DEAR ABBY: My husband, “Ned,” and I have been having the same argument for years. I care for our kids and handle all the housework. The only chore I refuse to do is mow the lawn.

Every spring, I buy flowers, plants, trees and herbs to plant around our large yard. I plant them, mark where they are, do the watering and weeding, and show Ned where I’ve planted them. Without fail, in the middle of summer when my plants are flourishing, my husband will mow them over.

The first few times it happened, he said, “Oops! I didn’t see them.” Later, he admitted he didn’t feel he should have to bother remembering where I planted and go around them. I think he acts this way because he wants me to take over the mowing.

It hurts me that Ned would deliberately destroy something I care about. I feel like he’s trying to destroy part of my personality, and it makes me really depressed.

If you’re wondering why I refuse to mow, it’s because I do EVERYTHING else. My list of chores is already endless. I also think it’s particularly mean of Ned to wait until my plants are established and growing beautifully before he mows them. What do you think? – READY TO TRANSPLANT, ST. JOSEPH, MO.

DEAR READY: It appears you are married to a horticultural grim reaper. Since you have enough to do without adding mowing to your list of chores, a practical alternative might be to hire a neighborhood teenager to do the mowing next summer. If that’s not feasible, consider placing a decorative medium-sized rock border around your planted areas so your husband can’t mow them down. (Hoe- hoe-hoe!)

DEAR ABBY: I am a receptionist in a law firm. There are times when I am very busy, but there are long stretches when there is nothing to do.

Is it proper for me to read during the downtime? I feel awkward when my boss sees me reading. – BORED ON THE JOB

DEAR BORED: Ask your boss if there are other tasks he or she would like you to do at your desk during the slow periods, or if there is any objection to your reading. If there is no objection, sign up for night classes and use the downtime to study. In no time at all, you could upgrade your skills and possibly your salary.

DEAR ABBY: Is it just me, or has the world gone “tip crazy”? I find tip baskets on the counter at the local coffee house, the yogurt shop, the juice shop – even near the cash register in the cafeteria in my office building.

It seems that even though these people are paid to perform these particular services, they think they should be tipped on top of it. Where will it end? Should I expect tip canisters at the doctor’s office, my car mechanic’s or the post office? I can’t afford to tip everyone I come in contact with. What is proper tip protocol now? – ALL TIPPED OUT

DEAR ALL TIPPED OUT: Tipping is discretionary; it is not required. Employees doing counter work are paid minimum wage and need the money. If the service is cheerful, prompt and efficient, put some change in the tip jar. If you can’t afford to tip and doing so would cause you hardship, don’t do it.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: “Abby’s Favorite Recipes” and “More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby.” Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $10 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby – Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447.

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