Cognitive Restructuring

This is a post from 2011!  Or rather, there was an outline in 2011 and I turned it into sentences last weekend, 10 years later.  I was militantly happy back in 2011, and without a pandemic or incipient fascism and with Obama etc. things were looking up for the better, yet I was on a mommy forum local to a paradise where some highly privileged people seemed determined to be unhappy.


I like being happy.

Sometimes there’s no choice about how to take things because some things are genuinely bad.  For us, that kind of thing leads to grumpy rumbling.

And sometimes you know you *could* fight being unhappy but you also know that the occasional sulk is good for the soul so you indulge.

But for the many things, there’s a choice on how to view what’s going on, especially if your basic needs and then some are being met.

Happy people aren’t necessarily the luckiest, but they’re good at taking things as they are.

For example:  Rejection sucks and often it is unfair.  But, as they say in LA, when a door closes, open a window.  Take what you can from the rejection to learn, using your growth Mindset (all amazon links are affiliate), make your paper better, and submit it someplace else.

How to cognitively restructure:

  1. Fold a piece of paper in half length-wise.
  2. On the left, write down the negative thing that you keep telling yourself.  On the right, write down the thing that is actually true.  (Not Stuart Smalley, but what is actually true.)  So when I was in graduate school, on the left I had, “I’m going to flunk out of graduate school” and on the right I had “Nobody flunks out of this program, they just graduate you and make sure you don’t get an academic job so you make more money as a consultant.”  This is a technique from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  Two good books on CBT are Mind over Mood and The Thoughts and Feelings Workbook.
  3. If you don’t know what is actually true, you can tell yourself the best possible story.  For example, I have massive social anxiety and it is important to remind myself that no, actually, most people are too caught up in themselves to be concerned about or even notice my own awkwardness.  Often what can be attributed to malice can also be attributed to incompetence.  Sometimes you can convince the other person of your story by coming up with a face-saving (for them) story if you repeat it often enough.  There’s a lot more about these techniques in the book Crucial Conversations.

Do you ever cognitively restructure?


  • I hadn’t updated our net worth calculations in I don’t know how long.  (I literally do not know how long– if I did this would probably be a full post instead of a bullet).  But, since the time I updated it, it has increased 50%, meaning that it was X before but now it is 1.5 X.  The stock market alone seems to have been responsible for much of the increase.
  • The reason I updated things was because I was curious to see what our stock portfolio looks like in terms of stocks/bonds/etc.  It’s mostly stocks.  There’s some bonds.  My accounts that are just Target Date funds and my university Fidelity account are both currently ~85% stocks and 15% bonds.  The rest… pretty heavily stock.  Mostly US stock (though both Target Date and university Fidelity accounts have emerging markets and foreign markets).  Some accounts are entirely S&P 500 because that’s the lowest fee in an otherwise high fee work account.  So I think I need to focus on adding more foreign markets and emerging markets, and maybe more munis.
  • My father has been sending increasingly deranged emails.  (Most recently he sent DH a very fragmented email that seemed to be telling DH that DH had to contact my father NOW in order to protect my children from their narcissistic mother, aka me.  We think that’s what it was saying, anyway. Previous emails have attacked my mother and sister as gaslighting or narcissists etc.  Once he cc’d the author of a book on narcissism.) But he’s refused to get an evaluation and my mother won’t force him to.  She’s also somewhat in denial or attributes it all to a potential stroke he may have had a few years ago.  They are adults, and my mother still seems to be in full control of her faculties, so not really anything my sister or I can do at this point.
  • One of my colleagues says his age 80+ mother is engaged to a much younger man (like 50+ years younger) that she met online who seems to be interested in her money.  I will probably end up not getting an inheritance but at least the money my parents have saved is likely to either go to my sister or to actually worthy charities and not someone who preys on older women.
  • My MIL has started Christmas shopping already.  I just got a copy of Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny’s new book from her!  (Also, fairly clear she’s ignoring the “kids only” rule, but as long as we don’t tell SIL nobody need know. We’re either getting her a sewing machine or we’re taking her newish memories book to the local printer to get copies for the kids, depending on if she’s finished filling out the memories book yet or not.)
  • We have zero idea what to get for DC1 for Christmas + Birthday.  At first we were like, how about a ukelele, but then realized zie probably doesn’t want one given zie hardly has enough time for piano, violin, and theramin as it is!  I have fidget stuff on hir wishlist for relatives and a few fiction books, but we’re mostly drawing blanks.  We may have to resort to SAT prep and AP prep guides.  There’s always money, but it would be like, “Here’s $100” then a few days later “Here’s another $100!” and zie doesn’t actually use it.
  • Speaking of AP exams, DC1 is taking 4 AP classes this year.  Zie is probably not going to take the Physics 1 AP because zie will be taking Mechanics and E&M next year.  Zie will have to decide about Spanish soon.  Zie will definitely be taking the BC calc exam.  Then there’s psychology… It’s hard to know what is optimal for a junior whose scores might affect college admissions positively or negatively.  It seems ridiculous to decide these things Fall semester when the exams are pretty late Spring semester.
  • I’m not really sure how DC1 ended up so not consumerist.  DH likes shopping more than actually owning/using.  DC2 is delighted with new things. I’m a bit of a pack rat. But DC1 is just a natural minimalist.  Zie also listens to hir hunger and will stop eating say, an ice cream, if full.  Zie has been this way since a baby.
  • I bought more pens I didn’t need from jetpens and I’m really enjoying them.  These vintage color Sarasa pens from Jetpens (not an affiliate, I’m just addicted) are perfect for writing postcards to voters this fall.  VIP Voters in Ohio got in the Blue-black this past week.

