Use It — Don’t Lose It!



Dear Debra,By Debra Darvick
How do you carve out time when you are working full-time and staff reductions mean every person is important to the team? A normal week for me used to be 40-50 hours. It is creeping up to much more because the workload keeps growing. Last year, I didn’t take, and lost, the nearly 200 hours of banked vacation and personal leave time because I couldn’t use it by the Dec. 31 deadline. I want to do it differently this year. But how?
— No Vacation

Dear No Vacation,
You have vacation but you haven’t used it! Funny how we recharge our cell phones and tablets every evening and so rarely recharge ourselves.
By my calculations, you have five weeks of vacation and personal time each year. Schedule some days off and even a week off right now. Let everyone know well in advance. Have a plan in place of what will need to be done in your absence. If you have an assistant, go over the plans with him/her so that things will run smoothly in your absence. We all like to think we are indispensable and, the times being what they are, we don’t want to appear dispensable. The truth is your company gives you these days. Take them and return to work recharged, like your cell phone.

Dear Debra,
The first time we went out to dinner with a couple we met recently, they had a little more to drink than we did. When the bill came we split it 50/50. We went out with them last week. The husband and wife both had three mixed drinks each to our wines (one each). We split the bill again not wanting to make an issue, but my wife and I are peeved. We enjoy their company but want things to be more equitable. How do we do this politely the next time we go out to dinner?
— Gin Soured

Dear Gin,
Your first option is to carry cash and keep a mental tab of your and your wife’s meals. When your server brings the bill, place your share plus the tip on the tray and say warmly and firmly, “Here’s our share of this wonderful meal. We’re so glad you chose this restaurant.” Second option is to ask for separate bills at the outset. Be prepared to insist, again warmly and firmly, if the server balks. Or try for some humor. When the waiter asks for drinks, order a shnorrer. When your friend asks what’s a shnorrer, reply with a smile that it’s someone who orders more drinks than he pays for …

Dear Debra,
My older son and his wife hosted Thanksgiving dinner this year. My daughter-in-law emailed a group invitation to her parents and to us, to her brother and his new wife, to his new sister-in-law’s parents and her younger brother who still lives at home with her parents! Our daughter was included in the group email but not her husband, our son-in-law, who had to work at the hospital. Perhaps she didn’t send him an invitation because she knew he couldn’t attend but she has done this before — included my daughter on a group emailed invitation but not my son-in-law. I want to mention to my daughter-in-law not to exclude him. Should I?
— Greatly Annoyed

Dear Annoyed,
You are aggravated on your son-in-law’s behalf, but is he? Is your daughter? Is it the norm for him to be unable to attend family events because of work? If so, that may be why your daughter-in-law didn’t include him on the email. She knows from past experience that he wouldn’t be able to attend. I agree that it is still rude, but maybe she’s an efficiency nut.
If her motives are darker, and you believe she is sending some sort of message, I would still caution reserve. This is for the couple to hash out with her, if they so choose. I get it; it certainly seems dismissive of your son-in-law, and you are taking it personally. But is it worth jeopardizing what I sense from you is already a not-too-fond relationship? Is this the hill you want to die on?
If you absolutely must say something, wait until she does it again and send her a personal reply (do not hit “Reply All.”) Keep it light and friendly, such as, “Dear Daughter-in-Law, thank you for your sweet invitation for this family get- together. I didn’t see Son-in-Law’s name on the email. Hopefully, he’ll be able to attend with Daughter. Here is his email address. See you soon; is there anything I can bring?” *

Debra Darvick shares her unique take on life, books and more at Send your questions to or look for an anonymous question submission form on Debra’s online column at www.

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