Office Holiday Parties

by Honolulu Mother

NYMag ran some advice for shy people attending office parties:

Advice for Shy People Forced to Attend Holiday Parties

Since I’m in the government sector, my office just doesn’t do the kind of party described there, but for those of you who do attend dressy evening office parties, do you think the article offers good advice? What tips would you add?

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Cookies

by July

On the heels of the holiday music topic from yesterday, today we can discuss cookies and other holiday sweets.

Frosted sugar cookies are included in my favorites.  I go for the rustic look with no sprinkles or other decorations that take away from the basic cookie and frosting combination.

What are your favorite cookies?  Is baking cookies a holiday tradition?  Do you give sweets as gifts?  Which cookies remind you of your childhood?  Which are your least favorite?  Please share your favorite recipes.  And feel free to discuss other holiday recipes.

Christmas music

by Honolulu Mother

It’s time for our somewhat-annual discussion of Christmas music! What are your newest favorites? What are your classics? And what are your never-play-that-agains?

I will remind you of the existence of All I Want for Christmas is a Goat. That’s very distinctive, and pretty low on my list of Christmas favorites.

I have many that are high on my list of favorites, but for this year I’ll pick Christmas Island by Leon Redbone, and Holiday Songs and Lullabies by Shawn Colvin.

How much money do you make?

by July

During a recent dinner conversation I found a sharp division between generations on the topic of sharing salary numbers.  Older employees thought secrecy was a good idea but younger ones thought transparency was best.

Ask Me How Much Money I Make: Pay Gets More Transparent
Nearly half of millennials surveyed said they talk about their compensation with friends, compared with 36% of Americans overall

Managing a generation of young people inclined to share relationship statuses and meal photos on social media requires employers to adjust the way they approach compensation, experts say.

“Pay and promotions are not secretive topics anymore,” says Mary Ann Sardone, who consults with large employers on compensation issues and leads the workforce-rewards practice at benefits consultant Mercer, a unit of Marsh & McLennan Co MMC 1.33% s.

“Companies are spending more time ensuring their pay decisions are fair, and highlighting career paths under the assumption that the information is going to be widely shared,” she says….

When Cameron Feenstra received a job offer this summer from Prattle Analytics, a St. Louis-based research firm, the first thing the 22-year-old did was call his sister. Although he was willing to take a below-market salary for the chance to work at a fast-growing startup, Mr. Feenstra wanted to ensure that his offer of $42,000 was a fair annual salary for his role as a junior quantitative analyst.

After talking about salaries with friends and family, and consulting anonymous career and salary-sharing websites such as Glassdoor, Mr. Feenstra decided to negotiate for more money, even though it was his first real job in the field.

“People who don’t ask around never learn how to negotiate, because they don’t know where everyone else is” in terms of salary as a reference point, Mr. Feenstra says. He got a pay bump to $45,000 before accepting the offer.

The attitude shift has put greater pressure on employers to explain why some workers are paid more than others and to formalize compensation and promotion practices, says Kristina Launey, a partner at law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP, which specializes in labor and employment issues.

What do you think?  Secrecy or transparency?  Do you believe that secrecy helps perpetuate the gender wage gap?  Do you share salary information with co-workers, friends, or extended family members?

Why Do We Keep Salaries Secret?

Do you want to share, at least anonymously?

2017 Politics open thread, December 3-9

What’s on your mind this week?

We have a post today:

Family Values

by MooshiMooshi

This appeared in the NYTimes recently, and is clearly Totebag fodder. Surprise, surprise, blue staters are better at practicing family values than red staters. This article goes along with many things we have discussed here. And the fact that families are more stable, have lower divorce rates, and less teenage pregnancy in the blue states has been a trend for many,many years. Two key points

The liberal impulse may be to gloat: Those conservatives thunder about “family values” but don’t practice them. But there’s also perhaps a measure of hypocrisy in the blue states. As Cahn and Carbone put it: “Blue family values bristle at restrictions on sexuality, insistence on marriage or the stigmatization of single parents. Their secret, however, is that they encourage their children to simultaneously combine public tolerance with private discipline, and their children then overwhelmingly choose to raise their own children within two-parent families.

and

More broadly, conservative values don’t directly lead to premarital sex or divorce. Rather, statistical analysis suggests that religious conservatives end up divorcing partly because they marry early, are less likely to go to college and are disproportionately poor.

So the deeper problem seems to be the political choices that conservatives make, underinvesting in public education and social services (including contraception). This underinvestment leaves red states poorer and less educated — and thus prone to a fraying of the social fabric.

So does better education and social services lead to a higher likelihood that children grow up in two parent families? Or are two parent families more likely to be willing to invest in education and social services? Or is there something else, completely unrelated, that leads to better family value outcomes in blue states?

Happiness is other people…

by MooshiMooshi

This is something I had been thinking about for a long time, so it is nice to see my thoughts pulled together more coherently than I ever could. The gist of this article is that we have bought into the idea that happiness is an inner quest to undertaken in solitude. And yet

Study after study shows that good social relationships are the strongest, most consistent predictor there is of a happy life, even going so far as to call them a “necessary condition for happiness,” meaning that humans can’t actually be happy without them. This is a finding that cuts across race, age, gender, income and social class so overwhelmingly that it dwarfs any other factor.

And according to research, if we want to be happy, we should really be aiming to spend less time alone. Despite claiming to crave solitude when asked in the abstract, when sampled in the moment, people across the board consistently report themselves as happier when they are around other people than when they are on their own. Surprisingly this effect is not just true for people who consider themselves extroverts but equally strong for introverts as well.

