DEAR ABBY: I'm the youngest of four sisters. The oldest sister is the only one who has children -- three girls under the age of 12. I'm a high school teacher who works about 60 hours a week during the school year between teaching, grading, attending meetings, completing paperwork, tutoring before and after school, and planning lessons.
My second-oldest sister wants to plan an elaborate road trip this summer that involves renting an RV and driving cross-country with our nieces to visit Disneyland. She feels that since I have the summer off, I should be more than happy to go on this trek.
I love my students and nieces, but by the time summer rolls around, the last thing I want to do is spend a week or more in a camper with kids. I told her I have some summer training to go to, which is true, hoping she would drop the subject. She hasn't. I don't want my sister's or my nieces' feelings to be hurt, but I flat-out don't want to do this. What can I tell them? -- SWEATING IT OUT IN THE SOUTH
DEAR SWEATING IT OUT: Forgive me if this is blasphemy, but Disneyland isn't everyone's cup of tea. That's why it's time to tell your sisters the truth. You deserve a child-free summer break if you want one, and that fact should not be regarded as a personal insult to anyone.
DEAR ABBY: I have worked with a woman for a little more than a year. Her daughter is having a baby. I have never met her daughter, but hear only negative stories about her and her boyfriend, who both live with this co-worker.
Today in the mail I received an invitation to this daughter's baby shower. I was told by another co-worker that we all (seven office people) are invited, although none of us have ever met her. I am surprised the woman I work with would do this. Does it seem strange to you, and should I feel guilty because I have no desire to go? Because of the invite, I feel I "should" give a small gift, but I'm sort of miffed about it. If you were me, how would you handle this? -- CONFUSED CO-WORKER
DEAR CONFUSED: The daughter and her boyfriend are living with your co-worker because they don't have enough money to live on their own. I don't know the reason for that, and neither do you. It's fair to assume that they will need things for their baby. I agree that by sending you an invitation to the shower, she has put you on the spot, but I can understand her doing it.
If I were you, in the interest of solidarity as well as charity, I would send a small baby gift -- or consider a group gift with your other co-workers. Because I had heard nothing positive about the mother-to-be, I would send with it my regrets for being unable to attend.
DEAR ABBY: After I retired, I wrote a book. I sent a copy to old friends at no charge. Upon receipt, they gave lukewarm thanks and criticized me for not personalizing it by handwriting a few words to them.
How should I deal with these people who often tend to criticize? -- PUZZLED IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR PUZZLED: Some people feel that an inscription in a book makes it a more personal gift. That said, "deal" with it by accepting the criticism graciously and offer to autograph your book for them if they will return it to you.
To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.