weekend open thread – August 26-27, 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: Maame, by Jessica George. A young woman cares for her ill father while juggling work, an overbearing but absent mom, work, friends, roommates, and love.

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

{ 1,104 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. NYC Vacationer*

    Our family of six (parents, and 4 kids) are heading to NYC in the spring for a vacation. Travelling as a big family can get very expensive, especially with airfare and hotels. Any tips on how to save money on hotels? Are there any other ways to save money in NYC? We plan to do a Broadway show and Central Park Zoo.

    1. DannyG*

      We stayed in NJ near one of the ferry terminals when I took the grandkids last year. Pizza & street food is relatively cheap as is deli food (big portions may allow you to split)

    2. Random Bystander*

      One tip–look for hotels in New Jersey and take the ferry across. It’s been a long time since I went there, but that was a tip that I had been given, and it saved almost half the cost of the hotel lodging.

      1. Managerista*

        Long Island City is also an easy subway ride in, with much lower housing costs. AirBnB is illegal so avoid that route!

        1. Typing All The Time*

          Agreed. You’re one or two stops on the subway from Manhattan or you can take in the NYC Ferry in.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Or the PATH train. And LIC is very convenient — personally, I stay in Flushing, as that’s central to a lot of people I want to see, has great restaurants, and is a transportation hub. It takes about 20-25 minutes by LIRR train from Penn Station, although that’s a lot more expensive for 6 people.

        As for saving money, there are of course a lot of free or pay-what-you-can parks and museums. The Museum of Natural History has always been one of my favorites, but then I’m a sucker for a planetarium. Queens has Flushing Meadow Park, with among other things the New York Hall of Science, the Queens Zoo, and the Queens Botanical Gardens.

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          The New York Hall of Science in Queens is AWESOME. Fun for kids and adults with lots of interactive exhibits and a physics playground that is a blast. They also have reciprocity for ASTC – the association many science museums belong to. If you have a membership to a local science museum that will get you in there. AMNH unfortunately does not honor that. I grew up near NYC and I have a soft spot for AMNH and I still prefer the Hall of Science.

          My favorite thing to do with my kid when she was little was to walk through Central Park. There are playgrounds, rocks to climb, musicians to listen to, and the best people-watching on earth. We’ve seen high-fashion photo shoots, weddings, LARP-ing, and lots and lots of dogs. Walking through the park, of course, is free. There are lots of places to get food and some are very reasonably priced, and there’s a lovely small zoo (no idea how much that costs) as well as a historical carousel and remote-control sailboats you can rent at one of the ponds.

          1. Jay (no, the other one)*

            And now I see that you are already planning on the CP Zoo! Sorry! Too early for reading comprehension, apparently!

    3. RedinSC*

      There’s a Broadway play ticket booth in Time Square where you can get same day tickets for a good discount on shows.

      1. Lore*

        I also recommend the website TodayTix if you want to preplan your Broadway show. Sometimes you can get a same day miracle at TKTS but most of the time TodayTix will have the same shows at comparable prices and you can buy ahead. They will email you the tickets the day of the show.

      2. Lilo*

        If you’re willing to be flexible on shows there’s a lot of different rush ticket options. TodayTix, TKTs, individual shows have discounts, etc.

    4. Fulana del Tal*

      The Bronx zoo has free general admission on Wednesdays but require advance booking. As already mentioned the TKTS booth in Times Square.

    5. Me*

      Relatively cheap meals:

      1) Bagels with cream cheese or butter. You can get them from a street cart or a bagel shop (I recommend the latter).

      2) Hot dogs and hot pretzels from a cart. They have these all over the place, but I know they gather right in front of the Met Museum. This is also particularly fun with kids.

      (I say relatively cheap because they’re still going to cost you something, especially with six people, but they’re cheaper than other options and very traditional NYC foods.)

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

        Tip on hot dogs and pretzels from carts and food generally — the further away you get from touristy areas, the more reasonably priced you can expect that stuff to be. Even a block or two can make a difference.

        It is also wise to ask “how much is X?” before ordering anything from a cart and to be mentally prepared to walk off and find another cart — sometimes the pricing is, uh, flexible, like they might upcharge tourists. (Not that that is legal — it’s not — but it does happen.)

    6. E*

      There are lots of fun, free things to do. Walk around Central Park, go to the Highline, go to Little Island, take the Staten Island ferry, which goes past the Statue of Liberty.

      1. Lila*

        also, depending on your kids ages, you can get a lot of mileage out of visiting different playgrounds and exploring the surrounding neighborhoods.

        And libraries are a great place for indoor hanging out and the 3 NYPL research libraries (42nd St, Lincoln Center and Schomburg) all have free exhibits.

        NY has a ton of cheap eats. Spring in NY is also nice in that you can grab things from a supermarket or something and eat outside.

      2. Stevie Budd*

        I will say that we did the Staten Island ferry and my son (8 at the time) was disappointed we didn’t get to actually go to the Statue of Liberty, just past. So consider how strongly your kids feel about that part.

    7. YouHavetoThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      NYer here. not sure I fully agree with the NJ advice, that seems like a lot of schlepping every day, especially end of day when the kids are tired. If you are in Hoboken or Jersey City the Path is great but ferries can have long headways or less flexibility. I always recommend tourists really try to stay in Manhattan if possible, if it is before Memorial day you won’t be in peak season yet. LIC in Queens is also good because it is very few stops on the train and parts of it are pretty kid friendly. The waterfront is also nice if anyone has ants in their pants before bed. Plus you can go the other way to the Queens Science museum. Then head to Flushing for dim sum or soup dumplings. If you have a picky eater, fried dough is usually on offer. Or go to the Museum of the Moving image in Astoria and see the permanent Jim Henson display, that museum is very cool for kiddos imho. Then head to Milkflower when they open for neopolitan pizza for dinner; the adults can try the Wu Tang Clam which imho can stand up against New Haven’s best. Skip dessert at the restaurant, walk over to the Omonia bakery take out side (it has a sitdown and a takeout) and grab 2 or 3 slices of cheesecake to take back to the hotel. This may last your family 2 days.

      As mentioned, a lot of museums have pay-what-you wish days or free days/nights, you can check their sites to see where you can economize. Or they have kid activities on deck for certain times of day.

      Do not pay for a statue of liberty tour!!! Those guys in the red and yellow vests are looking for chumps. All of you can head to the Staten Island ferry for free and ride outside for a decent view. Get some pizza and then head back to lower Manhattan, where the Museum of the American Indian is also free. Likewise, Governor’s Island is free or cheap depending on time of year/day and a nice short boat ride. you can rent bikes or those big family bike carts and see some amazing views of the city.

      In general I would stay away from “sightseeing packages”. If you want to do the double decker tour bus, go for it, but kids under a certain age ride free on the MTA so for you and your spouse it is less than 6 bucks combined to take the city bus or subway. In my experience, kids from car-dependent places love an MTA bus or subway ride.

      If you do one of the “view” stops, I think Top of the Rock is better than Empire State. You only need one. Go to the Highline for free, get a treat and check it out.

      Because you have 6 people, you may wish to look into some dinner reservations as many NY restaurants are not huge. And/or go close to 5.

      Have fun!

      1. Voluptuousfire*

        +2 as native NYer as well.

        There’s also Snug Harbor in Staten Island, about a 10 min bus ride from the SI ferry. It’s got a children’s museum and a few really gorgeous gardens and had programs going all the time. On a beautiful day with thr gardens in bloom, it’s quite a site.

      2. NYCbound?*

        Also NYC bound soon
        My mom is freaked out and has heard horror stories about how unsafe …well apparently pretty much everywhere…but specific she’s mentioned subways and….well…

        Anything I can say to reassure her?

        Also common sense aside, are there places to avoid that may not be obvious?

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

          Most of NYC is pretty safe, but it’s true that we have been having some incidents on the subways lately. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid the subway, but you might want to stand well back from the tracks as you wait. I usually try to stand behind a pillar so that if anyone was unhinged and wanted to give me a shove, they couldn’t get enough momentum to get me flying onto the tracks.

          If someone is being problematic in a subway car you’re in, and you’re feeling nervous, try not to engage but switch to a neighboring car at the next stop. Or (if the person is definitely staying on the train), you can just hop off at the next stop and wait for the next train. One will be along soon-ish, usually.

          One weird thing is that a neighborhood may be lower-income but safer sometimes because there are a lot of people out and about on the streets at all hours, while a neighborhood or a park may be wealthier but less safe if it’s more deserted. Case in point: At a more dangerous point in the city’s history, my aunt got mugged on Park Avenue. On the other hand, in the early-to-mid 80s I would walk through Times Square when it was at its sleaziest and felt pretty safe because the streets were full of people.

        2. Lila*

          As a native New Yorker, I would say that it’s important to pay attention to your surroundings, especially if you’re out late at night, and use your common sense. If you’re on the subway late at night, ride in the first or 5th car where the conductor and driver are, and don’t get into a subway car that is empty or has one other person. I commute daily, take my kids on the subway and bus to various things.

          I do think there are more folks on the train with some kinds of mental distress these days, but most of those people do not seem threatening, just in need of more help. if someone seems really unstable, do not engage and get off at the next stop or change cars.

          it might help to remember that New York is a large city with a whole lot of people of all ages living their lives. Fear mongering on cable news is inaccurate.

          1. Yikes on Bikes*

            “Fear mongering on cable news is inaccurate.” YES. Also important to keep in mind is that even if, say, crime on the subway has “doubled in the past X years” – your odds, as an individual, of being a victim of a crime are still very, very low. I wholeheartedly agree with the advice above to be away, stay away from the edge of the platform, don’t engage with/avoid those who see to be in mental distress…but honestly, you are probably more at risk from harm driving around in your car every day.

        3. ww*

          As with any major city containing millions of people you want to have your wits about you – don’t wander around flashing wads of cash, don’t stand in the middle of the sidewalk looking blankly at your phone, don’t put your wallet in your back pocket, don’t get into unlicensed cabs and make sure lyfts/ubers are who they say they are, in general try to not look lost even if you are (the Manhattan grid is self-explanatory but I’ve lived in Brooklyn for well over a decade and still manage to get turned around in the outer boroughs sometimes. Just keep powerwalking calmly till you find a nice well-lit spot to get your bearings. The subway system is massive and constantly being rerouted for alleged maintenance but it’s not fare-zoned, so if you go the wrong way and end up where you don’t want to be, it’s not going to cost you anything more to turn around and go back).

          Don’t stand right on the edge of the subway platforms – you don’t want to fall onto the tracks but you also don’t want to be That Person who drops their phone down there and has to wait for the MTA to get around to fetching it (especially don’t be this person at rush hour). If a train comes and every car is packed except for one, you have not been blessed by good fortune, do not go into that car, there is a reason no one’s in it and there’s an 85.93% chance that reason is a fantastically, astoundingly, eye-wateringly bad smell. I made that mistake once and I swear the odor had a physical form. If someone is being aggressive or threatening in a subway car, switch cars. Mind your business, generally. Sometimes you’ll see a small flood of people cutting between cars into yours mid-stop and know something funky’s going on elsewhere.

          Aaall that said…look, I’m not going to deny that there have been high-profile subway incidents in the past couple years, but I think it’s important to note just how. many. people. use the subway every day and every night without incident. I’m on the F all hours – it’s almost always bustling. And it’s important to note the political reasons that people love to talk about the bad old days returning (until you look at the stats and see how low the crime rate remains – it went from freakishly low to very low during the pandemic, and the rise was not a NYC-specific phenomenon – and how much of those spikes are driven by things like auto theft, not likely to affect you as a visitor!).

          Pickpocketing will happen, drunk people causing problems in Times Square will happen, there are eight million plus people crammed into the five boros it’s amazing the city works at all, but it remains among the safest, possibly THE safest, big cities in the country. There are homeless people and there is a lot of trash and sometimes it smells bad, because despite those 8 million plus people this is not a city that bothers about public restrooms. Be aware but also be reasonable; someone mumbling to themselves on the train =/= immediate threat of violence, someone unhoused sleeping on the street is a tragedy because no one should be sleeping on the street but not a sign that you are in a deadly no-go zone.

          And whatever you do do not buy any food in Times Square the hot dog vendors tack on a $3-minimum tourist surcharge.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      I can’t speak to NYC specifically, but I’d check AirBnBs–I usually found that a 3 bedroom was less than 2 hotel rooms, and included a central gathering space. And a kitchen, so having breakfasts in could save money. (And just adapt to people getting up at different times.)

      In the past we’ve stayed in a hotel on the Jersey side with a bus to Times Square, which made parking easy. I can’t remember the specific name.

      There are a lot of good little neighborhood restaurants, and eating at street carts can be fun. Like, I don’t normally eat hot dogs, but on the streets of NY it’s an obvious lunch choice and tastes great.

      1. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

        FYI airbnb is illegal here for under 30 day stays in whole places (i.e. without a registered host in the unit). Do not do this! They are cracking down more in the coming months so hopefully some of the bad actors get bounced but you will have no recourse if you or the host gets busted. Please do not make our housing crisis worse or break the law for your vacation.

    9. Elle*

      Don’t sleep on Battery Park in lower Manhattan. You can get to the old World Trade Center site (which now has lots of restaurants, clean bathrooms and stores) and walk along the water to the park. Great views is the Statue of Liberty. Governors island is my current favorite NYC place. It’s a fun, short ferry ride from lower Manhattan. There’s amazing playgrounds, climbing stuff, art exhibits, farms. Enough to exhaust the kids. Next to the Governors Island ferry is the states island ferry. A lovely, free ferry trip that you can take round trip to see the skyline.

        1. RedinSC*

          But it so creepy walking on actual Wall Street after 5pm or on the weekends, because NO ONE is there!

      1. Sloanicota*

        Haha I misread your comment at first as being advice that it wasn’t the best idea to fall asleep in Battery Park. I was like, hmm yes I think I agree that it would be better to find a hotel for the night haha.

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

      Not about saving money, but be aware that finding bathrooms in NYC without making a purchase at a restaurant can sometimes be a challenge. If you are near Herald Square, Macy’s at 34th St. btw. 7th and 6th avenues, has nice big, clean bathrooms in the basement, close to the 6th avenue side. Just walk in the 6th avenue side and find an escalator to the basement or head to the right for the elevators to the basement. In that neighborhood, you can also use the bathrooms at the Port Authority — 32nd-34th st. btw. 7th and 8th avenues — but they are not as nice.

      If you are near Bryant Park, around 40th to 42nd Street btw. 5th and 6th aves, the park bathroom is surprisingly nice (originally funded by Brooke Astor, if I recall), and the New York Public Library that is on 5th ave right there (the one with the lions) has decent bathrooms as well. (In fact, any New York City public library should have a bathroom you can use, though quality may vary.) The park also often has free outdoor reading materials, activities, ping pong, etc. If you are further down 42nd st. past Madison, the bathrooms in the basement of Grand Central Station are okay also.

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

        Ugh, I said Port Authority when I meant Penn Station! Penn Station = 32nd-34th btw. 7th and 8th; Port Authority is btw. 8th and 9th Aves in the low 40s. It also has somewhat mediocre bathrooms, but better than nothing.

    11. NYC Vacationer*

      Thank you for the helpful information! I learned a lot. I’m sure we’ll have a great trip.

  3. sleeping arrangements*

    Does anyone here sleep separately from their spouse? My husband and I are considering it because I am a very light sleeper and he tosses and turns and I have not been getting good sleep for a long time because of it. If I wake up in the night I have a really hard time getting back to sleep with him tossing next to me. We also have somewhat different hours, I get up earlier than he does. But we both feel strange about the idea of separate bedrooms, like it would mean something is wrong in our marriage, though I think that’s societally imposed more than anything. If anyone here does it, tips for making it work?

    1. Skates*

      We do this and it has made our lives infinitely better. My one piece of advice is to make sure you designate a regular morning or evening hour to just lay together and be close. My husband has to go to bed at 8pm for work so I go into “his” room at 8, we cuddle for an hour, and then he sleeps and I go about my evening. (Doesn’t have to be an hour, do what works for you, but pillow time feels really important and bonding)

    2. fort hiss*

      My wife and I are often separate sleepers. My one caveat is I like to start in bed together, have our settle down time, and once one of us is asleep (usually me) the other partner can go to the guest room if sleep isn’t coming (usually my wife). We also sleep with separate blankets so we don’t fight over them. We are both noisy, floppy sleepers, and they tend to wake up hot and need to go somewhere quieter. Having a second option has been great. We both talked over what we would miss about it, what would be nice, and agreed that *staying* in bed was less important than starting there.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      We switched to separate rooms this past spring. I am an incredibly light sleeper who needs a warmer temperature and is an early-to-bed-early-rise type, and he is a night-owl-sleeper-in who prefers to sleep in the arctic, either snores hellaciously or has a CPAP that whirs all night, and can’t come to bed without waking me and at least one dog for love nor money. We had separate covers before that, because he steals them all and then throws them off onto the floor on his side while I shiver under his three fans. :-P Separate rooms have been a total game changer, I literally am getting better quality and quantity of sleep than I have in the ten-plus years we’ve lived together.

      I kept our original room and he moved into a basement bedroom where it’s colder year round. The dogs still sleep with me because they are also early risers and the younger one is afraid of the basement stairs, plus her crate is in here and it’s too huge to move easily. His cats sleep with him (I never allowed them in the bedroom when we shared). If I travel without him, he sleeps in “my” room for dog minding because of crate and afraid of stairs.

      I put off suggesting it for a long time, because I’m asexual already and didn’t want it to come across like I was kicking him out of the bedroom for that reason. But our housemate, who had been in the basement, moved out this past spring and we were already moving husband’s home office down there, so after one particularly awful night where it took me til 1am to fall asleep on my own, and then he came ruckusing in here at 2am and woke me and I literally could not get back to sleep the rest of the night from his snoring and thrashing because he forgot to set up his CPAP earlier, I was like “eff it, here goes” and put down the idea with many hedging and caveats and stipulations about what I was NOT saying, and he goes “you know, that’s actually a really good idea.”

    4. DannyG*

      Wife has restless legs. On a bad night one of us will migrate to the spare bedroom. I have rotating shifts at the hospital so it also helps me to get to sleep early when I’m on at “oh god thirty” and I can get up and dressed without bothering her.

    5. Georgina Sands*

      I do, though often one of us will migrate across to the other’s bed for the night. I don’t love it because I sleep better with someone else and I miss the intimacy, but Mr Sands was never much of a night-time cuddler and our sleeping patterns are just so different at the moment it isn’t practical.

      It was a bit of an adjust for us originally, and we struggled to fit enough physical touch in for us to feel close during the day at first, but it’s fine now. One thing we often do which is really nice and may work for you is go to bed together and the person who is up late stays and cuddles until the other is asleep and then goes back to their business (or their bed).

    6. Generic Name*

      From what I understand, a king bed is the same size as 2 twin beds. What about a king bed frame with two twin mattresses? Separate bedding. You can be together but no too much. :) this only helps if it’s the mattress movement that’s a problem and not grunts and snuffles.

      1. Tiny clay insects*

        A lot of European hotels do this, and I never slept better sharing a bed with my husband than when we were in hotels like that this summer. Especially since they also have 2 separate blankets.

      2. Donkey Hotey*

        Two things:

        1) two US twins are the same width as a US King but six inches shorter. If you want an exact match, look for Twin XL mattresses. They’re slightly more difficult to find bedding for (except in college towns) but if one partner is close to 6′, it’s nigh mandatory.

        2) While traveling, my partner and I would refer to this arrangement as a Joffrey Baratheon suite. (Two twins pushed together to make a king)

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      Not at all! If we could afford a big enough space (and our cat wouldn’t go nuts because we were in separate rooms) I’d love my own bed to stretch out in and not constantly get woken by his/wake him up with my truffle pig snorings.

    8. HCTZ*

      my boyfriend and I do it. love it.

      there was a really great piece on CBS Sunday Morning a few months back on this called “the case for separate bedrooms”, you can find it on YouTube. just more data to make you know you’re not strange or alone.

    9. numptea*

      We have to. He’s the ADD posterchild, doing dolphin rolls and Rockette kicks all night. Trying to sleep next to him was like rehearsing a training montage for a Rocky movie. I would have had a serious car wreck or gotten fired by now if we insisted on staying in a shared bedroom; I was so groggy and viciously hateful from sleep deprivation.

    10. AGD*

      Did this with last partner, because we had very different waking hours and I’m prone to insomnia. It was fantastic! Absolutely the best choice for us. I’d love to keep doing this in future relationships. A little bit of nighttime intimacy was lost, but we both slept so much better and felt freer to be awake when it suited us.

    11. Anon for This*

      My husband and I have had separate bedrooms for the whole of our marriage; he has sleep issues and needs background white noise that keeps me awake.

      A big plus is that our bedrooms become our private spaces; I don’t have to try to carve out some other part of the house to be my retreat when I want to be alone.

      The main disadvantage is the decrease in spontaneous cuddles. Sex was not as much of an issue — after all, we managed to have a sex life when we lived ten miles apart, so travelling ten feet for sex is not a problem. But affection outside of sex has been a lot more challenging. Skates’s suggestion above is wise.

    12. Part time lab tech*

      I want to. I slept in the spare room when the rest of the house caught COVID and my CPAP time went from 3 ish hrs to nearly 5 immediately. Unfortunately my husband is a cuddler and I am really sensitive to touch. My compromise would probably be separate beds in the same room but my husband would feel lonely.

      1. allathian*

        With respect, your health is more important than your husband feeling “lonely,” and getting enough sleep is very important for long-term health. I know for sure that couldn’t be in a relationship with a cuddler, because just the idea of sleeping right next to someone else just because he wanted to hug me at night makes my skin crawl. And I love my husband very much. More so because we sleep in separate rooms.

    13. Awake at 3am visiting the in-laws*

      If the issue is mainly tossing and turning (not snoring, different bedtimes), and you’d like an alternative to separate bedrooms – try a foam mattress and two duvets. It needs to be a completely foam mattress, not a topper. You can’t feel the other person’s movements and it’s easy to start off cuddling, then move apart when it’s time to sleep. We discovered this method on vacation in Norway (it’s how all the beds are) and it’s glorious. The only problem is how hard it is to get a good night’s sleep on vacation/sleeping on a regular mattress.

    14. Madame Arcati*

      One thing I would say is, don’t worry about what society expects. First of all most of the time nobody will know, and secondly it’s not their business. It is most important to do what works for you and your spouse.
      I don’t live in the same house as my romantic partner of over ten years, and I used to feel that I had to explain that, but now I don’t. It is the choice that works for us; if sleeping apart works for you then you don’t need to justify it. And to reinforce that, I’m not going to explain our choice here! :-)

      1. Clisby*

        I knew a couple years ago who got a duplex so each one could have their own “house” but they were right next door to each other. Seemed to work out great for them. (Someone who knew them better than I did told me they were both control freaks about their living space – not OCD, or wanting to impose their standards on each other, they just wanted to be in control of their own space.)

    15. Monkey's Paw Manicure*

      I can speak to the different hours. I naturally sleep about seven hours from 11:30 pm to 6:30 am. Mrs Manicure is a night owl and sleeps closer to nine, coming to bed at 4:30 am, and sleeping until 1:30 pm.

      When we were first married, we tried to compromise, going to bed around midnight, but I’d still naturally wake at my normal time and be dragging by the end of the week, and she would lie awake for hours before falling asleep. We discussed it and decided that going to bed at the same time simply didn’t make any sense. Once we discussed it, it wasn’t a big deal.

      It took a few years to train our friends not to call before 1:00 pm, but now with cell phones and do-not-disturb settings we have few problems with me living on Eastern time and her living on Micronesia time.

    16. NAL-NYL*

      I totally do, the one caveat is that you have to make it as uncomfortable as possible for people who want to get weird about it, I always say “don’t worry we still have conjugal visitation privileges”. My mother was getting so nosy I gave her specifics of when and where that week!

    17. Queer Earthling*

      I’m in a poly V and nobody shares a bed. My partner and I have twin beds in our bedroom, and their other partner sleeps on the other side of the apartment in his room. We all like our space and have various sleep needs that aren’t compatible with anyone sharing. The only real issue is that there are two cats and three beds they have to choose from.

      Make sure you still spend time together. Cuddle if that’s a thing you do, figure out sex if that’s a thing you do. But after a while it won’t feel “weird” or “failed,” it’ll just be how you do it.

    18. I forget my handle*

      Yes! For me it was a condition of moving in together. I like my space, and partner is a big snorer.

      I get where it comes from, but I think the societal implication that you aren’t having ‘marital relations’ if you are sleeping separately is silly. If anything there are twice as many spaces to have couple time together!

    19. InvisibleFish*

      Separate bedrooms enables my partner to continue living. Without them, I’d strangle him. Or, at the very least, change the locks while he was at work.

    20. JSPA*

      nothing wrong with it, but have you tried different covers (two top sheets and blankets or two duvets)? That (and melatonin as needed, and tylenol for minor aches that prompt a portion of the tossing and turning) and no alcohol (for Tylenol and for sleep disruption) are mostly enough in my case, except in times of unusual stress levels. And if you have the space for two bedrooms, remember there’s no rule that you can never sleep in the same bed for a night (or part of a night).

    21. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I sleep seperately from my boyfriend. the reason is I’m in bed at like 10 and get up at 7 and he gets to bed at 4 am. There’s no problem in our relationship it’s just annoying

    22. Potatoes gonna potate*

      We haven’t slept in the same room together (save for travelling/trips etc) in about 8-9 years? He snores and I run hot so I need cold temp, and I work typical 9-5 while he works nights. Recently we spent the evening in a hotel and he slept in one bed while kiddo and I slept on the other bed.,.. the snoring drove me crazy and I couldn’t sleep at all. Before we had our daughter we spent 2-3 hours alone every night, foot rubs, chatting, etc. Even though our relationship now is on its last thread, I wouldn’t blame the separate rooms. The way I see it, if I were to be in a relationship with someone else, having a separate room would still be ideal. My suggestion is finding other ways to get that intimacy (not necessarily sex) with each other.

    23. Girasol*

      Yes. My husband needs all the windows closed so that he doesn’t hear a dog bark. He can hear a dog miles away and he won’t do white noise or ear plugs. I can’t sleep in a stuffy room and need a window open preferably with a fan. Who made the rule that you have to share a bed or everyone gets to gossip, anyway? A few generations ago couples often had two twin beds.

    24. ActualTeacher*

      Highly recommend this. My wife and I start separately and sometimes join early morning. I agree with others to set aside some time to be together. Actually it makes that time more important than an obligation. Do what keeps you both happy.

    25. WS*

      She’s a light sleeper with intermittent insomnia (like her whole family) and I have restless legs. We worked this out early and never went back.

    26. allathian*

      I met my husband when I was 33 and for the first 3 years we were in an LDR and only slept in the same bed at the weekends when he came for a visit. In the early days I could live with it and even enjoy it because we were still in the new love stage.

      I got pregnant at 36 and we switched to separate beds when our son was born, because I’m a very light sleeper and my husband snores, and my husband can usually fall asleep within 5 minutes of turning out the light, and I take much longer. So he slept with the baby even when I was on maternity leave and he was working. When our son was 3 we moved to our current house, and we organized our spaces so that everyone had their own room to sleep in.

      Just because you don’t enjoy sleeping in the same bed as your husband doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong in your marriage, just that you decide that getting a good night’s sleep is more important than conforming to societal expectations about a good marriage.

      I’m pretty sure that our marriage wouldn’t have lasted if we’d been forced to share a bed by having to live in a tiny apartment. I turn into a horrible person when I’m sleep deprived.

    27. The teapots are on fire*

      My husband and I sleep so badly in the same bed. We do it about once every ten years. Just get your own room and be happy. If you want to cuddle together until one of you gets sleepy and then go to your own rooms to sleep, that’s helpful–I do think it’s important to have a morning or evening ritual that keeps you connected when you can’t fall asleep together.

      When we travel, we share a room but have separate beds and it’s just about manageable.

      Sleeping separately means you love each other and want each other to get good rest and that matters to you more than the opinions of people nosy enough to find out where you sleep at night and ignorant enough to think that tells them how your marriage is. Choose love and sleep. You’ll both be so much happier.

    28. Yikes Stripes*

      My spouse and I currently live apart during the week due to their work being too far from my aging mother (who I live with for caregiving reasons and who flatly refuses to move), and while I miss them we’ve found that we sleep So Much Better when we’re not sharing a bed or bedroom – I use a CPAP, but I sometimes tear it off in the middle of the night and snore like a bear with a head cold, and they’re a kicker who’s sensitive to noise.

      We fully intend to keep separate bedrooms when we can figure out how to manage living under the same roof full time again.

    29. Observer*

      But we both feel strange about the idea of separate bedrooms, like it would mean something is wrong in our marriage, though I think that’s societally imposed more than anything.

      I think you are right about it being socially imposed. But if you really don’t want to do that, what about moving from a shared bed to a pair of beds in the same room? Unless someone’s bedtime or getting up routine is very noisy or you are an *extremely* light sleeper, that can be enough.

      Having said that, if you really are that light of a sleeper, and it’s not a treatable medical issue, then don’t worry what “people do.”

      PS not sleeping well often is something that can be treated, so whatever you decide to do about beds and bedrooms, please don’t dismiss this.

    30. I'm A Little Teapot*

      My parents have slept separately for years due to snoring. They’re still married. Actually, the fact that they sleep separately probably helped them stay married! (I am NOT gonna think about any nocturnal activities though, you’re on your own there.)

    31. Separate bedrooms all the way!!*

      When my SO was still alive we didn’t share a bedroom due to a combination of shift work, his horrific snoring which he refused to get treated, & the fact that I like my room ice cold & he likes to sleep in what I can only describe as a sweatbox. We still managed to maintain a healthy sex life five or six times a week but both got to sleep in spaces that made us more comfortable. If you have the space do it!

    32. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My parents started doing it as soon as they moved to the US and were able to have living quarters with separate rooms. Prior to that, they had different beds.

      My x husband and I started doing it when the oldest was six months old. I was against it at the time, and there were definitely a lot of things wrong with our marriage, but not because of separate bedrooms.

      My current partner and I might be going that route too. I need the room to be very cold to be able to sleep and he needs it very warm. We tried to find a middle ground but the only thing that does is make sure neither of us get any sleep. (What we tried was keeping the room cold for me and he’d keep himself warm, but he’d then round up every blanket in the house and bring them all to bed with him and there’d be no room left for me and he would STILL be cold because, let’s face it, the room is cold.)

      Oh and nobody knew about my parents or about me and my ex being in separate bedrooms. We didn’t even hide it, it’s just… nobody asked? because people don’t typically ask each other where they and their SOs sleep. I once had a very religious high-school friend over for a visit and gave him a tour of the apartment. He walked into my then-husband’s bedroom and asked “and this must be your marital sanctuary?” (HAHAHAHA) I said yes and he had no further questions.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m guessing you mean Stella, our foster fail kitty who has FIP (in the photo on the right). She’s doing great! She’s got 22 more days of treatment left (out of 84 total), and then her bloodwork will tell us if she’s doing well enough that she can stop treatment … at which point an 84-day observation period begins, during which we watch for signs of relapse. If she gets through that, she’s considered cured. She seems really good though — happy, playful, energetic.

      Her form of FIP had neurological involvement — weak back legs and wobbliness — and those symptoms can take longer to clear up and are sometimes permanent. She’s still a little wobbly sometimes (and the other day she randomly fell out of a cat tree she had been sleeping in) but otherwise you would never know she’s been sick. Her personality does seem a little different than before she got sick, but she was so new to us at that point that it’s hard to say whether that’s neuro stuff or not. Regardless, she’s a miracle cat!

      1. Old Plant Woman*

        And you’re a miracle cat mama for your willingness to do the research and spend the money.