Link Love

Ask the grumpies: recommendations for steamy romance novels for a newby?

xykademiqz asks:

I have a confession to make. I read some romance when I was a teen, and then pretty much nothing for like 30+ years. having moved toward horror and sci-fi genres, as well as miscellaneous literary fiction. Until a few weeks ago, when I picked up a couple of romance novels and haven’t looked back. I am pleased to report that my mood and will to live have been greatly improved by the re-introduction of this genre into my life. Who knew? (Clearly, you knew, as did romance readers everywhere.)

I am a relative n00b to the genre, but I read r fast, so I’ve managed to read a fair amount so far and some trends have emerged. It turns out I like my romance super steamy and explicit, mostly (not necessarily) contemporary, and mostly (not necessarily) funny. I would be delighted to get some recommendations.

The books I’ve liked so far, in my thus-far short excursion into the land of HEA and aided by the Amazon algorithms and Romance Rehab recommendations, were books by Melanie Harlow (After We Fall series and Cloverleigh Farms series), Avery Flynn (The Hartigans series), and a few books here and there by Nicole Snow (some stuff), Carian Cole (Rush), and a few others. The funniest book I’ve read in a long time is Hard Code by Misha Bell. I laughed out loud throughout.

How do you feel about genre mixing? (We asked)

Oh yes. Genre mixing FTW! Btw I also read mystery/suspense, thrillers, horror, sci-fi, so I am a sucker for a good plot (interesting, with tension, brain tickles, etc), and would absolutely love to see them mixed with humor and romance. Thanks!

#2 is more into erotica than #1 is, but she gets most of it from fan fiction (she’s especially into Holmes and Watson fanfic? Also star wars. )

I have not read any of the authors listed above, but now I’m curious.  They all definitely have similar covers, so there’s something going on!

The funniest Rom Com I’ve read recently was Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall.  Hall is supposed to have some highly rated extremely explicit stuff (Spires series, maybe?), but I haven’t actually read any of it yet.  The non-explicit stuff other than Boyfriend Material I’ve read has been pretty disappointing.  His Billionaire books have the same kind of cover vibe that the other books you’ve been reading have, so maybe those will fit?

The Harmony series by Jayne Castle isn’t erotic, but there are sex scenes.  I really like the spec fic set-up and world building in these.

