While I'm away, readers give the advice.

On spouses who have zero knack for choosing gifts: My very sweet husband died in 2009 at 54. He was always trying to give me things. On special dates, he would try, but he never could remember what it was that I wanted or needed.

So after many (sadly) failed tries, I started writing on the mirror anything that I might like, cheap to expensive, to give him a choice. It was so easy to make the list: As I thought of what I needed, I just scribbled it on the mirror. It took the stress off him and gave him clear ideas.

The year he was diagnosed terminal for Christmas, he bought me the whole list.

I miss him so much.

On taking the crazy out of youth sports: As a youth baseball umpire, I've witnessed more than my share of bad behavior by coaches and by parents, but one good experience stands out. I was behind the plate at a preteen game. I called a strike on the batter, who complained bitterly, tossing up his hands and generally behaving badly. His manager stopped play and called the kid over. "What did the umpire call?" he asked the kid. "A strike," the kid said in disgust. "Then it was a strike," said the manager. "Now get back in the batter's box." Lots of good lessons there.

On how simple kindness can sustain a complex relationship: Two things have been a basis for our 26-year marriage, which continues to grow and thrive. Every morning before he leaves for work and every evening when he returns, we have a big bear hug. Second, we thank each other for everything we do for the good of the household. He says, "Thank you for a delicious dinner." I say, "Thank you for taking out the trash." These ordinary acts are all consistently acknowledged. When you are saying thanks for something specific, you must be fully present. Plus, everyone enjoys praise and gratitude.

On bringing balance to the scales: Twenty-five extra pounds don't make a woman any more or less attractive to me at all. Just make sure you wear clothes that fit your current body shape, i.e., don't try to hide any unwanted weight by always wearing really baggy, oversize things, because that can backfire and make you look bigger than you really are - but also don't pretend you are your preferred weight and wear clothes that are too small for you. If you should happen to lose those pounds, buy new outfits that fit your new body shape. Get a trusted friend or salesperson to help you, because you are predisposed to see yourself as unattractive, when you're not.

If you were my girlfriend (or potential girlfriend), I would not ask or want you to lose weight. If you chose to lose weight because you wanted to, I would support you, as long as you go about it sensibly and aren't continually complaining about your current weight through a mouthful of candy. Occasional whinges are OK, but constant griping is not.

That is, either accept yourself as you are - and there's nothing wrong with how you are - or make a change, but don't complain and do nothing.

Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.