Dear Annie: My husband and I are 77 years old. Our lake home has four bedrooms and plenty of space for family visits. During the summer, the family knows they have to make "reservations" to visit. Sometimes, we will have seven immediate family members here, and once we had 18 nephews and nieces and their families. They have use of our boats and always replace the gas they used. We feel fortunate that we can allow them to have a family vacation that is relatively inexpensive for them. Many have thanked us for the memories they have made over the past 20 years.
However, we plan several breakfasts and lunches and most evening meals. All but one family will bring extra food, including snacks and their own drinks (we never know what everyone wants). Some will cook an evening meal for us while they are here. All groups will treat us to an evening meal at a local restaurant. One family also leaves us gift certificates to local businesses. We do ask that they change the beds before they leave for the next group of visitors. All willingly do this.
We never expect all the help, but it is greatly appreciated. When one adds up the cost of extra food, disposable cups and plates and utilities for 10 weeks a year, it can be expensive.
Over the years, we have learned there are two kinds of guests: visitors and vacationers. Visitors come to see us, enjoy the lake and surroundings and help in any way they can to make their visit easier and more enjoyable for us. Vacationers are those who come to our "hotel" and restaurant and expect to be waited on while they are here. Needless to say, we don't have "vacationers" more than once. – Visitors and Vacationers
Dear Visitors and Vacationers: I love your classification of guests as visitors and vacationers. I would take it a step farther and say that most people fall into two categories – those who are considerate of others and how they are feeling, and those who have a sense of entitlement and a lack of gratitude.
Want to know a secret? The considerate ones, the visitors, are happier people.
Dear Annie: I married a man with a son from his first marriage, who was 12 years old when we started dating. What really attracted me to my husband was the fact that he and his ex-wife were wonderful co-parents. As far as I knew, they were never mean, cruel or vindictive to each other, and it was quite apparent that they both loved their son (my stepson).
His ex was always included in family gatherings and my in-laws provided child care for their grandson while his mother worked weekends as a nurse at the hospital. My stepson grew up knowing that he had an extended loving family. He had his mother's family, his father's family and my family who all welcomed and supported him. My stepson came to our state to live with his father when he started high school, as his mother thought he would need more of a male influence at that time in his life.
Our home was always open to his mother whenever she wanted to visit. I'm sure my welcoming attitude cemented my relationship with my husband's parents. I even counted my husband's ex as a good friend. Sadly, she passed away two years ago, and I miss her infectious laugh and warm hugs. My stepson has become a fine man, husband and father of two. So, it is possible to have a blended family that works in harmony. – Blended Family Working
Dear Blended Family: What a wonderful story of making what could have been a challenging and contentious relationship into a loving and harmonious one. Congrats on living with love.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book – featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette – is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.