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DEAR ABBY: Due to some unfortunate family circumstances, I was devastated to discover that nearly all of my boxes of cherished recipes had been destroyed. I'm now starting over from scratch to collect special recipes I can pass down to my children.

Most of my family members have died, so they can no longer be a resource for the traditional dishes I grew up with. I saw a post online a while back about a cookbooklet set you were offering. Is it still available, and how much does it cost? It would mean a lot to me to be able to share some of your favorite recipes with my kids and younger relatives. -- LORIE IN ENCINO, CALIF.

DEAR LORIE: Having been a compulsive recipe collector for many years, I can imagine how frustrating it was to discover your recipes were gone. I hope my recipe booklets will start you on your way to rebuilding your collection.

Many readers have written to tell me that my recipes are great for entertaining and actually save calories when they are divided among a greater number of guests. The Raw Apple Cake serves 16. (Remember, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away.") Think of the fiber! The Pecan Pie has taken blue ribbons in county fairs. Others were featured on the covers of women's magazines.

My cookbooklet set contains more than 100 tasty recipes for soups, salads, appetizers, main courses and desserts that can be used when friends and family get together to celebrate holidays and special occasions. Once you start reviewing "Cookbooklet II," you will see that a sweet tooth runs in my family. The cookbooklets are sold as a set and can be ordered by sending your name and address, plus check or money order for $14 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. I hope you will enjoy all the recipes because dinner guests, family members -- as well as other readers -- have raved about them. They have even been used as the basis for Dear Abby-themed dinner parties. (The place cards were decorated with hearts and flowers, and the centerpiece was a "bouquet" of envelopes addressed to me.)

Included in this collection are tips on entertaining for those who are inexperienced or nervous about it. Remember, although what you put on the table is important, it's who you put in the chairs that makes a great party.

DEAR ABBY: What do you do if your friends have graciously given you several nights free at a lovely beach hotel, but your room faces a huge wall covered by a black tarp -- a construction site? We've been told that no other rooms are available. -- ROOM WITH NO VIEW

DEAR ROOM: Because other accommodations aren't available, you graciously accept that you won't be looking out at the moonlit water. Then do your best to enjoy your FREE holiday, spending as much time on the sunlit beach as you can. (Don't forget to use sunscreen!)

DEAR ABBY: I'm a mother of two boys, 13 and 12. My oldest son has become very abusive, both physically and emotionally. He has been arrested for hitting me and hitting his little brother. He was recently kicked off the bus for hitting another student and has also been locked out of school.

I have tried therapy and medications for him, but he hasn't changed. I'm at my wits' end, ready to give up and hand him over to the court. He has both parents and a loving home. I don't know what to do anymore. I love my son, but can no longer do this. Please tell me how to help him! -- LOVING MOTHER IN TENNESSEE

DEAR LOVING MOTHER: Much information is missing from your letter. What triggers your son's violent episodes? Could he have a learning disability? Is he being teased or bullied, which might explain why he hit another student? Has he been ill, or could he have sensory integration difficulties?

At 13, it's too soon to throw up your hands and give up. Because therapy and medication haven't helped your son, I would have to ask what kind of therapist has been seeing him. When treatment doesn't work, a patient may need a more comprehensive assessment -- a second opinion or even a third. My suggestion would be to take him to a teaching hospital. And while you're there, please consider asking about some support for yourself because you have a lot on your shoulders.

DEAR ABBY: I'm in my late 30s and moved away from my parents when I was 17. My husband doesn't make a lot of money, but he gives me his whole paycheck for the household expenses every week. Because we live paycheck to paycheck, we rarely have much money left at the end of the month. But we make it.

The issue is my parents. They are retired now and received a nice inheritance when my grandparents passed. They used the money to pay off every debt they had, and now they won't stop telling me how to save money or how to spend it. Now that they're financially stable, they seem to have forgotten they lived paycheck to paycheck when they were my age. I rarely speak to them anymore because of it.

How can I get them to back off without starting a war? They're retired and bored, and they love drama. The slightest thing starts a battle they drag other family into. -- PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK IN OHIO

DEAR PAYCHECK: That your parents feel the need to enlist the support of other relatives in their arguments with you is wrong. All they have managed to accomplish is to put you on the defensive. However, has it not occurred to you that they're dispensing financial advice because they are hoping to help you avoid some of the mistakes THEY made before they received that windfall?

Listen politely, thank them for caring, discuss it with your husband, and decide if some of it applies in your situation. Then keep what you can use and discard the rest.

DEAR ABBY: My son was in a serious accident, which left him with a head injury as well as other physical problems. Since then he has also had anxiety attacks, paranoia and a profound dislike of me. We went from a close relationship to a shattered one, and I don't know why. He has said horrible things about me to other family members, none of which are true. His wife is clueless. She has exacerbated the situation by viewing this as "his side vs. my side."

