DEAR HARRIETTE: Every summer, I invite my niece and nephew from Italy to come stay with me and my family. Travel hasn't really opened up yet, so this summer hasn't been an issue, but I anticipate that travel will be relaxed soon enough. I am afraid to have them come. Italy was hit hard by COVID-19, and my elderly mother lives with me. I worry that if I bring these young people into my home directly from one of the hardest-hit countries, I could be killing her. I love having them come, though. And they look forward to it so much. How should I handle this? — Overseas Visitors
DEAR OVERSEAS VISITORS: This may be the year that you put that trans-Atlantic visit on pause. We won't know for some time whether or not the virus is under control. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, until there is a vaccine, we won't have it under control. Yes, we have to live our lives. But we do not want to put anyone at risk, particularly our most vulnerable population, which includes elders.
If your family has to stay with you, I suggest that you wait until next year, when we have more information. As disappointed as they may be at first, they will have to understand. This international epidemic is real and needs to be respected. At the time of writing this column, we have topped 110,000 deaths in America. That is a sobering statistic. Be part of the solution by being extremely cautious. Use videoconferencing and other outlets to stay in touch. Plan the visit for a year from now.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband and I seem to be having a standoff in the kitchen. Our agreement years ago was that if I cooked, he would clean the kitchen. We both work. I often work long hours, even now when we are at home. But he leaves the dishes in the sink overnight pretty consistently, then washes them in the morning. That means we get roaches sometimes because we live in an apartment building. You can't leave food out and expect no repercussions. When I try to bring this up to him, he just blows me off and says, "I washed them, didn't I? What's your problem?" He doesn't get it at all. But I don't want to have to do every single thing in the house. How can I get him to participate more fully? It's not my house; it's our house. — Need His Help
DEAR NEED HIS HELP: Revisit your household chores agreement when you aren't upset. Tell your husband that you want to refresh how you two handle your duties. Point out that there's a lot to do, and you are inviting him to work with you to improve on the upkeep of your home. Do an inventory of chores with him, including the kitchen — but not singularly the kitchen. Ask for his input. What does he think needs to be done to maintain the home? Be sure to mention eliminating roaches and possible vermin. Ask him to recommit to cleaning the kitchen in a timely manner. You may consider spending time with him in the kitchen. Can you two talk and clean at the same time? Fostering togetherness might help inspire him to take action.
Sick of slick
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a co-worker who is slick as all get-out, and I'm sick of her. We work closely together. Whenever we have brainstorming meetings, which is part of our job, in the next staff meeting she pipes up and offers my ideas to the group as if they were her own. It is so annoying and rude. I have tried to hold back my ideas in our smaller group settings, but then I am accused of not being a team player. I am often the one who thinks outside the box and who comes up with pretty cool concepts. It is frustrating to see her glom onto them and then present them as her own week after week. How can I gain control of my ideas in the group setting? — Stolen Concepts
DEAR STOLEN CONCEPTS: You may want to start with having regular meetings with your boss where you talk about ideas. Try to get in with your boss before the big meeting so that she knows what's on your mind. Get a sense of whether your boss likes your ideas, and talk about how they might be implemented. In this way, you have planted a seed, and you may find that your boss becomes your ally in the next meeting.
You can even share that you find it hard to get your thoughts out to the group before your co-worker blurts them out. Ask your boss for input on how to be more proactive in the meetings.
Faith isn't blind
DEAR HARRIETTE: I agree with your advice to "Back to Church" regarding avoiding a situation with no social distancing. However, I suggest that you add the fact that depending on God means using the brain and common sense he gave us. We are not commanded to follow blindly. To include those thoughts might give the reader more comfort in disagreeing with her pastor. — Also Back to Church
DEAR ALSO BACK TO CHURCH: As more cities and states open up, more houses of worship will be open for parishioners. Your recommendation is key right now. Having faith does NOT mean turning your common sense over to a higher power or even to your pastor, rabbi or priest. You have to use your brain. Evaluate the risks versus the rewards. If you are a person with a compromised immune system, you need to beware of going into crowded spaces.
I spoke to a front-line medical doctor who said that we are going to have to figure out how to live in this time of COVID-19 because it will be months if not longer before we will have a vaccine — the only thing that can give us some protection from it. His point was that we have to practice all safety precautions and learn to go about our daily lives. This calls for conscious awareness of our steps. Faith is essential, too. Just don't stop thinking for yourself.
Harriette Cole is a lifestyle writer and author, nationally syndicated advice columnist and motivational, wife and mother. She founded Dream Leapers, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com.