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

DEAR ABBY: My sister-in-law writes family newsletters that she sends to all her siblings and their spouses. All of the names of the sisters-in-law are listed at the top of the letters except for my name -- which is conspicuously absent.

If my husband and I were newlyweds, I'd assume that this lack of courtesy was an innocent oversight. However, we're rapidly approaching our 25th wedding anniversary, and we have been married longer than any of the other siblings.

When I complain to my husband, he says I'm making too much out of it. Should he say something to his sister on my behalf, or should we both continue pretending not to notice? For the record, my sister-in-law and I have always been friendly to each other.

Please, Abby, don't reveal my name or location. I don't want to create any friction in the family or be embarrassed any further. -- HURT IN THE U.S.A.

DEAR HURT: I can't help but wonder why it has taken you nearly a quarter of a century to ask this question. Your husband should have dealt with this matter years ago. However, because he has not, my advice to you is to pick up the phone and humorously ask your sister-in-law if she's finally ready to "accept you into the family." And when she asks why you're asking that question -- point out her omission.

DEAR ABBY: My father-in-law in another state insists on sending inappropriate gifts to our daughters. For example, he sent our oldest daughter an expensive doll on her first birthday. The doll was designed for children ages 3 and up. We thanked him for the gift and stored it away for later use, since we were unable to return it without incurring significant shipping charges.

For Christmas, my father-in-law sent our 10-day-old baby a similar gift from the same store. I hate to see him continue this pattern and waste money on dolls that a newborn won't be able to enjoy for three years. I feel my husband should speak to his father about choosing age-appropriate gifts. However, I don't want him to think my husband and I are ungrateful, so we are hesitant to mention the issue to him. Please advise what, if anything, we should do about these gifts. -- NOT UNGRATEFUL IN TAMPA

DEAR NOT UNGRATEFUL: Use the personal approach. Call your father-in-law and thank him for his thoughtfulness and generosity. Then explain that the beautiful dolls he has been sending cannot be given to your daughters yet. Tell him that not only could the children hurt the dolls, the dolls could come apart and hurt the children. Your father-in-law may be clueless that very young children need special cuddly toys that can't hurt or choke them if they should come apart. You'll be doing both him and your daughters a favor.

DEAR ABBY: Some close friends, "Mary" and "Bob," are in the midst of a bitter divorce. I like both of them and would like to remain friends with them -- but how can I comfort and support one of them without seeming like a traitor to the other one, and vice versa?

Mary has already chewed me out for even talking to Bob. What should I do? -- IN THE MIDDLE

DEAR IN THE MIDDLE: As I see it, you have two choices -- speak to neither one until the divorce is final, or tell Mary that you are not community property and you have chosen to remain neutral because you care about them both. However, there is one caveat to the latter: If you refuse to side with Mary, she may interpret your "neutrality" as betrayal and dump YOU.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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

More like Dear Abby