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Thorn in the Family Side


Dear Annie: My husband and I were both widowed before meeting. We are now 70 and have been happily married for six years. We both have grown children.

Everything is good in our blended family except for my son's wife. "Stacy" has been a thorn in my side from the day they married 20 years ago. My former husband and I always managed to keep her quick temper under control. But since he died and I remarried, she's gone completely overboard. She has stopped my son from having any contact with our family, including his brothers and me.

Stacy has been unable to hold down a job because she can't get along with others. She's judgmental, critical and short-tempered. She is often jealous and has many unresolved issues from her childhood. She is keeping us away from her family, and none of us has seen my grandsons in three years. She says we aren't trustworthy, but that isn't true. We are not deceitful in any way, and our word is good.

The rest of the family continues to get together without my son and daughter-in-law, but we miss them very much. Our blended family is kind and loving toward one another. But those two grandsons don't know us, and it looks like that won't change anytime soon. My son is overwhelmed with Stacy's control issues, so he just goes along with whatever she wants.

Cards, letters, phone calls and emails go unanswered. Do you have any suggestions? — Grandma with a Broken Heart

Dear Grandma: We are so sorry that your son and his wife have chosen to exclude themselves from a loving family. Without your son's insistence, it is unlikely Stacy will come around. We understand that he is reluctant to rock the boat and possibly damage his marriage, but he shouldn't be isolated from his family in order to placate his wife. It is a form of emotional abuse.

Please continue to send cards, letters and emails without expecting replies.

You never know what gets through. Depending on your state, you also could sue for visitation privileges if you so choose. A lawyer with expertise in grandparents' rights can help you.

Dear Annie: My father's secretary of many years smokes a pack of cigarettes every day in her office. The ceilings are low, and the ventilation is poor. The secondhand smoke is detrimental to my father's health, which is already compromised by other medical conditions.

My siblings and I have asked her many times to try to get help for her addiction, and to smoke outside or on the office balcony. Do we have to let her do as she pleases, even though it hurts to see Dad breathing in her fumes? — Montreal Fan

Dear Montreal: We have to wonder whether this secretary harbors some hostility toward Dad. Nonetheless, your father is the one who needs to speak up, and apparently, he is unwilling. So put in some fans, smokeless ashtrays and other helpful devices that will minimize the damage.

Dear Annie: I was bothered by the letter from "New Yorker," who volunteers at a nonprofit that provides homework help to neighborhood school kids.

Her assumption that many newer families are "stable and affluent" could be wrong. We have friends and family who are struggling, yet they try to maintain a proud face. This after-school program might be the saving grace for a woman working two jobs.

"New Yorker" should find another way of volunteering in the community if she finds some children unworthy of her charitable works. — M

Dear M: You make a good point. These after-school programs can be a true blessing to families and an educational boon to children regardless of income levels.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



55 Comments | Post Comment
You stated that my check of the laws are 'OFTEN WRONG' so do you want the phone # of the county att office and talk to the DA? He asked me not to give out his email address, but the phone # is public information.

There are more atts waiting to help with questions at the MN Att Generals office, if you care to call and wait on line to speak with someone. Or call the county director of human services, she will have answers too.
You can sit all you want and be snarky. Your decision to disallow what I say does not affect anyone else. You can find the same statute information by calling your own county officials.

Comment: #1
Posted by: Joyce/MN
Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:14 PM
RE: LW2...Who hired your father's secretary many years ago? Did he? If he did, then she would be given an ultimatum: Either get into a stop smoking program or be fired. Length of time on her job should not take precedence over your father's health. What a filthy, disgusting habit. All *you* are is a drug addict, lady!
Comment: #2
Posted by: Ms Davie
Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:22 PM
Blessings on this day of Ash Wednesday.

I will be spending the day at church noon till 7:30 pm--we celebrate the holy day with a fellowship meal, of which I will be cooking the soup along with another volunteer. Each will be doing for 100 people. Wonderful sandwiches and desserts will also be served. Our youth will serve as hosts/hostesses. I just finished making 3 cake size pans of rolled out noodles. mmmmmm GOOD.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Joyce/MN
Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:22 PM
Re: Ms Davie

She doesn't even have to get into a stop smoking program. Doesn't every state at this point have laws against smoking in the workplace? If she wants to smoke on her tim outside the office that's her business, but she can and should be fired if she refuses to stop smoking in the workplace.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Jodie
Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:40 PM
"Cards, letters, phone calls and emails go unanswered. Do you have any suggestions?"

It would appear that it doesn't matter what you do or don't do, Stacey is deternined to remain stinkingly mad and to make a show of her vindictiveness.

It would belong to your son to do something about this, but it would appears that is too wimpy to address it. Given that... unless the laws in your state allow for grandparental right and you're willing to fight both Stacey and your son in court over this, there isn't much you can do. My truly heartfelt condolences for your loss.

Frankly, your dad is the boss of her and he's the one who's in a position to speak up. If he is unwilling, the woman is within ger every right to send you on your merry way, even if she's morally wrong.

Buy an air filter. It's better than nothing.

Some people feel I'm a leech on society because I'm on Welfare. Others think I'm a welfare fraud upon learning that I'm self-employed. What they don't know is that I'm allowed a certain amount of net earnings as long as I declare it. Since I do, I am neither a leech nor a fraud.

