Happy Halloween 2014

31 Oct

Letterbalm HalloweenMs. L.B.’s costume this year is a fetching little number employing elements of cheerleaders, zombies and beekeepers – with real bees, a swarm of which will be released on any house that doesn’t give suitable Halloween treats. And, a big BOO! to all of you, too. LetterBalm will return, stung, on Monday.

Tangled Marriage

30 Oct

Dear LetterBalm: My story is convoluted. My man and I have been together for several years. We have a daughter together, and I’m pregnant with our second child due in January. We got married in June. Two months into the marriage, my husband left, saying he had to have his space. I learned from a friend that he was living with another woman. He‘s been unfaithful before, but he said I pushed him into cheating with my nagging and arguing. He says he doesn’t want a divorce. In spite of everything, I still love him and want to work on our marriage. How can I convince him to come back once and for all?

–Pregnant and Pining

It’s a hard truth to face, but your husband checked out of your relationship even before the two of you got married. He’s immature and unable to commit, and he blames you for his cheating. Even if the two of you engaged in battle royals, nobody can be “pushed” into being unfaithful. Do you really want to be married to this man? Consider what life with him will be like ten, fifteen years down the road. Your husband is bad relationship material, and you must concentrate on the future. Ms. L.B. says you have two compelling reasons to get your life in order: Your young daughter and your unborn child. Please find the strength to talk with a therapist to start your healing process. And, see a lawyer and protect your finances. Your husband may be a weasel, but he owes his children financial support. Depending on what your attorney says, you might move his things to storage, change your locks and ensure your e-devices/settings are secure. Then have a phone conversation with your husband thusly:

Travis, I’ve seen an attorney, and, with his recommendation, I’ve had your things safely moved to a storage facility. It’s in your name, I’ve paid the first month, and I’ve mailed the information and my lawyer’s business card to you at Susan’s address, where you live now. You and I are finished, and I’m concentrating on my future with my daughter and unborn child. I suggest you get a lawyer because I’ll be moving forward with a divorce. You’re not a stupid man, you know I have excellent grounds, and I’ll seek financial support for our children. It’s the least you can do for them. Have your lawyer contact mine, please. I hope you can straighten out your life.

Gift Grab

29 Oct

Letterbalm Pile of Christmas GiftsDear LetterBalm: My husband and I come from high-achieving families, and we’re both doing well in our careers. We don’t have children, but, as the youngest siblings in our respective families, we have older brothers and sisters who have kids. So, we have seven nieces and nephews of varying ages. We love them all and are a devoted uncle and aunt. But as the years have gone on, we’ve had to scramble for Christmas gift-giving for the entire family (kids, parents, aunts, uncles, etc.), which numbers close to 25 people. We’re pooped, not to mention broke! We suggested a targeted grab bag, but we got pushback. The family wants everybody to get a present from everyone. We need to extricate ourselves from the situation. What can we say to dear ones who equate love with gifts?

–Gift-Giving Pariahs

Tread gently. This is the sort of family disagreement that can fester as the years go on. You and your husband are positioning yourselves as the altruistic couple, valuing family and love over material things by simply suggesting that everyone cut back on gifts. Nobody wants to be known as selfish and greedy. But Christmas gifts can be a big deal. Ms. L.B. had a colleague who came from a big family that held an annual Secret Santa, a longstanding tradition with serious rules. (Everybody publishes their wish list, consisting of one big gift plus smaller desired ones. Everyone draws names. The Secret Santa designee fulfills the list, no cut corners.) Or, you and your husband can suggest that, starting this year, you don’t want Christmas presents from anyone and you will gift only the kids. You’ll keep honoring birthdays, graduations, weddings, etc. for everyone, as always. Seek out the most receptive member of each family, review what you’ll say beforehand, and keep calm and cheerful in a private chat, no judgment:

Family member, can we talk about Christmas gift-giving before things get out of hand and people get their feelings hurt? That’s the last thing Dominic and I would want. We all get along so well, let’s see if we can work something out. Last year, we had to shop and pay for almost 30 gifts, and the expense is too much for us. We have a couple of suggestions. One is a planned Secret Santa, where one person gives a lot of presents to another family member. Names of givers and recipients are drawn and kept secret. Everybody publishes their wish list, consisting of one big gift plus smaller desired ones. The Secret Santa designee fulfills the list, plus some surprises. Or, we all can agree to give gifts only to the kids. My dear, please pass our suggestions to the rest of the family and tell them that, starting this year, in a loving spirit, Dominic and I will continue to gift everyone for birthdays and such, but we don’t want Christmas gifts. We’ll be giving Christmas presents only to the children. We hope everybody likes the Secret Santa idea because it sounds like enormous fun for everyone, and it won’t break the bank.


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