciatica, for starters, and then most therapists will do some sort of body check, like a gentle pressure all down the body, and it’s really obvious that my glutes are super tight, so they’re almost always worked on unless I specifically say no. For sciatica, one of the best ways to relieve it is to get really, really strong pressure right in the middle of the butt cheek and it HURTS but it works.

      If I were in your position, I would make sure to find a therapist I trust and stick to him/her. Developing that rapport might be very helpful for you. I had an amazing massage therapist once whom I loved because even in the intake form he showed himself to be very, very sensitive and he always checked in. I went to him because his reviews were very good, and it wasn’t just the massage (which was excellent), it was the care he took.

      1. VLookupsAreMyLife*

        @AvonLady Barksdale thank you very much – this makes complete sense to me. My pain is always associated with the Sacro-Iliac Joints area. Sometimes, my partner will press on those joints as hard as he can & is always shocked that it’s not painful to me. I think I need to work on better, more matter of fact communication with the therapist going forward to make sure they have the info they need.

    11. ThatGirl*

      I keep my underwear on during massages and they still manage to massage my glutes. I think you need to be specific about where the pain is and use the muscle group names or show them.

    12. Princess unicorn*

      It’s possible you may be giving of some unspoken vibe about not wanting the therapist to go lower. I’ve never taken off my underwear in my messages but they do tuck the sheet in the top before they pull them lower to reach the affected area. I think you just need to explain and directly point out where the pain is and, if need be, verbally tell them during the massage it’s okay to go lower if necessary.

    13. Anonosaurus*

      It’s not a weird question.

      Are you going to a kind of spa type place or a sports/physical therapy type place? I have found that the latter involves more communication during the massage and more discussion of the result you want rather than just being about nice smelling oils and “feeling relaxed” (which can be enjoyable but probably won’t fix your glutes). I have had a lot of sports massage and I’ve always kept my underwear on but I’ve been happy for the therapist to fold it down (usually tucking in a towel).

      Also you might find your lower back problem is solved by someone getting stuck into your hamstrings. Which is another good reason to seek out a sports massage therapist. In fact I’m gonna message the place I go to now!

      1. VLookupsAreMyLife*

        @anonosaurus this is really helpful, thanks! I’ve been doing a spa-like setting. Now I’m thinking the sacral work might need to be done separately vs just an overall relaxation massage.

        1. Maple Bar*

          Oh yes, this is a big deal. Relaxation massage spa type places don’t usually get deep into releasing a lot of tension, although it depends on the massage therapist, too. Some spas do have someone who also does good sports massage type stuff.

          It also depends on the service you book. If you book like a Peppermint Escape Massage or something, they’re probably not going to be expecting to want a lot of deep tissue work.

          1. Felis alwayshungryis*

            They’re very different! Last time I had a proper deep tissue sports massage I felt like I’d done three bouts with a gorilla, but my body could move in ways I had forgotten were possible.

            Your average Peppermint Escape massage (lol) is delightful and relaxing but serves a different purpose.

    14. Person from the Resume*

      Is the problem your glutes? If so, say that instead of lower back. If it’s not your glutes see if you can find a more exact name before your next session. Also point it out at the start before you get undressed.

      I go the Massage Envy and leave my panties on. The MT has worked my glutes over the sheet and panties. It’s not the same action as massage oil on skin but they can do something especially pressure without moving their hands.

      If being more explicit doesn’t work, try a different therapist.

      1. VLookupsAreMyLife*

        @AvonLafy Barksdale This is so helpful, thank you! I really liked my therapist this last time, so I will bring this up at our next session.

    15. Generic Name*

      I’ve had my glutes massaged (medius, not Maximus). I wear huge granny panties that go up to my navel. Underwear stays on, and the therapist places her hands (elbow? Not sure) on top of both the sheet and my underwear. She isn’t not touching my skin in that area at all. I point to the area where I’m having issues.

    16. MissCoco*

      I needed massage therapy when I was a young teen, so I wore a loose bra top and shorts for those sessions. Now I usually skip the bra top, but honestly I often still wear a pair of short shorts. I wear swishy polyester running ones with built in undies. Because the material is slippery, therapists don’t seem to have much problem massaging my low back/glutes over the shorts (even if they aren’t getting ideal results, it always feels effective to me). I’m sure therapists have checked with me before starting, but I almost always have gluteal work done. The only time I’ve received any comment about it was a massage therapist letting me know they might get a bit of oil or lotion on the shorts, and checking if that was ok.

      I would specify to the therapists that you are comfortable with them working over the shorts/your underwear, or working under the waistband if they need to (if you are ok with that). To make it less awkward for you, I’d do that during the consultation, and then during the massage if they are working higher up, you could either point or just say that your problem area is a bit lower.

    17. carcinization*

      I’m not bothered by nudity but I still leave my underwear (not bra) on during massages. I guess I thought most people did, but even though I know multiple massage therapists, I’ve never actually asked them that! I guess I can! Anyhow, I agree with everyone’s advice regarding just communicating with the therapist about what part needs the work! Not the same at all, but I always tell them that one of my feet can’t handle much pressure due to an old break that didn’t heal properly, and they always respect that, but they wouldn’t know unless i told them!

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Honestly I also leave my panties on because I assume that’s what I’m “supposed” to do. Now I wonder if people get full on naked under the sheet in massage envy. My glutes are not really a problem, but occasionally they could use some work and I wouldn’t mind them getting more attention

    18. Firebird*

      I have had a lot of physical therapy pretty much all over and I’ve always worn loose knit shorts and t-shirts. My massage therapists have always been fine with it. I point to the top and bottom of the area that hurts and they shift the waistband or bra-band around as necessary.

    19. VLookupsAreMyLife*

      Thank you so much for all the replies & advice! They are both helpful & validating. Much appreciated!

    20. the most best things*

      Hey! This is a really good question and as other readers have pointed out not weird at all. It might help set your mind at ease to know that formally trained massage therapists receive specific training on “draping” which involves manipulating the sheets to avoid nudity and protect the dignity of the client. You can let your therapist know that draping is super important to you, or you can build that trust through experience. It can be a red flag if your massage therapist is too casual or negligent with draping techniques. If you request work on your sacrum or glutes, they will tuck the sheet under your underwear, if you’re wearing them (which I do).

      Also, one other thing that helped me feel more comfortable is knowing that my massage therapist appreciates specific feedback! They want to do a good job so knowing what does and doesn’t work for you helps them be better for you. Again, building trust is a process but it’s worth it if it helps you relax on the table. Good luck!

    21. Maple Bar*

      Oh yeah, I had issues with this for years because I kept referring to my “lower back” as the problem area when talking to doctors and physical therapists and etc, but it’s actually where my spine meets my sacrum (and my sacroiliac joints) that are the problem.

      I recommend two things: 1) Look up some anatomical diagrams and poke around on yourself in a mirror to figure out what seems to be bothering you, and 2) actually point at the areas you’re talking about when talking to the massage therapist so you both know exactly what you’re talking about.

      But basically, your massage therapist wants you to tell them what you want! It’s not weird to go hey, I have a lot of tension here near my rear, please help release that. That’s a totally normal area to work on, but your massage therapist isn’t going to go charging down there if you are not asking for it and also giving signals that you are uncomfortable, which it sounds like you are. You can (and should) say where exactly you want them to work on, and you can also just come out and say that you prefer to wear more clothing and ask if leaving anything in particular on might interfere with what you’re asking them to do. That way they’ll know what they need to do in order to take the best care of you. Also, I recommend seeing the same person long term so that you’re working with someone who knows your preferences and needs already.

      I also leave my underwear on during a massage, that’s very normal. A lot of people leave a lot of clothes on, according to my long-term massage therapist I used to chat with. A lot of people get massages fully clothed! But that does make it harder for them to do good work, according to her. I also always ask for them to do that thing where they lean their elbow into your butt cheek and move your leg around, feels incredible.

  25. LGP*

    Does anyone know of any pregnancy/baby journals (either like a pregnancy weekly journal or a baby’s first year type book) that is suitable for two moms? My wife and I (both women) will (hopefully!) start trying to conceive this year, but we haven’t been able to find any journals that aren’t geared toward Mom and Dad. We don’t even necessarily need it to be specific to two moms; we would just like it to say Parent 1 and Parent 2, or pregnant person and partner, etc. Just something not so heteronormative. Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

    1. GoryDetails*

      I found one called “Wild Baby Memory Book” from Peachly; the description specifically mentions using “we/us” in place of gender-specific parental terms, and that the book’s intended to be open to LGBTQ and/or adoptive families as well.

    2. host*

      not sure if it is still in production, but My Amazing Family and Me by Jesse Toksvig-Stewart and Kat Willott.

    3. AGD*

      You could try flipping the script. What makes it logical to assume either that genitals come in only two categories (definitely not), or that a modern European habit of trying to insist that genitalia maps to gender identity is something that works for 100% of humans when clearly it doesn’t?

    4. One of two mothers*

      Possibly a slightly different situation as we were each pregnant with one baby so were a bit busy the first year, but we found a ‘line a day’ 5 year diary very doable. If we had bought anything else, we wouldn’t have filled it out. Whoever had a moment wrote something down; we can tell from the handwriting who wrote what.

  26. Enby's mom*

    I’m looking for logic reasons to get someone to accept existence of nonbinary humans. Diving into pflag already, looking for other ideas.
    It’s not casual situation so I’d prefer not to discuss why.

