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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman Feels No Barriers With Pen Pal Behind Bars

DEAR ABBY: I have been writing to an inmate from the Florida prison system for about two years. It has slowly developed into more than a friendship. "Mike" is a born-again Christian, as am I. He doesn't get out until 2013 at the earliest, so we have plenty of time to see where this goes.

Am I wrong for considering someone who is in prison? Mike has made mistakes, nothing violent, and has turned his life around. If he does become part of my life, how do I introduce him to my family so they may better accept him?

Abby, I'm 54. I lost my husband seven years ago. It is nice to have someone in my life again. We have talked on the phone, and it feels like we have known each other our whole lives. Am I crazy? -- SMITTEN IN NEW YORK

DEAR SMITTEN: Crazy? No. Gullible? Possibly. Please forgive me if I seem cynical, but more than one devout, vulnerable, lonely woman has been taken advantage of by an inmate with whom she corresponded. That's why, before allowing yourself to become more emotionally involved, you should contact the warden of the prison and verify that what "Mike" has been telling you is the gospel truth. If it is -- fine. If it's not, for your own sake, end the correspondence immediately.

P.S. As to how to introduce him to your family, if it comes to that, be completely honest and tell them he's your pen pal. If you're not, they'll find out eventually anyway.

DEAR ABBY: I am a vegan who is constantly pestered by uninvited comments like, "You're not getting the proper nutrition," or "That looks disgusting," or "You should just give it up." I wouldn't dream of making such rude comments to others about their diet. What one eats is his or her own business.

My husband -- an omnivore -- and I have decided to raise our child vegan. He can choose whatever diet he prefers when he is older and educated about them. We work with a pediatric nutritionist to ensure that our son gets all the nutrients he needs. We make him pureed fresh vegetables, fruits, grains and more for almost every meal.

We are now getting comments from family and friends who feel we're practically abusing our son. I believe people make these comments because they are ignorant about this lifestyle. I have asked them to stop, but they continue. What can I do to stop the unwarranted harassment? -- SICK OF THE COMMENTS IN BALTIMORE

DEAR SICK: Is your child's pediatrician aware of the diet you have him on? Is your pediatric nutritionist a member of the American Dietetic Association? Have you told the individuals making these comments that you are working with a professional to be sure your little one is getting everything he needs? If the answer to my questions is yes and the questioners persist, refer them to your nutritionist for reassurance.

DEAR ABBY: How do you mend a broken heart? -- TEARS ON MY PILLOW

DEAR TEARS: By staying busy. By avoiding the "old reminders," which tend to make you moody and broody. By putting away or getting rid of the photographs, cards and gifts that make you sad -- unless you enjoy punishing yourself. And by staying in the present.

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.)