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My mother-in-law gives me literal trash, how do I tell her I don’t want it

DEAR ABBY: I recently married “John”, the love of my life. I have a great relationship with my mother-in-law, “Sarah”. She and my father-in-law are retired and financially well off. For every special occasion, John and I carefully select gifts for his parents, and we have spent extra to ensure our gifts convey our love and appreciation for them.

The problem is that Sarah is literally giving us garbage. On multiple occasions we have received broken items in random boxes, items with missing parts, and used items including kitchen and cooking utensils. This happens every holiday. She also gave our child some second-hand toys and clothes, most of which were already missing parts or were several sizes too small.

After talking to other family members, I learned that Sarah had been giving away unwanted items for years, but her family members had never discussed the issue with her for fear of upsetting her. My sister-in-law told me she saw Sarah taking things out of her basement and wrapping them as gifts.

Abby, this leaves a terrible taste in my mouth and has led me to feel a slight resentment towards Sarah. I think his actions are disrespectful and in poor taste. I don’t want to hurt, but I need this behavior to stop. How can I make Sarah understand that I need her to stop giving us junk? — RULED IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR REGIFÉ: Do this in simple English, in the presence of your husband, before the next gift giving opportunity arises. Explain that if she has any second-hand items she wants to get rid of, she should donate them to her favorite charitable thrift store. So tell her that you don’t need anything and that in the future you would prefer that she gives you a nice card, preferably not recycled.

DEAR ABBY: Years ago, after high school, I spent a semester abroad, where I met and fell madly in love with another American student in the same program. We dated for several years and remained close friends. Even after I married someone else, we wrote often and traveled together from time to time. He and my husband got along well. Then he met the woman who eventually became his wife, and she preferred that we not continue our friendship. He and I haven’t spoken in at least 15 years.

Recently, one of the professors from our semester abroad retired and handed out a stack of photos, including ones from the program I was in. I have scanned the images and would love to share them with my old friend. I emailed the most recent address I have for him and received no response. Now I don’t know if it’s because it’s a bad email address or because he’s not interested in starting a conversation with me. A quick, unharassed web search did not immediately reveal a second address.

Is it worth trying again? I’m pretty sure I could contact him through his family, but do you think it’s better to let it go? In my heart I know I’m using the photos as an excuse to get in touch, but I have no nefarious intentions. — GOOD DECISION IN THE EAST

DEAR GOOD DECISION: I vote no. Whether or not you were trying to contact this man for nefarious reasons, the result would be that his wife would be upset. Let go.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at http://www.DearAbby.com or PO Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

New York Post

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