Carolyn Hax Live (Friday, Feb. 24)

Feb 24, 2012

In her daily column in The Washington Post Style section, Carolyn Hax offers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there. Hax is an ex-repatriated New Englander with a liberal arts degree and a lot of opinions and that's about it, really, when you get right down to it. Oh, and the shoes. A lot of shoes.

Carolyn was online Friday, Feb. 24 at noon ET, taking your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

Got any of Carolyn's answers or readers' questions from the past year stuck in your head? Submit them for next week's Best of Hax 2011 chat that will take place while Carolyn is on vacation.

Got more to say? Check out Carolyn's discussion group, Hax-Philes. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

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Hi everybody! We've got the turntable running again, if you're interested: http://turntable.fm/hax_holiday

In fact, I'm late because I was looking for music to add.

... and just then I was posting the link to my Facebook page, since I wanted to break my streak of remembering only after I finished. 

Hi Carolyn - this isn't the usual sort of question you get but the issue is perplexing me. I have two mid twenties college educated nephews who both tell us that as soon as they meet a desirable woman they need to rapidly get engaged. They both insist that "all the good ones" are engaged by the time they are twenty-one. This is so contrary to our experience and what we read. Both of these guys have tons going for them (looks, education, personality, career) Are they as off base on this topic we think they are?

Yes, but I don't see much that you can do about it. Here's why: It's so loopy a world view that to acquire it, they had to tune out a whole lot of good, solid, readily available information about the world around them. That means that your chances of swaying them with more good, solid, readily available information are pretty slim. They're just going to have to learn the truth the way most people with rigid ideas do.

Unless they hit the cosmic lottery and find someone wonderful who isn't frightened away by their sense of urgency, and live relievedly ever after. Could happen.

Do engagement party invites require a gift to be chosen and taken to the affair?

No gift is ever -required-, except perhaps at a shower, but gifts at engagement parties are customary. No need to go crazy; a celebratory bottle of wine/box of chocolates is -exactly- what I want. I mean, is perfectly appropriate.

Dear Carolyn, can you offer any insight into a dilemma my husband and I are having? We are 27 and 28 and have been married for 2.5 wonderful years. We're financially stable and we own a home. We want children and are starting to feel real baby pangs. But whenever we talk to a couple who had kids young, they all urge us to wait. We'd be the only ones among our friends (who are mostly still single, some newlyweds but years away from kids) with the responsibility of a baby. They say we should enjoy spoiling ourselves and each other for a little while longer, and that they wish they had waited longer. BUT, we have also talked to several older couples who waited longer to have children, doing so in their mid-to-late-30s. One is my husband's sister, who unequivocally says if she had it to do again, she would have started a decade earlier. We have seen heartbreaking fertility struggles and serial miscarriages, and I have a coworker who at age 42 just took several days of personal vacation to work on coming to terms with the fact that she will never be a mom. We are sure we want kids, but it's starting to seem like no matter WHEN we do it, we'll have regrets either way. Can you help shed light on this? Thanks!

There will always be something you wish you had known or done. If you base your decisions on what others say, you will open yourself to even deeper regrets than if you base your decisions on what you know about yourself.

For example, some people who are the first among their friends to have kids pine for the freedom their friends still have, but others are more than ready to stop "spoiling" themselves and want no other life than the one they share with their kids. Which one are you?

Listen to your friends, by all means, but not to the conclusions they've drawn; those are about them. 

Instead, listen to the -reasons- they came to these conclusions, and use them to inform your decisions. Just drawing from your examples, there's the issue of getting your sillies and self-indulgence out of your system before throwing your needs in the backseat for 18-plus years, and there's the issue of not waiting so long that your fertility drops off a cliff. There are also the issues of your energy level, your financial security, the ages you'll be when your kids become adults, etc. 

 

3 months from now, I am slated to be in a good friend's wedding party a week before my wife is due to give birth to our first (3 hour plane ride away). I committed to doing this before my wife got pregnant. She doesn't want me to go, which I can understand, but she has a good friend who can stay with her while I'm gone. She said she won't tell me not to go, but says that if she gives birth while I'm gone, she's going to name the baby her favorite baby name (which I don't like). She says she's scared, and doesn't want to do it alone. I say not only it is unlikely she'll give birth during the 2 days I'm gone, but her girlfriend will be with her. I think she's just trying to punish me-she doesn't care for this particular friend. Is she being as unreasonable as I think she's being?

