Annie's Mailbox: Week of Aug 9

Annie's Mailbox logo

Dear Annie:

My granddaughter, “Melanie,” thinks that she has a half-sister 24 years younger.

Melanie believes that her father, long divorced from her mother, was asked by his former unattached girlfriend with whom he remained friendly, to “help” her have a child before it becomes biologically too late.

Now, my granddaughter has become very attached to the 2 and 1/2 year old and visits her at least once a week. She finds a lot of physical resemblance to herself when she was that age. She sees her father participate lovingly in the little girl’s activities. She has asked him “the question” but he refuses to answer telling Melanie to address the question to the child’s mother whom she sees every time she goes to visit the young child. However, she cannot bring herself to asking the mother if this girl is her half-sister.

What should she do?

— Wondering Grammy

Dear Wondering Grammy:

Melanie has nothing to lose and a sister to gain. She’s already spending a lot of mental energy on the subject, and her dad actually told her to ask the child’s mother. So she should go ahead and ask  — if she wants to know. But right now it seems that she’s not totally sure she does. Perhaps deep down she’s uncomfortable with the idea of her father having another child. I’d explore that with her to help her sort out her feelings so she can come to peace with this issue either way.

Dear Annie:

I wanted to add one more point to the cigarette butt conversation that I feel you and the reader should have mentioned, as it is incredibly important:

People who throw out their butts along roadways can and do cause wildfires, some of them causing death and destruction across vast areas. With this being wildfire season, we need to be more aware of how our habits impact the earth and those around us.

— Concerned in the Northwest

Dear Concerned in the Northwest:

You are absolutely correct. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were an estimated 90,000 smoking-material fires in the United States in 2011, the most recent year for which this data is available. Those fires caused an estimated 540 civilian deaths and three times as many injuries. Discarding cigarettes properly can literally be a life-or-death issue. Thanks for bringing attention to this aspect of the problem.

Dear Annie:

Like “Childless With No Regrets,” my husband and I also decided not to have children. After 33 years, we don’t ever regret being childless, either. To this day, when I see a baby, I smile and comment how beautiful he/she is to the proud parents, and am truly happy for them, but have no desire to hold the little “bundle of joy.” However, if I see a puppy, I go gaga, turn to mush, and snuggle the little pup in my arms and talk “baby talk” to it.

I remember when I was a rebellious teen, my mother would tell me, “I hope when you have kids, they turn out to be just like you!” That was enough for me to swear off having children!

— Dog Mom in Missouri

Dear Dog Mom:

Bundles of joy come in all shapes and sizes. Millions of pups need “parents,” so it’s wonderful that you were able to take one into your home. Thanks for sharing your experience with not having children; I’m printing your letter for people who are facing peer pressure to have children when they’d rather not.

Dear Annie:

“Merging Maven” has prodded me to write. My husband and I have driven in all 50 states over the years, and have had many discussions about the proper way to merge from two lanes to one, mostly at construction sites. One state (I wish I could recall which one!) posted this sign when two lanes had to become one:

“Use both lanes to merge point, AND then take turns.” It kept traffic flowing and didn’t ruffle drivers’ feathers. We both commented that it was a sensible solution to the problem. We haven’t seen it used since then and now wonder if it was just part of some study. But it was an easy fix for an irritating and potentially hazardous problem, and should become the standard rule for merging.

— Road Warrior

Dear Road Warrior:

Perhaps the zipper merge would catch on more if there were signs such as these, concisely explaining the concept and giving drivers permission to use it. It’s a wonder more states haven’t tried this. Thanks for writing in.


open up a bank account online in my name, claiming that his colleague will be the one to add the money to the account. He keeps pressing me to give him my information, such as my online username, password and Social Security number. I feel reluctant to do this. What should I do?

— Feeling Uncomfortable

Dear Feeling Uncomfortable:

Heed your feelings. This guy isn’t just “starting to be a scammer”; he’s been a scammer all along. Don’t let him prey on you any longer. Take screenshots of his messages for your records and write down any other information you have on him; then block him on all messaging platforms. Don’t tell him you’re doing so, as he’ll just try wiggling his way back into your heart.

Then report him to the Federal Trade Commission (, and check out the FTC’s blog post titled “Has an online love interest asked you for money?” You might recognize some uncanny similarities to your experience.

Dear Annie:

A man who extends his hand demanding a handshake is presumptuous and arrogant. Handshaking is unsanitary and disgusting, in my opinion. Any gentleman with any intelligence should know how abhorrent it is to most ladies. Especially repulsive are workmen who have dirty hands or workers in a position of servitude. They seem to have the opinion that they are offering a gesture of friendliness rather than committing an act generally rebuffed in contempt of such poor manners.

To express my displeasure, I withdraw away from the ignoramus and will retaliate by not doing business with him. Gentlemen should know better than to extend their hand to a lady.

