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home : columns : dear harriette August 9, 2020


DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a really great job that has good benefits. The job itself isn't what I think I would want to do forever, but I'm comfortable. Recently, there were proposals for the reduction of our benefits. Some of those proposals were passed, which resulted in the loss of those benefits. Now I worry that I could potentially lose more than what I'm willing to live with.
Saturday, August 8, 2020


Cramped reader needs more space
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am 25 years old, and I just finished my master's degree. I want to start my own businesses from home. I've begun an online closet, and I am studying to receive my real estate license. I still live at home with my family and pay a majority of the bills because I happen to be the biggest breadwinner. Lately, I've been feeling congested -- like I don't have my own workspace to develop.
Friday, August 7, 2020

Bride doesn't want friend to share wedding date
My friend and I got engaged in the same week and chose our 2021 wedding dates one week apart. Once we got hit with COVID, I pushed my date back one year, and my friend got married early in the courthouse. She approached me asking about my wedding date and if I intended on keeping the same date for 2022. She wanted to renew her vows with a full wedding -- no longer on the original date she had chosen, but one week earlier, on my original 2021 date. She asked me only after I told her of the one-year postponement. This began a conflict and was a problem for me. As close friends and each other's bridesmaids, I would not want us to deliberately get married on the same date, even one year apart. What should I do?
Thursday, August 6, 2020

Sweaty employee turns off computer camera
It is so hot in my house right now that I can hardly bear it. It is impossible to get on a Zoom call for work and look professional when all I'm doing is sweating all day. I feel bad about this, but it's true. I have not turned the camera on for a few days. I'm hoping that the heat wave will pass soon, but I'm not sure it will. What do you recommend that I do in this situation? My boss likes to see our faces at these meetings, but I don't think anybody wants to see me sitting there sweating
Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Today is the 217th day of 2020 and the 46th day of summer.
I've been hoping that this guy I've liked for a long time would finally wake up and see that we should be together. We are good friends and he says he loves me, but he has never made a move. Recently he called me all excited to say that he had reconnected with his ex-wife. I'm in shock. They broke up more than 20 years ago, and he used to hate her. Why would he get with her and not give me a chance? I don't get it. What am I doing wrong?
Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Reader upset when friends learn about high blood pressure
I have high blood pressure, and I take medication for it. Pretty much nobody in my friend group knows about it because I just don't think it's any of their business. I'm a very private person.
Monday, August 3, 2020

Woman wonders who to call to feel safe
Saturday, August 1, 2020

Woman considers getting long-wanted nose job
I have been insecure about my nose since I was a little girl. From the beginning of my teen years, I thought about how nice it would be to get a nose job. Now that I am an established working person, I am realizing that this would be completely financially viable for me, and I'm in a position to make this choice. I know that a nose job is a big deal and could change the way my face looks pretty drastically. However, it would be nice to use my autonomy and the money I've worked for to address an insecurity I've held for a long time. Should I go through with getting plastic surgery, or should I just learn to accept the way I look?
Friday, July 31, 2020

Aspiring writer needs motivation to finish book
I had a dream of writing a book, and in 2014 I rented a house on the beach and spent five weeks writing. I made good progress and was happy with the fruits of my labor. When I got home, I did not continue. How do I make it a priority to finish it? It seems that when I am home, I put everything and everyone before finishing my book. I keep telling myself that my book must not be as important as I thought it was or as the other things that I spend my time on. Is this some kind of mental block that is causing me to procrastinate? I have a husband who likes to do everything together, and when I rented the home to be alone and write, he insisted on coming with me. He worked from the house, and I worked on my book. I would appreciate any assistance or advice you can offer
Thursday, July 30, 2020

