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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: For a grandmother fighting leukemia, a child battling sickle cell anemia, or a parent awaiting a liver transplant, a safe and available blood supply is more than a wish -- it's a necessity. Our goal is to ensure that blood is available to patients when they need it.

We encourage our nation's citizens to donate blood. Our call to action comes at a time when blood supplies are perilously low.

Blood has a shelf life of only 42 days. The supply must be constantly replenished. Donors can safely give blood up to six times a year. To avert shortages, please ask your readers to donate.

Blood donation is safe and takes only one hour. To be eligible to donate, you must be at least 17 years of age (some states permit younger teens to donate with parental consent), weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. The single unit of blood you donate could help to save the lives of up to three people.

To learn more about donating blood and to locate a nearby blood collection facility, contact one of the following organizations today: American Association of Blood Banks: (866) 376-6968 or www.aabb.org; American Red Cross: (800) 448-3543 or www.redcross.org; America's Blood Centers: (888) 872-5663 or www.americasblood.org.

-- KAREN SHOOS LIPTON, CEO, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF BLOOD BANKS

DEAR KAREN: I'm pleased to pass along your important message. No one can predict when a life-threatening emergency might strike -- and a national blood supply is something many of us take for granted. This is something that can affect all of us, so, my friends, let's roll up our sleeves and make sure that our hospitals and emergency centers are well stocked.

DEAR ABBY: While I was still married, I began dating "Alvin," a man I met through work. I then divorced my husband -- the marriage wasn't good anyway -- and moved in with Alvin. It meant giving up most of my friends and also my lifestyle.

Alvin gets mad if I wear something he thinks is "too tight" or "too revealing," He goes wherever he wants whenever he wants, but he gets upset if I even visit my parents. He is nasty to one of my children, and I feel like I'm constantly defending my child.

To make a long story short, our lease is up in a few weeks, and Alvin's been hinting that he and I will be moving separately.

I have a chance to rent a wonderful apartment, and I am starting to think I should take it no matter what happens with Alvin, but I'm scared to death to be on my own.

Should I cut my losses and move on with my children? I hate to say this, but I think I still love Alvin and the security he provides.

I have no clue what to do, but I do know I am afraid. -- NEVER BEEN ON MY OWN

DEAR NEVER: The security he provides? It sounds more like "maximum security" to me. You are living with a man who is controlling, abusive to your child and hinting that he's through with you. You may be afraid, but it's time to move out and move on. It's better for everyone's sake. You'll find emotional support if you look for it. Join Parents Without Partners (800-637-7974 or www.parentswithoutpartners.org) or join the YWCA. Emotional support is available if you make up your mind to reach out for it.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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