|DEAR ABBY: My mother has never liked her sister-in-law. Mom thinks "Auntie Beth" is "completely out to get her," even though no one has seen any evidence to support my mother's claims.
For the past several months, Mom has been complaining nonstop about how "awful" Beth is. She says things at the most random times to people she barely knows. If we don't show sympathy toward Mom, she then becomes enraged. It has caused many problems between our family and Auntie Beth's. We can't have holidays together because my aunt is not allowed in our house. No one wants to be involved in the drama or to participate in the terrible gossip.
How can I help my mother understand the harm she is causing and get our family back together? -- SICK OF THE DRAMA
DEAR SICK OF THE DRAMA: Your mother's behavior appears to have escalated from disliking Aunt Beth to obsessive and paranoid. If it is time for her annual physical, her doctor should be told about it because her behavior is not normal and she may need a neurological exam or counseling.
Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do about this, because if you try, she may think that you are "against" her, too. But the rest of the family can refuse to allow her to exclude Aunt Beth by not accepting invitations in which she is not included.
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DEAR ABBY: My neighbors' teenage sons ask to borrow our lawn mower and other yard tools so they can make money cutting the grass for other neighbors. What do we do? -- LOVE THY NEIGHBOR
DEAR NEIGHBOR: How responsible are the boys? If they can be trusted with your lawn mower and other yard tools and you're kind-hearted, allow them to use the items with the understanding that they will be returned to you in the same condition in which they were borrowed. Then have them cut YOUR lawn as a way of showing their appreciation.