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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband purchased a bag of individually wrapped frozen chicken breasts during his lunch break. After work, we took our kids to a concert and didn't return home until 8 p.m. The bag of chicken was in his trunk for seven hours on a hot summer day.

My husband thought it was OK to refreeze the meat and feed this to our kids, ages 6 and 2. I adamantly disagreed. What are your thoughts? We've had this argument before. -- NO WAY! IN SAN JOSE

DEAR NO WAY!: Your husband is seriously off base. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, "cold food" -- such as chicken, fish, raw meat -- should be purchased just before leaving the market and the shopper should plan to drive directly home. Always refrigerate perishable food within two hours, and when the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, it should be refrigerated within one hour! Food left in the car for the length of time your husband did is no longer fit for human consumption and could have made your children seriously ill.

Readers, for the answers to food safety questions, the USDA can be contacted on the Internet at Submit a question there and it will be answered. The USDA also has a Meat and Poultry Hotline, (888) 674-6854, which is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

DEAR ABBY: My ex-husband and I divorced seven years ago. He has remarried, and I also recently married again. He is still bitter toward me. His emotional abuse was partly to blame for our split, although I was not entirely without fault. I made mistakes, too, which I regret.

Two of my children hold me responsible for the divorce and continually throw my mistakes back in my face. I walk on eggshells around them. I have apologized repeatedly and asked their forgiveness. I'm afraid of losing contact with my grandchildren every time one of my kids becomes upset about the past.

I have been to counseling, but was told I just have to be happy with me. Is there a way my children can finally forgive me for the past? I'm not a bad person, just a flawed one. -- HUMAN IN ONTARIO, CANADA

DEAR HUMAN: We're all flawed, including your children. If they are determined that blame for the divorce falls solely on you, while absolving your emotionally abusive husband, nothing you or I can do will change their minds.

You have paid your therapist good money for the sensible advice you received, so please heed it. The longer you continue to walk on eggshells and tolerate the treatment you are receiving, the longer it will continue. Concentrate on your own life, and far more happiness will result than what you're experiencing now.

DEAR ABBY: Many letters you print come from women who seem shocked because they've ended up with men who have little or no character. However, I have never dated a man who could hide his true colors longer than six months.

You often advise these women to seek counseling or an attorney, but for the millions of women who haven't yet made these mistakes, how about a shout-out for prevention? Amazingly, not getting legally attached and not allowing yourself to become pregnant by a man you've known only a few weeks isn't considered common sense anymore.

The heart is ungovernable, but people do have absolute control over using birth control and getting married. What percentage of women's problems do you think could be avoided if, for the first year of dating someone, they used birth control 100 percent of the time and didn't rush to get married? -- PERPLEXED IN PEORIA

DEAR PERPLEXED: I'd say about 50 percent -- but I may be underestimating by a long shot.

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