Dear Annie: My husband's parents come to town every so often, and we want to spend time with them, but my husband needs to give his boss notice to take a day off. My in-laws never give us information about their schedule, no matter how many times I call or e-mail. They do, however, contact other family members. My husband thinks it's because they don't like me, but I have asked them directly and they insist they love us both.

The last time the in-laws were in town, we popped in where they were staying — and having a big family dinner. I had heard about it from another family member and took food and gifts. They were friendly enough, claiming it was very last-minute. They never said thanks for the gifts we brought. The next day, my husband took off work, but my in-laws had made other plans. We stayed close to home in case they called, but they never did. However, they managed to see other family members.

This happens every time they visit, and I'm sick of it. My husband gets hurt and upset, and we end up fighting. He always takes their side and says they are just busy. Frankly, the only time we hear from anyone in his family is when they need something. I always remember everyone's birthday, but mine passes unnoticed. I am feeling more resentful as time goes by. What do you suggest? —All Alone Here

Dear All Alone: You can ask your in-laws directly why they don't bother to see you when they are in town, but they may not be honest. You need to step back from your involvement. When you next hear the folks are coming, tell them they are welcome any time but don't change your schedule in anticipation. If they want your company, they will call or e-mail. If your husband becomes upset, be sympathetic but don't place blame. Expect nothing and you'll be less disappointed.

Dear Annie: What is the customary practice on who gets a mother's diamond ring upon her death? Mother had a will that states, "Share and share alike all my personal belongings." Is there a custom that the eldest daughter receives it? —G.C.

Dear G.C.: Not unless such a custom already exists in your family. Since Mom didn't specify who gets her ring but wants everyone to share everything, the equitable thing to do is sell the ring and distribute the profits. If that is too unsentimental, the siblings should go through all of Mom's valuables together and each take something of relatively equal worth. You might get the ring, but someone else will get her car, a piece of art or the antique figurine collection. It would be best if the siblings agree to this arrangement in advance.

Dear Annie: This is in response to "Crying Inside," whose husband takes out his stress on his wife and children.

Years ago, I was given a great job opportunity that required driving nearly two hours to work a 12-hour shift six nights a week. I was responsible for everything, from the safety of my men to the amount of waste generated. I found myself in the same situation as this woman's husband, venting my frustrations on my patient wife and confused and frightened young children.

My solution? I invented a "Trouble Tree." Before I went inside my house, I tightly gripped the branches of the evergreen on my front lawn and tried to transfer my frustrations, worries and concerns to the tree instead of bringing them inside my house, where they would be released on my family. It worked. We once again became a happy, loving family. I owe much to the "Trouble Tree" that sacrificed itself in lifting the weight from my shoulders. Within a year, that tree turned brown and died. —Happier Now

Dear Happier: We love trees but better an evergreen than your family. (We hope the tree huggers don't find out where you live.)


Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate Inc.