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26 Jul 19:15

my coworker told me to stop flirting with a student employee

by Ask a Manager

.... *cringe* ....

A reader writes:

I am part of the HR department at my workplace, and we hired “Andre” a few months ago as a part of our student group. He’s only 18, but he’s been a hard worker and always takes initiative around the office. I was part of Andre’s interview panel, so I’ve always been in contact with him and friendly with him since we brought him on board.

For the past month, Andre has been working in my section to help process a backlog of paperwork caused by COVID-19, so he spends a lot of time in my office where the only working scanner is. We started with small talk but learned that we share a lot of hobbies.

A week ago, a cafe near our office opened back up (take-out only), and when I told Andre about it, he suggested we go there for break. I’ve had coffee with my other coworkers before. He offered to pay, and after we chatted at a park bench by the cafe, he offered a hand to help me up from the bench and held my upper arm until we’d left the park. Since then, we’ve felt more comfortable making physical contact, but it’s been nothing inappropriate. It’s usually just a poke or bump on the shoulder or brushing up against each other in the hall.

I bring this up because one of my coworkers, “Jane,” confided in me that she’s concerned about how Andre and I interact. She said that she saw us on that outing, and she confessed that she overheard a short conversation we had while Andre was replacing toner. Andre was jamming the cartridge in aggressively, so I said, “Damn, I hope you don’t treat your dates like that.” He had replied, “Only if they ask for it.” She has also heard Andre tell me on a separate occasion, “If only I could get a girl with legs like yours, I’d be in business.”

Jane thinks this could result in sexual harassment complaints, but that wouldn’t make any sense. We thought we were alone, and since we’ve been getting more connected at work, we’ve been talking in friendly innuendo like that. Andre has never shown any discomfort when we share jokes like these, especially when he initiates them, and we never do so in front of others to make others feel uncomfortable. Nobody’s complaining. Jane, however, thinks this is unbecoming of a 40something woman like myself and could look very bad for our company if our private interactions were made public.

Jane says they’re not as private as I think and everyone else can feel the “sexual tension” between us, and she said that people sometimes refer to us as “work spouses.” I admit that interacting with Andre makes me feel more attractive than I have in years, but it’s not relevant. Jane also asked if my husband knows about Andre, but my husband doesn’t need to know about Andre since I’ve never cheated on him and never would.

Jane doesn’t seem to understand more nuanced social interactions like flirting can be harmless and common in office settings, and based on the questions above, she seems to believe it’s okay to ask about my private life because of this. Is there a tactful way I can explain to her that she shouldn’t try to police her coworkers’ social interactions, especially if they’re not meant to be public?

Whoa, no.

You need to stop flirting with Andre. Stop brushing against him in the hallway (!), stop trading sexually charged jokes and compliments, stop the whole thing.

You are in HR. He is an 18-year-old student employee. You cannot flirt with or trade sexual innuendo with a student employee.

Yes, this could be sexual harassment. It could be sexual harassment of Andre if he ever starts to feel uncomfortable or like his security in his job depends on continuing the flirtation (and just because someone seems comfortable with this kind of contact at first, that doesn’t mean they’ll continue to feel comfortable with it). It could also be a legal liability if others are forced to overhear obvious sexual remarks between the two of you (that toner comment? come on — I guarantee you that grossed out anyone who overheard).

And yes, potential harassment issues aside, this will absolutely affect the way others think of you. At a minimum, you’ll look like you have terrible judgment, and if this continues people will suspect you of more than that.

Doing this with any colleague would be inappropriate. Doing it with an 18-year-old is even more problematic. He’s on a whole different plane of maturity (and he’s not accountable in nearly the same way you are for knowing what is and isn’t acceptable at work).

Also, you’re in HR! I hope that means you’re doing benefits administration or comp analysis or similar — because if you do anything related to legal compliance or investigations or employee counseling, you’re torpedoing your credibility and trustworthiness in your job as well. You may have already forfeited your ability to be seen as fair or impartial if someone needs to report harassment or other inappropriate behavior.

If you do work in those areas of HR, your judgment here — and especially your response after a colleague pointed out the problems — is indicative of some serious deficiencies in your understanding of foundational concepts in your field, and I’d urge you to do some serious soul-searching about what’s required to make your behavior and judgment line up with what’s needed in that work. This isn’t “I occasionally have do some data entry for my job and I’m not great at it.” This is “I violate the rules I am charged with enforcing, don’t realize when I’m doing it, and may harm others who rely on me to keep their workspace safe and legal.” It’s soul-searching, “am I in the right field?” territory.

If you do that soul-searching and come out of it with an understanding of why all of this is a problem and a resolve to do better, you should be able to move forward (although you’ll need to do some reputation repair at work, as well as righting things with Andre). But you have to do that work.

Also … you didn’t write in asking for marriage advice, but the relevant question there isn’t whether your husband “needs” to know about Andre. It’s whether you’d be comfortable if he did.

my coworker told me to stop flirting with a student employee was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

23 Jul 17:02

coworker demands my attention when I’m busy, performance reviews during COVID, and more

by Ask a Manager

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworker demands my attention when I’m busy

I work with a woman who is senior to me in title. There are several of us and we each work for different bosses, but we all have the same grandboss. She is awesome when it comes to overall morale in the workplace. However, my issue is how much attention I have to give her when she wants to talk about her personal life.

Every time she wants to share her latest story about herself to the group, she notices I am not giving her any attention. She asks me from across the room in front of the others if I’m listening to her. I always want to ask her if it’s work-related, but I wisely don’t. Instead, I apologize, listen, and give the expected compliments or sympathies, and then go back to my work. Granted, her stories are only about 10-15 minutes and she only does this every few days or so.

I know it’s all part of the team-bonding experience in the workplace. But I happen to have a boss who likes to pile work on me. I just can’t help but feel resentment that she has the time to tell stories when I wish I could take those minutes back to take breaks (which I never take but know I should). How can I politely and professionally get out of having to listen to her talk about non-work issues?

When she asks you from across the room if you’re listening to her, be honest! You can cheerfully say, “Nope, sorry, I’m right in the middle of something I can’t stop” or “No, sorry, I’m on a deadline, continue without me!”

If she suggests she’ll hold off on the story until you’re finished, you can say, “Don’t wait on me — I’m pretty buried today.”

2. Performance reviews during COVID

After a rough patch at the beginning of COVID, my company seems to be on a major upswing. My CEO just announced that we’re moving forward with reviews and we can all expect some nominal raises by October. There are two things I’m trying to figure out how to address:

• COVID. Like almost everyone else, I haven’t been nearly as productive in lockdown.

• My mental health. Right after reviews last year, I had a serious depressive episode that landed me in the hospital. As much as I’d like to say this didn’t impact my performance, it obviously did. I struggled to keep my head above water and even fainted mid-meeting due to some medication issues. I’ve also been taking half days 2-3 times a month for frequent doctor and therapy appointments. My manager has some knowledge of what’s going on and has helped me prioritize and manage my workload, but for the most part I’ve kept the severity of the issue to myself.

For the last year+, it’s been a struggle to just stay alive and employed. I don’t feel like I’ve made any remarkable improvements or contributions and I honestly don’t feel like I’m capable of providing a self-assessment that isn’t overly self-critical.

My therapist pointed out that I have been dealing with an actual life-threatening illness the last year and I should cut myself some slack for that AND COVID-related issues that everyone is dealing with. But I was raised to believe that personal life absolutely does not impact work-life and that my mental health is a part of that (and a personal failing). What do you advise?

The basic framing you want is, “Due to the challenges caused by the pandemic and some concurrent health issues, my main goal for this period has been to keep things running smoothly, but not to innovate or add major new initiatives.”

Because that’s true! So say that explicitly right up-front, and then assess yourself accordingly. You’re not evaluating yourself against the standards of previous years, but against what’s been reasonable for this specific period with these specific circumstances. (Your manager should take the same approach if she’s at all reasonable. If she’s not reasonable, this will at least open a conversation about what each of you considers realistic right now.)

And your mental health impacting work is no more a personal failing than cancer treatment impacting work would be (which is to say, it’s not one). Be as matter-of-fact about it as you would about any other health issue.