The article goes on to make a point that I really agree with – our emphasis on self reliance even when it comes to happiness is causing us to ignore the very thing that will make us happy: other people. We push our children out, we push our elders away, when we become elders we proudly insist we don’t need to involve our kids. Long commutes and work hours make it hard to develop new friends when we are middle aged. Teens don’t get together any more – and I can attest to that one. While it certainly can be argued that unhappy people put less effort into social relationships and that is why they don’t have a good network of friends, I have also seen many examples of people who are depressed or anxious, but still part of a strong family or friendship network. It seems to me that people in that position have an easier time of it, because they have more support.

I’ve always found that I am happiest when I am part of a dense, full, social network of people who are physically present. I think that for the future, I am going to worry less about whether I should meditate or be mindful or surround myself with inspirational quotes, and instead focus more on keeping my relationships and building new ones.

Are you actively trying to build your social network, or do you think it really doesn’t matter?

The Dark Underbelly of Online Mattress Sales

by Honolulu Mother

Oh brave new world this is, that has such business models in it!

The War To Sell You A Mattress Is An Internet Nightmare

I have noticed the many Amazon reviewers mentioning that they got a free or discounted product in return for an honest review, but had no idea how thoroughly the cash-for-recommendations model had infiltrated the mattress business.

How do you filter online reviews? I like to look for a certain shape of review bars — a nice exponential curve that’s fat at the five star end and fades to almost nothing at the one star end. A spike at the one star end, even a small one, is bad news, although with some products (cell phones) it seems like you can’t avoid it. And of course you have to read to see if there are patterns to what people like, or dislike, about a product.

Give us your review of online product reviews!

Decluttering your kitchen

by July

29 Things to Get Rid of in the Kitchen (That You Won’t Miss)

  1. Take-out menus.
  2. Sugar packets.
  3. Parmesan cheese and red pepper packets from pizza deliveries.
  4. Decorative bottles of herb-infused olive oil.
  5. Duplicate salad tongs.
  6. All but one each of large, medium, and small spatulas.
  7. Half-used candles.
  8. Magnets you’re intending to fix.
  9. Advertising magnets.
  10. Kids’ meal toys, including character cups.
  11. Extra napkins you picked up from the burger joint.
  12. Ketchup packets.
  13. Chipped mugs.
  14. Aunt Jane’s highball glasses that you never, ever get down from the top shelf.
  15. The George Foreman grill you’ve used twice in the history of your decade-long marriage.
  16. Anything more than four hot pads.
  17. Stained or holey dish towels.
  18. All but five of the nice glass jar food containers and lids you’ve been hoarding.
  19. The serving platter that you never liked but kept because it was a gift.
  20. Take-out chopsticks.
  21. Extra whisks.
  22. Duplicate ice cream scoops.
  23. The cheese slicer.
  24. Old water bottles that you never reach for.
  25. Tupperware without lids.
  26. Lids without tupperware.
  27. Duplicate can openers.
  28. Duplicate garlic presses.
  29. Baby utensils you no longer need.

Any of these things hanging out in your kitchen right now?

If you have any of these items, can you justify keeping them?  Any other kitchen things you know you should discard?  On the other hand, what kitchen things are you missing or coveting?

Open thread

We have an open thread all day.

This is the time of year for deciding on a health insurance plan and other employee benefits.  It can be complicated.  Our plan includes the use of a health advocate at no extra cost.  Among the services offered are open enrollment assistance, care coordination, and assistance with complex medical conditions.

Have you completed your enrollment paperwork?  Any questions or advice to offer?

DIY or do-it-for-me?

by July

Homeowners’ Shift Away From DIY Projects Dries Up Paint Profits
Rising incomes and a stronger housing market have many hiring professional painters

Homeowners are increasingly leaving painting to the pros, complicating business for paint makers and retailers…..

“More and more is being done by the professional painter,” said Dan Calkins, president of global sales at Benjamin Moore & Co. “People just don’t have the time.”

Nicole Buddin, a 31-year-old marketing manager in Chicago, recently hired pros to help paint her new house in the suburbs after she and her husband painted their condo in the city themselves three years ago.

“It’s just so time consuming,” she said. “We swore we wouldn’t do that again.”

Whether it’s home renovations, repairs, or maintenance, it seems the people around me are relying more on professionals.  Maybe it’s because we’re getting older!

Have you noticed a “shift from DIY to do-it-for-me”?  Did you used to do more around the house?  Any DIY projects planned for this long Thanksgiving weekend?  Is tomorrow’s meal DIY or do-it-for-me?

It’s the little things

by S&M

It’s easy to drift over to social media to destress, only to realize much later that you’re only more tired and possibly more stressed than when you logged in. Small creature comforts are more likely to get the job done. What do you use to make your home (or office) more comforting?

Cooking can be a release for me; I cut way back for a few years, but recently have made much more from scratch. My yoga ball is also good for a quick little pick-me-up; I might do bridges, or just drape myself over it backwards for an easy stretch. From this list of items that help you unwind, I have reading socks, (but have never used that name for them until now). My son sometimes wears them, but he reaches for his fuzzy blanket every day after school and on weekend mornings when he hangs out with his computer, and his earbuds stay with him all day long, either to listen to music or just as earplugs. It’s barbarian to use tea bags instead of loose tea and a diffuser, but that’s what I do when I make iced tea; diffusers are for hot tea in my book (and home). Bluetooth speakers don’t seem to be useful enough for us to hang onto when every device has its own speakers, and I pass the bath bombs by to reach for other salts and oils, but we do pull out the sand box and forms every once in a while. The full list here includes essential oils diffuser, reading socks, a Bluetooth speaker, a cozy blanket, ear plugs, a tea diffuser, bath bombs, a fidget cube, an executive sandbox, and a foot spa.

Do you use any of these, or classic destressers like candles and mood lighting? What items would you recommend people use to relax, or to make their homes more soothing?

Gift ideas!

by July

Let’s share holiday gift ideas.