The point I'm making here is this: it's not always the way it looks. All that shines is not gold, and all that looks like it should stink is not dung.

Comment: #5
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:44 PM
Re: Jodie; I was thinking the same thing until I read her signature, "Montreal Fan". I don't know if Canadian Provinces have anti-smoking laws. Somehow, Quebec strikes me as one that wouldn't. Perhaps Lise Brouillette could inform us?
Comment: #6
Posted by: Steve
Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:56 PM
LW2: What are the smoking laws in Montreal? I could have sworn that the laws stated that there's not supposed to be smoking inside buildings anyway, or at least many kinds of places including office buildings. The law is on your side and you should probably remind her of that if everything else is failing.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Hierophantria
Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:01 PM
LW2, your father's secretary is breaking the law if you are in Quebec which your signature indicates. There is no smoking allowed in business establishments for the last seven years! Now I know this isn't always practiced; my husband's boss is a chain smoker and smokes in her office, but, she has a window and the door is shut and well no one there cares (including my husband). But your father is her boss.

I strongly suggest you turn her in to the CSST. Explain to them the situation and they will tell you the options. It is possible that nothing can be done if your father does not complain (or someone else in his office?) but it does need to stop. I know it's hard here with the enormous smoking culture we once had "I smoke in church". Don't give up.
Comment: #8
Posted by: wkh
Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:04 PM
LW1 - I say, you should keep sending cards to the grandchildren. As a child, I wasn't allowed to see my father's side of the family when I was growing up. My mother told me awful things about that side of the family. But they sent me cards wishing me a happy birthday each year, and were never negative. When I was an adult, I was able to see them on my own and find that many of them were wonderful. I'm glad that they didn't forget me, and continued to send me positive messages. It counteracted some of the bad things my mother told me about them.
Comment: #9
Posted by: FAW
Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:24 PM
LW1 - if you want to make a stink you can hire a lawyer, as the Annies suggested. But I'm not sure what it will get you. Forced visits with the grandkids, while their mother sits glowering at you? Better probably to let it go, and hope she comes to her senses.
One thing to think about is that if you want her to change, YOU may need to change. Her "thing" is to isolate your son and their children from you. Your "thing" is to be nice and try to placate her with cards, letters, phone calls and emails. But it's clear this isn't working. It might be more effective to totally stop trying to contact them. Send one last message expressing your love and good wishes, then stop. Leave it to your son to come to his senses. Most likely your DIL has been using the gifts as an excuse to rail against you and the other relatives. This deflects her husband's attention away from the fact that she is the real cause of their problems. If you deprive her of that opportunity by not trying so hard, he may actually have a chance of catching on to the fact that she is the problem
Comment: #10
Posted by: sarah morrow
Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:29 PM
Grandparents' rights? *chokes back outrage*. Ok, grandparents' rights, thank science, have mostly been overturned, because grandparents aren't parents. Furthermore, in the FEW cases where they've been upheld, it's been in the case of the death of the related spouse. Their son isn't dead. And he's a grown up, and it sounds like he doesn't want anything to do with them.
And reading between the lines I'd say they have fair cause. Can't put my finger on it, but something strikes me as seriously awry with the letter writer.
Grandsparents' rights. My sainted aunt.
Comment: #11
Posted by: Joanna
Wed Feb 22, 2012 12:14 AM
LW2: Bring in a large air filter, tell her it's her "Ash" Wednesday present.
LW1: I believe that grandparental visitation, in most states, is for grandparents who aren't having any visitation because their adult child is deceased or in prison, and the custodial parent isn't allowing them to have visits. It is most likely that it's not for scenarios like this one--in such a case you just have to do whatever it takes to get along with Stacy. You might consider dropping in at your son's work to take him to lunch and to figure out a way to see the kids without setting Stacy off, or to ask him why he's so effing afraid of his wife.
Comment: #12
Posted by: angoradeb
Wed Feb 22, 2012 12:22 AM
eh...... I wouldn't go see him at work, and I'd quit sending gifts. IME a couple of things are likely going on here:

1) The son is fine with not seeing his parents, and is letting Stacy be the fall guy. I've mentioned before in my marriage neither of us mind being seen as the "asshole" when it's to help out the other. It's likely this is even Son's idea.

2) Going to see him at work will be seen as trying to divide and conquer and not respecting the marital unit. If the LW truly is decent as claimed and the DIL has been reading a lot of isolantionist anti-social control freaking crap like baby centre's Dealing with ILs board (the ladies there are great when it comes to truly toxic family, but most of the people taking their advice are dealing with mere differences of opinion and any such difference is labelled as "disrespect" and a reason to cut off all ties) going to see him, as well as the continued gifts, will be seen as stalking. Instead, the son should be sent a registered letter stating they'd like to see him and they apologize if they've offended him in any way. And then be done with it.

3) As other posters mentioned, GP rights are only in special cases such as when one parent is dead/in prison and the other parent won't allow visitation, or if at one point the GPs were custodians and then suddenly the parents reclaimed custody and cut off the GPs. A few states are more liberal in their interpretation, if you had say the GKs over every weekend and suddenly mom got a hair up her butt and ceased all contact, this is enough in some cases to make a case it's in the "best interest of the child" to continue family visitiation (all of these are true where I live).

