DEAR HARRIETTE: The holidays are coming up, and I am in a bind. Usually, my family travels for Thanksgiving and Christmas to visit relatives. My husband recently lost his job, and I am a stay-at-home mom. We can’t afford the flights or even the road trip we normally take. We have to be frugal until we figure out how we will earn a living to take care of our family. We don’t really want to tell our extended family what’s going on. My husband is a proud man, and he doesn’t want to admit that he got laid off. I want to honor his wishes, but I don’t know what to tell the family. They will start worrying and wondering if we don’t tell them something. -- Dreading the Holidays, Pittsburgh
DEAR DREADING THE HOLIDAYS: You can tell your family you won’t be coming to visit them this year. With your husband’s permission, you can even say things are tight right now, and you need to save money, so you hope they understand. If they press you for details, you can remain vague. Many people are experiencing tight purse strings these days, so this shouldn’t be an unfamiliar idea. Your family will be surprised and saddened that you aren’t coming to visit, but if you are firm, they will have to understand. In terms of managing their concern, tell them you are OK. You have decided to make smart decisions for this lean moment in your lives.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a junior in college, and I have been active in my student government since I was in middle school. I have always wanted to get into politics, and I’m getting closer to my goal. My concern is that things are getting ugly in politics these days. It seems like it might be uglier than in the past. At my school the students don’t argue respectfully across parties. They have gotten into fistfights and nasty name-calling already this year. I look at Congress and see that very little is getting done. Am I being naïve to think I can make a difference? I want to be practical and effective. -- Future Politician, Denver
DEAR FUTURE POLITICIAN: The political landscape does seem particularly nasty these days, but believe it or not, this is not unusual. People have different views about values, money and how the country should be run, and those warring views sometimes lead to volatile discussions and behaviors. It is for those reasons that it is important for smart, committed people to enter the field of politics. Our country needs great thinkers and committed workers to stand up for their point of view and help to make our world a better place.
The United States is often called “the great experiment in democracy.” Our country makes an effort to allow all lines of thinking to be heard and considered. This often makes for messy conversations and plenty of tension. The great news is that it also makes it possible for us to come together and compromise toward the greater good of our people. We need you. Please jump in.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)