I was prepared to hate everything about Oprah’s Favorite Things gift list, but when I saw a tempting cashmere sweater and the  “Letters to Me, When I Grow Up” book for children, I got sucked in to thinking about shopping for a few items.

Are you shopping for any of these hot toys?

What’s on kids’ wish lists? Here are 14 of the hottest toys for the holidays

And then you have the minimalist approach.

Here’s an idea: what if you decide to gift only experiences this year? How much more memorable will your holidays be?

Consider these experiences: concert tickets, a home-cooked meal, tickets to a play or a musical, breakfast in bed, a back rub, a foot rub, a full-body massage, a holiday parade, walking or driving somewhere without a plan, spending an evening talking with no distractions, making-out under the mistletoe, visiting a festival of lights, cutting down a Christmas tree, watching a sunrise, skiing, snowboarding, sledding, dancing, taking your children to a petting zoo, making snow angels, making a batch of hot apple cider, taking a vacation together, watching a wintertime sunset.

What other experiences can you give to someone you care about?

Is this a trend?

Majority Of Americans Would Skip Holiday Gift-Giving, Survey Says

Take a poll:

Totebag Dinner Party Game

by Honolulu Mother

The object of this game is to plan a Totebag dinner party. Your guests should include:

1 historical figure
1 fictional character (books, movies, tv, comics, they’re all eligible)
1 living celebrity (sports, acting, music, eccentric billionaire, they’re all eligible)
3 Totebaggers of your choice
You and your date of choice (it doesn’t have to be your spouse!)

Who’s invited? What are you serving? And what are your seating arrangements — who is next to whom? For full credit, explain your choices.

Please do not fill more than two blue books. ^_^

Have you peaked yet?

by July

Here’s the age at which you’ll earn the most in your career

Does this graph match your experience?

Here are peak years for other parts of your life.

The age when you hit ‘peak loneliness’ – and other life milestones
A new study has found that 35 is the age at which men feel the most lonely. But when might you feel the most creative or content?

Of course each of us charts our own course for peaks and valleys so these broad conclusions can be meaningless for any one person.  Are you on the fast track for some of these milestones but a late bloomer for others?  Share your observations.

Leftovers

by Honolulu Mother

I thought of Rhett when I saw this headline:

Why Americans have stopped eating leftovers

Despite years of training, my kids are not what I’d call enthusiastic leftover eaters. They will eat them, but grudgingly. Still, we get through most of our leftovers.

Does your household eat leftovers, or at least most of them? Do you have clever ways to re-use them, or do you just zap them?

Early Childhood Development

by Louise

The book described sounds interesting.

The article has taken a political turn but I don’t want to put it on the political page or turn it into a political discussion. This is about our children, families and the role of parents, with emphasis on a mother’s role.

Once I had kids the demands of a job and those of the kids clashed. I couldn’t lean in as much as I wanted to. My own parents had busy work and social lives. They were unavailable. Many times as a teen, I wished my mother was home more like the mothers of my friends just to talk things through.

Totebaggers share your experiences, observations and opinions.

The Politicization of Motherhood

Suburbs and more

by July

What to Do When You’ve Picked the Wrong Suburb

It can be hard choosing a home to buy, and sometimes mistakes are made.  Do you know anyone who believes they chose poorly?

The Suburb of the Future, Almost Here
Millennials want a different kind of suburban development that is smart, efficient and sustainable.

Apparently millennials are still choosing suburban life, but suburban life is evolving.  Do you agree with the changes described in this article?  What other changes do you foresee?

The Best Places to Live in America
MONEY identified 100 spots that offer a healthy economy, affordable homes, and a high quality of life.

Did your town make the cut?  Some local residents were “shocked” and “disappointed” that our area was not included.

Good Old Cookbooks

by Honolulu Mother

The Washington Post recently ran an article on three cookbooks published in the early 80s that were big sellers at the time, and continue to be popular today:

These three cookbooks went viral before the Internet existed — and they still hold up today

The cookbooks in the article are the Silver Palate Cookbook, Entertaining: Martha Stewart, and the Victory Garden Cookbook.

I don’t have any of those. My parents’ cookbook collection was pretty much complete by 1982, and I didn’t start my own until a couple of years later. But I have plenty of old cookbooks! Leaving aside the ones I have primarily for historical interest or sentimental reasons or reference, some old favorites that I still cook from include Marcella Hazan’s cookbooks for Italian food and Julie Sahni’s for Indian food, and Laurie Colwin’s books (essays with recipes) that I picked up in law school.

What good old cookbooks do you still cook from?

Insider travel ideas

by S&M

Regulars on the blog are spread across the US, including major cities and smaller spots some of us would like to visit on vacation. We’ve exchanged travel reports, but what about our own backyards? I wonder if regulars in Houston and Seattle agree with these “insider” ideas for their cities, and what others would tell us to see and do where they live.

Travel Like You Live Here

Cocktail hour

by Honolulu Mother

The Daily Beast recently ran this fun ode to the Manhattan:

How Manhattan Drinkers Are Different From Martini Drinkers

(Side note: Imagine an era where she put that on her head, looked in the mirror, and thought, “Oooh, so chic!”)

Do you like Manhattans? And if so, is it a year-round drink or do you switch to something like a G&T in the summer? Is a little bowl of nuts, olives, or cheese straws a necessary accompaniment? (Recommendation: Hunter Mix combined with Bombay Mix. I discovered when googling for the links that I’m not the only one who likes this combination.)

What’s your tipple?

When you want to lose ‘just a few’ pounds

by July

Many of us would like to lose just a few pounds, maybe 10 pounds or less.  Often the extra weight has slowly crept up slowly over the years.