    1. Liminality*

      What if you never convince this person?
      Is it possible to come from another angle of, “Have you ever tried to explain a physical sensation to someone else who could not feel it? No one knows what it feels like to live inside anyone else’s body. If someone tells you they are having an experience that is impossible to physically prove the only logical next step is to believe them. It’s okay to not understand how/why it’s happening because the bottom line is the how’s and why’s are irrelevant. The only thing that matters is whether you decide to ignore the situation, to help, or to make it worse.”

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      People mostly don’t do things because of logic. They do things because of emotion, and then they backfill a reason that thing was logical.

      For gay people, for example, a huge factor in the shift in acceptance was that “gay people” became “like Steve our accountant, and his partner Bill who conducts the choir.”

      1. Jenny*

        Yeah I used the term “accepting” but I’d like to find a better word because “acceptance” implies maybe tolerance which isn’t quite right. There’s just nothing wrong with it.

      2. fposte*

        Right. They tell themselves–okay, often it’s we tell ourselves–that it’s logical, but that’s after the fact.

    3. Jenny*

      I hate to say it but I don’t think you can logic someone out of not accepting NB people. It’s primarily about emotional situation. I don’t know if this is your coparent or another relative, but I think you defend your kid and make very clear to them you support them. Then situation is very complicated if this is your coparent but I’d suggest maybe counseling if you can afford it. I’d privately make clear to the person that accepting your kid is non negotiable. Most of all your duty is to protect and advocate for your kid. But I don’t think there is a way to logic someone into being kind and accepting.

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

      One of Captain Awkward’s column that touched on this topic, albeit from the position of the trans or non-binary adult child of a parent who kept trying to understand them. Basically, Captain Awkward’s advice was that parents don’t *have* to understand everything — just support and respect their children’s identities.

      My two cents: this is your kid and you love them, right? I hope!? Listen to them; do your level best to use their correct pronouns; protect them from people who are hostile to them; and don’t give them the third degree about having to *prove* to you that they are who they are. A good loving parent nurtures, loves, and supports the kid they have and helps that kid to be their fullest, most self-actualized self. Be that parent.

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

        Oops, so sorry — I didn’t read your post carefully enough to realize that it’s someone else you’re trying to convince, not yourself. I agree with the posters above — a lot of people say they’re “just being logical” when really, they’re making an emotional decision. Like your emotions are emotions, and their emotions are “logic.” Just remember you don’t have to justify your kid’s existence to *anyone* — make it clear that you will tolerate no disrespect towards your kid and no non-use of your kid’s pronouns. I don’t know if the other person who needs convincing is your spouse, but in my opinion, if the other person will not step up and act like a decent human, this is an issue over which I might consider divorce, were I married.

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

          Also, Anne Fausto-Sterling has written about the fact that even biological sex is not binary. You can look up some of her work, which basically destroys that argument based on supposedly-binary biological sex.

    5. kina lillet*

      I’m sorry. I think I understand the situation you’re in to some degree.

      The reality is, the person who demands an excess of “logical reasons” to accept something right in front of their face is not a rational actor. It’s in no way about logic or rationality.

      I think that one way you can go about it is to take the emotional reasons to accept the non-binary person and cloak them in the guise of rationality. Discussing studies on how non-acceptance causes awful health and self harm in young people, or rates of estrangement. So the consequences of nonacceptance. And on the other hand, studies about the existence of non-binary people definitely exist—I find them on a cursory google.

      The Trevor Project website might help, along with PFLAG.

      Best wishes.

    6. Generic Name*

      You mean logic beyond basic human decency? Or beyond something like “My child was near suicidal before and now they’re happy”? Or, “My child is a human being, please treat them that way”? Reading between the lines, if you are having to come up with a sound logical argument for someone to accept your child as they are and treat them nicely, I’m afraid that they may never be a safe person for your child, and you may have to reduce/eliminate contact with them. I feel this isn’t very useful advice. I’m going all momma bear I guess.

    7. Qwerty*

      I don’t think logic really comes into it when dealing with any sort of identity stuff (gender or otherwise). Identity stuff is more tied to your soul/spirit.

      You especially can’t have an argument between emotion-based and logic-based. A logic-based discussion could only have potential if you weren’t invested in this. Because the moment Opponent says something about non-binary humans, you are going to hear it as an attack on your friend/family member/loved one.

      The closest success I’ve had using logic was still partly emotion-based. When talking to people confused by the new gender landscape, and how they don’t “get it”, my response is “I don’t have to get it, I just have to treat them the same as others”. Or explaining how/why to use “they” as a pronoun, “doesn’t hurt me to use ‘they’ but it does hurt someone else if I don’t”. Basically – focus on the behavior rather than thought process.

    8. Zephy*

      Adding my +1 to the chorus if you can’t logick someone into caring about other people if they don’t want to, but you do get to make and enforce rules about how other people treat you (or your kids, as the case may be). You don’t need to confirm or deny any of the assumptions I’m about to make, but I’m guessing there is a relative persisting in misgendering or otherwise saying bigoted shit to your NB child. The best thing you can do for them is continue to be supportive, out loud and often. Affirm their identity – refer to them using their chosen name, if they changed it from their birth name, and their pronouns (which I’m assuming are they/them, but neopronouns like ey/em or xe/xir or whatever are also valid). If at all possible, make sure they know that it is always an option to leave and stop being around this person choosing to be disrespectful directly to their face, you will come get them and/or take them somewhere else. If there is a custody agreement involved, this gets stickier, consult your lawyer.

    9. Dark Macadamia*

      Because they’re people, they deserve respect, safety, and joy, and they’re not hurting anyone by being themselves.

      Bigotry isn’t caused or fixed by logic.

    10. KatEnigma*

      I’m of the opinion that you can “change hearts, not minds”

      But if the person doesn’t already love the non-binary person enough to let go of their own opinions and prejudices… Well, it may be important enough to go No Contact with them.

    11. SuprisinglyADHD*

      There’s 2 things you can try:

      1. It is logical that nonbinary people exist because there are many people who say they are. It’s like believing that there are people who don’t like chocolate: you’re not one of them but you (other person) don’t think that thousands of people are lying about it.

      2. Regardless of whether this person believes when people say they are nonbinary, it is logical to treat them properly because that’s how society works, we MUST treat others properly to keep society going.

      And if the person refuses both of those, it is logical for them to treat your child respectfully regardless of that person’s opinion, because otherwise they will not be allowed access to your child. If it’s your partner or someone who you can’t simply limit contact, it is logical because continuing the way they are is hurting your child and will prevent them from having a relationship with them.

      It’s unlikely that any reasons based on gender norms, biology, or history will convince someone if they cannot accept those first two premises.

      I’m so sorry you and your child have to go through this.

    12. RagingADHD*

      Logically, do they believe that they have experienced every possible feeling a human being can have?

      Do they believe that other people are only extensions of themselves, and can only feel or think exactly the same way they do? Or do they accept that other people actually exist as separate beings with their own consciousness?

      Do they understand or accept without having to understand that other people are different than themselves and have different experiences, thoughts and feelings?

      Are there any examples of different feelings or perspectives on life- motherhood or fatherhood, being a combat veteran, being an addict, being a genius, growing up in a third-world country, being the oldest or youngest child, being an Olympic athlete, being in chronic pain, being rich, being poor, being raised in a cult, being raised as an atheist, having a brain injury, saving someone’s life, having a near-death experience…..

      Do they accept that they have not had every possible experience and don’t know what it’s like to have every experience?

      Do they think those different experiences and feelings really exist? Or do they think they are imaginary?

      So if they acknowledge that other people exist and are different from themselves, and they accept that other people can have experiences they don’t understand, then the onus is on them to prove why being non-binary is the exception.

      Logically, how can they justify refusing to accept that the NB’s experience is real, if they admit that there are many other real experiences they will never fully understand? Make them prove it.

      And if they can’t find a logical reason, they have to admit that they are refusing for emotional reasons, and logic never had anything to do with it.

    13. Despachito*

      Is there any good book written from the perspective of a nonbinary person?

      I think it may help a lot to understand if someone offers a view through the eyes of such a person – what is important for them, what they are struggling with… their own logic beyond their behaviour that is different from the “normalcy”. People tend to be afraid of /reluctant to accept things they do not understand. I’d say it is a question of both logics and emotions.

    14. waffles*

      The Gender Wheel website (genderwheel.com) has resources for adults that you may find helpful. It discusses how the gender binary is a belief system imposed through colonization, and other facts. Like others I find that people who require facts are disingenuous, but if there really is an education issue this could be helpful. Good luck!

    15. marvin*

      One way that I’ve tried to explain it is by using age as a comparison. Both are social identities that influence how we are perceived and how we see ourselves. There is some interplay between our bodies and our social sense of our age, but it’s complex. When it comes to age, we do have broad categories like “child,” “adolescent,” “middle aged person,” “elderly person” but we realize that the boundaries of those categories are permeable and everyone has their own way of relating to them. We don’t have quite the same social compulsion to say that everyone has to be either “old” or “young” and there is no nuance or allowed outside of that. I hope that helps!

    16. Eyes Kiwami*

      Radiolab podcast’s series “Gonads” covers the development of sex and gender. Might help to start from an intersex primer?

