Dear Annie: I have three siblings. The youngest sister, "Jess," has always had problems. At 13, she started taking drugs and running away from home. She spent five years in prison, and when she got out, my older sister offered to let Jess live with her so she could get a job and go to school.
Jess was OK for about 18 months. Then she developed back problems and was unable to work. After several disagreements with my sister, she moved out to live with her boyfriend, whom she later married. It's been downhill from there.
A few nights before Thanksgiving, Jess knocked on my door with her husband and their dog. Apparently, they are homeless. Neither of them can stick to a job on a regular basis. I'm sure Jess suffers from some type of mental illness, and now I think her husband does, too. I told Jess she could stay for three months and then would have to leave.
I hope she can get some assistance to help her get back on her feet. Do you have any guidance for me? — Lost and Confused
Dear Lost: It is compassionate of you to take in your sister and her family, but she needs more help than you can give her. The best thing you can do for Jess is to look into local social services that will help her and her husband with mental health counseling, job training and housing. Please contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development homeless assistance and the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Dear Annie: My 29-year-old stepson refuses to give gifts to family members at Christmas. A few years ago, I asked him why, and he said he doesn't believe in the crass commercialism at Christmas. Yet he and his wife accept gifts from all of us on the holiday.
He also doesn't send a card or phone on his Dad's birthday or mine. What do we do? Do we respect his views on commercialism and not give him gifts? Do we ignore it and hope he comes around? He and his wife earn plenty of money and can afford it. But that's beside the point. It is the effort and caring that is lacking. — Wondering
Dear Wondering: It is perfectly logical to stop buying presents for him, saying, "We know you don't support the crass commercialism of the holiday, so we are respecting your beliefs and not purchasing any gifts for you." Of course, that won't help the relationship, which seems a little strained. This is your stepson, so Dad should handle it. Has Dad told him how much it would mean to get a call or card on his birthday? Some kids simply don't connect the dots or realize the importance of remembering a loved one's special day. It helps to remind them. Gently.
Dear Annie: This is in response to PO'd in New York, who said you two "need a lobotomy" for telling readers that doggie paw prints don't belong on a sympathy card.
Annie, I have had pets, mostly cats, since I was 6 years old. I have a pet cemetery in my backyard where five of my beloved cats are buried. I have two pet rescue cats whom I love with all my heart. They are a part of my family. But I would never, ever sign their names or put their paw prints on a sympathy card. In fact, I would be terribly upset if someone sent me a sympathy card with their animal's names and paw prints on it.
I just had to let you know that not every animal lover agrees with PO'd. — A Cat Lover in Connecticut
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2015. 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.