DEAR STEEL ADVICE: I recently visited my best friend of almost 30 years. While looking for a certain cookbook on her bookshelf (at her request) I was stunned to see six books that were mine and had gone "missing" some 20 years ago. Two of the books were library books that had been checked out by my then 7-year-old daughter. I had blamed her for not returning the books and took library fines and costs to replace the books from her allowance. I noticed the other books missing after a brief vacation during which this friend took care of my cats. She had always had a key to my house and security system code number. I asked her at that time if she had borrowed them and she said no. Clearly, she had deliberately taken these books and apparently had forgotten about taking them.
I am now remembering other things that had disappeared during certain times and feel she likely had taken them, too. Despite our closeness (she has stuck by me through illnesses, etc.), I always felt she held some sort of resentment toward me, sometimes doing small spiteful things. But I overlooked these. She is married to a wealthy man with a house (actually two houses) full of beautiful things. I feel certain I want to confront her. In my heart, I want to work to maintain our relationship. Any thoughts on this excruciating situation would be appreciated.
-- BROKENHEARTED FRIEND
DEAR BROKENHEARTED: The first thing you should do is apologize to your daughter. Your best friend may have been good at supporting you through thick and thin but her fingers are a little too sticky for my taste. The next time you are with your friend casually mention that you think the books you saw on her shelf are yours. No doubt she will come up with excuses and reasons she thought you gave her the books. Let this be her "out." If you want to maintain a relationship with her you have to let go of any resentment you are harboring and give the friendship a fresh start. Word to the wise: Keep your passwords to yourself and find someone else to watch your cats when you travel.
DEAR STEEL ADVICE: My husband has many good qualities but one trait that is very annoying. He has a hearing deficit but refuses to wear his hearing aids. As a result, I have to repeat constantly, shout and look at him when I speak to him. It is getting very hard to live with him. What do you suggest?
DEAR FRUSTRATED: Hearing losses can be difficult to correct. Your husband's refusal to wear his hearing aids may be a sign of his frustration rather than plain old mule stubbornness. Encourage him to make an appointment with his doctor or audiologist and accompany him to this appointment. You both may have unrealistic expectations about hearing aids. Confirm together if his hearing can be improved. Unlike the instant fix of glasses or dentures, people do not pop a hearing aid in their ears and have perfect hearing. If he can be helped, but is too stubborn to come to the party, he will stay in denial as long as you overcompensate by repeating and shouting. Try not to pick the point raw. Tease him and tell him you are trying to decide, short of taking off all of your clothes, how you will get his attention if you win the lottery or the house catches fire.
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