At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Mr. Edis, the chief executive and a founder of the smart-car start-up Dash, cuts an impressive figure to other people. But when he takes off his black V-neck T-shirt, he can see the extra pounds (he would like to be down to 185). And he is not fine with it.

Is Mr. Edis realistic?  Many of us are in his shoes, wishing to lose just 5-10 pounds. Partly it may be because we wistfully remember our body’s glory days, roughly from the teen years to mid thirties, and we’d like to recreate some of those bygone images.  Realistically it is nearly impossible for the average person to continue to weigh the same as they did back in their twenties so perhaps we should give up that hope once and for all.

Here’s someone else who’s gained a few pounds along the way.

‘I used to be 106lbs but now I’m 126lbs!’: Cher, 71, reveals she no longer fits into her crazy Seventies costumes… but she refuses to throw them out

What about you?  Do you want to lose just a “few” pounds?  Or do you believe that’s a fool’s errand and have accepted that you’ll probably carry that extra weight for the rest of your life?  Some of us here have lost considerably more weight, or are currently working on losing more.  Are you happy with your weight or do you fret about it?

Multi generational living

by Mémé

My older daughter has been living with us for more than a year now. It has been just fine. We don’t have a giant house, but the finished ground floor (walkout with patio) is large and has a modest adjacent bathroom with shower and room for lots of storage. She has a parking space across the street for her car, public transit access, a WeWork desk in the financial district, the big tv and loveseat partitioned off by a large IKEA divider (we only requisition it for Patriots games or movies when she is away), good internet service, and a well stocked kitchen (she cooks for the family sometimes), and I try to make meals for “2 ½” just in case, and there is no need to label the food containers in the fridge – if something gets eaten, so be it. For the first year the room was not configured as a permanent studio apt – but this summer’s flood required a reno and that fact papered over two thorny issues – the grand piano, not used for several years, needed to go to storage to do the floor and so it wasn’t a sad rite of passage into senescence for my husband, and also, fixing the room up nicely was a no brainer, so it was not a conscious acknowledgement on either my side or hers that the relaunch isn’t imminent, with all that implies.

What has been unexpected for me is that I really enjoy having another adult around. She helps out and takes up some of the household burden in subtle ways, and not so subtly in that I can leave DH without a lot a worry. I also have someone else besides him as companion. The downside for him is that I have someone else besides him as companion. I have to be more attentive about scheduling couple time. On the other hand, we choose to leave for a few days or longer more often to get away and alone, and it is easier to do so because we don’t have to make arrangements for the animals or other empty house worries.

Of course, I want her to get steady work, consulting or traditional, and move into an apartment again. She lived on her own for 17 years starting at age 20 and still has a decent retirement nest egg, if not much left in the after tax accounts.

Totebaggers, please share your experiences, if any, with multigenerational living and any other thoughts.

Will declining Midwestern universities increase geographic inequality?

by MooshiMooshi

Universities, especially the land grant universities, have long taken a leading role in developing local economies. This is increasingly important today, as regions compete to attract companies and professionals who work in the knowledge sector (think of the current Amazon competition, for example). Universities often function as a hub, nurturing and advising high tech startups and small companies that move research into production. Think of the roles played by Stanford and Berkeley in creating Silicon Valley, or Duke and UNC in creating the Research Triangle tech hub. Universities not only provide ideas and research for companies, but also in many cases sponsor major hospitals with state of the art facilities, healthcare outreach to the community, and provide sports and cultural events, all things that make a region more attractive to companies and educated workers.

Sadly, declines in funding for public universities, which are particularly important in the Midwest where there is less tradition of well endowed private universities, threaten all of this. This is something that has the potential to exacerbate geographic inequalities, since underfunded Midwestern public universities will end up having less and less ability to fill their roles as economic drivers. Is this another sign of the death spiral in the Midwest? Is there a solution?

The Decline of the Midwest’s Public Universities Threatens to Wreck Its Most Vibrant Economies

Pies

by Mémé

I love pies. Double crust, lattice, open face. Sweet – Fruit pies of all kinds, lemon meringue, key lime, transparent (such as pecan), tarte tatin (for me, not so much cream pies). Savory pies, too. Turkey or chicken pot pies, English pub pies, quiche.

For chicken or turkey pot pie, I use Pillsbury crusts. I sautée coarsely diced onion and carrot in butter, then add chopped mushroom. After that gets cooked a bit (more butter usually needed) I add flour and cook it a bit more (not quite a roux). Then add some broth, the chopped chicken or turkey, shredded parmesan. Then the green veggie, either uncooked English peas or cut up sugar snap peas, and some coarsely diced red bell pepper. Last step is to stir in some sour cream (stop cooking it now). Salt and pepper to taste. If the stock isn’t flavorful, maybe a little herb mix. Then into the pie shell, put the other shell on top with slits and crimp the edges, and into oven at 375 for 40 min. I use an aluminum ring around the edge of the pie plate to prevent burning.

My dessert specialty is very tart strawberry rhubarb, usually lattice top. Secret ingredients are orange zest and a beaten egg along with the flour to bind.

Totebaggers, share your pie preferences and recipes, please.

Commuting

by Honolulu Mother

This U.S. News article discussed an interesting study on how commuting patterns are slowly changing:

How Commuting Is Changing

Here’s the article’s summary of national trends:

On the national level these figures illustrate a few large, long-term trends that are continuing to play themselves out over time. Slow, steady declines in single drivers are offset by equally slow increases in public transit riders. A lot is made of the gains in so-called nonmotorized commuters walking and biking – and for good reason – but by far the biggest change is in those staying at home to work.

And of differences in commuting patterns from place to place:

… the places where commuters predominantly drive to work alone are concentrated in the South and the Midwest. On the flipside, transit-intensive counties also tend to have the highest rates of walkers, taxi riders and bicyclists. Those who are able to work from home the most seem concentrated in suburban, or collar, counties where they be otherwise facing long trips into the central business district.

