Dear Amy: What do I do about a neighbor who complains about my having my lawn mowed because she is allergic to the lawn clippings?
My lawn mower is not working right now, so I am having a professional landscaping company mow my lawn twice monthly.
My mower had a bag on it, and the person mowing my lawn does not. My neighbor is complaining that, because of her allergies, she can no longer go outside and garden when I get the lawn done. She insists that I fire the gentleman who does my lawn because he can only do it on the weekends when she is home and I should get someone else to do it during the week while she works.
She even indicated that her husband could do my lawn. (Of course, I do not want her or her husband on my property.)
The neighbor on the other side of my house has had her lawn mowed by the same gentlemen for years. The allergic neighbor has not complained until he started to do mine. She complained about it last year, and now that the mowing season is here, she is starting again. I don't want to go through it again this year and am at my wits' end! Please advise.
— Mowed Over
Dear Mowed: First, thank your lucky stars that you don't have bad allergies and an unhelpful neighbor.
Have you asked the professional landscaper if he could possibly use a bag on his mower when he mows your lawn? Have you asked if he could do the mowing when it wouldn't cause your neighbor's allergies to flare so badly? Have you looked into repairing your mower?
These are simple questions that would involve a minimum of effort. What you would gain by asking these questions is the knowledge that you are being a decent person and a good neighbor.
If you ask these questions and make the tiniest bit of effort but still cannot accommodate your neighbor, you should at least be kind to (and about) her when you decline.
Dear Amy: I believe my brother suffers from depression but refuses to acknowledge it. His small business went into a tailspin a few years ago and hasn't recovered. He subsequently lost a part-time coaching job that was his passion and has not been able to find another.
The reason given for his firing was that some of the kids were scared of his temper. Having seen him totally lose his cool over trivial things with his own kids more than once, I believe it. He refuses to let things go emotionally and dwells bitterly on setbacks.
He's got "too much on his mind" to act on anything. He refuses to talk to family or friends, see a counselor, or consider antidepressants.
He is alienating his very patient wife and scaring his wonderful kids. His wife is at her wits' end, and so am I. Do you see any way out?
— Concerned Sibling
Dear Concerned: I agree that this is alarming. Your brother would benefit from a thorough physical. His issues might be triggered by a treatable medical problem. Expressing your concern and offering to go with him to the doctor might influence him.
Failing that, concentrate on his wife and kids. They need your kindness, friendship and family support. Life with your brother sounds very challenging; his wife and kids would all benefit from attending sessions with a compassionate family therapist.
I cannot stress how helpful this could be. For the kids, acknowledging their anxieties, giving voice to their fears, and expressing their anger and confusion will be helpful. They need to learn strategies for how to ride the roller coaster at home.
Dear Amy: "Bewildered" objected to the fact that his middle-aged girlfriend had "meltdowns" about possessions of his from previous marriages. You advised him not to get rid of these things but to get rid of the woman!
You should have told him to explore this issue thoughtfully to find out what the real issue is.
Dear Unhappy: When the choice is between a demanding relationship and a vintage pickup truck, I'll choose the truck every time.