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December 21, 2000


Promised Trips,  Fourteen Bosses, and Can't Understand Her


Dear Mrs Web

Christmas is coming. My in-laws promised our children a trip to Disney as a Christmas present for the past two years. It never materialized. They kept putting the kids off. I noticed they didnít put off any of their trips to Vegas or Florida, though. They just mailed us a note saying they are giving the children a trip to Disney this year. Should I tell the children, they are 9 and 13?

Of course, you should tell the children. If they finally come through, the children will be delighted and a little bit wiser. If this trip also turns to dust, they will be sad, and a lot wiser. Learning that people will disappoint at times and how to handle the disappointment constructively are both steps toward maturity.

Dear Mrs. Web,

I work for a tiny non-profit connected to a larger non-profit parent company. My organization has 14 board members, and about 4 dozen volunteers. To be blunt, a few of the board members are driving me crazy. They are asking me to micro manage this organization and supervise all the volunteers, and assist in fundraising, and ÖandÖandÖ

The pay is miniscule. What do I do?

There is nothing like fourteen bosses to make someone scream. In your shoes, I would request one member be the liaison between you and the board. Both sides should agree on the liaison choice.

Over time, though, I would stack the board with people who know, respect, and like me.

Dear Mrs Web,

I am 16 years old. I met a girl who seems to like me. But when I asked her out she said she is sort of involved but didnít want to talk about it. Recently I heard from her friends that she might be available now. I called. She said she gave me the same non-answer. Except now she has been really nice to me and calls me quite a bit. Am I just a back up option or is she interested?

I would have second thoughts about a girl who cannot give a straight answer to the simple question: are you seeing someone? You might be a backup option, she might not know what she wants, and she might just enjoy the power of stringing someone along. 

Young girls like to feel their power. Dear Mrs Web in her younger days used to keep four, five, even six young men anxiousÖ

If I were in your shoes, I would back off. If she is interested, she will follow, and be straightforward, too. Expect nothing less.



December 20, 2000


Holidays and Toxic Families


Today, instead of my usual group of letters, I am focusing on one topic, a subject I am seeing quite a bit in my mailbox.  Holidays and difficult families.  Some people have a particularly difficult time during the holidays, occasions that is supposed to be filled with love, family and friends.  I think this letter represents many of the issues I am seeing this week.  -  Dear Mrs. Web 



Dear Mrs. Web


The holidays are always a difficult time for me. Over the past several years, my mother has turned herself against me. When I was young, my father sexually abused me. My mother knew about it, but blamed me. Over time, she grew to hate me. She doesnít show her hatred; instead, she pretends to have a normal relationship with me.

I am now 43 years old with children of my own. I have tried to get over all of the cruelty she inflicted on me. These days she is slowly and methodically turning our entire family against me. She tells them lies about me as well as ridiculing and discrediting me.

So, here we are at holiday time. She has convinced several family members
not to invite my family and me to family functions. She says "Well, I'm inviting you over, but don't tell Susie."


I'm at a loss to know how to handle this.


First, I want to tell you how deeply sorry I am. Living with a cruel, evil, spiteful, parent is extremely difficult and painful.


Your mother is toxic. Toxic means poisonous. Other people can drink deeply of their parentís beings. You cannot. There is no sustenance in her for you. Thus, you must handle her carefully, just as poisons are handled.


The best thing you can do is separate yourself from her words and actions. It is a hard thing to do, but over time you will be detached and be able to see her behavior and your responses.  You will also learn new, more productive responses.  Many people use counseling to help them over this.


If I were in your shoes, I would, after the holidays, go to one or two of the more receptive relatives, privately and personally. Explain to them that your mother is saying things that are untrue. Tell them it is painful to be shut out of the family  and that what she is saying is untrue. Do not be negative about your mother. Just state your case with kindness and concern. Talk about your concern about losing your relationship with them.


Do not be surprised if most of your family does nothing. Most people do not want to get in the middle of a family fight. They tend to take the easiest path. Moreover, letís face it, normal mothers donít do this to their children, so a motherís statements, positive or negative, about her child are very believable. Stay open to them. Send greetings and keep in touch. You can only put your side out there. Go to all family functions that include you.


If your family does not welcome you, you will need to find alternative ways to find joy in holiday occasions. Using books to give you ideas, create your own traditions, celebrations and fun. Find other people with which to share the holidays. Do something completely different, like a ski trip or time visiting shut-ins. If you are involved in a faith community, let them know your family needs to connect with others during this holiday. Friends will never replace family, but they do offer their own joys.


