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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have discovered a terrific way to maintain a close long-distance relationship with our grandchildren who live several thousand miles away.

Kyle is 5 and Sarah is 3. Their attention spans are not yet long enough to allow extended phone conversations between visits, so we came up with the following idea. It works not only for the grandchildren and for us, it also gives their parents a break.

On the weekends, my husband and I visit our local bookstore and buy two identical "easy-reader" books. We keep one and send the other to the grandkids. Then, on a designated night each week, we call just before bedtime and read them their "night-night" story. Both children are snuggled in bed -- one with the bedroom phone and the other with a cordless phone. The children can read along with us because they have the same book we have.

After the story, the kids are eager to talk about it and other things.

We know that Kyle and Sarah go to bed at least one night a week secure in the knowledge that they are loved by their grandparents as well as their parents. An added bonus that should not be overlooked is that they are developing a love of books as well. -- CONNIE SAMPSELL, OVERLAND PARK, KAN.

DEAR CONNIE: You and your husband have come up with a wonderful method of building a strong relationship with your grandchildren and a clever means of building literacy. I congratulate you both.

DEAR ABBY: Four years ago I moved to a new town where I knew one person from a previous job. Over the years, our friendship has grown very close, and she has introduced me to many other people who have also become my friends.

A few weeks ago, I dropped by my friend's house on the spur of the moment and walked into a dinner/card party that included a group of these friends. I was very hurt and upset that I had not been invited.

My friend is angry with me for being upset and insists that there is no reason to be hurt. The six people included are all couples. I am single and admit I often feel left out.

Please advise. It's tough being single in a world that revolves around couples. Abby, do you think I'm being unreasonable or too sensitive? -- JUST ONE IN CORONA DEL MAR, CALIF.

DEAR JUST ONE: Yes, I do think you are being unreasonable. As close as you may feel to your friend, she is under no obligation to invite you to every gathering she hosts.

Since you often feel left out because you are single, begin exploring activities in your community for singles. It may also make you less dependent on your friend, which will be healthier for both of you.

DEAR ABBY: I have always wondered how to address food servers in restaurants. Do you call them "Sir" or "Miss" or "Waiter"? It is hard to call a food server "Miss" when she's more than 50 years old and may be married. See what I mean? -- RONALD IN OCEAN SPRINGS, MISS.

DEAR RONALD: Yes, I do see what you mean. Politely ask for the server's name, and use it.

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