  4. Old Plant Woman*

    I would love to hear happy cat stories. No sad stories please. The community cat I have been feeding for a year or so has moved from the woodshed into the shop. I don’t know why now because the weather is wonderful. My two onry territorial critters have accepted her. Wow. I hope she will be willing to come inside during the winter

    1. Purple m&m*

      13 years ago today we rescued a bonded pair of feral-ish kittens as barn cats. They are now elderly and use the geriatric steps my spouse built, & sleep on the heated pillows. They are happy, healthy & we all love each other.

    2. Sloanicota*

      My sweet girl is 18 this year. She came from Michigan City as a four year old stray, and has been living in the lap of luxury for 14 years with me. We have moved many times, from studio apartments to our current two story house, and gone on several adventures together, from driving across country to fostering rabbits and guinea pigs to adopting a new dog brother for her (mixed reviews from kitty haha). I hope we still have some good times left. I am so lucky to have found her :D

    3. Generic Name*

      This is a happy story, I promise. When I was married to my ex, I had 2 cats. They were ok cats, as cats go. My ex had said that when they went (don’t worry, both lived very long, natural cat lives) he didn’t want any more cats, citing damage to furniture, etc etc. I disagreed and wanted more cats when the time came. So I put my faith in the universe that cats would come into my life when the time was right. Well, the universe heard me, and the way I got was more cats was that marriage came to an end (a very good thing, and I am remarried and much happier). I ended my marriage in a Wednesday, and that Saturday, I adopted a kitten. This cat is my heart and my soul. She sleeps snuggled up to me. A week or so later, we adopted another kitten, who I let my son pick out. This second cat is too smart for his own good and a great companion for my son. He’s the friendliest cat I’ve ever known. He gets along great with my little kitty. And they both get on reasonably well with the puppy we adopted when they were about a year old. I get so much joy watching my 3 pets play together.

    4. Pennyworth*

      A funny story from my teenage years – we had two tiny black kittens who were into and onto everything. One day my mother left a filet of beef on the kitchen counter, marinating in wine. She returned to the kitchen some time later to find there was no marinade left around the beef, one kitten fast asleep in the sink, and the other one hiccuping in the dish drainer.

      I love to watch billispeaks on YouTube, communicating her demands and emotions through her buttons.

      1. PhyllisB*

        That story cracks me up!! Bet they had a hangover!!
        We used to have an indoor cat and my brother and sister-in-law kept her one weekend while we were out of town. One night after dinner SIL didn’t feel like cleaning off the table and decided to do it later. Well, a little while later she happened to walk by the dark dining room and saw two shiny eyes. There was Ginger having a feast on the pot roast.

      2. Kw10*

        My cat is sleeping on my lap right now. She just gave me a very reproachful look because I woke her up when I laughed out loud at this story!!

    5. Cat and dog fosterer*

      I have 5 nearly newborn kittens and a mama in my foster room. They were born outdoors and are going to have happy, healthy, loved lives.

    6. Happy Cat*

      We adopted a feral kitten two years ago and weren’t sure if he’d ever come around to affectionate house cat behavior. He needed a safe home either way though, and we were glad to provide it.
      He’s draped across my legs at the moment, purring and wondering why I’m paying more attention to my phone than to him. At his annual checkup recently, the vet said he’s “perfect.” Healthy, friendly, and happy. :)

    7. slashgirl*

      The first cat that I owned (ie he was my responsibility, not the parents’) was a long haired black cat, Blair, who did end up a bit overweight. I once took him to our vet who said, “He’d be happier if he weighed less”. I just thought, ‘So would I, doc, so would I.” Anyhow, I lived at home with the ‘rents when I got him.

      He had a knack for getting trapped. He got looked in the basement wine closet. Closed in a filing cabinet drawer. One morning, my dad had pulled the stove out to look at something and pushed it back. Then couldn’t find Blair, heard meowing from behind the stove… And my dad had replaced the wobbly legs on our couch with a wooden box–mum was cleaning one day and picked it up to vacuum/sweep under it, put it back and again….cat was nowhere to be found. Yep, under the sofa. He would also catch treats in his mouth like a dog (we had a dog when he was a kitten) and LOVED strawberries. Once I’d moved out, mum told me that she and dad would sometimes take Blair and their dog for drives in the car….

      After I moved in with my sister, who had 2 cats and I had Blair, I got a second cat, Rowan. He was the bestest kitty ever. I got his as a companion for Blair as my sister’s cats were friends and never really took to Blair. Rowan was a buff/tan/blonde tabby (he was NOT orange, tyvm)–and had the sweetest disposition. He almost never hissed and was as friendly as possible with all 3 cats.

      Eventually Rowan was the last cat standing of our original 4, so my sister got a little tuxedo kitten, named Bristol (after the Nascar track, not that “dirty British city” as my UK friend said). I think Rowan hissed at him a couple times when he first arrived, but that was it. And Bristol would follow Rowan EVERYWHERE and Rowan never swatted him or hissed at him. Rowan was a very laid back kitty; I’d always said if he’d been female and unfixed he’d’ve made a great mommy cat. He learned how to catch treats from watching Blair and he would lay on the side of my lap when I used my laptop. He’d sleep with me at night, near the top of the mattress and he also loved being cuddled–I’d wrap my arm around him and pet him/rub his belly and we’d stay like that for hours. I really do miss him, but had him for 18 years.

      Sis currently has two cats, Bristol and a cat we rehomed, Max–Max is a BIG boy and I don’t mean fat. He’s tall (bigger than some small dogs!), I’m fairly certain he’s got Maine Coon in him. But he’s a big ol’ love bug, at least with the humans. lol He tolerates Bristol, but I think he was an only cat, so he wasn’t used to other cats. He loves being brushed, which is good cus he’s got long fur and is very chatty. When I finish the dishes at night, I often go lay down on my bed to play with my tablet. He waits in/near the hallway for me and as soon as I start down to my bedroom, he’s walking in front of me meowing, like he’s telling me to hurry up. He does during other times of the day too. He does it with my sister, expecting her to go into my room to cuddle him. She doesn’t though (we don’t really go into each others bedrooms). Max also loves cuddles, either right next to me, or he’ll lay beside me and let me pet him/rub his belly. He’ll stay in my room at night til I turn the light off–sometimes he stays for a bit but often leaves immediately. But he comes back off and on during the night. Which I know because he sometimes wakes me up. Good thing he’s cute.

    8. beep beep*

      I’ve recently moved out of my parent’s house with my cat. They have a much younger cat who would chase her around while she screamed in irritation, which did not seem like a good scene for either of them, though never escalated to violence or happened too often. Now, though, my girl (Nia) is much more playful and energetic despite her old age, and by all reports my parent’s cat is much more affectionate with them (previously his needs were apparently met by me) so both the cats and the people seem to have made out for the better :)

    9. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My now-husband was ready to move on from a loss and adopt new cats. He knew he wanted youngish, and he wanted two of them, and his preference has always been for black or tuxies. So one afternoon we went down to the local humane society and I – not a cat person at all – had snuggled a few and then was catted out, so I went and stood in the front lobby while he kept snuffling every cat in the place. Suddenly I could not move my head. After a moment, I figured out that the empty wall of kennels I thought I was standing in front of were not in fact empty, and asked the volunteer, “Can you please go let that guy in the green shirt know that his cat has his fiancee by the head out here?” A nine-month-old black kitten had reached out from her kennel and grabbed hold of my bun with both paws and was NOT letting go. He came in and saw her and was like “Well, there’s one down.” Volunteer was like “What do you mean?” He says, “Well, I wanted a pair so they can keep each other company.” Volunteer goes “Oh, well, she’s out here because her sister is in sick bay with an eye infection.”

      We ended up taking both of them – well, just the one that day, but sister too eventually. She never got over the eye infection and ended up having an enucleation, which is kind of funny since their shelter names were actually pirate themed. And the one who grabbed my head is not the one who ended up with me being her favorite person (because the other one thinks she’s a dog and I am the dog lady).

      They are now Captain Kyna Whitepaws, SCOURGE OF LAND AND SEA (the one-eyed one who is absolutely fearless and so unbelievably dumb it’s hilarious) and Princess Kiara Scaredyfluff, the Dark and Unseen (the one who burned out all her courage FOREVER grabbing my head to make her way home and is now terrified of EVERYTHING and never comes out of the basement).

      1. GoryDetails*

        What a great story!

        I’ve also had cats choose me, very blatantly – though not quite to hair-grabbing level. A few years back I was freshly cat-less and went to the Humane Society in my town, where a leggy ginger cat of Advanced Years strolled up to the front of his cage and gazed at me as if to say “Well, *there* you are.” Took him home and found him a delightfully sociable (and bossy) cat, and was pleased to make his final years comfortable.

      2. Seal*

        I made the mistake of visiting the local animal shelter on a whim awhile back. The little black kitten who reached out of his cage and grabbed my hair back is now 11 years old and still a lovable troublemaker.

        1. Zephy*

          10 years ago, my now-husband and I went to the local rescue “just to look.” Asked if they had any kittens, the lady behind the desk wordlessly handed me a tiny black kitten they were socializing up front. He let me hold him like a baby and batted at my hair. They had to lend us a carrier to get him home because, like, how could we NOT take him at that point? He even helped us fill out the adoption form (read: pounced on our hands and tried to eat the pen).

      3. Chauncy Gardener*

        We got our first cat at the shelter when we were walking by the cages and one reached out and grabbed my two year old son. HIS CAT. They were best friends for 12 years! She used to play matchbox cars and brio trains with him. She’d push her own along the tracks whilst he pushed his!

    10. Potatohead*

      it’s not much of a story, but my adoptees have made themselves thoroughly at home by now (2 weeks in). Loki has already figured out the best way to get my attention is bellyflopping across my keyboard and loves to nest on closet shelves or atop the highest kitchen cabinet. Odin comes running for a hug and pets every day when I come home.

    11. Miss Cranky Pants*

      I am fostering Joyce, who came out of a hoarding situation with, I’m told, over 200 animals in the house. So no one knows her real story. She was real Scaredy Cat and didn’t come out of the cat room (TM) for a month, which is the longest any of my fosters have gone.

      But, she’s learned to trust me and I started her with having Serious Playtime when I go to bed so she doesn’t wake me during the night. Usually 9:30/10ish, ya know, bedtime. She has now started the Completely Adorable behavior of bringing me a mouse or ball toy earlier in the evening and will actually meow and move toward the bedroom, clearly ready for playtime and bed.

      It’s so freakin’ cute!!

    12. Rage*

      One day, I came home from work, having put a roast in the crockpot that morning. I make some quick sides to go with, carved a piece of the roast, and sat down at the dinner table. I watched my Egyptian Mau, Cairo, get up on the counter, sniff at the crockpot, and then remove the ENTIRE ROAST and drag it off between his legs like a lion on the African savannah.

      This was the same cat who also liked Campbell’s Split Pea with Ham and Bacon soup, and would lick out the saucepan if I made it.

    13. Zephy*

      I think I’ve shared this story before but it was probably years ago now. Anyway –

      I used to work at an animal shelter that was in the very fortunate position of being able to keep their adoptable animals more or less indefinitely – we didn’t euthanize healthy animals just because they’d been there for X amount of time or because we needed kennel space. So, that meant that some of the animals on the adoption floor had been in our care for a very long time, sometimes on the order of years.

      One such animal was a gray-and-white tuxedo cat with gorgeous bright yellow eyes, we called him Dom. He was found as a stray in a residential area. He was in good shape, so he probably had people, but he had no ID (no tags, no chip) so we had no way of tracking them down if they were still in the area. Dom was the sweetest boy, he’d jump in your lap for snuggles and purr all day if you let him.

      One day, about two years into Dom’s stay with us, a young family came in intending to adopt a dog. The way our facility was set up, the cat area had big windows that looked out onto the lobby, and sometimes cats would sit and people-watch as they are wont to do. We also allowed people to hang out in the cat room if they were waiting to meet with adoption staff; at any given time there were probably about 30 cats free-roaming, with another 60 or so in glass-walled kennels lining the room. Dom stared this family down while they were waiting in the lobby. The dad remarked that Dom looked a lot like his cat that had gotten out and disappeared about two years ago, so they decided to come see the kitties. As soon as they walked into the room, Dom LEAPT into the dad’s arms and SHOVED his little kitty-head under this man’s chin and purred like his life depended on it. Turns out, Dom was found about two blocks over from this guy’s house, around the time his cat had gone missing. The family ended up adopting Dom and coming back later to adopt the dog they had originally come in for in the first place as well.

      Now, we have no way of knowing that it was his cat, but I choose to believe it was.

    14. Happy cat*

      Here’s another one because this is a lovely topic.

      When I was in a college, I got a dog. I had four housemates, so someone was almost always home and awake. The dog got three or four walks and a car ride to some drive-thru almost every day. After I graduated and moved, it was just my fiance, the dog, and I in a small apartment. Despite my best efforts, the dog was bored after such a drastic life change.

      I happened to read a Dear Abby column that produced a long comment chain about cat adoption stories, and I decided my dog needed a cat. She’d met plenty of cats before and always did well with them. I suggested it to my fiance, and he was a bit reluctant to add another animal. He suggested looking at the shelter website and then waiting a few weeks to think about it.

      There was a gorgeous, long-haired dilute calico on the site, and I needed her! But we waited. A few weeks later, the shelter had a promotion that all animals over the age of five were free. The cat was still there, and she was six – same age as my dog. We went in to look, and they told us she was shy and hadn’t really taken to anyone. We went into the introduction room, and a volunteer brought in the cat in a box. When he let her out, she meowed quite dramatically and then proceeded to sit on everyone’s lap in turn. Of course, we took her home.

      She met the dog, and it was love at first sight. Those two became the best of friends and were completely inseparable within three days. I literally printed myself a coffee table book that’s full of photos of them cuddling and playing together over the years. The best picture in there shows both of them attempting to lick the other in the face, and it makes me laugh every time I look at it. Whatever “shyness” my kitty may have displayed in the past vanished too. She was quite the social butterfly and positively loved company. More people to give pets!

      They both lived long, happy lives, absolutely spoiled and completely in love with each other.

    15. Dancing Otter*

      My childhood cat, who had never been seen on the dinner table before, was sitting right in the middle when Mom turned around and put down the meatloaf. Yes, virtually under Princess’ nose.
      Until that moment, I never knew cats had eyebrows. She had the most delighted “for ME?” look on her face.

    16. GoryDetails*

      This one’s more amusing-to-me than happy-for-the-cat, but – my chonky ginger cat has decided that my toothbrush is a Deadly Foe. I knew the cats didn’t care for the mint scent of my toothpaste (your basic Colgate, fwiw) and would back away if I breathed on them while brushing (yes, we cat-folk find interesting ways to amuse ourselves), but this was a bit extreme: I’d brushed my teeth and put the brush in its stand, and was going about my business when I noticed the ginger cat staring at the toothbrush intently. And then he very cautiously gave it several swats with his paw, backing away each time, as if it were a deadly snake! Do snakes smell like mint at all? I dunno, but it amused me – though I did move the toothbrush so as not to further irk my cat.

    17. ragazza*

      I just finished fostering two kittens. They were from a feral mama and I had to socialize them. I hadn’t dealt with a kitten since my first cat 30 years ago and I had only had a few fosters with the group I am working with, both of which were adults, so this was a challenge. They went from hissing at me from the corner of their cage to cuddling with me on the couch. I will say that Churu (or any soft food served from a tube) is a miracle product for bonding. It took some time, but I got them to trust me and had friends over so they could get used to other humans. The way they would stare into my eyes trustingly was so heartwarming! I think they were adopted already and I know they’ll make their new family very happy.

    18. Yikes Stripes*

      A tiny bit of background information you should know to make this story make more sense: A few years ago I moved in with my mom, who’s in her early 70s and had started having some health concerns. We live in a senior mobile home park, which sadly does see more than a tiny bit of turn-over as residents move to care facilities or pass away. And now that you know that, I can get to the story.

      This is the story of Juniper the Cat, first of her name: In late May, my mother was out in our tiny patch of a back yard when a tiny little scrap of a cat rounded the corner and froze. Mom quickly realized that she was skin and bones and *not* running away, so she went inside to get some kibble. The little cat was happy to scarf it down as soon as Mom had backed away, and was also happy to eat some wet food when it was offered. After she finished eating, she wandered away into the juniper bushes at the front of our house. The next day, she showed up on the stoop, meowing in the creakiest little voice, and when we gave her more food I was able to get a good look at her – she was around five months old, by my estimate, and had clearly been starving.

      Over the next couple of days we fed her and she more or less moved into our junipers. On day four, we heard from a neighbor that there’d been a coyote sighting across the street, and we decided that we had to try and trap the kitten – which took opening up a cat crate and letting her walk directly into it. We moved her into the front bathroom and started calling her Juniper while we tried to figure out what to do with her, besides the obvious step of checking to see if any of our neighbors was missing a cat. After asking around, we realized that she’d probably belonged to the woman up the street who had moved into a facility a couple of weeks earlier and whose kids had cleared the house out ASAP, put it on the market, and apparently just dumped her kitten outside.

      She was the *sweetest* thing, purred as soon as you looked at her, and a real cuddle bug, but over the course of the next week or two the following happened: an emergency vet visit when she started bleeding pus from her vaginal opening that led to antibiotics and instructions to get her spayed as quickly as possible, a vet visit to do just that two days later where we were informed that she had an incredibly severe pyometra that would have gone septic and killed her within the next two or three weeks, another freak out when she vomited tapeworms all over mom’s bathroom, and an emergency gofundme to help cover her now $1600 in vet bills. Through all of this she was eating like a starving beastie (which she was) and rapidly gaining weight and energy. We adored her, but there was no way on earth we could keep her – we already have four cats and are maxed out.

      While we were trying to figure out what to do with her, I remembered that a dear friend of mine had messaged me a few weeks earlier to say “Tell me that adopting a bonded pair would be a bad idea” and I thought that maybe she’d be open to adopting a tiny ragamuffin instead. After a flurry of photos and videos, she agreed to take the baby in.

      After I drove her the three hours from our place to the Bay Area, she settled into her new home with remarkable speed, and decided she needed introduced to her new brother within three days of being confined to the guest bedroom. The intro went ridiculously well, and now, a couple of months later, she has her new mama wrapped firmly around her little paw, is best friends with her big brother (he loves to curl up with her and groom her head, and she’s willing to tolerate his affection) and has turned into one of the sweetest, liveliest, and happiest little cats you could ever care to meet – and I still get to visit her every few weeks when I go down to visit my friends in the area. She’s an utter doll who loves every single person she’s ever met, and I hope she has a long and glorious life, because she deserves every second of it.

      Here are a few photos of her from the day she showed up on the front stoop to the last time I saw her, her a couple of weeks ago. https://www.tumblr.com/foolishrabbit/726839703171645440/juniper-in-repose

    19. Phlox*

      My parents had a large, mostly white cat when I was in college who had to be on a special sweet potato and rabbit based food because he would have a reaction to anything else (he would also get into any food left out, including but not limited to shredded cheese and licking the butter out of unwashed frying pans). I worked in a student job with a lot of international students, and a few of them were baffled by the fact that my family had a cat who was allergic to both mice and grass.

    1. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      I have. I like the selection and all their self-brand things I’ve tried were fine. The main con for me is that they rotate what’s on sale to encourage more frequent orders. It’s annoying if you prefer to stock up all at once.

      Cancelling your membership requires speaking to a representative. You can use the site ‘chat’, but you can’t do it without dealing with an employee. I cancelled when I found that out, mostly because I think that’s an awful practice.

    2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I agree with the other commenter – their stuff is good. I wanted to use it more than I did, though. I ended up canceling the subscription because I just never really purchased enough things to justify the membership fee. No reason I could think of for not using it but I guess I already had my brands (Trader Joe’s stuff mostly).

  5. Ponylails that Protect my Hair:*

    I think we’ve had conversations here about having very fine, curly hair that gets frizzy easily. I could never figure out why mine got so damaged when I don’t heat style it, brush it dry (only with a wide-tooth comb while damp!) or chemically treat it. I just figured I was unlucky and my hair was veeeery fragile. But lately, I’ve been wondering if my scrunchies are the problem. I wear a lot of ponytails, and because my hair is so thin, the thinner stretchy fabric bands are the only kind that seem to work. When I look for hair bands that are supposed to be less damaging, they look way too thick and soft to hold my hair well. There are the kind that looks like old fashioned plastic kinky phone cords but they seem like they’d be too think for my hair. I’m going to try the fabric “scrunchie” kind but smaller, since I’m not a fashion scrunchie kind of girl. Does anyone else have a recommendation?

    1. Rage*

      Fine curly hair person here – but my hair is also THICK (meaning it’s fine, but there’s a LOT OF IT). I had the same trouble as you when I wore my hair very long. One thing I did like better than a ponytail (because hair-headaches are a real thing) is using one of the big Venus flytrap-style clips: I’d make a rough pony with my hands, about midway down the back of my skull (lower rather than higher) give it a twist or two, then flip the trailing end up and clip it up. My hair was long enough that it flopped down over top of the clip so it still swung a bit like a ponytail, but was much easier on the scalp. Also, I burned through a LOT of scrunchies because my thick hair would just stretch them out to the point they were useless.

      But you might also not be using the right shampoo and conditioner, either. My hair gets kind of “tired” if I use the same brand for more than 2 years at a stretch, so I sort of switch up every 18 months or so, when I start to notice that my hair is starting to look a bit ragged. You might look at switching to another line and see if there’s any improvement.

    2. Qwerty*

      Scunci makes mini scrunchies, I got mine at places like Meijer or Target

      Hair clips / claws are also helpful for containing hair without breaking it

      1. OP*

        That’s exactly what I bought, mini scrunchies! To be honest, I’m dubious it will make a noticeable difference in my hair (which like much curly hair seems to be very dry after about six inches) but I’m willing to try.

    3. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      I use the plastic kinky phone cord style of hair tie and wherw I live they come in two different thicknesses (is that even a word???) for thinner and thicker hair. They really do not leave a line in the hair as other hair ties do. And if using one of them seems/is too loose you can just take two of them together and use them as one.

      I also would suggest switching up which shampoo and conditioner you use because maybe your hair just needs something different once in a while. Oh and maybe try out hair oil for – or rather against – the frizz.

      1. Filosofickle*

        Yes, the Invisibobbles come in “original” and “strong” / “power”. I accidentally bought the originals recently and it was still impressive how they hold my fine (but dense) hair. I use those when I want to do a half-up, so they’d be right size and weight for a full pony on someone with a lot less hair than me. I was SUPER suspicious of these — they looked like a tangle waiting to happen especially with curls — but they are fantastic.

        Before these, I used a brand called Cyndibands, which are velvety and provided grip but didn’t crimp or rip my hair. I was all in on those until I started with the invisibobbles.

        The usual suggestion for fine curls to avoid damage is to choose super smooth scrunchies in silk/satin but those might not stay in your hair very well. Do consider all the curly advice about pillowcases (I use silk) and super smooth, non-towel-y towels on hair — it seems silly, but I think it does make a difference. your hair rubs on a pillowcase all night, so ensuring it has less friction makes sense if your hair is prone to damage.

      2. RedinSC*

        I tried those, and they pulled my hair out. But I have fine relatively straight hair, so maybe it’s a straight vs curly thing.

        I wouldn’t recommend them.

        1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

          I don’t have curly hair but mine is not exactly fine.
          It did take me a bit of practice to use them, though, as you can’t just slip them off out of your hair like you can other hair ties.

    4. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      My hair type is not the same as yours (I have thick hair that changes its mind about whether or not to curl depending on how I treat it when wet), but when I used to do ponytails I’d use hair hooks instead of scrunchies. That way, I didn’t have to pull the ends of the hair through a scrunchie a bunch of times, which seemed to be my main source of damage since it would get tangled. They look like little bungee cords for hair.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      Frizz is sometimes a sign of rough treatment like rubbing with terry towels, or tossing and turning on a pillow, but it isn’t always indicative of that sort of damage, a lot of the time it’s just your hair being very hungry for moisture, as curly hair often tends to be, together with the situation of there being lots of moisture in the air driving it to rise up and drink it in (like when you are by, but not in, the sea. For me, it’s living in Britain where the humidity has seen me at perma frizz levels since last October). Silk makes a big difference, because not only is it gentle and prevents the hair being roughed up, but because it also retains moisture. I have silk pillowcases and silk scrunchies (both the big and micro ones) and I use silk scarves a lot as hairbands. I also use a silk turban for sleeping or when at home on mega humidity days. When it’s very bad, I know I need to do a deep conditioning treatment but I also let my hair really soak in lots of water and get saturated before I add the conditioner. The squish to condish method works on similar lines. I use heat like a hot towel (cotton crib sheets because I don’t do terry) to help the moisture and conditioner penetrate. I used to have a moisture spray that cut down on all this work and was total genius but Shea Moisture discontinued it, alas. Some days the weather is just pants and I may be driven back to silicone yet.

    6. Kellan*

      Another vote for the spiral hair ties – they’re fantastic. Have you checked out the curly hair subreddit? There is an amazing amount of information and advice for all different kinds of curly hair. The “curly guy/girl method” is a bit much for me but I pretty much learned how to do my hair from that guide.

      1. OP*

        Haha I have suuuuch mixed feelings about curly girl stuff. On one hand, I’m almost 40 years old and it bums me out that I apparently never figured out how to make my hair look consistently good. It’s gonna turn grey any second and change textures, so this is my last window. I have baby-fine curly hair, it’s overall thin (my ponytails are these tiny little things you can pinch in two fingers), and it just – it wants to frizz. Most techniques I’ve seen are too heavy for my hair and it just ends up lank and greasy. I’m willing to buy new products, and I have satin pillowcases and special towels and whatever, but a reading through the divacurl stuff just seems a bit too obsessive to me, like I guess I don’t want better hair THAT bad … I keep believing if I can just find a light enough leave-in conditioner it will magically change my whole situation but I think I need to look upstream and figure out why it got so damaged in the first place.

        1. Moose View*

          Have you tried going to a hair salon and talking to the people there? They may have ideas based on being able to see and touch your hair

      2. OP*

        I had another comment here that will probably show up from moderation eventually, but I don’t want to miss the discussion. The Curly Girl/Deva Curl stuff is generally a bit too intense for me; I’d like nicer hair, but I’m more of a wash n go type person. Plus, I really dislike leaning over with my hair hanging down.

    7. Chauncy Gardener*

      I have thin unhappy hair that has reacted really well to those ponytail holders that are just a piece of ribbon with some elastic in it. Plus they look pretty good too!

    8. CakeSniffer*

      I know I’m really late to this post but hope you see this. Your hair sounds a lot like my (extremely difficult) hair and I wanted to share my recent find! Gimme Beauty makes a line of hair ties for fine hair. I found mine at Ulta online. They’re thicker than the typical narrow stretchy bands and are a fabric-like material, but they’re thin enough that I can wrap them around my thin hair and they actually stay in place. They’re been a game changer for me. I do question how long they’ll last before they’re too stretched out, but I’ve been using mine for a few months and they’ve held up so far. I also bought some of their fine hair clips and love them. I got both small claw clips that are perfect for a half-up ‘do and large claw clips that hold all of my hair. I will definitely keep buying this brand as it’s rare to find something designed for those of us with thin, fine hair.

  6. Jackalope*

    Reading thread! Share whatever you’ve been reading, and give or request recs. All reading welcome.

    I just finished a collection of four novellas called Angels of Darkness. The author of one of the novellas was Sharon Shinn, an author in fond of. The first story was decidedly not my cup of tea, but the rest of them I enjoyed. And the author of the last story, MelJean Brook, was enjoyable enough that I want to hunt down some of her other books to see how they are too.

    1. Your Oxford Comma*

      I’m here to thank Alison for her recommendation from last week, _Heartburn_, by Nora Ephron. I was a new mother when I first read it & couldn’t relate. Forty years later I have a much deeper appreciation for the book. I’ve read a number of Alison’s recommendations over the last couple of years, and I’m surprised by the variety of topics. Thanks, and happy reading!

      I’m a fan of John Grisham, and just read _The Boys from Biloxi_. I am delighted by his plot twists.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Yes on John Grisham!! We used to live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (Pascagoula) when I was a young preteen and could relate to/remember some of the things he mentioned. (Luckily we had moved before Camille hit.) My mother said she even knew some of the men in the Dixie Mafia.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      I just finished “A Marvellous Light” by Freya Marske and am starting the sequel. Queer historical fantasy! I haven’t been super excited with what I’ve been reading lately so it was nice to enjoy something enough I actually wanted to continue the series.

      1. Mitchell Hundred*

        My one issue with the sequel is that Adelaide (or Miss Morrissey, if you want to be polite) wasn’t in it. I like Maud a lot, but Adelaide was my favourite character from the first book.

        But yeah, those are great. I told a friend at pub trivia that I was reading a romance novel, and her reply was: “I only like romances that have multiple-page sex scenes”, which was a stroke of luck.

    3. Teapot Translator*

      I’ve discovered Deborah Levy. I’ve read the first two books (out of three) of her autobiography. I can’t really explain the effect the books have had on me. I’m looking forward to reading the third one.

    4. Generic Name*

      I’m currently reading Clytemnestra. It’s very captivating, and I want to read the original story next. (I can’t remember if it’s the Odyssey or the Iliad. Whichever one that is about the Trojan War.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        The Iliad. Be sure to read Euripedes’ Electra and Iphegenia at Aulis tragedies for lots more of Clytemnestra and her story. She had her reasons.

          1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

            And Aeschylus’s Oresteia, which is a trilogy about Clytemnestra and the fallout from her story (up to and including the birth of the patriarchy!) (<– I think this is kind of a discredited reading of the myth now but I like it anyway)

            Clytemnestra and Agamemnon show up in both the Iliad and the Odyssey – the Odyssey is the bit where all the Greek heroes try to get home from Troy. Mostly about Odysseus but plenty of cameos where you hear about what happened to the others.

          2. goddessoftransitory*

            Her story is even more tragic than Helen’s, but nobody threw a world-stopping ten year war for anything that happened to her!

      2. Mitchell Hundred*

        I have a theory that the Trojan War is Greek mythology’s equivalent of Star Wars (i.e. an epic and massively popular story that kept getting lore added on after the fact).

        1. Generic Name*

          But I thought the Trojan War actually happened. I was just thinking that I feel like there’s a parallel with celebrity news and the stories about the people those Ancient Greek stories are about.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            According to Wikipedia, it seems generally agreed that some conflict did take place, but the original battle or war has been layered over so much there’s a lot of doubt over what actually originally triggered it.

            1. Tosa*

              It did, but it was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, but the original battle or war has been layered over so much there’s a lot of doubt over what actually originally triggered it.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      Just finished The Song of Achilles and starting Circe by Madeline Miller. Both are fantastic (although I’ve just begun the latter,) managing to convey an utterly ancient world in a voice that relates living in it as an everyday matter, with bitchy sea goddesses who don’t approve of filthy mortal you for her darling son and finally presenting a take on Achilles’ refusal to fight that doesn’t make him look like a pouty spoiled brat.

      1. word nerd*

        Circe is the only book I’ve seen where I and all of my Goodreads friends have given it 5/5 stars. It’s so good!

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

          Loved *Circe* too! *Song of Achilles* was also enjoyable, but *Circe* was just the best.

    6. shaw of dorset*

      I’m reading Moby Dick and let me tell you, if you think you’re prepared for how much Whale Talk is in this book, you are not.

      1. Lemonwhirl*

        I read Moby Dick about 15 years ago, and it was wiiiild. Like an entire book of whale biology and another book on the process of whaling are just plunked down in the middle of the book. When I told my sister-in-law that I was reading it, she said “oh, fantastic story, just skip all the bits about whaling and whale biology.”

          1. Clisby*

            You sound like my husband. I once told him the only way I made it through Moby Dick in college was to skip all the parts about whales. Him: “You SKIPPED the chapters on WHALES???”

      2. Lilo*

        I love Moby Dick. The funny thing is that reviews when it was released were basically “there’s a lot of fun whaling stuff but you have to get through all this dark philosophical talk” and reactions today are somewhat opposite.

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

        I read *Moby Dick* as an adult, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it after hearing all of the bad press it gets. That said, I gave myself permission to skim any parts that bored me and just tune in again when the plot picked up.

