DEAR ABBY: I may have started a war with my neighbors. About two months ago, their son, “Ricky,” smashed a brick on my van while it was parked in my driveway. The damage was estimated at more than $500. I asked Ricky’s parents to pay for it because I had paid them $100 a few months before, after I accidentally ran over Ricky’s bike in the driveway. They didn’t have to ask for the money – I volunteered it.

When I told my neighbors about the damage, they refused to pay, saying my daughter had gotten their boy upset over a ball game they were playing. They said I should take them to court – so that’s exactly what I’m doing.

After they were served with the court papers, they called my boss and complained that I had cut them off while driving my company vehicle, a school bus. It was an outright lie. Things are starting to get out of hand. Am I wrong for wanting my van fixed? – FRUSTRATED IN CANADA

DEAR FRUSTRATED: Of course not. If you haven’t already done so, speak to your boss immediately and explain exactly what is going on. Then inform the police about the boy’s act of vandalism to your van. You didn’t start a war. Your neighbors did when they refused to make good on the damage their son caused.

P.S. Now that you know the kid is trouble, keep your daughter away from him.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 14-year-old girl who recently found out that I am the daughter of a sperm donor. I had always thought my father had died and no one would tell me why. Now I feel unloved by whoever is my father.

It scares me to think I may have brothers or sisters out there, and that he may not care that I exist. I don’t understand why it’s legal to just donate when a child may be born. Is there any way I can find out anything about my “real” father – or any advice you can give me? – DOESN’t UNDERSTAND IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR DOESN’T UNDERSTAND: The person who donated his sperm so that you could be conceived thought he was doing a noble deed – helping a couple who desperately wanted a child but were unable to do so. As far as I know, there is no way to trace his identity.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 30-year-old woman who was recently widowed. Although my new status is painful, I feel that because I am no longer married, I may take back my maiden name. My dilemma stems from the fact that I receive a pension from my husband’s company, and others have told me that if I don’t consider myself married, that I shouldn’t accept his pension.

Are they right? Is this disrespectful to my deceased husband? Am I being selfish? I don’t want to upset my in- laws. Hurting and disrespecting anyone is the last thing I want to do. – CONFUSED IN OHIO

DEAR CONFUSED: As a widow, you are entitled to call yourself either by your married name or your maiden name. The choice is yours.

As a widow, you have a right to receive your husband’s pension benefits until they run out. I don’t know who gave you the bad advice you repeated to me, but that person is mistaken. To accept the money and go on with your life is neither selfish nor disrespectful. So take what you’re entitled to, call yourself what you wish, live your life, and do not allow anyone to make you feel guilty for doing so.

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.

To receive a collection of Abby’s most memorable – and most frequently requested – poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby – Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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