  27. Can't Sit Still*

    My Kitchenaid stand mixer has stopped working – the speed lever is stuck on off. It’s a Professional 5 from the mid 90s, so it’s had a good run. I believe this last move did for it. Should I repair it or replace it? I primarily use it for kneading bread dough and mixing other stiff doughs.

    If I should replace it, should I do a straight replacement with another Professional 5, buy another model, or switch brands? I’d like to add a pasta attachment, too, if that makes a difference.

    1. My Brain is Exploding*

      Have you tried googling the issue just in case it’s an easy fix? Our non-kitchenaid mixer broke a while ago and when I googled the problem I found a link to a youtube video on how to fix it. Didn’t require extra parts but did require my husband (who is handier and stronger and more patient than I am).

    2. KatEnigma*

      Switch brands? I know they are pricey, but why switch away from the widely acknowledged best? Especially for stiff doughs, that will burn out other mixers a lot faster?

    3. Missb*

      I agree – you should try to have it repaired.

      Take a look at the reviews of the pasta attachments. I have an older kitchenaid stand mixer – probably 22 years? – and I have the pasta attachment that works with that. It’s pretty simple, just does the cut type of pasta, not the fill and make ravioli attachment. I thought about upgrading the pasta maker, and the reviews for the one that does raviolis is really quite terrible. You can probably find the review on YouTube.

    4. BRR*

      I’d probably do some research into repairing it. As in googling/YouTube and reaching out to KitchenAid to see what it would cost.

      If you end up replacing it, the 6 qt has a more powerful motor. The 6 qt goes on sale at Costco all the time but it looks like the 5 qt is on sale at Best Buy right now.

      1. Can't Sit Still*

        It’s old enough that I can’t find parts online for it and KitchenAid says the model doesn’t exist, so I’m not hopeful about repairing it. But I’ll call KitchenAid customer service on Monday to see if it can be repaired.

        I can’t find any small appliance repair shops near me. I’m assuming small appliances, outside of vacuums and sewing machines, are considered completely disposable these days.

      2. KatEnigma*

        I got the 6 qt as a Prime Day buy a couple years ago.

        But, the accessories for it aren’t as readily available. An extra bowl wasn’t a big deal, but I also wanted an extra beater, and that wasn’t as easy to find, even 3rd party. Just as an FYI

      3. Lady Alys*

        I had a KitchenAid 5qt mixer purchased in 1994 finally give up the ghost sometime in 2021. I contacted KitchenAid and was not impressed with what I heard – there was no service center even remotely near me (Twin Cities MN), and it was old enough that we had trouble figuring out the model number. I recall that I would have had to ship it to OH? IN? to even have it looked at, no guarantee of repair. I bought a new, larger, KitchenAid at Costco the next day, for less than I’d paid for the original one in 1994.

    5. Traveler*

      My mom went through 3 Kitchenaid mixers, the first a wedding present in the 1950’s, the second a replacement 25 years later, and the 3rd replaced that one 25 years later and still worked when she died in her late 80’s. She made 6 loaves of bread every week for decades. She gave me one for a wedding gift 40 years ago and it is going strong. SomI vote for Kitchenaid, whichever model suits your needs. Of course I have no experience with others.

    6. ronda*

      if you want to use the existing bowl and attachments as extras for your new machine, get the current kitchen aid that will work with them. I really like having an extra bowl and beater.

  28. agman*

    Spouse & I did the Progressive Snapshot several years ago. His rate went slightly down, mine went slightly up, so it was essentially a wash and not worth the stress (in my opinion). The beeping from braking quickly had me flinching for months after the device was removed from the car. We found it really depends on when and how you’re driving. He was cruising two miles to work when there was virtually no traffic while I was driving between work sites often through the day, so longer bouts of city driving through traffic.

    1. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

      Thank you so much for this info — this was meant for my thread above. Any sort of beeping makes this a nonstarter of an idea for me. I live in an urban area and while probably more than 50% of my driving is on highways (to escape the urban area), I have to drive through the urban area to get to my home, and I definitely can’t cruise through it, unfortunately.

    2. RussianInTexas*

      It’s interesting to me that all various options I’ve seen when I did the quotes last year were for the phone apps. Possibly if you care is older and can’t “talk” to the phone you’ll have install a device.
      The app doesn’t make any noises, and the part of the overall Geico app.

  29. Falling Diphthong*

    What are fictional tropes that have become more problematic for you over time?

    Upthread I had one on leaving Earth because of (catastrophe)–I’ve come to think that this isn’t simple biologically speaking, in a way that would make it really grim for the first several thousand years, and that the question of who gets left behind should get more shrift in the tale.

    A cause worth dying for: This took me out of Pacific Rim, where scores of people were dying to give our Heroes With Speaking Lines time to set off a bomb to close the rift–and then it turned out that they had a delay so our Heroes With Speaking Lines could all escape. See everything about Redshirts or Mooks on TV Tropes.

    Not talking so much about shifting norms on what’s socially acceptable, which I think can go down a “god the past was horrible” hole pretty quickly.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t know if it’s become more problematic or just I’m more irked by attempts to pretend it’s not problematic, but historical fiction as disguised time travel. Oh, look, it’s our protagonist, who is going to be the person who thinks most like a contemporary person and is therefore better than others.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Relatedly, I hate when only the time-traveller/non-alternate universe (in the Sci-fi alternative) character’s life matters apparently, like all the past characters or the alternate universe dies but “it’s okay” because our heroes timeline is preserved/restored or our hero gets home. It feels very Western-culture oriented to me somehow now.

        1. fposte*

          Or just generally appalling. I’m looking at you, Devil’s Arithmetic, in which the non-time travelers have to march into the showers at Auschwitz chanting “Ready or not, here I come” alongside the girl who survives because she’s a time traveler.

            1. fposte*

              It was a very popular book for kids, used in schools to convey the Holocaust, and I was always surprised how few people objected to what that meant about the end of the other kids.

              1. fueled by coffee*

                I don’t love The Devil’s Arithmetic (I generally don’t love the trope in children’s lit that kids can only appreciate history if there’s a time traveling character they can relate to), but in its defense, that the other kids are murdered is literally the entire point of the book. It’s about the Holocaust, and those kids were going to be murdered regardless of the time traveler’s presence.

                1. WellRed*

                  I’ve never heard of the book but learning that it’s a kids book, that phrasing makes a lot more sense.

                2. fposte*

                  Absolutely. But Yolen fumbles the moment by focusing on Hannah’s return and using the hugely bathetic last words for kids going to die.

                3. Patty Mayonnaise*

                  Fposte, from what I remember (mentioned below) the main character went into the gas chamber fully believing she was going to die. She switched places with another character to save her, didn’t she? The focus is on her returning because she genuinely thought she was going to die, and even started to forget her modern life (maybe completely forgot it? Can’t remember, haha!). I don’t remember the specific word choices enough to comment on the rest, but overall I get the author’s choices in conveying the theme of the novel. Curious what you think of Kindred because it’s much clearer in that novel that the main character is not going to die in the past.

              2. Antigone Funn*


                It’s been a long time since i read it, but I remember enjoying Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book for the opposite reason — the time-traveling protagonist winds up stuck in the middle of the Black Death just like everybody else, no escape hatch. Makes the whole experience pretty visceral!

                1. Patty Mayonnaise*

                  To be fair to The Devil’s Arthimatic, the main character completely thinks she is going to die, from what I remember it outright states that she doesn’t believe she is ever going home and has even started to forget her life before the concentration camp.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I agree; it’s annoying when I can deduce the publication decade of a historical fiction story by the beliefs of the protagonist.

      3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I’ve been trying to read historical romance recently, which is a genre I ought to like. I don’t mind the extraordinary number of charming and eligible dukes (SO many dukes!) and the occasional forays from historical fact just make me rant a bit. But WHY do you write a historical romance novel when your characters aren’t going to act like people from a different time at all! A nobleman’s daughter wouldn’t take a job as a housekeeper, not even with a mystery to solve. The gentleman might be friends with someone of the lower classes, but they would be aware of the class difference and it would shape their friendship. A young woman wouldn’t be like, “oh, you have a bastard? Cool, he can live with us and I will be his Mommy”, even if she was a very nice person.

        I also strongly object to historical romance novel covers. Apparently, some cover designers go, “Ah, a picture of a girl in a long dress! It must be historical. Put in on the front cover.” But the hair, the makeup, the fabric, the cut, and the trim all look nothing like the appropriate era.

      4. RagingADHD*

        I actually prefer that one to hist fic where the protagonist is a historical person (particularly a real, known figure) has been embued with contemporary beliefs they could not possibly have held, in order to make it easier for a contemporary audience to sympathize with them.

        Particularly when it is a historical figure who left behind writings or a legacy of actions that blatantly contradict the fake beliefs the author gave them.

    2. Can't Sit Still*

      “Historical” timelines that don’t make sense if you know any history at all. Also, thinking that the 15th century = 1500s, for example, has been causing me all kinds of annoyance lately, too. I used to just roll with it, but it’s really been bugging me lately.