Employer may want to move job search from social media
I have been looking to hire a part-time assistant to help me get a project off the ground. Considering how many people are out of work, I figured if I posted the position on my social media, I would get a few candidates. I did, and a few people responded, but nobody seemed eager to work hard. For example, when I wrote back to people to set up interviews, it took them days to respond. One woman sounded interesting, but she wasn't willing to work enough hours. Another man I gave a chance, but he never could show up to our morning meetings on time. I think I may need to go to one of those services that has already vetted people in order to feel confident. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned work ethic?
Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Daughter loses motivation in summer school
My high school-aged daughter is taking an accelerated college class this summer. I am excited for her to stimulate her brain and get some good extra credit on her resume. I am also worried that she isn't applying herself enough. The class operates at a quick pace. She started out gung ho, but her enthusiasm has dwindled. How can I keep her motivated? This class was expensive, but besides that, it is important for her to excel.
Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Partner questions next steps after apologizing
What do you do when you hurt the one you love? I recently had a fight with my partner and lashed out at him in a way that deeply hurt his feelings. I feel incredibly guilty, but I know that won't do anything to help the situation. What can I do now that I've acknowledged that I was wrong and said I'm sorry? He is obviously still very upset. How do I approach him during this time, given that we live together and I'd like to do my best to make him feel better?
Monday, July 27, 2020

Dear Harriette
DEAR HARRIETTE: My neighbor's dog just died. She was very close to it, so close she decided to have a funeral for the dog. Don't get me wrong, I like dogs, but I feel like this is a bit much. But since we live very close to each other and we can't really go anywhere, she wants me to come to her backyard and participate in the ceremony. I think this is way over the top, but I do like this woman. She is older and never had any children. I think she considered her dog to be like a child. Should I participate even though I don't believe in this sort of thing? -- Good Neighbor
Saturday, July 25, 2020

Reader in debt worries about creditors
DEAR HARRIETTE: I still have crazy debt that I cannot pay because I haven't worked since March due to the coronavirus. I am scared to call my creditors because I don't have anything new to say to them. I interview all the time, and I just haven't found anything yet. What should I say or do now when I can only send pennies to companies that I owe thousands? -- Need To Pay
Thursday, July 23, 2020

Employee mad when boss takes over during presentation
I just had a big argument with my boss over what I felt was an injustice done to me during a conference call with a client. I am the one who did all the work on this project, and my boss interrupted me as I was making a presentation and basically took over and acted like it was all his idea. I was infuriated, so I told him as much. We ended up arguing; he claims that every project is his project. He had told me that I was supposed to present.
Thursday, July 23, 2020

Roommates worry about isolating woman
I am living with someone who was exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms. While we are taking the necessary precautions -- giving her food in her room, having her wear a mask in shared spaces and talking to her from 6 feet away with a mask -- how do we ensure we keep her mentally healthy during this time period in which she has to be physically distant from us and spend a lot of time inside her room? We all feel concerned for her as she already struggles with depression, and we can tell she feels guilty for potentially exposing us to the virus. What can we do, while remaining safe, to make her feel better?
Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Recent stress causes reader to turn to alcohol
DEAR HARRIETTE: Recently my stress levels have gone up because of the coronavirus, especially the threat of potentially losing my job if another wave hits. I thought I was in the clear after things seemed to start stabilizing, but the company I work for may not be doing well, and I don't know what will happen if another wave hits. I have noticed myself turning to drinking more often than I'd like to admit in order to cope with this stress. I don't think I am an alcoholic, but I recognize that this behavior could potentially lead to dangerous outcomes. It is challenging because the people who usually support me during hard times are harder to see now, so sometimes it feels like the only option. What steps should I take to address this issue? -- On the Edge
Tuesday, July 21, 2020

College student unsure about major
DEAR HARRIETTE: How do I choose my major in college? I have several interests, but I don't know which major to choose. I am studying classics right now; I was introduced to it because a lot of my family members study it. I enjoy it very much -- most of the time. However, I'm wondering if I should branch out and experiment before committing to it as a major. What should I do? -- Undeclared
Monday, July 20, 2020

Reader embarrassed by quarantine weight gain
I just had a telehealth call with my primary care physician, and he grilled me about how I have been taking care of myself during this period of quarantine. I didn't want to admit that I have gained 10 to 15 pounds. I am embarrassed that I haven't been more disciplined. I was already supposed to be losing weight, but instead I gained. He cautioned me that I have to lose weight because obesity is one of the factors that can make one more susceptible to complications from COVID-19. I know he's right, but I didn't appreciate hearing that from him. It's almost time to go back out into the world. Now he has me scared all over again about getting sick and dying. It's not like I can reverse this weight gain with a blink. What should I do?
Saturday, July 18, 2020

