Dear Guy Who Just Ran, Like, Nine Blocks,

My mother-in-law is very attentive, generous, and helpful. She's always ready to lend a hand—and that's the problem! She's constantly buying things for my family's house (she and her husband are quite wealthy). Last week, she took it upon herself to buy us new living-room furniture. Maybe she's doing this out of the goodness of her heart, but I can't help but feel like she's criticizing our home. She's coming for an extended visit next month, and I am sure she'll show up with a load of presents in the car and a tape measure in her pocket. Is there a nice way to ask her to leave the decorating to me?

—Suffocated In Santa Monica

Dear Suffocated,

Oh, geez... I'm sorry. Hold on. Okay, whew. Okay, I... I didn't mean to keep you all waiting. I just ran, like, nine blocks. Oh, God... Can I get some water? You all must totally hate me... I didn't mean to keep you waiting. Oh, thanks, Phil. Ahhh, that's good. Good water. Okay, sorry. I was doing really well... on time. I'll tell you guys what happened in just a second. Ugh... I just have to catch my breath. Christ, am I out of shape! I didn't think I would be doing any running today. Oh, shit. I called... oh, man... I can still barely... breathe. Did you guys call? I turned off my phone for some stupid reason and only realized I was late when it fell out of my pocket... when I was running. I tried turning it on, but it didn't... I can't fucking figure this thing out... Any moron can but I can't. So, when I picked it up and realized how late it was... that's when I took off running.

Dear Guy Who Just Ran, Like, Nine Blocks,

My roommate acts as if paper grows on trees! That's a joke, but there's nothing funny about her wastefulness around the house. She uses paper toweling and napkins like they don't cost a cent. Don't even get me started on all the perfectly good paper bags, notepads, and envelopes she tosses in the garbage. I grew up in a household without much money, so that kind of behavior drives me up the wall. Can you think of a fun way I could convince her to stop throwing money away?

—Thrifty In Thousand Oaks

Dear Thrifty,

Oh, man, I need to sit down. Just for a second, just for a second... I need to sit. I haven't run like that since I was in high school. Not that I was in good shape... back then, but now I'm an old man. I couldn't even run the nine blocks straight through. I had to rest against one of those... what are they called? They, you know, stop traffic... with the lights... red, green... stoplight! Jesus! Thank you! Anyway, I thought the restaurant was on 9th Street. God, I think I'm getting a cramp. Ow! Ow! Damn. Okay. So, finally, I stopped at this store and asked the guy if he knew where the Golden Dragon was, and he told me it was on Hammond. Thank God for that dude, but he didn't even know exactly where it was, just that it was on... Hammond. But some guy buying smokes thought it was in this direction, so I booked it over here. Christ, I'm sweating like a pig.

Dear Guy Who Just Ran, Like, Nine Blocks,

I just wanted to say thank you for the advice you gave single parents in your response to Happy In Hoboken a few months ago. I thought it was right on. I have shared it with all of my single-parent friends, and they loved it as much as I did. After hearing so many negative comments and answering so many rude questions through the years, it was a breath of fresh air. Is there any way you could re-run that piece?

—Proud Single Parent In Providence

Dear Proud,

Sorry I'm so gross, Kristine... The whole front of my shirt is... ugh, I'm dripping. I just took a shower like an hour ago, too. Well, sorry. No hugs, no hugs. I'll stay all the way over here. Whew. Seriously... I'm... really sorry... about all this. I didn't mean to keep you guys waiting. I really didn't want to be late. Otherwise, I never would've run. It was, seriously, like nine blocks. I was all the way over on Wilcott... Wilson... Wilcott—the one that's, like, nine blocks that way. Obviously I'm in no shape to be doing this sort of thing. I'm feeling better. But I don't think I'll be running that far again any time soon. Let's go in.

Doug Cook is a syndicated advice columnist whose column, Ask A Guy Who Just Ran, Like, Nine Blocks, appears in more than 250 newspapers nationwide.