3. My coworkers want the creative projects we should outsource

My team, the communications department, is 15 people. We all are pretty busy, a bit over the line for what is reasonable to expect from a team of this size. We all have some level of creative tasks, but three colleagues have a role that is full creative (think design, photography, video, etc.). We also have the budget to outsource some tasks, which is lucky as the appetite for these full-creative tasks is huge and growing.

All three of my full-creative colleagues approached our boss (and mentioned the issue for the whole team) with the following problem: they feel that when we outsource the larger creative productions (say, producing a video), they are deprived of professional opportunities to grow and take on large projects. This is fair as far as that goes, but we need them full-time for the day-to-day work (take photo of X event and edit it so social media can publish in less than an hour) and these smaller tasks cannot be outsourced reasonably.

I understand their frustration, but when they want to take on a larger project, they often have unrealistic expectations on how much time they could devote to it. Often they’d say: I need a month just doing this. But that is just not feasible, as there is always something else to do. They constantly complain they have too much on their plates as it is (which, true – so do we all).

We already outsource all we can, so it’s not realistic for other team members to take on more (and the rest of us are not graphic designers, etc.). My boss tends to give in to them, which means we get less stuff done (which I know is my boss’s decision) but with more complaining about how the creatives are overwhelmed. Also we risk not getting the budget for this kind of expense if we don’t use it — we have one of these budget systems where saving money results in less budget for the next year.

On my bad days, I am frustrated by this. I would love to have a month blocked off for some of my projects, but it’s not going to happen and in the end I am paid to do what my boss tells me to do. How can we resolve this?

I don’t know that you can, or that you need to. Ultimately this stuff is your boss’ call. You can sit down with him and make the case for a different approach, using some recent concrete examples of problems the current approach has caused. And you can share your concern that not using the outsourcing budget means it’ll go away, putting all of you in a bind in future years. But from there, it’s up to him.

He might be giving into your colleagues because he’s a pushover, but he might be giving into them for more well-thought-out reasons that you’re not privy to. He might know he’ll lose your best people if they don’t get a couple of these projects each year. Maybe they came on board with the understanding they’d get to do this kind of work. Or not! But ultimately it’s his decision. You can make the case for doing it differently, but after that you’ve got to shrug it off as not your call.

4. Indeed’s “job assessments” on resumes

I wondered if you’ve seen Indeed’s job assessment “feature.” I was reviewing a candidate’s resume today and noticed that it contained a hyperlink. The link was in a section entitled Medical Receptionist Skills and purported to be some kind of certificate indicating that the candidate was highly proficient.

After checking to see that the link actually went to Indeed, I opened it and discovered that the candidate had completed a 16-minute assessment on medical reception tasks.

I find this very odd and I’m not sure how to feel about it. On the one hand, it’s clear that the candidate took this assessment in response to our job ad, so I suppose it counts as preparing for the role and interview. However, I have no idea what was actually assessed, and the idea that a candidate can show “high proficiency” in 16 minutes for a job that takes nine months of training for most workers is laughable. What do you think? Endearing sign of preparation or silly gimmick?

Silly gimmick. It’s not the job seeker’s fault; it’s Indeed’s fault for promoting this to job seekers as something employers will care about. Many, many job seekers assume that if a big job board like Indeed tells them action X will be helpful, it must be true. Unfortunately a ton of the time it’s not (see also: LinkedIn skill endorsements).

5. I don’t know which job my interview is for

I recently applied for two different jobs at the same company. I’m really eager to work with them in any capacity. Yesterday I got a call to schedule a video interview. When I hung up the phone, I realized I didn’t know what job I was interviewing for. I have a feeling which one it is because I can see which application was viewed first on Indeed, but I can’t be 100% sure. Since I’m open to working any position that they think would be a good fit for me, is it okay to go into the interview without confirming which job we are talking about? It feels awkward and clunky to go back now and ask.

Go back and ask, because if you don’t know which one you’re interviewing for, you won’t be able to prepare as effectively. And it might not even become clear at the start of the call, and if you have to ask at that point it’ll be a lot more awkward than just asking now. Contact the person who scheduled the interview (email is best if you have their email) and say, “After we spoke I realized I didn’t know if this interview is for the X job or the Y job, since I applied for both. Can you let me know which one we’ll be speaking about on Monday?”

coworker demands my attention when I’m busy, performance reviews during COVID, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

20 Jul 19:53

weekend open thread – July 18-19, 2020

by Ask a Manager

Sharing because this is an EXCELLENT photo (SIX cats harmoniously sharing a bed?!) but also to second the recommendation for I Capture the Castle. It hits on so many of my favorite historical fiction aspects: interwar British setting, class issues, artists/creatives, coming of age, etc. It's a great read. Dodie Smith also wrote 101 Dalmatians!

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand.

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. A very amusing but penniless family lives in a crumbling castle in 1930s England, but everything changes when two rich American brothers become their new landlords. It’s delightfully written. How had I never read this before? I now love it with all my heart.

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

weekend open thread – July 18-19, 2020 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

14 Jul 09:15

what are my obligations to my team when I’m also caring for a toddler full-time?

by Ask a Manager

This is terrifying to me. My friends with school-aged kids are all dealing with some form of this, and the headline on this excellent piece (from Smitten Kitchen author Deb Perelman) keeps echoing though my head.

(BTW OP has said in the comments her husband is stepping up and had a recent schedule change that allows him to take on more childcare, but the burden of childcare overwhelmingly falls to mothers.)

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I work from home full time (including pre-coronavirus) and am typically very busy and focused all day while I’m working. I have a one-year-old son who is normally in daycare full time, but of course, he is now home with me. My husband is also working from home, but he is a psychiatrist so is seeing patients virtually most of the week from 9-5 and just really can’t have a toddler in the room or be distracted at all while doing that.

So childcare during the day primarily falls to me. And Lord help me, I cannot work while taking care of my toddler. I mean I try, but nothing really gets done. My boss and coworkers are aware of my situation and are generally understanding. They do still attempt to put the same amount of things on my plate that they used to, but when I push back or gently let them know that no, I cannot meet that deadline, they have been understanding although they might be frustrated. I am actually the only one at my company (about 20-30 people) with little kids (some have no kids, and some have teenagers or adult children), so even though the ones with teenagers will say “yeah I know, it’s crazy, I get it,” I feel like they don’t really get it.

One of my coworkers, when I first let her know about my situation, said “Well, you can work at night.” (She is a very nice person and was not trying to be rude in any way). And the truth is, my son goes to bed at 6pm and is a very good sleeper. And on weekends my husband has no patients so technically I could work all evenings and weekends to get in my 40+ hours/week that I usually work. But…I would be so miserable. I am already so stressed out about everything going on in the world and am losing my mind. I really cherish the few moments I have to just relax with my husband in the evening or take a long walk with my family on a Saturday. But when I assure my manager and my coworkers that I am doing the best that I can, is that honest if I am still retaining a bit of free time? I do still work some evenings and weekends, but not all, and I am still trying to get 8 hours of sleep every night.

I am still getting my full salary, and given that so many people are not right now, I worry that my willingness to accept full pay for part time work (in addition to the money I’m saving from not paying for daycare) is ethically problematic. But the alternative I fear would wreak such havoc on my mental health.

Readers — thoughts?

(One quick one from me: Can your husband block out a couple of hours a day to not have patients so you have some uninterrupted time every workday? He could even potentially shift some those appointments to the evening after your son is asleep. I’m sure that’s not ideal for his schedule, but this isn’t ideal for yours either — and right now he’s taking none of the burden of the situation while you’re taking all of it, and that’s not right.)

what are my obligations to my team when I’m also caring for a toddler full-time? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

09 Jul 16:47



me (everyone) checking the news every morning

14 Jun 22:03

The Loss of Chance Meetings

by swissmiss

I miss these. That's the one part of an open office plan that was helpful - the spontaneous gatherings or conversations.

I am feeling this Tweet (and the responses) on the loss of chance meetings by going remote. I personally thrive on the unstructured, serendipitous meetings. Trying to figure out how to create them in a remote context, some folks seem to believe it’s possible.

10 Jun 18:56

How to be an ally

by Aimee Levitt

Amidst our convos about BA and Alison Roman, it's heartening to see such a powerful voice in the food world using their platform in an inspiring and powerful way. Love Samin Nosrat.

