DEAR ABBY: Years ago, I bought a beautiful little cottage in the North Carolina mountains as a second home. I feel very lucky to be able to afford such a luxury and have always been generous, sharing it with family and friends. However, it has reached the point where people constantly ask to use it.
Abby, my guests have left holes in cushions, bubble gum on couches and someone's child even peed in the bed. Only once in 10 years was I left with a thank-you note and a gift card to a local store. Most of the time I find a bottle of cheap wine. (I don't drink.)
How can I stop this? I'm being taken advantage of. I know I'm partly at fault for being so generous. This cottage was bought for me, my children and grandchildren to enjoy. -- TOO GENEROUS
DEAR TOO GENEROUS: People can be taken advantage of only if they allow it. You need to learn to say no. And when (not if) you are asked why you no longer allow friends and family to use the cottage in your absence, tell the individuals exactly what you have told me about your reasons.
DEAR ABBY: How do you deal with having a mental disorder? I have quite a few, and I wish I didn't. At work, I feel inadequate because I'm a few steps behind everyone mentally, emotionally and socially. At home I feel the same way. The meds I take help, but I still feel inadequate.
Abby, how do I deal with these feelings? I rarely talk to my dad about it. I find more comfort in putting my feelings down on paper than talking about them with my dad. What should I do? -- FRUSTRATED GIRL IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR FRUSTRATED: One way to deal with your feelings would be to remember that everyone -- not just you -- has challenges. Some people find it helpful to talk about their feelings with others who are fighting similar battles. You might feel better if you find a support group to join so you won't feel so isolated. To locate one, you and your dad should contact NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Its website is nami.org, and the toll-free helpline to call is (800) 950-6264.
DEAR ABBY: My question has to do with a present I bought for a friend's birthday. It was a gift certificate for a spa. Unfortunately, when she went to use it, the doors were locked and the place had shut down. I was very upset and embarrassed. Should I have replaced it even though I didn't have the money? -- UPSET AND EMBARRASSED
DEAR UPSET: You bought the gift certificate in good faith. It wasn't your fault that the spa went out of business, and you shouldn't feel guilty.
I do not think people should spend money they don't have, and you shouldn't feel obligated to do so. Explore any possible recourse for getting reimbursement for the gift certificate. If you paid for it with a credit card, your provider may credit you back the money.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)