    7. What's next?*

      I just finished Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. It was very good, but very bleak. As someone not in the US the opioid crisis just stuns me. How did those people get away with it and how do they live with what they have done to entire communities? Anyway, I recommend the book, it’s long but not a hard read in the getting to the end sense, just the subject matter. I haven’t actually read David Copperfield (which it references) but I will now.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Yes, sadly the opioid crisis is very real. I’ve shared before that my three children have struggled with various addictions over the years, and my oldest daughter now works in the recovery field. She tells me some heartbreaking stories.
        Haven’t read Demon Copperhead yet and I can’t decide if I want to or not.

    8. AGD*

      Ace by Angela Chen, about reckoning with asexuality (on both a personal and sociological level). It is fascinating and incredibly well-written.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Grabbed it from my library, thanks – I’m curious, as an ace person. It’s always weird to me that not doing the thing becomes this massive THING because that is so far from my experience. Like I don’t skydive, drink tea, smoke, sex, swim, or like Dr Who, and none of that list is any different from the others to me but only one of those disinterests garners whole-a$$ books, you know?

      2. word nerd*

        I read it just a couple weeks ago and really enjoyed it! Did not know much about asexuality beforehand so I found it informative and thought-provoking in how I think about relationships.

      3. Mitchell Hundred*

        I think I bought that when it came out. Still hasn’t left my TBR pile, but that’s the way of things sometimes.

    9. Pam Adams*

      T. Kingfisher’s Paladin books. love her work.

      I need to spend the weekend sorting many boxes of books to donate most of them.

    10. Flames on the Side of My Face*

      Just finished the first “Rivers of London” book (which was inexplicably and terribly renamed “Midnight Riot” in the US–why??) and am on to the next one, “Moon over Soho.” On deck is the unrelated “Snow Child.”

      1. the cat's pajamas*

        My turn finally came up at the library for Remains of the Day. I’ve heard of it, knew it was famous and became a movie. I knew nothing else about it but signed up because I liked Klara and the Sun (per Allison’s rec, to boot). It’s interesting so far, but very slow moving. The audiobook narrator has a soothing British voice but I keep falling asleep during it and have to go back before I fell asleep each time I listen to it.I was surprised it was about a butler, too.

        1. Still*

          It’s one of the books I’m reading at the moment. I find the rhythm very soothing, but I’m reading a paper copy, so it’s probably a different experience. I’m really curious about where it’s going, character-wise.

        2. Nervous Nellie*

          I loved Remains of the Day! It has a restrained delicacy and slow pace that was so unlike other books of the time. After reading this, you might enjoy the film, which I think is one of the best film versions of a book ever made – nothing left out, and perfect interpretations of the book’s characters by Emma Thompson & Anthony Hopkins.

      2. Amory Blaine*

        I keep giving away my copy of Snow Child and have to buy it again! It is such a beautiful book and captures Alaska’s wildness and magic so well. I hope you love it!

      3. GoryDetails*

        I *love* the “Rivers of London” series! Have read most of them via audiobook (narrator Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is excellent), and thoroughly enjoy them.

      4. KTNZ*

        I just finished Amoungst Our Weapons! I found the first few books of the series a bit of slog but I really enjoyed the later ones.

    11. Amory Blaine*

      I’m reading Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells. I don’t usually read much science fiction, but I love the Murderbot series! Funny, perceptive, fast moving, and a perfect mix of kind and angsty. I want to try some of her fantasy next— any recommendations where to start?

      1. word nerd*

        I like her Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy (starts with the Wizard Hunters), but it’s very different from Murderbot. Are you looking for something similar to Murderbot?

        I am eagerly waiting for her new Murderbot to be relased in November…

      2. Book Pusher*

        Try The Cloud Roads—I loved the Raksura books before she did Murderbot, they’re very different but also so good!

      3. Lilo*

        I didn’t like her new book, Witch King, unfortunately. But there’s a new Murderbot out in November.

      4. trh*

        OMG I absolutely love Murderbot! I’m enthralled by this series, and have read each book several times. Something about that character just gets to me.

        Murderbot is awesome!

    12. Lemonwhirl*

      I finished “The Girl With All the Gifts” and have moved onto “The Boy on the Bridge”, but I’m having trouble getting into it. I’m several chapters in and the boy hasn’t made an appearance yet, and I really miss the characters from the Girl book.

      I’m listening to the audiobook of “The Reckoning” by Martina Murphy. I love the narrator, but the book is kind of meh. I am coming to understand that I don’t enjoy whodunnits – I much prefer whydidtheydoits. :)

    13. Helvetica*

      Just read “Women Without Men” by Shahrnush Parsipur in one sitting, which was gorgeous. I wish it had been longer as I love magical realism – and that there was more time for some of those concepts to come through – especially once they reach the garden. But enjoyed it a lot (and want to now see the movie as well).

    14. slashgirl*

      I just finished The storyteller by Dave Grohl (of Foo Fighters/Nirvana) and it was really good. It’s not just a “I was born, then this happened, and this and this.” It’s almost like a conversation in that he goes off on slight tangents, but always brings it back. His love and appreciation for the women in his life (mother, wife, daughters) is obvious–and his amazement and gratitude for the life he has is there too. I wasn’t particularly a FF/Nirvana fan, though I was aware of the music, but I’m doing a deep dive into the FF catalogue right now and enjoying it. I wanted to read this book after seeing a few interviews with Dave, he seemed like a pretty down to earth dude.

      I also finished Freak the Mighty. It’s YA and for me, a quick read. It’s first person from Max’s POV (one of the main characters). Lovely book if bittersweet. I just found out there’s a sequel, Max the Mighty, which I want to read.

      I’ve just started a(nother) re-read of The blue castle by LM Montgomery; while I love the Anne novels, this is my favourite book of hers.

      1. Veronica Mars*

        I LOVE The Blue Castle. My book club recently read Anne of Green Gables and I adored it, but told everyone they had to read The Blue Castle next :)

    15. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I just found out there is a new Kushiel’s Trilogy (Jacqueline Carey) book – a retelling of Kushiel’s Dart from Joscelin’s perspective. I got on the waitlist at my library ebook site.

    16. Ali G*

      I just finished “The Change” by Kristin Miller. It’s a must read, especially if you are a woman over 40.

      1. NaoNao*

        Strong agree. I am now seeking more books like that. It was electrifying, wonderful, and deeply, deeply satisfying.

    17. word nerd*

      I enjoyed Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World by Henry Grabar this week. Surprisingly interesting even though I don’t drive (or park) very often. He spends a lot of time talking about New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, so that was part of the appeal for me since I’ve lived in the last two cities, including before and after the whole Chicago-selling-its-parking-meters fiasco.

    18. Queer Earthling*

      Just finished Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle. It’s a horror story centering around a gay conversion therapy camp. As a queer neurodivergent person who grew up evangelical, I really enjoyed it; I thought the horror elements were pretty decent, but the low-level creep of the society and life the main character was living was really effective to me. It’s also the first time in quite a long time that I actually stayed up late to finish a book.

    19. Book Pusher*

      I loved Thornhedge by T Kingfisher! How that author can find another angle to a story amazes me.

    20. Person from the Resume*

      Lightweight and breezy, I blew through the audiobook of For Your Consideration by Amy Spalding. It’s a lesbian romance in LA between an actress and the woman who ghostwrites her email (working for for the actresses’s agent/publicist. Hit the spot of what I was looking for.

      Before that I finished the 27 hour audiobook of Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993 by Sarah Schulman. I listened on and off for a few months. It was kind of disjointed jumping from one topic to another so it was easy to take a break for a few weeks and then start again. Since ACT UP was a collection of different committees and affinity groups, it’s probably a truer history than others but the jumping around makes less of a coherent narrative for a nicely flowing reading experience. There’s a lot more women and people of color mentioned in ACT UP than How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS by David France but by narrowing the focus to the famous white gay men of ACT UP and the Treatment Action Group (TAG) France was able to craft that coherent, focused narrative.

    21. Atheist Nun*

      I recently read, and greatly enjoyed and recommend, The Art Thief by Michael Finkel. The story is so audacious that I had to remind myself often that it is nonfiction. If you like art and/or psychology, I think you will like it.

    22. GoryDetails*

      Recent reads include:

      WHALEFALL by Daniel Kraus, in which a teenager is swallowed by a sperm whale (due to him being mixed up with a giant squid at the time) and has to hope he can find a way out before his airtanks run out. (That part of the storyline features a countdown of the remaining air in the tank, as if things weren’t tense enough!) The in-the-whale part alternates with flashbacks to the boy’s youth, showing his difficult history with his father, from whom he was estranged during the last couple of years of his father’s life. The author attempted to be as realistic as possible about just how someone might wind up inside a whale, and it’s pretty darned unpleasant… Overall, quite an intriguing novel.

      GHOST by Helen Grant features a young woman who’s been raised by her grandmother in a remote farmhouse, in complete isolation; from childhood, she’s been told that nobody else must know she’s there, or she’ll be taken away… The story has complexities and a very poignant tone, and while I got frustrated by some aspects (this would fit a “characters who really, really need therapy” book-list) I did enjoy it.

      TRAFFIC by Tom Vanderbilt, a non-fiction book about the science and psychology of driving, including not-always-logical-seeming human reactions, the pros and cons of road signs, and more.

    23. Nervous Nellie*

      Ooooh! Babel by RF Kuang! You all recommended it here last week, so I ordered it at the library and got the large print ed immediately. Read 5 pages, was hooked and went to my beloved indie bookshop and bought it. I am TRANSFIXED by it. AAM readers have done it again.

      It reminds me in spirit of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, from the 80s, which I actually read at the time on a trip to Oxford. Common themes of a sort – a secret cabal, a conspiracy, and a puzzle to solve by detective work or revolution. And beautiful, lyrical writing. This is easily the best book I’ve read all year.

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

      Dominick Dunne’s *Too Much Money*, a roman a clef about NY society in the early 2000s.

      I am a little frustrated, though, as while I can figure out who some of the characters are supposed to be based on, others escape me. Reviews online say that this is his weakest book, so I may enjoy his earlier ones more.

    25. Nervous Nellie*

      And a question for you all – has anyone read & enjoyed Arkady Martine’s books, A Memory Called Empire, and A Desolation Called Peace? They were on NPR’s weekend viewing and reading list this week. They sort of look intriguing. I am not much of a sci-fi or series reader, but lately have been branching out. Is this a branch I should climb?

      1. word nerd*

        I wasn’t a huge fan of A Memory Called Empire, but I think a lot of other people have enjoyed it. For me, I had a hard time caring abou the main character, and I’m not really into political intrigue. There is a *lot* of political intrigue and trying to figure out what people really think, and that is not my jam.

      2. Nervous Nellie*

        Thank you both! I think I will order the first one at the library and see if it grabs me. My sci-fi leanings are more in the Heinlein/Asimov/Simak vein, but will give it a whirl.

    26. Bluebell*

      Abby Jimenez’s latest, Yours Truly, is very fun and has an epistolary section I really enjoyed. I read Lucky Red on the recommendation of a friend- it was good but I’ve preferred Sarah Gailey’s similar stuff. In nonfiction, I’m reading Hot and Bothered, which focuses on peri menopause and menopause. I’ve recommended it to a younger sibling who’s still going through lots of symptoms.

    27. PastorJen*

      I just started Tom Lake by Ann Patchett and I love it so far. I just finished How to Stay Married: The Most Insane Love Story Ever Told by Harrison Scott Key. I had never even heard of Harrison Scott Key until recently when I was reading Anne Bogel’s latest email with book recommendations and she suggested it. He’s an incredible writer and is really, really funny. I’ve never read a book like this one but really loved it. I’m still thinking about it days later.

      1. Veronica Mars*

        I’m almost done with Tom Lake and still loving it. The audiobook is narrated by Meryl Streep and I feel like she lends it an almost meditative quality (or maybe that’s the book itself), and it’s just been a deeply enjoyable read/listen for me.

    28. Jamie Starr*

      Just finished My Last Innocent Year by Daisy Alpert Florin. It takes place at a small private college in the late 90s, against the backdrop of the Clinton/Lewinsky affair. The main character, Isabel, has an affair with one of he professors. I liked it a lot.

    29. Weavinglibrarian*

      I just finished The Librarian of Burned Books. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the number of books written about World War II, but this one taught me a few things. Some of this wonderful novel reminded me too much of what is happening in our public and school libraries right now, but the author gave me hope.

      Favorite quote: “And I promise you, if I’ve learned anything from my time in Berlin, it’s this: an attack on books, on rationality, on knowledge isn’t a tempest in a teacup, but rather a canary dead in a coal mine.”

  7. Jackalope*

    Gaming thread! Share what you’ve been playing, and give or request recs. All games welcome, not just video games.

    I’m still working away on Stardew Valley. I’ve made it to year 4 and am having fun progressing toward my goals. Currently I’m trying to get the golden scepter and almost have enough money!

    1. Snell*

      STARDEW: I FINALLY BOUGHT THE GOLD CLOCK!! Without looking, I think I’m on Fall Year 11. Thinking that I’ll tidy up at the end of the season, and then I’ll winter on the island like a rich ass f***er, or, you know, a migratory bird.

      Still not married! Starting to maybe consider a close, platonic cohabitation arrangement, though. But I’ve already assembled a kickass wedding outfit…

      1. Jackalope*

        Congratulations! You’ve been working on that for a long time, and that’s a lot of money to save!!

      2. Jackalope*

        Also, I spent mumble mumble hours last night playing before bed, and now Maru and I have our second child! She’s super excited about it and so am I, although the baby at this point is just a little pixelated blob in the crib. I really want to get the island obelisk as well so I can beam myself between the island and the valley. The only sad bit is that I can take the fam with me; I bet they’d love the island!

        1. Snell*

          Ooh…I haven’t got the island obelisk yet either. It needs a dragon tooth, which is found in the volcano or from a stingray pond on the farm, but I haven’t unlocked the area where you can fish stingrays, and the volcano doesn’t have dragon teeth everyday. I’m thinking I should start using bombs to get through the volcano quicker and clean it out more thoroughly. I usually only use bombs in the desert mine, because the mountain mine and volcano both are less urgent to progress through, but I’ve accumulated multiple full stacks of bombs. I’m at that point where I have so much excess resources that it’s actually an inconvenience to manage them.

          1. Jackalope*

            My problem is the lack of bananas right now. I could get the dragon teeth (obelisk is 10 teeth which is a lot but I could make it work), but I can’t get a banana sapling for love nor money. Although the volcano dungeon is a bit of a pain in that you don’t have any exit other than the main entrance and the forge at the top. So I can’t go in, farm dragon teeth, and then climb a ladder back out. That has come back to bite me more than once.

            1. Snell*

              Banana saplings are also one of those things (like the bombs) that I have more than I can use. I have more of those than is practical to plant, so they just accumulate in a chest in storage. Have you been shaking the island palm trees? The ones on the island are different from the ones in the desert in that you can actually see whether it has a coconut or not. Also blue discus ponds. I made a blue discus pond just because it was the ooh shiny new update content fish and I wanted to see what it would produce. I get the occasional golden coconut, which sometimes has a banana sapling in it, but also sometimes the pond just straight up produces a banana

              1. Jackalope*

                I just learned a couple of days ago that you can do that. I’ve found a few golden coconuts, but the only saplings I’ve found in them are mango. Which will also be exciting at some point but what I really need right now is a banana sapling.

                1. Jackalope*

                  This made me laugh so hard! I just checked the Stardew Valley wiki, and you can in fact use bananas for tailoring to make a pair of pants! Real banana pants!

      3. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

        Still plugging along in Judgment, serious crime drama continues to be oh so serious /s

        Speaking of the Serious Crime Drama series I also got my hands on the latest Kurohyou fan translation but haven’t tried it yet and the latest Gaiden trailer has me breathing heavily and making gimme-hands.

        Also chugging along in the OG Dragon Warrior. grind grind grind

    2. MEH Squared*

      I’m trying out Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon because it was deveolped by FromSoftware, my favorite devs. It’s big stompy mechs (that fly!), which is not my thing at all. I’m enjoying it, but I have to change my mindset from when I play other FromSoft games. I’m not sure I’ll stick with it, but it’s a good game. If you like fighing big mechs and endless customization of your mech, this might be the game for you.

    3. anon24*

      I finished Baldurs Gate 3 in the early am hours this morning. Was so enjoyable I promptly restarted a second playthrough this evening. It was the most fun I’ve had playing a game in awhile.

    4. SparklingBlue*

      Still plugging away on the Game Boy Pokemon TCG–having save states on the Switch is nice when you don’t end up with any good starting hands.

    5. The Dude Abides*

      My daughter saw me playing Link to the Past Randomizer, and once I told her I was trying to save the princess she wanted to play with me.

      I switched to the regular game, and just finished Desert Palace with plans to climb the mountain once we can find the time to play together again.

    6. Free Meerkats*

      Blizzard World of Warcraft Classic Hardcore went live yesterday. I’m on my 3rd toon, another Gnome Mage. First made it to level 9, then a mass respawn of ranged casters happened. Second succumbed to a roving elite at Level 11.

      Anyone else playing? I’m on Skull Rock, toon name Domebigboy.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Is that hardcore as in, you die for good? Interesting! I keep pondering returning to WoW in some way but haven’t done in a couple years. I played a lot in the early stages of Covid.

        1. Free Meerkats*

          Yes, one life. Lots of mages and hunters.

          Blizzard released stats after 24 hours; IIRC, 70,000+ deaths, highest live player a Level 33 Mage.

    7. Dinwar*

      My kids and I have been playing Terraria. It may have been a mistake, as it has unlocked my sons’ magpie natures. To be fair, I’m the same way, but I’m too far gone at this point…

      Last night my son apparently found a way to summon a sugar glider pet. My wife has 2 sugar gliders (they’re like guinea pigs, they’re social animals and only having one is horrible for their mental well-being), so he thought it was the greatest thing ever. It does nothing in the game other than make a little sprite that bounces around after you, but he thinks it’s adorable. Well, I suppose I should say I don’t know that it does anything; Terraria has a home-building mechanic that means making your place look nice actually matters, and pets may help with that.

      For my part they’ve challenged me to get the Eye of Cthulhu banner. That means defeating the Eye 50 times. Which means first defeating small, annoying, flying mobs about 200 times. Keeps the game interesting.

    8. YesImTheAskewPolice*

      Just wondering if anyone here tried the new Star Trek (Resurgence) or Expanse (Telltale) games? I’m familiar with the style of the games, and don’t care about how much they stay close to the canon/sources, as long as they create and enjoyable experience that’s recognizable as being set in either universe.

      1. Jackalope*

        I haven’t played those before; I like watching Star Trek but space ships in games aren’t really my thing so I haven’t tried them.

    9. heckofabecca*

      Tonight I am taking part in a playtest for a cozy TTRPG called Society of Rafa! I’m excited—my best friends are the creators, and I’m the project editor. We have a game design person who’s going to test out new mechanics with us tonight. Super exciting!

      I’ve also been playing a bunch of D&D, which is delightful :3

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I know it’s not, but every time I see a blurb about that game I think “a TTRPG about Rafael Nadal fans?”

    10. Jay*

      Still playing Dead Island II, mostly, when I have time for gaming. The Place That Shall Not Be Named On Saturday has been keeping me too busy for anything more than a few stolen hours here or there for games.

    11. Quinalla*

      Played some Baldur’s Gate 3, Valheim, DDO and back on the Vampire Survivors train. Everything got reset at some point and it’s enjoyable to start from the beginning and see what they changed/added. You can play multiplayer now too, haven’t yet, but plan to!

  8. Georgina Sands*

    What other websites do you enjoy that are similar to AAM? Not necessarily similar in topic so much as in tone and audience – I really enjoy the nuance and kindness here and too much time on social media is really getting to me lately.

    1. OtterB*

      If you’re on Facebook, I enjoy the private group for fans of K J Charles. The discussion tends to be around books (Charles writes historical romances, almost all m-m, most spicy, some with paranormal elements and some not.) The group is consistently kind and amusing and is excellent when someone asks for book recommendations to scratch a very specific itch.

    2. AGD*

      There’s a fair amount of overlap between the people here and the fans of Hank and John Green – lots of kindness and many thoughtful humans there. Same for John Scalzi, though he’s just astute and outspoken enough that he attracts trolls (though he generally either shuts these down, mischievously messes with them, or calls their bluff by answering a provocative question with nonchalant sincerity).

      1. PhyllisB*

        I love that answering provocative questions in a matter of fact manner. When I was a long distance operator at night we would cover directory assistance.
        There was a restaurant/club in our area that was known for…adult activities. Everyone called it “Ma Smith’s” (not real name.) It actually had a real name, something like the Chandalier Supper Club, or something similar. Anyway, late at night we’d get these kids calling to directory assistance asking for Ma Smith’s, thinking they were so clever. I remember one asking this and calmly gave him the number. He gasped and turned to his friends, and said, “they’re really is a number for that place!!”

      2. OtterB*

        Oh, Scalzi is a good thought. I read him regularly. He moderates his site closely (he will declare when he posts a controversial topic that the mallet is out) and as a result the comments are worth reading and don’t degenerate.

    3. Isobel*

      Go Fug Yourself – not much for the celebrity/fashion posts (I mostly have no clue who anyone is) – but for the chat/recommendation posts. For example, the regular “what’s everyone reading?” posts, recipe recommendations and recently favourite pens and notebooks.

      1. RMNPgirl*

        I was going to mention Go Fug Yourself as well! Their community is great. If you do like pop culture or celebrity news then I recommend subscribing to their substack, Drinks with Broads. They also will have live chats on there during awards shows and other entertainment events.

      2. Filosofickle*

        They’re excellent writers and have a strong community — lot of folks followed the pair from Television Without Pity. Few trolls (except on royal topics eyeroll).

    4. Hard Agree*

      Pajiba was the first place I found on the internet where you say for the comment section.

    5. WhatIsSleepEven*

      Metafilter – sort of a community blog, posts on different topics with comments. The site has paid moderators. There’s a ‘news’ page, and also an advice page (AskMetafilter) and one for tv/movies/books.

    6. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      If you Google That Bad Advice tumblr, you’ll find a person whose snark is fantastic. She takes certain letters to advise columnists and gives them what she calls bad advice. Like, “yes, you should totally write yet another letter to the woman you’ve been obsessing about, clearly the reason that she hasn’t responded to your previous three letters is you haven’t been explicit enough about your intentions and you are acting like a totally normal happily married person” … there’s something validating about them. It is like a response back to unreasonable people/perspectives.

  9. Crayola Chalk*

    I’m on the PTO and we are looking to do monthly teacher appreciation. I was a teacher(changed careers) and I know most teachers prefer gift cards. I was certainly happy to receive anything. Monthly gift cards are not a feasible option. I’m looking for other ideas.

    1. California Dreamin’*

      Can you do luncheons? I co-chaired teacher appreciation lunches at two different schools. At one school we did two a year and the other school had I think four a year. It was my experience that it was pretty easy to get people to bring in food for teachers! You can go totally potluck or you can set up themes. The favorite one I did every year was soups, salads, and breads. People would bring homemade soups in crock pots. It was popular. we did another one that asked people to bring a dish representing their cultural heritage. We put little tags next to each dish indicating what country it represented.

      1. Generic Name*

        Yes, I was going to suggest feeding the teachers. Do you already provide dinner for parent-teacher conferences? As a working parent, I appreciate that conferences go into the evening hours, but I feel bad that it’s likely hard on the teachers.

    2. Blythe*

      At our school, the PTA organizes monthly lunches for teachers and regularly stocks the break with snacks. It is the BEST!!

    3. Anon Commenter*

      I’m a teacher and many of us love to be fed! Lunches are the best, because it’s free food plus the added bonus of not having to pack something the night before. It’s also great not having to waste any of my precious 28 minutes waiting in line for our one sad microwave.

      Lunches can get pricey, especially for a large staff. We also love it when there are just snacks, drinks, or a dessert in the lounge. One thing I do suggest if you go with a food or drink day is variety. I’ve seen vegetarian teachers not
      have much to choose from at a luncheon, and that’s always a bummer. I love sweets, but I love savories more, so I’m always extra delighted when someone leaves us savory snacks or fruit and yogurt. Our PTA will do drink bars with sodas and flavored syrups with little drink recipe cards, which is super cute and fun, but they also leave plain water, flavored sparkling waters, and tea for the people who don’t drink soda. I almost never hear coworkers who don’t do sweets or soda complain when those are the only things available on snack days, but they *do* get super excited when someone makes the effort to add in the non-sweets. ESPECIALLY during Christmas and Teacher Appreciation Week, when it’s 99.9% sweets coming at us from all directions from very kind-hearted and generous parents and administrators.

      1. Jo*

        When we used to do PTA lunches, one of the favorites was a baked potato bar. The large potatoes were precooked and loaded into coolers (which will keep food warm if no ice added). Then there were bowls of all kinds of toppings. Not too expensive, easy.

        1. tiger-pants*

          We did that at my boy’s school! Many options for various dietary needs, inexpensive, nutritious. I heard from teachers and staff that it was a hit.

    4. California Dreamin’*

      Another thing we had at one of my kids’ schools was a once-a-year big fundraiser where we had every teacher make a wish list of items (big ticket or small) that they’d like for their classroom. Parents could see the wish lists and could either purchase actual items or contribute money that the teacher could then use at their discretion. It was a HUGE success. I think people like contributing for things their child’s teacher actually wants.

    5. Amory Blaine*

      I agree on food! All us educators love food in the staff lounge. But please list ingredients and don’t be like our PTA and get bbq for the big appreciation lunch! Even the beans had meat.

      On another note, don’t forget the specialists in the building! Classroom teachers are amazing and deserve lots of support, but special ed teschers, psychs, SLPs, and other specialists are often overlooked for wishlists or extra supplies, which are needed and so very appreciated by everyone. Our school does wishlists at the bookfair; parents can buy books for any staff member and it is extremely popular!

    6. Ellis Bell*

      If you do food, please ask for what type of accommodations people need. I don’t mind packing something gluten free to eat with the others (if you don’t you’re seen as not sociable) but people get very weirded out by that. What else am I going to do when there was no advance mention of providing something safe? I think the next best bet is stationery, which teachers spend a fortune on. I especially like the personalized planners at onestopteachershop which can be self printed if you have a modest subscription. Also, the sort of accessories that would go with the planner: discs, mushroom hole punch, dividers, clear covers etc. The other thing that would be pretty cool are snazzy teacher trolleys, ones with pockets as opposed to bare vegetable cart ones.

    7. Scientist*

      Yeah I definitely agree with food – lunch, breakfast, or snacks in the staff kitchen. Or stocking up with good coffee for everyone to use by the coffee maker for the month (and probably some tea bags too.)

    8. InvisibleFish*

      Bagels, baby!! Set up a bagel “bar” they can come and go to with different bagel and cream cheese options.

    9. Glazed Donut*

      My absolute favorite PTO gift as a teacher: a take home dinner.
      Our PTO had a connection with a local business that made homemade frozen casserole-style meals, and we could pick up a casserole, bagged salad, and bread so that dinner was essentially taken care of one night for your family. It was the BEST.

    10. word nerd*

      A big hit at my school is the cookie swap every winter (except the parents bake the different batches of cookies for the teachers). Then the teachers pick from a ton of different kinds of cookies to put together into a box to take home–the variety is fun!

      1. California Dreamin’*

        Oh, this is such a great idea! I wish I’d thought of it back in the elementary school days!

    11. Thurley*

      This is just a good practice vs a teacher appreciation thing but your teachers will appreciate it: make sure there are fruits and veggies at all food events and bake sales. The kids do eat them and the teachers love it since they’re often running from class to events without dinner. You could also have a stash of protein bars for teachers at these events.

    12. 00ff00Claire*

      At one school I taught at, the PTA did a snack cart during Teacher Appreciation week. They loaded up a library cart or a cafeteria cart with snacks & drinks and went down the hall, stopping by each teacher’s door, and we could pick out whatever we wanted. They did it each day of Teacher Appreciation week, and it was a big hit (at least with my grade level). The only feedback that I would (now) give is to be sure to include some snacks that work to accommodate various diets / allergies.

      Also, during the Book Fair at the same school, I think we got a set amount from the PTA to spend on our classroom libraries. You could make something like that your appreciation event the month the book club is there. I know it’s the same as a gift card, but your money might go further due to the discounted prices of book fair books.

      Finally, good luck on the PTO! Some of my family members have volunteered as a parent, and I know from their experience that it’s a lot of work.

  10. WellRed*

    Last week someone started a gun thread asking people to name hated songs. I’d like to start a new music related thread. What cover version of a song do you love and think is well done, paying tribute to the original while making it their own. I’ll start with Florence and the Machines cover of FMs The Chain performed at Glastonbury several years back.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Hee, was wondering how I missed the Gun Thread!

        My nominees are:
        Tori Amos’ covers of Smells Like Teen Spirit and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Both stunners and the latter always makes me tear up a bit.

        Cowboy Junkies of I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. So stripped down, like a dirt road in the moonlight.

        I’m sure I’ll think of more around 3 a.m.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Ohhh, just remembered: Beth Orton’s cover of It’s Not the Spotlight; most people probably know it as the ending song to the film Stir of Echoes. It’s so tender and piercing.

    1. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      The Jeff Healey Band’s cover of the Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps

      Rock el Casbah by Rachid Taha

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Apocalyptica does a gorgeous cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes” – on cellos, in German because Till Lindemann of Rammstein on vocals. I loved it even before I realized what it was.

      I really enjoy the David Draiman/Disturbed cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” as well.

      1. MEH Squared*

        I did not know that Apocalyptica did a cover of “Heroes”. Am listening to it now. It’s pretty dang good. I like the twist of it being in German.

        I also love Disturbed’s cover of “The Sound of Silence” (even more than the original. Shhhhhhh.)

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I read an interview about it with David Draiman where he said it was mostly unplanned to do that cover, and as a result he was ABSOLUTELY BAKED when they recorded it as a last minute experiment. I don’t know how true that is, but either way I do love it.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I also desperately love Apocalyptica’s version of “The Hall of the Mountain King” (from Peer Gynt I think?) but I don’t know if instrumentals exactly count as covers.

        2. acmx*

          I hate that cover (and haven’t heard the original). I immediately turn the radio off when it comes on LOL

          Thanks for introducing me to the Heroes cover :)

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Well, I mean, hating on covers isn’t the point of this thread, but I’m glad you liked one of them.

        3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Entertaining: Right after I posted about these two yesterday, I drove to the airport which is about 35 minutes each way. In the car, for music, I just have my phone shuffle my entire music library all the time. I got the Apocalyptica “Helden” cover on the way there, and the Disturbed “The Sound of Silence” cover on the way back. (Also a Puppini Sisters cover of “I Will Survive” which is cute, a trio of ladies who do sort of a burlesque bouncy style, but I don’t usually remember them when they aren’t specifically brought up.)

    3. Sophie K*

      Oh man, I love a good cover.

      Just off the top of my head:

      Little Mix cover of I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons, performed in Radio 1 live lounge in…2014 ish? Maybe?

      No Comment acapella cover of I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by the Proclaimers

      Sam Tsui cover of Applause by Lady Gaga

      I could go in but I’ll leave before someone drags me off with a hook :P

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I had a collection of really good covers of Rolling Stones songs, but that was years ago. Let’s see, there was:

      Gimme Shelter by Sisters of Mercy
      Paint It Black by The Feelies
      (Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by Devo
      Sympathy for the Devil by Jane’s Addiction

      The originals are all amazing songs, but these I actually liked better.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I have a CD of Duran Duran covers and they’re all amazing; gotta listen to that again!

        1. Atheist Nun*

          Is this the album that includes the Wrens’ cover of “The Seventh Stranger”? I love both those versions.

        2. noncommittal pseudonym*

          Oh Lord, you reminded me. I have a couple of CDs of the Ukulele Summit that I picked up in Hawaii that are all ukulele covers of other artists. My favorites are summit #4, all Grateful Dead songs, and #5, all Eagles songs. “Hotel Honolulu” really has to be heard to be believed.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Ohhh, just remembered the ukelele cover of Over the Rainbow by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole–so beautiful.

