Dear Abby: I recently turned 40, and because I don't get along with my husband "Ted's" family, I chose to celebrate out of town with my parents and siblings. At the end of my five-day trip, Ted picked me up at the airport and barely greeted me. He waited three days to give me my birthday gift.

When he finally handed me the box, Ted didn't even wait for me to open it. He went off to take a shower. I waited for him to finish, then opened the gift in front of him. Inside was a pair of diamond earrings.

I have never wanted diamond earrings, and I have told him so many times. I had asked Ted for cash so I could buy a new sewing machine. Why diamond earrings?

That night we had a major quarrel, and now I'll never be able to enjoy them. What do I do with them now? — Ticked Off in Rhode Island

Dear Ticked Off: First, you apologize for being ungracious about the gift your husband gave you for your birthday. Then sit down and try to analyze why you and his family don't get along and why your marriage is in serious trouble — because it is.

After that, ask your doctor to refer you to a licensed marriage counselor and try to bridge the communication gap that has developed between you and your spouse. At this point, what to do with the diamond earrings is the least of your worries.

Dear Abby: I am in my 40s, single, and have bought a house. There is no man in my future. My parents helped me by giving me the down payment. They expect me to pay them back plus interest.

My parents paid for both my sisters' weddings and also helped with the expense for my brother's wedding. Since they didn't have to pay for a wedding for me, I think the down payment should be considered "wedding money," and I should not be required to pay it back. What is your opinion? — Jilted Down South

Dear Jilted: What bothers me about your letter is the sense of entitlement it conveys. I assume that at the time your parents loaned you the money, you agreed to the terms. If that's the case, then you should abide by them. You are fortunate your parents were willing (and able) to help you. Residential loans are not easy to get right now.

Dear Abby: I always find the letters you print about "pennies from heaven" intriguing. I lost a dear friend to a serious illness a few years ago. I was at work the day after her death, and we were having a severe, unseasonable thunderstorm. I had to wait until it was over to get to my car.

As I approached my car, I noticed a shiny penny — not on the ground, but on the back of my windshield! The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I immediately thought of my friend Lisa. She must have known that I had been berating myself for not having been there for her while she was at her sickest point. In my heart, I feel that the penny was Lisa's way of telling me she forgave me for not being a better friend. — Wish I Had a Second Chance

Dear Wish: Regret is the cancer of life. Rather than looking backward, resolve to do better in the future. We find forgiveness where we look for it — and if finding the penny was a comfort to you, then it has served its purpose.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069. © Universal Press Syndicate