      1)Portuguese ships trading in Brazil in the 15th century and then that same book talks about Hitler’s rise to power in the 1940s, which is extremely unlikely to have happened in the same way it did in our timeline. In fact, just regular trade between Europe & the Americas in the early 1400s would throw the timeline off so much, you would need to be either pretty vague in the modern day or have a very detailed alternate history in the background.
      2) A mansion built in North America in the late 1500s to “resemble the Palace of Versailles.” Versailles didn’t look like we think of Versailles until the mid 1600s. Someone who left France in the 1500s would have no idea what the Palace of Versailles looks like!
      3) Ancient Georgian mansions with English gardens in the western US. Really old, like over 400 years old. With existing indoor plumbing & electricity(!) from that time. This seems quite unlikely, to say the least. There are so many interesting indigenous buildings and structures from that time period that could be used instead if you just want something old.
      4) A garden designed by Capability Brown in Charleston in the 1600s.
      5) People wandering around Europe in the 1300s with zero interest or concern for the Black Death. There were a lot of dead people! Entire towns and villages were wiped out! It ended feudalism! It was kind of a big deal, especially if you were traveling.

      Wikipedia is free. I’m begging authors, just do a few minutes of research to get your timelines right or at least close enough not to make your readers have an aneurysm.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Kim Stanley Robinson’s Years of Rice and Salt is an alternate history that diverges from our timeline with a Black Death that kills virtually everyone in Europe. Our introductory character* is fleeing Genghis Khan’s armies and winds up roaming empty Europe for months. When he finally meets other people they’re slave traders, and he’s like “Oh thank god, at last, other humans, I’m not the last human on Earth. Slavery is a normal thing to which I can adapt.” He winds up in China, working his way up at the Imperial Court.

        *The book uses reincarnation as a way to have a group of connected “souls” who experience the different points in history and geography, but remember their other lives only between times. It gives a through-line to the book where you invest in these folks landing in a better future through their actions in this time.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      Horror films where everyone thinks that protagonist is suddenly having severe mental health issues instead of experiencing supernatural phenomena. I hate this trope so much, because it just means that the main character gets essentially tortured throughout and there is only one of two possible endings.

      Oh, and this seems to have reduced a bit in recent years, but films which don’t have any interesting, complex adult female characters but instead have the male lead character interact with a feisty and/or wisecracking adolescent girl.

    4. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I see this mostly in YA books, but: when a female lead who is supposedly being presented as a strong, smart character does something incredibly stupid because of a romantic attraction, especially in situations where there is a ‘bad boy’ and ‘nice boy’ love triangle set up.

      One I still remember is from a book whose name I can recall where the girl was escaping from a tyrannical government and yet decides to stop and send an unsecured and unencrypted radio message out to try and apologize for something incredibly minor…which leads to her and the people helping her being captured.

      It entirely destroys the character and turns them from a strong lead to someone all the other characters will trip over and be annoyed with.

    5. NeonFireworks*

      I became a feminist in part because of “this guy and/or this relationship with him causes a lot of problems for her but it’s okay because she loves him.” First time (Kate and Leopold): wait, what? I guess I don’t understand the adult world yet? Second time (You’ve Got Mail): I shouldn’t have to try to convince myself to like this – how is it supposed to be romantic? Third time (Made of Honor): RAAAAAAAAGE.

    6. Dark Macadamia*

      I’m not sure I’d call it problematic, more just that I’m not as willing/able to suspend my disbelief as I used to be, but the lengths shows will go to keep characters on the show. SO MANY characters turn down school, job, or other opportunities that would perfectly suit them if they were real, but they can’t pursue it because then they wouldn’t be on the show anymore. Also the amount of stuff that happens at work in work-centered shows that would be completely unrealistic and inappropriate in real life (break ups, resolving family trauma, etc)

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Actually what annoys me all the more is when shows set in large cities do this, when there is absolutely no reason the character couldn’t remain in the show and simply work across the city. I guess they don’t want to have to deal with them having friends at college who they’d be more likely to spend time with than with their neighbours kids or to have work issues to deal with where we can’t see the other side but it becomes even hard to suspend disbelief when it’s “you want to be a doctor? There is a college which offers a medical degree literally two miles from where you supposedly live and you got the grades but you dropped out to be with your boyfriend/girlfriend? Um…why?”

      2. Sloanicota*

        This makes particular sense for the AAM crowd to be angry about, when our official position is “don’t let guilt or your current obligations to your job hold you back from pursuing a more lucrative and/or satisfying career!” which I strongly agree with, but is often not how the workplace-as-family TV series go.

    7. Girasol*

      The Hallmark type romance where the working woman from the city meets the cute small town guy, they fight like cats for an hour, then they kiss and immediately fall madly in love.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Haha I always think, “so how is this driven and well-educating career woman going to feel about running the family Christmas tree lot in a small (and not stated: conservative) town for the next 50 years???” I think we’re supposed to assume her children/family completely consume her interests but …

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          Or when Candace Cameron took the train (and not, you know, a car?) to her new job in the next city, and got stranded along the way in a town that looked like one of those 1960s Americana train-set towns (because rail lines regular kick you off in small towns) and of course the first person she deals with is a super gorgeous guy. That’s everyday life, amirite?

      2. Prospect Gone Bad*

        OMG I am dying. I watch Hallmark when I work out at home and it’s basically comic relief. Allison Sweeney and Lacey Chabert have been every job and always live in swank settings and every guy they run across is super hot. Like when Lacey inherited an uncle’s cabin, of course it was in a posh area near Aspen and the construction worker fixing the house was of course hot. So ridiculous. The Christmas one where Marlo Thomas was Allison Sweeney’s mom was too over the top that it was basically a comedy

        1. Jackalope*

          I read a romance last year that turned this trope on its head a bit. The main character left Chicago to go back to her small town that she’d avoided for Reasons, then was clearly falling in love with a local woman who was unwilling to leave. I rolled my eyes a bit. But in the end she ended up keeping her Chicago job, agreeing with them to work from home 3 weeks and then go into the office 1 week, and her partner agreed to try out Chicago too. So she got to keep her small local town AND the big city that she also loved.

    8. Prospect Gone Bad*

      I don’t know if it’s problematic per se, but downright annoying to me, how every European piece is England-based with actors with British accents. Even if you stick to Europe there are loads of countries with colorful history, all the way east to Turkey, that get very little coverage.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Other European countries do produce a ton of content, however, they would need to be subtitled or dubbed for the US audience.
        The US audience doesn’t like subtitles. Dubbing, I imagine, is more complicated and expensive.
        There are, however, a bunch of French and German shows on Netflix. I highly recommend Babylon Berlin, from those.

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          I feel like America could do a “Game of Thrones” type show in a place like the Byzantine empire or medieval Hungary or even Austria or Ireland or Italy or Greece or the Nordic countries to spice it up.

          1. allathian*

            Try Vikings and Vikings: Valhalla. The tech level pretty well matches GoT, as does the gore. The one difference is that women have real power in Vikings.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Do you not watch foreign-made films or TV? There are a lot of them. If you’re on Netflix, you can search by collection.

      3. green eggs and ham*

        The show itself probably hasn’t held up well over time, but there used to be a British comedy in the 80’s(?) called ‘Allo ‘Allo where they poked fun at this trope. For example, a French character would say they didn’t understand a German character because they didn’t know German, even though both actors are speaking English.

    9. RussianInTexas*

      It shows up a lot in the mystery novels set in the past, like Victorian era, in which the main protagonist, a woman, consistently does something stupid, because she is so plucky, you see. She never suffers for it, because a gallant man helps her, unless the consequences are specifically necessary for the plot.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m still mad about the one in which the fiesty heroine receives a note “from the hero” which she immediately realizes is fake. So she goes to the meeting at the gazebo at midnight anyhow, with the plan to somehow turn the tables on the villain, and then it turns out that when you have no plan the tables do not turn.

        In contrast I forgave Cartwright on Slow Horses his really stupid move because it was clear that it was in fact painfully stupid (in the naive young person way), and stunts like this are a reason his boss insults his competency at every chance.

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Oh yes. Honey, the menfolk in your life didn’t ask you to stay out of the fistfight/ sword fight/gun fight/bad part of town/bad guy’s castle because they are sexist! It’s because some things are dangerous and you have no skills to keep yourself safe. You did not strike a blow for feminism by endangering yourself and needing to be rescued! No don’t do it again, didn’t you learn your lesson the first time?!

        It’s one thing if the situation is necessary and would be just as dangerous for a man. But so often it’s supposed to show that Ms. Plucky is the equal of any man, when she is, in that particular circumstance, obviously not.

        And please, PLEASE, when someone sends a ransom/blackmail/mysterious note asking you to meet by the docks/in a rowdy tavern/in a dark alley way, PLEASE take a large, muscular and well armed man with you! Preferably several, if you can round them up. They can lurk out of sight if necessary.

      3. RagingADHD*

        Yeah, feisty but incompetent with zero self-awareness is just infuriating. With male characters, this is the formula for a clown like Barney Fife. But make Barney Fife into a woman, and you get a romantic heroine.


      4. I take tea*

        Generally, plots that depend on the heroine doing something stupid for any reason is infuriating. I get making bad choises for a reason, but to go alone to the suspect’s house when there’s no good reason is just stupid. Don’t be stupid.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          TV Tropes calls this the idiot ball. (To make the plot come off, someone who is normally competent will be handed the idiot ball and so do a remarkably stupid and short-sighted thing.)