Um. Some people are excited to be there for the birth of their children for their own reasons, and not just to keep the laboring mother appeased. Just a head's up.

[eye rub]

I'm going to try to answer this straight.

A week before her due date is prime time for her to give birth. It is not at all unreasonable (or punitive*) for her to be concerned that you will be a three-hour flight away when she goes into labor.

If you want to avoid making a decision that will put a permanent dent in your marriage (she doesn't have to be a grudge-holder to be unable to forget 20 years from now that you made this choice when you were expecting your firstborn), but you still want to give attending the wedding your best shot, then you will suggest to her that you and she talk to her doctor about this. Specifically,  find out whether it will be possible to tell, with some confidence, before you leave, whether she's getting close. (I believe a non-stress test can pick up subtle early contractions, but memory is fuzzy, and I'm also not sure how reliable that is.) If it is possible, then you can make a game-time decision on the wedding.

If it's not possible, YOU STAY HOME SO YOU DON'T RISK MISSING THE BIRTH OF YOUR CHILD. Being in this together is one of the most exciting, romantic, marriage-cementing things you can do, and I want to weep that I have to spell this out.

Even having a rush-home-on-the-next-flight plan is dicey. First labors tend to be long, so technically there's a good chance you'll have time,  but it could also introduce needless stress for your wife when stress is known to interfere with childbirth. 

*If you believe her capable of punishing you like this, if she's not joking about using the hated name, and/or if you really see yourself as interchangeable with her friend in the delivery room, then, for the sake of this baby, please consider marriage counseling or a reputable marriage workshop. Your bond has cracks in it as big as the dead spot in the chat while I typed this.

 

I don't know why, but it is a hot button issue for me (married man, no desire for children) when I see people equating giving birth with being a parent. For instance, the very well written question earlier from "Grass is Greener" included the line "I have a coworker who at age 42 just took several days of personal vacation to work on coming to terms with the fact that she will never be a mom." I'm guessing that since it followed the mention of fertility struggles that it referred to the 42 year old realizing she would not be able to conceive, but that in no way means she will never be a mom. A parent is the person who raises you, who cares for you, who gives you unconditional love. Biology is the least important part of it. Don't despair!

I read the intent, "that she will never give birth," and blew right past the chosen words. You are absolutely right to flag that--it is wrong to equate the two. Thanks.

Hi, Carolyn! This is somewhat similar to Grass is Greener's post, except that I'm already pregnant. We have been together 10 years, have always wanted children, etc. The thing is: we're in our late 20s, also the first to have kids, and I can't help but think about everything I'm going to be leaving behind....boozy nights out with friends, month long backpacking through Asia.... I imagine this is a natural feeling, but I do feel quite guilty. I'm excited to have a child, but sad about how my life is going to change. Hoping that when I see her little face, all doubts go away. Help?

There will be some of that, yes. But I also suggest you open up your thinking a bit. While you have to reorient your priorities around your child, it would be a disservice to all of you to chuck everything that makes you who you are. There won't be boozy nights out with friends quite as you've known them, but you can get a sitter and go out and enjoy your friends as soon as you and baby are both comfortable with that. 

And backpacking through Asia--well, here's a story for that. My tutor in college was married to Perri Klass, who I believe was still in Harvard med school at the time, and the two of them had a baby, and they went to (memory don't fail me now) India for an extended trip. She is also an author, which means suspicions that she's unusually high-functioning are probably well-founded. But, she's also living, published proof that you can incorporate a baby into your fascinating life. 

Wait... what? Are you engaged??! If so, congrats!

Er, no, I'm married, almost 10 years now. Wine and chocolate need no occasion.

If they are in their mid-twenties and single, then aren't they, by their definition, no longer "good ones"?

I -hate- that I missed that. Ugh! Fish in a stinkin barrel.

Of course, now I have the sinister thought that they see this as applying to women only, in which case I want to petition for them to be stamped with a warning label.

Anyone else get the sense that her nephews are pulling her leg? Maybe they get asked about the seriousness of their relationships more than they like, maybe they know it's so far from what their aunt thinks that they're just having fun with her, whatever. But, as Carolyn said, it's such a loopy world view that I have to think they may just be amusing themselves by claiming to espouse it.

That would be nice, wouldn't it.

