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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband's best friend gave us a very generous gift for our toddler. However, it arrived with the news that the baby he and his girlfriend are expecting may have serious complications, which could result in termination of the pregnancy. Abby, I am also expecting.

I know I should send them a thank-you note, but I don't want to sound overly cheerful when someone is obviously suffering. Is there a way to appropriately express our thanks in writing while still being sensitive? I want to show my concern without overstepping my boundaries. -- LOST FOR WORDS

DEAR LOST: My advice is to stay on message. Thank the man for his generous gift and say how much it is appreciated. If you wish to express concern for the difficult time they are going through, do so without going into detail. It's sufficient to say that he and his girlfriend are in your thoughts and prayers. Make no reference to your own pregnancy because in this communication it's not relevant.

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics | Friends & Neighbors

DEAR ABBY: I work with the public and make small talk all day long. At the end of a busy day, I like to go to a neighborhood restaurant by myself for a quiet dinner. My problem is the owner, "Giovanni." He's a very nice man, and he'll sit down at my table to chat, often for the entire meal. To complicate matters, he speaks limited English and conversation with him is a chore.

I can't think of a polite way to ask that I be left alone without hurting his feelings and making future visits awkward. Any suggestions? -- HUNGRY AND TIRED IN THE EAST

DEAR H AND T: A polite way to do it would be to say, "Giovanni, I like you very much. But I have had a hard day. All I want to do is sit down, eat my food and stare into space. Please understand." Unless he is very new to the hospitality business, he should regard that as his cue to back off.

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics

Shrunken Laundry Grows Into A Chronic Problem

DEAR ABBY: I live with my parents and when my mom does laundry, she always asks me if I want to throw any of my clothes in with hers and vice versa. The problem is, when the cycle is finished, she throws everything into the dryer -- even items that will shrink or wrinkle. I've asked her not to do it, but she persists.

Now, I know what you're going to say: "Do your own laundry." I have tried. But if Mom hears the wash finish before I do, she goes out and chucks everything into the dryer. Last week she shrank half my socks.

I can't think of a solution aside from doing my laundry when she is out of the house, which would be difficult because she's retired. I'm starting to get frustrated. Any ideas? -- FRUSTRATED IN COLUMBUS

DEAR FRUSTRATED: If your mother is also forgetting other things, it's possible she may be in the early stages of dementia. However, if that's not the case, then your solution is practical -- or consider taking your things to a laundromat. It would be less expensive than constantly having to buy new socks.

Read more in: Family & Parenting

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.)