      2. numptea*

        I would argue that GnR’s cover of Sympathy is unbeatable. Axl just sounds like Satan, plus it being on the Interview soundtrack adds serious panache.

        On the opposite side of the spectrum, Phish does an amazing cover of Loving Cup on their 3D tour.

      3. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Oh, and the first one reminded me of Sisters of Mercy’s awesome cover of “Jolene”. But then, maybe I just love Andrew Eldritch’s voice. :D

        1. Yikes Stripes*

          One of my favorite things is that you could almost consider Wild Horses to be a cover – they wrote it, but allowed the Flying Burrito Band to record and release it first. I adore that version of it too – Gram Parsons brought a totally different vibe to it, and I love his voice.

    5. Generic Name*

      Oooh, I adore Heart’s version of Stairway to Heaven. I think I prefer it to the original.

      1. WellRed*

        Omg. Did you see the Kennedy Center Honors where they performed this. Only Ann Wilson could have commanded song , orchestra etc. and Robert Plant tearing up!

    6. Charlotte Lucas*

      I pretty much love any cover done by Joan Osborne.

      “You Were Always on My Mind” by Pet Shop Boys is a great cover. They stick to their musical style, but it also highlights how similar Neil Tennant’s singing voice actually is to Willie Nelson’s.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        The Pet Shop Boys cover is, paradoxically, a lot more emotional for being sung in a virtual emotionless way. I think that’s part of the reason that it was such a huge hit in the UK.

    7. MEH Squared*

      Johnny Cash did an amazing cover of “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails right before he died. Also, “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode.

      The Killers’ cover of Icehouse’s Electric Blue is terrific as well.

      k.d. lang’s version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is my favorite cover of this song–and I’ve heard dozens.

          1. Dinwar*

            As I heard the story, the guy who wrote the song considers Cash’s version the real one, and the original to be the cover.

            1. Quinalla*

              Yes, he said when Cash covers your song, it basically is now his song :P Also love that cover!

      1. MEH Squared*

        Oh! I have one more. They Might Be Giants doing Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping”–and I actually like the original. TMBG’s cover is so joyful.

      2. allathian*

        I love Allison Crowe’s cover of “Hallelujah.”

        Johnny Cash’s cover of “Personal Jesus” is amazing.

    8. somehow*

      Sergio Mendez and Brazil 66’s cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair.”

      Hypnotic.

      1. somehow*

        Also: John Prine will always be the best, but I love Bonnie Raitt’s cover of his “Angel from Montgomery.” Just…amazing.

    9. Numbat*

      just popping my head up to day off you like covers you would love Australian radio station Triple J’s “Like A Version” series. They can be found on YouTube (hopefully not blocked for your location) and they recently did a Hottest 100 countdown of those covers. Some standouts for me include Gang of Youths doing Blood by The Middle East, The Wiggles doing Elephant by Tame Impala (yes really) and Something For Kate doing Sweet Nothing by Florence and the Machine.

      If you’re Australian I apologise for telling you a bunch of things you already know lol

      1. Yikes Stripes*

        MUNA’s cover of My Heart Will Go On introduced me to that series and I’ve been LOVING it

    10. Industry Behemoth*

      Cover of “Because the Night” by 10,000 Maniacs.

      Only now did I realize I didn’t know who originally recorded it. Natalie Merchant totally does justice to Patti Smith.

    11. Pippa K*

      Jeff Buckley’s cover of Halkelujah, the Indigo Girls cover of Romeo and Juliet, and the My Chemical Romance version of Desolation Row. The originals of all those are favorites too, but I like those covers just as much.

      1. fposte*

        I genuinely didn’t know Romeo and Juliet was a cover until *last week.* Always more to learn!

    12. Not A Manager*

      Seu Jorge’s covers of the Ziggy Stardust album for Life Aquatic.

      The Lemonheads cover of Mrs. Robinson.

      Almost any cover of Leonard Cohen. I love his poetry and melodies; I have a lot of trouble with his orchestration.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yes! I love the Lemonheads version of that song. I must listen to “It’s a shame about Ray” again, it’s been years since I heard it.

      2. Lilo*

        Bob Dylan to a lesser extent that Cohen has a ton of songs where the cover is better known than the original.

        All along the Watchtower, Make You Feel My Love, etc.

      3. Mitchell Hundred*

        There’s a really great cover of “Sisters of Mercy” by a singer called Serena Ryder. Shouldn’t be too hard to find on Youtube.

    13. Chaordic One*

      I’m a big fan of Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox (PMJ). They’re proudly and unreservedly a cover band and it is unfortunate they have this reputation of being a novelty act. There’s (usually, but not always) a lot of imagination and musicality to their arrangements. There are so many to pick from, but my favorites are their soul cover version of Maroon 5’s “Maps” which features singer Morgan James and their cover version of Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” featuring singer Maiya Sykes.

      1. David*

        Oh yeah PMJ is great! I’ve been seeing their YouTube videos popping up in my feed, and they’re always very professionally done and interesting.

    14. Yezzz*

      Ooo good topic! Cover of Adele’s “When We Were Young” sung by Fernando Daniel on The Voice of Portugal. Google his first audition sunging that song, it’s great. I later heard Adele’s version and liked his better!

    15. Anon Commenter*

      Most of my favorites are all covers I thought were original songs, because I was too young to know they were covers. For example, I was born just slightly too late for Kate Bush, so I heard and loved Placebo’s version of Running Up That Hill and the Futureheads’ version of Hounds of Love before anyone bothered to introduce me to Kate Bush. I still effing love both of those covers.

      As a kid listening to her brother’s Bowie albums, it was literal years before I knew Pin Ups was a cover album, so pretty much that whole album is full of some of my favorite covers.

      And speaking of Bowie, that video of him doing the vocals of Wake Up with Arcade Fire never fails to make me cry, it’s so good. I watch it when I need to stress cry, it works like a charm.

      1. Lexi Vipond*

        I was really surprised the first time I heard Barry Manilow’s ‘Could It Be Magic’ – I thought THAT was the cover!

    16. anon24*

      I vastly prefer Weezer’s version of Africa.
      I also love Blue Stahli’s cover of IAMX This Will Make You Love Again

    17. AGD*

      Lenny Kravitz’s cover of ‘American Woman’ and Smash Mouth’s cover of ‘I’m a Believer’. The originals are legendary, but both of these versions are just a little crunchier in a way that makes the songs shine interestingly.

      1. PhyllisB*

        I liked Elton John’s cover of Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. Of course no one beats the Beatles…I also liked Pearl Jam’s version of Where oh Where Can my Baby Be? I’m not sure if that’s the correct title, but it’s a cover of a song that was popular in the 60s.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Oh, love that Pearl Jam cover! All those sixties teen angst/death songs–what a weird trend that was.

      2. PhyllisB*

        Yes!! I forgot about the Smashmouth cover!!I liked that one too. Which surprised me, because old fogey that I am, I usually prefer the original. Except for the ones I already mentioned.

    18. numptea*

      I have a several-hours-long YT playlist of exactly this topic. In no particular order:

      Imagine — A Perfect Circle
      Tainted Love — Marilyn Manson
      Valerie — The Zutons
      99 Red Balloons — Goldfinger
      Come On Eileen — Save Ferris
      I Will Survive — Cake
      Careless Whisper — Seether
      Wild Horses — The Sundays
      Knocking on Heaven’s Door — GnR
      Fields of Gold — Eva Cassidy
      Smooth Criminal — Alien Ant Farm
      Boys of Summer — The Ataris
      Benny and the Jets — Biz Markie
      Turn the Page — Metallica
      Land of Confusion — Disturbed
      Can’t Get It Out of My Head — Velvet Revolver
      Listen to Your Heart — DHT
      Bad Romance — Halestorm
      Hard to Handle — Black Crowes
      Simple Man — Shinedown
      Ring of Fire — Wall of Voodoo
      Say Hello, Wave Goodbye — David Gray
      Famous Blue Raincoat — Tori Amos
      Unforgiven — Cage the Elephant
      Running Up That Hill — Meg Myers

    19. WoodswomanWrites*

      Shawn Colvin’s live recording of “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” is an all-time favorite. Bob Dylan wrote an incredible song but she adds so much more to the original and I’ll take hers every time. Beyond being such a strong singer, she’s an outstanding instrumentalist and the sound she creates with just her voice and solo guitar is incredible. Now I have to find it and get choked up again. I’ll post the link.

    20. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      Gnarls Barkley’s slow version of their own song ‘Crazy’, it’s very moving – look up Gnarls Barkley – Crazy- From the basement (on you tube)

    21. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain – their cover of Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush – all of their songs are very skilfully done!

      1. Generic Username*

        Yes! The Ukes version of everything rules!! (I get obsessed with their version of “Life on Mars” about once or twice a year…)

    22. LGP*

      I love Green Day’s versions of Like A Rolling Stone and I Fought The Law. I also like Duran Duran’s version of White Lines.

    23. The Prettiest Curse*

      The grandaddy of all great cover versions is Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails. It’s a simple but great video, too.

      A recent semi-cover version that I really enjoyed was Olivia Rodrigo’s version of “Fuck You” by Lily Allen (guest starring Lily Allen) at Glastonbury last year. It was right after the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe vs Wade and it’s very cathartic because Olivia Rodrigo stalks around the stage looking furious, naming the individual justices and flipping them off, to the approval of the crowd. Naturally, the BBC didn’t show it on the TV broadcast because of the swearing, but the whole thing is on YouTube.

      And if you want something lighter after all that – the Mike Flowers Pops version of “Wonderwall” by Oasis is very different and kind of fun.

    24. David*

      Ooh this immediately came to mind when I read the question: a Norweigan electro-pop group named KEiiNO did an absolutely fantastic cover of Lady Gaga’s “Shallow”. It’s clearly recognizable as the same song but has an entirely different style, a pop song with a strong beat incorporating joik (traditional chanting of the Sámi people of northern Scandinavia), and they did a marvelous job of blending the different elements together. It’s not only my favorite re-imagination of an original song, but one of my favorite tracks in my entire music library, period.

    25. Lexi Vipond*

      The folk band Fara’s version of ‘The Games People Play’. (One of them heard it sung in a pub session and went back to the band saying ‘I’ve heard this great folk song we should do!’, and the rest of them are going ‘umm…’)

      If anyone else likes that kind of thing (although that particular song wasn’t included), Radio Scotland did a programme of folk covers of pop songs recently which is about to come back round as a repeat https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001mltc

    26. Angstrom*

      Dale Ann Bradley singing Ripple.

      Another Kennedy Center performance: Bettye LaVette singing Love Reign O’er Me

    27. Wendles*

      My Dad walked me up the aisle to Muse’s cover of Feeling Good, and it was *perfect*. 18 years later my tummy still does a little flip-flop whenever I hear it.

    28. AlliterativeApple*

      Whilst I’m a big fan of the Zutons and personally I’ll always prefer their original version of Valerie, Amy Winehouse’s cover is iconic and elevates the song to another level.

    29. slashgirl*

      Favourite covers:
      Run runaway by Great Big Sea, as well as their cover of It’s the end of the world (by REM) because they sing it so fast, that now, when I listen to REM’s version it sounds very draggy.

      Seven Bridges Road by the Eagles-love their vocal harmonies on this. I also love Home Free’s cover of the Eagles’ arrangement of Seven Bridges Road. Home Free is a acapella group that does a lot of covers and does them well; mostly country, some pop).

      Johnny, it’s cold outside cover of Baby it’s cold outside, by John Schneider and Tom Wopat (Yes, Bo & Luke Duke). It’s a fun cover. They have an entire xmas album and they can actually sing.

      Blue jeans by Barns Courtney–I actually heard it before Lana Del Rey’s version.
      Grandma got run over by a reindeer by the Irish Rovers.
      Jolene by the White Stripes
      Holding out for a hero–Frou Frou (Imogen Heap)
      Fame by Duran Duran (done early in their career)
      Foo Fighters album of covers of Bee Gee songs–titled, “Dee Gees: Hail Satin”; they do a good job.
      Hurt by Johnny Cash

    30. Lore*

      Travis doing “Hit Me Baby One More Time” will make you totally rethink that song. I also love the Wedding Present’s “Pleasant Valley Sunday” but that’s more the friend it reminds me of than the song itself.

    31. I'm Done*

      Falling by Harry Styles covered by Jeon Jungkook (BTS). I actually think it’s better than the original.

    32. Irish Teacher*

      Nobody is going to have the faintest clue what I am talking about, but Na Fianna do a brilliant cover of “The Band Played Walzing Matilda”. They change one word at the end of the song and give it an additional meaning. Instead of “and the old men still answer the call” talking about men marching in parades to commemorate the war, they sing “and the young men still answer the call” as a reminder that wars are still happening and soldiers still dying and being severely injured.

    33. The Prettiest Curse*

      My all-time favourite live cover version is Aretha Franklin performing “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman” at the Kennedy Center ceremony for Carole King. I watch it at least a couple of times a year, because it’s such an incredible version of the song and Carole King’s reaction is just everything.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Oh, that performance was amazing. Aretha just tossing that mink coat to the ground and taking over the world.

    34. fposte*

      I love covers. I really enjoy the French group Nouvelle Vague, which does great covers of new wave stuff, hence the name.

    35. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Aretha Franklin’s version of “Rolling in the Deep” which she combines with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” So good.

    36. Atheist Nun*

      If you like Greg Dulli’s voice–and who doesn’t–you might enjoy his cover of “Modern Love” as well as the Afghan Whigs’ cover of “Lost in the Supermarket.” I adore the Clash, but I think I might love that cover version even more than the original.

      Annie Lennox’s version of “Downtown Lights” is also pretty magical.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I adore Annie Lennox’s version of God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen. It’s very Celtic-tinged and the video looks like a Victorian Christmas card with lots of pagan elements, but she sings all the verses with tons of references to Mary and the baby Jesus, not just the first and last ones.

        1. saf*

          Her Christmas album is my husband’s favorite Christmas album. And we have a LOT of Christmas music.

    37. Miss Cranky Pants*

      Great thread idea! My faves:
      Love Rollercoaster by the Ohio Players done by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. From what I understand it’s only available on the Beavis and Butthead album and they don’t do it live. A bummer.
      Dancing in the Streets by Martha and the Vandellas, covered by Van Halen. Killer danceable guitar riff and Eddie going bananapants, of course, with his solo.

      Covers I’d like to hear:
      The Orange Blossom Special from way back when performed by Aerosmith and blending into Train Kept A Rollin’
      Devil in a Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly by Mitch Ryder performed by any band that can funk it up and make it even more danceable. Not sure who that would be now…

      1. noncommittal pseudonym*

        Yes, I bought the soundtrack to the Beavis and Butthead movie, only for the RHCP cover.

    38. PhyllisB*

      I liked Elton John’s cover of Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. Of course no one beats the Beatles…I also liked Pearl Jam’s version of Where oh Where Can my Baby Be? I’m not sure if that’s the correct title, but it’s a cover of a song that was popular in the 60s.

    39. Elizabeth*

      Home Free’s covers of “Try Everything” from Zootopia and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from Trolls

      Dolly Parton’s new releases. “Let it be”, featuring Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Peter Frampton & Mick Fleetwood. “We are the Champions”. Both from her new album Rockstar.

      Pentatonix covers of “I just called to say I love you” & “Creep”.

    40. RussianInTexas*

      Nothing Compares to You by Chris Cornell
      Jolene by (imagine that) Miley Syrus. Heart of Glass, also by Miley Syrus.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          That’s a great version! For a totally contrasting cover version of that song, listen to the one by Allison Moorer, which is from an album of cover versions that she did. Her sister Shelby Lynne did a whole album of Dusty Springfield covers, which is also well worth a listen.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Kate Hudson also does a great version of Nothing Compares–she’s got a terrific voice.

    41. Mitchell Hundred*

      Well, my favourite cover is Stan Rogers’ version of Archie Fisher’s song “The Witch of the Westmoreland”, but I think that’s better known than the original.

      So I guess the one that comes to mind is the cover of the The Smiths song “This Charming Man” by the band Stars. I’m not a fan of The Smiths, but I love Stars.

    42. Chaordic One*

      Well, I do have to mention the cover version of “Silent Night,” by the Sex Pistols. I really like to see people mix things up and just audacity of how they performed that song and contrast between how it is usually performed and how they did it was really something.

    43. Rose is a rose is a rose*

      I recently heard an Inuktitut cover of Blondie’s Heart of Glass by Elisapie that I really enjoyed.

      The Cowboy Junkies do an amazing version of Sweet Jane.

      Lucinda Williams covering It’s A Long Way To The Top is soooo goood!

    44. noncommittal pseudonym*

      Has anyone mentioned The Breeders’ cover of Happiness is a Warm Gun or Souxie’s cover of Dear Prudence yet?

    45. My name*

      Ryan Adams did an amazing cover of Wonderwall by Oasis. (Adams turns out to be a not-great guy, but that song is A+.)

    46. Mimmy*

      Disturbed’s cover of The Sound of Silence is probably my favorite cover song. Simon & Garfunkel’s version is good, but Disturbed brought the song to a whole new level. The music video is really haunting.

    47. Can't Sit Still*

      Mary Chapin Carpenter’s acoustic version of Dancing in the Dark. It’s beautiful and bleak and amazing. The first time I heard it in concert, the audience didn’t figure out the song until the first chorus.

    48. Kiki Is The Most*

      I’m on Fire by the Chromatics

      Lay Lady Lay by Ministry

      Sweet Child O’Mine by Scary Pockets

      Paper Planes by Street Sweeper Social Club

      Purple Rain by Martin Sexton

    49. Person from the Resume*

      There was a teen/tween girls rock bank called Care Bears on Fire who covered Tears for Fears everybody wants to rule the world. It’s a much faster beat and I prefer it, followed by Weezers cover, and then Tears for Fears original.

      Also Ice 9 Kills covered Adele’s Someone Like You. It’s faster, rockier, and there’s some angry screaming (when appropriate for the lyrics). I like it’s lots better.

    50. YesImTheAskewPolice*

      What a great thread! Some good ones that haven’t been mentioned yet (I think):

      Ninet Tayeb – Hallelujah
      Cat Power – Wonderwall
      Graeme James – Hey Ya
      Death in Rome – What is Love
      Elysium – Schrei nach Liebe

    51. Lbd*

      I enjoy:
      The Proclaimers cover of King of the Road.
      Franco Battiato – Ruby Tuesday
      Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole – Somewhere Over the Rainbow
      Disturbed – Sound of Silence
      Sarah McLachlan – Blackbird
      Walk Off the Earth – Little Boxes
      The Lounge Kittens – Poison
      The Dead South – You Are my Sunshine
      Rhiannon Giddens – Wafaring Stranger

    52. Samwise*

      Brothers and Sisters feat. Gloria Jones, I Shall Be Released (Bob Dylan)

      Bonnie Raitt, Angel from Montgomery (John Prine)

      The Be Good Tanyas, Waiting Around to Die (Townes Van Zandt)

  11. Jackalope*

    Podcast thoughts? I’ve never been a big podcast person, but then in early 2021 I started listening to Critical Roll, which for those who aren’t familiar is a group of friends playing D&D together. There was a LOT of back content, but I’m approaching the end of it and will soon be all caught up, and I’m thinking about what else I can listen to as background. I need something that I can follow while drifting in and out of attention, and I’d prefer not something full of facts since that’s hard to focus on if I’m doing other stuff. Any recs?

    The things I enjoy about it are the high entertainment value, the way they make it engaging, and the warm camaraderie between the players. I don’t want anything that involves trashing others, since I find that stressful. I also like the fantasy aspect of it, although I’m happy to try other nonfantasy options. And for those of you who are familiar with this particular subgenre of podcasts, I’m already familiar with Brennan Lee Mulligan (tends to go too fast and it’s hard to follow when I’m using it for background, unlike Matt who throws in a lot of gorgeous but unnecessary detail and talks more slowly) and The Adventure Zone (less my thing because they don’t take their world very seriously).

    1. anon24*

      Would you consider a YouTube video that you could put on and play in the background? If you like DnD, Viva la Dirt league has an amazing DnD campaign called NPC DnD on their VLDL DnD YouTube channel. The beginning episodes are a little awkward and cheesy as the guys learn how to play DnD and get into their roles, but they have a professional DM who is just spectacular and it’s a joy to watch. The campaign is based off of their YouTube series Epic NPC man, which is a series of skits that take place in an imaginary video game and pokes loving fun at video game mechanics, and the DnD characters are the same from the series, played by the actors. I highly recommend it. There’s occasionally some immature humor, but they’re generally very kind people who are respectful and get along very well.

    2. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      I like D&D Minus. They are friends (three of the players record other podcasts together) and it’s a bit goofy (one of the characters has a tattoo on his ass that will manifest wolves in combat).

    3. Teapot Translator*

      In the “good as a background”, maybe The Unbelievable Truth? Four panelists give a presentation about a subject full of lies and try to hide four truths. They’re all comedians.

    4. Squidhead*

      Spouse likes Critical Role and while I find it annoying I do appreciate the camaraderie and some of the humor. Spouse also likes Adam Savage’s podcasts (so maybe you will too?). When I overhear them he’s engaging, funny, talks about his workshop and time on MythBusters a lot. He tells wacky, tangential stories so if that works for you you might like him.

      1. beep beep*

        Seconding this. Adam Savage’s Tested YouTube channel does livestreams on occasion where he answers viewer questions (unsure if this is what the podcast is?), and he does have that calmer vibe similar to when Matt is narrating, I think. There’s also a nice back catalogue of them available.

    5. MissCoco*

      Not D&D, but a favorite of mine that gradually involves more and more internal world building is The Babysitters Club Club: a babysitters club recap (book series about early teen babysitters) podcast that pretty quickly veers into wild and humorous theories. The friendship dynamic definitely involves a lot of ribbing, but they are clearly good friends, and the books have fairly formulaic plots, so aside from the “specials” there is rarely any big surprise.

      1. office hobbit*

        Thanks for this rec! I listened to four episodes today, it keeps making me laugh out loud

      2. funkytown*

        I’m way late to this thread but this sounds amazing and I can’t find it anywhere! (the links I’m turning up are going to what I believe is the podcaster’s current show, Strange Bedfellows. If anyone can lmk where to find the babysitters club club I would be so grateful if anyone checks this late in the weekend :)

    6. HCTZ*

      “Not another D&d Podcast.”

      I’ve never listened but one of the hosts is the host of one of my other very favorite (now over, boo) podcast called If I Were You. He often mentions it, they go on tour so seems to be doing well. they’re all comedians and friends, I prefer podcast hosted by friends.

    7. Lady Alys*

      “The Incomparable” features a rotating cast of people who all seem to be friends, talking about books or movies that are usually SF or adjacent. They are pretty funny and I don’t ever recall hearing anyone be unkind, even if they don’t like the thing being discussed.

    8. ecnaseener*

      About The Adventure Zone, they do gradually start taking their world and story more seriously until before you know it they’re making you cry. I started listening to it for something to just have on in the background and only half pay attention to, and it was great for that at first, but around 20-30 episodes in I started getting taken in by the story.

    9. Still*

      Another DnD podcast I’ve enjoyed is The Venture Maidens. Four women who have been playing together since high school start a new adventure in a home-brew world. Very well-done, entertaining, and it feels like hanging out with friends.

    10. Dinwar*

      “The Lubber’s Hole” is a podcast started by two guys (one Brit, one Yankee) about Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series. As I understand it, they started it during the pandemic because they had a lot of free time and reading through more than a dozen books is a good way to kill it. The books are fantastic if you like historical fiction, but these two gentlemen add a tremendous amount of depth to the novels.

    11. MissElizaTudor*

      I find Hey Riddle Riddle is great as background! It’s a show with three Chicago comedians where they do riddles and then do improv skits based on/inspired by those riddles. It’s good for drifting in and out since everything is relatively short (the riddles and the skits) and if you miss something from one part, it’s not like that will make it hard for you to understand what’s happening when you tune back in.

      It’s extremely funny, as in I laugh out loud frequently and even when I’m re-listening to episodes, which I do a lot.

    12. Jay*

      For roll playing games, I enjoy Adeptus Ridiculous, a funny Warhammer focused program (or as funny as Warhammer can get, anyway). It’s NSFW (because, well, Warhammer) and can get a bit gruesome (again, because Warhammer), but it’s actually gotten a few out-loud chuckles from me, which is rare, especially from a Warhammer lore podcast.
      It’s not a roll playing thing, but the Beef And Dairy Podcast is delightful. It is a hilariously dead-pan British comedy series that I can best describe as “Monty Pythons Flying Farm Report”. It centers around a fictional industry news style podcast for the beef and dairy industry and the cast of utterly deranged characters (all played absolutely strait, mind you) that populate it.

    13. Owler*

      If you want another take on D&D, I’ve really enjoyed the Housewives of D&D. It’s by a bunch of friends (all the actors are women) who are all from the world of improv (and acting), and some of them are new to D&D. It’s a funny mashup of reality TV in a fantasy world. Not for everyone, but worth a look. And only 10 episodes for now.

    14. Jackalope*

      Thank you for all of your replies! I’m going to keep checking in, but you’ve given me some great ideas so far.

    15. Jopunzi*

      DragonFriends is a great D&D podcast by Australian comedians plus musical accompaniment. They just did a miniseries featuring Paranoia RPG whcih might be a good entry point.

  12. Typing All The Time*

    Without giving the details, I got an email from my doctor saying that I need to schedule a major test today. I read it after her office was closed until Monday morning. I’ve been trying to stay calm but I’m very nervous. What do you recommend to do to relax?

    1. anon24*

      I’m sorry, I understand why you are nervous! If it helps any, I think if it were that urgent they would have called you or told you to go to the ER. If you are able, I would take it easy this weekend and focus on whatever you like to do for self care, whether that be going for a hike, reading a book, drinking your favorite nonalcoholic beverage, watching a movie, or whatever makes you feel happy and safe! Wishing you the best!

        1. anon24*

          I dont know if this makes it better or worse (I hope not worse), but I’m an EMT and I see people with medical problems all the time, I take continuing education yearly to keep my certifications current, I’m no nurse or doctor but I try to learn all I can, and I still get panicky when it’s *me*, even if I rationally know that even the worst case result is something that can be dealt with, so I totally get why you’re scared.

          If it makes you feel better, I’d follow AnonRN’s advice about researching the issue, just do make sure you don’t fall down the rabbit hole of worst case scenario (remember, Dr. Google sort of has to tell you that you can die, as an EMT I always tell people that I’m legally obligated to tell them they could die even if all they did was stub their toe but that if I truly thought they were dying I’d be moving a lot quicker). Sometimes having knowledge and being prepared helps plan for different “what-ifs” and calms my anxiety, but I have to be careful not to spend too much time dwelling on it and spiraling.

    2. AnonRN*

      Well, she emailed you (not super-urgent) and she didn’t say “proceed to the ER and do not leave without this test,” right? So getting the test is important but not emergent? Are you nervous about doing the test? (I had my first age-related colonoscopy this year but with no symptoms I wasn’t really worried they’d find something. I was worried about the prep and test process. It went fine.) Or are you worried about the implications/results of the test? Differentiating between the two might help you rationalize away some worries. Apart from that, read trusted sources (Mayo clinic etc) for info about the test/implications but try to avoid rabbit-holing into “every weird complication anyone has ever had” or “these subtle signs mean you definitely have an incurable rare disease.”

      I hope the time passes quickly for you! I plan to spend tomorrow going to the gym, gardening, family-phone-call catch-up and refreshing AAM.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes, an outright emergency gets a call not an email. Hormonal stuff can be a pain but it’s not uncommon. Fingers crossed for you. Hang with at friend this weekend.

        1. Ally*

          Yes, I was going to say this. Hold fire on the panicking till you have something more. Hope you are getting through the weekend ok!

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I’m you in that I’m needing to schedule one of those and it’s taking FOREVER due to my provider referring me to a much less convenient location because it was supposed to be faster and me never hearing from them and trying to move it back and…

        But they certainly weren’t going “GET THIS DONE NOW,” just, “test results show you need this so let’s get it booked.” It’s more annoying than scary (so far.)

      3. Mimmy*

        While I agree with you, WellRed and the others to put it in perspective that it’s not a true emergency and to try to distract themselves, I can see where the OP is coming from.

        If I saw an email that said I “need to schedule a major test today“, I’d feel panicky. I’ll admit that I take things literally sometimes, but I also think that verbiage does matter. If I wanted a patient to get an important test but it wasn’t emergent, I would said to schedule it “as soon as possible”, not “today”, especially when that email is sent on a Friday afternoon.

        Good luck OP, I do hope you can find ways to stay relaxed until you can call the office on Monday.

    3. EA*

      In your position I would try to make plans with other people! I’m less likely to get in my head if I’m socializing. If I have to be alone, I would put on some mindless TV or a movie and also play games on my phone. Sounds silly, but Jane the Virgin plus Suguru got me through a tough time a few year ago.

    4. Still*

      I would, in that order:
      a) journal to get all my worries out on paper,
      b) call a friend to freak out together and get some support,
      c) make plans to distract myself (go climbing, go to the cinema, whatever works),
      d) put on a podcast (so I don’t have to think) and get stuff done – clean, take care of the plants, return library books, get the groceries; just keep both my hands and mind busy. And if it doesn’t work, at least that’s a few things off my to-do list.

      I hope your test results turn out okay!

    5. aubrey*

      When I’m waiting for something like this (had my share of scary tests, I totally get it) I don’t TRY to be calm – that just makes me think about it more with the bonus of being annoyed that I can’t make myself relax properly. Instead I busy myself with other things. For me it’s video games, since I’m completely engaged with them more so than other hobbies. For other people it might be getting together with friends or doing a sport, anything that takes your mind off of it onto something totally unrelated and doesn’t leave you space to overthink. I hope all goes well!

    6. Jay*

      Did the email definitely come from your Dr.?
      A few months back, I needed to get a couple of tests done and I got a couple of scary sounding emails that looked like they came from my Dr. on first glance, except that they came at a really odd hour when I would not be able to contact them. Then they instructed me to book very expensive (for me, anyway) tests at a clinic that, when I looked it up, sounded very sketchy.
      Turns out it was NOT from my Dr. It was a scam to get me into a shady clinic for bogus tests. I don’t know where along the line from doctor to nurse to admin to hospital to me that my information got out, but it did, at least enough for someone to put together a half-way decent fishing email.
      I would suggest contacting your doctor before making an appointment if this came completely out of no-where, especially if it came at a time where they would have been unavailable. Check into the place they are sending you, especially if it is not your usual hospital and/or trusted clinic.

  13. nnn*

    Recommendations for audiobooks that are first and foremost soothing, meaning the story is soothing and the narration itself is soothing? I discovered I can use them to help me relax and fall asleep at night. The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches fell in this category for me. Any recs you like for this purpose?

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      The story itself is bleak, but “Year of Wonders” by Geraldine Brooks had an excellent narrator which I just looked up and realized is the author, lol. So if any of her books fit your content criteria she’d be a good one to check out :) I also like Bahni Turpin’s voice and she’s done a ton of audiobooks.

    2. vulturestalker*

      I liked Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith, as well as I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (I think it’s a coincidence that both surnames are Smith!)

    3. Pennyworth*

      I like the Jane Austen books read by Karen Savage on Librivox (you can search by reader, some books have been recorded by more than one reader). Librivox has heaps of out-of-copyright books, free recordings.
      On YouTube there are the complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Stories by Magpie Audio which I have used to go to sleep.

    4. Pam Adams*

      the Brother Cadfael mysteries written by Ellis Peters. They have had several narrators, but are always soothing.

      1. Holmesfan*

        This might not be to everyone’s taste, but I got the entire Sherlock Holmes collection on Audible (read by Stephen Fry), and it’s my go-to audio book to fall asleep to. I have read the Sherlock Holmes stories so much though, I can start the book at any point and know where I am, so it’s a massive comfort blanket listen. The other one I just is Jane Eyre read by Thandiwe Newton, who is excellent at all the voices!