Please print my letter so that people who have this gross habit might understand that it is not met with the approval they seem to expect. They do themselves a grave disfavor in most instances. Being a lady, I’m a devout hater of handshakes!

— Handshake Hater

Dear Handshake Hater:

Lady, the one with poor manners is you. I can’t for the life of me understand why you’d show such scorn for a gesture that is meant — even by your own acknowledgment — to show friendliness. If you’re that afraid of the germs, wash your hands more often or keep some hand sanitizer handy. Negativity poses its own health risks, by the way, so shake that attitude.

Dear Annie:

I am part of a group of lady golfers. Anyone can play with us, and weekly sweeps/bets are voluntary. It’s the tournament chair’s job to make the pairings, contact the pro shop about those pairings, collect voluntary bets for the week and do the payouts. I used to be the chair. It was often hard because a lot of people don’t pitch in to help with planning things.

But our current chair, “Meg,” is a stickler for the rules. Some women who have played with us once have not returned because Meg made them feel intimidated or embarrassed about their lack of knowledge. Meg feels it’s her job to police everyone. She has also been sending weekly e-mails about the previous week’s play. Those whom she doesn’t like are left off the e-mails, and they feel alienated. She makes cutting remarks if someone doesn’t want to be in the betting that week.

Meg lost her husband a few years ago. Prior to that, she and her husband kept to themselves and never socialized. Now that she is alone, some of us have tried to include her in birthday lunches. She has no other friends or family. This group is all she seems to have. Problem is, ladies don’t want to come and play with the group because of her reputation and meanness. They are figuring out other days to play.

Should we tell her how she has alienated others? Should we ask her to step down as chair and then change the group once again to reflect fun rather than rules? What should we as a group do to maintain our once-fun group?

— Perplexed and Sad Golfer

Dear Perplexed and Sad Golfer:

Perhaps you could recommend switching up the format altogether. Rather than have one person serve as chair, you could have everyone take a turn on a rotating basis. That would give everyone the privilege and responsibility of leading — one bonus benefit being that people might be more inclined to pitch in and help future chairs once they’ve had the shoe on the other foot and know all the work that goes into organizing a tournament.

If this is logistically impossible, you should at least have a chat with Meg, and yes, be honest about how her hard-line approach has scared off a lot of participants. If she refuses to adjust, she’ll be left with no one to chastise but herself.

Dear Annie:

My younger brother lives many states away. Sadly, about five years ago, he decided that I had caused him many sorrows and pains, so he chose to stop contact. He said little about what I had done or said to cause that decision.

I miss him and his family a lot and have tried to reconcile. He simply does not respond. I have apologized a lot, even not knowing how I hurt him. He did say that I hurt him badly, but he is hurting me badly now. And after five years, I recall very little.

I feel sad for myself and for the rest of his family, especially at our age. Both of us are not in the best of health, and I do get concerned about the death of one of us. And I miss his family a lot, especially my nieces and nephews, who have more or less stayed silent, too. I have not been invited to family weddings. I think stubbornness runs in our family. I am not sure that I can do anything else to effect a change, so I just pray. I am embarrassed to say much to other relatives and mutual friends. Just let your readers know that mending such relationships is a very wise thing to do.

— Missing My Brother

Dear Missing:

I agree that one should mend family relationships whenever possible. I only have your side of the story here (one of the tricky things about writing this column), so I can’t comment on your brother’s decision. However, I can say that you should never apologize for something when you don’t even know what you’re apologizing for — because you can’t possibly mean it, and people can see through that type of apology.

Take a good, long look at your behavior. Were you overly critical of him? Did you insist on bringing up politics or another contentious subject? Did you try to control him or make demands of him? Those are reasons I’ve heard in the past from people who have cut family members off. If you still don’t know what you might have done, you can tell him as much and again say you’d really like to talk to him and try to make this right. In the end, it’s his decision. But try to find some peace in prayer and the knowledge that you’ve done all you can.

Dear Annie:

Boy, did the letter from “Exhausted by the Onslaught” hit home. It is no surprise to me that 57 percent of people surveyed reported “significant stress” about the current political climate. It has divided family and friends beyond belief. I’m not going to get into the politics, but what I’ve found is it helps to turn off the TV, get off the Internet and take a break from all of it. For those who need to know the news like me, I suggest one half-hour of national news of your choice once a day. When it comes to TV and the Internet, look for positive and happier subjects to view. Even my therapist has suggested this. Trust me; it works!

— Controlling the Onslaught in Florida

Dear Controlling:

Those are all great habits that I wholeheartedly endorse. Glad you’ve managed to control the onslaught rather than let it control you.

Dear Annie:

My family (my husband, our young kids and I) vacations with two other families once or twice a year. My husband went to school with the other two husbands, and they are best friends. I have developed great friendships with their wives, and our kids are all similar ages and get along.