But between this and the advice to LW2 today I am wondering what on earth happened to the old policy of Annie's letters where if Ann Landers didn't know something she damn well went and found someone who DID know (I guess we should add menopause in here too). In two cases today they don't know what they're talking about anymore than ladies at the bridge club and make no effort to find accurate information for the LWs. Sad. Hope they read here.
Comment: #13
Posted by: wkh
Wed Feb 22, 2012 3:36 AM
LW1 - I am not doubting that your DIL is troublesome, but she is not preventing your son from having contact with any of you. If he really wanted to contact you, he would.

I was married to an abusive man who tried to prevent me from speaking to my family and friends. I called them while at work or when he wasn't home most of the time.

Personally, I like sarah morrow's advice. Write them one last letter, wishing them the best, but let them know the door is open for communication if they wish to use it and then go on with your lives. It must be very painful to have to constantly reach out and get nothing in return so maybe it's best to do that.

LW2 - I had no idea you could still smoke at work! I've been in the workforce for 17 years and I don't ever recall anyone being allow to smoke inside. If she is your father's secretary, then it's up to him to tell her she's not allowed to smoke inside anymore. If he won't tell her, there's not much you can do.
Comment: #14
Posted by: Michelle
Wed Feb 22, 2012 4:10 AM
LW1: Well, if it's true that your other children and their families and your new husband's family all get along well, then the issue does seem to be with your daughter-in-law.

And there's little you can do except continue what you've been doing. If your grandchildren are old enough to be on Facebook, you could try to connect with them that way -- in any event, the messages you send by card, email, Facebook, whatever, should all be (a) nonjudgemental to your son's wife, because you won't win over your grandchildren by talking smack about their mother; and (b) let them know that you'll always be there for them, that you will always happily accept any messages, calls, or visits from them.

As they get older, into high school and college, they'll be able to make decisions for themselves about staying in touch with you. So all you can do is make sure they know that door is open, and don't do or say anything to make them think their mom is right when she says you are untrustworthy people.
Comment: #15
Posted by: Mike H
Wed Feb 22, 2012 4:14 AM
LW2: It surprises me that this behavior isn't already prohibited, either by company police or local statute. Ask your father why he doesn't get more firm with her, and why he doesn't talk to HR about reprimanding her or moving her to another position in the company. (This seems like such a bizarre boss-secretary dynamic that part of me wonders if she doesn't have some leverage over him which means he can't assert himself.)

In any event, this is his battle to fight, the best you can do is be encouraging to him to do it. Or to retire himself to maintain his health.
Comment: #16
Posted by: Mike H
Wed Feb 22, 2012 4:23 AM
LW3: I'm surprised this old issue has cropped up again, but it's really not all that complicated. It's up to the non-profit's leadership to set the parameters of the mission of the non-profit. If they haven't made that clear already, it's up to them to do so.

If the non-profit provides its services to everyone without restriction, then the original LW can't do anything about it. But if the non-profit IS a "needs-based" service, then that should be clear in their mission statement and intake/application procedure.

Neighborhood families who seek to use a needs-based service will be asked to verify that they qualify in the application process, and if they earn too much money, they can be gently refused and directed to other agencies that may help them. It's pretty standard procedure.

So, the original LW should talk about her concerns with the director of the non-profit and make sure that her understanding of their mission is accurate, and proceed from there.
Comment: #17
Posted by: Mike H
Wed Feb 22, 2012 4:27 AM
Lw2 - re: the "isn't that already illegal" comments from other posters. Perhaps this isn't really a "workplace" like you're thinking of, such as Mike H's suggestion to tell the HR department. Maybe there isn't one. Maybe Dad is a lawyer with a tiny private practice and rents two rooms above a pizza place or the lower floor of an old house downtown for his "offices" (the fact that they have an "office balcony" makes me think this could be the case). I'm not positive on the law in Montreal as I live in Ontario, but I believe it's possible that if this is the case, that's it's not a true office building full of employees, but rather a privately rented or owned building/floor with maybe just Dad, the secretary and a clerk (or something, I don't know) then it's not a true "workplace" under the law. In the Canada Labour Code in terms of occupational health and safety, there is a minimum number of employees that must occupy the workplace for it be really considered a "workplace" as defined in the Code. Off the top of my head I think the number might be 6, but I'd have to look that up. I'm not sure that smoking indoors is covered under occupation health in the code, just using the code as an example to show that there are criteria for what's a "workplace" under the law.

Still though, even if for whatever reason this "workplace" doesn't fall under the no smoking indoors/in public places laws, I would think that the boss (I'm guessing Dad in this case) would still have wanted to implement such a policy, particularly if they ever have clients or customers coming to the office. But I guess we would need to know more information about what Dad does for a living to determine that.
Comment: #18
Posted by: Alexandra
Wed Feb 22, 2012 4:44 AM
Um, annies, from the description of this unbalanced woman there is probably not just emotional abuse going on, but physical and verbal as well, to both the kids and the husband when behind closed doors. If there is, then the man probably puts up with it because he is terrified of losing custody of his kids to this monster (even in this day and age, he has less than a 15% chance that he will get them). With him in the house daily, at least he has some control of trying to protect his kids, and he wants to keep it that way. He's stuck, thanks to our custody laws that almost always side with the mother, no matter what. And the belief that only men are abusers. For him to "insist" anything with his wife could have dire consequences.

