Dear Annie: When my grandchildren were at my house recently, we watched "SpongeBob SquarePants" on Nickelodeon. The show was fine, but I am really concerned and disgusted over two short filler cartoons which ran during the program.

One was called "Pass Gas With Class" and showed gross ways for students to do so. The other cartoon instructed children on how to avoid hugs and kisses from elderly women relatives. It depicted these women as ugly and hairy-faced.

I am shocked at the disrespectful attitude these cartoons encourage and the crass, vulgar subject matter being served up to impressionable children. "SpongeBob" is a cute, harmless show, but I will not allow my grandchildren to watch it here in the future because of these crude additions that the network somehow feels are funny.

I also intend to write to the editor of Nickelodeon magazine, and I hope others will, too. —Jane in Ohio

Dear Jane: We can understand your shock, but children are smarter than you think. They know "instructions" on passing gas and depictions of ugly adults, male or female, are intended as subversive humor, especially if these cartoons are connected to a show like "SpongeBob," which flaunts such humor.

The best way to counter such offenses is by watching these shows with your grandchildren and talking to them about what they see. Tell them they should not judge people on their looks, but on their kindness and compassion. Explain why passing gas in such a fashion is funny in a cartoon but it might not go over so well in a real classroom. You'd be surprised what an open discussion can accomplish.

Dear Annie: I am married to a wonderful man who is highly respected in the community, beloved by family and friends. He is humorous, witty, thoughtful, affectionate — and very overweight. He's been up and down the scale all his life. He now has a heart problem.

Although he walks a bit, he abhors exercise and continues to indulge in too much food. I made the decision to love him as is, focus on his good points and not nag. He lacks energy and has told me he realizes his body is not attractive. I cannot overlook the fact that his body really is a turnoff, and our sex life has suffered tremendously. It is now reduced to occasional and obligatory.

My attempts at healthy cooking and physical activity together have been rejected. I just want to let your overweight readers know that there are consequences for not finding a way to control your weight. My heart goes out to those who struggle with this and those of us who must learn to accept it. —Loving Wife

Dear Loving Wife: You've made the only decision you can if you love your husband and want to stay with him. It sounds like there may be some low-level depression going on, and if you can get your husband to address that with his doctor, it might help. Meanwhile, continue to prepare healthy meals, and know that affection and intimacy can reduce stress, which may prolong his life.

Dear Annie: Your response was right on to "Wisconsin," whose sister recently died, and her sister's live-in partner was already seeing an old girlfriend.

Last December, I lost my husband of seven years. He was an alcoholic and verbally abusive. By March, I had a "close friend," and by October, we were engaged. My late husband's sister has quit speaking to me, and to be honest, I don't care. She doesn't know what went on behind closed doors, and I don't plan to tell her.

Walking down the aisle again doesn't mean I don't grieve for my husband. I loved him, even though our life was difficult. The people who judge me have never walked a day in my shoes. I feel God has given me a second chance at life. —Head Held High

Dear Head Held High: You deserve it.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Worried Mom," whose daughter's 12- year-old friend, "Amanda," sleeps over often but her mom never picks her up. Amanda preferred to run around the neighborhood, and her mother didn't care. As a foster parent for 29 years, that sent up alarm bells.

"Worried" should ask Amanda why she doesn't want to go home, or why her mom doesn't care to have her there. Many of the abused children who come through our home have said that they would have told someone the truth about the horrors happening in their families if only someone had asked the right questions.

We need to be safe havens for children and not ignore warning signs that something is not right. —Foster Mom in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Dear Santa Cruz: Thank you for a valuable reminder that it does indeed take a village to raise a child. Parents, please "ask the right questions." These children need you.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.

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