The term “ally” can be useful as a way to show support to others, but the downside is that it gives people who are not directly affected by an injustice another way to turn the conversation back to themselves. You can read a more nuanced explanation here. Nonetheless, ally is the word we have, so it’s the one we’ll…


10 Jun 18:10

update: someone with my name has stolen my work history

by Ask a Manager

Remember the letter from the person whose work history had been stolen by someone using her same name (#3 at the link)? Someone was using her references, claiming to be her. Here’s the update.

A big thanks to all the readers in the comments. You guys came with such fantastic suggestions. I contacted a lawyer as Alison recommended (my brother-in-law, who specializes in real estate law but still) and he was helpful in getting me to understand my rights.

As per the reader suggestions, I did the following: froze and checked my credit. There wasn’t anything suspicious there, but fake-me might have had more devious plans. I also added my middle name to my LinkedIn. My wife likes to joke that my name sounds like a made up alias because it’s so average, but I can at least hope that fake-me isn’t also “Jennifer Ann Johnson.” I also added a new picture, and we can hope that helps.

I contacted my previous boss, who is my usual go-to reference, and asked him if anyone had contacted him about me recently. In the past six months, he had been contacted as a reference eleven times. Only one of these was actually for me, as part of the job offer I didn’t accept. The only people working there were me (and now my replacement), my old boss and a few support staff, so I’m sure he knew about all contacts. He admitted he thought it was strange I only reached out once when he had been contacted multiple times, but assumed that the time I informed him I was listing him as a reference was more a blanket request. The positions he was contacted about were also very junior to my current role, which he also found odd but never asked me about. I asked him to inform me if anyone else tries to verify my employment and explained what was happening.

I also spoke to my current boss, who found the whole thing disturbing/a bit funny. He isn’t a bad guy, and he told me that if I want to leave he understands but his initial confrontational response was because he was worried that I was going to leave in the middle of a huge project we were working on, something I would never do. We spoke to HR together, and they now require the last 4 digits of the SSN to verify employment, which I think is a good step.

I still don’t know who the other Jennifer Johnson is, and it’s so creepy that she almost got a job using my resume. The only reason I can think of is that my name is very common and most people think my job must be very easy (it’s not). I work in corporate communications consulting on and creating social media campaigns, which people assume is just tweeting or posting on Instagram all day. I get almost daily LinkedIn requests from influencers who are all trying to “break into the industry.” I think the other me just assumed she would do an easy job for a lot of pay. I’ve also selectively reached out to my network and shared the story with them, so they’re on the alert.

I contacted the other company who was verifying employment and explained everything, and they still wouldn’t release the resume, but indicated that they would not offer this person a job.

Work is going fine, and I’ve actually paused the job search for now because I was given a mini-promotion including a big pay raise and a lot more responsibilities. My boss told me that after this incident he realized how invaluable I am and how much he wanted to keep me! I guess that’s one good thing to come out of it. Enough time has passed that it’s become a bit of an office joke. Whenever I mess something up we all blame “Jennifer 2.” I still think it’s creepy, but hopefully I’ve made it harder for her in future.

update: someone with my name has stolen my work history was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

10 Jun 14:11

You Can Now Invite A Shelter Pet To Join Your Office Zoom Calls

by Lily Feinn

Has anyone hired one of those "zoom bomb" services? I tried to get a llama for a coworker's birthday zoom call but the timing didn't work out!

Video conferences are far from the most exciting part of a work day — but one animal shelter is about to change that.

A new program started by Richmond Animal Care & Control (RACC) allows individuals, companies and schools from all over the country to invite a homeless dog, cat or kitten to participate in their virtual meetings — and the results couldn't be cuter.

Credit: RACC

“We were just thinking of something we could do that would make people smile,” Christie Chipps Peters, director of RACC, told The Dodo. “We are surrounded by animals every day, and we really do understand the love and comfort that comes from them.”

“I think it’s such a wonderful thing to be able to share with other people in such a trying time right now,” she added.

Credit: RACC

Including a furry “coworker” is almost as simple as letting your cat stroll across your keyboard. To get started, simply email the shelter and specify the time and date of your meeting and what type of animal you would like to host. You can request a specific animal, or just give a few details about the kind of participant you’re looking for.

“If they want crazy, we can do something outside and they can watch them fly past the camera," Peters said. "But if they want someone who will sit and be quiet, then we have a few animals with really calm temperaments.”

Credit: RACC

The first shelter dog to test-drive the program was a sweet pittie named Catherine Middleton Duchess of Cambridge, who met with the Richmond-based company Altria. During the call on Monday, she proved to be a model employee.

“She’s incredibly quiet and calm, and she likes to sit in your lap,” Peters said. “She’s very professional — she’s taking her job very seriously.”

Credit: RACC

For some of the smaller participants, shelter employees got creative with their Zoom backgrounds. The kittens now have their very own mock-office, complete with a tiny desk, coffee cup and to-do list.  

And the kittens' schedule is filling up fast.

Credit: RACC

At the moment, only pets housed in the shelter are participating in the program, but as interest grows, the shelter hopes to include dogs and cats currently in foster care as well.

And these sweet additions will make any meeting one that you won’t soon forget.

Credit: RACC

“It’s nothing more than to help people smile, to make people think about adopting from our shelter and to get some extra face time with pets here that need forever homes,” Peters said. “And how wonderful if someone falls in love with a shelter pet during a work meeting.”

26 May 17:53

Adorable Service Dog Gets Place In Yearbook Next To Her Favorite Little Girl

by Stephen Messenger

#goodgirl content

Meet service dog Ariel and her best friend Hadley Jo — an adorable pair who know life is better when they're together.

And everyone who meets them agrees.

Credit: Heather DeVore Lange

The little girl and her pup are inseparable pals, spending their days exchanging smiles for licks and pets for a wagging tail. But their sweet relationship goes beyond just friendship.

Hadley Jo has special needs, and her faithful dog helps her manage them. 

"Ariel is Hadley Jo’s seizure alert service dog," Heather DeVore Lange, Hadley Jo's mom, told The Dodo. "Ariel saves my daughter’s life by alerting us before a seizure happens, allowing us to administer rescue medication in less than two minutes. My goal is to provide my daughter an independent life as much as possible and Ariel helps to make that happen."

Given that important role, wherever Hadley Jo goes, Ariel is sure to follow — and that includes joining her at school.

Credit: Heather DeVore Lange

Ariel is sure to stay by Hadley Jo's side as she goes about her school day, accompanying her to class and resting nearby as she studies and learns.

But though Ariel isn't quite like the other students in class, seeing how important she is to Hadley Jo, they've embraced the pup as one of their own.

And it shows.

Credit: Heather DeVore Lange

When it came time to put together the yearbook, Ariel was invited to be included, too — given a place alongside the little girl for whom she makes all the difference in the world.

Credit: Heather DeVore Lange

For Hadley Jo's mom, seeing Ariel be included in that precious memento was deeply moving.

"I have to admit I teared up," DeVore Lange said. "The inclusiveness and acceptance of my daughter and her service dog means the world to me. It is beyond comforting to know that my daughter and her service dog have a home away from their home, at school, and that they are loved. They are accepted regardless of their differences."

Credit: Heather DeVore Lange

Just as Ariel makes life happier for Hadley Jo, together, the two of them have the same effect on everyone they meet.

Credit: Heather DeVore Lange

As Hadley Jo continues to grow and learn, Ariel will be by her side through it all — as both her best friend and lifesaving companion. Those who know them best wouldn't have it any other way.

"Hadley Jo likes to tell people, 'Ariel keeps me safe,'” DeVore Lange said. "Ariel goes everywhere Hadley Jo goes. We are so blessed as a family to have her."

21 May 19:48

Rescue Dog Never Had His Own Yard Before — So His Mom Built Him One

by Caitlin Jill Anders

#goodboy content

When KaTarra Taylor adopted Bentley, he’d already lived in four other homes. His anxiety and medical issues were too much for most people to handle, but Taylor knew he deserved a chance at a happy forever home, and refused to give up on him. 

