DEAR ABBY: My older sister, "Lily," is in a biracial marriage and has a son. Our dad never approved. He gave her an ultimatum when she first met "Rodney": Choose between him or our family. She chose Rodney.
After 30 years of Dad not speaking to her and influencing us siblings to feel the same way, our mother died and Dad rekindled his relationship with Lily. He's 82 now, and he puts her and her family first. He spends a lot of money on them and spends a lot of time with her and her son.
The rest of us feel so much resentment. I realize he's making up for lost time and feels guilty. But it's sickening when we remember how he pushed us to feel the way he did back then and now expects us to do an emotional 180. We are OK with being with our sister and her family. It's Dad we're having the problem with. How do we move on? -- UPSET IN THE EAST
DEAR UPSET: I wish you had mentioned what caused your father's change of heart because it would have been a valuable lesson for a lot of readers. He did a disservice to ALL of you by teaching hate rather than love and acceptance. Now you have decades of lost time to make up for.
Anger, resentment and bigotry serve no one well. Your father recognizes the mistake he made by shunning his daughter and her family, and he's trying to make up for it. As I write this, I'm reminded of a line from the "Peace Prayer of St. Francis": "Where there is hatred, let me sow love." Good for your father! The way for you to move on would be to recognize it's time to forgive him for the damage he caused your family because, if you don't, you and your siblings will perpetuate it.
DEAR ABBY: I have worked for my husband, "Ben," in a small firm for 20 years, but members of my family still think I don't have a "real" job. I did it so I'd have flexibility in taking care of our children, participating in PTA and other school activities, and be involved in the community. This benefits us not only as a family but also Ben's business.
I work a 40-plus-hour week, just not necessarily 9 to 5. So why does my family think they can call me at work, especially on my cell, for non-work-related issues? They wouldn't call their friends or children at work, so why, despite my asking them REPEATEDLY not to, do they still call, or worse, drop in? How can I make them stop bothering me? -- AT WORK
DEAR AT WORK: Because you have asked your relatives not to call between certain hours, screen your calls before answering your phone. When they ask why you didn't pick up, repeat the message that you were working and please not to call you at that time. If they drop in, quit being so available. Repeat that they have come at a time that's inconvenient, and give them a time when you can socialize.
DEAR ABBY: What's a polite way to respond to friends who ask, "Are you having a baby shower?" when no one has offered to throw me one?
My husband and I are expecting our first child, and we are thrilled. My family is unable to host a baby shower (which I understand would be a breach of etiquette anyway) and my husband has no family.
I'm not particularly wedded to the idea of having a shower, since my husband and I are well established and I don't really like being the center of attention. Still, if someone offered, I would graciously accept. I feel awkward when I am asked this question because I don't want to seem entitled or expectant or like I'm feeling sorry for myself. Do you have any way to say, "No one has offered, but I'll let you know if they do"? -- EXPECTANT MOM IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR EXPECTANT MOM: Honesty is the best policy. Your answer to that question is perfectly acceptable. It's the truth, and it may cause some of your friends to step up to bat.
DEAR ABBY: I love my grandson dearly. He lived with us off and on growing up because there were problems in his birth family. Our relationship was always close and loving. I confess that we spoiled him out of fear that at any moment his mother would stop us from seeing him.
When he grew up he joined the military and met a girl on the opposite side of the country who he's planning to marry. The problem is, she's insecure and doesn't want him to have any contact with his family or friends.
To say our hearts are broken doesn't describe our feelings of abandonment and sorrow. While we think he's making a mistake by marrying such a controlling person, we realize it's his decision to make. We wouldn't dream of interfering, and we wish them happiness.
Please help me deal with all this hurt. How do we cope with our feelings of betrayal and rejection from someone we love so dearly? We have done nothing to deserve being treated this way. -- CAST ASIDE
DEAR CAST ASIDE: Your grandson may have joined the armed forces, but where his love life is concerned, the stronger partner is his fiancee. The situation you have described is sad, but not as unusual as you may think. I have heard from heartbroken parents whose sons turned their backs on them after the wedding because their wives' parents took precedence.
How they cope with their hurt and disappointment varies. Some of them talk to their religious advisers, others to therapists. The healthy ones keep their eyes forward and go on with their lives, and that's what I am hoping you eventually decide to do. You have my sympathy, believe me.