KJ Charles is historical, but if you like plotting she is hard to beat.  If you’re into heists, Any Old Diamonds is a great place to start.  She’s also got paranormal.

Jordan Hawke has a large number of spec fic (mostly paranormal) series, some of which are extreme bargains as ebooks.

Courtney Milan is mostly historical, but she’s great with plotting.  The Brothers Sinister boxset is a good deal.

Jackie Lau gets towards erotica, but she’s more slow-burn than plot.

Rebekah Weatherspoon is not particularly erotic or plotty (there are sex scenes), but she’s definitely funny and cozy.  Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny is a good place to start.

A lot of Alexis Hall, KJ Charles, and Jordan Hawke are m/m (or occasionally m/nb).  There’s so little m/m stuff out there (more than there used to be, but still not a ton) that it’s really interesting to see how standard tropes get turned on their heads when both heroes are male.

I am positive that the readers of Grumpy Nation will have lots of excellent suggestions for you.  Grumpy Nation!  What should xyk read next?  What do you recommend?



  • While on the most recent trip I had good sushi (an avocado/peanut roll and a sweet potato tempura roll).  When I got home we tried the new sushi place in town that’s getting lots of 5 star reviews on yelp.  Everything tasted like mayonnaise.  :(  $15 rolls were just mayonnaise-flavored.  Who cares if there’s lobster in there if you can only taste either the fake crab salad inside or the thick coating of mayo on top?  DC1 (who loves sushi more than anything else) said:  I guess this answers the question of if bad sushi exists.
  • All of the sushi places in town are really into mayonnaise and all of them have very similar menus.  We have so many places in town that are almost the same.  So many brunch places that serve mostly the same new American or new California options.  So many sushi places with the mayo.  So many homestyle Korean places.  So many mediocre Thai places.  So many chicken wings places.  Even the donut places are almost identical.  And the bubble tea shops!  And poke places that all serve the same options.  And 3 mac and cheese places that all get terrible reviews (actually I think we’re down to 2 now).  There are brunch options in other towns that are different!  And sushi doesn’t have to be variations on a theme of California roll.  I can’t actually complain about the Korean stuff because homestyle Korean is my favorite Korean, but still, there are lots of other kinds of Korean out there!  We get new restaurants and it’s exciting but then we see the menu and it’s the same as the other 3-5 places we already have in town.  Why can’t we have shaved ice or takoyaki?  Why can’t we have sushi that is different?  Or different styles of pizza? Or any of those new places popping up in Los Angeles?  I’m just so tired of eating the same things all the time and we don’t have as much time to cook as we used to.
  • The internet keeps telling me to order GoldBelly but I know I would just be disappointed.
  • Its so weird seeing high schoolers wearing 80s-style jeans.
  • DH’s physical indicated a possible diabetes problem, so he had to go in for a fasting exam, but it came out ok.  We can still eat the occasional chip or chocoflan (even though I probably shouldn’t given my own insulin resistance problems).
  • It’s so much easier to take care of my family members’ health than it is to take care of my own.  I was ready to completely overhaul everything menu-related … but now I’m not!
  • On my trip, one of the guys I talked with said his kid went to a private school with masks required, but had been an affected member of a super spreader event.  There was an outdoor birthday party on the weekend, and a bunch of kids there (including his kid) ended up covid positive.  Turns out most kids went inside to use the restroom at some point during the party and one of the covid carriers was inside playing video games instead of outside.  It made me feel a little better about all the maskless “outdoor” parties that we’ve refused for DC2.  : /
  • Recently I’ve been careful to refer to enslaved people as enslaved people and not slaves.  Similarly the people who enslaved them are enslavers, not slave owners.  People cannot be owned, they can only be enslaved.  It is crazy to me how that small change in language really brings home the horror of what enslavers were doing.  Slave and owner words somehow abstract away from it, which is probably the point.
  • I threw away the ad that George Mason sent DC1.  Also not applying for their open position.  Get back to me when it’s not named after an enslaver. (Yes, I am aware the current president is Black.)
  • I cannot eat adult multi-vitamins at all anymore– they make me too nauseated.  I did stop taking regular multi-vitamins after I finished nursing DC2, but occasionally I want a pick-me-up.  Gotta stick to children’s chewable or single vitamins (I already have to take vit D).
  • Vote FWD is doing a big send out of letters to potential voters on Saturday, October 16th.  If you have time and a printer/envelopes/stamps, here’s the link: . You can do as few as 5 at a time!
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I have no idea what I would do if I retired early