What makes you such poor advisors in these situations, annies, is that you seem to have a mental block that women can be abusers, even though studies increasingly show that women are involved in increasingly violent crimes, participate in physical spousal abuse almost as often as men (albeit they are more likely to use weapons instead of fists) and that children are far MORE likely to be physically abused at the hands of their mothers than their fathers, and even stepfathers or live-inboyfriends. You can seen horrific accounts of child abuse from mothers in the news every day, and yet when you get letters like these about women who are clearly unhinged, it never seems to occur to you that perhaps the man may not be "insisting" because he is terrified of what his wife might do. Your response should have included the suggestion that all types of abuse may be going on, not just emotional. You would have had this been about a woman instead of a man.
Comment: #19
Posted by: Jane
Wed Feb 22, 2012 4:50 AM
Re: Jodie

Unfortunately not all states have these statutes and a lot of statutes do apply but only to larger employers who are considered able to afford any additional costs to having statutes, i.e. smoking pits. One of the shortfalls of the Affordable Care Act is the exemptions for small business owners; they don't have to provide healthcare plans to employees if they employ 50 folks or less - boy talk about an incentive to not expand your business or say I'm not going to hire more folks. Any profit benefit of doing so is eaten up by healthcare costs. So I am sure what you said is true in your location but smoking is still legal in the bars in my state and therefore the employees who work there have to suck it up literally or face a very uncertain job market.
Comment: #20
Posted by: Paula
Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:15 AM
LW1 - I totally sympathize with your situation. My cousin had is ex-wife cut off his contact with their son, moved him clear across country where my cousin couldn't afford to visit him and still make child support payments. Well he kept sending the child support and mailing letters, cards, and gifts for every birthday, and holiday or milestone event year (graduation). His mom sent them all back marked return to sender. When his son hit 18 and was old enough he came looking wanting to know why his dad had abandoned him when he was only 5 years old. Imagine the son's shock when his dad pulled out all the return to sender stuff his mom had sent back. My cousin and his son are now very close and guess who is out in the cold now. Keep sending the cards, letters, and small gifts. LW the marriage has lasted for 20 years and it has been 3 since you last saw your grandsons; I imagine these are not young toddlers. If your relationship with them had always been good before; they are asking questions. Take a photo of you wrapping their presents, keep copies of letters, or if she is stupid enough to flat out return them to you. They will find comfort in them when they realize how horrible their mother is; if they don't already know it. It is not a bad thing to consult a lawyer if you can afford to waste the money for one but there legal precedence against automatically conferring visitation to grandchildren. Most state laws are a hodgepodge but the commonality is based on Troxel v. Granville but essentially the supreme court decided against grandparents and most state laws have been passed to reflect it. The ruling upheld that grandparents must provide "clear and compelling" evidence that the visits are in the interests of the child. Otherwise the courts should not overrule the decision of "fit parents" to make decisions regarding their children. The justices sited the law in this case in violation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That court case was in 2000, no other case has appeared to challenge that ruling.
Comment: #21
Posted by: Paula
Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:35 AM
Appeal to parents, As a parent, I've made many mistakes, so I'm not in a position to judge. However, my observations as a volunteer in a local elementary school tells me I HAVE to speak out. I see troubled kids all day long and they disrespect rules, guidelines and are living in an "all about me" world. I blame the parents. They are doing a great diservice to their children by giving in to their every whim and not being role models and teaching them discipline at home. It is quite obvious the behavior of children who have order and disciplin in the homes. Their parents show their love far more vividly than those who just let their kids do what they want to do whether it's good for them or not. Would you give your five year old a butcher knife to play in the sandbox, or would you give him a pail and shovel?

There are a small percentage of those students who are serious about school and learning. But the vast majority, or so it seems, have no desire or drive to grow and learn. Children get their first education years at home, and even more with day care. I'm not denying the need for daycare, however, find one appropriate enough to benefit your child as well as the parent. Parents are missing the boat on discipline, when they come into the classroom, they have NO idea what order is or what it is to be in a group of other children. It's a give and take world, yet it's more on what I get attitude than what I can give. I watch the teachers deal with keeping some semblance of order in the classroom and even after six months of school, it still takes the same amount of time to settle down to start the day as at the beginning. Children from broken homes are victims of parents discord. This happens, but it does not have to destroy our children's need to learn and cooperate in a world that is filled with people in need all over from the rich and famous to the poor and destitute. You don't need money to teach your child respect and dignity, courtesy and kindness. Tantrums flare all day from the least little upset. What are we teaching our children. It's time for parents to listen to the teachers and how they experience their children in the classroom and parents should be working with the teachers to bring about the best end possible for these children. They will be running our world one day, and I suspect it will only grow more chaotic. Parents deal with your issues, grow up and be parents. Teachers have a tough job. They spend way too much time on discipline and regaining order than is reasonable. If parents would do their jobs, teachers would be freer to continue to enhance what parents should have started in a healthy environment. I seen many parents themselves are still children themselves, with having babies at 14 and 15. They are just not ready for parenting. I was barely ready at 21. I'm in my sixties now, have many regrets, but have never regretted giving my children healthy morals, example of love, kindness and respect towards other persons. They live that today and I highly regard this in their characters. Be your childs' friend second, and parent first.
If we don't help our kids, who will?
Comment: #22
Posted by: Joyce
Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:44 AM
LW1 - I found the sentence "My former husband and I always managed to keep her quick temper under control." very interesting. I wonder how they did that and how Stacy felt about their methods? I'm guessing that whatever they did, Stacy got tired of it and, along with her other issues, she decided to cut off all contact. If the son wanted to have contact with his family, he would. I would let the son know the family is always open to him but stop trying to contact him.
LW2 - the secretary works for the dad and not for the kids. if the dad isn't willing to do anything about her smoking and it isn't against the law (a good thing to check on), then air cleaners & filters are all the kids can do.
LW3 - never understand the point of these recap letters. the topic has already been covered.
Comment: #23
Posted by: kai archie
Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:44 AM
"Depending on your state, you also could sue for visitation privileges if you so choose."
Hahahahahaha. Good luck with that nugget of advice! The Annies really need to stop giving legal "advice" when they clearly don't know what they're talking about.
Comment: #24
Posted by: Casey
Wed Feb 22, 2012 7:07 AM
@Kai Archie, #23 (as well as other posters): I don't mean to be contradictory, but just because the son doesn't have contact with the parents, doesn't mean he doesn't want it. If the wife is that controlling, it's a form of abuse. Cutting off contact with family and friends is the number 1 sign of abuse (at least when the abuser is male). Maybe she's forced him to cut off contact and he doesn't want it.