Also, how many kids do you want? The more you want, the earlier you need to start, if # of children is actually important to you. But, why not strike a middle ground? Give yourself 1 year (or 2, or 6 months, or whatever) before you start trying. And then make sure you really ENJOY that time, in the ways that your friends-with-kids say you can't once you're parents. Go on vacations, go out spontaneously, sleep in until noon. Enjoy it. Then start trying, knowing that you have plenty of years of (theoretical) fertility, and knowing that you've gotten your needed young-and-free years in.

Right--if in fact they need them. 

I think the universal plug here would be travel. Take the trip you can't imagine taking with kids, and that you can't imagine not taking. 

Just don't go into debt for it, since that will create a whole other kind of stress and regret.

Does this portion have any merit? " I committed to doing this before my wife got pregnant" What if you're going to be the best man?

Not a speck of merit. And if neither groom nor best man gets this, I weep afresh. 

Hey Carolyn - Love the chats. I'm a full-time employee (job is super-stressful and a bad fit), have a different part-time job (that I absolutely love) to make ends meet, and am in school (which I need to get out of job #1) . I'm exhausted. The stress has gotten so bad that I've starting having panic attacks in my sleep (Yes, this is a real thing! It's called a "nocturnal panic attack" and it sucks big time). I've had the warning signs and I know that something needs to give before I end up with more serious health problems. But my part time job is one of the only things that I really love about my life right now, my schoolwork will eventually get me to a better place, and my full-time job (although the biggest source of stress) pays the bills. I know some people who can do it all but I just physically... can't. And that makes me feel like a failure. How do people get out of these types of situations?

How much more of this are you facing, and how much vacation do you have stored up at your FT job (assuming the PT one doesn't offer any). And, could you cut back on hours while still holding onto the PT job? 

Where I'm going with this, if it's not clear: If you're close to the end, then try to ease the pressure in small ways, including fewer PT hours and the occasional, scheduled day off from FT job.

If you're not close to finishing the education, then consider getting through this semester and taking the next one off to rest. 

If that's an unbearable thought and you have no vacation and you're already at the minimum number of PT hours, then I suggest looking into reliable stress reducers (yoga, for example) and talking to your doctor about the panic attacks. 

Also look into reorienting your schedule to maximize the time you have. You'd be amazed at the time savings you can turn up if you treat your bedtime, wakeup time, study hours, mealtimes, etc. as puzzle pieces and try putting them together in different ways. 

Hi Carolyn Whenever I make a minor driving mistake (misread a sign while driving, miss a turn & have to turn around, etc) my husband always asks "Are you OK? Do you need to have your eyes checked?" Similarly if I mishear something in conversation - like misheard lyrics - "Do you need to have your hearing checked?" Its starting to feel like I get criticized whenever I make normal, human mistakes. Or is missing the street sign while driving past at 30 mph actually a symptom that I need a vision checkup?

Depends. Has he always been this way, or is it recent? If the latter, then you need to have the okay-spit-it-out-already conversation: "[Husband], you've been doing this a lot lately--asking if my vision and hearing are okay, when I make what I believe are normal, human mistakes. What's up?" If he doesn't have a larger concern or won't admit to it, then you're entitled to ask him to back off, please.

Hi Carolyn, I know this isn't the Holiday Hootnanny, but I need help. My SO loves Christmas but I don't. Unfortunately, I have to drive the bus of SO's Annual Holiday Expectations, i.e.: do all the decorating, baking, shopping, etc. BY MYSELF. If I don't, it won't get done and SO will sulk and hide until I cave. SO refuses to celebrate with family without me and maintains that it's only one day a year, I should suck it up, I can handle one church service, etc (I'm atheist, BTW). This is a very rare instance of SO not budging but I don't know how NOT to feel pressure and an insane amount of resentment. Please advise!

I believe that's a sane amount of resentment. 

Your SO is being a complete child, as you know, and SO knows it's not "only one day"--it takes weeks to put on the kind of Christmas you're talking about.

That means you have three choices: Suck it up, go on strike or conjure a new approach.

Most people reading this will think, ugh, go on strike already, it's years overdue. And they'll be right. 

But marriage isn't a uniform institution; it's a compilation of deals two people make, and each is unique. If striking isn't the deal you want to make here, then you're right to seek alternatives.

