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posted: 8/31/2014 1:01 AM

Family turns reunion into tradition of charity

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While I'm away, readers give the advice.

On expecting others to rally to your cause:

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Over a decade ago, my dear wife's family started a tradition that could be a wonderful and inspiring tradition for others with a cause. The matriarch of my wife's family (their father died years before) was going blind and needed a cornea transplant in order to save her sight. Not having the funds, her extended family came together in a potluck reunion during which they auctioned off items (to each other) created by each family or individual, and the money went to a well-known eye clinic in support their mother's surgery.

Since that time, the families support various charities through their yearly reunion auction: for wounded veterans, a Down syndrome network, and other wonderful causes. These families are not well-off, however, each year they donate upward of $400. People would likely find support for their charities if, in other years, family members were able to select their own cause's financial support. This can do a lot to bring families together in a mutual interest, create a positive environment of giving and provide the joy of simply having fun together.

On paternity leave arrangements that get fathers involved:

After the births of both of our children, my husband was able to work out an arrangement with his offices to take his paternity leave by getting to work late and leaving early for about a month, instead of taking off one or two weeks completely. This meant he was able to provide continuity at his job during the entire period, but could let me sleep in and relieve me around 4 o'clock in the afternoon. This was great help to me at a time when I was still very tired and trying to establish nursing, and it made him feel necessary. He also was able to attach to our girls without being exhausted after a full day of work. It worked well both times. I appreciated his employers' ability to give him that flexibility.

On choosing not to react when the spouse of a friend hits on you:

A close friend's popular, charismatic husband "hit on me" decades ago. I just laughed and acted as though I did not believe him when he started telling me all the sad parts of his marriage and acting too familiar with me verbally. He got nowhere, and I treated it like a big joke.

I acted naturally when I saw both of them later, he acted naturally, and all went well.

They had a good, long and happy marriage and seven children. He was an excellent husband, and she loved him dearly.

He died, and, to this day, she never knew how boorish he acted toward me.

She and I are still close.

In short, in retrospect, my treating it lightly took him off the hook, and harmed no one.

On resisting events that make you the center of attention:

I'd like to offer a win-win solution to the problem of a shy woman who would rather not have wedding or baby showers: Advise people to throw the showers for the groom or father-to-be! He is also getting married, and he is also having a baby. Where are the parties for him? His parents' friends would no doubt enjoy wishing well the little boy they've known and/or heard about since childhood as he embarks on these new challenges. In an era of ever-increasing gender equality, this is an idea whose time has come. If he would rather opt out, then that's between him and the host -- not the host and his wife.

It is understandable that it is difficult for someone shy to make small talk, but to refuse bridal or baby showers is to say she's not interested in getting to know her husband's relatives or enlarging her network of friends, who could be very helpful to new couples or parents. Even though I agree her husband should be supportive, perhaps she should be more supportive of his wanting more personal contact with friends and relatives.

If she is so averse to meeting new people or having casual conversations with anyone who is not already close to her, I also see a life of potential isolation for her child. Will she avoid the PTA because she doesn't want to meet other moms? Will her child be kept out of Little League or soccer because Mom is uncomfortable around strangers and doesn't want to talk to anyone on the bleachers?

Shyness can be overcome, or at least mitigated with help and support from her husband and perhaps some counseling. Young mom and her entire family will benefit if she works to be more open and accepting.

• Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her online at 11 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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