Together, Taylor and Bentley were able to work through a lot of his anxiety issues, and even though he still struggles, he’s getting better every day, and his mom wouldn’t trade him for anything in the world. 

Credit: KaTarra Taylor

“He's half sweet doofus and half cranky grandpa,” Taylor told The Dodo. 

When she first adopted Bentley, Taylor lived in a one-bedroom apartment. She knew that wasn’t going to be enough space for the 120-pound dog long-term — so she decided to upgrade. 

Credit: KaTarra Taylor

“I ended up buying a townhouse so we could stay together,” Taylor said. “It had an enclosed patio that I knew he would like. I couldn't afford a house with a yard, but I thought I could turn the patio into a small yard with the right help.”

Credit: KaTarra Taylor

Bentley always loved hanging out in the grass whenever he and his mom would go for walks or to the park, and his mom desperately wanted him to have some grass of his own that he could hang out on whenever he wanted. The task seemed daunting at first, but after enlisting the help of her boyfriend, they finally got to work transforming the patio into the perfect space for Bentley. 

“I finally decided it was time to get this done last week,” Taylor said. “My boyfriend Nick was able to get it all done in one day for under $400.” 

Credit: KaTarra Taylor

After several hours of work, the yard was finally complete … 

Credit: KaTarra Taylor

… and Taylor couldn’t wait to show Bentley, and really hoped he would like it as much as she wanted him to. 

Credit: KaTarra Taylor

Taylor brought Bentley outside, and as soon as he saw his new grassy yard, Taylor knew she had made the right call and that all of the work had been worth it. 

Credit: KaTarra Taylor

“Bentley immediately laid down and just stayed there for several hours,” Taylor said. “He seems so happy with it.” 

Credit: KaTarra Taylor

Now, Bentley loves lying out on his grass all the time, and it’s definitely become his new favorite napping spot. After everything he went through early on in his life, his mom is so happy that he finally has a backyard space to call his own — as well as the perfect forever home. 

20 May 22:54

My website – My Facebook page – See me on LINE Webtoon!

My website – My Facebook page – See me on LINE Webtoon!

14 May 20:59

Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake Recipe

by clotilde

Buy Clotilde's latest book, The French Market Cookbook!

Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake

I love pound cakes, or quatre-quarts* in French. As a child, I went through a phase of eating Breton pound cake for breakfast day in, day out. I’m talking about supermarket pound cake, baked in long yellow logs and wrapped in soft paper. I liked it on the stale side, so I sliced it in advance, and let it age three to four days. I was an affineur of pound cake if you will.

I only recently discovered the beauty of homemade pound cake, and it has become one of my could-make-it-blindfolded cakes, in rotation with my French yogurt cake.

You know how pound cakes work, right ? You weigh the eggs, and add the same weight in sugar, melted butter, and flour. This means these ingredients each form a quarter of the batter, hence the French name, four-quarters. The English name comes from originally using a pound each of the ingredients, but that yields a pretty big cake. The French ratio allows for more flexibility.

Of course, it doesn’t tell you if you’re supposed to weigh the eggs with or without the shell, and how much baking powder to add. In truth, you can just relax about both. We’re not building a rocket ship; we’re baking a cake. Weigh the eggs with or without, add one or two teaspoons of baking powder, it will be fine. Channel your inner French grandma and do what feels right.

And it is a recipe that lends itself to variations with remarkable grace; my favorite kind of recipe for sure. Today I will share one of my favorite riffs: the buckwheat and chocolat pound cake.

Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake

I’ve been enjoying the buckwheat and chocolate pairing for years, by ordering a chocolate buckwheat crêpe for dessert at crêperies (Brittany again!). It is divine. Almost better than sugar-and-butter. Try and tell me what you think.

In this spirit, I make a pound cake with 100% buckwheat flour (this makes it gluten-free) and fold a generous amount of chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate) into the batter. The result is deeply flavorful, fluffy and moist, with chocolate in every bite, and a lovely crust dotted with sugar, my signature touch.

Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake

For the maths majors out there, let me confess two things: this becomes, in effect, a five-fifths (cinq-cinquièmes) rather that a four-fourths, just like my pistachio pound cake. And because I prefer my cakes not too sweet, I decrease the amount of sugar a little bit, which admittedly throws off the ratio, but who’s counting?

You will also notice that I give you the option of using coconut butter here, a magical ingredient I told you about here and here. In baking, it can replace regular butter, and here the coconut note is hardly noticeable against the buckwheat and chocolate.

It is a cake that is quick and simple to prepare, and because the formula is easy to memorize, it’s a great cake to bake on vacation with no cookbook and no Internet connection, to impress your friends as the baking fairy (or wizard) you really are. A skill that happens to be on my bucket list for cooks.

* I’ll let you get away with pronouncing this cat-car.

Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake

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Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Serves 6.

Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake Recipe


  • 3 large eggs (see note)
  • 2/3 cup (130 grams) raw cane sugar, plus extra for sprinkling (see note)
  • 6 ounces (170 grams) coconut butter, heated and stirred to a smooth consistency, or unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/3 cups (170 grams) buckwheat flour (gluten-free-certified as needed)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (gluten-free-certified as needed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 ounces (170 grams) good-quality dark chocolate chips (or chopped dark chocolate)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and line a loaf pan with parchment paper (my pan is 10 by 3 1/2 inches, or 26 x 9 cm; a standard 9-by-5-inch loaf pan can be used).
  2. Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake : Pan
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and coconut butter until slightly frothy.
  4. Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake : Batter (1)
  5. In another medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and chocolate.
  6. Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake : Dry ingredients
  7. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients using a spatula, until no trace of flour remains.
  8. Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake : Batter (2)
  9. Pour into the pan, sprinkle the top with sugar, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean (melted chocolate is normal; it's uncooked batter you don't want to see).
  10. Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake : Baked
  11. Lift carefully from the pan and cool on a rack.
  12. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.


  • The idea of a pound cake is that you weigh the eggs, and use that weight for all the other ingredients. My 3 large eggs typically weigh 6 ounces, or 170 grams. Adjust accordingly.
  • By the above principle, I should use 6 ounces of sugar, but I like it a bit less sweet, so typically use 3/4 of the egg weight in sugar.
  • The pound cake is best eaten on the day it is baked, but it will keep 2 to 3 days under a cake dome or in an airtight container. I keep it at room temperature when it's not too warm out.
Unless otherwise noted, all recipes are copyright Clotilde Dusoulier.

The post Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake Recipe appeared first on Chocolate & Zucchini.

09 May 22:41


by swissmiss

Ikigai is a Japanese concept meaning “A Reason For Being”. More over on Wikipedia.

28 Apr 16:49

Color-coded Pyrex bowls make the best kitchen companions

by Micheline Maynard

Pro-tip - someday when yard sales and estate sales are a thing again, look for "PYREX" not "pyrex." You want the all-caps og,

Some people look at Pyrex mixing bowls and see something retro, maybe the kind of thing their grandmothers cooked with. I look at my Pyrex mixing bowls and see the way that I cook.


27 Apr 21:13

Steven Spielberg Will Start Filming Indiana Jones 5 Next Year

by Halle Kiefer

nope nope nope nope nope

That’s what you love about these Indiana Jones movies, man. Harrison Ford gets older. International archaeological adventures stay the same age. While attending the Rakuten TV Empire Awards in London, Variety reports that Steven Spielberg announced plans to shoot the upcoming Indiana Jones sequel next year, with at least part of the filming set to take place in England. “It’s always worth the trip when I get to work with this deep bench of talent coming out of the UK,” the director said while accepting a Legend of Our Lifetime award.

“The actors, and the crew, the chippies, the sparks, the drivers — everybody who has helped me make my movies here, and will continue helping me make my movies here when I come back in April 2019 to make the fifth Indiana Jones movie right here.” IJ5 is currently scheduled for release on July 10, 2020. While the fifth franchise installment doesn’t have a title yet, its screenwriter David Koepp told Entertainment Weekly last fall that Shia LaBeouf’s character Mutt Williams will not be returning for the sequel. So, Indiana Jones and That Son We’re All Going To Forget I Have is at least in the running.

16 Apr 14:10

let’s hear about awkward things you’ve seen on video calls

by Ask a Manager

Ooooh this is gonna be good.