One possibility: This year, let him know this is going to become a joint effort (or no effort at all, but leave that off, since that makes it an ultimatum). Baking together, shopping together (you can go to the shopping center together, split up to do your elf thing, then meet at a set time for dinner at the nicest place there), decorating as a team. When you say, "Okay, let's bake some cookies," and SO resists, say, "If you want cookies this year, then this is how it's going to happen; I also really would like your company." Bring as much fun as these things as you possibly can after years of sane resentment.

If refusals continue or give way to pouting, then you're back to caving or going on strike, though your strike would have its on-ramp paved nicely at this point. "For years, I've done this for you, when we both know Christmas is not my thing. I will gladly continue, but not as a solo act, not any more." 

 

My boyfriend invited me to his fancy schmancy company dinner next week. Can I get away with a classy, conservative LBD and some crazy fun heels?

Company dinner = don't call attention to yourself, in good ways or bad.

I gave up alcohol for Lent for a lot of reasons (save $ and calories, etc.), but deep down the reason is because I was afraid I was becoming dependant and wanted to test myself a bit. So far (yes, two whole days), it is good. I actually feel better not having the wine at night, etc. Assuming this goes well, I may just cut alcohol completely--having a somewhat addictive personality, family history of alcoholism and cancer, etc. But my question is more how to handle the social issues associated with this. It's easy to say to my friends, "I gave up alcohol for lent", and most aren't giving me a hard time, but what if it's permanent. Is, "I realized when I gave it up that I feel better without it" enough? And my family is pretty big drinking (even the non-alcoholics), so I will stand out and they already feel like I push them away/try to distance myself. Suggestions?

1. Good for you. No, awesome for you.

2. You don't need me one bit. "Gave it up for Lent, didn't miss it," is all you need. Even years down the road it's apt:  "Gave it up for Lent one year, didn't miss it." Said brightly, in a clipped kind of way, it's a subject-closer. When pressed, shrug and say, "What can I say?" and exit/change subject/the usual.

 

And, good luck with it.

Oddball consumer suggestion: If you don't have one, look into those soda makers that are all over the place. One of the needlessly difficult aspects of not drinking alcohol is the sad array of choices for people who have the taste for, say, beer. Soda is bad for you and too sweet, juice is too sweet and caloric, designer sodas/juice blends that are healthy also cost a fortune. If you have a cheap supply of homemade fizzies, you'll find it ever so slighly easier to stay on track.

Dear Carolyn-- My parents and I are really close, but my parents don't like my boyfriend. They won't say why. I'm planning to spend the next several months living with my boyfriend. How do I keep up a nice relationship with my parents through this?

What are the chances that you can pry the reason out of them? I have to think it's important, verging on everything.

new one for me...

Little Black Dress (I think...)

Hi, Carolyn. Just found out that we're having a boy. You've got three! Any books you've thought were great so that I can be prepared for this adventure? Thanks!

Congrats! The best thing you can do is raise the boy you have, and so--whether he's a fort-building, knee-scraping adventurer or a thoughtful, bookish guy or a fine-motor creative guy or natural nurturing type or a jock of all trades or, most likely, some nuanced combination of these--the best thing  you can read for raising him is your son himself. Watch and listen and attend to his needs.

As questions arise, look to fellow parents, teachers and your pediatrician; they're all good places to find resources that help you with your son's particular needs. 

The one book I think every parent should read is "Nurture Shock." It's  not only fascinating, but it blows huge holes in conventional parenting wisdom, fills those holes with good ideas and gives you a baseline for reading what your boy needs.

Not a question, but can we just take a moment to celebrate Maryland passing the marriage equality bill this week?

Yes, and we can take another moment to hope it sticks. (Part of getting it passed was building in room for challenges, if I understand it correctly.)

Hi Carolyn, I have a good friend who is in the process of caring for her mother as she dies of cancer. She is in home hospice care and my friend is by her side 24/7 as they are very close. All funeral arrangements have been made as she's known for some time her cancer was terminal. However my friend's father has asked her to deliver the eulogy and she is unsure how to go about it. Any helpful tips or suggestions at where to start from you or the nuts? It would be most appreciated! Thank you!

Aw. That's so hard.

I suggest she start by trying to recall, then jotting down, her favorite stories about her mom. If she's drawing a blank (totally normal), then she can start asking around among other family, Mom's friends and and even her own friends. 