    5. londonedit*

      Nothing Much Happens is an amazing podcast that describes itself as ‘bedtime stories for grown-ups’. It’s stories written and read by a woman called Kathryn Nicolai, all based around the fictional town of Nothing Much and its residents. Lovely soothing stories – she reads them twice, slower the second time, but I’m usually asleep before the end of the first read-through!

    6. Chilling*

      I loved the Dutch House by Ann Patchett but narrated by Tom Hanks. His voice is so easy to listen to and the story was great!

    7. Kat*

      I love the Accidental Alchemist series by Gigi Pandian for this – soothing voice, cozy mystery with fantasy element, lots of lovely descriptions of healthy food. I haven’t been a huge fan of the last 2 books in the series, but love the first.

    8. BreakingDishes*

      I do this too – listen to something while I fall asleep. I will sometimes listen to a movie I’m really familiar with instead of a book.

    9. M. from P.*

      This might be a weird suggestion but the audiobook I loved falling asleep to was The Life-changing Magic of Tidying-up *narrated by Emily Woo Zeller* (there’s another narration available but I specifically recommend this one.
      The book is surprisingly common sense and I did use the advice during the daytime but it was even better at getting me to relax in a “everything will be fine” sort of way.

    10. I take tea*

      James Herriot’s books read by Christopher Timothy on Audible are really lovely. The stories are mostly feelgood, and sometimes fun. I recommend reading them in order.
      (If you are not familiar with James Herriot, they are books about a veterinarian in Yorkshire on the 1930’s onwards.)

      The Sherlock read by Stephen Fry gets another vote from me, but the stories are a bit more dramatic.

    11. ronda*

      I liked the sharing knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold and listened to it for sleeping for a long while.
      I did listen to the story 1st, so while trying to sleep I was not thinking I was going to miss something.

      the narrator is listed on the internet as Bernadette Dunne. but I remember part being narrated by a man and part by a woman ( unless I am misremembering)
      I recommend listening to a sample of Bernadette Dunne narrating and see if you like her voice. I found her very soothing. some reviewers do seem to have some negative opinions on some of the plot point as it is a romance in a fantasy world and the author doesn’t usually write a romance so many of her fans had problems with it.

    12. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I love all of Elizabeth Gilbert’s books that she narrates herself, and all of the Outlander series – the story gets violent at times but overall the feel is of extreme competence and companionship and that everything will be okay. I listen to both when I need a comforting female voice in my head, paying close attention to the story or not.

      Also if you liked the Irregular Witches, you may also like House in the Cerulean Sea. Same cozy fantasy feel, same low-stakes tension.

  14. vulturestalker*

    Does anyone have recommendations for getting mildew/mold out of the grout between shower tiles? And even better: for preventing it from growing in the first place?

    I have a stiff-bristled brush with a handle that I have been using periodically. But my shower is really large and entirely tiled, and scrubbing out all of the individual grout cracks takes, literally, hours. I also haven’t found a good cleaning product to pair with the brush that really takes care of the mold. And it’s so dispiriting to have it get gross again so soon after I’ve invested an afternoon in cleaning it…

    I don’t take particularly long showers, I live in a dry climate (Southern CA), and I turn the fan on in the bathroom every time I shower. So I don’t think I’m doing anything unusually mold-inducing? But maybe there’s something I’m forgetting about that would make this less of a problem. Unfortunately I rent and am on a pretty limited student budget, so I can’t redo the shower or do any other drastic overhauls.

    1. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      Do you wipe down the shower with a towel or squeegee after each show? That helps with mold & hard water stains where I live.

      1. vulturestalker*

        This sounds like a good idea, but realistically I don’t think I’ll be able to develop that habit… it’s a lot of wall space! Besides there’s a fair bit of texture, so I don’t know that a squeegee would work. I’m glad it helps you, though. We definitely have hard water here.

        1. talos*

          I used to squeegee the tile wall of my shower. It doesn’t get into the cracks, but you can dry off the tiles themselves, and the cracks dry out faster when there’s less total water on the wall.

      2. Glomarization, Esq.*

        Second this recc. I squeegee and then follow up with a towel. Mold, mildew, bacteria, viruses, etc., can’t grow where there’s no water. Obviously I can’t get into every little corner and edge, but I do try to remove as much as possible before letting the last of it evaporate on its own. Adds maybe a minute to my shower routine.

        Using a vinegar-based or citric acid-based cleaner weekly helps keep hard water deposits under control. And while I hate bleach, it has its place in keeping the bathroom sanitized.

        1. sagewhiz*

          Ditto and Double Ditto! Bunch of us saved our showers/tubs thanks to a commenter telling us about Kaboom last year. But…it’s now called OxyClean Spray.

        2. Managerista*

          Get the Kaboom Mold and Mildew with Bleach. They have a version without bleach that isn’t as effective.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      The only thing I’ve found that takes care of mold is straight up bleach. Anything else does a half-hearted job at best and it’s back in a week. The problem is, of course, having to inhale bleach fumes, blech.

      1. vulturestalker*

        I was afraid this would be the answer, ugh… but yeah, I should give it a try. Fan on, door open, maybe a mask?

    3. Madame Arcati*

      This is my mum’s tip and it works for me every time:
      Get an old spray bottle and put in it some normal household bleach and about the same amount of water.
      Before you go to bed, spray this over the tiles. Open the window if you have one and shut the inner door.
      When you have your shower first thing in the morning (greeted by the delicate scent of swimming pool!), rinse the tiles down but a lot of the ick will have disappeared a year.

      Cheap, easy and ime effective.

    4. Glazed Donut*

      Bleach + powered Tide + hot water to scrub.
      And for the fan – where I live, the fan needs to run for about 10 minutes after the shower, not just during the shower, to help clear the humidity from the room.

    5. wkfauna*

      A portable steamer! I have the Bissell Steamshot Deluxe and I’m currently scrubbing my shower with it because this post reminded me of that chore, haha. It gets all the gunk good and out without fumes. It comes with a bunch of attachments that you can use to get into little crevices. The grout attachment is particularly useful. I also like it for cleaning tricky areas like window tracks.

    6. Just any old name*

      When our shower got grungy, I found that a mix of equal parts Dawn dishwashing soap and white distilled vinegar works really well. (Be careful if you have natural stone, as vinegar can etch it.) I also sometimes sprayed the grout with diluted peroxide and let it sit overnight. (Our grout isn’t white, so I don’t like to use bleach.)

      But the best tip is to keep at it relentlessly until it’s really clean (try something else every day for a week if you have to) and then *seal* it. We had ours resealed 6 months ago and I barely wipe it with a spritz of the gentlest cleaner once a week and it’s perfect.

    7. Hazel*

      Clorox or Lysol bathroom mold and mildew cleaner spray. They have bleach and a surfectant, sounds like Oxy/Kaboom is similar. There is a also a product called Concrobium which kills mold and leaves a residue that inhibits regrowth – I think it weakens the cell walls or something. No bleach and might be a netter longterm solution. Probably a hardware store rather than supermarket item.

    8. Notthemomma*

      Just popping in to +++ the Kaboom! And on the fan – run it for at least 30 minutes after a shower, there is a lot more humidity than we think. There are some fans that will turn on/off based on humidity levels.

    9. Jo*

      For the horizontal crevices, like where the tile wall meets the edge of the bathtub or shower pan, apply some sort of cream or gel cleaner with bleach and then cover with damp paper towels scrunched into strips or an old towel cut into strips (reusable) and dampened. Leave for several hours. I typically use Softscrub with Bleach.

    10. Silence*

      A spray bottle with white vinegar and spray the walls after each shower. No need to scrub or wipe but it prevents mold

  15. Slovenia travel logistics*

    Hi friends! I’m in the US with a family member living in Slovenia. (We’re not from there and I’ve never been there.) Some medical things might mean that I would need to travel urgently to Slovenia. I do have a US passport but I don’t know very much about the logistics of traveling to EU countries. I haven’t traveled to Europe since, um, 2000.

    Could I hypothetically buy a plane ticket and just go there on short notice? On the ground is it at all reasonable to think that I, a non-Slovene-speaking solo-traveler could rent a car and drive to the relative’s home?

    What’s the best way to get a phone while there? I would need to be able to use GPS, WhatsApp, and email/internet, at least. (I’m an Android user in the US. Do I get a new SIM card? I definitely don’t want to lose all the stuff on my current phone. Do I just buy a burner phone when I land?).

    What about money? I use US banks and credit cards and whe I last traveled I could just use any ATM to withdraw local cash. My bank charged a small fee but it was super convenient to get cash this way. Is that still an option? I probably would need to let my bank and card companies know I’m traveling so they don’t turn off my card, right?

    I (female) usually wear blue jeans and t-shirts or zip-up jackets. I know I will look like a foreigner (that’s fine) but is this too sloppy a look for important family situations? (Like if I needed to meet with the family member’s doctor I don’t want to look like a complete slob. I don’t think I do in the US but jeans don’t always translate well!)

    I just learned of this situation so I will of course do some research of my own, but I appreciate anyone’s insights who does this type of travel regularly!

    1. Sister George Michael*

      On Rick Steves’ website, you’ll get answers to a lot of your practical questions. You can also post questions for other more experienced travelers.

    2. Study abroad*

      I’ve never been to Slovenia but here is what I did when I studied in Austria in 2018.
      – download offline maps on google maps for directions
      – get cash on credit card (small transaction fee)
      – turn on Wifi calling/keep phone on airplane mode

    3. Cobalt*

      We just traveled to Croatia and Bosnia, should be similar to Slovenia.
      You do not need a visa as a US citizen going to the EU unless you are staying more than 90 days. You should be able to just buy a ticket and go.

      Language – nearly everyone we interacted with in the tourist realm spoke perfect English. It may be a bit less common off the beaten path in small towns, so will depend where you’re going. Ljublijana will have plenty of English speakers. Learning some basic greetings is appreciated.

      Money- yes getting cash from an ATM is easiest. Always decline DCC (dynamic currency conversion) if asked – it will be an unfavorable exchange rate. Yes I would inform banks and credit card companies. I would see if any of your cards do not charge foreign transaction fees and use that as primary.
      Jeans should be fine for everything except a funeral. I’d bring a nice sweater rather than a hoodie.

    4. Eli*

      You’ll need a visa to enter the EU so you’ll need to factor in how long that will take before booking your flight. Yes, get a SIM card in Slovenia; yes, you can use ATM’s to get cash out; yes, let your bank know you’ll be abroad for an extended period so they don’t think your card has been stolen and deactivate it; it will be fine to meet doctors in jeans; renting a car shouldn’t be a problem, book it over the internet from a big company when you book the flights (roads in Slovenia are in good condition but public transport isn’t very reliable, at least outside Ljubljana). Source: I live in neighbouring Austria and sometimes travel to Slovenia.
      I hope all goes well for your relative.

      1. Derivative Poster*

        There may be exceptions, but Americans generally do not need visas for short visits to EU countries. Also, I have TMobile and have just bought an international pass for European travel, no SIM card required.

      2. Glomarization, Esq.*

        This is not correct. Starting sometime in 2024, Americans will need pre-travel authorization to enter the E.U., just as Europeans currently need to enter the U.S. But right now, there is no visa requirement for an American to enter the E.U. as a tourist for under 90 days over a 180-day period.

        The forthcoming regime is called ETIAS and there will be a 6-month grace period for people who didn’t get the memo before showing up at the airport.

    5. AcademiaNut*

      For the phone, check out international roaming for your current phone plan. I don’t have international roaming, so I buy a SIM card with a data plan – they typically come in 1 week to 1 month duration. If your phone supports eSim, you can buy online and not even need a physical SIM card. I’ve noticed that if you want a SIM card with a phone number, you’ll need to register it to your name (I think this is some sort of crime prevention thing), but data only plans are plug and play. You can buy international travel SIMs on Amazon – I used an Orange brand one for recent trips, both the Europe and World wide ones, with good success.

      The EU is moving to an ESTAS like system in 2024 (which means you need to apply/pay for entry permission before leaving), but as of now I think Americans can just show up and have their passports stamped. Double check on the US government site.

      Local ATMs are a good option, your credit card will work, but I always buy some cash before leaving as a backup. I don’t know how Slovenia is regarding cash vs credit card vs pay with phone app – there’s a lot of variation over Europe.

      Get the google translate app, and pre-download the local language pack (Slovenian?). That will let you use the image translation, plus some offline translation functions. Google translate is amazing for travelling! Pre-download maps for the areas you’ll be in – I only recently learned that GPS works without a data plan, and if you pre-download the maps you can use them even if you’re offline.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Oh, and car wise, I think you may need an international driving permit to drive/rent in Slovenia. They’re not hard to get if you have a US license, but you’d have to get it in the US before leaving.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I got one when I went to Europe several years ago – I didn’t plan on driving but just in case – and it was quick and inexpensive to get at my local AAA office. I think they might have even handed it to me on the spot?

      2. New Mom*

        beware that, with no data, GPS might work, but you have no traffic information and can’t do walking directions on Google Maps

    6. Lemonwhirl*

      A lot of Slovenians speak English, and especially ones who work in places like car rental agencies and the tourist offices. Learn how to ask in Slovenian “Do you speak English?” (Also learn the basics – hello, goodbye, excuse me.) We found that in more remote places, sometimes asking “Do you speak English?” would result in the person finding someone else, who spoke German. My brother and I both took German in high school, so we were able to bumble through these interactions. Google translate probably makes these sorts of interactions even easier now.

      For the phone, contact your cell provider and find out about getting the best roaming package for during your trip but them mostly use wifi. There’s no need to buy and swap out SIM cards. As others have said, download all the maps and the language pack.

      For the rental car, you might be tempted to use a small off-brand rental car agency. I would advise against it. We used a small rental car place in Llubjana and had issues getting the security deposit back. The guy insisted we had damaged the car, when we had not. It was not a brand new car, and it had minor scratches, etc when we took possession of it. (Were I to rent any car again, I would take detailed photos of any damage and put it on the record before leaving with it.) Also not saying this problem is specific to Slovenia, it’s just where we happened to experience it, and given how expensive rental cars are now, it’s probably even easier for these places to get business.

    7. Roland*

      Just want to note that if you have a modern phone set up in a relatively standard way, you won’t lose anything by using a different SIM. Even if you DID have some contacts or something saved on your sim – well you’d see that and just pop it back it to copy them to your google account contents. Also, a convenient thing is that even with a new SIM, your whatsapp should still work. I didn’t need to give anyone my temp sim number when traveling in Europe, Signal and WhatsApp still delivered all my messages just fine.

    8. RussianInTexas*

      Depends on when you are going:
      “Beginning sometime in 2024, American travelers will need to complete an online application with ETIAS before traveling to Europe. The application will require a small fee and be approved within minutes for most travelers.”
      Do not skip this.

    9. Zephy*

      My husband and I traveled to Germany for ten days at the beginning of this year – I don’t have experience with Slovenia specifically, but I do have some points about phones and money.

      If your cell carrier is AT&T you may be able to get international data and calling for like $10 per day – just turn your phone on when you land and it should prompt you, but you can call AT&T in advance to get more information. There may be a limit to the number of days the offer is good for before the price changes. I’m sure other big carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile have similar deals, but AT&T is what I have and all I had to do was turn my phone on when we got to Germany, no new SIM or anything required. I had a Google Pixel 5 at the time.

      It’s not a bad idea to call your bank/credit card company and ask about international ATM fees and such, figure out if it’s better to withdraw cash with your debit card or get a cash advance with your credit card. Generally speaking credit is better for making purchases but the ATM fees are usually higher than withdrawing with a debit card. They may tell you you don’t need to notify them you’ll be traveling, just confirm it’s you when your phone dings to tell you someone’s using your card in Slovenia, but you might need to have biometrics enabled on your phone for that. We brought cash (ordered Euros from our bank in the US before leaving), but did have to make a couple of card purchases, and that was relatively painless.

    10. Anon for this*

      I have t mobile with international and it gives me free data and 25 cents per minute calling. It has been very useful.

      You do not at this time need a visa for the EU, that will change with ESTA as noted by others, but here’s another gotcha: some European countries require that your passport be valid for 30, 60, 90 days from date of travel. Please check!! and renew early if needed. We were nearly denied in on a Delta flight to Portugal as spouse’s passport expired 89 days later, if I recall correctly. It is honestly pure luck that spouse also has an EU passport and was able to travel on that, most people don’t have that recourse.

  16. Soon to be tourist*

    Host/hostess gift for Japan: I will be traveling to Japan soon and will be staying a few days with friends, who previously stayed with me for a few days in the U.S. Can anyone think of a good gift for me to bring them to thank them for hosting me? They gave me some lovely ceramic cups, and I can’t think of anything that is equally special and practical.

    1. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      Was there some place, event or meal they especially enjoyed during their visit to you? A beautifully wrapped souvenir that would remind them of that memory would be nice – it would show how you enjoyed their visit.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      Is there anything specific to where you live that could be safely brought to Japan? Regional/local gifts are always nice & meaningful.

    3. Snell*

      My initial urge (being accustomed to a cultural context that isn’t Japanese, but something adjacent) is fresh seasonal fruit, or a live plant (ornamental or culinary). Do you intend to pack the gift for travel, or are you okay buying it when you get to Japan? Both my suggestions might pose problems while crossing borders.

      1. Lulubelle*

        You can’t bring fruit or a plant. They will be confiscated at the airport. A fruit-sniffing dog will find you out. (I was once stopped by a cute fruit-sniffing beagle and her handler because my tote bag had previously contained an apple, which I had eaten on plane!)

        1. Snell*

          Which I already acknowledged in my comment, in which I also allowed for the possibility OP may pick something up after arrival.

    4. acmx*

      You could give something similar. Small decorative bowl, vase from a local artist, wind chime, food gifts.
      Just avoid giving four items because 4 is an unlucky number.

        1. PhyllisB*

          If you’re thinking alcohol, perhaps some fairly good champagne? (if you can pack it safely for travel.)
          I don’t know if this is still true, but in the 70’s when I was there champagne was ridiculously expensive in Japanese liquor stores, but it was a welcomed gift. (I was able to get it at the military store, so it was reasonably priced.
          And yes, I know that genuine champagne only comes from France, but there are plenty of champagne method sparkling wines that are delightful.

    5. EA*

      The first thing that came to mind was a nice picture frame. I also remembered that a friend once gave me some beautiful handmade wooden serving spoons that I still use today (and think of her!)

      Is your home known for any locally produced foods? Like maple syrup, honey?

    6. Not A Manager*

      If they drink alcohol and you’re checking a bag, bring some good bourbon. Japan tends to stock Jim Beam as its fancy American bourbon, so something artisanal is an unusual gift.

    7. AcademiaNut*

      Any sort of dessert or snack from your area, ideally nicely wrapped and in a gift bag. Avoid dairy/meat/fresh produce for customs. My go-to for visiting Japan is pineapple cakes (a local speciality in my area), but I’ve also taken a bottle of alcohol.

  17. Shandra*

    I’m looking into visiting Alaska next year to celebrate a landmark birthday. But not on a cruise ship; I’m not really a cruise person, and even less so with Covid still a factor.

    Has anyone done a land tour of The Last Frontier? I’m considering a 5-day itinerary offered by Alaska Tour & Travel (www.alaskatravel.com). That may seem a tight schedule, but the great outdoors isn’t one of my strengths. So I don’t want to get in over my head on a first trip.

    1. One Bag Travel*

      We really enjoyed their 8 day rail tour this summer. Their self driving tour is probably cheaper than the train. I could see spending 5 days and skip their unimpressive Fairbanks activities. You might be able to squeeze in highlights in 5 days but it’ll be whirlwind. Really enjoyed Seward Kenai Fjords boat trip. The drive or train between Anchorage & Seward is beautiful. Talkeetna is very cool & can have great views of Mt Denali. Denali National Park can only be explored by their bus tours. AlaskaTours books these for you.

    2. Cobalt*

      I did a portion of Alaska landbased in Fairbanks, Denali, and Anchorage. I personally think it would be a big miss to not get out on the water some. We took a small cruise boat (50 ppl or so), or I’m sure there are day trips. Seeing icebergs, glaciers, whales, seals and the stunning fjords is easily what I remember most from the trip. If the great outdoors isn’t your thing, honestly Alaska seems like a bit of a strange destination. If you just mean you don’t like hiking or adventure activities, you can see a taste of the scenery from lookouts, buses, and trains.

    3. fanciestcat*

      I’m not sure what you mean by the great outdoors not being a strength, but one thing to keep in mind is that they are not kidding when they call Alaska the last frontier. I’ve travelled all over the Southwest US, including across Nevada but I’ve never felt as remote as when I was in Alaska. And I took the train from Anchorage to Denali to Fairbanks which is about the most widely traveled route. So while Alaska was an amazing experience I’d definitely do again, and would recommend, if you’re the type of person who gets anxious when you realize you’re a 100 miles from anywhere, Alaska is going to be hard mode for that. On the other hand, if you’re just not a fan of hiking there are a lot of Alaska experiences to accommodate that. Most of the Denali experience is by bus.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Ooh, I’d love to do that train ride. I need to look that up! It’s hard to plan scenic train rides sometimes … something gets delayed and now you’re going through the prettiest parts in the night, or after 10 hours you are sick of being on the train before you get to the good stuff,.

    4. Amory Blaine*

      5 days is really short for Alaska… even small cities are way further apart than you expect! I would recommend renting a car and doing the highlights of the Kenai Peninsula— a couple nights in Seward (and definitely the Kenai Fjords tour!), a leisurely drive south with stops for photos and lunch, then a couple days in Homer for art galleries and amazing food.

  18. numptea*

    Garden thread?

    I finally have an anecdote that gets through to people regarding the seriousness of my black thumb: I planted mint in my yard and it’s dead. What desert hellscape do I live in, you ask? Zone 6. It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      Bonus points for unexpected but totally effective quotation of Taylor Swift lyrics!

      My zone is Apartment Living Room. In June I bought two pink geraniums. Note that almost all of the other plants are succulents (? Christmas cactus, Sanseveria, a couple of succulent-looking things with leaves from Trader Joe’s, an aloe) to survive my frequent neglect. And because the window faces west, in summer we keep the blinds half-closed. (Leaving the blinds more fully open would give the plants a lot more more light but would also heat up the living room something terrible.)

      So anyway, these poor little geraniums have had damp-ish soil for most of the summer and have produced hardly any blossoms. Sigh. Maybe they’ll flourish come winter when I can leave the blinds open for more hours.

    2. Enough*

      My sister and I planted the exact same seeds right next to each other when we were kids. Here came up pretty good. Mine were at 25% at best.

    3. Madame Arcati*

      Fwiw I thought my mint was on its last legs early this summer, it looked pretty manky, but it’s fine now. Are you sure yours is completely dead? If it might not be then consider digging up the best bit and putting it in a planter or even a bucket – mint rampages and if yours has a Lazarus moment in spring you’ll be overrun!

      1. numptea*

        It’s been about four years of it no-showing in spring, so it seems unlikely. I’m not sure if I’m impressed with myself or disgruntled.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I planted a half dozen Serrano pepper seeds I found this summer that were at least five years old, and despite all expectations I currently have a small (a foot tall at most) pepper plant with a three inch long growing pepper, several flowers and two more pepper buds! And the pepper should, per the seed packet, be purple as it ripens!

    5. Ellis Bell*

      I have killed mint. It’s not that big of a deal. Mint has its preferences and weaknesses just like other plants. I have one suffering wispily in one pot, one thriving to extremes and plotting world domination in another, but it’s certainly not unkillable. I begin to think no plant is, except possibly dandelions. I have spent so long trying to rid my garden of snowberry that I had started to consider it the Terminator of the plant world. Eradicating it has been so tough and the roots are forged like iron. I had completely forgotten it was one of the first plants I ever killed as a beginner, until I decided to keep a few of those I’d dug up, contained in pots for some winter interest. Within a day of being deprived of my garden’s acidic clay it was absolutely done for. I killed the Terminator with nothing more than ordinary potting compost.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      High five on managing to kill mint!

      I’m guessing your powers abruptly stop working when it’s poison ivy?

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I have killed mint, aloe, AIR PLANTS for the love of god, but boy howdy, will I grow you a fine crop of thistles and nightshade vines. :P (But only the poisonous nightshade vines, not the useful ones like tomatoes.)

    7. fposte*

      I just came back from visiting a friend in the UK who has a gorgeous landscape of container plants. And still I’m the glow of the trip I thought “I should totally do more containers!” And headed out to my local garden center to get some container plants. And I forgot that August in the Midwest it’s not the same as August in the north of the UK there are no pansies appearing anywhere in the Midwest in August. I did end up putting in several Angelonia and a few zonal geraniums, but it’s just not the same. That being said, I was impressed at how they weathered our depressingly hot week last week, and they are very cheerful.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Ah, I have just planted up pansies and winter violets for my northern UK garden. They are ubiquitous here and they pretty much bloom year round. I just ordered some creeping alpines and phlox, which I am about to plant into hollowed tree trunks, I’m hoping they will spill out onto the ground luxuriantly, as though fairies are responsible. They don’t need much in the way of water, and they have exciting prospects, but you can’t beat pansies and violets for instant impact.

        1. fposte*

          In the Midwest, if pansies survive past spring they get leggier and leggier until you’ve just got sad dangly long stems with a few leaves on them. And I knew this from experience, but I was utterly beguiled nonetheless.

    8. GoryDetails*

      Wow, you can kill *mint*? I hope you use your powers for good! {grin}

      I’m still procrastinating on getting someone to clear out the rampant growth that has completely covered my garden shed and is swarming up my house and has turned the side-yard into a sea of frothing green tangles. (At this point it might make sense to wait until frost, but I really should make an appointment soon.)

      My “herb garden” is also in tangles, but the mint is fine {snerk!}, as are the chives and the little bay shrub. The container veggies are thriving, with the eggplant being the most productive followed by the peppers. The cherry tomatoes, alas, tend to burst; it’s been so hot and rainy this summer that they swell up too fast.

      The cucumber vine is thriving to the point of climbing up into the overhanging tree branches and the nearby arbor. Loads of blossoms, but not as many fruits as one would expect for such an eager plant. But when I do find them they tend to be large, so I’m having to be inventive about Things To Do With Cucumbers. Pickles, salads, cucumber syrup… any other ideas?

      1. Cedrus Libani*

        Gazpacho? My recipe is based on Ina Garten’s, but I double the cucumber and put in one de-seeded jalapeno, and I don’t bother with tomato juice – most store-bought tomato juice is just tomato paste and water, so that’s what I use instead.

        1. GoryDetails*

          Excellent idea, thanks! I do have some interesting peppers, including jalapenos and habaneros, and I recall recipes for green gazpacho… Sounds like I’m good to go!

    9. PhyllisB*

      Don’t feel bad. I managed to kill a bamboo plant and an airplane plant. (For those not familiar, an airplane plant is a frondy fern that was wildly popular in the seventies.) Those things THRIVE on neglect. Only me.
      I tell people not to give me plants unless they want it to have a place to die.

      1. PhyllisB*

        I really need to proofread better. The plant I was talking about is an air fern, not an airplane plant. Totally different things.
        I also managed to kill an aloe plant I’d had for years.
        Now if I could just manage to kill some oregano. It’s in a pot, but it’s managed to “jump the ditch ” and is choking out the chives. And that stuff is tenacious. I’ve never seen such tough roots!!

    10. Cedrus Libani*

      I’m still learning to garden in my new home – the ground is acidic clay that has never heard of nitrogen, though I’ve put in raised beds with better soil, and there is literally no “full sun” to be had anywhere due to several large trees on the property. The only thing that’s thriving is the green beans, which have been producing for weeks and I’ve got them coming out of my ears. I might get a corn or two, but I planted too late – was already pushing my luck, then cutworms got them all on my first two attempts until I wised up and planted the seeds inside paper coffee cups for protection. The days are getting shorter, so they’re going for end-of-summer production mode while they’re still only ~3 ft tall.

      I did get the majority of the native plants to survive their first summer, which is a win. My goal is to make the yard more drought-friendly. The other goal is to have year-round food for hummingbirds (we have them all year). Most human food needs sun, also if it’s within reach of the street it will be used as a dog toilet…and then eaten by random passers-by. Serves them right, but still. So, the human food goes where it can go, then outdoor living space takes priority, but I’ve put in some food for the birds and the bees where I can.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I am growing on clay acid (new house also) and I’ve been amazed at the success I’ve had with camellia (was never able to keep it alive elsewhere). The hydrangeas also seem superlatively happy as do the weigela, crocosmia, and even roses seem happier than elsewhere. True, the roses are well established but apparently clay holds onto the nutrients they need so even quite a lazy gardener like me is being well treated by them.

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          I’ve got camellias too, and they’re doing rather better than they ought to be, as they’re wedged in deep shade between a tree and the house. Ditto the boxwood hedge. Doesn’t grow much (kind of a plus!) but it’s green and plush. You’ll usually see them around here in full sun, as a fence substitute rather than a foundation planting, and by midsummer they’re toasted to a golden brown.

          I’m likely to try blueberries next year. Had one in a container, but that was a total mess – apparently any soil pH meter that costs under $500 is as reliable as a magic eight ball, and while I did find a good method eventually (soak the previous misadventures out of the soil, then apply Dr. Earth acid fertilizer according to package directions), the plant was too weak by then and picked up a blight. But if the soil wants to be in blueberry range without my intervention…

          I’m eyeing the very sad bed of asparagus and artichokes that I put in last year. If they don’t get it together, blueberries it is.

    11. Anon for this*

      Yes mint can be killed! Congrats! I prefer mine have very challenging growing conditions to keep it in check. Right now the only one that has survived is spearmint, which I dislike. Boo.

      But… my entire yard is getting wiped clean this fall or next spring (dependent on weather and $).

      Literally scraped.

      I’ll still have lots of large trees on the perimeter- only tree that will be a casualty is the plum tree- but the perennial gardens, herb garden, fruit garden and veggie garden are all getting scraped. I’m salvaging like 3 roses and turning my back on everything else. I’ve had folks over to dig stuff up already (posted to the local buy nothing group).

      I’ll end up with 2 level grades across the property with the veggie garden being at a slightly higher grade and then everything else stepped down to one level.

      I’m super excited to have level ground in my future. I’ve tucked all of my seeds away for the year, because once the summer veggies are done, I have to break down all of my tall metal raised beds.

      I even get a nice 12’ wide by 10’ deep greenhouse (made locally out of redwood).

      I will be lucky to grow anything next year, so I’m enjoying the gallon of tomatoes I’m picking every day, and the mounds of zucchini.

    12. Chauncy Gardener*

      Well, numtea, if you’re anywhere close to New England, everything has drowned due to all the rain, so in all fairness, it might not be you!

  19. Italy???*

    Has anyone traveled to Italy and learned a little or a lot of Italian before their trip? How did you learn and would you recommend the method you used? Was it worth it to learn some Italian to make the trip run smoothly? Thanks!

    1. Roland*

      Depends on where you’re going. We went to Florence and Cinque Terre and there was 0 issue with only speaking English, but those are super touristed places. I do suggest learning the basics of which letters make which sounds in Italian, just so that they understand which food items you’re talking about when ordering.

    2. Taki*

      If you are taking a trip as a tourist, you’ll be fine not doing anything. You probably already know everything you need to (buon giorno/ scusi/ grazie) and you won’t learn enough through duolingo to make it worth your while (unless you just find that fun, in which case knock yourself out). I live in Sicily (the south is dealing with major brain drain and is generally less educated/less common to speak English) and I don’t need Italian (or Sicilian) at restaurants or shops. Half the time when I do use Italian they switch to English anyway unless they have the free time to “play” with me, like the shop is empty. You get brownie points for trying to speak Italian, but the situation just goes smoother when you use English.

