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Dear Abby: Little thefts from garden add up to big annoyance

Dear Abby: I live in a 55-and-older mobile home park. I have a nice little backyard where I have a small vegetable garden and a lovely lemon tree.

One day while I was tending my garden, the woman who lives behind me came over to say hello and admire my vegetables. When she saw I have Swiss chard growing, she exclaimed, “Oh, I will have to pick some because my daughter loves it!”

I was dumbfounded. She has room to plant her own garden, but never does. She has helped herself to lemons, too. What do I say at times like these? We live so close and there are no fences ... yet.

– Fuming in Vista, Calif.

Dear Fuming: Unless you are willing to draw the line, your neighbor will continue to assume that silence is consent. So pay the woman a visit, and tell her you would prefer that she ASK permission before helping herself. And if that doesn’t stop her, make installing that fence a priority.

Sympathy via email?

Dear Abby: Nowadays, I’m learning about the deaths of family members and friends by email, and I’m uncertain how to respond. I always send thoughtful, personal handwritten notes of condolence. But how best to acknowledge or respond to the email?

It seems wrong to ignore it in favor of sending a letter via the Postal Service, because my message will take a while to reach the bereaved. But it also seems wrong to say, “Oh, so sad to hear the news” in an email, as if that was the sum total of my thoughts. What to do?

– Caring Out West

Dear Caring: Here’s what I do. I pick up the phone and CALL the person who sent the email, or a member of the family that suffered the loss. I express my sympathy and find out the details – such as where and when the funeral or memorial will be held, and if I can send flowers or make a donation. THEN I write the condolence note.

Hold the phone

Dear Abby: When I come home from work, errands or whatever, my wife is often on the phone. I find it rude that she won’t put the phone down for a moment to say hello and, if the call needs to be returned, tell me briefly what it’s about. Is that unreasonable?

My wife walks into another room with no explanation and continues talking for another 10 or 20 minutes. What do you think of this?

– Craving Attention in Colorado

Dear Craving: I agree that it would be more loving if she acknowledged your presence with a smile and a “Hi, Honey, I’ll be off the phone in a few minutes.” However, for you to expect her to report who she’s talking to and what they have been discussing seems not only nosy on your part, but could be considered controlling.