Employee doing extra tasks without being paid
I am doing things at work that are not part of my job description, and I'm not getting paid for them. I'm well respected at my job, which is why people trust me with these tasks, and while I don't mind doing favors once in a while, I'm not getting paid for these favors. It's becoming a pattern. I work for a small business, and I'm very close to everyone. There's a sense of loyalty among all of the co-workers. How should I approach this situation without burning bridges or causing conflict? Should I ask to get paid, or should I just stop doing the tasks entirely?
Friday, July 17, 2020

Stepfather insensitive about protests
My stepfather, who has been with my mother for the last three years, has been making insensitive comments about the Black Lives Matter protests. For example, saying that the protests are all about looting and violence, and dismissing the concerns of African Americans in this country. How do I approach the topic so that I can try to educate him and change his perspectives while being respectful since I am trying to build a friendly relationship with him and don't want to cause any family tension?
Thursday, July 16, 2020

Loneliness linked to a number of diseases and conditions
I live alone, and stay-at-home orders have been hard. I've heard people say that being lonely is really bad for your health, and now I believe them. What problems can it cause? Also, I'm going to start seeing friends and family again. What can we do to stay safe?
Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Parent worried son's smoking pot to mask anxiety
I've noticed my son, who is home from college, is smoking marijuana quite often now that we are in quarantine. I can smell it on him. While I don't have an issue with marijuana on occasion, I am worried that this is a coping mechanism for his feelings of anxiety about the future and isolation from his friends. How do I talk to him without being accusatory?
Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Working child worried by homebound elderly parents
DEAR HARRIETTE: My elderly parents are struggling with being alone during quarantine. They don't get out normally, and now it's even worse. They don't have many friends, and they are afraid to go outside because they don't want to get sick. I'm working full time, so I don't want to get them sick. How do I ensure that my parents don't get too lonely while also knowing I can't be their only source of interaction? -- Saving My Parents
Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Journalist questions what to do about similar article
I am a college student, and I have recently been doing extended research for a news article for my job. This will be the first major news article I've ever published. However, I just found out that someone else published an article that is almost exactly like the story I was trying to write, even interviewing many of the people I have been in the process of talking to. I have been doing months of prep work and background research, and I don't want to abandon the work I've done, but I know that the article I publish will be less significant now that someone else in the field has published. This project has meant a lot to me, and I want the work I do to be significant. What should I do?
Monday, July 13, 2020

Dear Harriette
DEAR HARRIETTE: Even during these times when so many people are out of work, I am seeing that some young people do not want to work hard. Am I wrong to say that? I have hired two recent college grads in the past two months. And -- can you believe it? -- they don't show up to work, meaning to a Zoom call, on time. They arrive 10 to 20 minutes late to meetings without even an acknowledgment that they were late. I don't want to seem like a crotchety old boss, but I don't get it. I am giving them a chance to work at a time when I need their undivided attention and focus, and I'm not getting it. How can I motivate them? -- Unmotivated
Saturday, July 11, 2020

Boyfriend planning future around recent college grad
DEAR HARRIETTE: I just graduated from college, and my partner moved in with me at my parents' house because of quarantine. This has deepened our relationship and brought us closer, but it has posed challenges and shown incompatibilities that have me questioning if I want to continue the relationship.
Friday, July 10, 2020

College student must choose parent to live with
DEAR HARRIETTE: My parents are getting divorced. They announced it to me, their only child, after we were already hunkered down at their house during quarantine. Now I'm faced with a decision I don't need right now. My dad is moving out of our family home and into his own house. I love both my parents so much, and I don't want to pick sides in this fight. But I am now faced with having to make a decision as to where I will live. I am still in college, but I would have the summer off anyway. Because of the coronavirus, I don't have any idea when I will physically go back to school, so I will be living with my parents indefinitely. How do I decide who I am going to live with? -- Split Decision
Thursday, July 9, 2020