I’ve noticed that the recently introduced bikeshare program here seems to be drawing a lot of commuters, with racks in the business / financial district filling up in the morning and emptying in the evening (although the bikeshare van does its best to rebalance the supply by moving bikes around). But my own commute is a single-person-in-car commute by the time I get to work, even though it usually starts as a full car leaving home.

Has your commute changed in recent years? Do you see the kind of gradual changes the article talks about?

What a drag it is gettin’ old

by Mémé

There was a recent post on so-called superagers. I pooh-poohed all that in the comments, but I would like to advance another point of view with some seriousness.

After a certain age one needs time, and we who are privileged have the opportunity to take it without having to work for pay well before death is imminent. Time to recover from physical activity. More time to perform tasks, both mental and physical, that formerly you could do quickly or from “muscle” memory without conscious thought or planning. Time for double takes or less than instantaneous recall so that you can be sure you are proceeding or speaking with accuracy.

As an older person, those quick meals on the fly or bits of reading/podcast when I can fit them in lose appeal. I would just as soon skip a meal as scarf something down. And read books in an easy chair, stopping when I reach an actual stopping point and not just the end of the commute. I am also not under the tyranny of the clock for most household tasks. There is almost always tomorrow if I don’t get to something. Or if I really need to spend time on preparing a meal or on the garden or the grandchildren, I don’t have to do with one eye on the start time for my next task. (Although I do need electronic reminders because I have lost the ability to keep all that in my head when there is an actual appointment.)

I know that when I get overscheduled, my body simply tells me to stop. Despite a clean bill of health from my physician this week, and terrific “numbers”, I am currently dealing with a pinched nerve “headache” (still abating), my thumb joints ache all the time, and if I don’t eat on the right schedule and in the right quantity my digestion lets me know its displeasure.

Totebaggers, where do you fall on the continuum between near constant activity/ stimulation, much of it enjoyable, and stillness/recuperation, some of which may seem like unnecessary indolence?

Is Nagging Really Emotional Labor?

by AustinMom

Before we go any further, I don’t think this a women’s only issue. After reading the article, I thought about our circle of friends and could only identify two couples where this “emotional labor” seems to be taken on by the male rather than female partner.

Maybe this article hit home because in the past few weeks, I have done several of these things that require the preliminary leg work, but feel thankless in the end. I agree my partner takes on specific household chores and does things I ask, but it is those things that take this emotional labor that he runs the other way from. And, his response is exactly like the author’s husband – make one phone call, decide it is too much effort, and try to change the “request” or do it where it causes me other work.

Totebaggers – Does your family resemble this dynamic, regardless of gender?

WOMEN AREN’T NAGS—WE’RE JUST FED UP

Job transitions

by Honolulu Mother

In this request for advice to New York Magazine’s Ask a Boss, an employee leaving a nonprofit worried that her soon-to-be-former boss expected her to still be available after her planned departure for another job:

‘I Quit, But My Boss Won’t Let Me Go!’

Have you ever had a previous job try to follow you to your new job? Do you have any tips for smooth transitions, both for leaving the old workplace in good shape to carry on without you and for preparing to hit the ground running in the new job?

Can We Agree to Disagree?

by AustinMom

This New York Times article came though just after I had blocked two “friends” on Facebook. I rarely block anyone on Facebook because they hold opposing views to mine. However, when their comments moved from respectfully disagreeing to name calling and spewing hate, I was done. I was wondering how we got to this point where we cannot agree to disagree on something, but we choose to only interact with people and in forums where we agree.

The article, which I found very interesting, talks about how you have to understand an idea or position before you can disagree with it. From Amazon to Facebook to the news channels we select, we tend to favor and consume more of the goods, services, ideas and positions we agree with. I purposefully listen to a talk radio show that I almost always disagree with the host. I don’t do it to torture myself as one friend suggested, but to try to be open to at least understanding a different point of view.

What troubled me most in this article is that students on college campus – a place I always thought of as one to explore various points of view – is the place that disagreement seems to be least tolerated. And, this builds on some comments I have seen on college discussions about does the college campus hold the same political viewpoint as my family that I thought were isolated.

Totebaggers – Do you see a trend of limiting your exposure to those media sources and people you agree with? Do you agree that we have lost the art of disagreement?

The Dying Art of Disagreement

Do Your Teens Get Enough Sleep?

by Honolulu Mother

It’s reported that very few teens get an adequate amount of sleep — on the order of 15% — and this is bad for them in a host of ways ranging from general health to mental focus, as discussed in this Psychology Today article:

Your Teen Needs More Sleep

This seems to go along with the recent suggestion that much of what is classified as ADHD could actually be a sleep disorder:

Could some ADHD be a type of sleep disorder? That would fundamentally change how we treat it.

I push my kids to get to bed at night, but there are challenges such as high homework loads, group projects where the group wants to meet online late at night, and of course the every-present electronic temptations. And of course since I get up earlier in the morning than they do, if I want to get enough sleep myself I can’t be staying up to make sure everyone really gets to bed at the time promised. So, I find that school vacations always start with the kids sleeping half the day as they catch up.

Do your teens and younger children get 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night? If not, is this a concern for you?

Open thread

Today we have an open thread all day.

Locally we celebrate Columbus Day in a big way, but I wonder if that will soon change.

Should the United States Celebrate Columbus Day?

Here’s the NYT’s opinion on how “symbols of hate” should be treated.

Robert E. Lee, Christopher Columbus … and Pétain?

Should I throw out my Dr. Seuss books?

Dr. Seuss museum to replace mural after complaints of racism

Twitter Wars

by Honolulu Mother

I was amused to read about this recent Twitter war between two science museums:

Man accidentally starts Twitter war between Natural History and Science museums

Much preferable to some other Twitter wars we’ve recently seen.

