Dear Ann:

You are a master at coming up with tactful ways to deal with people who need "special handling." Here's a beauty for you: How does one deal with a neighbor who is constantly intruding on one's space?

My family had a wonderful home on a lake in Michigan when I was growing up, but we had to sell it because a boorish neighbor moved in next door and ruined it for us. We could never enjoy the peace and quiet of our patio. Whenever this woman saw us outside, she immediately came over. We had been going to that beautiful place for 10 years and loved the solitude. When our fine neighbors moved and this clod bought their home, it was the end of our summer haven.

Now, history is repeating itself. We have a lovely home in another area, and some new neighbors are making pests of themselves. The wife comes over whenever she sees me reading on my patio. It is driving me up the wall. Please suggest a tactful solution to this problem.

Beleaguered, Bothered and Bewildered

There are times in life when one should forget about the velvet-glove approach and use a sledgehammer to get the job done. This is one of them. The next time you are reading on your patio and the pest comes over, say, "I'm reading a fascinating book and enjoying it immensely. I hope you will come over some other time." This is as direct as you can be, short of hitting her over the head with a two-by-four. If she comes over again after that speech, either she has a hearing problem or is an insensitive clod. In either case, don't be a victim. Simply say, "I want to read. Please go home."

Dear Ann:

I am a 32-year-old woman, happily married, and the mother of two beautiful children -- a 4-year-old girl, and a son nearly 2. I have always known that I was an adopted child. A few months ago, I decided to search for my birth parents and get some answers to the questions that have bothered me for many years.

After several months of searching, and considerable dollars spent, I finally located my birth mother. I wrote her a long letter, and enclosed photos of myself and my children. You cannot imagine the heartache I felt when she returned the mailing unopened with a note asking me to please leave her alone.

I then launched another search, and located my birth father. (I learned that he was in graduate school when I was conceived.) I was thrilled when he agreed to meet with me. My joy was short-lived. He called back the following day to say he was sorry, but the meeting was off, because his wife was opposed to it. It seems their four children do not know about me, and they believe it is best if we "leave things as they are."

I then located a cousin on my birth mother's side. She was not pleased to hear from me, and asked that I never call her again. I am disappointed and frustrated. Please, Ann, tell me what to do.

Alison in Utica, N.Y.

In some instances, an out-of-wedlock child represents a part of a woman's life that she would like to forget. I have long urged adopted children not to try to find their birth mother, saying, "The woman who raised you is your mother. Accept that fact, and don't go around disrupting lives."

A search, however, is okay if both parties are agreeable. The National Council for Adoption in Washington has a national registry for such searches, in cases where a medical history needs to be checked out. But to those who are simply inquisitive, I say, leave things alone.