When she figures out the one worthy of opening the eulogy, I suspect the rest of it will flow from there, since it's going to be an accounting of what made her mom special, with some of the other stories woven in.

 

 

My spouse and I are separated and I think part of her pushing me away is that she is suffering from depression. She has been to our Dr., gotten a prescription and is going to pursue couseling. My question is do we keep proceeding like we're getting divorced or give this treatment some time? For what it's worth we're divorcing because we agree that there's a little something missing but there was no cheating and we both care deeply for one another, enjoy our time together and obviously thought at one point we'd be spending the rest of our lives together.

If you don't have a separation agreement, then I suggest you get that now. Then, give her treatment a little time. As long as neither of you is in a hurry, then I could argue for waiting both from the position of not piling on while she's dealing with her health and of not closing the door to reconciliation.

Of course you can still reconcile after divorce, but that'll still involve costs and court time, which would be nice to avoid if possible.

I think a LBD and snazzy shoes are perfect for a company party. I have also found, from experience, that snazzy shoes are a great way to start conversations (usually with women) at those types of events, which can be a blessing when you are the plus-one...

Any rationalization for excellent shoes is welcome here.

I think she should go for it. My sister is the #2 at a very conservative, large Federal agency. She always wears conservative suits with amazing, fun shoes and everyone loves it. Just make sure the little black dress isn't too revealing and you will be fine.

Good backup and a good caveat, thx.

Take out a student loan and quit your FT job. Look for scholarships and grants, fill out your FAFSA, look into work study programs that may add units for your pt job (since it correlates to your future job). Talk to your financial aid office- they really can help. Student loans are at 3% interest nowadays, if you get a subsidized loan, no interest till 6months after graduation. If you don't use it you can give it back, interest free!

Something I always hestitate to advise when jobs are hard to find, but if the prospects are good in the new field, this makes sense, thanks.

My husband celebrates Christmas and I do not. He buys the tree and hauls it home, decorates for the holiday, wraps presents, and all that "fun" stuff. While he does this, I sit on the couch, sip a toddy, enjoy the blinkelights, and have a conversation with him while music plays in the background (we have settled on Def Leppard as the Music of Christmas). On the day, we order Gen Tso's Chicken. ... Can't we all just get along?

Or, can't we all just come over? (Assuming you're open to a mutually agreeable replacement soundtrack.) 

A college classmate of mine and his younger sister shlepped all over the world by car, ship and plane all throughout their childhoods (from infancy through grad school) by their parents, both in the father's line of work (civil engineer) and on vacation. OTOH, my uber-cautious parents only took me across the state line (barely) twice, by family car, in the entire 21 years I lived with them. Believe me, I felt so cheated when I realized how much I'd missed out on. So don't please, succumb to an excess of caution on this count while raising your kid(s).

I do believe it, and sympathize. 

I also hope, though, that after you gave yourself a fair amount of time to feel cheated, you also let yourself see that your parents didn't  have the haul-them-everywhere gene. There are homebodies and adventurers, and while each often must be flexible in these tendencies when kids come, there's also just so far anyone can expect them to bend.

Hi Carolyn, One of my college-aged brother's friends has friended me on Facebook. I don't know him well, though he is one of my brother's more historic friends. I'll call him Joe. Joe has had a rough time-- many stepfathers, lots of moving around, and a mother with mental health problems who died a couple of years ago. Joe is now a young father and has split from his son's mother. I don't think he has much of a support system. Neither my brother nor I live in the same city as Joe anymore. Joe has started posting really bitter, depressed, and otherwise troubling messages on facebook. I'm worried that he could hurt himself or others (though he has not said anything specific about doing so), but I don't know that it's my place to say anything. What, if anything, should I do? Reach out to him? Encourage my brother or parents to reach out to him?

Encourage your brother or parents to say something, yes, but also consider commenting on his posts: "Hey, Joe--do you have someone there you can talk to?"

It's -really- important that you don't get sucked into being his online listener, amateur therapist or just shoulder to cry on; this will only give him a place to hide from real help. 

If he responds affirmatively, urge him to get in touch with that person. Seems obvious but even a nudge can help. If he responds negatively, then do a little research on crisis resources in his area, and have a few numbers that you can send to him via FB message. Then step back and let him do what he needs to do. (And give these numbers and suggestions to anyone else you enlist to help--especially the part about not getting sucked in.)