Sister won't participate in religious zoom celebrations
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a mother of two spending quarantine with my husband. My daughters are college-aged and living on their own. We have a large extended family that is used to seeing each other often throughout the year. We're trying to spend time together as a family during quarantine through Zoom celebrations of Jewish holidays. However, my sister is not religious and doesn't want to participate because we're celebrating religious holidays. How do we communicate to her that the significance of these events is not religion and make her comfortable joining in these family events? -- Family First
Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Protesting in the time of coronavirus
DEAR HARRIETTE: I really want to go out and participate in the Black Lives Matter protests, but I also have been taking quarantine very seriously as I believe it saves lives. How do I balance these conflicting principles and decide whether I should protest or stay home? -- Black Lives Matter
Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Ex-boyfriend bringing new women to apartment
DEAR HARRIETTE: I broke up with my boyfriend about six months ago, but he still lives in my apartment. I know it sounds crazy, but I needed a roommate to split the rent with me; when we broke up, it just seemed easier for him to stay -- at least for a while.
Monday, July 6, 2020

Harriett hope for freedom and equality for all
Happy Independence Day! This is the day so many years ago when our country proclaimed its freedom. For many, it was a happy day. For some, freedom remained elusive. Today, in 2020, our country is grappling with this notion of independence and what it actually means for all citizens. The contemplation is worthwhile even if it can be difficult.

At times like these, I think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He said: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." He added, "No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

Isn't that precisely what we have been witnessing in these past few weeks?

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The videoconference debate continues
Clearly, I hit a nerve with the discussion about videoconferencing from home and whether you should turn your camera on. Because so many of you continue to write in about this, I have chosen two more letters to share with you. Working from home and navigating professional engagements without the supports and rhythms that we had only a few months ago has changed the dynamic of our lives dramatically. We are all working to figure it out. Here are some of your ideas on this hot-button topic.
Friday, July 3, 2020

Family grows testy in close quarters
Being able to spend more time with my family during quarantine has been great. However, as time wears on, we are all beginning to get on each other's nerves, and fights between family members have increased. I don't want our home to be a hostile environment or family tensions to rise during this time. How can we work with this limited space and these restrictions to make a more civil and understanding home environment?
Thursday, July 2, 2020

Student's fraternity plans alarm sister
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a politically active 27-year-old woman. My younger brother, who is just about to enter college, informed me that he wants to join a fraternity. I actively protested against fraternities during my time in college, as I believe they promote toxic masculinity and are spaces of sexual harassment. I also have several friends who were harassed by fraternity members during their time at college. I don't want my brother to be influenced by this toxic environment, so how should I dissuade him from joining? Or should I allow him to make his own mistakes and simply talk to him about his experiences while in the fraternity as they come up? -- Open His Eyes
Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Student feels ready to settle down now
DEAR HARRIETTE: I feel like I am ready to get married and have kids, but I'm only 19. I am still in college, but I think that is what I'd rather be doing. Most of my family members started their families very young, and I feel like it's the right thing to do. I know I am young and that's very discouraged nowadays, and I also know that these are important years for growth and self-discovery. Should I go with my heart and try and start a family after graduation, or should I wait? -- Ready for Marriage
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Immigrant requests primer on race relations
I am a Russian immigrant who came to the U.S. seven years ago as a refugee when I was 16. I have always had trouble wrapping my head around American race relations, as they are so different from those of my home country. As the current escalations on the issue of police brutality around the country happen, I want to engage in activism and important conversations, but I have no idea where to start or what my opinions are. How do I inform myself and engage with a discourse that is not as personal to me?
Monday, June 29, 2020

Dear Harriette
DEAR HARRIETTE: Every summer, I invite my niece and nephew from Italy to come stay with me and my family. Travel hasn't really opened up yet, so this summer hasn't been an issue, but I anticipate that travel will be relaxed soon enough. I am afraid to have them come.
Saturday, June 27, 2020

Co-worker steals professional ideas
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a co-worker who is slick as all get-out, and I'm sick of her. We work closely together. Whenever we have brainstorming meetings, which is part of our job, in the next staff meeting she pipes up and offers my ideas to the group as if they were her own.
Friday, June 26, 2020