    3. Madame Arcati*

      Do you speak French or Spanish at all? Not much help with speaking but ime it helps a lot with understanding or being able to work out the basic meaning of signs, shops, menus, basic items etc. Based on my experience as a tourist in Italy anyway..

    4. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      I went ten years ago and made a little spreadsheet with the most common words and phrases I anticipated I might need. I tried to learn the most basic ones off by heart before the trip. (Hello, please, thank you, yes, no, the numbers from 1-10, “One scoop of chocolate ice cream, please” :D )
      Whilst there I always had my little spreadsheet on me, folded away in a pocket or my handbag/backpack to take out and shortly practice what to say before a situation.
      Generally, it is appreciated when tourists at least make an effort when it comes to the language – maybe try not to “slaughter” the pronounciation, though ;)
      To me pronounciation mostly comes naturally but it can help to write down your own version of how you would spell the words to pronounce them correctly. For example: Bologna (the city) is correctly pronounced something like ‘bo-lon-ya’ and not ‘beh-low-nee’, as the sausage is usually pronounced in the US, so writing it out that way might make it easier on the pronounciation front ;)

      That’s what I basically always do when travelling to a country with a language I don’t speak and it’s always worked well for me. Of course, the more touristy the area you are in, the more used to people barely speaking the language the locals tend to be.

    5. Glazed Donut*

      When I was in Italy, I knew some Italian but defaulted to Spanish when I didn’t know the Italian, and that seemed to work okay (bano vs bagno for example). Lots of crossover in some of the words/sounds.
      I will say that Italy is a very forgiving country for trying to speak the language. I went to Spain for the most part locals did not entertain my attempts at Spanish.. Italians seemed to enjoy someone else learning their culture and language. Many shop owners would help me as I tried to learn it. It can be a good way to show kindness. But also – if you’re in the tourist areas (Florence, Rome, Venice) you shouldn’t have a problem with people speaking English as a fall back :)

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

      I haven’t been there in 30 years or so, so take this with a grain of salt, but when I was there, a little bit of Italian (my friend and I had like 2 credits of self-paced Italian in grad school) was generally appreciated. Waiters in Florence were super nice to us.

      That said, my concentrating on speaking Italian sometimes distracted me so that I was more easily ripped off by the occasional baddie in Rome.

    7. BreakingDishes*

      I went to Italy in 2004. I’d taken some Italian classes. I found that when I’d start speaking, most people started speaking English to me in response.

    8. beanthere*

      Yes! It’s totally worth it. I went in 2018, and I learned quite a bit of conversational italian before my trip, and I used it all the time. Learning how to count, introduce yourself, ask for/understand directions, and order a meal was so so so so worth it. For context, I travelled with my 18 y/o kiddo through northern italy, and most ppl spoke english but were thrilled when I made an effort to show off my italian. I recommend the Coffee Break podcast:-)

    9. Decidedly Me*

      I’ve spent a month in Italy across two trips in the last year. You’ll want the polite basics – hello, goodbye, thank you, you’re welcome, please, excuse me, good morning/afternoon/ evening. Others that are helpful are ticket/ticket office (more to recognize the word), bathroom, English, and check (as in restaurant check). I wish we had learned more numbers so we could recognize better when being told a total.

      We got by just fine with these and picked up some extras along the way.

      I just Googled videos of Italian for travelers and watched those. Knowing some Spanish already helped.

      Not language related, but other things worth learning in advance are the coffee culture and restaurant types.

    10. Qwerty*

      I did a tour of Tuscany several years ago and did not need to know any Italian when in the tourist locations. While in Florence, most people in restaurants/hotels/shops spoke Spanish too. Buses drivers were the exception and communication was a bit difficult around bus schedules.

      I think it is worth learning a little Italian but focusing on prononciation – this will make it easier to understand accents and understand names of streets and museums. I also found the Fodor’s book for my area to be really helpful and have a good map to point to when asking questions.

      If you want to learn Italian, I’ll put in a plug for LingoDeer – the early lessons focused on pronounciation.

    11. Anon-E-Mouse*

      Do you need to learn Italian to make the trip run smoothly? No.

      Is it personally fulfilling, fun and polite to learn a bit of the language of the country you’re visiting? Yes, definitely!

      One option for you to consider if you haven’t already booked your trip is to spend the first week taking a language immersion program there. I have taken language immersion holidays in a number of countries (France, Spain, Mexico, Ecuador and Brazil) and it’s a great way to meet people, learn a bit of the language and culture, add some structure to your trip and live a bit more like a local.

      If you want to learn a language starting from scratch, I recommend the following:

      1. Make a list of 100 everyday words that come up in a travel setting. Personalize the list for what you expect to do. You can use online resources to help with pronunciation.

      2. Then, take a 20-hour, live (in-person or virtual) beginner’s course, ideally with at least a few strangers. It’s a fun way to get to know people.

      3. Then build on and reinforce what you learned in your course with an online system like DuoLingo. Even if you just spend 15 minutes a day with a system like this, you’ll build up some basic language skills.

    12. SophieChotek*

      I agree with others; if you stay with touristy destinations, etc. you will probably be fine. Although for sure I also agree, some common phrases are not bad for reading signs or menus, if needed.

    13. Mephyle*

      The basics of “hello”, “thank you” and “please” are nice to have at a minimum.
      ”Do you speak English?” is useful, or to put it another way “May I speak English to you?” allows them to answer not just “yes” or “no” but “maybe a little bit” or “sort of” or “of course”.
      A very useful phrase to have even if you have nothing else is “sorry” or “pardon me” or whatever is the polite thing to say to apologize when you bump into someone or knock something down etc. It feels wretched to commit an error and not be able to apologize.

  20. belated covid club*

    Who else joined the belated covid club? I finally managed to get it. I was about to get a booster, too. Oh well, at least I got it over with. It’s really weird getting it now, I’m still isolating and am surprised you’re only supposed to isolate for 5 days unless you have a fever or more symptoms.

    1. Erunnny*

      I’m in the same boat! Had a great 3 1/2 year run. It’s definitely impacting my family and I’m stuck in my messy office/guest room. So although I’m resting, I’m nesting too.

      I don’t often get the chance to just rest or do my work without distractions because of my kids, so it’s an unexpected bonus.

      I’m the immunocompromised one in our family, so I’m a little weary, but feeling like with all the vaccines, boosters and treatments available, I’m going to be ok.

      Hope for a fast recovery for you!

      1. belated covid club*

        Thanks, you too! I’m have some but not all risk factors and was offered Paxlovid. I decided to take it. My symptoms are thankfully mild, but I’m more concerned about avoiding long Covid.
        Ironically, I thought I was getting a cold and did an at home test just in case. I was supposed to go to that place we don’t talk about for a big event this week, which happened without me. I ended up holding down the fort virtually instead.

        1. Erunnny*

          I was also offered it and decided to take it. The taste in my mouth is yucky but better this than long Covid. For me I’ve had to reschedule a bunch of things but thankfully people are being understanding.

          The home office declutter has been a procrastination project of mine and now that I’m isolating in this room, it feels good to have nothing to do but organize and rest.

          1. belated covid club*

            Yeah I haven’t had the full metallic taste but things are a bit off. I read cinnamon candy like Hot Tamales can help, going to try that.

    2. OtterB*

      I haven’t joined yet, but I sure do know a lot of people who are getting it. Two from work catching it for the second time if not more, one in the belated club. One from a hobby group with a second infection and one belated. Fortunately I haven’t had recent in-person contact with any of them. I had quit masking for things like the grocery store and church, but I’m starting again, I think.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Apparently there’s a brand new variant that’s expert at getting past all vaccine/immune system barriers, so it’s not surprising a new wave is coming, ugh.

    3. I'm Done*

      My husband and I recently caught it from one of his colleagues who came to work knowing he had COVID. Cases have been rising again but it’s not really publicized and even if it were it would only reflect a fraction of the cases because many people test at home. As an aside, I as sick for a month and ended up in the ER despite having received all the boosters.

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

        Oy, I’m sorry that you had such a bad case. It is a rotten disease. I hope you’re doing better now. And pooh on your husband’s colleague for being so selfish.

    4. Dahlia*

      I hope you feel better soon. I haven’t read anything recently, so I recommend doing some research, but the last guidance I saw was test negative with home rapid tests two or three days in a row to get out of isolation. If rapid tests are still positive, you are still contagious. So many people have a rebound a few days later too, so be on the lookout for that.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I got it last Thanksgiving. (Just before Thanksgiving and infected my spouse and grown kids, even though I am by far the most homebound of us.) It was within a month of getting my fourth shot–we were all at four shots, and all got it, and it was a moderate cold for all of us.

    6. Blue wall*

      The 5-day isolation has been in place for at least a year- a big shift from initial policy.

    7. ThatGirl*

      My husband got it in April after all that time, I managed to avoid it (I was gone as he felt the worst). You should really give yourself more time, and if you do need to go out, mask… the cdc guidelines are not really great imho.

      1. belated covid club*

        I probably will because I’m more of a safety-first kind of person but I hadn’t looked at the guidelines recently, we’ve come a long way though.

        I was still masking before at most places except unmasked while eating at restaurants and in some smaller groups like at the place we don’t talk about. I’m in higher ed so felt safer being unmasked there with just a few people. Most schools required vaccines for most people. I was still masking at bigger meetings, events, etc.

        I hardly go anywhere but did get out more the last couple of weeks, so not quite sure where I picked it up. I’ve heard a few friends getting it belatedly too.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I know people who are very careful and still get it, and others less careful who didn’t. Seems like luck of the draw at this point. Best you can do is take good care of yourself and obviously try not to spread it :)

          1. belated covid club*

            Yes, definitely. Thankfully my SO didn’t get it, their booster was more recent than mine.

    8. California Dreamin’*

      Yup. My husband and I and Last Child Standing (other kids had it in 2022) all got it for the first time in July. Our last boosters were last fall, but I don’t think they expect them to prevent infection anymore anyway. Husband and I both took Paxlovid and really it was miraculous. We each had maybe two days of feeling crummy and staying in bed but then were much better. It also seemed to clear the infection very quickly. I had a social event I really wanted to attend in the following week, and I was testing negative on like day 7, so I was able to go. A friend had it at the same time as me but didn’t do Paxlovid and it took her a couple weeks to test negative.

    9. Madame Maigret*

      My husband and I joined this club at the end of July :-( . We’re over 65 and have gotten a vaccination or booster every time we were eligible, so 6 times in total. On vacation with our daughter and her family, we went to a “land” for “plastic building-block toys” in a large mall. Swarms of people and no masks on anyone, including us. Five days later, bam! High-ish fever for one day, sore throat, sniffles, fatigue. I too tested myself as almost an afterthought, before calling the doctor. We were in time to be able to take Paxlovid, so our symptoms overall were pretty mild. I was also surprised at the shortened CDC isolation guidelines.
      Thankfully daughter’s family did NOT get it – they had Delta and then Omicron. We are definitely getting the next version of the vaccine, targeting newer variants, when it comes out this fall. And we are wearing masks again in indoor public settings!

    10. fhqwhgads*

      Yep, about 3 weeks ago. I ended up isolating for longer than 5 days because I felt too crappy for that long to do anything but isolate. It really sucked. My glass half full take is now I’ve probably got some extra immunity until the new boosters come out, and I won’t be eligible for a booster until the new one’s available anyway. So, yay? I guess. Makes the next couple months slightly less stressful.
      5 people in my immediate working group at work all got it in the past month. We’re all remote, and in completely different metro areas/states. So yeah, the uptick is very clear. The whole peak pandemic I never experienced multiple people I knew – who hadn’t been in direct contact with each other – getting it at roughly the same time. But this summer, that’s the norm.

        1. allathian*

          For our health authorities in Finland, it does count as a free booster. As in, you’re ineligible for a booster for the next 6 months if you’ve had an officially diagnosed case of Covid. They aren’t currently offering any boosters this fall to adults under 65 with no known risk factors.

    11. RagingADHD*

      Well, I seem to recall that the whole reason for masking, social distancing, and routine testing back in 2020 was the prevalence of extremely mild or asymptomatic cases.

      So I seriously doubt the time I finally knew I had covid was actually the first time I had it.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Well, yes, but also the incubation period where someone can be contagious and not know it yet. And the lack of vaccine. Not that we shouldn’t be careful. For me, it’s entirely possible I’ve had an asymptomatic case in the past 3 years but… how would I ever know?

        1. Manders*

          You can ask for a nucleocapsid antibody test if you really want to know. I did one and I have not had Covid (based on the negative results of the test). Nucleocapsid is a protein in the SARS CoV-2 virus that is not included in the vaccine, so if you are positive for it, it means that you had the virus and not just a positive result from the vaccine (which uses the Spike protein).

    12. Double A*

      Literally me this week! My whole family. I tried to isolate but it was too late and we all got it. I work from home so I mostly kept working this week which was probably a mistake because it felt like I was underwater. Thinking made my brain TIRED. But I also couldn’t figure out the logistics of not working so I tried to do some easy stuff. But I had to call it early yesterday even though physically I’m doing better; I simply couldn’t think.

      Now my husband is super sick so I’m going to be solo on kid duty the whole weekend pretty much. All tablets all the time up in our house this weekend.

      I’m also on paxlovid and I think it’s helping. Physically I’m a lot better but I feel dizzy pretty regularly. I’ve also been up since about 4am due to my daughter coming in and my husband having a very hard time early morning so I wasn’t really able to get back to sleep before my 2 year old was up before 7am. All things considered I feel ok. My goal this weekend is pure survival.

    13. Rosyglasses*

      Me! I avoided successfully until this year (all vaccinations and boosters) and caught it on a trip last month. It was brutal but quick for me thankfully.

    14. AK_Blue*

      It’s good to hear I’m not alone! I also finally caught it and tested positive on Aug 9. Such a terrible fever the first night. I have a form of arthritis and every joint I’d had a flare in before all were super inflamed the first 3 days. I got paxlovid, hated the bitter taste. Spicy food like curries really helped mask it. My energy levels are still not back to normal, I still have a cough and congestion, and brain fog comes and goes.

      Frankly I’m glad i dodged it for so long, if this is hoe my body handles a “mild” case of covid I can’t imagine a more severe version.

      1. belated covid club*

        Yeah, I had direct exposure to someone without a mask for about an hour in April and didn’t get it but got it now while mostly still masking in public, you never know.

    15. carcinization*

      Well, I had COVID around a year and a half ago, when I think I’d only had 2 COVID vaccine shots, and around 2 weeks ago, after 5 COVID shots but none of them especially recent. The first round of COVID was definitely worse than the more recent one, that time took me around 6 weeks to recover if I ever did. This time it really was more like the flu, and Paxlovid mostly took care of the flu-like part. I will definitely get the new booster when it comes out this fall.

      1. carcinization*

        I tried to stay away from my husband as much as I could (I slept in the spare bedroom and tried to be a fair distance from him unless masked), and he didn’t get COVID, but when I tested positive my mom had been hanging out with me earlier in the day and we did sit by each other on the couch and such, and she eventually tested positive (I tested positive on a Friday night, but she went home early Saturday morning after arriving Friday afternoon, and didn’t test positive until that Wednesday).

  21. Amory Blaine*

    I just got a whole month of leave approved for December!! We are planning a New Zealand adventure and would love resources or suggestions. We have a four year old and all of us love to hike (the kiddo can do around 5 miles but we won’t be able to do anything long) and we would love to spend some time in walkable cities/ towns.

    1. Rel*

      Congratulations! New Zealand is lovely – if you are interested in their weird and wonderful wildlife, there are some really cool large rat-and-fox exclusion zones called ‘Ecosanctuaries’ that can be walked about in for hours – Orokonui, Maungatautari and Zealandia are some examples in different bits of the country.

      I stayed in Wellington and Te Papa (the National museum) is fabulous, and I also really enjoyed Wellington Zoo.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      This was 20 years ago, but we passed a sign for the Sheep Expo and pulled in and it was quite interesting. Different types of sheep and the herding dogs.

    3. MassChick (leaf peeping NE USA?)*

      Do you know which part of NZ you will be in? It’s SUCH a beautiful place – would love to go back some time!
      I’d say don’t miss Rotorua in the north island – it’s a geothermal area and magical! Pea-green ponds (painted bright by bacteria that thrive in those waters), the multi-coloured Champagne pool and so much lushness and beauty. It’s a shortish drive from Tauranga on the Bay of Plenty.
      Queenstown in the south island was lovely – kayaking was great in this area.

    4. Not A Manager*

      Don’t miss the glow worm caves; they’re quite extraordinary. A four year old might be too young, but the Hobbitown tours are fun if you’re in that demographic. There’s beautiful hiking almost everywhere. If you’re on the South Island, we especially enjoyed Abel Tasman National Park.

      Napier is a lovely Art Deco town, and the surrounding area has excellent vineyards and wine tours if you enjoy that.

      New Zealand has a tradition of public/private conservation efforts, so you’ll find a lot of private property that charge admission to wildlife sanctuaries. I recall there being more on the South Island, but I could be wrong. You can see penguin colonies, seal beaches, etc. If you are on the South Island, look into an overnight boat tour of one of the sounds. We saw Doubtful Sound and it was really magical.

      I personally didn’t enjoy the Rotorua area or Lake Taupo as much as some other places.

    5. Kathenus*

      I did a wildlife and glaciers tour on the South Island back in 2007, some of my favorites were visiting Penguin Place near Dunedin (yellow eyed penguin colony), Milford Sound cruise, Franz Joseph glacier visit, and some free time in Queenstown where there was lots to do. I really would have liked to do some of the Lord of the Rings tours but wasn’t able to make that work unfortunately. But it’s an amazingly gorgeous place, have fun!

    6. Ally*

      Ahh December will be nice, enjoy.

      Lots of day walks around Wellington, and some nice beaches.

      Plan lots of extra time to drive longer distances- most roads are narrower and more winding than many other countries, and google maps often gives overly-optimistic time frames.

      Last summer it flooded a lot in December, especially in the north island, so have a back up plan in case roads are closed or your accommodation is gone.

      Wear sunscreen- you can REALLY burn in 10 minutes sometimes in December. Especially for the 4y old.

      1. Just here for the scripts*

        I strongly recommend SPF-infused shirts—especially for the kiddos. Lands end and LLbean have them on sale right now—and for reference, I wear 80+ in the southern hemisphere or I burn. But wearing the shirts mean I can focus on keeping the cream on my face, hands and feet! Both companies also make leggings and other more-coverage-based items (4-year-old asked for the leggings so she didn’t have to constantly have sunblock applied!)

    7. Amory Blaine*

      Thank you all for the suggestions!! We are just starting to research and plan, so this is all super helpful!

    8. AK_Blue*

      We traveled in NZ in Dec 2019, both North and South islands. So wonderful! I have arthritis so my hiking levels are like your toddler’s, and we found plenty of hikes to enjoy. Cathedral Cove is that omnipresent Windows image and a really neat hike if you’re in the area. Jet lag hit us both hard so I definitely recommend at least one day to recuperate in your flight arrival city before you head off on any adventures.

      We rented a car and drove ourselves. I have friends in NZ so that helped direct part of our route. Did a mix of Airbnbs and hotels, both were nice options. Food was excellent, though fewer salads on menus that the US. Most dishes were lamb/beef/chicken. We are omnivores so didn’t specifically search out vegetarian restaurants, but they are available.

      It is a beautiful country with so many neat things to see. Have a lovely trip!

    9. vombatus ursinus*

      How exciting! Do you know if you’re planning to visit the North or South Island, or both?

      I think Wellington is pretty walkable (if you don’t mind hills!). 100% recommend a visit to Zealandia ecosanctuary if you’re in town — you can drive if you have a car, get the cable car up the hill from the city centre and walk a bit, or get a shuttle van directly there from the city centre. Kāpiti Island is another bird sanctuary you could visit as a day trip from Wellington (or camp overnight), and it’s very beautiful.

      Dunedin is also a pretty walkable small city (again, with hills :D) — it’s a university town with some nice funky cafes, street art and a good natural history museum. With a car you can drive to nearby beaches where you can see penguins.

      Coffee culture is REALLY strong in New Zealand, especially in Wellington, and so is the craft beer scene if you’re into that! Others have already recommended Te Papa (national museum) in Wellington, which I second. The botanic gardens in Wellington are also really nice.

      The middle of Te Ika-A-Māui (North Island) is full of stunning mountains and volcanic landscapes. The Tongariro Crossing is a challenging but wonderful day hike (~8-9 hours), but I think it would be a bit much with a four-year-old. However, there are some easier walks in Tongariro National Park that would be worth checking out. There are also some nice thermal pools you can visit around the Taupō and Rotorua areas — not as essential in December as at other times of the year, but could still be nice! If you do visit any thermal waters, it’s important not to put your head underwater or let your child put theirs — the water can contain a nasty amoeba that causes encephalitis.

      You could also have a look at the Marlborough sounds area (very top of the South Island — you can get a ferry to Picton from Wellington and then a water taxi to various spots around the sounds). There are beautiful walks (not too challenging from memory) and several small lodges dotted around that I think could be good for kids :)

      In terms of practical advice, not sure how familiar you already are with the country or where you’re coming from so apologies if this is too basic, but the NZ phone network is not amazing and the weather can be a bit capricious, especially if you’re up high, so good to have some warm layers and rain gear with you for safety if you’re out in the bush, even if it seems like a nice day. Always let someone know you’re going for a hike and when you expect to be back. If you will be driving and don’t usually drive on the left side of the road, be extra careful. Outside of the cities there’s lots of narrow and winding roads without much opportunity for overtaking, so it’s important to have patience. The traffic can be pretty bad. And try to learn a little about the phonetics of te reo Māori before you go so you’re not butchering place names ;)

      Hope you have an amazing trip!!

    10. BeeJiddy*

      The Department of Conservation website is probably the best place to learn about the different hikes throughout the country: https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/things-to-do/walking-and-tramping/family-friendly-walks-and-tramps/

      Proper summer doesn’t hit until January, so seconding other people who said you’ll still want to be prepared for cold and rain. Aotearoa is very temperate so depending on where you are coming from, you might be surprised about how low the temp can be in spring.

  22. Loopy*

    I am scheduled for back surgery bright and early Monday and its really sinking in now.

    I have prepped meals coming and folks to help, but has anyone got other tips or things I should buy this weekend to help make recovery easier?

    Also I picked a terrible time to be in a book slump. Good fantasy book series recs welcome. I’m not as much into high fantasy, but generally great world building and fun characters are my jam. I have read all Becky chambers books for example, and all the goblin emperor books (can’t remember the series name). I also was a huge fan of the hands of the emperor and Legends and lattes.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      If I recall correctly the goblin emperor books are by Jim C Hines – you might also like his Libriomancer series set in northern Michigan about a magical librarian who is dependent on books as the root of his magic.

      If you haven’t read them, Seanan McGuire’s October Daye and Incryptid series are both excellent and huge – the former starts with Rosemary and Rue, the story of a half-faerie private investigator in San Francisco, and books either 16-17 or 17-18 (I forget which) are coming out in September and October. The latter is about a family who studies cryptid species and protects them and humans from each other, so sort of fantasy-ish from a sci-fi angle? First book Discount Armageddon, I think there’s 12 of those now.

      1. Chicago Anon*

        I thought the goblin emperor books were by Katherine Addison. If there’s a different set that Red Reader is thinking of, then you might like hers as well. I second the recommendation of Rachel Neumeier’s books, below. She has other series and stand-alones in addition to the Tuyo books, and I like everything of hers I’ve ever read.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Nope, I’m mistook – JCH has a Goblin series but it’s not that one. But I still recommend the Libriomancer books :) also, for world building and fun characters, I can’t believe I didn’t already say Marie Brennan’s “A Natural History of Dragons” series – a 5 book series written as the memoirs of a blue stocking noblewoman in a pseudo-Victorian world where dragons are real and Judaism (not by name) is the dominant religion.

    2. Clara Bowe*

      Stick with me, but I highly recommend Beware of Chicken (1 and 2). It’s gentle fantasy on par with Legends & Lattes, and easy to pick up and set down. It is only available via Kindle, but is quite fun. The third is due out in November.

      Also recommend the light novel series Ascendance of a Bookworm by Miya Kazuki. It was made into an anime, but the book series is fabulous and also pretty chill. Also, there are ~15 published, so a lot to get through if you want something ongoing! (Available in multiple formats, including print from the library!)

    3. Pam Adams*

      I swear by reachers- those pincher devices to extend your reach. Handy even when you haven’t had surgery.

      Victoria Goddard (Hands of the Emperor) has more related books- start with Stargazy Pie.

      Also look at T. Kingfisher. Swordheart, Clockwork Boys, Paladin’s Grace.

      1. BreakingDishes*

        I had back surgery about 5 years ago. I also recommend a pincher device. I’ve always called it a reacher. Consider getting a sock helper-a thing that helps you get your socks on. I also used a commode that went over the toilet that had sides so I could use my arms to help me get up and down. And the toilet seat is higher. Some of this probably depends on the back surgery that you had and how impaired you are.

        1. Filosofickle*

          There was a period of time when I simply could not do socks — slip on shoes barefoot only. I remember having the thought that if my back ever got better (it did) I would never take the ability to put on socks for granted again (I do)

    4. fposte*

      Hey, Loopy, what surgery are you getting? I had a microdiscectomy nearly 10 years ago and definitely don’t regret it. I will say that recovery was nonlinear, and postop inflammation, snuck up on me, which it turns out is actually not uncommon.

      I was really glad to have a shower stool, and a heating pad. I’d made plenty of food ahead of time, and I was capable of shoving stuff in the microwave even on the worst days. I did end up sleeping on the floor for a while, because that was more comfortable, so if I were doing it again, I would probably have the bedding ready for the floor, rather than just making do with whatever blankets are lying around.

      1. Loopy*

        That’s what I’m having! Thanks for the tips, especially about the bed. I’ve been pretty anxious about sleeping comfortably. If need be I am fortunately that my husband can help if I need to move to the floor (I’ve had one night already where I considered it due to pain). I had not thought about a shower stool, did you feel unbalanced? Weak? Or was sitting more comfortable than standing?

        1. fposte*

          All of the above. It was just less stressful to have to balance when the post op pain started to spike, so the shower could really feel good. And I wouldn’t be reluctant to experiment with the floor or other surfaces—it can be a cheap and easy way to mitigate pain a little.

          As I said, I have no regrets many years on and I hope it goes well for you too.

        2. Dancing Otter*

          Love my shower stool! I got it after abdominal surgery, when recovered enough to bathe but not to stand up straight for very long. I still use it, because it’s so much easier to scrub my feet (without standing in my head). Highly recommend!

        3. BackPainStinks*

          showering in general is exhausting after any surger, and I find it painful and tiring without surgery with 9 herniated disc (sadly not a candidate for surgery – too much wrong). So definitely get a shower stool and if you don’t have a handheld shower head either get one or be prepared to use cups to dump water if you can’t move sufficiently to rinse your whole body otherwise.

    5. Generic Name*

      When my son had his back surgery, he was home from the hospital 2 days later. I was astounded (I had the same surgery 25 years prior and I was in the hospital for 6 days, 4 of those in ICU!!). They gave us this cooler thing you fill with ice water and a pump circulates the cold water through a pad. I can’t remember what it’s called, but it was really helpful for his post operative pain.

    6. Sitting Pretty*

      You’ve probably done all you need to do to get your space ready but if not, spend the weekend making a little nest for yourself! I had a hip replacement in March and in the days leading up, I washed my sheets, set up pillows on my bed, put the books nearby that I wanted, made sure chargers and fan and various other accoutrements were within reach.

      Also jury rigged a little bag to the walker that I would eventually be using, stocked the freezer with easy meals to heat up and asked a couple friends to bring meals by the first week. Bought the sock-putter-on thingy and the grabber someone mentioned. Put the toilet riser on.

      Then just generally tidied and stocked up the house. Watered plants, vacuumed, all that good stuff. Of course I was in pain before surgery so I took it all very slow and asked for some help, so be gentle on yourself if you can’t make it all perfect. Things have a way of coming together.

      All of these little tasks made me feel like I was treating future-me with kindness. Then after surgery, I was so thankful to past-me for doing all those sweet favors.

      I really hope it all goes well and you’re able to recover in as much comfort as possible!

    7. OtterB*

      Fantasy books, I highly recommend the series by Rachel Neumeier that begins with Tuyo. In the first book a young warrior from the nomadic tribal winter lands is taken prisoner by a warleader and lord of the more settled summer country. It’s a story of good people doing their best to bring peace between their peoples while contending with cultural conflicts and an evil sorcerer. The series is up to 7 books now, 3 in the main line and 4 others spinoffs of various kinds. They are available from Amazon and most of the series (though not the first) is on KU.

    8. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      Have you read Gail Carriger (Parasol Protectorate, Finishing School)?

      I also like the Stariel series by A. J. Lancaster, the Lana Harvey Reapers series by Angela Roquet, and the Eno the Thracian series by C. B. Pratt.

    9. Zephy*

      My husband had open surgery on his lower back in late 2021.

      – Stool softeners and laxatives. Especially if it’s open-back and they have to cut through a lot of muscle, between that and the opioids they’re likely to give you for pain, you’re going to have…a challenging time…in the bathroom for a little while, to put it mildly.

      – Shower chair.

      – Depending on exactly where your surgical site is, it may be difficult to bend down to do things like brush your teeth. Shower chair can also be tooth-brushing chair, so you don’t have to bend and can just lean forward to spit into the sink.

      We got my husband one of those rollators with a little panel you can sit on. He didn’t use it past the first week or so but it was clutch for that time. Luckily his grandma was able to make use of it once he no longer had need of it.

      Do your PT exercises, walk as much and as often as you can. If you get a headache that completely vanishes upon laying down, go to the ER immediately, you may have a CS fluid leak. I don’t mean to alarm you with that last thing but it happened with my husband and we were dealing with that complication for 3-4 months post-surgery.

    10. Mitchell Hundred*

      It’s not a series, but I recently read “The Absolute Book” by Elizabeth Knox, and liked it a lot. The description of it I heard that piqued my interest was that it was like a political thriller set in the land of the fairies.

    11. Filosofickle*

      Sleeping was challenging after my microdiscectomy. First, I’m a side sleeper and was told to avoid that. Second, I needed to be on an incline to flatten my lower back. A low, wide foam wedge did wonders, both alleviating pain and it keeping me still. (You can side sleep with the wedge, but turning on it is awkward enough to keep you from doing it reflexively in your sleep and creating pain.) You can prop yourself with pillows but they always seem to need adjusting and that will be hard when you’re in pain and trying not to twist.

      I’m relieved to see in comments that you have a live-in person! Don’t be a hero. Let them bring you meds and food. Stay ahead on your meds, don’t wait until the pain catches up. It really helped me and I hope it helps you too!

    12. goddessoftransitory*

      Hope everything goes well and you have a speedy recovery!

      I really love Mary Stewart’s Merlin quartet: The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment and The Wicked Day. She also wrote a companion novel called The Prince and The Pilgrim. They’re a telling of the Arthur myth from the point of view of Merlin and so intelligent and well plotted–she uses the myths as a pattern but puts a lot of thought into why these people would do the things they do.

      If you like her, she also wrote tons of fabulous female character oriented suspense novels like Madam, Will You Talk? and many others that are fantastic, swift reads–with the caveat that they are very of their time and some attitudes towards other cultures may not have worn well.

    13. Lynn*

      Lois McMaster Bujold’s books – particularly the Vorkosigan series. SO GOOD.

      Mercedes Lackey – anything in the Valdemar series. She also does some Fractured Fairy Tales style books which are light and fun.

      1. Silence*

        Agree LMB is great but the Pen and Des stories may be better post surgery as they are shorter but only on kindle.
        Not sure what devices you have but might be a good time to trial either kindle unlimited or the kobo +, both have a 1 month free trial

    14. Loopy*

      Thanks all, great recs. Unfortunately disaster has struck in terms of insurance and I may have to cancel last minute.

      Originally, I was schedule for 8/30. On 8/18 the surgeons office called and said he had to clear that day and offered me two alt dates. I picked 8/28 because it worked for my support person. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that at fell before my effective authorization period from insurance and the office never put in a new authorization for the new date. Insurance was never contacted.

