ANNIE'S MAILBOX She thinks it's time to end 'trickle of gifts'

Dear Annie: My husband and I are professionals in our late 40s. We have good jobs and are actively saving for our 12-year-old daughter's college education and our future retirement. Sometimes money is a little tight.
My husband wants to keep giving money to his 23-year-old son, "Linc," a musician. I really love my stepson and would do anything for him. I even took a second job to help pay for his tuition at a nearby junior college, and he's attending classes part-time. On top of that, we keep sending him $100 every few weeks.
Linc washes dishes to supplement what he makes with his band. But after four years of college, I think it is high time to end this constant trickle of gifts. When I was Linc's age, I had finished school, with the help of grants and loans, and was supporting myself. My husband had a similar experience.
My husband worries that Linc cannot manage on his own and will go hungry. I said I'd write to you, and we have agreed to take your advice. No Grimm Stepmom
Dear Grimm: It's always difficult to know when to shut off the spigot and let your child sink or swim. The two of you should talk to Linc. Create a budget, and find out how crucial those "gifts" are. Set a limit for how long you will pay tuition so he doesn't become a professional student. Then, instead of cutting him off, give him pointers on how to support himself, even if it means putting his music career on the back burner, finding cheaper accommodations, or getting a full-time job and attending school at night. Be helpful, not critical, and he's more likely to listen.
Dear Annie: I am a 30-year-old male, happily married and a former military member. My problem is that I curse a great deal.
I use words that should be left in the locker room or on the battlefield. My wife cringes every time I swear, and my foul language often causes arguments. My friends and colleagues frequently call me on it. Most of the time, I don't even realize that I have said a curse word. This whole ordeal embarrasses me. I want to stop, but how? Ashamed in Mississippi
Dear Mississippi: This will require some major behavior modification, but we think you are up to the task. The first step is to be motivated, which you are.
Ask your wife and your friends to tell you (nicely) as soon as they hear you utter a swear word. This will make you aware of it immediately. Then repeat your previous sentence, using more acceptable language. For the first few weeks, you will have to pay close attention to every word you speak, but eventually, it will become second nature. Good luck.
Dear Annie: My friend, "Sara," is getting married soon and asked me to be a bridesmaid. Even though we are not as close as we once were, I gladly accepted.
Now another friend, "Anna," is getting married the same day. Anna also asked me to be in her wedding, and even offered to start the ceremony later so I could be in it.
I told Sara that Anna wanted me in her wedding and it would not conflict with my duties as a bridesmaid, but Sara says I am not permitted to leave her reception until after everyone else goes home -- which would be too late to attend Anna's wedding altogether.
I am good friends with Anna and don't want to miss her big day. What should I do? Stressed in Ohio
Dear Ohio: Bridesmaids are not supposed to leave the reception before the bride does. If Sara doesn't release you from your obligations early, you will have to skip Anna's wedding and find another way to wish her well. Sorry.
XE-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie's Mailbox™, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, Ill. 60611.
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