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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a plus-sized woman who finds it difficult to squeeze into a tiny restroom stall. I frequently use the stall for people with disabilities because it's larger.

A few years ago, when I was traveling with my mother, we made a pit stop and, as usual, I headed for the large stall. Mom was horrified. She said the large stalls should be treated the same as parking places for people with disabilities and used only by those who are disabled.

I told her I disagreed, thinking that a few moments in the potty is different from a few hours in a parking space. Was my mother right? Her voice still rings in my ears every time I step into the larger stall. I'd appreciate your input. Maybe it'll silence my mother's voice. -- JENNIFER IN MAINE

DEAR JENNIFER: Because you have difficulty fitting into a regular stall, I see nothing wrong with using the larger one. If a woman in a wheelchair entered the bathroom at the same time as you, then good manners would dictate that you defer to her because she'd be unable to use a smaller one. However, there's no reason for the stall to be kept empty at all times, so stop being so hard on yourself.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have two children, a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. He has been deployed since June. We talk frequently on the phone, and I have been managing well since his deployment.

My problem is, I'm afraid I have managed too well. I am terrified that when he gets back we will have grown apart. I am so used to doing things on my own now that I'm not sure I will be able to go back to our "normal" routine of his helping me with the kids.

Abby, what are your thoughts? We love each other very much and had a wonderful relationship before he deployed, but I don't know how well you can gauge a relationship over the phone and via e-mail. -- ARMY WIFE IN MISSISSIPPI

DEAR ARMY WIFE: The feelings you're having are not unusual for spouses whose partners are in the military. The repeated separations are painful and wrenching for all the family members involved. I have a deep respect for the spouses of military personnel who must adapt to long separations and the reunions that follow.

Of course there will be a period of adjustment when your husband returns. It will take understanding and compromise on the part of both of you. If you love each other, you will work it out -- with counseling if necessary. And should you hit a rough patch, please don't hesitate to reach out for it.

DEAR ABBY: My husband lost his son a few years back. His death was sudden and unexpected. We had no children of our own, but I had a wonderful relationship with my stepson.

When people ask if I have children, I'm never quite sure how to respond. On the one hand, I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable by telling them my stepson is deceased, but I also don't feel right not acknowledging him. Any advice on how to handle this kind of question? -- STEPMOM IN OTTAWA, ONTARIO, CANADA

DEAR STEPMOM: I'm sorry for the loss of your stepson. When you are asked, my advice is to be honest. Say, "I had a stepson with whom I was very close, but he passed away a few years ago."

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