Dear Ann:

How I wish I were a really good writer. Then, maybe I could put my thoughts into words and let you know exactly how I feel. I am an 86-year-old woman who is still keeping house, driving my car, and enjoying life. I was blessed with a wonderful husband. He lived to celebrate 61 years of marriage with me.

This morning, I decided to do some washing. I put my clothes in the machine, patted the side of the washer, and said, "Do your job." And it did! I sat in my living room and watched TV--waiting for the "ding" to tell me the washing was done. Then, I got up, and put the clothes in the dryer.

Sitting there, I thought: Dear God, what a wonderful life I lead. How blessed we are with all the modern conveniences. Do we appreciate them? Then, I looked in my kitchen, and saw an electric stove, a microwave, a refrigerator, a toaster, a mixer, and many more items that I haven't listed.

I am not wealthy, but I'm not poor, either. I am just a simple, average, middle-class old lady who is living on Social Security, and feeling truly blessed that I live in this wonderful country of ours.

Mary Tury in Stockton, Calif.

Thank you for your beautiful letter. Very few of us appreciate all the marvelous inventions of our time, especially those everyday appliances that make our lives easier.

Dear Ann:

I am a 55-year-old grandmother who has developed an online friendship with a 13-year-old girl in another state. "Emily" told me her parents divorced two years ago, and that she has not seen her father since. She said she thinks the reason is because her mother is still angry and won't allow the father to contact her. Emily does not know where her father is, and told me, "I will never see him again." I have begged Emily to talk to her mother, teachers, etc., but I don't know if she has. I also realize it may be that her father simply has no interest in seeing her, and that it is not the mother's fault at all.

Ann, why do parents do this to their children? Why does a 13-year-old girl have to tell a total stranger about her sorrow? I can be sympathetic, but I cannot really help. Why can't these parents see what they are doing to their little girl by making her feel abandoned?

It breaks my heart that this child is so unhappy. Please, Ann, tell those divorced parents to put their children's needs first.

Houston Grandma

Most divorced parents try hard to put their children first, but troubled children often pretend everything is fine because they do not want to cause additional disruption. Please stay in touch with Emily, and be her friend and adviser. It sounds as if she could use both.

Dear Ann:

I belong to an informal dinner club that meets once a month for dinner in one of our homes. One of the women has appointed herself "social director," and is making our lives miserable.

"Irene" phones everyone to remind them of the upcoming dinner plans, which is fine. The problem is that she always tells the hostess what to serve. She does not have food allergies or any medical problems, she just likes certain things. Irene eats enough for two people, so making an extra dish for her is a major annoyance.

The rest of us in the group do not want to disband, and Irene would be terribly hurt if we excluded her. Any suggestions?

Too Much Cooking in Alabama

Since the major problem seems to be that Irene is too managerial, simply ignore her suggestions about what to serve. You do not owe her special privileges.

To find out more about Ann Landers and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

1999, Creators Syndicate Inc.