          It’s one reason I really love Donna Andrews’s bird mysteries–her heroine lets people know she’s going to question the suspect in their home, etc. Also everyone uses cell phones in a way normal to publication date–so I really loved the story where the villain was waiting outside the door to knock her phone out of her hand as she consulted it while leaving to go home, because that’s a very human way to use cell phones and a good way for the villain to plan to counter the cell phone. Whereas my eyes can’t roll far enough to express my disdain for the spunky heroine who “just doesn’t like cell phones” even though she gets kidnapped or otherwise in a “boy a cell phone would instantly fix this” situation. If it’s a new author and there is an early scene where the heroine just doesn’t like carrying those darn cell phones, I am inclined to give up because we are definitely going to have a high drama situation later that would be easily fixed if the person in constant danger would just carry a communication device like the rest of us.

    10. Qwerty*

      Sexism masquerading as feminism. Especially a problem with historical fiction – you get the lead female character who “isn’t like other women” because she does manly things like think for herself and have leadership skills. Constant putting down or erasing of all the good and respected things that women did to make them look useless and make the modernesque lead appear more “special” so the writers can insert commentary about their modern-day issues.

    11. Jackalope*

      One that’s personal: I hate the trope of having kids’ parents die when they’re young, purely as character development. I lost my same-sex parent when I was in elementary school, and there are specific types of trauma that go along with losing a parent that are often ignored (for example, not knowing how to grow into your gender if you lose your same gender parent, struggling with how to develop romantic relationships if you lose the parent of the gender you’re attracted to (assuming you’re only attracted to one gender), and so on). I’ve seen some authors, directors, game makers, etc. do it well, but so much of the time it makes me roll my eyes and/or flinch.

      Another trope I dislike (this is fantasy, since that’s my favorite genre) is the hidden or unlikely heir/Chosen One. The whole idea that someone just suddenly has amazing abilities, and then everyone decides to follow them because of their amazing leadership, and then suddenly they learn that they are the long-lost heir and It All Makes Sense.

      And last, the Evil Darklord that destroys everything just for funsies. I get that people can be cruel and sociopathic and destroy things just for fun, but there’s an extent after which it doesn’t make sense because you will no longer have any food, for example.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I was introduced to the delightful Mitchells vs the Machines when I asked on here for family movies that don’t kill the mom to provide character development for everyone else.

        I was undergoing cancer treatment, and really could not with this plot trope.

    12. RedinSC*

      Kids having to solve “big problems”

      Harry Potter was mentioned below, why didn’t the adults do something, leaving it up to school kids to resolve issues?

    13. Smol Book Wizard*

      YMMV, but – I can’t abide “mercy kills” as a trope, either specifically framed as such in the narrative or a sort of accidental “well, they had a terminal illness anyway so they’re going to heroically sacrifice themselves now.”
      That being said, there are certain historical warfare situations (looking at you, Rosemary Sutcliff) where it does make sense in extremity. But most times, I just can’t. I wish people “tagged for it” more often in stories, because it’s one of the few things I would rather avoid if I knew about it.

      (content warning for child death/tragedy)

      There was an anime I watched where a child character had undergone an unpleasant magical transformation and their friend wanted them out of their misery as it were. I became literally incandescent with rage because I work with children whose needs and abilities are very similar to how that character was post-transformation, and while there were Fantasy Setting Factors in play the optics of the whole thing was just – unbearable. No thanks.

  30. Forensic13*

    Recommendations for refreshing a language you used to be reasonably fluent in?

    I took Spanish for 9 years in high school and college and did get relatively fluent—not for complicated conversations, but all the normal type of interactions. I’m going to Spain this summer, and I want to refresh my understanding, especially in terms of listening (which isn’t my strongest skill in English either, but still.). Any suggestions? I’m fine to do language apps or classes, but need to skip past a lot of the beginning stuff (I can say hi! I can get directions!)

    Barring that, any great Spanish/Latin streaming media you suggest? I suspect listening to some shows would also help, but haven’t found anything I actually want to watch. If the media isn’t incredibly depressing, that would be a nice bonus.

    1. Sloanicota*

      having done apps and classes I’d say nothing comes close to having a native speaker practice with you. In my area there are meetups where ex-pats and students gather – anything like that? A neighbor, perhaps a spanish-speaking teen you could pay? (Note, I’m not familiar enough with Spanish to know if local speakers who are probably from South or Central America will work for castillian Spanish or make it worse).

    2. february was so long*

      I would check youtube for television content. I get that for a different language. It’s not news, but “people finding each other” type shows, or cooking shows. It can help with redeveloping your ear. And, I’m jealous of your trip!

    3. KatEnigma*

      There are classes you can take via video chat with native speakers. And because it’s one on one with individual tutors, you can ask them to focus on areas you want. We used iTalki personally.

    4. Not A Manager*

      There’s at least one “slow news” option in different languages, including Spanish. How depressing it would be depends on what news they’re covering. I find that the biggest barrier to refreshing my language skills is processing the speed at which native speakers usually talk.

      1. Camelid coordinator*

        I got a lot out of News in Slow Spanish. I speak Latin American Spanish so I did news in slow Spanish Latino. The news selection was ok and certainly not depressing. What I didn’t like was the way the work of the hosts was so gendered (clearly the woman did all the work and the guy acted like he was in charge) and there was way too much content about soccer. The best part is where the hosts have a very natural-sounding conversation that uses a particular kind of construction, like the subjunctive, so you can mentally practice with it. I would subscribe again for half the price but $23 a month is too high for me.

    5. Marie*

      I’m in a similar boat! Took French for 8 years over a decade ago, and most of it was not readily accessible to me any more. And I’m hoping to travel to France this summer.

      I’ve been using Duolingo as a refresher and it’s been great. It seems to “wake up” the French area of my brain and has helped me to remember much more than what is directly in the lesson. To skip the beginner content, you can take a test for any given language to jump ahead. I had a problem where because I didn’t remember specific random words they covered in their lessons that I got penalized and didn’t advance as far as I should have given my grammar knowledge. But it has jumped over a ton of beginner stuff into solid intermediate range, and then I just review the tips for each unit before taking a test to jump to the next unit (rather than doing all the lessons in the unit). I feel like it has actually been working pretty well!

      Other options: There are also podcasts in specific languages geared towards non-native speakers (I think Duolingo has some podcasts, which I haven’t tried out, and I also listen to one called “News in slow French”). Not sure about what’s available for Spanish, but I’m sure they’re out there. I also like watching movies in French (still with subtitles) when I feel I have the mental energy. Good luck and I hope you have a great trip!

      1. Mimmy*

        I’m not the OP, but I tried Duolingo for a while to brush up on my Spanish (took 5 years in high school and college), but I found it very repetitive. I only used the free version, that’s probably why. Good to know that it is possible to skip lessons.

    6. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I highly recommend listening to children’s novels in Spanish. I’m doing the Harry Potter series in Portuguese and it is AMAZINGLY helpful. I’ve been listening to a couple of chapters, reading them in English, then listening to them again in Portuguese. I’m doing it for first time learning, but I think it might be even more helpful as a refresher. It’s definitely improved my skills wildly, and I’m only halfway through the second book. It also targets listening skills specifically, which are also my weak spot.

      I picked it out just going to my library website and sorted for Portuguese and audiobooks. There is probably a better selection for Spanish. I think the writing level in Harry is about perfect if you want to go by grade level, but it’s probably more important that it’s something you want to listen to. That way, understanding it is it’s own reward.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Oh, and I think it might be a good thing that the books are NOT geared to language learners. It’s a bit sink or swim at first, but so are actual conversations with people.

      2. RedinSC*

        Oh, I tried reading the Harry Potter in Spanish, It was so difficult, because I knew more South American Spanish so words that I knew (like owl for example) were different from the Spain Spanish of the books. I was having to look up every other word, it felt like.

        I might start a bit lower level children, rather than YA.

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          I actually don’t look up words! Maybe one or two because I really ought to know when they are saying “wand” or something, but otherwise if I don’t understand it, oh well, I don’t understand it. I probably understand less than half of the words, but I do get the rough gist of the story now. It was maybe 10% starting out.

        2. Camelid coordinator*

          I had this same problem! I was going to read the Goblin Emperor in Spanish as a refresher but the translation used vocabulary and linguistic conventions from Spain. I am not sure how to find translations aimed more at a Latin American market.

          1. allathian*

            Maybe try getting books by Latin American authors that have been translated into English. Listen to the original and read the translation.

            My Spanish used to be good enough that I’ve read Cien años de soledad in the original, written in Colombian Spanish. My Spanish teachers happened to be Colombian, so I learned the key differences between both versions.

    7. Qwerty*

      Netflix has a decent amount of Spanish language content. I can’t think of any names off the top of my head but there are dramas, period pieces, and possibly a couple reality shows. I partly want to learn Spanish to watch some of the shows because so much can get lost in translation.

      LingoDeer is a great app! There are milestones that you can take a quiz to “test out” of a section and skip ahead to where you are at and courses are split into Level I & II, so you could probably just start with Level II. There is also a sister app called Deer Plus and some of the modules focus on dialogue and conversation. The two apps have separate memberships, I’m not sure what’s included in the free version. They both default to European Spanish, though LD has a course for Latin American Spanish.

      Youtube + translated Disney songs. The Alan Menken era of Disney had a lot of vocabulary plus singing is fun.

    8. RedinSC*

      My library has Spanish language “classes” that you can check out for free on Hoopla and Overdrive/Libby. You could practice while driving or doing chores, etc.

