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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have something to say to the millions of families whose lives are affected by divorce.

An unforgiving and bitter person who has not let go of animosities can poison an entire family and ruin the holidays for everyone. I know. I was that person.

I couldn't forgive my husband and his new wife, and my children suffered for it. One day after a particularly harsh outburst, I understood the pained reaction on my children's faces. I prayed for the strength to change my ways so I could stop hurting those I love most in the world.

It has been a long struggle with occasional setbacks, but the rewards have carried me forward. I have not remarried and I am not completely healed, but I have peace in my heart and my children are happy. They are free to enjoy both homes and the holidays with each family. It is a priceless gift to give your children, and yourself. -- FREE IN VERMONT

DEAR FREE: I can't think of a more meaningful gift suggestion for this holiday season. Happy holidays to you and your now happier family.

DEAR ABBY: I am writing in response to "Longtime Reader, Bloomington, Minn." who was upset that "Mrs. Jones" asked her nanny if she wanted another part-time job. Your reader had no right to get upset about the nanny being offered another job. As long as it doesn't affect her 35-hour work week, anything the nanny does during her free time is her business -- not her employer's.

Mrs. Jones should not need anyone's permission to talk to the nanny. So what if "Longtime Reader" paid $1,200 to get her nanny? I am a nanny and my family paid $2,350 to get me, and they do not tell me who I can and cannot sit for. Paying a fee does not guarantee ownership of the nanny. The nanny may seem like a member of their extended family, but she really isn't. She is an employee and is entitled to her own life and her own decisions about her time off. -- LYNETTE A. BUDD, ROWLEY, MASS.

DEAR LYNETTE: I agree that the days of indentured servitude are over. And if the nanny's arrangement with her employer is for 35 hours a week, what she does in her spare time is her own business.

However, as a courtesy, Mrs. Jones should have spoken to "Longtime Reader" before extending an offer to her domestic employee. It is a question of good manners.

DEAR ABBY: Add this to your stories about short men: My best friend had a rather rocky marriage with many arguments. After one such episode she came over for coffee and a shoulder to cry on. During our conversation she said, "Your husband is more of a man at 5 foot 6 than mine is at 6 foot 5."

She was right. They later divorced, and she raised their four children on her own. -- ANONYMOUS, PLEASE

YOUR CHUCKLE FOR THE DAY: "Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight." -- PHYLLIS DILLER

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