We’re all learning way too much about our coworkers and their homes on video calls — from the person who got a message saying her robe was too open, to the person who fell asleep on a call, to the person whose nude husband appeared in the background …IT’S ALL TOO MUCH INTIMACY AND WEIRDNESS.

Let’s hear in the comments about the most awkward/weird/amusing things you’ve seen on video calls.

let’s hear about awkward things you’ve seen on video calls was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

09 Apr 23:31

horrormovied: lyrslair: goldhornsandblackwool: M E S S...


oh WOW this is good to know!





“Just a by the by: “private” messages sent to individual people during a Zoom meeting show up in the end-of-meeting transcript along with all other public messages. Tell your friends, save a life.“

Honestly my partner has a lot of friends in the infosec community and they’ve all been lamenting the rise of Zoom because this is only ONE of very, very many reasons Zoom is an absolute security/privacy nightmare.

Zoom has a for bosses option to see if you aren’t paying attention called the “Attendee Attention Tracking” option

Zoom has sold people’s personal information to facebook even if you don’t have an account. A quick look though their terms of service shows this was never mentioned. They are being sued over it now. 

Zoom does not have End To End Encryption even though they advertise it as such, Zoom has personal access to every meeting and it’s servers are not at all secure in China (which Zoom admitted they should not be rooted to)


02 Apr 16:42

here are your animal coworkers, part 2

by Ask a Manager

Stevie Mitts is in this batch!!! (There is ANOTHER cat named for Stevie Nicks in here but only one Stevie Mitts)

With so many people working from home with animal coworkers, it’s obviously crucial that we see photos of your new colleagues. When I put out a call for pictures last week, I received more than 450 of them … so I posted half earlier this week and here’s part two.

Click photos to enlarge. And if you’re reading this from the home page, you have to click through to see the photos.

31 Mar 23:09

Binge reccs!



Binge reccs!

31 Mar 21:14

C’est magnifique: TikTok dad transforms into Ratatouille restaurant critic Anton Ego

by Allison Robicelli

I’ve been trapped inside my house with my adolescent sons for 20 days now, and things are starting to get... strange. Pants became optional by day five. By day ten the “hilarious” practical jokes began, like running into the bathroom while your brother is showering and pelting him with handfuls of spare change. On day…


30 Mar 19:44

Astrophysicist Gets Magnets Stuck in His Nose While Trying to Invent Face-Touching Alarm

by Whitney Kimball

I really, really needed to read this.

Men on the forefront of scientific discovery do not fear risking life and limb, be it drinking the vomit of a sick man or dosing themselves with LSD. One astrophysicist followed in their footsteps in the name of covid-19 health research and ended up with magnets up his nose, at risk of a horrifying and violent death.…


27 Mar 18:22

weekend free-for-all – March 21-22, 2020

by Ask a Manager

I love this cat puddle photo - and also I can co-endorse Amor Towles Rules of Civility. I also enjoyed A Gentleman in Moscow!

Sophie joins new cats Hank and Shadow for sleeping.

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school.)

Book recommendation of the week: Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles. In 1930s New York, a typist gets drawn into the city’s social elite. An enjoyable distraction.

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

weekend free-for-all – March 21-22, 2020 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

25 Mar 17:13

employers can’t expect business as usual right now

by Ask a Manager

it was IMMERSION fearful anguished scream

The coronavirus has turned millions of office workers into remote employees overnight. Companies are sending workers home with laptops and a prayer that business will be able to continue as usual, but things can’t be business as usual. Employers will need to adjust their expectations of how much can truly get done in these circumstances.

I wrote a piece for Slate about how companies need to allow maximum flexibility right now. You can read it here.

Also … some readers have said they hope there won’t be a lot of virus-related content here and last week I was thinking it could be fairly limited. (I know many people want a place they can go to escape from it.) But at this point, it’s affecting everything work-related, I’m getting flooded with questions about how it’s changing everything from job searching to resigning, and I’ve got to tackle it. It’s not going to take over the whole site; there will still be plenty of non-virus stuff like coworkers who get sick after stealing your spicy food and colleagues who want you to call their boyfriend “master,” but I want to do what I can to help people navigate this crappy situation. So there will be virus stuff, but it’ll be a mix.

Stay safe and wash your hands! (I mangled mine in a blender last night and ended up in the ER after eight days of perfect social distancing. Watch out for immersion blenders.)

employers can’t expect business as usual right now was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

19 Mar 17:58

You're going to want to go to Lucy Liu's instagram RIGHT now.

by (@YESsteveYES)

Oh this was a GOOD TIP

You're going to want to go to Lucy Liu's instagram RIGHT now.

19 Mar 17:36

the Leap Day employee finally gets her birthday off this year

by Ask a Manager

Ah a classic. Insanity.

It’s Leap Day on Saturday, and that means we must revisit this letter (and its update) about an employee born on Leap Day who isn’t allowed to have her birthday off except every four years.

Telling an employee born on Leap Day she can’t have her birthday off (the original)

One of the perks provided by my workplace is a paid day off on your birthday (or the day after if it falls on a weekend or holiday) provided by the firm and not taken from your own vacation days, and a gift card which works at several restaurants in our city. Once a month, a cake is also provided at lunch for everyone as an acknowledgement of everyone who has a birthday that month.

There is an employee on my team who was born in a leap year on February 29. Since she only has a birthday every four years, she does not get a day off or a gift card and is not one of the people the cake acknowledges. She has complained about this and is trying to push back so she is included.

The firm doesn’t single out or publicly name anyone that has a birthday. People take the day off and that is it, nothing is said. The gift card is quietly enclosed with their pay stub. The cake is put in the lunchroom without fanfare for anyone that wants some. There is no email or card that goes around and no celebrating at work. If there was I could see her point, but since everything is done quietly/privately, she is not losing out on anything. My manager feels her complaints are petty and she needs to be more professional. I agree with him.

She has only worked here for two years and was hired straight out of university. I want to tell her that she should be focusing on work issues and not something as small as a birthday. If she had a complaint about a work issue it would be different. How do I frame my discussion with her without making her feel bad or like she is trouble? Her work is good and I am sure the complaint is just borne of inexperience and I don’t want to penalize her for it.

What?! She doesn’t only have a birthday every four years — she has one every year like everyone else. (Surely you don’t believe that she only advances in age every four years, right?) She might need to celebrate her birthday on February 28 or March 1 in non-leap years, but it’s not true that she doesn’t have a birthday and it’s absolutely unfair and wrong for your office to give her fewer days off than other people because of this. She should get the day off, she should get the gift card, and she should be acknowledged with the other birthdays at the same time.

It makes no sense to demoralize someone over something so easily fixed, and it’s very odd that you and your manager are digging in your heels on this. It’s not about her being inexperienced or petty, and it’s alarming that you and your manager think that! This is about you and your manager not looking logically at what you’re doing (and, frankly, being petty yourselves). You two are wrong, she is right, and you should remedy this and apologize to her for mishandling it.

And the update (originally here):

I just wanted to give an update and to clarify a few things. I am the employee’s manager. For some reason some people in the comments thought I was a “coworker” or “team lead.” 

One person guessed I was not American. I don’t know why they were jumped all over but they were correct. I am Canadian. I live and work outside of North America.

Some people mentioned Jehovah’s Witnesses and not being allowed to celebrate birthdays and the legality of this in the comments. This is not relevant to the situation with my employee. Also, it is considered a cult here and is banned. No one who works here is a Jehovah’s Witness.

People seemed to be unclear on the policy even though I stated it. Employees must take their birthday off. This is mandatory and not voluntary. They are paid and don’t have use their own time off. If their birthday falls on a weekend or holiday, they get the first working day off. There is no changing the date. They must take their actual birthday or the first working day back (in case of a weekend or holiday). People love the policy and no one complains about the mandatory day off or the gift card.

She had worked here for 2 years. She did get her birthday off in 2016 as it was a leap year. She did not get a day off in 2017 as it is not a leap year and didn’t get this year either. If she is still employed here in 2020 she will get a Monday off as the 29th of February is on a Saturday. This is in line with the policy. Some of the comments were confused about whether she ever had a birthday off.

