Dear Abby: Over the years, I have read many of your letters that could save lives. I hope you will add my family's scary experience to the others:

My husband received several gallons of enamel paint, which he used to paint our lawn furniture, basement steps and floor. When he painted the steps (after work), the fumes were so bad that I thought we would die during the night from asphyxiation.In the meantime, I read a letter in your column about a man who died from glue fumes. I told my husband about the letter and said, "When you paint the basement floor, take fans down there with you."

The next morning he got up at 5, took two small fans down, and I went back to sleep. Two hours later, I woke up to five smoke alarms going off, and my husband screaming, "Dixie! Dixie! Get out! Get out!"

The house was filling with smoke. I grabbed a robe and tried to run out the front door. Next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor. I had fallen and injured my knee. My husband was still screaming, so I got up, dazed, and stumbled through the house out the back door.

He had finished the floor and had just come up from the basement when the fumes from the paint were ignited by the water heater, causing an explosion and flash fire.

A neighbor called 911 and other neighbors came to our yard to help and give support. The firefighters were great; three trucks were there in five minutes.

God was watching over us! Our lives and our home were saved, with just minor damage.

Readers, be careful! Even with precautions, we almost had a terrible disaster.

- Wiser in Ottumwa, Iowa

Dear Wiser: Thank you for a valuable letter. Readers, take note.

Dear Abby: When I give my grandchildren presents, I need only to know they were received and appreciated. They can thank me in person, over the phone or in writing. And any way they choose to do it is fine with me. It's not a matter of good manners; it's simply common sense.

What does one do with all those thank-you notes? Throw them away, right? So, now you tell me that when I receive a birthday gift, after I hug, kiss and thank the giver in person, I must mail him a thank-you note? Oh, come on, Abby. How silly can you get? And how many shares do you have in Hallmark cards?

I do not give gifts in order to be thanked. I give them to make loved ones happy - not to add one more chore to their busy lives. Except for weddings and large showers, where personal contact is not made, one thank-you is quite enough for me.

- Lydia Palmer, West

Hartford, Conn.

Dear Lydia Palmer: A "thank you" in person may be adequate - but when it's followed up with a written note, the giver feels especially gratified. Besides, written notes can be enjoyed again and again, and are well worth the effort.

Confidential to "Two-time Loser" in Elkhart, Ind.: Don't call yourself a "loser" because you were twice divorced. Not every divorce represents a failure; many divorces represent courageous victories.

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054. (Postage is included.)

1993 Universal Press Syndicate