DEAR ABBY: I'm a sophomore at a religious university that is well regarded in both secular and religious circles. I came here to become a doctor because the pre-med program has an outstanding acceptance rate to medical school.

However, in my third quarter I took a religious studies course and fell in love with the department. I'd like to pursue a career in this field, perhaps as a professor. I have an excellent GPA and am working three jobs.

My problem is that my parents are not supportive. They think I'm being impractical and will end up working in a fast-food restaurant for the rest of my life. I thought they'd be thrilled I have taken such an interest in our faith. Becoming a doctor no longer interests me. How can I convince them that I can major in religious studies and not live in poverty? -- REBEL IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR REBEL: You shouldn't pursue a career in medicine unless your heart is in it because if it isn't, you won't make a very good doctor. Unless you plan to take a vow of poverty, a career in religion doesn't mean you'll end up living hand-to-mouth. While money is important, it's more important that you devote your life to something that gives you emotional gratification.

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DEAR ABBY: As a divorced dad, I'm hoping you'll address a problem I have encountered in trying to co-parent my children. My daughters are often invited to parties and sleepovers, which sometimes happen during my parenting time, as well as during my ex-wife's parenting time. The invitations to these events, however, are almost always sent to my ex-wife's home or email address.

Aside from the problems that have occurred because the information wasn't forwarded to me in a timely manner, I think it's sexist for invitations to be sent only to the mother. It reinforces the outdated notion that a woman's role is to raise children, and a father can't be an active parent. Would you please remind your readers that the most appropriate way of inviting a child who has two households is to send the invitation to both parents? -- MODERN DAD IN ROSWELL, GA.

DEAR MODERN DAD: I think you have delivered that message very clearly. However, if not every reader takes it to heart, make a point of discussing with your ex-wife what activities may have been scheduled for your daughters while they're with you. That way they won't miss out on anything.

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DEAR ABBY: I was recently diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on my tongue that has made it extremely difficult and painful to talk. The problem is I don't know how to handle encounters with strangers in public places -- i.e., grocery stores, libraries, etc. I have always been polite and courteous, but now I can do no more than nod. What would you suggest in this situation? -- SUDDENLY SILENCED IN FLORIDA

DEAR SUDDENLY SILENCED: Make eye contact with the people you would normally greet verbally and give them a smile as you are already doing. If someone tries to engage you in conversation, point to your throat, shake you head "no," and mouth the words "can't talk." If you feel further explanation is necessary, have cards printed that state, "I am unable to speak." That way, no one should take offense.

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