Annie's Mailbox: Husband's sister's kids keep getting us sick

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Dear Annie: My husband’s sister refuses to cancel her plans even if her children are sick — which happens all the time. She will drop the kids off at my mother-in-law’s and, as she’s leaving, say, “Oh, by the way, ‘Suzy’ has a cold.”

The extended family took a weekend vacation together, and my sister-in-law’s son had a fever. She did nothing to segregate this sick boy from anyone, and as a result, every member of my family became ill.

I no longer wish to make plans with my sister-in-law. My husband has tried talking to her, but it hasn’t helped. Any advice?

— Tired of Being Sick

Dear Tired: Kids often have colds, so unless you are particularly susceptible, we’d tolerate a certain amount of that. Fevers, however, are another story, and you are justified in staying away from the children when they are contagious. That means refusing to baby-sit and walking out of any family function where sick children are present. You won’t get your sister-in-law to stop without the cooperation of the rest of the family, but at least you won’t be subjected to whatever illness she is spreading.

Dear Annie: For many years, I have been the one who arranges Christmas for my extended family. I make sure the tree is decorated, that everyone receives a present and that the grown kids remember to give gifts to their relatives.

Every year, I receive less help and fewer gifts. Last year, I found myself sitting among family members who each had piles of boxes in front of them, and I had nothing. My kids, brother and mother had obviously put me at the bottom of their lists. When they saw I had no gifts, they all claimed they were too busy and assumed someone else would have given me something. It was truly one of the saddest days I have ever experienced.

I’m not looking forward to Christmas this year. I can’t imagine how I would handle another one like the last. I don’t want to put a damper on the holiday, nor do I want to beg for gifts. How can I convince myself not to care?

— Sad at Christmas

Dear Sad: You will not stop caring altogether, but you shouldn’t put yourself out so much that you get hurt. It is often the “family organizer” who is neglected on special occasions because no one else is doing your job — reminding people to bring gifts, arranging the celebration, etc.

This would be a good time to revise the rules: Suggest everyone donate to charity instead of bringing presents; only children under 16 get gifts; or each relative draws one name from a hat and is responsible for that gift only. If someone objects, tell them with great sincerity that you’d be happy to let them plan the event, and we hope they will take you up on it.

Dear Annie: Yes and yes to the comments about the appearance of hair stylists at the beauty school. The last two professional shops I have patronized display the exact same disregard, and it doesn’t matter whether the stylists are 20-something or 50-something. It’s an act of willpower for me to stay for the haircut. I would like to say, “Sorry, but your appearance is SO unappealing, I’d rather leave.” If their appearance is so tasteless, what kind of hairstyle will I get? Most of the time, they will respect my styling requests, but I certainly don’t enjoy having to watch them in the mirror.

Every older generation has things they don’t understand about younger ones, but really, Annie, what’s with the stylists of my generation?

— Eager for This To Pass

Dear Eager: Some stylists think they have to look “edgy.” But the way someone looks has little to do with their talent — and talent is what you are paying for. So either don’t look in the mirror, or find a stylist who doesn’t offend your senses.

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