DEAR MARY ANN: I am a man in my early 50s. I have a happy marriage, a good life and no real problems. I've always been energized and motivated at my work and actively engaged in enjoyable hobbies and activities outside of work. Usually there was not enough time in a typical week to do all the things that I wanted to do. Gradually, over perhaps the past three to five years, I seem to have lost my drive. My former ambitions no longer generate enough spark to get me out of a chair in front of the TV. I can't identify any external causes for this, but something has definitely changed. Is my experience common for someone my age or is there something wrong with me?
-- CHAIR MAN
DEAR CHAIR MAN: Get off your duff and unplug the television before you have a real problem. It is natural for men to undergo hormonal changes in midlife. Andropause can cause fatigue and depression. Be candid with your doctor and follow his or her suggestions to identify any underlying physical or mental conditions that could be the source of this slump.
Fifties are the halfway mark, a time for re-evaluation and rethinking life goals, not a time to sit in front of a television. Exercise and a balanced diet can work magic on a middle-age man. Being fit gives greater self-awareness. Stresses are seen from a different perspective. Get yourself a good pair of athletic shoes and use them. Change will be gradual, but once you feel good about your renewed energy other positive things will happen. If you continue to be a Chair Man the downward spiral of lethargy and boredom will go on speed dial. The answer is to get moving.
DEAR MARY ANN: I have been invited to various Communions, which will be happening in the next two months. What is the protocol for gift giving for a Communion when it is not a family member? We are talking kids 7 or 8 years old. Do they want money or is an actual gift better? If it is money, what is acceptable? Fifty dollars (what I give for graduation) seems a little bit too much, but yet $25 seems too small. I don't want to make a faux pas on my gift giving.
-- QUESTION ABOUT GIFT GIVING
DEAR GIFT GIVER: Twenty five dollars enclosed in a Holy Communion card is an appropriate gift. Holy Communion cards are saved as mementos of this special day. Circumstances vary and this is a general guideline. If the parents invite you to an elaborate dinner celebrating the event you may want to increase your gift while still being true to your budget. When the First Communicants know each other you should keep the amount of the gifts equal. Grandparents, godparents and family members usually give symbolic religious items such as crosses, statues and medals. If you give a gift other than money it is a good idea to find out what the child might like so you don't duplicate. Time spent as a witness to this special moment in a family's life requires the gift of presence, and presence is the most important gift of all.
Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice. First Published April 2, 2013 4:00 AM