Or maybe the husband feels it's his duty to support his wife, even if he disagrees with her. Think of the flip side of the coin. Imagine if Stacy had written to the Annies: “Dear Annies: My husband's mother drives me crazy. She's a very negative person who is toxic to my children and me. I feel my husband should support me. Help!” The Annies' response would be all over the man and his lack of a spine. They would claim he needs to stand up to his awful mother and support his wife. I'm of course speculating, because of course we don't know his side or all the facts, but it's just an idea. And the family shouldn't give up on him or the grandkids.
Comment: #25
Posted by: Casey
Wed Feb 22, 2012 7:13 AM
Re: kai archie
Bravo!!!!!!!! You hit the nail on the head, on every letter.

For LW#1-----the problem is not Stacy. The problem is your son, who is either in agreement with his wife or is a wimp who can't stand up to her. Try talking to him, but if that fails, looks like you're out of luck. He's an adult who has the choice as to whether he sees his family or not. And he's chosen not to.
LW#2------Butt out. This is your father's business. He either doesn't mind the smoking or is also a wimp who can't stand up to his secretary. Either way, not your business. If the smoke bothers you, don't visit your dad at his office. Let him worry about his own health. He's an adult.
LW#3-------I agree. I am sick of rehashing old letters over and over, when the space could better be used for a NEW letter instead of the same dumb thing we've already heard about.
Comment: #26
Posted by: jennylee
Wed Feb 22, 2012 7:14 AM
Re: Joyce/MN
I don't need to call the DA's office or attorney general's office as I am perfectly capable of reading MN Statutes, Rules and Court Cases myself. MN age of consent is 16, as states in Section 609.34.. of the MN Criminal Code. If the DA told you it is 18, they are wrong.

I've been involved in numerous legal issues (personal, friends, fighting things at the county level re: environmental laws), and always end up doing my own research and giving it to the attorney because they often don't have a clue, even though they come highly recommended. To date (in 20 years), I haven't messed up yet.

I'm a CPA and about 1/2 of the letters people get from the IRS are wrong, and so is a lot of the information that their agents will give you on the phone. It's not different with the DA or GA.
Comment: #27
Posted by: C Meier
Wed Feb 22, 2012 7:41 AM
@Jane -- I cheered out loud when I read your comment about LW1! Yes, it's possible that the son doesn't want to see his family, as so many commentators suggested, but it's also possible (and I'd say more likely) that "Stacy" is controlling and abusive. Had this letter been written about a daughter whose husband had cut her off from her family, we'd all be furiously typing about him being controlling and abusive, but because this time it's a son whose wife has cut him off from his family, we assume he's either a "wimp" or that he actually wants it this way and is just allowing his wife to be the bad guy.

BTL, I know that we can't be sure the LW has been totally truthful about how kind and loving she and the rest of the blended family really is. If they are a bunch of rats and she's the Queen Rat, then yes, I agree with everyone who has suggested the son is actually perfectly happy with things the way they are, and he's just letting "Stacy" be the bad guy. But I think we're doing a real disservice if we don't consider the distinct possibility that the LW's son is in an abusive relationship. And yes, that abuse could be both emotional and physical. Even though most husbands are physically bigger and stronger than their wives, they have been taught not to hit a woman, so when a woman hits them -- particularly a woman they love -- they don't know how to respond and frequently just take the abuse instead of defending themselves. And they don't report it because they figure who will believe them -- and beyond that, they can't face the humiliation of calling the cops (or even just telling someone else) about it.

