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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: This is good advice any time of the year, but especially now that the weather is cold. Please tell your readers to locate the main water shut-off valve in the house and make sure it's in good working order now, before they have an internal water leak.

I work as a dispatcher, and you would be surprised at the number of people who call and don't know where the water meter and shut-off valves are located. They become frantic when a pipe breaks and causes damage, and demand that a water company representative respond immediately to turn off the water.

Most water companies are not responsible for internal leaks, but that's hard to explain to a panicked customer.

While they are at it, they should also locate and inspect the shut-offs for sinks, toilets, washing machines, etc. -- WATER COMPANY DISPATCHER

DEAR DISPATCHER: Good advice. People should also make sure the wrench they may need is handy and that they know how to use it.

DEAR ABBY: I'll get straight to the point. I lie too much. Sometimes I lie about little things, but other times I lie about big things.

Last week, I woke up and realized that my habit of lying was wrong, and one day I'll have to pay for it.

I've tried to stop, but over and over I catch myself doing it again. I want to talk to my mom about this, but when I get ready to ask her for help, I feel embarrassed and scared.

Abby, I desperately need your advice. -- NEEDS ADVICE IN VIRGINIA

DEAR NEEDS ADVICE: You're right -- someday you will have to pay for your lies if you continue.

When you find yourself lying, confess immediately that you stretched the truth or embroidered it -- then apologize. Most people will be forgiving when you immediately admit a wrong.

Not only will you feel better about yourself, you won't have to keep track of all the lies so you can cover for them.

Don't hesitate to ask your mother to assist you in breaking this habit. She loves you and wants the best for you, so go ahead and talk to her about it while you have the desire to quit.

DEAR ABBY: My husband passed away many years ago when our children were very young. I have remained close to his family and they are a big part of my children's lives.

I am planning to remarry and don't know if I should stop referring to them as my in-laws. We will always be close, but I don't want to hurt them or offend my new in-laws.

Abby, how should I refer to "old" in-laws? -- IN-LAW RICH IN NEW YORK STATE

DEAR IN-LAW RICH: Your in-laws are now your former in-laws, except in some cases in which the IRS states that they are in-laws 'til death do ye part. However, since you are on such friendly terms with them, continue to call them "Mom," "Dad," "sister-in-law," etc. In view of the emotional attachment, it's justified.

CONFIDENTIAL TO MY JEWISH READERS: Happy Hanukkah!

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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