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DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a freelance producer, and I have struggled a lot with finding enough work. This year has been different. I have had quite a few small jobs, and I am grateful for them. The problem is that it is hard to keep track of small projects when they overlap. I scheduled a short vacation this summer, but then I got a gig and had to do the prep work during my vacation. My boyfriend was mad because he took off work from his 9-to-5 and expected me to do the same. I wanted to, but I worry about turning down work when I remember so well that a year ago I had none. How do I manage this new reality? -- Freelancer Blues

DEAR FREELANCER BLUES: If you intend to remain a freelance producer, it is in your best interest to make it clear to your boyfriend how your schedule works. While it may be possible for you to take time off completely, it is not wrong for you to stay on-call during vacation when you are just coming out of a work drought. Talk to him about the realities of time management when you work for yourself and are beholden to a variety of clients. Make sure he is comfortable with your work style, and you with his. Otherwise, your relationship is destined for ongoing conflict.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My father has been dead for about 10 years. My mother was inconsolable for a long time, but recently she met a nice man who has been paying a lot of attention to her. They go out to dinner, and he comes over to visit. It seems really sweet to me. My siblings worry that he is trying to steal my mother's money, but she really doesn't have much money outside of my father's Social Security check and pension. If she gets married, I'm pretty sure she loses all of that. So she knows she won't be marrying for money. How can I convince the others that she is OK? -- Mom Is Dating

DEAR MOM IS DATING: Give your mother some breathing room to enjoy this man's company. If you feel like you need to check in, start with her. Ask her what she thinks his intentions are and if she is worried at all about him wanting to take her money. Express your thoughts to her so that she can review them herself.

She should talk to this man about his intentions and his finances. It works only when both parties are open to the discussion. She should exercise a fair amount of discretion as she gets to know this man. But know that it is your mother's prerogative to spend her money however she chooses. If she uses your father's pension and social security to enjoy her life with this man or if she loses them upon marriage, so be it. If you or your siblings were counting on any of that money yourselves, you will have to make peace with the shift also.

Talk to your siblings and work with them to accept your mother as a mature adult who is making her own decisions. Of course, be there for her if you ever feel that she is being manipulated.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I just learned that a close family friend's son came out as gay. I was happy that they trusted me enough to tell me. Now I wonder what I should do with this information. I am a gay man. Obviously, I am not interested in this teenage boy, but I do know a lot about the scene. More, I know about dealing with family after they learn that you are gay. Should I offer to be in contact with him? If so, should I reach out to him personally, or just talk to the parents? How should I ultimately address any rapport that develops between me and this young man with his parents, since they told me about his situation in the first place? -- Gay Living

DEAR GAY LIVING: Tell the parents that you would like their blessing to develop a rapport with their son. You know a lot about living as a gay man, and you would like to be there to support him. Make it clear that you will not be a spy. Instead, speak in generalities. You may tell them about the fact that you are becoming friends and that you talk about his life, but you will not serve as a go-between. Promise to be a sounding board and a moral compass for this young man. Then give reports when needed about his general development. Encourage him to talk to his parents directly about his choices.

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DEAR HARRIETTE: My in-laws have been coming around, and it has become an inconvenience for me and my family. We don't mind if they come over, but the problem is they come over unannounced. I work all day and sometimes come home stressed. My husband and I have told them to call before they come, but they don't. When they come in, they immediately want to jump into whatever conversation we are having. They interrupt the children to try to get them to hang out when they need to do their homework. They can be disruptive -- even though we know it is not intentional. How do I tell them they need to call before they come so they will listen? -- Need Advance Notice, Raleigh, North Carolina

DEAR NEED ADVANCE NOTICE: This is a hard situation that may require tough love. If you and your husband have the stomach for it, you may need to tell them that they cannot come in on days when you are stressed out. You can choose not to open the door, even acting like you aren't at home.

Your in-laws have a lot more time on their hands than you and your husband, which is making them not accept your schedules. You might have to hurt their feelings to give them the reality check that they need to respect your privacy. This will be an awkward period, but it should work if you stick to your plan to say no when you don't have the energy to entertain them.

Be sure to talk to them, too, and point out that when they come unannounced, they often unintentionally interrupt the children's homework and the overall family pattern. Suggest that you have a regular time when they visit for part of the day on the weekend or for dinner once a week -- something that is inclusive and manageable.

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106

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