Suburban friends still socialize during lockdown
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have become a recluse during this quarantine period. I thought everybody was doing the same thing, but then I spoke to some friends in other parts of the country, and learned that we are having completely different experiences. I live in the big city, and we have been on lockdown. Officials have urged us not to go out, and I haven't. I have ordered my food in and everything.
Thursday, June 25, 2020

Suburban friends still socialize during lockdown
I have become a recluse during this quarantine period. I thought everybody was doing the same thing, but then I spoke to some friends in other parts of the country, and learned that we are having completely different experiences. I live in the big city, and we have been on lockdown. Officials have urged us not to go out, and I haven't. I have ordered my food in and everything.
Thursday, June 25, 2020

After dating a year, boyfriend realizes he's gay
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been going out with this sweet guy from my high school for a year now. During coronoavirus, everything got weird because we haven't been able to see each other. During one of our many "talks" on Snapchat, he told me that he doesn't want to date anymore because he's gay. What? Never in all the time that we have been together has he done anything to make me think he is gay.
Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Readers offer suggestions for unemployed nanny
I made a mistake -- even after doing some research -- on an important and timely topic, so I want to share reader feedback that may be of value to you.
Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Reader vexed by man's accolades
I just saw an announcement for a promotion and award for a man I have known for many years. When I knew him, he was a cheat. Among other things, he "bought" something from me and never paid for it. I followed up multiple times, and he just blew me off, saying he was broke and he would pay me when he could. Now I see his face glowing with his accolades, and it turns my stomach.
Monday, June 22, 2020

Employer not taking COVID-19 concerns seriously
As two co-workers and I return to our five-person office during our state's Phase 1 reopening, no one but me is complying with basic COVID-19 health safety recommendations for 6-feet social distancing and wearing masks. (One other worker remains at home because she doesn't have child care resources for her school-age children -- a different, but all-too-common problem.) The owner of the business worked alone in the office daily throughout the governor's stay-at-home orders.
Saturday, June 20, 2020

Underemployed reader needs attitude adjustment
I used to work in TV production, and I loved my job. A few years ago, when the economy was down, I lost my job, and I have been foundering ever since. I now work with a temp agency doing clerical work. I hate this job, but I haven’t been able to find anything else. I think my attitude is getting in my way.
Friday, June 19, 2020

Reader's vandalized apartment causes concern
For the past few weeks, my apartment has been the focus of somebody's wrath. Someone has been running up to my door and crashing into it. The sound is frightening, but I have yet to see who's doing it. By the time I get to the door, the person is long gone, and we don't have security cameras. Recently, someone spray-painted my door, and on another occasion, someone sprayed what looked like fire extinguisher fluid all over it.
Thursday, June 18, 2020

Mom and brother won't follow homeowner's rules
My mother and brother both live in my house with me. I told my mom last year when they moved in that I was going to run the air conditioning all summer, and I did not want the windows or doors open -- period. My mom likes to have her window wide open all year. We ended up arguing about the windows being open while the air conditioning is running pretty much all summer long. I told her this year that I'm going to run the air, windows shut, no discussion about it. She already has been arguing that it shouldn't affect the temperature in the house and has opened her windows anyway. I have a ranch-style house, so it's not like she is in an upstairs bedroom where it is particularly hotter than the rest of the house. I keep the air at 70 degrees.
Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Readers respond to harriette's videoconference advice
I received a lot of mail about my column about videoconferences and the fact that I think it is smart for everyone to show their faces at least once during these calls as a way to create better connections. The following letters give a sense of the range of comments that you had -- all of which are valid.
Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Black mother fears for her teenage son
I don't know what to say to my son about all of the stuff happening in our country. I am a black mother with a black teenager. I am afraid every time he goes outside. I have actually appreciated the quarantine because I had a reason to keep him inside, but that can't last. I am at a loss as to how to protect my boy. I know you don't have any magic words, but can you give any guidance?
Monday, June 15, 2020

Dear Harriette
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a neighbor who likes to bring candy to my children. He doesn't have his own kids, so I know he is doing this to connect with children he loves. And my kids do love him. But I don't give them candy. I told him that the first time he gave it to them, but he hasn't gotten the message.
Saturday, June 13, 2020

