While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On reaching a point in life where you ask "Is this all there is?": Please tell anyone who asks "Is this all there is?" to volunteer to help those less fortunate than they - whether it's visiting the lonely and disabled in nursing homes who would love to have someone to talk to (and where they could include their children in the visit and teach compassion); helping at-risk children who need a mentor; or helping children in an orphanage in another country. They will soon discover how incredibly lucky they are, which may stimulate a lot more gratitude for their lifestyle.
On embracing people who want to be included in wedding plans: I live on the East Coast. Both my son and my now daughter-in-law lived on the West Coast, as did the bride's mother. So I could be included in plans, I was asked to make my son's favorite cookie as a child, and her mother was to make her favorite fudge. We were given a certain size, to accommodate the clear plastic boxes they purchased. I made the 100 cookies (heart-shaped) and mailed them overnight; the kids refrigerated them when they were received. The following day we flew out, and the day after that, the two moms had a "getting to know you day" where we assembled the cookies in the boxes and tied ribbon around them.
So while the two mothers assembled the favors, we got to know each other and shared stories about the soon-to-be bride and groom as children. We also assembled the wedding programs, which themselves were so original and personal. What a delight and how inspiring, with such originality and fun.
On having too many visits to make in too little time: It is impossible to go visit everyone when returning "home" for a short time. I solved the problem by sending out a group e-mail prior to my visit that stated that I was going to be in town and, though my schedule did not permit me to visit everyone individually, I would be at Joe's Pizza from 6:30 to 9 on Friday night and that I would love it if you could stop by for dinner or a beer. That way, I could see many people at once.
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.