If you see any alarms about the kids, call Childhelp. 1-800-4-a-child.

 

And now, tonight's episode of "House."

No, no, no. You need health insurance yes? This assume you have it through your FT job. What is the fall-back plan without insurance. Yikes.

Noted, thanks.

i am the wife of the big boss at work....we host and attend very fancy company dinners/receptions/parties all the time. Your advice was PERFECT. Her shoes might be the just-right-kicky-fun-personality signature piece, or they could be way out of line for the event. She won't know until she gets a feel for these things. Classy and understated will never serve you wrong. There will be time to showcase your quirky accessories. In this setting, let everyone get to know you slowly.

Also noted, also thanks.

It's not lupus.

Sarcoidosis?

Doubting parenthood because you'll miss booze and backpacking in Asia is straight out of Chapter 6 in the "How to be a Yuppie" guidebook.

Right, because only yuppies drink or travel.

Next.

I'm not sure. I'm not sure if they even know. They've given me a long string of petty reasons that read like a long list of prejudices (he has a profile on social networking websites, so he must be looking for other women; he plays video games, so he must be irresponsible; he likes beer, so he must be an alcoholic). These are all a matter of intent and degree, and from what I've seen of him, these are things that he enjoys but isn't dependent on or obsessed with to an unhealthy degree. My mom also started yelling at me about him one day, and later said she had no idea why she was so angry, she just couldn't stop it. If I had to guess...I had an abusive boyfriend once before, and while I did get myself out of it by myself and got counseling, it terrified them. Even if that hadn't happened, I think it would still weird them out some to see me dating. It's really not something I ever aspired to in life, I just happened to think this guy was really special.

A lot going on here, then. If you have a decent relationship with your mom, then I suggest you assure her that you take her concern seriously, and that you'd like to keep the topic open so that you both feel free to talk about what's on your minds. That way she'll know you're listening, which might help her relax; also, it will give her time to get her thoughts in some kind of order. It will also take the pressure off you to prove to her that your BF is okay--which is often the first step in missing warning signs, since you become invested in seeing only the good things about him.

Plus, it'll help you see and accept that you're all a little scared, rightly so, and need each other's honesty more than ever.

It's required and included in your student fees.

Noted notedly, thanks.

Oh, I get it, so advice columnists have to adhere to a particular ideological agenda these days? Will you give your position on other ideological and political issues next?

If you drop the sarcasm, then I'll happily answer any question you have about this.

I make no secret of my social views, which are live-and-let-live as far as kindness will allow.  I also think "separate but equal" was rightly shot down last time our equality based melting pot tried to get it to fly.

 

I'm fairly new to my city, and have formed some budding friendships with a group of ladies. I became friends with A before she (and I) met any others in the group, and I think she's a great person. Subsequently she has become nearly inseparable with B, another lady in the group who I don't dislike but am not really drawn to, and I don't like the effect B has on A when they are together. I'd really like to hang out with A one-on-one, but it seems like with these ladies, every invitation is a "more the merrier" type thing. Is there a way I can tactfully arrange a "date" with A that doesn't have to include B (or others), without seeming unfriendly?

If you buy two tickets to something and invite her to use the other with you, you're probably safe. But, three caveats: 1. be ready to invite someone else in case she says no, 2. she might invite the group all to get tickets, 3. this might be postponing the inevitable failure of your friendship with A. If B is her bestest, your energy might better be invested in C, D and E. 

Just take two (or three) pairs of shoes in the car. Have the conservative ones on, but if while pulling up to the event, you see that lots of other people are wearing fun, kicky shoes, switch out before heading in! (This of course assumes the opportunity to people watch before entering the room.)

I do love me kicks, but this just sounds like work.

Gimme a quick "buck up" message? Job hunting, which means lots of hope, and lots of reason to hope, but no reward yet. Financial strain is almost tangible. And after carefully tracking my weight and workouts for a month, I'm fitting into the one-size-down jeans but still stuck at the same damn number on the scale. Yes, I should stop eating cookies, but please refer back to the first question. (And SAHM to three youngsters, including 2 and 3 year old boys. Please add that to the frazzled heap.) Do sneakers go with the little black dress?

No no  no, eat the cookies--just in the same moderation you're using now. What the scale says is almost meaningless compared with your size, since you're building muscle with your workouts. Keep working to reach your target shape and target body and tell the scale to stuff it. (It won't care.)