Reader donates money without the benefit of write-off
DEAR HARRIETTE: I belong to a social club. Since sheltering at home began and restaurants and stuff have been closed, they, too, have shut down. Management invited members to contribute to a fund for the staff. I thought that was nice; they've had no income, and most of them want to be artists, so they had nowhere to turn during this time. I chose to give what I could to them rather than to a random charity.
Friday, June 12, 2020

Neighbor reluctant to share reason for illness
I heard a doctor likening the coronavirus to the AIDS crisis the other day. At first I thought they were crazy; obviously they are very different things. But I listened some more, and what this doctor was saying is that there was a terrible stigma attached to people with AIDS, so much so that people were reluctant to say that they had the disease. Now that same thing seems true for people who have COVID-19.
Thursday, June 11, 2020

Asthmatic woman questions who to believe
I hate the back-and-forth in the media between the liberal press and the conservative press. I decided to watch both to try to figure out my view on things, but now I am even more confused. Both sides make really strong arguments, even about going outside now that the government is slowly letting up on restrictions.
Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Couple must set boundaries before baby arrives
I am almost 30 years old, and I am having a baby. My partner and I are in a good relationship. Even though we didn't plan to get pregnant, we are figuring it out together. I'm not going to lie, though: It's a lot to think about and manage.
Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Man has hard time keeping in touch
I have a hard time keeping in touch with people. I have gone months and even years without calling people I really care about. It's not because I don't love them. More, it's that they aren't around, and I just don't think about them. I have even gone weeks without calling my mother. Obviously I love her. But I'm busy with my life, and time just slips by.
Monday, June 8, 2020

Worker needs help with technology
I work in a youth-based industry even though I am not young. I keep up my style, so I look fairly young, all things considered. People always tell me I look young for my age. But that all falls away whenever technology comes into play. I know how to use Word, but that's about the extent of it. When my company introduces a new app or other tool to make life easier, I struggle to figure out how to install it, let alone use it.
Saturday, June 6, 2020

Family should limit exposure to neighbor
My next-door neighbor is very chatty and used to come over all the time -- too much for my liking -- after work to chat. I shut that down after the lockdown started, which made her angry. She said that since we live next door to each other, we should be safe. But she doesn't stay home -- she can't. She works for the city and has to go to work every day. To me, that means she could be exposed to anything.
Friday, June 5, 2020

Undeclared workers cannot file for unemployment
I have a wonderful nanny who has been taking care of my daughter for three years. When the quarantine began, we told her not to come to work because that was the rule. We continued to pay her. Since that time, I have lost my job. No one knows when these restrictions will end, and my husband and I don't think we can continue to pay her salary. We love her and know she counts on this money, but we are quickly depleting our savings. We didn't declare her salary on our taxes, so I don't think she is eligible for unemployment insurance. How should we handle this?
Thursday, June 4, 2020

Sibling worries about sister's pill stash
Since we have been living in quarantine, my older sister and brother have come back to live with us. I went into my sister's room the other day and noticed that she had a stash of weed and pills in her room. I don't want to be a tattletale, but it kind of freaked me out. She has been acting weird, but I just thought she was mad because she had to stay with us instead of at college. Weed is one thing, but she had Oxy too. I think I should tell my mother, but I don't want to cause a huge family fight. What should I do?
Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Teen needs new friend to hang out with
My best friend and I have been spending a lot of time together lately. Because we live near each other, our parents have allowed us to visit only each other during quarantine. But now my friend is going to her country house with her family, and I will be left here. I am so sad. I am an only child, and it meant so much to me to have one real contact outside of my family. I know this may sound melodramatic, but I'm a teenager and I need to see my friends. What can I do? Should I try to convince my mom to let someone else become my hangout friend?
Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Symptoms suggest it's time to get tested
I have not been feeling well for the past few days, and it has got me scared. What with the COVID-19 virus being everywhere, I wonder if I have it. My stomach has been sick. I can't seem to hold food down, but I am still doing my job and taking care of my family. On the news, they say just to stay home if you don't feel well unless you have a high fever. I don't have a fever at all, but I feel like hell. I am worried that if I am sick I will infect my family. Staying home does not seem like the best idea, to be honest. But I don't know where I can get a test or anything. What should I do?
Monday, June 1, 2020

