DEAR ABBY: I am currently without a job. I hesitated to inform my mother because I was sure her reaction would only add to my stress. I was right. She constantly corners me about my efforts to find a job. I talk to her nearly every day to keep up with how she and my stepfather are doing. Because she never fails to dig into me about my job search progress, I now find ways to shorten our conversations.

I can get a job or two to sustain my living expenses for the time being.

However, I’m trying to hold out for a job or career that connects to my soul passion. Working for decades in a job that sustains me and my children is no match for the longing of my passion. (I’m still not sure what it is.)

How do I curb my mother’s pushing me for a resolution without coming off as annoyed, which I am?

I’m sure she wants to express her concern, but I want support in my efforts without feeling condemned. Help me, please. — ANNOYED IN ALABAMA

DEAR ANNOYED: I will try. Because you still aren’t sure what your “soul passion” is, it’s time to find out. A place to start might be a career counseling center (some universities have them). Contact one or more and inquire whether they offer career counseling and aptitude testing. The test results will tell you what you are best suited for.

Of course, this service is not offered for free, which is why you might want to buckle down and take a job or two in the meantime to afford it, as well as to feed your little family.

As to your mother, who may be worried because you don’t yet have a plan of action, explain to her about seeking career counseling and she may calm down.

DEAR ABBY: I’ve been seeing a man, “Carson,” on and off for about five years. Last year, when I asked him if we were exclusive, he quickly said no, so I went and slept with an ex and became pregnant. I didn’t reach out to Carson because I thought the baby belonged to my ex, but when the baby was born I quickly realized she might be Carson’s. When I told him, he immediately denied she was his but still rekindled our relationship. Abby, he disappears frequently and doesn’t answer my calls. What should I do? Leave him? Stay? I do love him. — HOPELESS ROMANTIC IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR HOPELESS ROMANTIC: Have your child DNA-tested. If it proves she is Carson’s, he should be contributing to his daughter’s support. (The same goes for anyone else you think could be the father.) It’s important that you understand this man behaves the way he does because he is not in love with you and doesn’t care about your feelings.

He sees other women, just as he did the first time around. If this is the way you want to be treated,

Nicole Lackey sat by her pool in Mandeville Tuesday, watching her two daughters swim as the on-hold music ran deep into its third hour. She was on the phone, yet again, trying to get information about a lagging U.S. passport application, despite having given up hope that the family’s upcoming trip to Mexico would ever happen.

A call from an unknown number came in on the other line, and Lackey clicked over. It was a reporter hoping to discuss the delays many are experiencing getting their passports. Did she have time to talk?

“Yeah,” she laughed. “They’re not gonna pick up.”

Lackey is one of many travelers who have had their summer vacation plans thrown into turmoil, forced to endure fruitless phone calls and stressful weeks of wondering if they’ll ever see the inside of the flights and resorts they booked months ago. 

The U.S. State Department stopped issuing most passports a month after coronavirus pandemic ground travel to a halt in March 2020. The government resumed processing applications that June, and by the fall said it had worked its way through the worst of its backlog.

But reports of delays have resurfaced since the spring and a surge of freshly vaccinated travelers — particularly those seeking passports for the first time — are having some agonizingly close calls. 

“It’s extremely stressful,” said Keith Martin, who spent dozens of hours on the phone as a trip to Mexico with his wife drew nearer. “We were all excited, ready to go, and they put you through this ordeal.”

The State Department says it now may take up to four weeks to even begin processing applications, with its routine service then taking up to 12 weeks and the more expensive, expedited process taking up to six weeks. Its call center “is experiencing extremely high call volumes with longer-than-usual wait times.”

The AARP warned its members this week not to wait to apply, noting that the processing time could be as long as three months. As one analyst told the association, “Unfortunately, there is no workaround. All queues are long.”

The Martins applied for their passports — his was a renewal, hers a new passport — in March for the upcoming trip to Cozumel. Keith got his, but Rhonda’s appeared to have been complicated after she was told to also submit her maiden name and her last name from a previous marriage. Weeks later, the Gretna couple was asked to submit their marriage license, which appeared to have reset the clock on the application. On June 2, their second six-week window ended and still she had no passport.






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Keith and Rhonda Martin stand outside their home as they talk about the hurdles Rhonda went through to receive her passport before they go on a 10-day trip to Cozumel, Mexico, in Gretna, La., Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo by Sophia Germer, NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




With their trip coming up in