You will never be able to replace your mother.  The pain you carry about this issue, will lessen, over time. You may notice it comes echoing back when you are feeling rejected some other way.


Probably the best book I have ever read about keeping safe around toxic family members is How to Love a Porcupine. Check it out at my bookshelf under family issues and click through to Amazon for more reviews. If Amazon still has it on backorder e-mail me and I will provide you with the link to a catalog where I found it recently.


December 19, 2000


Dressing Up a Handsome Man, and Should I Get Serious?




Dear Mrs. Web:

My boyfriend recently attended my familyís Christmas party. All my relatives were there. He wore old boots, jeans, old red sweatshirt, and an old green vest. He did not even comb his hair. I was a little embarrassed because he is such a handsome guy. What should I do?

Well, You have to give him credit for wearing Christmas colors! This is something to sit down and discuss. I would be kind but straightforward. I think you need to tell him your familyís traditions and expectations about how people should dress at family gatherings.

Some people have not been taught (or are blazing their own trailÖsigh!) that dressing up can be a sign of respect to others, respect for the occasion, and required for harmony in families. If he is just not used to dressing appropriately, help him pick out a couple of acceptable outfits (The navy blazer and gray pants combination goes everywhere.) and buy him beautiful ties. 

Tell him how handsome he is, men like hearing they are attractive, too! Also, tell him when he needs to dress and suggest an outfit. "This would be a great time to wear your brown tweed jacketÖ). You can do a lot to help him out if he wants to change.

Dear Mrs. Web:

I have met a great guy at work. He's sweet, good- looking and nice to talk to. If I am not completely in love with him, I am pretty close to it. I wish we were "closer". We had one date recently.

A past love interest of his is now a free agent again. I am worried about the future of our relationship. I want to jump in with both feet. But I am afraid of being the odd woman out in a love triangle. We have never committed to each other. Perhaps he really is through with her. However, I cannot be sure. What do you advise?

Let me get this straight. You are having your second or third date with some guy you work with. You fancy yourself in "love" with him. You are planning to become sexually and emotionally intimate with someone because of your "feelings?" No commitment, no ring, no date, nothing?

You donít know this man. You just know what you "think" he is and what you "want" him to be, which has little basis in reality. Whether his old girlfriend is in the picture or not, is not the biggest issue here. One way or another, you still donít have much.

Instead, why donít you get to know this man? Find out who he is.  Sex is an easy way to not really get to know another person. Instead, you are pretending intimacy with a stranger. Look at my Topics to Explore Before Marriage to find out what I mean by real intimacy.

Stop using him to meet your emotional and sexual needs. Treat him with kindheartedness, and learn all you can about his character and emotional being. Slowly over time, teach him who you are, and discover who he is.  So, when you fully commit to one another you will each love whole people, not physical shells.



December 16, 2000


He Wants Her Money, Unwelcome Comments, and Homeschooling Woes



Dear Mrs. Web,

I have been married for the past two years to a man I dated for four years. He recently quit his job and has decided he wants to buy and sell investment property for a living. He has asked me to hand over my savings investments and my daughterís education fund for his speculations so he can "make himself some money". 

He has never helped with the bills, and apparently does not intend to. He drives a $30,000 car, lives in a $250,000.00 house, and contributes NOTHING to our family. He does not even take out the garbage! What should I do?

Dear Mrs. Web was not born yesterday. I would not let your husband use your savings and your childís education fund to help him make himself some "walking around money".  He seems to have an enormous sense of entitlement.

What puzzles Dear Mrs Web is how he ended up without any responsibilities in this marriage after four years of dating and two years of marriage? I  think that a strong marriage counselor will help you both. We usually get into holes that we, in some ways, dig ourselves.

Dear Mrs. Web,

I attended Thanksgiving with my husband and 8 month old daughter. I have a sister-in-law who always comments about how BIG and HUGE my daughter is. Little Susie is about a bit past the 100th percentile for height and weight, which makes her a perfectly proportioned although big for her age. My spouse and I are both very tall. I donít want my daughter to feel that being big is unattractive. How do I combat these comments?

One of my girls was thirty pounds at age seven months. I remember what a magnet she was for people who had their own issues about weight and size.  She is a big girl.

I have always run interference about her weight. When someone dwells on it, I briskly comment yes, she is healthy and strong. Subsequently, I take the time to point out an attractive feature, her eyes, her waist-length curly hair Öthen change the subject.

