DEAR ABBY: My husband is threatening to leave and my 9-year-old daughter is distraught because I am embarrassed about our home and our cars. We live in an affluent suburb, but we're not one of the rich families. My daughter wants to invite friends from school over, but I'm mortified about their parents seeing our home or cars.
I know these things shouldn't matter. I love my husband, but he says I'm ruining our daughter's self-esteem and disrespecting him by being embarrassed by a life he works hard to provide. What's wrong with me, and how can I get past this? I don't want to lose my family. -- EMBARRASSED IN OHIO
DEAR EMBARRASSED: What makes a home warm and welcoming isn't whether it has been professionally decorated. Your problem isn't that you're ashamed of your house or cars. It's that you lack confidence in who you are. Your feelings stem less from what material things you lack than misplaced priorities.
When your daughter's friends visit, cookies in the oven, a welcoming smile and a willing ear if one of them needs a trusted adult in whom to confide will be more appreciated than whether your couch is new or there's a late-model car in the driveway. Many children from families who supposedly "have everything" are starved for plain old-fashioned personal attention.
I often recommend psychological counseling, but in your case, perhaps you would be better served by talking to a spiritual adviser about the difficulty you're having with appreciating how much you have for which to be thankful.
DEAR ABBY: I met "Greta" when I was in the Army Reserves. We fell in love, despite the fact that her parents disapproved of me. I come from a working-class background and Greta's family was considerably more well-off. We didn't care -- we wanted a future together.
Greta told me she had broken up with her former boyfriend because he was domineering. She assured me the relationship was over, and I believed her.
Shortly before I was discharged, Greta told me she was carrying my baby. I left for home with plans to send for her and marry her before our child was born. I lined up a job and a place to live. Several months later, Greta phoned to say she had had a baby girl. She said her parents had made her give our daughter up for adoption and asked me never to contact her again.
I honored her wishes, but I worried for years about Greta and our child. Eventually I married and had two daughters and a son. Five years ago, with the help of my children who are technologically savvy, we located my lost daughter, "Lily," and welcomed her into the family.
To cement our relationship, I had a paternity test performed recently and was shocked to learn I am NOT Lily's father. Greta still insists that I am, but DNA doesn't lie. Greta put my name on Lily's birth certificate. Lily blames herself for this mess, which is unfounded, and now says it's too painful to see me and my family again. I am so sorry for Lily and her children, who thought they were my grandchildren. What can we do? -- CRUSHED IN NEW YORK
DEAR CRUSHED: Write Lily and tell her that you were overjoyed when you found her, and that blood-related or not, you will always love her and her children. Perhaps if she reads it she will realize that in some cases we build families not just from DNA, but also from mutual need and caring. That's all you can do for now.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)