Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

House Clutter May Disguise Problems That Run Deeper

DEAR ABBY: My husband has been working out of the country for almost a year. Since he's been gone, I have turned into a housekeeping slob. I have a demanding job where I pick up the slack for missing personnel. I am one of a few musicians at church on Sundays. In addition, I'm struggling with a chronic back problem. I'm overwhelmed.

Cleaning the house has taken a back seat to all the other things I do, and now it is full of clutter. It's out of control.

Most of the time I feel like I don't care. How can I get out of this slump? I feel guilty when I watch my neighbors taking care of their homes. Please help me get going. -- NOT MOTIVATED IN ORANGE, CALIF.

DEAR NOT: Has it occurred to you that you might be depressed by your husband's long absence? The first thing to do is schedule an appointment with your physician for a complete check-up and a frank talk. Once that's done, ask a friend or two if they'll help you with the house over a weekend. Treat them to dinner and a movie afterward. Of course, for the same amount of money, you could probably hire someone to help you, but enlisting the help of friends would be more fun. And from my perspective, contact with friends is what you need right now. Good luck.

DEAR ABBY: There is a husband and wife in our church who drive everyone crazy. We live in a small rural area and most of our congregation are simple, modest folk.

These people live in a neighboring town in a very pretentious, affluent neighborhood. They drive an expensive SUV and are extravagant in everything they do. Their children misbehave often, and the whole family acts like they're better than everyone else. They are all spoiled, lacking in discipline, and seem to have behavior or emotional problems. Despite their bravado, they don't realize that everybody can see through them.

Maybe if you remind these individuals that God can see them, whether they are in church or not, they'll know they aren't fooling anyone. -- MISERABLE METHODIST IN NEW YORK

DEAR MISERABLE METHODIST: God can see you, too. And he has asked me to relay this message: "Happy are they who tend to their own gardens and waste not their time complaining about their neighbors' shortcomings."

DEAR ABBY: For three years in high school, I was sexually harassed by a boy I'll call "Tim." When he graduated, I thought my troubles were over. They're not. Due to a disability, I will not be going away to college. Tim is not going away for the same reason. We will both be attending the same community college.

I have contacted the head of security at the college and will be speaking to him soon.

How do I keep Tim from destroying my dignity like he did in high school? I am terrified of him. -- FEARFUL IN OHIO

DEAR FEARFUL: First of all, let's hope this young man has matured past the point where he would harass you. Neither of you are children anymore.

You are doing the right thing to take your concerns to the head of security. If that fails to resolve the problem, document any and all incidents and promptly report the harassment to the police department.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $10 (U.S. funds)

to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111; (816) 932-6600