    9. just another queer reader*

      1) Radio Ambulante podcast from NPR (hosts are easy to understand; the interviews are sometimes tricky though – Latin American Spanish mostly)

      2) Spanish language shows (or dubbed shows) on Netflix etc. I have seen some of “Cable Girls” (1920s spain) and I know there are other shows

      3) kids movies dubbed into Spanish – Disney does a really good job of translating their songs into Spanish

      4) Latin music! I sometimes have a hard time understanding the words, but that’s the case in English too lol. Looking up the lyrics is (almost) always fun.
      If you like strong feminist messages with your music check out Rebeca Lane (from Guatemala). There are lots of great groups out there, though – Bomba Estéreo, Calle 13, Daddy Yankee, Nicky Jam, Enrique Iglesias, Bad Bunny, etc etc

    10. Eyes Kiwami*

      Hoy Hablamos podcast has a great mix of conversations, news, and grammar-focused mini stories. I find it great for intermediate level where you can mostly follow a conversation but can’t handle complex topics.

  31. Not So Willing Donor*

    I’d like to change my mindset about something and I’d love y’alls help. I support organ donation (from my body after I die) in theory, but the reality of it really squicks me out. I have a hangup about the idea of anyone viewing or messing around with my body after I am dead. My strong preference would be no autopsy, straight to cremation ASAP, no matter what. I don’t know the exact origin of my hangup except I guess it seems like the most extreme form of objectification. I also loathe the idea that instead of letting me go promptly, the doctors may do life support for a transplant, even for a short time. I’m doing my will and the lawyer asked about donation and it took a lot of will to finally say Yes but I really hope it doesn’t come to that, and I was upset afterwards. Maybe if I knew more about it I’d feel better? I know it’s a generous and Right thing to do and it shouldn’t matter to me after I’m dead. Thoughts?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      In the vein of “maybe if I knew more about it I’d feel better,” you might check out the book “Stiff” by Mary Roach – it’s a very approachable discussion of things like body preparation methods, what happens with body and organ donation, etc.

      1. Not So Willing Donor*

        Real question: Is it true it will make me feel better or will I despair that officious people are just going to refuse to keep their mitts off my corpse?? I have been a bit afraid to read this or similar books …

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Alas, I cannot assist there — I’ll be honest, I can’t wrap my head around your concerns, I’m firmly in the “once I’m done with my body I don’t much care what happens to it, donate what’s useful and cremate the rest” camp, so I’m not sure what would actually help assuage them!

        2. Forensic13*

          From my understanding, medical people are actually pretty well bound by ethical rules in terms of organ donation. They’re ready not going to take anything you haven’t given permission to.

          Sorry if this isn’t helpful, but you’re actually far more likely to have issues with other people taking things without permission. Unethical funeral homes, etc.

        3. Double A*

          I found the part about the funerals for the people who had donated their bodies for medical schools to be quite touching. Once the bodies had finished their service, the schools have a memorial service the students attend. I think it was at that point the students learned more about the people’s lives and could share their thanks for everything they learned from them. It was the opposite of objectifying.

          1. BlueCactus*

            I’m a med student, and we hold a memorial service for our donors every year. People read poems and essays they’ve written, play musical compositions, and make pieces of art to honor them. I didn’t have the opportunity to know my donor in life, but I know that he made the decision to delay his final resting in order to give me the gift of knowledge which will in turn benefit all of my future patients. It’s a truly selfless gift that I will be grateful for forever.

        4. Maple Bar*

          Well. I will say that based on what I know of organ donation and what you’d said here, I think the more you learn the more you might be distressed away from doing it. But also, learning the gritty details made me more comfortable with it because I felt like I knew the worst case possible scenario, and you might react that way! I don’t think anyone can predict how exactly you will feel about it.

          It sounds like disrespect is a big component of this for you. I can say as someone who did have courses in university with human cadavers and bones and who later work in biorepositories of donated tissue, people do not treat any of these with disrespect. You are never treated like an object or a slab of meat. As others have said, we recognize that all of these are gifts that deserve a certain amount of reverence. Especially in the case of cadaver labs; My university only accepted people who proactively agreed in life to donate their body specifically to our lab, and at the end when they were cremated we held memorial services with their families to thank them for their gift.

          Also, my father died suddenly and had to have an autopsy, and I had to deal with the coroner’s office a lot. We had no idea what had happened, and I wanted answers. They were all so kind and so helpful. I was even able to go over the autopsy with the medical examiner himself, and he told me all about what they’d done and what he’d observed. I really felt like my dad was in the hands of people who cared about him and me, and who really understood the gravity of our situation, even though it’s a situation I’m sure they saw every single day.

          But here’s the thing: You shouldn’t do it if you learn about it and find it distressing! It’s fine if you don’t. It sounds like you’re trying to force yourself to be ok with it because you feel like it’s the right thing to do, but it’s very much ok to just not do it! Go ahead and read some books, learn more about it, and just do whatever you feel is best for you.

    2. february was so long*

      Unless you die relatively young from an accident, they pretty much don’t want your body. So, do what you can to stay healthy?

      1. Sloanicota*

        Is this true? Do they not end up taking like corneas and skin grafts and things from older people? (I’m cautious here of not wanting to violate the rules of being gross in the open thread so we can’t get too detailed I assume).

        1. OyHiOh*

          My spouse died fairly ugly (flu, lungs hardening at the end) and while organs couldn’t be used, his corneas were donated. In his case, they went to research rather than a living recipient. Something good came of an otherwise grim situation.

          1. Washi*

            I’m a hospice social worker, and our area donor bank doesn’t accept corneas after age 70. I can’t remember about skin grafts.

            The circumstances where you can donate major organs are really limited, and outside of that, if you die without making arrangements for donation ahead of time with your family and chosen funeral home, it’s logistically very difficult for it to happen. I think it’s perfectly fine to just be registered as an organ donor and if you die in the special circumstances, there are people who will swoop in to try to make donation happen, and if not (99% likelihood), it’ll just be cremation. You don’t have to go to extraordinary measures to do something that you’re truly not comfortable with, just like you’re not obligated to donate a kidney to a stranger just because you already have two.

        2. WellRed*

          They do not want old peoples organs. There’s also a relatively short window in which they can take your organs. Like, if you died in your sleep, it ain’t happening. You can also decide what you do or don’t want to donate. There was a very recent NY Times article about a woman who died waiting in the transplant list. Maybe someone more clever than I can post a link?

        3. february was so long*

          it was certainly true in my mother’s death. She really wanted her body donated. Any parts, med school etc. *No* one wanted it. My advice is: if you make it clear to your family that you want your body donated, have a plan B, because if you’re not so young, no one wants it.

        4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Nearly 3.4 million people die in the US every year, most of them old. 58% of the population are registered organ donors. I’d guess the medical folks have more donated old people than they can possibly use.

        5. Patty Mayonnaise*

          I guess it depends on how old is “older.” Jerry Orbach died at at 69 (which I would at least consider “not young”) and was able to donate his corneas. But I also read he anecdotally had very good eyes. So it seems to me like a case by case basis!

    3. the cat's ass*

      Former transplant nurse here. If you don’t want to do this, you shouldn’t feel you have to! Although i have to say the speed, thoughtfulness, and reverence (that’s the only word i can think of, and i generally don’t think of surgeons as being reverent) of the transplant team i worked back then with is something i have never forgotten.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Yeah, there are plenty of dead people! A never ending supply in fact. Well over 3 million every year in the US alone. Sure, the supply of healthy dead people who were willing to donate organs is shorter, but willing is an important part of that.

        And honestly, the odds of you dying young and healthy enough for this to be an issue at all are pretty slim, if that’s any comfort. Most of us live to be pretty old, or die from nasty diseases that mess up our bodies.

        If you believe in organ donation and want to do it anyway, that would be an extremely lovely gift. But it’s not something you have to do, any more than any other donation is something you owe.

    4. Once I'm Not Here, It's Just a Body*

      My plan is to donate my no-longer-alive body to a medical school or research facility for whatever practical use they can make of it: a practice form for student surgeons, research into organs, etc. Have even considered The Body Farm as a recipient, but I’m still looking into that.

      I’ve always believed that my body is just the vehicle that transports the Actual Me—my mind, thoughts, joys and pleasures, sadness, sense of humor, affections for people and things—from place to place. Once I die, the Actual Me doesn’t need transporting, and kinda doesn’t exist—depending, of course, on what kind of afterlife there is or isn’t.

      I’m definitely in my fourth quarter (pushing 80) but have no identified conditions, impairments, or disease, so far. If someone can derive some value from my post-death corpus, then I’m all for it.

      And if there actually is an afterlife, I shall be watching with great interest to see what happens!

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        There’s an episode of the podcast Criminal about the Body Farm that is well worth a listen. I wouldn’t want to donate my body in this way, but I found it totally fascinating!

      2. connie*

        Understand that so many people want to do that that your body may not be accepted. The Body Farm and other similar places may have space or project limitations. One near me has a space limitation, and that’s for good reason–you don’t want the area accessible to too many people or so large it draws too much attention. If you know which facility you would like to donate to, please do ask them first.

    5. Double A*

      I don’t have anything handy, but I’ve read some accounts from recipients of organ donation or the parents of children who received organs. Their gratitude towards the recipient is so profound. I believe they thing about their donors every day. I would recommend trying to find some stories like that.

