DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: Somehow along the way I managed to surround myself with people who don't offer help. Whether it's hauling in the groceries while my husband stays in the basement to watch hockey (and his preteen daughter continues to play video games) or it's his large family or friend who don't help at big dinners. I grew up with family and friends who offered help with absolutely everything. To be honest, I'd never hung out with people like this before. My husband procrastinates -- sometimes for years -- when I ask him to do things like change a light bulb, and gets irritated when I offer my help when he seems to need it. His daughter complains the entire time over the simplest of chores. I'm tired of it. And I'm probably busier than all of them combined because I'm always tidying up and making the day-to-day or the party happen! To top if off, my hubby and his daughter are the messiest people I've ever lived with. I've asked people to help me do things like set the table, but they either do a crappy job of it or they do it, and then get busy socializing, or disappear. Sometimes I just listen to them laugh and have a great time in the living room while I work in our hot, small kitchen. What do you recommend? -- Cinderella Situation, Winnipeg
Dear Cinderella: You're so far down the martyr track you're going to have to do something dramatic -- about yourself. This is the deal: If you sit down too hard on the seesaw, the other person is left up in the air unable to do any work, except sit there. You have all the control. If they try to do something to help you with "your" projects, they hear they're doing an imperfect "crappy" job and stop offering. You're going to have to relinquish control and give over whole projects to other people to head up and carry out their way. Choose just two projects to do on your own this Christmas (like cooking turkey, while the rest of the family brings dishes, and then buying and wrapping your gifts). Don't criticize. For instance, your husband and his daughter can become the Christmas tree people. They pick it out and decorate it together. You just say, "Wonderful!" like you mean it, when it's done. When people do things around the house, not to your standard you say "Great job!" and don't change it one bit. Make a list of every major project that needs to be done for Christmas, tick off your two projects, and have everyone choose their fraction of it. Then stay out of their business, even if they don't do it. You heard me.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: The cost of too much Christmas cheer? My husband of 16 years has battled alcoholism for years. Three weeks ago he was charged with drinking and driving with our son in the vehicle. This will cost $3,000. It will cost you your dignity, your licence and the respect of family members. It has cost my family the Christmas they once knew. The vacations to Grand Forks and Mexico are now gone because there is a criminal record. God bless all the families affected by alcoholism this holiday season. Please don't drink and drive. -- Alone at Christmas, Winnipeg
Dear Alone: Thanks for taking the time to write in and tell people exactly what they're in danger of losing if they drink and drive this season. But please write back and tell us why you have to be alone this Christmas. Won't your family drive to you? Can't you take the wheel if necessary? Did you leave your husband over this? You left us with more questions than you answered.
Questions or comments? Write Miss Lonelyhearts c/o Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6 or email firstname.lastname@example.org