Do you prefer your Twitter wars between celebrities, politicians, venerable institutions, businesses, or brands? Or do you prefer to mix those categories? What Twitter war would you like to instigate?

Wolf vs. Coyote?

by WCE

This ODFW quiz will help you learn to distinguish between wolves and coyotes. (15 questions) It also showed me how I can improve in an area in which I initially have no knowledge. I am more confident that I could distinguish a wolf from a coyote at a glance after taking this quiz. Previously, I had just assumed all such animals are coyotes, since coyotes are more common.

Coyote and Gray Wolf Identification

Are You Doing What it Takes to be a Superager?

by AustinMom

This article came out a while back, but it just came across my feed again recently. I have seen a mild decline in my partner who retired 7 years ago. I saw it in myself after returning to work with a “hard” after 8 months off event though I did mentally stimulating things. Before I saw this article, I fell into the category of thinking engaging things and mild exercise would be enough. After reading the article and looking at people around me, I can see those superagers around me and they all have the characteristics of doing “hard” mental and/or physical activity. Totebaggers, are you doing what it takes to be a superager?

How do you become a superager? Many labs have observed that these critical brain regions increase in activity when people perform difficult tasks, whether the effort is physical or mental. The road to superaging is difficult, though, because these brain regions have another intriguing property: When they increase in activity, you tend to feel pretty bad — tired, stymied, frustrated. Superagers are like Marines: They excel at pushing past the temporary unpleasantness of intense effort. Studies suggest that the result is a more youthful brain that helps maintain a sharper memory and a greater ability to pay attention.

This means that pleasant puzzles like Sudoku are not enough to provide the benefits of superaging. Neither are the popular diversions of various “brain game” websites. You must expend enough effort that you feel some “yuck.” Do it till it hurts, and then a bit more.

In the United States, we are obsessed with happiness. But as people get older, research shows, they cultivate happiness by avoiding unpleasant situations. This is sometimes a good idea, as when you avoid a rude neighbor. But if people consistently sidestep the discomfort of mental effort or physical exertion, this restraint can be detrimental to the brain.

How to Become a ‘Superager’

Postponing ‘adult behavior’

by MooshiMooshi

This pretty much sums up my two teen boys. At 15 and 17, neither one dates, drinks, or drives. Their friends are all the same. They don’t even seem to have any interest in girls (or boys). I thought teens were supposed to be a hotbed of hormones. Was it something in the water?

Not drinking or driving, teens increasingly put off traditional markers of adulthood

What publications do you read?

by Finn

Louise recently asked for some advice on science magazines, but let’s expand that to publications in general.

What publications do you read, and would you suggest to your fellow totebaggers? Do you read hardcopy versions? Online? Kindle or other electronic copy?

What publications do you subscribe to, including online subscriptions? Are there any particular publications you subscribe to because you think they deserve your financial support?

Utility usage

by Finn

I was catching up on bills, including our utility bills, and took note of our usage over the past year. We’ve been averaging about 400 kwh/month of electricity, and just under 100 gallons/day of water. Our water usage has definitely been impacted by having lived through both a drought and electricity shortage, and we’ve also recently upgraded most of our toilets to 1 gpf models.

How much do you use? Have you taken any steps to conserve?

Open thread

Today we have an open thread all day.

This perspective on how to spend your free time caught my eye.  MMM might agree with it, depending on the goals you selected.

what do you like to do in your free time?

I’ve posed a question which I think is silly. It makes no sense to me at all. At best — I do not understand it.

Here’s a shot at a better one: what goals do you like to set for yourself, had you the time to work toward them?

Laundry!

by Honolulu Mother

It’s been quite a while since our last laundry post — more than two years, I should think, since I’m not seeing any listed under the Home & Garden tag or as a separate topic. So, I hereby declare it to be open season on laundry talk! As well as other housekeeping tips and questions folks may have.

In our laundry news, I have been using those wool dryer balls that you drizzle with lavender oil or something similar for a couple of years now, though intermittantly. We never have to worry about dryer cling in our climate so I can’t say how they do with that, but they do an ok job of unclumping clothes in the dryer and (with essential oil) lightly scenting them. Obviously this is fussier, not to mention more Totebaggy, than just throwing in a dryer sheet. So one could argue that the 30 seconds I spend dosing the dryer balls and tossing them in the dryer could be better spent folding clothes so that we would actually catch up with it all and people could sit on the laundry-folding couch.

What’s new, laundry-wise, in your neck of the woods?

The next Amazon location

by July

Dear Amazon, We Picked Your New Headquarters for You

Amazon has set off a scrum among cities that are hoping to land the company’s second headquarters — with the winner getting the prize of a $5 billion investment and 50,000 new jobs over the next two decades. We’re offering to help, using Amazon’s own criteria to identify a winning city.

A local news story highlighted Brooklyn and Bayonne, New Jersey as contenders for Amazon’s new headquarters.  High housing costs may be a negative factor for these locations.

Would you like Amazon in your city?  Can you make a strong case for or against your city?  Which nearby businesses, large or small, do you value?  Which do you wish would go away?  Are nearby commercial areas — office, retail, or other types — thriving?

Totebag Approved

by Louise

It’s been a while since we had a post on our favorite products. If you have any products or shopping websites that you want to share let’s hear of them.

It’s not far from the holiday shopping season, so if you are doing some early shopping let us know if you had some good finds.

Apples

by Honolulu Mother

Apparently the Honeycrisp was just the beginning — Big Apple is planning newer, more amazing apples to take over our grocery shelves.

