DEAR ABBY: I collect dirt! Allow me to explain. We vacation mostly in the United States, and in our travels we've stopped to admire the view and have taken home a piece of that view, such as a handful of seashells, a flower or some dirt.

Our son is in the U.S. Army, and we recently took him to the airport so he could catch his flight to South Korea, where he will be stationed for a year. Before he left, I asked him to send us a handful of soil (yes, dirt) sealed in a zip-locked bag. We have these tiny little jelly jars that I would like to fill with samples of dirt from all over the world.Hubby says it's against the law to bring in dirt from another country. I could understand it if it were a ton or two, but a handful?

Please let me know if it's really illegal. - BETTY IN HESPERIA, CALIF.

DEAR BETTY: Margaret Webb, public information officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, says, "Your husband is correct. Even a handful of dirt can contain microorganisms and/or insects very harmful to our plant and animal life. Ecosystems vary around the world, and nature tries to keep a balance between plant and animal life. When dirt is transported to a new environment, it can create havoc beyond your wildest dreams."

Bottom line: There are very strict laws regarding bringing dirt into this country without a special permit. Respect them!

DEAR ABBY: My ladyfriend and I are supposed to be in love. We have been intimate and have considered a life together. There is, however, one obstacle.

She currently insists upon continuing a "just friends" relationship with four or five of her ex-lovers, including an ex-husband to whom she was married 10 years ago - for only one year. (No children.)

These relationships consist of Christmas correspondence, occasional phone calls and visits that include overnight stays. She says that in her previous social circles, this is considered normal behavior. In my circle, it is not condoned.

I am of a jealous nature and insist that all such contacts with her ex-lovers stop as a requisite for a serious, long-term life together. What is the "norm" for the age-50 range of American society regarding this dilemma? And have you any advice? - CONFUSED

DEAR CONFUSED: The norm for Americans of any age who are supposed to be "in love and considering a life together" is to forsake all others.

And if your ladyfriend insists on continuing overnight stays with past lovers, I advise you to bid her farewell - unless you are prepared to demand that she be tested for AIDS (and other sexually transmitted diseases) before each of your own romantic encounters.

DEAR ABBY: I have long been a student of the Bible, but I cannot find a list of the seven deadly sins anywhere, and I am too embarrassed to ask my pastor. Please tell me where I can find them. - MIDWEST CHRISTIAN

DEAR CHRISTIAN: The seven deadly sins are not listed as such in any Bible. They can be found in the writing of St. Thomas Aquinas. They are: envy, lust, greed, gluttony, sloth, pride and anger.