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

DEAR ABBY: My father-in-law was born during the Depression. My question is, what is a safe amount of time to be able to eat meat from the freezer?

We have noticed items that are more than 5 years old that my father-in-law insists are still good, "... you just cut off the freezer burn." We're afraid he's going to poison himself. -- CONCERNED DAUGHTER-IN-LAW, WELLINGTON, COLO.

DEAR CONCERNED: According to Mike Herndon, media spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration, meat can be frozen "almost indefinitely." However, it must be stored constantly at zero degrees to be safe. Freezer burn does not make food unsafe, but may affect the quality.

The following are freezer storage times for quality only: uncooked roasts, steaks or chops, four to 12 months; whole poultry, 12 months; poultry parts, nine months. Also, it's a good idea to check for odor after meat and poultry have been frozen for too long. If there is a rancid smell, obviously, do not use it.

DEAR ABBY: A new employee, "Nicki," was recently hired at the company where I work. A group of us eat lunch together, and we have tried to make Nicki as welcome as possible by asking her to join our table.

Usually our conversation consists of talk about our families or a movie we saw recently, but Nicki always seems to interject a piece of information that is so private as to be inappropriate. Recently she confided that her husband had cheated on her, and that he had been arrested for theft.

Lunchtime has become less pleasant because this woman seems to have no boundaries. How can I politely let her know that giving too much information about her private life makes me (and other employees) uncomfortable? -- SQUIRMING IN COLUMBIA, S.C.

DEAR SQUIRMING: The woman has my sympathy. She is trying to bond with you folks in the only way she knows how. It would not be impolite to take her aside and quietly tell her that it isn't necessary to air her dirty laundry in order to make friends at the company. You will be doing her a favor. Please do it now.

DEAR ABBY: When our grandchildren come to visit, their parents do not discipline them. When our children visited our parents, we made sure they behaved. As a matter of fact, we did it no matter where they went.

What do you do when the parents do not attend to their children? When I served Christmas dinner, they did not insist that their 6-year-old join the family. He was allowed to continue playing videos. How do I let them know there are rules here?

It hurts my feelings when my grandchildren treat my good furniture as a playground. I don't see them often, but I'd rather skip having them in my home and visit them. However, my children rarely offer to host the holidays. What's a person to do? -- CONFUSED GRANDMA IN INDIANA

DEAR CONFUSED: I'd suggest a two-pronged approach. Ask your children to inform the grandkids that when they visit their grandparents there are certain rules of conduct that must be observed -- and that includes sharing mealtime together and not jumping on or off the furniture. And then, if the youngsters don't behave, take them aside and explain that they may act that way in their parents' home, but not in yours because you have rules -- and tell them exactly what kind of behavior you expect from them.

The longer you remain silent, the longer your problem will continue.

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 $6 (U.S. funds) 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

More like Dear Abby