The firm is not doing anything illegal by the laws here. She would have no legal case at all and if she quit she will not be able to get unemployment. She is not job hunting. She has known about the birthday policy since February of 2016 and has been bringing it up ever since. She has complained but has not looked for another job (the market is niche and specialized). Morale is high at the firm. Turnover among employees is low. Many people want to work here. Aside from this one issue she is a good worker and would be given an excellent reference if she decides to look elsewhere in the future.

Alison here. I don’t usually add anything of my own on to updates, but I want to state for the record that this is insane.

the Leap Day employee finally gets her birthday off this year was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

19 Mar 14:55

A Sixty-Second Way to Feel Good

by Joanna Goddard

This was great, and I also love the illustrator's instagram and want prints of all her work now.

Julie Houts comic

Do you follow illustrator Julie Houts on Instagram? She made this amazing series to help everyone quell their anxiety for a moment. Take a deep breath and play along…

Julie Houts comic

Julie Houts comic

Julie Houts comic

Julie Houts comic

Julie Houts comic

Julie Houts comic

Julie Houts comic

Julie Houts comic

Julie Houts comic

How great is that?… Read more

The post A Sixty-Second Way to Feel Good appeared first on A Cup of Jo.

18 Mar 16:00

COVID-19 Update & Questions #1258 (How do I help my friends?) and #1259: (Social-distancing for extroverts)

by JenniferP

Some COVID19-related care. Stay happy and (relatively) sane, TOR friends.

Hello, readers, thanks for your emails, your support, and your questions in this time of global pandemic. How’s everybody doing? (Yes, I know the first iteration misspelled COVID as Corvid, I ❤ ravens and crows and have been doing it all week, what can I say).


Image: Meme stating that I have gone zero seconds without touching my face.

Personal update: Mr. Awkward and I are both virus-free as far as we can tell (which is no guarantee), but we’re both high-risk people and we are keeping our asthmatic, seasonal-allergy-prone asses home except for one or two essential medical errands. We’re very lucky to be able to do so, and I’m sending so much solidarity and appreciation to people who do the essential jobs to keep everyone fed, housed, not drowning in piles of our own garbage, and receiving necessary medical treatment.

The pharmacy has been out of my ADHD med for almost a month and doesn’t know when they’ll get resupplied. I run out Friday, so, I do not anticipate regular intervals of focused productivity, but who knows what inspiration may come in the hyper-focus zone. Last week, I did what I could to help former colleagues make the sudden switch to online teaching (release the tutorial-kraken!) and I’m working on a piece for Vox (who are doing some very good explainers) about scripts for getting relatives to take this seriously that will go up within the next day or so. I’ll share a link here when it does.

My general plans are to keep writing my morning pages with the #ArtBuddies, pet cats, wash my hands, keep my writing schedule as much as I can, wash my hands, read a ton of books, wash my hands, check in with friends (especially my extroverts) regularly, wash my hands, bug my electeds a ton about getting our collective shit together and getting relief to *people* (not just *workers/employers*), wash my hands, and play many games of “I didn’t know we had this in our pantry, let’s put it on some rice!” in between hand-washings.

And, you know, try not to freak out entirely.

Would you like to look at cats? They almost never share the lap peacefully, so this was a rare pleasure.


Image: Henrietta Kim Wexler Pussycat (closer, darker swirls) and Daniel Jason Mendoza Striped Tiger (further from camera, lighter stripes) share a rare moment of peace on my blanketed lap.

Now for some questions! We’ll call them #1258 and #1259. 

#1258: How can I help friends and family whose livelihood is being affected by the pandemic?

Hi Captain!

I was hoping for advice on how to offer my aid (financial or emotional) in a kind and non-condescending way to friends or family who are not working right now because of COVID-19. These would be people who might need financial assistance to live because they typically live paycheck to paycheck but now they do not have a regular source of income. My husband and I are lucky to have remote jobs but I don’t want to come across like a patronizing privileged asshole. Thanks!

Hello! You are nice! 

Financially-speaking, I want you and your husband to think about your budget for helping and think about concrete offers you could make, like, “Would a $100 gift card for groceries help out right now, or do you want to text me a list and I’ll drop whatever on your porch when I go to the store? Would [store] or [store] work better for you?” or “Do you need help making rent, we could cover up to $X this month.” These aren’t necessarily the exact scripts for making offers, but I want you to be specific and realistic with yourselves about what you can and want to do, and think in terms of concrete offers you could make within your limits. 

A stressful thing about being offered (even highly welcome!) financial help is not knowing how much or what you are allowed to ask for – Is this the situation where all the theater and film kids and activists in Chicago have been passing the same $20-50 around since 2003, or are you somebody who can keep somebody’s lights on for a bit? Being able to gently reach out and say “We’re lucky to be able to work from home, we’ve set some money aside to help friends & family cover financial emergencies right now, anything from grocery gift cards or help with bills, please don’t hesitate” and also make clear “This is a gift, pay it forward when you’re on your feet, not back” will take the stress off everybody. It’s the same principle behind taking a friend who is struggling financially out for a meal and saying from the start, “I’d love to buy you lunch” or “Remember, this is all on me.” Knowing where your budget and boundaries and intentions are before you offer help removes the guesswork that leads to worry that leads to the person you’re trying to feed up ordering The Water and The Bread just in case you didn’t really mean it.

Emotionally-speaking, if you’re offering help, that’s also a good place to ask what people need (before helping) and also specify what kind of help you can offer and when. “Let me know if you need any help” puts the onus on the person who needs help to brainstorm stuff at the intersection of what they actually need vs. what you can actually do. If you say “I can do x and y, could you use help with any of that?” a person who needs different help they can always tell you, “No, but could you do ______?” and you can figure it out together. Some things I’ve seen:

  • “Need me to do Skype story-time with the kids so you can take a shower and hear yourself think for an hour?”
  • “Are there some bureaucratic phone calls I could make for you? Do you need help filing for temporary unemployment or filling out forms for rental assistance?”
  • “Want to text me before and after your doctor appointment? You can tell me how it went and I can distract you.” 
  • “I can do some free tech support for your grandparents if you want someone to teach them about webcams and Face-Time.” 

People are stretched thin and sensitive so this is a good time to refresh sympathy vs. advice vs. distraction best practices:

  • “Do you want advice or are you venting?” 
  • “Do you want to talk about it or do you want to Studiously Not Talk About It?” (Do you want commiseration or distraction?)
  • “I’m happy to listen, but before I forget, is there something specific you’d like me to do?” 

People asking for emotional support can help remove guesswork by saying what they need even if the listening friend doesn’t ask: “If I want advice, I’ll ask, but right now I just need to think out loud.” “I’ve had a terrible day and I don’t want to talk about it, but I could use some distraction. Are you caught up on Better Call Saul yet?” Give us an idea of the threat level, if possible. “I am spiraling and I urgently need someone to talk me down *right now.*” Ok! Let me drop everything, or find you somebody who can. “I’d really love to hear your voice and see your face in the next couple of days, can we make a Skype date?” We can work with that! We’re in an emergency, and emergencies call for directness. If you ask somebody how they are, expect to hear the real answer. If you need something from somebody, help them give it to you.

One thing I’m personally noticing about long-distance emotional support: This is obviously a “my diamond shoes pinch” situation because I do have many kind people who want to check on me, and that is a lucky thing, but seeing a bunch of messages and texts and emails all at once that just say some version of “How are you?” is stressing me out, especially when it comes from people I don’t talk with very much under better/normal circumstances. Are we connecting or am I reporting back? Thanks for checking on me, I don’t have this number in my phone, can you remind me who it belongs to? It’s making me feel a little like when Mr. Awkward was in the hospital and I suddenly ran a 24-7 medical update and general chitchat line, fielding prayer offers from everybody he’d ever met who wanted to know how he was doing.

