DEAR ABBY: I'm a 27-year-old woman who still lives at home. I do it so I can help my mom with my five nieces and nephews. Their mother passed away suddenly in 2009 at the age of 30. My mom and stepdad kept them rather than scatter them to fathers who don't appear very interested in them.
Since my sister's death I have earned two degrees, entered the health care field and have lost almost 140 pounds. Despite what I have accomplished, I feel I have nothing to show for myself. When I point my accomplishments out to myself, they don't seem like a heck of a lot. What can I do so I can stop feeling like a loser? -- LOST IN THE NORTHEAST
DEAR LOST: A loser? From where I sit, you appear to be not only a caring daughter, but also an intellectually accomplished young woman who is being very hard on herself. If you feel you haven't accomplished a lot, I have to question the yardstick you're using.
It's time you discussed your feelings with a licensed mental health professional who can help you understand what is causing your low self-esteem. If you do, it may help you be kinder to yourself, because what's currently going on in your head is unfair to you and destructive.
DEAR ABBY: I work in a buffet restaurant. I wish you would alert your readers to how waste increases the costs at restaurants like this one. And then people complain because the cost of the food goes up!
I have seen customers stick their fingers or used utensils into pans of food to taste it before serving themselves. And instead of the tongs we provide, they use their hands to help themselves to chicken, bread, etc.
The fact is that once anyone touches the food with his or her hands or eating utensil, the restaurant is required by the health code to dispose of the entire pan of food. This causes tremendous waste. Customers also overfill their plates only to throw half the food away. It makes me sad because so many people in this world are hungry.
I have seen children run around, making a mess of the dessert bar, and especially the ice cream and drink stations. Their parents seem to think it's "cute."
I wish you would remind your readers to use common sense when dining out and to please control their children. The parents should serve food to their little ones who don't know better. -- FRUSTRATED BUFFET WORKER, PUEBLO, COLO.
DEAR FRUSTRATED: Children can't practice behavior they haven't been taught, and parents who don't take the time to explain proper behavior to their little ones are shirking their responsibility.
As to adults who have so little understanding of hygiene -- or consideration for others -- that they put their hands or used utensils into food that is meant for others, well -- perhaps after being reminded that it raises the prices they have to pay, they'll think twice about it. But don't bet on it.
DEAR ABBY: I was wondering what is the appropriate level of give and take in a friendship? I notice that in some relationships I am always giving and never receiving, where in others I am always receiving. How do you know when a balance is reached? -- JAKE IN ALBANY, GA.
DEAR JAKE: There is give and take in all healthy relationships. A "balance is reached" when you can give without feeling used, and take without feeling guilty that you're being given too much.
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)