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Dear Readers: After Operation Dear Abby went into effect for the holiday season last November, I began receiving letters from readers telling me that the clerks at their local post offices were refusing their packages because the APOs were inactive. Others who were successful in getting their packages mailed had them returned, marked "APO Closed."

The APOs in my column were correct - they had been assigned especially for Operation Dear Abby, and a postal bulletin had been sent to every post office showing these ZIP codes active from Nov. 15, 1994, to Jan. 15, 1995.I have written letters of explanation to many readers, but ultimately the number of complaints I received made individual responses impossible. So I wrote to Postmaster General Marvin Runyon asking for his help. He replied . . .

Dear Abby: I'm always disappointed when any one of the 125 million American households and businesses we serve every day isn't 100 percent satisfied. And I'm downright unhappy when something as important as Operation Dear Abby doesn't go right.

Now, here's what we're doing about it: Our employees are getting together to make sure this kind of mix-up never happens again. We'll make darn sure that in the future every post office in the country gets the facts - and that every letter to our servicemen and women gets to them on time. You and your readers who write each year to the men and women in the military can be sure of that. This pledge comes from their fellow Americans - the 739,000 dedicated men and women who serve with pride in the U.S. Postal Service. Keep those cards and letters coming!

Oh yes, Abby, and next time when you write to me, use Express Mail from the U.S. Postal Service - not some other mailer.

- Marvin Runyon,

Postmaster General

Dear Abby: My mother has been a wonderful role model for me - compassionate, generous and very loving. However, she has one flaw - she's always late.

We always had to sit in the balcony at church because we arrived late. We were the last to arrive at birthday parties, weddings and funerals. She was an hour late for my wedding rehearsal. I begged her to be on time for my wedding. She barely made it.

My husband and I now live about five hours from my parents. Unfortunately, I don't get to see them very often, so when I do, every minute counts. However, Mom continues to be late for everything! At first I worry, then I get angry.

To make matters worse, my younger sister has inherited the same trait. I love them both, and I've never confronted them, but I've had enough. Please help me.

- Had It in Cincinnati

Dear Had It: What are you waiting for? Tell your mother and sister how you feel. Perhaps it's too late to get your mother to change, but there may still be hope for your sister.

Dear Readers: Easter is fast approaching, so have a heart and remember that a living creature is not a toy. If you are planning to surprise a child with a live rabbit or baby chick, please reconsider. Living creatures need proper care. Unless you are certain that the rabbit or chicken will receive the care it needs to survive, give the child a stuffed bird or animal instead.