DEAR ABBY: We are a small family of four living on my husband’s income. We have a small farm that I run, and I home-school my children. My husband works full time in another job. We aren’t poor, but we do have to count our nickels and dimes and budget for things we want.

This is the first year we have splurged on gifts for the children, and we spent more on my sister-in-law because, for once, we had a little extra to spend. It has brought us joy that we can be a bit more generous.

Now that our Christmas budget is spent, my sister-in-law has asked twice that we purchase gifts for her dog – wrapped, no less – because her dog likes opening packages! I ignored her request the first time. After the second one, I told her we don’t ask people to purchase gifts for our kids, and we don’t purchase gifts for other people’s pets. Now she’s offended.

Abby, it may not seem like a lot, but for us, it’s a big deal when we get to purchase a movie and a pizza every few months. We never ask anything of anyone. We’re a happy, tight-knit family regardless of our financial status.

My husband has had enough. He’s tired of his sister’s self-absorption and wants to tell her to grow up and that the world does not revolve around her and her dog. Instead, I asked her to simply return any gifts she has bought for us and spend the money on her dog. Are we being unreasonable? – IN THE DOGHOUSE IN ALASKA

Not at all. Your sister-in-law is out of line to put the bite on you for gifts for her dog, and you are within your rights to tell her you have a bone to pick with her. After she chews on it awhile, let’s hope she comes around.

DEAR ABBY: I have survived cancer twice in the last 20 years. The second cancer, which was successfully operated on 10 years ago, was in my right lung. So far, I am still cancer-free.

My sister, “Kelly,” whom I love dearly, is a heavy smoker, and has smoked 20 years longer than I did.

My problem is, she still smokes around me, closed up in the car, etc. It isn’t only the smoke that bothers me, but the fact that I have had lung cancer and am not supposed to be around any cigarette smoke.

Kelly is a wonderful person, and I have nothing else bad to say about her. She does not believe all the stuff about secondhand smoke, etc. I wish there was some way to impress upon her that she shouldn’t be smoking around me or others who have had cancer. – COUGHING IN CORPUS CHRISTI

Your sister is nicotine-addicted and in denial. She’s obviously not a Dear Abby reader, or she’d have seen my Nov. 14 column that featured the American Cancer Society’s 30th Annual Great American Smokeout. In it was information from the U.S. surgeon general’s first report in 20 years about the effects of involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke.

Specifically, “Exposure of adults to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and causes coronary heart disease and lung cancer. The scientific evidence indicates that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”

I know you love your sister, but considering your health history, if she needs a nicotine fix, she should do it out of your presence – and certainly never in an enclosed environment with you. I urge you to do something you should have done 10 years ago: Draw the line and INSIST that she consider your health and refrain from smoking anywhere around you, even if it means getting out of the car to do 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.

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