Dear Harriette
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have an annual subscription to my local theater company. This used to be a favorite activity for my husband and me, but everything is canceled now. The company recently sent me a letter asking if I would donate the money I spent for the subscription so that it can try to stay in business.
Saturday, May 30, 2020

Teenage son refuses to take showers
DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm having a hard time getting my teenage son to get up and take a shower. I don't mean every day; I'm talking once a week. When I pester him, he blows me off, saying he's saving water, or asking why it matters anyway; it's not like he's going anywhere. Really? Basic hygiene is still important. And the doctors say being clean is part of what keeps us safe. How can I get him to snap back into being responsible for himself? -- Hygiene
Friday, May 29, 2020

Employee working from home keeps gaining weight
Working from home every day and staring into a computer screen is making me nuts. I feel like I sit all day long. And I have the extra weight to prove it. It's horrible. I don't even want to get on the scale to see the damage I've done to my body. I'm mortified by the thought. I'm grateful to be working, but this isn't sustainable. I am on teleconferences all day long, and I am forced to sit at my desk, not moving for hours. My smartwatch screams at me to stand up, but I keep sitting because that's where the meetings happen -- on my computer. What can I do to take better care of myself? The end of this way of working is nowhere in sight. I don't know if I am going to survive it.
Thursday, May 28, 2020

Son's college plans remain in flux
My son is scheduled to start college this fall at a local university, but we aren't sure what is going to happen next. He is not having a graduation from high school because there can't be any social gatherings. Now we wonder if he will actually go to college. Fall is right around the corner. I can't imagine that they will figure out safe distancing in the classroom by then. Should we let him defer a year? Even with that, though, what will he do? He's a young man, and he needs structure and direction. I don't know how to guide him right now.
Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Married couple can't connect even in quarantine
My husband and I barely get along. It has been like this for years. He retreats into the other room and watches TV while I cook dinner, look after the kids and then sit down to relax in the living room to watch TV -- never the same program and rarely in the same room. It has become more noticeable now that we both are at home all day long. Even as we are in the same space 24/7, we hardly ever talk about anything meaningful or sit together in the same room. How did we get to this point? I have other friends telling me how much fun they are having with their husbands during this time. What can I do to spice things up?
Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Mother deteriorating during quarantine
My mom lives in a retirement community, and she has been quarantined for more than two months now. She can't come out of her tiny apartment for any reason. They drop off food packages to her each day and pick up the trash every week. We hired an attendant to organize her meds and to give her a shower, so there is one person who puts her eyes on my mom. But she is deteriorating. When we talk on FaceTime, we can see that she's not doing well. She no longer puts on street clothes. She doesn't fix her hair or put on makeup. I am so worried that if we aren't allowed to see her soon, she will perish. But the community is strict, and they will not allow my family to enter the building. What can I do?
Monday, May 25, 2020

Reader worried about going outside
I have been staying at home for weeks, only venturing out occasionally to go to the grocery store, although I have mostly organized that for delivery. Now that things are loosening up, I'm still concerned about how much I should go outside. I have a couple of medical conditions, and I am very worried that if I catch this disease, I won't survive. I haven't told anyone in my neighborhood or my job that I have these health challenges. I don't want people to look at me with pity. I manage my life just fine, thank you. But I don't know how well I will do if I put myself out in the general population.
Saturday, May 23, 2020

Reader questions returning back to normal
I have been staying at home for weeks, only venturing out occasionally to go to the grocery store, although I have mostly organized that for delivery. Now that things are loosening up, I'm still concerned about how much I should go outside. I have a couple of medical conditions, and I am very worried that if I catch this disease, I won't survive. I haven't told anyone in my neighborhood or my job that I have these health challenges. I don't want people to look at me with pity. I manage my life just fine, thank you. But I don't know how well I will do if I put myself out in the general population.
Friday, May 22, 2020

Co-worker wants to be invited to virtual happy hours
Now that people are hosting virtual parties all the time, there is a whole new social scene to worry about. I just learned that a group of my co-workers who used to hang out on Friday nights after work sometimes host a virtual cocktail party, and they haven't invited me. Now, to be fair, I didn't go every week to their gathering because I have a kid and I often had to get home early. But now that I'm already home, I could easily join them. I don't want to be left out, but I'm not sure how to handle this. Is it OK for me to ask if they would invite me the next time they get together?
Thursday, May 21, 2020

