DEAR HARRIETTE: I just learned that one of my cousins, who I always thought of as rich and settled, has to sell his house -- and fast. I thought the house was fully paid, since he has had it for many years. Instead, he had refinanced a few times when he had some financial bumps, and now he has a relatively low-paying job and can’t afford to pay the mortgage. I feel horrible for him. I know these things happen sometimes, but I think everybody thought of him as the one who was stable, if not wealthy. How can I be supportive of him when I still feel shocked by the news he shared with me? -- Incredulous, Seattle
DEAR INCREDULOUS: It must have taken a lot for your cousin to admit to you what’s going on in his life, especially given the image that you and others have had of him for years. But, as you noted, hard times can befall anyone. At least your cousin is trying to be practical and figure out what to do next to take care of himself.
Offer to be of support. Ask your cousin how you can help him. If he is selling his house, does he need help packing? Does he have items that might be of value for resale? Would it help for you to do research on that end? Volunteer to help your cousin make this transition as smooth as possible. Stay close to him so that he remembers that he is not alone.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My godmother sent me a note recently saying that she is proud of me for the woman I have become, but she is sad because we hardly speak to each other anymore. I read the note and had so many emotions come up. It is true that, when I was a little girl, we used to spend a lot of time together. She was the main baby sitter when my parents went out at night. She would come to my concerts at school and stuff like that. I went away to college, and we didn’t see each other much, but we did often see each other when I came home for holidays.
Now, I am in the early stages of my career. I don’t even talk to my mother that much these days. I work 10- to 12-hour days, and I don’t have much free time. I love my godmother and don’t want her to think that I am neglecting her, but I also don’t want her to guilt me into feeling bad for building my life. What can I do? -- Bad Goddaughter, Brooklyn, New York
DEAR BAD GODDAUGHTER: Rather than feel guilty, make a few amendments to your schedule. Add in a phone call once a month or so with your godmother. Start, though, by writing a note to her saying how much you love and appreciate her. Don’t apologize for being busy. Affirm the positive. Build in time to talk to your mother and your godmother. In the end, you will be happy that you made time for them.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)