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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My mother is very hard to talk to, but she reads your column faithfully, so maybe she will recognize herself. Mother wonders why I enjoy spending so much time with my in-laws. Here are a few reasons:

My in-laws do not criticize me every time they see me. They don't say I look fat, my clothes are not appropriate or my hairstyle is outdated. My in-laws don't point out everything I do wrong with my children; they say I'm doing a good job and I should be proud of myself. (I am.)

My in-laws understand when I have to split holidays between them and my parents. They actually enjoy spending time with their grandchildren -- attending ball games, school plays and kids' birthday parties, and they don't act like it's a burden or an annoyance to baby-sit. Most of all, they listen when I talk.

Abby, I would give anything to have a good relationship with my parents. Believe me, I've tried, but they are so self-righteous and set in their own ways, they really don't know me. Even though we live very close to them and see them often, I still feel like I'm a million miles away.

Thanks for listening, Abby. I just thought instead of crying this time, I'd share my thoughts with you. Maybe other readers have gone through this, too. -- DEPRESSED DAUGHTER

DEAR DEPRESSED: On the chance that your mother misses this column, it might be a good idea for you to READ it to her. She needs to hear from you how hurt you are ... and why.

DEAR ABBY: I am writing in response to the comments made by Dr. Charles F. Downen and Kimberly Carter regarding "Defensive Driver in International Falls, Minn."

I am one of those careless smokers who toss cigarette butts out of the car window. Usually it's because I am driving. To avoid taking my eyes off the road while putting my cigarette out, I simply toss it from my window.

Until today, I never considered that my actions could be harmful to others. But thanks to you and your commitment in allowing readers to share their experiences through your column, I am now aware of my irresponsible behavior.

To all my fellow drivers, I say, "I'm sorry."

Drivers who complain about cigarette butts are not "hatemongers" -- they are people with a genuine concern for the safety of themselves and others.

I hope other drivers with the same habit realize the possible consequences and refrain from this behavior. You may use my name ... MICHELLE MDODANA, VAN NUYS, CALIF.

DEAR MICHELLE: Thank you for your honest letter. I, too, hope that drivers who carelessly toss cigarette butts will realize how dangerous this habit can be.

DEAR ABBY: Your Clovis reader's mother-in-law had the right idea when she had everyone sign and date the holiday tablecloth.

My parents do the same, and every time a special family dinner occurs, the tablecloth is spread! New guests add their names and the date. (No fair signing twice!)

You should see it now! It's more embroidered than white, and it's a delight to reminisce over 30 years of family reunions. -- KEITH ENSMINGER, MERCED, CALIF.

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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