Parent shocked by teen's TV choices
I walked into my teenage daughter's room and saw that she was watching a program that had pretty overt sexual activity in it. When we talked, she told me that almost all of the teenage-focused programs these days have nudity and some kind of sexual activity. I was aghast. My daughter is a good girl, as teenagers go. I don't think she is engaged in sexual activity herself yet, but I don't want her to be able to see some of the things that are shown on these programs. She showed me some examples of popular teen shows on the streaming services, and she was right. ALL of them had sexual activity in them. I don't want to ban her from TV. Honestly, I don't know if that would really work anyway. What can I do to protect her?
Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Co-workers turn off video during conferences
My company has videoconference calls every day, often several times during the day. I have noticed that the women hardly ever show their faces. We just see their names across a blank screen, even when they are talking. The men typically show their faces. I imagine this is because nobody can get to the hairdresser or any other grooming place, and women don't feel pulled together now. I wonder what the etiquette is for participating in these calls. My gut says it would be much better for people to be fully participatory, meaning showing their faces.
Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Grandchild wonders what to do about funeral
My grandma died this week, and it is so sad. We weren't able to visit her in her nursing home or in the hospital because of the rules about COVID-19. Now it's time for us to put her to rest. I can't decide what to do. I could host a tiny funeral with 10 guests or fewer. Or I could wait indefinitely to host a bigger event after the gathering restrictions are relaxed. Or the funeral home suggested a virtual event. I don't know what to do. What do you recommend?
Monday, May 18, 2020

Dear Harriette
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have had a lot of time to think about my life while I've been stuck at home. Recently, I have been having nightmares. Some of the things I did in my youth were just awful. As I have flashes of scenes when I was rude or downright mean to people, I shudder to think that was me. But it was.
Saturday, May 16, 2020

Husband won't stop berating spouse
DEAR HARRIETTE: I feel like I'm constantly under attack in my marriage. Whenever my husband calls out my name, I cringe because I expect him to disparage me about something. It could be the littlest thing. Like, if he can't find something, he sharply calls out my name and speaks in a berating tone, asking where the thing is. If he is talking about something that I don't know about, he will look at me with his eyes big and wide, suck his teeth and ask how it is possible that I don't know that thing. Whatever the topic, usually he treats me like I'm stupid if I can't immediately join the conversation exactly where he is or have the solution to his problem. This may seem small, buy I really don't know what to do. I am tired of always being under his surveillance. How can I get him to be kind to me? -- Under Fire
Friday, May 15, 2020

New employee needs technological help
I have a new job, but I am worried that I am in over my head because of the technology. I don't really know how to use the different programs that we have been asked to use on a daily basis. I didn't lie about it when I took the job. Nobody asked me. I think they assumed that everybody knows how to use things like Microsoft Office and Excel. I hardly know how to use the computer. I'm not so old; it's just that in my previous jobs I mainly worked with my hands. I wasn't in an office, and I never learned this stuff. I need this job and need to figure out how to do these basic things before I get fired. I'm afraid to talk to my boss about it. What should I do?
Thursday, May 14, 2020

Reader doesn't see point of virtual happy hours
Some of my friends have been trying to get me to participate in virtual cocktail parties with them. It just seems silly to me, sitting around at home looking at my computer screen and drinking remotely with a group of people. Yuck! My best friend keeps urging me to try it. She reminded me that we used to have regular get-togethers with our friend group, and this will be as close as we can get to that. I see her point, but I don't think it will be fun. It seems contrived to me. How can I back out of this without hurting her feelings?
Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Man's declaration of love confuses happy reader
I just received the call that I have been waiting for all my life. The man I have loved more than any other called me to profess his love for me. He told me I was his family, for real. That all of his family knows about me. That he loves me from the depths of his being. I have loved him since I was in college, but he was a player and never made time for me to be his partner. He was respectful and did not dog me the way he did some of the women in his life, but he also never committed.
Tuesday, May 12, 2020








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