People love him a lot and this was mostly very good, and I do not regret sending 150+ “Thank you, I’ll tell him you were thinking about him” texts or generally handling this for him. (It’s how I could help.) Checking on friends & neighbors & relatives is a kind & good & necessary thing that I definitely don’t want to add a “you must get the wording right” pressure to (Please, 100% risk doing it imperfectly vs. not doing it!), but what might help me right now is people who want to get in touch out of the blue and/or people I don’t talk to very often sharing something about how they are doing as they check how I am, so we have an obvious thing to chat about and can work in the “how are you” exchange organically, like so:

  • “We built a soap dispenser out of Lego today (photo). How are things with you?”
  • “Please enjoy these costumes I put on the dog/the houseplants/the children (photo). How are things (d)evolving in Fort Awkward this week?”
  • “Found this old photo of us getting ready to go to prom (photo). Can you still make your hair that big?” 
  • “I’m feeling strangely calm (or is it dead inside?). Howabout you?”
  • “I used to be jealous of people who worked from home. Never again. How do you do this all the time?” 
  • Like I said, even “Hey, I’m really freaking out right now, can we chat on the phone for a little while?” helps me get in the right frame of mind, whereas if you start with “How are you?” and make us do the polite back and forth it just makes more anxiety for everyone. 

Again, this is personal to me, about a thing that is stressing me, specifically out, not a guide for what everyone should do in every case, but I offer it up in case it would help anybody else. Definitely feel free to adapt it for your online dating/flirting purposes by replacing boring “Hey”/”What’s up?” texts and IMs with sharing a thing [NOT AN UNSOLICITED IMAGE OF UR NAKED GENITALS, COME ON, KEEP IT CLASSY] and then asking a thing.

Now for the next question: 

#1259: “I’m an extrovert. Social Distancing is my nightmare.” 

Hi Captain Awkward & Co!

I’ve been avidly following your column for years, and it’s been very helpful to me, especially since I’m a serious extrovert who mostly swims in introverted waters (I work in tech, and my hobbies include gaming, crafting, etc – basically my entire social circle is introverted. It’s a balance, to keep friends without being obnoxious or annoying.)

The pandemic sweeping into the US is throwing me for a loop, though. For background, what I mean by “serious extrovert” is, my way of staying mentally stable and healthy is literally other people’s idea of hell: I go out in crowds by myself and talk to strangers. If I don’t do this regularly, like once or twice a month, I dive pretty badly. I get anxious, and withdrawn, and tired. I can’t focus. I sleep too much. Everything makes me irritable. My household has a code-phrase to gently throw me out of the house to go socialize until I’m myself again; it’s a little bit of a joke, at this point.

Clearly, that’s not going to work for the next few months. I worked from home this past week for ONE day; after 5 hours I felt like I was crawling out of my skin. I fully expect within the next week, my office is going to mandate remote work for everyone indefinitely. Which is the right thing to do! In theory, I approve of all these measures, they’re very important!

I have a two-fold question, though. For me, and other extroverts like me, do you have any ideas on how to stay sane? How can I fill that social need at least enough to get by for indeterminate amount of time? I have depression and generalized anxiety disorder*, enough that I have several minor anxiety attacks a week when things are going well. When they’re going badly, it’s a few a day and several panic attacks a week. I don’t want to backslide (I do have medication and a therapist) more than I have to to keep my community safe.

And on the other side, naturally all my social media feeds are filled with “Introverts! You’ve been waiting for this!!” ‘joke’ memes. I get the need to make fun of the scary time we’re in. I don’t resent any particular one. But the deluge of them is killing me; I feel completely othered, and like I can’t talk to a large portion of my circle about why I’m so anxious about this. (My partners are great, it’s everyone else that’s making me twitch.) Normally, I’d just shut off social media for a few days or a week, but I’m not seeing anybody either! Doing both feels impossible. Is there a solution I can’t see?

*If I get any “bUt EXtRovErTs DoN’t hAVe AnXiETy” comments, I’m going to cry. I have to fight that battle too much as it is. That’s not how GAD works.

 Thank you,

Social Butterfly (they/them)

Dear Social Butterfly: 

Hello, thank you for your timely question.

For people who need a social distancing explainer/review, this one is very good. See also: This graphic/explainer. For our purposes, I am going to assume that people know these four things:

  • Social distancing is an incredible act of solidarity. Those of us who can stay home are saving lives by “flattening the curve,” i.e. slowing the spread of the virus to hopefully allow overwhelmed medical facilities and researchers time and resources to handle urgent cases and work on vaccines/treatments, respectively. If you think or know you are sick, stay home, and call your doctor/urgent care on the phone for instructions before you show up at a clinic. If you are not sick and you can stay home, then stay home except for absolutely necessary trips out. When you must go out, keep your distance from people and avoid crowds.
  • Not everyone can stay home right now. Some people are saving lives in doctor’s offices and hospitals, keeping us fed, preventing us from being buried in piles of garbage, delivering our necessities, keeping the lights on and the toilets flushing. That’s before we even get to people who are going to work because they need to earn a living. We need to be really kind, thoughtful, and supportive of these folks, always. 
  • Staying home (for those of us who can) for the next few weeks helps the people who cannot. The people who cannot do all the necessary work that helps us stay home. The more we can help people stay home (by canceling social events we’re hosting, with mutual aid, and by say, pressuring governments and employers to make it possible for people to afford food, rent, medicine, etc. and access necessary testing and care instead of going to work sick or at risk of infecting people because they need to pay bills), the more lives we’ll save. 
  • The challenges many of us are suddenly dealing with are not new – Disabled people have been fighting to work at home, to have meds and other necessities delivered, to have telemedicine covered, and to have 1,000 other accommodations that go from “special treatment” to “the norm” as soon as “everyone” needs them. People with suppressed immune systems and other conditions that need isolation and effort and expense around keeping a sterile, clean home environment have had to make whole social and professional lives work from a safe distance. We can learn from them now, we must fight for and with them – and against ableist eugenics and fascism forever. When things go “back to normal” for able-bodied people, we can’t leave anyone behind.

I’m leaving comments on this post because I think our community could use the discussion and connection right now, but I need to be absolutely clear: This is not debate time. Nor is this “every possible detail of pandemic exploring time.” I’m not an epidemiologist or public health expert, and I’m translating what I’ve gleaned: Stay home, save lives. Get our vulnerable neighbors who cannot stay home fed, housed, and safe, save lives. Help the people who keep the world running save lives (by staying home if you can). If you can’t stay home, I believe you! Do what you need to do, you don’t have to explain. But optional socializing – even if it feels really important for an extroverted person like our lovely letter writer – is dangerous. If you can handle it, watch Italians make videos talking to the person they were 10 days ago. (If you don’t think you can handle it, practice good self-care and don’t. Maybe enjoy this Grandma instead?) 

Good talk, everyone! 

Now for the letter’s specifics.

Hello again! 

A thing I tell myself/every fellow diagnosable anxiety sufferer who writes me: Treat the anxiety to the extent you can. You have medication and a therapist, that’s awesome. Do your providers do telemedicine and is it covered by your insurance? Find out. Do you have therapy homework/workbooks/exercises/strategies/daily practices that have worked to manage anxiety in the past? Dig them out. The Headspace daily meditation app (mentioned in a past resource here) is offering a lot of their content for free, and I mention it because I have personally found it really enjoyable and useful. Obviously again, YMMV but if “reviews from a hater who was sure she would never be able to do any kind of meditating or mindfulness” are interesting to you, there you go.

I say this because, even experienced anxiety-havers tend to skip this part as we start imagining dire scenarios and looking around for tips and tools, but often we already have some basic things in place. Use them, use everything you already know and have. ❤

The second thing I remind myself/every fellow diagnosable anxiety sufferer who writes in is: Where possible, translate the anxious energy into *action.* 

Scanning all the details of everything related to the pandemic is technically an action, but that’s not the action I’m talking about. You’re feeling anxious, so what are you going to do? What can you do? Make lists of things you can do. Don’t judge, you can put ridiculous, impossible things on there. But make lists. Who can you call? What do you need? And what can you do? 

Some ideas for your lists: 

You need a daytime routine where you figure out how to work from home, get some of your social needs met, take care of yourself and your physical plan as well as your space/environment, and ride this out. 

