DEAR MARY ANN: Every May our neighborhood has a big community yard sale. Every April my wife says let's participate. I always respond with the same argument. Financially, we are better off donating our no longer needed stuff to a charity and taking what the IRS allows as fair market value for the items (this only pertains to taxpayers who itemize deductions) than we are pocketing the little bit of cash a yard sale would generate. The argument is based strictly on math. I don't even get into the side issues of wanting to avoid dealing with yard sale customers who want to haggle when the items are priced ridiculously cheap to begin with, the fact that the annual yard sale day causes a traffic and parking nightmare in the neighborhood, or that the charitable organizations who accept these types of donations do a lot for people and that we are doing a good thing by helping them out. My wife seems to see only the cash-in-hand that the yard sale would provide.
-- I DID YARD SALE MATH
DEAR YARD SALE MATH MAN: You win this one. Your logic is excellent and spot on. It sounds, however, that not too much of your unwanted stuff has been donated to charity in the past or your wife would not continually urge you every April to participate in the May sale. One of the major advantages of a neighborhood yard sale is the momentum it generates. The camaraderie helps people to get moving and weed out unwanted items so strangers, who theoretically need the items, can cart them away.
If you don't want to participate in the hoopla, put your local donation center on speed dial and schedule pickups throughout the year. By next spring the community yard sale discussion will not be relevant because many of your excess items will have been donated.
DEAR MARY ANN: I pride myself on having many close friendships from all walks of life. I like to think that I am able to see through the superficial, looks, economic background and get to the heart of a person. One of my friends calls me on the phone on a fairly regular basis. We discuss current events, mutual problems and even religion and politics. I enjoy these conversations. The problem is that my friend likes to describe/get her point across in the most vulgar/graphic terms. Maybe she thinks I need the often gruesome details conveyed for me to "get it." I don't! How do I explain that she offends me with her language without putting her on the defensive? I enjoy talking to her but the way she speaks, not so much!
-- TELEPHONE FRIEND
DEAR PHONE FRIEND: Vulgar language offends the ears and desensitizes the heart. When your friend trash-talks with you she enjoys the shock value of her crude vocabulary.
Regular phone conversations between friends can turn into a stream of consciousness or a monologue and not a dialogue at all. You are vulnerable if you continue to listen to your friend because you may absorb some of her coarse language and inadvertently repeat it. Her tasteless expressions may be rough and graphic because she has you as a captive audience on the phone and she savors the sensationalism of her delivery.
You need to tell your friend to drop it down a notch. Don't judge her, but make it clear you are not comfortable with her bad mouth. No matter how much you think you can disregard this tasteless banter, listening to her garbage makes you a garbage collector.
Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: email@example.com 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 30, 2013 4:00 AM