Life Advice



Annie's Mailbox: A Caring Daughter Who Is Making Herself Sick Over This

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar on

Dear Annie: My mother is in her late 90s. She insists on covering her kitchen counters with newspaper, including the areas right next to the electric cooktop and the microwave. My mother does not see this as a fire risk. She thinks it is keeping a clean house.

The last time I cleaned her kitchen, I was disgusted by the small insects and bits of food that were trapped between the newspaper sections. Her housekeeper simply goes along with her wishes and leaves the newspapers where they are. But, Annie, if this paper catches fire, Mom would never make it out of the house alive.

I am not sure why she insists on putting her food on top of newsprint. She says newspapers are sterile. But the paper is handled by many people and sits in delivery trucks that are hardly spotless. Those who deliver it aren't wearing rubber gloves. All of this escapes my mother's attention, and she just piles the papers on her counters, which are, by the way, in great shape because she never actually uses them.

Mom reads your column every day and follows your advice. I am out of options. -- A Caring Daughter Who Is Making Herself Sick Over This

Dear Daughter: Has Mom always lined her countertops with newsprint? If she's been eating ink and bugs for more than 90 years, we assume she has a strong immune system. Also, her eyesight might not be as good as it once was, and she might not see the smeared ink and small insects. Your focus should be on the fire hazard. Any paper that rests near an electric cooktop (or any cooktop) is a risk. Mom -- if you're reading this, please wash your countertops instead of covering them with old newspapers. Your daughter wants you to be healthy and safe. So do we.

Dear Annie: I have worked hard all of my life and now find that I am financially very well off and can afford to be generous with my money.

Since I believe charity begins at home, I sent two $1,000 checks to two nieces who are going to college. It has been more than a month, and I have not heard anything from them. I even emailed the mother of one, thinking the check had gotten lost because it wasn't cashed. It was then deposited, but still no thank-you note.

I also sent a check to a friend who has been down on her luck. She called me immediately to thank me. I sent her a second check and again received an immediate thank you. I would have sent my nieces another check if they had acknowledged the original gift.


I am disheartened to think I have such ungrateful relatives. How do I handle this disappointment? -- Frustrated in Michigan

Dear Michigan: Please recognize that it's quite possible these girls have never written a thank-you note and were not taught that it is appropriate and expected. Here is your opportunity to teach them.

Contact each girl individually and ask whether she received the gift and liked it. It's OK to say that you were disappointed not to hear from them, because it made them appear ungrateful and surely that was not their intent. We think they will fall all over themselves thanking you, as well they should.

Dear Annie: This is in response to the letter from "Don't Do Business with Friends," whose husband and best friend went into business together and it didn't turn out well.

Please remind your readers never to enter into a partnership with anyone, including friends and family, without having a partnership agreement that spells out exactly what will happen if the partnership is terminated. A written contract will save a lot of headaches -- and in many cases heartache -- when it's time to part ways. -- Reader in Kentucky


"Annie's Mailbox" is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. This column was originally published in 2017. 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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