DEAR HARRIETTE: I started a new job a few months ago, and my co-workers are kind to me. The company I work for is pretty small, but it's definitely tight. You know how sometimes people go out to drinks after work to get to know each other better? Well, these people go to church together. They all seem to get together on Sundays for service and at least once during the week for choir rehearsal or some other church activity. They keep inviting me to join them, but I don't want to go. I have my own church and spiritual life, and I do not want to go to theirs. I don't have anything against them, but I believe that I should not have to intersect my religious life with my job. Since everyone else participates, do you think my absence will negatively impact my job? -- Not My Church

DEAR NOT MY CHURCH: I will give you the same advice I give to people whose co-workers invite them out every Friday for drinks after work: You don't have to go all the time, but it is wise to go occasionally. At the very least, go once so that you have an understanding of what these people value and how they spend their time. Do some sleuthing so that you get a clear picture of your company's culture and what the expectations are of the employees. Out of respect for them and curiosity for you, go to a service and pay attention.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a horrible packer. I always take too many things and end up paying extra for baggage that is too heavy. A friend of mine recommended that if I can't figure out how to pack less, I should consider shipping my suitcase. She thinks it will cost less to ship than to pay for the baggage fees for the plane. Do you think that is over the top? How would you handle this? -- Heavy Baggage

DEAR HEAVY BAGGAGE: I, too, am a heavy packer. I always seem to want one more pair of shoes. In the winter, I find that clothing can be heavier anyway. That said, sure you can do research to compare the cost of shipping your suitcase via USPS, UPS, FedEx or another such service versus the airline bag cost. Make sure you learn the cost of an overweight bag. Anything over 50 pounds can cost you $100 or more. Figure out what your bag(s) will likely weigh and compare prices.

You might also try making a written packing list of the essentials you need each day of your trip and packing only those things. If you refuse to allow yourself to pack that extra pair of shoes or handbag or whatever it may be, you may find that you can streamline your packing and eventually get to carryon status!

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