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Not getting what I give

Dear Annie: I’ve always been the one who puts everyone first. I always do my best to make sure that when it’s my kids’ or husband’s birthday, I decorate the living room and dining room for them. I spend months searching for that special gift, finding that thing that they didn’t know they wanted. I make sure whatever I make for food that day is something the birthday person loves. I do everything that I can think of to make that person feel special.

Both of my stepsons are 16, and my husband and I have three children ages 10, 7 and 3. The kids don’t do much for birthdays or family celebrations, although I do try to get them as involved as they have the attention for.

Over my 48 years, I have figured out that a lot of people give what they’d like to get. I’ve tried to communicate this to my husband, but he just gets defensive and that starts an argument. On my birthday, I don’t get anything. No one gives me a present. Not even a handmade one. No one buys me a cake. If I want one, I have to go buy myself one. No one decorates the house for me. I also get nothing for Mother’s Day. I feel so unloved most of the time. How can I make everyone see that I’d like to get what I give? — No One Special

Dear No One Special: It is ridiculous — and hurtful — that they don’t reciprocate. No birthday present? No Mother’s Day card or brunch or flowers? It’s possible that your husband simply expresses his love in different ways, but you need to have a long talk with him about how you feel. Tell him in a quiet way that your one-way street needs to become a two-lane highway.

If he gets defensive and argumentative, quietly remind him that you are going above and beyond to make him and your children feel special. And remind yourself that, despite their actions (or lack thereof), your efforts aren’t going unnoticed.

As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Dear Annie: I’m a 40-year-old who’s never married or had any children. I suffer from a mental health problem. Also, I got sick and had to leave college at 20. I never had a job, either. I was told that if I didn’t have a husband, a place of my own, a career, a college degree and didn’t know how to drive a car by my age, I could forget it.

I finally found out what I want to be after so long: an administrative assistant. I know that it’s not too late. However, I get the feeling that it’s weird for a person of my years to want all that. I am upset that I didn’t do this sooner. I feel that life has passed me by because my illness got in the way. Is there hope for me yet? — Missing the Boat

Dear Missing the Boat: Hats off to you. You haven’t missed the boat. In fact, you’re about to climb aboard. Despite the adversity and hardships you’ve faced, you continue to dream and grow, and uphold such a positive spirit. Just because you weren’t able to seize opportunities in the past doesn’t mean you don’t have so many more still ahead. There is absolutely hope for you.

Everyone’s path in life looks a little different. Now that you’ve determined what you want to do for work, you can start scoping out job openings in your area and apply for them. Remember that each day is a gift; live them to the fullest.

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