As for the job hunt, you have a job at home with your kids full-time. You need paid work, I get it, but please see your current job as a fine place to be in the meantime, as well as a source of savings. Just switching to a slow-cooker, if you haven't already, can save you money and late-day frazzle. 

I know this second part puts me perilously close to thanks-a-lot territory, but I do mean it as a pragmatic rallying cry.

 

Well look at Carolyn, the newly minted musci snob. The only bands I've ever seen you praise are Weezer and Nickelback. So no, there wouldn't be any mutually agreeable replacement soundtrack. Unter gleeben glauben globen...

Naw, just can't do hair bands without getting a headache.

Funny you remember the Nickelback reference. To this day I still know only one song of theirs, which was the one I liked and still do. in fact, I might inflict it on you all, HOO ha haaaaaa ...

I hope I'm not too late. I have a colleague with ALS. She coudl really use some help at home, getting benefits lined up, etc (she is still working). She is not a native English speaker (and neither is her husband) and I think that has limited her ability to find assistance. She met with the ALS organization social worker. I was not there, but she did not find that person helpful. She does not want me to be her liaison. I suggested she contact the MDA, hoping that interaction goes smoother. Any other suggestions?

Have her contact the Care Services Coordinator at her local ALS Association (the link is to the national page)--and, if that's the person who wasn't helpful, then the director or the assistant coordinator would be the next step. Urge her to explain that the social worker wasn't helpful and she'd like to try working with someone else. It's a totally appropriate request.

 

I guess I should have done that, and kept the lines of communication open, but I finally told them that I wasn't going to talk to them about him any more. They always read evil into everything, even if it was just a list of the fun things I'd done that weekend. It just got too much for my mental health.

Then you did what you had to do. But that doesn't preclude your going to them now and saying, okay, can we try this again, where we communicate?

I realize I never finished my answer, where I talk about what to do if you don't have a decent relationship with your parents. In that case, staying at arm's length might be what you have to do. However, you mentioned therapy in reponse to your the abusive relationship, right? If you didn't tackle this then, consider going back to explore your family dynamics a bit. There are enough things here that arent' clicking to suggest there's more productive work to be done. 

My sister is having a baby! Yay! I'm going to be an aunt! But my sister is currently unemployed and uninsured... Not so good. I want to help as I can, but I'm a college student and can't really do much at all financially, and neither can my parents. What do I do? Send diapers when I can?

Is she being diligent about locating and using resources to help low-income moms? Research shows these moms tend to seek less pre-natal care and also postpone seeking it, which isn't good for her or the baby. March of Dimes is one national organization that comes to mind, but a lot of the good ones are local. 

You didn't say your sister wasn't on this already, but just in case--researching her options can be a big help, if she's open to it, as can going with her to appointments if the father can't or isn't on the scene.

You know that one song you like? The others all sound EXACTLY like it. So ipso facto, you like one song, you like them all ;) Hence, Nickelback fan!

Hmm, good point.  But I don't think I want to hear it twice back-to-back, so, maybe Fan of That Song is where I stand. 

Of course, I tried to find it to flog you all with it, and it seems I don't even remember the title correctly. It's almost like recalling a middle-school crush. 

If I want to get married and my favorite-person-in-the-world boyfriend of 4 years has gone from saying that yes, he thinks about that, to saying "marriage isn't a pre-requisite for happiness" - he doesn't want to marry me and I should end it now, right?

Sounds that way. I'm sorry.

She is very likely eligible for Medicaid, which will cover all costs of prenatal care, birth, and often post-partum care. You could definitely encourage her to apply, or help her get the right information.

Duly noted, thanks.

We are also amenable to the John Denver/Muppet Christmas.

As you should be. How about the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack? 

And all of our ears are thanking your memory.

Curses! Till next week ... I'm sure to find it by then.

And on that note, buh-bye, thanks for stopping by, and hope to see you here next week.

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Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997 as a weekly feature for The Washington Post, accompanied by the work of "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis. The column has since gone daily and into syndication, where it appears in over 200 newspapers. Carolyn joined The Post in 1992 as a copy editor in Style, and became a news editor before turning to writing full-time. She is the author of "Tell Me About It" (Miramax, 2001), and the host of a live online discussion on Fridays at noon on washingtonpost.com. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and their three boys.

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