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Dear Abby: Reach out to sister with a letter first

Dear Abby
Jeanne Phillips

Dear Abby: I have been estranged from my sister for four years. Either because I’m turning 50 this year, or maybe it’s old-fashioned guilt, I have been feeling the right thing to do is to make amends.

My question is — how? Should I write a letter, send an email or call her? To be honest, if she made those efforts to me, I would rebuff them. The two of us are similar, so what would be a good way to bridge the conflict?

Hard-headed Hawaiian

Dear H.H.H.: If you call your sister, her knee-jerk reaction might be to hang up. If you email her, it’s too easy to hit “delete.”

Write her a letter. Tell her you love her, miss her and are sorry for the estrangement. If there is something you need to apologize for, do it in the letter. Wait a week, then give her a call.

If she is as similar to you as you think, she may be as glad to hear your voice as you will be to hear hers. And if she’s not, your conscience will be clear because you tried.

Dear Abby: My mother, with whom I spend my birthday every year, has gotten into the habit of buying my birthday presents the day of. She waits until my birthday day, then buys them in a rush all at one store or suggests we go shopping together. She’s not stingy on price. In fact, she tends to spend more than I think she should.

But the last thing I want to do on my birthday is go shopping. How do I explain to her without sounding ungrateful that I’d rather receive one thoughtful present than a lot of expensive ones?

Down on Birthdays in Houston

Dear Down on Birthdays: Excuse me, but you DO sound ungrateful.

Rather than criticize her generosity, why not mention in the weeks before your birthday what you might like to have? If you do, it might save her some money and you some frustration.

Dear Abby: My daughter is being married soon, and I have an enormous fear that I need some help with. I can’t dance. At all. I took some lessons, but I have no sense of rhythm.

My husband dances and I encourage him to have a good time, but if he’s dancing and I’m sitting alone, someone is sure to ask me. Please help me with a good comeback or a little white lie.

Can’t Dance in Colorado

Dear Can’t Dance: I suppose the most common little white lie would be to plead a sprained ankle. But a more honest reply would be to thank the person and say you prefer not to because you’re not comfortable on the dance floor.

Contact Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.