If they can't let the subject go when I change the subject (which, by the way, is how polite people show they do not want to discuss a topic further) I close the topic directly. I say, "She is healthy, perfect, and beautiful just the way she is. We love her very much. Letís change the subject." If they persist, excuse yourself and take your daughter for a walk, or go help in the kitchen. You can always walk away.

Dear Mrs. Web,

We are homeschooling our 16-year-old son who has slowed his schoolwork down to a crawl. Once he sits down to it, he easily rips through the work, but having him sit down to it and work...well, "You can lead a horse to
water, but you can't make him drink".

He helps with the household chores cheerfully, he is extremely diligent about things that interest him, and he is an ideal son except that he won't do his schoolwork.

When I run into a roadblock like this, I make an appointment with my local homeschooling specialist. The child, the specialist, and I work together on changing the curriculum.  

It sounds like your son is bored.  Perhaps he needs a courses more geared to his interests, or a few months in a work/study environment.  He may not be challenged and need college courses, either through a local college or through one of the tremendous distance learning programs now available.  There are also some very interesting net-based high school programs available. 


December 15, 2000


Family Christmas,

 Suspecting My Grandson, and Pregnant? 


Dear Mrs. Web,

My wife and I are again involved in our annual tug of war about the Christmas holiday. Her family makes a huge deal about Christmas. Everyone drives or flies in. There is a Santa hired for the grandchildren and non-stop celebrations for several days. They do other things as well such as pack and deliver food baskets to the poor, but mostly it is just a stuff and sing occasion. My family never celebrated the holiday so the first few times it was interesting. Now however, I am ready to pack it in and tell her to take our daughter and go without me.

Brace yourself. Get on the plane with your family and go to the celebrations. You knew what you were getting into before you married her and this is part of the family package you helped create.

Find some part you can throw your energies into, for example take over the coordination of the food baskets. You need to find ways to fit in for the few days it entails each year.

Sometimes in order to show our love, we need to do things we donít particularly like, and do them gracefully.

Dear Mrs. Web,

My grandson is 15. He lives with his father and sister. His parents have been divorced 7 years


Thanksgiving was celebrated at my sisterís house. My husband and I traveled there and spent the night. The next morning my brother-in-law discovered some expensive cologne missing from the downstairs bathroom. We think my grandson may have taken it.


My son needs to be made aware of this so he can stop it now. I am afraid if I call him and mention this, he will be upset and will not join the family for Christmas. Should I wait and ask him on Christmas Day, or just talk to my grandson? Should I just stay out of it? I want to do what is best for everyone.


I certainly never would bring a situation of this nature up before or on a holiday. Like dinnertime, holiday conversations should be joy-filled and light, not heavy and accusatory. Let us make glorious Christmas memories.


Cologne is missing from a bathroom and your grandson is suspected without a shred of proof. A workman, a deliveryman, or cleaning people could have taken it. It could be misplaced and in your brotherís travel kit. I would not bring this up without any evidence.


Instead, guard this information. Keep your eye out for more of this kind of problem. When you have direct knowledge that your grandson is pilfering, I would address it first with him, privately, over coffee. Never underestimate the power of a caring adult in the life of a teenager.




Dear Mrs. Web,


What are the first symptoms of pregnancy? I recently had my first sexual experience and am afraid that our protection failed. I have been feeling sick and have had stomach cramps. My friends told me my cycle is late because I am stressed about the possibility of being pregnant. Please help.


The early signs of pregnancy are many and diverse depending upon the particular woman. Your best bet is to spend ten dollars and purchase an early pregnancy test at your local drugstore. It would certainly be worth the peace of mind.


The next question Dear Mrs Web will raise is "Why are you having sex when you clearly are not able to accept the possibility of babies in your life?" No birth control method is foolproof. Most work in the sixty to eighty per cent ranges. Which means over one year you have a twenty to forty percent chance of becoming pregnant. Realize that having sex entails a reasonable chance of making a baby.


December 14, 2000


 Feeding a Hungry Kid, Marriage Proposal, Over Stimulated, and Dating at 15


Dear Mrs. Web,

There is a family in our community that is out of control. One of the children goes to school with our son. The child only rarely has a recess snack. My son wants me to include an extra sandwich in his own lunch. Do think it would be wrong or offensive?

