DEAR ABBY: I read that there is a suicide somewhere in the world every 40 seconds. Numbers rise at holiday time. Feeling like a child whose nose is pressed against a window, seeing others from the outside as they enjoy the warmth of the moment, can lead to thoughts of abandonment and despair. That's why I have a mission -- I set an extra place at my table.
I can attest that it works. One year I announced in church that my home would be open to anyone who didn't have a family. A woman came forward and accepted my invitation. We spent the day getting to know each other and bonded in friendship.
Please encourage your readers to set an extra place at their holiday table. My brother committed suicide. I move forward in his honor. -- FULL OF GRATITUDE IN PHOENIX
DEAR FULL OF GRATITUDE: Please accept my sympathy for the tragic loss of your brother. I'm pleased to help spread the word. Isolation can be a killer, and inclusion can be a lifesaver. Bless you for what you are doing. I hope other readers will consider it and follow your example.
DEAR ABBY: I have a dilemma I don't know how to maneuver through. I have been working as an intern at a company for about 18 months. During the summer, I completed a test I needed to become fully licensed in my field.
However, I'm still working in my current position at intern wages, although I have repeatedly requested a meeting with my employer to talk money. He continues to say he doesn't have time, and we will discuss it later. He even agreed to a time on a certain day but failed to show up for the meeting. When I emailed him the amount I want, he replied, "We'll talk about it later." Should I continue to press the issue? Call him? Email? Or just look for other work? -- CONCERNED ABOUT MONEY
DEAR CONCERNED: You have done enough. Pushing your employer further won't help. The ball is now in his court. Start quietly looking for another job -- one in which your skills will be appropriately compensated.
DEAR ABBY: How can I tactfully tell an elementary school teacher in whose class I assist that she uses poor grammar and words that aren't words (i.e., "I boughten this yesterday," or, "Her and me went to the soccer game.")? I am fond of this teacher but feel she's doing a disservice to her pupils. Other than that she's a devoted, energetic teacher. It is really difficult to bite my tongue. -- TACTFUL IN THE EAST
DEAR TACTFUL: Children model their behavior after the example the adults around them provide. That a teacher would consistently do what she's doing in a classroom setting is shocking. How could she have become a licensed educator with such poor English skills?
Politically speaking, I don't think that as her subordinate you should take it upon yourself to correct the woman. I do think this is something you should discuss with the school principal.
DEAR ABBY: At what age is it inappropriate for an uncle to cuddle his niece? She's in fifth grade. I don't do anything except put my arm around her while sitting on the couch. She still likes it, but when should I stop this activity with her? -- WONDERING IN THE SOUTH
DEAR WONDERING: I don't regard an uncle putting his arm around his niece to show affection as "cuddling." However, the age when the displays of affection should be curtailed is when the girl is physically mature enough that it makes either her or her uncle uncomfortable.
DEAR ABBY: Twelve years ago, I taught a boy I'll call Brandon in my first-grade class. I was very fond of him, and we had a strong connection. I knew Brandon had a tough home life and did my best to provide him a safe place in my classroom. I stayed in contact with his aunt over the years on social media because she had been a co-worker of my mother's, and we would occasionally discuss how Brandon was doing.
As he grew older, he began to associate with a bad crowd. He got in more and more trouble at school and eventually dropped out. A few months later, he was sent to prison for a violent crime.
His aunt has asked me to send Brandon a letter because he had always thought so much of me as his teacher. Without giving it much thought, I agreed.
Well, my husband is very opposed to the idea of me contacting Brandon. We have two young children with special needs, and I'm now a stay-at-home mom so I can help my children. My husband thinks I'm already dealing with too much stress, and he doesn't like the idea of a man who has been convicted of violence being in contact with me.
