Dear Amy:

My husband and I finally bought a new home after 20 years of marriage. All of the items I'd received from my bridal shower were either worn out or broken.

We put most of our money into purchasing the house and can't afford new things, so we hosted a housewarming party for ourselves. When people called to R.S.V.P. and asked me what I needed, I politely told them that gifts were not expected. If pressured, I said that most of our possessions were worn out.

We invited 20 couples to the party. In return, we received 18 bottles of booze, a clock, and a set of towels.

Now, we don't have much to show for the money we spent.

- Worn and Torn

Dear Worn: You threw a party for yourselves that was intended as an opportunity to furnish your new home, but then you refused to give people a clear directive concerning your expectations.

If you wanted to receive specific items, you should have told your guests when they inquired, "We have registered at 'Smith Hardware' store and would love to receive any of the items on our list - or anything else for the kitchen or bathrooms."

When you denied that you expected gifts, you weren't being polite, you were being obscure.

Bringing a bottle for the household to consume or share is the polite refuge of people who don't quite know what else to do. Houseplants also work for this purpose.

Dear Amy: My mother passed away several years ago, and my father - now in his late 70s - constantly surfs the Internet.

He can spend hours playing computer games or looking up and forwarding useless information. He sends countless e-mails to my siblings, his friends, and me. The subjects range from politics to humor to pornography. Some of his friends have told me that they feel harassed by his e-mails.

I've talked to him about it, and I've even threatened to put him on my spam list, but I don't think he understands how I feel.

- Lost in Cyberspace

Dear Lost: You and your siblings should try a more-intensive intervention, not to prevent your father from using the Internet, but to educate him on how his behavior affects you and others. Print out the more-objectionable stuff to show to him. Tell him you don't like porn delivered to your doorstep.

The Internet offers a virtually unlimited range of activities and information, but it is no substitute for actual human interaction.

Don't let him confine your relationship to e-mail only - you should see and speak with him often to check in and make sure he is well and mentally healthy. Ultimately, he has the right to spend his time however he chooses, and, if you determine that he is fully aware of what he is doing and doesn't care how it affects you, then you should assign his e-mail to your spam folder and monitor it when you're ready.

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