Dear Annie: I'm from a big blended family, and we're the type who believe that family is everything.
I recently moved an hour away from my dad, his wife and their kids. I love my dad with all my heart, but I can't stand his wife. She is constantly talking down to my siblings and me (from Dad's previous marriages). We aren't treated nearly as well as the kids she and Dad have together.
When I was younger, I struggled with my weight and have worked very hard to maintain a healthy size. But whenever I visit Dad's house, his wife constantly makes comments about how I need to watch what I eat. She makes me feel awful. At the moment, I have cut back on my hours at the gym because of an injured knee, but she acts as if I've never worked out a day in my life.
I'd love to cut all ties to her, but I can't imagine not ever speaking to my dad again. Plus, I worry what my grandparents would think of me for doing that. I have tried to ignore my stepmother's comments, but it's hard to do when they're constant. My dad and I don't discuss our feelings, because he doesn't like talking about them. Should I continue visiting my father and simply put up with his wife? Or is it time to cut them out of my life and move on? — Lost in the Middle of Nowhere
Dear Lost: This doesn't have to be all or nothing. Cutting Dad off because of his wife seems like you are punishing him for marrying her. Please don't do that. Instead, tell your father how you feel, even if he doesn't respond. Simply say that you find it difficult to listen to the constant criticisms about your weight and you no longer feel comfortable visiting him in his home. You can stay with other relatives or friends, or even in a hotel, and meet in a neutral location, with or without his wife. You also can stay in touch by email and phone calls. How often is up to you.
Dear Annie: Nine years ago, my husband and I bought a large house with extra bedrooms so we could have his ailing, aging parents move in with us. We cared for them until they passed away.
The problem is, now every family member, no matter how distant, has decided that our large house is their free vacation spot. They invite themselves year round and stay for days at a time, eating our food, swimming in our pool, watching our TV and basically making themselves at home and never offering to pay for anything.
I'm tired of running a bed and breakfast out of my home. How can I stop this trend without offending our family members? — Tired of Running a Hotel in Florida
Dear Florida: You have to stand firm while being pleasant. If Cousin Jake says, "I'll be in town next month and will stay with you," reply, "I'm SO sorry, but we are simply not up to having people in the house. I'll be happy to give you the phone number of the nearest hotel, and we can meet for dinner. We'd love to see you." No matter how many times he protests, stick to your guns — but sweetly.
Dear Annie: "He Just Doesn't Care" complained that her husband smokes outside the house, and the smoke on his clothing triggers her COPD.
Thank you for suggesting electronic cigarettes. My uncle smoked for years and simply could not quit, even after having a heart attack. He switched to e-cigarettes, which allow him to get the nicotine he craves, while emitting an odorless vapor. My aunt is thrilled that the house no longer reeks of smoke, and my uncle is pleased that his health has stabilized. — Grateful
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2013. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.