Wrong or offensive to feed a hungry child? Of course not. Your son has an open and generous heart, which comes from your teaching and influence. Congratulations, you are raising a decent human being.

Teach him how to be casual and quiet about the extra food, "Hey Jeremy, Mom made an extra sandwich, want it?" Not all charity has to be tax-deductible or handled by the government.

Dear Mrs Web,

I want to ask my girlfriend of four years to marry me. I have a ring and want to ask her Christmas Eve. We are both in our second year of college and I wonder if it is fair to tie her down all these years until we graduate? Am I wrong to ask her?

If you both are committed to each other the two years will go by quickly and you will have a good foundation built for your marriage. In addition, in the fifties and sixties it was not unheard of for a couple to be married in college and helped through by both families. Visit my web page Topics to Explore Before Marriage  to help you both prepare for marriage.

Dear Mrs Web,

My ex-husband has the children three weekends a month, all vacations, holidays, and half the summer. He will again be taking them for the Christmas holidays. When he takes them, he has enormous plans. They have absolutely packed and over stimulating days with flights, sights, and many side trips. They come home absolutely wired and it takes a week just to calm them down.

I have asked him repeatedly not to over stimulate them on vacations and he ignores me. What should I do?

I donít think there is too much more you can do. Perhaps you can negotiate to build in some decompress time before school starts. I would bring it up before he buys the next set of tickets.

Dear Mrs Web,

I am a fifteen-year-old girl who has been dating a 16-year-old by for the past year. We keep dating and breaking up either because of the gossip around school (everybody talks about everybody) or because I meet someone new.

I have never kissed anyone in my life and he keeps trying to kiss me. I don't know what is wrong with me, but I donít want to. All my friends have all kissed someone. I like him and probably love him (if I knew what "love" meant). He says he "loves" me

Should I continue to date him?

As much as you like your boyfriend and are attracted to him; it sounds like you are not ready to settle down into a relationship yet. This is quite normal. You seem to have a level head on your shoulders, high standards, and do not want to get in over your head.

Being attracted to someone does not necessarily mean you should date him. The time has to be right. In many places, girls find it important to be attached to guys in order to fit in.  More than one girl writing to me has told me she is unable to figure out what to think of, or how to feel or respond to her boyfriend. This is because she is nowhere near ready for the commitment and intensity of a relationship.


December 13, 2000


 My Lying Husband, 

Fifty Cats, and 



Dear Mrs. Web,

I am ready to shoot my husband. He recently told me he was going on a two-day business trip to Atlanta. I saw the credit card slips, he was really in Las Vegas with several friends from his poker night group. We are missing a thousand in our savings account. How do I make sure it doesnít happen again?

Your husband lied to you and took household money to a Las Vegas spree with his buddies. This is serious stuff. Donít shoot him. Instead, sit down with him. Confront him with the evidence. The man sounds like he has a gambling problem. Tell him the marriage is in jeopardy. The both of you should begin marriage counseling immediately to sort this out and rebuild trust

Dear Mrs. Web,

Our neighbor is getting older. Her children do not live near her. Recently we are seeing some things at her house that concerns us about her well being. She has not been acting like herself. She has been collecting cats and now has close to fifty she is feeding. She also seems to have stopped bathing. She seems vague and sometimes disoriented. I donít know how to reach her family members. Any ideas?

Fifty cats!! My goodness! You could begin by stopping by her house and asking for one of her childrenís telephone numbers. Tell her you need to contact him about a question that has come up. She probably will be happy to oblige. If she turns suspicious, it is probably time to call your townís social services to see if they can help her

Dear Mrs. Web,

I am having an on-line romance with a wonderful and loving man. He has one problem. He is eighteen and I am 36. We have been corresponding for over one year. He is supportive, a dear and makes me happy.

Can the December/May relationship work between an older woman and a younger man? I care for him immensely and do not want to hurt him.

Should a mature, woman in her thirties be involved with an older adolescent boy? Frankly, May/Decembers rarely work out unless scads of money are involved. Then you are basically buying his company Ė and we all know what that is called.

Let us be serious here. Mature, deep, loving relationships require commitment, trust, compatibility, and a future. There isnít a future here. Young men need to commit to preparing themselves for their future and future responsibilities. He should be focusing in school, and building his personality and character at this time, not playing house with someone whom could be his mother.

You sound as if you want to love and commit to a man who loves you deeply and well. In my opinion, I think it is time to let this go and find someone closer to you in age, interests, and maturity.




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