Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married for 20 years. He has four children with his ex-wife, who lives nearby. The divorce was not pleasant, and my husband still has a lot of resentment. Neither of us is comfortable around the ex.
So how do I explain to my 30-year-old stepdaughter, “Susie,” that when we have gatherings with his kids, we don’t want to include their mother? Three of their kids live in the area and can visit Mom whenever they wish. When Susie comes into town, all of the kids gather at their mother’s, and she never invites us. That’s fine. But for some reason, Susie feels that since her mother is single and “alone,” she should be invited to our home whenever Susie is in town.
Until now, I’ve been nice about it and included her. But I recently found out that the ex has been saying hurtful things about me to the kids, who apparently don’t defend me. I’ve always made myself available for emergency calls, babysitting the grandchildren, etc. How do I handle the next visit?
— No Longer So Nice
Dear No: With kindness. The ex is going to say bitter things, and when her kids are with her, they don’t defend you because it would create a problem with their mother. We urge you not to make an issue of this. They obviously have a decent relationship with you, and this should not be taken lightly. It’s also possible that Mom, with her own insecurities, is pressuring Susie. You don’t have to include her in everything you plan, but please be the bigger person and do so when you can.
Dear Annie: I’m a healthy, active, happily married 61-year-old female. I work part time, but after all these years, I find the work monotonous. I exercise and socialize at the local fitness facility, but that’s kind of same old, same old. Then I go home, do some cleaning and organizing, and end up looking for things to do.
I don’t know where I’m going or what to do with myself. My husband is a few years younger. We have different interests, so he isn’t going to be helpful. I keep an eye open for volunteer opportunities, but haven’t seen anything that’s a good fit. I know I’m lucky and am not complaining. But do you have any suggestions for me?
— Montreal West Island, Quebec
Dear Quebec: First, decide where your interests lie. Do you enjoy the arts? Join a choir or theater group. Sign up for an art class or learn guitar. Do you like working with kids? Volunteer with a literacy program or at a children’s hospital. Interested in civics? Offer your time to a local politician, or check city hall for opportunities to make a difference in your community. Can you help at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen? What about your local library or chamber of commerce? Try meetup.com or the Red Hat Society (redhatsociety.org). You may need to try out a few places before you find something that’s a “good fit,” but please don’t give up. Many places would welcome someone with your energy.
Dear Annie: “California” wondered whether it was rude to read his hosts’ newspaper before they woke up. I, too, like to read my paper with my morning coffee.
Here’s my solution: When I travel, I take my home paper with me. I then buy a local paper at a gas station, convenience store or some place in the town I am visiting. I tend to buy additional papers from surrounding towns. Since the people I am visiting usually subscribe to only one newspaper, they enjoy reading the additional ones I bring. That way, I have several papers to read at my leisure, and my hosts have theirs.
— Another Early News Addict
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
— Creators Syndicate Inc.