Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dear Amy:

I have been married for 15 years. My husband and I have three young children, ages 12 and under. Our daughter is severely handicapped and attends a special-needs school.

I am feeling the urge to pursue my doctorate. I am 40 years old, and I've been a stay-at-home mom for the past 12 years. I need a career update, but the nearest graduate school is three hours away.

My husband is all for graduate studies, and he likes the area of the university, but the reality is that he might not find a job there (he's a fireman), and I feel guilty asking him to leave his job in our rather small town where there is, frankly, not much for me to do other than be a mom and wife.

We love each other tremendously, and the love we have for our children is 10 times greater, but how can a situation like this work for all of us -- the children, the dog, my husband and me?

Torn in Texas

I can't speak for the dog, but it seems to me that in this day and age of telecommuting and online learning, there must be a way for you to pursue your studies without uprooting and disrupting the rest of the family too much.

You should start by contacting the university you're interested in to see if they can help you design a program of graduate study where you could minimize your time spent on campus. Perhaps you could commute to the college and rent a room to stay overnight those times when you would need to attend lectures. But you could do the bulk of your research at home.

Three kids is a lot for your husband to handle -- on top of his job -- so you may want to put yourself on a longer-term program, but your family should adjust to this new schedule and the new, fulfilled you that will emerge as a result of following your academic dream.

Dear Amy:

I am addressing this to "Smoked Out," the young woman whose husband had promised that he would quit smoking soon but hasn't.

According to the letter, the husband smokes in the house, with no consideration for his wife.

I want to tell her that his smoking is compromising her health, too. I was married to a chain smoker for 30 years, and he died at the young age of 56.

Because of secondhand smoke, I developed asthma in my late 50s. I am now 70 and getting close to having emphysema.

According to my doctor, my health problems are from my late husband's smoking.

"Smoked Out's" husband is not interested in giving up smoking -- he enjoys it. I want to say, "Please, girl, put your foot down on this one."

Help is coming in the future, in a manner of speaking. They won't let her husband smoke in the intensive-care unit.

Quit the Hard Way

Your letter prompted me to check statistics about secondhand smoke (also called "passive" or "involuntary" smoking).

According to the American Cancer Society, secondhand smoke is responsible for an estimated 35,000 deaths annually from heart disease in people who live with smokers (but don't smoke themselves).

Secondhand smoke is responsible for about 3,400 lung cancer deaths in non-smoking adults each year.

Secondhand smoke causes other respiratory problems in non-smokers, such as those you are experiencing.

Secondhand smoke harms children and pets in households where smoking is present.

Readers interested in learning more about secondhand smoke can visit the American Cancer Society's Web site at

Dear Amy:

I have really enjoyed the stories in your column in which people reminisce about their favorite cars.

On July 4, 1970, my first serious boyfriend dumped me. Unbeknown to him, I had just made arrangements to buy a car like one he had owned. I went ahead with the purchase of a beautiful 1967 Tiger.

At the same time, I moved from Riverside (Calif.) to Los Angeles, and I found myself in need of a reliable mechanic.

I found him, a totally charming Englishman, at a sports car garage near my new home.

Being a sensible person, I eventually married my mechanic.

We had 33 years together, and we had the pleasure of giving our wonderful son the car for his 21st birthday.

Iris in Los Angeles

So far, this is my favorite car story. I find these tales a wonderful summertime diversion, and I thank readers for sending them in.

Write to Amy Dickinson ataskamy@tribune.comor Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2007by the Chicago Tribune Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.

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