I am torn about what's the right thing to do. I feel like I am abandoning Brandon like so many others in his life, but I also see my husband's point. Abby, please help me to decide what to do. -- CONFLICTED IN ILLINOIS
DEAR CONFLICTED: I think you should write Brandon ONE letter of encouragement. In it, tell him how highly you thought of him when he was in your class because he probably hasn't received many compliments for a long time.
Point out that although he is physically incarcerated, his mind doesn't have to be, and suggest he direct his efforts toward improving his life once he is released. Furthering his education now would be a way to accomplish it, and if there's an opportunity for him to earn a degree while he's inside, he should take it. Also, if there are any books you or his aunt think he might find helpful or inspiring, recommend them.
Close your letter by explaining to Brandon that you have no time for correspondence now because you are caring for two special-needs children, but you did want to reach out this once and you will keep him in your prayers.
DEAR ABBY: I wanted to write you in response to letters you have published in your column about stressful, traditional, iron-clad holiday celebrations becoming too much for the hosts.
For most of 40 years, my parents hosted all holiday dinners, which were attended by as many as 14 people. My wife and I finally said, "No more!" We made reservations for Thanksgiving at a nice restaurant and hosted the family. It was beautiful -- family, food, cocktails and no preparation or cleanup. Mom and Dad said it was the best Thanksgiving they could remember. We thought so, too. Just sayin'. -- SHARING A MEMORY IN WISCONSIN
DEAR SHARING: I'm sure your parents enjoyed the process of entertaining the family for the many years they did it. But it is also nice when someone else does the work. I'm printing your letter so other readers can see there is more than one way to skin a cat -- or enjoy a turkey with stuffing.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 22-year-old, single male who recently graduated from college. I received lots of congratulations in person and by phone, text and social media.
One of them came from a woman my age named "Bree." When I responded, I didn't recall ever having friended her but learned she's a cousin who lives back east. Apparently, her mother and my father are siblings. When I asked my father about it, he got very defensive and told me whoever it was I spoke to is a complete and total liar. Ordinarily, I might have agreed, but his reaction tells me there's a lot more to this.
I want to find out more. Neither of my parents will say a word about it, and I don't know why. When I told them I plan to travel to the East Coast and meet Bree, I was told I may not be welcomed back if I do! This makes me wonder what horrible thing could have happened that would make a father consider disowning his son.
Because my father won't share the truth with me, I am left with only this option. Pursue this, find part of my family I never knew existed and learn something, but lose the family I have and regret it forever. Any insight? -- LOST COUSIN IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR COUSIN: I can offer insight, but not a roadmap for how to proceed. Family secrets can be devastating. That your father reacted so strongly shows how threatened he is that you might uncover something he isn't proud of.
As a college graduate, I am sure you are familiar with the myth about Pandora's box. While you may not lose your father if you delve into this, you may find that when you do, your image of him may be shattered. If you really feel you will "regret it forever" if you do, then make sure you are prepared for the possible penalty.
DEAR ABBY: My only son and his wife had their first baby recently. My daughter-in-law treats me terribly. She's hypercritical of what I do or say. I am usually so blindsided I don't have much of a reply.
When I attempted to help out with the laundry, cleaning, etc., I was met with more criticism and advice on how to perform those tasks. She also says I don't know how to properly hold an infant. Abby, I have raised five grown children! How can I change this situation? -- PUNISHED FOR WANTING TO HELP
DEAR PUNISHED: Remind your daughter-in-law that you're just trying to help her. She may not have been critical of your efforts as much as trying to convey how she would like those tasks done. However, if you can't please her, take the hint and stop offering.
She may be a nervous new mother, but she appears to have gone overboard to the point of being tactless. The next time she tells you you don't know how to hold a baby, point out that you managed to raise five of them safely to adulthood. Then back off and give her some space because she may be hormonal and need it.
Rather than tell the teacher, talk to your parents what's going on so they can quietly mention it to the parents of the other girls.
