Dear Annie: Five years ago, my husband and I lost our business. In an effort to keep it going, he did some illegal things and spent six months in prison. After he was released, we moved to a modest home in a modest neighborhood, and I went back to work. We drive inexpensive cars, clip coupons and shop at discount stores. We found a wonderful church, and our lives are happier now. The problem is our so-called "best friends." Those country-club couples dropped us like hot potatoes when this happened. Not one person stood by us. They were friendly if I ran into them, but that's where it ended.
Since the economy has tanked, a lot of these same people are having money problems of their own. They now call to ask how I was able to downsize. One woman in particular wants to meet for lunch. I have no desire to renew a friendship with these people and do not miss a single one of them. But I can't keep making excuses to avoid them. How do I tell this woman I'm not interested without being too blunt? Any ideas?
- Happy Living on the Wrong Side of Town
Dear Happy: Sometimes the shoe has to be on the other foot before a person can appreciate your problems. Your ex-friends would probably welcome your support, the same way you would have. If, however, you cannot manage quite that much compassion, the nice way to end a friendship is to let it drift away. Keep making excuses. You'll be consistently polite while sounding sincere, and they'll eventually stop asking.
Dear Annie: For the past year, every time I swallow, my throat clicks. I am a nervous wreck about this. My doctor said he'd never heard of such a symptom. I saw two other doctors who treat more complicated throat problems, but they could not help me, either.
I was wondering if any of your readers have suggestions. In the beginning it was painful, but now it is tolerable. Still, I'd like to fix it.
- Desperate in Pennsylvania
Dear Desperate: This is not as uncommon as you might think, but the reason is sometimes difficult to assess. We assume your doctors eliminated any serious conditions behind the clicking. One theory is that the hyoid bone in the throat presses against cartilage and causes a clicking sound. It's harmless, but truly annoying. Some people find it helps if they swallow with their head in a different position.
Meanwhile, if any of our readers have the solution, we will be happy to print it.
Dear Annie: Please print this for "Unloved and Misplaced," the 13-year-old girl who is cutting herself:
Please do not give up. Know that you have great value, and that your worth goes beyond any form of measurement. Discover yourself by realizing your own place of belonging. Know that you have the power to change anything within you, and understand that you are important. Learn to create goals and write them down so they will lead you to your life design.
Do not cause harm to your body because it will not ease your pain, it will only discourage you. Become a person who is in control. Love yourself so your love will reach out to others. Honor your parents with understanding. They may be going through difficult times you do not know about. They love you, otherwise, they would not work hard to put food on the table, a roof over your head and clothes on your back. Be giving in your attitude and much will come back to you.
- Someone Who Cares in Boston
Dear Boston: Thank you for your heartfelt words of encouragement and support. We hope she is listening.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.