LW1 -- Continue sending cards, etc. Assume that the kids don't ever see what you send. Open a bank account for each of the grandchildren. On each birthday, holiday or other special occasion that you otherwise would have bought them a present, put the amount of money you would have spent into this account. On the kids' 18th or 21st birthday (or whatever age you think they are capable of choosing on their own to see you), reach out to them and tell them you want to turn over these accounts to them. I know this isn't about the money -- but when they see that you have been faithfully putting something aside for them for all those years, it will make an impression and hopefully open the door to your finally being able to forge a real relationship with them. But I would also consider trying to contact your son, possibly at work as a few others suggested. Tell him you love him and the kids and you are worried about them all. Ask him what, if anything, you have done to create this situation and what, if anything, you can do to resolve it or improve it.
Comment: #28
Posted by: Lisa
Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:25 AM
Re: Jodie...If I read everything correctly, this *smoking infraction* is taking place in Canada. I don't know what anti-smoking statutes they have. Btw, pleez note that, State-side anyway, even if a smoker opts to take smoking breaks outside their place of work, it is required that the smoker be at least 20-25 feet away from any doors. Plus it's a terrific waste of time that should be spent working. After all, that's why the smoker's there. Repeated breaks taken during the workday just so the smoker can get a "fix" should be deducted from the smoker's pay, imho.
Comment: #29
Posted by: Ms Davie
Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:31 AM
@Joyce/MN, C Meier -- I don't know what the original issue was that you two are debating, but I just wanted to put in that often times, simply reading the statue -- even by a seasoned attorney -- isn't enough. There are entire Supreme Court cases that literally come down to ONE WORD (and that word can be as simple as "the") or use of punctuation. I am NOT a lawyer and claim ZERO expertise in this -- but I worked as a reporter covering a specific case at the Supreme Court, and the ruling the court handed down was based on the use of the word "the" -- I'm not kidding, and I'm not exaggerating. That's how they determined who was right and who was wrong. For as much as you can read "the letter of the law" in black and white, that doesn't mean you are interpreting it correctly (or, I should say, interpreting it the way the judge will or has interpreted it). Even stuff that looks like it should be simple black and white frequently isn't. For example, you mention legal age of consent. You'd think that would be simple black and white, but in some states (don't know about Minnesota specifically), the way they treat the age of consent changes based on how old the other person in the situation is, as well.

Why do I think I should have just stayed out of this?
Comment: #30
Posted by: Lisa
Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:33 AM
Re LW 2

Where is this dinosaur?

Here in Ontario there have been laws prohibiting indoor smoking for years. This includes offices, retail, restaurants, public/government attractions like museums and city buses. The only placed where indoor smoking is allowed is in your home.
Comment: #31
Posted by: Westender
Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:51 AM
Re: Michelle, you wrote "I am not doubting that your DIL is troublesome, but she is not preventing your son from having contact with any of you. If he really wanted to contact you, he would. "
Technically, that is true. No one can *make* someone do or not do something. But, having personal experience with this type of thing, I do know that it's possible the woman has made her husband's life a living hell after he's visited in the past. He might be a total wimp, he might believe very strongly in his marriage vows...but I'd say that he's chosen the path of least resistance, and that path is the one that keeps his life the sanest at home. So, in essense (if my theory is correct), she has presented him with a choice backed by abuse and manipulation, which creates a situation where she is preventing him from having contact.
And, Sarah Morrow, how on earth did you find something to stink in this letter?
Comment: #32
Posted by: kristen
Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:55 AM
All this "call the tobacco police" or "call the HR department" or "call a lawyer" stuff is ridiculous. If a grown man can't tell his own employee to not smoke, then there's nothing to be done. The law is no substitute for a missing backbone--assuming dad is truly bothered by the smoke, and if he isn't, then the real problem is his busybody helicopter kids.

Comment: #33
Posted by: Jpp
Wed Feb 22, 2012 9:03 AM
LW1 - Send your cards and letters to your son's workplace - that way you'll know for sure that he is receiving them. If the wife is abusive (or sneaky), she could be disposing of these things when they come in the mail, seeing as she doesn't work. Ditto for the e-mails, if she has access to your son's account. Who knows, she may have been intercepting the correspondence for some time, and the son knows nothing.

LW2 - That's disgusting! I'd call the Labour Board or the city - I know you're not allowed to smoke in a business here in Calgary - not sure about Montreal. Rig a smoke detector right over her chair, and put it high enough that she can't shut it off. What an inconsiderate bitch.
Comment: #34
Posted by: Barbara B.
Wed Feb 22, 2012 9:09 AM
re: kai archie--I thought that sentece was interesting, too. My husband's parents have told people that I have a 'violent' temper, even though I haven't raised my voice or thrown anything at them. I've been too afraid of my FIL to risk a confrontation. Apparently leaving the room when they start screaming, or refusing to do what I'm told, is considered 'violent'. My FIL has physically abused people countless times--including his own children--and he is still doing it. I have never assaulted anyone. But my in-laws have no idea why they're not allowed to babysit. We hardly see them these days--apparently they can't stand to be around me. Too bad.

I'm very glad we don't have laws in my state that would encourage them to sue for visitation.
Comment: #35
Posted by: deb
Wed Feb 22, 2012 9:10 AM
@jpp, the law and HR departments are very useful in order to make difficult conversations easier to initiate. Plenty of people legitimately want to avoid conflict, and there's nothing wrong with that. And plenty of people do very badly when it comes to having conversations that are difficult -- it's not a skill that most people have, and it's hard to learn right when you find yourself unexpectedly in the middle of one.