My other children are angry at them both and want to just ignore him. They stay in contact with him because I beg them not to abandon him. Unfortunately, due to confidentiality regulations, I am unable to speak to his doctors. We have had no contact for three months, and I won't initiate it. I love him and this is breaking my heart. Please advise me. -- UNHAPPY MAMA IN THE WEST

DEAR UNHAPPY MAMA: My heart goes out to you. I can only imagine how pained and helpless you must feel because of your son's traumatic brain injury. I wish I had a magic wand and could make this unfortunate situation go away, but I do have a suggestion. Although HIPAA regulations prevent you from speaking with his doctors, nothing prevents you from writing them a letter if you think there's something they need to know.

You'd be wise to seek professional counseling for yourself now. No one can predict whether your son will regain his emotional balance, and it's important you have all the emotional support you need for your loss. In a very real sense, it IS a loss, the loss of the son you knew. A licensed therapist can give you insight on how to move forward.

DEAR ABBY: A co-worker reached out to me and we started talking. He asked me on a date, and we've been official for about a month now. He's beyond amazing, but there's a problem. He can't express his feelings to me, or to anyone for that matter. He's very insecure because he used to be overweight.

He hasn't been in a relationship in forever. I know he's serious about us. I'm slowly falling for him, and I want it to work out. Is there anything I can do to help him get comfortable with opening up to me? -- FALLING FOR HIM

DEAR FALLING: Yes. Start by remembering the two of you have been "official" for only one MONTH, and relationships -- like trust -- have to evolve. Do not push him to make a commitment or declare his undying love. If you are patient, as your relationship develops, he may become more open about expressing his feelings to you. Give him time, and because workplace romances are sometimes frowned upon, give him space.

DEAR ABBY: I have had a weight problem all my life. What makes it harder is that I have a sister a year younger who can't gain a pound. She has always been the "hot one" and the center of attention. People she has introduced me to have actually said, "I can't believe you're sisters" instead of "Nice to meet you."

Of course, my sister is married, while I am still single. I hate being around her because I feel like a slug. I'm more physically active than she is, and I eat healthier. I'm not ugly, but I feel that way around her. Do you have any advice on handling this? -- IN HER SHADOW IN MARYLAND

DEAR IN HER SHADOW: For starters, stop comparing yourself to your sister. You are overdue for reviewing your own assets as an individual.

You may not be as "metabolically blessed" as your slender sister, but that doesn't mean you don't have important qualities that she doesn't share. Figure out what those are, "polish" them, and you will discover you are a successful person in your own right.

If you think your not being married is a drawback, it's time you understood that marriage isn't a goal; it is only a beginning. It's a partnership, hopefully a successful one, but it's not a guarantee of success in any area.

DEAR ABBY: I am a Yale-trained pediatric nurse with a post-master's as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. I respectfully ask that you retract your answer to "First-Time Mom in New Jersey" (June 21). I'm concerned your response will encourage other mothers to buy into the incorrect assumption that it's "impolite" to ask questions that ensure their child's safety.

You should have encouraged and empowered "First-Time Mom" to politely ask about the presence of weapons in the other parents' homes, and if so, how they are stored. It's important information for her to have.

If she has every playdate at her house and refuses to go to another home because she's afraid to ask about gun safety, eventually the other mothers will pick up on the fact that she doesn't trust their child-rearing capabilities, but won't know why. If these potential friends don't have unsecured firearms, or if they do and they are properly and safely stored, your advice will prevent healthy, honest friendships from developing, which will socially isolate her.

How will she ever ensure a break for herself by allowing and encouraging her child to socialize at another trusted mother's home she knows to be safe? Your advice will only isolate "First-Time Mom" further and put her and her toddler at great risk. -- COLLEEN M. SULLIVAN, RN, MSN, CPNP

DEAR COLLEEN: Of course you are right. The woman's question wasn't about etiquette. It was about child safety. A large number of readers besides you agreed my perspective was off. I have heard all of you loud and clear, and I apologize.

I SHOULD have advised: "You are responsible for your child's welfare. Part of assuring her safety involves asking whether weapons are on the premises and, if so, what safety precautions have been taken. (The same is true for prescription drugs, swimming pools, caustic chemicals and foods to which your child is allergic.) You should also ask if the children will be under parental supervision at all times. If anyone feels concern for your child's safety is presumptuous, do not allow your child to play there. Suggest instead that the children play at your house."

Read on for more perspectives:

DEAR ABBY: I am a pediatrician and a mother. Your advice to "First-Time Mom" about gun safety runs counter to the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as numerous gun violence protection groups.

Research shows that guns are present in one in three homes, and that one in three of those guns is kept loaded and unlocked, posing a risk to children. This is why I routinely recommend that parents inquire about the presence of guns and storage methods at the homes their children visit. I also urge them to discuss with their CHILD the importance of never touching a gun and immediately notifying an adult if they come across a gun or are shown one by another child. -- JESSICA MOWRY, M.D.

DEAR ABBY: Probably the toughest call a cop has is a shooting where one child gets ahold of a loaded, unsecured gun and accidentally kills his sibling in child's play. As an adjunct professor in criminal justice, I ask my students how many of them know someone who was involved in a gun suicide, homicide, assault, accident or other crime. Typically, one-third of the hands go up.

Parents should be able to politely ask whether a gun is in a house where their children regularly play. Sometimes the owners are not as responsible as they should be. -- CHESTER J. KULIS, ILLINOIS

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

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