Regular readers know that I am not as happy with my job as I used to be and I really want to leave this state.  DH’s job is flexible geographically, but it’s at a start-up and could either go big or go out of business in the next couple of years and there are only 3 cities in the US where it would be fairly easy to find a new job in his specializations.

Our married and adult life we’ve followed my job.  If we changed to follow DH’s I might have to leave academia entirely and I’m not entirely sure if I would be able to or even want to make a transition to industry.  (It would be very easy to transition to government but I SO do not want to be a government policy analyst.)

We could have me do the RE part of FIRE.  DH’s job isn’t as stable as mine, but we could probably handle the time it takes to find a new position, and it would be faster to find a new position in more expensive cities.

Recently Revanche asked what I would do if I retired early.  And had I given thought to what I would do if I retired at a normal age for retirement.

Honestly, no.

I don’t want to craft.  I’m allergic to most green things, so gardening is out.  I would probably end up taking a leadership position in activism and that would make me so unhappy all the time.  I do so much more good so much less unpleasantly by getting rid of my students’ math phobia.  (And I could teach K-12 but that also sounds pretty unpleasant.  And yes, I have done volunteer tutoring before… there’s a lot of sitting around waiting for someone to show up.  Teaching Montessori sounds up my alley, but it would pay so little and I would be so sick at first.)  I don’t want to write novels.  I do like reading them.  But…

I mean, I could retire and read novels and catch up on all the movies I haven’t watched since my kids were born.  I would make elaborate dinners.  And organize things around the house.  And gradually get lonely and depressed.  I would probably set myself strict schedules to make my days go by more quickly.  I might look into fixing up my health, but also I might not.  Whether or not I got out and spent time with other not employed people would entirely depend on where we were living– I do not at all like the SAHM around here.  I picked up books at the library the other weekday when story time was starting and it was a terrifying parade without a single mask.

I could also play video games which are really engrossing but make me incredibly depressed when I stop, unfed and unwashed with bleary and dry eyes, having spent the day and much of the night playing.  (I cannot have access to video games or that is all I will do.  I don’t even take restroom breaks until I really have to.)

I would probably try training service puppies.  I have the kind of forceful personality that dogs tend to respect.  And I LOVE puppies.  Dogs, not so much.  I mean, if it were my own dog, that would be different, but I’m really a cat person at heart.  So I do think I could train puppies and then give them back.  I mean, I trained my sister’s dog and then left.  Fostering kittens sounds like a lot of heartbreak (longtime readers may remember when #2 fostered).

But yeah, I would probably end up finding a cause and try to fix it and be unhappy and stressed.  That’s what I DO when I have too much time on my hands.  Having a career is a way of keeping me safe from that.  Also keeps me from being too controlling over my kids.

In terms of what about normal retirement?  I have not actually thought about it because it depends on so much.  Do my kids have kids?  How is our health? How much money do we have?  Are we both still alive?  So many things can change and it’s decades from now so, no haven’t done planning.

So… I think even if things are terrible I’m unlikely to quit my *career* if I can help it, though I might quit my job.  I’m hoping to have something lined up, preferably in one of those three aforementioned cities.  I’ve been thinking that a SLAC might be nice, so long as the teaching load isn’t too onerous.  (I don’t want to go above 2/2.)  I don’t know.

What would you do if retired early or on time (but were not super wealthy, like if you’re partnered your partner still had to work)?

Link love

Natural Scientist with a very interesting couple of graphs on covid vaccines and boosters (also how depressing are TX jails?)

Do you find slack easier than being in person at the office because you don’t have to perfectly moderate your femininity?

