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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A wake-up call to the wallet

As a social conservative who has written extensively about abortion, stem cell research, family structure, failing schools, the degradation of popular culture and abstinence education, I submit, without fear of misinterpretation, that the next two elections are not going to be about those issues. That isn’t to suggest that social issues are unimportant. They are critically important. And, of course, social patterns affect politics. There is, for example, no question that unwed childbearing contributes far more to poverty in America than the recession has. Abortion is immoral – and a majority of Americans now see that. And ineffective schools affect our economic productivity and competitiveness. We must reverse some of these trends if we hope to have sustained prosperity and political and social vitality in the long run.

It’s OK if siblings skip family events

Dear Annie: I come from a large family. Between birthdays, religious holidays and graduations, there are lots of family events. My family and I always make an effort to attend these milestones, sometimes traveling six hours or more. The problem is, when I host similar events for my two children, my relatives feel their attendance is optional. If one of their kids has a soccer game, they don’t bother to come. My kids are just as busy as theirs, but we make it a priority to celebrate major occasions such as a high school graduation. We feel it is important to get to know one’s extended family, including grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Annie’s Mailbox: Time to get mom help for hoarding

Dear Annie: My three grown sisters and I have a widowed mother with a severe hoarding problem. Due to numerous roof leaks and animal infestations, her drywall and ceilings are collapsing. When her neighborhood association took legal action against her, we managed to get a new roof installed. It was the first time in years that we’d had a glimpse of the inside of her house. The trash, clutter and other “junk” (unworn clothing with tags still on, rotting food containers, bags of groceries never put away, refuse thrown in piles, etc.) reach heights of six feet. A small “cow path” exists to navigate from room to room.

Dr. Gott: Reader’s RSD helped by hydrotherapy

DEAR DR. GOTT: I am a 39-year-old mother to three small children who was just diagnosed with full-body Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. I was going 150 miles per hour in my life when I twisted my ankle. I knew right away that something was wrong. The pain just never went away, but I ignored it. I was then diagnosed with CRPS/RSDS. Ten months after the original diagnosis, an aggressive tailgater crashed into the back of my car, causing the RSD to spread from my lower right extremity to my entire body. To be involved in two accidents in 10 months was unimaginable to my family and me.

Dr. Gott: Red eyes could be nutrition-related

DEAR DR. GOTT: I’m a 56-year-old female. For the past 11/2 years or so, I have had red streaks in the whites of my eyes. About six months ago, I went to an eye doctor who said the streaks were just “normal aging.” My vision is fine, but no matter how much rest I get, they’ve continued to worsen. My eyes always look as if I’m sick or have been on a bender. I’ve searched the Internet and can’t find anything that fits this problem. Can you tell me what I have and how to cure it?

Annie’s Mailbox: Any way to stop sponging aunt?

Dear Annie: I am a blessed child of two wonderful, loving people. My parents are incredibly generous. Right now, they are putting my sister through school and paying all of her expenses so she will graduate debt-free. They have helped me in countless ways, both emotionally and financially, and my husband, as well. They have custody of my cousin’s child because my cousin is a drug addict. They also help my grandfather, saying how fortunate they are to be in a position to do so. My issue is with “Aunt Liz.” Ever since I can remember, she’s been sponging off my parents. My parents are raising her grandchild, and she can’t even be bothered to babysit for a day. Liz used to work full time, but was temporarily on disability. When she was able to work again, she managed to lose every job she had. She doesn’t even try anymore. She just asks my parents for money.

Carolyn Hax: Could her third wedding be charm?

Hi, Carolyn! My wife has a good friend who will soon be married for the third time. Her first two marriages ended in divorce. The woman’s soon-to-be husband will also be married for the third time. (One divorce – his second wife died.) We attended her first two weddings, and now she wants us there for the third. I see this woman perhaps once a year, and I’ve never met her intended. They live locally.

Annie’s Mailbox: Ill sis chooses family from church for care

Dear Annie: My sister, “Elaine,” has terminal cancer. Yesterday, I got a call from someone named “Laura” telling me Elaine had made arrangements to move in with a family from her church. I offered to let her come here and even said she could bring her elderly dog so they could spend her final months together. I did this even though I am allergic to dogs. However, I was told she only wanted me to take the dog. This morning, I visited Elaine, who did not appear to be as bad as I had been led to believe. Laura, a member of my sister’s church, was with her. I repeated my offer to take both Elaine and the dog, but was told emphatically that she was staying with a church family.

David S. Broder: McConnell sees wise Senate

It was an odd but intriguing experience to sit at a press breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor last week and listen as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell strongly rebutted one of my recent columns, implicitly endorsed the message of another and sent a disquieting signal about the prospects that might follow a Republican victory in the midterm elections. The opening question to the Kentucky senator from one of my colleagues asked about the criticisms of the Senate’s performance detailed in the latest issue of the New Yorker and summarized in my recent column. McConnell, admirably candid, made it clear he did not agree with any of it.

