DEAR ABBY: When my wife, "Kiki," and I married three years ago, I had been divorced for 11 years, and she had been widowed for eight.
The problem we're having is she continues to want to spend the holidays with her deceased husband's family. They are nice people, but I don't feel comfortable with it. Kiki and I have talked about starting our own traditions, but she insists that she doesn't want to cut those ties. Sometimes I feel like I am living with a ghost.
I have spoken to other members of her family. They have agreed that she needs to cut those ties, but my wife is stubborn about changing her holiday routine. Your thoughts on this, please? -- LIVING WITH A GHOST IN KANSAS
DEAR LIVING WITH A GHOST: You didn't mention how long your wife was married before she was widowed, but it seems that it was long enough that she became part of her in-laws' family. Please don't take that away from her. If you give them a chance, I am sure they will accept you as part of the family, too.
Of course, the solution to your problem lies in compromise. Not every holiday should be spent with the former in-laws -- but that doesn't mean you couldn't alternate. And that's what I recommend you do until you establish different traditions.
DEAR ABBY: I have a friend I'll call "J.D.," who is being abused by his father. It started after his mother died, when J.D. was 6.
I have known about the abuse for some time, but it recently went to extremes. J.D. called another friend, crying, asking for the number of a suicide hotline. I called J.D. the next day asking if he was all right, and he said that despite almost stabbing himself, he was fine.
I am really concerned, but I can't tell anyone. If I do, it might get back to his father who will take it out on him. J.D. insists that he doesn't need help, even though he hates his father and is hit regularly. It kills me to see my friend this way. Please give me some advice on what to do because I am truly confused and concerned. -- TRUE FRIEND IN MASSACHUSETTS
DEAR TRUE FRIEND: Some secrets are meant to be kept, and others are not. When you know that someone is in so much pain he or she is talking about committing suicide, it is time to see that person gets help. You can do that for J.D. by telling your parents, a teacher or counselor at school or your cleryperson. Educators and the clergy are mandated by law to report physical abuse when they know it is going on.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 21-year-old working part time at a grocery store as a checker and a bagger. I make $7 per hour. Part of my job involves helping customers carry groceries out to their vehicles. I have never expected any compensation for this service, and I have always politely refused any tips that are offered.
Unfortunately, some of these tipping customers can be very insistent about giving me money. One woman even asked me if I felt that I was "too good" to accept a gift from her!
I really don't feel that I should be tipped like a waiter, but I also don't want to get into a verbal scuffle. What would be the best way to turn down a tip in cases like these? -- TONY IN TOPEKA
DEAR TONY: When someone offers to tip you, it's usually because they feel you have "gone the extra mile" to be of assistance. There are two ways to handle a customer who persists in offering one after you have refused it. The first is to accept the money graciously, in the spirit it was offered. The second is to tell the person that it is "against company policy."
To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)