A confessional of fake Dear Prudie letters.

I’ve needed a Fixing a Work Problem refresher.

Ask the grumpies: ritz vs. saltines vs. wheat thins vs. triscuits

Leah asks:

Which are better: ritz, saltines, wheat thins, or triscuits?

#1  Triscuits, hands down.  We go through two boxes a week.  Wheat thins are good but if you think about them while eating them you’ll realize they’re kind of sweet like cookies.  Saltines bring back memories of being broke and having a lot of saltines with peanut butter, which actually isn’t such a bad memory since they’re tasty and filling, but saltines are also kind of like salty paste, so…

#2:  Ugh.  Ritz or saltines. Boo whole wheat.  Wheat thins ore ok.

Note that triscuits and ritz and saltines should be boycotted until nabisco stops abusing its workers.

Update:  Strike is over!


After finishing the Arcane society books in order by sub-author, I’ve been rereading the Harmony books by Jayne Castle in order.  They are still good!  And it’s fun reading them in order since previous characters appear in later books.  Technically they’re all Arcane society books, but the Jayne Ann Krentz page only lists two of them as counting as actual Arcane books.

DC2 and I absolutely LOVED The Tragical Tale of Birdie Bloom by Temre Beltz.

I could not put down A Dangerous Kind of Lady by Mia Vincy.  It’s different, even though it’s really just a romance without much else in terms of plot.  There is a stupid and unnecessary 5th act Boy Loses Girl– they really could have ended the book before then with some talking it out and it would have been completely believable.  But otherwise quite good.

I’ve been enjoying the Four Kingdoms books by Melanie Cellier.  They’re not perfect, but they are very readable.  Note that there are two box sets that save quite a bit off the price of reading all the novels and novellas.  (I did not note that until I’d bought most of the books individually.)

Cyn & the Peanut Butter Cup was ok, but I’m irritated that you have to subscribe to her newsletter to get the epilogue.  I’m not sure if I’m going to get the second book.  If they were library available definitely.

I very much enjoyed Suzanne Allain’s other books, Incognito, The Celebrated Pedestrian and Miss Lattimore’s Letter.  Incognito takes one of my least favorite tropes (rich man spying on his bride-to-be pretending to be poor) and treats it how it would probably play out if it were actually tried (well, that plus wacky hijinks), which was fun.  The Celebrated Pedestrian was incredibly funny and worth the $3.95 I paid for it.  Miss Lattimore’s letter was a delight.  I would say I do not begrudge the $9.99 I paid for it except after I bought The Celebrated Pedestrian amazon emailed me a $4 off credit to use on Miss Lattimore’s Letter and it was definitely worth the $5.99 I spent.

The Most Eligible Lord in London by Ella Quinn was not very good.  One of the reviews on amazon says it seems like bits and pieces from other novels kind of pushed together and that seems pretty apt.

The Sumage Solution by Gail Carriger reads like a poorly written first foray into erotica fan fiction, which is bizarre since she’s highly published.  There’s no relationship development at all.  So bizarre.

#2 said I’d probably like An Abundance of Katherines if I liked any John Green novels.  Turns out I do not like any John Green novels.  It’s all so pretentious and who can care about any of the immature characters?  I mean, I guess adolescent girls do?

How to Invent Everything by Ryan North was mildly entertaining.  DC2 LOVED IT and told DH and me to both read it.  It’s a little bit of interesting new stuff told with humor with a LOT of information most of us probably already know.  Would 100% recommend for the smart middle schooler on your Christmas list.

The Professor Next Door by Jackie Lau definitely veered into erotica.  It’s a more fleshed out version of one of her novellas (not literally, but same how-they-fell-in-love thing).  Story-wise it was fine.  Erotica isn’t really my thing though.  Bidding for the Bachelor was pretty good and Pregnant by the Playboy was fine, sweet even.  I think I’m going to just keep buying Jackie Lau novels so long as they stay under $4/each.

The code breakers series by Jacki Delecki was boring.