Honeycrisp was just the beginning: inside the quest to create the perfect apple

I like Honeycrisp quite well, but I liked Pink Lady before they were cool (or at least before they were in the big boxes). My daughter always wants to get Ambrosia apples. But of course we have a more limited apple selection here as the only locally grown apples are mountain apples (which though good are not technically apples). Do you have a favorite apple? Do you live in apple country? And what do you do with your apples — eat them all out of hand, bake with them, make applesauce or cider?

Disaster preparations

by July

Considering recent events, do you want to share ideas on disaster preparedness?

After Sandy we lost power for about a week, but still had gas and water.  But this WaterBOB Emergency Drinking Water Storage (100 Gallons) looks like a good idea.  (It’s currently unavailable.)

I can personally recommend this Portable Power Pack, which can be recharged in your car or at home.

The next step before getting a full-house generator could be this Honda 2000 Watt Portable Generator with Inverter for $999.  Any opinions?

What tips do you have on surviving hurricanes and other similar events?  An added complication that was particularly apparent in Florida is how to help elderly parents manage these disasters.  Have you considered changes to your disaster preparations after recent hurricanes?  How confident are you that our government will be there to support us with the vital services needed after any future disasters?

Halloween already?!

by Honolulu Mother

The Halloween stuff has been showing up in stores since late August or early September, and 2/3 of my offspring already have costume plans — inflatable T-Rex costumes, which they’re also trying to talk some friends into getting, so they can go as a pack of T-Rexes. Possibly they were inspired by this series of videos:

Are you ordering / working on Halloween costumes or decor already, or are you reading this post and thinking, “Even on the Totebag we’re doing Halloween already?”

Is this your bag?

by S&M

Porn didn’t necessarily need to be discussed with kids ten years ago, but now it’s pretty much unavoidable. What conversations have you had with your kids about it? Do you have “grownup” movies and toys at your house? How do you, um, handle that around kids?

In one family I know, a teen decided the fuzzy tip of a Sharpie felt good. The parents believe any kind of masturbation to be sinful, and were extremely upset at the colored genitals. I’m pretty sure their hollering and tears were not how they had envisioned that part of their parenting. The following more thoughtful communication is from someone in a closed Facebook group. I repeat it with permission.

He likes to know which things are safe, and which things are unsafe and why. I started with telling him that I know it’s easy to accidentally stumble onto porn on the internet, and what to do if that happens. The part that he wanted to ask about again was when I told him how seeing those kinds of images and videos has made a lot of people unhappy with their own bodies, have unrealistic expectations of other people’s bodies and likes, and that it can get you hooked on certain thoughts which is a bummer because it’s best to find out what you like through your own thoughts and experiences rather than fixating on something you saw someone else do on a screen. I told him that when he’s old enough to have a physical relationship, he’ll be a better partner if he’s interested in finding out what makes him tick that way rather than going into it trying to act out something he saw someone else do.

Another person posted the following video.

Around our house, it’s pretty simple. Since I don’t have sex, toys, or movies (and I only like the first of those three things), there’s very little to talk about. I do occasionally make comments to let him know we can talk about it any time, but so far he hasn’t taken me up on it.

‘Embarrassment of riches’

by July

What the Rich Won’t Tell You

This article touched on a few points relevant to Totebag discussions.  Here’s one.

And, as they try to be “normal,” these wealthy and affluent people deflect the stigma of wealth. If they can see themselves as hard workers and reasonable consumers, they can belong symbolically to the broad and legitimate American “middle,” while remaining materially at the top.

The author suggests that such attitudes deter us from pushing for more income distribution.

Your thoughts?

Calculus for Kidlets

by Ada

It must be time for another calculus topic, right?

I found this article interesting, though a bit naive.I agree with the premise (and might even buy the book and subscribe to the newsletter!).

5-Year-Olds Can Learn Calculus

Basically:

Finding an appropriate path hinges on appreciating an often-overlooked fact—that “the complexity of the idea and the difficulty of doing it are separate, independent dimensions,” she says. “Unfortunately a lot of what little children are offered is simple but hard—primitive ideas that are hard for humans to implement,” because they readily tax the limits of working memory, attention, precision and other cognitive functions. Examples of activities that fall into the “simple but hard” quadrant: Building a trench with a spoon (a military punishment that involves many small, repetitive tasks, akin to doing 100 two-digit addition problems on a typical worksheet, as Droujkova points out), or memorizing multiplication tables as individual facts rather than patterns.

Far better, she says, to start by creating rich and social mathematical experiences that are complex (allowing them to be taken in many different directions) yet easy (making them conducive to immediate play). Activities that fall into this quadrant: building a house with LEGO blocks, doing origami or snowflake cut-outs, or using a pretend “function box” that transforms objects (and can also be used in combination with a second machine to compose functions, or backwards to invert a function, and so on).

Of course, there is concern that the Tiger Moms will take this too far (not clear exactly how they can be more Tigerish), and, separately, the poor children will be left behind. The author asserts that any “semi-literate” adult can lead kids in this kind of exploration, but I am skeptical the author has ever seen a “semi-literate” person try to teach math.

However, math instruction is one of the reasons I decided to remove my children from the school system. I don’t need them to be accelerated, but I want them to find joy in it. The focus on getting all kids to a certain standard has sucked all magic out of math (at least in the way I have seen it implemented).

The resources we will use this year are Beast Academy and Life of Fred. I find these to be whimsical and thought provoking, though BA does have some serious computation expectations. I also love Kangaroo Math (a international competition that is the only source I could find for challenging math for very young kids). The difficult but solvable practice problems are for kids as young as first grade.

Do your kids love math? Did you? What do you think schools should do differently? How can I get my kids to be the youngest to pass the AP Calc exam ever and win some kind of homeschool award and validation?

Today’s Juggle

by Louise

It’s been more than eight years since I began reading and slowly contributing to this group. At that time, I was really feeling the stress of the juggle. Two young kids, a full time job, a move, then a new job in a new city….