If it makes it easier for someone like the LW's dad to take a stand with the secretary by having HR backing him up, or by having the law to refer to, I don't think that's a bad thing. We need to make use of the tools we have, no shame in that.
Comment: #36
Posted by: Mike H
Wed Feb 22, 2012 9:34 AM
Re: Jodie

In Canada, they don't have the smoke-free workplace laws that they do in the States. If you read the signature at the end of the letter, she says she is in Montreal.

On a side anyone who is aware of my weight struggle, I had my February weigh-in at the doctor's office today. I lost 11 pounds over the past 4 weeks! Grand total since the beginning of the year: 17 pounds GONE! :)
Comment: #37
Posted by: Janie
Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:11 AM
Re: Janie

OK, I sit corrected...for the most part re: non-smoking laws, since there can still be that pesky loophole regarding the definition of "workplace." In my defense, it's been about 7-8 years since I've spent time in Canada other than traveling to/from an airport in order to see my folks (although they live in NY State, the nearest airports to them are Ottawa and Montreal).

So I apologize for my ignorance. :)
Comment: #38
Posted by: Janie
Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:23 AM
LW1 - On the one hand, I understand your situation because I"m dealing with something similar in respect to my daughter with refusal to maintain a relationship, and I've reached my breaking point with it... that is if the situation is exactly as you describe it.

On the other hand, I think those who are questioning if there isn't more to the story have a point... what kai archie pointed out has me bothered too. Just what did you do to "keep her quick temper under control?" Keep her on a leash with a shock collar?

Not only that but I"ve had two sets of nasty in-laws who criticized me for not fitting in their molds, and went on to spread lies about me to anyone who would listen when they felt I did their families wrong because they couldn't control me the way THEY wanted. So I know how things can go on that end too.

I would say continue to send cards to your grandchildren but leave your son and DIL be... and find some way to be honest with yourself in all this. If it turns out you are playing a role, own up to it ASAP and start doing your part to heal the relationships.

LW2 - Not a lot you can do if Dad's willing to tolerate it. I would have fired her nasty butt a long time ago, but that's just me, and I'm not your Dad.

LW3 - Dead horses smell and splatter when you beat them. Please stop.
Comment: #39
Posted by: PS
Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:42 AM
Re: Grandparents' "rights"

Casey - Exactly. I get the feeling they don't know what statutes exist in what states to save their lives.

deb - Me too. My ILs would only be able to go after me or DH for visitation rights with our son if one of us dies or if we split up, and even then I will fight tooth and nail to keep them away because this is about protecting my son, not their feelings. They could still try to sue us now for visitation, but they'd have to prove to the courts that seeing our son is in our son's best interests, not theirs... to which I would say good luck, because we have a child who has been more than willing to tell us just what kind of crap Grandma pulled when we weren't around.

I also like the suggestion of sending cards, etc., to their son's workplace in the event the DIL really is as bad as they're saying. It's a good safeguard to be sure... and if they are guilty of wrongdoing in this situation the son can take the opportunity to speak to them in the parking lot where it's more neutral to spell out what the problem is.
Comment: #40
Posted by: PS
Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:53 AM
Re: Steve & Hierophantria
In Montreal, you can legally smoke in your own home, in your own car, in public parks and on the street. That's about it - so far. There talk of banning smoking in cars when there are children, because of the small enclosed space, especially in the winter with all the windows up.

Smoking is forbidden in all restaurants, stores, government offices and workplaces, so you're right, she doesn't need a stop-smoking program, she shouldn't even be smoking where she's working. I don't know if Alexandra's specifications about what constitutes a working place apply in Quebec, but CSST would know.

Problem is, such laws are enforced by the employer. Unless the LW is in a position of authority in that company and can read her the riot act, there is little she can do if her father refuses to do it himself. The CSST would be the place to go to for reporting this, but I'm not sure they can do anything if the boss of the outfit himself won't put his foot down, unless someone ELSE working in that office complains to them.

And, apart from the fact that I'm not sure she wants to go over her father's head on this, the first question whoever she reports it to would be, why is HE not doing anything about it? "The law is no substitute for a missing backbone", I'm afraid jpp is quite right about that.

@Ms Davie
"Repeated breaks taken during the workday just so the smoker can get a "fix" should be deducted from the smoker's pay, imho. "
Couldn't agree with you more. I remember all the offices where I've worked, where the non-smokers had to pick up the slack all the time because this or that person was out on a "smoking break". IMHO, there ought to be two 20-minutes mandatory breaks only, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, for EVERYONE, for anyone to do with as they please. Smokers who want to spend it polluting their lungs and reducing their life expectancy, fine with me.

Anything more should be deducted from their pay check unless they choose to cut down on their lunch hour accordingly.

Even if they could sue for visitation, from the moment anyone can testify to some physical abuse, they wouldn't have a hope in hell. At least, I hope not - sorry if I sound jaded, but you never know with government bureaucrats these days, as people who know what happened to my recent job will know.

Comment: #41
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:10 AM
Re: Janie
Congrats on the weight loss and many happy returns!

Comment: #42
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:16 AM
17 BIG POUNDS, woo-hoo! You must feel light as a feather. I remember when I came out of the hospital after the breast-reduction surgery, even with the post-operative oedema, I felt as if I had wings!

