A: Let’s look at another way to read the situation. Your mother-in-law loves you very much and likes to express it when you visit. However, her Marlboro stench is so overwhelming that the experience is highly unpleasant for you. What to do? Change your attitude toward it.
This is family, and this is love, despite the fact that it comes with a nicotine habit. Adjust your mental approach; consider the many health benefits of hugs; and remember that she is part of the marital bargain.
My mother was a lifelong smoker as well. I’d launder my clothes immediately after going to her house because everything in my suitcase smelled like cigarettes. But here’s the kicker: Now that she’s gone, I treasure any stray whiff I can get from her possessions. It’s funny how gratitude will transform your perspective.
Focus on the good around your mother-in-law. If you do that, those malodorous embraces will become sweet instead.
Q: I really don’t know how to tell one of the nicest people I know that I really don’t want to hear all about her private life with her various boyfriends. She is giving me way too much information. Please help.
A: You just have to get up the gumption to have the conversation. Do this in a friendly way, and she should understand that the lurid details are off-limits when it comes to you.
Q: You mentioned on Facebook that you stayed at a monastery recently. What advice did the monks give you?
A: I’ll be writing extensively on the subject, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here’s a wonderful passage from the sixth-century St. Benedict. Read all the way through for an unexpected ending.
“If any pilgrim monk come from distant parts, if with wish as a guest to dwell in the monastery, and will be content with the customs which he finds in the place, and do not perchance by his lavishness disturb the monastery, but is simply content with what he finds: He shall be received, for as long a time as he desires. If, indeed, he find fault with anything, or expose it, reasonably, and with the humility of charity, the Abbot shall discuss it prudently, lest perchance God had sent for this very thing. But, if he have been found gossipy and contumacious in the time of his sojourn as guest, not only ought he not to be joined to the body of the monastery, but also it shall be said to him, honestly, that he must depart. If he does not go, let two stout monks, in the name of God, explain the matter to him.”
LAST CALL: Next week we’ll print the Second Annual Favorite Christmas Memories column. Please send your funniest or most notable holiday memory no later than December 20 to email@example.com.
Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of The Cracker Queen—A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at thecrackerqueen.com.