Dear Abby

On June 21, 2017, the columnist Dear Abby responded to the letter below from the mom of a toddler wanting to know if it’s appropriate to ask about guns in homes. Dear Abby responded saying that would be “off-putting.” The columnist received criticism for her response to the writer, later issuing a statement correcting her advice – but the letter remains online and in print. It’s doubtful most readers saw the correction. This left me wondering how Dear Abby might have elaborated on the offensive nature of the question had she gone with her original gut response. 

Dear Abby,

I am a first-time mom of a toddler. I suffer from (and am being treated for) anxiety issues. I am having trouble finding the balance on gun safety and awareness in other people’s homes — especially if my daughter will be visiting. I grew up in a household where my father hunted and had guns in the house. However, he stored them safely in a locked cabinet and was the only one with access to the key. He also stored ammunition separately. Where do I draw the line? Do I ask everyone whose house I’ll be going to whether or not they have guns? What are the appropriate questions? Do I ask where they are stored and who has access? What else should I ask? Or should I mind my own business? I know the questions won’t be appreciated by everyone because it will seem like I am questioning their judgment.


Dear First-Time Mom in New Jersey,

It is understandable that the topic of guns is a touchy subject to address. One must always keep this in mind. These days are especially uncertain as civil society becomes less civil. One wonders where it will end. I’m sure this would create anxiety in anyone who doesn’t already suffer from anxiety!

Do you ask everyone whose house your toddler will visit if they have guns? By all means no. There are more guns in the United States than people. Assume everyone you know has at least one and knows how to use it without shooting a toe off!

Do you ask where they are stored and who has access? Again, no. Assume they are safely stored and only the right people have access. After all, gun owners are all responsible and would never store them loaded under the bed, behind the couch or in a shoebox on the top shelf of the bedroom closet.

Just because a child unintentionally fires a gun and kills or injures himself/herself or others every 36 hours is no reason to worry your toddler will be shot. These tragedies only happen to other people. Just because guns are the third-leading cause of death among U.S. children has no bearing on the reality of your child’s life.

About 1.7 million American children live in homes with guns that are both loaded and unlocked. Each year in the United States, nearly 300 children aged 17 and under gain access to a firearm and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else. Nearly 500 more commit suicide with a gun.

Why? Freedom.

Minding your own business, as you suggest, is the best advice I can give – aside from doing a better job of getting your toddler to listen and not touch things he/she shouldn’t touch! A polite society is a civil society. We do not wish to make others uncomfortable with nosy questions like, do you have guns that my toddler might find when he/she ignores me when I tell him/her not to hide under your bed playing hide-and-seek?

Civility can return with the mindfulness, self-awareness and good manners of people like you.


For better advice on keeping kids safe from guns, please visit and

Dear Abby has a change of heart about gun advice



First Blog

For a few years now I’ve been thinking about starting a blog. I like to write. Most people like to read. This can work.

But do they want to read what I want to write?

I thought about it for a long time, but when I realized how much money I can make it sealed the deal for me. What anxiety about writing things other people will read?

See, I’ve heard stories about people like me who just start posting videos of their kids doing funny things. People dispensing mom advice in blogs. Pretty soon they’ve collected 150,000 followers that advertisers want to reach. Just this week a colleague told me a story about a friend of his who started a website that posted some kind of data “for the common good” for free.

An advertiser approached him after he started collecting followers.

He refused. “It’s for the common good,” he said. Well, he collected thousands and thousands of followers. He had to buy more servers and spend more time on maintenance to keep it up – time in addition to his real job.

The advertising opportunity passed.

Maybe I don’t have the details all right but that doesn’t matter. The point is, I don’t want to be that guy. Partially fictitious or not.

I want to retire early. That’s where you come in.

I need you to follow me. Tell your friends to follow me. Tell them to tell their friends to follow me. We can earn my early retirement together.  Think about how good you would feel about that.

Once I decided to jump into possible ridicule by better writers than I, I needed a blog name. I chose Side Quirk after reading a book for work, called Non-Obvious 2017 Edition: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas & Predict the Future.

Side Quirk refers to the odd things people do as hobbies. The name struck me like lightening because the only thing holding me back from starting my blog – after I decided that readers will want to help me retire early – was finding the perfect name. One that isn’t phony, shallow, pretentious or bubble gum.

The name is perfect and fits because, well, I’m doing this on the side until I can retire, and because I can’t commit to one genre.

If you decide to follow me you will probably see blogs that are witty, try-to-be-witty-but-fail, serious, heartwarming and insipid. When I’m not writing about the weather, I’ll write about airlines, work, dogs, family, ADHD, gun control, climate change, kids, ticks, Star Wars and the fake media.

Let’s see where Side Quirk goes.