A: I am so sorry about this situation and your husband's prognosis. Everyone who loves your husband is in agony, and I'm sure your heart goes out to your mother-in-law, who is watching her child face an early death. But she just can't dump all her fear and anxiety on you. Being a caretaker for a gravely ill spouse is, yes, a privilege but also a hard, sad, lonely undertaking. Your mother-in-law is not entitled to make it more painful. I hope there is someone close to your mother-in-law she trusts who can intervene here. Someone you can confide in who can talk to your mother-in-law about her grief and urge her to seek counseling so that she can channel her fears elsewhere. If not, get in touch with the social work department at the hospital where your husband is being treated. They may be able to help and also intervene. Someone needs to tell your mother-in-law that any nutrition is good and that obsessing about organic food is unnecessary and stressful for her son. It sounds like you and your mother-in-law should stagger your time at the hospital. You don't have to be there together; let your mother-in-law relieve you so you can take a walk, a nap, or otherwise attend to your own needs. And please seek a counselor of your own—you shouldn't have to carry this burden alone.
Q. Re: Frivolous Spending of Donation Money: Is it possible that the family got scholarships for the children to attend the private school? Or perhaps the school has tuition assistance programs or a sliding scale for family income. Many expensive private schools, especially those affiliated with religious organizations, have some method set up so children from all walks of life can afford to attend. It is entirely possible that thanks to their now reduced income, the family is able to "afford" the school because they made too much money before to be able to apply for reduced or waived tuition.
A: Good point, and again the decision about private school is a private one for this family. But since others have made deep sacrifices to keep them afloat, it still makes sense to help ensure this couple is making wise decisions with the resources they have.
Q. Fundraisers: To cope with the onslaught of fundraisers, some of us neighbors have banded together to establish a "buying circle," so we don't all end up with too many of the same thing. Basically, I will buy from you, you buy from Mary, Mary buys from Alice, and Alice buys from me. It's worked really well, and the kids still have lots of opportunity to go door-to-door selling. However, one set of parents now claims they are too busy to take their kids door-to-door and they can't sell at work. They are making a big fuss about how their kid won't win any of the sales competitions. It's starting to get ugly over such a simple thing. Any thoughts on how to frame a civil discussion?
A: Oh, how I hate these things. It's a reasonable solution that all of you agree to buy a limited amount of crap. (My answer has been to bow out. I simply concluded I don't need any ridiculously expensive wrapping paper.) I can't imagine how ugly this could really get. Banners strung across the neighborhood saying, "Buy My Kid's Scented Candles or Else!" This other family sounds like it's having a tantrum. Veteran parents know the best thing to do with tantrums is ignore them.
Q. Re: Hot Co-Worker Makes Me Uncomfortable: I feel like I'm on the other side of "hot co-worker's" dilemma. I'm a woman and have a crush on a co-worker. He's got a girlfriend—it’s not going to happen. I actually told him I liked him (even knowing about the girlfriend). He gave me some distance but has slowly started coming back to being chatty and friendly. (I joked to friends we were "one date" away from being office spouses before I decided to tell him I liked him, which changed the friendship immediately.) My only issue is now I don't know how to navigate our relationship. I saw his girlfriend is coming to a work event—he didn't tell me this, but our boss did. I'm trying to figure out how I should behave. He may not want me to talk to her.
A: You are co-workers, so you behave the way you do with any other co-worker. The various relationship scenarios you have played out remain entirely in your head. This guy started acting friendly again because he probably assumed you got his message that he's not interested. But you didn't. There's no drama surrounding his girlfriend because he's not interested in you. So if you happen to meet the girlfriend, try to act like a normal person.
Q. Wish I Didn't Have the Money: My husband's parents each passed away when he was in his early 20s, more than a decade ago. They left a great deal of emotional turmoil for him and his younger siblings but also a sizable estate. As a result of this inheritance, my husband and I are able to own a nice home in a good neighborhood and have paid off our college loans. We realize we are very lucky in that sense. But now that a decade has passed, most of our friends have forgotten the reason behind our inheritance and focus only on the money we have. We aren't extravagant but live in a neighborhood that is well beyond the means of most of our friends. Any purchases we make or vacations we take are met with comments about how nice it must be to be so wealthy. Do I need to constantly remind people that we'd rather have our parents back?
A: Maybe you need new friends. By your 30s people's trajectories become more pronounced. Someone working for a nonprofit is going to have a different car and take different vacations than someone who's a partner in a law firm. If people make snide comments to their better-off friends, they are really juvenile. (I do hear a legitimate gripe along these lines that the better-off friends often recommend meeting at restaurants where dinner is the equivalent of a mortgage payment for the less flush—but that clearly is not the case here.) I hope you aren't just being overly sensitive. Maybe your friends are saying, "Oh, a trip to Morocco sounds great. We're hoping the National Parks will be open this year so we can go on vacation," and you're interpreting it as, "Nyah, nyah, lucky you that you're not stuck at Yellowstone." But if you truly are hearing nasty comments, you don't have to remind them, "Yeah, we're lucky Todd's parents died right after he graduated from college and didn't live long enough to use up his inheritance." You don't have to say anything at all. Just smile and let their envy hang in the air.
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