Dear Abby:

I am a single mother and have taught school for 20 years. Two months ago, I began a sabbatical out of state and took my teenage daughter with me. Prior to leaving, a good friend, "Marjorie," accepted a job transfer that required her to move out of state as well. Marjorie suggested that since her husband wasn't ready to leave town due to some personal business, he would be the perfect candidate to house-sit for me. It seemed like a good arrangement.

Within a few weeks, former neighbors started calling and telling me that Marjorie's husband was having women stay overnight at my house. I have since learned that Marjorie had asked a mutual friend to keep an eye on her husband to find out if he's cheating. Our friend refused, but confided to me that it's as plain as day the guy IS cheating and everyone in town knows it.

We don't want to hurt Marjorie -- nor do we want her husband to humiliate her. Should we tell Marjorie what's going on or let her find out on her own?

Unsure in Mesa, Ariz.

Tell her what the neighbors told you. Marjorie already has suspicions, so it won't be a shock. And get her husband out of your house. The last thing you need is strangers walking through and possibly helping themselves to your possessions.

Dear Abby:

I had hoped last Christmas would be different, but it turned out to be the same as every other Christmas for the past 14 years. My husband and I always go to his parents' for Christmas dinner, followed by the exchange of gifts. In all the years I've been married to their son, my in-laws have never once included me in the gift exchange.

When we started our family, they were good about giving a gift to each grandchild -- and always to my husband -- but never to me. Trust me, Abby, it's not the gift I care about, it's the fact that they go through this routine in my husband's presence and he never says one word about it.

How should I handle it next year? If I speak up, it could cause a family feud, and dissension between my husband and me. Must I simply resign myself to the fact that this is the way it is? Please tell me what you think.

Extremely Rejected in New Jersey

For your in-laws to exclude you at Christmas is cruel, insensitive and rude. For your husband to let this go on year after year and say nothing is spineless.

Tell him that unless you can be assured that you'll be treated with the respect you deserve next Christmas, it will be your last with his family -- and you and the children will make other plans.

Dear Abby:

My 88-year-old mother has vascular dementia, but is still able to live in her own home with 24-hour caregivers. Recently, Mom's sister, "Velda," visited her and asked the caregiver on duty to bring her a silver pitcher from Mother's dining room. Velda told the caregiver, "No one needs to know," and took it.

Of course, the caregiver promptly reported the incident to me, and I picked up the phone and confronted Aunt Velda. At first she denied taking the pitcher -- then she said it had originally belonged to their deceased brother. Then she accused ME of wanting it for myself and ended the conversation by sarcastically saying she thought Mother seemed "fine" to her -- and hung up on me!

What makes this so aggravating is it isn't the first time this has happened. One of my brothers says to forget it. The other is ready to file theft charges.

What is the appropriate action, Abby?

Devoted Daughter in Houston

You are fortunate that your mother's caregiver reported the theft promptly. Instead of filing charges, instruct the caregiver to call you or your brothers the next time "Aunt Velda" shows up at the door.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2003, Universal Press Syndicate