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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm a stay-at-home mom with a 10-year-old daughter. We live in a complex that houses about 250 people.

I'm a naturally friendly person, but also very private. When the weather is warm, I love having my shades up and my windows open. My daughter enjoys the fresh air, so she's out in the yard often. Because of this, some of my neighbors -- possibly bored -- take it upon themselves to "pop in" for a visit when they see we're home. I don't invite them over, and I don't want company. This happens more than once a day with the same people.

I have tried making excuses ("I'm in the middle of something," "I'm cooking dinner," "I have company"), but it doesn't work. I have also said, "We're just getting ready to leave," but it soon becomes obvious that we weren't going anywhere. People have gotten mad and they now label me a "snob" -- among other things.

I don't want to spend my life in the house hiding with my daughter, but I also don't want to entertain people who come over uninvited. Abby, I am not a snob. I just love doing whatever I'm doing uninterrupted -- even if what I'm doing is nothing at all. Please help. -- NICE, PRIVATE LADY IN ILLINOIS

DEAR NICE, PRIVATE LADY: I don't know what etiquette book your neighbors have read, but they have a lot of nerve dropping by unannounced and expecting you to drop whatever you are doing to entertain them.

It is not rude or snobbish to defend your privacy. You were too nice to them to begin with by making excuses. What you should have said was, "I'm not up for company right now. Please call to see if I'm free before dropping over next time."

DEAR ABBY: Three people have helped me make lemonade out of life's lemons -- a patient and talented therapist, a beloved pastor and you. After 50 years, here are my top 10 Dear Abby lessons:

1. No one can "make" you unhappy. You have choices.

2. The healthiest way to cure depression? Volunteer your hands and your heart.

3. The best advice for raising children? Remember that you raise them to let them go.

4. The best person with whom to discuss marital difficulties? Your spouse. Complaining to others may make you feel better for a day, but it will be at the expense of your marriage.

5. Don't "protect" those you love from the pain that will heal them.

6. Never criticize without working toward a solution, particularly when it comes to politics.

7. Never forget abuse nor tolerate it again, but do forgive the abuser.

8. What (and whom) you love is not shown through words but by where you devote your time, your energy and money.

9. You are what you eat, read and watch on TV.

10. Life is linear. Make every moment matter. -- A SURVIVOR IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

DEAR SURVIVOR: I'm flattered that you have learned so many life lessons from reading the Dear Abby column. However, one of the items you listed in your letter did not come from me or my mother before me. It's No. 7. I have never written that a victim of abuse should feel obligated to forgive the abuser.

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.)