DEAR ABBY: One of my closest friends from childhood, "Penny," lost her husband of 30 years five months ago, after a short illness. We reconnected via the Internet and have become close again. It has been a blessing. Penny has moved back to California and has been to visit me a couple of times.
One of Penny's relatives signed her up on some online dating sites, and a seemingly nice man from across the country immediately contacted her with a beautiful email. She responded to him once, explaining her recent loss, and he has been courting her with extremely romantic daily emails ever since. Penny asked me for advice, and I told her that her loss is fresh and raw, and she should give herself time to grieve for her husband.
Penny has never been alone, and I know she's scared. However, I see big red flags and I'm worried about her. I advised that they should keep in casual contact, and if it's real now, it will still be real in another year. I think she needs time to heal. Should I stay out of it and mind my own business, or should I reiterate my concerns? -- CONFLICTED IN COASTAL CALIFORNIA
DEAR CONFLICTED: I see nothing wrong with continuing to share your thinking with your friend. You gave her good advice. Although some beautiful relationships have been formed online, this one seems to have blossomed unusually quickly.
Encourage Penny to take her time, invite him to visit eventually, and go visit him so she can meet his friends and family and get to know him better. If it turns out that remarriage is in the cards, then suggest that she contact her lawyer and have a pre-nuptial agreement in place before the wedding.
DEAR ABBY: We are in our late 40s and have two elementary school-age children. My husband and I are actively involved in our church and at our children's school. However, we have no friends we can just hang out with. We used to be part of a small group of friends from church, but one family had a falling out with the others. Somehow we got dragged into it, and now no one interacts with us anymore. The parents of our children's friends attend another church and have a group they're part of, but we are not.
When I was working, we could afford to have the kids in activities but there wasn't much time. Now that I am not working the time is there, but not the money. People our age have empty nests or are grandparents. We'd love to have friends, but we don't know how to resolve this. -- LEFT BEHIND IN SPARKS, NEV.
DEAR LEFT BEHIND: Why not invite your children's friends and their parents over? You already have something in common with them. If that doesn't work, a way to make new friends would be to sign your children up for affordable extra-curricular activities such as YMCA, YWCA, Little League or Scouting. That way, you'll meet other parents with similar interests. Another alternative would be for you and your husband to join a service club so you can meet others who contribute to the community. If you give it a try you will widen your circle of acquaintances, which can lead to friendships.
DEAR ABBY: My husband left me after 38 years of marriage. All my adult life I have been known personally and professionally as "Mrs. Brown." Now that I'm being divorced, can I legally still be known as Mrs. Brown? -- KEEPING MY NAME
DEAR KEEPING: Yes. Although you will no longer be "Mrs. John Brown," you will be Mrs. Julia Brown or Ms. Brown if you prefer.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)