DEAR HARRIETTE: I had a hard life growing up, but I have done well for myself. Many people suggested that I write a book about my experiences, and I decided to go for it -- and now I am finished. I decided to self-publish because it was too hard to find a publisher.
I let a couple of friends read my book for their input. One friend warned me that I had named too many names. I did tell a lot of stories from childhood that included some bad scenes with friends and neighbors. My friend thought I should not say those people's names because it would hurt their feelings or embarrass them. They are part of my story, though, and everything is true. What do you think? -- New Author, New Brunswick, New Jersey
DEAR NEW AUTHOR: It is important for you to think about the cast of characters featured in your book. Just because something is true does not mean that it should be dredged up and revealed publicly, especially if it includes other people. Even when information is true, you should be mindful of what to share and how to share it. For the more sensitive stories, perhaps you can tell them without naming anyone. Instead, describe the scenario and either rename the people or just depict them without stating their names.
The fact that you transformed your life is wonderful. What you don't want to do is embarrass others who may not have climbed out of their circumstances or who have moved past them and have no interest in revisiting the past.
DEAR HARRIETTE: A friend of mine asked me to give him advice about some business ideas. He wanted me to be a sounding board for him, which is something we have done for each other over the years. I agreed, and we set a time to talk. At the appointed time, I texted him and then called. Nothing. No response. I followed up a couple of days later, and he said he was busy with his kids and camp, so that's why he didn't respond. Huh? He asked me to help him out, but he didn't think about my time at all and just blew me off. We agreed that we would talk another time. At this point I will talk to him, but I don't think I need to try to set it up. What do you think? -- Unprofessional Friend, St. Louis
DEAR UNPROFESSIONAL FRIEND: Clearly, your friend has divided attention. It is understandable that he was distracted by his children. That's not an excuse, but it does happen to parents, even when they have good intentions. It is wonderful that you are still willing to talk through ideas with your friend. It's on him, though. Wait to hear from him to set up another appointment.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother has always been attentive and caring to all her children, but now it's getting too much for me. I have always kept to myself, and I am content with no physical touch and having plenty of alone time. I am a recent college grad who lives at home, and I'm actively looking for a job. My mother is constantly asking if something is wrong. It gets to the point where it's annoying, and I have an attitude and isolate myself to avoid the questions and lashing out. She comes from a good place when she asks me, but it's frustrating because I tell her I'm fine but it seems she still wants to find something wrong. It's pushing me away from her, and I don't want that for our relationship. How do I reassure her that I am fine? -- Badgering Mom, Detroit
DEAR BADGERING MOM: Your mother is naturally concerned that you are a young adult still living at home, not currently employed, trying to figure out your next steps. Honestly, you probably do have some issues that make you less than "fine" under the circumstances.
One way to get your mother off your back is to share with her your ideas and plans. What type of work are you looking for? Are you setting up job interviews? What strategy are you putting into place to get you to the next level?
Share some of these thoughts with your mother. It will give her some relief in knowing that you are actively working to map out your future. It will also make it easier for you to remind her that you need alone time and that this doesn't automatically mean that something is wrong.
DEAR HARRIETTE: The rising number of school shootings has taken a toll on my children, especially my high school-age son. After the Parkland, Florida, shooting, he asked questions like, "Why would he do that?" Through our conversations, I have explained to him that sometimes these shootings can result from bullying and mental illness. He is still afraid to go to school. Every morning, he says he's sick, hoping I will let him stay home.
In times like these, when violence seems to be increasing and schools do not seem safe, how do I teach my children that it is OK to live and not be afraid? -- Mother Needs Answers, Denver
DEAR MOTHER NEEDS ANSWERS: You are right to be concerned. What the most recent shooting in Parkland, Florida, proves is that this horrific type of mass murder can occur anywhere. The good news, if you can call it that, is that many of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have organized and are making their voices heard to lawmakers, both locally and nationally. They have become activists against gun violence in schools and are trying to force lawmakers to revisit the legal status of semiautomatic weapons.
Encourage your son to have a voice as well. He can write to your representatives in the state legislature, to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, and to the president of the United States to express his concerns. Becoming active in the struggle can be empowering. He can advocate ways that his own school can become safer. Encourage your son to speak about his fears and desires for safety. This may help him to feel less afraid. If needed, you can also talk to the psychologist at his school to ask for mental health support.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband is English, and I am African-American. We have been married for three years and just had our first child. We come from different backgrounds and cultures, and we both want to inform our child about her cultures when she is older. Because we live in the United States and his family is in the United Kingdom, we don't get to see them much. Our daughter spends much more time with my side of the family. My husband has brought it up to me as a concern and I agree with him, but I don't know how to change things since his family is far away and it's not easy to visit as often as we would like. How can my husband and I teach my daughter about her cultures equally? -- Striking a Balance, Memphis, Tennessee
DEAR STRIKING A BALANCE: It is natural for a family to gravitate to one side more than the other. In your case, simple geography is the culprit. To ensure that your daughter learns about both sides of her family, you two can be mindful of telling stories. Your husband can share stories about his childhood and anything he remembers about his family. You can Skype or FaceTime with the British relatives as well. Just because you aren't in the same country does not mean that you cannot communicate. It will take effort. Work together to make time for everyone.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My fiance and I just got engaged, and we are excited about our wedding. Unfortunately, I misplaced my engagement ring. I looked for it for weeks, but I finally told my fiance that I lost it. He understood and we replaced the ring, but I still have the guilt of losing the first one. I find myself reassuring him that I won't lose the ring again, but I want to stop doing that. My fiance hasn't shown any resentment, but I think I am punishing myself because of my mistake. I'm afraid it will come up in a future disagreement and he'll hold it against me. Is there a way to prevent him from using the lost engagement ring against me? Should I just get over this? -- Lost Engagement Ring, Jacksonville, Florida
DEAR LOST ENGAGEMENT RING: It is understandable that you would feel guilty for having lost the initial ring, but what you are doing now is detrimental to the health of your relationship. If you keep dwelling on the lost ring rather than forgiving yourself and moving forward, it will remain a thorn in your side. Your fiance has let it go. Stop talking about it. Stop thinking about it. Focus on the present and the future life that you are building together.
You cannot prevent your fiance from bringing up the ring in some future hypothetical argument, but you actually increase the chances of that happening if the loss remains top of mind for you. Move on.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106