      I only realized because I thought to check in with insurance yesterday and was told, oh no, absolutely not. You are not absolutely covered for anything before 8/30.

      So needless to say I have been trying to get someone to help from the hospital to no avail due to it being a weekend. Trying again today without much hope. To say I’m gutted is an understatement. It took a lot of doing to arrange the support and work coverage and I did a ton of prep. Rescheduling also means suffering longer. So I am not in a state to reply individually but will come back to this when I’m in a better state of mind.

  23. Mean grandparents*

    Does anyone else have parents whose “love” language is mocking and laughing at you? (I know, they are bitter awful people in many other ways, but I do think they genuinely believe what they are expressing is affection.) If so, how do you handle this when visiting with your own small children? My parents are continually telling their grandchildren off and correcting them, and the times that they think they are being nice to them, I realise that the children don’t percieve it as such. Is there any approach I haven’t thought of, aside from very very short visits? Obviously cutting them off completely is also an option, but as I would like to stay in touch with others in the family and area they live in, it would be easier not to.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I think very short visits and trying to visits outside the home (go to a playground maybe or whatever) instead of sitting around gabbing at grandparents’ home are the way to go. I don’t think there is a magical formula to change how your parents behave or you would have found it by now.

      1. Loreli*

        I’m sorry you had to go through that as a child, it is genuinely horrible. People who are supposed to be your loved ones do not show love by saying mean or nasty things, or making fun of you. Please do not interpret this as “love language”. It is not. It is having a laugh at someone else’s expense. And acting this way toward a child is abusive. Your parents are not expressing love by behaving this way. Because you grew up with this, my guess is your reactions to it are skewed, the same way disfunctional work environments warp what people come to think of as normal.

        Some kids remember this type of thing for a long time, and are likely to take the comments to heart.

        People who love each other do not say nasty things to each other.

        I’d talk with the parents beforehand and tell them if it happens, you’re going to leave -and then do so. Hopefully the talk beforehand (out of the kids’ hearing) will work, because even if you reply to such comments with “we don’t make fun of people” the kids can’t un-hear the nastiness.

        Kids are very literal, and they often think things happen because of something they did, even if there’s no connection. Don’t subject your children to this kind of abuse.

        On a related note: There’s an article in the Washington Post about a new TikTok thing of parents smashing an egg on their kid’s head, then filming and lamas the kid gets upset. One comment in the article from a child development person:
        “We’re talking about abuse disguised as having a bit of a laugh.”

        1. Quandong*

          I completely agree with Lorelai. My father is awful – emotionally and verbally abusive, and prone to lashing out when he feels as though he’s not getting enough attention.

          If I had children (which I don’t) I would protect them from my father. It’s not okay to force vulnerable people into unsafe situations and that includes contact with relatives who are abusive.

          Grandparents do not have the right to abuse their grandkids.

    2. E*

      Talk to your kids about it before and after! Even if they’re small, you can do it in age appropriate ways. “Sometimes grandma and grandpa say things that feel mean. You didn’t do anything bad” and ask them how they feel around grandma and grandpa

    3. Queer Earthling*

      Well, I stopped talking to mine for about seven years (for this but also other factors), and recently re-engaged cautiously and found they’d improved considerably in my absence.

      That may or may not work for you.

      Can you try speaking to your parents and saying something like, “That’s not the kind of talk we’re trying to model for our kids”? I honestly think the most effective thing, though, will be telling your kids, “That was not acceptable behavior and I’m sorry they were unkind” and letting them opt out of grandparent visits, at least some of the time. Taking your kids’ feelings and concerns seriously will go a long way.

    4. Squidhead*

      In addition to talking to the kids–at least acknowledging that you see what’s happening– is it possible to talk to the grandparents about the impact? Friends of ours have a daughter and one of her grandfathers was like this. When he died (she was 6-ish) she wasn’t sad (maybe even relieved?). That’s a pretty sad legacy to leave in someone else’s memory. Is that how they want to be perceived?

    5. Still*

      You might need to spell it out for them. It’s probably hard to do for your own sake but maybe it might be easier when you’re you’re talking on behalf of your children. Presumably, your parents would like their grandchildren to like them, and people are often more willing to change when grandchildren are involved.

      “Hey, mum, when you said X earlier today, I know you were trying to be nice, but kid actually thought you were mocking them and got sad. Would you consider doing Y in the future? I know that kid likes it.”

      Depending on your dynamics, you might even try “translating” on the spot. “Grandma is actually trying to say Y, don’t you, mum?” – where Y is something that grandma actually believes, but phrased in a nice, clear way.

      Or these might not work at all in your family, families are so hard! I hope you find a way to keep in touch in a positive way.

      1. CanadaGoose*

        Yes. And you can fall back on “kids this age don’t understand (or are confused by) indirect language. So we try to be direct with them.” And go ahead and translate, or give your opinion as well/instead.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      I think you have a few options, like 1) Instill a ‘not for kids’ rule like: “Hey, Child is pretty literal like a lot of kids, so you might want to avoid saying that they stink, because they’ll think you’re serious and believe you”, “X year olds don’t understand being laughed at and it can be puzzling for them and I want us to go easy on that” or 2) Model what you want them to do, and correct the things you don’t want, like a corrective translater: “What nana means is that she likes your hat”, “Grandad is just being silly”, “Oh are nan and grandad being a puzzle again?” or be direct with your parents in front of your kid “She doesn’t understand when you are joking mum, you need to speak plainly”. If they are telling the child off for something you would not, simply interject “We don’t insist on that/our rule is y, /we allow x” etc. Keep an eye on your child’s reactions and if you think these interjections aren’t enough to keep them steady and happy, I would have an overarching talk with the parents along the lines of “I’m not happy about x, y and z. I’m not proposing that we stop coming over, but we might have to cut visits short if it’s happening a lot.” Then you can remind them cheerfully about inevitable future slip ups with “Hey mum we talked about this, remember?”

    7. Generic Name*

      Have you tried talking to them? I know a lot of people who think that sarcasm and cutting people down is the highest and most sophisticated form of humor. I get that you think that their intent isn’t bad, but I would argue that their intent doesn’t matter, especially when kids are involved. I would tell them that you don’t want them talking to you or your kids that way, and if they do, you will leave.

      I know you’re hesitant to cut them off because it’s easier not to, but I implore you to think about how this will affect your children in the long run. To be blunt, it will make them more susceptible to intimate partner abuse. If they date someone who insults them and outs them down, it will feel very familiar and comfortable to them because that’s how grandma and grandpa talk. After all, cutting barbs is just how you show love, right?

      I know you love your parents, and I can tell that you are a thoughtful person, but please know that how your parents talk to you and your children is abusive, whether they mean it to be or not. You may not have been able to do anything about it as a child, but you can now protect your own children from it now.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Yep. Some of the best advice I ever heard was “People may forget what you said, or what you did, but never how you made them feel.”

        Barbs and sarcasm can have their place (with very old friends, for example) but defaulting to that–with children especially–basically teaches them that it’s fine for them to be made fun of, belittled, and dismissed. That’s not a lesson kids should learn.

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

      My folks deliberately limited my time with their critical parents to about one or two holidays a year, and I am eternally grateful for that.

      Like, I did know my grandparents, but they weren’t a huge factor in my life, so they didn’t screw up my self esteem, and I was better able to laugh off their negative behaviors because I didn’t have to deal with them very much.

      While I sometimes wish I could have had a close relationship with grandparents, the people whom I had actually had as grandparents were not really suitable for such a close relationship.

      Mom and Dad 100% made the right call protecting me when I was young, and I was then better able to have something of a relationship with my surviving grandma when I was older because I was a stronger person, since they didn’t let me get beat down.

      NEVER regret protecting your children, and admit to them when adults behave inappropriately so that they don’t see you excusing or normalizing that behavior.

    9. Unkempt Flatware*

      Empower the kids. Let them know whether they’re allowed to stick up for themselves. “Don’t talk to me like that, please”, “that’s not funny. Please don’t make fun of me/mock me/laugh at me”, “I’m not having fun”.

      And eventually let them choose whether they spend time with them in the future.

    10. Emma*

      Call out the grandparents out and shut it down in the moment. And if it continues, then leave. Protect your kiddos!

      I can remember a couple of times when my grandma said messed up things to me in the presence of my parents. My parents talked about it with me after the fact, but it would have meant a lot if they could have stood up for me in the moment. For one of the comments, I was in highschool and responded myself, but I shouldn’t have had to do that.

      In hindsight, I think my parents were a little afraid of my grandma, but I wish they had addressed that in therapy and stood up for me.

    11. Ginger Cat Lady*

      My parents are like this. We *always* went there. Never invited them here. Because it was far, far easier to pack up and leave than it was to get them to leave. They were also never asked to babysit.
      My kids knew that their behavior was unacceptable, and they knew that if it happened, we would immediately leave.
      And we did. Once were there <10 minutes.
      We've since gone no contact for other reasons, but my kids are all adults now, and the most important thing they learned from their grandparents is that they don't have to put up with that kind of treatment from anyone. They learned from me how to do it.

    12. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Honestly, it doesn’t matter if they actually do love you, they are harmful to be around. Especially for young children. Limiting contact is probably the best option, along with some very frank (and age appropriate) conversations with your children that it’s not the child, it’s the grandparent.

      And do NOT expect that your children will be close to or want to see your parents when they’re older. You may get some flack for that from other people, but it’s a natural consequence of your parent’s behavior. Support your children, including and especially in public or around other family members. It’s pretty terrible when you know you didn’t do anything wrong and your parent won’t stick up for you.

    13. Samwise*

      Please do not subject your children, especially your small children, to this behavior. You need to tell your parents, every time, “That was hurtful and mean; do not speak to my child/children that way.” (I personally would add, “You need to apologize to Name right now” but that may be more than you are up for right now)

      Happens again? to *any of the children*, not just the one who was dumped on previously? “Mom/Dad, I told you that talking that way/saying hurtful things/being mean to the children was unacceptable. We’ll be going now.”

      And gather up the kids and leave.

      Right now the message you are giving your kids, whether you intend it or not, is: it’s ok for grandma/grandpa to be mean, I (mom/dad) will not protect you from grandma/grandpa, grandma’s/grandpa’s feelings are more important to me than my kids’ feelings.

      And it doesn’t matter if your parents think they are expressing affection. Their *behavior* is mean and cruel and reprehensible, and they are directing it at small children. If they were punching your children instead of mocking them, would you let them do that? (And trust me, there are people out there who think that physical violence is ok if it’s intended affectionately — I’m just kidding around! that’s how guys show they care! etc)

    14. WorkingRachel*

      I am also team “don’t let them talk like that to the kids.” Kids do remember. My grandma, who was a pretty mean person (although in a different way than your parents), had the opportunity to be mean to me exactly once. I always remembered that experience–I don’t know if it was quite traumatic but it was on the edge. MUCH later my mom told me that she was angry about that situation, too, and never allowed my grandma to babysit again and limited contact with her parents for a long time afterwards. But I didn’t know that part, I only remembered and internalized the part where I was “bad” and punished for it, and thought my parents were in the house and knew what was happening.

      So short visits like you’re already doing. Maybe activities that make it really hard for them to be verbally abusive–watching a movie? something physical enough that there’s little opportunity for conversation? And yes, having a boundary in mind that means “we’re leaving right now,” and ideally telling your kids why it’s happening so they know what grandma and grandpa said isn’t okay.

  24. MassChick (leaf peeping NE USA?)*

    After many years, we’ll be back in the Boston (USA) area in October this year. Fall was always my favorite season and I’d like to plan road trip (or two) to see the colors (within about 5 hours of driving distance). Would love to hear from foliage hunters about how it’s looking this year.
    What areas might be in peak around October 15th? I’m eyeing Acadia National Park but wondering if it will be past peak by then and not worth the 5 hour drive from Boston. Vermont and NH are also options. Any specific spots that you would recommend? Preferably off the beaten path so we might still find places to stay without booking well in advance.
    I do plan to keep an eye on the foliage reports closer to our time of travel, but would be great to have some places to focus on.

    1. Quincy413*

      If you don’t want to drive all the way to Vermont, my family always jokes that central/western MA is Vermont-lite (awesome scenery w/more amenities/less driving).

      Specific towns that are probably more amenable to tourism/have places to stay: Fitchburg, the whole Northhampton/Amherst/Deerfield area, Sturbridge. The actual cities tend to be full of rundown old mills, you want to find a more rural spot along Route 2 or Route 90 (two highways running east-west across MA).

      1. Mulligatawny*

        Route 2 is scenic with places to stop, side roads etc.
        Route 90 is the Mass Pike, and mostly looks like other Interstates, with limited on-off locations and service plazas with fast food stuff.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      The Berkshires are only 2+ hours or so from Boston and there are different towns where some like Lenox are more popular but others are more off the beaten path.

    3. Angstrom*

      There’s a classic small-town fall fair in Sandwich, NH the weekend of October 7-9. Might be fun for you. Lots of back roads and some easy hikes in the area.
      Avoid Woodstock, VT. Lovely area but overcrowded at peak.

    4. MassChick (leaf peeping in NE USA)*

      Thank you everyone for the suggestions and the link to foliage! I’m excited to start planning!

      1. Bostonian*

        Bostonian here. I really like going to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, especially the area near Franconia. It’s been a while since the last time I went because of health reasons but it’s gorgeous and there are lots of nature-related activities there.

        Be aware the foliage timing varies a lot from year to year, so if you’re strictly looking to catch peak leaf change you may need to pick your specific side trip(s) during or right before your trip.

        1. MassChick (leaf peeping in NE USA)*

          Thank you. I lived in the Boston suburbs years ago, so I do know that each year is different. Back then we tended to go to the same areas each year so I wanted some fresh ideas/options.

  25. Falling Diphthong*

    Robots amongst us:
    I stopped into not-my-usual grocery store to look for a mango, and there was a robot trundling along the produce section. Tall and thin, blue lights, not performing any task that I could discern. And everyone just shopped around it like hey, sometimes robots need mangoes.

    1. fposte*

      They’re inventory robots, and in my town they have a fandom among several little kids, whose parents have checked with the store to make sure they know when the robots are out and about so the kids can come and interact with them.

      1. MassChick (leaf peeping NE USA?)*

        Learnt something new today! Do the robots inventory the kids as well? :-)

      2. SophieChotek*

        I have not seen one of these near the mangos or anywhere else.
        (Though I’ve seen the Dell TV advertisement often enough showing how Dell will help a person get their ice cream flavour more quickly.)
        Now I want to see one!

      3. AbortAbort*

        they’ve had them here for 5-6 years. they’re security robots that watch for so-called suspicious behavior and they can get in the way in right aisles so be careful.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I would totally say “Excuse me” to a robot in the produce section as I moved around it, with a 50/50 shot that I would even notice it was a robot. I love it.

    3. GoryDetails*

      What a marvelous mental image that is! I haven’t seen those in my area but if I do I’ll be polite.

    4. Tiny clay insects*

      I was at a hotel in Slovenia with robot waiters with cat faces! They cruised around to tables with lots of people, carrying all the dishes so the human waiter didn’t have to make multiple trips, or they moved about so that they could have dirty dishes set on them. People were pretty uniformly charmed by them. I took a lot of photos.

      1. Janice*

        I saw these at a sushi/Chinese/Mongolian buffet! They were used to bring out the Mongolian dishes so that people didn’t congregate at the grill and instead went back to their seats. I thought it was a brilliant idea.

      2. I take tea*

        Faces apparently makes it easier for people to notice robots. We have a couple in a library to move books around, and people kept stumbling on them, until they put eyes on them.

    5. Hiring Mgr*

      We’ve had one of those at Stop and Shop which is an NE grocery chain for a while. His name’s Marty and nobody knows what he really does.

      1. No Sweat*

        We have Marty robots at the Giant grocery stores where I live. They also sell plushie versions of him in the store.

        1. numptea*

          I hate those things. I think they record people and target specific demographics to pay attention to. The one at my local store follows me around. Every time I linger in one spot for a bit (choosing a brand, poking at produce ripeness, etc.) I turn around and run into it.

          1. anonymous privacy advocate*

            I hate them too!! For all those reasons and the first time I encountered one it was in my peripheral vision while picking out produce and looking down. Then it started moving, they are tall and rectangular so I thought it was a support beam. It almost crashed into me. I have CPTSD and get jumpy easily. It’s bad enough being unnecessarily surveilled, nearly getting a panic attack did not help. I no longer shop there.

          2. Nervous Nellie*

            I feel the same. I shudder to think what these things are up to or could be up to. Shades of ‘I, Robot’ or Skynet or even just filming/recording. I will steer clear of any business that brings these in.

        2. Jay*

          I hate that d***n thing.
          It somehow always manages to lurk just behind me, so I’m banging into it, or blocking whatever isle I’m trying to go down.
          On more than one occasion I have been just a hair’s breadth away from punching it after banging my shins or stubbing my toes trying to avoid running into it.
          From the looks of it’s chassis, I would say a fair few other people haven’t been able to resist the temptation.

    6. AGD*

      I love that, for all that humans have a tendency toward overdeveloped xenophobia, we often treat robots with affection.

    7. AnonRN*

      My hospital is piloting robots that deliver supplies and medications to the units. They move independently and can open doors (ie: activate the automated doors wirelessly) and can call elevators. But it’s an old building so sometimes they get stuck and we have to rescue them (push the override switch and then manually push the robot along 10 feet and then let it reorient and continue its path). Most of us speak to them like I speak to my dumbest cat…with bemused affection. They’ve already won.

    8. Old Plant Woman*

      I am really happy you gave me this heads up! Can just see myself grabbing strangers in a store. “Do you see that? What is it?”

  26. beep beep*

    I just got a couple pieces of news early this morning that will complicate my life in the next couple months, especially next week (traveling, but suddenly my transit home is uncertain, and something I booked a week of vacation for is suddenly cancelled, though the organizers are trying to reschedule). What would you do if you suddenly had a week+ maybe-at-loose-ends-but-maybe-not? Should I try and book some other kind of trip for fun to use up my vacation time, or wait for the reschedule (which may not even happen this year)? And if so, any suggestions? :P I’m on the East Coast US and don’t have a passport yet, but I have the disposable income to make at least a few days’ trip happen.

    1. WestsideStory*

      I’m in your boat! Sort of, enough to commiserate …Cleared off the coming week in expectation of visiting friends and family…now Mr Westside is sick so all travel plans are cancelled.
      I am planning one days outing to a distant beach (probably Montauk) so I won’t go stir crazy and/or feel deprived. Can you get to the ocean? I find it calming, maybe you will too.
      The main thing is probably taking at least one day to indulge yourself. No need to go far. If you can manage an overnight, I say go for it.

      1. beep beep*

        I hope Mr Westside recovers soon! You know, I’ve never been an ocean person, but I do find the mountains really calming, and I’m not far from the Appalachias, so maybe I’ll spend some time up there. Thank you for the advice! I’ll look forward to that :)

    2. Bluebell*

      Many years ago it became apparent that I was going to be the only one in the family to have paid vacation time. So a family vacation was out but I had many days. I ended up going to Puerto Rico for a week. It was relaxing, didn’t need a passport, and I just enjoyed following my own schedule. It’s definitely a decision I look back on and think “yes, that was a good choice”

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      When I had surgery postponed at the last minute (in the context of health things constantly going wrong and it was never the best case scenario) we booked a last minute trip to a B&B on the coast of Maine, since my husband had planned to be off to take care of me. Wound up being a really great idea. (Even though a lot of restaurants weren’t open yet in early May.) It did take me until crossing the Maine border to relax and believe nothing more would go wrong–apparently my body didn’t think New Hampshire counted.

      Since the cancer-pandemic whammy, I am very much of the mindset “Seize the day, a short trip now is better than a big trip at some future amorphous time.”

    4. OtterB*

      I’d look for a low-stress trip. I don’t know where you are on the East Coast, but I am a big fan of Chincoteague, VA. I like the Refuge Inn as a place to stay, or rent a house (but probably not worth it for one person, and probably not possible for less than a week until after Labor Day). Visit the wildlife refuge, go to the beach, rent a bike or a kayak, go on a boat ride to look for dolphins, browse the art galleries and the Sundial bookstore. Eat some good seafood and good outdoor carryout of various kinds.

  27. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    You get one shot to communicate a sentence to your pet that they will understand and retain for the rest of their days. What is it?

    To my older dog: Barking inside the house at dogs barking outside the house does not make them stop barking, it just makes more noise and results in a cranky mama.

    To my younger dog: If I give something to you, it’s yours and you can play with it all you want, but if I did not give it to you, it is not for chewing or dragging around the house or playing with, leave it alone.

    To the one-eyed cat: I told you that I expected you to regularly snuggle with this giant puppy, and you have not held up to your end of the bargain, so where are my adorable snuggle piles.

    1. Doctor is In*

      To our large pound rescue dogs: Our 13 year old cat is NOT for chasing. (We have had to keep them separated since the dogs were about 6 months old, and they are now 8). What a fun thread!

    2. GoryDetails*

      To the roly-poly ginger cat: Just because the other two don’t eat as fast as you do, it doesn’t mean you get to polish off their food as well as your own.

      [Oddly enough, when I tried telling him this, he ignored me. Humph.]

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I’ve been telling my three their one-sentence-each all their lives and nobody ever listens.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      To Destructobot: Yellow bird is fine where it is and does not need to be shoved onto the floor.

      (For context, there are a blue bird and a yellow bird, glass, and only the yellow bird offends her. Maybe she should be the only orange animal form in the household?)

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      To all the animals: When you need to barf, do it on the hardwood floor. You don’t need to find a textile and barf on the textile.

      (I assume the textile is like grass and the hardwood like rock?)

      1. Bluebell*

        My dogs have always always preferred to barf on a rug. No idea why, but they are consistent. The bedspread is also a top pick.

      2. GoryDetails*

        Oh, gosh, this. Though the cats seem to gravitate not only to the rugs but to any item of importance that I may have left on the floor (OK, my life includes lots of stacks of books, pretty much everywhere). While a normal cat-urk in the hall won’t make me leap out of my chair – I’ll clean it up eventually – if they hover near a stack of books I will move pretty darned fast!

    5. anon24*

      My boy cat: Food will be at designated mealtimes and since you’ve already proven you can read the clock we’ve provided you please stop asking me for it 2 hours early and making a general nuisance of yourself for those 2 hours before every single mealtime also I love you dearly but you are exhausting when it comes to food, I will never let you die of starvation.

      my girl cat: I know you are an extremely social creature and we do not live social lives, but for the love of all things holy stop shrieking at the top of your tiny lungs every time I get on the phone/zoom/teams/discord

      1. nonprofit director*

        This made me laugh. I think we have the same boy cat when it comes to food. Also, because our boy cat is so driven by food, he behaves just like your girl cat except as a means to get food to shut him up.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          That’s my Peanut, except of course when presented with his meal he becomes the world’s snootiest food critic and does the two bite wander off until more dried salmon flakes are applied routine.

    6. Sitting Pretty*

      Yes. A member of your pack is home. We all know and there is no need to further herald their arrival.

    7. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      “If you stay in the grassy area with the other dogs and come when called, you will have many more opportunities to go off-leash and play with other dogs.”

      My dog is very social and loves to play with other dogs, but his recall sucks and sometimes he gets a hankering for adventure, so he only gets to go off-leash in fully fenced off-leash areas or his own (fenced) yard rather than the various fields and yards that some of the other dogs in the neighborhood run around in.

    8. The Prettiest Curse*

      To my rowdy adolescent dog: pigeons, cats, small dogs and the perfectly nice dog next door are not assassins sent to kill you and your family, so please calm down. (To be fair, he is a lot better with cats and small dogs than he used to be, but he’s still a work in progress!)

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          He used to ignore pigeons. Then we went on holiday and the cottage we rented had a bush by the front door in which two pigeons were roosting. Now he thinks All Pigeons Are Evil And Must Be Destroyed, sigh.

      1. Goldfeesh*

        My first thought as well. “I love you and I wish you had longer little lives.” This is to my rats who definitely deserve to have much longer lifespans. So unfair they generally get around three years at max.

    9. Rara Avis*

      Poop in one of your three litter boxes, not the bathtub! (My rescue cat will pee in the litter box but evidently poop belongs elsewhere.)

      1. anon24*

        My little girl is so insistent on puking on carpet. In our old apartment when she would start doing her puke howl she would run to the carpeted area, we’d move her to the linoleum, and she’d run back just in time, yay for her!

        Our new apartment is all linoleum and fake wood. The first few times she had to puke were comedy gold as she frantically ran from room to room howling desperately but refusing to puke until she could find the non-existent carpet. She actually held out for almost 30 minutes before she couldn’t take it anymore. Now she usually goes into my husband’s bathroom and pukes on his towels. He gets so annoyed and I remind him this is why I religiously keep my bathroom door shut.

        1. allathian*

          My parents had that problem with their two cats, too. But a family friend with a big yard put in some artificial grass/astroturf for their kids to play ball on, and they had some left over. My parents removed all the rugs for a while and just put about a square foot of astroturf in the kitty c0rner of the kitchen. They seemed to like it and it was very easy to clean, just rinse the barf off in the shower. And never, ever leave any towels or clothes on the floor… Eventually they put the rugs back, but by then the cats were used to the astroturf, or maybe they just remembered getting scolded every time they barfed on the rugs, and getting lots of scritches and “good boy!” appreciation when they barfed on the astroturf.

    10. Managerista*

      To my pup who has had TWO obstructions: “I know those tree nuts are delectable but you really, really have to stop eating them.”

    11. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      To all of them: I love you – you are so, so loved.
      It’s the most important one I think.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Our sweet maltipoo had a lot of funny quirks that I would have loved to communicate with him about, but above all “we love you and will always take care of you” is definitely no. 1. (And not to get too maudlin but if he had been able to tell my husband it was his time to go, maybe that would have lessened the grief a little.)

    12. goddessoftransitory*

      FINISH YOUR FOOD, MR PICKY PANTS. (Peanut, my 15 year old cat, adores dainty nibblings and frequent reapplications of dried salmon and it takes a good ten to fifteen minutes for him to finish one of his five tiny meals a day; he always leaves something for Mister Manners.)

    13. Longtime Lurker*

      If I say “I’ll be right back” that means “please stay where you are and don’t come with me”…

      1. B*

        And to our 10 yr old rescue pom peke Montell, “I will always come back- from the store, from the restaurant, from taking out the trash cans, from going to the bathroom, from getting something out of the fridge…”
        The anxiety in the Junior Mint eyes of our little shadow boy is sad/kinda funny?

    14. Lbd*

      To the young horses I work with:
      1. We do not groom the human.
      2. (In regards to any feed that I am carrying) It’s mine until I say it’s not!
      To one very special young stallion from the past, I said, “I will get you out of your paddock for a run in the field every single time I am here no matter how much time I have, if you cooperate with me by letting me catch you when I need to get you back into your paddock”. Obviously, he understood because although he could run for flat out for 15 minutes without tiring, when he saw me coming out with the lead rope, he would always, always, either stand still or meet me half way. Stubborn tiny asshole as a newborn foal but once he realised that I would outstubborn him, he was a Good Boy. And so much trust between us.
      Then there was the group of yearling fillies running from the neighbour’s dog. I said, “What are you doing?!?? There’s 3 of you, one of him, and any one of you outweighs him by a huge amount!” They stopped and looked at me, looked at the dog, and then turned and headed for the dog at a brisk trot. The dog regretted his choices at that moment, and left abruptly.

    15. Sloanicota*

      To my dog: thunder is just noise, and it’s not going to hurt you. I promise. Please relax.

      To my cat: You are perfect just the way you are (but luckily, she already knows this).

    16. The teapots are on fire*

      To the late, great, Percival: “The reason other cats always hiss at you when you meet them is that you greet them by biting them on the ass, and they don’t like it.”

    17. No Tribble At All*

      To our very sweet but dumb as a box of rocks cat: stop eating hair!!! It’s not good for you!!!

    18. I'm A Little Teapot*

      To the 1-week-short-of-1-year-old cat: I know you like to chew on things but a lot of it could hurt you, I promise to have lots of things you can chew on so only chew on those, and I love you very much.

      To the 1-month-short-of-1-year-old cat: Your stomach is messed up and the special food is fixing it, please only eat the foods I give to you not other foods that may be available, and I love you very much.

      Yes, I am trying to avoid big vet bills.

  28. Turtle Dove*

    I posted about a month ago to ask for suggestions for my first trip to the west coast. Thanks again for all the great suggestions! I thought I’d share the highlights. I’d recommend all the places I mention.

    My husband and I started near Lake Tahoe. What a gorgeous area! The bartender at Donner Pass Brewery in Truckee, California shared his favorite beach on Lake Tahoe. We went there to wade and admire the scenery before driving around part of the lake. Then we headed to Monterey for lunch and then north along the Pacific Coast Highway. Wonderful views. Next we jogged east to Sonoma and visited Deerfield Ranch Winery. Then back to the coast. The views when it wasn’t foggy were great. We visited Mendocino thanks to a beloved Linda Ronstadt song, and it’s just as pretty and groovy as I’d imagined. After CA-1 turned inland, we enjoyed burgers and beer at The Peg House in Leggett, a rustic delight. The next morning was all about redwoods, and we walked part of the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail. Then we drove up the Oregon coast. The wild, sweeping vistas were breathtaking and my favorite part of the trip. We took a walk along Bandon Beach and admired the sea stacks. Next we visited a friend in Hood River, Oregon for lunch at Grasslands Barbeque before heading to Seattle for a wedding reception.

    We packed a lot into a few days so I could get an overview as a first-timer. Next time I want to linger in favorite areas like the Oregon coast and Lake Tahoe.

    I saw signs for places that you recommended (like Confusion Hill), and they made me smile and feel grateful for this wonderful community. I’m keeping all your tips for my next trip west!

    1. GoryDetails*

      Glad you had such a great trip! Makes me recall my visits to the coast fondly. (Though I never did get to the Truckee region, despite my interest in All Things Donner {wry grin}.)

      Did you see the Camera Obscura near Cliff House, outside San Francisco? I remember being wildly impressed with its low-tech images – even though I could just step outside the camera and see them for myself!

      1. Turtle Dove*

        No, we didn’t see that! It sounds like something we’d like. Thanks for the tip for our next trip west. I’d like to spend more time in San Francisco too. We breezed through after spending time in Mountain View, where my husband used to live and work.

        I hope you make it to Truckee. I liked the old downtown, and the smell of evergreens reminded me of childhood trips to northern Michigan.

  29. Lilo*

    So my elderly cat died a few months ago (he lived a good long life). We’ve been thinking about another cat. What I’ve been considering is whether to go for another adult cat or a pair of kittens (basically the rescues near me will adopt older cats solo but want kittens to be adopted together).

    Based on a quirk of life, I have experience with cats but not actually with kittens. I adopted my last cat already grown and my family’s other cats were either abandoned cats who came to live with us or given to us by neighbors who were moving.

    Any tips/advice here? What are the notable differences in having two?

    1. GoryDetails*

      Oh, gosh! On the one hand, two aren’t (usually) much more trouble than one, though if they decide they don’t like each other it can get interesting. But it might depend on how much energy *you* have, and whether you’re hoping for cats that will be closer to you or that will entertain themselves.

      I’ve had kittens and bonded pairs of young-but-not-kittens and senior cats, and they each have pros and cons. I do think that I may have overreacted in my last choices, though; after adopting a couple of senior cats in a row, as I figured they’d need homes more than the younglings, I decided I wanted younger cats next time – the seniors were marvelous cats but, being already advanced in years, they reached their final days too soon for me. So now I have three young cats, and… the energy level is higher than I’d planned for, as my own energy-level is waning {wry grin}. At this point they may outlive me, but if I do wind up catless again I’ll probably switch back to senior cats. Your mileage may vary!

