Dear Ann:

I am angry and upset with my parents, and I hope you can help me get over it.

My daughter, "Penelope," just turned 11 years old. My parents know I do not believe in giving extravagant birthday parties for children this age. Penelope spent the early afternoon with a few friends, and everyone had a great time. That evening, my parents picked up Penelope with the excuse of taking her out to dinner. When they came home, Penelope was carrying what was left of a birthday cake, and balloons and gifts from several members of the family.

I am furious. Not only did my parents plan a birthday party for my daughter behind my back, but they did not include me. Am I wrong to be upset? Please give me some advice before this turns into a major mess.

-- Angry in Louisiana

Your parents were wrong to plan a party for your daughter without telling you and inviting you to be present. I suspect they thought you might have vetoed the festivities had you known in advance. It's perfectly okay if you didn't want to entertain the family for Penelope's birthday, but you cannot control what your parents do. Tell them you will not interfere if they wish to give Penelope a birthday party next year, but you would appreciate being included, or at the very least, informed.

Dear Ann:

I just about jumped out of my chair when I read your response to the woman whose boyfriend's mother had taken it upon herself to hang pictures and shower curtains in their new home. You advised her to say nothing until she could replace them, and to be grateful her future mother-in-law is so "caring."

Welcome to the new millennium, Annie. I lived through that private hell, and have one word for that girl. RUN. My ex-mother-in-law came from the same mold. Not only would she decide what wasn't "correct" in our home, she would proceed to "fix" it. One day, she dug up some flowers in my garden, and replanted them where she thought they looked "nicer."

If the woman who wrote to you wants to spend the rest of her life playing second fiddle because her boyfriend cannot tell his mother to butt out, she is in for some rough times.

-- Happily Divorced in Pa.

There is a difference between a mother-in-law who digs up your flowers and one who gives you a shower curtain because you don't have the money to buy one. Not every mother-in-law who buys something for her son's new home is a meddling control freak. It is obvious, however, that your mother-in-law was much too involved in your life, and you were lucky to get out.

Dear Ann:

My wonderful wife of 37 years recently died of a heart attack. I'm sure she would be alive today if her doctor had taken her symptoms more seriously. For three weeks, "Jane" complained of a backache, shoulder ache and a burning chest. Her doctor prescribed a nasal spray. Five days later, the woman who was the center of my life was dead on the floor.

Since her death, I have been told that doctors frequently fail to recognize symptoms of heart problems in women. Please tell your readers and their doctors to pay attention to these symptoms, and other aches and pains, because something may be seriously wrong.

-- Heartbroken in Mississippi

You told them, and I thank you. Are you aware that more American women die of heart disease than all cancers combined, and they die in total numbers greater than men with cardiovascular problems? Those are the facts, sir.

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