We have a great time, but one of the husbands always finds a way to make me uncomfortable. During our most recent vacation, while we were saying our goodbyes and loading up the cars, he grabbed my breast as he pulled me in for a hug. I was stunned and immediately pulled away. He quickly turned around and went on to hug everyone else as if nothing had happened. I debated whether to say anything, but I let it go. However, this violation keeps eating at me. (The other time he made me feel uncomfortable was when the adults had all met up for a long weekend. While dancing at a concert, he came up behind me and starting grinding against me. I thought he was joking and laughed at him, but he continued until I left the dance floor. He did this when his wife had gone to the bathroom and my husband was getting drinks, so I think it was purposeful.)

If I told my husband, I’m sure he would cut off his friendship with this guy. I’m torn because I would hate to see my husband lose one of his good friends and for us to lose out on these otherwise great vacations.

I backed out of the most recent adult vacation (claiming our baby sitter had bailed) because I just wanted to avoid this guy. Yet in the wake of the #MeToo movement, why should I miss out on vacation time when it’s this guy who is making me feel uncomfortable? I share everything with my husband, so keeping this from him is making me feel awkward.

Should I forgive these transgressions and keep them to myself or find a way to tell the guy to knock it off or let my husband know what’s going on?

— Quiet for Now

Dear Quiet for Now:

It’s not your job to protect this predator. Whatever fallout comes is what he’s got coming to him. He’s repeatedly made very conscious, calculated decisions to violate you. Our actions have consequences, and he is no exception. Tell your husband what’s up, and don’t worry about his losing a “good friend.” This man was never a good friend.

Dear Annie:

I would like to offer an alternative viewpoint for “Child of the South.” I think that sometimes we jump to conclusions about why people do what they do and then judge them on what we think are the facts. “Child of the South” is assuming her sister-in-law feels entitled. Though that may be the case, it may also be that her sister-in-law is embarrassed about the condition of her houses, or perhaps she feels that she doesn’t cook as well as “Child of the South.” There could be many reasons, but to get angry without knowing for sure could harm an otherwise excellent relationship. I hope “Child of the South” chooses a way to either talk with her sister-in-law or find a way to enjoy her company without the expectation that the hospitality will be reciprocated. Loving relationships are hard enough to maintain without destroying them by keeping score.

— Counting Blessings Rather Than Beans

Dear Counting Blessings:

I love your signature. Yours is an attitude we should all strive for. Thanks for writing.

Dear Annie:

I hope you can offer a solution to my dilemma. Over the Fourth of July, I hosted a party at my riverfront home. Most of the guests were my son’s friends, whom I get along with, and I am always happy when they bring their kids, because then my grandbabies have little ones to play with. My issue is that for the past few years at my party, one couple, “John” and “Cynthia,” always invite and bring additional people whom I either don’t know or don’t particularly care for. They do this without asking me ahead of time.

This year, John and Cynthia brought a couple with a baby whom I had never met before. They all pitched tents in my yard and spent the night without even asking! Later in the afternoon, John’s brother, sister-in-law and niece also showed up without being invited. John, Cynthia and the couples they brought with them didn’t leave until late the next day, leaving dirty diapers in my garbage. They even started searching for leftovers in the fridge. (There weren’t any because of all the additional uninvited people.)

It was all I could do to hold my tongue. I had asked my son to speak to them about this issue. Apparently, he neglected to do that because he is afraid they would just say they won’t come. That would be fine with me, except for wanting my grandkids to have more playmates. The general opinion seems to be that it is incredibly rude and inconsiderate to do this. How do I prevent this from happening again without having them flip out and just refuse to come next time? Even after a month, I am still fuming about it.

— Blindsided

Dear Blindsided:

Your yard is not a campground, even though John and Cynthia are treating it as such. Actually, they’re more like bears at the park dumpster — raiding your food and leaving a mess. If I were you, I probably wouldn’t even invite them back next year. But if you do, expressly state that the invitation is just for the two of them and their children. If they “flip out” at that and refuse to come, you’re better off. If John and Cynthia are raising their children to be anything like them, you probably don’t want them influencing your grandkids anyway.

Dear Annie:

This is in response to “I Knew Better,” who is deeply ashamed for sleeping with someone. I’d like to address the faith part a little bit more and speak directly to her.

“Knew Better”:

You did something against your faith. Period. You stopped. With your faith, do you believe you can be forgiven but you can’t forgive yourself? You are putting your faith in a very small box. Open up and let the freedom of your forgiveness flow, because conviction of wrongdoing comes from your faith. Condemnation does not come with your faith. You may “feel” shame, but you are much more than this one instance. Stand up like the princess you are! You are beautiful!

— Keep the Faith

Dear Keep the Faith:

Beautifully said. I’m happy to print your encouraging words.