DEAR READERS: Welcome to 2018! A new year has arrived, and with it our chance for a new beginning.
Today we have an opportunity to discard destructive old habits for healthy new ones, and with that in mind, I will share Dear Abby's often-requested list of New Year's Resolutions -- which were adapted by my late mother, Pauline Phillips, from the original credo of Al-Anon:
JUST FOR TODAY: I will live through THIS DAY ONLY. I will not brood about yesterday or obsess about tomorrow. I will not set far-reaching goals or try to overcome all of my problems at once.
I know that I can do something for 24 hours that would overwhelm me if I had to keep it up for a lifetime.
JUST FOR TODAY: I will be happy. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me. If my mind fills with clouds, I will chase them away and fill it with sunshine.
JUST FOR TODAY: I will accept what is. I will face reality. I will correct those things that I can correct and accept those I cannot.
JUST FOR TODAY: I will improve my mind. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration. I will not be a mental loafer.
JUST FOR TODAY: I will make a conscious effort to be agreeable. I will be kind and courteous to those who cross my path, and I'll not speak ill of others. I will improve my appearance, speak softly and not interrupt when someone else is talking. Just for today, I will refrain from improving anybody but myself.
JUST FOR TODAY: I will do something positive to improve my health. If I'm a smoker, I'll quit. If I am overweight, I will eat healthfully -- if only just for today. And not only that, I will get off the couch and take a brisk walk, even if it's only around the block.
JUST FOR TODAY: I will gather the courage to do what is right and take responsibility for my own actions.
And now, Dear Readers, I would like to share an item that was sent to me by L.J. Bhatia, a reader from New Delhi, India:
DEAR ABBY: This year, no resolutions, only some guidelines. The Holy Vedas say, "Man has subjected himself to thousands of self-inflicted bondages. Wisdom comes to a man who lives according to the true eternal laws of nature."
The prayer of St. Francis (of which there are several versions) contains a powerful message:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
And so, Dear Readers, may 2018 bring with it good health, peace and joy to all of you. -- LOVE, ABBY
DEAR ABBY: I recently moved back home to help take care of my mom. We get along well, but there's one major issue. She has to care for my brother's four kids every day and is pretty much raising them. Because they are loud, whiny, rude and demanding, my mother snaps and yells at them constantly. It makes life miserable for everyone.
My brother refuses to accept the fact that he's taking advantage of our mom financially and emotionally. He has plenty to say about me moving back home, though, even though I help to pay bills and contribute. Never once has he offered to make a dent in the huge grocery bill his children ring up, and he complains about how much gas Mom uses toting them to the half-dozen or so programs he has them in.
I have PTSD, and the situation is taking its toll on me to the point that I can no longer be around the kids or my mom. Is there anything I can do? Or must I just accept that this is how life will be if I choose to stay home? -- TAKING A TOLL IN NORTH CAROLINA
DEAR TAKING A TOLL: Have a talk with your mother about her short fuse with the grandchildren, and figure out why it's happening. If she is so stressed or sick that she can't manage them, correct them and give them positive reinforcement, they should not be under her supervision.
Your brother should not expect his mother to foot the bill for feeding and transporting them. If your mother can't make him understand that, then the two of you should make clear that if he doesn't pony up, his children will have to go to day care rather than Grandma's.
And last, because this unpleasant family dynamic is taking a toll on you, you must decide if you want to remain in that household under those conditions, or if coming home to take care of your mother was a mistake you should rectify.
DEAR ABBY: We are a couple in our 70s living in drought-stricken Southern California. Our dearest friends moved to Nevada three years ago, and we visit them often.
What drives me crazy when we visit is the way they use water. When we finish a meal, my hostess will go to the sink and rinse the dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. I mentioned to her that it was only necessary to scrape the plates, that the dishwasher is designed to wash dirty dishes, and she agreed -- temporarily. The last time we visited, she was back to her old habits. Also, she runs the dishwasher when it's only half-full, instead of waiting until there's a full load.
I realize that Nevada is not having a drought, but I find her water waste very upsetting. I'm aware that it's her house and her water and she can do what she wants, but is there anything you can suggest that I can say or do to get her to cut down on her water usage? -- PARCHED IN SO-CAL
DEAR PARCHED: I have news for you. California is not the only state that has suffered through drought problems. Nevada has plenty of them, too. Make the speech you're dying to make once and get it off your chest. After that, be a gracious guest and keep your mouth shut. You are not the drought police, and if you keep harping on this, you may no longer be a welcome houseguest.
DEAR ABBY: I am president and co-founder of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, one of the leading teaching and research hospitals for wildlife medicine in the world. We have treated more than 70,000 wild patients since our organization was established 35 years ago. Like the reader ("An Apple a Day," Aug. 11) who is under the impression that throwing an apple core out the car window is doing something positive for the Earth, many individuals make "little" decisions without considering the unintended consequences.
The example of the apple core has been at the heart of our education program for more than three decades. Before throwing that apple core out the window believing that some small animal will come finish what's left, people should consider what will happen if the animal coming to eat their scraps happens to be on the other side of the road.
Throwing out that apple core will lure that creature into harm's way. Countless opossums, raccoons, skunks and other small mammals are killed every day because of human food waste on the shoulder of the road. And it doesn't stop there. Predators like owls also suffer. They hunt along the side of the road, not because they eat apple cores, but because they eat the mice, voles and other small animals who are attracted to feed on that apple core. Then, when the opossum, raccoon or owl is killed by a car, scavengers are attracted to the pavement, where their lives, too, are at risk.