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Kittens are tiny assholes. Haha. They’re super cute, but that’s how they survive the fact that they’re tiny assholes. In general, they will shred your furniture and carpets, chew your cords, find any gap in your house they can fit into, and if they can’t find a gap they will MAKE one and then you’ll have a kitten in your sofa for three days until you figure out how to get them out. If you have two, they’ll take most of their asshole-ness out on each other, but not all of it, and they will find ways to work together to break things. If you have much fortitude and willpower to dedicate toward behavioral training, and possibly a large empty laundry basket to plop upside-down over them when they are getting REALLY uppity, you can probably get them to adulthood and some level of sanity. But for about a year to a year and a half before that, it’s like living with a pair of two-year-olds on meth that someone shrunk down and armed with 20 razor blades each. (And if they’re not the same sex, you’ll want to get them desexed ASAP because cats mature way earlier than most people think.)

      If you only have one armed rampaging coked-up toddler, then you’re its only outlet for interaction and god help you.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        (Even if they ARE the same sex you probably still want them desexed ASAP, but two boys or two girls are not going to create more armed rampaging coked-up toddlers by the time they’re eight months old.)

      2. Generic Name*

        This is hilarious. My 2 did all this when they were kittens, and yet I’m still on team kitten. One of my cats seemed to encourage the other (smaller) one to get herself stuck in inconvenient places.

      3. the cat's ass*

        okay, this is really funny and also accurate. Both of mine were pandemic kittens; it had been decades since kittens because all my previous rescues were adults. I had to install baby gates and get rid of most of my plants. 3 years in they are becoming more sedate and affectionate. I’d do it again, too.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I’m kind of impressed the baby gates worked, haha. We use baby gates for “the dogs cannot go here but the cats can” :)

    3. Generic Name*

      I vote 2 kittens! Kittens are absolutely the best!!! They are so much fun to watch. The kitten period is so short, so be sure to take tons of photos and videos. Getting 2 at the same time ensures they aren’t lonely while you’re away.

    4. Kat*

      So first of all, everything Red Reader the Adulting Fairy says is true!

      Up till 2019 I’d only had adult cats, and I’d spent several years adopting older cats with health problems that needed a home. I lost my last one in 2019 and just couldn’t face going through the end of life care and losing a piece of my heart again so soon, I wanted a young cat I’d have with me for (hopefully) a long time. So I adopted a one year old, love her to distraction, but how high energy she was came as more of a surprise than it should have been – she wanted my attention and to play all the time. I then adopted a 3 month old kitten a few months later – my first kitten ever. The two bonded and spent a lot of time playing together etc. The kitten was a lot of work, but she’d have been more work if my other cat wasn’t also there and looking for a playmate – kittens have so much energy and constant want to play (and I mean constantly) and can get themselves into lots of trouble when bored. And they get bored a lot because they have the attention span of a fly. They will absolutely climb curtains then get stuck at the top / wriggle behind the fridge and cry then run out just as you’re about to move the thing / knock over your plant pots while playing and then play in the dirt and leave soil and bits of massacred plants everywhere.

      What I wasn’t prepared for was how emotional I’d feel about the kitten. I’ve loved every cat I’ve ever had with all my heart, gaining their trust after what they’ve been through before coming to me always feels so special. I’ve thought each cat was an absolute perfect soulmate cat. I don’t have children, but something about the kitten and the way she really was such a baby and really needed me hit me in a very maternal way.

      Which is just as well because cat adolescence starts around 6 months and tails off (hah) somewhere between ages 2 and 3, and they can REALLY lean into the adolescence part of it. I found myself regularly googling ‘when do cats stop being teenagers’. Wouldn’t change them for the world though, and it kept things interesting!

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        With my pup (who just turned 18 months old yesterday) we’ve been calling her adolescent phase “the velociraptor days” :) she’s a 120 pound Dane, so it’s been a whooooooole ride. I think, knock wood, we’re mostly at the end of the velociraptor days and progressing into the couch potato years :)

    5. anon24*

      If you are getting kittens get 2. 1 needs attention, and will want it all from you.

      My kitten was literally a rescue, my husband untangled him out of the wiring harness of a vehicle engine. He was a 2 pound bundle of terror and energy. We spent the first month of his existence with us saying “no” and redirecting him to kitten activities. At the time, both of us were gone from 7am to 6pm so by the time we got home kitten was bored and had been cooped up all day and so just wanted us to play and play and socialize. It was like an exhausting nightmare. I barely had time to cook and didn’t clean for a month because kitten wanted so. much. attention. and needed training and direction and how do you say no to a very insistent adorable little monster who will literally climb on you if he doesn’t get his way?

      So we got a second one. I figured it was either going to get worse or it was going to get better. It got so much better. It took about 4 weeks of us gradually letting them get closer to each other to be cool
      1 week of total separation followed by being able to see each other in separate carriers for brief amounts of time, then we’d let one run around our living area while the other ran around the space we were keeping the other penned up in and got them used to each others scent, then we started letting them play under the door together, then we eventually just let them have at it and after about a week of bickering they determined their boundaries and were fine. After that they could spend their days playing together and when we got home didn’t require so much time and attention from us.

      Funnily enough, our little boy, the first, is a total momma hen and always seemed like he was trying so hard to be good despite his kitten energy and nature, so we spent countless hours teaching him the rules of our house and giving him tons of toys to play his cat nature on while making it clear what he could not do, but we never had to do much with our little girl because as soon as she would get into anything bad he’d be over there smacking her across the face before we even started to say no. He always acted like if either of them was bad we’d kick them out, it was hilarious.

      Of course now they’re both adults and have accepted that they are the masters of the home and can do as they please. My boy has decided that he must go to sleep every night watching TV, has his own playlist on YouTube of video game ambience videos that he likes (if he doesn’t like a video he comes and bugs us until we change it) and will throw a temper tantrum and sulk if we don’t turn his videos on for him in the evenings.

    6. mreasy*

      If you can find a bonded pair of adult cats I highly recommend it – and bonus they tend to be harder to adopt out so you’re doing a good deed. Having cats who groom and cuddle with each other is next level cute and sweet!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Strongly seconding this – 2 are hardly more work than 1, and older bonded pairs are hard to find homes for (but will bring you so much joy with their interactions with each other – plus their relationship is solidified so you know they won’t end up disliking each other once they grow up, which can sometimes be the case with younger cats). I’ve been doing some volunteer grant-writing for a local rescue group and ended up absolutely haunted by an older bonded pair whose person had to go into assisted living and couldn’t take them. They’d been living at a shelter and getting increasingly depressed in that environment, weren’t eating, etc. (I would have taken them in a second but they didn’t like other cats.) My mom’s neighbor ended up fostering them and then adopting them, and they are the sweetest cats and they’re thriving now! There are a lot of older bonded pairs in situations like that who need help and have been waiting a long time. I vote older bonded pair!

      2. Lilo*

        I usually end up with adult cats because I’m willing to take the sad middle aged cat who has sat in the shelter for months and months.

    7. numptea*

      I’ve done decades of fostering, and kittens are exhausting. Some breeds take 2-3 years to grow out of the asshole kitten stage, too, so it’s not necessarily about just powering through a few rough months.

      I agree with other posters, two bonded adults is the way to go. Less drama for you, and a hard-to-place category that you’d be hugely helping with. There can be personality issues or incompatibility problems if they are being introduced from separate sources, but adopting a bonded pair negates that issue.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I foster and I’m always so relieved to get rid of the kittens just as they enter the a*shole adolescent/teenage stage. Baby teeny kittens are so cute, adult cats are so lovely, and in between they are trouble LOL

    8. E*

      I gotta push back on the idea that two cats are not much more work than one. I’ve had two different pairs of cats over the years and they were both more trouble together than apart. For example, both times, one cat was an over-eater and the other wanted to graze lightly. This can result in one obese cat and another who never gets enough to eat, which means that I had to feed them many small meals every day and watch them the the entire time to make sure one didn’t eat the others food. Separately, it would have been much easier to feed either of them. As another example, different cats have different ways of being annoying at night. For example, one wants to sleep on your head and the other gallops up and down the hallway all night. I love cats but I think two is definitely more work and trouble than one.

      1. tangerineRose*

        2 cats also tends to mean twice the food and twice the vet visits, and you’ll want to have at least 2 cat carriers. I still prefer having 2 though.

    9. Lilo*

      Update: my son fell in love with a 4 year old cat at the shelter, so we again adopted an adult cat.

        1. Lilo*

          My previous cat was already middle aged when he was born so I don’t think he was prepared for kitten energy and instead focused on a calmer adult. There weren’t any bonded pairs of adults at the shelter when we went.

    10. Don't Be a Dork*

      Two kittens have a lot of energy, but they’ll burn most of it playing with each other. OTOH, two kittens turns into two adult cats, so if you are looking at wanting just one quiet cat, go for the adult at the outset.

      If you and your family are gone a lot, get the pair, even if it’s two adults who get on well. Everyone claims cats are solitary beasts, but in all my 50+ years of sharing a home with cats, I’ve only met two who really would have been better off in a single cat household. The others bond with at least one of the clowder and are usually going to be in the same space even if not cuddled together.

    11. tangerineRose*

      I love cats and kittens, but kittens get into everything and go everywhere and are willing to go underfoot.

      In your situation, I’d adopt 2 youngish adult cats, maybe 2 or 3 years old. They’d be full sized, probably “fixed” already, and they’d be likely to be playful, but they won’t be as insane as kittens are.

    12. Yikes Stripes*

      I’m going to put in a plea to consider adopting an older bonded pair. They’re incredibly difficult for rescues to place, and you get the adorable cuddling bonded action without all of the chaos and destruction that goes along with a pair of kittens.

    13. I'm A Little Teapot*

      If you get kittens, get 2. They’re babies, lots of fun, energetic, into everything and they will entertain themselves to a large extent. But you have no idea what you’ll end up with. I came very close to having a 15lb cat, but thank goodness she’s probably topping out around 11lbs.

      If you get adults, you know better what their personalities are, it takes longer for them to get comfortable and learn to trust you, but when they decide to trust you there is nothing else quite like it. You earned that love and trust.

    14. Samwise*

      Kittens are cat-babies and require a lot of additional attention. They cry a lot. While they are adorable, they are kinda exhausting.

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

    Small joys thread? What made you happy this week?

    I woke up to a nice steady rain outside this morning — very cozy!

    1. GoryDetails*

      I heard barred owls calling in the woods behind my house last night! It’s a longish call, often described as “Who cooks for you?”, and there were several birds involved.

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

        What an evocative way of describing it — I can totally hear it now! : )

      2. Rose is a rose is a rose*

        I have barred owls near me as well and recently I heard the juveniles calling at night! Totally different from the adult call; I had no idea what it was but was able to use the Merlin app to identify it!

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I am going to a small local gaming convention tomorrow and will see one of my dearest friends that I don’t get to see very often, and possibly depending on timing also her husband and their munchkins, who are my honorary nephews. Yay!

    3. Turtle Dove*

      When I was about seven, I had a red-plaid skirt and matching jacket. It was my first experience feeling confident and lovely, and I’ve hoped to find another red-plaid outfit ever since. There it was yesterday at Kiwanis when I stopped in on a whim! A raw silk, red-plaid dress that fits like a dream. I asked a volunteer there about a missing piece (the tag said three pieces, but there were only two), and she kindly took me in the back to look for what we think were silk pants. We didn’t find them, but the interaction and the lovely dress made my day.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Whippets!

      I haven’t seen them in at least a year and figured they were no longer made. When they first vanished from all stores near me I eventually checked Amazon and they had a few boxes for like $40/box, the price of “discontinued and I bought the last few boxes from my store.” Which wasn’t worth it to me; I accepted my loss and moved on.

      And then when I stopped in not-my-usual store to get a mango I figured “Eh, I’ll go look at the cookie selection” and they were back!

      I bought three boxes, and ate one in the course of two days.

      1. Sitting Pretty*

        Oh at first I totally thought you were referring to the canine variety of whippet. I too haven’t seen a whippet in at least a year. And while I would be equally delighted to encounter a supply of them, I would be unlikely to eat one

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Clarification: These whippets consist of a graham cracker like base, a layer of raspberry jam, a mound of marshmallow, all dipped in chocolate. One of those things that is greater than the sum of its parts.

        1. more fires*

          Oh! I know those, but by a different name. I wonder what we call them here? They’re fun.

          In crazy cookies, a company that traditionally makes maple flavoured cookies in the form of maple leaves had a “pumpkin spice” maple leaf cookie. It was not my favourite, but I liked the sheer novelty of it!

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        Hah, I thought you meant the tiny dogs and was all “wait, can you discontinue a dog??”

    5. CTT*

      I was really wanting to eat out last night as a reward for a long week, but I had leftover southwestern quinoa casserole I really needed to finish. I had the brainwave to turn that into nachos (I did go out and by some guacamole and the fake nacho cheese) and they were DELICIOUS.

      1. Snell*

        On the topic of food, I attended a food fair yesterday, and completely exhausted myself with a good time. I got there within the opening hour, and was a little worried about how slow things were, but it really amped up in the second hour. Ate myself sick, and packed a cooler to-go. I had gone to the gym the previous day to work up an appetite. When I got home from the fair, I knew I’d need to rest and recover today.

        TBH I think some of the vendors weren’t expecting the fair to have the amazing attendance that it did. I went to buy a cake at ~1:30, but apparently they sold out at around noon.

    6. GoryDetails*

      More birds: I was driving past Mascuppic Lake (on the Dracut/Tyngsborough line in Massachusetts) and saw an osprey diving for a fish! I’ve seen ospreys in the wild before, though usually on the Hudson River in New York, but I haven’t seen them in my area often, and it’s always a thrill.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        That’s super! I never see ospreys except in Gloucester or the Danvers River.
        Have you been seeing a lot of bald eagles? I saw one near 495/93N, then another one far up 93N in NH and then another one by the lake in North Andover!

        1. GoryDetails*

          Haven’t seen many bald eagles in NH, though I know there are an increasing number of nesting pairs along the Merrimack River, some not too far from where I am. I *did* see some up close and personal when I lived in Wyoming, though; was fetching the mail at a summer job on a ranch and noticed that one fencepost was unusually high. And lo! A full-grown bald eagle was perched on top of it, eyeing me with vague interest… (This was long before the era of smartphones and instant photo uploads, alas, but I treasure the memory.)

    7. Maryn*

      I’m trying to figure out a workable structure to expand a nice little short story I never sold into a novella. The call for mss. is perfect for the plot and characters, but it’s so different when you’re talking 35,000 words instead of 3500. If I go straight chronological, only one of the three gotchas at the end survives.

      I wish my thinking cap fit better!

    8. Bookworm in Stitches*

      There was a pool party at my house this week! I looked out the front door window and there was a ton of birds jumping in and out of my birdbath – I counted at least 9 in it all at the same time. I was headed to the store but just stayed at the window watching them for a while.

    9. RLC*

      This summer the toad population in my garden has increased substantially (size range thumbnail size to palm size). Earlier this week I found one of the tiny toads (half the size of my thumb) limp and dehydrated on a mat in the garage. I put it in a shaded, shallow birdbath to rehydrate and within half an hour it was slowly swimming. An hour later it perched adorably on the rim of the birdbath for a photo op. I swear it even smiled at me!

    10. Firebird*

      My daughter brought her cat and boyfriend to spend the day with me. We chatted, ate lunch, and watched the cat. Very low key and nice.

      I was at the grocery store earlier and asked if I could have a discount on a severely damaged outer package (the inside seemed ok). The store manager looked at it and said I could have it for free. I would have settled for 25 cents off (roughly 10 percent.) So we ended up with a free dessert today.

    11. allathian*

      We had a lovely friend reunion on Saturday, and I got the chance to reconnect with a few friends I hadn’t seen for more than 10 years. I’ve been friends with most of them since middle school. It was amazing to realize that while life had taken all of us in different directions, the fundamental core of our friendship was still there.

    12. carcinization*

      My husband and I went to our first yoga class in a couple of years (we’ve been doing yoga since 2008 but it’s been awhile since I’ve done more than a daily sun salutation or occasional cat/cow), and it was a pretty challenging flow, but we stayed with it pretty well.

  31. OyHiOh*

    Don’t see a writing thread started yet, so here it is.

    What documents are in your tabs this weekend?

    1. OyHiOh*

      I’m in recovery mode this morning, after writing a short one act overnight.

      24 hour play festival at a local theater company. Eight of us writers drew for actors, director, and a mandatory prop, and were sent home at 7 pm last night to write a 5 minute play. That’s about 5 or 6 pages, depending on which formatting convention used. We had until 5 am this morning to turn in our scripts. Actors and directors got scripts at 6 am, start rehearsals at 9 am, and perform tonight at 7 pm.

      I’m about to take a nap! Not sure I’ll accomplish any other writing this weekend, so I’m glad I knocked out something to be proud of!

    2. numptea*

      Ugh, I’m here because I’m procrastinating on writing. I have four articles due on Monday. :p

  32. Trixie Belden was my hero*

    I found the perfect set (on sale) of lightweight pots and pans for my induction cook top. Induction cook tops only work with pots that can conduct the magnetization, like cast iron for example. I can’t lift heavy objects so that was out. There is a growing selection of cast aluminum pots and pans available at range of price points. I plan on making sausage and peppers for dinner tonight.

    1. Indolent Libertine*

      Finding the perfect pots and pans is major! Enjoy dinner and all the meals to come!!

  33. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    If you have a huge backlog of things to watch or play or read , do you try to get through it before getting anything new or do you think you’ll get through it all eventually?

    1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I don’t wait until I have nothing in the backlog to get new things, but I do get more selective about getting new things in that category if I have a lo of it at home.

      I grew up getting most of my books from used book stores, so it was never predictable what books they’d have in stock on a given day. I’d also go to stores while on vacation, so I wouldn’t be back to that specific store for a while, if ever. If my TBR pile at home was small, I’d first scan for the books on my specific “want list”, then books by my favorite authors, then see how much I was already spending on that stack and expand my search to books by authors I didn’t know on topics that looked interesting or books by my second-choice-authors, and so on until the stack was as large as my budget or I ran out of books that looked interesting. If my TBR pile was large, I’d just look for the books I was specifically searching for, and then check my favorite authors.

      I don’t worry about whether or not I’ll get through it all eventually, I just focus on whether or not I have a good selection of things to choose from to read.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I go to the thing that appeals the most at that time.

      I do try to go through the books every few years and be honest about how, if I haven’t cracked the book in that time it doesn’t seem to be happening.

      Naomi Novik in The Scholomance had this great metaphor about seeing a dress in the shop that you thought would be perfect, and you bring it home, and it hangs in the closet and is never quite the right time to wear it, and eventually you put it in the donation box with relief. Mixed with guilt because you got exactly what you wanted and then it was never right.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I had a skirt like that; in and of itself, a lovely skirt but too formal for work and I just never went anywhere that it made sense to wear it…and then I got too plump for it, oops.

    3. Dinwar*

      I don’t like the concept of “backlog”. It implies that books, games, or whatever are tasks you need to get through, rather than entertainment to be enjoyed. Sometimes, sure, that’s the case–I have a backlog of SOPs to read, and time set aside to read them at work. But in entertainment? What I do is much more mood-dependent. Some days I want to wander around Skyrim hunting deer. Some days I want to mine. Some days I want to level-grind in an RPG. Having a variety of games gives me options. Similarly, some days I want to read fantasy novels, some days I want to read historical ones, some days I want to read highly technical reports on dinosaur anatomy; if I studiously kept to slogging through a backlog, I’d never get anywhere on any of those things.

      Think of music. Do you have a backlog of music to listen to? I don’t–I have artists I enjoy. Some days it’s heavy metal, some days it’s ethereal Celtic stuff, some days it’s Sumarian or Mongolian or whatever. Just depends on my mood.

      So for me, the issue isn’t having a backlog, it’s having options, and having a wide enough range to suit my tastes at a given time.

      1. fposte*

        I agree. Those are things to choose from, not a to-do list. And sometimes I’ll straight up read a summary of the thing on Wikipedia and call it a day.

    4. RagingADHD*

      It’s entertainment, so I do whatever seems most entertaining at the time. But if the budget is tight, I will pick from something I already have or get a free option instead of buying something new.

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

      Eh, sometimes I move something I’ve been meaning to read to my office if it has been sitting around my home too much without my getting motivated to read it. But then, you know, when the covid lockdown happened, it felt really good to have a ton of books in the house (lockdown taught me that what keeps me mellow is having books and coffee at hand), and I definitely appreciated having things I hadn’t read yet around.

    6. Can't Sit Still*

      Tl;dr: Life is too short to be stressed out by my entertainment.

      March 2020, my Kindle had just under 500 unread books on it. I thought it would be a fun goal to “see how many I could read before I went back to the office, worst case sometime in early summer.” LOL! Over the next 3 years, I read about 3500 books.

      Today, my Kindle has 1,094 unread books on it. I did read some of those books that were unread, but definitely not all of them. Right now, I’m rereading a series, because all of my unread books leave me cold. I should go through and delete the ones I’ll never read, but, eh, that’s too much work. Maybe someday. I had a taste for apocalyptic fiction in the Before Times, but now it’s romances with HEAs and cozy fantasies instead.

      1. Dinwar*

        I use Libby to listen to audiobooks, and read some ebooks. If I finish a book by the time I have to return it, awesome! If not, awesome–didn’t cost me a dime! Since literally the only costs are the electricity to power the tablet and the time to download it (I got the library card along with my family to introduce my kids to the local library, so I count that as a gain), I don’t have that psychological push to get to done that you sometimes have when you put money into something.

        Not sure if it helps the local library or not, to be honest. I travel too much, and on shifts that are too long, to risk hard-copy books, and the ebooks/audiobooks are automatically returned on their due date so no late fees.

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      I tell myself I’ll get to them but cheat constantly.

      I’m actually making progress with the pile of books, but have SO MANY movies recorded on my On Demand waiting dolefully for me to watch them…

  34. Oyful Parent*

    Most weeks there seems to be an aging parent question, so here’s mine this week. Can folks share any stories of getting their elderly parents to take care of legal paperwork? My sibs and I have been trying for the past few months to get our mother to at do a health surrogate form. She’s late 80s, says she doesn’t need to plan for contingencies like that yet. She has no will, but that’s ok because she has no assets either. And she says since we live in different states, she wouldn’t want us as surrogates either. All of us are supporting her financially for different things, and now she needs over $1000 for a hot water heater and keeps telling us she can’t to pay for it (true- she is awful with money) We proposed she get the form done and then we would pay, and she responded that was blackmail. So now it’s a waiting game, which isn’t good for anyone. Any advice welcome, thanks!

    1. WellRed*

      Can you start by getting copies of the forms yourself? For the will, if she hates the idea of government or whatever point out that even with no assets it’ll get eaten up in some way.

      1. Oyful Parent*

        I emailed her copies of the forms. I don’t care about the will that much- she only has furniture and a bit of art. Mostly sibs and I want to be able to access medical info from her doctor. I might mail paper forms as well.

        1. WoodswomanWrites*

          I’ll start with the caveat that my mother is agreeable about things and I’m local, so I’m sure that makes things easier in my situation. Do you know the name of her doctor? If she will share that info with you, you can contact their offices directly and request that they have her sign HIPPA forms the next time she has an appointment. That’s what I did for my mother whose cognitive function has declined. Now I have access to her health records online, and they have my phone number to call for appointments, etc.

          Maybe this would work?

          1. Oyful parent*

            I actually contacted her doctor a few weeks ago after she had a medical incident. She had no emergency contact on file, so I gave them my name, and also asked them to call her, which her dr did. The form we are asking her to sign includes a HIPAA release and she has said we don’t need that info. I might ask the dr ofc if they have an only HIPAA form but right now my mother says she isn’t going anywhere because she’s too dirty.

            1. WoodswomanWrites*

              How frustrating. I’m sorry to hear you’re in this position when you are trying to help her.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Blackmail would be if you threatened to publish her secret love letters with Elvis if she wouldn’t sign the form. This would be more natural consequences, when one party doesn’t want to make any effort but wants other people to, and the other people get fed up with this dynamic.

      I wish I had an answer better than urging everyone to handle this stuff when you are still in good shape and not at loggerheads with your kids about whether there is a problem… because age-related mental problems can slip up slowly. My frustration with my own mom was her extreme passivity, but it did mean she was willing to sign paperwork if my sister and I told her she should sign the paperwork. (And my sister and I were honest, looking out for her, and trying to ensure her death wouldn’t cause a mess.)

      I promised not to do this with my kids, and wonder if people recreate their parents’ patterns of behavior, or find new and different ways to be difficult?

      1. Oyful parent*

        One good result of this is that my sibs and I all have our paperwork done. Spouse and I did ours 20+ years ago before becoming parents. And we didn’t threaten to take away any of the other support we are giving her- in my case that’s 2 monthly major bills including AC. Still there’s no will, no burial info, and she never wants to talk about any of it. And she had two blossoming relationships that withered because they wanted her to visit them (after they had come to see her) but she insisted that they needed to come to her town more.

      1. Emma*

        As an addendum to going to their house in person when you have forms that need to be completed, we were also able to google “mobile notary” and pay someone to come notarize stuff when needed. We timed the mobile notary appointment to happen during our visit, since some of those forms needed to be notarized.

        1. Oyful parent*

          These forms need 2 witnesses but no notary. I was the last child to visit but my sibs are busy with work and family, and it’s a 3+ hour flight for all of us. I’m very bad in hot weather, so I’m looking at an early Oct visit if she’s still talking to me.

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

      Hmmm . . . does your mom have a trusted friend or two in her own state that she would prefer as a health surrogate and backup health surrogate and to whom she could let her wishes be known? Maybe that would help her feel okay signing the paperwork, like there’s someone actually on the scene who will be talking with her doctors if she is incapacitated?

      When my dad was in his 90s, I made the bad mistake of being way overly controlling about being involved in his healthcare when he did not want me to do so. Occasionally, I was helpful, but more often than not, I did not actually have any effect on the outcome other than making my dad feel angry and infantilized. He quite rightly pointed out that when I got involved, doctors stopped listening to him and started treating him like an idiot. Remember that old people do not lose their (perfectly reasonable) desire to be independent and make their own decisions as they age, even if those are not always the same decisions that we would make for them.

      I will also never forget reading someone’s comment (it might even have been here on AAM Weekend) that they wished that instead of focusing on being the perfect child dotting every i and crossing every t with regard to their elderly dad’s healthcare, they had allotted some more time to just hanging out with their dad and enjoying their time together.

      I know you’re stressed, but I would consider de-coupling this issue from the hot water heater. I can see why your mom is mad that you’re now kind of trying to use money to control her. (FWIW, I don’t think it’s good when parents use money to control their kids either.) Your mom definitely needs a hot water heater, especially as fall and winter approach, and having one is a good investment in her health and overall wellbeing. If you all make sure your mom has hot water, you’re really helping yourselves also.

    4. Anono-me*

      Can you point out that the health surrogate form is NOT an old people thing; rather it is a single people thing that most people blow off until they are old. If any of you siblings and adult gradkids is not legally married, you should also do the form. Once all the single adults in the family have their healthcare forms upto date; it may be easier to peer pressure her into designating someone.

      Also it may be that she doesn’t want to “choose between her kids”. Is there someone in your family group who seems like a logical choice for the first designee? Maybe have a sibling get-together and figure out who in the family you all think would be best and then say, ‘Mom we respect that you don’t want to do this paperwork now, but we kids want to have a plan. So if there is an emergency; the plan is that we are going to spend the $$$$$ and ask the court to appoint Chris (the PA) be your Health Surrogate.” 1 Maybe she will want to take control. 2 Maybe she doesn’t realize there is a financial downside. 3. You guys have a plan even if you don’t have the paperwork (Maybe a lawyer can get the prepwork done for the emergency court appointment so if you need it. you can expedite it.)

      1. Oyful parent*

        Both of my sibs are divorced and have both made the point that this is good for single people. And they both have paperwork in place. For her, it’s not about choosing a child, it seems to be that this would be a step in losing her independence, which is funny because we cover her phone bills, electric, condo insurance, pet food and care, streaming services, various online treats, and bought her last car.

        1. nnn*

          Why don’t you at least stop paying for the non-essentials like streaming services and online treats if she won’t do it? She’s deliberately making your lives harder while you are helping her out with non-essential treats so explain you’re not going to be able to help her with non-essentials because you need to save that money for whatever mess eventually comes due to her non-action.

          1. Oyful parent*

            Hmmm – interesting concept. The issue is that my sibs tend to pay for the fun stuff and I pay for the boring stuff. I can bring it up with them though. Some of the fun stuff is family memberships or password sharing. And if you asked her, she’d say streaming services are essentials!!

    5. My experience*

      My reply got eaten! Well, the upshot is, don’t ruin your relationship over having The Document. My experience taught me that it wasn’t really as important as knowing what my dad wanted. He did complete the form, but years later, during his final, fortunately fairly brief, illness, he changed his mind. Sort of. Truthfully, if your parent is still mentally there (even if irrational), they get to make their own decisions. The hospital never even ensured they had The Document, and decision-making was in such a huge gray area, anyway. I know the hospital staff would have preferred some clearer direction sometimes, but no one could have declared him incompetent, so it was what it was.

      It was sad and frustrating sometimes, but knowing my dad all my life, of course it was! He was who he had always been :) Very near the end, I did sign a DNR that he wouldn’t or couldn’t bring himself to sign, and I was glad for that. CPR is extremely painful and very unlikely to help, especially in his situation.

      It may be more important to know, even if the information is gotten piecemeal over time, what she wants. And even then, if death is near, she might change her mind, and you wouldn’t want to try to overrule her if she was quasi-competent. The Document would come in handy if she were in a coma or clearly incompetent, but hopefully, you’d already know what she’d want.

      My dad’s passing was never going to be the lovely acceptance of hospice, spending his last weeks focused on comfort. That’s not who he was, even if I wished it for him.

      1. Oyful parent*

        I’m sorry about your difficult situation about your dad, and I appreciate your perspective. she never wants to discuss anything about hospital stays, serious illness, wills, burial, etc. occasionally she muses on where she wants her ashes scattered, but that’s it.

        1. WestsideStory*

          That might be a way to start. Encourage her to just write down on paper what she’d like – in absence of a formal document y to our at least have some guidance. And some seniors really seem to enjoy writing out specific bequests for their heirlooms.
          At the very least, agree among your siblings who will be the surrogate/proxy when the time comes, and who is best to serve as Voluntary Administrator – get that in writing from your sibs and at least you will have a path forward.
          One other bit of advice from someone who’s been there: I am at the point of taking out a life insurance policy on an older relative, to cover funeral and other expenses, as they also refuse to consider any of the pre-planning. In the long run it’s going to be cheaper than taking a big financial hit to cover all the end of life expenses and be left having to hash out with who pays what with your siblings.
          Would you try that? And let her know? Add it in to your blackmail bargain?
          I really feel for you, it’s so hard to stand by and watch people we love make bad decisions that are going to hurt us later on.

          1. Oyful parent*

            Thanks for these suggestions. Apparently she started writing a bit of who gets what, but then she said it made her too depressed so she tore it up. But I could talk to my sibs and see who wants to try and handle being voluntary administrator. I’m the eldest, so I think I’m legally next of kin, but if middle sib wants it that’s fine w me. I can’t imagine that one could get a life Insurance policy for late 80s. And I think that would make her wildly distrustful of us.

            1. WestsideStory*

              You can get them in Pennsylvania, which is where I’m looking.
              True, she might feel you are shoving her into an (earlier) grave, but as you pointed out she has few assets so it’s not like there is going to be a big payoff for the heirs.
              What I’m trying to avoid for you is what happened to us earlier this year – sibling of this particular relative died with no will and no insurance and we were left on the hook for $15,000 – the cost of what were very modest funeral arrangements. I’m not going though that a second time…

            2. Glomarization, Esq.*

              I’m not aware of any jurisdiction that prioritizes the age of siblings when it comes to designating next of kin. That is to say, if a person has no spouse, then all their children are equally, legally their next of kin. There is no difference between older or younger children.

              If the children cannot come to a decision on end-of-life care