      However as someone mentioned up thread, you will likely only be eligible to donate if you die young, and I believe many donor recipients are extra aware that their miracle is only possible because of someone else’s tragedy. I know that gratitude can also bring comfort to the people you leave behind, so it can also be something you do for your own family. I know if I knew a part of someone I loved was still out there, contributing to another life, it would bring me some solace.

    6. PoolLounger*

      If you’re interested in exploring your thoughts on this, I recommend Caitlin Doughty’s books Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and From Here to Eternity. She’s a mortician and cremetory worker who does death advocacy work. Her books really helped open my eyes to the realities of cremation/donation/mortuaries and to the variety of ways different cultures view death and the body.

    7. fueled by coffee*

      It sounds like you don’t want to be an organ donor, and that’s ultimately your call to make!

      If you like the idea in theory, but the idea of having your body interfered with after you die is what weirds you out, what about putting this energy into going to blood drives while you’re alive? Or getting swabbed for a bone marrow registry? Can be life-saving to someone in need, but doesn’t involve medical intervention after you die.

    8. AnonRN*

      Critical care nurse here who takes care of donors (sometimes) and recipients (sometimes) with a variety of thoughts.
      1) You need a health care proxy who knows your wishes and will follow them. Your will doesn’t become effective until after your death and will not be relevant in the same timeframe of donation being a possibility.
      2) As others have said, the circumstances where multiple organs can be recovered are very unusual. Most typically: devastating head injuries where there is no brain function to keep the “automatic” parts of the body working (like breathing), but short-term ventilator support keeps the oxygen moving until the donation. Statistically, it’s unlikely this will happen to you, but if you don’t want this you need to talk with your proxy. If you have a variety of condions including cancer or certain viral infections, your organs may not be usable in this context anyway.
      2.5) Donations of corneas or skin can happen more easily than the above, and don’t require a functional circulatory system during the recovery process.
      3) Nurses and doctors really do honor and respect the donor, and the care nurses give is not different than what we give any other intensive-care patient. With that said, intensive-care patients receive a lot of hands-on care…everything from cleaning your mouth frequently to bathing your whole body daily…which is not something most people would choose from a stranger! But being a potential donor doesn’t change that part (I don’t know if that’s comforting or not, but the way to avoid this type of hands-on care would be to never need intensive care, which is also a decision to discuss with your proxy).
      4) Transplant recipients are very grateful for the chance they have been given. Some can decide they want to contact the donor’s family (with mutual agreement) and some do not wish to.
      5) You can rescind this decision if you don’t want to do it! No shame, no guilt. But you need to make your wishes really clear with your proxy either way. And if you change your mind in the future, you need to update your conversation with that person.

      1. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

        When a friend had a fatal heart attack, I learned so much about the organ donation process, and with your extensive experience, you said it very well. From what I understand, medical history plays into which organs might be viable, tests are done to the potential donor on the ventilator to see if they can even donate with the procedure you outlined above, as my understanding is that the donation surgery occurs without ventilator use, so the potential donor must pass some “off the ventilator pre-tests” of sorts (correct me if I am wrong). My friend did not pass those tests and breathed on her own essentially “too strongly” to donate, so cornea donation was considered instead of repeating the test again later. Post donation, the donor’s wishes are honored for burial/cremation/etc.

        1. AnonRN*

          Yes, without trying to get too deep into it here, there are many tests to determine if there is any residual brain function. Breathing is one of those tests. If someone can initiate breaths on their own, they are not completely brain-dead (even though they may not be able to live without life support, or communicate, etc.) If that’s the case, organs cannot be retrieved while the heart is still beating but corneas and skin can be retrieved after death. If the donor has no brain activity and the family/proxy provides consent, the patient remains on the ventilator because the heart can keep beating as long as it has oxygen (no brain activity required!), and lots of other tests and scans are run on the organs (kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, pancreas, etc) to evaluate their condition for donation. Then one surgery is coordinated for all of the viable organs, which are immediately transported to the recipient hospitals. It’s a fascinating process (but I respect that it’s not for everyone)! I’m sorry for the loss of your friend.

    9. RagingADHD*

      This seems like some existential stuff alongside the body stuff. Do you have issues about fearing a loss of control in other realms of life, as well? Or a mistrust of doctors?

      Are you equally squicked out by the idea of being unconscious during surgery, for example? Or being on life support if there were a hope of recovery?

      Coming at it from another angle, do you feel attachment or ownership over houses you used to live in? Would it bother you a lot to see your childhood home torn down, or painted bright pink?

      In any event, you really don’t have to agree to donate if you hate the idea. And you aren’t obliged to figure out a good reason, either. You can just update your paperwork to take that part out. You don’t have to do it at all.

      1. Not So Willing Donor*

        Weirdly, you nailed it; I have issues with all those first four things, which I have wrestled with through my life. My whole family seems to somewhat mistrust doctors / authority figures actually. Not the house stuff, though.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Well, this isn’t an area you’re obligated to wrestle over. You can focus on making sure you get the care you need when you need it, rather than struggle with something unnecessary.

          1. Not So Willing Donor*

            But I do think morally and ethically, if my organs can save someone, it is the right thing to do, and I am trying to make peace with having that in my will, despite my irrational discomfort. It’s actually been very comforting to hear it’s not a very likely scenario anyway!! Thanks all.

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

      No thoughts on the technical aspect of this, but on the emotional one, I think I remember a line about organ donation from *Hill Street Blues* of all places, something re: thinking about it like “Someone else is giving their body to keep a part of you alive.”

      1. AnonRN*

        I know one family of a donor who takes great comfort in both knowing that parts of him are still alive in the world and knowing that his final gift helped several people remain alive. Of course they did not want to lose their son/brother/father but they feel that he is more present this way.

        1. Jackalope*

          I don’t want to guilt you into anything, so take from this what you will. But if it’s helpful, I have a family member who had an organ transplant that gave him another 24 years of life, and it meant a lot to us. He lived to see all of his kids grow up, and even got to meet all of his grandchildren (or likely so; I don’t think any of them are planning on more kids). There was so much living squeezed out of those 24 years. Again, this is not to guilt you; it’s your body and you should feel free to say no! But when I think about the unpleasant parts of someone taking my organs and giving them to someone else, knowing the other side helps a lot.

    11. Pianogirl*

      My father (well into his eighties when he passed away) donated his eyes. He had been suffering from vision problems for years, and studying his eyes might help those in the future who have the same problem. His name is listed on a memorial along with others who have donated. It is an honor to visit the memorial.

  32. potluck, main dishes.*

    Situation: potluck dinner after a religious service. There is no fridge to keep food cold, or oven to keep warm. There is a microwave for last-minute heating. So, the food has to stay edible for about an hour at room temperature. Ideas for main dishes? I took quiche, but would love other ideas.

    1. Not A Manager*

      Almost anything will stay edible for an hour at room temperature. I suppose that there might be some food safety guidelines that don’t allow it, but I think most of us are okay leaving roasted meats, casseroles, etc. out for an hour.

      Any simple cooked meat would be good at room temp – broiled chicken pieces, or roasted chicken; any kind of beef roast; pork chops; etc. I make a nice marinated broiled salmon for events like that. I get a big piece of salmon from Costco and cut it into about 3 ounce strips, then marinate it and broil it. Serve at room temp with a simple sauce.

      If you don’t want to leave animal proteins at room temp, any kind of hearty grain pilaf/salad preparation would be nice. Look for recipes that call for beans or tofu to make it more of a main dish. Many pasta casseroles are tasty at room temperature, and all pasta salads.

      1. Indolent Libertine*

        The standard food safety guideline I’m aware of is that everything is safe if it hasn’t spent more than 4 hours in the danger zone between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. So even if something sits out in the car for an hour on the way there, and for a second hour during services, and for a third hour while people eat, it’s still fine to eat from a safety perspective; although it may not be as appealing at room temperature, that’s a separate issue.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Is there an electrical outlet available somewhere to plug in a crockpot during the service? If so —
      Meatballs in sauce (marinara, bbq, sweet and sour, whatever appeals)
      Dip (spinach-artichoke, taco dip) and dippers
      Midwestern goulash, which is basically just rotini or bow-tie pasta tossed with ground beef, stewed tomatoes and garlic/onions/italian seasoning, has very little resemblance to proper goulash but :)

      If not, pinwheel sandwiches/wraps maybe? I make chicken cakes from a recipe on the Stove Top stuffing box that’s written as crab cakes but I use chopped chicken instead of the crab too.

    3. OyHiOh*

      I’ve done kugel for something warm.

      In summer, I like to take a platter with hummus in the center, surrounded by tomato slices. I dress up store bought hummus with sesame seeds, olive oil, and ground sumac.

    4. Bluebell*

      Yes, quiche is one of my go tos. Other things that pop up at the post-service potlucks I’ve gone to are eggplant parm, pasta salad with hearty add-ins, spanakopita, couscous with veggies, rice and bean mixes, and Asian noodle salads with tofu.

    5. KatEnigma*

      If you warm up a cooler with hot water, it will also work to preserve things staying warm. Or I have one of those made for potlucks insulated carriers that has a hot/cold pack. Lasagnas honestly are best served not piping hot- and will stay warm for a long time, in an insulated bag.

    6. Alex*

      I’ve taken a casserole dish that can fit in the microwave full of mac and cheese. It takes about 10 minutes to get it hot in the microwave in a large dish. Always a hit.

    7. RedinSC*

      When I need to bring something that I want to stay warm I just use my crockpot. most places have an outlet that you can plug it into.