I can’t believe the amount of time that has passed since then. Over the years, I learnt the art of taking and asking for flexibility at work. I managed to get my kids to activities after school some weekdays. I continue to work, which at one time was becoming increasingly difficult with the juggle.

Now, things are changing again as my office is moving and location change will mean more commute, but it is not too bad. It will be close to DS’s potential HS, so I can pick him up if he wants to do after school clubs.

How does your juggle look today? It may be different with grown kids but aging parents in the picture. Others may have changed jobs or office locations, kids may be doing extra curricular activities that add to the juggle. Let’s revisit where it all began.

Saving Stuff for Children and Grandchildren

by Honolulu Mother

This Washington Post article had some suggestions on what items might be worth holding on to for children or grandchildren:

Just because an item doesn’t spark joy doesn’t mean you should toss it

In brief, the author (who helps people declutter) says that it’s worth setting aside a few things intended to be passed on to children and grandchildren, but choose (1) not too much — a couple of items, not a whole collection; (2) mostly small items; and (3) items that have special meaning.

We are not at a downsizing stage of life right now. We do regularly give away outgrown books and clothes, but we’re not looking at those with too much of a sentimental eye. (With some exceptions — my daughter didn’t want me to get rid of the Humphrey books, books about a classroom hamster written at about an 8-10 year old reading level.) So while this advice sounds ok to me, it’s not something I’ve had much cause to think through.

For those of you closer to this topic either as givers or recipients, what do you think of this approach?

The future of libraries

by July

Libraries changing offerings in response to public demands

Changing patron tastes and needs are inspiring local libraries to transform themselves to remain relevant.

It was once forbidden to drink, eat or talk in libraries, but now formerly silent sanctums throughout Westchester County are offering cafes, cooking classes and Zumba to get the public through the doors.

“It’s all a part of lifelong learning,” said Susan Thaler, deputy director at the Yonkers Public Library. “Checking out books is an important part of our mission, but it’s not all our mission.”

Have you seen this in your local libraries?  What changes should be encouraged?  Many retail stores are going through a similar evolution, trying to find ways to attract shoppers by offering them experiences in addition to merchandise.

Do you like your local library?  When will we see the end of most paper books and the shrinking of library shelf space to a small fraction of current proportions?  What’s the future of libraries?

Labor Day open thread

by July

We have a Labor Day open thread all day.

Here’s something to try.

Find your True Cost of Living

There are many cost of living rankings out there, but most of them give cost of living averages for the “average American household.” Here’s the issue – the “average American household” doesn’t exist. Income and expenses vary widely between a single millennial to a household of two parents and three kids. Our cost tool explores the costs and expenses of living in a place based on your own, specific needs.

The True Cost of Living tool allows you to add details like household size, income, occupation, and even food preferences.

 

Desperation Dinners

by Honolulu Mother

On the old site some years back we once had a topic on desperation dinners: those old faithfuls that you can throw together from what’s in the freezer and pantry on those nights when everyone’s hungry, time is short, and nothing was planned. Some suggestions from that topic were recorded in the Juggle Cookbook:

The Juggle Cookbook

I suggest we do an update now, in honor of Sky’s return to work. What do you turn to when you get home at the end of the day and realize that nothing’s been planned for dinner?

Some of our desperation dinners are pesto pasta (jarred pesto that lives in the fridge, toss in grape tomatoes or chopped tomatoes or whatever is around that seems like it could go in); creamed tuna on rice and creamed chicken on rice with peas; sausages from the freezer either pan-fried with butter or broiled or done on a Foreman-type grill with micro-steamed veggies and smashed potatoes on the side; boneless skinless chicken thighs defrosted just enough to cut up stir fried with whatever veg we have around and some sauce from the mason jar of generic stir-fry sauce (house-made) that lives in the fridge, with rice.

What are your household’s desperation dinner?

Summer regrets?

by July

Do you feel a tinge of regret because you have not made the most of your summer?

Maybe you feel as if you didn’t take full advantage of the sunny beaches, fun fairs, and good food of summer.  Maybe that summer bucket list was mostly left untouched.  Do Facebook and Instagram photos make you feel as if you had a boring summer by comparison?  Do you have the August blues?

August Blues Are Like Sunday Blues, But for a Full Month

…  If you’re a summer hater, you’re antsy to be done with it and move on already, and if you’re a summer lover, you’re probably feeling some panic about it coming to an end. In both cases, too, there is likely guilt over not having done enough with this time, because what season comes with more pressure to “make the most” of it than summer?

What about you?  Any late summer regrets or other anxiety?  Or are you feeling you’ve taken full advantage of the warm weather and are ready to move on to autumn?

What have been the best and worst parts of your summer so far?  (We still have Labor Day!)

Popular Majors at Selective Versus Nonselective Colleges

by Honolulu Mother

We have argued before about the value of majors that don’t directly tie in to a well-paid job. A recent 538 article notes that students at selective colleges are the ones more likely to be going into, say, social sciences or performing arts, while their peers at less selective colleges focus more on technical or directly job-related fields:

Students At Most Colleges Don’t Pick ‘Useless’ Majors

The article suggests that it could be that the selective school undergraduates assume they’re going on to graduate school so the undergraduate major matters less, or it could be that they expect their college name and network to open doors even where their major isn’t pre-professional. I would note also that more selective schools may not even have the pre-professional majors. Have you noticed this effect, and if so do you have thoughts on what causes it?

Smartphones have ‘destroyed’ young people

by Ivy

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

As a Gen Xer I am still shocked that kids have no interest in driving because it was such an important rite of passage for everyone that I knew or saw on TV/movies in the 80’s and 90’s.

Have the parents of older kids seen this shift in their households away from physical get togethers with friends towards social media? Does any of this ring true?