Life Advice



Annie's Mailbox: Worried in New England

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar on

Dear Annie: My brother has been married to "Maureen" for 19 years, and he is a victim of spousal abuse. He has been sick off and on for their entire marriage, and during the past year, he has spent a lot of time in the hospital. He typically weighs less than 120 pounds. He is very frail and often weak.

Maureen always has been verbally and emotionally abusive, but her behavior seems to be escalating. She constantly belittles my brother, but now she is demanding that he go away for the weekend with their young daughter so that Maureen can sleep in their house with some guy she met in a bar. She wants a divorce and says my brother has to move out and give her the house and full custody of their child.

When my brother said he wanted joint custody and his share of the money from their home, Maureen pinned him down on the couch and head-butted him.

I am really worried. I told my brother to report the assault to the police, but he says Maureen would insist that he started it and they'd never believe him. My brother is sweet and kind and would never hurt a fly. I have told him he can stay with me, but his lawyer advised him not to move out because he could lose any claim to the house. What can I do? -- Worried in New England

Dear Worried: Your brother should document any instances of abuse, both verbal and physical, along with the dates they occurred and the circumstances. He also must report any further assaults to the police so they have a record, whether or not they believe him. Also urge him to contact The Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men at 1-888-7-HELPLINE (1-888-743-5754) (

Dear Annie: For many years, my wife and I have ordered a very expensive box of fresh holly from Washington state for a dear relative and her husband. Last year, we received a very tacky picture frame with twisty ties holding pieces of broken colored glass surrounding the frame.

This relative has long been famous for recycling gifts. I wrote to thank them, but how can I tactfully suggest we not do the gift routine this year? I would not want to hurt their feelings. -- Tacked Out in Florida

Dear Florida: You have an excellent opportunity this year to tell your friends that the recent hurricane season was particularly calamitous, and it seems more in the spirit of the season to donate to charity rather than give gifts, and you hope they will do the same.


Dear Annie: Last winter, my 6-year-old son was ill several times. He needed so many rounds of antibiotics that a stomach virus put him in the hospital, even though the rest of the family was only mildly affected.

We had him evaluated for a more serious problem, but his doctor concluded that he's just susceptible to whatever is going around. With another winter coming up, I am writing in the hope that parents will be aware of what happens when they send their sick kids to school.

While I understand that some contagious illnesses can't be avoided, I urge parents to keep their kids home if they have a fever, sore throat or stomach ailment. I know parents have jobs, but your child must be your top priority. When you send a sick child to school, you not only are giving your own child a miserable day, you are impacting every child in his or her class. -- Frustrated Mom

Dear Mom: It is difficult for parents to justify taking off work or hiring a sitter to stay with a child who has "only a cold." But please, parents, you are infecting all the other children, who will in turn reinfect yours. We know it's hard, but whenever possible, try to keep your sick children at home. Thank you.


"Annie's Mailbox" is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. This column was originally published in 2016. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at




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