Dear Alma,

My little brother is getting on my last nerve. He is 32 and can’t seem to get it together. He is always calling me telling me how his water is about to be cut off or his car broke down and he doesn’t know how he’s gonna get to work. I get so tired of hearing about his money problems and I don’t know why he thinks I’m suppose to fix it. I have loaned him money forever. I save my money for emergencies and that’s what he should do, too. I just don’t know what to do. If I don’t help him, he will probably become homeless, lose his car and then his job and it would be worse. Sometimes I feel like all I do is fix his problems and I don’t even think he appreciates me. What would you suggest I do to make him more mature?

— TiaMarie, Houston, Texas

Oh my, my to the contrary TiaMarie, he is much more mature and smarter than you’re giving him credit for. He’s so smart he has you under his spell, dry-begging you towards feeling obligated to repair his despair, with your hammer, tool-belt and all.

I’ve got a feeling it goes something like this:

Him: Hey Sis, I don’t have enough money to pay my water bill this month. silence….crickets

You: What! Boy imma pay it this time, but you better give me my money back!

Umhmm, am I close? He nudged you step, by step down that diving board and before you gave it a second thought, you opened your mouth and – bounce – dived right in. Once again, nominating yourself to be the one who’ll “fix” his problem.

Oh wait, and now on top of all that, you’re angry at him for accepting your offer. Why, Miss Lilly Lifeguard? You’ve rescued him, again, albeit through his silently solicited salutations, LOL.

Nothing will change until you say no, returning his responsibilities to him on a silver platter. Trust me on this one. After that first no, it gets easier and easier.

You might not like it, but I’m removing you from “Jesus” status. You’ll thank me later. I understand you’re doing what you think is best, but consider this – there’s a possibility you could be blocking his blessings, stunting his growth. If you’re the one always holding up an umbrella while yawl are walking in the rain, there’s no need for him to check the weather forecast. You get what I’m sayin?

I know you love him, but do your brother a favor, exercise a spoon full of tough love and reel it in. Given the chance, he’ll find some “I can do it” nestled down in his own back pocket. Before long you and he both will be prouder than peach pie that he’s stepped up to the plate and is handlin’ his bidness!

— Alma

A family divided

Dear Alma,

I need advice about a terrible family situation that involves me and all of my siblings, and it’s breaking us apart. I am one of nine children. We were all born and raised in the South. My parents farmed their land and taught us how to do it, too. We never liked it and couldn’t wait to leave, go up North and go to college. We all attended various colleges and universities and never returned home…all but one of my brothers. He stayed in North Carolina and helped my parents until they died. After they died he moved into the house on the property and has been living there ever since. He has kept up the property and paid the taxes on it.

Now my brothers and sisters want to sell the farmland and split the money. My brother who stayed says the house should be his and he doesn’t want to sell it. We are totally divided. Six of my siblings have decided to take my brother to court and force him to sell the land. Only the one brother says we shouldn’t sell. And I don’t care either way. We’re all in our 60s, distinguished folks with profitable careers. We’re active in our respected churches and ready to retire if not already retired. I love my family, and if you met us, you’d never believe what’s going on behind closed doors. I don’t understand why we can’t talk to each other and just get along. I want us to settle this before one of us dies and we never get to resolve the issue. What can I do?

— J.C., Houston, Texas

Hey J.C.,

Close your eyes, think back to the time when your daddy was farming his land, mama at the window, both watching their children grow – chests pressed, full of pride. Your father worked hard to tend the land and leave something to his children. Now everything he worked for is about to be jeopardized, and for what? You and your trifling brothers and sisters – yes, I said trifling – are fighting each other like you’re on an episode of Judge Judy. That is ridiculous and just plain sad. Your mama and daddy gave all they had, and what are ya’ll doing? Trying to give it away for some coins that will be spent in a month’s time.

Your brother didn’t take the bus up to the city and try to tell you and your siblings what to do with your space, time and dimes, so don’t try to regulate his life now. Give him the house, period. Take the rest of the land and divide it evenly. Each person can do what he or she wants with his or her portion. It’s just that simple. You might not like it, but when your brother sacrificed, stayed home and properly maintained and cared for the house, your parents and the land, he earned extra. Your brothers and sisters are so focused on a few grains of sand that they are missing the beach in all its magnificence. There are other ways to make money. Taking your brother to court is not one of them. Grow up and act like mama and daddy are still watching, chest pressed, full of pride.

— Alma

Intimidated by girlfriend

Dear Alma,

My girlfriend is absolutely beautiful, gentle and kind, loving and respectful. Ninety-five percent of the time everything is perfect. But every now and again she goes off. She curses, screams, and throws things and just follows me around arguing. She has never hit me, but it is intimidating. I don’t know what to do to calm her down. I talked to her sister about it, but she said, “Yea, that’s how she is,” and suggested that I should leave and take a walk. We are talking marriage, but I don’t want to consider children with this situation. It’s not like I’m scared of my lady. I just don’t know when she’s gonna flip out sometimes.

Name withheld, Baltimore, Md.

Dear Nameless,

Hmmm, I can’t quite tell if you’re fishing for catfish or shark. Either way, you’d better bait this bad behavior quickly, because there’s no room for slack on this line.

Determine if you’re experiencing a partner who’s a hothead or a mate who hurls verbal abuse. If you’re not sure, check the verbal abuse websites. They lay out the descriptions clearly.

I see room for improvement if she’s just spoiled and ranting for the sake of attention. You’ll need to lay down some ground rules. Discuss self-control techniques and how both of you are held accountable for your words and actions.

If she’s a verbal abuser, then you’re dealing with someone who needs professional help. Both need to be recognized, and she needs to accept responsibility, take action and apologize.

You say she’s never hurts you, but that’s not true. I think most men identify “hurt” as a physical experience. But words can cause hurt and pain, too.

A relationship can be unhealthy or abusive even without physical violence. Experiencing verbal abuse may not cause physical damage, but it does cause emotional damage. Don’t get me wrong, we all can reach a point where we’re sooooo mad we want to lash out and go for broke. Been there, done that. The frustration can be overwhelming and you release it like a pressure cooker. Nobody’s perfect. It happens every once in a while.

Hold her accountable and insist that she receives the help she needs. I wouldn’t consider marriage until the two of you are basking in progress and exercising a new learned and acceptable behavior, a corrected behavior that can be demonstrated and passed along to your kids. Marriage doesn’t fix your problems; it leans towards escalating them. It’s best to make appropriate enhancements on the front end.


Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and the Washington Post. Email questions to: Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and twitter @almaaskalma.

Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and the Washington Post. Email questions to: Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and twitter @almaaskalma.

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