DEAR ABBY: Why has the word "veggies" replaced "vegetables"? When people say "veggies," to me it sounds like they are talking to a child. -- GROWNUP EATER IN GEORGIA
DEAR EATER: It's probably because "vegetables" has at least three syllables and people have a tendency to shorten words that have more than one syllable. It may also be because parents think it's a way of making them appear more palatable to small children.
DEAR ABBY: Is it considered rude to stretch in public? -- STEPHANIE IN SALT LAKE CITY
DEAR STEPHANIE: I suppose it depends upon what someone is stretching. If it attracts attention or causes distraction, I suppose it is rude, but I wouldn't consider it a social transgression worthy of incarceration.
DEAR ABBY: My husband of 20 years, "Jerry," recently learned about an old girlfriend's death. A Facebook friend informed him about it. The message arrived late at night while I was sleeping, and he woke me to tell me the news.
He is now receiving condolences from friends that he is responding to as though he were grieving. Abby, the old girlfriend and my husband split up on very bad terms. She not only cheated on him but gave him an STD. I am appalled and feel hurt that this is happening. Friends of mine are surprised and suspicious about it.
I confronted my husband and asked him if the situation were reversed and I were the one who died and an old flame started receiving condolences, how would he feel? Jerry said it wouldn't bother him. Is it normal to send condolences to old flames? -- DEATHLY CONFUSED IN TEXAS
DEAR DEATHLY: It's normal to inform others about a death, but considering the circumstances of the breakup, what's going on isn't "normal." It's possible that the messages your husband is receiving are from other Facebook friends who are connected to the sender of the original message.
While it isn't unusual for old friends to reach out to each other after news of a death, to convey it in the form of a condolence to an ex-boyfriend after the romance is long over strikes me as somewhat odd. My advice is to remain calm, don't let it give you heartburn and wait for the emotions to subside with time.
DEAR ABBY: The holidays are approaching, and I suspect many young couples are facing the same problem about where to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have two daughters -- one married and one single. The married daughter's mother-in-law has declared that this is "her" year for Thanksgiving, and next year is "her" year for Christmas. She has three sons, none of whom lives within four hours of her home. All three sons have children.
Don't you think the sons and their wives should decide for themselves if they want to travel for the holidays? They may prefer to spend Christmas morning in their own homes. Also, what about her daughters-in-law's parents? Perhaps they, too, have other grown children who would like to decide what they want to do for the holidays.
My philosophy is to plan my holidays and invite my children. If they can come, great! If not, there are no hard feelings. If all of my children and grandchildren can't be here at the same time, I focus on the ones who are and enjoy the time I have with them. I think the woman is being disrespectful to her sons and daughters-in-law. What say you? -- FOCUS ON A GOOD TIME
DEAR FOCUS: As your letter illustrates, not all mothers-in-law are alike. Some are iron-fisted matriarchs who demand obedience from their grown children. Others, like you, are more easygoing. In my opinion, the woman you have described is less disrespectful than overbearing.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a 58-year-old woman, divorced for three years. I was in a loveless marriage for almost 20 years. Over the last three years I have lost 45 pounds and have started going to online dating sites. I'm attractive, so I get lots of attention.
I post nice pictures of myself, nothing sexy. But the kind of attention I'm getting is not what I want. I'd like to meet a man and try to have a long-term relationship. Most of the men "say" that's what they want, too. But to be honest about it, it's not.
How can I come across as a woman who wants an LTR and not a "friends with benefits" or a hook-up? I don't sleep around, so those things just are not my cup of tea. What do I do? -- LOST IN THE ONLINE DATING WORLD
DEAR LOST: If someone wants to move your "relationship" to the next level before you are ready, you need to say you are not comfortable in moving so quickly. It's straightforward and honest.
It occurs to me that there are many kinds of dating sites, and you may be on the wrong ones. If you have friends who are also in the dating world, ask them which they use. But if you have no luck there, consider meeting suitable men the old-fashioned way -- by being introduced by people you know and who know you well.
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 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