  • Make a set schedule and try to stick to it. Doing the same things at the same time every day will give you a sense of normalcy. Take a shower. Put on clean clothes. (They can be really comfortable clothes, just, try not to wear the same ones 4 days in a row). I am the worst at this but I grudgingly concede that it works. 
  • As you design a new daily routine for yourself, one of your tasks is probably “treat/pamper/baby the anxiety.” Set aside at least 30 minutes every weekday for necessary research, bureaucracy, phone calls, and actually doing the exercises/meditating/what have you. Invest in a weighted blanket, it will help when you are missing hugs. You may find yourself taking your “as needed” meds more often than usual, but if you need to, you need to. 
  • Use timers and work in bursts and take breaks to get up and move your body. 
  • Plan your meals and definitely eat lunch, away from your desk if possible. 
  • If you live with partners/roommates, schedule ahead of time and make lunch a social thing that you eat together at a table. If you live alone, maybe make lunch a social thing with your favorite coworker or coworkers. 
  • If nobody’s available for lunch, do what introverts do when we work in busy/social offices: Read! Or find a friendly podcast if the vibe of conversation is what you need but you don’t want to spend the time scrolling your phone: I am loving You’re Wrong About
  • If you have a laptop and the ability to move where your desk *is,* my physical therapist recommends moving to different spots/seating positions throughout the day to save your back/knees/wrists. 

Socially speaking, you are the extrovert in a sea of introverts, ergo, you are probably now your friend group’s new self-appointed Minister Of Fun.

  • Possibly you are the arranger of Virtual Happy Hours.
  • Maybe you are the person who is going to figure out the Netflix Party extension for Chrome. 
  • I have not tried this app/site, but it is one of many I have seen linked for people who want to have a long-distance karaoke night
  • Is it time for Virtual Iron Chef involving your weirdest pantry staples? 
  • What games lend themselves well to play over Discord or Google Hangouts or another chat program? 
  • You probably aren’t going to be able to get everyone together even online as much as you want, so may I suggest “small, regular, predictable windows of time” and “calendar invites to specific people at specific times.” It’s easy to miss or ignore a general “Hey everyone” event, so, target that stuff. 
  • When you make a daily schedule for yourself, can you  put “look at/engage with social media” in specific blocks of time and use one of the apps that blocks you the rest of the time, so you can be more intentional about it? 
  • Can you use your social media to find other extroverts? Things I’ve seen in my feed over the past few days (but do not have time to go back and turn up at present – kindly use your own Search-fu and judgment): A virtual prom where people are going to get all dressed up in their best clothes and take photos and videos, at least ten separate groups/lists that parents & teachers made for stuff to educate and amuse kids, including one (I think) that’s just “We’re scientists who will Skype your child for up to x minutes to talk about y subject, reserve your time block.” Numerous online DJ listening sessions, at-home dance parties. 
  • Write letters, postcards, make phone calls to people you love who live far away from you. Maybe people can’t feed your need for contact just now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to feed them and see if making the effort and taking action feeds you in return.
  • Use calendar invites to plan actual dates with partners and friends (for phone calls/FaceTime and mutual fun). “Let’s catch up sometime” isn’t going to cut it right now. Vagueness isn’t going to cut it for you.“I know that at 8pm we are going to eat an edible and watch CATS together” can get a person through a day. 

Possibly your extrovert love and energy can be adapted to other kinds of organizing: 

  • Mutual aid/errands/for neighbors.
    • Does your building need a rotating schedule for disinfecting doorknobs, railings, mailboxes, light-switches and who should walk their dogs when?
    • Are you going to the pharmacy, does anybody need meds or other supplies picked up, can there be Google doc and agreed-upon way to pay?
    • How will people know if someone gets sick and/or tests positive? Perhaps you are the maker/keeper of your building or block’s spreadsheet and phone tree and balcony choir. 
  • Look around for local mutual aid Facebook or other social media groups where you live. I got added to one last week, it’s amazing, and I think it’s where tons of extroverts are channeling their energies. That’s where I found out about online karaoke, for example. Maybe another friend group’s lone extrovert is your new plague-buddy. 
  • Phone-banking for a cause or candidate and bugging your elected officials.

What are some things you could do to be very nice to your body and your living environment right now? If you’re physically up for it, stress-cleaning is useful cleaning that will pay off if you or someone in your household gets sick. Change the sheets. Do the laundry. Hang up the art you’ve been meaning to. Moisturize. Find some sexy playthings for idle hands. Find one of the many, many yoga (or other exercise) instructors who are running free online classes right now. 

Finally, if you’ve ever wanted to take up a hobby/learn a skill that takes practice and dedicated concentration, this is probably the time. But also, REST IS OKAY. REST IS NORMAL. REST IS NECESSARY. 

I can’t lie – it’s going to get worse before it gets better, and there are some instances  where virtual interaction and immersion in the arts/hobbies, etc. won’t be enough – but you are being so smart right now. You are reaching out, asking for help, making plans, taking your meds, doing what you can. We are social animals (yes, even introverts) and we are resourceful animals and you are not going to be alone at being alone. Speaking of which: The author of How To Be Alone is hosting a regular talk show on the topic of How To Be Alone

Discussion Notes:

Comments are open. Here are some of the things I’d like to read today: 

  • One thing you are personally doing to help or stay connected with other people during necessary social-distancing or outright quarantine. 
  • One thing you are personally doing to take care of yourself during necessary social-distancing or outright quarantine.
  • If you’re somebody who must go to work, what’s one thing you wish the inside kids knew that could help you be/feel safer and do your job well? 
  • One link per post of an online event or group or resource you think might help either letter writer with a brief description of what that is and why you like it. 
  • Short questions you have about manners/social life/etiquette/scripts for being good to yourself and other people during this weird time, and community answers to those questions. Let’s do some mutual aid right here!
  • One or two concrete suggestions specifically from people with experience having to do most or all of their social life remotely.  

If I could limit comment word count/characters with WordPress I would, but I cannot, so I must ask this enthusiastic, helpful, and wordy bunch to help me out: We do not have to cover every possibility here. If you start making long lists of everything cool you saw on the internet or that you are doing as you write your comment, that’s a sign that you are probably writing your own blog post – GREAT! 🙂 – Definitely write it, then link us to that post and a brief description of it as your contribution instead of posting 1200 words and seventeen links as a comment. 

What I do NOT want to read in this comment section this week:

  • Medical advice. 
  • Medical articles.
  • Medical facts. 
  • Medical theories.
  • Medical tips.
  • Medical statistics.
  • Medical questions.
  • Medical anxieties.
  • Medical descriptions.
  • Medical rumors.
  • COVID-19 facts/details/tidbits/explainers/news.
  • Medical anything.
  • Please hold off on recipes for food, food complaints/issues, details about food allergies, dietary restrictions, or eating. (It’s personal to me, I Just Can’t Right Now, Thank You, there are many sites/communities/social portals ABOUT food, that stuff is useful/necessary but this isn’t the spot). “This site with recipes for pantry staples is what’s getting me through” + a link = okay. “Here’s my recipe for _____. /Does anyone have a recipe for ____?” = Please take it elsewhere, thanks. 
  • Electioneering. (Text- or phone-banking reaches actual voters, probably do that!) 
  • Introverts venting or complaining about extroverts. (You heard Letter Writer #1259 – LET’S JUST NOT. Also, introverts, check on and appreciate your friendly extroverts, they’re not okay right now and they could use some love in exchange for the 10 parties they threw and invited us to even if we didn’t go to eight of them.)  

I’m sending everyone love, solidarity, hope, and gratitude. Our lives are going to change so much in coming weeks, and I know it’s so scary right now, but even amid the scary news and administrative failures, everywhere I look I see people organizing, helping each other, and brainstorming ways to connect and give back. We’re going to do our best to get each other through this, and our best is pretty good. 


17 Mar 22:06

With the quarantining and indefinite working from home, will there be more COVID babies or COVID divorces?

by (@YESsteveYES)

I actually was wondering the other day whether we'll get a baby boom (social "isolation" togetherness) or a baby bust (damn this will be a hard economy/environment to bring a new baby into)

With the quarantining and indefinite working from home, will there be more COVID babies or COVID divorces?

15 Mar 11:19

The Case of the Missing Hit

by swissmiss

Reply All is one of my favorite podcasts. This was definitely a good episode.

This latest Reply All episode is *delightful*. It’s about a man in California who is haunted by the memory of a pop song from his youth. He can remember the lyrics and the melody. But the song itself has vanished, completely scrubbed from the internet. PJ takes on the Super Tech Support case.