DEAR ABBY: My husband's sister is always asking us to send his parents money. She's married, their children are grown, her husband receives a pension, and they both work full time. My husband earns a good living and I am a stay-at-home mom. We have three sons, ages 11, 13 and 16. We live out-of-state and every year his parents visit us for a month. Their airline tickets and other expenses are entirely paid by us.
Our extra money goes toward the children's college education or my husband's 401(k) plan. He doesn't have a pension plan. We've been saving for years and still don't have half the tuition money we will need for our sons' college.
My husband's father also gets a pension. He and his wife both receive Social Security and own their own home. They seem to have enough money to travel other places several times a year.
We have raised our children without any support from his family. They helped his sister financially when her children were small. When the grandmother died recently, his sister got jewelry, crystal and silver. My husband got nothing.
We moved out-of-state five years ago to get away from them. His father still calls him and wants to know when we're visiting because "the chores are piling up." My husband loves his parents, but he feels used and hurt -- and so do I.
I believe our first responsibility is to our children. We have told his family "no" for years, but they still want more and more from us. Any suggestions? -- FED UP IN FLORIDA
DEAR FED UP: Yes. Just keep saying no.
DEAR ABBY: I am 5 feet tall and weigh about 130 pounds. I'm almost 12 and don't like the way I look.
Do you know of a healthy, free diet that really works? I exercise daily and take dance classes, run, walk and ride my bike all the time. I try not to eat too much junk food, but I'm still so huge I can't stand it. Please help me. -- MARY IN HULL, MASS.
DEAR MARY: At 11 years of age, you have not yet reached your full height, so before condemning yourself for the way you look, please take that into consideration, and be less hard on yourself. Weight isn't put on overnight, and it's not lost overnight, either.
Before embarking on any diet, you should be seen by your doctor to determine your general health and to discuss what is the proper diet and amount of exercise you should be getting. Please show this letter to your mother. It is important that she understands how much this issue means to you.
DEAR ABBY: I was touched by the letter you printed about wedding bands of departed loved ones. We were a married couple for 47 years and never had our bands off our fingers.
When my husband was "promoted" to heaven, my daughter suggested that since I had placed his ring on his finger, I should remove it, so I did.
Life will never be the same for me, but I appreciate wearing his wedding band next to mine. No polishing or size change -- just a guard inside to make it fit close to mine. -- A SAN DIEGO WIDOW
DEAR SAN DIEGO WIDOW: Wearing an item of clothing that belonged to a departed loved one can be comforting to the wearer. It's logical that wearing a piece of jewelry would do the same. I'm sure your husband would be pleased.
DEAR ABBY: Because of a serious illness that resulted from taking a certain medication, I recently received a settlement of more than a million dollars. I have invested most of the money, and have a cash flow sufficient to take care of emergencies and a few luxuries. I must make sure that these funds will cover medical expenses for the remainder of my life.
Ever since I received the settlement, my family (children, parents and siblings) think I'm very rich and that my money is their money, too. They constantly ask me to bail them out of one financial mess or another, or to buy them luxury items. I have helped them out of tight spots in the past, but they have always squandered their money and have never saved a dime for the future.
I go to bed each night sick to my stomach because of the guilt trips they put me through when I refuse their requests for money. They expect me to pay for everything.
Abby, am I being selfish? -- S.F. IN COLORADO
DEAR S.F.: No, you are being prudent. Instead of giving them money, encourage your relatives to enroll in credit counseling or money-management courses offered at many colleges. Remember the adage: "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach him to fish and he'll eat for life." Continually bailing out family members is doing them no favor. Take care of your own needs and let them take care of theirs.
DER ABBY: There is a girl at work I really like. She is not only physically attractive, but her interests are also similar to mine.
Recently we had lunch together. I gave her a rose and a card with a short message telling her how terrific she is. She read the card after we had our lunch, and the next day I asked her what she thought of it. She told me she "loved it," and complimented me on my spelling and grammar.
I really like her, but she recently ended a long-time relationship, and I don't want to put her on the spot. How can I find out if she likes me as more than a friend, without hurting our existing friendship? -- IN LOVE ON LONG ISLAND
DEAR IN LOVE: She has already conveyed an important message. Since she commented only on your spelling and grammar -- and not the message in the note you sent her -- she's interested only in a platonic relationship.
DEAR ABBY: I thought maybe your readers would be interested in something I thought of the other day. At one minute and one second after 1 o'clock in the morning on Jan. 1, 2001, the numbers will look like this: 01:01:01, 01/01/01. It won't happen again for 1,000 years! Pretty cool, huh? -- CHRISTY DAY, MOBILE, ALA.
DEAR CHRISTY: Way cool, and a new beginning.
CONFIDENTIAL TO MY READERS: Happy New Year! While enjoying New Year's Eve festivities, please remember: If you drink, don't drive; if you drive, don't drink!
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