Dear Abby: I have a close friend who recently had a baby with serious health problems. Unfortunately, we live on opposite sides of the country, and I can’t afford to fly out there. I want to help, but short of calls and texts to let her know I’m thinking of her, I’m out of ideas.
She’s mentioned several times that with all the work of being a new parent plus the extra work involved with a child with special needs, she often doesn’t have time to prepare healthy meals and reverts to junk food that she can grab easily. Ordinarily, I’d bring over a few meals to help out, but that’s impossible to do when she’s so far away.
Restaurant gift cards would be an option, but unfortunately she and her husband don’t have the time to go to one. I’m hoping you might have other ideas on how I can help out from afar.
— Puzzled About Helping
Dear Puzzled: Go online and research food delivery services in the city or town where your friend lives. Some businesses deliver prepared meals on a weekly basis. Other companies ship boxes of wonderful fruits every month. But before doing anything, ASK your overwhelmed friend what she and her husband think might be helpful rather than try to second-guess.
Dear Abby: I’d like to know if there is a nice way of asking my niece and her boyfriend, who are in their mid- to late-20s, not to bring their phones to the dinner table? I have spent days preparing for and cooking holiday meals. The evening was less than enjoyable for me because they were only partly there, and spent most of their time texting and presumably on Facebook.
It’s awkward to ask an adult to practice good manners. Any words of wisdom will be much appreciated.
— Well-Mannered Lady in the West
Dear Lady: Explain to your niece that you spend a lot of time, money and effort on presenting these meals, and that you were hurt and offended at their apparent lack of appreciation. It’s the truth. Do not preoccupy yourself with trying to be nice or you will weaken the message. Some families solve this problem by insisting their guests place their cellphones in a basket before dinner and reclaim them as they depart. (Just a thought!)
Dear Abby: My friend from church casually mentioned that he and his wife recently helped themselves to several buckets of sand from a national park. I’m beside myself trying to understand how they can justify pillaging a natural resource so they can pretend they are at the beach. It’s beyond selfish and just plain wrong. What can I say to convince them to return it? Can you help me navigate this conversation while still maintaining the friendship?
— Shocked in Hawaii
Dear Shocked: Start by pointing out to your friends that there are serious penalties for doing what he and his wife did. I ran your letter by my former personal assistant, Winni, who lives in Hawaii. She informed me that, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources, stealing sand from the beaches is not only against the law, but also punishable with fines of upwards of $100,000.
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