Dear Annie: Four years ago, my mother moved to Florida to be closer to my two sisters and their families. Now they are planning a party for her 90th birthday, and my sister has set the date for Christmas Eve.
The relatives who still live here have said they cannot attend at that time and asked that they please wait until after the first of the year. Everyone would rather be home for Christmas with their children, grandchildren and friends.
A few of us drive down in the summer and stay for the weekend. Whenever Mom isn’t well, I fly down. I spent time with her just a few months ago. I want to be home for the holidays, but my sisters will be unforgiving if I don’t come to the party. I am older than they are and retired. I don’t feel up to traveling, and these trips are getting expensive. What should I do?
— Don’t Want To Go
Dear Don’t: It would have been nice had your sisters been more considerate and planned the party with the other relatives in mind, but it doesn’t seem as if they are going to change their plans. You are fortunate to have a mother who is going to be 90. How many more birthdays will you be able to spend with her? Please go. And take as many family members with you as possible. They all should see Mom before they spend every Christmas without her. We know it’s an imposition and a burden, but we urge you to do this while you can. You won’t regret it.
Dear Annie: I need some advice on handling gossips.
There is a woman in my building who goes around gossiping all day. Needless to say, half of what she tells people is untrue. Everyone knows her and what she is like, but I recently had an encounter with her that ended in a shouting match. Now I am her main topic of conversation.
So far, I’ve been ignoring her, hoping her fascination with my life will wear off. Is there any way to get her to stop?
— No Gossip For Me
Dear No: Since everyone knows this woman is a gossip and a fabricator, ignoring her is the best way to deal with it. If she gets a rise out of you, it garners her some attention. It is important, however, that you do this in a very offhanded manner. Don’t be upset or brusque. Pretend it doesn’t bother you in the least. And when others are present, be friendly and charm their socks off. It will drive her batty.
Dear Annie: I was amused by “Cover Up and Learn’s” reluctance to tell her students to “button up.” I also teach at a post-secondary institution, and we have seen many young women who are busting out all over, including some wearing pants that are extremely tight and low enough to show a long streak of naked behind.
Our staff decided to approach the issue with firmness and humor. At the beginning of the year, we pointed out that their education is a steppingstone to getting a job, and that part of being in the work environment is learning to dress in a manner that does not distract others. We requested that students dress in a manner that is respectful, including putting sweaters over crude T-shirts. To remind them throughout the year, a few of us have signs in our rooms saying “No cleavage, front or back.”
Frankly, some of our students had never considered the concept before. They were quite respectful when we pointed out the other side of the issue. The students comply with this request, and we seldom have an issue with inappropriate clothing in our workplace. All they needed was the knowledge that their clothing was distracting or disturbing. And isn’t that part of our job?
— S.K. in Canada
Dear S.K.: Explaining instead of criticizing is always useful, and sometimes humor gets the point across where other attempts fail. Thanks for saying so.
Dear Annie: I read your response to “The Other Charlie Brown in Louisville, Ky.,” who says his children are showered with so many gifts at Christmas that they are losing touch with the meaning of the holiday. You suggested donating some of those gifts to charity.
When my son was in the hospital awaiting a transplant, people around the globe sent him cards and gifts. It was a lovely showing of concern, but we had too many presents and many were duplicates. My husband and I took them to our local police department, and they were taken to the children’s hospitals. This way, the gifts could be enjoyed by sick children who were missing the holidays and didn’t have family to visit or bring them presents. We actually felt better donating these things than keeping them. I thought this would help.
Dear L: Bless you for the wonderful and compassionate suggestion. We hope our readers will keep it in mind.