I decided that since I read SHE I don’t need to read Allan Quatermain by H. Rider Haggard.

Couldn’t get into Mystery at the Masqurerade by Josh Lanyon.

Skipped large portions of The Duke Effect by Sophie Jordan.

An Inconvenient Grand Tour by Lisa Catmull was fine.  I would probably read more in that series if they were library available, but I don’t think I will be buying any more.  Even at 99 cents.

Adventures in traveling for work to a state with a really bad Covid outbreak

This summer right before Delta, I got asked to give a talk in person in the fall.  I was feeling optimistic.  New cases were down to the single digits in my town, DC1 was vaccinated, and it seemed likely DC2 would start the vaccination process in early fall, maybe September.  So I said yes!  And I bought plane tickets.

Then Delta hit.  My county is getting 150-200/100,000 new cases a day (which may be an undercount because it is not always easy to get a same-day test).  DC1 has been exposed at school at least 6 times, maybe 7 (I literally lost count after the fifth time, plus I missed checking one day last week).   About 7% of the students in our school district have been diagnosed with Covid since school started.

But… the place where I was giving a talk had both a vaccine and mask mandate, so … safer than me teaching my class which has neither.

Still, I had to *get* to the place.

I chose to wear N95 Respokare masks  for the airplane portions of my trip.  These are extremely good but also expensive ($10/each for a disposable mask!).  When they’re fit perfectly I cannot smell my fancy Bath and Bodyworks hand sanitizer.  Even when not fitting perfectly, all smells are muted.  Except the smell of my breath, which turns out gets worse and worse as the day goes on without taking the mask off.  They are not incredibly comfortable– after removing it I definitely had lines on my cheeks.  The head straps can take some adjusting as well and don’t necessarily play well with pony tails.

During my day at the place I was talking, I just wore a much more comfortable Botn KN94 and did not have to smell my breath.  Everyone else was nicely masked indoors and mostly masked outdoors.  It was all really great and I felt a bit rejuvenated work-wise.

HOWEVER.  The rest of the world was not great.

The airport in my state wasn’t so bad– there were some noses, but not a whole lot of flagrant violations of not wearing masks except for people genuinely eating.  And these folks were pretty easy to avoid because there was a lot of space.

At the Hilton hotel in the state I went to, none of the front desk workers were wearing masks.  The only employees who were wearing masks were minority women (mostly cleaning staff, but also the woman at the concierge/parking desk outside), and nobody else was masked.  The white woman who seemed to be in charge got pretty angry at me “I’m fully vaccinated I do not need to mask” (silence from me) “FINE” when I asked if there was anybody working the front desk with a mask.  She went back to find a mask and never came back after yelling at me.  I’m not sure if I’m actually checked out of that hotel.

The taxi driver at the airport was masked, but the one from the hotel was not.  I asked him to put one on and he did.  I should have taken an uber!

The big problem was the airport in the other city.  At least 40% of the people there were not masked or were wearing masks inappropriately.  I could not find any place to sit down that was not within 6 feet of an unmasked jackhole.  Literally.  I would find a gate where a flight had just left and sit down, and a few minutes later, some guy would come by and then sit behind me and take his mask off.  Or a woman would sit next to me and then take her mask off to talk on the phone.  I started swearing at people.  I saw that one masked woman found a single spot lonely on the floor near where they were doing construction (far from any gates) to sit unbothered, but I didn’t want to bother her.  I took a picture of some asshole employee who was walking all over the airport wearing her mask well below her nose and she took the entire mask off and smiled at me and thanked me for taking her picture.  It was terrifying and exhausting.  And of course my flight was delayed.  Usually I’m able to sit down at an airport and read a novel and just kind of chill out.  Constant vigilance is NOT FUN.

Did I mention that the other city has one of the highest covid rates in the country right now?  I did not move my mask even to drink until I got to my home state airport.

Readers, I will not be traveling to an airport at any point in the near future.  I will probably continue to not leave my home/work/library front desk routine.  And after DC2 is fully vaccinated, I will likely limit my air travel to places that aren’t terrifying.