DEAR ABBY: My neighbor, "Sandy," gave me a "thank-you pie" she had baked, saying it was a family recipe. I am aware that I have reactions to the standard allergens of life, bee stings and poison ivy, but after one bite of her pumpkin pie, I felt an intense burning sensation in my mouth and my throat swelled up. I always keep medication with me so I was able to check the reaction and stay out of the emergency room.
Sandy has called twice and left messages asking if I liked her pie. I haven't responded because I'm not sure what to say to her. I'd really like to know what was in that recipe so I can avoid it in the future. -- NO MORE PIE, PLEASE
DEAR N.M.P.P.: Apologize to Sandy for not returning her call sooner and explain that you didn't because you had a serious allergic reaction to one of the ingredients in her thank-you pie. Tell her you were fortunate to have had medication with you or you would have wound up in the emergency room. Then ask her what ingredients in the pie might have caused the reaction so you can avoid them in the future. It's a legitimate question, and if Sandy is a friend as well as a good neighbor, she will tell you.
DEAR ABBY: I have just learned that a neighbor lost his wife. She died during childbirth. As a wife and mother, all I can think about is that newborn baby boy and his two beautiful sisters. It breaks my heart. I have never spoken to him, but I did chat from time to time with his wife.
I would like to offer help to the father, but I don't know how I should approach him or even if I should. Please offer me some advice. -- GRIEVING FOR THEM IN HAWAII
DEAR GRIEVING: Reach out to your neighbor by writing him a short note saying that you heard the tragic news and would like to offer your condolences. Explain that although you didn't know his wife well, you had spoken with her occasionally. Then offer the kind of help you are willing to give -- perhaps meals for his freezer or child care if the need arises. I am sure if you do, the gesture will be appreciated.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I enjoy going to estate sales. Recently, we were shocked when we heard an estate sales representative ask an older lady if she could afford what she was looking at. The woman answered "yes." Shortly after that, as the woman was leaving, the estate representative asked her if she could search the pockets in her jacket! She said "yes," and nothing was found on her. The estate sales representative followed up with, "You know how it is."
We were appalled, to say the least. We had been browsing right along with the older lady and saw nothing suspicious. What do you make of this? Should we have said something? -- GRACIE IN NEW MEXICO
DEAR GRACIE: Since I wasn't there, I can't guess at what may have triggered the sales rep's suspicions, but her treating a prospective customer in such a heavy-handed manner is surprising. I have seen wealthy shoppers at more than one estate sale who "dressed down" to enable themselves to get a better bargain. That said, I think you were wise not to intervene. To have done otherwise might have caused a scene and embarrassed the shopper even more than she already was.
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DEAR ABBY: My parents are driving me crazy. About six months ago they opened a little store close to where we live. Every day since it opened, they have made me work with them, on the weekends as well as after school until 6 p.m., when Dad gets there.
I'm tired of working there. They don't pay me and are very strict. I want to tell them I don't want to work there anymore, but I'm afraid if I do they will punish me. Can you tell me what to do? -- DRIVEN CRAZY IN ILLINOIS
DEAR DRIVEN CRAZY: I don't know how old you are, but your parents wouldn't be doing this if they didn't need your help. Please try to step up to the plate with less resentment. By being involved in the family business, you are learning not only responsibility, but also skills that will be valuable when you are older.
What you need to do now is recognize that your parents need you and, provided the work doesn't conflict with your schoolwork and normal social life, be proud that you are capable enough to contribute in a meaningful way.
DEAR ABBY: My husband has a long, bushy, ugly beard, and although I don't like it, I realize he's entitled to wear his facial hair any way he likes it. The problem is, when he eats, his beard gets into his plate and in the food, which I find nauseating. -- TOO MUCH HAIR IN TEXAS
DEAR TOO MUCH HAIR: If your husband's beard is so long it drags his food off his plate, the first thing you should do is suggest that he sit up straighter when he's eating. However, if he's unwilling -- or unable -- to do that, perhaps he would consider using one hand to hold his beard aside when he's about to take a forkful, or using hair clips to keep it away from his food.
DEAR ABBY: My mother is a smart, independent woman -- until she gets a boyfriend. She has been dating ever since Dad died in 1994.