If readers want to help the Earth, they should take their waste home and dispose of it or recycle it properly. The small act of throwing an apple core out of a car window can cost the lives of the very creatures they claim to want to help. -- EDWARD CLARK, WAYNESBORO, VA.
DEAR MR. CLARK: When that letter appeared, I received a flurry of mail about it. Many readers touched on some of the points you have expressed. Thank you for writing so eloquently to educate my readers -- and me. Lesson learned.
DEAR ABBY: I'm 29 and I'm having trouble holding down a steady job. I am a college graduate, and it's not because I don't like to work. My problem is I have a strong personality and I tend to butt heads with management. Deep down, I think I'll only be satisfied with a job if I'm the boss or own my own business. Do you have any suggestions about positions for someone who can't handle having a boss? -- MISS INDEPENDENT IN THE BRONX
DEAR MISS INDEPENDENT: No. Unless someone has rich parents or a magic lamp, most people have to work for -- or with -- others until they build enough capital to start a business. Even then, business owners must interact with clients they don't always agree with. Because you tend to butt heads with those in management positions, you would be wise to start working on becoming more patient and less dogmatic. Both qualities will help you in the future if you can develop them.
DEAR ABBY: My fiance and I are being married in a few days. We are expecting our first child a few days after that. The problem is my mother. We decided on a small ceremony, but my mother is opposed to the marriage because she doesn't like the idea of me marrying -- not just my fiance, but anyone. She has always told me a man will leave me destitute, pregnant with too many kids, and I won't be able to take care of myself. She has repeated it since I was about 10.
Because she has threatened to object at the ceremony, we decided not to invite her. We have invited his parents and my father and stepmother. Mom has said she will not allow my child to see her grandfather because "he is a bad person." She may have good intentions, but dictating who can be around my child is not her choice, considering she has had little to no contact with him in 25 years.
I wish she could be at our wedding, but she has now distanced herself from me and my fiance. Should I let her cool off and hope she comes around, or accept that this is the path she has chosen? Please advise, Abby. -- PROBLEM MOTHER IN KENTUCKY
DEAR PROBLEM MOTHER: Your mother may be anti-marriage because hers failed spectacularly. She appears to be a troubled woman. By all means, let her cool off, but do not allow her to dictate your life. If she does, her anger and bitterness could negatively affect your marriage.
DEAR ABBY: The winter months are hard for me. They remind me that another year has gone by without my father and my younger sister.
Dad had been a smoker since his teens and died from pancreatic cancer at 39. I was 13, and my siblings were younger. In those days, we didn't know that smoking was a risk factor for pancreatic cancer.
My sister smoked from the time she was 13. She died from lung cancer at 44, leaving behind two young sons.
Neither my father nor my sister got to experience the wonderful family milestones and celebrations we have had. Their grandchildren will never know them. Each year during the holidays, I feel a sadness in my heart.
I urge every smoker to make a vow to quit and carry it through, not only for their own sake but also their family's. Stay determined to quit so you won't cause your loved ones sadness and won't miss out on their futures. With all my heart, I wish smokers the best of luck in quitting. -- MISSING DAD AND SIS IN SACRAMENTO
DEAR MISSING: I'm glad you wrote because the American Cancer Society's annual Great American Smokeout will be held on Nov. 16. It's a day when millions of smokers put down their cigarettes -- just for one day -- with the conviction that if they can go 24 hours without one, then they can do it for 48 hours, 72 hours, and stop smoking for good. The idea grew out of a 1970 event in Randolph, Massachusetts, and became a national event in 1977.
Readers, I'm not going to harangue you with death threats. We are all aware of the grim statistics associated with cancer-related deaths caused by tobacco. If you're interested in quitting, this is a perfect opportunity. Call (800) 227-2345 to be connected with counseling services in your community, provided with self-help materials offering information and strategies on quitting for good, and to receive information about medications available to help you quit. This service is free and provided 24/7. Or go online to cancer.org.
DEAR ABBY: I need your help. Over the past few weeks, I have been vacationing at my mother-in-law's home. The other day I was browsing on her computer and accidentally opened her browsing history. It turns out that she regularly looks at and responds to Craigslist personals.
I was shocked when I read some of the perverted requests she has responded to. The language she used would make a sailor blush. Keep in mind, my mother-in-law is a married woman.
I don't know how to react. Should I tell my wife? Keep it to myself? Make a fake Craigslist post and catch her in the act? -- KINKS IN THE FAMILY
DEAR KINKS: If you disclose this to your wife, it could damage her relationship with her mother. If she tells her mother what you found, it will create a breach in the family. If you trap the woman by creating a fake Craigslist post and she realizes she has been made a fool of, it will not -- to put it mildly -- endear you to her. Let it lie.
DEAR ABBY: I am in a predicament. My therapist is great, but sometimes I think she shares too much. Last time I went, she was running late. When I finally got into her office, she told me the previous patient was nonverbal and had painted her nails during the session. Later in the session, she confided that years ago she had been date raped.
Abby, I am in counseling because my father raped me when I was 15 (I am now 24). Her sharing has me worried because I don't want her telling others what I say or do during counseling. Further, her story of the date rape scared me. She described a situation that is not uncommon for me to be in, and it caused something almost like a flashback in me. I think what she did was insensitive, to say the least.
I have nobody else to ask, so what should I do? I'm getting counseling for free now due to my income, and it took months to get set up with a counselor. Should I report her or accept that this was a mistake and say nothing? If I need to report her, how would I go about doing that? -- CONFLICTED ABOUT IT
DEAR CONFLICTED: You should change therapists because it appears this one has more problems than you do. As to what agency you should report her breach of professional ethics to, contact the state organization that has licensed her to practice.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069