    8. Anono-me*

      I do a bean salad with sides of chips and shredded lettuce.

      3 or 4 can of different kinds of beans (recommend red, black, and garbanzo) rinsed and well drained.

      8 Oz thick shredded chedder cheese

      1 diced onion or green pepper (or both)

      2/3 +/- bottle of Catalina dressing.

      Mix well.

      Serve as is, or chilled as a main protin or over lettuce as a main dish salad or as side with chips (I like either tortilla or pita chips).

  33. SSC*

    Our dog is terrified of having her nails clipped. I’ve read up and we are implementing the general strategies to gradually desensitize her to having her paws manipulated. We always do a long walk and premedicate her with trazodone beforehand. I’m curious about specific devices that are less traumatizing than a regular clipper – maybe part of what’s scary to her is the loud snap. I’ve seen some quiet sanding-type devices advertised but would appreciate some actual user experiences before buying one. Thanks!

    1. rr*

      I bought one for our cats (the type that can be used on either cats or dogs- just with a switch of heads) and no, they still aren’t comfortable with it. I’ve let them sniff it, let them hear it run before trying it on their nails, done nails over time. No dice. Maybe if I was more confident in not hurting them, it would work better. That’s what I’ve been led to believe anyway. But at this point, I’ve invested more money in these types of instruments than I care to think about. I’ve now resigned myself that it is just a groomer/vet tech situation. Which the cats don’t love either, but at least it is over faster, even with the transportation. Just did it this morning, actually.

    2. Emma*

      With one dog, i have used a Dremel. Just a regular one, not a special pet one. Dog doesn’t love it, so I basically feed him tiny bits of treats throughout.

      Other dog is too scared, so we take that doggo to the vet for trims.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My dogs (who are 50 and 100 pounds, so I can’t exactly burrito them or something) do NOT want me doing their nails, but they’re both perfectly well behaved if someone else does them with a Dremel. For some reason, it’s just me that they’re not okay with. (And I’ve never like, injured either of them or anything in the attempt, just for some reason, I pick up the tool and they both hit the ceiling, even before coming near them or turning it on or anything. I don’t even know.) So I leave it to the pros for all of our sakes. (I don’t know that that’s helpful to you at all, just wanted to say, it’s probably not something you’re doing wrong :) )

    4. Missb*

      I’ve tried a variety of things. Dh cut our oldest pup’s nail too short one time when he was a puppy and it has been a constant battle.

      We’ve used the sanding board – a sheet of sandpaper on a clip board, and he doesn’t mind that. We also have started demanding a paw and doing a quick file with a human nail filer before he’s released to eat a meal. Now, he’ll sit and wait for his food and poke his paw at me before I’m even done setting the bowl of food down. It’s just a desensitizer method, not really a way to shorten his nails.

      But really – he hates the Dremel. He hates the clipper. I take him in once a month or so to the pros, who do a quick clip for $10. They wrestle his 90 lbs up on the table and clip him. We take him out for a treat after.

    5. Blythe*

      I use a Dremel on my 45 pound standard poodle. For us, it is important that he be up on on the grooming table while I am doing it. I also give him whipped cream or ice cream to lick.

      To get used to this, I had someone else help me initially— I did the toesies, and my helper held the licky treat. That helped a lot!

    6. KatEnigma*

      Yeah, my animals hated the nail grinders worse than the clippers.

      For cats, I have always used human nail clippers.

      My vet and boarder both charge $10 to clip nails and it’s the best $10 I spend… LOL My Rottie mix will play enforcer and sticks her nose in the face of our other dogs so that they stay perfectly still while I am clipping their nails, but I don’t have another Alpha to make her stay still…

    7. Reba*

      We use the Dremel. (It’s one marketed for pets but I think it’s the more powerful pet option?) Our dog has black nails so when we used clippers it often was sometimes bloody. Although she is totally good with handling her feet, she hates the grinder as the vibration annoys her. But one of us holds her and gives her ice cream to lick while the other one does the grinding, and it actually goes really quickly.

  34. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    Critter shenanigans!

    I just heard a thunderous crash from upstairs and was afraid I was going to have to call my husband at his gaming group to let him know that his cats had like, knocked his TV off its stand or something. On investigating, a large hardbound omnibus of the LOTR trilogy, including its leather slipcover, was perched standing fully upright on its spine, eight feet away from the Kallax in which it had been shelved. No other items in the entire 4×4 Kallax had been moved, including another book (hardbound slipcovered edition of The Hobbit, so smaller but still hefty) that had been pressed tightly up against the LOTR omnibus or two figurines of LOTR characters that were standing in the same Kallax cube with the two books. We have no idea what happened that resulted in the heaviest object in the shelf levitating eight feet away and landing in a highly unlikely balanced fashion, while everything else remained motionless, but it must’ve been either somehow the cats (who regularly jump on top of that Kallax because that’s where their food is), or a household ghost who has waited eight years to raise their head.

    My Dane puppy has also broken 100 pounds and will be a year old next week. I don’t know where the time went.

    What are your critters up to these days?

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      My dog has, mercifully, decided to try and stop jumping on the couch every morning (he’s not allowed on the couch and he knows it – persuading a 50-pound dog to vacate the couch isn’t fun ) Now he’s decided that he wants to go out and come back in 2-3 times every morning – which is a lot less annoying

    2. Pine Tree*

      My cat, who has lived in a house with a wood stove most of her life, last night jumped onto the wood stove that had a roaring fire going. She’s never done that before! She jumped off immediately, and her feet look fine, so I think she’s ok. But she sat staring it down for a long time last night, like it was a living thing that betrayed her.

    3. KatEnigma*

      After 6 weeks of ZERO UTI related inappropriate peeing, we went to sit down at the table for lunch a few minutes ago to find that the cat had peed on 2 napkins sitting on the table, as she’d been doing off and on before and during her UTI treatment. I don’t think it’s flared back up, but the felliway plug in I’d put in that room has run out…

      Also, the GSD gets bored at night and takes stuff out to the yard to tear apart, and last night was a bag of Cheetos, a bag with 2 cinnamon raisin bagels (leaving behind my honey wheat ones) a box of sturdy BBQ aluminum foil, and my son’s valentine’s box. She ate the Cheetos and bagels, but only scattered the aluminum foil and valentine candy, as she was tearing apart the boxes. Most of the things she destroyed hadn’t moved in at least a week- but she gets bored. She needs exercised more and we know it. My husband has a harness and device to safely run her from his bike, but needs to replace his front innertube and has been crazy busy with long hours at work. We know it’s our fault, but I do wish she had left the valentine’s box intact. It was a special monster truck box we made from a kit and the 5 yr old was heartbroken.

    4. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Here is how my morning has gone today:

      5 AM – my cats decide that it is the PERFECT time to chase a potato bug and stampede directly over me, waking me up.

      6 AM – long-haired cat has a hairball directly onto my coat and bra,.

      7 AM – back in pursuit of the potato bug, they start leaping up a post at the edge of the loft (I live in a tiny house) and one of them FALLS OFF THE LOFT and onto my desk (she’s totally fine, just startled).

      Unsurprisingly no one got much sleep this morning.

      1. Long time dog person, first time cat person?*

        I am, for the first time in my life, maybe considering getting a cat? I wrote more down below, but, after reading stories like this – can I ask if you regret getting a cat? What are the pro’s that outweigh the cons. Do all cats hack up hairballs? If cats knock things over, does this mean no breakable things out?

        1. Warrior Princess Xena*

          I don’t regret them. I love them deeply. I love having furry friends to cuddle. They will cough up hairball sometimes, which can be ameliorated by getting a short haired cat, and they will sometimes knock things over, but honestly I’ve knocked over more things by accident than they have.

    5. GoryDetails*

      My cat decided that none of the new catnip toys I’d gotten were nearly as much fun as the piece of roasted carrot (hot and spicy, no less) that fell off of my plate. He batted that thing around the kitchen for almost half an hour before losing it somewhere, with me pretty much guffawing the whole time.

    6. voluptuousfire*

      My cat was playing with a toy yesterday and she knocked it under the couch. She ended up under the couch on her back, wiggling with trying to get the toy out. She looked like a mechanic under a car. She’s such a dork.

    7. carcinization*

      My cat is taking my husband’s used disposable razors out of the trash and playing with them, so we’re having to keep that bathroom door closed for sure.

    8. Jackalope*

      Not my critter this time, but some friends got a tiny puppy this week and we got to go meet her today! We managed to make it at just the right time, after she’d worn herself out with playing hard and wearing out her humans. She slept during most of our visit, then proudly showed off the behaviors she’s learned this week (sit, stay, and come, with a start on lie down). The best part, though, was the end – she started to act up again (prob a bit overstimulated with the NEW FRIENDS who had come to meet her), and so we… got to leave, because she’s not our puppy. I’ve had kittens and I’ve had adult dogs, but never a puppy, and that’s on purpose. SO CUTE, but SO MUCH WORK.

  35. SuprisinglyADHD*

    How can I make my kitten comfortable when she’s in heat?
    She has an appointment at the end of March at the only affordable spay clinic we could find (~$200 instead of ~$1000). We made the appointment weeks ago, that is the earliest slot they have open.
    Since yesterday she has been desperate for attention (she’s normally affectionate but this is way more), and constantly vocalizing (she rarely makes more than a couple of squeaks when she wants food). Worst, my neutered male cat ha