Every relationship starts out well; the guy seems nice. Then he moves into her house and things change. Mom stops thinking for herself and turns into a brainless, spineless puppet. It causes conflict between us because she thinks I'm selfish and trying to sabotage her relationship.
She has had her current boyfriend for two years. I'm 37, disabled and require some help from Mom. So do my grandparents and a family friend Mom takes care of to supplement her income. The boyfriend is pushing Mom to spend three to four months of the year with him in Arizona, leaving those of us who need her without help.
None of these men ever help her out financially. Should I say nothing and let her disappear? What happens to the people who depend on her? -- JUST HER DAUGHTER IN COLORADO
DEAR JUST: What happens to the ADULTS who depend on your mother is they arrange for outside assistance during the time she's in Arizona. And if this is the first time in years that she will have taken a break, you should all wish her well.
DEAR ABBY: One of my co-workers constantly interrupts when I'm having a conversation with other people. It doesn't seem to matter who I am speaking with or what the subject is. She'll interrupt in the middle of the conversation, and everyone must stop and look at her or acknowledge her.
We are in a professional environment, and I feel her behavior is extremely discourteous. The subjects she discusses are things like the sandwiches her husband bought the day before, what they had for dinner that night or whatever is trending at the moment. She never discusses work-related issues.
This happens every day and it's disruptive. Would you kindly share some ideas on how to deal with her interruptions? -- BOTHERED OFFICE GUY
DEAR OFFICE GUY: Obviously, your co-worker was never taught that interrupting while others are talking is rude. Because it bothers you, the next time she does it, tell her it's distracting when she breaks into your conversations and to please stop. If she persists, and other co-workers feel as you do about it, bring it to the attention of your supervisor or HR and let that person handle it.
DEAR ABBY: I am 28 and I'm disgusted with myself about how I talk to my mother when I'm stressed out. I know it's not her. It's me.
My other issue is road rage. When I'm behind the wheel and the cars ahead of me are going too slow or the drivers make stupid moves, I'm annoyed to the point that I sometimes take risky chances to get away from them. I know it puts my life and the lives of others at risk, and I don't want to be like this.
I sometimes wonder why my parents didn't teach me ways to tone down my anger when I was younger. I'm lucky they still love me, even when I snap at them. Do you have any tips on how to control my temper? -- SIMMERING IN SUBURBIA
DEAR SIMMERING: If you think you are alone in having these issues, you are mistaken. We are living in increasingly stressful times that have affected most of us in one way or another. If, however, you continue allowing your stress to dictate your behavior, it may eventually drive a wedge between you and the people you care about.
It's important that you realize anger is a normal emotion. At one time or another, anger is experienced by everyone. Recognizing what is CAUSING your stress and anger can help you to avoid taking it out on others.
It takes self-control -- and maturity -- to react calmly, instead of reacting angrily. Being able to identify what's triggering the anger and causing you to verbalize it can help to prevent an outburst. Instead say, "When you do or say that, it makes me angry." Or try saying, "Mom, I'm stressed right now. Can we discuss this later?" Or, "I've had a really rough day. I need to be alone for a little while." Then go for a walk to help you to regain your perspective. Developing the ability to do this will not only lessen your guilt, but also earn you the respect of those with whom you interact. My Anger Booklet contains many suggestions for managing and constructively expressing anger in various situations. It can be ordered by sending your name and mailing address, plus a check or money order for $7 in U.S. funds to Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price. As to your "over the top" reactions when you are in your car driving, try to remember that we are all human and make mistakes. I have made them, and so have you.
If you MUST drive during rush hours, try listening to music or an audio book. And count to 10 before you hit the accelerator. Avoid blasting the horn or making rude gestures. (Screaming is permissible as long as your windows are closed.)
People who lose control not only can get hurt in a variety of ways, but also hurt others -- including innocent bystanders. That's why it is very important to be able to express anger in healthy ways.
We are living in a time when the anger level in our society has reached new heights. As we have seen all too often in news reports, explosive anger is the most dangerous of all. Perhaps constructive anger management should be taught in schools to help people more effectively communicate in a healthy manner.
DEAR ABBY: I've been seeking the answer to this for years. My husband is deceased. Am I still related to his family? How do I introduce them? -- IN LIMBO IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR IN LIMBO: You are as related to them as you WANT to be. Introduce them by their names or as your former in-laws.
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