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Dinnertime may help relationship with dad

Dear Amy: My father and I don't get along at all, and I'm really starting to resent being his daughter.

My dad does not listen.

I try my hardest to have a calm and reasonable conversation with him about whatever might be bothering me, but it always results in a screaming match because he basically tunes out and starts staring into space or sighs loudly and starts texting someone on his BlackBerry. When this happens, I either give up completely or try to, once again, calmly tell him that I want to talk, but even then he doesn't listen.

He never looks me straight in the eyes and talks to me about what I want to talk about, and it really hurts me because I don't think he cares.

My mother notices his lack of listening skills, too, but she has no idea what to tell me.

Can you help?


Dear Catherine: Your family needs dinnertime. This is a time when everybody in the family ditches their communications devices and chooses instead to communicate with each other in person. You and your mother can initiate this and ask your father to participate. He should leave his BlackBerry (and you should leave your phone, iPod, Sidekick or any other media retrieval device) in another room. The TV should be off.

It might take a little getting used to – especially for your father – but your family can learn to talk (and listen) best if you are free from distractions.

No conversation between two family members should disintegrate into a screaming match, and if you are one of the people doing the screaming, you should stop. One person's raised voice has the tendency to close the other person's ears.

Dear Amy: I recently received a chain letter from a dear friend, who I might add is very well educated. The letter contained a $1 scratch-off lottery ticket.

The instructions said to buy six scratch-off tickets and send to not only friends, but also “the name at the top” – in other words, a complete stranger.

In the coming weeks, I would ostensibly receive 36 lottery tickets. Additionally, if I chose not to participate, the instructions were to send the lottery ticket back to the person who sent it to me.

At 48, I have been receiving chain letters for nearly 40 years and have broken each and every one. I do not believe in them and have never participated.

At this point, I consider this to be a gift, and I have full intentions of using the lottery ticket as though I had bought it myself, thus discontinuing the chain.

I haven't told my friend yet. What are the parameters here? Do I have an obligation to send it back to her?

Refuse To Participate

Dear Refuse: Go ahead and break the chain - but don't then be surprised when your luck fails.

I'm kidding, of course.

You're under no obligation to do anything whatsoever with this chain letter. It was sent to you unsolicited and includes instructions to contact strangers. Not only do you lack the motivation to do this, but it isn't particularly safe to do so.

According to the United States Postal Service Web site, chain letters that ask for money (I assume that lottery tickets are the equivalent) constitute a lottery and are illegal. These letters also clog up the mail system, thus preventing my junk mail from getting through.