Carolyn Hax: Talk to parents; share your feelings

Dear Carolyn: My parents are fighting more and more, and now in front of my brother and me (we’re in our teens). When they are alone and fighting we can hear them, and I see my mom afterward and see that she has cried. I don’t know what to say or do. I believe my parents won’t end up splitting because it has been a tough year for us, with my dad losing his job and then finding another. What can I do to help them, and what can I say to my parents after I have heard them fight? – Distressed Daughter

Secession, nullification talk shallow

Vacationing on North Carolina’s Outer Banks this past week, I’ve been thinking about how different things will be here when the South secedes from the Union. The Confederates, I anticipate, will order Elizabeth’s Cafe & Winery to banish the Maine lobster caprese in favor of fried catfish. The lattes at Duck’s Cottage will likely be nullified and replaced by sweet tea. Inevitably, the Sanderling spa will be ordered to discontinue its Vinyasa yoga classes and instead open a shooting range.

Carolyn Hax: Give beau basics of your childhood

Hi, Carolyn: I’ve been seeing a really great guy, “Joe.” The relationship looks like it’s going to gel into something more permanent. He works with my stepdad, and so knows my parents. The problem is that my mother was abusive to my sisters and me while we were growing up. In addition to physical abuse, she used to regularly tell us that she hated us and wished we would all die or run away. It’s taken me many years and much therapy to move past this, but I will always carry the emotional scars.

‘Don’t ask’ stakes are high

“As we mark the end of America’s combat mission in Iraq,” President Barack Obama said this week, “a grateful America must pay tribute to all who served there.” He should have added “unless you’re gay,” because, despite his rhetoric, weeks earlier the commander in chief fired one of those Iraq vets: Lt. Dan Choi. Choi was an Iraq War veteran, a graduate of West Point and a trained Arabic linguist. I ran into Choi the day after he received his official discharge. We were at the Netroots Nation conference in Las Vegas, a gathering of thousands of bloggers, activists and journalists.

Miss Manners: Just say no to office parties

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a project manager in a division made up of three teams. One of the other project managers is trying to force us to have monthly birthday cakes, luncheons, etc. The members of my team do not want to do this, as they think it is a bother to run around to get cakes, etc., and have to go through the ordeal of pretending to be friends with the whole division.

Dr. Gott: Cracked fingers difficult to repair

DEAR DR. GOTT: I am writing in hopes to get a response for a terrible problem my daughter is having with her fingertips. When she was just out of the Air Force, she began a business cleaning homes. She had her hands in water and chemical cleaners constantly. She hasn’t done that job for the past five years, but since then, she has a cracking of her fingertips that is painful, and they sometimes bleed. Her pharmacist and family doctor told her that this would probably never heal. She has tried tea-tree oil, Corn Husker’s lotion and every cream we can think of. It used to get worse in the winter but now happens year-round. Would seeing a dermatologist help? Or is this really something that she will have to live with? I’m afraid that she will eventually get a bad infection or something else. She’s now six months pregnant, but anything that you suggest could be held off until after the baby is born.

Senate lacks leaders of old

Earlier this week, as the United States Senate went through the motions of debating Elena Kagan’s nomination to a Supreme Court seat that almost certainly will be hers, readers of the New Yorker across the country could review journalist George Packer’s masterful article “The Empty Chamber,” tracing the decline and fall of that same Senate. Packer shares with thousands of citizens what every reporter who covers the Capitol knows: that the public disdain for Congress, measured in record low approval scores in polls, is mirrored by the frustration of the members of both parties who have to serve and bear the scorn.

Annie’s Mailbox: 53 and still living with his parents

Dear Annie: I am 52 years old, have been divorced for 15 years and am currently involved in a relationship with a wonderful man. “Chuck” lives 80 miles from me, but we have adjusted to the distance and enjoy weekends together. The problem is, he still lives at home with his parents. He’s 53, has never been married and is very spoiled. We are madly in love with each other. He adores my children and grandchildren. And he supported me during some difficult times. We have looked at engagement rings, but that’s as far as it has gone. I don’t want to continue this if Chuck has no intention of marrying me. Why invest in a relationship that is going nowhere? Whenever I try to talk to him about it, he avoids the conversation.

Carolyn Hax: Wife angry hubby helped neighbor

Dear Carolyn: My husband of 10 years, who is retired, calls me at work one morning and tells me he had just gotten out the shower when our female next-door neighbor rang the doorbell in her nightclothes, stating that she got locked out when she took out the trash. My husband then says he invited her in to use the phone and stay until someone came to let her in (about 30-45 minutes). I ask him, “Why would you invite a half-dressed woman into our home when I am not present?”

Dr. Gott: Some questions beg longer answers

DEAR DR. GOTT: Your column was so much better when you gave short answers to questions. You answered a lot more questions, which we all like, so why did you change? Be short and to the point, and thank you for listening. DEAR READER: Thank you for your comments. There are times when I think readers might be interested in a better understanding of why a condition occurs, and in discovering ways to correct medical problems. That requires more in-depth information than can be provided in a few sentences. I’ll do my best to reach a happy medium by being as brief as possible. Congratulations – today is dedicated to you.

Annie’s Mailbox: Though miserable, seek counseling

Dear Annie: I am married to a man four years my junior who seems locked into the idea that I am cheating on him. I am not, although I’d have good reason: He is hardly ever around and pays little attention to me. We have two children, and I gained a lot of weight during the pregnancies. Recently, I began exercising and watching my diet to improve my health and have almost returned to my pre-wedding weight. I feel better about myself, as I had become depressed.