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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am divorced and have three daughters. My ex-husband "Sam" married "Connie." She is 11 years younger than I am. Connie has no children of her own and they do not have children together yet.

My girls are under 18, so we still have the weekend visitation arrangement. The last time they were scheduled to visit their father, Connie came to pick them up.

The problem: Connie reeked of alcohol. Sam and I do not live in the same town -- there's about a 15-mile drive between us. Now I'm kicking myself in the hindquarters because I let my daughters leave with her.

I cannot have any more children, Abby, and the three I have are a precious gift from above. Had my daughter's friend come to pick her up and the friend reeked of alcohol, there's no way I would have let my daughter get into the car. I let them go with Connie and hoped for the best because I did not want to start a fight -- which I now feel was incredibly stupid. What should I do if this happens again? -- TRYING TO DO RIGHT IN MINNESOTA

DEAR TRYING TO DO RIGHT: Allowing the children to ride with a driver who reeked of alcohol was inexcusable. You are fortunate it wasn't a tragedy. If Sam doesn't know about this incident, he should be made aware of it.

Since you can't predict whether Connie will show up drunk or sober, in the future either you or your ex-husband must provide the transportation for the children.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I were married three years ago in a small ceremony. Since our wedding was small, we decided not to have bridesmaids or groomsmen. One of my husband's closest friends came to the ceremony, but claims he "got lost" on the way to the reception. Needless to say, he never made it to the reception, nor did he present us with a wedding gift.

Now, three years later, this friend is getting married. He has asked my husband to be a groomsman (requiring him to rent a $60 tuxedo), and has already invited us to a "pantry and tool" shower.

In light of the fact that he never bought us a wedding gift, I have a problem buying him a wedding gift, much less a shower gift.

How would you handle this? -- TICKED OFF IN TALLAHASSEE

DEAR TICKED OFF: If your husband accepts the honor of being a groomsman, he is obligated to buy a wedding gift. And if you and your husband attend the shower, you'll be expected to bring a shower gift. Let bygones be bygones.

DEAR ABBY: A young lady we work with had a baby. She was hoping it would be a girl. In fact, we all hoped she would have a daughter, so when we held a shower for her, many of us gave her gifts for a girl.

Well, the baby turned out to be a boy. And guess what? She sent the gifts back to us and asked US to exchange them for boy things.

Abby, I ask you, is that proper etiquette? Or should she have exchanged the gifts herself? -- PEEVED IN PITTSBURGH

DEAR PEEVED: Was it proper etiquette? Absolutely not! She should have quietly exchanged the gifts herself.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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