Comment: #43
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:19 AM
LW1--“My son is overwhelmed with Stacy's control issues, so he just goes along with whatever she wants.” And herein lies the problem. Unless your son grows a pair and confronts his controlling wife nothing will change. The longer the situation continues, the likelier it is that your toxic SIL will forever poison your grandsons into thinking their father's side of the family is untrustworthy and deceitful. The nut doesn't fall far from the tree. Please continue to send cards and gifts, even if they're never acknowledged and also continue to invite your son and his family to events, even if they never show up. Otherwise, there isn't much else you can do.

LW2—“My siblings and I have asked her many times to try to get help for her addiction, and to smoke outside or on the office balcony.” You and your siblings need to MYOB. What right do you have to tell your father's secretary anything? If your father wishes to implement a no smoking policy in the workplace or mandate that his secretary go outside to smoke then that's HIS place to do so. Obviously he isn't willing or the smoke doesn't bother him. For his kids to lecture his secretary about her smoking addiction seems condescending and more than a little extreme. Stop obsessing about this before you give yourself a stroke!
Comment: #44
Posted by: Chris
Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:35 AM
@Miss Davie -- when I was at my first job out of college, I was really annoyed by the fact that the smokers took all these smoke breaks. When I complained about it, I was told (by HR) that everyone was allowed two 15-minute breaks and one 60-minute lunch every day. I was told that instead of complaining about the smokers taking their allotted breaks, I should instead be sure I took MY allotted breaks. Of course, as frequently happens when it comes to corporate policies like this:

1) The only people taking those two allotted breaks were the smokers.
2) More often than not, smokers were taking more than two breaks a day.
3) No one was enforcing the "just two breaks a day" rule.
4) Instead of fixing the problem -- the problem being that non-smokers were having to take up the slack for the smokers -- what they instead encouraged was more people taking more breaks, which, of course, was only going to lead to even LESS work getting done.

Don't get me wrong, the last thing I wanted was a "break police" out there keeping track of the number of breaks people took and how long they took, etc. But I wanted there to be some sort of acknowledgment that some people absolutely were working more than others and that those people should be making more money and/or earn some other type of perk. But if they'd done that, I'm sure someone would have cried "discrimination" with their cigarettes dangling from their lips, no doubt.

Seems to me that if I had some other addiction that required I take time away from work several times a day, I'd get in trouble for it.
Comment: #45
Posted by: Lisa
Wed Feb 22, 2012 12:42 PM
@Janie: CONGRATS!!!!! That's wonderful!
Comment: #46
Posted by: Casey
Wed Feb 22, 2012 1:07 PM
Re: kristen

I completely understand and agree with your point. However, I have also heard of many parents who blame their DIL or SonIL for "keeping them away from the family" or trying to "break the family apart" when, in reality, the adult child has lessened contact all on their own.
Comment: #47
Posted by: Michelle
Wed Feb 22, 2012 1:38 PM
In response to the letter from Montreal Fan regarding the smoking secretary, many cities now prohibit smoking in public places. In fact, if this reader is from Montreal Quebec, the law is on their side. This secretary should be told that she must butt out, or be put out!
Comment: #48
Posted by: Shelly Cohen
Wed Feb 22, 2012 3:41 PM
Why is everybody hypothesizing how to handle this secretary, if the boss condones it, it's over, no fans, exhausts, smokeless ashtrays or anything else. The boss doesn't care, this has been going on for years, it's over

Next topic
Comment: #49
Posted by: Bloom Hilda
Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:11 PM
LW1: Remember your spineless son and daughter in law in your will....
Comment: #50
Posted by: happymom
Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:27 PM

Regarding LW2:

I'm going to basically just engage in pure speculation here, and play contrarian and ask a simple question.....

Is it possible "Dad" (aka HER BOSS) isn't making her stop smoking in the office, for some other reason ?

No, I am not saying he is having an affair, but I am wondering, if he is a closet puffer, aka, he smokes here and there at work, and its a lot easier to grub cigarettes, if your secretary is smoking in the office....And yes, I know, he has medical issues (which may or may not be smoking related), but I've got a feeling, there is a reason, for his allowing her to smoke in the office, and that the kids are being naive on this..........Just my 2 cents.
Comment: #51
Posted by: Mookster
Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:08 PM
Re: Janie, 37- congratulations on your weight loss and good luck continuing it.
Comment: #52
Posted by: alien07110
Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:49 AM
not knowing the situation in that office in montreal, may i suggest to those who say that it likely doesn't bother dad so they should butt [no pun intended] out that perhaps it does bother dad a great deal but maybe in other ways she is the perfect secretary and he doesn't think he can replace her ability? he might be willing to put up with her smoking in exchange for an otherwise perfect secretary.
Comment: #53
Posted by: alien07110
Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:56 AM
LW1: It's no wonder your son turned out to be the man he is today with you making excuses for him. You need to pull your head out of your butt and realize your son is no victim. If you really want to see your grandkids than go to court and fight for your rights.

LW2: What's wrong with your dad? Is he not man enough to speak up for himself? That's just sad. If your dad is fine with her smoking than you should back off and shut up.
Comment: #54
Posted by: Diana
Thu Feb 23, 2012 2:17 PM
Has it ever occurred to anyone that maybe the smoking secretary is also smoking hot and that dad is having an affair with her? Maybe he doesn't mind gasping for air in the smoke when she does things that also make him gasp for air--and in a really fun way!
Comment: #55
Posted by: TheRichcraft
Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:28 PM
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